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Robert P. Swierenga, "Freedom of the Press or Prior Censorship: Albertus C. Van Raalte and Hermanus Doesburg of The Hollander"

Paper presented to the Sixteenth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies, Hope College, Holland, MI. 2007.

[Published in revised form as "Press Censorship: Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte and Hermanus Doesburg of De Hollander," pp. 171-82, in Dutch American Arts and Letters in Historical Perspective eds., Jack Nyenhuis, Robert P. Swierenga, and Nella Kennedy (Holland, MI: Van Raalte Press, 2008)] 


            In 1852 the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte, leader of the Holland colony, engaged in a running battle with the editor of the first colony newspaper, The Hollander (in 1856 De Hollander) that threatened to destroy the community and drive him to leave. Only the intervention of clerical colleagues and heavy-handed consistorial discipline of the editor restored a measure of calm. The controversy raised questions about press censorship, the nature of governance in the colony, competition between churchmen and businessmen, relations between Holland (called the stad) and outlying villages (called dorpen), and especially the role of the colonial leader. It was a test of wills that revealed fissures within the colony and presaged troubles to come in both religious and political life.

The Holland colony began in 1847 as a theocracy, claimed Jacob Van Hinte, but "not everyone was in favor of this theocracy and many saw in the 'democracy' of Van Raalte actually his 'autocracy.'"[1] Founding a colony of destitute Dutch immigrants in the forests of west Michigan required a strong hand, and Van Raalte provided that hand.

Right of Prior Censorship

            Holland's first newspaper, The Hollander, hit the streets in September 1850; it was also the seminal sheet in Ottawa County.[2] Van Raalte took the lead in the venture, believing that for the colony to flourish it needed a newspaper. He also hoped to make a profit. He arranged with Josiah Hawks and Elisha Bassett, owners and printers of the Allegan Record, a Democratic sheet, to begin a bilingual paper for the 3,000 Dutch settlers in northern Allegan and southern Ottawa counties. The partners' inducement was to snag the lucrative patronage dispensed by Ottawa County officials to print the annual delinquent tax lists and other legal documents. The tax lists filled several pages of print and provided the financial underpinning of all local papers in America. Government printing jobs were a plum that politicos dispensed only to editors who backed their political party. To ensure that the Hollander would become the "official" county organ, the proprietors printed half the columns in English and put an English title and Democratic banner on the masthead. The Democratic Party controlled the state of Michigan since territorial times, and Van Raalte's friendship with Democratic county officials in Grand Haven boded well for the paper to win the coveted contracts.

The Allegan partners agreed to allow Van Raalte the "privilege" of filling the Dutch-language half of the paper and, more important, they gave him total editorial control. The cleric, in turn, promised to line up subscribers among the colonists and to enlist his fellow church leaders in the effort. At the October 30, 1850 meeting of the Classis of Holland, Van Raalte informed the brethren of the new "Holland Weekly" and "urged the father of every family to take it and preserve it for the benefit of his children." He urged his friends to stand with him. "In unity there is strength," he declared, in the words of the motto of the House of Orange. The Reverends Cornelius Vander Meulen in Zeeland, Seine Bolks in Overisel, and Koene Vander Schuur in Graafschap agreed to serve as correspondents "for their own churches and collect the subscription money." The minutes, written in the dominie's hand as clerk, reported on his "every-family" subscription plan and ministerial newsagents, but, ominously, no vote is recorded on the matter. To translate news items and articles into readable Dutch, Hawks hire Giles Van de Wall, the bright young Holland Township clerk, who had mastered the English language.[3]

