Inventaris van het archief van de Nederlandse Factorij in Japan te Hirado [1609-1641] en te Deshima, [1641-1860]1609-1860
Nederlandse Factorij in Japan

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Biographical History (Sketch of the Record Creator)

8. The Dutch trade with Japan.
The different trade-systems, wich have been in use on Hirado and Deshima in the course of two and a half centuries, have been descripted in detail by Nachod, Feenstra Kuiper, Meylan, Lauts, van der Chijs and others. Therefor only some main characteristics, especially those with a bearingo the archive, will be mentioned here. Until 1628 the Japan trade of the Unided Companyhas not been hampered by any limitationsfrom the side of the Japanese authorities. After a four-year period, during which trade practically came to a standstill - caused by the doings of the Governor of Formosa, Pieter Nuyts, in 1628 it was restricted more and more by Japanese prescriptions, such as export-embargoes, fixations of maximum amounts and prices, conditional sales, etc.
After 1725 the "Keizerlijke Geldkamer" (Imperial Money Chamber), acting as an exchange- and creditbank for the company, was charged with the total purchase. This Chamber placed orders with the Company and gave in return a certain amount of trade goods, of wich the most important were copper and camphor. It was privileged commercial corporation that farmed the overseas trade from the Imperial Treasury
Beside the trade of the United Company, the so called "Kompshandel", excisted the Kambang-trade or private trade, formally instituted in 1685. The "Heeren Zeventien" (Gentlemen Seventeen, the Board of Directors of the United Company) only grudgingly permitted their servants in Japan this elsewere forbidden practice. It was desired, however, by the government of Nagisaki because the petty merchants of this town, not being able to engage in bulk trade, thus found an opportunity to take part in the retailing of the rather small invoices in the Kambang-trade. Like the 'Kompshandel'it was exactly regulated by Dutch and Japanese alike. Every Dutch-man on Deshima, including the captains of the ships, had a fixed share in the total turnover allowed. The restriction to a certain maximum led to extensive smuggling; the Japanese caught in the act often were executed, the Dutchmen banished fron Japan.
From 1826 till 1831 the Kambang-trade was carried on by the "Societeit van Particuliere Handel op Japan" (Society for the Private Trade with Japan), a creation of the Opperhoofd G.F. Meylan. (C.f. inv.nrs. 1593-1601). The purpose was to cut the expenses by buying and selling on joint account. Only the officials on Deshima and the captains of the ships, tradingto japan, could participate. Unifortunately, Meylan's scheme did not come up to expectations, for various reasons. From 1835 till1855 the Kambang-trade was farmed out to a Batavia merchant, while the officials at Deshima got a compensation for the loss of extra income. After 1855 the Government of the Dutch Indies took charge of it. The "Kompshandel"was liquidatedformally in 1857, but was continued until 1860, as was the Kambang-trade.
The "Aparte of nieuw geschikte handel" (Seperate or newly established trade) dates from1804. The Opperhoofd Hendrik Doeff in that year agreed with the Money Chamber that the Dutch government should import some articles in special demand, such as lead, mercury and Sapan-wood, in exchange for an extra amount of camphor. The credit money of the Dutch, the so called "toegift" (extra) was booked on the Kambang-account.
Under the name of "eis- en geschenkgoederen" (goods in demand and gifts) the Dutch imported various luxury articles, books, instruments etc., which were demanded separately by the Shogun and others Japanese authorities. The demand of the Shogun were paid for on the Company-account, the others on the Kambang-account. These "geschenkgoederen" ("gifts") ought not to be mistaken for the real gifts to the japanese, handed over on the occasion of the journey to the Shogunal Court.
The Dutch took due notice of the nature and amount of the Chinese trade of Nagasaki, the Chinese being their only competitors. (In 1685, two thirds of the total import amount were allotted to the Chinese. This distrubition roughly corresponded with the existing situation. Cf. Nachod, p. 389 seq.). With the help of the Japanese, lists with data about the Chinese import and / or export were compiled every year. These lists have been incoporated for the most part in the daily records of the factory.
Prices were put in teal's ("thaylen"; "teilen"), initially a Sino-Japanese measure of weight (37,565 grammes), later a standard of value (37.565 grammes of silver). In the trade with the Dutch the so-called "Compagniestaal" ( Company's teal) was used as money of account. The value of this teal in the course of years declined from 70 'stuivers' Dutch money (in the 17th century) to 32 'stuivers' (around 1800). For the Kambang-trade a special teal was put into use, which held a higher value. In 1818 the 'Kompsteal' was fixed at 40 'stuivers' or 160 'duiten' Dutch Indies money, the Kambangteal at 192 'duiten'. The rate of exchange was accordingly: Dutch guilder: Dutch Indies guilder - 2 : 3, Kompsteal: Dutch Indies guilder - 3: 4,8.
To close this paragraph, something must be said about the trade goods, imported in or exported from Japan by the Dutch. In the 17th century, raw or spun silk (from China, Siam or Bengal), deerskins, ray hides (from Siam), lead, mercury and sapan-wood were the most importants imports, which were traded against silver, gold, copper, camphor and ( in lesser quantities) lacquerwork and porcelain. From the second half of the 17th century, cotton fabrics from india and divers textiles from the Netherlands are of growing importance for the Japanese market. After 1668, when the export of silver was forbidden, the most important Japanese products were copper and camphore. Dutch and Indian textiles, sugar, sapan-wood, lead and tin were the pricipal imports down to the middle of the 19th century.
The periods 1633-1640 and 1652-1672 were extra-ordinary profitable for the Dutch. In 1636, the profit on import alone amounted to 1,5 million guilders, in 1638 it nearly reached 2,5 million guilders. The importance of the Japanese trade gradually declined, but the United Company did not abandon the factory ( although she threatened to do so several times during the 18th century) for fear that others nations would take her place. The monopoly position was very dear to the company and it was thought that in the course of time matters would change for the better. The importance of the factory after the dissolution of the United Company and the changed attitude towards Japan in the 1840's have been sketched already in par.7.