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the introduction of a systematic land tax. He began from the convenient
proposition that in Java the indigenous ruler had always been the owner
of the soil, and that the Europeans had taken over this right: effectively
all the land on the island was in the public domain.58 This allowed the
government freely to dispose of the uncultivated waste lands, whether to
Javanese or Europeans. Thus, while claiming that the government enjoyed
the sole right of property, Raf¬‚es also established a commercial relation-
ship directly with the individual settlers, ignoring intermediaries in the
55 Maarten Kuitenbrouwer, ˜Aristocracies under Colonial Rule: North India and Java™, in
C.A. Bayly and D.H.A. Kolff (eds.), Two Colonial Empires: Comparative Essays on the
History of India and Indonesia (Lancaster: Martinus Nijhoff, 1986), p. 80. For a good
analysis of the impact of this and other reforms on India, see Rajat Kanta Ray, ˜Indian
Society and the Establishment of British Supremacy™, in Marshall (ed.), Oxford History
of the British Empire, vol. II, especially p. 521.
56 Bernard Cohn, ˜From Indian Status to British Contract™, Journal of Economic History,
21 (1961), 613.
57 C.A. Bayly, ˜Creating a Colonial Peasantry: India and Java, c. 1820“1880™, Itinerario, 11
(1987), 94“6.
58 Day, Dutch in Java, p. 176.
Colonialism, imperialism, international politics 85

form of local village chiefs and the indigenous elites, christened regenten
by the Dutch. This policy of dealing directly with individual farmers was
primarily instigated to answer political concerns about the arbitrary rule
of native elites. As Raf¬‚es put it,
The agency of intermediate renters is considered as quite unnecessary to be
adopted in the future. It is deemed that such a plan of settlement will leave the
bulk of the people entirely at the mercy of a numerous set of chiefs, who, however
well they may have hitherto conducted themselves, would certainly, in such case,
possess an ability of injury and oppression, against which the ruling [European]
power would have left itself no adequate means of prevention or redress, and
which cannot therefore be permitted consistently with the principles of good
government.59
The British solution, in short, was to grant extensive property rights
to individual farmers, which would, it was believed, provide a useful
bulwark against the dangers of misgovernment. It was, in effect, a precise
institutional demarcation of the separation between a private sphere of
liberty, and a public sphere where dangers of misgovernment still had to
be carefully monitored.
Raf¬‚es™s ideas about the bene¬cial civilizing effects of property owner-
ship, broadly similar to those held by the advocates of American westward
expansion, always had to be juxtaposed against the other crucial element
of imperial policy: the need for revenue and, ideally, pro¬t. Indonesia
was returned to the Dutch following the Treaty of London of 1814, and,
despite the intentions of the commissioners from the Netherlands to
persevere with a reformed version of the land-rent system (which in-
volved increasing the colonial administrative personnel considerably),
they ˜failed to make Java pro¬table to the Dutch treasury . . . in the short
term, because the Javanese peasant did not have any inclination to cul-
tivate export crops like coffee or sugar voluntarily™.60 Consequently, in
an attempt to improve the colonial ¬nances, the heads of the local colo-
nial administration, especially the new Governor General Baron van der
Capellen and his successor van den Bosch, drifted back towards the fa-
miliar old ˜system of trade™, which had earlier been adopted by the VOC
as a way of increasing revenue. What was introduced, from the late 1830s
on, was an infamous system of the forced cultivation of designated crops.
They wanted to ensure the maximization of the production of cash-crops
that could then be sold by the Netherlands Trading Company on be-
half of the treasury. Essentially, under the cultivation system the Javanese
peasants were required to produce the crops the Dutch needed in lieu
59 Cited in ibid., pp. 178“9.
60 Cornelis Fasseur, The Politics of Colonial Exploitation: Java, the Dutch and the Cultivation
System, trans. R.E. Elson and Ary Kraal (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), p. 23.
86 Beyond the anarchical society

of payment of Raf¬‚es™s land-rent; the peasant-farmers would also receive
cash payments for their crops, although not large ones, which they could
use to improve their land or (more likely) pay off their outstanding debts
from the old land-rent system.61
Although it undoubtedly ful¬lled its primary goal of gaining revenue
for the Dutch treasury, the cultivation system increasingly came under
attack from liberals in the Dutch parliament, especially after crop failures
in 1844 resulted in severe famines that persisted into 1845 and 1846;
famine struck again in 1849. While it is unclear whether these famines
can be directly attributed to the burdens on the peasants imposed by the
cultivation system,62 it certainly presented the Dutch with an uncomfort-
able paradox. As one of the leading spokesmen for the liberals, W. R. van
Hoevell, succinctly put it: ˜we have in Java the strange phenomenon that
this island annually produces almost 40 million guilders in pro¬t, but that
the people of this same island are unable to provide for their own needs™.63
Administrative changes in the Netherlands in 1848 also contributed to
the liberal backlash against the cultivation system. Prior to 1848, in the
Constitutions of 1806 and 1815, control over colonial policy had been
vested exclusively in the monarch; after 1848, the States-General was
given a role in colonial policy, especially in terms of supervision of the
budget. The new role for the Dutch legislative body simultaneously in-
creased the liberals™ awareness of the acuteness of the problems associated
with the cultivation system, and also gave them the means to do some-
thing about them. However, the liberals faced a dilemma posed by the
¬scal success of the cultivation system: how could a more liberal system of
property rights be introduced without losing the colossal revenue that the
Dutch treasury was receiving from its colonial possessions?64 Dutch colo-
nial policy only gradually began to move in a liberal direction, painfully
slowly and with considerable quali¬cation, since new ways of raising rev-
enue had to be found to replace those secured by the cultivation system.
There were two main strands to the liberal plan. On the one hand, they
believed that the customary Javanese adat land use practices should be
respected, and this concern was built into the new Colonial Constitu-
tion (Regeerings Reglement) of 1854. While it permitted the continuation
of the cultivation system, it insisted in Article 56 that ˜so far as the cul-
tures occupy land cleared by the native population for its own use, this
land be disposed of with justice and with respect for existing rights and
customs™.65 On the other hand, the liberals believed that the revenues of
61 As well as ibid., see Day, Dutch in Java, and R.E. Elson, Village Java under the Cultivation
System, 1830“1870 (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1994).
62 63 Cited in ibid., p. 102.
See Elson, Village Java, pp. 114“18.
64 For an excellent summary, see Fasseur, Politics of Colonial Exploitation, p. 160.
65 Cited in Day, Dutch in Java, p. 328.
Colonialism, imperialism, international politics 87

the cultivation system could be preserved, and more satisfactorily raised,
if the forced government cultivations were to be replaced by cultivations
managed by private enterprise and worked by ˜free labour™. This pol-
icy was included in Article 62 of the Colonial Constitution, stating that
˜[t]he Governor General can let land according to rules which are to be
established by general ordinance™.66 However, two principal restrictions
were placed on this governmental right to dispose of waste lands: only
letting was permitted, outright sale of the lands was not (for fear of cre-
ating the kind of quasi-feudal private estates that the patroons had tried
to build in America); and, as noted above, the adat rights of the Javanese
were supposed to be respected. A Royal Decree of 1856 extended these
restrictions on hiring out waste land to private enterprise, capping the
leases at 20 years, imposing restrictions on the goods that could be pro-
duced and mandating the planters not to interfere with indigenous village
administration.67
The main problem with the liberal plan was that its two components
were in direct contradiction with each other, which considerably re-
stricted the capacity of the government to establish ˜free™ cultivations
on a liberal market-oriented model. This problem sprang from an uncer-
tainty among Dutch legal experts, re¬‚ected in the difference between two
very different views of the content of indigenous adat law. One, associ-
ated with lawyers at Leiden University, assumed an extensive village right
of disposal over the waste-lands, in which Raf¬‚es™s notion of a distinct
sovereign title over the land was absent: ˜The state and its ruler are ¬tted
into the total and con¬‚ictuous adat order of rights.™68 On the other hand,
lawyers at Utrecht tended to assume the existence of a ˜domain right™
of government, meaning that the government as sovereign was owner of
the land. Raf¬‚es™s land-rent system, the cultivation system and the liberal
plan of ˜free cultivations™ managed by private enterprise had all depended
on the ˜domain right™ theory.69 If the Leiden scholars, most notably the
de¬antly Grotian international lawyer Cornelis van Vollenhoven, were
correct in their assessment of adat law, and there was an increasing belief
that they were, then the whole property right structure of the cultivation
and liberal system would be unworkable as a system of revenue raising.70
The result of this uncertainty over land rights was that, few ˜waste™ lands
66 Cited in A.D.A. de Kat Angelino, Colonial Policy, trans. G. Renier, 2 vols. (The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1931), vol. II, p. 438.
67 Fasseur, Politics of Colonial Exploitation, pp. 165“7.
68 J.C. Heesterman, ˜State and Adat™, in Bayly and Kolff (eds.), Two Colonial Empires,
p. 193.
69 Fasseur, Politics of Colonial Exploitation, pp. 30“1.
70 See Herman Slaats, ˜The Imposition and Radiation of Dutch Law in Indonesia™, in Jap
de Moor and Dietmar Rothermund (eds.), Our Laws, Their Lands: Land Laws and Land
Use in Modern Colonial Societies (Munster: Lit, 1994), pp. 105“9.
¨
88 Beyond the anarchical society

