The Trail Of Diplomacy

A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue
by Odeen Ishmael
© Copyright 1998


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When in 1830 Venezuela finally won its independence from Spain, the new nation was anxious to have clear delimitation of its borders. In pursuance with this objective, Venezuela raised the issue of its eastern borders with Great Britain whose colony of British Guiana (as Guyana was then known) bounded Venezuela on the east.

In 1840 Great Britain attempted to delimit the western boundary of British Guiana when Robert Schomburgk, assigned by the British Government, carried out a comprehensive survey. However, Venezuela declined to accept the line recommended by Schomburgk — who included the basins of the Essequibo and the Cuyuni Rivers as British Guiana's territory. By claiming the entire Cuyuni basin, Schomburgk placed his line almost near to the Orinoco River, thus placing the boundary further west than is currently the case. On the other hand, Venezuela claimed that all lands west of the Essequibo River was its territory.

This dispute continued until 1897 when President Cleveland of the United States of America, who championed the Venezuelan side of the issue particularly after 1895, forced Great Britain to submit the matter to arbitration. To this end, Venezuela and Great Britain agreed to the Treaty of Washington which submitted the dispute to an Arbitral Tribunal on which both countries were to be equally represented.

The Tribunal duly met in 1899 in Paris, France, and handed down its Award, describing in detail the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana. Venezuela willingly accepted this Award and fully honoured it until 1962. In that year Venezuela declared that the 1899 border agreement was null and void, and again resuscitated the claim that all the land west of the Essequibo River — an area of about 50,000 square miles representing nearly two-thirds of the territory of British Guiana — was the territory of the Spanish-speaking republic.

Records were again examined and although Venezuela had no case, the Governments of Venezuela, Great Britain and British Guiana in February 1966 signed an Agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, by which a Mixed Commission was appointed to seek satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy. While this Commission was in existence, Venezuela on a number of occasions occupied Guyanese border territory and was accused by the Government of Guyana (independent since May 1966) of interfering in the Guyanese internal affairs.

The matter dragged on until June 1970 when, by the Protocol of Port of Spain, both Venezuela and Guyana agreed to shelve the dispute for a period of at least twelve years. This Protocol came to an end in 1982 when Venezuela refused to renew it. Subsequent discussions by the two Governments, under the terms of the Geneva Agreement, eventually led to both Governments agreeing to request the Secretary General of the United Nations to find a method for bringing about a settlement. The UN Secretary General in 1990 appointed a "Good Officer" to meet with representatives of Guyana and Venezuela to examine various proposals. At the time of writing, the meetings continue at regular intervals.

It must be pointed out that this part of Guyana claimed by Venezuela is extremely rich in forest, water and mineral resources. It is known that the Imataka Mountain area which extends into both Guyana and Venezuela has huge deposits of iron ore. In addition, manganese deposits are located in the North West District of Guyana, while gold and diamonds, among other minerals, are found in the Barima, Mazaruni, Cuyuni and Potaro districts. There is also the possibility that petroleum deposits lie under the continental shelf off the Essequibo coast.

This documentary history of the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute has been compiled from published records which have a direct bearing on the issue. The material for the Chapters 2 to 8 has been taken from the public document entitled The Case on Behalf of the Government of Her Britannic Majesty, which was presented as part of the British Case before the Arbitral Tribunal in 1899. Large parts have been reproduced in full, though some minor modifications in the vocabulary used in the Case have been made. The Venezuelan contentions before 1899 are included in some detail in the course of these seven chapters.

Chapter 9, dealing with the intervention of the United States of America has been written after much consultation with the contemporary histories of the USA, Venezuela and Great Britain; while Chapters 10, 11 and 12 utilise materials from the Report of the United States Commission on Boundary Between Venezuela and British Guiana. Chapter 13 which describes the granting of the Arbitral Award, employs material taken from the records of the British and Venezuelan Cases before the Arbitral Tribunal.

The succeeding chapters have been compiled from documents and other materials published by the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela, from statements and other materials published by the People's Progressive Party (PPP) of Guyana and, to no small extent, from newspaper reports during the relevant period.

In the course of this documentary, there is some repetition of certain facts, but it must be made clear that this has been found to be unavoidable. It is, nevertheless, hoped that this documentary history will enable the reader to follow the development of the dispute, and to observe the diplomatic and other measures applied, from the inception of the border dispute to its present situation, as clearly as possible.

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1. Boundaries

As understood by historians and geographers, the region of Guiana comprises the territory bounded by the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, the Rio Negro, the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean. The greater part of the territory of Venezuela lies to the north of the Orinoco, and is consequently not in the Guiana region.

The border controversy (up to 1899 and even afterwards) concerned the dividing line between Guyana (formerly the colony of British Guiana) and a part of Venezuela south-east of the Orinoco River.

The contention of the British, in their Case that was put to the Arbitral Tribunal in 1899, was that British Guiana was bounded by a line commencing at the mouth of the Amakura River, following the course of that river to the Imataka Mountains, and then following the watershed between the tributaries of the Orinoco and those of the Cuyuni and Mazaruni to Mount Roraima on the frontier of Brazil.

Recognising, however, the fact of the establishment of Spanish Missions during the eighteenth century on territory south of the Orinoco, in the neighbourhood of the Yuruari River, where they continued to exist up to the year 1817, the Government of Great Britain never actively sought to press its claim to the portion of the district north-west of the Cuyuni where Missions were actually situated.

The Venezuelan contention even before the establishment of the Tribunal was that the boundary of British Guiana must be drawn along the west bank of the estuary of the Essequibo from the sea to the junction of the Cuyuni with the Mazaruni, then along the east bank of the Essequibo to its confluence with the Rupununi, then following the watershed between the Essequibo and the Berbice and Corentyne Rivers, to the frontier of Brazil.

The Government of Venezuela, however, in its Case presented to the Arbitral Tribunal, modified its claim as regards the district immediately west of the Essequibo, and claimed only that the boundary should run from the mouth of the Moruka River southwards to the Cuyuni, near its junction with Mazaruni, and then along the east bank of the Essequibo to the Brazilian frontier, as stated above.

As regards the western boundary of British Guiana from Mount Roraima southwards, up to the end of the nineteenth century, there were still questions outstanding between Great Britain and Brazil.

2. Rivers and Settlements

Upon the coast of the Guiana region are found the mouths of numerous rivers, which, owing to the thickness of the forests and the marshy nature of the coast, afforded the only means of entering and traversing the country. Every settlement made upon that coast was placed upon one of these rivers, and was, with its district, named after that river, as, for instance, Suriname; and Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo, the districts which together united to form the colony of British Guiana.

Similarly, the different districts within the settlements were often described by the names of the rivers and creeks which traversed them. Thus the word Cuyuni was constantly used to mean the district drained by that river and its tributaries; and the word Barima was not necessarily indicating either Point Barima or the river of the same name, but usually meant the district on either bank of the river stretching to the Amakura River on the one side and the Waini River on the other.

The colonies of Essequibo and Demerara were in Dutch times distinct from Berbice — that of Berbice was for a long period the chief settlement — and besides, the district of the Essequibo and its tributaries included the rivers and the districts of Pomeroon, Waini, and Barima on the west. Subsequently, Demerara became the leading settlement, and the seat of the colonial Government was moved to Georgetown (formerly Stabroek) in Demerara; Essequibo became the name of the county which included all the territory to the west of the Boerasirie Creek.

The territory more immediately under discussion which lies between the Orinoco and the Essequibo is traversed by numerous rivers of which the principal ones in the interior are the Rupununi, Mazaruni and Cuyuni (tributaries of the Essequibo), and on the coast, proceeding from east to west, are the Pomeroon, the Moruka, the Waini, the Barima and the Amakura, all of which flow into the Atlantic.

The delta of the Orinoco lies between the Vagre River on the west and the main stream of Orinoco on the east. The low land on the coast to the east has no connection with the Orinoco Delta, having been formed by the detritus brought down by the rivers to the east of the Orinoco, and carried westward under the influence of the westerly current and the prevailing wind on that coast.

The Cuyuni, which is one of the principal tributaries of the Essequibo, has in its upper reaches on its left bank two important tributaries, the Curumo and the Uruan; the latter is joined not far above its confluence with the Cuyuni by another stream of almost equal magnitude, the Yuruari.

In the territory of Venezuela to the west of the present boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, there are several rivers which flow to the Orinoco, the most important of which is the Caroni; and there are other smaller tributaries between the Caroni and the mouth of the Orinoco, the chief of which are the Imataka and the Aguirre.

The basin of the Essequibo — the combined basins of the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni, as well as the other tributaries of the Essequibo — is divided from that of the Caroni and the Orinoco by a range of hills which joins with the Imataka range.

The interior of the country westward of the Essequibo is covered with thick forests stretching almost without break from the sea to the Imataka Mountains, and filling the whole valley of the Cuyuni. But if the course of the Curumo and the Yuruari is to be followed upwards from the Cuyuni, it is found that, as the ground rises towards the watershed, the forest is replaced at some distance from the Cuyuni by open grass-covered plateaus, which were formerly known under the collective name of the Pariacot Savannah.

The natural and, until about 1890, the only route of communication through the belt of forest between the Pariacot Savannah and the Cuyuni River was by the Rivers Uruan and Yuruari or by the Curumo, which were all impassable for want of water during half the year. The Cuyuni was always open to traffic from the Essequibo.

3. Inland Waterways

The Barima, Waini, Moruka and the Pomeroon Rivers are connected together by a system of natural inland waterways. The Barima communicates with the Waini near its mouth by the Mora Passage, again higher up by the Eckranabua Creek, and a third time by a chain of creeks known as the Maruiwa, Waburina, Sabina, Iteriti and Morabo. The Waini is connected to the Moruka by the Barimani and the Barabara Creeks, and an itabo — a waterway connecting the two rivers generally made by the passage of boats through intervening swampy ground; and there is a further means of inland communication between the Moruka and the Pomeroon by the Manawarin Creek, an itabo, and the Wakepo River. Further, by means of the Tapakuma Creek, there is inland communication between the Pomeroon and the Essequibo.

The sea upon the coast between the Essequibo and the Orinoco is usually dangerous for small vessels, and it was difficult before the days of steam ships for even large vessels to sail along the shore of this district. The inland waterways from Essequibo were, under these circumstances, of the greatest importance.


The principal Amerindian tribes inhabiting the territory known as Guiana were the Caribs, the Akawois or Waikas, the Arawaks and the Warrous or Guaraunos. Among other tribes of less importance may be listed the so-called Arawak-Akawois, or Wauwejans, who were considered descendants of both the former tribes, though distinct from each of them; the Magariouts, or Manoas, a powerful and warlike tribe dwelling in the region watered by the upper Essequibo and the Mazaruni; the Wai-Wais, the Patamonas (Paramonas) and the Macushis. The last named tribe was constantly raided by the Caribs and Akawois, and it was from this tribe that the Amerindian slaves, or poitos, were largely obtained. What precise localities this tribe occupied it is difficult to trace, but in the year 1833, when their numbers had become greatly reduced, they were found at the headwaters of the Essequibo. Mention must also be made of the Pancays who lived in the upper Cuyuni, and of the Pariacots who also possibly inhabited the same district.

1. The Caribs

Of all the tribes, by far the most numerous and powerful throughout the whole period of Dutch occupation of Guiana was the Carib nation. In the later period, during the British occupation, though still claiming and receiving precedence among the Amerindians of British Guiana, and known as the warriors among the native inhabitants, their numbers had become greatly reduced, and they had become in some instances industrious cultivators of the soil. But in the early days of the colony, the Caribs, surpassing as they did all other tribes in personal bravery, were the great freebooters on the coast from Trinidad to the mouth of the Amazon. They were strong enough to control the waterway of the Orinoco, and they permanently occupied the lower portion of the right bank of the Orinoco as far as Barima. In the interior of the territory today known as Guyana, they were found on the upper Essequibo, the Mazaruni, the upper Cuyuni, the Pomeroon and the Barima, and they ranged at will through the forest region.

2. The Akawois

Next in importance to the Caribs were the Akawois. The tribe was found in the lower Essequibo, the upper Cuyuni, the Demerara and the Pomeroon. It is probable that this tribe, like the Caribs, was nomadic in its habits, and was to be found scattered throughout the Dutch colonies of Essequibo, Berbice and Suriname.

In the early years of British occupation, the Akawois were described as the most pugnacious of the Amerindian tribes, the Caribs having to a large extent lost their ascendancy and being greatly reduced in numbers. The Akawois were at that period occupying the area between the upper Demerara River, the Mazaruni and the upper Pomeroon.

3. The Arawaks

Following the Akawois in importance was the tribe known as the Arawaks, who were described by Major John Scott in 1665 as being "the best humoured Indians of America, being both very just and generous-minded people", and as inhabiting the region between the Corentyne and the Waini Rivers. Nearly two hundred years later they were described by another English writer as "of all the tribes the most docile, cleanly, and of the best stature and personal appearance", but at the same time as being "immoral, fickle and inconstant, and possessing none of the warlike spirit of the Caribs and Akawois".

The Dutch employed them at the Post of Moruka, for the fishery in the Orinoco and the salting industry generally, and also in the recapture of fugitive slaves. In 1771, Centurion, the Spanish Governor of Guayana (east of Orinoco), reported to the Court of Spain that the Arawaks had for many years been united to the Dutch and incorporated in their colonies both in relationships and other ties. After the British took possession of the Dutch colonies, the Arawaks readily sought employment as labourers, especially in the plantations up the rivers, though reluctant to work among the African slaves on the coast.

The Arawaks were regarded as the aristocracy of the Amerindian tribes and superior to all of them in the scale of civilization.

4. The Warrous

The tribe of Amerindians known as the Warrous originally inhabited the swampy morasses and islands in the mouth of the Orinoco, as well as the lower reaches of the Barima. Owing to illtreatment by the Spaniards in 1767, they migrated in great numbers to the Barima district which they, as well as the other Amerindian tribes, regarded as Dutch territory. In this locality they still remained after the British had taken over the Dutch colonies.

The Warrous had none of the warlike characteristics of the Caribs and Akawois. They were mainly boat-builders, owing to the skill with which they hollowed out — without any instrument but the adze — the canoes used by the Amerindian tribes of Guiana. Almost amphibious in their mode of life, they were expert fishermen, and it was by them that a noted fishery of the lower Orinoco was kept up. The women were skilful in the manufacture of baskets and of the hammocks known as the sarow hammocks which they made from the eetay palm, a tree which provided the Warrous with their principal means of subsistence, the pith being an excellent substitute for bread. Under the British Government this tribe became more industrious and contributed more labour to the sugar plantation than any other Amerindian tribe in British Guiana, and though despised by the other tribes and regarded as hewers of wood and drawers of water, they proved to the planter the most useful of labourers.


For a century after the discovery of the South American continent, the Spaniards made no settlements in Guiana.

In 1596 they settled at an Amerindian village which they named Santo Thome on the south bank of the Orinoco. This settlement was until 1723 the only possession of the Spaniards in Guiana.

In 1598, the Dutch were making voyages to Guiana, and by 1613 they, according to Spanish documents, had three or four settlements between the Orinoco and the Amazon.

1. West India Company

In 1621, upon the termination of the twelve years' truce between Spain and the Netherlands, a Company, called the West India Company, was formed under a charter granted by the Dutch Government for the purpose of trade and colonization in the (West) Indies. At this date there were already Dutch settlers in Essequibo. The Company at once established an organized colony there and it was held and governed by the Company under successive charters until the year 1791.

Between 1621 and 1648, during the Thirty Years' War, the Dutch commanded the whole coast of Guiana as far as Trinidad.

The colonial Government of the Company was seated at Fort Kykoveral, situated on an island in the mouth of the Mazaruni River. Kykoveral had been established since 1616.

The Dutch were allied with the Amerindians against the Spaniards of Santo Thome and Trinidad. In 1629 and again in 1637 they sacked the settlement of Santo Thome, and in the latter year, they also raided Trinidad and burnt the Spanish settlements there.

They were, according to Spanish reports in 1637 and 1638, settled on the Amakura, Essequibo and Berbice Rivers. During this entire period they were also masters of the sea in the neighbourhood of the mouths of the Orinoco.

The Dutch also carried on a large trade in annatto dye. This was obtained from the Amerindians with whom the Dutch, according to Spanish documents, were in alliance and friendship during this period.

2. Treaty of Munster

In 1648 the Thirty Years' War was terminated by the Peace of Westphalia, and the (Dutch) States-General obtained from Spain, by a special Treaty at Munster, the final recognition of the independence of the Dutch Netherlands, and was confirmed in the possession of all the "lordships, fortresses, commerce, and country which they then held, as well as the places which they should thereafter acquire without infraction of the Treaty".

3. Pomeroon Settlement

After the conclusion of the Treaty of Munster, great extensions of their possessions in Guiana were made by the Dutch. In 1658, as an addition to their plantations in the Essequibo, the Pomeroon was settled upon a large scale by a numerous body of colonists. A fort was built and called Nova Zeelandia, the settlement township being called New Middlelburg. There was also a fort on the Moruka. When the whole colony, including Pomeroon and Essequibo, was occupied for a short time in 1666 by English forces, the English seized no fewer than 1,200 African slaves who were employed on the Dutch plantations.

