Wybo Fijnje

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Wybo Fijnje

Wybo Fijnje (24 January 1750 in Zwolle – 2 October 1809 in Amsterdam) was a Dutch Mennonite minister, publisher in Delft, Patriot, exile, coup perpetrator, politician and - during the French era - manager of the state newspaper.


Early life[edit]

Fijnje grew up in Haarlem, where his father Jan Fijnje, originally from Harlingen, was also a minister. His parents died in 1763. He studied in Amsterdam, but moved in 1771 to Leiden and came in contact with the Collegiants in Rijnsburg. Fijnje began his career as a Mennonite preacher in Deventer (1774). Then he was called to Delft, where he had already (c.1775) taken up an office on the "Hollandsche Historische Courant". Fijnje was probably inspired by these publishing activities and the internationally praised paper of his wife's family in Leiden, for in November 1775 he had married with Emilie Luzac, the publisher's daughter.


Johan Luzac, writing under the pseudonym Attica in Fijnje's Dutch-language paper, warned his brother-in-law to practice more moderation in dealing with his co-worker, the journalist Gerrit Paape, that fairly took in anti-orangist viewpoints. In 1783 Fijnje was involved in the foundation of the exercitiegenootschappen; in 1785 by the setting up of the "Leids Ontwerp", together with Pieter Vreede and Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck. On 21 August Fijnje - as a delegate - read a revolutionary explanation in the council hall. Eleven members of the vroedschap were requested to leave, after which eight patriots could be installed. All this happened without the stadholder's knowledge or consent, but with the assent of the population, although they apparently remained outside, silent, watching the flying column under the leadership of Adam Gerard Mappa, a letter-setter. A baker that sold orange cakes was court-martialled and put under house arrest. The exercitiegenootschap took over Delft's large ammunition and weapons store in de Republiek, now the army museum. Their example was followed in Leiden, Dordrecht, Alkmaar, Hoorn and Monnikendam, even under the threat of a Prussian ultimatum and raid.

Exile in northern France[edit]

Wijbo Fijnje was one of the convinced and militant patriots who were forced to leave the city on 19 September 1787, when the Prussian army occupied Delft. The population of Delft was revenged on the exercitiegenootschap by smashing up a room full of Delftware painted with symbols of freedom, and throwing its inventory into a canal. The Fijnje family went to Antwerp, later to Brussels and finally to Watten (French-Flanders). Johan Valckenaer, Herman Willem Daendels and Mappa rented - on Fijnje's initiative - a castle, on top of a hill. The four husbands and three bachelors ordered the rooms, grew vegetables and played billiards. Wijbo Fijnje remarried with a Frenchwoman, Marie Françoise Constance Ténar, after Emilie died in 1788. When the members of the association were accused by the local population of growing and selling grain, the commune was dissolved in 1792. Mappa emigrated to the U.S. and began the first printer in New York; Valckenaer moved to Paris.

Batavian Republic[edit]

In 1795 Fijnje returned to the Republic, after which he became a member of the committee of vigilance (a kind of purification commission), chaired the provisional assembly of representatives and - together with Samuel Iperusz Wiselius and professor Theodorus van Kooten - served on the committee for dismantling the VOC (Dutch East India Company). In all these posts he took radical viewpoints, but he also amused himself. On 22 January 1798, he committed a coup with Pieter Vreede and Van Langen to guarantee "the unity and indivisibility" of the new republic. The radical and omnipresent Fijnje represented the Executive Government and set up the "Binnenlandse Bataafse Courant" (Interior Batavian Courier). Langen and the other controversial unifiers did not long remain in power, for on 12 June 1798 Herman Willem Daendels led a new coup. For the old-exiles with a marked character, there was no longer any place even for democratically elected aristocrats. Fijnje and Van Langen were locked up until the end of the year in the Gevangenpoort, accused of embezzling state money through the then public prosecutor Van Maanen, but never tried.

Fijnje became a private citizen and busied himself with an old hobby, higher mathematics, and stayed indoors for weeks at a time. On advise of Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck, Alexander Gogel and Hendrik van Rays Fijnje became in 1805 editor in chief of the "Bataafse Staatscourant" (Batavian state courier). He got the domain "het Kleine Loo" to disposition. When the editing was moved to Amsterdam, Jonas Daniel Meijer was appointed editor in chief. Fijnje seems to have been unable through illness to keep up the job, but kept on as a de facto manager.


  • 1774 Theoriae Systematis Universi specimen philosophicum (dissertations)
  • 1783 Beknopte tijdrekenkundig begrip der algemeene geschiedenis; 2 delen, waarvan het tweede deel verloren is gegaan. (Brief summary of the general history; 2 parts, of which the second part is lost.)


  • This article is based entirely or partially on its equivalent on Dutch Wikipedia.
  • Fijnje-Luzac, E. Myne beslommerde boedel; brieven in ballingschap 1787 - 1788. Ed. Jacques J.M. Baartmans 2003.
  • Kroes-Ligtenberg, C. (1957) Dr. Wybo Fijnje (1750 - 1809); belevenissen van een journalist in de patriottentijd.
  • Roosendaal, J. (2003) Bataven! Nederlandse vluchtelingen in Frankrijk 1787-1795.
  • Schama, S. (1977) Patriots and Liberators. Revolution in the Netherlands 1780 - 1830.

External links[edit]