Van Raalte laid out his rationale for the paper in a lengthy editorial, entitled "To the Hollanders." He lamented the fact that while he found much in the American press to nourish the "mind and heart," his followers were entirely cut off from "these treasures" by the language barrier, a lack of the money, and the daily cares of life. The Hollander would guide and nurture the Dutch to become useful citizens in the American Republic, and teach them the history and principles of its government, laws, and institutions. Van Raalte wanted the paper to "profit the people, not only with religious articles, but also with all kinds of necessary things." They would learn about civic affairs--taxes, land-tax sales, inheritance rights, political conventions, and contracts, as well as best practices in animal husbandry, agriculture, and homemaking. The paper would also provide news of the Old Country. Above all, the paper would promote the colony; bind the outlying settlements together; boost business, religious, and civic needs of the immigrants; and "nurture … all areas of knowledge and science." All this was to be done, he insisted, in a "spiritual fashion." Van Raalte averred that the columns of the paper would "be open to all who like to say something in the interest of the Holland people," including those with "differences of opinion." But writers bore a responsibility to show "love for truth" and not to sow "discord." Did he anticipate trouble?[4]

Van Raalte failed to deliver the promised financial support, and Hawks and Bassett began to carp at him. This prompted him to complain to his consistory about Hawks' "many capricious actions," which "have greatly frustrated the actual purpose of the paper." Starting a newspaper on the frontier was always risky, and the poverty of the Dutch immigrants made it all the more problematic. Within a year, Hawks was ready to cut his losses. He offered to sell the paper "cheaply" to Van de Wall and Hermanus Doesburg, a schoolteacher in Holland. But neither man had the money, so they came to Van Raalte and asked him to join them as a silent partner. He agreed and again offered to raise the necessary funds, this time by soliciting "friends of the Hollanders in the Eastern States." This response "greatly encouraged the two brothers." Among others, Van Raalte wrote to the Reverend John Garretson of New York, secretary of the Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church.[5]

In his dealing with Van de Wall and Doesburg, Van Raalte laid down two conditions. First, he must have full and exclusive control over the contents of the paper. Second, every article and letter to the editor must be submitted to him for approval prior to publication! The pair agreed; the cleric would have the right of censorship of the most direct kind.

That he demanded such tight control should not be surprising. Van Raalte grew up in an Old World society far more stratified than the American one, where people of the "lesser sort" were required to show deference to those of the "better sort" by a doffing of the hat, a slight bowing of the knees, and other symbolic gestures of respect. The entire social system functioned within the rules of deference, and the Van Raalte family enjoyed the benefits. His father was a pastor in the national Reformed Church, and he graduated from the theological department of the University of Leiden. For centuries, clerics had stood at the top of the social hierarchy, and parishioners commonly addressed them with the reverential title Dominee [English Dominie], meaning Lord, as derived from Latin. Van Raalte, as the lead clergyman and only university graduate in the colony, expected deferential treatment and considered public criticism a personal affront to his honor.

American political leaders, notably Thomas Jefferson, had demanded as much under the common law of seditious libel. They insisted that newspaper editors censor items deemed too negative or hostile to their persons and policies. Jefferson and other top government officials often filed lawsuits for slander against critics who hit too hard. This was an improvement, at least, over using the code of the duel to defend the honor of one's name, as Aaron Burr did against Alexander Hamilton. Editors were free, by Jefferson's reasoning, to publish the "truth" about government officials, but the common law allowed aggrieved politicians to file suit for seditious libel. In court, however, one person's truth became another's falsehood. That was the rub.[6]

Politics and the Press

Van Raalte's demand for prior censorship went far beyond the common law of prior restraint, and his arrangement with Doesburg and Van de Wall was a recipe for disaster. It depended on continued cooperation between the two managing partners, the weekly submission of the contents to Van Raalte before setting type, and on his raising the necessary working capital in the East.

Nothing went as planned. Doesburg and Van de Wall were at loggerheads over editorial policy; their relationship "left something to be desired," Van Raalte noted. Very likely, politics was the sore point. The upcoming 1852 presidential campaign was the first in which the Dutch were eligible to vote. The Hollander was a Democratic sheet, but Van de Wall held strong Whig views.

