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Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History Paperback – July 1, 2000
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"This is high adventure -- pirates and cannons and pieces of eight ... A work of prodigious research, and a fascinatingly seminal tidbit of New York history". -- New York Newsday
From the Back Cover
The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago, remote, tranquil, and now largely ignored. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, Run's harvest of nutmeg turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a fierce and bloody battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and a small band of ragtag British adventures led by the intrepid Nathaniel Courthope. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular deals in history: Britain ceded Run to Holland but in return was given Manhattan.
A brilliant adventure story of unthinkable hardship, savagery, the navigation of uncharted waters, and the exploitation of new worlds, Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a remarkable chapter in the history of the colonial powers.
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Perhaps a more accurate title for this book would be “Tough Nuts: The East India Companies and the Anglo-Dutch Rivalry for Control of the Spice Trade.” It is difficult to exaggerate the value and influence of the spice trade to Western Europe in the early seventeenth century. Clove, mace and especially nutmeg are finicky plants. They grow naturally in only a few places on earth. Four hundred years ago nutmeg was only found on a few tiny islands between present-day Indonesia and Australia, an archipelago so minuscule that they don’t appear on large modern maps of the region. The most bountiful natural forest of nutmeg plants grew on Run, an island just two-miles long and half-a-mile wide. It was once, yard-for-yard, the most valuable piece of real estate in the world. “Run was the most talked about island in the world,” according to Miles, “a place of such fabulous wealth that Eldorado’s gilded riches seemed tawdry by comparison.”
Why? Because all sorts of fabulous (and clearly fraudulent) attributes had been ascribed to the nut, including the ability to ward off the dreaded plague. “Nutmeg … was the most coveted luxury in seventeenth-century Europe, a spice held to have such powerful medicinal properties that men would risk their lives to acquire it.” Indeed, in the early 1600s nutmegs were rarer and more valuable than gold or diamonds. A spirited and violent contest erupted between the Dutch and the British for access to – and ultimately unabridged control over – the islands that produced this invaluable commodity.
Milton tells the story of this rivalry almost exclusively from the British perspective. Both nations chartered an “East India Company” (London in 1600, Amsterdam in 1602) possessing the exclusive right to trade with the Spice Islands. Each regarded the claims of the other as invalid. Swashbuckling merchant captains – British and Dutch alike – raided native villages, burned down rival warehouses, bribed local chieftains, plundered spice-laden cargo ships, and unilaterally claimed sovereignty over nutmeg-producing islands. It was all quite a messy business, to say the least. Trade missions to the East Indies were known for their squalor and mortal danger. It was fully expected that half of the crew would be killed during the expedition, while the other half could expect to return barely clinging to life. But for many, it was all worth the risk. The riches to be had in the event of a successful trip were incredible. The markup on nutmeg prices between Run and London could be over 60,000%. An illiterate sailor could return with a small pouch of nuts and literally retire on the proceeds.
The war for control over the Spice Islands raged for decades, with the Dutch emerging more-or-less victorious. From their regional headquarters at Bantam, a port city 50 miles west of modern-day Jakarta, the Dutch East India Company dominated the major plantations in the region, including the nutmeg-producing Banda Islands, having ambushed and killed the heroic Nathaniel Courthope to take control of Run in 1620.
The aggressiveness of the Dutch would prove to be, in the end, a little too aggressive. In 1623, on the clove-producing island of Amboyna, the Dutch commander reacted violently to a rumor (false, as it turned out) that the small cadre of English traders on the island were plotting to seize the local stronghold of the Dutch East India Company, Fort Victoria. All eighteen Englishmen on the island were arrested, tortured and eventually executed, some by having their arms and legs blown off with gunpowder. Understandably, this caused an uproar in England. “There was only one possible way for the Dutch to atone for the Amboyna Massacre,” Milton writes, “and that was to hand back the tiny island of Run.” (It seems to me there were many other ways for the Dutch to atone for the incident!)
The British and Dutch East India Companies eventually learned to “play nice” with one another. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Spice Islands had lost much of their value after the British had successfully developed spice farms on Sri Lanka and Singapore. The wooded island at New York would prove to be a much better long-term investment than Run.
