Author Topic: Surinam  (Read 93 times)


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« on: March 18, 2021, 12:07:59 am »

In 1650, Lord Willoughby, the governor of Barbados, furnished out a vessel to settle a colony in Suriname. At his own cost he equipped a ship of 20 guns, and two smaller vessels with things necessary for the support of the plantation.[5] Major Anthony Rowse settled there in his name. Two years later, for the better settling of the colony, he went in person, fortified and furnished it with things requisite for defence and trade. 'Willoughbyland' consisted of around 30,000 acres (120 km2) and a fort. In 1663 most of the work on the 50 or so plantations was done by native Indians and 3,000 African slaves.[6] There were around 1,000 whites there, joined by Brazilian Jews
The settlement was invaded by seven Dutch ships (from the Zeeland region), led by Abraham Crijnssen, on February 26, 1667. Fort Willoughby was captured the next day after a three-hour fight[7] and renamed Fort Zeelandia. On July 31, 1667, the English and Dutch signed the Treaty of Breda, in which for the time being the status quo was respected: the Dutch could keep occupying Suriname and the British the formerly Dutch colony New Amsterdam (modern-day New York). Willoughbyland was renamed Suriname.

The colonization of Surinam is marked by slavery. Plantations relied on slave labour, mostly supplied by the Dutch West India Company from its trading posts in West Africa, to produce their crops. ... Planters' treatment of the slaves was notoriously bad[2]—historian C.R. Boxer wrote that "man's inhumanity to man just about reached its limits in Surinam"[3]—and many slaves escaped the plantations.

A useful source of detailed information is John Gabriel Stedman (illustrated by William Blake):

While the Colony of Surinam however is
reeking and dyed with the blood of the African
negroes, truth compels me to observe, that the
Dutch there are not the only guilty ; but that
to most other nations, and particularly the Jews,
is owino' this almost constant and diubulical


Detail from William Blake's illustration John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, copy 2, object 2 (Bentley 499.2) "A Negro hung alive by the Ribs to a Gallows"

It should be noted that Stedman defended slavery, chronicling the cruelty towards slaves mainly for historical purposes:

In his Narrative, Stedman writes about the contrast between the beauty of the colony and his first taste of the violence and cruelty endemic there. One of his first observations involves the torture of a nearly naked enslaved woman, chained to an iron weight. His narrative describes the woman receiving 200 lashes and carrying the weight for a month as a result of her inability to fulfill a task to which she was assigned.[11]

Over the course of his Narrative, Stedman relays several stories regarding the wretched state of the slaves and the horrors to which they are subjected. In one story detailed in his Narrative, involving a group sailing by boat, an enslaved mother was ordered by her mistress to hand over her crying baby. The mistress then threw the baby into the river, drowning it. The mother jumped into the river after her baby, whose body was recovered by fellow slaves. The mother later received 200 lashes for her defiant behavior. In another story, a small boy shoots himself in the head to escape flogging. In yet another, a man is completely broken on the rack and left for days to suffer until he died.[15]
In spite of the abolitionist utility of the text, Stedman himself was far from an abolitionist. A defense of slavery runs throughout the text, emphasizing problems that would arise from sudden emancipation and claiming that Englishmen treated their slaves better than other colonizers.[30] In fact, Stedman believed that slavery was necessary in some form to continue allowing Britain and other European nations to indulge their excessive desires for commodities such as tobacco and sugar. A seemingly pro-slavery attitude is espoused throughout much of his text, reflecting his patriotism as much as his attitude toward slaves themselves.


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