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Dutch planters & merchants: Anthony Meertens

Anthony Meertens was the son of an advocate in Amsterdam who established himself as a lawyer in Demerara, acting as attorney for a number of estates both there and in Essequibo. He was appointed Fiscal of the colony in 1792 and was said by Henry Bolinbroke [in A Voyage to the Demerary], who had a low opinion of him, to have been ‘very lenient towards the English smugglers from the West India islands’, receiving payments from them in return. He bought plantation Rome, near Stabroek, for £2500, allegedly considerably less than it was worth.

He was a member of Council, and signed the capitulation which surrendered the colony to Great Britain in 1796. In April 1799, he and his family embarked on board the Grenada, for London, where he remained until the preliminaries of peace were signed, when he went to Holland ‘in expectation of still furthering his advancement’.

Meertens was appointed Governor of Demerara-Essequibo when the colony was restored to the Dutch Republic under the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 and remained in office until the surrender to the British the following year. Bolinbroke described him as ‘a man of avowed French [i.e. republican] principles’.

As governor he ‘erected a splendid government house there, which . . . cost ten thousand pounds’ and married a young free woman of colour.

In 1807 Thomas Staunton St Clair took part in a horse race at Meerten’s plantation; and in June 1808 left the colony for London on the same ship as both Meertens and his son. [A Residence in the West Indies]