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August 17th, 2009
Document: The Flushing Remonstrance, 1657

In 1645, the settlement of Vlissengen (known today as Flushing, Queens) became part of New Netherland. Largely settled by English families, Vlissengen proved to be fertile ground for Quakers who were persecuted at home in England. Quaker religious teachings spread throughout Vlissengen and Long Island, threatening the dominance of the Dutch Reformed Church in New Netherland. Consequently, Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New Netherland, forbade colonists from allowing Quaker meetings to be held in any home.

A Flushing colonist held a Quaker meeting in his home, and he was fined and banished. Flushing citizens protested, and in 1657 they wrote a demand for religious freedom that is today known as the Flushing Remonstrance. Today, the Flushing Remonstrance is regarded as the precursor to the U.S. Constitution’s provision on freedom of religion on the Bill of Rights.

Use the tools below to see the detail of the Flushing Remonstrance, or read the translation. The document was damaged in a fire that swept through Albany in 1911.

Source: New York Yearly Meeting (nyym.org)
Image courtesy New York State Archives


Right Honorable

You have been pleased to send 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, for out of Christ God is a consuming fire, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Wee 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 or fall to his own Master. Wee are bounde by the law to do good unto all men, especially to those of the household of faith. And though for the present we seem to be unsensible for 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 powers of this world can neither attach 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 cannot bee, for the Magistrate hath his 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 enemies both of flesh and spirit; and therefore that 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 evil, who is true and who is false, and can pass definitive sentence of life or death against that man which arises 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 sons 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 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 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 we desire all men should doe unto us, which is the true law both of Church and State; for our Saviour sayeth 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, 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 subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing.

Written this 27th of December in the year 1657, by mee.

Edward Hart, Clericus


  • Thomas Loggia

    I am very pleased to read that the Dutch New York Thirteen has drawn attention to this very important historical document and the courageous people who helped shape our country’s freedoms.
    As a descendent of William Thorne Sr. and Nicholas Parsell both signers of the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance, I am dismayed as to why New York City has not yet properly established a memorial at what is currently an unmarked burial site within Fort Totten Park in Flushing, NY. These grounds hold the remains of more then thirty colonial settlers, some of them are descendents of the two signer’s of the Flushing Remonstrance, one of which may be Martin F. Wilkins, an attorney who’s signature is found on the 1790-1792 Roll Call to the Supreme Court “sworn to true allegiance to the State of New York as a free and independent state”.
    Fort Totten Park is part of the New York City parks system and offers scheduled guided tours. Currently there is no mention of the Flushing Remonstrance descendents, the Thorne/Cornell/Wilkins families or the unmarked area that serves as their final resting place. The time has come for New York City and it’s Parks Department, to acknowledge and honor these brave souls by establishing a “Freedom Memorial” at the Fort Totten Park site and to include this on their guided tour, not only to keep the memory of the Remonstrance signers alive but also as a reminder that without the brave sacrifice of these early colonial settlers we may not have the right to express our religious freedoms as we do today.

    Sincerely,

    Thomas Loggia
    Hopewell Jct. New York 12533
    914-490-3173

  • Michele Yokell

    I teach social studies to 3rd,4th and 5th grade students at PS116 in Manhattan. This document has added to the understanding of tolerance in our early history.We study New Amsterdam in our 4th grade classes. Access to this document has helped me teach the importance of the use of primary documents. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Jazz at Flushing Town Hall – you should know about it | Queens NYC

  • Robin Flannery

    Thank you for this my 11x great grandfather was a signer and perhaps a reason and testament for our great country! Go Henry Townsend!

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The year 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of explorer Henry Hudson's voyage to New York State and the river that bears his name. Check out the links below for more information about Dutch New York and happenings in and around the state during New York's quadricentennial.