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350th anniversary of the Flushing Remonstrance

Thirty Englishmen in the Long Island village of Flushing protested Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s arrest, torture and expulsion of a Quaker preacher who had defied Stuyvesant’s ban on all religions but Dutch Reformed Protestantism. Despite the possibility that they would be fined or imprisoned, the 30 Englishmen signed and delivered the Flushing Remonstrance to Stuyvesant on 27 December 1657.

They asserted -

“If any persons. . . Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker. . . come in love to us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them.” They asked that “the law of love, peace and liberty . . . [extend even] to Jews, Turks and Egyptians . . .”, and declared, “Let every man stand or fall to his own Master.”

The Remonstrance enraged Stuyvesant. He forced the signers to retreat. Nevertheless the Remonstrance was never forgotten, and was an inspiration for the religious freedom clause in the US Constitution.

In 1662 Stuyvesant arrested and exiled Flushing citizen John Bowne, who had allowed his house to be used by Quakers. Sent to Holland to be tried, Bowne took his case to the board of the Dutch West India Company. The company buckled before his resolve and the undeniably persuasive argument that tolerance was more profitable than intolerance.

The next day Bowne was released and sent with a letter to deliver to Stuyvesant, who was told to allow full liberty of conscience in New Amsterdam.

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New Amsterdam in 1664, the year the city fell to England, and was renamed New York.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Geheugen van Nederland (Memory of The Netherlands) Collections

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The farm is gone, but the Bowne Farmhouse (1661) still stands in Flushing, Queens.
Image: Gotham Gazette

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