The Spirit of Queens '99
The Spirit of Queens '99
November 18-26, 1999
The Spirit of Queens '99
Historic Flushing Remonstrance Returns to Queens
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Historic Document Comes Home To Queens
by TOM SCOTT
This week armed state troopers accompanied three fragile pieces of three-century-old parchment from the state capital in upstate Albany to the heart of downtown Flushing. The three pages are priceless pieces of our nations history and brought religious freedom and tolerance to the New World.
The Flushing Remonstrance has came home for the first time in 23 years and on Friday morning civic, religious and governmental officials will gather in the new Flushing Library at Main Street and Kissena Blvd. to witness the unveiling of the Remonstrance which will be on public view at the library from November 19 through December 23, 1999. The Remonstrance, the oldest document in America demanding religious tolerance was originally drafted and signed on Dec. 27, 1657. It will be on view on the buildings third floor International Resource Center. It is accompanied by an exhibit on the history and significance of the document.
The exhibition of the Remonstrance will be accompanied by a series of events that will celebrate diversity, including a day long 17th century fair on Sat., Nov. 20, which will feature a reenactment of the signing of the Remonstrance, complete with actors in period costumes as well as 17th century music, farm animals and craft demonstrations. Admission is free to all events. (For a complete schedule of events and the history of the Remonstrance see special pullout section in the centerfold of this paper.)
The Remonstrance was moved to the State Archives in Albany in the 1800s and basically has remained out of public view in a vault. In the early part of this century a fire destroyed parts of the state capital building. An archivist managed to rescue the Remonstrance from destruction but the 17th century document was badly singed on all sides and these scars are still visible.
The Remonstrance has only returned to its roots in Queens twice before. In 1957 the document was exhibited at the Bowne House and Queens College in Flushing for the 300th anniversary of its adoption. At that time the U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp commemorating the Flushing Remonstrance. It returned in 1976 for the U.S. Bicentennial in a special exhibition at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Last year, Queens Courier editor David Oats proposed that the Remonstrance should return to Queens before the end of the century. With the help of Flushing Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, the State Education Dept. agreed to lend the Remonstrance for a temporary exhibition in Queens if the site contained adequate security, lighting and temperature controls and be accessible for public viewing. Oats proposed the newly opened Flushing Library as an ideal location that met these criteria.
Queens Borough Public Library director Gary Strong jumped at the idea and agreed to host the Remonstrance and exhibit. "We are excited to be the host for this extraordinary document and the library is committed to presenting its timely message on the eve of the new millennium," Strong said. Library staffers have spent a year preparing for the Remonstrance showing and its complementary educational and cultural programming.
Among the events this weekend will be a talk by filmmaker Ric Burne, the director of the acclaimed PBS series "New York: A Documentary Film," currently airing nationwide. Burns will speak at 3 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Flushing Library about 17th Century Dutch Colonial New York. His documentary, which traces New Yorks remarkable history, from the arrival of the Dutch in the 17th Century to the present day, airs through Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. on WNET/Channel 13. A Queens Courier discussion on the Remonstrance and the library will air at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, with library director Strong as the guest. It is on The Queens Couriers TV program "Queens On The Air" on Queens Public Television (QPTV), Channel 34.
The Remonstrance was a written protest, signed in 1657 by the people of Flushing, who were living under the rule of the Dutch. The settlers were warned by their Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, not to allow Quakers into their homes or towns. The Remonstrance demanded tolerance for all religions and declared that the town was open for all faiths to fully worship. Handed to Governor Stuyvesant more than 340 years ago, this document is largely credited with paving the way toward religious freedom in America and was a precursor of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights which were adopted over 100 years after the signing of the Remonstrance.
The Remonstrance Document
Remonstrance Of the Inhabitants of the Towne of Flushing To Governor Peter Stuyvesant
December 27, 1657
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 sretch 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 wee have our advocated 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 anad 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 Minstereye, that can not bee, for the magistrate hath the sword in his hand and 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 weether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker, but shall be glad to see anything of God in any of them, desiring to doe unto al men as wee desire all men should doe unto us, which in the true law both of Church and State; for our Saviour saith this is the law and the prophets.
Therefore if any these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in science 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 ton infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing.
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