PORTUGUESE AND DUTCH ON THE GOLD COAST
 PORTUGAL, as we have seen, had been successful practically in expelling the English and French from the choicest of her
West African preserves, or at least she had succeeded in establishing there a state of affairs which to these
nations made the risk incurred by poaching outweigh the profits thereby to be gained. Few English or French
vessels now attempted to trade along the Gold Coast. But as the Sixteenth Century drew to a close, another
rival started up to harass the Portuguese in those parts, a rival whose trading instincts were keener by far
than those of either English or French, one not to be daunted by severities however great, one who flew at the
throat of the enemy and there clung tenaciously, till, in the end, life was shaken out of him.
The shrewd business eye of the Dutch Nation had been attracted by the profits to be made in the Guinea Trade.
A certain Ericksen, a Dutchman, captured at sea, had been carried by the Portuguese to the Bight of Biafra and
there long detained prisoner on the island of San Thorne. Whilst
 in captivity Ericksen gleaned sufficient information regarding Portuguese trading matters to convince him that
they were of an extremely profitable nature, and having by good fortune escaped and reached his native land,
he had little difficulty in persuading merchants there to fit out a vessel for a venture to the Gold Coast,
and to give him the command. In 1595 Ericksen brought his voyage to a successful end, and from that date, in
spite of all that Portugal could do, Dutch trade with the Guinea Coast prospered and increased.
A nation of Traders, the business sagacity and acute commercial instincts of the Dutch would have made them
rivals to be dreaded even had they been less formidable as fighters; the combination of business ability with
naval and military skill—though doubtless other causes were also at work—caused them eventually to be to the
Portugal since 1580 had become but a province of Spain, and Spain was more intent on her own West Indian
possessions than concerned in the welfare of settlements which to her were of no interest except as they might
affect the labour supply of the Spanish West Indian islands. Hence, the Portuguese establishments on the Gold
Coast had been greatly reduced, and of this fact in due time the Dutch took full advantage. Before the close
of the first quarter of the Seventeenth Century, the Hollanders, underselling their rivals everywhere, had
practically swept Portuguese trade out of existence. Instead of making any attempt to recover that trade,
 Philip IV., finding that income hardly met expenditure, curtailed the latter by further reducing the already
weakened garrison of San Jorge da Mina and by shortening their supplies. The natural result followed; more and
more, as time passed, the Dutch ousted the Portuguese, and very soon, except Elmina and Axim, nothing remained
to the latter of the old-time monopoly which Papal Bulls had delivered into their hands. In the beginning,
indeed, Portugal had employed against the Dutch the same tactics which against the English and the French had
been found so efficacious. She offered rewards for the heads of Dutchmen; and wherever a Hollander was
captured his death-sentence and execution speedily followed, or he was consigned to the galleys. To such an
end—death or the galleys—came many a gallant Dutchman in the closing years of the Sixteenth Century. But the
result was not to drive the Dutch from the field, as English and French had been driven.
In 1599 five Dutchmen, lying becalmed in a boat off Elmina, were taken by the Portuguese, in cold blood
beheaded, and their heads stuck on spikes on the ramparts of San Jorge. In revenge, the Dutch stirred up the
neighbouring tribes to rebel, and by supplying arms and ammunition helped the rebels not only to inflict
severe losses on the Portuguese, but enabled them also finally to cast off the Portuguese yoke. As a farther
consequence of this revolt, the Hollanders were enabled to make yet another forward movement and to establish
a fresh trading post on the Coast at Commenda. Cautiously,
 and with characteristic business ability, did Holland make her initial steps. To walk before she ran,—"first
to creep and then to go," as at a later date the Council of Seventeen of the great Dutch East India Company
instructed their representatives at the Cape of Good Hope,—was ever her motto. In this instance, the island of
Goree, to the north of the Gambia, had been bought, and thus a base secured from which to work. Thence, from
place to place she crept, ever widening her sphere of influence, steadily plodding onward.
