Herman Willem Daendels

John Florens | Jan 25, 2023

Table of Content


Herman Willem Daendels (Hattem, Oct. 21, 1762 - Elmina, Gold Coast, May 2, 1818) was a Dutch patriot who took matters into his own hands in 1786 when he was passed over for appointment; he then schooled himself as a soldier and fled to northern France when the stadholder was restored to power. After the Batavian Revolution, he was a general. From 1807 to 1810 he was governor general of the Dutch East Indies.

Daendels was the son of Burchard Johan Daendels, who as town clerk was magistrate in Hattem and operator of a brickyard in the floodplain of the river IJssel. He attended the Athenaeum Illustre in Deventer. From September 1781 he pursued studies in law at the University of Harderwijk, where he received his doctorate in April 1783. A dissertation, if produced at all, has not survived. Until the 20th century, it was not unusual to promote on theses. No doctoral research had been done in those cases. Often one received a doctorate on the day of graduation.

Troubles in Hattem

After his studies, Daendels became a lawyer in his hometown of Hattem, a town of about 1,000 people at the time. His father died in August 1785. It would not have been unusual for him to have been succeeded by his son, but in 1786 Stadholder William V appointed an orangist to the vacant seat. Moreover, two vacancies were not filled to reduce the size of the vroedschap. This decision evoked opposition from Daendels, who had been at the forefront as captain of the exercise society for some time. Daendels opposed the privilege, which gave the stadholder considerable influence over the composition and size of the vroedschap. He called on his fellow citizens to complete the city council themselves. This would allow the inhabitants to reclaim an old right that had been taken away when the Union of Utrecht (1579) was formed. Daendels was inspired by the changes in Utrecht when he set aside the city government regulations in May. On Wednesday morning, August 2, 1786, in front of the assembled exercise societies, sixteen "democratically" elected patriots were sworn into the Utrecht vroedschap; Daendels was present.

By the end of July, two new aldermen had been appointed, including a former bodyguard of the prince. On August 8, Daendels proclaimed to defend the town militarily. The ministers of Elburg also helped restore the bulwarks and ramparts. Daendels set up his house as an ammunition depot. On August 28, the decision was made to send troops to Hattem and Elburg. The Gelderlander stadholder troops were moved and on September 5 occupied Hattem and Elburg without much difficulty. Daendels and democratic supporters took refuge in Zwolle and plotted to recapture their city.

In January 1787, Daendels, was a member of a "national commission for the expedition of civil affairs" to devise a defense plan for Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel to protect those regions. He traveled with Aleida van Vlierden to Bentheim where they married on March 9 or August 19, 1787, according to tradition without the consent of the prince's in-laws. Daendels defended Amsterdam against the Prussians in October (1787) as major of a Gelderland brigade he himself established.

Refugee in northern France

The 1787 restoration of stadholder rule meant imminent imprisonment for Daendels. By leaving, he escaped enforcement of the 1788 verdict of the Court of Gelderland, which stripped him of his civil rights and banished him from Gelderland "on pain of death." Daendels, Johan Valckenaer and Adam Gerard Mappa, on the initiative of Wybo Fijnje, rented an old Jesuit monastery, the Abbey of Waten, and restored the rooms, grew vegetables, interspersed with discussions and playing billiards. After Mappa emigrated to America and Daendels could no longer pay the rent and left for Dunkirk, tensions arose in the commune. Daendels traded wood, cheese and tobacco with a former college friend. He soon quarreled with Court Lambertus van Beyma, who took him to court. Daendels had been sentenced to death in absentia in the Republic and by now feared to be murdered and his home ransacked. In 1792 he took a seat on the Batavian Committee, which was preparing a revolution in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, and saw for himself an advisory role in this operation. Daendels impressed the French, as he had an extensive network of informants and could provide the French generals with troop movements from the Austrians during the First Coalition War. At the end of May, he left for Paris. Secretly, 6,000 rifles were purchased in England for the yet-to-be-formed Batavian Legion. On August 1, 1792, he and his merchant companion were appointed officers and started a recruiting office in Ostend. Gerrit Paape served as his secretary. In February 1793, France declared war on the stadholder, and Daendels was part of the army under Dumouriez that invaded Limburg and North Brabant two weeks later. The troops were recalled and defeated in the Battle of Neerwinden (1793). Daendels delivered on 12

