CHAPTER VIII. THE TWELVE YEARS' TRUCE
Oldenbarneveldt thus, at a time when his dominant position in the State was already being undermined and his career drawing to an end, performed a great service to his country, the more so as King James, in his eagerness to negotiate a marriage between the Prince of Wales and a Spanish infanta, was beginning to allow his policy to be more and more controlled by the Count of Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador at Whitehall. James' leaning towards Spain naturally led him to regard with stronger disfavour the increasing predominance of the Dutch flag upon the seas, and it was not long before he was sorry that he had surrendered the cautionary towns. For the fishery rights and the principle of the dominium maris in the narrow seas were no longer the only questions in dispute between England and the States. English seamen and traders had other grievances to allege against the Hollanders in other parts of the world. The exclusive right to fish for whales in the waters of Spitsbergen and Greenland was claimed by the English on the ground of Hugh Willoughby's alleged discovery of Spitsbergen in 1553. The Dutch would not admit any such claim, and asserted that Heemskerk was the first to visit the archipelago, and that he planted in 1596 the Dutch flag on the shores of the island, to which he gave the name of Spitsbergen. In 1613 James conferred the monopoly upon the English Muscovy Company, who sent out a fishing fleet with orders to drive off any interlopers; and certain Dutch vessels were attacked and plundered. The reply of the States-General was the granting of a charter, January 27, 1614, to a company, known as the Northern or Greenland Company, with the monopoly of fishing between Davis' Straits and Nova Zembla; and a fishing fleet was sent out accompanied by warships. The result was a temporary agreement between the English and Dutch companies for using separate parts of Spitsbergen as their bases, all others being excluded. Meanwhile the dispute was kept open; and despite conferences and negotiations neither side showed any disposition to yield. Matters reached an acute stage in 1618. English and Dutch fishing fleets of exceptional strength sailed into the northern waters in the early summer of that year, and a fierce fight took place, which, as two Dutch war vessels were present, resulted in the scattering of the English vessels and considerable loss of life and property.
The rivalry and opposition between the Dutch and English traders in the East-Indies was on a larger scale, but here there was no question of the Dutch superiority in force, and it was used remorselessly. The Dutch East India Company had thriven apace. In 1606 a dividend of 50 per cent, had been paid; in 1609 one of 325 per cent. The chief factory was at Bantam, but there were many others on the mainland of India, and at Amboina, Banda, Ternate and Matsjan in the Moluccas; and from these centres trade was carried on with Ceylon, with Borneo and even with distant China and Japan. But the position of the company was precarious, until the secret article of the treaty of 1609 conceded liberty of trade during the truce. The chief need was to create a centre of administration, from which a general control could be exercised over all the officials at the various trading factories throughout the East-Indian archipelago. It was resolved, therefore, by the Council of Seventeen to appoint a director-general, who should reside at Bantam, armed with powers which made him, far removed as he was from interference by the home authorities, almost a sovereign in the extensive region which he administered. Jan Pieterszoon Koen, appointed in 1614, was the first of a series of capable men by whose vigorous and sometimes unscrupulous action the Dutch company became rapidly the dominant power in the eastern seas, where their trade and influence overshadowed those of their European competitors. The most enterprising of those competitors were the English. Disputes quickly arose between the rival companies as to trading rights in the Moluccas, the Banda group and Amboina; and some islands, where the English had made treaties with the natives, were occupied by the Dutch, and the English expelled.