Introduction to the Resolutions
of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope


Because there was so much work to be done in this young and growing settlement, the continuous development and expansion caused an ever-increasing demand for labour. Some of the Khoi could occasionally be used as harvesters and herdsmen, but this was insufficient. Since there were far too few VOC officials and free burghers to do all the work, the only way to solve the problem was to make use of slave labour. The slaves were in great demand throughout the Cape Colony.

On 28 March 1658 the ship Amersfoort sailed into Table Bay with the first cargo of slaves for this country, namely 174 Angolese on board. At the Council meeting of 8 May 1658 (C. 1) it was minuted that the Hasselt had anchored two days earlier with 228 slave men and women on board. Of this group 43 slaves who were all traded at Popo (earlier called Arder, now known as Lagos ) died during the voyage. The Council decided that the Hasselt should set sail for Batavia “en daarmee af te senden een getal van 140 a 150 stucx slaven” [and to send between 140 and 150 slaves (to Batavia )]. At the meeting of 30 May 1658 (C. 1) it was noted that the Company had to feed 200 slaves per day. On 28 August 1658 (C. 1) the Councillors learnt about the slaves from Guinea and Angola who had absconded. At the Council meeting of 26 October 1678 (C. 13) it was recorded that the slaves traded on Madagascar would be transported immediately to the west coast of Sumatra . This type of reporting occurs throughout the Resolutions up to the end of the VOC rule at the Cape of Good Hope.

The slaves who were brought to the Cape came mainly from the islands of Indonesia , Bengal in the north-western part of India , the Coast of Coromandel , Malaysia , Madagascar and the coasts of Africa , such as Guinea , Angola and Mozambique . According to the slave traders and owners the slaves from Madagascar were excellent at agriculture, while the Angolese slaves could do very hard work. The slaves from India and some places in Indonesia were much appreciated for their abilities as craftsmen.

After their manumission the slave men and women from Bengal were the group who adapted most successfully to the Cape community. The first manumitted slave women were Katrina of Bengal, Maria of Bengal and Angela of Bengal. On 14 March 1680 (C. 14) Maria of Bengal’s request for manumission was submitted to and approved by the Council. The following is some information on Angela of Bengal’s life: In 1655 Jan van Riebeeck bought this slave from Pieter Kemp. When van Riebeeck’s granddaughter, Johanna Maria, visited the Cape in 1710 she wrote in a letter about “Ansiela” who had looked after her father and his brothers and sisters (the van Riebeeck children). Johanna Maria also mentioned that Ansiela had later married a Dutchman and that her daughter was the wife of Captain “B”. This was indeed the case, as “Maai” [derivation of ma (mother) ‘old woman’] Angela, also spelt Ansiela, married Arnoldus Basson after her manumission and thus became the progenitress of the Basson family of South Africa . While Angela was still in slavery her daughter Anna (de Koning) was born from an extra-marital relationship with a European. Not only was Anna very attractive, but was also well educated and her signature appears on a number of documents. She was married to Captain Oloff Bergh and in her turn became the progenitress of the Bergh family of South Africa . At the Council meeting of 8 May 1686 (C. 18) Maria Schalck, Armosyn of the Cape and Jannetje Bort, three slave women at the wine estate Constantia were manumitted on condition that they had been baptised and born of Christian fathers. It is also interesting how often slave women who served as wet-nurses, were manumitted. A wet-nurse was employed to suckle another’s child and so she contributed in an indirect way to the population growth at the Cape – while she was nursing the baby the mother of the child could get pregnant again!

As far as their owners are concerned, the Cape slaves may be categorised in three groups, those who belonged to the Company, those who belonged to the Company officials and those who belonged to the free burghers. There were also free blacks who owned slaves, for instance the Malay man Intje Aallan of “Mano Capo” who was mentioned in a request included in the Council minutes of 14 April 1733 (C. 92): Three years after his death his two manumitted slaves, Manus of Bouton and Sabina of Macasser (who did not receive letters of manumission due to an administrative error) submitted a request for the manumission of their daughter, Rabbia of the Cape. In Aallan’s will in which they were all named as heirs, he also stated that they should be manumitted. Abraham de Haan (also known as Abraham Ade Haan and Ibrahim Adehaan) and the free black Hercules Valentijn were willing to stand surety for them should any of the three become a burden on the church. Since no executors were appointed, the request was addressed to the Council to grant them manumission. The Council complied with the request.

