HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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PARTICIPATION BY THE HOLLANDERS IN ELECTIONS
TRANSPLANTED from an atmosphere of discontent in Holland, where they had been political nonentities, to America where they enjoyed the fundamental rights of freemen in the affairs of local self-government, the Hollanders witnessed the participation of their American neighbors in the county, State, and national contests of the political arena. The Hollanders had come to live among. people who had just voted upon the question of Statehood, had adopted a Constitution, and were filled with the spirit of partisanship. State and national election campaigns were then conducted by Democrats and Whigs with tremendous party zeal and with no little bitterness and mutual recrimination. During the years of "fraud, trickery, and corruption", in the midst of violent controversies between Whigs and Democrats, the Hollanders were admitted to all the rights of American citizens in the autumn of 1852.(191)
For two or three years after 1852 Dutch voters took no conspicuous part in other than township elections - which is perhaps accounted for by the fact that they cared more about the improvement of their farms and the increase of their worldly possessions. Lake Prairie Township showed its voting strength for the first time in 1855, when the Hollanders helped Marion County to defeat the adoption of a prohibitory law by a vote of two hundred and fifty to thirty-one, although the entire State vote was in favor of adoption.(192)
How much Scholte directed the party inclinations of his Dutch friends in Lake Prairie Township and Pella it is difficult to estimate. Before his arrival in America he had studied and admired the opinions of Henry Clay. His American neighbors, however, helped poll a majority vote in Marion County for Franklin Pierce, the Democratic candidate for President in 1852. Again in 1854 when the Whig party had become merged into the Republican party, the voters of Lake Prairie Township cast a majority vote for Curtis Bates, the Democratic nominee for Governor. The few Hollanders who could read and understand acrimonious editorials in American newspapers and attend rousing political rallies were perhaps able to decide for themselves which party deserved their support, but most of the Dutch voters must have received their party views second-hand.(193)
On the first of February, 1855, there appeared The Pella Gazette, wherein the editors, H. P. Scholte and Edwin H. Grant, declared themselves "Independent in Everything". "It is not our intention", they said, "to remain silent upon the great political questions of the day. But we wish it to be distinctly understood that we do not intend to give a blind credence to the machinations of any of the parties now dominant. We shall boldly avow our sentiments respecting any of the great movements of the age, regardless of political bias. Whenever we can consistently approve of any acts performed by either party, which seem to us to be calculated to benefit our State, or the great national confederacy, we shall cordially lend our influence to sustain and promote such measures." (194)
The Hollanders of Pella were astounded by the wide-spread interest of Americans in politics. They expressed great surprise that almost every American had a comprehensive knowledge of the constitution of his government, discussed and criticised the various departments, and drew fine distinctions. They perceived that the American's first inclination was politics: "very seldom will he converse with you about the weather, your health or anything of that sort; a laborer doesn't speak to his fellows about work, but the subject of conversation is nearly always government and politics." And this phenomenal fact Scholte and his Dutch people attributed to the reading of newspapers.(195)
In the years from 1855 to 1860 the Know-Nothing or American party came in for its share of attention in Marion County. The adherents of this party desired an alteration of the naturalization laws so that twenty-one years of residence in the United States should be required of voters, and all foreign-born citizens should be excluded from office: in short they believed in America for the Americans. Scholte and the Hollanders opposed these men with all their might.
Led to believe that the Republican party stood for monarchical institutions and that the great Democratic party had prevented an "aristocracy" from getting possession of the country, the Hollanders felt that as true sons of liberty they must swell the ranks of true Americans, and not being acquainted with American history and politics they thought that they would be true Americans if they voted the Democratic ticket. Their neighbors were Democrats - a fact which doubtless influenced many to affiliate with that party.(196)
Perhaps the first Dutch candidate for an office in Iowa was Henry Hospers. As to this Democratic nominee for county surveyor Scholte declared in his usual independent way: "He is a young man, a native of Holland, full of zeal to ascend the ladder of political preferment, and therefore 'not promoted quick enough by the Whigs, deserted their ranks and joined the Democratic party in the hope that they would reward his zeal with a speedy nomination. Mr. Hospers must, however, remember that there is some difference between nomination and election."
At the election in August, 1855, the independent ticket supported by Know-Nothings was elected. Lake Prairie Township gave a heavy majority against them - a majority which, it was said, would have been swelled had the Hollanders been asked to vote on the question whether slavery or freedom should prevail in the Territories. They would have voted for freedom. Scholte remarked: "The citizens of Holland are not so easily drilled in a party organization: they like to judge for themselves. They can certainly be led astray by circumstances and false representations, like other men, but as a general rule they vote from conviction and principle, and it is not easy to get their votes for a man in whom they have no confidence. "(197)
Beginning in 1850, for many years the citizens of Pella, among them C. Jongewaard and Henry P. Scholte, were bold enough to petition the legislature to remove the State capital from Iowa City to Pella. Scholte even offered to donate land sufficient for a site. Though the voters of Wapello and Jefferson counties also favored the selection of Pella, the petition received no serious attention.
In 1855, after considerable agitation, the people of
Pella voted in favor of incorporation, and elected a committee consisting
of H. C. Huntsman, Isaac Overkamp, and Peter Barendregt to prepare a city
charter. Scholte ridiculed the whole move as preposterous, saying: "the man in whose brains the first idea of incorporating Pella, as a
city, has sprung up, ought to be found out. His name ought to be canonized
in the records of the city council. Even if he was a Know-Nothing, he knew
something, viz: That it is not only possible for natives, but also
When the charter was adopted, Scholte sarcastically referred to the city's "decemviri" and demagogues, and accused the committee of inserting a Know-Nothing plank in the charter. He declared that in a place where most of the residents were of European origin, and where the population was increasing every year by fresh arrivals from the old country, it was very impolitic to exclude a man from voting in city matters till he became a citizen of the United States.(198)
Pella's first town officers were elected in September, 1855. W. J. Ellis, an American, became mayor; three Americans and three Hollanders were chosen as aldermen in three wards: G. Boekenoogen was elected recorder, Isaac Overkamp treasurer, and A. Stoutenberg marshal. Since that day Hollanders have held a majority of the city offices, but despite a numerical superiority over their Yankee neighbors they have not clannishly monopolized all positions. This is apparent from the names of their mayors before 1880: Isaac Overkamp, John Nollen, William Fisher, Henry Hospers, H. M. McCully, H. Neyenesch, and E. F. Grafe. Dutch voters, however, in municipal as well as other elections have not always been free from the charge of carelessness and irresponsibility: they have sometimes neglected their duty as citizens by staying at home and have allowed keener Americans to win the offices.(199)
It is an interesting and noteworthy fact that the Dutch of Pella and vicinity have been consistently and conservatively Democratic in their politics. When they overwhelmingly rejected the prohibitory statute of 1855 they did so not because they countenanced drunkenness, but because it was a distinctively Republican measure repugnant to their ideas of temperance. Scholte, himself a minister of the gospel, insisted it would be difficult "to find in the United States ten beer-shops kept by Dutchmen; they are commonly Germans".
When some politician remarked in the spring of 1856 that there were "not enough wooden shoes in Pella to gain the victory" in Marion County, the spokesman of the Hollanders answered that "the men with wooden shoes and the men with boots and slippers" had voted unanimously against the Know-Nothing Republicans, would do it again, and were "certainly ahead of those bogus Americans who have the lunatic presumption to maintain that men born upon American soil are the only fit political rulers in our Republic," - adding that "honest Dutchmen have brought too much true Republicanism with them from the old country to be deceived or frightened by such bogus republicans". "Whenever there is an opportunity of striking a blow for true Republican liberty", he continued, "the despised wooden-shoe nation will be at hand to kick would-be despots and exclusivists into the abyss of political oblivion. They may be slower than the live Yankee race, but they can endure and wait. They can be bowed, but riot crushed. "(200)
Scholte sometimes delivered speeches in the Dutch language on political questions of the day, and through his newspaper he made himself clear on the subject of slavery. He believed that slavery should be removed from American soil by honorable means. At the same time he supported the Democratic party because other parties as he thought had combined, with slavery as a pretext, to overthrow the Democratic regime in order to gain political supremacy for themselves.
