Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. I. - The History of British India, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAP. I. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 1 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 1.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
From the Commencement of the Efforts to begin a Trade with India, till the Change of the Company from a regulated to a joint-stock Company.
The Portuguese had formed important establishments in India, before the British offered themselves as competitors for the riches of the East.
From the time when Vasco de Gama distinguished his nation by discovering the passage round the Cape of Good Hope, a whole century had elapsed, during which, without a rival, the Portuguese had enjoyed, and abused, the advantages of superior knowledge and art, amid a feeble and half-civilized people. They had explored the Indian ocean, as far as Japan; had discovered its islands, rich with some of the favourite productions of nature; had achieved the most brilliant conquests; and by their commerce poured into Europe, in unexampled profusion, those commodities of the East, on which the nations at that time set an extraordinary value.
The circumstances of this splendid fortune had violently attracted the attention of Europe. The commerce of India, even when confined to those narrow limits which a carriage by land had prescribed, was book i.Chap. 1. supposed to have elevated feeble states into great ones; and to have constituted an enviable part in the fortune even of the most opulent and powerful; to have contributed largely to support the Grecian monarchies both in Syria and Egypt; to have retarded the downfall of Constantinople; and to have raised the small and obscure republic of Venice to the rank and influence of the most potent kingdoms. The discovery therefore of a new channel for this opulent traffic, and the happy experience of the Portuguese, inflamed the cupidity of all the maritime nations of Europe, and set before them the most tempting prospects.
An active spirit of commerce had already begun to display itself in England. The nation had happily obtained its full share of the improvement which had dawned in Europe; and the tranquil and economical reign of Elizabeth had been favourable both to the accumulation of capital, and to those projects of private emolument on which the spirit of commerce depends. A brisk trade, and of considerable extent, had been carried on during the greater part of the sixteenth century with the Netherlands, at that time the most improved and commercial part of Europe. The merchants of Bristol had opened a traffic with the Canary Islands; those of Plymouth with the coasts of Guinea and Brazil: the English now fished on the banks of Newfoundland; and explored the sea of Spitzbergen, for the sovereign of the waters: they engrossed, by an exclusive privilege, the commerce of Russia: they took an active part in the trade of the Mediterranean: the company of merchant-adventurers pushed so vigorously the traffic with Germany and the central parts of Europe, as highly to excite the jealousy of the Hans Towns: and the protestant inhabitants of the Netherlands and France, flying from the persecutions of their own book i.Chap. 1. 1527. oppressive and bigoted governments, augmented the commercial resources of England by the capital and skill of a large importation of the most ingenious and industrious people in Europe.1
In these circumstances, the lustre of the Portuguese transactions in the East peculiarly attracted the admiration of the English. Already a most adventurous spirit of navigation was roused in the nation. The English were the first who had imitated the example of the Spaniards in visiting the New World. In 1497, Cabot, with a small squadron, explored the coast of America, from Labrador to Virginia, and discovered the islands of Newfoundland and St. John.2 An English merchant, named Robert Thorne, who had been stationed for many years at Seville in Spain, and had acquired particular knowledge of the intercourse which the Portuguese had opened with the East, presented a project to Henry VIII. about the year 1527, the accomplishment of which he imagined would place his countrymen in a situation no less enviable than that of the Portuguse. As that nation had obtained a passage to India by a course to the south-east, and pretended a right, which they defended by force, to its exclusive occupation, he supposed that his countrymen might reach the same part of the globe by sailing to the north-west, and thus obtain a passage at once expeditious and undisputed.3 What effect this representation book i.Chap. 1. 1527. produced on the mind of Henry is not accurately known. But two voyages in the course of his reign were undertaken for the discovery of a north-west passage, one about this period,1 and another ten years later.2
Nothing can more clearly prove to us the ardour with which the English coveted a share in the riches supposed to be drawn from the East, than the persevering efforts which they made to discover a channel from which the Portuguese should have no pretence to exclude them. Two attempts in the reign of Henry to obtain a passage by the north-west having failed, their exploring fancy anticipated a happier issue from a voyage to the north-east. A small squadron, under the direction of Sir Hugh Willoughby, was fitted out in the reign of Edward VI.; and, sailing along the coast of Norway, doubled the North Cape,3 where it was encountered by a storm. The ship of Sir Hugh was driven to an obscure spot in Russian Lapland, where he and his crew perished miserably by the climate. The other principal vessel found shelter in the harbour of Archangel, and was the first foreign ship by which it was entered. So well did Chancellour, its captain, improve the incident, that he opened a commercial intercourse with the natives, visited the monarch in his capital, stipulated important privileges for his countrymen; and laid the foundation of a trade which was immediately prosecuted to no inconsiderable extent. This voyage but little damped the hopes of obtaining a north-east passage to the riches of India. Some vigorous attempts were made by the company in whose hands the commerce with Russia was placed;4 the last of them in 1580, when two ships were sent out to book i.Chap. 1. 1567. explore the passage through the straits of Waygatz. After struggling with many perils and difficulties from the ice and the cold, one of the vessels returned unsuccessful; of the other no intelligence was ever received.
Before this hope was abandoned, the project of obtaining a passage by the north-west was ardently resumed. No fewer than six voyages were made in the course of a few years. Two barks of twenty-five tons each, and a pinnace of ten, sailed under Martin Frobisher in the year 1567, and entered Hudson's bay, which they at first imagined was the inlet about to conduct them to the golden shore. The same navigator was encouraged to make a second attempt in the same direction in 1576. As he brought home some minerals, which were supposed to be impregnated with gold, the attention of government was excited; and after two years, Frobisher was sent out with fifteen of the Queen's ships, miners for the supposed ore, and 120 persons as the rudiments of a colony. Having spent his provisions, and lost one of his ships, but not having found the expected passage, nor left his settlers, he returned with 300 tons of the supposed treasure, which proved to be only a glittering sand.1 The nation persevered in its hopes and its enterprises. A few years afterwards, Captain John Davis sailed as far as 66° 40′ north, and discovered the straits distinguished by his name. In a second voyage, undertaken in 1586, he explored in vain the inlet which he had thus discovered, and after a few years was enabled to proceed in a third expedition, which had no better success than the preceding two.2
book i.Chap. 1. 1577. After the defeat of so many efforts to discover a new passage to India, the English resolved to be no longer deterred by the pretensions of the Portuguese. A voyage to China by the Cape of Good Hope was undertaken in 1582. Four ships proceeded to the coast of Brazil, fought with some Spanish men of war, and were obliged to return for want of provisions.1 Another expedition, consisting of three ships, was fitted out in 1596, the commander of which was furnished with Queen Elizabeth's letters to the Emperor of China. This voyage proved eminently unfortunate. The ships were driven upon the coast of Spanish America, where only four men were preserved alive from the effects of storms, famine, and disease.2
Amid these unsuccessful endeavours two voyages were accomplished, which animated the hopes of the nation, and pointed out the way to more fortunate enterprises. Francis Drake, the son of a clergyman in Kent, who at a tender age had been put an apprentice to the master of a slender bark trading to the coast of Holland and France, had early evinced that passionate ardour in his profession which is the usual forerunner of signal success.3 He gained the affections of his master, who left him his bark at his death; at the age of eighteen he was purser of a ship which sailed to the bay of Biscay; at twenty he made a voyage to the coast of Guinea; in 1565 he ventured his all in a voyage to the West Indies, which had no success; and in 1567 he served under his kinsman Sir John Hawkins, in his unprosperous expedition to the bay of Mexico. In these different services, his nautical skill, his courage, and sagacity, book i.Chap. 1. 1577. had been conspicuously displayed. In 1570 his reputation enabled him to proceed to the West Indies with two vessels under his command. So vehemently was he bent on executing some great design, that he renewed his visit the next year, for the sole purpose of obtaining information. He had no sooner returned than he planned an expedition against the Spaniards, executed it with two ships and seventy-three men, sacked the town of Nombre de Dios, and returned with great treasure. It is said that, in this voyage, he saw from the top of a high-tree, that is, fancied he saw, across the American isthmus, the Southern Ocean, and became inflamed with the desire of reaching it in a ship of England.
For this expedition he prepared on a great scale; obtaining the commission of the Queen, and the command of five vessels, one of 100 tons, another of eighty, one of fifty, another of thirty, and a pinnace of fifteen; the whole manned with 164 select sailors. The historians of his voyage are anxious to display the taste and magnificence, as well as judgment, of his preparations; expert musicians, rich furniture, utensils of the most curious workmanship, vessels of silver for his table, and many of the same precious metal for his cook-room.
The expedition sailed from Plymouth on the 13th of December, 1577. Having passed the Straits of Magellan, and ravaged the western coast of Spanish America, Drake feared the encounter of a Spanish fleet, should he attempt to return in the same direction, and formed the bold design of crossing the Pacific Ocean, and regaining England by the Cape of Good Hope.