For his part, the dominie was caught up in his busy life and family illnesses, and his eastern friends failed to contribute as expected. The business of the paper suffered. Recognizing his part in the difficulties, Van Raalte gave up his share of the profits to his partners, provided that they put 10 percent of the profits back into the business. Worst of all, from Van Raalte's perspective, his partners increasingly were negligent in sending him copy before the paper went to press.

By early 1852 Van de Wall felt his position was no longer tenable. Since he and Doesburg "could not agree," Van de Wall sold his interest to him and moved to Kalamazoo to begin a Dutch-language Whig paper, De Netherlander, which first appeared in May 1852.[7] With Van de Wall's departure, Van Raalte assumed that his problems with the paper were over, especially since Doesburg was one of his parishioners. But the dominie was sorely mistaken. He soon found that Doesburg and his teenage sons Jakob and Otto, who helped in day-to-day operations, were taking the paper in an "independent direction, involving inappropriate principles…that would put in jeopardy the truth and good name of the community."[8]   

Van Raalte decided to use the lever he controlled, namely, consistorial authority. He arranged to meet Doesburg at the home of deacon Aldert Plugger, along with Jacob Labots, elder and clerk of consistory, and deacon Teunis Keppel. All were city merchants and "solid citizens." Here Van Raalte admonished the editor and reasserted his right to monitor the contents before publication, as was originally agreed.

 Doesburg, in his defense, "pointed out the slovenliness and the neglect of Rev. van Raalte" and his failure to raise the monies. Were it not for the editor's hard labors and that of his sons, the paper would have already been discontinued. Moreover, the dominie had in a "hateful way" made his sons, who worked in the printery, "to be like servants," treating them with disrespect. That the sons were only fourteen and twelve years old doubtless gave Van Raalte reason to brush them off. Editors had to live by deadlines; censors did not. And editors had to pay the bills, even when benefactors failed to do so.

The consistorial brethren cut Doesburg little slack, although he was a highly respected schoolmaster ("de Meester") even in the Old Country. Despite the dominie's "shortcomings," the publisher had no "right to destroy the agreement." Doesburg reluctantly accepted the rebuke. Van Raalte also admitted his faults, and promised to pay "reparations" and assume all debts, in exchange for having exclusive authority once again.

The latest agreement was no better than previous ones. Van Raalte did not raise the operating capital and Doesburg again went on the offensive against the dominie, opening the pages to "any malcontent who wishes to set ablaze a fire of controversy." So Van Raalte claimed. The blaze came from an unsigned article with the inflammatory title, "The Pope and His Cardinals" (meaning Van Raalte and his consistory). The missive, supposedly submitted by a Zeelander, castigated the churchmen for extending their ecclesiastical authority into secular affairs. The article stung deeply and reverberated widely, since it undercut God-ordained leaders and revealed sharp divisions between the two villages.

Van Raalte complained bitterly about Doesburg's "misuse" of the paper and demanded an end to scurrilous personal attacks. "The most recent articles make it clear that everything that is precious and good is at stake here," he declared. "Our good name in civic and ecclesiastical circles is scandalized…. This contributes to the devastation of pastoral and ecclesiastical rule, and the entire reason for our being here as a Christian people who proclaim the truth will be destroyed." Unless Doesburg yielded, the dominie predicted "disastrous consequences," even to the point that he might be forced "to leave this place." To make his point, Van Raalte actually went to Kalamazoo for a time.[9]

Church and Press

By threatening to leave the colony in the lurch, Van Raalte raised the ante and alarmed his consistory greatly. They declared: "The brothers are all in agreement that this weighty situation requires that the paper be returned to the influence of Rev. Van Raalte." And they agreed to go en masse to Doesburg to persuade him to yield. In return, the elders asked the dominie to allow Doesburg and his sons to continue to "earn their daily bread" with the paper. The church minutes, in Labots' hand, state: "Van Raalte reluctantly agrees."