During the Middle Ages Venice had a monopoly on the spice trade. Nutmeg, cloves, pepper and cinnamon traveled across Asia to the great trading emporium of Constantinople where they were snapped up by Venetian merchants. Yet no one from the west had ever visited the countries from which these spices originated. In 1511, the Portugese became the first Europeans to set foot in the Banda Islands. But the threat of attack from head-hunters made them prefer to buy their nutmeg from native traders who came to their fortress at Malacca (Indonesia). In 1518, Ferdinand Magellan sailed west around South America toward the Banda Islands but was killed when he reached the Philippines. One of his ships did reach Tidore Island, and returned to Spain, laden with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mace. Sir Francis Drake, backed by Queen Elizabeth I, followed Magellan's route in 1577 to make trade treaties with the people of the South Pacific and to plunder Spanish ships and ports. He was warmly received by the King of Ternate Island. Laden with cloves, silver, gold, and precious stones, he returned to a hero's welcome and a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth.
Nutmeg became the most coveted luxury in 17th-century Europe. Physicians of Elizabethan London claimed it cured the plague and "the bloody flux" (dysentery). When sprinkled on meat it dramatically slowed the rate of oxidation, as well as disguised the taste of rancid meat. In the Banda Islands where it grew, ten pounds of nutmeg cost less than one English penny. In London, ten pounds sold for £2.10s, a mark-up of 60,000%! A small sackful could set a man up for life, buying him a gabled dwelling in Holburn and a servant to tend to his needs.
CHAPTER ONE: ARCTIC WHIRLWINDS
In June 1553, English merchants made the fateful decision to send three ships to the East Indies by way of the cold Arctic. This would shave more than 2,000 miles off the voyage said Robert Thorne, an English trader who had written to King Henry VIII that the Spice Islands could be reached by way of the North Pole. The Arctic passage would avoid conflict with the Portuguese who had been the first Europeans in the Banda Islands. It would also avoid the dysentery and typhoid diseases of the tropical climates.
More than five years would pass before a search ship found two of the ships frozen in a bay between Finland and Russia. The crews were frozen, some with pen still in hand and the paper before them, others at tables, platters in hand and spoon in mouth, another opening a locker.
The third ship, however, foresaw the danger of Arctic pack-ice and dropped anchor in Russia. The crew then trudged overland to Moscow. They were treated to endless pleasure of food and wine by Ivan the Terrible, who sent them back to England with a letter confirming trading privileges upon London merchants. Unwittingly, this laid the foundations for the Muscovy Company, a precursor to the East India Company. It would take another 400 years and a nuclear-powered submarine before the northern route to the Pacific would finally be conquered.
CHAPTER TWO: WONDERFULLY UNWHOLESOME CLIMES
In 1494, to settle newly-discovered land disputes between Portugal and Spain, Pope Alexander VI in the Treaty of Tordesillas had drawn a line down the middle of the Atlantic. Anything discovered west of this line belonged to Spain; east of this line belonged to Portugal. But disputes remained because 16th-century maps were extremely inaccurate. Also, Protestant England did not accept this division. Queen Elizabeth famously argued, "It is lawful for my subjects to sail [around the Cape of Africa] as the Spanish, since the sea and air are common to all men."
In July 1588, Sir Francis Drake helped attack and defeat the Spanish Armada, establishing England as a superior naval force. Two months later, Thomas Cavendish, the second man to circumnavigate the world (after Magellan), urged an expedition to the Spice Islands. James Lancaster, an experienced merchant seaman who fought bravely against the Spanish Armada, was chosen to command this expedition. He was a strict disciplinarian, advocating daily prayers on board ship and forbidding any form of gambling. He abhorred bad language and instituted severe penalties "against the blaspheming of the name of God and all idle and filthy communication." Yet he was also compassionate. When his vessel was in danger of sinking, he was at first furious that the accompanying ship ignored his orders to leave them to their fate. Yet he punished no one when he later learned that they had remained alongside because of their love for him.
How Dangerous Were These Expeditions?
