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New Netherland, New York Genealogy
PRIVATEERING UNDER WIC (WEST INDIES COMPANY) COMMANDThe most profitable branch of the WIC organization was the kaapvaart (privateering). As explained in our previous short description of the WIC organization, the company had received the monopoly of trade and shipping on the whole Atlantic area. When the Dutch authorities gave this monopoly, battle was inevitable, because the Caribbean waters were considered by the Spaniards as Mare Clausum (closed sea). The "Heren XIX" had chosen the strategy of undermining the Spanish and Portuguese power by means of an intensive kaapvaart. The idea of kaapvaart wasn't new; the first kaperbrief or commissiebrief ( letter of consignment) had peviously been issued by Lodewijk van Nassau (brother of Willem van Oranje) to Captain Diderick Sonoy in 1568. The first two privateering squadrons under WIC command sailed out in 1624 under shippers Pieter Schouten and Hendrick Jacobsz. Kat. They conquered several enemy ships and the loot was considerable. Due to disappointing results of the privateering fleet of Captain Boudewijn Hendriksz., a fleet under command of captain Piet Heyn sailed to the Caribbee 1626 to assist him. Other names of known captains commanding privateering esquadrons are: Jacob Willekens, Cornelis Jol (aka Captain Houtebeen meaning Captain wooden leg),Jan Dircksz. Lam (sic: Lam= Lamb), Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (before he entered the navy), Willem Credo, Cornelis Gerrits, Pieter Hamers and Salomon Reynders.
Every ship sailing from Brazil, the Caribbee or any other Spanish/Portuguese colony was attacked, conquered and the cargo was shipped to Amsterdam or Middelburg. The silver and gold shipments from Peru and Bolivia, which were taken by the Dutch, did significant harm to the Spanish economy and the Spaniards needed that silver to finance their war against the Netherlands. That's why the Dutch government supported the WIC in this. In 1640, privateering under command of the WIC was stopped: the costs became too high, the losses too frequent, the profits too low. But, the damage inflicted on the Spanish economy was enormous: it exceeded 110.000.0000 guilders! Privateering didnąt stop however: on the contrary, private captains and ship-owners, especially in Zeeland (the towns of Vlissingen and Middelburg) Rotterdam and Dordrecht continued privateering.
To illustrate the profits from the kaapvaart enterprises, here are some figures:
In the period 1623-1637 the Dutch conquered 609 enemy ships, worth 81 million guilders including cargo . After deduction of all costs, equipment of the ships, payments of the sailors etc., an amount of 36 million guilders remained. Most of these profits ended up in the pockets of the shareholders and not in the WIC fund.
A good example is the conquered silverfleet by Piet Heyn in 1628. The booty was worth 11,5 million guilders, minus costs of 7 million, quite a considerable amount of money. But according to the regulation the crew was entitled to 10% and 17 month extra payment and 10% for the Stadtholder as Admiral-General. The bewindhebbers had a poor 1%, but the shareholders received 50% dividend pay. After this generous hand-out only 1.5 million remained for the Company fund. It has to be said that privateering captains and shipowners had a high status in the Republic; after their carreer was over, many of them became merchants or high authorities.
It was not unusual now and then that ships fled during a (privateering) sea-battle. Dutch captains who were found guilty of this kind of treason were often stongly punished. When the WIC ships the Maeght van Enkhuizen and the Matanca secretly sailed away during the Four-Days-Battle in January 1640, the Captains were killed by a sword which was broken before their eyes! The captain of the Graef Ernest, who abandoned the fleet during a battle fought under the command of Cornelis Jol in the West Indies in 1638, was dismissed and sent to Groningen in the Republic where he was held under arrest.
The very last kaperbrief was issued by king Lodewijk Napoleon, July 14, 1810, when the Republic was under French occupation.
DE GESCHIEDENIS VAN DE WIC KAPERS OP DE KUST
NEDERLANDSE KAAPVAART EN PIRATERIJ 1500-1800
DE GESCHIEDENIS VAN DE WIC
KAPERS OP DE KUST
NEDERLANDSE KAAPVAART EN PIRATERIJ 1500-1800
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