On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 18, 1795, Krayenhoff came on Daendels' orders to tell the Amsterdam mayors that they had better resign the next day. On February 20, he was in Delft which was reluctant to establish a new city government. After a visit to Paris, Daendels joined the Batavian Republic in June as lieutenant general, in the same rank as Dumonceau, which must have bothered him. He had to apologize after deacting in The Hague. In July 1795 he was ordered to reorganize the army, and a year later it became his job to defend the eastern frontier. The Kollumer riot caused great dissent in Friesland, so Daendels was called to his aid. By the fall of 1797, the Republic was as far along as it had been in the spring of 1795. After Jan Willem de Winter lost the Sea Battle of Camperduin, he intervened. A Unitarian, Herman Willem Daendels organized the coup d'état of January 22, 1798, by locking up the overly fanatical federalist members of the National Assembly in order to end the indecision of 40,000 electors and the long debates by the regional delegates. He managed to win the approval of Talleyrand and obtained the cooperation of French Ambassador Charles Delacroix, and Generals Dumonceau and Barthélemy Catherine Joubert. Four hours later, an Executive Administration on the French model was introduced; the departments and municipalities were given much less autonomy. At two in the afternoon, everything was over. 21 members of the Representative Body had been arrested. A total of 33 members were deposed.

In consultation with Jacobus Spoors, Gogel and Joubert, Daendels left for Paris in May. He had talks with Talleyrand and Paul Barras of the Directoire. In two weeks Daendels spent 15,000 guilders. There must have been a great deal left on the bow. On June 12, 1798, Daendels staged a second coup against the radical unitarians; their behavior was considered villainous. Delacroix and Van Langen were arrested; Pieter Vreede and Wijbo Fijnje escaped through a window. The hated decrees were reversed; the instigators disappeared. Delacroix was recalled. Without a shot being fired, the Moderates took power and the Batavian Revolution was over. Daendels, who was easy to agitate, was told to moderate.

Led by French general Guillaume Brune, he was ordered to prevent the impending Russo-English landing at Zijpe in the head of North Holland. Daendels was stationed in the northern part of North Holland, with his headquarters in Schagen, while Dumonceau had taken positions in Friesland and Groningen to intercept a landing on the northern Dutch coast or an invasion from Germany. After his defeat at the Battle of Callantsoog, he ordered the garrisons of the coastal forts at Den Helder to abandon the forts. This maneuver was severely blamed on him. Because of the charge of treason, he wrote a defense letter and was granted a two-year leave of absence. In August 1802 he had a conversation with Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck and General Dumonceau at the Loo; not much is known about the content, but had to do with a change of government. Daendels spread rumors of a conspiracy. He resigned two days after the establishment of the Reign of State when he could not prove anything. Daendels' "third coup" failed due to intervention by French general Pierre François Charles Augereau, probably at the behest of Napoleon.

The disgraced Daendels retreated to the Heerderdal on the North Veluwe. He received from the Batavian Republic 500 morgen (at least 430 hectares) of uncultivated heathland in perpetual lease and founded a large-scale agricultural enterprise on the De Dellen estate, west of Heerde. He engaged in clearing heathland into farmland, planting pines, fattening pigs, raising sheep. Daendels corresponded with Johan Valckenaer, also a gentleman farmer and unofficial citizen.

In June 1806, Louis Napoleon restored him to his positions, and Daendels became lieutenant general of the troops on horseback. He was dispatched to Groningen and Friesland. In October, Daendels captured East Friesland, which was incorporated into the republic. Two months later he was back from Emden. Like Dirk van Hogendorp, he was on the hunt for an honorable position in the Dutch East Indies.

Daendels as governor general of the Dutch East Indies

Then, in 1807, Louis Napoleon appointed him governor general of the Dutch East Indies with the rank of marshal. After a long journey, he arrived in Batavia on Jan. 5, 1808. His main task was to protect the colony from the English, who had taken over former trading posts in Asia since the Letters of Kew. In a short time, he expelled the English army from Java. Daendels built hospitals and military shelters; weapons factories in Surabaya and Semarang and a new military training school in Batavia. There he had a fort built in the Meester Cornelis district and Fort Lodewijk in Surabaya.

Daendels not only reorganized the army; his second task was to fight corruption. He abolished the duty of tithes and gave equal rights to all religions. He tried to centralize administration in Java and curtail the rule of feudal rulers. Daendels traveled with 1,000 soldiers and some artillery to the craton of the Sultan of Bantam who had opposed the colonial administration. The audacious Daendels marched all alone into the large forecourt and demanded entrance; a demand that was reinforced by a cannon aimed at the gate. When the gate was opened, Daendels stepped determinedly towards the old weak sultan who was waiting for the governor general on his throne. Daendels pulled the old monarch from his seat and took his own seat. "Now I am king!" he shouted.

