Toleration and Diversity in New Netherland and the Duke’s Colony

Paul Finkelman

in No Establishment of Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860371
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950164 | DOI:
Toleration and Diversity in New Netherland and the Duke’s Colony

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The seventeenth-century founders of what is now New York, unlike the English who first settled the other twelve colonies, were Dutch. New Netherland was created by the Dutch West India Company in 1624 as a series of trading posts. At that time, the Dutch Reformed Church was the established church in the Netherlands, a state that allowed greater toleration for religious minorities than any other in Europe. In the middle of the century, Petrus Stuyvesant, a devout member of the Dutch Reformed Church, was sent to improve discipline in the faltering colony. Unlike his predecessors, he attempted to prevent religious minorities—particularly Lutherans, Jews, and Quakers—from operating freely in the colony. Stuyvesant’s superiors in Amsterdam, however, believed that toleration rather than religious uniformity was more conducive to civic harmony. After seizing the colony in 1664 and renaming it New York, the British continued the Dutch approach of toleration rather that English approach of insisting on an establishment of religion. With a religiously diverse population in the eighteenth century, deriving from seventeenth-century toleration, New York’s constitution of 1777 was notable for its prohibitions on estalishments of religion as well as religious tests for public office, thereby applying lessons learned from the seventeenth century.

Keywords: toleration; New Netherland; Netherlands; Petrus (Peter) Stuyvesant

Chapter.  15925 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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