In the summer of 1856 he announced to his readers that owing to the tension between political parties and the unreasonable, partisan way in which a certain Dutch newspaper of Wisconsin supported the newly organized Republican party, he had been goaded to dedicate three columns of The Pella Gazette to the good of countrymen who could read only the Dutch language: "In that space more real good can certainly be said than the Nieuwsbode has ever delivered in a whole number". Then followed editorials on political questions for several months. He later congratulated the wooden-shoe nation of Lake Prairie Township on its aid in securing the triumph of the Democrats in Marion County, and again on casting 345 votes for Buchanan as against 136 for Fremont.(201)
In the summer of 1857 the Hollanders of Lake Prairie Township presented an almost solid Democratic front and voted down the Republican party draft of a new State constitution by a vote of 270 to 63; and by a vote of 280 to 6 they declared that the negro should not be allowed the right of suffrage. On the latter point Marion County voters were almost unanimous - the total vote standing 1748 to 24. It was at this time that Scholte wrote the following:
At the joint convention of the Senate and House of Representatives of Iowa, held on January 26, 1858, James W. Grimes was elected United States Senator; John Teesdale became State Printer, and Henry P. Scholte was defeated by F. M. Mills for State Binder: each victor received sixty-four, each vanquished candidate forty-one votes, the Republicans winning.
During the early months of 1859 Scholte was elected a delegate to the Democratic State Convention. Great was the astonishment when he did not attend, and very great indeed when he appeared at the Republican State Convention and helped nominate Samuel J. Kirkwood for Governor. It was reported: "Mr. Scholte is in attendance from Marion County as a Republican delegate. He represents a large body of Hollanders who have heretofore voted the Democratic ticket. The accession of Mr. Scholte and those he represents will give us Marion County with a gain of two Representatives and one Senator." (203)
"I consider it no dishonor for any man to change his political principles if he becomes convinced that they were wrong", wrote Scholte in regard to his desertion to the ranks of the Republicans. "On the contrary I should deem it dishonorable to hold fast to principles, of government for party's sake, when a man is in conscience convinced that those principles are wrong." As a genuine disciple and adherent of Henry Clay he was convinced, he said, that he could "never become identified with the so-called Democracy, without sacrificing every honorable conviction . . . , upon the altar of so-called party interest. Not being prepared to stoop so low as that, there was no other way for me but to leave the party."
Scholte could no longer be allied with a party which was behaving itself so foolishly on the slavery question. He said he had no apology to make to the Democracy for favors received, and that henceforth his object would be "the conversion of political sinners and heretics; the conviction of the misinformed and misguided; and the strengthening of the faithful lovers of liberty, independence, and union "(204)
But whatever Scholte 's views were on political questions during those pre-rebellion days and however he may have communicated to his neighbors his ideas in favor of Republicanism, the Hollanders were still strongly Democratic in the State election of 1859 when they cast about 364 votes for Augustus C. Dodge and 146 for Samuel J. Kirkwood for Governor. On January 25, 1860, at the Republican State Convention held at Iowa City, Scholte was elected as a delegate-at-large to the Chicago Convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln for President. He afterwards urged the voters, instead of sending pettifoggers to make noise and confusion, "to work and vote with a will for Lincoln, Hamlin, and Curtis, and for the worthy candidates for our State offices, not forgetting that our county government, as a general thing, is very badly managed through democratic misrule." (205)
Nevertheless, in the autumn election of 1860 Marion County (the Hollanders included) cast a majority of ninety-nine votes for Stephen A. Douglas for President. It is asserted that though Pella and vicinity had been almost exclusively Democratic, Scholte's efforts through his newspaper resulted in many desertions to Republican ranks, and Democratic power in this Dutch stronghold was considerably curtailed not only by his newspaper articles but also by a pamphlet on "American Slavery" .(206)
