Cultural Contact in Southern Africa: Law, Slave Women and Children
Although marriage was not forbidden between Europeans and slaves or other non-Europeans, it was quite rare and entailed a drop in social status for the European. Nevertheless, sexual relationships occurred—sometimes coerced, sometimes by mutual agreement. The children born to slave women by these relationships were seldom openly acknowledged by their fathers, and thus usually followed the fate of their mothers. Religious and secular authorities were not at ease with this situation. This can be seen in church proclamations that called on Europeans to baptize all their slave children, and secular laws that sought to regulate the living conditions of slave children, especially of mixed race. In the following excerpt, it is noteworthy that the “children of free heathen” are also mentioned. These “heathens” were probably not Khoikhoi, but rather former slaves, either from East Africa or Asia, who bought or earned their freedom and were known as Free Blacks. In this case, the designation “heathen” might also refer to followers of Islam.
20 June 1766
That in future the Statutary Law that no Children of free Heathen begotten on their female Slaves, whether the Estate be beforehand or not, may be sold, nor the Mothers of those Children, should the Estate be solvent, shall be observed, and it is likewise understood to forbid all Executors and Administrators of Estates without Exception and they are hereby forbidden accordingly to sell Children begotten by Christians on their Slaves whether the Estate be solvent or not; with authority to allow such a Child or Children to follow those who may apply for them and be willing to bring up those otherwise Unfortunates in the Reformed Religion; or in default of such should the children be descended from European Blood, but not otherwise, to give them to the Deacons of the Reformed Congregation in order to be brought up in the Poor House & instructed in the above mentioned manner.
That towards the Encouragement of Fidelity among the Slaves, with regard to those who possess them in property, such of them as rescue their Masters or Mistresses from any great Danger of their Lives or save them from being murdered, or use their utmost endeavor thereto at the risk of their own Lives, must immediately be made free and above all may not be sold either by their Masters, or by Executor or Administrators of Estates.
"Laws and Regulations Respecting Slaves at the Colony the Cape of Good Hope since the Year 1658 till a. 1805." In Dutch laws translated into English. 1806. James Ford Bell Library. University of Minnesota.