Then in 1621 the Netherlands West India Company was incorporated, and to this Company was granted by the
States General sole right of trade on the West Coast of Africa, as well as a similar right in the West Indies.
The Dutch did not fritter away their strength in isolated efforts, they combined; they concentrated their
energies on a definite object, and that object, so far as concerned West Africa, was the overthrow of
Portuguese power and influence in those regions and the establishment of their own supremacy. Portugal and her
colonies were now but dependencies of Spain, and by Spain had Holland been long and cruelly ground down. Now
at last the yoke was thrown oft Holland was already supreme at sea, and after her long and bitter struggle
against a relentless and bloodthirsty foe, she was carrying the war into that foe's dominions.
In 1623 a Dutch squadron sailed for the west with the object of seizing the Portuguese colonies in Brazil, and
the conflict in those parts necessarily lent added bitterness to the struggle in West Africa,
 whence came the labour supply for the Brazilian sugar-mills and plantations.
In 1624 the Dutch built, or at least completed, at Mouree, near Cape Coast Castle, a fort which they named
Fort Nassau, and being now in their own estimation sufficiently strong to strike a decisive blow, in the
following year they attacked San Jorge da Mina, being under the impression that sickness had greatly enfeebled
the garrison of that stronghold. With twelve hundred of their own men and a force of native auxiliaries, a
landing was made a little to the west of San Jorge. But Dutch calculations had this time been premature; the
policy of "creeping" before "going" had been too soon abandoned. The expedition proved a disastrous failure.
Before the force had time to deploy and take up position, while, indeed, they were yet in the confusion
consequent on landing, they were sharply attacked by the Portuguese and driven back into their boats with
heavy slaughter. And we may be certain that not much quarter was given to the wounded during that rout.
Deterred by this repulse, checked but not discouraged, the stubborn Dutch bided their time, embittered, and
rendered but the more determined by the recollection of their losses. San Jorge was a formidable stronghold,
as strongholds went in those days; Barbot describes it as having "no equal on all the coasts of Guinea. It is
built square, with very high walls of a dark brown rock stone so very firm that it may be said to be cannon
There must be no mistake in the Dutch second
 venture. Accordingly, years passed, years which perhaps lulled the Portuguese into fancied security, causing
them still further to slacken in their precautions. To "let things slide" is an easy doctrine enough, but it
is one for which payment, heavy payment, must be made in the end—as Great Britain herself has found more than
once even in our own day. And so Portugal now found it. To van Ypren, the Dutch Director General in Africa, it
seemed at last that the time to strike had come. Nor did he delay. The Company at home was informed by him
that now was their chance to succeed, and he suggested that a sufficient force should be sent to the Coast
without loss of time. It chanced that Count Maurice of Nassau, with a fleet of thirty-two sail and a
considerable body of troops, was at that very time on the Brazilian coast harassing the Portuguese there. To
him instructions were sent, and Count Maurice at once detached nine sail, with eight hundred soldiers under
Colonel Hans Coine, for service on the Gold Coast.
On June 25, 1637, the expedition arrived off the Ivory Coast, and having sent word to van Ypren, proceeded to
Cape Coast Castle, where, on being joined by a large native contingent under the Director General himself, the
whole force—eight hundred soldiers and five hundred seamen, exclusive of natives—landed and marched towards da
Mina. The action did not begin very favourably for the Dutch, for a strong detachment sent to seize a hill
which commanded the fort of San Jorge was cut to pieces by the Portuguese native auxiliaries, slaughtered
almost to a
 man. But with this the Portuguese successes ended. The native levies, satisfied for the moment with the
victory, in order to celebrate their triumph and desirous to display in the town the heads taken, withdrew
from the position to which they should have clung at whatever cost, and it was at once, and almost without
loss, seized by a second Dutch detachment. The Portuguese, hastily reassembling their native allies, twice
made desperate attempts to retake this all-important position, but without success. It is easy to make a
blunder, not so easy to repair it. On each occasion they were repulsed with heavy loss, and finally they were
driven back on a second position near the summit of the hill, a redoubt which they had prepared beforehand.
