Saturday, December 29, 2007

Flushing Remonstrance 12/27/1657

Our basic rights seem to be in the center of today’s political discussions. Such rights as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Privacy seem to be constantly under attack in the current climate in this country. But imagine a time where there were no rights for religious worship. There was only one church and one man mandated that it was that particular church that was to be worshipped or else. This happened a little more than 350 years ago. But instead of allowing it to happen, a group of individuals decided to stop taking the abuse and stand up for themselves. The outcome of their actions led to the basic foundations that we now find within The Bill of Rights. These individuals were part of the Society of Friends, or as we know them today: The Quakers.

The Society of Friends was established in England by George Fox in the year 1652. The Quakers (as they were negatively called but grew to accept the moniker) followed a simple life that involved honesty, compassion and equality for all. It was through their actions that they chose to enlighten the newly “discovered” world to their beliefs. It was in the City of Boston that the Quakers met their toughest resistance.

In the Pilgrim stronghold of Boston, the Quakers were regularly ridiculed and persecuted for their beliefs. It is ironic to note, that the Pilgrims, who were also persecuted for their religious beliefs in Europe, found the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit in Holland, but were unable to extend the same courtesy to the Quakers in Massachusetts. It was in 1657, that the Quakers saw an opportunity to practice their faith in peace. Henry Townsend who lived in Vlissingen (Current Day Flushing, New York) offered safe passage for those Quakers who wanted to leave any place that they had been persecuted. The plan worked well until it caught the eye of the Dutch Director-General of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, who himself was a religious man but of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Peter Stuyvesant was brought in by The Dutch West Indies company to provide stable leadership to their fledgling business colony. Before Stuyvesant’s arrival, the colony was plagued by infighting between colonists, massive drinking and unruliness among the natives and the colonists. With Stuyvesant’s arrival in 1647 he attempted to being about order by closing brothels, enforcing religious observation on Sundays and of curbing the sale of arms and tobacco to the natives. It was with the enforcement of the religious observation that brought the Quakers into direct conflict with Stuyvesant.

Though the Dutch West Indies Company had no official rule about what religious practices were allowed, Stuyvesant took it upon himself to act on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church. So when Townsend started to house his fellow Quakers, Stuyvesant fined him and had him shipped back to Holland. It was because of this that a group of Quakers got together and drafted a document that would be now known as The Flushing Remonstrance. Signed on December 27, 1657 it was within this document that they listed their displeasure with the persecution of their faith and how they believed it was their right to practice their faith, as they believed. They signed the document and had it delivered to Stuyvesant himself. This further caused Stuyvesant to go against the Quakers.

It wasn’t until the year 1662 that things came to a head. John Bowne went against the decrees and rules of Stuyvesant by continuing to house Quakers and allowing them to conduct their services under his roof. Stuyvesant had Bowne arrested in his own home and when he refused to renounce his faith, he was jailed and tortured for 3 months before being exiled to Holland.

Upon his arrival in Holland, Bowne pled his case to the directors of the Dutch West Indies Company. The directors acquitted Bowne of all charges and allowed him to return to New Amsterdam with specific rules for Stuyvesant to allow all people in the colony to practice their religious beliefs free from persecution. The rule stayed in place even when the British taking control of New Amsterdam a year later. Here is the official text of 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 persecute 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 we 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 attack us, neither excuse us, for if God justifye who can condemn and if God condemn there is none can justify.

And for those jealousies and suspicions which some have of them, that they are destructive unto Magistracy and Minssereye, 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 definite 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 he 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 Savior saith this is the law and the prophets. Therefore, if any of these said persons come in love unto us, wee 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 subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing.

Written this 27th day of December, in the year 1657 , by mee
Edward Heart, Clericus

Additional Signers
Tobias Feake
Nathaniell Tue
The marke of William Noble
Nicholas Blackford
William Thorne, Seignior
The marke of Micah Tue
The marke of William Thorne, Jr.
The marke of Philip Ud
Edward Tarne
Robert Field, senior
John Store
Robert Field, junior
Nathaniel Hefferd
Nich Colas Parsell
Benjamin Hubbard
Michael Milner
The marke of William Pidgion
Henry Townsend
The marke of George Clere
George Wright
Elias Doughtie
John Foard
Antonie Feild
Henry Semtell
Richard Stocton
Edward Hart
Edward Griffine
John Mastine
John Townesend
Edward Farrington

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Houston Street? Who is it really named after!!

The funny thing about working in bars in NYC is how much you have to know about the area where you work in order to do your job. For example, when I worked at Fraunces Tavern, much of my day was spent informing patrons about who the place was named after (Samuel “Black Sam” Fraunces), where George Washington gave his farewell to his troops (The Long Room) and what other historical buildings were in the area (Federal Hall, Trinity Church, New York Stock Exchange among others). Now that I am once again working in the East Village, a whole slew of new questions have come about (In addition to some old ones). There is one question in particular that I would like to share the answer with you.

Sam Houston It never fails that I get people from Texas asking me where Houston (“HEW” ston) Street is. When I tell them that it is Houston (“HOW” ston) Street they often give me the look which says “Why is it pronounced Houston (“HOW” ston) if it says Houston (“HEW” ston). At first I thought that it was named after Texas native Sam Houston. Then I thought that maybe it was New York City’s way of being different to change the pronunciation of the name. After getting tired of making excuses, I decided to find out why Houston Street pronounced the way it is. So here goes.

William Houstoun The street is not named after Sam Houston. It is named after William Houstoun (1755-1813), a native of Savannah Georgia. Who was William Houstoun you may ask, well here he is. William Houstoun was a lawyer from Georgia who was a member of the delegation from Georgia to both The Continental Congress from 1783 through 1786 and The Constitutional Convention in 1787. Pretty impressive but why is he linked with NYC.

Houstoun married into the Bayard family by wedding Mary Bayard on June 10, 1786. They were married until her death on August 7, 1806. The Bayard family lands laid within the areas of today’s West and East Villages and Houstoun Street cut through the middle of the land. Now see how I spelled the street as Houstoun instead of Houston. In my research, the street was correctly spelled as Houstoun Street up to the early 1800’s. When the spelling was changed to Houston Street is not known but if I find it out I will update the post.

Upon his death in on March 17, 1813, his body was brought to NYC from Savannah and interred at St. Paul’s Chapel.

So there is the actual origin behind Houston Street, NYC.