07 February 2009

A History of the Republic

In New Holland

Originally the republic was settled by the United Provinces (The Netherlands), following reports by a number of nearly ship-wrecked mariners of a large, uninhabited land below the Spice Islands. The Dutch intention was to set up a base by which they could intrude themselves into the closely guarded trade from south east Asia, particularly the Phillipines and China, and as a support to their colonies on the Spice Islands. They settled in the northwest of the continent, laying claim to the whole land.

Unfortunately the mild weather of July, 1667 was succeeded by the cyclone and storm ridden wet season of 1667-68, which virtually wiped out the young base. The Dutch government decided to abandon the base but some settlers, who had moved further inland and found success with farming cattle, pleaded to be allowed to stay. They established a town, Katerina, which they named after a well respected midwife and wife of one of the leading burghers, Katerina Zaagman. Over the next years the town existed as mainly a trading post and some times council meeting place. The original port, Heymel, was 220 miles to the north and few trade goods made their way south, the colonists priding themselves on their self-sufficiency.

As a consequence of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678) the Dutch were forced to cede one of their colonies to neutral power, as well as surrender parts of the Netherlands themselves. The unprofitable colony of New Holland was chosen and transferred to the Russian Empire, it being considered that the Russians would least threaten the United Provinces' power in the region. Although this was not what France nor the UK had intended, the matter was agreed and a Russian governor, Piotr Megorsky, and several shiploads of boyar families and serfs arrived at the beginning of 1679. The governor, seeing the sqalid port of Heymel as unsuitable and too prone to storms, moved south and set up residence at Katerina, which was renamed Ekaterinsburg.

However the heat and cost of running the unprofitable colony soon told and, in an attempt to curry favour with the northern German states and Denmark against Sweden (Russia's main rival in the Baltic), in 1685 Russia gifted the colony to the Duke of Oldenburg, who was also King of Denmark. Left behind when the Russian governor packed his bags were the serfs, many of whom had become defacto free settlers, and the 700 men of the 3rd Battalion, Permskiy Infantry Regiment, who had provided the colony with a vestige of a police and military force. Permskiy's uniforms set the tradition of the RNS infantry wearing Russian styles of uniform for the next century.

Denmark, already having trouble holding her overseas colonies, refused to have anything to do with the colony at the far ends of the earth. Equally, however, Denmark did not want to offend a potential ally against Sweden, especially after the disastrous Scanian War. So the colony was held only under the title of the Duke of Oldenburg and Danish citizens were forbidden to settle there. German and Austrian citizens were encouraged to settle with free land grants (often land claimed by the original Dutch settlers) on offer. The ties with the small states of Germany were born when the first German and Austrian colonists arrived in 1687.

Meanwhile, the rich fishing grounds and pearl beds had attracted large numbers of fishermen from the Spice Islands, Sultanates of Malaya and southern China. Heymel had not developed as a major port, but supported a sizeable population of fishermen and pearlers. They had been discouraged at first by the strict Dutch rule, but swarmed in with the more welcoming (and lower taxing) Russian administration. With them came merchants and mercenaries/body guards from India. Heymel was an interesting place to live (and be murdered, if you were not careful) during this time.

By 1689 the Oldenburg administration had managed to tame Heymel. But in the taming the profits which had been appearing again disappeared. Once again Neues Südland, as the land was now known, was a burden on its colonial masters. In order to ease the financial pain, a new infantry regiment was raised and offered for service with the Dutch, in the War of the Grand Alliance. The offer was accepted and the colony showed the first, and last, profit for the Duke of Oldenburg. The regiment, with recruits drawn from all the peoples of the colony, including the native Boori population, proved to be good fighters but hoplessly ill disciplined in quarters. So the two year contract was not renewed. In desperation the colony once again changed hands- gifted to the new King of England, William III, on his coronation in 1689.

William, fully ware of the limitations of the colony, nevertheless accepted the gift graciously- he saw an opportunity to dilute the flow of Jacobite sympathisers to the North American colonies. He encouraged the English and Scots to send their sons to the colony and also decided that troublesome Irish and Scots families, particularly supporters of the deposed Stuart dynasty, should be exiled there. Each family who agreed to passage was gifted 50 acres of land near Ekaterinsburg, while those who objected were sent as indentured servants.

By 1698 Europe was watching a new crisis develop. Charles II of Spain was without heir and it seemed he would bequeath his throne to Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France. Europe was faced with the possibility of France and Spain being united under the Bourbons. As part of a deal to persuade Philip not to take the throne, Neues Sudland (as it was now spelled) was offered as an alternative (along with several other less than profitable colonies). The deal failed but it did spark a deep unrest among the population, who were sick of the way they were traded among the great powers. When the English garrison was withdrawn to take part in the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1702, the colony revolted and declared itself independent. The UK, being otherwise involved and seeing no value in the colony, agreed on the proviso that the new republic would continue to accept transported families from Ireland and Scotland. The colony agreed and the Treaty of Excorporation was signed on 24 December, 1702.

In 1707 the mainly Irish and Scots peopled Eastern Marches joined Neues Sudland, having themselves used France's preoccupation with continental affairs to declare independence.
In 1708 David Kimberley, the 3rd son of a British jewellry merchant who had established an enormous cattle station (by European standards- the station was larger than Britain) 600 miles to the SW of Ekaterinsburg, found diamonds on his property. The influx of diamond prospectors found more deposits, but more importantly large mineral reserves were found. In 1710 gold deposits were also found at O'Connell in the Eastern Marches. European interests in the new nation increased significantly. Realising their isolation would not protect them by itself, the republic used their newly bulging treasury to dramatically increase the size of the armed forces. By 1715, recruiting parties were busy across Europe, promising veterans of the recent war land grants, wives (should they want one) and free passage to the republic, should they join the forces for 10 years service. Ladies of negotiable affection and war widows were also lured with promises of land and a husband, on the proviso they remain with that husband until his service expired. The many fishermen and pearlers living in the area of Darwin (formerly Heymel, but renamed after the first Anglican bishop appointed to the colony), were recruited as members of the new navy, as were the crews of visiting vesels.

By the time the great nations of Europe had recovered from their war, and were preparing for the next, the trouble of conquering the republic was thought to be greater than any gain that may be expected. The republic, in the meantime, had realised that the cost of keeping their troops trained and ready was more expensive than they had realised. The idea of renting their troops out would defray the costs of maintaining them and keep them battle tested. More importantly, it would also establish good relations with many nations, which the republic hoped would lead to allies, should any nation have plans of conquest.

1 comment:

  1. G'day Dal!
    My brain has nearly exploded when I was reading this ))))