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Mau van DurenToday we welcome Mau van Duren to the USCHS blog! He will be discussing his new book, Many Heads and Many Hands: James Madison’s Search for a More Perfect Union, in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 13 at noon. The event is free and open to the public, though pre-registration is requested, and will be held in Ketchum Hall in the VFW Building at 200 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

 

Francis Doughty, Visionary or Trouble Maker?:
Concepts Developed in Europe, Tested in Colonial America, and Implemented in the United States’s Constitution

–by Mau van Duren

James Madison added concepts to our Constitution that found their origins in Continental Europe. The Dutch Republic proved a major conduit and originator of innovations in governance and civil liberties. Taxation with Representation was enshrined in the Dutch Constitution of 1477. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of the Press (free speech) were introduced in 1568. Secular Marriage and an Independent Judiciary existed in the Republic well before others introduced them.

In the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, the Republic was a refuge for Europeans who had escaped religious persecution in countries as diverse as England, Germany, France, Spanish Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden. All were Protestants of one flavor or another, and they brought with them the languages and cultures of their people. Many settled in Amsterdam and many in Leyden. That small city was then the center of the cloth trade and manufacture but, perhaps more importantly, it was the center of enlightenment, education, and science. Descartes, Grotius, and other greats taught there. Isaac Newton published all his books there.

Many of the foreign settlers were country folk and could not get used to city life and made use of the opportunity life in the New World might afford them. Affected by the sophistication around them, they carried the patently Dutch concepts and values with them and implemented what they could in their new environment. Strongest among them were the Separatists whom we now know as the Pilgrim Fathers. Other denominations settled in New Netherlands, Jamestown, and Rhode Island. Religious refugees who had no connection with the Dutch Republic were the settlers of Massachusetts Bay, the Puritans. And they brought with them patently English concepts and values.

One man and his young family came to America in the early 1630s. He set foot among the Pilgrims in Plimoth Plantation, preached among the Puritans in Plimoth’s Cohannet, briefly settled among the Free in Rhode Island Plantation, became a civil liberties advocate in New Amsterdam, preached on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, founded a school further south in Virginia, farmed along the Rappahannock, and eventually disappeared in the fog of time.

In every colony Doughty set foot, he experienced the birth, infancy, and growing pains of virtual republics. He saw the development of the rule of law and democracy. He suffered the small-mindedness of religious intolerance in Massachusetts, lived among the free in Rhode Island, learned about the powers, and limitations, of the people of New Netherlands, and witnessed the evolution of participatory government in both Virginia and Maryland. Mostly he followed in the footsteps of others, but in New Netherlands he was, briefly, a pioneer. He mixed with the movers and shakers, and quite literally, lived the beginnings of what would become the American Nation.

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