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«Its Causes, Course and Consequences A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in History in the ...»

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Its Causes, Course and Consequences

A thesis

submitted in partial fulfilment

of the requirements for the Degree


Master of Arts in History

in the

University Canterbury


P.J.M. Noldus

University of Canterbury








List of Maps




Chapter I: The Setting 8 Chapter II: The British Interregnums 31 Chapter III: The Revolt 67 Chapter IV: The Inquest 120 Chapter V: The Aftermath 151 Conclusion and Epilogue 174 Bibliography 186 i.


There are so many people without whose help and assistance I could not have completed this thesis that it is difficult to know where to begin and I can only mention a few here.

I wish to thank the Institutions and Archives in which I worked: the University of Canterbury Library and especially its interloan department, the University of Auckland Library, Monash University of Melbourne, the Algemeen Rijsarchief and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, the Koninklijk Instituut voor Land-, Taal- en Volkenkunde and the University Library in Leiden, the Provincial Archief voor Gelderland in Arnhem and the India Office Library and Records in London.

I am grateful to Dr Richard Chauvel of Sydney for his introductions to Drs Richard Leirissa and Dr Parimate Abdulrachman of Jakarta, with whom I had some very useful discussions. Dr Leonard Andaya, at the University of Auckland was also helpful in the early stages of research.

I am most of all indebted to Dr Ian Catanach for guiding me through the intricacies of obtaining permission to use archives as well as writing numerous letters on my behalf to officials, colleagues and friends in Australia, Britain and Holland, all of whom proved most helpful. His calm reflection often tempered a dogmatic or over enthusiastic mind into a calmer reappraisal of historic facts, and his guidance of the literary efforts of one who barely knew the meaning of the split infinitive has been invaluable. Any remaining "cavalier" punctuation is of my own making.

–  –  –

This thesis is concerned with the "Patti.mura" Revolt which broke out at the end of the British Interregnum, in 1818, when the Moluccas were handed back to the Dutch.

The dissatisfaction that led to the revolt was in part religious and in part economic. The thesis traces the causes of this dissatisfaction to the Christianisation of the islands and the consequent neglect of the Ambonese church by the Dutch rulers particularly in the 18th century_ This affected the position of, in particular, the schoolmaster/ pastors who, with the Regents, constituted the highest indigenous leaders of the community. Many of the leaders of the revolt came from this group.

Oppression may have been part of the system - but this was not realised till the British came along. The British relaxation of the rule of the previous Dutch regime resulted in apprehension when it became known that the Dutch were returning. This,combined with the incompetence of the officials who took over from the British, plus the agitation of the disgruntled members of the disbanded native battalion, founded by the departing British government, led to the bloody revolt of 1817. The course of this revolt is traced in some detail, from the earlier successes of Matulesia to the final defeat of the revolutionaries. Finally the immediate and long range consequences are explored.

The conclusion arrived at is that the revolt, which is

–  –  –

seemingly controversial effect of strengthening the bond between the Dutch and the South Moluccans. It is argued that the population, hereafter, began to realise that there was not much prospect for them in the cultivation of spices for European markets, but that close co-operation with the Dutch government in military and civil services, would give them the scope they felt their special position as a Christian minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesian archipelago

–  –  –

The archives in Indonesia and especially in The Hague are literally bulging with documents and collections pertaining to Ambon. Much research has been done on those of the first hundred and fifty years of Portuguese and Dutch supremacy in these Spice Islands, but the archives from the period from about 1650 to about 1770, or even 1800, are still awaiting the attention of historians. The very extent of this project is too daunting and few, even they had the inclination, would have the time available. There is enough material available there to keep ten researchers busy for a lifetime. The period from about 1800 has been rather better covered, but there still room for an archivally based study of the 1817 revolt in the Moluccas, known as the Pattimura Revolt.

This rebellion flared up during a relatively short period, from 14 May until 26 November 1817. Thomas l Matulesia, who had been a sergeant major in the Ambon Corps during the period of British rule in the Moluccas, was elected as leader, or Kapitan, of this revolt. The revolt There is some confusion about the name Pattimura.

Thomas Matulesia does not seem to have used it personally.

In the author's discussion with Moluccan historians the matter did not become much clearer. Richard Leirissa, of the Universitas Indonesia, maintains that the name an honorary title derived from the words Patti = Leader or Chief, and Murah = cheap or easy - thus indicating a natural leader. Dr Manusama, author of a Ph. D. thesis on the Hikayat Tanah Hitu, maintains that it was simply his middle name, as it appears on his baptismal certificate. Although the name Pattimura is now in common use, the name Matulesia will generally be used hereafter in this study to avoid confusion, since all historical documents relating to him use the latter name.

was fierce. Matulesia, who had military skills and expertise, won the first battles, but plans were not co-ordinated. Once the Dutch brought in reinforcements they put the revolt down ruthlessly and Pattimura and his chief lieutenants paid for it with their lives.

The social ferment which preceded the outbreak of this rebellion had its roots well into the past - the immediate "British" past as well as the more distant "Dutch" past. The writer had the good fortune to be able to study a number of documents especially on the revolt itself, in the Rijksarchief in The Hague. These form the basis of this study. Both Ambon Commissioners, Van Middelkoop and Engelhard, wrote extensive Reports on their role in the revolt. There are also several reports by Commissioner Buyskes, \vho was sent to Ambon to quell the uprising. These reports help to put the reports of Van Middelkoop and Engelhard in per spective. From the side of the rebels, not much written material has survived (probably not a great deal ever existed); but the "Porto Report", generally thought to have been written by the schoolmaster of Porto or Haria, describes events from the viewpoint of the islanders and a document written by Matulesia and signed by 21 Chiefs, Rajas, Pattis.and Orangkayas, sets out the Fourteen Points of complaint of the population. The author has also spent some time in the India Office Records in London, attempting to trace the "British" background to the revolt. A brief visit to Indonesia yielded a certain amount of printed material, but the author was unable, in the time available to him, to gain access to the Arsip Nasional in Jakarta. He has been assured, however, 2 By Richard Leirissa of the Universitas Indonesia.

that copies of most of the relevant material - certainly quite enough for the writer of an M.A. thesis to cope with

- are to be found in The Hague.

