Batavia, Dutch East Indies - Encyclopedia

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BATAVIA, a city and seaport on the north coast of the island of Java, and the capital of all the Dutch settlements in the East. The population in 1880 was 96,957; in 1898, 115,567; including 94 2 3 Europeans, 26,433 Chinese, 2828 Arabs and 132 other Asiatic foreigners. It is situated on both sides of the river Jacatra or Jilivong, in a swampy plain at the head of a capacious bay. The streets are for the most part straight and regular, and many of them have a breadth of from loo to 200 ft. In several cases there is a canal in the centre lined with stone, and protected by low parapets or banks, while almost every street and square is fringed with trees. The old town has greatly changed from its condition in the 18th century. It was then surrounded by strong fortifications, and contained a number of important buildings, such as the town-house (built in 1652 and restored in 1706), the exchange, the infirmary and orphan asylum, and the European churches. But the ramparts were long ago demolished; only natives, Malays, Arabs and Chinese live here, and the great European houses have either fallen into decay or been converted into magazines and warehouses. The European inhabitants live principally in the new town, which was gradually formed by the integration of Weltevreden (Wellcontent), Molenvliet (Mill-stream), Rijswijk (Rice-town), Noordwijk (North-town), Koningsplein (King's square), and other suburban villages or stations. The situation of this modern part is higher and healthier. The imitation of Dutch arrangements has been avoided, and the natural advantages of the situation and climate have been turned to account. The houses, generally of a single storey or two at most, are frequently separated from each other by rows of trees. Batavia contains numerous buildings connected with the civil and military organization of the government. The governor-general's palace and the government buildings are the most important of these; in the district of Weltevreden are also the barracks, and the artillery school, as well as the military and civil hospital, and not far off is the FrederikHendrik citadel built in 1837. Farther inland, at Meester Cornelis, are barracks and a school for under-officers. The Koningsplein is a large open square surrounded by mansions of the wealthier classes. Noordwijk is principally inhabited by lesser merchants and subordinate officials. There is an orphan asylum in the district of Parapatna. Batavia has various educational and scientific institutions of note. In 1851 the government founded a medical school for Javanese, and in 1860 the "Gymnasium William III." in which a comprehensive education is bestowed. A society of arts and sciences (which possesses an excellent museum) was established in 1778, a royal physical society in 1850, and a society for the promotion of industry and agriculture in 1853. In addition to the Transactions of these societies - many of which contain valuable contributions to their respective departments in their relation to the East Indies - a considerable number of publications are issued in Batavia. Among miscellaneous buildings of importance may be mentioned the public hall known as the Harmonie, the theatre, club-house and several fine hotels.

The population of Batavia is varied, the Dutch residents being a comparatively small class, and greatly intermixed with Portuguese and Malays. Here are found members of the different Indian nations, originally slaves; Arabs, who are principally engaged in navigation, but also trade in gold and precious stones; Javanese, who are cultivators; and Malays, chiefly boatmen and sailors, and adherents of Mahommedanism. The Chinese are both numerous and industrious. They were long greatly oppressed by the Dutch government, and in 1740 they were massacred to the number of 12,000.

Batavia Bay is rendered secure by a number of islands at its mouth, but grows very shallow towards the shore. The construction of the new harbour at Tanjong Priok, to the east of the old one, was therefore of the first importance. The works, begun in 1877 and completed in 1886, connect the town with Tanjong ("cape") Priok by a canal, and include an outer port formed by two breakwaters, 6072 ft. long, with a width at entrance of 408 ft. and a depth of 27 ft. throughout. The inner port has 3282 ft. of quayage; its length is 3609 ft., breadth 573 f t. and depth 24 ft. There is also a coal dock, and the port has railway and roadway connexion with Batavia. The river Jilivong is navigable 2 m. inland for vessels of 30 or 40 tons, but the entrance is narrow, and requires continual attention to keep it open.

The exports from Batavia to the other islands of the archipelago, and to the ports in the Malay Peninsula, are rice, sago, coffee, sugar, salt, oil, tobacco, teak timber and planks, Java cloths, brass wares, &c., and European, Indian and Chinese goods. The produce of the Eastern Islands is also collected at its ports for re-exportation to India, China and Europe - namely, gold-dust, diamonds, camphor, benzoin and other drugs; edible bird-nests, trepang, rattans, beeswax, tortoiseshell, and dyeing woods from Borneo and Sumatra; tin from Banka; spices from the Moluccas; fine cloths from Celebes and Bali; and pepper from Sumatra. From Bengal are imported opium, drugs and cloths; from China, teas, raw silk, silk piece-goods, coarse China wares, paper, and innumerable smaller articles for the Chinese settlers. The tonnage of vessels clearing from Batavia to countries beyond the archipelago had increased from 879,000 tons in 1887 to nearly 1,500,000 tons by the end of the century. The old and new towns are connected by steam tramways. The Batavia-Buitenzorg railway passes the new town, thus connecting it with the main railway which crosses the island from west to east.

Almost the only manufactures of any importance are the distillation of arrack, which is principally carried on by Chinese, the burning of lime and bricks, and the making of pottery. The principal establishment for monetary transactions is the Java Bank, established in 1828 with a capital of 50o,000.

Batavia owes its origin to the Dutch governor-general Pieter Both, who in 1610 established a factory at Jacatra (which had been built on the ruins of the old Javanese town of Sunda Calappa), and to his successor, Jan Pieters Coen, who in 1619 founded in its stead the present city, which soon acquired a flourishing trade and increased in importance. In 1699 Batavia was visited by a terrible earthquake, and the streams were choked by the mud from the volcano of Gunong Salak; they overflowed the surrounding country and made it a swamp, by which the climate was so affected that the city became notorious for its unhealthiness, and was in great danger of being altogether abandoned. In the twenty-two years from 1730 to 1752, 1,100,000 deaths are said to have been recorded. General Daendels, who was governor from 1808 to 1811, caused the ramparts of the town to be demolished, and began to form the nucleus of a new city at Weltevreden. By 1816 nearly all the Europeans had left the old town. In 1811 a British armament was sent against the Dutch settlements in Java, which had been incorporated by France, and to this force Batavia surrendered on the 8th of August. It was restored, however, to the Dutch by the treaty of 1814.

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