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To supplement food supplies for their slaves, the Dutch for many years fished for morocut at the mouth of the Orinoco. However, this activity was much hindered by the Spaniards who claimed that the vessels were not fishing but smuggling.

In 1746, three canoes from Essequibo, while fishing in the Orinoco, were captured by a Spanish vessel from Trinidad. Gravesande protested to the Commandant of Orinoco, and on the 11 February 1748, was able to report to the West India Company that no such problems would occur in the future. He could not, however, get satisfaction for the canoes, because the Commandant alleged that the seizure had been by a privateer from Trinidad which was out of his jurisdiction. Finally, in 1749 one of the canoes was returned; the other two were confiscated because the Spaniards claimed that they contained mercantile goods and were thus involved in smuggling.

In 1760, some fishing craft were again seized near Point Barima and the authorities of Santo Thome refused to return them claiming they were engaged in the slave trade.

In the following year, Don Jose Solano, Governor of Caracas, referred in a Report sent to Spain that the Spanish Commandants of Guayana and Orinoco had sometimes given consent to the Dutch to fish in the Orinoco and for them to build huts to sun and dry their fish.

In 1762, fishing boats were seized off the Waini, and even in Demerara, but this was the work of privateers or pirates from Trinidad. When complaints were made to the Spanish authorities in Orinoco, the stolen property was returned.

Another invasion of Dutch territory by the Spaniards occurred in 1769. Some Capuchin missionaries with a force of soldiers arrived at the Moruka Post to claim Amerindians who had fled from the Spanish possessions. When the Postholder protested, they gave him a certificate showing that they only came to claim their own Amerindians. Later, after an inquiry by the Spanish Government held in consequence of the Dutch protest which followed (mentioned below), it was discovered that the missionaries and the soldiers had been directed by the Spanish Commandant to go only as far as the mouths of the Orinoco. The Commandant reported that his orders had been exceeded by the missionaries and the soldiers. He also reported that in the "vast Province of Guiana", the entire coast was occupied by "foreigners", while the Spaniards had possession of "the mouth of the Orinoco in one corner as an outlet to the sea". He added that the Dutch often followed their fugitive slaves actually into the Orinoco, knowing that the Spaniards were "49 leagues from the mouth".

In the same year (1769) rumours, which afterwards proved to be false, had reached Essequibo that the Postholder at Arinda, high up the Essequibo, had been murdered, as was alleged, by the Spaniards. It was also reported that new Missions held by a strong force, were being formed upon and near the Cuyuni, above the Post which the Dutch had re-established on that river.


As a result of these events, a strong protest referring in detail to all grievances of the Dutch colony was addressed by the States-General of the Netherlands to the Court of Spain, and delivered by the Dutch Ambassador towards the end of August 1769.

This protest made a specific claim to the whole basin of the Essequibo and Cuyuni, stating that from almost time immemorial the Dutch had been in possession of these rivers and their tributaries. It also complained of the Spanish acts of aggression against the Dutch colony.

This claim the Spanish Government never denied; and the King ordered an immediate inquiry by the Commandant of Guayana into the Dutch complaints.

As regards the rumours of an attack upon the Post at Arinda, this was denied by the Spaniards. In the course of the subsequent inquiry, missionaries who gave evidence, explained that the Arinda Post was inaccessible to the Spaniards.

The Spanish Government, however, denied that the Dutch had a fishery in the Orinoco and, therefore, they could not have interrupted Dutch activity there.


About this time, plantation was rapidly extending to the west of the Essequibo. In 1771, a private estate in Moruka with cattle upon it was put up for sale and, though it was probably in an uncultivated condition, it found a purchaser. In 1772, the plantations reached along the Essequibo coast almost near to Pomeroon. Gravesande was against allowing them to go further, but he retired in 1772, and during the rest of the century, a steady advance of settlement was made. In 1777, it was reported that there were few lower lands left; and in 1799, shortly after the British occupation, it was reported to the Government that cultivation had reached along the sea-coast as far as the Pomeroon.