There is always a moment of disorder when something new is created and our brain neurons have to connect new paths. But if we all stretch a little, perhaps we can transform these risks into possibilities for all of us. If we look in history’s rearview mirror, good things have generally come out of change. –Tilde Bjorfors
Adriaen Van Der Donk and Peter Stuyvesant were invaluable ingredients in the formation of New Amsterdam (New York’s predecessor). Their visions and actions in the Dutch colony, like polar magnets, kept things together. In their absence the English might have taken New Amsterdam much sooner than they did. Religious freedom, liberal traditions, and the cosmopolitan culture that formed around their bitter rivalry are testaments to this.
Diamonds in the Ruff
Stuyvesant’s implacable nature ensured “roads, schools, and basic infrastructure was developed, including a market, hospital, pier and post office”. His dictatorial leadership, however, was the cause of strong countermovements against him. This combination, with Adriaen Van der Donk’s help, allowed Dutch customs to proliferate and eventually survive through English rule. Adriaen was the colony’s first and only legal representative. He led and prepared all protests including the Remonstrance of New Netherland, one of his most well known petitions. He stood in contrast to Stuyvesant for over ten years, and helped the city rise to a municipality on February 2, 1653. This was a blueprint of things to come.
Writing like a man possessed, Van der Donck pulled together all the information that he and his colleagues had collected from residents and constructed … an eighty-three-page formal complaint, which he intended to present to the governing body in The Hague and which would in time root the Manhattan colony’s structure in Dutch law and, eventually, help give New York City its unique shape and character.
— Russel Shorto
The Flushing Remonstrance
The colony’s new status came at an opportune moment as Stuyvesant’s autocratic leadership continued to tighten. His unrelenting religious standards instigated the next major protest. In 1657 when he “fined and banished a Flushing (Queens) citizen for holding a Quaker meeting in his home” the community fought back. They not only supported the outcast citizen but Quaker’s religious rights too. Empowered by Dutch protocol available to them from Adriaen’s previous petition, they drafted The Flushing Remonstrance. In it Vlissengen (Flushing) citizens demanded a right to their religious freedoms and, eventually, won them. Many believe this is where “the U.S. Constitution’s provision on freedom of religion on the Bill of Rights” came from.
The so-called Flushing Remonstrance is considered one of the foundational documents of American liberty, ancestor to the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, which guarantees that the government “shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. — Russel Shorto
Both of these Remonstrances (New Amsterdam’s diamonds in the ruff) were legacies that might have remained buried without Stuyvesant and Adriaen. The momentum they generated, and even the unique friction that existed between them, contributed to the flowering of equality and freedom.
Soil doesn’t always need tilling except to break up severely compacted patches to plant new seeds. Equality and freedom were thankfully transplanted values that were mixed with rich ingredients. Over time they developed into their current forms. Current events are placing immense pressures on them, testing their resilience day after day. The soil they were planted in is beginning to, or perhaps already has become, severely compacted and needs tilling. With the amount of friction being generated within our nation there is ample opportunity to become engaged in it and generate the type of energy that leads to new legacies. As Tilde Bjorfors suggests: