When Spain and Portugal forced Sephardic Jews to flee, some went to the Netherlands, which was Europe’s center of religious toleration. Jews migrated to Holland’s largest city of Amsterdam, which in the 1600s became the wealthiest city in the world.
The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was in its golden age from 1568 until Napoleon, being one of the few nations not to have a king.
From 1575 on, Holland’s University of Leiden was a center of the study of Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, with a Jewish rabbi as a professor.
The Pilgrims lived in Leiden before sailing to Massachusetts, and identified themselves with the ancient Hebrew republic.
Medieval Europe forbade paying interest – the sin of usury – but after the Reformation, Amsterdam was where some of the first corporations were started, such as the Dutch East India Company.
Individuals could invest in an expedition of ships going around the world for spices and when the ships returned, interest or “dividends” were paid from the profit.
If an individual wanted to sell his piece of ownership, he could at the first Amsterdam Stock Exchange. Individual investors had limited liability, only risking the amount they invested. In case the ships sank or were captured by Muslim Barbary pirates, the Dutch invented insurance companies.
Amsterdam, Netherlands, became Europe’s leader in shipping, banking, insurance and commerce. Rembrandt painted his masterpieces in Amsterdam.
The Dutch captured Goa, India, from the Portuguese and opened trade with Japan, Jakarta, Mauritius and the Indonesian Spice Island of Maluku. The Dutch sighted Fiji and Australia, and colonized:
- The Pacific islands of Tasmania and New Zealand
- The Caribbean islands of Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Sint Maarten
- The South American settlements of Guyana, Recife and Suriname
- South Africa
- The North American colony of New Netherlands, which included parts of present day Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York
On May 6, 1626, Peter Minuit, Dutch governor of the New Netherlands Province, gave 60 guilders of brass buttons, scarlet cloth and trade goods to the Manhattan Indian tribe in exchange for Manhattan Island.
The Articles for the New Netherlands’ Colony, issued by the Chamber of Amsterdam, 1624, stated: “They shall within their territory practice no other form of divine worship than that of the Reformed religion … and thus by their Christian life and conduct seek to draw the Indians and other blind people to the knowledge of God and His word, without, however, persecuting any on account of his faith, but leaving each one the use of his conscience.”
New Netherlands’ original Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions, June 1, 1629, stated: “Patroons and colonists shall in particular, and in the speediest manner, endeavor to find out ways and means whereby they may support a Minister and Schoolmaster, that thus the service of God and zeal for religion may not grow cool and be neglected among them, and they shall, for the first, procure a Comforter of the sick there.”
The Dutch set up a New Amsterdam Stock Exchange along the wall of their fort. After a series of Anglo-Dutch Wars, the city of New Amsterdam was taken over by the British and renamed New York City. The New Amsterdam Stock Exchange then became the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.
In 1665, New York’s Colonial Legislature stated: “Whereas, The public worship of God is much discredited for want of … able ministers to instruct the people in the true religion, it is ordered that a church shall be built in each parish capable of holding 200 persons; that ministers of every church shall preach every Sunday, and pray for the king, queen, the Duke of York, and the royal family … Sunday is not to be profaned.”
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