Inventory of the archives of the Secretary, Council of Police, 1649 - 1795

Fonds Specifications


Biographical History
The government of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape was in the hands of the Council of Policy under the chairmanship of the Commander, later the Governor. Initially, the Council consisted of three members, but in 1685 the membership was increased to eight. [1]
Other members were the Secunde who was vice - governor and vice - chairman of the Council. The Fiscal was the prosecutor in criminal cases and the Chief of the Garrison was the Commander of the Castle and assessor member of the Council of Policy. The Dispensor's task was provision of and supervision over supplies while the Magazine or Store Master and the Factor also had seats on the Council. [2]The key figure was the Secretary, who as an executive official, was not initially a full member of the Council, having no vote. [3] When visits were received from high officials and ships' captains they had seats on the Council of Policy which then became known as the Broad or General Council. Until the Court of Justice was established in 1656, the Council of Policy was the only governing body and was invested with legislative, executive and judicial authority. [4] Other government offices such as the Orphan Chamber (1674), [5] the Landdrost at Stellenbosch (1685) [6] and later other magistrates' offices, in due course took over some of the duties of the Council of Policy. This body, however, fulfilled virtually all the most important governing functions to the end of the Dutch administration.
The Council of Policy legislated for the administration of the country, issued instructions on all kinds of matters, imposed taxes, made appointments, granted land, heard petitions and managed all military and naval affairs, etc. [7]
The government's functions were therefore centralised in the hands of a non - representative body - a situation that gradually led to increasing unrest and discontent which by the end of the Company's period had evolved into widespread resistance by the colonists (the Cape Patriots). [8]
Towards 1791, the once powerful Company had an enormous burden of debt and was faced with economic ruin. Two members of a commission from the States General, Nederburgh and Frykenius, came to the Cape in 1792 to try and salvage the deteriorating situation but succeeded only partially in doing so. [9] The British fleet which arrived in Simon's Bay in June 1795, and the subsequent military action, led to the formal surrender of the Cape to the British commanders on 16 September 1795. [10]