Religion and Trade in New Netherland: Dutch Origins and American Development

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The Dutch colony of New Netherland in the seventeenth century enjoyed a greater diversity of religious beliefs than any of the English colonies in America at the time, except possibly Rhode Island. George L. Procter-Smith has investigated the background and reasons for this religious diversity and toleration despite the legal establishment of the Dutch Reformed Church. All colonies have to be understood in terms of their mother country; but, Procter-Smith insists, the European background is especially important in the study of New Netherland. He devotes about half the book to the religious situation in the Netherlands and the de facto toleration that existed despite the state church. The Dutch colony in America was founded for trade, not for religious reasons which were so prominent in the neighboring English colonies. As the Dutch directors of the West India Company, the colony's proprietor, tried to recruit settlers, they realized that intolerance and religious persecution would keep many prospective settlers away. Consequently, they paid lip service to the Dutch Reformed establishment but in practice allowed dissenters to practice their religion in private. Procter-Smith has written a clear, persuasive account of religion and politics, as shaped by the Dutch trading interests, in both Europe and New Netherland. -Review for Religious: A Journal of Catholic Spirituality