form of bonds or unit trusts, made up of one or more claims on the plantations. Investors had a great appetite for this type of investment and soon many other merchants began to copy these credit arrangements. Some 80 million guilders worth of these securities, a huge sum at that time, was placed with investors. This flow of capital provided a strong stimulus to commercial trade between the West Indies and the United Provinces (the Dutch Republic). As far as the merchant traders were concerned, the plantation credit business was a highly profitable and low-risk activity.

In 1779, Hermann Insinger joined forces with Paulus Prins and on 16 September they founded Insinger & Prins, a forerunner of Insinger de Beaufort.

Apart from his trading activities with the West Indies, Hermann Insinger also devoted his energies to the securities business. He was entrusted with the management of several funds, was viewed as an expert in this field and acknowledged to be highly skilled at unravelling complex affairs. In 1794, the Hope & Co. bank set up in London in order to escape the French occupation of the Netherlands, and Hermann Insinger became the bank s correspondent in Amsterdam.

The beginnings of a distinguished house

After the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784) in which the Netherlands was defeated, the relative decline of the United Provinces turned into a deeper decline which continued until the end of the 19th century. However, it was at this time that Hermann Insinger chose to set up permanently in Amsterdam.

Insinger s main revenues came from interest received on advances against consignments, service commission, and brokerage on the trading of goods. Insinger specialised in products from the tropics such as sugar, coffee and cotton, and thus embodied the classical type Amsterdam merchant: an international trading house which also ran a financial business.

Early in the 19th century, Hermann Insinger moved to consolidate his business, which employed five staff, among them his brother-in-law Hans Jacob Swarth. On 1 January 1801 Swarth became his partner. Insinger bought a private mansion on the prestigious Herengracht at number 136 to house himself, his wife and their eight children plus the company s offices. However he died prematurely on 24 May 1805 aged only 53. He had taken steps to ensure business continuity, but nobody knew at that moment whether his successors would be capable of upholding the company s high reputation.

In fact, thanks to Hans Jacob Swarth, who proved to be a skilled and enterprising merchant, Insinger s international reputation continued to flourish and the company grew under his leadership. A number of noteworthy initiatives greatly strengthened his status in the Amsterdam community, and resulted in his being co-opted on to the supervisory board of the Dutch central bank and given a seat in the Chamber of Commerce. Another

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