“The associates are to be either married men or single men twenty-four years old, who are free from debt. Each one is bound to obey the ordinances of the society and not to seek his own advancement over any other member. No clergyman is to be admitted into the society. Religious services are to be as simple as possible. Every Sunday and holiday the people are to assemble, sing a Psalm and listen to a chapter from the Bible, to be read by one of the members in rotation. After this another Psalm is to be sung. At the end of these exercises the court shall be opened for public business. The object of the association being to establish a harmonious society of persons of different religious sentiments, all intractable people shall be excluded from it, such as those in communion with the Roman See usurious Jews, English stiff-necked Quakers, Puritans, fool-hardy believers in the Millenium and obstinate modern pretenders to revelation.”
While the Company in Holland, were inviting emigrants to their territory of the New World, with the fullest promises of religious toleration, their governor, Stuyvesant, was unrelentingly persecuting all who did not sustain the established religion.
A very quiet, thoughtful, inoffensive man, John Brown, an Englishman, moved from Boston to Flushing. He was a plain farmer, very retiring in his habits and a man of but few words. From curiosity he attended a Quaker meeting. His meditative spirit was peculiarly impressed with the simplicity of their worship. He invited them to his house, and soon joined their society. The magistrates informed Stuyvesant that John Brown’s house had become a conventicle for Quakers. Being arrested, he did not deny the charge, and was fined twenty-five pounds and threatened with banishment.
The next week a new proclamation was issued, saying,
“The public exercise of any religion but the Reformed, in houses, barns, ships, woods or fields, will be punished by a fine of fifty guilders; double for the second offence; and for the third quadruple with arbitrary correction.”
John Brown, either unable or refusing to pay his fine, was taken to New Amsterdam, where he was imprisoned for three months. An order was then issued announcing his banishment.
“For the welfare,” it was written,
“of the community, and to crush as far as possible, that abominable sect who treat with contempt both the political magistrate, and the ministers of God’s holy word, and who endeavor to undermine the police and religion, John Brown is to be transported from this province in the first ship ready to sail, as an example to others.”
He was sent to Holland in the “Gilded Fox.” Stuyvesant wrote to the Company, “The contumacious prisoner has been banished as a terror to others who, if not discouraged by this example, will be dealt with still more severely.”
The Company in Holland, was not at all in sympathy with its intolerant governor. The exile was received by them respectfully. The following dispatch, condemnatory of the severe measures of Stuyvesant, was forwarded to him: