Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, Vol. 52
Constraint on Trial is a thorough examination of the life and thought of Dirck Volckertsz Coornhert (1522–1590), the Dutch notary, artist, poet, playwright, translator, and controversialist who defended freedom of conscience and toleration. Coornhert’s individualism made him eschew any restrictions on personal religious choice. His spiritualist beliefs are revealed in his writings on toleration, most notably his Synod on the Freedom of Conscience (1582) and Trial of the Killing of Heretics (1590). Coornhert’s prolific writings and public debates with theologians and humanists show him as a man who saw himself as “God’s battering ram against the prison of men’s conscience.”
Among sixteenth-century writers, Dirck Volckertsz Coornhert (1522–1590) offers the fullest defense of religious toleration, but his work has hitherto been largely inaccessible, save to readers of his native Dutch. Gerrit Voogt’s Constraint on Trial is now the best biography in any language, with the best account of how Coornhert both made use of and departed from the advocates of toleration who came before him.
—James D. Tracy