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Our History: Flushing Remonstrance shines 350 years later

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Known as the Flushing Remonstrance, it was an important turning point in our history. During this year, you will hear much about its history and significance.It was interesting for me to note during my research that there exist other "Flushings" in our country. Flushing in Queens was named for a Dutch city in the Zeeland province of southwest Netherlands, but it would be interesting to know how other locations in the United States came to be named Flushing. There is a village near Flint, Mich., settled in 1838 and another in Ohio settled in 1809. Did some former resident of our Flushing head westward and lend his former town's name to a new and later settlement?A "remonstrance" is a protest and was earlier linked to a group of Dutch Protestants, more liberal Calvinists who diverged from the tenets of the Dutch Reformed Church. Such protests originated in Holland in 1610 when doctrinal differences from strict Calvinism were set forth in that year.In January 1639, the Dutch Governor Willem Kieft had secured from the Indians title to what is now Queens County. However, from 1640 on, he had been waging war against neighboring Indians and eventually embroiled the friendly Indians of Long Island. This led to a long period of unrest.In 1645, the liberal policy of the government of New Netherlands encouraged many New England colonists to seek homes here. However, in actions and policy, the Dutch were not always as tolerant as their written laws required. The Dutch in New Netherlands offered enough of a contrast in religious attitude to their Puritan neighbors to cause colonists in New England to seek freedom of conscience in the Dutch colony.Among the English colonists who emigrated to the Dutch colony was the group who founded the settlement known as "Vlissingen," later anglicized to "Flushing." (Vlissingen" was the town in Holland that had been a place of refuge for some of the English colonists.) The Quakers migrated from New England where they had been badly treated. In Flushing, their beliefs found wide acceptance.Peter Stuyvesant was the governor of New Netherlands in 1657 and he was quick to issue an edict forbidding anyone in the colony to entertain a Quaker or to allow a Quaker meeting to be held on their premises under penalty of fine of 50 pounds.It was a Quaker meeting held in the home of a well- respected colonist, Henry Townsend, that precipitated demands for religious freedom. Townsend was fined and banished for holding the meeting. Protests from Flushing's citizens prompted the move to propose and deliver the Remonstrance. Dated December 27,1657, it was composed and signed by Edward Heart, who was the town clerk, and Tobias Feake, the town sheriff (or schout) and 28 other citizens, including Edward Farrington and William Noble, who were also arrested and imprisoned. The Remonstrance was actually carried to New Amsterdam in early January by Tobias Feake, the sheriff.The document argued the cause of religious freedom this way, according to the Web site of the Flushing monthly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, which dates its origins from this early settlement in the 1600s. "... Our desire is not to offend one of His little ones, inwhatsoever form, name or title hee appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quakers, but shall be glad to see anything of God in any of them desiring to doe unto all men, as wee desire all men should doe unto us, which is the true law both of church and state." The Flushing Quakers say the Flushing Remonstrance quotes the original Flushing Charter, which granted Flushing the right "to have and Enjoy the Liberty of Conscience, according to the Custome and manner of Holland, without molestation or disturbance."Feake, Heart, Farrington and Noble, magistrates and signers of the Remonstrance, were arrested and imprisoned. Of the four, Sheriff Feake was the one most harshly dealt with. Noble and Farrington humbled themselves and sought pardon. Soon Edward Heart pleaded for mercy. Sheriff Feake bore the weight of Stuyvesant's displeasure, who stated the sheriff had given lodging to "that heretical and abominable sect called Quakers." In addition, he had been active in securing signatures to "a seditious and detestable document," Stuyvesant said. Feake was "degraded" from his position and sentenced to pay a fine of 200 guilders, or to be banished.In March of the following year, an all-inclusive ordinance was passed to correct and punish the townsmen, but that is another story.

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