A new expedition was sent out by the Dutch in 1686 and the Pomeroon was put under a separate Governor; but this new settlement was in 1689 destroyed by the French who were then at war with both Dutch and Spaniards, and had in 1684 destroyed Santo Thome.

4. Dutch Posts

The Essequibo Government from then continued to control the district of the Pomeroon and of the rivers and creeks connected with it, including the Barima. Employees of the Company were residing in Barima and in Pomeroon in the year 1683, and after the destruction in 1689 of the settlement in the Pomeroon by the French, the Dutch retained a Post in the district. That Post existed continuously from 1684 to 1858 when the system of Posts was abolished under the British Government. It was situated sometimes on the Pomeroon River itself and sometimes on one or other of the neighbouring creeks, Wakepo and Moruka. It commanded the means of access to the Waini and Barima districts which were commercially and politically controlled by the Postholder.

Besides their enterprise on the coast, the Dutch had also before the end of the seventeenth century progressed far into the interior, and African traders were employed by the Company to travel among the Amerindians and obtain by barter the products of the country. In 1683 and onwards, these traders periodically visited the Pariacot Savannah and used the name of the Dutch Government to put an end to native wars in the Cuyuni, which hindered commerce. In 1703, the Dutch West India Company had a Post in the Pariacot Savannah up the Cuyuni at a distance of "six weeks' sail" from Fort Kykoveral.

5. Spanish Settlement

During all this time the Spaniards had not extended their possessions beyond the immediate confines of Santo Thome. That settlement, even as late as 1720, consisted, according to an official Spanish account, only of "twenty or twenty-five houses, occupied by as many inhabitants, deprived of all human assistance, and with no means whatever to clear the dense forest which surrounded that place".

In 1724, the Catalonian Capuchins commenced to establish Missions on the country south of Santo Thome. In the course of the next seventy years these Missions were extended on the Pariacot Savannah. They never reached the forest region of the valley of the Cuyuni. In these Missions the Amerindians were gathered together and employed in cattle farming. Over the forest country and the Amerindians who lived there, the missionaries exercised no control whatever. On the contrary, the Missions were frequently raided and destroyed by the Caribs of that region.

Out of these raids arose an incident of some importance. In 1758, the Spanish authorities, alleging that the Postholder at the Dutch Post in Cuyuni was in league with the Carib raiders, sent a secret expedition which surprised and destroyed the Post. It then retreated as rapidly as possible, and the Dutch, having remonstrated to the Court of Spain against the attack, re-established a Post on the river.

The Spaniards never exercised dominion on the Cuyuni, and they never utilised the resources nor controlled the inhabitants of its valley in any way. Further, they did not exercise any dominion or control in the Mazaruni or Essequibo.

Although the Dutch maintained a Post on the upper Essequibo, called the Post Arinda, from 1737 almost to the end of the century, yet in 1770 the heads of the Spanish Missions stated in the Spanish official inquiry that the Post Arinda had never been heard of by them, and that the upper Essequibo was far beyond the reach of themselves or their Amerindians.

6. Dutch Occupation and Control

In sharp contrast to the policy of the Spaniards, whose influence was not pushed beyond the region actually occupied by the Missions, was the policy of the Dutch of Essequibo. Beyond the land actually planted by agriculturalists, the Dutch were, by their use and enjoyment of its resources, and by their exercise of political control, in possession of all the territory later claimed by Great Britain.

The Dutch Posts were maintained on the Essequibo and Cuyuni, and in the district of the coast rivers at Pomeroon or Moruka. The timber in the forests of Mazaruni, Cuyuni and Waini were granted out by the Government for felling, and mines were open and worked in the range called Blauwenberg, to the north of the Cuyuni.

In addition to these indications of actual possession, the Dutch, throughout the period of their occupation, were continuously increasing their political control. The Amerindians of the outlying districts were in alliance with them throughout the whole region from Essequibo to Barima, and acted under them on may occasions against revolting or absconding African slaves. Their chiefs received badges and insignia as tokens that were recognised by the Government.

By means of the Post at Moruka, the entry of traders into the Barima and Waini districts was controlled, and those guilty of outrages upon the Amerindians, or of slave trading contrary to the laws of the Company, even though not belonging to the colony of Essequibo, were arrested and punished.

The Spaniards were well aware of the relations existing between the Amerindians and the Dutch. In 1755, Don Eugenio Alvarado reported that "as a rule the Dutch colonies have a kind of alliance with the many savage tribes of Indians living in the forests which run from north to south, and separate the Province of Guayana from the Dutch settlements"; and in 1790, Don Antonio Lopez de la Puente reported that any attempt by the Spaniards in the direction of the sources of the Essequibo would be communicated to the Dutch by the Caribs allied to them and so prevented.

7. Spanish Frontier

In 1764, the settlement of Santo Thome was moved to Angustura on the Orinoco, above the mouth of the Caroni. The forts, however, remained at the old site which was treated as the effective frontier of the Spanish possessions.

In 1769, the Government (of Spain) ordered the removal of the four villages, Unata, Uyacca, Tiparua and Piacoa which were situated below that point, and thereafter followed the policy of leaving the district in a state of abandonment.

In a scheme of Governor Marmion of 1788 for the settlement and fortification of the frontiers of Guayana, it was proposed to abandon the country on the south bank of the Orinoco for about 60 miles upward from Point Barima, and to commence drawing the line to be effectively held from the Curucima Creek, or the point of the chain in the great arm of the Imataka Mountains, and then following these mountains to the Cuyuni.

The Spaniards from time to time conducted raiding expeditions down the coast; on one or two occasions they raided the property of Dutchmen settled in Barima, and Spanish vessels several times arrested Dutch fishing vessels in the Orinoco on charges of smuggling. On another occasion some Spanish priests accompanied by officers came as far as the Post of Moruka and took away Amerindians alleged to have deserted from the Spanish Missions. But on investigation in consequence of complaints by the Dutch, it was found that the commissions of the officers had not authorised them to go beyond the mouth of the Orinoco. These were the only acts done by the Spaniards between the Imataka Mountains and the sea. They never established any control over either the country or its inhabitants.

8. British Occupation and Control

In 1781, the Dutch colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were occupied by the British who were, however, expelled by the French in the following year. In 1783, the French restored the colonies to the Dutch.

In 1796, they were again occupied by the British who restored them by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Upon the renewal of the war they at once occupied them again; and they were formally ceded to the British after the general pacification in 1814.

The British from the first maintained possession and control of the country as far as the mouth of the Orinoco. In 1797, it was reported to the Spaniards that they had apportioned all the lands as far as Barima. The land upon the coast was actually under plantation as far as the Moruka, and the policy of maintaining an alliance with the Amerindians and of protecting them from outrage and wrong either at the hands of the Europeans or of one another was continued.

In addition to the Postholders, new officers called Protectors of the Indians were appointed for this purpose.

In 1838, Superintendents of Rivers and Creeks were created. These officers made periodical circuits through the territory as far as and including Barima; and they exercised the functions of magistrates throughout the whole of this district. The Amerindians were everywhere under captains appointed or recognised by the Government.

9. Venezuelan War of Independence

The Spanish colonists who occupied the territory which is now Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia, declared their independence from Spain (in 1810), and the civil war which followed extended for a time into the Orinoco district.

At this time, and up to the year 1816, the savannah land between the Orinoco and the Yuruari was still in part occupied by the Capuchin Missions.

In May 1817, however, the rebel troops collected the missionaries at Caruachi and then massacred them. The General in command had intended to take the missionaries to Tupuquen and Tumeremo, which were described as the outermost settlements in the eastern district. The natural consequence of this action was the rapid decay of the Mission villages, and the territory relapsed into a state of decay.

10. Schomburgk Line

In 1840, Robert Herman Schomburgk was employed by the British Government to survey the boundaries of British Guiana — which in 1831 became the new name of the united colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice, all of which had been ceded to Britain in 1814. Schomburgk laid down a line which commenced at the mouth of the Amakura, followed that river to its source in the Imataka Mountains, then followed the crest of the ridge to the sources of the Acarabisi Creek, and descended that creek to the Cuyuni, which it followed to its source in Mount Roraima.

This line, according to Schomburgk, possessed advantages in point of physical features, but would have given Venezuela a large tract of territory north and west of the Cuyuni which was never occupied by the Spanish Missions, but which was, on the other hand, formally claimed by the Dutch, and to which Great Britain claimed title as part of British Guiana.

In 1841, negotiations commenced between Great Britain and Venezuela for a settlement of the boundary, but it became evident that a great divergence of views existed as to its proper position. An offer of considerable concessions by Britain received no answer from the Venezuelan Government.

From 1850 to 1886, the British Government, in consequence with an arrangement made with Venezuela in the former year, discouraged settlement in the disputed territory, but in 1886, the Venezuelan Government, having ceased to observe this arrangement, the British Government declared itself no longer bound by it.

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The first navigator who sighted the coast of Guiana was a Spaniard (either Alonso de Ojeda in 1499, or Vincente Yanez Pinzon in 1500), but no attempt to land was then made, with the exception of an unsuccessful effort by Pinzon in the vicinity of the Amazon.

In 1531, however, Diego de Ordaz and Alonzo de Herrera, both Spaniards, navigated the channel of the Orinoco for some distance from the mouth, but while they engaged in frequent hostilities with the natives — for the most part, apparently, upon the northern bank some way up the river — neither of them explored the territory that was to be disputed over three centuries later.

In 1591, Antonio de Berrio went down the Meta River from the New Kingdom of Granada (now part of Venezuela and Colombia) and travelled down the Orinoco to its estuary. From his own description of his voyage he was probably unable to penetrate into the country upon the banks of the river until he reached Moriquiti, an Amerindian village on the south bank somewhere below the mouth of the Caroni.


Berrio's action gave the Spaniards their first footing in the Guiana region, and led to the settlement of Santo Thome, which was for more than a century the only settlement south of the Orinoco.

The site of the village where this settlement was made was visited in 1595 and 1596 by Lawrence Keymis who described it as a "ranceria of some twenty or thirty houses at the mouth of the Caroli", and a report from Trinidad by Domingo de Vera in 1597 mentioned Santo Thome as the town established at the entrance of Guayana.

In the seventeenth century the town was situated some miles lower down the Orinoco at a spot which was known during the last half of the nineteenth century as the site of a settlement known as Vieja Guayana. It was in 1764 again removed to Angostura, above the mouth of the Caroni. In this situation it remained, and is now known as Ciudad Bolivar.

The Spaniards under Berrio were unable to get further into the interior. Sir Walter Raleigh, writing of 1595, stated that Berrio "dare not send any of his soldiers any farther into the land than to Carapana, which he called the port of Guiana". Large reinforcements arrived from Spain under Domingo de Vera in 1596, so that Berrio had at his disposal some 470 men, and was able to, at once, send an expedition in the supposed direction of the fabled city of Manao d'El Dorado. But the column was cut off by the Amerindians with the loss of over 350 men, and famine and pestilence decimated those who remained at Santo Thome.

In 1581, the Dutch had formally renounced the sovereignty of Spain, and the war then raging between the two countries continued until 1648, with an interval of partial truce from 1609 to 1621.


In 1598, the Dutchman Cabeliau arrived on the coast of Guiana and, according to his account, proceeded up the Orinoco as far as Santo Thome. He described the Orinoco River and all the coast as far as the Maranon River (or Amazon River) as still unconquered, and stated that the Caribs were able to resist incursions by the Spaniards.

Cabeliau traded with the Spaniards in Santo Thome, and with the Amerindians in Orinoco, Barima and Amakura, but did not visit Essequibo because there was not much to be obtained there. He mentioned no Spaniards until he reached the Orinoco.

Cabeliau's voyage was very shortly after followed by the voyages of many other Dutchmen.

By the truce of 1609, the Dutch were precluded from trading in places, towns, ports and havens held by the King of Spain; on the other hand, Spain recognised the right of the Dutch to trade in the countries of all other princes, potentates and peoples who were willing to trade with them, without any hindrance from the King of Spain, his officers, subjects or dependents; and by a secret Article, it was provided that this right should be understood to include the Indies.


By 1613, the Dutch were settled in various points upon the coast between the Orinoco and the Amazon. In that year the Spaniards surprised and destroyed one of their settlements upon the Corentyne River; and in an account in one of the letters announcing this achievement, it was stated:

It would be well to free our coasts of them entirely, for from the River of Maranon (Amazon) to the Orinoco, there are three or four more of their settlements, and their plantations are very considerable. They have possessed themselves of the mouths of these two rivers and are making themselves masters of the produce and possessions of the natives.

The parish priest and vicar of Trinidad in a letter of the 30 June 1614 stated that he had been informed for certain that from the river called Guayapoco as far as the Orinoco, a distance of 200 leagues, there were four Flemish settlements. In 1614, the Dutch besieged Trinidad in conjunction with the Caribs. Reinforcement ammunition were sent from Spain with a view to protecting that island which was in imminent danger.

Towards the end of that year a Dutchman named Claessen, who had founded a settlement on the Wiapoco, petitioned the States-General of the Netherlands to establish a new colony in the ports of the West Indies. In 1615, there was presented to the King of Spain a report with a map showing the places between the Amazon and the Island of Margarita, where it was believed that the Dutch intended to settle. From this report, it was brought to his knowledge that the Dutch had navigated the Orinoco as far as its junction with the Caroni River, and the Waipoco as far as its third fall; that they had spent large sums of money in colonial enterprises; and that the question of putting the commerce of Guiana directly under the control of the States-General was being urged upon the Dutch authorities.

In a description of Guiana made about 1669, Major John Scott stated that in 1616 the Dutch Captain, Groenewegel, dispatched a small fleet to Guiana, settled the Essequibo and built Fort Kykoveral "on a small island 30 leagues up the River Disseekeeb (Essequibo), which looked into two branches of that famous river"; and that he was the first to open up the interior of Guiana to trade and settlement, and living on friendly terms both with the natives and with the foreigners, especially English traders, in the West Indies.

In 1618, a second expedition of 500 men under Sir Walter Raleigh sailed up the Orinoco and destroyed the Spanish town of Santo Thome; he did not remain to hold it, though his incursion left the inhabitants practically defenceless.

At this period the Spaniards were definitely excluded from the coast to the eastward of the Orinoco. They probably frequented that area of coast for trading purposes at the close of the sixteenth century; but after the advent of the English in 1595 and the Dutch in 1598 and the succeeding years, it became more and more inaccessible to them. The English and the Dutch allied themselves with the Caribs against the Spaniards; and after the sacking of Santo Thome by Raleigh in 1618, the Arawaks, until then the friends of the Spaniards, also turned against them.

In consequence of these reverses, the settlement of Santo Thome was in 1619 on the point of being abandoned altogether, an event which was only prevented by the arrival of the new Governor with some small reinforcements. Representations were at once made as to the defenceless state of the settlement which had "nowhere to look for help on account of being so far distant from settled provinces, the nearest being Venezuela, distant 120 leagues". No discovery or settlement, it was urged, could be carried out until the city was placed in a state of defence.

In 1619, Geronimo de Grados was sent from Santo Thome to force the Arawaks to obedience, but meeting with six ships of the English and Dutch in the Essequibo, he was taken prisoner. This was the last of the early Spanish voyages to the east of the Orinoco. Those who made them did not appear to have explored the country or done more than visit the mouths of the rivers.


When the truce of 1609 between Spain and the Netherlands came to an end in 1621, the States-General (of the Netherlands) granted a charter to a Company to be called the West India Company, conferring a monopoly of twenty-four years of the trade with the countries of America and the West Indies. By this charter the Company was authorised to make, in the name and by the authority of the States-General, contracts, leagues and alliances with the princes and the natives of the lands within its sphere of action, to build fortresses and strongholds, to appoint governors, soldiers, and officers of justice, and generally to establish colonies under the sovereignty of the States-General. The general affairs of the Company at large was managed by an Assembly of Nineteen. There were separate Chambers for several provinces of the Netherlands under the control of Directors representing the shareholders in these provinces. These Chambers might, and frequently did, embark upon ventures of their own in which the Company had no pecuniary interest. The colonization of Essequibo was carried out by the Chamber of Zeeland acting separately in this way.


At the date of the charter (of the Dutch West India Company) there was already a Dutch colony established in Essequibo. This was verified in a statement by the Zeeland Chamber, in a representation made by them in 1751 in support of a claim to exclusive trade with Essequibo, that the colony of the Essequibo had been already frequented by the Zeelanders at the time of the granting of the charter in 1621. No doubt, within a few years after that date, an organised colony under the West India Company was in existence on that river. In the proceedings of the Zeeland Chamber on the 10 December 1626 it was resolved "to allow Jacob Canyn to come home from Isekepe, in accordance with his request, and to fill up his place with another". On the 17 December 1626, Johannes Beverlander was "taken into the service of the Company for three years, to lie in the river of Isekepe together with jan Adriaenss van der Goes". On the 22 April 1627, in granting to Abraham van Pere liberty to found a private colony and a fort in the Berbice River, the Zeeland Chamber expressly forbade his colonists "to come into the River Essequibo nor into any other rivers where the Company, whether of this or of other Chambers, has its colonists or folk".

The seat of Government was at Kykoveral. The first mention of this fort was made in the proceedings of the Zeeland Chamber of the 5 May 1644. But the Fort Essequibo was mentioned as early as 1637 in a letter to the West India Company by Jacques Ousiel, who was at that time the Public Advocate and Secretary of Tobago; and in the Spanish documents relating to the burning of Santo Thome in 1637, it was stated that the Dutch, having carried off the Blessed Sacrament from the church at that town, kept it guarded at their Fort at Macarouni (Mazaruni) or their Fort at Essequibo.