Lancaster's expedition of three ships set sail in the spring of 1591. Three months later they ran out of fresh fruit and were stuck in rainy weather, unable to keep the men dry. Scurvy had made them weak, and they could not climb the rigging. Their skin turned sallow, their gums tender, and their breath offensive. Soon their teeth dropped out. Purple blotches appeared on their skin. Their muscles swelled and their joints stiffened. Thin streams of blood trickled from their eyes and noses. The worst of the men were sent back to England on one of the ships. After the two remaining ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope, a tremendous storm sank another one with the loss of all hands. The lone surviving ship was struck by lightening, killing four of the crew. While putting ashore for fresh water at Mozambique, the ship's master was killed by natives. A native was recruited to lead them to the East Indies. Unfortunately, he allowed the ship to be blown off course, missing a vital re-supply port. Only thirty-three men remained alive, eleven being too sick to man the ship. Against all odds they successfully attacked a Portuguese ship and gained provisions. But their captain became very sick and the crew decided to return to England. Near the island of Mona, the ships lost its sails in a fierce storm and was taking on water. All but five of the crew rowed ashore. A month later they were picked up by a passing French ship. By the time they made it back to England, they had been away 3 years, 6 weeks, and 2 days. Of the 198 men who rounded the Cape of Good Hope, only 25 returned, without any spices.
In contrast to the English expeditions, the Dutch meticulously planned their own expedition. They would use the most accurate maps in existence. They were charted by Petrus Plancius, a Calvinistic theologian and avid student of geography. Commissioned to craft a map of the Holy Land, he drew one of the entire world, including the Spice Islands. Four ships were built. They were equipped with spare masts, anchors and cables. The pilots were given lessons by Plancius five days a week from 9am until 5pm. However, unsuitable men were put in command of the vessels.
They set sail in the spring of 1595. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, seventy-one men succumbed to scurvy. After arriving at the port of Bantam in Java, the Dutch became incensed at the sky-high prices of spices and "decided to do all possible harm to the town," bombarding them with cannon and sentencing prisoners to death. No one could explain why the Dutch had resorted to such violence and brutality. By now their ships were in disrepair. Bearded with marine growth and encrusted with barnacles, many were honeycombed with teredos (shipworms) which bored through the Dutch oak and allowed water to filter through the holes. On deck the tropical sun had so dried the timbers that the gaps between the planks were more than half-an-inch wide. They returned to Amsterdam with only a tiny quantity of spices.
CHAPTER THREE: MUSIC AND DANCING DAMSELS
In April 1601, five ships with 218 men left England under the command of James Lancaster. They carried 150 tons of bread, 30 tons of meal, 170 tons of beer, 170 tons of cider, 80 tons of wine, 40 tons of pork, along with peas, beans, salted fish, oatmeal, wheat, "olde Holland cheese", butter, oil, vinegar, honey, sugar, and rice.
Queen Elizabeth had signed exclusive rights for them to trade with the East Indies. She granted the merchants a new flag which, with its blue field and background of thirteen red and white stripes, prefigured the one adopted by the Thirteen Colonies of America some 175 years later.
After crossing into the southern hemisphere, scurvy set in. Only the crew on board Lancaster's ship did not get sick. He was giving three spoonfuls a day of lemon juice to each of his crew. No record survives of how Lancaster learned this as a cure or prevention for scurvy. Tragically, Lancaster's cure was soon forgotten and it would be another 170 years before Captain Cook rediscovered the benefits of citrus fruit in combating scurvy.
On 5 June 1602, more than 16 months after leaving England, Lancaster's fleet arrived at the Sumatran port of Achin. The city's powerful ruler, Ala-uddin Shah, had held Queen Elizabeth in the highest regard ever since he learned of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Unlike the Dutch, Lancaster treated the natives with respect. Ala-uddin was presented with gifts such as a basin of solid silver, a huge silver goblet, and a rich looking-glass. But his favorite gift was a fan of feathers!
He was then presented with a letter written in Queen Elizabeth's own hand. She wanted to begin regular commerce with Ala-uddin, to settle English merchants in his capital, and open a warehouse for stockpiling provisions. "Trade," she wrote, "engenders love and friendship betwixt all men." Ala-uddin, who was a Muslim, agreed. Then he made the strange request of Lancaster that he and his court might sing one of the Psalms of David as a duet!
