HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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THE RECEPTION OF SCHOLTE AND THE DUTCH IN AMERICA
AT BOSTON Scholte remained just long enough to give his family a few days of rest after the ocean journey. Here he soon perceived that Americans were not only frank in their friendliness but also genuinely concerned about the emigration from Holland. At the same time he records that he failed to find a community of spiritual belief in "that capital of American rationalism."
Scholte next went to Albany where he was openly welcomed by the good Christian people of the city and given an opportunity to preach. the gospel to the Hollanders who had but recently arrived from Europe and to the older inhabitants who either could still speak Dutch or merely recalled that it was the language of the founders of their city and State. To Scholte it was a striking experience to be asked immediately to preach God's Word in one of the principal churches in a land where he was a stranger, "while ", as he writes, "in the land of my birth most public places for the worship of God were closed to me, and even those who in their homes called me brother in Christ would not have dared to allow me to take charge of services in their churches". Such was the kindness which he received at the hands of ministers in and near New York City and at Pittsburgh that when he wrote about it later, he confessed: "Had I not been bound to our Association, I certainly could not have withstood the pressure of persons who urged me to stay in the State of New York and once more to hold regular services in the Dutch language."
Everywhere among the Christian people of America it appears that Scholte discovered a hearty and wide-awake interest in the emigration from Holland.
"I believe ", he wrote, "that in general they cherish a too lofty opinion of us. In their conversation and newspapers we are represented as resembling the God-fearing Pilgrims who first settled in the United States. They regard our coming to this land of civil and religious liberty as one of God's blessings on their country. . . . Oftentimes a sense of shame and embarrassment comes over me when I stop to look at myself and our Association, and then consider the high thoughts which people entertain of us, and see that, while the Germans who come here are less highly esteemed, the Hollanders are held in honor and are often placed on an equality with Americans. "
And Scholte could testify that the Hollanders received favorable treatment at the hands not only of individual Christians and Christian churches, but also of State officials and State assemblies. For, he said, I myself had an experience of this sort at Albany, where the legislature had just convened and I wished to look on for a moment. Recognized by one of the members, I was compelled to take a seat in the midst of them. How different from Holland! In the land of our birth branded and treated as a despised congregation, misunderstood by everyone, shoved aside, trampled upon and bruised; in the land of strangers and above all in its most respectable part, honored and treated as a costly gift of God to improve their country!"
At St. Louis where the Americans did not understand the Dutch language and had scarcely thought of Hollanders before, the immigrants were just as cordially welcomed as in the East; and so long as they remained in the city, a Presbyterian congregation allowed them the free use of a spacious basement room for regular Sunday services, providing heat when necessary, and even helping the needy sick. The Hollanders were also permitted to take advantage of the instruction in English afforded by the Presbyterian Sunday-school.
Of their reception in America one of the Hollanders afterwards wrote: "With none too much praise can one speak of the goodwill, accommodation, and direct aid with which the Dutch emigrants met at places where they stopped, not least at St. Louis." As for their willingness to help and kindness to oblige, Americans were said to put the Hollanders to shame, and Scholte could say in conclusion: "In this way America speaks and thinks, in this way America treats the Hollanders who were so oppressed in their native land in matters civil and religious that they were forced to leave. That God has done for us ".(51)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(51) This entire chapter is based on Scholte's Eene Stem uit Pella, pp. 9-13. See also van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part II, p. 2; and Brummelkamp's Holland in Amerika, p. 11.
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