order to defend themselves against a common European enemy, purportedly France. In 1789 the French Revolution had broken out and subsequently, in 1793, revolutionary France had declared war on with many other European countries, among them England and the Dutch Republic. In January 1795, the Dutch Republic fell to the French revolutionary army. The Republic of the United Netherlands was transformed into the Batavian Republic. The stadtholder, Willem V of Orange, fled to England. Soon the English government was knocking on his door reminding him of the Treaty of Association. On February 7 1795, the Prince of Orange issued the famous Kew letters, calling on those in charge of the VOC possessions to admit British forces to their territories. These letters facilitated the British take-over of more than one half of the Dutch territories in the East. Nevertheless, the island of Java with its capital in Batavia, remained firmly in Dutch hands. In the meantime, at home the discussion about what to do with a virtually bankrupt VOC continued unabated. Finally, on March 1 1796, it was decided the management of the VOC, consisting of the six Chambers and the directorate of the Gentlemen XVII, should be abolished and their place taken by the Committee for the Affairs of East Indian Trade and Possessions (Committé tot de Zaken van de Oost-Indische Handel en Bezittingen), for the sake of brevity often called Oost-Indisch Committé, abbreviated to OIC, which consisted of 21 nominated members. However, the VOC as such was still not abolished; its Charter was extended until the end of 1798.3 The OIC members were speedily distributed over four departments: defence, internal administration, trade and finances. The staff of the OIC, headed by an Advocate Fiscal, was to be nominated by the States-General. Because of the lack of money, no ships were to be equipped to sail to the East for the time being. Moreover, it was decided that the VOC would no longer have its own fleet, but should use chartered ships instead. This was done by entering into an agreement with a Danish shipping company which was in the position to organize transport under neutral foreign flag. By 1797 the workforce in the Netherlands had been drastically reduced and many employees summarily dismissed in order to meet the steep decline in income. The activities were centralized in Amsterdam, much to the detriment and dismay of the other five former Chambers of Zeeland, Rotterdam, Delft, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. On December 31, 1799 the debt-ridden VOC was formally dissolved. What was left of its possessions passed to the state, the Batavian Republic.4 The 1798 Constitution of the Batavian Republic ranked the overseas colonies and possessions subaltern to the motherland. Consequently, they were considered as conquered countries which ought to produce a profit for the Netherlands. The authorities of the VOC in Batavia, including the so-called Commission General, which had arrived in the East in 1793, that is to say under the 'old regime' in the Netherlands, remained loyal to the Batavian Republic, although it was bent on maintaining the status quo and blocking all those who advocated liberal reform. Consequently, distrust permeated the air between the OIC and Batavia. One of those who called for reform was the former VOC official Dirk van Hogendorp. GERRIT KNAAP THE DUTCH COLONIAL ARCHIVAL LEGACY IN AN AGE OF REGIME CHANGE CI79O-Cl8l0 3 Colenbrander, Koloniale geschiedenis, 299-300; Schutte, Nederlandse patriotten, 106 and 110-113. 4 Schutte, Nederlandse patriotten, 123, 126-129 and 134. 99

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Jaarboeken Stichting Archiefpublicaties | 2012 | | pagina 101