The Rude Hand of Innovation

Town Life,
page 7 of 14

As in all plantations in a new land, there was for a time in New Netherland a lack of servants. Complaints were sent in 1649 to the States-General of “the fewness of boors and farm-servants.” Domestic servants were not found in many households; the capable wife and daughters performed the housework and dairy work. As soon as servants were desired they were speedily procured from Africa. The Dutch brought the first negro slaves to America. In the beginning these slaves in New Netherland were the property of the Dutch West India Company, which rented their services. The company owned slaves from the year 1625. when it first established its authority, and promised to each patroon twelve black men and women from ships taken as prizes. In 1644 it manumitted twelve of the negroes who had worked faithfully nearly a score of years in servitude. In 1652 the Government in Holland consented to the exportation of slaves to the colony for sale. In 1664 Governor Stuyvesant writes of an auction of negroes that they brought good prices, and were a great relief to the garrison in supplying funds to purchase food. Thus did the colony taste the ease of ill-gotten wealth. Though the Duke of York and his governors attempted to check the slave-trade, by the end of the century the negroes had increased much in numbers in the colony. In the Kip family were twelve negro house-servants. Rip van Dam had five; Colonel de Peyster and the Widow Van Courtlandt had each seven adult servants. Colonel Bayard, William Beeckman, David Provoost, and Madam Van Schaick each had three.

On Long Island slaves abounded. It is the universal testimony that they were kindly treated by the Dutch, —too kindly, our English lady thought, who rented out her slaves. Masters were under some bonds to the public. They could not, under Dutch rule, whip their slaves without authorization from the government. The letters in the Lloyd Collection in regard to the slave Obium are striking examples of kindly consideration, and of constant care and thought for his comfort and happiness.


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