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  The New York Sun article Flushing, the New Face of the City.  
   
 
 
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  CHINESE VERSION >>  
 

JOHN BOWNE'S FLUSHING: MATERIAL LIFE ON A DUTCH FRONTIER
1645-1700
By
Lauren Holly Brincat        Lauren Holly Brincat, MATERIAL LIFE ON A DUTCH FRONTIER (Complete Thesis >>)

Ms. Brincat poses an interesting question - did Governor Peter Stuyvesant have an ulterior motive in his pursuit of Quakers in Flushing? Was their economic success actually perceived as a threat to Dutch interests in Manhattan? Traditionally, the view has been that Stuyvesant was motivated by his desire to enforce uniform religious beliefs, i.e. adherence to the Dutch Reformed Church.

In her thesis, Ms. Brincat has utilized available inventories of several local Queens County families. Inventories, taken for estate purposes, provide insight into daily life in the early days of our country. These incredibly detailed and meticulous lists demonstrate the success and prosperity of some families as well as the simplicity of life at the other end of the income spectrum. For example, the estate inventory of William Lawrence, New York City, 1680, of which John Bowne was a signatory as an executor, lists a variety of possessions, including household furnishings, farm equipment, livestock, clothing, as well as real estate and "warehouse goods" and "shop goods", as Lawrence had a thriving business in addition to being one of the largest landholders in Flushing. By contrast, the inventory of Simon de Ruine, 1678, lists just 8 acres of land and minimal livestock, including one horse, as well as a single pair of breeches and three blankets. Even in 17th-century New York, on the frontier, economic circumstances varied greatly from one family to another.

As an English settlement in a Dutch colony, Flushing melded diverse traditions. It was a Quaker stronghold and Quaker values and traditions influenced its customs and the lives of its inhabitants. Brincat states that "community organization in early New York depended more on religious identity than on ethnic origins." Thus, the Flushing Quakers were part of a network of Friends which extended from Pennsylvania into New England. This network guided social as well as business connections. Quakers were distinguished by their honesty and fair dealings: Quakers were also skilled craftsmen: they included silversmiths and furniture makers. Some fine examples of their workmanship may be found today.

In addition to advancing knowledge of Colonial life in Western Long Island, Ms. Brincat has developed a new and fascinating slant on Peter Stuyvesant's determination to squelch John Bowne and his fellow Quakers, using the pretext of a need for a uniform religious belief. Instead, his actions resulted in a guarantee of religious tolerance that is the bedrock of American culture.