Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dutch Dirty Past - Slavery Was Abolished in Holland As Late As 1863

Slave trade has been a black chapter in Dutch history. The Dutch always had a problem recognizing the fact that they made hefty profits from slave trade for centuries. Recent research shows that the Dutch traded an estimated total of 600,000 slaves and not 550,000 as reported before. This means that 3,000 slaves a year were transported for profit between the years 1600 and 1800 on Dutch ships.

The driving motive for transporting those slaves to the New Colonies (USA) was pure greed. In 1855 Mr. W. R. van Hoëvell wrote in his book Slaves and Freed Persons under the Dutch Law: “Each house in Amsterdam is like a palace – but the treasures that build these houses are for the greater part the result of squeezing life, sweat and blood out of whipped and beaten slaves.”

Professor Piet Emmer made it his mission to downplay the historic profits of the Dutch slave trading by juggling the numbers. He fails to understand that the numbers are not important; it’s the attitude and lack of conscience that makes it all so obnoxious.

The Dutch tradesmen got the lowest purchase price by enlisting African Ashanti slave traders to raid whole villages to meet the demands of the US. Ships were stocked to the maximum in order to compensate for the “loss of cargo” percentage during the voyage.

Food was also calculated as a business cost in order to transport as many “goods” as possible for the lowest possible costs. Once arriving in the US, the “heads” were sold as cattle and put to work on the plantations – whipped, abused and suppressed by their “owners” and local authorities. There was only one goal: making as much profit as possible by producing sugar, coffee, cotton, and indigo for the lowest cost.

The reason that the main Dutch trading companies (the West-India Company and the Middelburg Commerce Company) decided that slave trade was not profitable anymore does not make them any less inhuman.

Abolition of slavery was not inspired at all by decency or morality, but solely by the fact that it just was not financially viable anymore. It was therefore a pure business decision and nothing else.

This makes remembering the slave trade even more horrific. The last thing we need is another “Holocaust denial” movement to gloss over the horrific acts our ancestors conducted towards African slaves.

 (Image© ANP. 2002: three statues in the Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam, part of the exposition 'Slaves and Ships – One way trip, destination unknown'.)

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