Settlements on the Wild Coast
The interest of the Dutch in Guyana was first aroused by Spanish reports of the wealth to be found there: it was further stimulated by the exaggerated accounts of Raleigh and Keymis. "As one se" captain Laurence Keymis, wrote after a 1596 voyage that included sailing along the coast of Brazil "...no sea-card that I have seene at any time, doth in any sort neere a truth, discribe this coast". The first contacts with the area were the result of private enterprise. The earliest expeditions were promoted by groups of merchants who would band together, enlist the financial support of other businessmen and then, after thus acquiring the necessary capital would hire experienced crews and despatch ships to the "Wild Coast", as the Dutch called the area between the Orinoco and the Amazon. "In some years as many as eight, nine or even more ships from the United Netherlands would be riding at anchor in this river (the Orinoco) at the same time". Further impetus to the Dutch interest in Guyana was given by the writings of Willem Usselincx, a merchant from Antwerp and an authority on Spanish American trade. Usselincx eventually moved to Holland where he placed his knowledge and experience at the service of the Dutch. The effect of his reports was reinforced by the avowals by English writers that this "Wild Coast" was still, as yet, a no man's land and open to all comers. Soon there was a significant increase in the number of Dutch vessels sailing to the West Indies, and the government demonstrated its approval of these ventures by issuing letters of protection to those involved.
After 1597 there is a significant increase in the number of official patents issued by grant to seamen setting out for "Guyana in the Kingdom of Peru". A typical example was the approval given by the States General to the ventures of Gerrit Bicker and Jan Cornelisz Leyn : the approval was conditional on their not carrying any forbidden cargo and undertaking to submit a detailed account of their voyage on their return. In fact it seems that reports and charts relating to these voyages were submitted in due course to the States General, but unfortunately no copies of them have survived.
This gives added historical importance to the report submitted to the States General on 3 February 1599 by Commissary General Cabeliau, entitled "Verclaringe van de onbekende ende onbeseijide voiage van America beginnende van de Riviere Amasonis tot het Eiland van de Trinidad toe". This document throws valuable light on the beginning of trade between the Netherlands and Guyana. This journal is also of considerable importance for the history of Suriname because it is the earliest Dutch description of that coast. While Cabeliau's ship the "Zeeridder" lay at anchor in the estuary of the Cayenne River and its master was conducting a profitable trade in barter with the natives, a small flotilla arrived from Amsterdam. Two ships, the "Groote Sphera Mundi" and the "Kleyne Sphera Mundi" dropped anchor in the estuary on 3 June 1598. Their captains were, respectively, Jan Cornelisz van Leyen and Adriaen Reyndertssoen. Cabeliau agreed to join forces with them so that they might together explore the whole of the coast as far as the Orinoco "called Reliane by the English and Rio el dorado by the Spaniards". Cabeliau's Journal mentions a number of rivers that are in present day Suriname: the Marawini (Marowijne), the Surinamo (Suriname), the Saramo (Saramacca), the Coupanama (Coppename) and the Curetini (Corantijn).
The Journal records: "The course or the mouth of the Surinamo is divided into two rivers, with the Commawini in the east and the Surynamo in the west. Together, they thus flow into the sea". Apparently the expedition did not visit the rivers between the Corantijn and the Orinoco because there was not enough time to do so and moreover the local Indians assured the explorers that the area had no resources of any value. The ships reached the mouth of the Orinoco River on 27 June ; from there expeditions were sent into the interior. Then, from Santo Thomé the expedition sailed upstream to explore the Caroni River.
The Journal continues: "In accordance with Sir Walter Raleigh's reports, we began searching for gold near the rapids - the noise of which can be heard four miles away. We found nothing however, either because we failed to spot the gold or because there was in fact none there to be found. By that as it may, we believe we have done our utmost in this matter". Cabeliau left Santo Thomé on 1 September and sailed for Trinidad. There he wrote a detailed account of that island and then set course for home, arriving in Middelburg on 28 October 1598. Cabeliau ended his Journal by summarising the achievements of the expedition ; twenty-four rivers, with many islands lying in them, had been discovered. A number of ports had also been discovered, and these had never been charted, described or even mentioned by earlier geographers.
