« PrejšnjaNaprej »
the government might have the fields earlier for sugar cane, the cultivators were forced to plant the kinds of rice that matured earlier, but gave a smaller crop of poorer quality. Many were forced to subsist on wild roots and herbs—and to remedy matters the government proposed to make rice too a forced culture! In the famine of 1849-50 over a third of a million people died in central Java, in one of the richest parts of the earth, which now maintains a population that has doubled in numbers. It is remarkable that no armed revolts against the system ever occurred. From time to time the native in one place or another protested against the exactions of the government, but they had no ability to organize an opposition, and simply fared the worse for their show of resistance.
Of all these events practically nothing was known at the time in the Netherlands. No government industry was ever so free from the supervision of the general public, or so unchecked by the public criticism that keeps governments in the right track, as was the culture system. The Minister of the Colonies was the only man in the Netherlands who knew the real state of affairs in the East, and he was responsible to the King alone, determining the colonial policy without thought of popular or parliamentary opposition. The slight control that the people exercised over colonial affairs can be appreciated from the fact that up to 1840 the Chambers had not even the right to determine the way in which the colonial surplus should be spent at home. The Minister of the Colonies received the reports of all officials and edited them before they were laid before the King or made known to the public; all unpleasant details were cut out that the ministerial policy might appear in the best light. Java was jealously closed to the individual traveler, it contained few Europeans who were not directly connected with public administration and subject to its discipline, and strict press regulations prevented the agitation of any questions that could embarrass the government. The reading public in the Netherlands saw little news that was not meant for them; news “pour l'Europe” was a stock phrase in the East for touched-up pictures that concealed the real condition of affairs.
de Stuers, De vestiging en uitbreiding der Nederlanders ter Westkust van Sumatra. Amsterdam, 1850, 1: XXV, C; 2:77–78.
The one great fact known to the Dutch people and to their representatives in the States General was the net surplus that was turned into the treasury every year. Arguments against the system would have needed to be strongly urged and widely spread to meet this argument for it, and in fact there was practically no opposition to the culture system in the Netherlands before the revision of the Dutch constitution in 1848. The members of the liberal party did not before that time oppose the government's colonial policy; they opposed the political system that allowed the government to have a policy of any kind free from their knowledge and control. It was not until the fundamental question of government by the King or government by the people had been settled that the details of government could form the subject of parliamentary discussion.
The colonial question was of minor importance in the agitation that resulted in the constitutional changes of 1848, but the new constitution established the conditions essential to reform of the colonial system in providing that the colonies should be governed by the King and Chambers, not by the King alone, and by exacting annual reports to the States General on the state of the colonies. A new class of men entered the Second Chamber, liberals schooled in the doctrines of the classical political economy and opposed to monopoly and compulsion, in closer touch with the people and with broader sympathies than had been the case before. They could make their influence felt through the powers that the publicity of debates and the rights of initiative and amendment conferred upon them. A new voice was heard in the Second Chamber, that of Van Hoëvell, a man destined to play an important part in the reorganization of the Dutch policy in the East. He had been a preacher at Batavia, was well informed as to affairs in Java and founded a periodical to discuss them, the Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië, that became one of the great organs of the reform party. To gain greater freedom for himself and his publication he was forced in 1848 to return to the Netherlands. He was elected to the Second Chamber and disclosed to his fellow members a state of affairs in Java of which they had not dreamed before. His revelations led to a decided improvement in the administration of the culture system. Its principles were still maintained, and were left untouched by the colonial constitution (Regeeringsreglement) of 1854, by which the legislature fixed the frame work for the government of the eastern possessions. But the principles were henceforth applied with much more judgment and mercy, the more flagrant abuses were corrected. The opposition contented itself with a gradual development in the direction of free cultivation, with requiring an immediate abolition of the system of compulsion. For a decade after the establishment of the constitution of 1848 the Dutch were too busy with affairs at home, with questions of franchise and citizenship, of education and religion, of the reorganization of local and provincial government, to undertake a thorough revision of the colonial system.
