A NEW CHARTER FOR BERBICE
With the change of ownership of Berbice, the Dutch West India Company expressed grave concerns. In a letter to the Directors of the Berbice Association, the Company insisted that Berbice was under its jurisdiction. The Berbice Association disagreed and pointed out that the Company lost that right when the colony was seized by the French privateers in 1712. The Association also mentioned that van Hoorn and Company had obtained it back from the French company that financed the privateers; this French company had no agreement with the West India Company.
The Association then petitioned the States-General of the Netherlands for a separate charter but this received strong opposition from the West India Company. After much wrangling, an agreement was finally reached and a charter was granted on 6 December 1732. As part of this agreement, the Association consented to pay 600 guilders a year to the Company which would in return supply slaves on reasonable terms to the colony.
The charter permitted the Association to:
1. Grant lands to private individuals;
2. Collect a tax of 50 pounds of sugar for each inhabitant, white or black;
3. Levy a custom duty of two and a half percent of the value of imported or exported goods, and a tonnage duty of three guilders per 4,000 pounds on all ships entering or leaving the harbour;
4. Collect a special head tax, to be agreed upon by planters and other inhabitants, to meet the cost of maintaining forts.
The Colony was also to be ruled by a Governor and an Executive Council. The Executive Council was later called the Court of Policy and it was comprised of the Governor as President and six of the Association's managers or master-planters. A Council of Justice, consisting of the Governor and six persons other than those in the Court of Policy, would administer criminal justice in the Colony.
Under the new charter, the Berbice Association appointed Bernard Waterham as the first Governor in 1733. His first acts were to establish the Court of Policy and the Council of Justice.
By 1735, Berbice began to show economic improvement. By that time, the Association had 12 estates, but there were 93 new private plantations on both banks of the Berbice and 20 on the banks of the Canje. These plantations were involved in the production of sugar, coffee, cocoa and cotton.
As Berbice gradually developed, the planters saw the need for a fort near the mouth of the Berbice River, particularly since Fort Nassau was badly in need of repairs. Crab Island was selected by an engineer to be the site for the new fort but the Berbice Association felt that the proposed costs were too high and this proposal was shelved. Continued demands for the new fort were made, and Andries Lossner, the Governor who succeeded Bernard Watherham, succeeded in building it at the mouth of the north bank of the Canje River. This fort was named Fort St. Andries in Lossner's honour.
As new plantations were established, the population grew with the arrival of more civil servants from Amsterdam. By 1762, the Berbice plantations had a population of 4,423 comprising 346 Whites, 244 Amerindians and 3,833 African slaves.