Soul Freedoms Film


Film Overview

Soul Freedoms is a historical drama drawn from the real life story of Dr. John Clarke and his long voyage to America in 1637 with his young wife Elizabeth. Known as America's Forgotten Patriot, Dr. Clarke was a Baptist Minister, Physician and highly educated Statesman who sought out a place where religious freedom was embraced and persons of differing beliefs could live harmoniously among one another with full “Soul Liberty of Conscience”.

In 1651, John Clarke and his friends John Crandall and Obadiah Holmes were arrested and imprisoned in Lynn, Massachusetts and sentenced to be striped naked and whipped in public for conducting an illegal worship service.

Clarke was heavily fined, 
while the defiant Obadiah Holmes
was whipped in Boston in 1651.

Dr. Clarke was resonate that no man or entity had any right to govern another's beliefs. "A State where no constraint could ever be put upon the human conscience, no shackles upon the human spirit and no limit to the freedom of human thought."

Facing personal sacrifice, Clarke made the months long voyage back to England in 1652 and remained as the colony's agent for 12 years. Working against great odds and risk of treason Dr. Clarke convinced King Charles II to grant religious toleration and separation of church and state to a political entity, the tiny Colony of Rhode Island.

On July 8, 1663, the King granted the Royal Charter of 1663 to Rhode Island. Clarke wrote the charter himself, and its words soon enriched other colonial charters and eventually found their way into America's founding documents.

For the first time in world history religious freedom and civil liberties became fundamental to democracy.

Filmmaker Statement
 
Rarely do people speak of or remember peaceful men and their world changing contributions. As a descendant of Joseph Clarke, Dr. John Clarke's youngest brother, my desire is to shed light on the importance of Dr. Clarke's life, his unwavering commitment to build a community (Newport, RI) where persons of differing religious beliefs could live together in harmony and welcomed to practice their faith without fear of reprisals. Through referencing John's written word from his book "Ill Newes from New England", the film will get to the heart of how John overcame personal sacrifices and risk of treason to secure the Royal Charter of 1663 thereby granting Religious Freedom and Civil Liberties to the colony of Rhode Island which changed world history.

Andrea M Clarke - Writer, Producer
, Creative Director  andrea@florentinasong.com 310-309-1858 EST

Historical Snapshot

Dr. John Clarke was a Baptist minister, Physician and highly educated Statesman who co-founded the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He founded the First Baptist Church in Newport in 1644, which was the second Baptist Church in America, and was a leading advocate of religious freedom in America.

Born in Westhorpe, Suffolk, England on October 8, 1609, Dr. Clarke first immigrated with his wife Elizabeth to Massachusetts Bay in 1637, and then went south to Rhode Island. He immediately sided with Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomians and was one of those forced into exile by Massachusetts Bay. Dr. Clarke learned from Roger Williams that Aquidneck Island (Rhode Island) was available, and he, Williams, Coddington, and other settlers purchased it from the Narragansetts. They left Massachusetts and established Portsmouth in 1638. Dr. Clarke is one of the signers of the Portsmouth Compact.

In 1651, Dr. John Clarke and his friends John Crandall and Obadiah Holmes were arrested and imprisoned in Lynn, Massachusetts for conducting an illegal worship service. Their religious persecutions served as the basis for Clarke's only major work Ill Newes from New England, or a Narrative of New England's Persecutions (1652). The work exposed religious persecution in seventeenth-century New England, and demonstrated Clarke's argument for religious freedom in America. In it he wrote: "it is not the will of the Lord that any one should have dominion over another man's conscience... [Conscience] is such a sparkling beam, from the Father of lights, and spirits that it cannot be lorded over, commanded, or forced, either by men, devils, or angels..." (Epistle Dedicatory).


Clarke's role in securing a new charter for Rhode Island Colony was particularly significant,
Charter of 1663 written by Clarke
in that it formally guaranteed the colony full religious liberty. In November 1651, along with Roger Williams, Clarke traveled by ship back to London England to secure a new charter for the colony of Rhode Island. Williams returned to Rhode Island in 1654, but Clarke stayed in England as the colony's agent working against great odds to obtain a new charter. As a well spoken, highly regarded communicator Clarke convinced Charles II to grant religious toleration and separation of church and state to a political entity, the tiny Colony of Rhode Island.


On July 8, 1663, the King granted a Royal Charter to Rhode Island. Clarke wrote the charter himself, and its words soon enriched other colonial charters and eventually found their way into America's founding documents. "The Charter of Rhode Island of 1663 has been universally recognized as the most liberal state paper ever issued by the English Crown" (Thomas W. Bicknell, Story of Dr. John Clarke, Providence, 1915, p. 182). Clarke returned to Rhode Island after his twelve-year quest, where he was elected to the General Assembly and served three terms as deputy governor of the colony.






The 20th-century historian Thomas Bicknell wrote of religious freedom, “Its clear, full, deliberate, organized, and permanent establishment in the world can now be distinctly traced to the Colony of Rhode Island . . . under the leadership and inspiration of Dr. John Clarke, the true founder.’’

James Wermuth, Executive Director of The John Clarke Society and Writer "The Life & Times of John Clarke" "In the summer of 1663, against seemingly insurmountable odds, an improbable patriot living in an unlikely place changed the course of world civilization. Through Rhode Island’s King Charles II Charter, Dr. John Clarke convinced the king to grant religious toleration and separation of church and state to a political entity, the diminutive Colony of Rhode Island. For the first time in world history, religious freedom became fundamental to democracy. The Charter’s words soon enriched other colonial charters and eventually found their way into the writings of James Madison, architect of America’s founding documents."