the Netherlands Antilles


Part  I

Some historical Dates

A. Historical dates of the Netherlands Antilles.
B. Political situation in the Spanish Netherlands, 1568-1648.
C. 17th - 21st century.
D. The status of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010.



A. Historical dates of the Islands.


The Netherlands Antilles are widely separated groups of islands: Sint Eustatius, the southern section of St. Martin, and Saba making up the northern group, at the northern end of the Leeward Islands. Also named: de Bovenwindse Eilanden.
Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, constituting the southern group, about 800 km to the southwest of the coast of Venezuela. Also named: de Benedenwindse Eilanden.


Maps of the Netherlands Antilles, 2003.


Map of all the islands of the Netherlands Antilles
without Aruba with its 'Status Aparte' since 1 January 1986.
Mi 11183, Sc -.


Map of Curaçao and Bonaire.

Mi 1181, Sc -.




Map of Saint Marten, Saba and Saint Eustatius.

Mi 1182, Sc -.



Discovery of the Islands.

Before 1492, Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba were part of the Caquetio chiefdom of coastal Venezuela. Caquetios were engaged in fishing, agriculture, hunting, gathering, and trade with the mainland. Their language belonged to the Arawak family.
The Spanish Captain and Explorer Alonso de Ojeda, or Oxeda, (c. 1465-1515) sailed on his own account with three vessels and accompanied by the cosmographer Juan de la Cosa and Amerigo Vespucci, - who discovered that, contrary to Columbus's beliefs, the land was not Asia -, from the port Santa Maria (Spain) to the New World in May 1499.




He went ashore on Curaçao in June 1499, and visited also Bonaire.
Aruba was not Spanish territory.
After a visit to Hispaniola, he went to Venezuela, and returned
to Spain in 1500.

 Alonso de Ojeda or Oxeda (c. 1465-1515), conquistador.
Venezuela 1998, Mi 3268, Sc Sh 1593.



Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), Italian navigator.
Spain 1987, Mi 2799, Sc 2531.


 The Spanish, who used it mainly for livestock raising,
settled the area in 1527.

In 1634, Johannes van Walbeeck of the Dutch West India
Company occupied and fortified the island, which became
the base for a rich entrepôt trade flourishing through the
18th century.


Curaçao as centre for slave trade.


During the colonial period, Curaçao was a major Caribbean centre for the transatlantic slave trade. Many slaves worked on the plantations on Curaçao. During the rebellion in 1795 there were between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants in Bandabou, mostly slaves.

The history of this rebellion, you can read it on Internet Wikipedia.

In 1863 the slavery was abolished.


125th Anniversary of the abolition of the slavery, 1863-1988,
or 125 jaar Slaven-Emancipatie.

Slave monument on Curaçao.
Netherlands Antilles 1988, Mi 638, Sc 597.




Slavenmuur (Slave wall) on Curaçao.
Netherlands Antilles 1988, Mi 639, Sc 598.





There were two short periods during the Napoleonic Wars when Curaçao was held by the British, between 1801 and 1803 and 1807 and 1816. It was returned to The Netherlands by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.

The 19th century was a period of economic decline partially alleviated by the cultivation of aloes and oranges. Only after the construction of the Schottegat oil refinery (opened in 1918), however, did economic conditions improve greatly. The refinery was closed in 1990s.



Ojeda and Vespucci also sighted Bonaire during their voyage in 1499. The island was settled by the Spanish in 1501 and claimed by the Dutch in 1634. It became part of the Dutch West India Company (WIC) in 1636 and remained a government plantation until 1663. The WIC colonized and governed the Leeward Islands until 1791. From 1807 to 1814, it was under British control.


Aruba became part of the Dutch West India Company in 1636 and remained a government plantation until 1663. The United Kingdom occupied Aruba from the years 1799 to 1802 and from 1805 to 1816.

Sint Maarten

The island of Saint Martin was sighted by Christopher Columbus on Nov. 11, 1493 (St. Martin’s Day). In 1630, the Dutch seized Sint Maarten to make use of its large salt deposits. French pirates took it in 1638, though the Spanish settled there in 1640.
In 1648, French and Dutch prisoners of war allegedly met after the Spanish departure and amicably divided the island. The Dutch obtained Sint Maarten, the smaller but more valuable southern section, which contained large salt deposits.


Sint Eustatius (Statius)

The island of Saint Eustatius was seen by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and claimed by an astonishing welter of nations over the next 150 years.

Francis Drake and John Hawkins named the island in their logs Estazia (1595). Later on it is named Stasia, Eustathio, San Eustachio, and Saint or Sint Eustatius.

The French and English colonized the island in 1625, and The Dutch took Sint Eustatius in 1632. It became the main centre of slave trade in the eastern Caribbean.

In the eighteenth century the island became known as the Golden Rock, since the island's economy flourished by ignoring the trade embargoes between the great powers.

Since the island sold arms and ammunition to everyone who wanted to pay for it, the island was one of the few ways for the rebellious Thirteen colonies to obtain weaponry.

The flag incident in 1775.

This good relationship between Sint Eustatius and the United States resulted in the famous flag incident, when Commander Johannis de Graaff of Sint Eustatius decided to salute by a salute fire of 11 salutes for the American Flag of the brig 'Andrew Doria' on 16 November 1776.

The United States gave the answering salute great publicity, because  the island Sint Eustatius  was de facto the first, who recognized the independence of the United States.

185th anniversary of the first salute for the flag of the USA, - flown by an American ship, the brig 'Andrea Doria' -, from the Fort Oranje on 16 November 1776.  This on order of Governor Johannis de Graaff of Saint Eustatius (1776-1781). On the flagpole the flag of the U.S. the common flag with thirteen stripes,
and the Dutch flag
Red, White, Bleu.

