Page 161 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 161

 in Batavia especially, sometimes to found real 'families of the Indies' there.6 Among the passengers on homeward ships were to be found now and then private citizens going home or on a visit to Europe, sometimes with their families. Between the Republic and the Cape there was a similar private passenger traffic - the Cape having a relatively higher percentage of free-burghers among its European population than Asia. After the repeal in 1685 of the Nantes Edict quite large groups of Huguenots even were carried to the Cape.
Besides these occasional private passengers the 'real' passengers on nearly every VOC ship were the higher Company officials, the senior merchants, the administrators, judges and clergymen. They were given a privileged position on board: private cabin,, separate meals with the officers, exemption from any work. The few free-burghers enjoyed similar treatment. But most importantly, they were allowed to be accompanied by wife and children and servants, though occasionally one of the ship's officers (even junior officers) with the directors' special permission also brought wife and children along as passengers.7 Such permission was not granted to the other occupational groups - seafarers, soldiers and craftsmen.
Thus nearly every ship carried some women or girls, mostly wives, daughters and maids of high officials and free-burghers. Larger groups of female passengers were exceptional. Quite unusual for instance was the initiative of Governor-General Coen to bring out marriageable girls from the Republic to marry Company servants in Asia and start proper European families in the overseas settlements. In 1622 and 1623 the ships HEUSDEN (0281), WOERDEN (0284), WAPEN V ANHOORN (0286) and LEIDEN (0292) brought young spinsters from the Netherlands to Batavia. Coen had asked for 400 to 500 girls over 10 or 12 years old from 'alle godtshuysen' (orphanages and workhouses). It is not known how many the four ships carried in the end, only for the LEIDEN do we know that some thirty reached Batavia. As early as 6 September 1622 Coen was able to report that the girls arrived with the first three ships were 'honourably' married to the senior 'officers' (higher Company servants). But with this short-lived import the matter ended.8 When after 1685 larger groups of Huguenots were brought to the Cape an unusually high number of women and girls must have embarked. But even more striking was the phenomenon of female stowaways, occurring throughout the two centuries. These women or girls dres- sed up as men signed on in the Republic and boarded the ships as sailors or soldiers, to be 'discovered' as women some time during the passage. Nearly every year such cases of male impersonation seem to have occurred, though up to now only just over a hundred have been counted for the two centuries. Naturally the phenomenon attracted much attention and plenty of romantic fuss and fun was made of such feminine adventurousness and daring. In the Netherlands an apposite folksong is still current: Daar was eens een meisje loos, dat ging uit varen, dat ging uit varen als lichtmatroos' (There was once a crafty girl who went to sea as a sailor), this in order to be with her lover, either on board ship
6 On Coen's endeavour to attract 'free-burghers' cf. Colenbrander, Jan Pietersz. Coen I, 532, IV , 596-598. The plans of 1669-70 in De Jonge, De Opkomst VI, LXXII-LXXIII. See also the sources given for the ships of 1670-71. For numbers of free-burghers cf. Blussé, 'Batavia' and the as yet unpublished article by Spooner, 'Batavia'.
7 Permission for naval officers and also petty officers to bring wife (and children) might be subject to a contract for fifteen years service in Asia. Cf. A R A , V O C 236, Res. Amsterdam 31.3.1661 and V O C 221, Res. Heren 17 of 26.11.1637 and 12.5.1667.
8 Colenbrander, Jan Pietersz. Coen 1,507,534,555 and 547 (1620 and 1621 requests for consignment) and IV, 731-732 and 737 (1622, mention of transport). Cf. Blussé, 'The caryatids', 63-65.

   159   160   161   162   163