Willem Frederik Lamoraal

Willem Frederik Lamoraal Boissevain 1852-1919 VIIp 138
From “Koloniaal Tijdschrift”, nr. 4, 8th year of publication

On the 5 th of April 1919 the old-resident W.F.L. Boissevain (NP p 138) died at 66 years of age. He had a strong personality, a jewel of the “Interior Committee”, during his more than 35 years in office, in which he passed through every stage from trainee controller right up to resident. Born in Arnhem on November 28, 1852, he joined the (Dutch East)Indian service in 1874, and was controller in the districts Japara and Cheribon. After sixteen years of service he became assistant-resident of Blora (1890), and then swapped this district for the districts Berbek (1892), Toeban (1897) and Toeloeng Agoeng (1899). Mainly in the districts Blora and Toeban did he have the opportunity to show himself to be a good policeman.

More than 28 years passed after his entrance into office before Boissevain got appointed resident of Madioen. (As you see, promotions didn’t really occur frequently!) A district that was not easy to rule with such a large private industrial sector. The sugar industry, which enormously influences the economic development of the local peoples, was not one that Boissevain could count as his friends. He didn’t ignore the advantages that this industry undeniably has for the materialistic well-being of the inhabitants, but he knew from experience that the disadvantages were huge, that the native so happens to be a bad financier who leases his land to the sugar producer, and finally drops down from prosperous cultivator to day labourer. And at that time, sixteen years ago, the land lease prices were ridiculously low, more recently this has gradually improved.

Klik hier voor een vergroting van de foto

After 4 years of having ruled the Madioen district with a firm hand, resident Boissevain was called away by the government in 1907, to the more and more developed district Preanger-Regencies. A strong ruler was needed there and the choice fell on the man who had proven that he could take action without respect of persons and who could surely put an end to the old-fashioned situation in this district. For four years, from 1907 until 1911 (only interrupted by a half year leave to Europe, while retaining his position, very unique), did he rule this important district and it quickly became evident that a breath of fresh air was blowing from Bandoeng over the Preanger-departments, that with its hard feudal regencies, felt themselves to be the local kings.

Opposition and passive resistance was bound to happen, but the situation that long since had ceased to exist in the rest of Java, had to change; old-fashioned insights had to make way for new ideas. It was clear that this resident didn’t fool around; what he felt that needed doing, happened; he was a bit of a tyrant, he was a man of “l’Etat c’est moi”, but in those days such was necessary; the ruling of the Preanger people had slowly gone slack, business was merely sustained; administration was kept, but it wasn’t governed and among the local bureaucrats a sort of family-government was created with disastrous results. Boissevain put an end to this and when he resigned in 1911, he could hand over the governing of the district to his successor in a much better condition than in which he had received it. He was only able to enjoy 8 years of his well-earned retirement after such a fruitful life, but he still looked after the affairs of the corps Internal Affairs, as he was on the committee of the Union of Civil Servants in Internal Affairs for quite a while. With Boissevain, one of the most influential figures of Internal Affairs in a now closed period, has passed on. A man of action, not of words and “letter writing”, he had the habit of fast decision making without cautious questioning as to whether-or-not there is some history to consider or what the regulations might specify. It’s obvious that such a man appealed to the Governor-General van Heutsz, who valued his advice enormously and on several occasions gave clear testimony of his appreciation. A seat in the “Dutch East Indian” Council didn’t seem to be intended for him, however this position was taken by another resident of Java, who hadn’t served as long. This obviously hurt him and that, together with some other disappointments with the service in 1910, was the reason that he applied for retirement early in 1911, at 58 years of age, still in the prime of his life. He didn’t pursue popularity; he was very strict in the service, strict too for his officers and those below, he demanded a lot from them, but he also supported his subordinates where this was necessary, he stood up for them. Even though he was a tyrant, he didn’t push his opinion à tort et à travers, as long as one had solid proof that it was arguable. Then he admitted his wrong and appreciated that people would stand up for their beliefs. As resident of Madioen he received the Cross of the Dutch Lion, a well-earned award, but a greater reward is that his name will live on in the corps for whom’s interest he fought so energetically time and again.

R.I.P. van Bijleveld, ’s-Gravenhage

april 1919