Courier Helps Bring Remonstrance Home

In a joint project of The Queens Courier, Flushing Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin and the Queens Borough Public Library, the 340-year-old declaration of religious freedom and tolerance will come back home to Flushing in December when it will be placed on public display in the new Flushing Library.
The document has returned to Queens only twice before in this century — once for the 1957 celebration of the 300th anniversary of its signing and a second time in 1976 where it was placed on view in the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for a bicentennial exhibition.
The Remonstrance long ago was given over to the State of New York for preservation as a significant part of the history of the state and nation. It was severely burned during a fire that destroyed the Albany capital building in the early 1900s. But it was saved and has been in the hands of the state archives in Albany ever since.
Last year, Queens Courier Special Projects Editor David Oats proposed that it was time for Queens residents to learn more about the remarkable document and the dramatic events that surrounded it — both before and after its signing (see adjacent article). "This was an incredible act of courage and foresight on the part of the brave citizens of 17th century Flushing who risked their lives and fortunes for a sacred principle over 100 years before the Declaration of Independence," Oats said. "It was a direct ancestor of our Bill of Rights and all Queens residents should feel pride in the role our area played in this historic event," he added.
Oats took his idea to McLaughlin because the Assemblyman had just recently drawn up a "New Flushing Remonstrance" which re-dedicated the town to the 1657 document’s concept of tolerance. This came amidst controversial attacks against Asian and other recent immigrants to Flushing. McLaughlin immediately endorsed the idea of bringing the Remonstrance back to its place of origin and he persuaded the State Education Dept. to lend the document for a temporary period of time, provided it would be properly handled in a secure setting where the general public could view it. Oats and McLaughlin both agreed that the best custodian for the document and the most logical would be the Queens Borough Public Library — the largest circulation library in the nation which serves the most ethnically diverse population in the world.
When Library Executive Director Gary Strong was approached he instantly leaped at the idea. "I am most enthusiastic about doing this. We have a tremendous historical archive reserve in our Long Island Division and a museum curator that will enable us to mount a corresponding display that will tell visitors the remarkable story around the Remonstrance," Strong said.
The ideal choice for the site to display the document, all three parties agreed, would be the new Flushing Library at Main St. and Kissena Blvd. The glass-enclosed structure will soon open and will become a major educational and cultural center for Queens. "I can’t think of a more fitting location to play host to the Remonstrance than in this gleaming new temple of learning in the heart of an international community and in the town where the Remonstrance was made," Oats said. William Asadorian of the Library’s Long Island Division said that "this will be a unique collaboration between the state archives and our own collection to bring this great chapter of Queens history to the public."
McLaughlin said that "for more than 300 years Flushing has enjoyed a long and proud tradition of religious freedom and tolerance. The Flushing Remonstrance had been an inspiration for the First Amendment and has protected the rights of all Americans. I’m proud to work with The Queens Courier, the State Education Dept. and the Queens Library to celebrate the important contributions of the Flushing Remonstrance."
Oats said that preliminary plans call for the document to be handed over from the State Education Dept. to the Queens Borough Library in a ceremony at the Flushing Armory on Northern Blvd. just before Thanksgiving this year. The Armory stands on the exact location where the Remonstrance was signed on Dec. 27, 1657. The document and the exhibit about it would then be open to the public in time for the December religious holiday season.

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