While searching the notarial archives at the Amsterdam City Archives, I came across a record that tells how Dutch merchants took African slaves from Guinea and shipped them to the New World, trading some in the West Indies and taking the rest to New Netherland. As it is rare to find accounts of voyages of slave vessels, I thought I would share this document with you.
14 December 1661
Willem Tijssen of Schermerhorn, age 28, Paul Simonssen of Purmerend, 25, Gerret Andriessen of Blokzijl, age 25, Reijndert Gerrittssen of Leeuwarden, age about 22, Jacob Arentssen of Amsterdam, age 24 and Jan van Kampen, age 26, all sailors and now being in Amsterdam.
They declare at the request of Jan Kaspar Hattingh, merchant in Amsterdam, that they sailed in 1659, 1660 and the beginning of 1661 on the ship called “de Geboorte Christy” [The Birth of Christ], with skipper Jacob de Vos, accompanied by the vessel “St. Jan” [Saint John], with skipper Claes Willemsem.
They went to the coast of Guinea to take in negroes to transport those to New Netherland. During the voyage skipper Jacob de Vos died and said Claes Willemsen became skipper in his place.
Because of contrary winds, they landed at the Spanish West Indies, where they were forced to seek refreshments because of lack of water and victuals. They landed in Cartagena where they traded some negroes for supplies. The boat that was out to take in supplies was taken by the Spanish.
At Cartagena, the skipper transferred 10 sailors from the ship to prison, including said Paul Simonssen, Jacob Arentssen and Jan van Kampen, for reasons unknown to these men. Skipper Claes Willemsen was usually drunk. The skipper falsely accused them before the governor of having wanted to cut his throat. There was no truth to these accusations, since they always served him as honest sailors. Since they saw no other means to get out of prison, at that time they declared after severe threats by the governor, and payment of their monthly wages and a little above, that the said two ships traded negroes for victuals in several Spanish places.
They declare that they only gave that deposition out of necessity. They never knew the ships to intend to trade in the Spanish West Indies.
This deposition, taken at the request of the merchant, was probably meant to account for his presence in the West Indies at a time when there was a trade embargo against Spain.
A chilling account of the Dutch role in the slave trade
In this article, I translated the terms as used in the document. These terms can be offensive today, but reflect the viewpoints of that period. By staying true to the original documents, I hope to give some more insights into this sad part of our history.
- Public notary Hendrick Venkel, minutes 2 January 1660 – 31 December 1660, call number 3015, p. 1407-1408, deposition by Willem Tijssen, Paul Simonssen, Gerret Andriessen, Reijndert Gerritssen, Jacob Arentssen and Jan van Kampen, 14 December 1661; “5075: Archief van de Notarissen ter Standplaats Amsterdam” [5075: Archive of Notaries Residing in Amsterdam], finding aid with scans, Stadsarchief Amsterdam [Amsterdam City Archives] (http://stadsarchief.amsterdam.nl/archieven/archiefbank/inventaris/5075.nl.html : accessed 11 July 2014)