In the middle of the peat moor, General Johannes van den Bosch established the Veenhuizen penal colony in 1822. The free colonies Frederiksoord, Willemsoord and Wilhelminaoord and the penal colony of Ommerschans had then already been established. These colonies fell under the auspices of the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid (Society of Humanitarianism) which had set itself the goal of fighting poverty in the Netherlands. The blade cut both ways: paupers were pulled out of the gutter and received some social security in the colonies. On the other hand, they had to provide for themselves with work on the land, on the peat bog and in the asylums. The colonists that lived in the free colonies were strictly selected. Those who were down and out and gained less from good advice ended up in the penal colonies.