were brought under private cultivation, and the late nineteenth-century
liberal policy led to a steady budget de¬cit with regard to the Indies from
the mid-1880s on.71
For our purposes it is interesting to note that, despite van Vollenhoven™s
recognition of the unique and non-Western character of land ˜rights™ un-
der adat ˜law™, there was a gradual development towards trying to cod-
ify the basic principles of adat law as a single system, especially among
lawyers in Batavia itself.72 This drift exacerbated a tendency to treat adat
rights to land as if they were communal rights on a more Western for-
mulation, which had initially arisen as ˜a rather desperate response of the
adat to the pressure of the cultivation system™.73 The key point here is
that the system in effect acknowledged the property rights of the indige-
nous occupants of the land, not unlike the British Permanent Settlement,
even at the expense of projects of direct imperial exploitation or of lib-
eral private enterprise. What emerged, in short, was a reworked version of
adat law, which broadly harmonized with the colonizing tendency to treat
individual property according to the established legal principle of occu-
patio. As in the process of American westward expansion, there was thus
a gradual drift towards a policy in which individual settlers (in this case
meaning the indigenous population rather than western settlers) would
have allodial rights to the land, independent of the sovereign authority
of the government, although in this case moderated by a tax to offset the
costs of colonial administration.
I have already noted that the 1848 Dutch Constitution opened up
a role for the States General in Dutch colonial policy, and provided a
channel for the increasingly important liberal attitude to colonial affairs.
In particular, this was re¬‚ected in the emergence of an ˜ethical policy™
that was particularly important to the Netherlands, because their inter-
national status almost entirely depended on their ˜splendid empire of ¬fty
millions of inhabitants™.74 The weak state of the colonial economy and
the administration™s ¬nances risked leaving the colonial authorities pow-
erless in the event of either an uprising in the East Indies or a foreign
takeover: as L. W. C. Keuchenius put it, ˜if the Netherlands proves it-
self to be no longer worthy of its East Indian possessions . . . we might
71 Fasseur, Politics of Colonial Exploitation, p. 167, and see also Anne Booth, ˜The Evolution
of Fiscal Policy and the Role of Government in the Colonial Economy™, in Booth, W.J.
O™Malley and Anna Weidemann (eds.), Indonesian Economic History in the Dutch Colonial
Era (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1990), p. 239.
72 Slaats, ˜Imposition and Radiation™, p. 107.
73 Heesterman, ˜State and Adat™, pp. 196“7.
74 C. van Vollenhoven, ˜Holland™s International Policy™, Political Science Quarterly, 34
(1919), 194, and see also Eduard Schmutzer, Dutch Colonial Policy and the Search for
Identity in Indonesia, 1920“1931 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1977).
Colonialism, imperialism, international politics 89