185th  Anniversary of the salute for the flag of the U.S.A.
on 16 November 1776.

Netherlands Antilles 1961, Mi 117, Sc 273. 



Copper plaque commemorating the salute to the American Man of War, "Andrew Doria" November 16, 1776.
Presented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 12, 1939.

Text on the stamp:

16 NOVEMBER 1776

Netherlands Antilles 1976,Mi 320, Sc 385.


The brig 'Andrew Doria' flew the Grand Union Flag, considered to be the first national flag of the United States.
The flag was first flown on December 2, 1775 by John Paul Jones, then a Continental Navy lieutenant, on the ship 'Alfred' in Philadelphia.

The Flag Act of 1777 authorized as the official national flag a design similar to that of the Grand Union, with thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen U.S. states, on a field of blue replacing the British Union flag in the canton. The combined crosses in the union flag symbolized the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland; the symbolism of a union of equal parts was retained in the new American flag.

Source: wikipedia

Netherlands Antilles 1976,Mi 321. Sc 386.
The brig '' Andrea Doria in St. Eustatius' Gallow Bay, receiving
11 salutes from Fort Oranje on order of Commander Johannis
de Graaff (1776-1781).



Netherlands Antilles 1976,Mi 322, Sc 387.
Johannis de Graaff, Governor of Saint Eustatius (1776-1781),
holding The Declaration of Independence.



The British punished Sint Eustatius for trading with the North American independents, and sacked Oranjestad in 1781. The Island has never regained its trade, and its economy never recovered.


Saba was settled by the Dutch in 1632 but, because of its inaccessibility and ruggedness, never achieved any economic importance.

The Islas Inutiles.

Because of the absence of precious metals, the Spanish declared the islands ‘Islas Inutiles’ ("useless islands").
The Spanish deported many inhabitants to Hispaniola to work in mines in 1515.


B. The political situation in the Spanish Netherlands, 1568-1648.


The political situation in the Netherlands, occupied by the Spanish Emperors around 1568, was marked by the revolt against Spain: ‘The Eighty Years’ War’ (1568-1648).
It began as a revolt against Philip II of Spain, the overlord of the Habsburg Netherlands, in a number of the northern provinces (initially Holland and Zeeland) of this realm.


This Dutch Revolt subsequently evolved into a more general War for Dutch Independence, which resulted in the secession of seven provinces that came to form the Dutch Republic. The Spanish Crown succeeded, however, in reconquering the important "rebel" provinces of Flanders and Brabant.

The Republic gained diplomatic recognition when the two belligerents concluded the Twelve Years' Truce in 1609. When the peace proved fleeting, however, conflict resumed in the form of a conventional war between the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Empire which developed parallel with the Thirty Years' War (though it was not formally part of the latter). Beyond the European Theatre, the war was also fought in the Portuguese and Spanish colonies overseas.


The Dutch Republic made some territorial gains in the Spanish Netherlands but did not succeed in regaining the entire territory lost before 1590. The result of the war therefore was a permanent split of the Habsburg Netherlands into two parts that roughly corresponded with present-day Netherlands and Belgium-Luxemburg.

Overseas, the Dutch Republic gained (through the intermediary of its two chartered companies,-the United East India Company and the Dutch West India Company-, important colonial possessions, largely at the expense of Portugal.


The peace settlement was part of the comprehensive 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which formally separated the Dutch Republic from the Holy Roman Empire. In the course of the conflict, and as a consequence of its fiscal-military innovations, the Dutch Republic emerged as a Great Power, whereas the Spanish Empire lost its European hegemonic status.



The Peace of Westphalia, 1648, also named The Peace
of Münster. Painting by Anselm von Hulle (1601-1674).


Germany 1998, Mi 1979, Sc 1993.







Handshake. Detail of the painting by Bartolomeus van der
Helst (1613-1670): Banquet of the Civic Guard of Amsterdam
 in celebration of the Peace of Münster, 8 June 1648. 
Preserved in Het Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Holland. 

Netherlands 1998, Mi 1649, Sc 991.

Source: wikipedia.


In this period of growing independence, there was also a spiritual war between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformation. The Catholic Church was protected by the Spanish Government, who appointed the dioceses and the Bishops. Philips II was a fervent opponent of the Reformation, so the Catholics were also ‘enemies’ of the New Republic. The placards of the States-General restricted their rights.


C. 17th – 21st  century.


In the 17th century, the Dutch gained control and in 1845, the islands became the Netherlands Antilles.
In 1954, they became an integral part of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, with full autonomy in domestic affairs. Aruba seceded from the federation in 1986.

Source: Britannica online.

D. The status of the Islands of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010.


In 2004, a commission of the governments of the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands reported on a future status for the Netherlands Antilles. The commission advised a revision of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in order to dissolve the Netherlands Antilles.


From 2000 till 2004 the population of the Islands Curaçao and Sint Maarten voted for independence with the Status Aparte, like Aruba in 1986. On 2 November 2006 they were come to an agreement for a status aparte for Curaçao and Saint Maarten.

The Islands Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius.voted for the status Special Municipalities of the Netherlands. 

 The Netherlands Antilles was to be disbanded on December 15, 2008,but Sarah Wescot, minister of Saint Maarten, would adjourn this date till  2010. The status of Special Municipality of the Netherlands is realised on 10 October 2010.


For some religious dates and the presence of the Dominicans and Dominican Sisters on the Netherlands Antilles

clickto PART II.



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