In the Algemeen Rijksarchief at the Hague there are two manuscript maps which seem to have been drawn during Cabeliau's voyage and then attached to his Journal. These are the two earliest Dutch maps of the region. Neither has a title, but one bears the inscription Pieter Cornelisz van Petten 1598. Nothing is known about van Petten or about his connection with Cabeliau. However, if these maps are studied in relation to Cabellau's journal, their link with the voyage becomes clear ; they cover precisely the region which the expedition had explored in some detail. One of the maps (Leupe 675) depicts the coast of Guyana between the rivers Cauwo and Marowijne and in particular the island of Cayenne: the other (Leupe 578), which is drawn by the same hand, shows the Gulf of Paria and part of the coast of Trinidad. These are exactly the areas in which the Dutch were most interested. It is likely that these maps were intended to be used in planning subsequent expeditions, because they record depth soundings, and also contain sailing instructions. Certainly they are two of the earliest manuscript maps of Dutch origin dealing with overseas territories and are a fitting adjunct to Cabeliau's sober observations on Guyana, which are themselves such a contrast to the fanciful tales of Raleigh and Keymis.
It is curious however that Cabellau should claim in his Journal to have discovered the coast of Guyana. He must have meant that he was the first Dutchman to survey the area, establishing the exact location of the river estuaries and charting his findings as accurately as he could. He could not have meant that he was the first person to reach the coast, for by that time the English discoveries in the area were well-known in the Netherlands ; this is clear from a comment made in 1597 by the Dutch map maker Iodocus Hondius. Cabeliau also claimed that the Spaniards had made little progress in subduing the coast of Guyana and suggested that there seemed therefore little likelihood of a clash with Spain if the Dutch continued their activities in the area.
This had the same effect as the earlier reports of Usselincx, and there followed a period of intense trading activity between the Netherlands and the West Indies, with the blessing of the government. There is ample evidence of this in the increase in the number of grants of letters patent to those engaged in this trade. In submitting applications for approval by the government, merchants who were anxious to take part in this trade generally referred in their cases to the achievements of their predecessors and stressed their own intention not only to exploit the resources of the area, but also to explore the region. These early voyages were however all the result of private enterprise and no charts or maps derived from them have survived.
A similar fate has overtaken most of the documents relating to the very early history of the West Indies Company, and there is a disappointing lack of maps from that source. The Dutch were not content for long to restrict their activities to trade ; it was soon being suggested that Guyana should be colonised. In 1603 a "Memorial" was presented to the States General advocating the establishment of a colony there, and setting out the benefits which would result.
The author of the Memorial declared: "I have no doubt that the States General are fully aware how rich, beautiful, fertile, populous, agreeable and valuable a land is this province of Guyana, situated in America and recently discovered by some of our merchant vessels". He continued by giving a splendid description of a whole range of matters concerning the region ; the climate, the topography both of the coast and the interior, the plants, the wild life and the abundant mineral resources. These last, the Memorial warned, should not be mentioned in public lest the envy of foreigners be aroused. Despite such persuasive arguments however, the States General rejected the idea of a colony and so trade with Guyana remained entirely in the hands of private merchants. The government continued to protect the interests of the merchants but made no move to sponsor or establish a colony there.
Nevertheless the region was regarded as being within the Dutch sphere of interest ; that is clear from the maps of the period. Thus when Nicolaas Geelkercken produced his world map in 1618, dividing the world into hemispheres, the area between the Amazon and the Orinoco was marked as "Germania inferior" Abraham Goos did the same in 1621 when he produced his world map of a globe divided into strips.
The Dutch ships which went on trading ventures to the Wild Coast tended in the early years to congregate in that part of the area which is now French Guyana. The north-east trade winds made this the most easily accessible part, and it offered the most sheltered anchorage's. There were also more opportunities for trading with the Indians there than in other areas. Most of the coast of what later became Suriname and British Guyana seemed then to be inhospitable ; covered with dense scrub, it was flat and marshy, likely to be flooded at high tide and infested with insects ; more open and attractive terrain was only reached by sailing a considerable distance upstream. It is not surprising that the Dutch traders were usually to be found in the Wyapoco region of eastern Guyana and visited Suriname only occasionally.
