Samuel Gorton, a New England religious enthusiast, the first settler of Warwick, R. I., born in Gorton, England, about 1G00, died in Rhode Island in November or December, 1677. Ho did business in London as a clothier till 1636, when he embarked for New England, and settled at Boston, and afterward at Plymouth, where he began to preach such peculiar doctrines that he was banished from the colony on a charge of heresy. With a few followers he went to Rhode Island, which had recently been settled by exiles from Massachusetts Bay; but falling again into trouble, he was publicly whipped for calling the justices "just asses " and for other contemptuous acts, and was forced to seek an asylum with Roger Williams in Providence, about 1641. Here he made himself so obnoxious that in November of that year a petition was addressed to the authorities of Massachusetts praying that Gorton and his company might be "brought to satisfaction." That colony having acquired a nominal jurisdiction over Pawtuxet, where Gorton had settled, he was summoned to Boston in September, 1642; but he refused to recognize the jurisdiction thus assumed, and about the same time removed to Shawomet, on the W. side of Nar-ragansett bay. where he purchased land from the sachem Miantonomo. But in June, 1643, two inferior sachems contested his claims to the land, and applied to the general court at Boston for assistance.
A body of 40 soldiers was consequently marched to Shawomet, and Gorton and ten of his disciples were carried to Boston, where, the question of the land being laid aside, they were put on trial for their lives as "damnable heretics." Gorton and six others were found guilty, and sentenced to confinement and hard labor in irons. In March, 1644, they were released, and ordered to leave the colony within 14 days. Gorton then went to England to obtain redress, and having procured a letter of safe conduct from the earl of Warwick to the Massachusetts magistrates, and an order that his people should be allowed peaceable possession of their lands at Shawomet, he returned in 1648 to his colony, which he named after the earl. Though Massachusetts did not relinquish her claim over the Shawomet settlement until some years later, Gorton's remaining years seem to have passed quietly. He discharged many important civil offices, and on Sundays used to preach to the colonists and Indians. It is difficult to determine what were his religious opinions. He contemned a clergy and all outward forms, and held that by union with Christ believers partook of the perfection of God, that Christ is both human and divine, and that heaven and hell have no existence save in the mind.
He published "Simplicities Defence against seven-headed Policy," a vindication of his course in New England (4to, London, 1646; reprinted in the collections of the Rhode Island historical society); "An Incorruptible Key composed of the CX. Psalme" (1647); "Saltmarsh returned from the Dead" (1655); "An Antidote against the common Plague of the World" (1657); " Certain Copies of Letters," etc. He also left in manuscript a commentary on a part of the Gospel of St. Matthew. - See his life by J. M. Mackie in Sparks's "American Biography."