Page 18 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 18

 Portuguese system as a 'redistributive enterprise'. Income was obtained so to speak by selling the monopoly, or selling the route to Asia. This stood in contrast to the English and the Dutch, who regarded the costs of protecting the routes as part of the running costs, to be paid for out of the profits.16
These English merchants had arrived at their own conclusions as soon as the amazing results of the Tweede Schipvaart had become known. The English had appeared in Asia before the Dutch: the voyages of Drake (1577-1580) and Cavendish (1586-1588) had taken them there and in 1594 George Raymond and James Lancaster had opened up the route round the Cape of Good Hope. But from then on they had had to leave the initiative to the Dutch. To reverse this trend a number of London merchants formed the English East India Company in 1600. In this EIC, too, each voyage was financed separately, but the enterprise was given a charter establishing its monopoly on trade between England and Asia.1 7
Opposing these foreign competitors were the various Holland and Zeeland companies, at the same time fighting, obstructing and distrusting each other. Steven van der Haghen, who in 1599 sailed with three ships for the Oude Compagnie, had it impressed upon him by his shipowners that the Zeelanders 'are enemy to our work' and not to be trusted. Later on the Geünieerde Compagnie of Amsterdam gave orders for all spices to be bought up in Asiatic ports when Zeelanders were approaching. This fierce struggle caused high increases in the purchasing price of pepper and spices in Asia, while bringing down sale prices in Europe, resulting in considerable curtailment of profit margins. This, in combi- nation with unbridled increases in equipment costs, endangered the economic basis and therefore the continued trade with Asia. The results of the various voyages were not proportionate to the enormous risks and costs. In fact only the large Amsterdam company managed to make sufficient profit.18
The States-General and the States of Holland considered this an undesirable develop- ment. They had supported the voorcompagnieën in the same way as the first voyage, partly in view of the possible effect of this trade on Spanish-Portuguese power. But with such fragmentation of effort there could be no question of a real threat. Already in 1598 the States-General had made an attempt to persuade the merchants into collaboration. The problem continued to preoccupy the States of Holland and in 1600 this province once again put the merging of companies in the Asiatic trade before the States-General. Regio- nal contradistinctions were so great however, that it was not until December 1601 that the various directors could be called together with the delegates of the States-General to come to a satisfactory solution. Negotiations lasted until the 20th of March 1602, having broken down several times mainly because of fears on Zeeland's part of Amsterdam dominance within one united company. Thanks to the perseverance and persuasiveness of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the leading Dutch statesman, and the intervention of Prince Maurits, who managed to ward off a conflict about the unification within the States of Zeeland, agreement was finally reached on the 20th of March. This was only just in time, for the six different companies, usually called voorcompagnieën as distinct from the now formed United Company, had already made considerable progress with the equipping of
16 Steensgaard, The Asian trade revolution, ch. II and III.
17 FortheorganizationofthecompanyinLondonsee Chaudhuri,TheEnglishEastIndiaCompany. 18DenHaan,Moedernegotieengrotevaart,111-113.

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