In 1628, assistants were engaged by the West India Company to work "on the Wild Coast" — a name by which the coast between the Essequibo and the Orinoco had become well known.

In 1629, the English and the Dutch, under the command of Adrian Jansz Pater, attacked and destroyed Santo Thome and afterwards fortified themselves in the branches and creeks of the Orinoco River.

In the sailing regulations first issued in 1632, and renewed in 1633, 1635 and 1637, the States-General specifically mentioned the Orinoco as the limit westward where uncharted vessels could sail without infringing the monopoly of the Company; and Spanish sources established evidence that in 1637 the Dutch were settled at the mouths of the Amakura, Essequibo and Berbice, from where in that year they again attacked and burned Santo Thome and raided Trinidad. In 1638 it was reported to the King of Spain that the Dutch were seeking favourable sites for the foundation of new settlements; that they had access to all ports of the mainland; and that they traded with the Amerindians of the Orinoco, while they were in close alliance with the Caribs.

Nine years later, the charter of the Company was further renewed for a period of twenty-five years from the 1 January 1647.


The Treaty of Munster (signed on the 30 January 1648) by which the independence of the Netherlands was finally recognised, provided that the navigation and trade to the East and West Indies should be maintained pursuant to and in conformity with the charters granted in that behalf; and all potentates, nations and peoples were to be included in the Treaty with whom the States-General and the East and West India Companies, within the limits of their charters, were in friendship and alliance. The King of Spain and the States-General were respectively to remain in possession and enjoyment of such lordships, towns, castles, fortresses, commerce and country in the East and West Indies and Brazil and on the coasts of Africa, Asia and America as they then respectively held and possessed. In this description were specifically included the places which the Portuguese had taken from the States-General since the year 1641, as well as all places which the States-General should thereafter come to conquer and possess, without infraction of the Treaty.

With reference to the mention of places taken by the Portuguese from the Dutch since 1641, it should be remembered that in that year the Portuguese had severed themselves from the Crown of Spain, and were, at the date of the Treaty of Munster, regarded by the King of Spain as rebels. The object of this provision was that the Dutch should be at liberty to recapture from the Portuguese all places which the latter had acquired at their expense during the Portuguese rebellion.


On the 10 August 1648, the States-General again issued trading regulations more specific than any which had been previously published. By these regulations, uncharted vessels were forbidden to trade on the Wild Coast, and the mouth of the Orinoco was again made the point at which the liberty to sail and trade, granted to vessels other than those belonging to the chartered Company, was to commence — that is to say, the whole of the coast between the Orinoco and the Amazon was treated as belonging to the West India Company.


In 1656, the Dutch were driven from Brazil by the Portuguese, and the effect of this was that they concentrated their efforts upon Guiana. On the 24 December 1657, a contract was entered into between the Zeeland Chamber and the West India Company and the three Dutch towns of Middelburg, Flushing and Vere, by which these three towns undertook to plant colonies on the Wild Coast under the supervision of the States-General and the Company. A Commissary was appointed to act under Aert Adriaensen, the Governor already in Essequibo, and in February 1658 colonists sailed for Guiana.

It was provided in the contract containing the terms of the partnership of the three cities in this venture, that a slave ship should be sent to bring slaves from Africa, as the supply of slave labour was found to be essential for the working of the colony.


In August 1658 news was received in the Netherlands of the safe arrival of the colonists. A new settlement was at once made on the Pomeroon River upon which the town of New Middelburg was founded, with a fort a few miles higher up, to which the name Nova Zeelandia was given. The earliest mention of New Middelburg was made in a report of the proceedings of the Committee of the three cities on the 2 January 1659. At that meeting a letter from the Commandeur, dated at New Middelburg, the 15 September 1658, was read. In the same year, 1658, the city of Amsterdam proposed to colonize a part of the Wild Coast. The Zeeland Chamber protested, claiming the exclusive right to the entire Wild Coast.

The settlement of New Middelburg on the Pomeroon soon became very prosperous. Byam, the Governor of the then English colony in Suriname, writing in 1669, stated that "Bowroom and Maraco, alias New Zeeland", was "a most flourishing colony..., the greatest of all they (the Dutch) ever had in America". He added that the English, after having temporarily made themselves masters in 1665 of "all the great Province of New Zeeland and Desseceub", were in turn obliged to surrender to a Dutch relieving force from Berbice and were forced to give back 1,200 slaves whom they had taken.

In 1665, the English had captured the colony, storming the Dutch fort of Moruka. The extent and importance of the settlement was such that possessions of it was regarded as carrying with it the country right up to the Orinoco. Major Scott, the Commander of the English forces reported in his Description of Guayana:

This year the English could boast of the possession of all that part of Guiana abutting on the Atlantik Ocean from Cayan on the south-east to Oronoque on the north-west (except a small colony on the River Berbishees), which is no less than 600 English miles.

In 1666, the colony was recaptured by the Dutch; but the settlement on the Pomeroon remained neglected for some time. Essequibo, however, continued to be prosperous. On the 26 August 1669, it was reported to the Zeeland Chamber that a ship had arrived "with 50,000 or 60,000 pounds of sugar, and 20,000 pounds of letter-wood which had been made and cut in Essequibo by the Company's Negroes".

In 1674, a new chartered Company was formed with the same rights and limits of those possessed by the former Dutch Company. Pomeroon and Essequibo were specifically mentioned in the grant. Under this new charter the Central Council consisted of ten instead of nineteen members.


Two years afterwards, the Spanish Council of War of the Indies brought forward the question of the Dutch colonies on the coast of Guiana, and suggested a protest to the States-General on the ground that they were establishing new settlements in the Indies without informing the King of Spain, but it was resolved that to bring such a complaint before the States-General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was not advisable. It must also be noted that the attention of the Council was called to the fact that the Dutch at that time held the chief portion of the coast of Guiana from Trinidad to the Amazon River, and had settlements in Berbice, Essequibo and Suriname.

In 1684, Santo Thome was sacked again, this time by the French and Caribs, and when the Spaniards reoccupied it, the Commandeur of Essequibo reported that they (the Spaniards) had "resumed possession of Oronoque", the name given to the portion of the Orinoco district under Spanish control, and that the Caribs were fleeing to Barima, Waini and Amakura.

As early as 1679, a Postholder had been stationed on the Pomeroon, and in 1686, the Central Council of the West India Company resolve to recolonise that station, and De Jonge, a new Commandeur, was appointed to govern that river independently of the Governor of Essequibo. De Jonge proceeded to the Pomeroon and commenced planting and cutting wood for a fort. In 1688 he had finished the fort, but in 1689 it was surprised and sacked by the French and was not re-established, though the Company retained a Post on the river.

(Here it must be noted that in the early years of Dutch colonisation, the "Commandeur" was also regarded as Governor. The later created position of "Director General" also was synonymous with that of Governor).

With regard to the settlement in the district of the Essequibo River itself, from 1681 onwards the area of actual plantation extended along the rivers Cuyuni, Mazaruni, and the middle Essequibo. In 1681, an island in the mouth of the Cuyuni River was cleared and planted with cassava for the use of the garrison. On the 26 March 1694, the Commandeur reported to the West India Company that he had "again begun to make here a new plantation in the River Cuyuni above the fort".

But the energies of the Dutch were not confined to the area of actual plantation. Hunting and fishing were also carried on and Posts were established at various parts of the territory in question.

The hunting and fishing were undertaken as a necessary part of the economy of the colony, for the supply of animal food to the plantations which had been cleared from the jungle. In 1681, the Commandeur proposed sending a small sailing vessel to the mouth of the Orinoco to salt manatees and turtles for the sustenance of the garrison, and he reported that a canoe had gone to Amakura to salt manatees and bush hogs' flesh. A supply of salt-pork had been organised before this date from the Cuyuni, for in 1683 the Commandeur sent an African slave up that river to establish peace between the Akawois and Caribs "so as by this means to get hold of the bush hog hunting there as formerly". In a letter on the 28 June 1680, the Commandeur, referring to the war between those tribes, had written: "Hereby, the River Cuyuni, our provision chamber is closed;" and again in 1682, he wrote: "Since on account of the war between the Caribs and the Akawois the River Cuyuni no longer furnishes provisions, we have to make shift with the seaside alone."


The system of Posts probably came into existence in 1674 when Postholders received payment for services upon the Essequibo. In 1679, the Commandeur, in view of the rumoured approach of Caribs from another part of the coast, felt it necessary to withdraw a travelling trader whom he had sent to Pomeroon, where the settlement destroyed by the English in 1665 had not yet been re-established, and suggested to the Company that it "would not be a bad idea to build there a small house for two or three men, so that they may dwell permanently among the Indians and occupy that river".

On the 25 December 1683, the Commandeur wrote: "I have caused one of the Company's servants to reside in Barima, as much annatto and letter-wood is obtainable there, and this lies near to Pomeroon." On the 31 March, he wrote again:

I have caused a small station to be made in Barima, and Abraham Baudardt, who is there (meaning Pomeroon) as Postholder in place of Daniel Galle, shall occasionally visit those places and Caribs to trade. . . I submit therefore, under correction, that it would not be inequitable for the Honourable West India Company to take possession of the River Barima in order to acquire the trade aforesaid, and to command the erection there of a permanent place for a Postholder.

A Post was maintained either on the Pomeroon or on one of the two neighbouring creeks, Wakepo and Moruka, until the system of Posts was superseded under the British Government in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The muster-roll of the Company's servants, for the year 1703, described the position of Posts, in addition to those on the Demerara, Mahaicony and the Pomeroon, one on the Cuyuni "up in the savannah six weeks by water". The position so described was clearly very distant, the savannah referred to being the Pariacot Savannah.

The Post in the Pomeroon was described in the same roll as lying from the fort four days' sail by sea.

Similar lists over a period of seventy years showed that Postholders were at different periods stationed at different places a considerable distance up the Essequibo, at more than one place on the Cuyuni, and in Pomeroon and Moruka.

In 1701, in view of the approach of war (by a number of European nations), the colony of Essequibo was organised for defensive purposes, according to districts. In the regulations issued for this purpose by the Court of Policy, the governing council of the colony of Essequibo, Commissaries were appointed to make rounds on the plantations, "and to give instructions to the new planters, to wit, those dwelling in Maseroene".

In 1704, the plantation, Poelwijk, was moved to a position above the falls in Mazaruni. In 1709 and 1712, the Dutch Post at Wakepo (Pomeroon) was attacked by the French and Spaniards, but was successfully defended by the garrison with the help of Amerindians until 1714 when the war ended.

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At the time of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714, the Dutch had established themselves as the masters of a great part of Guiana, from various positions on the coast as far as Barima, to the Pariacot Savannah beyond the Cuyuni River in the interior of the country, and they were already opening up the higher reaches of the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni from the junction of these three rivers. 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.

On the other hand, up to this period, there had not been any development whatever of the Spanish occupation to the south of the Orinoco.

In 1690, a despatch by Don Sebastian de Rotela, Governor of Trinidad, described the state of the so-called City of Santo Thome at that date. He went to Santo Thome for the purpose of putting into force a decree bestowing liberty upon Amerindian slaves, and he reported that the found thirty-two such slaves "among the seven citizens, who, with some soldiers of the castle, form its population, and the free Indians of the villages of San Pedro de Mariguaca and Santa Maria Magdaleno de Caucao, which are in the said territory of Guayana".

The state of the province in 1720 was described in the Report of Don Jose Diguga, the Spanish Governor of Cumana, dated the 15 December 1763, in the following words:

In the year 1720, the Province of Guayana was a dependency of the Government of Trinidad, and with no other settlement than the fortress or town of Santo Thome, situated on the banks of the River Usupamo, and containing only twenty or twenty-five houses, occupied by as may inhabitants, deprived of all human assistance, and with no means whatever to clear the dense forests which surrounded the place, and which caused its climate to be unbearable, to which also the extreme scarcity of provisions contributed. For no other food could be obtained than the various fishes of the river, all unwholesome and apt to produce fevers, some game, and the produce of the small farms they were able to make near the town, from which they did not go far, on account of the known risk of being attacked by the Caribs, who occupied and overran the country.

A few years later, about 1724, some Capuchin Fathers, aided by the gift of 100 head of cattle, founded a Mission, and soon other Missions began to be established in the district in the immediate vicinity of Santo Thome.


After the Treaty of Utrecht, the Governor's residence in Essequibo was removed in 1718 from Fort Kykoveral to a residence called "Het huis nabij" (the house nearby), situated at Cartabo on the point between the mouths of the Mazaruni and the Cuyuni. In 1722, the officials of the Company were making explorations in order to ascertain the nature of the soil in the interior with a view towards the establishment of plantations, and 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 date, 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 resolved 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, to the effect that a vessel from Suriname had been seized by the Spaniards while fishing in the Orinoco and that there was a great possibility of war, led the Dutch to reinforce that Post, to place beacons in order to give the alarm when necessary, and to issue orders to the Postholder to avoid giving the Spaniards any cause for annoyance, but, if attacked by them, to resist to the utmost.

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 to the utmost extent that the number of slaves would permit.


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. Later in the same year, a report reached the Spanish island of Trinidad that the Swedes were founding a settlement in the neighbouring island of Tobago. Alarmed at this report, the Spaniards sent to inquire into the facts, and not being satisfied with the results of their inquiries, dispatched an officer up the Orinoco to Guayana to obtain information. On his return, he reported that he had learned from the Caribs at Barima that a number of white men had been seeking to establish themselves in that area, and that a Carib chief, with a large force, was established in the creek. These Caribs had received orders from the Dutch "not to show the Swedes a good place for their settlement, as they themselves would give them all they required".

The King of Spain, on receiving this report, directed the Governors of Caracas and Margarita to take whatever steps they might consider necessary, but the Governor of Orinoco had, apparently before this order was received, written to the Governor of Essequibo suggesting that the Dutch Governor should not tolerate the Swedes in their neighbourhood. The Governor of Essequibo reported to the West India Company that, should the Swedes try to establish themselves between the Orinoco and the colony of Essequibo on the territory of the Company, he would be obliged to try to prevent it.

Don Carlos Sucre, who had been appointed Governor of Orinoco in 1726, arrived in that Spanish colony in 1732 with special instructions to fortify Faxardo, an island in the Orinoco River. He attempted to close the passage of the Orinoco but without success, and two vessels which he had intended to keep permanently there were unable to remain in the river owing to desertion and want of provisions.


About 1738, a settlement of a novel kind was established on an island in the Cuyuni. A number of creole slaves who had revolted and sought refuge on that island, reached a compromise with the Government (of Essequibo) by which it was arranged that they should continue to occupy the island under the Government, and performing an amount of labour upon the plantations regulated by the terms of the agreement. The existence of this community was frequently referred to in Dutch reports from Essequibo and the inhabitants were known as the Company's "half-free creoles".

Between the years 1740 and 1744, an attempt was made by the Directors to establish a mining industry in the colony. A mining engineer by the name of Hildebrandt was engaged and sent out from Europe. At the end of 1740 he began in the Mazaruni district and examined the strata between that river and the Essequibo. Afterwards, he prospected in the Cuyuni district and opened shafts both there and in the Mazaruni district. In 1741 he undertook a more extended journey up the Cuyuni. He passed above "all the difficult falls" in that river and carefully examined the range called the Blauwenberg where, in 1742, he opened a copper mine which appeared to have been at a place about three days' journey up that river. The experiment, however, had no practical results from a commercial point of view.


In 1743, the Dutch seat of Government was removed from Cartabo to Flag Island (Fort Island) in the Essequibo River. A new fort and Government buildings were built there and called Zeelandia (not of course to be confused with Nova Zeelandia at Pomeroon from 1657 to 1666).

About this time there was a tendency to establish new plantations along the shores of the lower Essequibo River where the soil was more fertile than further up the three rivers. At the same time, the right to the upper lands was retained by the Dutch who sent old and decrepit slaves there. There were also frequent grants of land to planters in the Mazaruni and Cuyuni districts.

Lower down, upon the estuary of the Essequibo, on both the east and west sides, the area of plantation expanded very rapidly. In 1753, the Director-General reported that he foresaw that in a short time all the land would be granted and that there would be none remaining.

In 1746, Ignatius Courthial applied to the Court of Policy for permission to cut a road through the forest in Cuyuni. This permission was granted and it was stated by Courthial in a petition in the year 1748 that he had made the "road" from the Orinoco to the old fort (apparently Kykoveral), and from there to Berbice.

In 1751, in the course of the controversy between the Zeeland shareholders and the general body of the Dutch West India Company as to the administration of the Essequibo colony, the former clearly announced their intention to remain in possession of Essequibo, with all its subject rivers, from the Berbice River to as far as the Orinoco River.


In the Dutch controlled areas there were peaceful exploration and trade, and peaceful development of coffee, cocoa and indigo plantations. By the admission of the Spanish around 1740, the Dutch were established in the Province of Guiana and were occupying with their "cities and mills" the territory from the Orinoco to Suriname. The Spanish suspected that the Dutch design was to make themselves masters of the mouth of the Orinoco and of the Amerindians who lived on the river, to establish plantations on that river, and to penetrate wherever they pleased.