Lancaster sailed to Bantam in Java and established a warehouse. He left behind eight crew and three merchants. Knowing that Bantam was infamous for loose women and lax morals, he ordered the men to "meet together in the morninges and eveninges in prayer. God, whom ye serve, shall the better bless you in all your affairs." Lancaster left them with a small pinnace to sail to the Banda Islands and buy as much nutmeg, mace, and cloves as possible.
In February 1603, after packing 230 sackfuls of spices on board their ships, they headed back to England. Two weeks after sailing beyond Madagascar a storm broke off the rudder of Lancaster's ship, the "Red Dragon." With no means of steering, the crew abandoned all hope of surviving. Lancaster even penned a letter to the merchants back in England, saying, "I cannot tell you where you should looke for me because I live at the devotion of the winds and sea." But his fellow-ship, the "Hector", would not leave the Red Dragon's side even when ordered to so do, staying with Lancaster until the storm was over. They returned to England on 11 September 1603 after being away for two years and seven months. All five ships returned safely with more than a million pounds of spices. Though half the men had died, the survivors "thanked Almightie God, who hath delivered us from infinite perils and dangers this long and tedious navigation."
CHAPTER FOUR: IN THE PAWS OF LIONS
When Lancaster returned to England, he received a knighthood, but almost 38,000 Londoners had fallen victim to the plague. Just a few months earlier, Queen Elizabeth I had passed away. James I was now king. Another expedition of four ships to the Spice Islands set sail under Henry Middleton. Three ships returned ladened with spices, but in the ten years of spice trade, the English had lost 800 of 1200 men to scurvy, typhoid, or the bloody flux. The merchants now decided to trade English wool to India for their cotton, and trade cotton to East Indies for spices. To trade with India, they had to win over the Moghul Emperor, Jehangir, who had granted exclusive trading rights to the Portugese. The English sent William Hawkins. The two men struck up an instant friendship. However, after almost three years of petitioning the emperor, who spent the greater part of every day drunk, Hawkins was returning to England empty-handed when he fell sick and died.
CHAPTER FIVE: "ADMIRAL, WE ARE BETRAYED!"
In the summer of 1599, a Dutch expedition led by Jacob van Neck returned with a million pounds of pepper and cloves and a half-a-ship-load of nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon. He had cemented his relationship with the Bantam natives by paying more than what they had asked. On 20 March 1602, the Dutch East India Company was formed. Three ships sailed under Sebald de Weert to open up trading bases. The Dutch offended the natives when, tired of eating rancid meat, they slaughtered sacred cows for food. In retaliation, the ruler of Ceylon invited the Dutch to a banquet where forty-seven men were killed in an ambush.
In competing for the spice trade, the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and Spanish all believed that signing treaties with local rulers and establishing permanent warehouses and merchants on the islands would give each of them a monopoly, by which they could control the market prices back home. But scarcely had one treaty been signed when another country came into port and bought local spices.
In 1607 an English expedition under William Keeling was launched. When his ship drifted listlessly in the mid-Atlantic, Keeling occupied his crew with putting on William Shakespeare's plays. They learned their lines, sewed costumes, and performed dress rehearsals. Keeling also organized fishing expeditions for his crew, who once caught six thousand fish in one hour! Arriving at the Spice Islands, he ran into trouble with the Dutch, who were under orders to win the islands "by treaty or by force." But the Dutch ran into trouble with the locals when they began constructing a castle on Neira Island. Forty-two Dutch were killed and beheaded. The Dutch sought revenge by burning villages, destroying vessels, and butchering natives. On 10 August 1609, a treaty was signing placing Neira under Dutch dominion, thus beginning the "warres betwixt the English and Dutch."
