Coming up: Now the truth about the Newport tower?8:04 PM Tue, May 31, 2011 | Permalink
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Can't really say. Jim Egan, who runs the Newport Tower Museum, on Mill Street across from the tower in Touro Park, has studied the origins of the tower that has variously been attributed to the Vikings, the Knights Templar, the Chinese, the Portuguese and the first governor of colonial Rhode Island, Benedict Arnold (great grandfather of ...).
Egan's theory, which is based in part on the discoveries of University of Rhode Island astronomer William Penhallow, embraces much of what mankind knew, or thought it knew, during the Renaissance, in the reign of Elizabeth I. In my column on Thursday I try to pack as much of it into my officially prescribed 104 lines (at 17 picas in width), but my effort fell woefully short. As I put it in a note to Egan, he can drive trucks through the gaps in my description of his theory.
Perhaps tops among those is that religious freedom, of a sort, in Rhode Island might have happened even without Roger Williams. The queen had informed her court philosopher, John Dee, who in the 1580s was pushing her to colonize America, that he could populate a new colony with Catholics banned in England and that, even if the colony's official creed was to be Anglican, they could worship Rome unreservedly.
Well, that's what Dee said she said to him, and Egan takes this as a sort of First Amendment wannabe. But not exactly. For Catholics to be tolerated in a colony with an official state religion is not exactly the same as "the government shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion" (U.S. Bill of Rights) or Rhode Island's "livelie experiment" with "full liberty of religious concernments" (1663 royal charter).
Still, it would have been a beginning. Read more on Thursday about all sorts of other things at the center of a proposed Elizabethan colonization of New England.