The Flushing Remonstrance: The Ultimate Explanation For The Need To Fight For Religious Freedom.
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
In the last installment of "Sunday Thoughts," we visited the events leading to the declaration of the Flushing Remonstrance; North America's first signed attestation of religious freedom. And although the story behind the Remonstrance is gripping and compelling, its greater power lies in its words.
Yes, a handful of documents served to advance the needle of religious freedom and personal liberties in immeasurable ways. Chief amongst these are the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, Virginia's Statute for Religious Freedom, the Baltimore Toleration Act, the Virginia Bill of Rights, Madison's Remonstrance on Religious Freedom, the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. But none explains the reasons for the necessity of the defense of one's religious freedoms like the Flushing Remonstrance.
What's remarkable is that the explanation provided in this act was not penned by a group of philosophers or professors of higher learning, but by a group of common individuals who were being pressured into going against their religious beliefs by an oppressive and tyrannical regime.
Let us recall the circumstances afflicting the inhabitants of Flushing. Peter Stuyvesant, the new director for the colony of New Amsterdam was ordering the colonists to apprehend and deliver anyone who they knew to be a Quaker. The colonists, some of whom were married to Quakers could not bring themselves to do so, and they couldn't do it not because of some allegiance to a conflicting worldly power, but because of their greater allegiance to the Laws of Jesus Christ.
Thus, when they assembled to pen their letter of defiance, they knew their position was indefensible in the eyes of the laws of man, so they set out to explain their defiance, not through a secular legal argument, but through an explanation of their allegiance to an authority greater than any from this world.
On December 27, 1657, they wrote Stuyvesant that "we are unable condemn [the Quakers] in this case, neither can we stretch out our hands against them, to punish, banish or persucute(sic) them, for out of Christ god is a consuming fire, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
They recognized it was not up to them to them judge lest they themselves be judged, nor condemn lest they themselves be condemned. They were therefore "bounde by the Law to doe good unto all men, especially to those of the household of faith."
"Therefore," they said, "God shall persuade our consciences. And in this we are true subjects both of Church and State, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man."
As the inhabitants of Flushing recognized, the laws of man will someday amount to nothing, but the laws of God shall reign supreme and eternal, and as they mentioned in their second paragraph, there will come a time when they will come to advocate before the Lord for their souls. And just what effect will their compliance with man's unjust laws have then?
Truly, the inhabitants of Flushing properly placed their priorities when they voiced their objections to the absolute ruler of their jurisdiction. But regardless, they recognized they were much better off defying the unjust laws of man than disobeying those of God.
THE FLUSHING REMONSTRANCE.
December 27, 1657 Right Honorable,
You have been pleased to send up unto 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, to punish, banish or persucute them, for out of Christ god is a consuming fire, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
We desire therefore in this case not to judge least we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand and fall to his own Master. Wee are bounde by the Law to doe good unto all men, especially to those of the household of faith. And though for the present we seem to be unsensible of the law and the Law giver, yet when death and the Law assault us, if wee have our advocate to seeke, who shall plead for us in this case of conscience betwixt god and our own souls; the power of this world can neither attack us, neither excuse us, for if God justifye who can condemn and if God condemn there is none can justifye.
And for those jealousies and suspicions which some have of them, that they are destructive unto Magistracy and Ministerye, that can not bee, for the magistrate hath the sword in his hand and the minister hath the sword in his hand, as witnesse those two great examples which all magistrates and ministers are to follow, Moses and Christ, whom god raised up maintained and defended against all the enemies both of flesh and spirit; and therefore that which is of God will stand, and that which is of man will come to nothing. And as the Lord hath taught Moses or the civil power to give an outward liberty in the state by the law written in his heart designed for the good of all, and can truly judge who is good, who is civil, who is true and who is false, and can pass definitive sentence of life or death against that man which rises up against the fundamental law of the States General; soe he hath made his ministers a savor of life unto life, and a savor of death unto death.
The law of love, peace and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks, and Egyptians, as they are considered the sonnes of Adam, which is the glory of the outward state of Holland, soe love, peace and liberty, extending to all in Christ Jesus, condemns hatred, war and bondage. And because our Saviour saith it is impossible but that offenses 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 hee appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker, 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; for our Saviour saith this is the law and the prophets.
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 egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences. And in this we are true subjects both of Church and State, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man. And this is according to the patent and charter of our Towne, given unto us in the name of the States General, which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble servants, the inhabitants of Vlishing.
Written this 27th day of December, in the year 1657, by mee
EDWARD HART, Clericus Tobias Feake Nathaniel Tue The Mark of William Noble Nicholas Blackford
The Mark of Micah Tue William Thorne, seignor The Mark of William Thorne, junior The Mark of Philipp Ud Edward Tarne
Robert Field, senior John Store Robert Field, junior Nathaniel Hefferd Nick Colas Parsell Benjamin Hubbard Michael Milner
The Mark of Henry Townsend William Pigion George Wright
The Mark of John Foard George Clere Henry Semtel Elias Doughtie
Edward Hart Antonie Feild John Mastine Richard Stockton John Townesend Edward Griffine Edward Farrington
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pagesand served in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.