On the other hand, the condition of the Spaniards of Guayana was one of severe struggle. The Caribs were continually burning and destroying the Missions. The Commander was in want of vessels and of men. The troops were deserting, and there was difficulty in 1737 to get even 150 men together in the town of Angostura. The forts were short of men and there was lack of gunpowder. The Spaniards could only act on the defensive against the Caribs who were steadfast allies of the Dutch owning to the advantages which they got from trading with them. It was from the Dutch that the Caribs were supplied with arms and ammunition.

In 1742, the British attacked and burned Santo Thome and two villages of the Missions. The Prefect of the Missions wrote a letter, which was presented to the Spanish Government, in which he set forth the miserable condition in which the English invasion had left the province; and in a Report of 1747 to the Spanish Government, the defenceless condition of the province was described:

The town of Santo Thome de la Guayana, the only settlement of Spaniards on the River Orinoco, is composed of sixty inhabitants, Negroes, mulattoes, and half-breeds, and a few whites. All are idlers, and their wives indolent creatures, content with bad cabins for houses, with the fishing and spirits which they make from the sugar cane which is left over from their gluttony.

The effective garrison, according to the same Report, was not more than fifty men, exclusive of "five, eight, or twelve more from the Missions". The capture of the place in 1742 had been achieved by an "Irishman with sixty sailors in a brig" who "burned the city and two villages of the Missions, being irritated at not having found anything to plunder".


It is important at this point to give an outline of the facts relating to the Missions which were established on the right bank of the Orinoco River by the Capuchin Fathers at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The first Mission founded in this territory was La Purisima Concepcion del Caroni, more commonly known as Suay, in 1724. In 1734, the missionaries were provided with an escort and supplies as could be obtained in order to enable them to continue their march towards the interior of the country. The result of this measure was that the Fathers were able, as they went further in their exploration, to establish on fertile land the two new Missions of San Francisco de Altagracia and La Divina Pastora, and support the other four Missions which they has already founded in the immediate neighbourhood of the Orinoco River on lands rather sandy and of little fertility.

Also in 1734, there was made and confirmed by Don Sucre, on behalf of the King of Spain, an agreement by which the Jesuits, Franciscans and Capuchins delimited the spheres within which they would respectively develop their Missions. To the Capuchins was assigned all the district "from Angostura to the Grand Mouth of the Orinoco". At this time the most easterly Mission was probably Altagracia, "ten leagues from the fortress of Santo Thome".

The Mission of San Miguel del Palmar was founded about 1746, and at the same time a rumour reached the Dutch as to the progress of the Spanish Missions. It was reported to the Commandeur "from up the Cuyuni" that the Spaniards had established a Mission up the same river and had set up a fort here. However, it was later discovered that this report through the Caribs as to the proximity of the new Spanish establishment had been greatly exaggerated.

In 1747, there was a rumour of circumstantial nature in the Dutch colony that the Spaniards had discovered the sources of the Cuyuni and the Mazaruni and intended to settle and fortify themselves there. The Commandeur had his information from the Burgher Captain, Frederik Persik, a prominent inhabitant of the Dutch colony, who had just come from the Orinoco. He reported that he had seen the Fathers and officers who had made the journey, and that they had brought back with them Amerindians, "fairly white, and clothed with cotton stuff they themselves had prepared". However, these fair-skinned and semi-civilized Amerindians, a dream of Raleigh and his contemporaries, had no existence in fact, and the rumours were later dismissed as false.

In 1748, the Mission of Nuestra Senora del Monserratti del Miamo was founded near the Miamo River, a tributary of the Yuruari River. This slightly advanced the frontier of the Missions, which were quite distant from the Cuyuni. In the belief of the Commandeur at Essequibo, however, they had practically not only reached that river, but reached it at a point very low down its course. In a map dated 9 August 1748, and signed by Storm Van Gravesande, the Commandeur at this period, a Spanish Mission was shown a short distance above the mouth of a creek, a tributary on the left bank of the Cuyuni. The site of an intended Mission at the mouth of the same creek was also indicated. Under this impression as to the activities of the Spaniards, the Commandeur wrote to the Governor of Cumana that if he persisted in the design of founding a Mission in the Cuyuni River, the Dutch would be obliged to oppose it effectually. The Spanish Governor was reported to have replied "that such was without his knowledge (not the founding of the new Mission, but the site), and that it should not be progressed with, as in reality nothing had been done".

Shortly after this, Gravesande returned to the Netherlands on leave, and on the 22 June 1750, was received by the Directors of the Zeeland Chamber, on which occasion he handed them a map said to have been copied from a map drawn up by the Spaniards. This map showed Missions in the positions which had been indicated upon the map of 1748, the name of the creek being given as Meejou. (To this day, it is difficult to say exactly what creek was referred to by this name). At any rate, it was generally believed that there were no such Missions as those represented on these maps, nor was Gravesande's alarm in this respect generally shared in the colony. Adrian Spoors, who acted as Commandeur during Gravesande's absence, wrote on the 8 September 1750 to the West India Company as follows:

The Commandeur, at his departure, gave me to understand that there was information that the Spaniards had begun to construct a new Mission close by here, and that it was necessary to pay attention thereto. I have carefully informed myself about it through the colonist, Frederik Persik, who in person had gone thither, and had the greatest intercourse with the Spaniards. He has assured me that the last Mission which is being constructed in a certain river called Imatacka, situated far off in Oronoque, and which in my opinion, is certainly far outside the concern of this colony. And concerning those which are said to have been constructed up in the River Cuyuni, I am instructed that they are very much nearer to the side of the Spanish than to our territory...

No doubt, about this time some advance, though to a large extent temporarily only, had been made by the Missions. Father Fidel de Santo, in a report dated 26 February 1761, stated that in 1750 the Missions of Cunuri, Tupuquen and Curumo were lost after the Amerindians rebelled.

Cunuri was situated on the Cunuri River at or a little above its junction with the Yuruari. Tupuquen which was re-established in 1770, was upon the Yuruari, rather lower down. Curumo was high up on the stream of that name.


In 1753, the Governments of Spain and Portugal, in pursuance of the Treaty of Limits in 1750, took steps to delimit their frontiers in South America. The fact that, at that time, the Dutch in Guiana were engaged in repressing with some difficulty a revolt of their African slaves appeared to have suggested to the two countries that they should attempt to oust the Dutch altogether from the colonies that they had founded. Two objects were aimed at: first, to partition the territory between Spain and Portugal; and secondly, to take possession of supposed mines. They, therefore, agreed that settlements should be formed in the direction of the Dutch colonies, both by Spain and Portugal, with a view of surrounding those colonies with a ring of villages and, in this manner, preventing their extension, while by giving covert assistance to the revolted African slaves, it was hoped that they would compel the Dutch to abandon Guiana, either by force or by reason of the unhealthiness of the coast area to which they would be confined.

With a view of carrying out this project, secret instructions were given to the Boundary Commissioners to ascertain on arrival at Cumana the extent, number, and population of the Dutch colonies, and how it would be possible to hem them in. In pursuance of this project, the Portuguese were to advance from the line of the Orinoco. The object in view was not the undertaking of an open expedition against the Dutch, but the promotion of secret acts of hostility or outrage which might have the effect of ousting the Dutch from some of their possessions, with a view of their ultimately falling either to Spain or Portugal. In the secret instructions to Jose Inturriaga, who represented the Spanish Government, it was suggested that support should be given to the rebellious African slaves and, in addition, it was proposed to send upon Dutch territory Spaniards who would direct and lead the slaves in their raids, but would appear to be outlaws from the Spanish nation. In this way, Spain would avoid the risk of complaints or accusations by the Dutch. There was at this time a secret understanding that the raiders should be indemnified and rewarded by the Spaniards.

The Boundary Commissioners were on their way to Guiana by the 15 February 1754, and by September of that year the Dutch Governor of Essequibo had received information which led him to suspect the object of the expedition. He asked for instruction as to his conduct in view of Spanish aggression, and complained of the inadequacy of the resources at his disposal for defending the Moruka Post, which he feared would bear the brunt of the attack, though he promised with the assistance of the Caribs of Barima, who were in alliance with the Dutch, to do all he could to maintain his position.

Later, in the month of October, the Governor of Essequibo again reported that the intention of the Spaniards to attack the Dutch colonies was undoubted; that he had caused all inland waters and passages to be closed; that he had warned his Carib allies to keep themselves ready and armed; that the was preparing, if attacked, to send a party up the Cuyuni in order to place themselves at the head of the Caribs there, with a view to an attack on Guayana. 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 localities into which it was supposed that they were about to penetrate. Their only information was probably derived from Nicolas Collaert, a Dutch deserter, who had drawn up for the Spaniards a map of the Cuyuni River, ostensibly for the purposes of the Boundary Commission between Spain and Portugal.

The object of the secret negotiations between Spain and Portugal was not attained. The Spanish expedition under Inturriaga failed for want of provisions, among other causes, and in February 1755, the Governor (Commandeur) of Essequibo was of the opinion that the danger of the attack had almost disappeared. He reported, however, that the Yuruari which flowed into the Cuyuni, and which was, in his opinion, indisputably within Dutch territory, had been taken possession of by the Spaniards, who had thus been brought within a range, as he thought, of not more than twelve hours' journey from the Post in the upper Cuyuni recently founded by the Dutch. The Amerindian chief had, as usual, come in to offer help against the Spaniards.

With regards to the Commission, Don Eugenio Alvarado was sent to report upon the Province of Guayana, and in 1755 transmitted a series of reports made by him to Inturriaga. The reports were written at the Hato, or cattle farm, of Divina Pastora, and were the results of a personal survey by Alvarado so far as "the banks of the Cunuri, Miamo, and the other rivers which flow into the Yuruari" were concerned. He stated that he would have penetrated as far as the Cuyuni if "political reasons" had not prevented it. He described this river as "open to all tribes of wild Indians who inhabit the forests of the southern bank which serves as a defence for the colony of Essequibo"; and the trails of the forest as "not safe at all, but only to those who have a good understanding with the Dutch and Caribs".


Another rumour reached the Dutch in Essequibo in 1756. On the 28 May of that year, the Dutch Postholder at Arinda, high up the Essequibo River, wrote to the Director-General (Governor) of Essequibo reporting rumours that some white men, whom the Postholder believed to be Spaniards, had made themselves masters of the entire savannah (the Rupununi area) above Arinda, and also that they had "three established places, one on the Wenamu, a branch of the Cuyuni; another above Masseroeny, in Queribura, and the third above Siparoeny". He added that "these places are all terribly strong". The Director-General, Gravesande, considered that this report, if it could be relied upon, agreed very well with the state of things represented on the map which he had handed to the Directors in the Netherlands. This report was confirmed by the statement of a colonist, who came down from the Mazaruni, and who alleged that between two and three days' journey above his plantation, there were living some whites "who have there a great house and more than two hundred Indians with them, whom they made believe a lot of things, and are able to keep under absolute command".

Of Spanish settlements in any of these localities no trace was ever found. Mission stations never existed there; their establishment would have been impossible, having regard to the character of the locality, and in view of the state of things described by Alvarado as then existing "in the forests of the southern bank", and in Spanish reports up to the year 1770 which stated that the frontier Missions had not advanced beyond the upper part of the Yuruari. At least three other Missions were established in this region between 1770 and 1788. To protect the Missions in the area it was frequently recommended that a fort should be established, at first at the mouth of the Uruan, and subsequently at that of the Curumo. But neither of these recommendations was ever carried out, and the area of effective occupation was never, during the remainder of the existence of the Missions, carried further in the direction of the Dutch colonies.


At this point it is necessary to return to the history of the Dutch settlements. In 1755, the new Post on the Cuyuni, projected since 1746, was definitely established somewhere between the mouth of the Curumo and that of the Acarabisi.

In 1757, the Commandant of Orinoco complained to the Dutch authorities of the evil conduct in Barima of traders from Essequibo and Suriname. The Director-General, Gravesande, immediately implemented measures with the Suriname Government to deal with this evil.

In 1758, according to a letter from Fray Benito de la Garriga, Prefect of the Spanish Missions, Dutch traders were resident on the Tucupo (a branch of the Cuyuni), Capi and Paraman (Barama). In 1766 and 1768, Dutchmen were already settled in Barima. 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.

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In 1758, the Spaniards attacked the Dutch on the Cuyuni and two Dutchmen with their wives and an African slave were carried off as prisoners. (Fray Benito de la Garriga had, on the 9 June 1758, informed the Spanish Commandant by letter of the fact that three Dutchmen, with African slaves and a large number of Caribs, were building houses and clearing forest for the establishment of a settlement in Cuyuni and for the trafficking in slaves. In order to stop this traffic, instructions were given by the Commandant that a secret expedition should proceed to Cuyuni).

The expedition started from the village of Yuruari for the purpose of apprehending a Dutchman named Jacobs living on the island of Curumacuru on the Cuyuni River. The commander of the expedition, however, was unable to find any such island, but he ultimately discovered and took as prisoners the two Dutchmen with their wives and the African slave who were living at a place called Cuiba; and these captives he took back with him to Guayana. The position of Cuiba was probably high up the Cuyuni, while the position of the island of Curumacuru was thought to be in the Uruan River and in the vicinity of the most advanced of the Spanish Missions. The Spanish expedition returned to the settlement of Yuruari travelling as rapidly as possible.

The circumstances surrounding this Spanish raid contradicted any presumption that the Spanish were acting in assertion of any right. No objection to the settlement had ever been communicated to the Governor of Essequibo. The expedition was undertaken in secrecy and followed by a hurried retreat; it was an invasion of territory not under the control of the Spaniards. The assent of the Acting Commandant in Guayana to the expedition was procured by representations made by Fray Benito de la Garriga that the object of the attack was a settlement of the Caribs who had murdered the priests at the Missions in 1750, and that these Caribs were now living at the mouth of the Curumo with some Dutchmen who had come there for the purpose of slave trading in the Mission district. It was on this ground that the step was afterwards justified by the Colonial Government to the Home Government in Madrid. The raid was an act of aggression which resulted in no addition to the area of Spanish occupation or control.

The Spanish never occupied the Cuyuni. It was expected by the Spaniards that the Dutch would at once reoccupy the Post. In fact, they did formally reoccupy the Cuyuni with a Post in 1766. They would have occupied it sooner had it not been that all their available energies were temporarily diverted to assisting in the suppression of the slave rebellion in Berbice in 1763. While there was no Post, provisional arrangements were made for watching the river.

The Director-General of Essequibo, Laurens Storm van Gravesande, in 1758 addressed to the Commandant at Guayana a letter of protest as to this raid. In this letter, the claim of the Dutch to the territory was assumed to be indisputable. The letter was answered by the Acting Governor of Cumana, Don Nicolas de Castro, who stated that the Cuyuni region was included in the dominion of the King of Spain; but when the papers were referred to the Legal Adviser of the Government of Cumana, he reported that the justification for the destruction of the Post, on the ground that it was established for the slave trade, was a matter for the Government at Madrid. Accordingly, when the Spanish authorities in Orinoco were again addressed in 1759 by the Government of Essequibo, putting forward a distinct claim to the Cuyuni River and enclosing a map to support that view, the letter was returned unopened, with a message from the Commandant that he was forbidden to correspond on the subject, and that it would be discussed between the States-General of the Dutch Netherlands and the Court of Spain.

The Director-General of Essequibo reported to the Dutch West India Company the response of the Governor of Orinoco and requested urgent attention to the case.


The Directors of the West India Company in 1759, thereupon, addressed a protest to the States-General which stated that they had been from time immemorial in undisturbed possession, not only of the Essequibo River, but also of all the branches and their tributaries; that considering the Cuyuni River as a domain of the State, they had built on its banks a Post, guarded by a Postholder, an outpost man, and two or three slaves; that the Spaniards, "100 strong", coming from the Orinoco at the end of August 1758, had attacked and burned this Post and taken away as prisoners "the Postholder, his assistant, and a creole man and woman with their children"; and that the Governor (Director-General) had requested reparation and had received an unsatisfactory reply. The protest concluded with a petition that representations might be made to the Court of Spain in order that reparation might be made for these hostilities, and that the Company might be reinstated in the quiet possession of the Post; and further, that a proper delimitation of frontiers might be laid down by authority.

The States-General formally adopted this protest and sent a copy to the Dutch Ambassador at the Spanish Court, instructing him to insist on prompt reparation.


In discussing the western boundary of the Dutch colony, it should be borne in mind that in the eighteenth century it was not unusual to describe as the Barima the river now called the Amakura, and that now called the Amakura the Barima.

In 1749, the Commandeur at Essequibo, Gravesande, stated that Barima was under his jurisdiction. In 1760, the Spaniards having seized some Dutch fishing vessels there, Gravesande, in reply to an inquiry by the Company, stated it as his view, based on local tradition and maps in his possession, that the colony extended to Barima. A register of the colony enclosed in a letter from the Director-General, dated 9 February 1762, stated the boundary as existing to the Amakura. Reports of the Secretary to the West India Company in 1761 and 1762 showed the Waini was treated as a Dutch river, and a Report of 1764 and a letter of 1768 showed that the colony of Essequibo included the Barima and Waini. In 1766, the Barima was treated as the boundary between Dutch and Spanish territory, with the west bank being treated as Spanish.

In 1766, Gravesande, the Governor of Essequibo, complained to the Spanish Governor of the behaviour of certain outlaws who were dwelling on the west of the Barima. The Spanish Governor replied that he had no means of reaching the spot indicated, and advised the Dutch Governor to let the evil-doers fight it out.

