Golden Age
Dutch Republic, 1609-1648
First Era of Liberty, 1650-1672
Refugees of Conscience

A Haven for Refugees : the Dutch Republic

One of the reasons for the Dutch to revolt against Spanish rule was the harsh treatment given to religious dissenters by the Spanish authorities - they burnt so-called heretics at the stake. By 1600, the Dutch Republic was firmly established and economically prospering. While wars over religion were fought in many regions of Europe, and religious minorities were persecuted according to slogans such as un roi, un loi, un foi (a king, a law, a belief) or huius regio eius religio (in whose territory you live, his religion you have), the Dutch Republic, a state in which (Calvinist) Protestantism was state religion, practiced religious TOLERANCE, i.e. everybody was permitted to practice his faith no matter if it was conform with the state religion or not, as long as he did not break the country's laws.

Many of the Dutch burghers, during the long years of the Dutch War of Independence (1568-1648) had lved in exile, mostly in EMDEN. They new the hardship refugees had to go through, but also the economic potential of refugees. The majority of AMSTERDAM's citizens of 1600 originated from ANTWERP, which was taken and sacked by the Spanish in 1585. Amsterdam's diamond cutting trade was established there by refugees from Antwerp.
Refugees arrived from elsewhere, Jews from Spain and Portugal, the most famous being philosopher BARUCH SPINOZA, Puritans from England who in 1620 would sail to Massachusetts; for years the PILGRIM FATHERS community lived in Rotterdam. Czech educator JAN AMOS COMENIUS settled in the Netherlands, as did French philosopher RENE DESCARTES for a while.
The Dutch Republic, and it's successor state, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, stuck to the policy of religious tolerance ever since, a policy which was later adopted by the other western states and now is a pillar of modern democratic society.

Religious tolerance practised does not mean the relation between the various religious groups was free of tension. The DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH (Calvinist) was state church, it's doctrine adapted at the SYNOD OF DORDT (i.e. Dordrecht, 1619). Other protestant denominations were accepted, as were the Jews. However, CATHOLICS were regarded as unreliable - the Republic had established it's independence in fighting Catholic Spain. So, the provinces (N. BRABANT, LIMBURG) and the regions (E. GELDERLAND, WESTERWOLDE) with Catholic population were denied representation in the STATEN GENERAEL (parliament) as well as self-administration; they were placed under military administration instead. In the Dutch Republic and it's successor state, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Catholics have felt second class citizens until into the 20th century.
A curious side note : demographic developments and larger numbers of persons leaving the reformed church resulted in the Catholic Church becoming the strongest religious community of the country a couple of years ago.

The Origin of the Doctrinal Standards (of the Dutch Reformed Church), by Rev. G.H. Kersten
The Pilgrim Fathers in the Netherlands, from
A Short History of Amsterdam and the Netherlands, from When going gets Dutch
Biographies of Spinoza (1632-77) from the Philosophy Pages and from Bjorn's Guide to Philosophy; Rene Descartes (1596-1650) from the Philosophy Pages and from Bjorn's Guide to Philosophy; Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670) by Harry Davis
Pilgrim Fathers in Delfshaven, from The History of Delfshaven (click : Pilgrim Fathers); The Pilgrim's Life in Holland, from Plimoth on the Web
Leiden, Refuge of the Pilgrims, from Gemeentearchief Leiden, in English, click : Pilgrims, Leiden : Refuge of the Pilgrims
Biography of Jacobus Arminius, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis
History of Catholicism in the Netherlands : the 17th and 18th century, from Katholiek Documentatie Centrum at Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen
Huguenots in the Netherlands, from de familie slager uit Noordwolde
DOCUMENTS Images of the Pilgrim Father' Church at Delfshaven (Rotterdam), from Guide U Rotterdam
Document granting permission to Pilgrim Fathers to settle in Leiden, 1609, from Gemeentearchief Leiden, facsimile
Canons of Dordt, from CRTA (Decisions of the Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619); Belgic Confession, from CRTA (compiled by Guido de Bres in 1561, revised by the Synod of Dordt, 1618-19)
Photos of historical Amsterdam churches, from Amsterdam Historisch Museum

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

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