Page 33 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 The directors of the chambers had an extensive staff at their disposal. In the mid-eigh- teenth century Amsterdam had approximately 350 people in permanent employment, about 150 of them in various j obs in the shipyard, 50 garbuleurs (workmen for the unloading and sorting of spices), nearly as many 'slaughterhouse workers' (for the provisioning of the ships) and a large number of bookkeepers, clerks and office workers. The administra- tive staff was divided over a number of comptoiren (offices), thus there was a comptoir of the first bookkeeper, a liquidatie-comptoir, also with a number of bookkeepers, a soldij-comptoir (pay office) and the so-called ontvangkamer (reception) where the cashier resided. The number of temporary workers, mostly employed in the shipyard, was many times larger.7 8 The number of employees in Zeeland and in the smaller chambers was of course smaller; and the chambers of the Maze and the Noorderkwartier were able to keep their organization much simpler.7 9
The chambers had originated in the voorcompagnie├źn and can therefore be regarded as indicators of the economic and commercial power of the cities concerned. But in the course of time this changed, and certainly for the towns of the Noorderkwartier and Delft the VOC eventually became the only remaining link with the ocean-going trade, while the chambers were of fundamental importance for their employment situation. The em- ployment aspect played a major role in the authorities' financial support for a company sinking ever deeper into a financial morass. Directors came in for sharp criticism. Even in recent historical writing this criticism of the directors still persists. They were thought to be lacking in commercial judgment, creativity, and courage to execute plans for recovery and improvement, and to make the organization more adaptable. Perhaps Steensgaard was right in saying that 'an early senility' was 'the price the VOC had to pay for its vigorous youth.'8 0
Support and exertion on the part of the authorities could not save the Company. In 1786 the directors of the Amsterdam chamber had to submit to the extension of the board with six new directors, all experienced in trade, as ordained. These six formed a 'Fifth Department' in the chamber, charged with devising ways and means for recovery, and also with assessing the amount of moneys and goods to be shipped to Asia annually. But neither this 'Fifth Department', nor a later committee set up by the authorities managed to achieve anything.81 Thus the Committ├ę tot de zaken van de Oostindische Handel en Bezittingen (Committee for the affairs of the East India Trade and Possessions) found itself in 1796 faced with the hopeless task of carrying on the bankrupt Company in a war situation in which the English dominated the seas, and shipping links with Asia became increasingly difficult to maintain. Under these circumstances employment by the chambers declined considerably. The existence of the smaller chambers dragged on until 1803, in
78 The head bookkeeper kept the chamber's ledger and journal, and registered the transfer of shares; the 'liquidatie-comptoir' administered the transactions with merchants purchasing goods from the chamber; ARA, coll. Hudde no. 3.
79 For staffing and organisation of the chambers see Van Dam, Beschryvinge vol. 63, 369-415; Wieringa (ed.) De VOC in Amsterdam, 99-118; for the eighteenth century the ARA contains various accounts of the Tractementen en daggelden van alle bedienden en officianten' (salaries and daily wages of all servants and officials), e.g. in VOC 7477 (1.12.1706) and Aanwinsten 1902, XXVII, 94 (c. 1730) for Amsterdam, in coll. Radermacher no. 191 (4.6.1737) for Zeeland, and
in VOC 6846 for Amsterdam (May 1762) and Delft (1723). 80 Steensgaard, 'Companies as a specific institution', 254.
81 Schutte, De Nederlandse Patriotten, 53-54.

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