So severe was the crisis that Van Raalte and the consistory called a second special meeting. On April 6, 1852 four elders and three deacons gathered with their pastor to address the question, May a member of the congregation "slander others," particularly his own pastor? "This is happening," Van Raalte cried, "because Mr. Doesburg is permitting filthy slander to appear in his newspaper."

The brothers stood solidly with their leader, but they wanted to tread softly. They raised a number of caution flags. First, before anyone can be admonished, the anonymous writers must be identified. Second, "we must be extremely careful, particularly in times of confusion, since many ordinary members are being led astray." Third, the brethren explained, "we do not wish to give the appearance of seeking to hinder the freedom of the press, nor do we wish to be accused of a party spirit. Nor do we wish to be accused of robbing a poor man of the opportunity to make a living. The latter must be particularly avoided, so that the situation is not made worse."

The consistory then reached a conclusion that must have upset Van Raalte greatly. They decided "for the time being, to take a wait and see attitude concerning the development of this wickedness." Furthermore, they would not use ecclesiastical discipline, but "admonish" Doesburg "on an ongoing basis…in the capacity of friends who give him advice."[10] A situation that the Pope viewed as the ultimate threat to the colony and to his continuing ministry, the cardinals took as lightly as a passing storm.

The lukewarm approach of his consistory prompted Van Raalte to turn to a higher ecclesiastical body, the Classis of Holland. At the next consistory meeting, he asked that the "misuse of the weekly" be brought to a special meeting of the Classis. The brethren gave only lukewarm approval. We "have no objection to this," they noted, but it might be "wise to wait for the proper time and opportunity." Further, they "advise caution, so that no offense is given to the Zeeland congregation, whose concerns are intertwined with this subject."[11]

Van Raalte plunged ahead anyway, and a contingent of the Classis assembled on May 8th in the Holland church, with Hermanus Doesburg in the dock and Rev. Bolks of the Grand Haven church in the chair. Others attending were Rev. Marten Ypma of the Vriesland church, and fifteen elders and deacons from four churches--Holland, Drenthe, Overisel, and Graafschap. Tellingly, no representatives came from the Zeeland consistory, particularly its minister, Vander Meulen. Zeeland, which was the largest congregation in the classis at the time, clearly had a grievance against the Holland consistory and its leader.[12]

Following proper church order procedure, Bolks asked first whether the Holland consistory had dealt with the matter "officially." After the brothers gave an extensive recital of the facts, the body concluded in the negative. The consistory had "functioned exclusively as citizens" and not as consistory members. Following this gentle rebuke to Van Raalte and his elders, Bolks asked Doesburg whether he was obligated as a newspaper editor to publish "anything which is sent in." Obviously the answer was "no," but the assembly then "unanimously" decided that Doesburg had placed in his paper letters that "slander those who serve as office bearers in God's house, bring sorrow to God's children, and dishonor to the name of the Lord." The body then concluded to "rebuke" him, make him name the offending writers, "confess his sin before God" and his congregation, and publish an apology in his paper. Should he refuse to do these things, "it is the judgment of the assembly that he may not be permitted to come to the table of the Lord." Remarkably, Classis short-circuited the discipline process by imposing the first step, barring a sinner from the sacrament of Holy Communion, without the sinner's consistory first having voted officially and then asking permission of Classis to proceed with discipline.[13]

Having disposed of the Doesburg case, the assembly turned to the prominent businessman Jan Binnekant, another occasional writer for the newspaper who had also penned a letter deemed to be insulting of Van Raalte.  Binnekant owned a hotel on the central corner of Holland at River and Eighth streets. Classis ordered him also to confess his sin publicly or be barred from the holy table. Van Raalte clearly had the upper hand. Rather than challenge the flawed Classical procedure, both men followed the directive and stood before the Holland congregation to confess their sin of slander. Doesburg added tears of remorse to his confession. He also published an apology in his newspaper.[14]

Doeburg's public acts of contrition did not end the matter. Rumors circulated almost immediately that Ypma had coerced him, and that the editor's words in church were "not genuine." Apparently, his statement in the paper did not jib with his words in church. This rumor riled Van Raalte all the more. It "makes a mockery of the public confession of sin," he cried, and "places the labors of God's sincere office bearers in a bad light." The pastor at the next meeting of his consistory, on May 21, demanded that Doesburg again stand before the congregation and speak in such a clear way as to set all rumors aside. Until then he was to remain cut off from the sacrament.

