A Lively Experiment: The Story of John Clarke, America’s Forgotten Patriot is a historical drama based on the true story of one man’s unwavering belief that we are all born free with innate Soul Liberty. The film brings the audience into his self-sacrificing steadfast actions during tumultuous times to secure religious and civil freedoms for the Colony of Rhode Island.
Meet Dr. John Clarke
Dr. John Clarke was born in Westhorpe, Suffolk County England on October 3, 1609 to a well-to-do family.
Dr. John Clarke was a well educated Physician, Baptist Minister, Statesman(Law), Patriot and Benefactor who was modest, kind, sympathetic and loved by most. John is hailed as the true Founder of Newport RI and Founder of the First Baptist Church of Newport. He spoke 4 languages. (English, Greek, Latin and Hebrew)
Dr. John Clarke held non-conformist progressive ideals for the times. He was passionately driven by his heart-felt belief that no man or government entity has the right to silence, harass or otherwise persecute any person for their religious beliefs. He referred to this as Soul-Liberty or Liberty of Conscience.
In November of 1637, at the age of 28, Dr. John Clarke along with his young wife Elizabeth and some of his siblings, set sail for New England (America) with hopes to experience freedoms that were against the law in Old England.
Not long after Dr. Clarke was on shore in America he witnessed the same Religious Intolerance & Persecutions as in Old England. He along with others were met with suspicion, disarmed and banished from “Boston”. In the dead of winter they headed out by foot to find a place where all were welcome regardless of religious beliefs, to live in peace together. (Today this place is known as Newport, Rhode Island).
On July 20, 1651, Dr. John Clarke was arrested and imprisoned along with Obadiah Holmes and John Crandell for holding an illegal worship service at an elderly blind man’s (William Witter) home in Lynn, Mass. His sentence was a steep fine or 20 lashes on the public whipping post. While Dr. Clarke was being prepared at the whipping post, a stranger passing by could not bear witness to a preacher-man in such a manner. “I cannot bear to see a scholar, a gentleman and reverend divine flogged.” Against Dr. Clarke’s dispute, the court accepted payment of his fine from this stranger and he was released back to Rhode Island.
Obadiah Holmes heard that his fine was to be paid, he refused the kind gesture as he “did nothing wrong in practicing his Christian faith”. He was held in a Boston Jail and on September 5, 1651 Obadiah was whipped mercilessly by a 3 cord rope 30 times on his bare back.
Dr. John Clarke was incensed, as elected Agent for the Colony of Rhode Island, he along with Roger Williams set sail in November of 1651 back to London England to secure a strengthened charter on religious liberties and colony protections.
Dr. Clarke and his companions were sailing towards treacherous times in England. King Charles I was decapitated in 1649 and ruling came largely under Parliament and Oliver Cromwell, known as Lord Protector. While Cromwell wrote a letter in 1655 telling Rhode Island her current patent was safe, there were other hands at play in the midst to revoke the terms.
Supporting himself as a Physician and Minister, Dr. John Clarke spent 12 years in London. Self-sacrificing, he never lost focus on his duties as the Colony’s Agent to guard their current Patent and to secure new wide reaching Religious Freedoms under a self governing autonomous Colony.
Up against many obstacles including risk of treason, Dr. John Clarke stayed on track with civility
towards his adversaries which gained him mutual respect. Following a number of petitions that previously failed, on July 3, 1663 Dr. John Clarke presented a new Charter to King Charles II.
Dr. Clarke’s loyalties to the King, mediation capabilities and statesmanship convinced the King of England to pass with Royal Seal the Charter of 1663 which granted unprecedented Religious Freedom and Civil Liberties to the Colony of Rhode Island.
For the first time in world history, democracy was synonymous with freedom. Further the ground was broken for the United States Constitution and the democratic way of life that would not come until over a century later.