Nevertheless Dutch involvement in Suriname gradually increased. The first Dutch settlement was established there in 1613 ; from Spanish sources it seems clear that a colony was set up on the Corantijn River in the June of that year. In a letter of 25 June 1614, Antonio de Muxica, Lieutenant Governor of Santo Thomé de Guiana, reported that the "Flemings" and the Caribs were catching Indians and carrying them off to work on the tobacco plantations in their settlements. More than fifty Dutchmen with their families had established themselves on the Corantijn, he wrote and he felt it was imperative that they should be restrained from enslaving the Indians. In another letter, of 30 May 1614, the end of the colony is recounted. A force of Spanish troops set out from Santo Thomé and arriving at the Corantijn, demanded the surrender of the Dutch fort. 2 When this was refused, they attacked, and all the Dutch settlers perished in the fire when the fort was burnt. The existence of this Dutch settlement on the Corantijn was noted by De Laet, writing in 1625, although he gave no precise date for the colony. He recorded: "On this river Coratini (the Corantijn) our Netherlanders engaged in commerce many years ago and kept some folk (there) having been awarded an Octroy thereof by the States General"
By 1613 there must also have been a Dutch trading post on the Suriname River, or so a declaration drawn up in 1617 by a public notary in Amsterdam would suggest. The document dealing with Parmurbo (Paramaribo) on the Surrenant (Suriname) River, reads thus: "Cornelis Jansz. Scheur varentman, poorter deser stede (Amsterdam), voor onderstuyrman gevaren hebbende op't schip Neptunis, daer schipper op was Jan Pietersz. Cocx, hoe waer is, dat hij getuyge met voors. schip Neptunis, in den jaere XVI, C dertien, inbegrepen in den juisten tyt, gecomen is in West Indien in de revier van Surrenant, ende te lant gaende is aldaer op't dorp Parmurbo gecomen..." in English this would be: "Cornelis Jansz. Scheur, seaman, burgher of this city (Amsterdam), having served as second mate on the ship Neptune, Jan Pietersz. Cocx being the skipper, hereby declares it to be true that in the year XVI, C thirteen, in the above vessel, he did reach the river Surrenant at just the right tide, landed and came upon the village of Parmurbo".
In 1615 a report was submitted to Philip III of Spain, drawing his attention to the threat which would arise to Spanish possessions, if the Dutch succeeded in consolidating their settlements in Guyana. A map was attached to this report, and although unfortunately no copy has survived, there is a description of it, in a document which discusses its reliability and attributes its authorship to the cartographer Petrus Plancius (1552-1622, Dutch astronomer, cartographer, and theologian). The report notes: "...since then a true map has been drawn up, which they have kept secret as long as possible, from which original map the one we send has been copied, and it is from this map that they have begun to put into practice the plan of the colonies aforesaid, of which we have been treating and of which we treat later. Respecting this matter, we are advised that the map newly published in Amsterdam is the work of Peter Plancius, Minister and principal cosmographer, author of all the works on the navigation of the East and West Indies, a resident of Amsterdam". The report goes on to assert that this map by Plancius gives a deliberately false picture of the region to prevent unauthorised adventurers gaining access to the rivers and the important ports on the Wiapoco and the Orinoco. There is no mention in the Dutch archives of such a map by Plancius, but it would not be surprising if he had taken an interest in the discoveries in the West Indies, in view of his known deep interest in similar voyages to the East Indies and in the discoveries in northern regions.
Meanwhile trade between the Netherlands and the Wild Coast continued steadily to increase but it depended on the initiative and enterprise of individual merchants. Finally however the government realised that it would be in everyone's interests for there to be some co-ordination and control. Accordingly the West Indies Company was formed in 1621.
The W.I.C. was organised into five chambers and the management was in the hands of the Heren XIX. All voyages to the West Indies became the responsibility of the Zeeland chamber, the area which was traditionally the mainstay of this trade. The ports of Middelburg, Flushing (Vlissingen) and Veere now became hives of activity. Yet most of the ships from there sailed to Cayenne, the Wiapoco, Essequibo and Berbice ; it was in that area that an attempt was made to found a settlement. Only very occasionally did ships go to Suriname. As a result, there is little information on conditions in Suriname during the first half of the seventeenth century. The earliest extant maps particularly concerned with that area were made by Jesse de Forest, a Walloon born 1580 in Avesner Belgium and died 22 Oct.1624, who had settled in Leiden. He applied to the W.I.C. for permission to establish a trading post on the Wild Coast this was granted on condition that De Forest and others concerned should it in order before their families joined them. In July 1623 the "Pigeon", under the captaincy of Pieter Frederiksz sailed with an advance party of settlers with De Forest as the leader of the party. They reached the mouth of the Amazon on 11 October, where six weeks were spent trading and reconnoitring the area; the expedition then went on to the Wiapoco where it was decided a settlement should be established. On 1 January 1624 the "Pigeon" sailed from home, leaving De Forest and a handful of men behind to make a systematic exploration of that region. Ten months later however, on 24 October, De Forest died of fever ; with his death all hope of successfully establishing the settlement disappeared and finally on 14 May 1625 the "Flying Drake" took off the surviving settlers, but before returning home the "Flying Drake" sailed along the coast of Guyana as far as the mouth of the river Essequibo, and that area was also explored in detail.
