William Coddington, founder of the colony of Rhode Island, born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1601, died Nov. 1, 1678. He arrived by the ship Arabella at Salem in 1630, as one of the magistrates of Massachusetts appointed by the crown. For some years he exercised his judicial functions, traded as a merchant in Boston, and accumulated considerable real estate at Braintree. In 1636, when Winthrop superseded Vane as governor, Coddington's name was dropped from the roll, but the freemen on the following day testified their approval of his course by sending him and Vane as their deputies to the court. When Mrs. Hutchinson was tried, during the Antinomian controversy, Cod-dington undertook her defence against Winthrop and his party. He also opposed the proceedings in the case of Wheelwright and others, but unsuccessfully. Becoming wearied of opposition, he removed with 18 others (April 26, 1638) to the island of Aquidneck, now Rhode Island, having drawn up and signed an agreement to found a colony which should be "judged andguided by the absolute laws of Christ." This being found too vague for actual requirements, Coddington was elected judge, with a council of three elders, who were enjoined by a vote of the freemen to be guided by God's laws.

This arrangement was further modified, March 12, 1640, by the election of Coddington as governor, with a lieutenant governor and four assistants. He continued in office seven years, until a charter was obtained and the island incorporated with the Providence plantations. In 1648 he was again offered the governorship, but declined it in consequence of a suit he was engaged in respecting lands. Having made a voyage to England in 1651, he returned with a commission as governor of Aquidneck island, separate from the rest of the colony; but the people being alarmed at the attempt to deprive them of the nomination of their rulers, he resigned. From this time he withdrew from public affairs till 1674-'5, when he once more accepted the governorship. Coddington, after his settlement in Rhode Island, adopted the tenets of the Quakers.