–  –  –

wars throughout Indonesia. It can be seen, in fact, as one long period of social unrest • Until the beginning of the nineteenth century Indonesia had been the domain of the Dutch East India Company, a trading company that was content, by and large, to leave princes, rajas and sultans to run their own states. The Company's interest was in trade and as long as native rulers delivered the goods they were generally left alone. The situation in Ambon was different. Because of the Clove-monopoly that the Company was prepared to defend against all comers, these islands were actively governed by the Company since 1605. The collapse of the Dutch East India Company changed all this. On 1 January 1800 the Dutch Government took over, establishing a Colonial Government and the growing impact of the West resulted in extensive social change.

–  –  –

nineteenth century had common characteristics. They were The numerous rebellions in Java during the period 1840-1875 are listed by J.de Waal, Onze Indische Financien Vol. I, pp. 228-229. In only six years of this period did no uprisings occur.

generally short-lived and lacked modern features, such as planned organisation, modern ideologies and nationwide agitation The leaders generally lacked the understanding of politics to make realistic plans in the event of success and these risings were therefore doomed to failure and the tragic sequel of repression that followed all these outbreaks.

The Pattimura Revolt in the Moluccas exhibited many but by no means all - of the features of peasant revolts elsewhere in Indonesia and beyond. The villagers did not know what they were fighting fori they had a vague desire to overthrow the government but did not feel consciously that they were taking part in a social revolutionary movement.

Economic, social, religious and political grievances played their role.

Yet the Ambonese revolt differed greatly from the disturbances in other parts of nineteenth century Indonesia and elsewhere in many other respects. Whilst in the context of contact between Western and Indonesian cultures peasant risings may be seen as protest movements against intruding Western economic and political control, which were undermining the fabric of traditional society, the situation in the South Moluccas was different. There the impact colonisation, and of the Christianisation that was an integral part of it, eventually totally destroyed Moluccan traditional society.

Whatever else the Ambonese fought for in 1817, was not for a return of the pre-European past. In some ways the Ambonese were in a position comparable to the New Zealand Maori in the later years of the nineteenth century. By this time the 4 S.Kartodirdjo, The Peasant Revolt in Banten in 1888 p.2. See also S.Kartodirdjo, Protest Movements in Rural Java, which, however, deals mainly with twentieth century revolts.


Maori's en bloc acceptance of Christianity and the European economy had effectively destroyed their pre-colonial society.

Such a point can be made even more emphatically about the Ambonese. Three centuries separated them from their precolonial past.

–  –  –

century Indonesia not to differentiate between wars of conquest between states and popular revolts against established governments. While it is possible, to some degree, to compare Pattimura's revolt with that of Tuanku Iman Bondjol, the leader of the Padri revolt in Sumatra, in that both rose against their colonial rulers and both rebellions had strong religious overtones, there are no parallels between these uprisings and,say, the Java War of Dipo Negoro or the war of Sultan Hasanudin of Macassar. But even the similarities between the Padri War and the Matulesia Revolt are feeble.

The Minangkabau district in Sumatra, where the Padri War broke out, always remained mutiny-inclined and developed into a strong nationalistic and independence minded area 6.The history the South Moluccas in the following century and a half took an entirely different course.

–  –  –

to some extent in a wider Indonesian context, and in the context of anti-colonial revolts in general, has a distinct autonomy, a uniqueness, of its own.

6 See Christina Dobbin: Islamic revivalism in a changing economy: Central Sumatra (1784-1847) and p.136 of the present work.

One further problem of interpretation must be dealt with here. Modern Indonesia represents Pattimura as one of its national heroes, as the freedom fighter who set Indonesia on the first steps of the road to eventual independence.

Even an historian of Dutch origin has argued that Matulesia's revolt was lIa potential conduit that would have connected the

–  –  –

course be little question that Pattimura represented something of Moluccan consciousness, whether articulate and sharply formulated or not. But Pattimura was essentially a regional or ethnic hero. The writer believes that it is wrong to see

–  –  –


Pattimura lost his revolution and the Moluccas remained, for several decades, subjected to monopolies and compulsory deliveries. The continued financial straits the Dutch colonial administration found itself in did not allow for an easing up on the system. As a result the Moluccan economy continued to be stunted and the steady disorganisation of its society in the following decades was a reflection of the

–  –  –

later decades of the nineteenth century the comparatively infertile Moluccan islands saw their inhabitants drift away;

increasingly they sought employment in the Dutch colonial

–  –  –

mercenaries and junior administrators whose plodding devotion to the Dutch overlords in campaigns and outposts, from one end of Indonesia to the other, earned the Moluccas the name

–  –  –

and History. Vol.VIII, No.1, May 1961, p.160.

of being Holland's "Twelfth Province",they became an element apart in the developing nationally conscious world of the twentieth century. They came to regard their Christian faith as a mark of superiority over other, Muslim, Indonesians.

A natural consequence of this development was the

–  –  –

incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia when it came into being in December 1949.

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