Monday, November 9, 2009


The Java was resulted in a debt to the Dutch East Indies Government of over 30 million florins, with an annual interest charge of over 2million florins, both secured by the Government of Netherlands. The later verged on bankruptcy with the costly revolt in Belgium against Holland's authority erupting in 1830 and brewing for the next decade. To add to these miseries, the price of coffee slumped , reducing the Government's revenues even further. The Dutch treasury was exhausted and with it any hope of liberalism in colonial policies.


It was to meet such a financial crisis that a new Governor-General with profit making Ideas was sent to Java in 1830Johames Van Den Bosch was not new to the REast Indies. In the first decade of the century, he had served there in the army taken part in the reclaimation, of an state near Batavia and was deported to Europe by the Government because of illiberal and intemperate views. In the Post- Napoleonic era, he emerged as a writer o economic and political subject; "the perverted liberalism" of Raffles and Daendels on Java was among his targets. In 1827, he visited the Dutch East Indies., on his return , he submitted to the Dutch government, his ideas on how the Dutch colony could be administered profitably for the Netherland.Van DenBosch's ideas appealed to the financially desperate King William, who thought of him as the right man to put the Javanese finances in order.

On his part , Van Den Bosch assured the king that the production of export crops could be stepped upto help the Dutch treasury to the extend of 20 millions guilders annually. The culltual system would be ' the life belt on which the Netherlands would be kept afloat". The new system introduced in 1830 , was known as Cultural stelsel or the Cultural system. It as implemented effectively for the next four decades and in certain crops like coffee down to 1917. The 'system' was based on certain assumptions. First, the Javanese however willing they might be, were too ignorant to make any progress unaided and without the guidance of the Dutch authorities. They must be ordered to work. Secondly, a javanese could achieve a satisfactory level of living by working 120 days per year in agriculture . He must not be allowed to spend the rest of time idling and indolence because the later reduced his suitability for labour. Therefore, he should be compelled to devote a part of his lesuretime to the cultivation of export crops. In doing so, he would learn to work.

In this way,Van Den Bosch justified his cultural system and " forced abour". Under previous Governments, there had also been forced labour but Van den Bosch's plan was tohave this labour i lieu of land rent and taxes. The Javanee peasant would devote one-fifth of his lnd or sixty six working days i a year for the cultivation of cash crops for the Government under the supervision of the controllers It was an easy transition from acquiring one-fifth to as much land as was needed for the cultivation of the variousand infact , Van Der Bosch " took what ever amount he pleased , even to one-half and even the whole"

The Colonial Government compelled the Indonesian peasant to cultivate a variety of exort cros. The Government introduced coffee, sugar, indigo, tea, tobacco, cinnamon, colhineal, pepper silk and cotton. The villagers were forced to work at these various cultures surificing his own sawahs his own rice feilds for the benifits of the Government, Meanwhile, the rice srop suffered. Th people did not Question or complain ofr if they did, it was in the rivacy of their own homes, for thu were subject to their native chieftain as their father and grandfather had been before them. Van Der Bosch belived in the indirect control over the indigenous people through their chiefs. The old method of dual Government prevalent during the compoany's regime were revived. By restoring the position to the various chieftain, the Dutchhad their support and the chieftain could rule and command as they wished.

The native hierarchy made use of their position to take from the villager, whatever they wishd. An increment for an incease on production, under the culture system was a certain percentage of cropsgiven to the native hierarchy as well as the Government officials. With this extensive Bureaucracy, eachj level of the heirarchy extracted a certain percetage from the harvests often leaving nothing to the villagers who had done all the work.

Of the crops introduced, coffee was the most lucrative and occupied the largest area under cash crops. Van Den Bosch built road, by forced labour, to the mountain districts where the coffee was grown and storage facilities were constructed in the neighbourhood of each coffee plantations. Each kampong or village in the mountaneous region,was required to plant in 4 year, 600 coffe trees per head of each family and to maintain a sufficient nursery of young trees to heap 600 tres per family headin full bearing.

The cultivation of coffee in the Preanger district, by 184 alone produce 243,554 picules of coffe, while the rest of Java gave to the Governmetn 843,310 piculs of coffee. The sale in Holland of this coffee realised upward of thirty seven millions of florins. The yeild of coffee in 1854 was more than four times as great and about six times as valuable as the same produce before the culture system. The actual profits were even greater because the Government fixed a price on the yeild which was muchlower than the market price.

The cultivation of coffe did not interfere with the subsistence agriculture. The same could not be said about Indigo and Sugar plantation , which required sacrifice of precious sawah (rice feild). Further, the seasons for the cultivation of these cash crops coincide roughly woth that for rice cultivaton. The Dutch officials and Javanese Regents alike compelled the villagers to allot the best parts of their land and often more than the legal one-fifth for the cultivation of export crops. They also forced the peasants to attend forst to the cash crops and then to rice cultivation. The result was a serious curtailment in the production of trice necessary for the peasants sustenance. There were several families in the 1840's in Java. The worst occured in 1850 in residency of Semarang where morethan 300,000 perished because of starvation and the diseases which accompany famine The cause of the famine was the preference given to tobacco crops over the rice crops.

The system as introduced in Java was made compatible with the indegenious social structure and hierarchy The desah was a self supporting unit with emphasis on loyalty to the chief. Attainment of great wealth was frowned upon. Van Der Bosch exploited the situation to the utmost by leaving of crop supervision and delivery of produce lagrely in the hands of such traditional elements of social controls.Some regents employed severe forms of corparal punishment to the reclcitrant . The lash was the favourite tools, but such toutute as hanging by the thumbs, tying the ' culprit' to an ant tre or compelling the eaing of horse faeces were not rare.Nor were the Dutch authorities unaware of the practice . This was revealed by Multauli, a Dutch official, who was distingusted with the culture system. The Government and the chiefs did use some of the profits for the improvements in communications ,but they helped the common man very little. the essence of the system was its benefit for the colonial power , which so sucessfully camouflaged its direct control over the peasentry that Multauli describe the administrative features as " noticing but the Javanese customs into statute terms"

The beneficiariesof the culture system were the Native Regents and their subordinate at the district and village level, the middle men or contractors in charge of delivery of the export crops. Dutch trading companies who would sell the products in the Netherlands. On the return trip, the trading companies would bring finish Dutch goods to be sold, at high price in Java. The trade immensel helped the Dutch economy.

The system as a whole performed a miracle for the utch economy as enormous profits flowed into the Netherland treasury. Van Der Bosch'spromise to his king of securing twenty millions guilders in profit from the East Indies was fulfilled before long. Between 1830 and 1877, a total profit of 837 millions guilders was accured to the Netherlands. Out of this sum, the Government used 650 million guilders for reducing the public debt by 236million guilders; reducing the tax burden of Dutch citizens to the extend of 115 million guildes in the construction of state railways to the tune of 153 million and for building fortification and public facilities to the extent of 146 million guilders. The remaining sum of 182 million guilders was apparent by appropriated into the King's coffer. Beyond this, were the profits made by the Dutch enterprenuers in trade, shipping and banking.


The culture system thus succeded phenomenally in its initial purpose ; saving thje Netherlands from bankruptcy. Indeed it placed Hollanf on a sound economic footing and enabled it to finance its own Industrial revolution. the originator of the system was amply rewarded;Van Der Bosch was made a Baron in 1836 and a cour in 1839.