Clarke, John (1609-1676) (DNB00)

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CLARKE, JOHN (1609–1676), one of the founders of Rhode Island, New England, was, according to family records, the third son of Thomas and Rose Clarke of Bedfordshire, England, and was born on 8 Oct. 1609. He is stated to have received a university education, and also studied medicine. In a paper of attorney signed by him in 1656 to receive a legacy of his wife's father out of the manor of Wreslingworth, he styles himself ‘John Clarke, physician of London.’ He was one of a number of colonists who, driven from Massachusetts Bay, 7 March 1638, purchased Aquidneck from the Indian sachems, which they named the island of Rhodes, or Rhode Island, and settled at Pocasset, or Portsmouth. On 20 April 1639 Clarke, along with a detachment, proceeded to settle Newport. There, besides continuing his medical practice, he was chosen pastor of the baptist church founded in 1644, and he also took a prominent part in the management of its civil affairs. He was both assistant and treasurer of the court of commissioners that met at Warwick in 1649, and also of the same that met at Newport in 1650. In 1651, as he narrates in ‘Ill Newes from New England,’ he, with Obadiah Holmes and John Crandall, for holding a religious meeting at the house of William Wither, in Lynn, Massachusetts, was arrested and imprisoned at Boston. Holmes received thirty lashes with a three-corded whip, Clarke was fined 20l., and Crandall 5l., and friends paid the fines without their knowledge. In October 1651 he accompanied Roger Williams, by vote of the colony, to England, to obtain a new and more explicit charter. On the return of Williams in 1654 he remained the sole agent of the colony in England, and finally succeeded in obtaining from Charles II the charter of 1663, which remained the fundamental law of Rhode Island till 1842. After his return he was three times elected deputy-governor, and also resumed his duties as pastor of the first baptist church. He died on 28 April 1676, and was buried on the west side of Tanner Street, Newport. He left in manuscript a statement of his religious opinions, which showed that he belonged to the sect of particular baptists. A great proportion of his property was bequeathed to charitable purposes. While in England he published ‘Ill Newes from New England, or a Narrative of New England's Persecutions,’ 1652, also published in ‘Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society,’ ii. 1–115; and ‘Four Proposals and Four Conclusions.’

[Callendar's Historical Discourse on the Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode Island published in vol. iv. of Collections of Rhode Island Historical Society; Savage's Winthrop; Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of New England Settlers; Backus's Church History of New England; Biographical Cyclopædia of Representative Men of Rhode Island (1883).]

T. F. H.