Van Raalte also prepared a written statement, adopted by the consistory, to be read publicly in church the next Sunday that warned the flock against "anarchy, mischief, and accumulation of sin." The members had objected to Doesburg's slander, and then slandered him in return. The pastor warned his congregants "not to speak against a brother who has made a tearful confession of sin." Such "superficial judgments…not only accuse the brother of hypocrisy but also stain the good name of Rev. Ypma and that of the office bearers of the church…. As a result, confession of sin in God's congregation becomes a farce and a game." The "congregational misery" had to end and the dominie hoped that his strong actions would accomplish that purpose and prevent the body from becoming a "victim of anarchy."

The trouble that Van Raalte feared broke out when Doesburg came to church the next Sunday, expecting to participate again in Holy Communion, which quarterly celebration happened to fall on that day. The custom was for communicants to sit around the long communion table in front and pass the "common cup." To guard the table from being desecrated by "unworthy" participants, two elders stationed themselves, one at each end of the table. According to Engbertus Van der Veen, a local hardware merchant and eyewitness,

one of the elders who did not know that a reconciliation had been effected with the consistory saw Doesburg take his seat among those who intended to receive Holy Communion. Taking Doesburg by the shoulders, with much patience, he requested him to leave the table, which caused a great commotion. Doesburg became very excited, stood up, and declared that he understood that on the day before all had been forgiven. Thereupon, the members of the consistory corroborated his statements; and peace was restored, whereupon Doesburg was permitted to sit down.

"Needless to say," said the historian Jacob Van Hinte wryly, for an incensed elder to manhandle a parishioner in front of the entire congregation "caused quite a tumult" and greatly embarrassed the dominie.[15]

The misery did not end here. Within days, Rev. Vander Meulen of Zeeland, Van Raalte's long-time friend and associate, published an anonymous article in the Hollander, which in a "covert way…presented a negative view of Van Raalte." The bad blood went back at least a year. In 1851, at the first caucus to nominate Holland Township officials, the delegates fought over slots on the ballot. Zeelanders and their allies from Drenthe stood up to the Holland delegates and demanded a fair share of the offices and monies for roads and other public projects. The meeting took place in the log church in Zeeland, with Vander Meulen in the chair. When scuffles broke out, Vander Meulen banged his gavel to restore order and Van Raalte climbed up on his pew to call for calm. In the end, the men of Holland snagged most of the offices, by dint of numbers. The issue went deeper than jobs and dollars. It aroused latent rivalries and animosities between de stad (Holland) and het dorp (Zeeland), between the “city people” the “county people.” The next year Zeeland applied to the state legislature and won the right to set itself off as a separate township. The 1851 caucus signaled the beginning of the historic rivalry between the two villages.[16]

Van Raalte was inclined to overlook Vander Meulen's "attack" in the Hollander, but three of his parishioners, Johannes Hellenthal, Abraham Krabshuis, and B.W. Kooyers, appeared before the consistory on June 10, 1852 and demanded that the body do more to defend their pastor and "restore and maintain the good honor of his name." The men testified that they heard Van Raalte complain that the continuing slander in the newspaper "made his work in the congregation impossible." Further, they "fear that there is a barrier in our midst, making it impossible for the Lord to dwell in our fellowship with his blessing." Van Raalte had said much the same thing earlier, but the visitors seemed to reinforce his concerns. When asked what should be done, the trio replied: "Rev. Vander Meulen should be admonished and required publicly to confess in the above-mentioned paper of the error of his way." Failing this, the consistory should ask the Classis to "deal with the matter,…so that the wounds that the congregation has incurred may be healed."[17]