After the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, the secession of several Southern States from the Union threw the country into war. Governor Kirkwood's appeal for volunteers did not go unheeded among the Hollanders of Iowa. Funds were collected at Pella to encourage volunteers, and Scholte offered a lot of land in North Pella to every volunteer. These lots were later called "soldier lots". A few men, heads of families who were drafted into the service, were replaced by substitutes paid with funds which the Hollanders contributed for that purpose. The women of Pella also, like other women in Iowa, were active in collecting and forwarding necessities for the sick and wounded soldiers.(207)
No less than sixty-three Hollanders from Pella, twelve from Keokuk, twenty-f our from Muscatine, three from Burlington, six from Dubuque, and a few from other towns enlisted in Iowa infantry and cavalry regiments; and a number did not return home from fields of battle. They served the country in the battles and skirmishes of campaigns in the South. By their valor and bravery they at least showed that Democrats could espouse the Union cause against secession States; and although the city of Pella was the home of a numerous Democratic element called the "Copperheads" - an appellation which denoted the character of their attacks upon President Lincoln's administration and Governor Kirkwood's proposal to raise a loan of $800,000 for defence - there were no Hollanders implicated in such treasonable practices.(208)
During the early months of the war after the first reverses of the Union armies, Pella men showed their loyalty and forgot party by supporting the Union cause. Scholte warmly advocated Republican principles and just as strenuously attacked Democratic pro-slavery views. By their acts the Hollanders, especially the young men, showed that they were body and soul in sympathy with the northern attitude toward slavery. All were well conversant with American affairs in 1860 and realized what issues were at stake.
Political party activity among the Hollanders living in the vicinity of Pella in three counties has moved along the same Democratic groove since the time when they first commenced to use the ballot box. They have seldom been addressed by political orators in their native tongue, but since 1861 through the columns of an influential Democratic newspaper printed in the Dutch language they have been kept well posted on public questions and political affairs of city, county, State, and Nation.
A slight Republican majority for Kirkwood, candidate for Governor in 1861, showed the attitude of Marion County and Dutch voters during that crisis, and was unique because Marion County has generally been devotedly Democratic. In the years 1863 and 1865 the county again appeared strongly Democratic for James H. Tuttle and Thomas H.. Benton, Jr. A radical Republican newspaper in the English language was launched at Pella in 1865; but this organ survived only a short time. Another newspaper, published in Dutch and devoted to the interests of the Republican party, lasted for only two years.
After Lincoln and Grant had received slight presidential majorities in 1864 and 1868, Democratic conservatism once more came to the surface in Marion County. Election returns for 1875, 1881, and 1885 showed that Lake Prairie Township polled the heaviest Democratic vote in the county and since 1887 the Pella wards and Lake Prairie Township have been strongly Democratic. In 1897 Bryan received a heavy vote for the presidency, and in 1898 White was strongly endorsed for the governorship. Bryan was again a strong favorite over McKinley in 1901. Since 1902, however, the Republicans have been slightly reducing Democratic strength in the Dutch strongholds. But even Roosevelt, with his Dutch name and Dutch ancestry, failed to get the support of a majority of the burghers of Pella and of the farmers of such Dutch townships as Lake Prairie and Summit in Marion County, and Richland and Black Oak in Mahaska County. President Taft fared badly among the Hollanders of this part of Iowa in 1905.(209)
Although the Hollanders of Pella and vicinity have` always been fairly faithful in their attendance at the polls, they have not often occupied county offices - due to the fact, of course, that they have spread out over three adjoining counties, thus spoiling chances for a solid Dutch vote. By a judicious exchange of votes, however, a Hollander has occasionally been rewarded with a "political plum".
The first Dutchman elected to county office was Auke H. Viersen, who was treasurer and recorder during the early years of the Civil War. In 1865 the Representative from Marion County was B. Van Leuven, a Pella merchant but a Knickerbocker by birth. In 1868 and 1870 Henry L. Bousquet became county clerk. Henry Hospers, nominee for State Representative, was among the Democratic candidates who were snowed under in the autumn election of 1869. If he had been successful, one may only speculate as to whether or not a prosperous Dutch colony would ever have risen on the prairies of Sioux County.
