Jacob Abraham de Mist

Jacob Abraham de Mist

Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist (b. Zaltbommel, 20 April, 1749 - d. Voorburg, 3 August, 1823) was a Dutch statesman. He was Head of State of the National Assembly of the Batavian Republic from 17 April, 1797 - 1 May, 1797 and Commissioner-General of the Cape Colony during the interregnum from 21 February, 1803 - 25 September, 1804 in accordance with the short-lived Treaty of Amiens. The Cape Colony had been under Dutch control from 1652. In 1795 it was occupied by the British following the Battle of Muizenberg but under the final terms of peace between Great Britain, France and the Netherlands – then the Batavian Republic – in 1802, the colony was restored to the Batavian Republic.

Education and Career

De Mist studied Roman Dutch law at the University of Leiden, from 17 September, 1766 to 1 July, 1768. He practised law in Kampen from 1768 to 1769 and held the following positions thereafter:

  • Chief Administrative Officer of Leiden from 1769 to 1795.
  • Member of the Council for Regional Representation for the People of Overijssel, from 1795 to October 1795.
  • Member of the Committee for the Affairs and Possessions of the Batavian Republic in America and on the Coast of Guinea, from October, 1795 to May, 1796.
  • Member of the First National Council for the district of Deventer , from 17 May, 1796 to 1 September, 1797.
  • Chairman of the First National Council, from 17 April, 1797 to 1 May, 1797
  • Member of the Second National Council for the district of Deventer, from 1 September, 1797 to 22 January, 1798
  • Imprisonment in the Hague, from 22 January, 1798 to July, 1798 for his political statements.
  • Member of the Department of Justice for Amstel, from 6 April, 1799 to 1 April, 1802.
  • Member of the Board of Asiatic Possessions and Establishments, from August, 1800 to 1802.
  • Commissioner-General for the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town from 1802 to 1804.
  • Member of the Board for Asiatic Possessions and Establishments, from 23 March, 1804 to 1806.
  • Secretary-General of the Ministry of Commerce and the Colonies, from 1806 to 1807.
  • Member of the State Board for Foreign Service, in the Department of Commece and the Colonies, from 16 July, 1806 tot 14 February, 1807.
  • Member of the State Board for Commerce and the Colonies, from 14 February, 1807 to 4 December, 1807.
  • Landdrost of Maasland, from 8 May, 1807 to 2 December, 1807.
  • Member of the State Board for Foreign Service, president of the department for commerce and the colonies, from 4 December, 1807 to 1 January, 1809.
  • First president of the Court of Accounts for the Kingdom of Holland, from 27 May, 1809 to 1 December, 1812,
  • President of the Interim Commitee, Court of Accounts, from 1 January, 1812 to 30 November, 1813.
  • President of the provisional Court of Audit for the United Netherlands, from 30 November, 1813 to 1 August, 1814.
  • Member of the Council of Notables for the département of Monden van de Maas, 29 and 30 March, 1814.
  • Member of the Board of Vommerce and the Colonies, from 1814 to 1820.
  • Member of the First Chamber of the States-General, from 27 September, 1820 to 3 August, 1823.

Appointment by the Batavian States-General

The States-General resolved that the executive and legislative authority of the Cape Colony should be committed to a governor and a council of four members, of whom one at least should be by birth or long residence a colonist. The governor was to be also commander of the troops. The high court of justice was to be independent of the other branches of the government, and was to consist of a president and six members, all of them versed in the law. Trade with the possessions of the Batavian Rebublic everywhere was to be subject only to a very small duty. With these principles as a basis, the task of drawing up a plan of administration was entrusted to De Mist, an advocate of high standing and a member of the council for the Asiatic possessions and establishments.

The document prepared by De Mist gave such satisfaction that he was sent out to receive the colony from the English, install the Dutch officials, and make such regulations as he might find necessary. A very able military officer and man of high moral worth – Lieutenant-General Jan Willem Janssens – was appointed governor and was also commander-in-chief of the garrison for which three thousand one hundred and fifty soldiers were provided, and councillors and judges were selected.

Commission at the Cape of Good Hope

De Mist reached Cape Town on the 23rd of December, and next morning went to reside in the Castle of Good Hope. On the 30th, General Dundas issued a proclamation absolving the inhabitants of the colony from the oath of allegiance to His Britannic Majesty ( George III) on and after the 1st of January 1803. After a temporary withdrawal of the order to hand over control, at sunset on the evening of Sunday the 20th of February 1803 the English guards were relieved by Dutch soldiers, and next morning the en:Image:Nl-batr.gif was hoisted on the castle. De Mist announced that after making himself acquainted with the condition of the county, it would be his duty to prepare a charter which, however, would require ratification by the States-General.

In February 1804, De Mist issued a proclamation which formed several wards of the colony into a new district which General Janssens named Uitenhage after a title in De Mist's family. He also reorganized other areas, creating Tulbagh in the same year. This was intended to ease administration by dividing the colony into less disparate geographic areas. The settlement was previously divided for magesterial and fiscal purposes into four districts – the Cape, Stellenbosch, Swellendam and Graaff-Reinet, – this reorganization divided it into six of smaller size and he stantioned landdrosts in the two new districts.

Freedom of Religion

In July 1804 a proclamation was published by De Mist declaring that all religious societies that worshipped an Almighty Being were to enjoy equal protection under the law, and that no civil privileges were to be attached to any creed. This ordinance also provided for the establishment of schools under control of the government and not belonging to any religious body.

Another ordinance of De Mist had reference to marriage and ended the need to travel to Cape Town to obtain a marriage licence and be married by a clergyman. The ordinance permitted couples to be married by a landdrost and two heemraden.

Regrettably, when the colony was reoccupied by the British in 1806 at the end of the interregnum, the provisions of the proclamation were annulled and not reestablished until 1820.

Resignation

In September 1804 De Mist laid down his authority as commissioner-general so that the governor would have greater freedom to act with vigour. The great question of the time was how to place the colony in a condition for defence, as no one doubted that sooner or later it would be attacked by the British. De Mist professed to know nothing of military matters and thought that the governor, upon whom the responsibility would fall, should have sole authority, although they had worked together in perfect concord.

Family life

De Mist was the son of a clergyman, Arnoldus de Mist, and Geertruida Verstrinck. He was married three times.

His first marriage was to Amalia Strubberg on 20 September, 1772 in Cleves. They were divorced on 10 December, 1783.

His second marriage was to Elisabeth Morré on 8 May, 1796 in Beverwijk. They were divorced on 8 January, 1800.

His third marriage was to Magdalena de Jonge on 20 December, 1808 in The Hague.

He had four sons and two daughters by his first marriage.

Honours

Publications

Advys van het ontwerp voor eene constitutie voor het volk van Nederland. (Notice of a plan for a constitution for the people of the Netherlands.) (1796)

References

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