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A "Lively Experiment" at the State House

And now, guys and dolls, a little brush with Rhody history.

Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis unveiled a portrait at the State House today of John Clarke, co-founder of the nation's Baptist Church, buyer of Aquidneck Island from the Wampanoags and author of the phrase "lively experiment" made famous by the Rhode Island's Royal Charter.

The phrase, which referred to the colony's adventures in separation of church and state, is now - in the words of Mollis' erudite spokesman Chris Barnett - "synonymous with the independent-mindedness of Rhode Islanders."

From the Secretary of State's office:

The national Baptist History Preservation Society (BHPS) commissioned the portrait to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Clarke in 1609...

Clarke arrived in Rhode Island shortly after Roger Williams, who commissioned Clarke to secure a document from King Charles II that would both ensure religious freedom in Rhode Island and formally recognize the colony in order to protect it from encroachment by settlers in Boston and Plymouth. The 70 inch by 88 inch oil portrait depicts Clarke accepting the Royal Charter from King Charles II in London in 1663. Secretary of State Mollis will accept the painting on behalf of the citizens of Rhode Island. The Secretary of State's office is responsible for the preservation of the Royal Charter, which is on display in a temperature-controlled security case outside the Senate Chamber on the second floor of the State House.

The Royal Charter guaranteed complete religious liberty, established a self-governing colony with total autonomy and strengthened Rhode Island's territorial claims. It was the most liberal charter to be issued by the mother country during the entire colonial era, a fact that enabled the Royal Charter to serve as Rhode Island's basic law until the state constitution was ratified in May 1843.

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