On the 160th day of the institution's abolition, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands apologized on behalf of the country.
During a speech at the Netherlands' National Archives, Rutte stated that the documents that the institution has stored are the country's national memory. He also said that the stories that come out of them are often ugly and shameful.
In 1814, Rutte noted that Dutch slave traders brought over 600,000 African slaves to the Americas. Most of them went to South America's northern coast, where they lived in a country called Suriname. It is believed that over a million slaves were traded in Asia.
During his speech, Rutte provided a brief history of the slave trade and talked about how his own views on apologizing have changed. He then apologized to the descendants of those who were enslaved and to the original victims of the trade. He said that the apology would be repeated in other countries, such as St. Maarten, Curaao and Suriname.
Rutte also stated that the government would create a fund to support programs related to the slave trade in the Netherlands and Suriname. The Associated Press reported that the fund would have a budget of over $200 million.
Some activist groups in the Netherlands wanted the king to deliver the apology on the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, Reuters reported. Others criticized the government's lack of outreach to the groups that were involved in the issue. Rutte seemed to acknowledge these groups' resistance when he said that there wasn't a good moment to offer the apology.
In response to the criticism, Rutte stated that he wanted to be more transparent about how he had changed his perspective on the issue. For a long time, he thought that people could not take responsibility for their actions, especially when it occurred so long ago. He noted that racism, social inequality, and discriminatory exclusion were some of the factors that he had come to realize were still contributing factors to the issue.
He noted that no individual would be held responsible for the actions of the slave trade today. The Dutch state is also responsible for the suffering that the victims experienced.
He also noted that the country would begin a year-long observance on July 1. The king will be attending a ceremony to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
A report released by an advisory board of the government last year suggested that the government issue a formal apology for the slave trade, which it regarded as a crime against humanity.
In a statement on Monday, Rutte referred to slavery as a crime against humanity and a criminal system that caused immense suffering.
According to the man, the list of names and other details about slaves in the national archive's records was shocking. The documents, he said, were businesslike and dry, which made them even more shocking. The apology and the ceremony commemorating the abolition of slavery were supposed to help put a closure on the issue.
The preceding is a summary of an article that originally appeared on The Daily Cable.