The credit for bringing home to the mass of the people the need of a reform, and of making it, as it was, the political question of prime importance during a great part of the sixties, belongs in large measure to Edouard Douwes Dekker. His book, "Max Havelaar, or The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company," published under the pseudonym of Multatuli, has often been compared to "Uncle Tom's Cabin” in the influence that it exercised. Dekker had served as assistant resi
. dent of Lebak, in Java, and had had full opportunity to observe the evils of the culture system. He had the temper of a man of letters rather than that of a politician, and he revolted against the whole system instead of trying to effect a reform in the details of its application. He made his official position untenable and then returned to the Netherlands to appeal to the people against the government. In the form of a story of which Max Havelaar, an official in Java, is the hero, he described his own experiences, exposing the faults of the colonial policy and the vices of the administration. The book is not free from errors of fact, for Dekker idealized the Javanese and condemned the Dutch without discrimination; it is fantastic in its composition and style, and partly merits Wallace's description, "a tedious and long-winded story.” It certainly lacks the directness and force of "Uncle Tom's Cabin.” But it was a power in its time. According to the translator of the English edition, "A few months after the publication of Max Havelaar one of the most eminent members of the Dutch Parliament avowed that this book had struck the whole country with horror.” It brought a new note into the colonial strife. Dekker took sides neither with the conservatives for forced labor nor with the liberals for free labor, he had but one refrain—the Javanese is given over to the oppression of his chiefs, and they abuse him in the name of the King.
The colonial question occupied the chief place in Dutch politics in the decade from 1860 to 1870. The struggle over it gave rise to bitter party feeling, tempted the King to an interference that put a dangerous strain upon the constitution, and was decided only after a number of ministerial crises. By the later date, however, the liberals had won the victory, and the culture system had practically been abolished in favor of cultivation by free laborers working under private planters.
The less important government cultures, those of tea, tobacco, indigo, pepper and cinnamon, were given up between 1860 and 1865. Some of these had been the source of actual loss to the government, none had been the source of any considerable profit, and even the conservatives were ready to agree that these cultures were not worth the keeping. The case was different with the remaining cultures, of sugar and of coffee, more important than all the others put together in respect to the land and labor occupied by them, and the profits that they returned.
1 Pierson, Koloniale politiek, 332. The original was published in Amsterdam in 1860 under the title, Max Havelaar, of de Koffijveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelsmaatschappij, door Multatuli. The first edition was exhausted in a few weeks and a second was not published ; Dekker had sold the copyright and the purchaser would not allow another edition because of the offence in many quarters that the first had given. (So it is stated in the article, “A Dutch Political Novel,'' in the North British Review, 1867, 46:323 ff. But the British Museum has a copy, catalogued as “tweede druk,” published in 1860.) An English translation by Baron Alphonse Nahuijs was published at Edinburgh in 1868, and characteristic selections are printed in Warner's Library, 8:4513–20. A Dutch reviewer deprecated the tone and manner of the book, while recognizing its claim to attention-"it glitters a good deal, but there is gold in it.” He thought that the romantic color of the story would hurt its influence with the serious-minded; instead of proving anything it would only raise questions, and people would not believe that the state of affairs could be so bad so pictured. The very merit of the book was that it did raise questions; it interested people, however ill it informed them, and by forcing the colonial question before the Chambers, it led in time to a better knowledge of conditions in Java and of the measures necessary to reform them. De Economist, 1860, Bijblad, 234 ff.
The sugar culture was peculiar in that it had always given employment to a considerable number of Europeans, who carried on the processes of manufacture as contractors under the government. The organization of the industry under these Europeans promised to make the change from compulsory services to wage labor much easier, and to facilitate also the taxation on which the government must depend for its revenue when the industry was transferred to private enterprise. The contractors favored a change that would give them greater freedom and the chance at larger profits, and the interests of private capitalists were enlisted to influence the government in favor of freedom of industry. A law of 1870 provided for a gradual transition from forced to free culture; beginning in 1878, the amount of land and labor owned by the natives was diminished annually, and in 1890 the transition had been completely effected. Meanwhile the planters were bound to pay the natives wages considerably higher than those customary under the culture system, and to pay them for their land as well, and in addition to pay to the government a tax on the sugar produced, varying from 2 to 3 florins per pikol (one hundred and thirty-three pounds). The government lost slightly by the change, receiving according to Pierson's estimates 4,000,000 florins annually in place of over 5,000,000 that it had been making by the sale of sugar in the previous period. But the natives gained very decidedly, and the profits to the planters were sufficient to lead to a rapid extension of the culture outside the bounds that the government had formerly set for it. Between 1871 and 1884 fifty new sugar factories were built, and the production rose from 2,725,000 pikols to 6,495,000 pikols.
This period of progress in the sugar industry has been followed by one of depression, that has developed into a real crisis in recent years. It was said recently that of the one hundred and ninety sugar factories in Java, fifty often worked at a loss, and of the others only twenty were really profitable. The United
1 Boissevain, Ned. Ind., De Gids, 1887, ii, 341.