It often happened that male and female slaves applied for manumission and that these requests were then submitted to the Council. A slave, male or female, would receive his or her letter of freedom on condition that he or she had been baptized, could speak Dutch, and could either present a healthy and capable male slave to the Company to take his or her place or pay the Company the amount equal to the value of a strong young male slave. For example, “ Terwijl Laatstelijk nog uijt slavernij sijn ontslagen en in vrijdom gesteld seekere Slavinne der E. Comp:nie gen:t Johanna van Elsje van Mulder van de Caab en haar soontje Jacobus van Johanna van Elsje, als sijnde d’ eerste gedoopt en de hollandse Taal magtig, mits dat sij soo voor haar als haar soon aan d’ E. Comp: komt te betaalen een somma van Een hondert en vijftig guldens Indische valuatie” [While in the last instance, a certain Company female slave called Johanna of Elsje of Mulder of the Cape and her young son Jacobus of Johanna of Elsje of the Cape will be released from slavery and granted their freedom if she has been baptized and can speak Dutch and if she is able to pay the Company a sum of one hundred and fifty guilder, Indian currency, on behalf of her son] (26.9.1747, C. 125). In the next case a male slave was granted his freedom: “Laatstelijk is seekere ’s Comp:s slaaf gen:t Cornelis van Marij van Calmeronde uijt aanmerkinge dat hij het Sacrament des H: Doops heeft ontfangen, en daar en booven ook in de Needer duijtsche Taal seer wel is ervaaren, op sijn versoek uijt slavernije ontslaagen en in vrijdom gesteld, sijnde den slaaf die door denselven aan d’ E. Compagnie in sijn plaats aan gepresenteert word gen:t Paris van Macasser bij visitatie bevonden te weesen van de verEijschte bequaamheeden” [In the last instance and while taking into account that a certain Company slave called Cornelis of Marij of Calmeronde has been baptized and has an excellent command of Dutch, his request to be released from slavery and be set free, is granted, and the slave he presented to the Company to take his place, namely Paris of Macasser has been examined and found fit and has all the required capabilities] (30.7.1748, C. 126). Many similar examples appear in the Resolutions.

It was van Riebeeck’s responsibility to ensure that no one spoke Portuguese, the lingua franca in Asia , to the slaves at the Cape . No language other than “ons Moedertaal” [our mother tongue] was to be used when speaking to the slaves. The children of the Company’s slaves received their education in Dutch, no matter whether they attended school at the slave lodge or at any other place in the Cape . From the information reflected in the Resolutions it appears as if the “Schoolmeesters” [school masters, teachers] at the slave lodge could speak Dutch fluently: Hans Jacob Jurgen of the Cape, in the records also known as Hans Jacob of Mariabeen, applied to be manumitted (2.6.1744, C. 122); he could speak Dutch and had been a teacher for fifteen years. Christoffel of Simosia, who taught for 19 years at the slave lodge, also applied to be manumitted (27.4.1751, C. 129). The Council granted his application, but requested him to remain in his post for the next few years.

Slave issues other than slave trading and requests for manumission are also included in the Resolutions, for example when the Council discussed matters concerning the slaves’ living conditions. At the Council meeting of 30 March 1717 (C. 41) a plan was submitted to enlarge and improve the “slavenhuijs” [slave lodge]. Specifications mentioned, detail that the surface of 180 feet x 85 feet will be enlarged to 230 feet x 85 feet. There will also be a spacious courtyard, new entrance, cubicles to store materials, and store rooms where fire-buckets shall be kept; a work unit for Dutch “mandoors” [mandors, foremen]; living quarters for inland mandors and school teachers; also a staircase to the second floor [first floor ‘ground floor’, second floor ‘first floor’]. The whole surface of the second floor will be allocated to the male and female slaves living together in pairs, and to schoolboys. There will also be two private “secrete” [toilettes] for male and female slaves respectively, equipped with sewage pipes; also entries and staircases; doors on both sides of the kitchen to provide protection against the south-easterly wind; a passage leading to a new small courtyard and living units in a single-story building, which will serve as the living quarters for the “matres” [school mistress, head of a crèche or nursery school] and the sick-mother, the school girls, and the sick, elderly and invalids. There will also be a school and a room for the commissioners or caretakers of the slave lodge.


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