Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff
|Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff|
|24th Governor of Zeylan|
23 July 1736 – 12 March 1740
|Preceded by||Jan Maccare
as acting governor
|Succeeded by||Willem Maurits Bruyninck|
|Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies|
|Preceded by||Johannes Thedens|
|Succeeded by||Jacob Mossel|
|Born||8 August, 1705
|Died||November 1, 1750
Batavia, Dutch East Indies
Gustaaf Willem, Baron van Imhoff (8 August 1705 – 1 November 1750) was the 24th Governor of Zeylan and then the Dutch East Indies for the Dutch East India Company (VOC-Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie).
Van Imhoff was born into an East Frisian aristocratic family. His father, Wilhelm Heinrich Freiherr von Imhoff, came from the town of Leer in northwestern Germany, a few kilometers from the Dutch border.
In 1725, Van Imhoff entered into the service of the Dutch East India Company in Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), then colonial capital of the Dutch East Indies. Van Imhoff was promoted several times within the company before being appointed colonial governor in Ceylon (Modern-day Sri Lanka) on July 23, 1736.
King Narendra was married to a Tamil princess of Madurai (Tamil Nadu, India), and their child, Sri Vijaya Rajasinha who succeeded him after Narendra's death on May 24, 1739, was seen to be more Tamil than Sinhalese (the majority ethnic group in Ceylon). Imhoff was concerned about this succession because closer contact between the Tamils of Ceylon, under Sri Vijaya Rajasinha, and the Tamils of south India might endanger the Dutch East India Company's commercial monopoly. In his letters, Van Imhoff expressed his surprise that the Sinhalese people had accepted such a king, considering their haughty attitude towards the Tamils of India. However, Van Imhoff saw an interesting opportunity in this turn of events. He proposed to the Lords Seventeen (Heeren XVII, the directors of the VOC) that the kingdom of Ceylon be divided in two, but they rejected the proposition: a war would be too costly.
Despite the profitable production of spices, the colony was always in a state of deficit because its profits were allotted to the VOC in general, not to the colony itself. This practice prevented the Governors from becoming too extravagant in their habits, as was the case in other colonies.
On March 12, 1740, Willem Mauritiz Bruininck replaced Van Imhoff as governor of Ceylon and Imhoff returned to Batavia, which he found in a precarious situation. Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier believed that the Chinese population in the area surrounding Batavia had grown too large. He attempted to relocate the population to Ceylon and the Cape Colony (South Africa), but a rumor alleging that the Dutch were planning to throw Chinese people overboard in the middle of the ocean started an insurrection against the VOC, killing 50 Dutch soldiers. Vackenier responded with an attack on October 9th that was meant to control the insurgents. It quickly went out of control and despite an amnesty on October 11th, the 1740 Batavia massacre went on for days and killed between 5000 and 10000 inhabitants of mostly Chinese origin. Imhoff contested this brutal policy, which led to his arrest and deportation to the Netherlands. Upon his arrival, the Lords Seventeen named him governor-general of the Dutch East Indies and sent him back to Batavia.
En route to Batavia, Imhoff visited the Dutch colony in Cape Town, in the Cape Colony, where he discovered that the citizens were penetrating farther and farther into the interior and were losing contact with the VOC. Imhoff proposed to improve education and the work of the Protestant Church in the colony.
In May 1743, Imhoff began his tenure in Batavia which was in the midst of a war. The Javanese princes took advantage of the chaotic situation following Valckenier's actions to begin a war against the VOC. Imhoff succeeded in reestablishing the peace and began several reforms. He founded a Latin school, the first post offices in the Dutch East Indies, a hospital and a newspaper. He also founded the city of Buitenzorg and suppressed the opium trade. In 1746, Imhoff embarked on a tour of Java to inspect the company's holdings and decided on several institutional reforms.
Imhoff's tenure was also marked by catastrophe. A ship, the Hofwegen, was struck by lightning and exploded in the port of Batavia along with six tons of silver, totalling around 600,000 Dutch florins.
Ultimately, Imhoff's progressive policies made him many enemies. Imhoff's want of diplomacy and his lack of respect for local customs caused the colony to become embroiled in the third war of Javanese succession. Put in an untenable position by his enemies, Imhoff wanted to resign from his post, but the VOC would not allow it. Imhoff was forced to remain in office until his death in 1750, having come to believe that most of his work had been done in vain.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff.|
as acting governor
|Governor of Zeylan
Willem Maurits Bruyninck
|Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies