History of Dutch Persecution, 1822

NOTE: The scandal involving the Bishop of Clogher once more put homosexuality in the news, and the following academic history of the persecutions of homosexuals in Holland in the 1730s was printed in a newspaper in 1822, almost one hundred years after the original events.


From the History of the United Provinces by Wagenaar, a Dutch Writer of great estimation, it appears that the offence which has lately attracted so much attention, had in the year 1730 attained such height in Holland and the other United Provinces, as to lead to an extent of punishment unexampled, perhaps, in any other nation. The following is translated from the 19th vol. of that work, pp. 37, et seq. – The evil, it will be seen, was attended with one good consequence: it lead to the abolition of confiscation in all cases:–

Shortly before this the States of several Provinces found themselves called on to make head against a dangerous corruption of morals, which for a considerable period had existed in secret, and at length was discovered almost at the same time in various places. I speak of the unnatural crime of ****, the discovery and punishment of which made much noise here in this and the following year. The United Provinces were, no more than other countries, altogether unacquainted with it in old times. but the evil was either not so general as it seemed now to be, or it had been more carefully concealed from the eye of the Civil Magistrate. To this cause no doubt it was owing that in this country it was the subject of no law, though it had nevertheless been the practice formerly to punish it with death, generally with fire. However the punishment latterly on account of the odious nature of the crime and its rarity, was, for the most part, executed privately, excepting in ships of war, where the guilty on their being now and then discovered were usually drowned. But the evil now becoming common and sufficiently notorious, seemed to demand a public and severe punishment. At Utrecht, where it was first discovered in the commencement of this year, several persons, on their being found guilty, were secretly strangled at a stake in the prisons. But these, before their deaths, had accused others, and even citizens of the other provinces. On this a general investigation took place in the principal towns of Holland and other provinces. Some here and there were thrown into prison, particularly at the Hague and in Amsterdam. Several others effected their escape. It seen appeared that persons in every situation and rank of life, and of every religious persuasion, were stained with this abomination; and that among them were men who, from the high offices they filled in Church and State, ought to have been an example to others. In the beginning of June, seven of these wretches were publicly hanged in the Hague; the bodies of two of them were burned to ashes; the other five were thrown into the sea. In the same month two were strangled in Amsterdam and then scorched; two others were put into a cask of water with their heads downwards and suffocated. The bodies, with weights attached to the legs, were thrown into the [river] Y. In August one was strangled and thrown into the sea. At Rotterdam three were strangled and scorched, and then sunk in the sea. At Delft, in like manner, three were hung and thrown into the sea. At Haarlem the same punishment befel one criminal. In other towns of Holland numbers of guilty were punished in the like manner. At Kampen and Swolle, in Overyssel, five or six persons were strangled or hung, and then burned under the gallows. In the former town, one man, being held less criminal, was, with a rope round his neck, flogged and branded, and banished the land. In other towns the same puinishment was more than once executed; but we deem it unnecessary to enter into any enumeration. However, we may observe, that in the following year, at Zuidhorn, in the Ommerlands, twenty-one persons suffered death for it at one time. In the mean time, those who fled in every direction in great numbers* (*A number took refuge in England.) were publicly cited, and they who on the third or fourth citation did not appear, were then banished the country. In Holland this took place by means of a special law of the States, which was issued on the solicitation of the Court of Justice, and published the 21st July. In this law it was enacted, “that the crime of *** should henceforth be punished publicly and with death; though the sort of death should be left to the Judge. – That those who seduced others to this abomination, or let out their houses for its commission, although they themselves might not be guilty of *****, should be punished also with death. That the bodies of those who suffered death should be burned, thrown into the sea, or hung up in the gallows field as unworthy of burial. – And that the sentences against the fugitives should be printed and posted on the usual places.” – To the strict execution of this law it was owing that we heard afterwards much less of the abomiantion against which it was directed. . . . . The States, about the same time, deliberated also respecting the confisction of the estates of the guilty and the fugitives; but the most declared themselves against it. – These deliberations gave occasion, ere long, to a law, framed with the advice of both the Courts, by which confiscation in all cases, not excepting the crime of high treason, should thenceforth be abolished in Holland. – The State of Zealand followed the example, &c. &c.

SOURCE: Morning Chronicle, 30 October 1822.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "History of Dutch Persecution, 1822", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 6 March 2015 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1822dutc.htm>.

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