The record of De Forest's colonising venture is preserved in the so-called "Jesse de Forest Journal" which is now in the British Museum. This manuscript contains a good deal of information about Suriname and its rivers. The value of this record, written in old French, is enhanced by the coloured maps attached to it. These maps record both depth soundings and anchorage's, and shed interesting light on the rivers visited by the colonists. The complete river network is shown on a general map with the title "Coste de Guiane despvis le Cap dv Nord, iusqves á la riviére d'Eziqvebe" : in the section covering present-day Suriname are shown the Marvinj (Marowijne), the Soraname (Suriname), the Soramo and the Coretinj (Corantijn).
In the "Description de la coste de Gujana" the coast of Suriname is described thus: "...Maruyne qui gist sur cincq degres cincquante cincq minutes. De Maruyne las coste court quatre lieues Nord west puis de la Soraname west quatorze lieues. Soraname est sur six degres. De Soraname la coste court West quart au Zud deux lieues puis West iusques a la Riuiere Soramo 1 espace de Neuf lieues. De Soramo a Coretine elle court West six lieues" this might be translated literally as: "...Maruyne is situated at five degrees fifty-five minutes. From the Maruyne the coast continues in a north-westerly direction for four leagues, and carries on westward from Soraname for fourteen leagues. The Soraname is situated at six degrees. From the Soraname the coast runs west-south-west for two leagues, and then west for nine leagues as far as the Soramo river. From the Soramo and Coretine it continues in a westerly direction for six leagues". This is an interesting description of the way the coast presented itself to seventeenth century mariners ; even more interesting however are the special maps of the Marowijne and Suriname rivers.
In 1625 appeared the "Nieuwe wereldt ofte Beschrijvinghe van Westindien" by the learned Joannes de Laet (1593-1649) how was directeur van de West-Indische Compagnie. The "Nieuwe wereldt" became famous and was in 1633 and 1640 with additional material translated in Latin and France. This, and De Laet's "Jaerlyck Verhael" became the standard works of reference on the West Indies in the first half of the seventeenth century. The "Nieuwe Wereldt" has shown itself to be so reliable in those cases where its information can be checked against independent sources, that where no documents now survive, its contents are usually accepted as authoritative.
The work is based largely on Spanish and Portuguese sources, but the author says that he had also made a detailed study of "divers journals and notes of captains, pursers and mates who have recently visited these countries on behalf of the Chartered West Indies Company". In the fourteenth book, which includes a description of the "Wilde Custe, ofte Guiana", De Laet, when referring to the Marowijne, cites accounts by Harcourt and Marshall as his sources. He says that the river: "is full of islands, and over a distance of some forty to fifty miles up to the rapids, various tributaries join it ... our Netherlanders call this river Marwyn and place it five degrees forty-six minutes north of the equator".
De Laet continues with a description of the Sewrano: "which is called Saernaen (Suriname) by our people and of which they say that its course runs both south and south-east. It is fifteen, sixteen or seventeen feet deep at low tide". He talks of the Cuppanamo (Coppename) River and then, the last of the rivers in Suriname that he mentions is the Coritini (Corantijn). This he says is about as wide as the Marowijne, with many islands in it, and that it is free from rapids for about fifty miles. He noted that the Dutch had been trading on the Corantijn for many years and had established a colony there; this may well be a reference to the settlement destroyed by the Spaniards in 1613.
De Laet justly observed that "descriptions of countries are not easily understood without maps" and so he added ten maps to the "Nieuwe Wereldt". In the preface he acknowledged that he had been "greatly helped in this work by the skill and experience of Hessel Gerritsz (1580/81- 1632), who has designed and drawn most of the maps". Gerritsz had worked seven years for Willem Blaeu before he settled his own business "graveur en kaartenuitgever". In 1617 he was called as the official kartograf of the "Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie" after Petrus Plancius dismiss Blaeu from this position. The maps are characteristic of the work of Gerritsz ; they are factual and almost revolutionary, stylistically, because of an almost complete absence of decoration. The map entitled "Gvaiana ofte de Provincien tusschen Rio de las Amazonas ende Rio de Yviapari ofte Orinoqve" is of particular interest because it marks the beginning of a new phase in the mapping of the coast of Guyana. Nevertheless, it can be seen that even this map retains some of the mythical features prominent in the early map by Hondius.
Perhaps some mention should be made at this point of another kind of map which has survived from this period, the "West-Indische Paskaerten" or sea charts. They were of course quite different from the maps already considered. Those maps purported to give information about the coast and also the interior of Guyana. The sea charts on the other hand were purely utilitarian aids for the trans-Atlantic sailor, giving him only that technical nautical information he required for a safe voyage. Few of these charts have survived, for they were subjected to heavy wear and tear, and of those that still exist, many show traces of the courses and ships positions which have been plotted on them, as a witness to their practical utility.
