Page 31 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 31

 Results o f the deliberations i n The Hague came under discussion a t t h e summer o r
'mid-yearly' meeting. After approval and possible amendment o f the large missive to
Asia, this was then to be despatched with the first ships to leave. Then a tentative decision
was taken at this meeting on the equipage, since the chambers could not be expected to
wait with th e equipping and manning o f ships in September for the Heren Zeventien's
meeting in that month. In the middle of the eighteenth century this summer meeting was
abolished, lack of time being the motive. Because of frequent delays in the spring meeting
due to frosty weather, and the long duration of consultations in The Hague, the directors
were no longer able to meet again during the summer before the arrival of the home fleet.
It was decided t o divide the agenda o f the summer meeting between the two remaining
meetings and to charge the Haags Besogne with a number of affairs, including the provi-
sional decisions on the
In addition the Heren Zeventien kept a watchful eye on the general state o f affairs. A t
every meeting checks were made on each chamber's progress with its share of the equipage.
Always the financial position o f the chambers - debts, bank deposits and cash in hand -
was discussed. Letters from the governor-general and council in Batavia were read in the
plenary session: these important missives, presenting a résumé o f the state o f affairs in
Asia, were taken cognizance o f by the full meeting o f the Heren Zeventien, and not just
by the Haags Besogne.
From this description a picture emerges resembling a top-heavy body, which, dueto
the principles of board management, had great difficulty in reaching decisions, and because
of the system o f briefings and consultations in the delegatory process with the chambers,
gave full scope for the development o f mutual antagonisms. But the Heren Zeventien s
minute book and letters to Asia indicate the opposite. The resolutions and letters, as
Chaudhuri likewise notes about the correspondence with Asia o f the Court o f Directors
of the E I C , are characterized by a consistent management, both in problem solving and
in its objective of the long term pursuit of profit. Chaudhuri points out two main reasons
for this. First o f all the theoretical separation between ownership and use of capital gave
the directors of the EIC the opportunity to develop into a 'collective personality'. Also,
because o f the fixed procedures for dealing with everyday problems, the directors a t the
highest level (in the E I C the weekly meetings o f the Court o f Directors) received only
the most important matters for discussion.
Both these arguments are valid for the VOC. Even more than in the EIC the directors,
though conscious that capital invested in the V O C should yield sufficient profits, were
nevertheless able t o disregard claims o f shareholders i f these should aim t o realize t h e
profits in the short term and so undermine the Company's long term position. Dealing
with everyday problems did not take place in the Heren Zeventien's meetings, nor in those
of the committees they appointed. Only th e general, and for th e Company essential,
management decisions came on to the agenda of the Heren Zeventien - and they dealt
72 This abolition was preceded by a long discussion which gives a useful insight into the distribution
of business at meetings of the Heren Zeventien: A R A , V O C 115, res. Heren 17 of 25.7.1721 and
6.3.1722; VOC 123, id. of 18.11.1750; VOC 124, id. of 18.3.1751.
73 Chaudhuri, The trading world ofAsia, 28-29; id., 'The English East India Company', 32. Meilink-
Roelofsz is critical about the validity of these factors with the V O C , which was 'still far removed
from a businesslike, impersonal and bureaucratic way of thinking', 'D e Europese expansie in
Azië', 409.

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