Wybo Fijnje, Mennonite democratic revolutionary of the era of the French Revolution

I’m adding a space for a future profile of a significant figure in Dutch public life in the revolutionary era. Here’s a brief preview of a post I’m developing about Wybo Fijnje…

Portrait of Wybo Fijnje by Taco Scheltema (?) (WikiMedia Commons)

Wybo Fijnje was the son of Jan Fijnje, a Mennonite preacher in Haarlem. Wybo trained at the Mennonite Seminary in Amsterdam in the 1770s and then started a career as a preacher to the Mennonites in Deventer. He gave up this role to start a broadsheet publication in Delft in 1780. In his role as a publicist with a democratic political vision he played a leading role in the national “Patriot” revolt against the Orange family regime. After the revolt failed in 1787, he went into exile in northern France, but he returned in 1795 after French forces together with the support of many Dutch men and women chased the Orange regime from power. The new revolutionary regime was the first Dutch democracy based on a system of national voting rights for men. Unlike the old Dutch Republic which had usually excluded men who were not of orthodox Reformed Protestant affiliation from its governing ranks, the new legislatures Lutheran, Catholic, Remonstrant, Mennonite and even Jewish legislators and high-ranking bureaucrats among its ranks, in addition of course to orthodox Reformed Protestants. Fijnje was among these men from the beginning. In fact, he was one of the leaders of a radical parliamentary faction that orchestrated a largely bloodless coup in January 1798. Fijnje and other coup leaders arranged a successful national plebiscite to enact a new democratic Dutch constitution. Soon thereafter (mid 1798), Fijnje and his faction were ousted in another coup. After a period of exclusion from pubic life in the Batavian Republic, he returned prominence as the editor of the Bataafse Courant toward the end of his life.