CHAPTER SIX: A REBEL AT SEA
The quest to find a passage to the Spice Islands through the Arctic was never-ending. Petrus Plancius advanced the argument that fresh water froze more easily than salt water. This is why the coastline of Russia was choked with ice, because the fabled River Orb ran from the warm seas of the East Indies to the Arctic. But in 1594, the accomplished mariner William Barents sailed more than fifteen hundred miles before failing to find a passage. Trying again in 1596, Barents and Jacob van Heemskerck got trapped in the ice and built a shelter out of logs and driftwood, a shelter that was still standing 300 years later! In March 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer, was employed by the Dutch to find a North-East passage. But tempestuous winds and snow showers made him head westwards across the Atlantic and sail down the eastern seaboard of America until he could find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. In July 1609 they dropped anchor in Penobscot Bay. Hudson's crew headed ashore armed with muskets and stole a small boat from the Indians. The defenseless Indians were driven from their houses and robbed. This barbarous behavior is in contrast to Hudson himself, who was intrigued by Indian customs and impressed with their kindness, holding them in the highest respect. Sailing up the Hudson River, they determined that it was not a passage to the Pacific and recrossed the Atlantic in less than five weeks.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE CANNIBALS' COUNTRY
In April 1610, three English ships headed for the East Indies under Henry Middleton and Nicholas Downton, along with Nathaniel Courthope as a crew member. Near the Red Sea port of Mocha, the large 1,100 ton ship "Trades Increase" stuck fast on a sand bank. The only way to refloat it was to temporarily offload its cargo. The local governor was a Greek named Rejib Aga who extended every courtesy, but then surprisingly clapped Middleton and his men in irons, saying that the Pasha in Sana'a had been given orders from the Sultan in Constantinople to arrest all Christians who attempted to land at any of the Red Sea ports. One hundred and fifty Turks put to sea with the intention of boarding the "Darling", anchored off Mocha. The Englishmen rushed below decks to gather their muskets. One of them blew up the attackers and saved the ship by rolling a huge barrel of gunpowder toward the Turks.
Meanwhile, Middleton and his captured men were marched from the heat of Mocha to the cold mountain area of Sana'a to see the Pasha (governor). After a month in jail they were inexplicably set free. It was rumored that an influential merchant from Cairo, to whom Pasha was indebted, had intervened on behalf of the Englishmen. Middleton was fast learning of the inconsistencies of the Turkish governors who could flick from friend to foe without losing a smile. After arriving back in Mocha and receiving apologies from the Aga, he was again placed under armed guard. Middleton decided that escape was the only option. He smuggled a letter to the "Trades Increase" for a bottle of aqua vitae. He got the guards drunk, took their keys, hid in a barrel (because he was well known throughout town) while his men rolled him down to the beach. A boat took them to the "Darling."
Middleton then told Rejib Aga that if he did not release the rest of his men Middleton would "fire the town and beat it smooth about their ears" with his cannon. After being blockaded for a month, Aga released the men. It was now August 1611 and the expedition had so far accomplished nothing. Sailing to Bantam, the great ship "Trades Increase" was found to be riddled with teredos (shipworm) and no longer seaworthy. Later, a renegade Spaniard set fire to her timbers and reduced it to ash. Most of the crew succumbed to typhoid, dysentery and malaria. Middleton himself had died. Four people, including Nathaniel Courthope, made it to shore. When Nicholas Downton arrived back in England, his diary records, "And so concluded this tedious and out-tyring journey."
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE BANNER OF SAINT GEORGE
In April 1610, Henry Hudson set sail to find a north-west passage in America, near Hudson Bay. But after winter set in, his crew mutinied, casting Hudson and seven others into a shallop without food, drink, fire, or clothing. Hudson, one of the great Arctic explorers, was never seen again.
The English were perturbed to find Dutch settlements in America. But the Dutch were there more for trading beaver pelts than for settlement reasons. They built the pentangle Fort New Amsterdam on Manhattan, the outlines of which can still be traced today: Beaver Street, Broad Street, Pearl Street, Whitehall Street, Broadway, Park Row, and Fourth Avenue. In order to avoid conflict with the native Indians, the Dutch purchased Manhattan for 60 guilders in trinkets, worth $24 dollars.
Over in the East Indies, the chief factor for the English in Bantam was Edmund Scott. Bantam was a place where healthy men died from typhoid, cholera, and malaria. The men lived in constant fear of being attacked. Their flimsy wooden warehouse was surrounded by a palisade of sharpened stakes. Chinese, Indians, Christians, and Muslims all lived within a stone's throw of each other and were equally loathed by the quarrelsome Javanese. The town's headhunters constantly faced a shortage of heads. Some Javan women cut off their own husbands' heads to sell. Newly buried bodies were often dug up to remove their heads.
