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HOLLAND'S EMPIRE* DoNALD CowiE THE German invasion of Holland has helped the Allies in at least one respect. It has brought the great Dutch Empire of the East Indies into their orbit with all the wealth of warlike materials in which this vast territory abounds. As corollaries to this recruitment, it is now possible finally to close an important leak in the blockade of the enemy, and the manner of reaction to the new situation among other Pacific powers has usefully stabilized local relationships. These events are worth explaining, and understanding , for there is considerable ignorance about the East Indies and their place in the tangled skein of Pacific politics. The East Indies are so big that if placed on Europe they would extend from Ireland to beyond the Black Sea. They consist of a number of island-groups, divided politically into Java and Madoera, and the Outer Possessions, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes, Bali, Lombok, Flores, the western part of New Guinea, the Moluccas, and many small islands. The total population is nearly 61,000,000. Java and Madoera alone contain more people than the British Isles. But the total European population is only 242,000, and the en tire archipelago belongs to a distant country whose population is less than that of greater London. The Dutch first took possession in Elizabethan times, but were evicted. by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. The British sent an expeditionary force and evicted the French. Java became a British possession, with that great Empire-builder, Stamford Raffles, as Lieutenant-Governor. From 1811 to 1816 Raffles laboured mightily to consolidate the islands as a single political' and economic unit. What we now know as the Straits Settlements, with the fortress Singapore where Raffles' statue stands, were then regarded as the least important part of the group. But Raffles dreamt extravagantly for the conscience and expediency of England . At the Congress of Vienna their East Indian possessions were returned to the Dutch. Three years later Raffles returned to his ambitions, and founded Singapore. The Dutch were annoyed. They could not foresee that a century later Singapore would be their unpaid sentinel. The world was given no cause to regret, however, that the Dutch had been given their rights. During the century of peace, *Written before the collapse of France, A reference, on page 502, to three empires has beeri altered. (Editors' Note.) 500 HOLLAND'S EMPIRE 501 this industrious people wisely cultivated their great tropical possession for the benefit of all. They gradually evolved a system of colonial government which became a model for others. Supreme power and the highest legislative authority resides in the Netherlands Crown. A Governor-General is assisted by three separate local councils, composed variously of responsible Hollanders, of heads of departments, and of elected representatives of the Hollanders , the natives, and foreigners such as Chinese. The aim of the government has been defined as the gradual devolution of responsibility to native administration so that the natives may govern themselves as much as possible. There is a complicated system of sub-divisions, and the native states are kept separate from areas under direct rule. As a result, the Indies present a remarkably happy picture of political balance. The presence of a considerable number of Chinese, with strong commercial interests, assists the maintenance of this equipoise. There is no subversive movement of any consequence in the East Indies today. It has been said that the Dutch have cultivated their possession for the benefit of all. This is so. No "have-not" power has been given any cause to complain that raw materials have been locked away from them here. As a mercantile nation, the Dutch have always recognized the value to themselves of an economic opendoor . If the Indies have encountered any economic stress in recent years it has been solely due to the refusal of other powers, and among them the "have-nots," to admit East Indian products into their closed systems. A visitor from another planet would surely find this incredible, for these islands now produce to overflowing just those commodities most required by the modern industrial state. The importance of East Indian products is best indicated by the...


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pp. 500-504
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