Page 37 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 37

 not in fact lead to a situation where, in October or November, chambers had so many ships ready in the roadsteads that these exceeded the number allotted to each chamber in the autumn meeting.5
However, it is not so that the shipping of goods from the home country played no role whatsoever in the composition of the outward bound fleets. The VOC's overseas business demanded quite a lot of 'voluminous' goods, such as bricks, but particularly planks and masts, and instead of the heavily manned East Indiamen the directors would include mostly fluyts for this purpose. The Hoge Regering was requested to return these fluyts with the homeward bound fleets, to save the chambers from having to bring more and more new fluyts into service, which at first they had to buy or hire, but which were soon being built in Company yards as well, where they were provided with cargo hatches for easier loading and unloading.6
Finally there were of course incidental occurrences which obliged the Heren Zeventien to adapt the equipage to the circumstances. It is indicative of the balance of power at sea that during the European wars of the seventeenth century the fleets were enlarged - in 1672 and '73 for instance large numbers of ships departed7 - whereas after the onset of the war with England in 1780 the equipage was reduced to a minimum. Conflict, or planned conflict in Asia could also be a reason for increasing the departing fleet. Thus in 1660 the directors decided on an extra effort to enable Rijklof van Goens to drive the Portuguese from Cochin on the Malabar coast just before the expected peace with Portugal, and it was decided to enlarge the equipage with a number of ships carrying some 1600 men.8
Included in determining the equipage was the decision on the number of men to be placed on the ships. It appears from budgets on costs of around 1680 and 1780, that the directors used rules of thumb regarding the numbers the ships could accommodate. Ships of the first rate, of around 150 to 160 ft in length, usually carried 300 men, the smaller East Indiamen took 250. According to the records of 1685 it was customary to send out 1/3 of the men as soldiers one year, and 2/5 the next. But here again variations were possible in case of special circumstances. The resolutions gave global figures only, but at the end of the season the Zeventien kept record of the exact number of men departed for Asia in Company service.9
It is apparent from Van Dam's survey that in the first half of the seventeenth century there was no fixed point in time when the Heren Zeventien made decisions on the building of ships. This changed after the Haags Besogne was set up: this committee advised on the building of new ships on the basis of the review of the Company's shipping. This advice was then discussed at the next meeting of the Heren Zeventien. But when the deliberations in The Hague became more and more protracted and the meetings of the Heren Zeventien could not be held until July or August, this was found to be too late in the day. In 1712 therefore the item concerning the aantimmering (construction of ships) was moved onto
5 The Haags Besogne kept an eye on the chambers' performance in this respect and so more or less fixed a preliminary equipage. See p. 18. For the times of departure see p. 63, table 5.
6 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 63, 474-475, 526, 552. See also p. 40.
7 Among the ships dispatched in 1672 and '73 were quite a few smaller ships for dispatches: see the
Lists for these years.
8 The ships concerned were 0943-0949; the HUIS T E ZWIETEN (0947) had been bought from the
Amsterdam admiralty, the WASSENDE MAAN (0944) from the admiralty of the Maze. Van
Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 76, 299; Roelofsz, De vestiging, 241-242.
9 For the directors' budgets, including numbers per ship, see Appendix I.

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