Frequent fires threatened to destroy their warehouse. A favorite ploy of thieves would be to light a fire to the windward of the English warehouse and, in the ensuing confusion, carry off the spices. One night the men woke up to the smell of smoke. After the fire was put out, Scott, discovered the source to be a tunnel leading to the house opposite their own.
To distinguish themselves from the Dutch, their chief trading competitor, Scott put on a pageant in honor of Queen Elizabeth with the banner of Saint George. The locals were more impressed with the English who honored their queen than the Dutch who displayed no pageantry for their governors.
Nathaniel Courthope stayed in the East Indies, looking for markets for English goods.
CHAPTER NINE: CONFLICT BETWEEN GENTLEMEN
The new chief factor arriving in Bantam was John Jourdain. He possessed unbounded enthusiasm for his job, but also was escaping an unhappy marriage. Later, when he wrote his will, he excluded his wife, who spent her final years "begging from door to door" and writing endless letters to the East India Company for "some competent yearly means," who did dispatch the occasional gift.
At Amboyna, Jourdain asked to buy cloves from the Dutch. He was rebuffed when the Dutch said they had "made a contracte with all the people for all the cloves." Jourdain headed to Ceram where he clashed with the Dutch captain Jan Coen, who would become the most ruthless of all of Holland's governors in the East.
On the island of Ai, two small English ships eluded a squadron of Dutch ships, built a factory, bought nutmeg from the natives, and left a few men to guard the island. Although the island possessed a steep seashore all around, the Dutch governor, Gerald Reynst, planned to invade Ai with a thousand Dutch and Japanese soldiers. He met stiff resistance from five hundred islanders who favored the English over the violent Dutch. Gradually the superior Dutch numbers prevailed, until all but one remote fort was in Dutch hands. Then the Dutch went to sleep for the night. After dark, the Bandanese launched a savage counter-attack. The Dutch lost thirty-six soldiers and two hundred wounded, and left the island. Reynst was devastated, and died a few months later.
In December 1616, two English ships under Samuel Castleton arrived in Bantam. Castleton believed he could preserve the health of his soldiers with the daily baking of fresh bread, the manual grinding of corn, and the distilling of fresh water from sea water by a system of stills and furnaces. Unfortunately, his men still died, and Castleton concluded it was their own fault since they were all confirmed alcoholics.
Again the Dutch invaded Ai, this time successfully. Now everything was under Dutch control except the island of Run. Back in England, the English and the Dutch began debating their rights in the East Indies. The Dutch argued that as soon as a nation erected a building on a piece of land, the land automatically became the property of that nation. The English said its rights to trade with the Spice Islands lay in the fact that they got there first and made pacts with the locals. The Attorney-General of Holland suggested that the two companies unite to form one organization that would push out the Spaniards. But after many months, negotiations broke down.
CHAPTER TEN: RAISING THE BLOOD-FLAG
On 23 December 1616, Nathaniel Courthope arrived at Run Island as commander of two ships. He obtained a written agreement from the local headmen which "made over the island of Run to the English Crown forever." He had just taken control of the world's entire supply of nutmeg. On Christmas Day a Dutch ship approached and raised the blood-flag, signifying the start of hostilities. Courthope erected fortifications at either end of the island and placed three stout cannon in each.
His soldiers took up musket positions near the shore. The southern coastline was protected by precipitous cliffs and a reef and dangerous currents.
However, Run was vulnerable to a blockade by the Dutch as it had no fresh water source, and grew no fruit nor vegetables. Supplies had to be shipped in. One ship was sent for fresh water but was captured by the Dutch. Then the other ship was cut loose by "a plot of knaves", men who tired of their confinement on Run. They turned over their ship to the Dutch, who ordered the English governor of Bantam, George Ball, to surrender. Ball replied, "for your threats, I respect them not, having God and a just cause for my comfort, and you a foul and horrid and shameful matter."