Pierre H. Bousquet was a county supervisor in 1869, as were Herman F. Bousquet and Henry L. Bousquet in 1874 and 1877; and Sipke H. Viersen became recorder in 1872. Viersen had been placed upon the Republican ticket as a bid for the Dutch vote: the Republicans of Knoxville hoped in this way to make their ticket successful, but they did all they could to defeat the Dutch candidate. Had it not been for the votes of some sixty Democrats in Lake Prairie Township, Viersen would have been beaten by his so-called Republican friends.
Since 1886 Dieles van Zante, Leendert van den Linden, J. B. Vriezelaar, and D. G. van Zante have been county supervisors at various times from the Pella district; while Stephen de Cook served in Mahaska County. Other officials of Marion County were Auke H. Viersen, Teunis Tysseling, D. W. Langerak, G. van der Wilt, B. Kersbergen, and Meyer Langerak. Herman Rietveld, the Dutch Democratic candidate for State Representative who was elected in March, 1898, to complete the unexpired term of H. M. McCully, an American citizen of Pella, was defeated for reelection in 1899. Dutch voters were reminded at election time that Sioux County had been represented in the lower house of the legislature by a Dutchman and that the Hollanders of Marion County deserved the same honor.(210)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(191) See Dr. Louis Pelzer's The History and Principles of the Democratic Party of Iowa, 1846-1857, in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. VI, pp. 163-246.
(192) The Dutch could not have voted until the presidential election of November, 1852. The number of votes then cast in Lake Prairie Township was even less than the number cast in the county election of August, 1852. The number of votes polled at the State election of 1854 was just about the same as that at the election of August, 1852. - See History o f Marion County, Iowa, pp. 418-421.
(193) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, p. 37; Annals o f Iowa, Vols. VIII-IX, p. 587; and Donnell's Pioneers of Marion County, pp. 110-112.
(194) The Pella Gazette, February 1, 1855. Mr. H. P. Scholte of Pella has the files of his father's newspaper.
(195) De Hollanders in Iowa, p. 130.
(196) The Pella Gazette, May 3, and August 23 and 30, 1855; and van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part II, pp. 81, 82.
(197) The Pella Gazette, July 19 and August 9, 1855.
(198) House Journal, 1850, pp. 69, 160; Senate Journal, 1852, p. 97; van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part III, pp. 7, 8; and The Pella Gazette, August 16, 23, 1855.
(199) History of Marion County, Iowa, pp. 626-630; and Pella's Weekblad, March 11, and October 7, 1871.
(200) The Pella Gazette, May 17,
1855, April 17 and June 5, 12, 26, 1856, and February 18, 1858. The
following editorial appeared on February 18, 1858
(201) The Pella Gazette, June 26, July 24, August 7, 14, and November 6, 1856. The Nieuwsbode, published at Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was read by many Hollanders at Pella.
(202) The Pella Gazette, April 30, and August 6, 13, 1857.
(203) Senate Journal, 1858, p. 121; and The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, June 28, 1859.
(204) The Pella Gazette, July 22, 1859; and The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, July 30, 1859.
(205) The Pella Gazette, December 7, 1859; Iowa City Republican, January 25, 1860; and The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, November 3, 1860.
(206) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, p. 37, and Part III, p. 44; Census of Iowa, 1869, p. 261.
(207) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part III, p. 46.
(208) Certain Americans at Pella were
notoriously active "Copperheads" and after the war were bold
enough to publish a newspaper called The Copperhead.. They held a
convention on July 10, 1861, and passed the following resolution:
(209) Donnell's Pioneers o f Marion
County, pp. 114, 116; Pella 's Weekblad, March 23, 1869; Census
of Iowa, 1867, p. 230; 1869, p. 261; 1873, p. 77; 1875, p. 485; 1880,
p. 642; 1885, p. 381; and for subsequent election returns see the numbers
of the Iowa Official Register from 1887 to 1910.
(210) History of Marion County,
Iowa, pp. 425-427; Donnell's Pioneers o f Marion County, p. 94;
Phillips' Mahaska County, p. 242; Census o f Iowa, 1866, p.
163; 1873, p. 144; Pella's Weekblad, September 28, and October 5,
12, 19, 1869; and October 19, 26, and November 2, 9, 1872.
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