No. 497.
Mr. Gorham to Mr. Fish.

No. 131.]

Sir: When war was declared by the Netherlands government against the Sultan of Acheen it was urged, as I had the honor to inform you at the time, that His Majesty was willfully disturbing the territorial relations of the Dutch, that he was unfaithful to treaty obligations, that all attempts to secure friendly intercourse through peaceful means had proved abortive, and that the maintenance of authority in the Netherlands East Indies depended on the ability and disposition of the government to assert it in the punishment of the Acheenese.

In the spirit of this conclusion an expedition was ordered. Its first attempt was a failure, as will be remembered. The second, under a different commander, had invaded the country and placed itself in a position to dictate terms to the enemy, and the question of importance now under consideration by the government relates to the disposition of the country and its troublesome inhabitants. Shall the people be charged with the expense of their chastisement and let off on its payment and a promise of better behavior in future, or shall their country be annexed to other possessions of the Dutch and themselves restricted henceforth to limited rights as colonial subjects?

On the 21st instant Mr. Van Vollenhoven, member of the second chamber of the States-General, by permission of the chamber, put to Mr. Van de Pulto, minister of colonies, the three following questions, viz:

How does the government provide for the pecuniary necessities of the war?
What is the object aimed at?
What are the intentions and purposes of the government for the future?

The minister replied that, in regard to the first question, he had the satisfaction of knowing that the surplus to the credit of the East Indies colonies, on the 31st of December last, amounted to 39,000,000 of florins, and that up to that period a trifle under 14,000,000 had been expended in the prosecution of the war, leaving over 25,000,000 to be used if need be. He hoped the whole sum would not be exhausted by the requirements of the service, but added that it would be if necessary, and more besides, as it was the purpose of the government to prosecute the war to a satisfactory conclusion.

The number of enlisted men sent from the Netherlands the minister gave as 3,930. The casualties of the last campaign had not been fully reported to the government.

In responding to questions II and III the minister said, in substance, that in the beginning the intention of the government, as repeatedly communicated to the States-General, was to conclude a treaty with the Sultan, maintaining the integrity of his country. Accordingly the effort was to strengthen his authority as much as possible in order to prevent a dismemberment of his country. But subsequent events, and the conviction that the Sultan is a weak, inefficient, dependent prince, have led General Van Swieten, Governor-General Loudon, and the ministry also, to conclude that the true policy of the Dutch demands entire authority regardless of the Sultan, who, under the circumstances, is unworthy [Page 779] of consideration. He refused to negotiate when he could have done so, and through his perfidy a Dutch envoy had lost his life.

At the conclusion of his remarks the minister placed at the disposition of the chamber a large number of dispatches and documents relative to the war, which till then had been kept from the public; some were still withheld on the score of expediency.

Among those published in the government organ I notice a proclamation issued by General Van Swieten, styling himself “lieutenant-general, commander-in-chief, and plenipotentiary of the Netherland India government,” dated Penogoeny, January 31, 1874, in which he proclaims the army beaten, the Kratow taken, the Sultan* dead, and the country, by right of conquest, a possession of the Dutch East India government, and he exhorts all the inhabitants thereof to submit to his authority.

There is also published a copy of a letter from the commander-in-chief to the hoeloebalangs (chiefs) of some of the most important districts, under date of February 2, 1874, in which he assures them that he is prepared for any emergency possible for them to devise; that he had remained inactive for a time in the hope that they would consider their circumstances and act accordingly; that the government would disapprove of any attempt on the part of the people to elect another Sultan, and would entirely disregard him, as such, if elected.

Also, a letter from the general to the governor-general, dated February 4, 1874, giving further details of the situation, and complaining that intercourse with the people was becoming less and less friendly.

On motion of Mr. Mustrass, member of the opposition, it was resolved to postpone any further consideration of the subject until a re-assembling of the chamber after the Easter holidays.

I will only add that, in the opinion of some, the interpellation has laid the foundation for an overthrow of the ministry. In such conclusion, however, I do not share.

The expense of the war is somewhat galling, but its prospective results are agreeably contemplated by a majority of the people.

I am, &c.,

  1. Reported dead, but was found afterward preparing for another battle.