THE DUTCH WEST INDIA COMPANY
When the truce of 1609 between Spain and the Netherlands came to an end in 1621, the Dutch States-General granted a charter to the West India Company. This charter gave the Company a monopoly of twenty-four years of trade with the countries of America and the West Indies. It was also authorised to make, in the name and by the authority of the States-General, contracts, leagues and alliances with the princes and the natives of the lands within its sphere of action. In addition, it could build fortresses, appoint governors, soldiers, and officers of justice, and generally establish colonies under the sovereignty of the States-General.
The general affairs of the Company were managed by an Assembly of Nineteen. There were separate Chambers for several provinces of the Netherlands under the control of Directors representing the shareholders in these provinces. These Chambers might, and frequently did, embark upon ventures of their own in which the Company had no financial interest. The colonisation of Essequibo was carried out by the Chamber of Zeeland acting separately in this way.
Other Dutch settlements
At the date of the charter (of the Dutch West India Company) there was already a Dutch colony established in Essequibo. This was verified in a statement by the Zeeland Chamber in 1751 in support of a claim to exclusive trade with Essequibo. The Chamber reported that the colony of the Essequibo had been already frequented by the Zeelanders at the time of the granting of the charter in 1621. No doubt, within a few years after that date, an organised colony under the West India Company was in existence on that river. In the discussions of the Zeeland Chamber on the 10 December 1626 it was resolved "to allow Jacob Canyn to come home from Isekepe, in accordance with his request, and to fill up his place with another". On the 17 December 1626, Johannes Beverlander was "taken into the service of the Company for three years, to lie in the river of Isekepe together with jan Adriaenss van der Goes". On the 22 April 1627, in granting to Abraham van Pere permission to establish a private colony and a fort in the Berbice River, the Zeeland Chamber strongly forbade his colonists "to come into the River Essequibo nor into any other rivers where the Company, whether of this or of other Chambers, has its colonists or folk".
The seat of Government was at Kykoveral. The first mention of this fort was made in the minutes of the Zeeland Chamber of the 5 May 1644. But the Fort Essequibo was mentioned as early as 1637 in a letter to the West India Company by Jacques Ousiel, who was at that time the Public Advocate and Secretary of Tobago. In the Spanish documents relating to the burning of Santo Thomé in 1637, it was stated that the Dutch, having carried off the Blessed Sacrament from the church at that town, kept it guarded at their Fort at Macarouni (Mazaruni) or their Fort at Essequibo.
In 1628, the West India Company employed assistants to work "on the Wild Coast" - a name by which the coast between the Essequibo and the Orinoco had become well known.
In 1629, the English and the Dutch, under the command of Adrian Jansz Pater, attacked and destroyed Santo Thomé and afterwards fortified themselves in the branches and creeks of the Orinoco River.
In the sailing regulations first issued in 1632, and renewed in 1633, 1635 and 1637, the States-General specifically mentioned the Orinoco as the limit westward where uncharted vessels could sail without violating the monopoly of the Company. Spanish sources established evidence that in 1637 the Dutch were settled at the mouths of the Amakura, Essequibo and Berbice, from where in that year they again attacked and burned Santo Thomé and raided Trinidad.
In 1638 it was reported to the King of Spain that the Dutch were seeking favourable sites for the foundation of new settlements. The same report stated that they had access to all ports east of the Orinoco; that they traded with the Amerindians of the Orinoco, and were in close alliance with the Caribs.
The charter of the Company was further renewed for a period of twenty-five years from the 1 January 1647.