The earliest extant "West-Indische Paskaert" is the one produced sometime between 1626 and 1630 by Willem Janszoon Blaeu. The title of the chart asserts that it was drawn in accordance with Mercator's projection, "with increasing degrees". It was produced to help ships bound for Africa and America, where the West Indies Company had enjoyed a monopoly since 1621. The chart ceased to be of value when land was sighted ; then the ship would be steered with the aid of sailing instructions and secret large-scale manuscript charts. There was however no need for secret charts for the crossing to America and so the "West-Indische Paskaert" was produced in considerable numbers. Generally, to protect them against rough usage and the effects of weather, they were printed on parchment. The charts remained in, use for more than a century and numerous reprints were issued - not only by Blaeu, but also by several other map makers as well, such as Colom, Jacobsz, Doncker, Allard, Goos, van Keulen, Robijn and Loots. This proliferation is an indication of their value to seamen.
The eldest imitator of Blaeu's work was Jacob Aertsz. Colom, whose "West-Indische Paskaert" of 1631 is reproduced in the present work as representative of the overzeyler-type of map. In the description, is gone further into the matter of Suriname.
Very few of the manuscript charts drawn by Dutch seamen during their voyages along the coast of Guyana during the first half of the seventeenth century are now extant. Two that still exist however merit special attention ; both are now in the Algemeen Rijksarchief in The Hague. One is a chart by Ioos Bastiansen, of 1627 and the other is a chart by Cornelis Pieterssen of Arnemuiden, and dates from 1629. The first of these two charts is little more than a rough sketch, and clearly the work of an amateur. It does show some of the rivers of Suriname, however. The Marowijne is marked, and between the mouth of the Sername (Suriname) and the mouth of the Corantijn, are shown the estuaries of the Coppename, the Saramacca, the Nickerie and the Nani Kreek, although these are not named on the chart.
A much more professional piece of work is the special map of Guyana by Joannes Vingboons ; in many ways this might be regarded as the best map of Suriname made in the Netherlands during the first half of the seventeenth century.
Vingboons not only copied a number of original manuscript charts on the instructions of the V.0.C. and the W.I.C. but also drew some completely new maps, using a variety of sources. His map of Guyana must have been based on some cartographic material now lost. The way the Marowijne and Suriname rivers are drawn closely resembles the way they are shown on the special maps attached to the Journal of Jesse de Forest. It would seem that Vingboons either had access to these maps, or to the original charts on which they are based and which do not appear to have survived.
Another early description of the territory now known as Suriname was recorded by Captain David Pietersz. de Vries. He visited the "Wild Coast" in 1634 in the "Coninck David", intending "met dertigh Planters een beginsel van een Colonien te maecken" (to start a colony with thirty planters).The "Coninck David" reached Cayenne early in September 1634 and there De Vries put the settlers ashore so that they could start to cultivate tobacco ; he continued along the west coast of Guyana and so sailed into the region which is now Suriname. On 21 October he penetrated the Marowijne River in his sloop. There was, he noted, a sandbank in the estuary, with navigable channels on either side. Two miles upstream he sighted several islands, and came across a village, inhabited by members of the Araucos tribe.
It was however almost deserted, for all the natives had gone to the Sername (Suriname), leaving behind one of the women to look after the huts. De Vries did however meet other natives, who promised him a ship's load of timber for the following year. On the morning of 24 October he weighed anchor and after sailing along the coast westwards until noon, entered the estuary of the Suriname, where he stopped. "En doen konden wy beyde Rivieren open sien, te weten de Rivier van de Sername (Suriname) is de westelijckste, ende Comawini (Commewijne) is de oostelijckste" - (and then we beheld both rivers open before us, to wit the river Sername, which is the westernmost, and the Commawini, which is the easternmost.) De Vries was told that a few days before a ship from Flushing had left the anchorage, after spending four months there loading timber. De Vries then sailed in his sloop some sixteen miles upstream to explore the Suriname. In two fortified dwellings he found "een Engelsman Capiteyn Marreschal (Marshall) met tsestig Engelsen, en wilden hier een Colone'e maacken" (An Englishman, Captain Marshall, with sixty English, who wanted to establish a colony here). Captain Marshall's attempt to found a colony was a failure: it did not however deter others, and the Dutch also tried to colonise the area.