Van Raalte counseled "great patience." He need not defend himself against his colleague; better "to bear patiently and in warm love to respond." Moreover, the issue was moot, since Vander Meulen had recently announced that he was laying down his pen and ending his involvement with the newspaper. The "bitterness will be of a temporary and passing nature," Van Raalte assured his consistory, and the brothers concurred. They would not confront Vander Meulen or appeal to the Classis. Instead, they prayed for a "loving heart filled with a willingness to forgive, so that we may dwell in love…. We may not run ahead of the matter, but are to wait upon the Lord, who will ultimately confirm the right and punish or convert sinners."[18]

Dutch Gossip Grapevine

The efficient immigrant gossip grapevine broadcast Van Raalte's troubles nationwide within a matter of weeks. Editors themselves contributed to the gossip by exchanging newspapers free of charge for "clipping;" in this case between Doesburg's Hollander and Jacob Quintus's De Sheboygan Nieuwsbode, the first (1849) and widest circulating Dutch-language newspaper in America. Van Raalte was among its subscribers. Quintus was mildly anti-clerical and delighted in the opportunity to boost his circulation by spreading dirt about the priesthood in the flagship Dutch immigrant colony in America, and to condemn its "degrading" decision of declaring Doesburg's paper "heretical" [kettersch].[19]

One of Quintus's "sources" in Holland was the lumberman Oswald Vander Sluis, who penned a long letter with the sordid details about the dominie and the editor to his "dear friend Hein" in Wisconsin, who shared the information with Quintus. Vander Sluis was an insider with keen insight. he reported:

Things are sad, very sad, here! You should know that Van Raalte, not two weeks ago, has informed his people that in these circumstances he can't preach anymore. He has absented himself and has gone off to Kalamazoo. The Consistory, not knowing what to do, decided to take Ypma into their arms. This person appears and, in alliance with Bolks, he so far succeeded that he convinced Doesburg (our honorable editor) that he did wrong to place such articles, under pretext that he thereby had grieved the dear women [this reference is unclear, since the relevant issues of the Hollander are no longer extant], so that Doesburg goes and openly confesses that he was forced and pressed to publish these pieces.

This confession is being contested by us, on the grounds of its being an untruth. Doesburg does not deny this, but he seeks to protect himself by stating that he did not make such a confession, although he really did (What, now, can one expect of such a man.)…. In the meantime, this is the fact; Doesburg has made the confession on promise that the Consistory would bring the whole thing to an end.

A general meeting would be called and they, the authors, would openly defend their writing, and whoever was discovered to be the guilty party, would not escape the rod. But what do I find now. Since Doesburg has made his confession; he pretends to be innocent in any further publication, and they [the Consistory] do not desire a public meeting. They just want the names of the writers in order to scourge them. Now I ask you, what can one expect from such a procedure? The Consistory, says Ypma, is not merely innocent, but they felt themselves too weak to maintain discipline. Otherwise, they would have proceeded long ago to take measures, as have now been taken.…

What do you think of our liberty? Isn't it worse than in the Netherlands? Will not the Pope and his Cardinals defend their rights just like all ecclesiastical States? I believe they will. And supposing this, we will soon have nothing left than the Roman Catholic faith, instead of a Reformed religion, so that we can obtain pardon for our sins (in their opinion) through words, money, and influence. I know not as yet what will all come of it. In the meantime, the question can be settled in a Christian manner one way or another, that is, if the entire question can be turned over to arbitration on both sides.[20]       

Vermeulen [Cornelius Vander Meulen] has made public confession at the Classis meeting that he is the author of the articles in the Hollander. They taunt him indirectly; they do not dare to go after him, for they do not challenge him. But if they do approach him, he intends to tear himself away from our Church's fellowship and possibly join the Scottish congregation.

