Adam Tas

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Adam Tas (1668 – June 1722) was a community leader in the Cape Colony at the turn of the 17th century, and is best known for his role in the conflict between Cape Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel (son of the former Governor Simon van der Stel) and the "free burghers" at the Cape of Good Hope.

Overview[edit]

Adam Tas (pronounced "Ah-dum Tuss") was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. One of his aunts and her German husband, Henning Hüsing, came to the Cape in search of fortune. When he was 29 (1697), Tas joined them and stayed at Meerlust, their Stellenbosch home. Two years later he was appointed Standard Bearer to the Burgher Infantry.[1] In June, 1703 he married Elizabeth Von Brakel, the wealthy widow of Joris (Hans Jürgen) Grimpen, who owned a collection of farms[2] in the district.

Tas became secretary of the "Brotherhood", which viewed the Dutch East India Company (VOC) administration at the Cape as corrupt and dictatorial. Tas and Hüsing drafted a petition, accusing local VOC officials of abusing the company's trading monopoly, and managed to convince 63 of the 550 Cape free burghers to sign it.[3] Without informing the local officials, the signed petition was sent directly to the VOC headquarters in Amsterdam.

The petition was rejected and Van der Stel became aware of its existence. Tas was arrested on 28 February 1706, escorted in chains [4] to Cape Town, and convicted. Van der Stel had parts of Tas’s diary copied (13 June 1705 through 27 February 1706) as evidence. [2] (Large fragments of this copy was rediscovered in 1911[5] by A.C.C. Lloyd, a librarian at the South African Public Library.[6]) After he was convicted, Tas was thrown in the "Black Hole" - a damp dungeon completely devoid of any light located in the Castle of Good Hope.

However, since 31 of the signatories were Huguenots, and because the Netherlands was at war with France, the rejected petition generated belated concern in Amsterdam. The fear was that the discontent might convince some to become spies for the French. The VOC dismissed van der Stel, and ordered his return to the Netherlands (23 April 1707). VOC officials were subsequently forbidden to own any land at the Cape of Good Hope.[3]

Thirteen months into his incarceration Tas was released. Upon gaining his freedom, Tas named his home "Libertas" (Latin: freedom) in honor of the occasion, and allocated a new meaning ("Tas is Free!") to the name.[4]

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