Jacques Ousiel records in his report, written in Tobago, that between 1635 and 1637 the Dutch had set up seven settlements on the Wild Coast, one being on the river Suriname. It seems that the efforts to colonise the Suriname region owed a great deal to Jews who came from Brasil. There is also evidence that by the middle of the seventeenth century there were several Dutch sugar plantations on the Marowijne and Commewijn rivers. The exact fate of all these trading posts and settlements after Lord Willoughby arrived in Guyana is unknown, but it is likely that they were incorporated in Willoughby Land, and thus came under British rule.
It cannot be said however that all this activity contributed much to the knowledge, in Europe, of Guyana and Suriname. This is clear from the maps of that period by the French cartographers Du Val and Sanson. In the accuracy of their delineation of the coastline, these maps mark a new phase in the history of the cartography of Guyana ; yet both Du Val and Sanson, when dealing with the interior, retain the mythical elements of a Lake Parima and Manoa, the city of gold. Sanson noted "The coast has been repeatedly explored by the Spanish, English, Dutch and French, all of whom tried to set up colonies there - no doubt because they hoped to make contact with People from the interior, where they hoped to find a new Peru - that is to say the empire of Manoa or El Dorado, which they believed to contain so much gold." They made very accurate notes of the rivers, capes and bays of this coast. Among the mightiest and most splendid rivers are the Essequebe (Essequibo), the Brebice (Berbice), the Corretine (Corantijn), the Marruvyne (Marowijne), the Cayonne (Cayenne). The first Anglo-Dutch naval war brought no lasting changes to the Wild Coast. At the end of the war there were still three Dutch settlements, on the rivers Essequibo, Berbice and Pomeroon, and one British settlement, on the Suriname.
Indeed, at this time, the Dutch at home still knew very little about Guyana and what had happened there. Thus in 1659, Otto Keye wrote: "Om redenen, dat het selve landt, tot noch toe weynich by de Nederlanders is bevaren ende besocht geworden ; waer door het komt, dat weynich menschen hier te lande, eenige grondige ofte genoechsame kennisse van't selve konnen hebben?" (Since this land has to this day been but rarely visited and explored by the Dutch, few people in this country can have a through and sufficient knowledge of it). Just how inaccurate was some of this knowledge can be seen from this description of Guyana "Ghelijck dan het Rijcke van Guajana uyt-munt in heerlyckheydt van een seer ghesondt ende vruchtbaer Climaet, soo heeft hetselfde oock menichte van seer schoone ende Vischrijcke Revieren, Bayen, Kriecken ende Killen, dewelcke het selve allenthalven door-stroomen, ende de vruchtbaerheydt des selven Landts seer vermeerderen" (While the empire of Guyana is notable for the beauty of its lovely and excellent land, its agreeable, healthy and fertile climate, it also contains numerous rivers, inlets and creeks throughout the country, with an abundance of fish, which greatly add to the country's natural wealth).
It was in fact the British who laid the first foundations of permanent settlement and colonisation in Suriname. Lord Willoughby established the first real colony, but before that there had been two unsuccessful attempts by Captain Marshall to found a settlement on the Suriname River.
Marshall's first attempt had been made in 1630. De Vries, as noted earlier, had come across Marshall's house when exploring the river in 1634, when he noted he had found "een Huys ofte twee, dat met Pallisaden random Fortse wys was gemaeckt" (One or two houses, made like a fortress by means of a circle of palisades). Why Marshall's first attempt failed is not known. In any case he was not discouraged and in 1643 he tried again to settle English colonists on the Suriname, the Saramacca and the Corantijn. Fortunately, through the account by Major Scott, a good deal is known about this second venture, and Scott's detailed knowledge of the coast of Guyana makes his account even more valuable.
