contents

Introduction to the Resolutions
of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope


A small Dutch fort in 1647

On its return journey in March 1647 the Dutch ship Haerlem ran ashore in Table Bay . Although the ship could not be salvaged the captain and his crew managed to reach land safely. The captain left for the Netherlands on a ship that was on its return journey, but the junior merchant Leendert Janszen and sixty sailors had to stay behind. For about a year they waited for a fleet to take them home. In the meantime they built a small fort and called it “Vastigcheyt Zandenborch” [Sand Castle Fort]. Fortunately they were able to bring the valuable cargo ashore. They did some gardening and game hunting, and from the Khoi with whom they were on good terms they traded some livestock. In March 1658 the return fleet under the command of Admiral Wollebrandt Geleynssen de Jongh arrived in Table Bay . Jan van Riebeeck, who was on his way back from the East, was also a member of the group that spent eighteen days at the Cape.

Because of a war threatening against England the Lords Seventeen had to consider in great earnest the strategic importance and possible annexure of the Cape . An additional factor was that St. Helena , an island in the Atlantic Ocean , was no longer considered such a valuable refreshment station for the Dutch return fleets and it was therefore imperative to find some greener pastures.

Because the crew of the Haerlem were able survive at the Cape for a year and because of the practical experience gained by Leendert Janszen, he was requested to compile a document stating the advantages of a Dutch occupation of the Cape . On 26 July 1649 he submitted his “Remonstrantie” [argument] that was co-signed by Matthijs Proot the other junior merchant on the Haerlem, to the VOC Chamber of Amsterdam. In the report they supported the establishment of a refreshment station at the Cape , and predicted that it would not cost too much to support a garrison of approximately 70 soldiers. There was ample fresh water and fertile soil for growing vegetables and fruit, and they would be able to trade some livestock from the indigenous peoples in order to replenish their meat supply. The Cape could also serve as a convalescent stop. Matthijs Proot was approached to take up the position as commander at the Cape , but he did not accept it. Jan van Riebeeck, a former Company merchant, offered his services. The Lords Seventeen requested van Riebeeck to comment on the “Remonstrantie”. In June 1651 he submitted his “Nader Consideratie” [Closer consideration] and with a few additional recommendations he supported the plan. This presentation settled his appointment: “Jan Van Riebeek bij de vergadering aangenomen in qualité als koopman en opperhoofd van het volk, gaande met het schip de Drommedaris naar de Cabo de bona Esperance” (Van Riebeek, Dagverhaal 1, VII, a:o 1648) [At the meeting Jan van Riebeek was accepted in the position as merchant and chief of the people, to sail with the ship the Drommedaris to the Cape of Good Hope].

 

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