lose our colonies altogether, either through the recalcitrance of their peo-
ple or an attack by foreign enemies™.75 Initially, the ˜ethical policy™ was
aimed at economic and cultural development, but increasingly it came
to include political reforms, and especially the development of institu-
tions for colonial self-government in certain spheres. This was intended
to build on the Dutch constitutional and legal reforms of 1848 and the
subsequent legislation in the 1860s that had helped to establish par-
liamentary control over colonial policy-making and new tenurial poli-
cies. The two centre-pieces of the constitutional reforms associated with
the ethical policy were the idea of an equal ˜association™ between the
motherland and the colony, which has some echoes with developments
in the United States but was not substantially pursued, and the principle
of ˜decentralization™ within the colonial administration, which was more
fully developed. The latter policy was articulated through the 1903 De-
centralization Law, which transferred authority from the centre of colonial
government in Batavia to the lower agencies, and also expressed a role
for local self-government.76 This culminated in 1916 in the formation of
the Volksraad as a popular representative body. The Volksraad only had
advisory powers, with a mandatory consultative role on the budget. It had
thirty-nine members, with a Chair appointed by the Crown and nineteen
appointed by each of the governor-general and a mechanism of indirect
suffrage. The composition was changed in the 1927 Revised East India
Government Act, to allow for sixty-one members: twenty-¬ve Indonesian,
thirty Dutch and ¬ve other members.77
The process of decentralization was carried further in the 1922 revi-
sion of the Netherlands Constitution, which made a series of important
changes to the articles governing colonial affairs. Initially, governmental
control had largely been vested in the Netherlands, in the Crown until
1854 and subsequently in Parliament (formally acting on behalf of the
Crown). In the 1922 revision,
A large amount of legislative authority was granted to the Indies. To governmental
organs established in the Indies was delegated the power to regulate East Indian
internal affairs, while to the Crown was reserved the right to regulate only such
subjects and on such occasions as the law might specify. However, the Crown
received the right to suspend all ordinances passed by East Indian organs when
judged in con¬‚ict with the Constitution, the law, or the general interest, while the
right of vetoing East Indian ordinances on the same grounds was left to the States
75 Cited in Maarten Kuitenbrouwer, The Netherlands and the Rise of Modern Imperialism:
Colonies and Foreign Policy, 1870“1902 (New York: Berg, 1991), p. 160.
76 Amry Vandenbosch, The Dutch East Indies: Its Government, Problems and Politics, 3rd edn
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1944), p. 68.
77 Ibid., pp. 111“14.
90 Beyond the anarchical society

General, And, ¬nally, though Parliament retained the right to legislate on colonial
subjects, it must ¬rst consult the representative body of the territory concerned.78
Where, then, did ˜sovereignty™ over the Netherlands Indies lie? Formally,
particularly in so far as other European powers were concerned, sovereign
authority lay with the main legislative and executive institutions in the
Netherlands; but in practice, the authority to decide policy on speci¬c
issues was increasingly being delegated to colonial institutions, both in
the Batavian administration and in more locally representative bodies.
An interesting further complication to this already bewildering con-
stitutional picture concerns the position of the ˜Outer Territories™: i.e.,
the other islands in the Indonesian archipelago. Here, the Dutch claimed
sovereignty over the various islands, but acknowledged the quasi-
independent status of the three governments of the islands (Sumatra,
Borneo and the Great East), and also for those states in areas not under
established colonial administrative control, which constituted around half
of the area of the Outer Territories.79 The decentralization produced by
the ˜ethical policy™ in the main territories of the Dutch East Indies was
accompanied by the spread of Dutch authority into the Outer Territories,
through the ˜Short Declarations™, by which the rights of the local peoples
to self-government were granted in exchange for a formal recognition of
overall Dutch sovereignty. This allowed the Dutch a justi¬cation for con-
siderable direct intervention in the affairs of the native states, but that was
quickly halted in order to strengthen the indigenous rulers in their na-

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