Scott had first-hand knowledge of large areas of Guyana and he had also studied much of the literature, in several languages. In his "Discription of Guyana" he also acknowledged his debt to one Matteson, whom he had taken prisoner during the British conquest of the Dutch colony on the Essequibo in 1665. Scott declared that Matteson was one of the "greatest travailers that ever were in Guyana of Christians". In his "Description of the Amazons" Scott recorded that he had received "very much of what I shall relate" from Matteson, and went on to say that he had "bought of this man all his mapps, carts and journalls which he had made in fortis years, while he had served the Spanish and Portuguese in the West Indies". Unfortunately, Scott's plan to compile a detailed history of the West Indies never came to fruition ; his notes however are evidence of his expert knowledge and contain much of interest. Apparently there was among these notes at one time a map, now unfortunately lost, which provided a picture of the colonisation of Guyana as a whole, and particularly of British activities in Suriname. Scott referred to this map, writing : "But in Persuance of the Discription of this Countrey : know that it abounds with many Spacious Rivers, Rivaletts, & Creeks, which I have endeavored with great care to discribe in two Chart with their Lattitude, and Longitude in the two boundaries, Cape north, the northerne Cape of the great Amazone and Cape Brema the Southern Cape of Oronoque : by which all ye rest may be measured". Scott began his notes with an account of the geography of Guyana and an historical survey of the various attempts by European powers to colonize the territory ; he concluded with a description of the conquest of Suriname by Abraham Crijnssen in 1667, its subsequent reconquest by British forces and its cession to the States of Zeeland on 30 April 1668. It was because of his interest in the early attempts to settle Suriname that Scott records the ventures of Marshall, and he is the only extant source for details of the second of Marshall's attempts. Scott notes "the elleauenth Collonie was one Mr. Marshall with 300 Families of English Imployed by the Earle of Warwick, & cr, who settled Suranam, Suramaca and Curanteen Anno 1643, lived peaceably untill the yeare 1645 at which time they espoused the Quarrell of ye French and were cut of by the natives". English efforts however did not cease with this failure. The first Englishmen to be involved in Guyana, men such as Raleigh, Keymis, Harcourt and Fisher had sought to do no more than establish some contact with the coast between the Amazon and the Orinoco. Marshall had made a tentative but unsuccessful effort to colonise the Suriname, now through the initiative of Lord Willoughby of Parham, a more sustained effort was to meet with success.
Willoughby was based in Barbados, only a few day's journey by ship from Suriname. He was therefore in an advantageous position to provide adequate logistic support for the scheme. In 1650 Willoughby sent an expedition under Sergeant Major Anthony Rowse to the coast, with instructions to find a site suitable for a settlement. Writing to his wife in a letter dated 9 August 1651, Willoughby observed: "It is commanded by all that went, for the sweetest place that ever was seen ; delicate rivers, brave landfine timber. They were out almost five month and amongst forty persons, not one of them had so much as their head ache. They commend the air to be so pure, and the water so good, as they had never such stomachs in their lives, eating five times a day plenty of fish and fowl, partridges and pheasants innumerable ; brave savannahs where you may in coach or on horseback, ride thirty or forty miles. Willoughby went on to mention that he was "sending hence a hundred men to take possession and doubt not but in a few years to have many thousands there". In view of the date of this letter, it seems probable that the colony was established in 1651, and not in 1650, as has been generally supposed. However, Scott, who may not have been accurately informed, recorded that some three hundred English, under the command of Rowse from Barbados, had established a colony on the "Suranam" in 1650. Rowse he described as "a Gentleman of great Gallantrie and Prudence and of Long Experience in ye West Indies". Because these British settlers were experienced men who had proved themselves as pioneers in Barbados, Rowse's venture met with immediate success. This encouraged investors who provided the necessary financial backing, and so the future prosperity of the territory's plantations was assured. In 1652 Willoughby visited the new colony himself and organised its defences. According to Rowse, the affairs of the colony were directed by William Byam, its energetic governor, until its conquest by the Dutch in 1667.
After the Restoration Charles II, by a Royal Charter of 2 June 1662, awarded to Willoughby and Lawrence Hyde jointly, the territory "called Serrinam also Surrinam lying in breadth East and West one English Mile next beyond the Westerly Banks of the River of Copenam and Easterly one Mile from or beyond the River Marawyne conteyninge from East to West Forty Leagues or thereabouts and extendinge from the maine Ocean or Sea called the North Sea southward up into the Land to the Heads or Springs of the said River and from thence by direct Lynes unto the mayne Ocean called the South Sea and the said Waters, Rivers and Streams commonly called the Rivers of Seramica, Surrinam, Copenam, Marawyn... and shall be called by the Name of Willoughby Land".
It is interesting to note that much of the economic prosperity of Willoughby Land was due to the Jews who settled there. The colony was particularly prosperous from 1660 until 1665 ; it benefited from the influx of Jews who sought refuge there after the fall of Cayenne. These newcomers were not only expert growers of sugar cane, but also skilled in building sugar mills, which they erected in the colony.
An anonymous manuscript map entitled "A description of the Colony of Surranam in Guiana. Drawne in the yeare 1667" provides a clear picture of the plantations along the Suriname and Commewijne and their tributaries during this period. From this map it is clear that there were no plantations along the lower reaches of the rivers. This was because of the insuperable difficulties the British colonists encountered in attempting to drain these low-lying areas. This was a disappointment to the settlers because these alluvial plains were far more fertile than the higher land. Of course, when the Dutch arrived, the situation changed. The Dutch could draw on their unique experience in the Netherlands to make a success of the tedious and skilled job of making the necessary dykes and dams. Only then were those parts of Suriname colonised, but the prosperity of the region was significantly increased when that happened.
