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This Week in History: The Flushing Remonstrance

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Here, on its 355th anniversary, is a stirring story you've probably never heard, about the hallowed land the Mets call home. I present it only as a little yuletide treat; it has nothing to do with baseball.

Once there was (and is) a Dutch harbor town called Vlissingen, which the English tongue made "Flushing," and it was among the first to rise against Holland’s lord and master, Spain. Queen Elizabeth of England backed the rebels but decided her armies would occupy Flushing, a sort of temporary security pending the plucky revolt's success.

So when fourteen English families formed a new "Flushing" in the heart of the Dutch New Netherlands, they were, clear to everyone, having a bit of a laugh.

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That was 1645. In 1653 a boat of Quakers washed ashore and their leader, a man named Fowler, greeted Director-General Peter Stuyvesant with gross indifference, "his hat firm on his head, as if a goat." Two young women then "began to quake and go into a frenzy and cry out loudly in the middle of the street, that men should repent, for the day of judgment was at hand." A local added, "Our people, not knowing what was the matter, ran to and fro, while one cried ‘Fire," and another something else." Strange things were afoot in Lange Eyland.

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Stuyvesant

Stuyvesant stamped his peg-leg and issued warrants. A Quaker preacher was dragged in chains to Manhattan, put in a dungeon, severely whipped, and sentenced "to work at the wheelbarrow two years with the negroes," before deportation to wicked Rhode Island. Any ship bearing Quakers would be confiscated, Stuyvesant ordered, anyone harboring a Quaker would be ruinously fined. The severe edict far outstripped Stuyvesant's persecution of Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Jews, generally allowed their quiet practice in exchange for work and obedience.

On December 27, 1657, thirty-one residents of Flushing signed a document refusing Stuyvesant’s order, a petition known from that day as the Flushing Remonstrance. It is quite a beautiful and eloquent thing, I think -- unfairly forgotten as a major document of American liberty. It reads in part:

You have been pleased to send us a certain prohibition or command that we should not receive or entertain any of those people called Quakers because they are supposed to be, by some, seducers of the people. For our part we cannot condemn them in this case, neither can we stretch out our hands against them…

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A page of the Flushing Remonstrance

The law of love, peace and liberty in [mainland Holland] extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sons of Adam… condemns hatred, war and bondage. And because our Savior sayeth it is impossible but that offences will come, but woe unto him by whom they cometh, our desire is not to offend one of his little ones, in whatsoever form, name or title he appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker, but shall be glad to see anything of God in any of them, desiring to do unto all men as we desire all men should do unto us…

Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egress and regress unto our Town, and houses... And this is according to the patent and charter of our Town… which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall hold to our patent and shall remain, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Flushing.

Four of the signers were arrested, two recanted, two were jailed, and one was later banished. The town government was removed and Stuyvesant’s puppets put in dictatorial control. Like everywhere else in colonial history, there was never a straight line between a statement of principals and the actions of governments or men. The colonies were a great salad of tongues, beliefs, interests, and concerns, and no one tradition of faith or thought held supreme.

The little brave town of Flushing reminds us of that.

So, yep, go Mets.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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