Select Page

By William H. Benson

The Parallel Lives


Roger Williams VS. Cotton Mathers


Books and censorship

Books and censorship

The list of banned, censored, and challenged books is long and illustrious.

“Decameron” (1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio, and “Canterbury Tales” (1476) by Geoffrey Chaucer were banned from U. S. mail because of the Federal Anti-Obscenity Law of 1873, known as the Comstock Law.

That law “banned the sending or receiving of works containing ‘obscene, ‘filthy,’ or ‘inappropriate’ material.

William Pynchon, a prominent New England landowner and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote a startling critique of Puritanism, that he mailed to London and had it published there in 1650. He entitled it “The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption.”

read more

70th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement

Last Thursday, July 27, 2023, North Korea’s leader Kim Jon Un presided over a military parade that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean conflict, from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced

read more

Abraham Lincoln: infidel or faithful?

Abraham Lincoln: infidel or faithful?The two books that Abraham Lincoln read often and loved the most throughout his life were the King James Bible, published in 1611, and William Shakespeare’s works, first published as the First Folio in 1623, both the best of...

read more

Older Posts



This past week I listened to Craig Wortmann’s book, “What’s Your Story: Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful.” Craig encourages readers to place their stories into a matrix of sixteen cells, four columns by four rows.

He identifies four columns, top to bottom: success, failure, fun, and legends. A success story is how a project succeeded. A failure story is how a project failed. A fun story is a joke. A legend story is a once-upon-a-time story, that of a hero.

The idea of a matrix appears too complicated, a spreadsheet to arrange jokes. Ronald Reagan kept it simpler. He wrote his stories on 3 x 5 cards and kept them in boxes. To write a speech, for example, to inspire, he withdrew cards from his stack.

read more

Roger Williams and William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born close to April 23, 1564, in Stratford-on-the-Avon, in England, 100 miles northwest of London. Roger Williams was born either as early as December of 1603, or as late as April 5, 1604, in Smithfield, a section of London.

Shakespeare’s father, John, was a glover in Stratford-on-the-Avon, in that he stitched gloves out of animal skins. Williams’s father, James, bought, sold, and traded textiles.

Shakespeare became a famous playwright in London at the Globe Theater, but Williams sailed to Massachusetts in 1631, and later founded Providence, Rhode Island.

Shakespeare died close to his 52nd birthday, on April 23, 1616, in Stratford-on-the Avon. Roger Williams died in early March of 1683, near his 79th birthday, in Providence.

read more
Roger Williams vs. the Puritans

Roger Williams vs. the Puritans

Last time in these pages, I mentioned Jonathan Winthrop’s “city on a hill” sermon, “that all the eyes of all people are upon us.” Winthrop considered himself a type of Moses who was leading his people, like Israel, to a new land, to build a new Jerusalem.

This is spelled out in John Barry’s 2012 book, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty.”

Winthrop and his fellow Puritans believed the city on a hill should have a church and a state, and that the two should work together, like left and right hands. In essence, Winthrop wanted to build a theocracy, in New England, in 1630.

The Puritans expected the magistrates to support the church by compelling people to attend worship, to recite oaths, to pray prescribed prayers, and to tithe.

read more
Jonathan Winthrop’s ‘A Model of Christian Charity’

Jonathan Winthrop’s ‘A Model of Christian Charity’

In recent days, I have begun reading John Barry’s book, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty.”

Although published in 2012, Barry tells the story of how the Puritans chose to leave old England to build a plantation on the rocky New England coast of Massachusetts.

In England, the Puritans wanted to purify and simplify their church. Hence, the title of Puritans. They wanted a rustic sanctuary, without stained glass windows and gaudy artwork. Also, they wanted the Anglican clerics to dress without cassock, cap, or gown.

King James I, his son Charles I, and Charles’s archbishop William Laud disagreed. Laud and his henchmen hunted the Puritans down, jailed them, and even tortured them. For these Puritans, exile to North American represented a better choice.

read more

biweekly column

Readers, please look for my column that I completed today, some ideas on Jonathan Winthrop's sermon "A Model of Christian Charity." It should post in a few days.

read more
War and peace in Ukraine

War and peace in Ukraine

On February 17, 2023, David Remnick of the New Yorker podcast interviewed Steven Kotkin, history professor at Stanford, and biographer of Joseph Stalin.

Kotkin said, “Let’s think of a house with ten rooms, and let’s say I barge in and take two of those rooms. I wreck those two rooms, and I also wreck your other eight rooms. You try to evict me, but I’m still there wrecking your entire house. An excerpt about war and peace in the Ukraine.

read more

One of University of Northern Colorado’s 2020 Honored Alumni

William H. Benson

Local has provided scholarships for history students for 15 years

A Sterling resident is among five alumni selected to be recognized this year by the University of Northern Colorado. Bill Benson is one of college’s 2020 Honored Alumni.

Each year UNC honors alumni in recognition for their outstanding contributions to the college, their profession and their community. This year’s honorees were to be recognized at an awards ceremony on March 27, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak that event has been cancelled. Instead UNC will recognize the honorees in the fall during homecoming Oct. 10 and 11……

Newspaper Columns

The Duodecimal System

For centuries, the ancient Romans calculated sums with their clunky numerals: I, V, X, L, C, D, and M; or one, five, ten, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000. They knew nothing better.

The Thirteenth Amendment

On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and by it, he declared that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are and henceforward shall be free.” Lincoln’s Proclamation freed some 3.1 million slaves within the Confederacy.

The Fourteenth Amendment

After Congress and enough states ratified the thirteenth amendment that terminated slavery, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. This law declared that “all people born in the United States are entitled to be citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.” The Act equated birth to citizenship.

The New-York Packet and the Constitution

Jill Lepore, the Harvard historian, published her newest book a month ago, These Truths: A History of the United States. In a short introduction, she describes in detail the Oct. 30, 1787 edition of a semi-weekly newspaper, The New-York Packet.


Mr. Benson’s writings on the U.S. Constitution are a great addition to the South Platte Sentinel. Its inspiring to see the history of the highest laws of this country passed on to others.

– Richard Hogan


Mr. Benson, I cannot thank you enough for this scholarship. As a first-generation college student, the prospect of finding a way to afford college is a very daunting one. Thanks to your generous donation, my dream of attending UNC and continuing my success here is far more achievable

Cedric Sage Nixon


Donec bibendum tortor non vestibulum dapibus. Cras id tempor risus. Curabitur eu dui pellentesque, pharetra purus viverra.

– Extra Times


  • Thomas Paine vs. George Whitefield
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson vs. Joseph Smith
  • William James vs. Mary Baker Eddy
  • Mark Twain vs. Billy Graham
  • Henry Louis Mencken vs. Jim Bakker