DUTCH WEST INDIA COMPANY, The, an association of merchants of Amsterdam, Zealand, the Meuse, North Holland and Fries land, incorporated 1621, with a capital of 6,000, 000 florins (about $2,500,000). Unlike the East India Company, which was primarily a trading association and in its conquests and colonies had no other purpose than to protect its commerce, the West India Company never had an extensive trade, but strove to injure the Spaniards, to conquer their establishments, to capture their ships and to break the intercourse between Spain and its American gold and silver mines. The design was conceived in the interest of the Bel gians, when Spanish persecutions had driven more than 100,000 Protestant families from Bel gium to the north. It was thought that the Spaniards would be compelled to evacuate Bel gium when their resources had been thus de stroyed. Large fleets were sent out, the com pany possessing sometimes as many as 70 armed vessels. The prizes captured were of such value that during several years shareholders received 25 to 75 per cent interest. Twelve millions were added to the original capital. Spain and Portu gal being united at this time (the union lasting from 1580 to 1640), the company not only cap tured the Spanish silver fleet in 1628, securing a booty of more than 14,000,000 florins, but took Bahia (1624) and Pernambuco (1630) in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. The history of
Dutch Brazil had a brilliant period (1636-42) under the administration of Count John Maurice of Nassau. Curacao was taken about this time and the company's North American colony of New Netherlands grew more and more pros perous. But the fatal defect of the company's plan now became apparent. Not being supported by extensive trade, the military and naval tri umphs cost much' more money than they pro duced. The financial condition of the company showed, after 1630, a terribly constant down ward tendency; the government of Holland, moreover, was very slack in fulfilling its pledges of assistance. The beginning of the end was reached in 1641 when Portugal„having shaken off the Spanish yoke, devised means to regain Brazil. In 1654 the Dutch troops withdrew from that part of South America. The death blow was struck when New Netherlands, the last valuable possession of the practically bank rupt company, was conquered by the English (1664). Consult Asher's (Bibliography of New Netherlands and the Dutch West India Com pany> (Amsterdam 1856-67).