But while claiming as Dutch all the territory up to the right bank of the Barima, Gravesande appeared to have thought it inexpedient that the Dutch passes to traders should purport to include that river. In a copy of a letter, said to have been sent by him on the 18 August 1764 to the Governor of Suriname, the latter was requested not to name Barima in his passes, as that gave offence to the Spaniards. He added that the Spaniards maintained that the river was theirs, and expressed an opinion in their favour upon this point, which, in one view, might be said to be inconsistent with the claim of the Governor (Director-General) to the territory up to the right bank.

There was little doubt that at this time there were Dutch plantations in the Aruka, a tributary of the Barima, and at Koriabo higher up on the Barima. In 1768, the Spaniards, secretly and without previous complaint, made a raid upon Barima and destroyed a Dutch plantation, which was probably on the Aruka, but they did not themselves hold or occupy the district of the river.


In 1766, a Post in Cuyuni was re-established at a point lower down the river than that of the former Post. After trying a site on the banks of the river, the Postholder in 1769 moved the Post to an island between the two falls which he called Toenamoeto (at the rapid of Tonamo).

The re-establishment of the Cuyuni Post was followed by a series of rumours as to attempts upon it by the Spaniards, and though these rumours were without foundation, yet certain acts of aggression by the Spanish authorities at this time led the Dutch again to make a formal protest to the Court of Madrid in 1769.


The Dutch had for many years enjoyed the morocut fishery at the mouth of the Orinoco. It was much hindered by the Spaniards on the grounds that the vessels were not fishing but smuggling. The site and importance of this fishery was described by the Director-General in a letter on the 1 June 1768:

The principal fishery has always been at the mouth and between the islands of Orinoque, near the Warouws to which we send for salting maracott twice every year. This has never been prevented until recently, to the inexpressible injury of the Company's plantations and colony, because there being now a want of that fish, and the slaves being obliged to have their rations, salt cod has continually to be bought, which in one year runs pretty high, and sometimes bring me into difficulty with the payment.

Only this week I paid over 300 guilders to Captain Andrew; the twelve casks of meat which each plantation gets annually are of little use, and 1000 pounds of fish is soon gone...

In 1746, three canoes from Essequibo were captured by a Spanish vessel from Trinidad while fishing in the Orinoco. The Commandeur referred to this as the first opposition to that fishery, which he described as having been possessed by the colony from the beginning, and as constituting an all-important source of food supply for the slaves. He communicated with the Commandant of Orinoco, and on the 11 February 1748, was able to report to the Company that he had brought the matter so far with him that he believed no further disturbance would occur. 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. In 1749 one of the canoes was returned, while restitution of the other two was refused because they were found to contain mercantile goods and were thus condemned for smuggling.

In 1760, some fishing craft were again seized near Point Barima and were judicially condemned by the authorities of Santo Thome, the court finding, as a fact, that they were engaged in the slave trade.

In the following year, the Report of Don Jose Solano, Governor of Caracas, referred to the "tacit or even express consent which the Commandants of Guayana and Orinoco had sometimes given" the Dutch "to fish in the Boca de Navios and the Rivers Barima and Aguirre which run into it", and to the practice of the Dutch building 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, and upon complaint the stolen property was restored.


In 1769, some Capuchin missionaries came to the Moruka Post with a force of soldiers sufficient to have overcome it, in order to claim Amerindians who had fled from the Spanish possessions. Upon the protest of the Postholder, they gave him a certificate that they only came to claim their own Amerindians. It appeared afterwards, upon an inquiry by the Spanish Government held in consequence of the Dutch protest which followed (mentioned below) that they had only been directed by the Spanish Commandant to go as far as the mouths of the Orinoco. In reporting upon this matter to his Government, the Commandant drew attention to the circumstance that the authority given by him had been exceeded and, in proof of it, enclosed the passport which he had given to the master of the boat. In the same report, he stated that in the vast Province of Guiana, all the coast was occupied by foreigners, and there only remained to the Spaniards "the mouth of the Orinoco in one corner as an outlet to the sea". He stated 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.


In consequence of these proceedings, a strong protest referring in detail to all grievances of the Dutch colony was addressed by the States-General 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 an immediate inquiry by the Commandant of Guayana into the actions complained of in the protest was ordered by the King.

As regards the rumours of an attack upon the Post at Arinda, this was denied, and in the course of the inquiry, the deposition of four missionaries explained that the Arinda Post "which being situated as Gravesande states, towards the upper part of the River Essequibo, is inaccessible to us and our Indians because the Colony of Essequibo lies between the said upper parts and our villages so as to stop the way".

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 coast so far that the Director-General, in a letter to the Company on the 27 August of that year, described them "as beginning to get close 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 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.


The extent of Spanish occupation on the banks of the Orinoco near to Santo Thome must be noted. The state of that town itself from 1747 has already been referred to. In 1761, according to a Report of Don Jose Solano, dated the 15 December of that year, "the population of the city, including the garrison of the forts, was 450 persons of both sexes; its houses were of wood and clay covered with palms, and the church was of the same materials". In the Report of Don Jose Diguja, dated the 15 December 1763, Guayana was described as consisting of "73 houses, 90 families, 535 persons and 30 small plantations". He stated that 100 men could not come to the fortress without producing a famine. The interior was unknown except so far as the Capuchins had explored it, and that was only for a short distance. The whole province contained no more Spanish settlement than Santo Thome and the sixteen Missions.

In 1764, Santo Thome was removed to Angostura (the present Ciudad Bolivar) about 100 miles above the mouth of the Caroni, but the forts at the old site, from then on known as Vieja Guayana, were retained. As part of this scheme, the missionaries were ordered to remove the Mission of Suay to Angostura, and also to remove the four villages of Unata, Uyacoa, Tiparua and Piacoa, by which they had extended the Spanish occupation some miles below Vieja Guayana. The object in view was that an invader should find no supplies in the interior, and this policy was still being maintained when the Orinoco was visited by a British officer in 1802.

A report by Don Manuel Centurion, Commandant of Guayana, dated 11 November 1773, described the nature of the fortifications which in that year were remaining in the vicinity of the former capital. They consisted of a fort called the Castle of Santo Francis of Assissi with ten guns, situated on a rock on the south of the river, and a log fort on the hill of Padrasto within gun-shot of the Castle on the west, with nine guns. A tower on the west bank had also been started, but it had collapsed in the course of construction. There was a garrison in each fort of about thirty-three men of all ranks, and an armed launch was stationed at the foot of the forts. Centurion considered that these defences would be better situated at Faxardo, off the mouth of the Caroni near the Orinoco.


In 1781, the British captured the colony of Essequibo, along with the colonies of Demerara and Berbice, from the Dutch, and during the period of their occupation, surveyed the captured colony (of Essequibo) along the coast to a point beyond the Barima and inside the Great Mouth of the Orinoco. A map was drafted by the officer in charge of this expedition and published in London in 1783. A note on this map showed the western boundary of the colony as the Barima which was shown in the position really occupied by the Amakura.


Towards the end of the eighteenth century there was much discussion among the Spanish officials as to the measures to be taken to protect their frontier between the Orinoco and the Cuyuni.

In 1787, Fray Thomas de Matraro wrote to Don Miguel Marmion, Governor of Guayana, that "where the Cuyuni and the Yuruan join, there is a convenient site to build a strong house or fort to stop the passage of the Indians so that they might not go to Essequibo, and to prevent the entry of the Dutch to these Missions and Savannahs".


In a Report dated the 10 July 1788, Marmion, after setting forth "the destitute, miserable and backward state of the province", outlined a scheme for the further settlement of the lands upon the frontier. The south bank of the Orinoco from the point of the Barima, about 60 miles inland to the Curucima Creek, being low lying and swampy, he considered should be disregarded as useless. His scheme was thus described:

It has been stated that the south coast of the Orinoco from the point of Barima, 20 leagues more or less inland, up to the creek of Curucima, is low lying and swampy land and, consequently, reckoning all this tract as useless, very few patches of fertile land being found therein, and hardly any savannahs and pastures, it is disregarded; so taking as chief base the said creek of Curucima, or the point of the chain and ridge in the great arm of the Imataka, an imaginary line will be drawn running to the south-south-east following the slopes of the ridge of the same name which is crossed by the Rivers Aguire, Arature and Amacuro, and others, in the distance of 20 leagues, direct to the Cuyuni; from there it will run on to the Masaruni and Essequibo, parallel to the sources of the Berbis and Surinama; this is the directing line of the course which the new Settlements and foundations proposed must follow.

In this Report, it was pointed out that the Dutch traversed the Cuyuni in canoes and thus carried on their traffic in slaves and in other merchandise and products of the country, and that there was no obstacle to prevent them coming in and going out every time they wished to inspect the Spanish possessions. Marmion urged that the suitability for settlement of the savannahs which he imagined to exist on and beyond the upper Cuyuni was "a reason for proceeding without delay to the occupation of these districts". It was also, he stated, "a reason for not giving the Dutch — who have already too far penetrated on the Cuyuni — an opportunity, by continually extending their colony, or taking possession of those more advanced districts and villages, and of rendering it necessary for us to oppose them with forces which would be required for the defence of the other approaches of the Orinoco".

Nevertheless, he recognized that, however desirable, the settlement of the frontier could not "begin from the centre nearest to the boundaries of the foreign possessions", (meaning obviously Dutch possessions on the Cuyuni), owing to the expense entailed, "by the difficulty of transporting cattle, provisions and other necessaries to such a distance, and by the difficulty in finding colonists who will be willing to settle in lands new, remote and devoid of communication". He therefore, recommended a scheme of settlement to commence at Curucima and end with a town of Spaniards "on the banks of the Cuyuni at its point of union with the Supamo (the Uruan)". Marmion explained that when this proposed extension of settlement was achieved, the result would be a barrier of great security against "the incursions and prejudicial traffic of the Dutch", and the country would be made passable by open roads.

Marmion, no doubt, treated the junction of the Uruan and the Cuyuni as the limit of the Spanish territory in that direction, and considered that by holding the mouth of the Uruan, the Spaniards would secure not only all the territory which they then held but all they could hope to settle.

About the same time, in view of the establishment of a new cattle farm at Tumeremo, in a position which was considered to be exposed to the raids of the Dutch, Marmion sent Don Antonio Lopez de la Puente to explore the Cuyuni and report whether any other site was more advantageous for a fort than the mouth of the Uruan. According to Puente who reported back in February 1789, the lower course of the Curumo was unknown to the Spaniards.

Marmion's objective was to select for fortification the most advantageous point for covering the Spanish possessions and preventing contraband slave trade with those of the Dutch. He finally decided on the mouth of the Curumo and urged it throughout 1789 and 1790, both on the Captain-General at Caracas and on the Government in Madrid. He laid stress on the proximity of the Dutch possessions, the free access to the Spanish territory afforded by the Cuyuni, and the urgent necessity of an "advanced guard" on the Curumo. He was fortified in this opinion by a further report by Puente, dated the 28 May 1790, in which the fortification of this site was recommended "in order to insure the rear and frontier of these Missions against the Dutch".

On the 29 August 1790, the Captain-General of Caracas ordered the establishment of this fort describing it as required "to protect the district and Missions which border on the Dutch Colony of Essequibo". In 1791, the project was approved by the King of Spain but the scheme was never carried out.


In 1802, a British officer, Major Mc Creagh, went up the Orinoco River and in the record of his observations, he stated that he found a few pilots upon an island called Pagayos, some miles above Barima, a Spanish officer with six Amerindian families under him at Sacopana, 120 miles further up, and a battery at Barancas, another 70 miles further up. These, with the exception of a station for gunboats near the fort of Barancas, were the only signs of Spanish occupation which he found below Vieja Guayana.

Up to this time, Spanish control of the district to the east and south of the Orinoco was literally confined to the sites of their actual settlements and Missions. Very little possession of outlying territory was taken, and there was no attempt to develop the resources of the country by the opening of mines, the felling of timber, or by fishing and hunting. Such enterprises did not fall within the scheme of the Missions, and the relations of the missionaries with the Amerindians outside their Missions in any case would have rendered them impossible.

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In April 1796, the Dutch colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice capitulated to British forces. (The colonies had in 1781 been seized by the British from whom they were later in the same year taken by the French who subsequently abandoned them in 1784. The Dutch resumed possession until the invasion by the British in 1796).


Early in 1797 the Spaniards received information that the British had apportioned all the lands between Essequibo and Barima and had planted stakes from point to point with the names of the grantees attached on notices. Later in the same year, an attack was made by the Spaniards upon the British Post on the Moruka River, in which the Spaniards were completely repulsed by the British forces with the assistance of the colonists. No further attempt was made by the Spanish forces upon any part of the British colony.

In 1801, the British Commandant was ordered to report on the extent of the colony (of Essequibo). His report was illustrated by a chart which showed the boundary commencing at Barima, and included the territories claimed by the Dutch in their protests to the Spanish Government in 1759 and 1769.

On the 3 December 1802, by the Treaty of Amiens, the colonies were restored to the Dutch whose sovereignty was proclaimed on the 20 December.

In the following year war broke out again. The colonies of Essequibo and Demerara were retaken by the British on the 19 December 1803 and that of Berbice five days later. (From that time they remained under the British Crown as a united colony of British Guiana, until they became the independent state of Guyana in 1966).

In 1803, an official was sent to Orinoco by the British authorities in the colony of Essequibo requesting that the Spanish Government should deliver runaway slaves taking refuge in the Spanish territory. An arrangement with this object had been made with the Dutch by the Cartel of Aranjuez in 1791, but the Spanish Governor refused to be bound by it now that the Dutch possessions were in the hands of the British. He suggested that, in order to prevent desertion, two small British vessels should cruise off the Moruka Post and the Waini River.


From the first days of their final occupation of the colonies, the British adopted and extended the Dutch system of administration by Postholders, and also established a practically new office, that of Protector of the Indians first mentioned in 1803, although the title was known under the Dutch administration. In 1808, two Protectors of the Indians were appointed for the colony of Essequibo, which was divided into two districts for the purpose - one included the Essequibo and dependent districts of the west coast of the colony from the Supenaam River "up to the Spanish boundary", and the other comprising the rest of the Essequibo River and the rivers and creeks flowing into it.

Immediate attention was given to improving the Post at Moruka. In 1799 it was found that 100 slaves were not sufficient to perform the work which was undertaken, and 20 more were ordered to be purchased. In 1803 a military officer was appointed Postholder and it was intended to station a detachment there.

In 1804 the Postholders were stationed in the upper Essequibo to the south, in Moruka to the west, and in Mora (Mahaicony), a river in Demerara, in the east. In 1805 a Post existed in the Mazaruni.


In 1810, the Chief of the Caribs from the remote regions of the colony of Essequibo went to Georgetown, by then the capital of the united colonies of Essequibo and Demerara, and entered into a specific arrangement with the British Government, by which he pledged himself not to make war on other Amerindians in the backlands, to behave peaceably to all white men and others who lived under their protection, and to seek redress from the Governor if molested by them. This visit led to the mission of Dr. Hancock in 1811 12 up the Essequibo and into the interior to inquire into the position and strength of the Carib tribes, and to generally report on that part of the colony.


In August 1814, at the end of the war, a Convention was signed between Great Britain and the Netherlands by which the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were finally ceded to the British who had been in possession of them since 1803. No question of the boundary was raised by Spain although it had been reported to the Spanish Government that the British had apportioned the lands taken from the Dutch as far as the Orinoco.

From the commencement of British rule, the progress of the plantations in the Pomeroon became very marked. In the years 1808 1810, the proprietors living on the surveyed lots along the course of the river, petitioned for the construction of a road to connect them directly with the Essequibo, and pointed out that their contributions by way of taxes to the colonial funds justified larger expenditure on that part of the colony.

By 1816 the Government doctor was practising in the Pomeroon district. In 1834 a grant of land 30 miles up the Moruka was made to the Sheriff of Essequibo, the Protector of the Indians and the Postholder, as trustees, for the purpose of establishing a Mission for a community of Spanish Arawaks who had taken refuge there about 1822 in consequence of the civil war in Venezuela. This Mission later became known as Santa Rosa. In 1840, another grant of land in the same place was made to the Roman Catholic Bishop for the same purpose. There was also a Protestant Mission in the Pomeroon established in 1840, and another in the Moruka lower down than that of Santa Rosa.

Upon the Essequibo, the Mazaruni and the Cuyuni, plantation was not extended at this period because the soil above the estuary was not sufficiently fertile.

In 1831 a Mission was established at Bartica Point, at the confluence of the Essequibo and the Mazaruni, and in 1839 another was established at Urua in the Rupununi. During 1835 and 1837, the German born Robert Schomburgk, for the Royal Geographical Society, thoroughly explored the Essequibo, discovering its sources in 1837. In 1841 a penal settlement was established on the left bank of the mouth of the Mazaruni, on the site of which the Post of Mazaruni had occupied earlier in the century. By the following year, British troops had occupied Pirara on the Brazilian frontier.

In the year 1838, the office of Superintendent of Rivers and Creeks was substituted for that of Protector of the Indians. This officer made periodic circuits throughout his district and, in the course of these visits, civil and criminal jurisdiction was exercised as far as the western tributaries of the Barima.


