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

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Noble, Honorable, Esteemed, Wise, Prudent and very Discreet Lords.

My Lords.

My last dated 5 January[1] went to your honors with the ship De Gidion, skipper Simon Cornelissen Gilde, by way of the Caribbean islands, as per accompanying copy. This follows, time permitting now, as a more extensive response to your honors’ letters dated 7 August and 8 October received with the ship De Gidion and shortly thereafter with the ship De Lieffde. [2]

The arrival of the ship De Gidion was a relief to us here because we had no bread, pottage, meat or bacon left in our magazine. What was sent by your honors for this place aboard the aforesaid ship and the ship De Lieffde, the commissary Laurens van Ruyven has made out proper receipts thereof, to which I refer. The skipper Simon Cornelissen Gilde took on five last salt here with an order to the commander at Aruba to receive 40 to 42 horses there in order to trade them in the Caribbean islands according to your honors’ orders and ordinance pertaining thereto which were granted to him, of which the aforesaid skipper shall report for your honors’ pleasure when he safely returns there.

We wish, along with your honors, that such a quantity of provisions could be brought here from N. Nederlandt, which is urgently required here from time to time. For this reason just recently we wrote to the honorable lord director- general by way of a private ship Speramundij, which was going there with 50 last salt, informing him of our distressful situation and requesting, if it could be arranged, for the same ship or another one to be sent here expressly with provisions and necessities as per memorandum which we would reciprocate by returning the same with salt or horses from Aruba according to his honor’s pleasure. However, we have still received no news thereof. The skippers and seamen, who have been there frequently, know how to discern sufficiently the suitability and season of the year to navigate to N. Nederlandt; just as the skipper of the ship Diemen, who, which his pilot, departed from here with salt, was not concerned with the time of the year. Therefore it is our assumption here that its sinking was attributable mostly to the age of the aforesaid ship and the weight of the salt taken on here with some leakage; especially because neither sight nor sound has been perceived of it.

The ship St. Jan that was to come here from the coast of Guinea with Negroes, which your honors ordered to use in place of the aforesaid ship Diemen, your honors shall learn about from my most recent writings as well as from the enclosures once again sent herewith. What pains us here the most is that your honors came to lose such a good’ quantity of Negroes thereby, together with such a seaworthy bark which was our right hand here.[3]

Although I have been diligent in pursuing the pirates of the Negroes and bark, as stated in my most recent letter, nevertheless nothing has come of it as it was supposed to. I shall inform your honors in detail about it by way of the ship St. Joris which is to depart this month, God willing, directly from here; and if no remedy can be found to defend against such piracy and heinous crimes, by which the Company’s slaves and vessels are lost without any reprisal and redress, then they shall not only continue therein but also frighten the Spanish merchants from coming here to trade. Enclosed herewith I am sending the record of what was considered provisionally necessary, with the advice of the council here, to put into operation against them,[4] of which one of the same has also been given to Simon Cornelissen Gilde for him to make use of when and where he sees fit. Although I am extremely eager to catch the pirates and recover as much as possible of your honors’ losses, and prevent any more of it, nevertheless, I am troubled because I do not want to go into it too much or too little. Therefore, I humbly request that your honors be pleased to come to my assistance in this matter by sending such orders, detailed instructions and authority so that the same can be set into operation against such pirates without objection and then carried out, when the occasion offers, as an example to others.

If we had had here a seaworthy yacht with 14 guns and a proportionate crew for it, we would have, without a doubt, recaptured and recovered the aforesaid Negroes and bark. It pains us that we were unable to execute our good intentions for lack of it.

I certainly would not like to see such pirates given cause to make fruitless the zeal which we intend for your honors’ service in encouraging the Spanish merchants to come here for the growth of commerce and procurement of Negroes which is being established more and more by means of your honors’ ships and trading activities. We will have to tolerate what legally is caused by English ships with proper orders and commissions against their enemies, even the Spaniards, but not us; however, those who operate without legal orders and commissions not only against the Spaniards but even us and cause the most damage here, ought not to be tolerated and by all ways and means banished from the seas.

We are pleased to see the diligence with which your honors are providing us from time to time with Negroes. It shall be the most effective bait in bringing the Spaniards here, both from the mainland and other places, to carry on serious trade; however, the more skillfully and peacefully the trade to here and on this island can be carried on, the better it is both here as well as from there.

I have sent to your honors, by way of the ship Den Coninck Salomon, the most recent dyewood which has been cut here and on Bonairo, and shall let no more be cut until your honors’ further orders, for reasons of which your honors have been informed.

