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The Political Thought of Johan & Pieter de la Court
The Dutch seventeenth century, a ‘Golden Age’ ridden by intense ideological conflict, pioneered global trade, participatory politics and religious toleration. Its history is epitomized by the life and works of the brothers Johan (1622-1660) and Pieter de la Court (1618-1685), two successful textile entrepreneurs and radical republican theorists during the apex of Dutch primacy in world trade. This book explores the many facets of the brothers’ political thought, focusing on their ground-breaking argument that commerce forms the mainstay of republican politics. With a contextual analysis that highlights the interaction between thinking and acting, between intellectual and cultural history, the book reveals the international significance of this commercial republicanism and it proposes a novel, rhetorical approach to seventeenth-century Dutch political culture.

Abstract

The historiography of early modern Dutch colonial expansion in the East and the West shows a rather stark division between studies on governance and trade on the one hand, and those on Christian mission on the other. This chapter explores a third field of research: the impact of cultural and religious entanglement in the context of the voyages of discovery, the creation of trade networks, and colonial enterprise. After an analysis of the legal justifications for rule and proselytizing overseas, either by conquest (Batavia, Brazil), first occupation (New Netherland, Cape Colony), or treaty (Ternate, Decima) the chapter presents three very different yet related projects for religious regimes in the Dutch overseas colonies of the second half of the seventeenth century: the first by the Leiden professor of theology Johannes Hoornbeeck, the second by the freethinkers Franciscus van den Enden and Pieter Plockhoy, and the third by the Labadists. Despite having very different inspirations, all three projects aimed to overcome the confessional strife afflicting Dutch society at the time. While Hoornbeeck’s ideal was missionary, Van den Enden and Plockhoy’s inclusive, and the Labadists’ sectarian, they all looked to the overseas colonies not merely as a source of worldly riches (for which purpose they had been founded in the first place) but most of all for spiritual gain. All these projects, however, ended as brilliant failures because of the problematic relationship between the secular sovereign and the public Reformed Church. Successful mission had to await the Dutch missionary societies of the later eighteenth century. Early modern settlements overseas can be seen as shelters for escapism and laboratories for experimentation, and they functioned as a safety valve to release interconfessional pressure.

Open Access
In: Enlightened Religion
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age
Open Access
In: Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age