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Needy father of three refused spoils of political change

Stand by Goor man lauded

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM - A diary entry of February 1797 which describes an apolitical act of generosity in the face of societal upheaval - the arrival of the French - recently became one of 118 stories published in a special issue of a Dutch genealogical periodical. A needy father of three, a Patriot, refused to take the job of an equally needy Orangist, a father of six.

The shockwaves of change had extended themselves to the United Dutch Republic when in 1795 French troops occupied the country to replace a conservative Orangist regime with the liberal Patriotic Party which supported the ideals of the French revolution. Everywhere, Orangists made way for Patriots, both as representatives in government and as civil servants.

When the National Assembly gathered in The Hague in 1796, to draw up a constitution for the Netherlands, Orangists were removed from their positions there as well. Representative Willem Hendrik Teding van Berkhout, who lived from 1745 to 1809, penned an entry in his diary about an incident which made a deep impression on him and his Patriotic colleagues.

Among the fired Orangists was a needy legislative aid who experienced difficulties supporting his family of six children. Wouterus Slaterus of the eastern Dutch town of Goor, also a family man but with only three children, was picked to replace the Orangist. A man with a conscience, Slaterus made a plea to the gathered Representatives to give the Orangist, who is not named in the story, his job back.

The plea for natural justice - and to keep the civil service apolitical - made a deep impression on everyone. Teding van Berkhout reports that the representatives took up a collection for Slaterus which netted him over 200 guilders, a considerable amount of money.

At least two other diarists praised Slaterus for his stand. A certain Van Lockhorst saw the stand of the Goor resident as one that exemplified true Patriotism. His contemporary Zubli comments that Slaterus' stand put others, who gladly benefit from the misfortune of opponents to shame.

Although Slaterus returned jobless to his family in Goor, he later served as a commissioner (commies) with the Dutch taxation branch. A recent, special issue of Gens Nostra, contained an additional 117 contributions on the theme 'Favorite Ancestors'. Among the stories are several on foreign ancestors. Gens Nostra is the monthly of the NGV. Its address is: Postbus 976, 1000 AZ Amsterdam.