I dare not make a statement what the result will be. They should leave in peace. Our friend Binnekant, however, is the dupe by signing "JB" under his article; he has been put under discipline. Nevertheless, we will assist him, and he will present the matter at Classis, and if that does not help, then at Synod [the highest church assembly]…. Many often think to move, among whom I also belong, at least, if the system now adopted will be maintained, that the Church is going to govern in civil matters.

Vander Sluis's letter overstates the case against Van Raalte and damages Vander Meulen's reputation with an assertion that he threatened schism, which seems out of character for the mild-mannered pastor. Nor do the minutes of the Classis of Holland make mention of any confession or threat to secede by the Zeeland dominie. Perhaps Van Raalte exercised his prerogative as clerk not to leave a permanent record of his associate's comments. The events of April 1852 clearly disturbed the peace in the Holland colony and sowed seeds of later troubles.


Van Raalte's test of wills with Doesburg came at a critical juncture in the life of the colony and its founder. The desperate early years of hunger, privation, and cholera deaths had passed away and the colonists were prospering. No longer was Van Raalte essential to their survival in the primal forests. Now they had time and energy to fight over religion and politics. The 1851 caucus was the opening salvo in the political rivalry between Holland and the outlying villages. Religious strife began with the 1852 secession of the South Holland congregation from the Classis of Holland, followed in 1853 by the Drenthe congregation. Both affiliated with the Associate (or Scottish) Presbyterian Church, an ultra-conservative denomination. These were precursors of a larger schism in 1857 when four more congregations in the Classis, 10 percent of the total membership, seceded to form the Christian Reformed Church. The religious infighting frustrated and disgusted Van Raalte, who took the secession personally, although very few members of his congregation withdrew.[21]

Van Raalte's troubles with The Hollander proved that his Old World outlook did not fare well in democratic America, with its wide-open society and frank public discourse. His demand for prior censorship of the colonial newspaper was unreasonable in a frontier environment in which rival power brokers arose among preachers, teachers, businessmen, and politicians. The arrangement never worked as he had hoped, and the problems pushed him to the extremes of defiance and despair. Sometimes he took the offensive and forced his critics into silence. Other times he magnanimously turned the other cheek and accepted his lot as a leader with feet of clay. The Pope of Holland showed that he was human after all.


5,065 words

[1] Jacob Van Hinte, Netherlanders in America: A Study of Emigration and Settlement in the Nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the United States of America, 2 vols., Robert P. Swierenga, general editor, Adriaan de Witt, translator,  (Dutch edition, 1928, English edition, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 241.

[2] From 28 Dec. 1850 (first issue) to 2 May 1855, the masthead read The Hollander. From 16 May 1855 to 15 July 1857, the paper carried two mastheads, The Hollander for the English-language edition and De Hollander for the Dutch-language edition. From 15 July 1857 until the paper ceased publication on 24 Dec. 1894, the paper published only in Dutch under the title De Hollander. It remained a Democratic sheet.

[3] 30 Oct. 1850, Art. 5, Classis Holland Minutes, 1848-1858 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), 40-41; Rev. A.C. Van Raalte, "To the Hollanders," De Hollander, 30 Nov. 1850, HMA; Henry S. Lucas, Netherlanders in America: Dutch Immigration to the United States and Canada, 1789-1950  (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1955; reprinted, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 132; Grand Rapids Enquirer, 18 Dec. 1850, as cited in Lucas, Netherlanders in America, 531-32.

[4] Van Raalte, "Address," De Hollander, 30 Nov. 1850; Consistory Minutes, First Reformed Church of Holland, 5 Feb. 1852 (hereafter Consistory Minutes)

[5] Consistory Minutes, 5 Feb. 1852, Art. 2. Doesburg (1809-93), a schoolteacher at Den Hitsert (gemeente Zuid-Beijerland, province of Zuid Holland), immigrated in 1848 with his wife and five children to the Holland Colony and began a private day and evening school. He also taught the Dutch language at the Pioneer School to prepare young men "for New Brunswick" (obit., Holland City News, 18 Nov. 1893).

