William Coddington, born in 1601, was no lover of King Charles I. On 3/7/1627 he was on a list of Englishmen who had resisted making forced loans to the king. The wealthy Coddington was well-regarded by Massachusetts’ governor, John Winthrop, and was elected as Winthrop’s assistant, as well as treasurer of the colony.
Coddington fell out of the Puritans' favor by supporting Sir Henry Vane’s party and Anne Hutchinson’s teachings. Still, the Puritans handled him gently. He was not ordered to surrender his weapons, and before he departed for Rhode Island, Governor Winthrop asked him to stay.
Rhode Island’s first settler was Roger Williams. A quarrel with Puritans in Plymouth [once a separate colony, now part of Massachusetts] led to Williams’ heresy trial in October 1635, excommunication and banishment. Rather than be shipped back to England, Williams fled to the northern end of Narragansett Bay. There he bought land from the Narragansett Indians, and founded the town of Providence. A firm believer in freedom of worship, Williams welcomed other exiles, even when he did not agree with their beliefs. He also valued treating Indians fairly and negotiated peace treaties with them.
When Anne Hutchinson and her followers were tossed out by Massachusetts, Williams helped them buy Aquidneck Island, now Rhode Island, from the Indians. In March 1638 Anne’s husband William Hutchinson, William Coddington and William Dyer founded Portsmouth, on the north end of Aquidneck. Coddington was elected Judge [equivalent to governor].
Portsmouth’s citizens soon chafed under Coddington’s high-handed rule. In April 1639 Coddington went on a business trip to Boston. In a hasty election William Hutchinson, whom John Winthrop described as “a man of very mild temper and weak parts, and wholly guided by his wife,” was elected to be Judge. Coddington, Dyer and others moved to the south end of Aquidneck Island. Naturally, Coddington was elected to lead them at Newport.
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