In November 1840, Robert Hermann Schomburgk, who explored the Essequibo between 1835 and 1837, was appointed by the British Government to survey provisionally the boundaries of British Guiana, (the name that the three colonies became known as after they united under one Government in 1831), and as a result of his survey, diplomatic discussion of the boundary question arose between the Governments of Great Britain and Venezuela.

Schomburgk arrived in British Guiana early in 1841 and on the 19 April left Georgetown to commence the work of the survey on the north west of the colony. On this journey he first surveyed the mouth of the Waini and then proceeded to Kumaka on the Aruka, where the chief of the Warraus, who considered themselves under British protection, produced a labour staff for him. On the 13 May, he went to the mouth of the Barima and fixed a boundary mark there; shortly after, he fixed another at the mouth of the Amakura. No Venezuelans were settled nearer than Kuriapo, a station in the Orinoco at the mouth of the Carapo Channel.

Returning to this temporary headquarters at Kumaka, Schomburgk then crossed the Yarakita portage and descended the Amakura for a short distance, visiting the Arawak settlement at a place called Assekuru, where the chief, who used the Creole Dutch dialect, complained of the conduct of the Venezuelans in carrying off his people as slaves to Kuriapo and elsewhere. Schomburgk informed him that the British Government claimed the right bank of the Amakura as the boundary of British Guiana, and gave him for his protection a written protest in which the boundary was definitely claimed.

He surveyed the Amakura upstream for some distance. In returning, he engraved Queen Victoria's initials on a tree at the junction of the Yarakita with the Amakura and continued his route to the mouth of the latter river, and then to Kumaka. After a stay of some weeks there, he travelled up the Barima and its tributary, the Koriabo, as far as Manari, from where he went overland to the Barama. From here, he travelled through the forest to the Cuyuni. He then went down the Acarabisi, the right bank of which he recommended as the boundary, into the Cuyuni, and returned down that river the Essequibo and then to Georgetown. He then completed and transmitted to England two maps of the north western part of the colony, indicating the line which later became known as the Schomburgk Line, and which he recommended to the British Government as the result of his surveys.

On his next journey, starting on the 23 December 1841, he surveyed the Rupununi to Pirara, where he met the detachment of British troops by which that village was occupied. He subsequently laid down the south western frontier along the left bank of the Cotinga, the right bank of the Takutu, and then along the Akarai range, in which he had formerly discovered the sources of the Essequibo.

On a third journey which began on the 11 September 1842, Schomburgk completed his circuit of the western part of the colony by starting from Pirara and ascending the Cotinga to its sources near Mount Roraima. He then came down the Wenamu which he selected for reasons of convenience instead of traversing the whole of the upper waters of the Cuyuni. Entering the Cuyuni from the Wenamu, he descended the remainder of its course, and arrived at Georgetown early in 1843.

After a fourth journey, in which he traversed the Akarai Mountains dividing the basin of the Essequibo with that of the Amazon and reached the western branch of the Corentyne, he returned to England in 1844 and spent many months in finishing a large map showing the physical features of the surveyed area. On this map no boundary line was drawn.

In the course of his travels, Schomburgk found many traces of previous Dutch settlements. He observed that at the site of his camp at the mouth of the Barima there were evident proofs that the ground had been under cultivation, and the environs showed vestiges of trenches. He noted some cassava plants and shrubs of annatto which, he said, did not grow wild on ground affected by tides. Schomburgk also stated that Colonel Moody of the Royal Engineers, who was sent during the war at the beginning of the nineteenth century to report on the military situation of the Orinoco, had observed at the mouth of the Barima the remains of a former Post, which Schomburgk attributed to the Dutch.

The Amerindians also pointed out to Schomburgk a spot on the Herena River, a tributary on the left side of the Barima, where a white man had cultivated sugar and carried on a timber trade. The Amerindians referred to the place as "the last place of the white man". Traces of cultivation, and drainage of a kind which the Amerindians never adopted, were still to be found there.

Existing tradition and an examination of the ground revealed a number of other older settlements in the territory. Upon the Mora Passage, connecting the lower Waini and Barima, at about one third of its course from the Waini, there existed a place known locally as "the Dutchman", tradition asserting that there was a Dutch fort or settlement there.

Along the course of the Aruka, an important tributary of the lower Barima on the left bank, there were sites of five Dutch settlements. In each of them were to be found mango, cocoa, coffee and pear trees. Among these tress were some of very exceptional size, regarded by Schomburgk as being over 100 years old. It was never the custom of the Amerindians to cultivate these fruit trees.

Near to Koriabo, on the Barima, where there was now a British Guiana police station, there were five places where traces of drainage trenches were still visible.

The traces of cultivation remaining in the Aruka and Koriabo probably marked the sites of plantations, one of which was probably that destroyed by the Spanish secret expedition in 1768.

Near the confluence of the Barama and Waini there were two more sites, called Great Kanyeballi and Little Kanyeballi, where there were old fruit and coffee trees, which the Amerindians said were planted by the Dutch.

Further, the Amerindians in the area claimed that the Dutch had attempted to connect the Araow and Yarakita Rivers by means of a canal, in order to do away with the Yarakita portage. For this purpose African slaves were employed, but after they rebelled, the work was abandoned. Traces of the canal which they commenced to dig were still visible.


The history since the beginning of the nineteenth century of the territory occupied by the Spanish Missions must now be traced.

In 1810, the Province of Colombia declared itself independent from the Crown of Spain. In the course of the war which followed, the Missions were occupied by the patriot troops in 1817 and most of the missionaries were murdered.

At that time the Missions had not been extended beyond the limits which they had in 1788. A declaration made by Jose Felix Blanco, who was in charge of the Missions at the time of the murders, and who made a statement that Simon Bolivar, the leader of the patriotic forces, was not responsible for them, pointed out that it had been proposed to imprison the missionaries in the Missions of Tupuquen and Tumeremo which, he said, were "the last of the Eastern District"; and a Table, published in the official records of the State of Guayana, which purported to show the Missions existing in 1813 when a Decree was passed suppressing them, showed that no new Missions had been established since Tumeremo in 1788.

By a Decree of Congress at Angostura in 1820, the Missions were divided into five districts, but as organized religious communities they had practically seized to exist. Jose Felix Blanco, who had been appointed to take charge of them in July 1819, and who governed during the year 1820, stated afterwards that when he took charge of them "they were already wretched skeletons; those of the upper and lower Caroni did not exist, nor those of the south, except Puedpa, Ayma and Pastora as mere shadows. The desolation of those of the centre had reached to such a lamentable extremity that San Antonio, for example, which at my departure in November of 1817 consisted of 900 Indians, when I returned in July 1819 had only something under 100".

In 1830 the territory which included the old provinces of Cumana and Guayana separated from the United States of Colombia and formed the new Republic of Venezuela. (Initially, the entire territory comprising what is now the Colombia and Venezuela had declared its independence from Spain in 1810).

[Interestingly, at this same period, Simon Bolivar defined the boundary of Venezuela as the Orinoco River. In his address to the members of the Constituent Congress of Colombia on 20 January 1830 declared: "I am confident that your wisdom will reach the heights necessary to dominate courageously, the fashions of the minority and ignorance of the masses and to consult duly for enlightenment, the keen understanding of those judicious men whose respected opinions are a priceless aid in resolving problems of state-craft. You will moreover find valuable counsel in the very nature of our country which extends from the high peaks of the Andes to the torrid banks of the Orinoco."]


In the Barima District neither the Spanish nor the Republican Government had interfered in any way between the cessation of the war in 1813 and 1840. In that latter year, a Venezuelan gun boat came in the Barima River as far as the Mora Passage, which the Commander seemed to have claimed as the boundary. In 1841, upon hearing that Schomburgk had drawn the line at the Amakura, the Venezuelan Government addressed a protest to the British Government. Lord Aberdeen, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, consented that the posts which Schomburgk had set up at Barima and on the Amakura should be removed without prejudice to the British claim. No further action in this territory was then taken by Venezuela, whose nearest station remained, as it had been in Schomburgk's time, at Kuriapo on one of the mouths of the Orinoco.


The state to which the Mission territory had at this period been reduced was fully described by a Special Commissioner, Andres Level, in a Report to the Government of Venezuela on the 5 July 1847. He described the whole district as in a state of absolute decay, and said that the names given to him in his instructions as being of Missions represented, in fact, were places of which sites only existed, and even sites which had never been settled. The Report further stated:

There are no such Missions; that among those which might be called so, from being villages of Indians only, or of Indians and Spaniards mingled, in Barcelona alone can any visible progress be observed. . . In the thirty years which have passed since the freedom of Guayana which is a little more or less than half the time since the foundation of its capital, that province has disappeared ... and Piacoa, the head of what was the Canton of Lower Orinoco . . . has fifteen habitable huts...

The Report also called attention to the "eloquent and pitiful remains of the ancient Missions which one stumbles upon at every step in the Provinces of Barcelona, Cumana and Guayana".

The fact that the Amerindians had retreated to the mountains and, especially, that they had crossed the boundaries, Level considered fatal for the provinces and for the Venezuelan nationality. He asserted that the districts from Ciudad Bolivar upon both banks of the Orinoco were in a state of semi abandonment as far as Caicara, about two hundred miles further up.

About 1849 the first reports of the discovery of gold became current, and in 1850 the Government of Venezuela proposed to make regulations for the proper control of the gold district in the Canton of Upata, announcing the intention of stationing a detachment of soldiers at Tupuquen to preserve order. This proposal was the result of a rumour that the British intended to seize the whole of Venezuelan Guayana. This decision was, of course, repudiated by the British Charge d'Affaires in Venezuela, but at the same time it was distinctly pointed out that these declarations must not be understood as indicating in the slightest degree an intention on the part of the British Government to abandon any portion of the rights of Great Britain over the territory which was formerly held by the Dutch in Guiana, or as implying a cession of any rights which the British Government might afterwards feel entitled to urge.

The Venezuelans, however, in spite of this declaration, publicly encouraged projects which included the establishment of a fort at Barima. A strong protest against such action addressed to the Venezuelan Government by Lord Palmerston on behalf of Great Britain resulted on the 18 November 1850 in the so called "Agreement of 1850". The British Minister declared that, while on one hand the British Government had no intention of occupying or encroaching upon the disputed territory, it would not, on the other hand, view with indifference any aggression on that territory by Venezuela. On the 20 December 1850, a declaration was made by the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs which stated that Venezuela had no intention of occupying or encroaching upon any part of the territory since the dominion was in dispute, and that it would not view with indifference if Great Britain would act otherwise.


Seven years later, discoveries of gold were reported on the Yuruari. The Governor of British Guiana, Philip Wodehouse, reported that there was considerable excitement in the colony; and in reply to a request for instructions in case of prospecting taking place in territory distinctly claimed by Great Britain, was ordered to assert, if necessary, the British jurisdiction within the line claimed by the British Government.

In August of the same year (1857), two expeditions of inquiry left Georgetown for the gold fields. One commanded by Sir W. Holmes proceeded to the coast between the Pomeroon and the Orinoco and then by way of the Waini, Barama and the Cuyuni. The other under Dr. Shier proceeded westward to the Cuyuni River up to the gold fields on the Yuruari. The leaders of both expeditions had received instructions to assert the right of Great Britain to all territories within the boundaries delineated by Schomburgk.


There was hardly any further reference to the question of the boundary until it was raised by the act of the British Guiana Police in arresting on the Amakura in September 1874, Garrett, a man accused of murder who had escaped from Georgetown.

On Garrett's committal to trial, the Consul General of Venezuela in Trinidad protested against the arrest as having taken place in Venezuelan territory. This matter was referred for the instruction of the British Government which decided that the Arrangement of 1850 was never intended to preclude either Government from arresting criminals in the disputed territory, and that the trial ought to take place. The demand by the Venezuelan Government for his extradition as having been captured on Venezuelan territory was refused. Garrett was consequently tried, found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for life.


Matters remained in this state until 1881 when it was discovered that the Venezuelan Government had granted a concession of the whole disputed territory to a Venezuelan, General Pulgar. Nothing was done in pursuance of this concession. In 1883 and 1884, however, even while discussing the question with Great Britain through their Minister in London, the Venezuelan Government granted the whole of the territory between the Orinoco and the Essequibo to foreign concessionaires in two separate grants which covered the whole of the territory claimed by Great Britain.

The first of these two grants was to C.C. Fitzgerald who established the Manoa Company. This grant included part of Venezuela proper, the island at the mouth of the Orinoco, and the entire coast district between the Orinoco and the Pomeroon.

The second grant to Hubert Gordon covered the whole area between the Manoa Grant and the Essequibo River, with the exception of a strip on the west bank of the lower Essequibo.

The Venezuelan Government, at the same time, proposed to constitute the "Federal Territory of the Orinoco" which was to have as its capital a new town, to be founded and called Manoa, with a staff of officials.

The action of the Manoa Company's officials in crossing the Orinoco and assuming the right to dispose of land on the Amakura and Barima made it necessary for the British Government to take immediate action to protect its rights. Mc Turk, the acting magistrate of the Pomeroon District, was sent to the Amakura to report on the situation. The Government of Venezuela, at the same time, was informed that unless it prevented its officials from asserting claims to, or interfering with, any territory claimed by Great Britain, the Governor of British Guiana would be directed to prevent the encroachment of the Manoa Company and to maintain order by the use of the Police.

As reports reached the British Guiana Government that the notices posted at the mouth of the Amakura by Mc Turk were removed by Venezuelan officials, he was again sent to that river on a mission of inquiry. He met a representative of Venezuela acting under orders of the Manoa Company, and warned him that any notices issued by the Venezuelans to the inhabitants of those districts were of no force. He brought back word that the agents of the Manoa Company were maltreating the Amerindians near the Amakura, within the boundary claimed by Great Britain, and that in particular, one Robert Wells, said to be a British subject who had taken service under the Company, was guilty of outrages against the natives.

A magistrate and a sufficient force of policemen were at once sent to inquire into the charges against Wells and deal with the case as they would have done with any similar outrages in the Pomeroon District. Wells was accordingly arrested, tried and condemned to thirty days' imprisonment with a fine of 25 dollars. After the trial, the Governor, Sir Henry Irving, announced that he would send the magistrate to visit the Amakura district at intervals, believing that this would be enough to meet the needs of protecting the inhabitants.


On the 21 October 1886, the British Government arrived at the conclusion that it would not allow its rights in the territory, which it had always claimed as belonging to Great Britain, to remain any longer in suspense, and proclaimed the Schomburgk Line as the provisional boundary of British Guiana and Venezuela.

Shortly after this proclamation, a Commission of Venezuelan officials was dispatched to the Barima and the Amakura to investigate the situation. On the appearance of the Venezuelan vessel carrying the Commissioners in the waters of the disputed territory, the Governor of British Guiana, Sir Henry Irving, sent a magistrate with a force of Police to the Amakura, Barima and Waini Rivers.

The special magistrate for the Pomeroon District, Im Thurn, with a small force of policemen in a police schooner, left Georgetown on the 14 January 1887. He proceeded to Point Barima and found that the Venezuelans had cut and stacked firewood at various places. He visited all the places which had been visited by the Venezuelan Commission and posted up in each the British proclamation of 1886. He reported that the Venezuelans had committed no offence against life and property, but that they announced their intention of returning to take over the district. Im Thurn further made arrangements for the erection of police stations on the Amakura and at Morawhanna, with other preparations for effectively occupying the district.


In May 1887, the Governor, Sir Henry Irving, sent to Great Britain a report by Im Thurn, made a few months previously, on the extent to which the Barima District had been settled during some years past by British subjects. His report stated that since 1884 the number of settlers in the district and the extent of their cultivation had increased in a striking degree; that almost the whole of the grants of these cultivators were on the British side of the Amakura River; that they varied from 30 to 100 acres in extent; that the settlers were chiefly from the Pomeroon; one man had been there nineteen years, most were recent arrivals, but the number of settlers were constantly increasing, and trading ships were constantly running to Georgetown. He urged the necessity of jurisdiction being exercised by officers resident in the district.

Subsequently, owing to persistent rumours of concessions by Venezuela in the disputed territory beyond the Schomburgk Line, the Lieutenant Governor of British Guiana on the 31 December 1887 published a proclamation reserving the rights of the British Guiana Government to all territory claimed by the colony which might in any way be touched by the alleged concessions. Part of the Proclamation stated:

Whereas it has come to the knowledge of the Government of British Guiana that certain concessions had been given by the President and by and with the sanction of the Government of the United States of Venezuela, purporting to give and grant certain rights and privileges for constructing a railway to Guacipati, and in and over certain territories and lands within and forming part of the Colony of British Guiana:

Now, therefore, I hereby intimate to all whom it may concern that no alleged rights purporting to be claimed under any such concessions will be recognized within the said Colony of British Guiana, and that all persons found trespassing on or occupying the lands of the Colony will be dealt with as the law directs. . .

On the 18 July 1890, the British Guiana Government issued a statement determining more precisely the limits of a new fiscal district which had previously been established, thus inaugurating the North West District of the colony.

Later in the same year, the Governor, Viscount Gormanston, sent Mc Turk to the upper Cuyuni to inquire into the proceedings of the Venezuelans. The consequence of this journey and Mc Turk's report was that the British Guiana Government determined to erect a police station at the junction of the Cuyuni and the Uruan. The construction of this station began on the 26 October 1891, and in June 1892 it was formally occupied by the police.

This action was answered by a Decree of the Venezuelan President directing the construction of a road from the Orinoco to the junction of the two rivers.