But out of this, too, they were quickly forced, and very soon from the top of the hill Dutch guns were playing
on San Jorge.
After two days' fighting—the Dutch being unable to carry and hold the town of Elmina owing to the heavy fire
of the fort's guns—Colonel Coine summoned San Jorge to surrender, threatening with death the entire garrrison
if the summons should be disregarded. Time to consider the question was demanded by the Portuguese commandant;
in three days he would be prepared to answer "Yea" or "Nay." But this by no means suited the Dutch, who had
left their ships carrying with them but a bare three days' rations. Here already was the third day. It must be
now or never; either they must have the castle that day, or a retreat to the ships was inevitable. Accordingly
Colonel Hans Coine ordered an immediate assault. But even as the men
 began to move forward on their desperate and Uncertain task, above the frowning ramparts rose heavily in the
stagnant air a white flag, and the roll of Portuguese drums beating the "chamade" announced that the garrison
was prepared to discuss terms of surrender.
It was, after all, no great feat to capture this stronghold, for (leaving out of account the native levies on
either side) there were no more than thirty-eight or forty Portuguese in the castle to withstand the thirteen
hundred Dutch soldiers and sailors; and of this slender Portuguese garrison, the entire European rank and file
were "banisht men," persons sent out of their country for crime. Not that it is an unknown thing for convicts
to do loyal service,—our own annals in Australia have shown that,—but the average Portuguese official of the
time was little likely to have gained either the affection or the confidence of those under his command. We
know from Andrew Battell and from others the material of which both officers and men were composed. Of this
particular garrison Barbot says that it was "commonly composed of leud and debauch'd persons, as well officers
as soldiers, both of them used to commit outrages and to plunder, or of such as were banish'd Portugal for
heinous crimes and misdemeanors. No wonder therefore that the histories of those times give an account of
unparalleled violence, and inhumanities committed there by those insatiable Portuguese during the time that
place was under their subjection, not only against the natives of the country and such European nations as
 but even among themselves." A successful, or even a prolonged, resistance, under such circumstances was not
within the realms of possibility. Van Ypren had made no mistake in his estimate.
The Dutch were now virtually masters of the Gold Coast. Of important posts there was but Fort S. Anthony at
Axim remaining in Portuguese hands, and ere long that too followed the example of San Jorge. It is not easy to
understand why Holland did not seize Fort S. Anthony before Coine returned to Brazil. Van Ypren did indeed
then demand that it should be surrendered, but he took no action after the Portuguese commandant's spirited
rejection of his summons. Perhaps he thought that, like an over-ripe pear, it must soon drop of its own
weight, and that bloodshed might thereby be saved. In any case, it was not until January 1642 that the Dutch
laid hands on Fort S. Anthony, some considerable time indeed after a treaty had been signed between Holland
and the now restored King of Portugal, a treaty whereby her conquests in West Africa were secured to the
former. Unless there is some confusion of dates, the Netherlanders were here acting in most high-handed
Whatever the facts of the case, however, the Portuguese, after an occupation of one hundred and sixty years,
were now finally ejected from the Gold Coast. Traces of that occupation are still to be found in the language
of the native tribes, and, in certain instances, in place-names. Amongst the words mentioned by Colonel Ellis
in his History of the Gold Coast as being still in use are "palaver,"
 from the Portuguese "palabra"; "caboccer," from "eabeceiro "; "picanniny," from "picania"; and "fetish," from
"feitico." Colonel Ellis also says that although the Dutch remained on the Gold Coast for two hundred and
thirty-two years, there are no similar traces of their occupation, nor are even now in general use many words
derived from our own language. From all accounts it would seem that the Portuguese mingled with the native
population in much more intimate fashion than did either Dutch or English.
Of the place-names a good many survive, though either translated into English or corrupted. As instances may
be mentioned Cape Three Points (Cabo de Tres Puntas), Gold Coast (Costa del Oro), Ancobra (Rio Cobre), Elmina
(La Mina), Cape Coast (Cabo Corso).
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