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Curaçao - History

This island is situated in twelve degrees north latitude, nine or ten leagues from the continent of Terra Firma, is thirty miles long, and ten broad. It seemed as if it were fated, that the ingenuity and patience of the Hollanders should every where, both in Europe and America, be employed in fighting against an unfriendly nature; for the island was not only barren, and dependent on the rains for its water, but the harbour is naturally one of the worst in America.

Yet the Dutch entirely remedied that defect. By around 1800 they had upon this harbor one of the largest and by far the most elegant and cleanly towns in the West-Indies. The public buildings were numerous and handsome ; the private houses commodious; and the magazines large, convenient, and well filled. All kind of labor was here performed by engines; some of them so well contrived, that ships were at once lifted into the dock. Though this island is naturally barren, the industry of the Dutch has brought it to produce a confiderable quantity both of tobacco and sugar; it had, besides, good salt works, for the produce of which there is a brisk demand from the English islands, and the colonies on the continent.

But what rendered this island of most advantage to the Dutch, was the contraband trade which was carried on between the inhabitants and the Spaniards, and their harbor being the rendezvous to all nations in time of war. The Dutch ships from Europe touched at this island for intelligence, or pilots, and then proceed to the Spanish coasts for trade, which they forced with a strong hand, it being very difficult for the Spanish guarda costas to take these vessels; for they were not only stout ships, with a number of guns, but were manned with large crews of chosen seamen, deeply interested in the safety of the vessel and the success of the voyage.

They had each a share in the cargo, of a value proportioned to the station of the owner, supplied by the merchants upon credit, and at prime cost. This animated them with an uncommon courage, and they fought bravely, because every man fought in defense of his own property. Besides this, there was a constant intercourse between this island and the Spanish continent. Curassou had numerous warehouses, always full of the commodities of Europe and the East-Indies. Here were all sorts of woollen and linen cloth, laces, silks, ribands, iron utensils, naval and military stores, brandy, the spices of the Moluccas, and the calicoes of India.

The Dutch and the Danes hardly deserved to be mentioned among the proprietors of America; their possessions there were comparatively nothing. But notwithstanding they appeared extremely worthy of the attention of these powers, as the share of the Dutch only was worth to them at least six hundred thousand pounds a year.

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Page last modified: 16-07-2017 18:20:08 ZULU