There was a time, in the 16th and 17th centuries, that the country known as “The Netherlands” (also called “Holland”) was controlled by the Spanish King (as Lord of the Seventeen Provinces). People in Spain were mostly Catholic; Dutch people, especially in the northern provinces of Holland, were Protestant. The Spanish King—Philip II—did not approve of ideas put forth by Martin Luther (which had caused the Protestant Reformation).

On the 5th of April, in 1566, a group of lower-ranking Dutch nobles  presented a petition to Margaret of Parma (who, as the King of Spain’s half -sister, was Regent in Holland). This “Compromise of the Nobility” was an effort to avoid a Dutch revolt against Philip II (and his policies, particularly heresy laws against Protestants). To avoid open conflict with large sections of the Dutch population, Margaret suspended the Inquisition in Holland. With the Inquisition lifted, Protestant Dutch churches could operate in the open (instead of in secret). This compromise, however, did not hold; ultimately the Dutch people revolted against their Spanish overlord.

Frans Hogenberg (1535–1590) created this illustration of the nobles—“Submission of the Petition by the Nobility”—about four years later. Although he had not personally witnessed this event, Hogenberg (a Flemish artist) attempted to accurately render historical events from eye-witness accounts (so that images could speak as words). The original of Hogenberg's work is maintained by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Click on the image for a full-page view.


When the early colonists came to America, most were fleeing religious persecution:

  • Wars, in the name of religion, were nothing more than a "legitimate" reason to control people and territory.
  • Laws, in the name of "progress" were nothing more than an "authorized" way to impose the will of the rulers on the lives of the ruled.

Life in Colonial America was not as free as people hoped it would be. Local rulers often made laws that merely imposed their religious practices on the entire community. The Salem Witch Trials are a good example of a community gone amuck when religious freedom is not guaranteed.

William Penn, who had been persecuted in England because he was a Quaker, came to America thinking he would live in a free country. Penn wanted to guarantee religious freedom.

His charter for Pennsylvania is a model tool of government. Laws established under that charter guaranteed freedom of religion to everyone, and it was used when the founders drafted the American Bill of Rights.

Let's take a look at the kinds of activities Penn and other early colonists tried to flee from, and eliminate, in their new land.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Feb 01, 2009

Updated Last Revision: Jun 28, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION" AwesomeStories.com. Feb 01, 2009. Dec 10, 2019.
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