The Coromandel coast is the east coast of India, stretching
from the most southern point of the peninsula of Negapatam northwards to the
frontiers of Bengal. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the numerous native
states on this coast were penetrated by settlements of the Portuguese, Dutch,
Danish, English and French traders, which sometimes changed hands.
The chief product of Coromandel was cloth, which was woven
and dyed by the native inhabitants of the place and had special qualities.
Unlike in Ceylon, the V.O.C. had very few sovereign rights
here. The settlements bore more or less the character of trade agencies, and if
a comptoir had a stone building, storehouses and dwellings for the officials
the conditions could be said to be very favourable. Negapatam, where, round
about the year 1700, 223 Dutch officials resided in a strong fortress, and
Pulicat, with the mint and the fort Geldria
, were exceptions among the ordinary type of comptoir
As early as 1610, the Dutch had a stone building in Pulicat,
a town with a good harbour, from where the coastal road stretched northwards.
In earlier times even the settlements in Bengal came under Pulicat.
When, in 1658, the Portuguese had handed Ceylon over to the
Dutch, Rijckloff van Goens snr. proceeded to India and drove the Portuguese
from the Madura and Coromandel coasts. Negapatam capitulated in July, 1658.
Rijckloff van Goens, who wished to make Ceylon the centre of the Dutch Empire,
wanted the coasts of India to be subordinate to Colombo; Negapatam, between
1658 and 1690, seems to have been sometimes under the governor of Ceylon and
sometimes under the governor of Coromandel whose residency was Pulicat. In
1690, however, the High Commissioner Hendrik Adriaan, baron van Reede
transferred the main seat of the government of Coromandel from Pulicat to
Negapatam. The coast was then divided into a northern and a southern part,
Pulicat with fort Geldria belonging to the southern part was the dividing
point. The most northern comptoir was Bimilipatam, a place which in those days
was considered to be the rice store for Ceylon. Other settlements were tried
inland; one was established as far as Golconda.
At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century
the Dutch were the most powerful settlers, and were not only in full command of
the coastal regions of Ceylon and the coast of Madura, but also had settlements
scattered up and down the coasts of India. In case of emergency help was
expected to be sent from Colombo as happened in 1773, when Ceylon sent captain
Wohlfarth to help the settlement at Negapatam and the prince of Tanjore against
the Nawab and the English
The rising English colonial empire was no match for the
Dutch settlements in this part of the Indian ocean, commonly called the
"Western Comptoirs" of the V.O.C. The decisive blow came, however, when England
declared war on the Netherlands because of their friendly attitude towards
America. Negapatam was taken, as well as many other towns (e.g., Trincomalee),
but it was not handed back at the peace of Versailles in 1784.
On the 17th June 1782 the government in Batavia gave full
power to governor Falck in Colombo to deal with the Coromandel matters. At the
same time, however, it advised that a member of Company's servants should be
sent to Nawab Haider Alichan
. Some members of the council and the "weesmeesters"
stayed over to liquidate private interests here. At that time another officer
was appointed as agent of the V.O.C. at Tranquebar, the neutral Danish
On the 8th of March 1785, the Governor and the Council in
Colombo appointed a commission to take over from the English the former Dutch
possessions on the coasts of Madura and Coromandel. The commissioners for the
latter were: Willem Blaauwkamer, Nikolaas Tadema, Jan Daniel Simons and
Martinus Stoffenberg, who negotiated with the reluctant English authorities in
Madras, viz.: Lord Macartney and Alexander Davidson.
The Dutch commissioners established a new government, with
its capital at Pulicat which, having been so prosperous a town in the past,
seemed to be in ruins: at least no suitable housing accommodation was available
for the commissioners
. The return of the muniment chest, with the archives
and the communion silver, was especially requested from Madras.
After the handing over was completed the commissioners were
made officers in the various settlements, all of them serving under the
governor of Ceylon, which, incidentally, was in accordance with the
recommendations suggested nearly a century earlier by Rijckloff van Goens.
Nothing was left of the former wealth and power, and even the little that was
left over was lost again in 1795.
In 1815 once again the English restored the Dutch comptoirs
on the coast, but the sad remains of the former flourishing comptoirs were lost
for ever by the Sumatra treaty in 1824when they, together with Malacca, were
given over to the English in exchange for a part of Sumatra.