There is another extant report on Willoughby Land, written by George Warren, who visited the region of the Suriname River in 1667 and subsequently published his impressions in a short book entitled "An Impartial Description of Surinam". A Dutch translation was issued in 1669. Among the interesting facts he recounts is the existence of a small village five miles from the mouth of the Suriname "het welcke het fort ghenoemt wort" (which is called the fort). It seems that after the outbreak of the second Anglo-Dutch war, the Governor, William Byam had ordered a "Fort Willoughby" to be built of stone, to protect the colony's main waterway ; but the fort had not been completed when Crijnssen captured it in 1667 and renamed it "Zeelandia". When Westhuysen sailed down the Suriname River in the "Vissers-Herder" a few days after Crijnssen, he observed this "schoon en welgheleghen Citadel" (fine and well-planned fortress), but he made no mention of a settlement attached to the fort guarding what he called "de schoonste Revier, die aen de gantsche Kust is" (the most beautiful river along the whole coast).
While the British controlled Suriname, the centre of administration was not Paramaribo but Torarica (by some maps called "Victoria"). This was a township situated on the left bank of the river, on the site of what was later to become the La Simplicité plantation. Warren describes Torarica as the capital, "bestaende in ontrent hondert woning-huysen en een Capelle" (consisting of about a hundred houses and a chapel). He goes on to say in his report, and his account is confirmed by two manuscript maps, that "voor dese Stadt is een heel fraye Baye ofte Haven, groot en wijt genoech voor hondert Scheepen" (In front of this town there is a very fine bay or harbour, large and wide enough for a hundred ships). Torarica remained the capital until 1667. It was there that Byam, as Governor, negotiated with De Rama and Lichtenberg, and it was there that Crijnssen signed the treaty confirming the surrender of the colony to the Dutch on 6 March 1667. The Mogge map published only a few years later in 1671, does however show a settlement, called Paramaribo, beside what was by then called Fort Zeelandia.
Paramaribo became the administrative capital after the colony became Dutch, and Torarica gradually decayed ; now its ruins are covered by dense bush.
When he described the colony's plantations, Warren stressed the importance of the river as the main supply route for the colony: "De Plantagien leggen wel dartijgh mijlen opwaerts langs de Riviere, ende het schijnt dat de nieuwe Colonie hare grensen niet verder uytstrecken en sal, van weghen de verscheyde Cataracten ofte waterfallen aen wederzijden van de selve, waer door het water van de Kanten van de Steenrotzen nederstortende, de passage op de Reviere, den besten wegh zijnde om alle behoeften naer boven te brengen" (the plantations are situated a good thirty miles upstream, and it seems the new colony will not expand its frontiers because of the rapids and waterfalls on either bank, with the water cascading from the rocks. The river itself is therefore the best route for the carriage upstream of all necessities). The navigable portion of the Suriname River is some 175 km (109 miles) long ; Torarica was about 75 km (54 miles) from the sea.
The plantations lay on either bank, each with its own jetty and boat, the river was clearly the colony's main artery. By 1663 Suriname's population was about 4,000, of all races, spread over 175 plantations: this seems evident from the 1667 manuscript map.
Little remains to be said about the history of Suriname up to 1667. During the second Anglo-Dutch war, Fort Willoughby was captured by a naval squadron under Abraham Crijnssen ; the colony was subsequently re-occupied by the British, but by the Treaty of Breda it was ceded to the Dutch.
The surrender of Willoughby Land, or Suriname as it now became, did not however mean that the British settlers were expelled. The plantations of absentee landlords living in England were confiscated, but the resident owners were given the option of selling their holdings or swearing allegiance to the States of Zeeland ; if they did the latter they were permitted to remain in the colony. The consequent changes in the ownership of the plantations are shown on the undated manuscript map in the Blathwayt Atlas ; presumably this was drawn up by a Dutch resident shortly after the colony changed hands, using the 1667 manuscript map as a basis.
The acquisition of the colony by the Dutch gave a new impetus to exploration and this is reflected in an upsurge in cartography. After the Peace of Breda, Willem Mogge was sent to Suriname with instructions "dadelick op sijne aancomste te Serename een pertinente en correcte caerte van geheel Serename te maeken met hetgene daaronder wert gerekent" (He shall, immediately upon his arrival in Suriname, make an accurate and correct map of the whole territory, with all things considered to belong to it).