Since 1892, there was a steady development of British settlement and trade on the Mazaruni, Potaro and Rupununi Rivers and in the North West District. At Arakaka, on the upper Barima, large amounts were expended by various English companies in the erection of a mining plant, and there was a general development of the entire district by the erection of hospitals, stores and public offices.

Nothing was ever done east of the Schomburgk Line under any of the concessions made by the Venezuelan Government, although Government establishments were maintained by Venezuela, both opposite Uruan and on the left bank of the Amakura River. The line which had been provisionally proclaimed in 1886 was, on the whole, fairly observed by both parties until the Venezuelans in 1894 destroyed the Uruan station. The only other event of importance since then was when the Venezuelans again violated the line at Acarabisi and arrested Harrison, a Government surveyor, engaged in making surveys for a road between the Barama and the Cuyuni. Harrison was later released.

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The earliest political control exercised over the disputed territory was connected with trade. By the Treaty of Munster in 1648, the Dutch and the Spanish, while retaining the "commerce of the country" which they then respectively held and possessed, were prevented from trading in the territories held by each other. Even before the Treaty of Munster, the Spanish had maintained a policy of preventing other nations to trade in Spanish possessions.

During the period of Dutch occupation, the region in which the Dutch West India Company and private colonists authorised by the Company carried on their trade, extended towards the north-west to the Orinoco below Santo Thome, throughout the Cuyuni, Mazaruni and Essequibo valleys, and also throughout the intervening forest region from the Aguirre to the Barima.

During the late seventeenth century much trading was done in the Barima District; the main commodity which was obtained there by the Dutch was crab-oil produced by the Amerindians. Balsam and Amerindian slaves became valuable items sought after by the Dutch during the eighteenth century, and their trading missions took them up the Aguirre, Waini and Barima Rivers.

Upon the Cuyuni, Mazaruni and Essequibo the Dutch very early established an extensive trade. The trade was carried on by means of traders employed by the West India Company, and their journeys extended to the Pariacot Savannahs. A trading Post in this savannah, higher up the Cuyuni, was established in 1703. In both the Cuyuni and Mazaruni areas, annatto was the commodity demanded by the Dutch. The trade of the Dutch with the Amerindians in these areas led naturally to control by the Company of the territory in which this trade was carried.

Closely connected with this trade, but involving still more direct exercise of dominion over the territory, was the assertion by the Dutch of the right to control the cutting of timber. The Company forbade all foreigners from cutting timber and, through its Commandeur, controlled throughout the eighteenth century the cutting of timber in the Essequibo, Pomeroon, Waini, Barima, Mazaruni and Demerara Rivers.

As early as the seventeenth century the Company found it necessary, not only to regulate trade itself, but also to exercise control of a political nature over the district in which the trade was carried on. It was, therefore, necessary that the Amerindians with whom the trade was carried on should be prevented from making war with one another and should be protected from outrage at the hands of Europeans. The Dutch on many occasions found themselves intervening to restore peace between tribes of Amerindians in Essequibo, Cuyuni, Mazaruni, and even as far as the Rupununi.

The Company was obliged in very early times to intervene to protect the Amerindians from the Europeans. Amerindians were being kidnapped as slaves by Europeans but in 1686 their enslavement was made illegal, and only those Amerindians, who were in slavery to the Amerindians with whom trade was conducted, might be bought as slaves. This measure in effect protected from slavery all the tribes in the disputed territory as the Amerindians there did not enslave one another. This law was strictly enforced and helped greatly in promoting friendly relations between the Dutch and the Amerindians.

The principal officers through whom the Dutch West India Company carried out their general control were the Postholders. From the first, they were relied upon to enforce the trade regulations of the Company. As the Posts were on the rivers, the Postholders were able to check any attempt to bring back, even from the country beyond the Posts, any merchandise of a contraband character. Permission to pass the Posts were only granted to those who had passports, for which a fee was charged, and which often contained conditions as to the conduct of the holder in the district beyond the Post. The pass system was applied to Amerindians as well as colonists and slaves.

The permission to trade with the Amerindians at or near the Post gave the Postholders exceptional facilities for cultivating friendly relations with them, and for ensuring their maintenance when established. It was their duty to maintain order among the Amerindians at the Posts and, at the same time, to protect them from ill-treatment or fraudulent conduct on the part of the colonists.

It was of course essential for the maintenance of police and justice that the Amerindian chiefs should be induced to support the Dutch administration, and marks of distinction conferred upon them by the Commandeur became, as time went by, tokens that the chiefs were recognized by the Dutch Government as men having tribal authority. It was customary at an early period to give them silver collars, and later it was thought suitable to give staffs of office with silver knobs and hats with silver brims, of which a formal distribution was made.

In 1784, the West India Company, observing that the Amerindians were withdrawing from the neighbourhood of the white settlers, (a fact probably due to the disturbances in the colony owing to its capture first by Great Britain and then by France), directed an assembly of the chiefs to be held, and a notification to be given that the Dutch, being once more in possession of the colony, desired to live on more friendly terms with them. Grants of lands were to be made to them and presents distributed on the understanding that they should go to Fort Zeelandia once every year, and should be under obligation to assist the colonists at the first summons in the event of a slave revolt.

Friendly relations with the Amerindian tribes and effective control over them were essential to the Dutch for many reasons but, particularly, because of the presence of a hostile and turbulent slave population. The African slave population remained always ready to revolt, while the "poitos". or Amerindian slaves, as well as the African slaves, were always ready to desert. For many years the Dutch pressed the Spanish authorities for the return of deserting slaves, but it was not until 1791 that the Cartel of Aranjuez was concluded for this purpose between the States-General of the Netherlands and the Court of Spain. To prevent desertion of slaves the Dutch were compelled to depend chiefly upon the assistance of the Caribs, Akawois and Arawaks, to whom it was necessary to pay rewards for each slave captured.

There were two main avenues of escape for deserting slaves. The first was by the Essequibo and Cuyuni Rivers by means of which the fugitives were able to reach the Portuguese territories in Brazil or the Spanish colony of Orinoco; the second was either by taking to the sea and skirting the coast as far as the Orinoco, or by the Moruka-Waini inland waterway to the Spanish territories in the Orinoco.

It frequently happened that the slaves, instead of taking one or other of the routes to foreign colonies, made off to the forest and hid in the swamps or in the forest themselves, and defied the Dutch to drive them out. At such times the services of the Amerindians could not be dispensed with. They possessed a perfect knowledge of the country and a dexterity in the necessary mode of warfare, particularly their own; no place of concealment, nor the most active and secret movements could escape their vigilance.

In 1744, the Amerindians at Barima, headed by a Dutch settler, made two attacks upon an encampment of escaped African slaves, the second of which was successful.

In 1763 and 1764 occurred the great Berbice Slave Rebellion which broke out on the 23 February of the former year. The Commandeur of Essequibo at once gave directions to the Postholder at Arinda up the Essequibo River to induce Caribs near to that Post to take up arms. Due preparations were immediately made by that tribe. In May 1763, a Dutch officer took command of the united Amerindian tribes, and a position was taken up by these forces in the upper Berbice. The Akawois and the Caribs of the Waini, who also came to the assistance of the Dutch, attacked a plantation in which the rebels were holding out; and on their return they were met by Caribs from the Essequibo River, who had also come down to assist the Dutch. The Arawaks also joined the Caribs in another attack upon the rebel slaves in Berbice. The Caribs of Barima who were already on the alert and on their way to give aid, conducted a series of expeditions, roving constantly between the two colonies of Essequibo and Berbice. The Governor of Berbice, Wolfert Simon van Hoogenheim, had earlier expressed a wish for their assistance.

The rebellion was eventually suppressed, but at the end of 1767 a fresh outbreak occurred and a party of 100 slaves from Berbice took to the forest. However, this rebellion was also put down with the aid of the Caribs and the Arawak-Akawois.

Other expeditions of a similar character, though of less importance, were from time to time organized, and the Amerindians, especially the Caribs, never failed to respond to calls made upon them.

The Amerindians also acted as scouts for the Dutch, warning them of hostilities projected by the Spaniards, or of encroachments made by them on Dutch territory, as well as of occurrences at the outlying Posts. In addition to this, they made themselves exceedingly useful as spies and messengers.

The Amerindians, however, acted not only as the allies of the Dutch, but also as their servants, being employed by them, as afterwards by the British, for various duties such as to fell and carry timber from the forests, as field labourers to clear the ground for plantations, as boatmen, pilots, fishermen, guides, and for making roads and paths in the vicinity of the Posts. They were also largely employed, on an organized system, in growing and preparing annatto, in collecting balsam and other natural forest products, and in bring these to the Posts to be forwarded to the Dutch markets.

As a result of constant intercourse between the Dutch and the Amerindians, there developed a language known as "Creole Dutch", which when the British came into possession of the conquered territories, formed the best and most convenient form of communication between the settlers and the native population. This language was spoken by the Amerindians of the Mazaruni, Essequibo, Cuyuni, Barima and Amakura and, next to their own, was the language best understood by them. Governor Berkly, when he visited Barima in 1850, found that this dialect was still spoken by the Amerindians there and that Dutch words had been incorporated in the native Amerindian language.

The Dutch considered the Amerindians of Guiana as their subjects and the Amerindians, on their part, looked to the Dutch Government of the colony of Essequibo for protection against any ill-treatment at the hands of the Spaniards. In some instances the influence of the Dutch over the Amerindians, especially the Caribs, was exercised to restrain them, even under circumstances of strong provocation, from launching hostile attacks on the Spaniards. The exercise by the Dutch of this restraining influence was itself the fulfilment of one of the essential conditions of a Protectorate over the Amerindians.


When the British took possession of the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice from the Dutch, they continued the system of their predecessors, as far as possible, an absolute continuity both of policy and administration. The Amerindians, on the defeat of the Dutch, had retired to the remote districts of the interior, and it was the aim of the British to attract them to the areas near and on the coast.

The Court of Policy, (the local governing Assembly), in 1803 took careful consideration of the position of the Postholders and decided that their retention would be beneficial. The Postholders were instructed to use their best endeavours to pacify the Amerindians in the event of discord arising. With a view to encourage intercourse with the tribes, the Postholders were to distribute gifts to them on certain occasions and to prevent the colonists to subject them to forced labour.

"Protectors of Indians" were appointed from about 1803 (the exact date is uncertain). They acted as a means of communication between the Postholders and the departments of the colonial Government, and it was their duty, among other matters, to supervise the Postholders and to report misconduct on their part. The Protectors were paid no salary and were chosen from among the most reputable citizens in the district for which a Postholder was appointed. It was to them and the Postholder that the colonial Government looked for information and guidance on Amerindian questions.

The exercise of jurisdiction over disputes and offences by British officers and courts of laws was greatly extended by the British and was readily submitted to by the Amerindians, tacitly in most cases, but sometimes in consequence of an express agreement with a tribal chief.

In 1779 the Dutch Government had officially recognized the Amerindian chiefs by a formal distribution of commissions and symbols of offices. The British Government continued this policy but later found that the permission to elect their own chiefs led to the election of "unsatisfactory" persons and, accordingly, during the governorship of Sir Henry Light which ended in 1848, the appointment of chiefs, or captains as they became known as, was vested in the Executive Government of the colony.

During the early period of British administration, there was a continuous growth of employment of the Amerindians as labourers and, as time went on, in the Pomeroon District, to a great extent, they supplanted the African population.

Amerindians were employed in the cultivation of annatto, cassava and yams, in cutting grass and bush, in thatching the Post houses and similar work. The Arawaks were very useful as labourers, though they disliked the manufacture of sugar and any type of field labour, to which the Warrous and the Akawois did not object.


To instruct the Amerindians in Christianity, British Missions were established. In 1831, one was established by the Church Missionary Society at Bartica Point. A church was erected and instruction commenced in the Creole Dutch dialect. On the following year, the Society established another Mission south of Pirara between the Essequibo and Takutu Rivers. Towards 1840 three other Missions were established on the Essequibo — one at Urua on the Rupununi, another at Waraputa on the Essequibo above the mouth of the Potaro, and a third at Karia Karia on the lower Essequibo near Fort Island. Between 1840 and 1845 other Missions were established on the Waini, Barima and Moruka Rivers, and at Kabakaburi on the Pomeroon. At all these Missions, schools were built and, in addition to religious instruction, academic subjects were taught to the Amerindian children.

One of the most important Mission settlements was at Santa Rosa Mission which was established on the left bank of the Moruka, about 26 miles from the sea. The inhabitants were chiefly Arawaks who, in 1817 and the following years, in order to avoid the struggle between the Spaniards and the revolted Spanish colonies, had migrated from the Orinoco and settled at Moruka. In 1833, these Amerindians, about 300 in number, who professed the Roman Catholic faith, were granted an area of land to develop a permanent settlement. Between 1840 and 1850 some of these Amerindians returned to the Orinoco and a decline of the settlement stepped in, but from 1875, after the church was rebuilt, it again flourished.

About 1880 a Mission was established at Ichoura on the Potaro River, and three years later another was set up at Konkarmo on the Ireng River, south of Roraima.


During the eighteenth century, the Posts maintained by the Dutch were at strategic positions so as to control respectively the upper Essequibo, the upper as well as the lower Cuyuni, and the coast district, together commanding the whole area claimed by the Dutch Protests of 1759 and 1769.

The Dutch, since the middle of the eighteenth century, assumed the right to control trade in the upper regions of the Essequibo as well as the Mazaruni and Cuyuni. In addition, the British in 1810 made a treaty with the Carib chief, Manarwan, who lived in the upper Essequibo, whereby the Amerindians agreed to submit themselves to British jurisdiction.

It was equally clear that the Dutch were recognized as having similar rights in the Mazaruni District. Spanish Amerindians, coming from the Spanish Missions, asked for the permission of the Dutch Commandeurs to settle in that locality. In the upper Cuyuni as early as 1746 and again in 1757, the Caribs were prevented from attacking the Spanish Missions in the vicinity, because the Dutch Commandeur regarded them, and had reason to believe that the Spaniards also regarded them, as belonging to Dutch jurisdiction. In 1748, when the Spaniards began to make attacks upon the Amerindians in the area near the head-waters of the Cuyuni River, a protest was made by a Dutch colonist against the kidnapping which was going on, and the Spanish Commander was warned by the Dutch Commandeur of the consequences which might ensue from such conduct. The Commandeur of Essequibo, Laurens Storm van Gravesande, on this occasion resolved to give permission to the Amerindians to make reprisals. When it was reported in 1767 that Spaniards had incited the Akawois against the Caribs in that district, the Dutch Commandeur forbade the Caribs to injure that tribe, on the ground that they were Dutch subjects. In 1833, Amerindians who had migrated from Venezuela settled at a point ten days' journey up the Cuyuni River where they regarded themselves as in British territory, since the "Spanish frontier" at that time was considered as situated at the head of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers.

The districts of Amakura and Barima were occupied by Amerindians who acknowledged the Protectorate and jurisdiction of the Dutch.

The Caribs were the most important tribe of these regions and trade was carried on between them and the Dutch. In 1684 a party of Caribs, who had been expelled from Suriname by the Governor, settled in Barima, and entered into alliance with the French with whom they acted against both the Dutch and the Spaniards in the war which was fought at that time. But this was only temporary, for the Essequibo Dutch made friends with these Caribs by the end of the century, and the Barima District was from then considered as within the sphere of the Postholder of the Pomeroon.

In 1733 the Caribs of Barima were engaged in the slave trade with the Dutch; and they received directions from them to prevent any settlement of Swedes in that district.

When Amerindians from the Orinoco area sought refuge from attacks by the Spaniards, they escaped to the Barima District, clearly because they believed that once settled there they would be outside the Spanish sphere of influence.

British jurisdiction was exercised in the district of the Barima River and its western tributaries, the Aruka and the Kaituma. The Amerindians were unanimous in affirming in 1839 to Crichton, Superintendent of Rivers and Creeks, that the Spanish, and later the Venezuelan, authorities never exercised jurisdiction east of the Amakura.

In 1849, Mc Clintock, the Postholder of the Pomeroon, formally appointed Amerindian captains for upper and lower Barima, Barama and Waini. The succession of captains was never interrupted.

The magistrate of Pomeroon, Im Thurn, who was appointed in 1882, supervised the district as far as Amakura, and from 1886 exercised jurisdiction up to the banks of that river. In 1891 he was appointed Government Agent for the North-West District, then carved out of what had previously been the Pomeroon District. He took up his residence at Morawhanna, at the junction of the Mora Passage and the Barima, and administered the area as far as Amakura. Under his administration, police stations were established at Amakura, Barima Point, Morawhanna and at Koriabo on the upper Barima.

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When the British Government in 1840 issued to Schomburgk a commission authorising him to survey and mark out the boundaries of British Guiana, it was its intention, when the work was completed, to communicate to the Governments of Venezuela and Brazil the British views as to the true boundary of the colony, and then to settle by negotiation any details to which these Governments might take objection.

In carrying out this commission, Schomburgk personally investigated practically the whole of the country west of the Essequibo: first, from Barima Point and the Amakura River as far as the confluence of the Acarabisi Creek with the Cuyuni River; and later, the whole area stretching west and north between the Essequibo and the Cuyuni.

