Loyalty over Profit: The Dutch West India Company and the Slave Trade with New Netherland

Friday, January 4, 2019: 1:50 PM
Waldorf Room (Hilton Chicago)
Andrea Catharina Mosterman, University of New Orleans
In the fall of 1663, Captain Simon Cornelissen Gilde finalized his contract with the Amsterdam chamber of the Dutch West India Company. He was about to take the slaver Gideon on another slave-trading journey. The assignment was relatively simple, or on paper it was: bring at least 300 African captives from Angola to New Netherland. But for a journey that would take many months and that involved travel to three continents, how could company officials make sure that Gilde abided by the terms of his contract?

Supplying enslaved laborers to New Netherland proved important to the company because it supported cultivation of the land and developed colonization of the relatively newly-acquired area by the Delaware called New Amstel. Yet, for slave traders, the slave trade was often more profitable in other colonies, and so the company worried that captains like Gilde and others who bought and sold enslaved laborers for the company might sell African captives in areas where they could be sold for higher prices. With an expansive trade network that allowed for minimal oversight, the company’s success relied largely on the loyalty of its employees, but how could the company ensure their loyalty? Using the Old Dutch West India Company records, notarial records, as well as correspondence by company employees, this paper examines conflicts between profit and loyalty in the company-supported slave trade with New Netherland. It explores employees’ attempts to increase profit by circumventing company directions and the company’s efforts to ensure its employees’ loyalty.