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Recalling the Flushing Remonstrance
Our right to worship stands threatened by a new regime.


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Jack Fowler

More oppression and banishments followed. So Stuyvesant had an intolerance ordinance — aimed at preventing the immigration of “Vagabonds, Quakers, and other Fugitives” — adopted in New Amsterdam in 1663: 

Preamble:

The Director General and Council of New Netherland, To all those who shall see these Presents or hear them read, Greeting, make known. Whereas we daily find that many Vagabonds, Quakers and other Fugitives are, without the previous knowledge and consent of the Director General and council, conveyed, brought and landed in this Government, and sojourn and remain in the respective Villages of this Province without those bringing them giving them notice thereof, or such persons addressing themselves to the government and showing whence they come, as they ought to do, or that they have taken the oath of fidelity the same as other Inhabitants, 

Vagabonds, Quakers and other fugitives not to be brought into the Province without permission of government:

Director General and Council, Therefore, do hereby Order and command all Skippers, Sloop captains and others, whomsoever they may be, not to convey or bring, much less to land within this government, any such Vagabonds, Quakers and other Fugitives, whether Men or Women, unless they have given information thereof and obtained consent,

Penalty:

on pain of the Importers forfeiting a fine of twenty pounds Flemish for every person, whether man or woman, whom they will have brought in and landed without the consent or previous knowledge of the Director General, and, in addition, be obliged immediately to depart again out of this government with such persons 

Fines, how to be applied:

The fine to be applied one-third for the fiscal, one-third for the informer and the remaining third at the discretion of the court.

The law was short-lived. The year before, John Bowne, a Quaker, had been arrested for his faith and locked in a dungeon for three months by Stuyvesant. This was followed by banishment to the Netherlands. But Bowne, although bowed, was not broken. As Peabody writes, he fought back against Stuyvesant:

The Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch West India Company was reluctant to interfere in a colonial matter, and suggested that Bowne remedy the situation himself by bringing his wife and child to live with him in more tolerant Holland. However, Bowne refused and appealed to the town’s patent and The Flushing Remonstrance. The chamber then recommended that Bowne return and agree to abide by the ban on the Quakers, but he refused to deny his faith. The next day the chamber acquitted Bowne and ordered Stuyvesant to be tolerant of faiths not his own, in line with the patent and the remonstrance.

Nearly four centuries later, the right freely to worship won by John Bowne and other brave colonials — the victory over undue government control of religious practice — now stands threatened by a new regime. It is one led by a chief executive who has taken an oath to uphold a Constitution that, informed by the Flushing Remonstrance and other declarations of tolerance, protects the right to the free exercise of religion. The president is happy to go along with this, only as long as the religion does the government’s bidding.

— Jack Fowler is the publisher of National Review



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