Let Us Stay

The Struggle for Religious Freedom in Dutch New Netherland


Let Us Stay

Back to Exhibitions

In 1657, 31 settlers in the Dutch colony of New Netherland (now New York and New Jersey) risked arrest and banishment when they spoke up in defense of members of the Society of Friends—known as Quakers—who had been banned from the colony. Insisting on their right “to do good unto all men,” these residents of Vlissingen (today’s Flushing, Queens) offered shelter to Quakers despite the disapproval of Director-General Petrus Stuyvesant.

First settled in 1624, the increasingly diverse colony was, by the 1650s, the site of numerous struggles over religious rights. After Stuyvesant became Director-General in 1647, the colony fined, arrested, and attempted to banish not only Quakers, but also Baptists and Jews.

Yet religious minorities and their supporters fought for the right to remain in the colony, to worship openly, and to hold property. The Quakers successfully challenged Stuyvesant by petitioning the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam, which managed the colony, to be allowed to stay and practice their faith, placing them among the earliest activists in New York’s history.

After the English gained control of the colony in 1664, these groups stayed on and enjoyed new liberties in what was now New York. Although Catholic worship was still against the law, members of many different Protestant groups arrived and stayed. By the early 1700s, Manhattan’s Jews could worship openly, vote, and serve on juries.

Through grassroots activism, religious minorities helped establish a city that would become a refuge for immigrants from across the Atlantic world.

Key Events

Global Year    Local
  1609 Henry Hudson claims New York for the Dutch East India Company

First European settlers arrive in what is now New York

  1625 Dutch colony of New Amsterdam established on Manhattan Island
Kieft’s War between Dutch colonists and Lenape Indians 1640

A new charter promises “freedom of conscience” but confirms the Dutch Reformed Church’s monopoly on public worship

Kieft’s War between Dutch colonists and Lenape Indians

  1647 Petrus Stuyvesant appointed Director-General of the Dutch colony
  1654 The first Jewish settlers arrive and petition for the right to stay
Join MCNY!

Want free or discounted tickets, special event invites, and more?