1902 Encyclopedia > Batavia


BATAVIA, a large city and seaport on the north coast of the island of Java, and the capital of all the Dutch settlements in the East. It is situated on both sides of the river Jacatra or Tjiliwong, in a swampy plain at the head of a capacious bay. The streets are for the most part straight and regular, and many of them have a breadth of from 100 to 200 feet. In several cases there is a canal in the centre lined with stone, and defended by low parapets or banks, while almost every street and square is fringed with trees. The old town has greatly changed from what it was in the 18th century. It was then surrounded by strong fortifications, and contained a number of important buildings, such as the town-house (built in 1652 and restored in 1706), the exchange, the infirmary and orphan asylum, and the European churches. But the ramparts were long ago demolished, and most of the public edifices have either fallen into decay or been converted into magazines and warehouses. The great church which was finished in 1760, at an expense of £80,000, had to be taken down in consequence of its foundation having given way. Canals have been filled up, streets have been altered, and the general character of the place considerably modified. All the European inhabitants, except those immediately connected with the shipping, have removed to the New Town, which has been gradually formed by the integration of Weltevreden (Well-content), Molenvliet (Mill-stream), Bijswijk (Rice-town), Noordwijk (North-town), Koningsplein (King's square), and other suburban villages or stations. The situation of this modern part is higher and healthier ; and the grandeur and variety of its buildings far surpass anything to be found in the older section of the city. The misplaced imitation of Dutch arrangements has been happily avoided, and the natural advantages of the situation and climate have been turned to account. The houses are frequently separated from each other by rows of trees.

As the chief city of the Dutch colonies in the East, Batavia contains numerous buildings connected with the civil and military organization of the Government. The chambers of the Council of the East Indies occupy a spacious edifice in Bijswijk, and the governor-general's hotel, or town-residence, is situated in the same quarter. In the district of Weltevreden are the new palace, the barracks, and the artillery school, as well as the military and civil hospital, which can accommodate 600 patients, and not far off is the Frederik-Hendrik citadel, which was built in 1837. Further inland, at Meester Cornelie (known for its lake), is a school for under-officers. The Koningsplein is a large open square for military manoeuvres, about 390 feet long and 250 feet broad, surrounded by mansions of the wealthier classes. Noordwijk is principally inhabited by lesser merchants and subordinate officials. There is an orphan-asylum in the district of Parapatta, and a poor-house (Diaconie armenhaus) in Molenvliet. Besides those already mentioned, Batavia has various educational and scientific institutions of note. In 1851 the Government founded a medical school for Javanese, and in 1860 the "Gymnasium William III." in which a comprehensive education is bestowed. A society of arts and sciences was established in 1778, a royal physical society in 1850, and a society for the promotion of industry and agriculture in 1853. In addition to the Transactions of these societies—many of which contain valuable contributions to their respective departments in their relation to the East Indies—a considerable number of publications are issued in Batavia. Among miscellaneous buildings of importance may be mentioned the public-hall known as the Harmonie, the freemasons' lodge, the theatre, the club-house, and several fine hotels.

The population of Batavia is very varied,—the Dutch residents being a comparatively small class, and greatly intermixed with Portuguese and Malays. Here are found members of the different Indian nations, originally slaves; Moors and Arabs, who are principally engaged in navigation, but also inhabit the Kua Malacoa district, and trade in gold and precious stones; Javanese, who are cultivators ; and Malays, chiefly boatmen and sailors, and adherents of Mahometanism. But, perhaps, the most important Asiatic element is the Chinese, who are both numerous and industrious. They were long greatly oppressed by the Dutch Government in various paltry ways, and in 1740 they were massacred to the number of 12,000. But in spite of all this they have maintained their position, and now enjoy a happier lot. In 1832 the population was found to consist of 2800 Europeans, 80,000 natives, 25,000 Chinese, 1000 Arabs, and 9500 slaves, a total of 118,300 persons. The number of inhabitants is at present much less.

