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

Description of the Subordinate Components

   The Governor in Council.

   External affairs.

Relations with Kandy.
Strictly speaking, Kandy was an independent kingdom. Its independence, however, had become problematical, since the Dutch had established themselves firmly all along the coast. A superficial degree of goodwill on both sides of the gravets was shown by the sending of ambassadors. Every year the Dutch Company, in order to carry on its business, was obliged to obtain certain privileges from the Kandyan King, such as permission for the peeling of wild cinnamon in the Kandyan territory, for the transporting of captured and tamed elephants through the King's country, and for the cutting of timber in the royal forests. The custom of sending an ambassador with presents amounting to a certain number of "rijksdaalders" did not materially differ from that of a trading firm sending an agent with the cash for which privileges were purchased. The outer appearance of the ambassadors' suite with elephants and tom-tom beaters, the central pivot of which would be the letter written by the Governor, covered with white cloth [1], was only a camouflage for the real goal. If the presents brought to the King by this solemn procession were considered insufficient, all sorts of difficulties would be placed in the way of the chalias and the other Company's native servants who had to perform their work in the King's territory. The prince would reply to the mission by sending a courteous embassy down to Colombo [2].
This system, which was strongly disapproved of by several of the Dutch Governors, practically fell into disuse from the year 1761, when the friction between the court and the Dutch administration, growing from bad to worse, resulted in an exhaustive war, which lasted till 1766 The peace terms allowed the Dutch full control over the coasts of the Island, with the result that the kingdom, hemmed in within the Dutch coastal ring, found itself cut off from its most vital interests, and the Dutch administration, having learned a lesson from the intrigues of commercial and political rivals at the Kandyan court [3], watched the situation carefully.
A few very general remarks on the documents found here- after and on the method in which they have been arranged should give some explanation of this most important section. The term "court dignitaries", a translation of the Dutch word "hofsgrooten", has been explained by one of the Dutch governors [4]. They were: the first and second "Rijksadigaars" (Chief Adigars) and six dessaves, four of whom were of greater importance, namely those of the Three and Four Korales, Uva, Saffragam and Matale, and two of less importance, namely those of Bintenna and Welassa and of Udapalata. In the beginning, the language in which the correspondence with the Kingdom was conducted was Portuguese. This was, however, altered, and Sinhalese became the language for official corres pondence. The Dutch employed translators and copyists for this purpose. The original letters and olas were either copied and translated in the files or translated. The same procedure was adopted in regard to the drafts. Many of the letters have been addressed to, or are written by, the Colombo dessave, who was pre-eminently the Dutch official inter mediary between the government and the people of the country.
All documents relating to Kandy were regarded as secret papers and were preserved separately. A division has been made between inward and outward letters and documents. In regard to the former, it must be added that even the letters and the reports from the ambassadors have been entered as inward documents from Kandy. This simple arrangement in the Dutch administration is characteristic of the Dutch political outlook upon the independent Kandyan kingdom. The outward correspondence and documents are preserved in a simpler order than the inward, the only corre spondents being the Governor and the Colombo dessave. The draft instructions to the ambassadors are scattered: they have partly been preserved here and partly under instructions [5], some are found with the ambassadors' reports. In a few files among the heading "miscellaneous", inward and outward correspond ence is found filed together.
As regards the letters of the Kandyan king, no. 3253, written in Portuguese, they have been preserved by the Dutch in a separate white cover and were marked A - Z and AA - ZZ. They appear in the Dutch list of 1785 [6] as 65 documents, their descriptive titles filling as many as three pages in that list. Not even half this number has survived the ages and is preserved in the Ceylon archives. From 1887 - 1906, they were under the custody of Mr. Donald Ferguson, who translated and published them [7]. Two of the other letters which were mentioned in extract in the notes have been published by him too in another article some years later [8]. The last mentioned are the letters preserved in the British Museum, presented to that institution in 1833 by the former Ceylon chief justice, Sir Alexander Johnston. As one of these documents formerly belonged to the Colombo Dutch records, it has been entered among the letters from the King, with the number of the British Museum. Some of the very early correspon dence between Raja Sinha and the Dutch Government has been published by Baldaeus, but only three letters from this correspondence have been preserved in original up to the present day.