Patriots and Mennonites in the Netherlands

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When William I of Orange in 1568 started the battle against Spain for the freedom of the Netherlands, the Dutch Mennonites supported him loyally with all means except active military service (see Bogaert). Not only William I, but also other stadholders of the House of Orange, e.g., Maurice and William III, protected the Mennonites and upheld their privileges of freedom from military service and the oath, granted to them by William I. On their part the Mennonites were warmly attached to the House of Orange. But after the middle of the 18th century and particularly from 1787 on, this changed, and the Mennonites lost much of their sympathy for the Oranges, turning to the views of the Patriots, who were the opponents of the Orangistic group in the Netherlands. Against the conservative views and practices of the Orangists they were progressive and liberal, tending to democracy and demanding a voice in matters of politics. There were a number of causes to make the Mennonites side with the Patriots: the period of the stadholdership of William V of Orange (1766-95), a spineless governor, who was largely influenced by his wife and especially by the group of Orangistic magistrates who often abused the privileges of their office and ranks; the incompetency of the government to restore trade and prosperity, which had been severely weakened by the wars; and the fact that only members of the Reformed Church were allowed to hold government offices. Besides this, the reading of English and French philosophers offered many critical persons new ideas concerning statesmanship and political economy. The War of Independence in America (1776-1783), and particularly the Declaration of Independence with its definition of the rights of men, made an enormous impression on the Dutch Patriots. Many of them suffered severely at the hands of the Orangistic party; some were imprisoned, while others were banished from the country. Especially after 1787, when after a short period of hegemony of the Patriots, the reaction of the Orangistic-Reformed party forced many Patriots to go into exile, either voluntary or by the measures of the government. After the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789) and particularly from the moment (1795) when the French armies brought to the Netherlands the realization of the motto of the French Revolution, "Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood," the Patriots became the leading party in the Netherlands. But they soon had the disillusioning experience that the French occupation was no less harsh than the tyranny of the Orangists had been, and many Patriot leaders, disappointed with the new situation, soon withdrew from the local and general offices.

In the Patriot movement there were a large number of Mennonites and many, including Mennonite preachers, were among the leaders. The Mennonites were now for the first time in the Netherlands permitted to hold a public office. It was a consequence of this situation that many then gave up the principle of nonresistance and took up arms. Franciscus Adrianus van der Kemp, for example, a Mennonite pastor at Leiden, became an officer of a voluntary corps and in nearly every congregation many members joined the free corps. It should, however, be emphatically stated that not all Mennonites then renounced the old principle of nonresistance, as there were also some strict opponents of Patriotism among the Dutch Mennonites, as for example, Pastor Jacob Ouwejans of Rotterdam and the banker Archibald Hope in Amsterdam. Particularly in the district of Twenthe, in the Zaan region, and in Friesland, the Mennonites enthusiastically co-operated with the Patriots. Pieter Bel and Pieter Houttuyn, both deacons of the Mennonite congregation in Hoorn, fled to Brussels in 1788 to escape the revenge of the Orange party. Pieter Vreede of Leiden took an active part in the revolution (January 1795); in Friesland it was Pier Zeper of Leeuwarden, later treasurer of the Mennonite conference in Friesland, who upon orders from the Comité Revolutionair traveled about in Friesland (February 1795) to dismiss the magistrates who had been in sympathy with the Orangists. Among the first Mennonites to take office were Jan Bernard Blijdenstein in Enschedé and the Mennonite minister of Boven-Knijpe, A. S. Cuperus, while pastor J. H. Floh of Enschedé in 1796 became a delegate in the National Assembly and in 1798 its secretary. Many Mennonites were chosen members of the provisional governments, both local and provincial. Rutger Jansz Schimmelpenninck, who in 1796 became the Grand Pensionary and president of the National Assembly of the Netherlands, stemmed from a well-known Mennonite family. Among the Patriot leaders were the following Mennonite pastors: Petrus Loosjes of Haarlem, who with his brother Cornelis Loosjes was editor of Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen, a periodical which, founded in 1816, did much to spread the Patriot views; Nicolaas Klopper of Harlingen, Andries Scheltes Cuperus of Bovenknijpe, Sybren Hofstra of Workum, Jelle Sipkes van Teern of IJlst, Abrahams Staal of Leeuwarden, who was forced to give up his ministry, Gerardus ten Cate of Almelo, and Arend Hendrik van Gelder of Zaandam.


Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1881): 52 f.; (1909): 70-91; (1912): 107-12.

Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1931): 112-15; (1951): 63 f.

Hartog, J. De Patriotten en Oranje. Amsterdam, 1882.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. II, 2, No. 178.

Slee, J. C. van. De Rijnsburger Collegianten. Haarlem, 1895: passim.

Zijpp, Nanne van der. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland. Arnhem, 1952: 189, 252.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Patriots and Mennonites in the Netherlands." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 29 Sep 2023.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Patriots and Mennonites in the Netherlands. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 September 2023, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 124-125. All rights reserved.

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