Williams' career as an author began with A Key into the Language of America (London, 1643), written during his first voyage to England. His next publication was Mr. Cotton's Letter lately Printed, Examined and Answered (London, 1644; reprinted, with Cotton's letter, which it answered, in Publications of the Narragansett Club, vol. ii.).
Soon after Williams' banishment he had written to John Cotton of Boston, bitterly complaining of the treatment he had received from the Massachusetts authorities. Cotton had written a long letter in reply, in which he sought to win him from the error of his way and at the same time to justify his banishment. Cotton expressed the opinion in this letter that if Williams had perished in the wilderness his blood would have been upon his own head. Williams examines minutely Cotton's argument, elaborately states his own position, and defends his attitude toward the Massachusetts authorities.
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience soon followed (London, 1644). This is his most famous work, and was the ablest statement and defense of the principle of absolute liberty of conscience that had appeared in any language. It is in the form of a dialogue between Truth and Peace, and well illustrates the vigor of his style.
During the same year appeared in London an anonymous pamphlet which has been commonly ascribed to Williams, entitled: Queries of Highest Consideration Proposed to Mr. Tho. Goodwin, Mr. Phillip Nye, Mr. Wil. Bridges, Mr. Jer. Burroughs, Mr. Sidr. Simpson, all Independents, etc. These Independents were members of the Westminster Assembly and their Apologetical Narration, in which they plead for toleration, fell very far short of Williams' doctrine of liberty of conscience.
In 1652, during his second visit to England, Williams published The Bloody Tenent yet more Bloody: by Mr. Cotton's Endeavor to wash it white in the Blood of the Lamb; of whose precious Blood, spilt in the Blood of his Servants; and of the Blood of Millions spilt in former and later Wars for Conscience sake, that most Bloody Tenent of Persecution for cause of Conscience, upon, a second Tryal is found more apparently and more notoriously guilty, etc. (London, 1652). This work traverses anew much of the ground covered by the Bloudy Tenent; but it has the advantage of being written in answer to Cotton's elaborate defense of New England persecution, A Reply to Mr. Williams his Examination ((Publications of the Narragansett Club, vol. ii.).
Other works by Williams are:
(London, 1652; reprinted, Providence, 1863)
- The Hireling Ministry None of Christ's (London, 1652)
- Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health, and their Preservatives
A volume of his letters is included in the Narragansett Club edition of Williams' Works (7 vols., Providence, 1866-74), and a volume was edited by J. R. Bartlett (1882).
- George Fox Digged out of his Burrowes (Boston, 1676).
- Gaustad, Edwin, S., ed., Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1991.
For other men named Roger Williams, see