Catalogue of the Archives of the Dutch Central Government of Coastal Ceylon, 1640-1796

Description of the Subordinate Components

   The Governor in Council.

   Internal Affairs.

Secretarial protocols.
Apart from his duties, described in the introduction, the functions of the secretary included also that of acting as a notary, according to the practice in almost all the V.O.C. comptoirs in the East. In Colombo a proper notary, Mr. Oudendijck, was functioning previous to his departure. Then some friction arose over the drawing up of notarial acts between the secretaries of the Council and the court of justice. The difficulties were removed by a council resolution of 1683 March 30 which described the functions of each, giving the more substantial part to the secretary of the Council. The secretary accordingly dealt with last wills; deeds of transfer and other types of notarial deeds were also drawn up by him. The majority of files pertaining to this part of his functions has been preserved. As the colony and its needs gradually increased, his functions became more complicated. The only regulation for the secretary in this respect is a council resolution of the 6th September 1765 ordering that the sworn clerks, who until now had only sworn an oath of secrecy would also have to swear a notarial oath, and that in future the first clerks and all the sworn clerks would have to keep separate protocol files, in which the documents had to be numbered and entered chronologically. Every first Monday in the month, the commissioned members of the court of justice had to examine the files and see if everything was done according to the regulations.
The files compiled after 1765 indicate that this order was put into effect. Before the year 1765, three series have been maintained:-
1. "testamentboeken", i.e. registers of wills, attested by the secretary or one of the sworn clerks; all of them are more or less damaged.
2. "ordinaire protocollen", being files containing acts of a private character; attested by one of the sworn clerks.
3. "aparte protocollen", being files containing acts of a more official and legal type: attested by the first sworn clerk.
After 1765, it would appear that the clerks, first sworn clerks as well as sworn clerks, kept their own files. The strange feature, however, is that those who held the higher functions in office after the secretary, as the first sworn clerks undoubtedly did, never dealt with the testaments, which one would expect to have been considered as notarial deeds of first rate importance. Only in two volumes has the secretary himself performed the notarial functions [1].
As a result of the alteration introduced in 1765 there is inconsistency in the method of arranging the documents. Before 1765, the filing was done according to the types of deeds prepared; after that year it was according to the functions of the attesting officers. For the convenience of the research worker, the chronological order has been retained, and in the series after 1765 the names of the attesting notaries have been entered wherever possible.
The documents were written on stamped paper. Before 1675 no provision was made for this; in that year, however, the government decided to make its own seal, which was ready in 1676. The idea was to provide a new source of income for the Company and its officers, who were allowed to have the "opgeld", which was a small additional sum above the government rate. During the period 8th - 16th June 1676, an ordinance prescribing which documents and deeds had to be written. on stamped paper was carried through, and although we may suppose that the rule was observed, no evidence of this is to be found in the archives, where the regular series of stamped documents starts only in 1751. It may be, however, that before this year the individual concerned received the copy with the stamp and that the government retained the unstamped copy.
In the beginning of November other definite rules regarding stamped paper were issued according to the orders received from Batavia. Unlike the regulations in the other comptoirs, the secretary here had as much right to collect the duties on the stamped paper as the "hoofdadministrateur". A final and comprehensive regulation regarding stamped paper was introduced by a printed order from Batavia on 29th September 1767 [2].
The "weeskamer" was in charge of the execution of the last wills of deceased persons, and it took charge even in cases where there was no testament. Sometimes people wanted this board to be excluded, in which case a special act would be necessary. A collection of this type of last wills has been preserved [3].
A collection of last wills of unknown origin has also been preserved here [4].