Godert van der Capellen

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Baron van der Capellen by Cornelis Kruseman

Godert Alexander Gerard Philip, Baron van der Capellen (December 15, 1778 – April 10, 1848) was a Dutch statesman from Utrecht.

Van der Capellen was the son of a cavalry colonel. He was made Prefect of Friesland in 1808 and soon thereafter Minister of the Interior and a member of the Privy Council. At his advice, King Louis Napoleon abdicated the throne in 1810 in favor of his son, Louis II. Van der Capellen did not serve Napoleon I. Wilhelm I, King of the Netherlands, appointed him Colonial Minister and sent him as Secretary of United Kingdom of the Netherlands to Brussels.

In 1815, van de Capellen was made the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, where he had to deal with both a native rebellion and a money shortage. In fact, during his tenure in Java, his power was largely ceremonial as his adjunct, Cornelis Theodorus Elout, had much of the actual power. The King decreed freedom of cultivation and trade, and the slave trade was prohibited. Van der Capellen was less progressive than other commissioners; after they left in 1819, he increased the power of native chiefs. He protected the Government’s system of coffee plantations by not allowing European planters to settle in the Priangan area of West Java, nor would he let Europeans or Chinese trade there. In 1824 he cancelled contracts of land tenancy, forcing the native chiefs to pay back the advances they had received by further exploiting the cultivators. This caused unrest in Yogyakarta. As the post-war boom in coffee and sugar exports faded, Javanese ports went into deficit. Money was spent quelling riots outside of Java in Maluku (Moluccas), Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes), Palembang, and on the west coast of Sumatra. Van der Capellen made a tour in 1824 and abolished the hated limit on the number of spice trees. Muntinghe’s proposal for a national company under King Willem was adopted in 1825 as the Netherlands Trading Society with 37,000,000 guilders in capital and paying 4.5 percent dividends. Hard-pressed cultivators had to pay taxes in money and turned to Chinese moneylenders.[1]

He was ordered back in 1825 and named President of the Board of Trustees of the University of Utrecht in 1828. In 1838, he attended the coronation of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in London as the Dutch envoy. Van der Capellen then served as the Lord Chamberlain of King William II. He died in April 1848 in De Bilt.

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Political offices
Preceded by
John Fendall, Jr.
under British rule
Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies
1816–1826
Succeeded by
Leonard du Bus de Gisignies