Whereas Sr. Ghijsberto de Rosa was authorized by me and the private parties interested in the ship De Hoop to go to the governor of Havana from whom we learned that the pirate would be pursued and for which purpose I was sent such papers, letters and evidence to serve for the recovery of the aforesaid ship and cargo; however, we have still not had the appropriate occasion and opportunity to be able to set the same in motion, except that Sr. Gijsberto de Roosa recently sent his yacht Den Jongen St. Paulo with a cargo to St. Jago de Cuba where it was also accomplished that along with the provisions a letter was sent from there overland to the governor of Havana.[5] It was to inform the aforesaid governor, as per accompanying copy, that a better opportunity shall in time offer itself so that the intentions of your honors and interested friends can be carried out to the best of our ability and brought to a favorable conclusion as soon as possible. I shall keep your honors more promptly informed of further developments therein.

The contract which your honors entered into with Messrs. Hector Pietersen and Guilliamme Momma I have just now received by the aforesaid ships Den Gidion and Liefde, after all the Negroes, who came with the ship Den Coninck Salomon, have been traded. Although the ship Den Eyckenboom has still not arrived here, nevertheless two Spanish ships with a yacht from Cadix came into the harbor here on the 2nd of January for the purpose of picking up the Negroes according to the aforesaid contract, pursuant to the special orders and instructions shown to me by the captain of the aforesaid ships named Pedro Sarilho and skipper Ewout Jansen. Whereas they made me to understand that if they had to leave here without Negroes then the entire purpose of their voyage was thereby nullified and they would thereby suffer excessive losses; therefore, I have been forced to request both from the freemen as well as from the Company’s servants that they loan the Company as many Negroes as possible from their plantations with the promise that they shall be compensated with good Negroes in their place from the first Company Negroes who arrive. Thus it was with the Cabo Veersche Negroes[6] whom I gathered together with great difficulty from the Company as well as private parties, and obtained in all 62 head among whom there were some young and old, for which reason two head less have been calculated, as appears on the original receipt accompanying this, of which they then paid me here for 46 head, according to the contract, at 120 pieces of eight, amounting to 5520 pieces of eight, so that the remaining 14 head of Negroes are to be paid to your honors in Holland by the aforesaid Messrs. Hector Pietersen and Guilliamme Momma. This is covered further in the receipt, to which I refer for brevity’s sake. The aforesaid friends were extremely happy that they were accommodated with the aforesaid Negroes. They had a small Dutch ship with them which had a Dutch skipper and a Dutch crew. It was loaded with 4000 pots of Spanish wine which they brought from Spain; and whereas they had much more than they needed, they consequently offered to sell it here cheaply in return for parcels of goods, because they had decided to leave the ship here with orders for it to return to Holland, rather than take it with them, in order to avoid the great expense of free entry to the Spanish places. Sr. Ghijsberto de Rosa bought all the Spanish wine and paid for it with parcels of goods. When Sr. Gijsberto de Rosa reported this to me and petitioned for a place to store the wine, I informed his honor of the order that I was to receive a recognition fee of two percent from the ships which came by way of the Caribbean islands and sold their goods here, if they had not paid it in Holland; and that it was a small matter that the Company would receive two percent of the Spanish wine, because it came out of and from Spain[7] and was also being sold here; or at least that he should give me a note for my release that it was understood by your honors that Spaniards coming here from Spain with the products and merchandise of their country, to sell the same here, would be legally exempted, and if this was not the case then their correspondents in Amsterdam would be obligated to pay the same to your honors. The Spanish captain was inclined to do this; however, whereas he was informed by others of our own nation that it was not liked that the Spaniards were exempted from everything here, although the aforesaid produce and merchandise was brought here out of Spain and also sold here, therefore I did not persevere in it any further in order not to offend the Spanish captain. Therefore, I request that your honors please respond to this by giving me instructions as to what I am to do in such situations and what I am to leave to my judgment.

The aforesaid captain departed on the 15th of January with his aforesaid two ships from this harbor greatly satisfied and pleased for Porto Bello,[8] so he gave me to understand, leaving with me his letters to forward to his correspondents in Amsterdam. Their ship St. Joris, which they left here, will depart directly for there this month of February, however around behind England, if no better opportunity offers itself. I shall send over with it, God willing, the proceeds which are in the coffers for your honors.

I have received from Cabo Verde with the ship Den Gidion only 28 slaves, old and young, as per receipt issued to the skipper.[9] Their conditon and age make them almost worthless in comparison to the Negroes, on the average, who came with the ship Den Coninck Salomon; however, I was told that they would do their best to see to it that healthy Negroes be brought from there who would then also fetch a better price in proportion.

I shall send directly to your honors by way of the first suitable ship departing from here a half dozen of the best horses, for reasons known to your honors.

We have sufficiently made known to our neighbors across the way and to the Spaniards of other places your honors’ instructions to me concerning the pirates here, that we are resolved to let them come neither here nor hereabouts and we shall also no longer let pirates easily enter our harbor, because they know that we are suspicious of them here, unless they come into the harbor in strength, under one or another pretext, in order to see whether they can gain some advantage by plundering us, as the pirates have threatened. Even if we are on our guard against it, our defense would have to be with our hands if such a situation occurred. Such recruits as your honors just sent with the ship De Lieffde would not be sufficient to make a defense against a large force; especially since so many of the veterans, whose time has expired, leave almost as soon as a strong replacement arrives. It would certainly increase the security of this place if we had a complete company of soldiers; however, with so few soldiers we would not be able to defend ourselves against any hostile Spaniards who have aggressive intentions and who are as strong as were the two ships that were recently in our harbor with 250 men aboard. This applies also to pirates, both French and English, who have been in our harbor no less frequently. We can trust one about as much as the other. When the Spaniards realize that we are so weak, they will be able to come up with one or another pretext; especially those who come from Spain and are jealous of our trade, as was expressed to one or another as well as to me by some of the merchants who were here in the harbor with the aforesaid two ships, stating that in Spain it was forbidden to trade from here with the Spaniards on the mainland or elsewhere, and that such a prohibition was made so that no Spaniards from any place would dare to come here to trade. On the other hand I learned from the captain himself that they trusted the trade here would flourish more and more and that he hoped to return here with his ship St. Catalina within four months with three to four thousand pieces of eight to be laid out for Negroes and merchandise, which the skipper Ewout Jansen also confirmed with me. If they arrive safely at Porto Bello, the Spanish frigates, which were here recently to trade with Nova Spanien, also told me that they come up annually from Nova Spanien to Caracas with a lot of hard currency to trade there for cacao and merchandise, and that they would try to make a practice to stop here on the way from Caracas to trade for Negroes and parcels of goods; especially since they can acquire them for such an agreeable price and would be always assured of finding them here. Consequently they are most eagerly desired here because for the present we have enough just for the asking[10]

There is a certain captain Joan Carcados who is a partner of Mr. Pieter de Leeuw here, who bought about forty thousand pieces of eight worth of goods, leaving as many goods behind with his aforesaid partner as security. He also told me that not only would he pay off the forty thousand pieces of eight here but would also send considerable capital there and above to be laid out for Negroes and merchandise; however, nothing has come of it yet. Whereas it will not go well with Pieter de Leeuw, who is here, and has executed a bond for payment, if the payment is not made at all; nevertheless, it will be made, without a doubt, by those who are well-acquainted with the aforesaid captain or the payment shall finally be forthcoming, although it is already four months overdue. Mr. Pieter de Leeuw would very much like to go to the mainland himself in order to see what the problem is; however, the interested parties will not let him go.

The provisions, which your honors supplied us by way of the ship De Gideon as well as recently the ship De Lieffde, shall be well-managed and not distributed except as the need arises.

I could not refuse accommodating the Spanish captain with four thousand pounds of hard bread for his two ships, which were recently in the harbor, because he urgently needed bread. He paid twenty guilders a hundred weight for it to the commissary. Whereas your honors have promised to provide us with some from time to time; therefore, we also have no doubts about the consequences, for reasons about which we have already informed your honors.

The commissary Laurens van Ruyven thanks your honors profusely for the favor which you did for him by putting both offices in question on a salary of / 36 per month.[11]

The mason, whom your honors sent with the ship De Lieffde, has since his arrival been busy constructing two or three brick warehouses for the accommodation of the merchants who are here and still to come. They require nothing more than planks for the ceilings and pantiles for the roofs. We are having the beams hauled out of the woods at line d’Aves.[12] They are better than what can be brought from N. Nederlandt or Holland for this purpose.

As soon as the required bricks have arrived for the watering troughs for the horses and cows, we shall install them in the most suitable locations as is thought proper.

The ship De Lieffde is busy at St. Crous[13] taking on about eighty last salt from St. Jan which is being brought quickly to it by the Company’s freighter new boat together with the ship’s boat, and shall complete its full load today, with which it is resolved to depart for N. Nederlandt. I shall sign three bonds for this salt in order to satisfy the honorable lord director-general Petrus Stuyvesant according to your honors’ orders and regulations thereon, as is proper. And I shall write further to your honors directly from here, God willing, about what is left out of this one in order not to detain the aforesaid ship De Lieffde, which is ready to sail. This is going by way of N. Nederlandt under the cover of the honorable lord director-general.


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

My lords,Your honors humble servant M. Beck Curaçao in Fort Amsterdam,the 4th of February 1660.


See 17:55 for this letter.
These letters-do not survive.
The ship was named De Jonge Vogelstruys; see 17:52 for enclosures concerning loss of this ship and the St. Jan.
See 17:53 for this document.
See 17:54 for this letter.
i.e., Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Senegal.
Note the importance of the distinction that the goods were not only coming from Spain (i.e. via), but were actually Spanish products out of Spain.
Port Bello is on the Caribbean side of Panama near, the present Panama Canal.
Receipt does not survive.
i.e., they want to encourage the Spaniards to come to Curaçao because they have plenty of Negroes to sell.
i.e., the offices of commissary and secretary; see 17:23. 10. See 17:58 for this bill of lading.
i.e., Islas de Aves, east of Bonaire.
i.e., St. Cruys Bay on west side of Curaçao.


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.