By now many of Courthope's 38 men were suffering from malnutrition and dysentery. Each day brought boredom, hunger, fear and watching for the enemy. Courthope sustained them with his "mild carriage (bearing) and earnest protestations." In January 1619, a letter arrived saying that Sir Thomas Dale was on his way from England with five ships. Dale had sailed from America to England, bringing the Indian princess Pocahontas. Arriving in Bantam, he added ten more ships to his five. However, Dale made a tactical error when he allowed the Dutch ships to escape without pursuit. Dale's fleet headed for India, leaving Courthope without relief. On 18 October 1620, Courthope decided to sail over to Great Banda, under cover of darkness, to embolden the natives who had risen up against the Dutch. But a traitor on Run, a lone Hollander passing himself off as a deserter, sent word of Courthope's movements. He was ambushed and fell overboard, never to be seen again.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRIAL BY FIRE AND WATER
With Courthope gone, Jan Coen decided to totally annihilate the English fleet. But in July 1619, the Dutch East India Company and its English counterpart signed an agreement to end all fighting. Coen ignored it. With 13 large ships and 1680 men he invaded Great Banda, beheading and quartering forty-four prisoners. Then he shipped hundreds of Bandanese to Batavia to be sold as slaves.
At Amboyna, the Dutch governor, Herman van Speult, tortured a Japanese man into falsely confessing that he was plotting along with the English, to overthrow Amboyna Castle. This was impossible, as there were only 18 Englishmen with three swords and two muskets. The English were arrested and systematically tortured. Canvas was placed around their necks and filled with water, cutting off their air supply. Candles were lit under their arm-pits, hands, and soles of their feet. Some of their limbs were blown off with gunpowder. The torture stopped when they signed false confessions. A condemned Englishman asked a Dutch minister, "If we suffer guiltless, being otherwise also true believers in Jesus Christ, what shall be our reward [in the afterlife]?" The minister answered, "By how much the clearer you are, so much more glorious shall be your resurrection." Then the men were beheaded. Only two men were allowed to live so they could run the English factory. At the moment of execution, a great darkness arose with a violent gust of wind that drove two ships from their anchors. Two weeks later, a plague took one-fourth of the island's population.
King James and all of England grieved when they heard of the Amboyna massacre, fueling anti-Dutch sentiment. They concluded that the massacre was not a conspiracy but a Dutch plan to permanently evict the English from the Spice Islands.
On Run Island, the Dutch dug up nutmeg trees and transplanted them onto Neira and Ai islands. The Banda islands flourished. Between 1633 and 1638 they produced four million pounds of nutmeg and mace.
CHAPTER TWELVE: STRIKING A DEAL
In 1629, the declining English presence in the Spice Islands left the English Dutch India Company £300,000 in debt. In 1643 they were forced to sell their Deptford shipyard. In 1657, when the Company had decided to liquidate, Oliver Cromwell and his Council of State intervened. On 19 October 1657, they passed the Great Seal which made the East India Company a united joint-stock corporation. Within a few months a staggering £786,000 had been raised through London merchants. But it was to India that ships were now sent.
In April 1654, the Anglo-Dutch war was terminated by the Treaty of Westminster. Run Island was to be immediately restored to the English and £85,000 paid in damages, along with £4,000 to the families of the victims of Amboyna. The Dutch would not surrender Run to the English, so the brother of King Charles II, James, Duke of York, sailed to New Amsterdam in America and demanded their surrender. On 8 September 1664, governor Peter Stuyvesant signed away the Dutch rights to Manhattan. King Charles II said, " 'Tis a place of great importance...and 'tis now called New York." The Dutch protested that the English had unlawfully seized Manhattan. In July 1667, the Treaty of Breda was signed in Holland. In return for the Dutch keeping Run Island, the English retained Manhattan. It was a tribute to Nathaniel Courthope, who, forty-seven years earlier, had refused to surrender Run to an army hundreds of times more powerful. Yet the stand he made was to reshape history. Although his death robbed England of her nutmeg, it gave her the "biggest of apples," New York City.
Eventually, the English uprooted hundreds of nutmeg trees and transplanted them to Ceylon, Pinang, Bencoolen, and Singapore, thus helping the Banda Islands recede into obscurity.
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