[6] Leonard W. Levy, Emergence of a Free Press (New York: Oxford, 1985), 343-49, and passim; Levy, Legacy of Suppression: Freedom and Speech and Press in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 297-308

[7] Lucas, Netherlanders in America, 532, 543. Van de Wall later graduated from New Brunswick Seminary (1856), taught at the Holland Academy (1858-61), and then served the Reformed Church as a missionary in South Africa.

[8] Consistory Minutes, 5 Feb. 1852, Art. 2 for this and the following six paragraphs.

[9] Van Raalte's going to Kalamazoo is noted by Oswald D. Vander Sluis in a letter to "Dear Friend Hein," that was published in De Sheboygan Nieuwsbode, 9 Mar. [actually ca. 20 April] 1852, English translation by Peter T. Moerdyke in P. T. Moerdyke Papers, HMA. That Van Raalte believed in authority was derived from the Bible is shown clearly in the sermon he preached at the opening of the Holland Classis in Grand Rapids in 1859 on the text form Hebrews 13:17a, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority," translated by Henry ten Hoor, in Elton Bruins' A. C. Van Raalte Collection, A. C. Van Raalte Institute, Hope College (hereafter VRI).

[10] Ibid, 6 Apr. 1852, Art. 2, for this and the next paragraph.

[11] Ibid, 22 Apr. 1852, Art. 4-5. The meeting was apparently not an official assembly, since the minutes of Classis contain no record of it. 

[12] Throughout the entire controversy, the minutes of the Zeeland congregation, which are in Rev. Vander Meulen's own hand as clerk, contain no hint of trouble, even though he was in the middle of it

[13] Ibid, 8 May 1852, Art. 3-5 for this and the next paragraphs. Classis delegated Rev. Bolks and Holland church elders, Harm Broek and Jacob Labots, to inform Doesburg of the judgment.

[14] Ibid, 21 May 1852, Art. 4 for this and the next paragraph. Unfortunately, all the relevant issues of The Hollander surrounding this controversy are no longer extant. They were either destroyed in the 1871 fire, or someone set them apart and they were subsequently lost.

[15] Engbertus Van der Veen, "Life Reminiscences," in Henry S. Lucas, Dutch Immigrant Memoirs and Related Writings, 2 vols. (Assen: Van Gorkum, 1955, revised edition, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997) 1:504; Jacob Van Hinte, Netherlanders in America, 447, 1060.

[16] Van der Veen, "Reminiscences," in Lucas, Memoirs, 1:512.

[17] Consistory Minutes, 10 June 1852, Art. 4.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Editorial, Sheboygan Nieuwsbode, 9 Mar. 1852, translated by Peter T. Moerdyke, HMA; Letter, J. Quintus, Sheboygan, Wis., to A. C. Van Raalte, 6 Mar. 1854, Henry ten Hoor (VRI).

[20] Letter, O.D. Vander Sluis to "Dear Friend Hein," undated, but ca.  9 May 1852. H. Vander Ploeg gave a copy of the original to Gerrit Van Schelven on 16 May 1912, and Peter T. Moerdyke subsequently translated it into English. Only the English translation typescript survives in the P.T. Moerdyke Papers, Holland Museum Archives. Vander Sluis immigrated in July 1848 and reported his occupation as lumberman in the 1850 census. By 1860 he was a bookkeeper at the Michigan State Prison in Jackson. In June 1860 he moved his family to North Holland and died soon thereafter.

[21] Robert P. Swierenga and Elton J. Bruins, Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches in the Nineteenth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 69-75; Consistory Minutes, 26 Aug. 1856, Art. 4; 12 Nov. 1856, Art. 5; 18 Nov. 1856, Art. 5.