Page 163 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 naval or merchant ship, and provided them on embarkation with a kitbag of footwear, clothing and other necessities. The client signed a bond (the so-called ceel) committing him to repayment of the cost of lodging, board and outfit - easily amounting to a debt of fl 150. As soon as he had found a job and received an advance on his pay - about fl 20 — a first instalment was repaid. It was for this reason that the chambers were prepared to advance two months pay with the contract, to meet the volkhouders halfway, who after all procured them employees.
Up to a point this kind of employment agency was attractive to all parties. The recruiting bodies, including the VOC chambers, profited from a pool of labour created in their own port with the help of private recruiters and landlords, and to be tapped on recruitment days. The volkhouders had a financial stake in tying down as many unemployed as possible and finding them work. And finally this private agency was a godsend especially to those new to a port, mostly immigrants from the country and abroad. It provided them with a place to stay while waiting and searching without having to resort to begging or tramping. Yet the volkhouders got a bad name. They were portrayed as seducers of the ignorant unemployed who were washed ashore like wreckage, plunging them deep into debt which would burden them long after they entered the service, and 'selling' them for a song of advance and possible premium which they pocketed themselves. As the volkhouders often needed ready money themselves for their business they sold the bonds to moneylenders. This earned them the nickname zielverkopers (soul-sellers), a pun on ceel. Most likely there was indeed excessive and deceitful pressing and overcharging of those seeking work. But a violent recruitment, rounding up men from inns and alleyways and herding them as prisoners onto ships or into barracks, as was practised elsewhere in those days, never occurred in the Republic.1 1
Naturally the VOC in its recruitment actions had to compete on the Republic's labour market with other bodies and businesses. In particular the navy, the merchant navy and the army had similar needs for sailors or soldiers. The wages in navy and army were on a level with the VOC's but the merchant navy usually offered the ships' crews a few guilders a month more, while in whaling - offering seasonal employment only for five or six months per year - fl 17 to fl 22 monthly was paid. In the eighteenth century the Middelburg Commercie Compagnie also knew wages higher than the VOC's: fl 12 to fl 22 per month for sailors.1 2
In competing thus on the labour market the VOC's recruitment suffered disadvantage in two respects: the prospect had to be offered of a very long absence in a far, near-inac­ cessible land, and of great risk of sickness and early death. Probably this was not offset by certain attractions, though these will have been brought to the fore and scrutinized. In the first place a VOC servant was by long term contract guaranteed a fixed income with free board and lodging, for as long as three or five years even, if he survived. For families or relations left behind this certainty meant security and peace of mind, because part of the income from work on board ship and in Asia could be paid out to them, or was saved over the term of employment to be paid out on premature death or return to the Republic. The chambers took care of both arrangements. In view of the insecurities in other employment - work ashore lasting no more than a week or month sometimes,
11 Cf. De Hullu Ό ρ de schepen' in Bruijn & Lucassen, Op de schepen der Oost Indische Compagnie, 49 and 55; also Bruijn, Seamen in Dutch ports c. 1700-1714, 327-337.
12 Bruijn & Van Eyck van Heslinga, 'Demand and supply of seamen'. Cf. Appendix I on wages and salaries.

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