Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Flushing Remonstrance

Today is the anniversary of the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest appeals for religious tolerance in American history. In the 1600's, the practice of faiths other than the Dutch Reformed Church was forbidden in New Netherlands (now New York). Adherents to other religions or denominations--particularly Quakers--were persecuted, imprisoned and banished. A group of citizens wrote and submitted a petition to the governor. Four of the signees were arrested, but as citizens continued to engage in acts of civil disobedience--primarily in the form of people welcoming Quakers into their homes--it gradually brought an end to religious persecution in the colony.

The Flushing Remonstrace is considered a precursor to the Freedom of Religion clause (First Amendment) in the U.S. Constitution.

From the Bowne House Historical Society:

"On December 27, 1657, Edward Hart wrote a letter on behalf of his fellow townsmen. He was town clerk for Vlissengen [now known as Flushing], and with the authority vested in his office he spoke for all the inhabitants of the settlement. Though the law of New Netherlands [now known as New York] demanded otherwise, Hart wrote, Vlissengen would offer 'free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses,' to any who sought it, whether 'Jews, Turks... Egyptians... Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker.' 'Wee desire...not to judge least we be judged,' he explained, 'neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand or fall to his own Master...designed for the good of all ....' In accordance with the 'Outward state of Holland' and 'the patent and charter of our Towne...which we are not willing to infringe,' Vlissengen respectfully refused to obey the law. Their letter not only defied the laws of one of the most powerful, religious governors of the colonial age, it challenged the very idea of state-enforced religion. The belief that religion was an affair of state lay at the core of the bloody religious persecutions that had plagued Europe throughout the Reformation age. Even in the more lenient American colonies, the words of the Remonstrance expressed a concept of religious freedom that extended beyond the principles of any other contemporary document.

The Remonstrance presented a raw version of the radical ideals later solidified in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."


Post a Comment

<< Home