PLANS BY SPAIN AND PORTUGAL AGAINST THE DUTCH

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In 1753, the Governments of Spain and Portugal began to demarcate their frontiers in South America. At that time, the Dutch in Guyana were engaged in repressing with some difficulty a revolt of their African slaves, and both the Spanish and Portuguese thought that they could take advantage of the situation and seize the Dutch colonies. Two objectives of this plan were to partition the territory between Spain and Portugal and to take possession of supposed mines. They, therefore, agreed that both countries should form settlements near the Dutch colonies with a view of preventing their extension. At the same time, by giving covert assistance to the revolted African slaves, they also hoped that they would force the Dutch to abandon Guyana.

With a view of carrying out this project, secret instructions were given to the Boundary Commissioners to find out on arrival at CumanŠ (in Orinoco) the extent and population of the Dutch colonies, and how it would be possible to surround them. The plan was not the undertaking of an open expedition against the Dutch, but the promotion of secret acts of hostility or outrage which would oust the Dutch from their colonies. In the secret instructions to Josť Inturriaga, who represented the Spanish Government, it was suggested that support should be given to the rebellious African slaves. In addition, it was proposed to send into Dutch territory a group of Spaniards who would direct and lead the slaves in their raids. These Spanish infiltrators would claim to be outlaws from the Spanish nation; thus, Spain would avoid the risk of accusations by the Dutch.

The Boundary Commissioners were on their way near to Guyana by the 15 February 1754. By September of that year, Gravesande, the Dutch Governor of Essequibo, had received information which led him to suspect the object of the expedition. He asked for instruction from the Netherlands as to how he should handle this Spanish aggression, and complained of the inadequacy of the resources at his disposal for defending the Moruka Post. He feared that this Post would bear the brunt of any impending attack, but he hoped that with the assistance of the Caribs of Barima, he would be able to defend Essequibo.

In October, Gravesande, believing that a Spanish attack was imminent, ordered the closing of all inland waters and passages. He also asked his Carib allies in Barima, Pomeroon and Cuyuni to keep themselves ready and armed. Boats were sent out to guard the coast, with instructions to cruise as far as the mouth of the Waini River.

At this time, it must be noted that the Spaniards had no knowledge whatever of the areas where they were about to penetrate. Their only information was probably obtained from Nicolas Collaert, a Dutch deserter, who had drawn up a map of the Cuyuni River for the Spaniards, seemingly for the purposes of the Boundary Commission between Spain and Portugal.

The expected invasion by the Spanish never occurred. The Spanish expedition under Inturriaga failed for want of provisions, among other causes. In February 1755, Gravesande felt that the danger of the attack had almost disappeared. He reported, however, that the Yuruari River, a tributary of the Cuyuni which, in his opinion, was indisputably within Dutch territory, had been seized by the Spaniards. The Amerindian chief in the area of the upper Cuyuni Post had, as usual, approached the Dutch to offer help against the Spaniards.

In 1756, the Dutch received information of another Spanish threat to Guyana. On the 28 May of that year, the Dutch Postholder at Arinda, high up the Essequibo River, reported to Gravesande there were rumours that some Spaniards had made themselves masters of the entire Rupununi savannah above Arinda. The Postholder claimed that the Spaniards were also occupying three other places, "one on the Wenamu, a branch of the Cuyuni; another above Masseroeny, in Queribura, and the third above Siparoeny".

Of Spanish settlements in any of these localities no trace was ever found.

Meanwhile, in 1755, a new Post on the Cuyuni was definitely established by the Dutch somewhere between the mouth of the Curumo and that of the Acarabisi.

In 1758, Dutch traders were living on the Tucupo (a branch of the Cuyuni), and on the Barama. In 1769, the Prefect of the Spanish Missions reported that a Dutchman had been living since 1761 on the Aguirre River, and that Dutch families had been living at the mouth of the Curumo.