New Netherland Act Emancipating Certain Slaves

In 1626, to the colony of New Netherland the Dutch brought the first slaves bought by West India Company. In 1640, an Indian war, named after the director general Kieft’s War, started. The Dutch needed more men and the loyalty of slaves. Therefore, when several men participated in 1644 in war, the company had to reward them. According to the Act of February, 26, 1644, these eleven slaves together with their wives and children were released from slavery and set free on the same position as other free people of New Netherland. They were granted the land to farm for livelihood. To recover their freedom, they had to pay to the Company and to its deputy for freedom. Annually, for all their lives each former slave had to pay thirty skepels of wheat, corn and beans, and one big hog. In case, he failed to pay the tribute to the Company, he would be returned to slavery, and his present children and children yet to be born would be obliged to serve as slaves to the West India Company. Additionally, they were bound to serve the Company, by water or by land, when called upon. In this case, they would receive wages.

Afterwards, the other slaves made the same agreement. In 1664, some of them achieved full freedom for themselves and their families, having to pay annual tribute for the granted land. When English took New Netherland the following decade, the colony kept the same policy for slavery. Yet the New York Revolt in 1712 made English to pass stricter laws. Any slaves freed after 1712 were prohibited to own property.

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