DUTCH PROGRESS

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At the time of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714, the Dutch had established control over a great part of Guyana. They were occupying positions on the coast as far as Barima and established a Post on the Pariacot Savannah in the upper Cuyuni River in the interior of the country. In addition, they were already opening up the higher reaches of the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni from the junction of these three rivers. By that time, too, they had established friendly relations with the Amerindian tribes in the interior, who looked to them as their arbiters in tribal disputes and offered them assistance in time of hostile attack.

Since about two decades after Kykoveral was founded, the settlers who were cultivating lands on the banks of the Essequibo River, demanded that the fort on Kykoveral should be moved to Flag Island protection for them. Successive Commanders refused to do this, but in 1718, the Commander of Essequibo agreed that the Fort did not have the space to accommodate officials and soldiers. He, therefore, ordered the construction of a building to house the Council Chamber and the Company store at Kartabo on the point between the mouths of the Mazaruni and the Cuyuni. A plan to develop a township around this building never materialised.

Throughout the course of the century, the settlers depended on Dutch ships to bring supplies from Amsterdam. However, these ships were so unreliable that the governing Council of Ten felt that if they depended on these ships, the settlers could face starvation. To avert his, the Council declared Essequibo a free port in 1685. Then in 1716, it opened up Essequibo to anyone who wished to settle in the colony and soon after, some English farmers abandoned Barbados, Antigua and other West Indian islands and resettled in the Dutch colony.

Agitation for a fort to be constructed on Flag Island (later to be called Fort Island) continued throughout the seventeenth century. It was not until around 1720 that a poorly constructed fort was eventually built on the island.

In 1722, the officials of the West India Company were making explorations in the interior in order to ascertain the nature of the soil with a view towards the establishment of plantations there. A report by Maurain Saincterre, an engineer of the Company, stated that the ground was even better above in the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers than below, but that the rocks, falls and islands, up to that time, prevented Europeans from establishing sugar plantations there. He also reported that plantations might be established on the Demerara, Pomeroon, Waini and Barima Rivers, and all the creeks in those areas. In 1723-24, other plantations of coffee and cassava were established in Cuyuni.

In 1726, the Dutch decided to move the Post at Wakepo to the Moruka River, and to erect a station there at a point which gave them command of the route to the Orinoco by the inland waterways.

A subsequent report in 1728 from the Postholder at this station stated that a Dutch vessel from Suriname was seized by the Spaniards while fishing in the Orinoco. There was a great possibility of war and this led the Dutch to reinforce that Post.

By 1730, there were coffee plantations both above and below the falls in Cuyuni. Experiments were also made in the planting of cocoa and indigo. There was a plantation in 1732 on Batavia, an island in the Cuyuni, and in 1733, the Court of Policy reported that coffee and cocoa were being cultivated with the use of African slave labour.

In March 1732, a Swedish captain with a small vessel arrived in the Essequibo River. After his departure, a rumour reached the colony that he would return to take possession of a tract of land in the Barima River which, it was reported, the King of Spain has presented to the late Elector of Bavaria, who had been Governor of the Netherlands, and who had in turn given it to the King of Sweden. To prevent any such Swedish incursion, the Dutch mobilised their Carib allies in the Barima to prevent any settlement.

The Spanish Governor of Orinoco, alarmed over the rumour of a Swedish incursion, also wrote to the Governor of Essequibo suggesting that the Dutch Governor should not tolerate the Swedes near to the colony of Essequibo. The Governor of Essequibo himself reported to the West India Company that, should the Swedes try to establish themselves between the Orinoco and the colony of Essequibo, he would be obliged to try to prevent it.