Schomburgk did not discover or invent any new boundaries. He took particular care to base his reports from actual exploration and information obtained from the Amerindians, as well as from the evidence of Dutch remains at Barima and on the Cuyuni. He, thus, was able to ascertain the limits of Dutch possession and the zone from which all trace of Spanish influence was absent.

With his reports, Schomburgk submitted maps of his surveys, on which he indicated the line which he would propose to the British Government for adoption. He also called attention to the fact that the British Government might justly claim the whole basin of the Cuyuni and the Yuruari, on the ground that the natural boundary of British Guiana included any territory through which flowed tributaries of the Essequibo.

In 1843, Schomburgk wrote:

"Upon this principle the boundary line would run from the sources of the Curumani towards the sources of the Cuyuni proper, and then from thence towards its far more northern tributaries, the Rivers Iruary (Yuruari) and Irunag (Yuruan), and thus approach the very heart of Venezuelan Guiana."

With a view of facilitating the negotiations for the adjustment of the boundary, he proposed that Great Britain should consent to surrender its claim to a more extended frontier inland. It was on this principle that he drew the boundary line - to become famous as the Schomburgk Line - which included, therefore, much less territory than that claimed by Great Britain.


It was at this period that the discussions with Venezuela about the boundary commenced. The first overture made by the Venezuelan Government was in January 1841 when, in reply to the announcement of the boundary, it proposed the negotiation of a Treaty of Limits, and expressed a desire that this treaty should precede the survey and demarcation of the frontier.

Later in the year, the Venezuelan Government renewed the proposal for the negotiation of a treaty and, at the same time, protested against Schomburgk's proceedings in placing boundary posts at certain points. The Venezuelan Government was informed, in reply, that in the opinion of the British Government, the negotiation of a boundary treaty should follow rather than precede the survey operations, and that, although Schomburgk had put up certain marks, he was fully aware that the demarcation as made was merely a preliminary measure open to future discussions between the two Governments. The Venezuelan Ambassador in London, Dr. Alejo Fortique, having renewed his protests, Lord Aberdeen, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, consented in January 1842 to send instructions for the removal of the posts which had been placed by Schomburgk near the Orinoco. However, at the same time, it was distinctly declared that the British Government was not abandoning any portion of its rights over the territory which was formerly held by the Dutch.


In 1843, Fortique renewed the request of his Government for the speedy conclusion of a treaty to define the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, and in a note to the British Foreign Office on 31 January 1844, he presented the first formal statement of the Venezuelan claim that the territory of the Republic extended to the Essequibo.

The main grounds on which this claim was based were the following:

1. Spain was the first discoverer and occupant of the New World.

2. The Spaniards had at an early date explored and occupied the Orinoco and all the contiguous country, and the Barima, Moruka and Pomeroon Rivers.

3. At the time of the Treaty of Munster, the Dutch had no possessions in Guiana, or none at least on the northern and western side of the Essequibo.

4. The Spanish dominion extended as far as the Essequibo, and any possession of the Dutch to the west of that river was an usurpation, and had not been approved by Spain.

The statement concluded by insisting that the Essequibo was the natural boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, and that the British colonists possessed little or nothing beyond that river.


To this claim, Lord Aberdeen promptly sent a reply, which, while admitting that the American continent was first discovered and partly occupied by the Spaniards, observed that such fact could have no bearing upon the matter under discussion. He further pointed out that while Venezuela was without a settlement of any sort upon the territory in question, the concession of the Essequibo as the boundary would involve the immediate surrender by Great Britain of half of British Guiana.

Lord Aberdeen also stated that Great Britain was willing to concede out of friendly regard for Venezuela, a part of the British extreme claim in the upper Cuyuni area, providing that the Amerindian tribes living there should be properly protected.

Lord Aberdeen's proposal, when communicated some time later to the British Guiana Government, was found to be extremely unfavourable to the colony, even to the extent of interfering with settled districts, and it was characterised by the Governor, Henry Mc Leod, as "going far beyond any concession which the Venezuelans were entitled to expect".

The Venezuelan Government, however, failed to appreciate the large concession of British rights which had been proposed solely as a means of facilitating a satisfactory adjustment of the boundary question. No reply was sent to Lord Aberdeen's Note, and it was consequently decided by the British Government in 1850 that as the proposal had remained for six years and still not accepted, it was considered as having lapsed. The British Charge d'Affaires in Caracas was then instructed to communicate this decision to the Venezuelan Government.


In 1850, in consequence of Venezuelan preparations which suggested the possibility of attempts to occupy Barima Point and other territory claimed by Great Britain, there was an exchange of Notes between the two countries embodying a mutual arrangement that neither party should occupy or encroach upon the territory in dispute, but no definition of the territory was ever discussed. At that time, the easternmost settlement of Venezuela was at Tumeremo.

This arrangement was termed the "Agreement of 1850" to which the Venezuelan Government frequently appealed, but which it repeatedly violated in succeeding years.

Venezuela's first acts of this nature were the occupation of fresh positions to the east of its previous settlements, and the founding in 1858 of the town of Nueva Providencia on the right bank of the Yuruari. In consequence of this latter violation, the Governor of British Guiana, Philip Wodehouse, was sent in 1858 to Caracas to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary, but he found Venezuela in so disturbed a condition (as a result of civil disturbances) that it was impossible to commence negotiations, and eventually he came away without having effected anything. For the next nineteen years the civil disturbances in Venezuela prevented any resumption of negotiations.


On 14 September 1876, Venezuela's claims were again made in a document sent by the Venezuelan Ambassador in London, Eduardo Calcano, to the Earl of Derby, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The grounds urged by Calcano were substantially the same as those stated before in 1844 by his predecessor, Fortique.

Calcano, however, in addition, relied upon the Bull of Pope Alexander VI of 1493 which granted Spain most of the lands in America, as imparting "a fresh and most valuable recognition", which he added, "was at the time it was issued of decisive significance". He also alleged that the Catalonian Capuchins had occupied the district between the Orinoco and Cape Nassau and between the sea and the Caroni River. He further quoted the Cartel of Aranjuez which was made between Spain and the Netherlands for the mutual surrender of fugitive slaves. According to the first Article of this Cartel, an agreement was reached for both Governments to recover fugitive slaves in Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice, and Suriname. Calcano suggested that Essequibo, according to the Cartel, referred to the river.

A perusal of the treaty, both in the French and Spanish texts, however, showed that this suggestion was unfounded and, further, from the documents which passed during the negotiations for the treaty, it was clear that the words Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice and Suriname were used throughout as well-known descriptions of the Dutch colonies, Essequibo being the name commonly applied to all Dutch possessions between the Boeraseri River, situated on the east of the Essequibo River, and the Orinoco.

This communication by Calcano was followed by a letter of the 13 February 1877 from his successor, Dr. José de Rojas. This letter, also addressed to Lord Derby, suggested a settlement of the question by the adoption of a conventional line fixed by agreement.

Subsequently, on 19 May 1879, a Note was addressed to Lord Salisbury, the new British Foreign Affairs Minister, by De Rojas in which it was stated that Venezuela had in its possession proof that the Essequibo River was the eastern boundary of Venezuelan Guiana; the Venezuelan Ambassador, at the same time, requested the Government of Great Britain to make a proposal for the frontier of accommodation.

In reply, Lord Salisbury, on 10 January 1880, in a Note to De Rojas, stated that the boundary which the British Government was entitled to claim comprised, in effect, the territory claimed by the Dutch in their protests of 1759 and 1769. Lord Salisbury observed that the Venezuelan claim, as put forward by Ambassador Calcano in his dispatch of 1876, would involve the surrender of a province then inhabited by 40,000 British subjects, and which had been in the uninterrupted possession of Holland (The Netherlands) and Great Britain successively for two centuries. The Note also expressed readiness on the part of the British Government to settle the matter by mutual concession.


On 21 February 1881, in a Note to Lord Grenville, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain at that time, De Rojas proposed a frontier line starting from a point one mile to the north of the Moruka River, drawn from there westward to the 60th meridian and running south along that meridian. This would have granted the Barima District to Venezuela.


Lord Granville, replying on 15 September 1881 to De Rojas, stated the inability of the British Government to accept the line proposed. With the Note of reply was enclosed a Memorandum stating that the right of the British Government to the Barima District was unassailable. The Memorandum objected to the line proposed by De Rojas and proposed another line which conceded part of the British claim to the upper Cuyuni and Amakura areas. However, in spite of frequent inquiries by the British Government, no reply to this proposal was received from the Venezuelan Government.

In September 1883, Lord Granville addressed a dispatch to Colonel Mansfield, the British Ambassador in Caracas, expressing the desire of the British Government for an early settlement of the questions pending between Great Britain and Venezuela. The questions were the boundary disputes between the two countries, the differential duties imposed by Venezuela on imports from British colonies, and the claims by British creditors of the Republic of Venezuela. Granville stated that, as preliminary to entering upon negotiations, it was indispensable that an answer should be given to the British proposal of 1881 in relation to the boundary.

Colonel Mansfield, having communicated on the subject to the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, received a reply that the Constitution of Venezuela prevented the conclusion of treaties relating to boundaries, for it denied any Power the right of ceding either by exchange or indemnity the smallest portion of any territory assumed to constitute a part of the dominions of the Republic of Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government, therefore, proposed as the only means of settlement, the reference of the question to an arbitrator.

It appeared to the British Government that the same provision of the Venezuelan Constitution which prevented the solution of the question by means of a treaty might be invoked as a pretext for not abiding by the award if it should prove unfavourable to Venezuela. Colonel Mansfield was consequently instructed to decline the proposal for reference of the question to arbitration, but to express the hope that some other means of settlement might be devised.


In October 1884, General Guzman Blanco arrived as Venezuelan Ambassador in England, and commenced negotiations for the simultaneous settlement of the three questions already mentioned. As the British Government had declined arbitration on the boundary question, he suggested that it should be referred to a court of law, the members of which should be chosen by both Venezuela and Great Britain.

To this Lord Granville replied, in February 1885, that the proposal presented constitutional difficulties which prevented the British Government from agreeing to it. He added that Great Britain was not prepared to depart from the arrangement proposed by Venezuela in 1877, and accepted by Great Britain, to decide the question by adopting a conventional boundary fixed by mutual accord between the Governments of the two countries.

Negotiations had, in the meanwhile, also commenced for the conclusion of a new commercial treaty between the two countries which should deal with the question of differential duties. The treaty was never concluded, but in the course of negotiations, General Blanco proposed the insertion of an Article which, after some discussion, was provisionally accepted by Lord Granville in May 1885, in the following shape:

"If, as it is to be deprecated, there shall arise between the United States of Venezuela and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland any difference which cannot be adjusted by the usual means of friendly negotiations, the two Contracting Parties agree to submit the decision of all such differences to the arbitration of a third Power, or of several other Powers in amity with both, without resorting to war, and that the result of such arbitration shall be binding upon both Governments.

"The arbitrating Power or Powers shall be selected by the two Governments by common consent, failing which, each of the Parties shall nominate an arbitrating Power, and the Arbitrators thus appointed shall be requested to select another Power to act as Umpire.

"The procedure of the arbitration shall in each case be determined by the Contracting Parties, failing which the arbitrating Power or Powers shall be themselves (entitled to) determine it beforehand.

"The Award of the Arbitrators shall be carried out as speedily as possible in cases where such Award does not specifically lay down a date. . ."

It was observed at that time that the Article quoted above referred only to the differences which might arise in the future between the two countries. No statement was made in the resulting correspondence to suggest that it should apply to any pending question, or to indicate that Lord Granville had in any way modified the previous decision of the British Government that some settlement with regard to the frontier question was a preliminary condition to the conclusion of the negotiations on the other matters in dispute.

On the contrary, while the negotiations for a commercial treaty were proceeding, he had, as already stated, declined to depart from the arrangement arrived at between the two Governments in 1877 for the settlement of the frontier question by a conventional boundary to be fixed by mutual arrangement.

A change in Government, however, took place in Great Britain almost immediately afterwards. Lord Salisbury, who succeeded Lord Granville as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, objected to the terms of the Article in the draft commercial treaty as containing an engagement of too general a character, which would be without precedent in the treaties hitherto made by Great Britain. General Blanco raised objections to revisions to the wording of Articles of the treaty and the negotiations produced no result.

In 1886, Lord Rosebery who had taken over the position of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, acting in concurrence with Lord Granville, who had now become Secretary of State for the Colonies, proposed to General Blanco that the territory lying between the boundary lines respectively suggested by De Rojas and Lord Granville in 1881, should be considered as the territory in dispute between the two countries, within the limits of which the boundary line should be traced either by an arbitrator or by a joint commission on the basis of an equal division, with due regard being paid to natural boundaries.

This proposal, however, was not accepted by General Blanco who continued to assert the claim of Venezuela to all territory as far as the Essequibo River.


Meanwhile, a series of encroachments by the Venezuelan Government on the territory in dispute, in violation of the Agreement of 1850, had led the British Government to the conclusion that some definite step must be taken for the protection of the rights and interests of British Guiana.

The most serious of these violations of the Agreement was the issue by the Venezuelan Government in 1883 and 1884 of grants of land and concessions for the purpose of colonisation affecting the whole territory between Barima Point, the Moruka, and the source of the Essequibo.

The British authorities, in consequence, sent officers to warn off any persons who should attempt to put these grants and concessions into effect. Two rural constables were commissioned for the Amakura River in March 1885, and a British Post was established there in August 1886.

In October 1886, a notice was published in the London Gazette declaring that titles thus issued by the Venezuelan authorities to land within the territory claimed by the British as forming part of British Guiana could not be recognised by the British Government. The notice added that any person taking possession of, or exercising any right over such land under the Venezuelan titles, would be treated as a trespasser under the laws of British Guiana.

This published notice drew protests from the Venezuelan Government which shortly afterwards announced its intention of erecting a lighthouse on Barima Point, and stated that if Great Britain opposed this step, diplomatic relations would be broken off.

The British Government offered to consent to the establishment of the lighthouse if it received a formal statement that this measure would in no way be held as prejudicing the British claim to the territory in dispute. This offer was, however, rejected. The Venezuelan Government then for the first time denied that the territory between the Orinoco and the Pomeroon could be considered as being in dispute between the two countries; and it demanded the immediate evacuation of this territory (by the British) and the submission of the whole question to arbitration.


Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Diego Urbaneja, on 26 January 1887, made further statement of his country's claim. Among the grounds put forward to support this claim were the following:

1. The Decree alleged to have been issued by the King of Spain in 1768, by which the Spanish Province of Guiana was declared to be bordered on the south by the Amazon, and on the east by the Atlantic - (The British Government, in response, stated that this Decree had no bearing upon the question of boundary between the Dutch colonies and Spain).

2. The statement that the Netherlands, to whose rights Great Britain succeeded, had nothing more in its power than the establishments of Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice and Suriname - (This was never denied by the British Government which maintained that the Dutch colony of Essequibo included the whole watershed of that river and its tributaries, and extended along the coast to the mouth of the Orinoco).

3. A further statement that Spain, instead of consenting to fresh usurpations, repelled them by force - (In answer to this claim, the British Government pointed out that the more accurate statement of events was that attacks and encroachments by Spain on Dutch possessions were repelled).

After the rejection of this further claim and the British refusal to comply with its demands for evacuation of the territory, Venezuela accused Great Britain of "acts of spoliation".

The British Ambassador in Caracas was then given his passport and asked to leave, and diplomatic relations were broken off by Venezuela in February 1887.


Meantime, since the early 1880s, the British Guiana Government had issued gold mining concessions in the area to many individuals and companies, both British and non-British. British subjects formed a considerable proportion, as well as the labourers - who came mainly from West Indian islands - as well as the mining engineers and officials.

The Governor of British Guiana, on learning that the Venezuelan Government was issuing land grants and other concessions to its citizens in the Yuruari region, which the British claimed as within the boundaries of British Guiana, sent armed policemen to the area to exercise control. He then issued the following proclamation on 31 December 1887:

"By his Excellency Charles Bruce, Esq., Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Colony of British Guiana, Vice-Admiral and Ordinary of the same. . .

"Whereas, It has come to the knowledge of the Government of British Guiana that certain concessions have been granted by the President, and by and with the sanction of the Government of the United States of Venezuela, purporting to give and grant certain rights and privileges for constructing a railway to Guacipati, and in and over certain territories and lands within and forming part of the colony of British Guiana;

"Now, therefore, I do hereby intimate to all whom this may concern that no alleged rights purporting to be claimed under any such concession will be recognised within the said colony of British Guiana, and that all persons found trespassing on or occupying the lands of the colony without the authority or the Government of this colony will be dealt with as the law directs.

"Given under my hand and the public seal of the colony, Georgetown. Demerara, this 31st day of December, 1887, and in the fifty-first year of Her Majesty's reign. God save the Queen!

"By his Excellency's command,
"Acting Government Secretary."

Immediately after, the Venezuelan Government urged the United States Government to intervene in pressing Great Britain to evacuate the Yuruari region in the upper regions of the Cuyuni and Caroni Rivers ostensibly claiming that the British occupation posed a distinct menace to the commerce of the United States in South America. The Venezuelan Government felt that the annexation of the territory would give Great Britain the right bank of the Orinoco, for a long distance from its mouth.

By the beginning of 1888, the area was occupied by the forces of both Governments, the British holding the right bank of the river, and the Venezuelans the left. The military posts of the two Governments were situated near the junction of three rivers - the Cuyuni, Uruan, and Yuruari.

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