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When the Dutch regained control in 1783, the new Director-General of Essequibo-Demerara, Jan Espinasse, decided to revise the constitution under which the colony of Essequibo-Demerara was governed. Instead of a joint Council of Policy to govern both Essequibo and Demerara, two Councils of Policy were to be established. Previously the Council of Policy had equal numbers of official and unofficial members, but now official members, appointed by the Director-General, would form the majority in each of the new Councils.

The proposal for the new constitution was bitterly opposed by the planters, who selected the unofficial members of the Councils. The planters finally sent a petition to the States-General in Amsterdam opposing the constitutional change. The States-General, after reviewing the petition, appointed a constitution committee headed by William van Sirtima to investigate the state of affairs in Essequibo-Demerara.

The committee finally recommended that there should be only one Council of Policy with equal official and unofficial representatives with the Director-General having a casting vote. However, there were now to be established two Courts of Justice, one for Demerara and one for Essequibo. Each was to be headed by a President - the Director General for Demerara and the Commander for Essequibo.

The Dutch authorities, shortly after, recalled Espinasse and van Sirtima was appointed Governor with instructions to implement the revised constitution which, by then, had obtained the support of the planters.

Since the constitution commission also gave an unfavourable report of the role of the West India Company in managing the affairs of Essequibo-Demerara, the States General refused to renew its charter in 1791. A Council for the Colonies was then established by the States-General to oversee the affairs of the Dutch colonies.

The Batavian Republic

Meanwhile, in Europe, the French revolution had broken out in 1789, and initially it was supported by the British. But when the revolutionaries executed the French King, the British declared war on France. The Netherlands, now an ally of the Britain, was invaded by French forces in 1795, and the Dutch head of state, the Prince of Orange, fled to London from where he urged all Dutch colonies to place themselves under the protection of the British. The French renamed the Netherlands the Batavian Republic and set up a puppet government made up of Dutch supporters of the French revolution.

Dutch colonies, including Guyana (Essequibo-Demerara and Berbice), became extensions of the Batavian Republic. This was particularly so in the Guyana where the majority of the Dutch colonists were supporters of the French Revolution, and hence, the Batavian Republic.

When a British warship in May 1795 arrived at Demerara to convey the instructions of the Prince of Orange, the Court of Policy, which by then had a majority of revolutionary supporters, refused to accept British protection for the colonies, and expressed loyalty to the French-Batavian Republic alliance. But the governor, van Sirtima, who opposed the French and the position taken by the Court of Policy, resigned his position and departed the colony on the British ship. Shortly after, a pro-republican government was set up by representatives of the planters.

However, political opinions began to change very quickly when the planters learned that supporters of Victor Hughes, an extremist leader of the French revolutionaries, were proposing that the African slaves in the West Indies and Guyana should be provided with weapons to help them win freedom from their masters. The planters in Guyana owned large numbers of slaves, and naturally, they could never be supportive of such a position.

Opinions also changed from support of the Batavian Republic when the planters realised that they could not ship their sugar, cotton and coffee except in English ships, which at that time controlled the seas. The planters needed to send their goods to Britain to pay off debts owned to British merchants.

In Guyana at this period, very good quality of sea-island cotton was cultivated on the Essequibo coast and Canje on plantations financed by British merchants. Cultivation had actually commenced in the 1740s when English settlers began arriving in Guyana. All of the cotton was exported to Britain where it fed the numerous cotton mills. With supplies threatened by the French-Dutch alliance in Guyana, merchants in Britain encouraged their government to seize control of the Dutch colonies there.

This occurred in April 1796, and by the time of the Treaty of Amiens which ended the war in March 1802, seven-eights of all property belonged to English settlers. In this six-year period, the number of sugar plantations increased by five-fold, with most of them established along the Atlantic coast from the Corentyne district to the Essequibo coast.

Substantial economic progress was also recorded during the six-year British occupation. In Demerara-Essequibo sugar production jumped from about 4 million pounds to over 17.5 million pounds, coffee from 4.8 million pounds to 7.5 million pounds, and rum from 86 thousand gallons to 475 thousand gallons.

By the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, Essequibo-Demerara and Berbice were handed back to the Dutch, only to be seized back again by the British in September of the following year when war broke out again in Europe. They remained in the possession of the British to whom they were finally ceded when the war ended in 1814.