Batavia is still a great commercial depot, though it has had to contend against the rivalry of Singapore. The bay is rendered secure by a number of islands at its mouth, and is capacious enough for a much larger traffic than it has ever seen ; but it unfortunately grows very shallow towards the shore. Ships of 300 or 400 tons anchor about a mile and a half out; the river is navigable a couple of miles inland for vessels of 30 or 40 tons, but the entrance is narrow, and requires continual attention to keep it open.

The exports from Batavia to the other islands of the archipelago, and to the ports in the Malayan peninsula, are rice, sago, coffee, sugar, salt, oil, tobacco, teak timber and planks, Java cloths, brass wares, &c, and European, Indian, and Chinese goods. The produce of the Eastern Islands is also collected at its ports for re-exportation to India, China, and Europe,—namely, gold-dust, diamonds, camphor, benzoin, and other drugs; edible bird-nests, trepang, rattans, bees' wax, tortoise-shell, and dyeing woods from Borneo and Sumatra ; tin from Banca; spices from the Moluccas; fine cloths from Celebes and Bali; and pepper from Sumatra. From Bengal are imported opium, drugs, and cloths; from China, teas, raw silk, silk piece-goods, varnished umbrellas, coarse China wares, nankeen, paper, and innumerable smaller articles for the Chinese settlers. British manufactures also are largely introduced. The number of British ships that entered in 1870 was 103, with a tonnage of nearly 31,000 tons, the total number of vessels of all nationalities being 783, with a tonnage of nearly 194,000.

Almost the only manufactures of any importance are the distillation of arrack, which is principally carried on by Chinese, the burning of lime and bricks, and the baking of pottery; and even the brick-making is in a decaying condition. The principal establishment for monetary transactions is the Java Bank, established in 1828 with a capital of £500,000 ; but there are also agencies belonging to the Bank of Rotterdam, and the Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China, as well as a public savings bank.

The Government has a naval establishment at the island of Onrust, about six miles from the city; and among its other accommodations is a large iron floating dock capable of holding vessels 400 feet long. Since 1869, however, entrance has been refused to merchant ships, which, consequently, feel the lack of proper docks in the harbour. Proposals to build these and to extend the harbour, though frequently under discussion, have had no result. Tram-ways were introduced into the city in 1867, and are greatly patronized by the native population. A railway to Buitenzorg, where the Government botanical gardens are situated, was opened in 1871, the distance being about 40 miles inland.

Batavia owes its origin to the Dutch general John Petersen Coen, who, in 1619, took the town of Jacatra (which had been built on the ruins of the old Javanese town of Sunda Calappa), destroyed it, and founded in its stead the present city, which soon acquired a flourishing trade and increased in importance. The ruins of Jacatra are to be found between Batavia and AnjoL In 1699 Batavia was visited by a terrible earthquake, and the streams were choked by the mud from the volcano of Gunong Salak (7244 feet high), by which the climate was so affected that the city became notorious for its unhealthiness, and was in great danger of being altogether abandoned. In the twenty-two years from 1730 to 1752, 1,100,000 deaths are said to have been recorded. General Daendals, who was governor from 1808 to 1811, caused the ramparts of the town to be demolished, and began to form the nucleus of a new city at Weltevreden. By 1816 nearly all the Europeans had left the old town. In 1811 a British armament was sent against the Dutch settlements in Java, which had been incorporated by France, and to this force Batavia surrendered on the 8th of August. It was restored, however, to the Dutch by the treaty of 1814.

See Stavorinus, Voyages to the East Indies; Barrow, Voyage to Cochin China; Sir George Staunton, Embassy to China; Daendel, Staat der Nederl. 0. Ind. Bezittungen; Junghuhn, Reisen der Java; Thorn, Mem. of the Conquest of Java ; Sir S. Raffles, History of Java; Temminck, L'Inde Archip.; Veth, Woordenboek v. Nederl. Ind.

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