The old VOC was a trading company, and Dutchmen in the East Indies therefore did not represent sovereign power. Daendels made the Indian princes feel that he represented a king. It was over with the slavish treatment of the Javanese aristocracy; Daendels was therefore called the "Toewan Besar Goentoer," the great "thundering" lord.

Daendels introduced a modern civil service and robbed the individual trading posts of their administrative autonomy. He organized administration and justice in a modern way and cleared up some of the abuses and abuses from the Company era. This made him unpopular with the Oudgastenpartij, which sent complaints and accusations about him to Louis Napoleon. There was also every reason for this because Daendels, contrary to his instruction, appropriated estates and the lucrative monopoly on the trade in edible swallow's nests. Partly because of this opposition, his attempts did not quite go according to plan and he had to revert to the economic model of the old Republic; the Preanger system from the early 18th century, with which the VOC had enforced the production of certain goods (e.g. coffee).

The temperamental governor general had little respect for due process. He had three Europeans accused of theft hanged during their trial in 1808. The judge who protested was dismissed.

The Great Post Road on Java

Daendels is best known as the driving force behind the construction of the Great Post Road (Jalan Raya Pos) the full length of Java. This work, the road from Carnation to Panarukan, had above all a military purpose: rapid movement of troops. In addition, it was a fast route to transport mail and travelers by stagecoach from 1810, and furthermore, the road offered locals the opportunity to transport their merchandise over long distances. A journey from Batavia to Semarang took only 3 to 4 days instead of 10 to 14 days. The construction cost many lives, but is also seen by current Indonesian historians as a major advance. Because of this, Daendels also received the title: Raja (brave and wise king) from the local population. After all, this road made it possible to reach other parts of Java in days, rather than weeks. But the seeds of Daendels' eventual downfall had already been sown.

After the annexation of the Netherlands by France (1810), Emperor Napoleon recalled Daendels in 1810. He was appointed commander of a division of the Napoleonic army, and participated in Napoleon's campaign to Russia.

After the fall of Napoleon (1814), Daendels petitioned William I for a new position. He was appointed Governor-General of the Dutch possessions on the African Gold Coast in 1815. It was not until March 1816 that he was able to take office. He tried to build a road from the coast to the Ashanti kingdom, tried to reorganize the administration, and tried to make money from plantations, but all failed.

Daendels died of malaria in 1818 and was interred in the tomb at the Dutch cemetery in Elmina, Ghana.


  1. Herman Willem Daendels
  2. Herman Willem Daendels
  3. Hij zou daar Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck ontmoeten.
  4. Veer, P. van 't (1963) Daendels, maarschalk van Holland (ISBN 9789022830635), p. 13.
  5. Linnaeus promoveerde in 1735 in zes dagen aan de Universiteit van Harderwijk. Voor Christiaan Huygens werd een doctorstitel in de rechten - die hij nooit voerde - gekocht bij de Universiteit van Angers. (Bron: C.D. Andriesse: Titan kan niet slapen: een biografie van Christiaan Huygens (1993))
  6. De officieren van het exercitiegenootschap waren al in december 1784 benoemd; de oprichting zal iets eerder zijn geweest.
  7. In juni 1785 was hij betrokken bij het opstellen van de Acte van Verbintenis tussen ontevreden patriotten uit Holland, Utrecht, Brabant, Zwolle en Gelderland. Zij werden, 89 in getal, ontvangen door de 29-jarige Johannes Conradus de Kock in Heusden.
  8. ^ Kristine Alilunas-Rodgers (2001). Sojourners and Settlers Histories of Southeast Asia and the Chinese. University of Hawai'i Press. p. 159. ISBN 9780824824464. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  9. ^ Herald van der Linde (24 September 2020). Jakarta: History of a Misunderstood City. Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Private Limited. p. Chapter 6. ISBN 9789814928014. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  10. ^ The only complete biography of Daendels is the now rather dated publication by Paul van 't Veer, Daendels, maarschalk van Holland (Zeist/Antwerpen: De Haan-Standaard Boekhandel 1963).
  11. ^ L'unica biografia completa di Daendels è l'ormai introvabile pubblicazione di Paul van 't Veer intitolata Daendels, maarschalk van Holland (Zeist/Antwerpen: De Haan-Standaard Boekhandel 1963).
  12. ^ Pramoedya illumina il lato oscuro dell'autostrada di Daendels. The Jakarta Post 8 gennaio 2006.
  13. Six 1934, p. 278.
  14. Léon Clément Hennet : État militaire de France pour l'année 1793 page 212
  15. Six 1934, p. 279.

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