Page 16 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 16

 The nine Amsterdam merchants who fitted out the four ships in 1595, had made very thorough preparations. The capital sum collected for the voyage came not only from them but also from a number of other people. In this form of enterprise, that of the compagnie, the initiators who were in charge were called bewindhebbers (directors), the remaining providers of capital were participanten (shareholders). The latter deposited their money with one of the directors, in the absence of a central register of shareholders. In this first voyage all those on board had a share as well, consisting of one month's pay. The total capital of the Compagnie van Verre (Far Lands Company) amounted to fl 290,000. On return of the ships the whole enterprise was to be liquidated and shareholders would be entitled to their original deposit plus a proportionate part of the profits. For this first expedition however it was agreed that the invested sums were not to be paid back but used for a second Schipvaart. In recompense for their services the directors were to receive one per cent of the goods brought back.10
However, the Eerste Schipvaart was not to become a great commercial success. The voyage was a very difficult one, partly due to poor leadership. It took fifteen months to reach Bantam in West Java, and efforts to continue the voyage as far as the Moluccas had to be abandoned due to discontent among the crew. On return home the value of the pepper cargo proved to be only just sufficient to cover the costs, so it could be said to have been 'a not too costly and very successful exploration'.11 For its success lay in the proof it gave of the sea route round the Cape of Good Hope being a suitable one for sailing, as opposed to the northern route. On the assumption that the route to Asia along northern Europe and Siberia was a shorter and safer one, expeditions in that direction had been undertaken with great persistence in 1594, '95 and '96, which of course had all led to failure.12
The effect of the Eerste Schipvaart in the Republic was considerable. In a number of cities in Holland and Zeeland its example was followed and companies for trade with Asia were formed. In Amsterdam the Compagnie van Verre merged with a combination started in 1597 of mostly Southern Netherlanders, and the resulting Oude Compagnie with eigh- teen directors accumulated a working capital of fl 768,466, used for the fitting out of eight ships in 1598 (Tweede Schipvaart). This voyage, under the capable leadership of Jacob van Neck and Wijbrant van Warwijck, was extremely profitable, and the first ships of this fleet returned, richly laden, as early as 1599.
But competition was not long in coming. Even before Van Neck's departure two smaller fleets had sailed from Zeeland. They consisted of three ships of the Middelburgse Compag- nie (0005-0007), in which one of the burgomasters, Adriaen van Haeff, played a dominant role, and two ships (0008-0009) of the Veerse Compagnie,which had been formed round a refugee from the Southern Netherlands, Balthasar de Moucheron. Also in 1598 two expeditions left Rotterdam, both of them choosing the route of Magellan's Straits and meeting with disaster. Of the ships sailing under De Mahu and Cordes for a syndicate of Southern Netherlanders (0018-0023) none reached their objective. The voyage underta- ken by Olivier van Noort also ended prematurely for most of the ships. Although three of the four ships (0024-0027) succeeded in reaching the Archipelago, there one of them was captured by the Spaniards in 1600, a second one was wrecked and only the flagship
10 Van Brakel, De Hollandsche Handelscompagnie├źn, 93-110.
11 Mollema, De eerste Schipvaart, 89.
12 For expeditions along the northern route see Terpstra, 'De Voorcompagnie├źn'.

   14   15   16   17   18