LETTER from Matthias Beck, vice-director in Curaçao, to the directors in Amsterdam

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Noble, Honorable, Valiant, Wise and very Discreet Lords.

My Lords. My last letter to your honors was sent on the 28th of April with the Company’s ship De Musch, which I not only hope shall have arrived there long before the receipt of this, but also look for its return every day with anticipation. Since that time a sturdy Genoese ship named St. Crous has arrived here from Cartagena on the 2nd of July with 160,000 pieces of eight in specie to be laid out only for slaves by the factors who reside here on behalf of the Genoese Company. However, they have been delaying doing this upon the orders and advice of their superiors, trusting that the same shall have concluded a new contract with the Company and that there might be more slaves present here for which to lay out all their capital and to take them away all at once, for which reason their aforesaid ship was brought here. Since then the ship Den Gidion, skipper Simon Cornelissen Gilde, the bearer of this, has arrived here safely on the 8th of this from Guinea and Angola by way of Cayana[1] with over 300 slaves. I had hoped that with these and the slaves already on hand here to have enough slaves to be able, on the orders and advice of the Company, to accommodate the aforesaid for their aforesaid specie, as was also their intention: if no timely orders or advice from their superiors as well as from the Company were forthcoming that they would then contract for payment with me for as many slaves as were presently here and might arrive in the meantime in order to dispatch their aforesaid ship which lies here at great expense; therefore, they expected that they could avail themselves with their aforesaid ship of the slaves who were brought here with the aforesaid ship Den Gidion. However, the aforesaid skipper Simon Cornelissen Gilde showed me such definite orders and instructions to the contrary that I dared not deviate from them, as your honors may be pleased to observe by the copies thereof accompanying this.[2] In conformity with these orders I am therefore sending your honors with this aforesaid ship and skipper such a quantity of slaves as can be seen in the invoice included in the enclosures accompanying this, to which I shall refer for brevity’s sake.[3]

Whereas for the time being no more slaves are expected here, the aforesaid factors will have to be content with the slaves who have been brought here with previous ships for the Company’s account. And whereas many of the slaves brought here aboard the aforesaid ship Den Gidion have been infected with scurvy, I have therefore kept the majority of them here and have shipped out others from those who arrived with the previous ships. When these have been cured of the scurvy they can be delivered to the aforesaid factors in the place of the others. I hope this shall be in three to four weeks at the most.

In what manner the French have cunningly dispossessed the Company of the island Cayana your honors shall best be able to learn verbally from the bearer of this and the passengers coming over, to which I refer for brevity’s sake.

The bearer of this, skipper Simon Cornelissen Gilde, has also related how he learned from a Zeeuw’s skipper[4] on the coast of Angola that there were five sturdy English ships sailing from England to the coast of Guinea. Little good is to be expected of them if that is to be their design. We have also been informed here some time ago that fourteen sturdy English frigates had arrived at the English Caribbean islands. We still do not know what their intention is.

We have news that a certain ship out of Amsterdam named Den Brill destined for the colonists at Cayana was seized by the English and taken to Barbados. It was to pick up slaves and cattle at Cabo Verde and take them to Cayana; and from there come to this place with a supply of provisions and personnel equipment loaded aboard by the Company, for a cargo of salt. The truth hereof shall be revealed shortly.

The French who took possession of Cayana brought this news there because they had been at Cabo Verde during their voyage. We have still not been able to learn what they have done there.

On the 5th of this month of July a French ship St. Anthony came here from Cayana, whose captain was a certain Monsieur Labee, with some Dutch colonists whom he had intended to take to Tobago and the Caribbean islands; for lack of good pilots they missed them and ended up arriving here. This French captain related that over a year ago the ambassador of France to the lords States-General in the Hague informed him of the reasons for their claim to the island of Cayana as having been first owners thereof; whether they are now sufficient enough to be legal, we shall be able to ascertain. I would greatly doubt that your honors believe that the director and council at Cayana had [      ] power to resist the French; however, under good conditions they would have preserved the Company’s claims and prerogatives. The director of Cayana (named Quirin Spranger) left eight days before the aforesaid ship with a Company’s ship Den Oranjenboom with some colonists and soldiers; he went to Tobago with the intention of going from there to this place. Whereas I still have heard nothing from him, I assume that he left Tobago for the fatherland. I have accommodated some of the aforesaid colonists and three or four soldiers from the lost Brazilian territories who have requested to remain here. A few of them left with the aforesaid French ship for the Caribbean islands; what compensation the Company can expect from the crown of France for these actions, we shall learn in due time.


Noble, honorable, valiant, wise prudent and very discreet lords, I commend your honors, after my humble respects, to the merciful and blessed protection of the Almighty and remain,

My lords, your honors most obedient servant and friend.

Curaçao, in Fort Amsterdam, the 21st of July 1664.


i.e., Cayenne, in French Guiana.
These orders and instructions do not survive.
See 17:86 for this invoice or bill of lading.
The skipper is either from the province of Zeeland or sailing for the Zeeland chamber of the West India Company.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., Curaçao Papers, 1640-1665 (New Netherland Research Center and the New Netherland Institute: 2011).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.