The general emancipation of slaves took place on the 1 December 1834. However the slaves that the British colonial government had taken over from the VOC were manumitted in 1828.
Not everybody had to wait for emancipation to gain their freedom. The regulations for the manumission of Lodge slaves stayed remarkably stable for the period 1685 to 1795, the greater part of the Dutch colonial period. Slaves who served diligently for 30 years, who could speak Dutch, were confirmed in the Dutch Reformed Church and who were able to pay the VOC 100 florins, could obtain to their freedom. They also had prove that they were able to support themselves financially. As the average age of new arrivals at the Cape was 16, it meant that slaves qualified for their freedom in their forties.
However, life expectancy was very short and very few slaves survived 30 years service. The rule for Cape-born slaves was the same, except that they could request freedom at the age of 40.
Mulatto slaves, i.e. slaves of partial European descent, were treated differently. Mulatto men could be manumitted at the age of 25 on paying 100 florins and women at 22 years by paying 150 florins.
The VOC preferred that a woman’s manumission fee should be paid by a free citizen with the aim to marry her afterwards. Not many slaves from the Slave Lodge obtained their freedom.
Few imported slaves survived 30 years of service. Only three imported slaves obtained their freedom, one each from Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Bengal. Of the 4213 slaves born in the Lodge, 103 obtained their freedom. Of these, 21.7% were mulatto. An alternative route to freedom was to offer another slave to take one’s place. Such a substitute slave could be bought either from the slave’s own income or by free family or friends.
Most of the slaves obtained the money from family members. The substitute slaves were carefully examined by a doctor to certify that they were in good health and able to work.
The largest group who obtained their freedom in this manner were mulatto children and especially girls whose freedom was bought by their white fathers. Thirty-six slaves obtained their freedom in this way.
Two replica medalions, one black on black jasper, one black on cane jasper, made by Wedgwood, England, 2007. Originally produced to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire for the Slave Emancipation Society in 1787. Above: A man chained in shackles surrounded by the words "Am I not a man and a brother". Below: Two hands shake in agreement surrounded by the words "May slavery oppression cease throughout the world".