(I have copied this from a post that I made in a Russian thread just so we can discuss this here).
I want add something here. An episode that is not well known in Dutch history because we always hear about our role in the slave trade. Well.. we also played quite another role in the slave trade: in 1596 a Portuguese ship (conquered by a Rotterdam sea captain) made it's way into the port of Middelburg. Much to the astonishment and outrage of the local citizenry the ship contained.. African slaves (refered to as Moors by the Dutch). They had come from the coast of Guinea (in what is now West Africa).
In the Dutch Republic slavery was expressly forbidden and all hell broke loose even more when it was made public that those on board were baptised Christians. The local magistrate and the town council ordered the immediate release of all slaves.
The States of Zealand issue a proclamation that is read aloud in all churches that the slaves will be released and that they would be given the chance to learn a trade and settle in Zealand. The next Monday was proclaimed to be an "open day" and the locals could come and pick slaves for themselves to be taken into their very households as gezellen (those who learn a trade under the guild system) or servants.“…dat hier waeren ingebracht mette Schepen uyt Guynéa, hier in gecommen veele Mooren, wel by de hondert, zoo Mans als Vrouwen ende Kinderen, wesende alle gedoopte Christenen, ende dat die daeromme nyet en behooren by yemanden gehouden oft vercocht te worden als Slaeven, maar gestelt in heure vrye liberteyt, zonder dat yemandt van derselver eygendom behoort te pretenderen.”
The captain of the ship goes to court and appeals to the States-General (the national government of the Republic) and wishes to transport the slaves to Portugal. The States-General declines his request however it says that the " captain can do as he pleases" after a second appeal.“op bringen in Godts Vreese, ende alle deuchden, als goede Christenen toestaet, ende doen oefenen in eenigen styl, hantwerck, ambacht ofte anders, daer toe zy bequaem zullen bevonden worden, ofte genegen zyn.”
What happened to the majority of the slaves is unknown. However there are strong rumours that some remained as Michiel de Ruyter (the most famous Dutch admiral) seems to have had a childhood friend that was known as Jan Compagnie. A Moor.