The Other Fort Amsterdam: New Light on Aspects of Slavery in New Netherland

By J, Robert | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 31, 1998 | Go to article overview

The Other Fort Amsterdam: New Light on Aspects of Slavery in New Netherland


J, Robert, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


The Other Fort Amsterdam: New Light on Aspects of Slavery in New Netherland

Recently published translations of documents in the New York State Archives concerning Dutch administration of Curacao drastically alters contours of historical perception and invokes a revision in historiography of slavery in New Netherland, later New York, two sister colonies of the Dutch West India Company (WIC). This new source is The Curacao Papers, 1640-1665. These documents were catalogued in E.B. O'Callaghan's Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in 1866 but remained untranslated for one-and-one-quarter centuries.(2) The Curacao Papers depict the international magnitude of the WIC operations in the New World. Directors of the colony at Fort Amsterdam, Curacao, received instructions from Holland that illuminate complex dimensions of social, religious and economic philosophy concerning administration of slaves, developed from pragmatic experience in Brazil and Guinea. Significantly, these instructions, as well as other guidelines and resolutions from the board of directors of the WIC also applied to the other Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, where none have been discovered. Consequently, the Curacao Papers are a phenomenally rich resource for historians of that colony, for they explain many, certainly not all, aspects of slavery in New Netherland that, for want of resources, are perplexing and incomprehensible.

This paper, therefore, is an exposition and analysis of, among others, two principal documents: "Instructions for the Director" and "Freedoms and Exemptions for Company Servants." These, resolutions and other correspondence between the States-General and the directors of Curacao and New Netherland, directly and indirectly concern the administration and regulation of slaves and matters pertaining to slavery related to the latter. This evidence throws new light on slavery in New Netherland by elucidating such concepts as slave and civil status, church membership and land ownership that, lacking documentation, have prevailed in the literature as interpretation or unsubstantiated generalization. Revealed in these papers, another theme emerges is that, curiously, Petrus Stuyvesant, as second in command of Curacao, was responsible for administering these policies. He developed other ideas concerning slaves which were transmitted to New Netherland and adopted by other directors, principally his predecessor, William Kieft. This explains, albeit unsatisfactory, why virtually no deliberation nor alteration of policy concerning African slavery is forthcoming when Stuyvesant assumed directorship of New Netherland in 1647.

Curacao as an influence on New Netherland history has been overlooked by historians. Most have viewed New Netherland black history from a provincial, "region-centric" perspective, isolated from external or international forces and have written history predominantly from abbreviated abstracts of sources more than a century old. This history has been interpreted based on an English jurisprudence model or a nineteenth-century Northern abolitionist model, supplemented by comparative studies of Southern plantation systems. Consequently, due to absence of evidence and little historical criticism of extant sources, though insightfully more and more sophisticated, articles transmit presumption, speculation and faulty generalization. All book-length syntheses of slavery in New York, tragically, dispense with the Dutch period in but a few pages.(3)

Unfortunately, little historiography on Curacao exists.(4) But a brief overview of the history of that island and WIC operations in the Caribbean discloses fascinating aspects of that island related to New Netherland and Africans. Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba, known as "Las Tres Islas," were discovered in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda, a captain under Christopher Columbus. Spain took possession but quickly lost interest in them since no gold nor other precious minerals were found. Known as the "islas inutilas," the Spanish maintained occupation and jurisdiction of these islands until Dutch interest in the West Indies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Other Fort Amsterdam: New Light on Aspects of Slavery in New Netherland
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.