With one ship, the only part of the fleet which remained, he steered along the coast of America to the book i.Chap. 1. 1577. latitude of 38° north, and then entered upon that immense navigation, in which Magellan, the only circumnavigator who preceded him, had sustained so many disasters. No memorable occurrence attended the voyage. Of the islands which have been discovered in the Pacific Ocean none were observed till he approached the Asiatic coast. Fixing his attention on the Moluccas, of which the fame had been circulated in Europe by the rich spices thence imported by the Portuguese, he passed, with little observation, the more eastern part of the numerous islands which stud the Indian seas, and held his course for Tidore. From intelligence, received on the passage, he waved his intention of landing on that island, and steered for Ternate, the sovereign of which he understood to be at enmity with the Portuguese.
His intercourse with that island forms a remarkable epoch in the history of the British nation in India, as it was the beginning of those commercial transactions which have led to the greatest results. The King, having received assurances that his new visitants came with no other intention than that of trading with his country, gave them a very favourable reception. This monarch possessed considerable power, since the English navigators were informed that he ruled over seventy islands, besides Ternate, the most valuable of all the Moluccas; and in the visits which they paid to his court they were eyewitnesses of no contemptible magnificence. They exchanged presents with him, and received him on board; they traded with his subjects, laid in a cargo of valuable spices, and acquainted themselves with the nature and facilities of a commerce which was the object of admiration and envy in Europe.
Not satisfied with the information or the commodities which they received on one island, they visited book i.Chap. 1. 1580. several, being always amazed at their prodigious fertility, and in general delighted with the manners of the inhabitants. Among other places they landed in the great island of Java, famous afterwards as the seat of the Dutch government in India. They held some friendly intercourse with the natives, and departed with a tolerable knowledge both of the character of the people, and the productions of the country.
They now spread their sails for that navigation between Europe and India, to which the Portuguese claimed an exclusive right, and by which they monopolized the traffic with India. Those discoverers had craftily disseminated in Europe terrific accounts of dangers and horrors attending the navigation round the Cape of Good Hope. As the voyage of the English proved remarkably prosperous, they were surprised and delighted with the safety and ease which seemed to them to distinguish this envied passage, and conceived a still more lofty opinion of the advantages enjoyed by the nation that engrossed it. After leaving Java, the first land which they touched was the Cape of Good Hope. They landed once more at Sierra Leone, on the African coast, and received supplies which sufficed for the remainder of the voyage. They arrived at Plymouth on Monday the 26th of September, 1580, after a voyage of two years, ten months, and a few days; exhibiting to the wondering eyes of the spectators the first ship in England, and the second in the world, which had circumnavigated the globe. The news quickly spread over the whole kingdom, which resounded with the applauses of the man who had performed so daring and singular an enterprise. Whoever wished to be distinguished as the patron of merit hastened to confer some mark of his admiration on Captain Drake. The songs, epigrams, poems, and book i.Chap. 1. 1580. other pieces, which were composed in celebration of his exploits, amounted to several collections.1 The Queen, after some delay, necessary to save appearances with the Spanish court, which loudly complained of the depredations of Drake, though as reprisals perhaps they were not undeserved, paid a visit in person to the wonderful ship at Deptford; accepted of an entertainment on board, and conferred the honour of knighthood on its captain; observing, at the same time, that his actions did him more honour than his title.2
We may form some conception of the ardour which at that time prevailed in England for maritime exploits, by the number of men of rank and fortune, who chose to forego the indulgences of wealth, and to embark their persons and properties in laborious, painful, and dangerous expeditions. Among them we find such names as those of the Earls of Cumberland and Essex, of Sir Richard Greenville, Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Humphry Gilbert, Sir Robert Dudley, who prepared squadrons at their own expense, and sailed to various parts of the world. No undertaking of this description was attended with more important circumstances than that of Thomas Cavendish.
This gentleman, descended from a family of distinction, and inheriting a large estate in the county of Suffolk, had been early fired with a passion for maritime book i.Chap. 1. 1586. adventure. In a vessel of his own, he had accompanied Sir Richard Greenville in his unsuccessful voyage to Virginia; and now sold or mortgaged his estate, to equip a squadron with which he might rival the glory of Drake. It consisted of three ships, the largest of 140 tons, one of sixty, and a bark of about forty, the whole supplied with two years’ provisions, and manned with 126 officers and sailors, of whom several had served in the celebrated expedition of Drake.
They sailed from Plymouth on the 21st of July, 1586. Their voyage through the Straits of Magellan, and the depredations which they proceeded to commit along the western coast of the American continent, not only in the spirit of avarice, but even of wanton devastation, form no part of our present subject, and may without regret be left to other recorders. They had reached the coast of Calefornia, and nearly 24° of northern latitude; when, having taken a very rich Spanish ship, and completed their schemes of plunder, they commenced their voyage across the Pacific Ocean. They left the coast of America on the 19th of November, and came in sight of Guam, one of the Ladrone islands, on the 3d of January. From this island they were visited by sixty or seventy canoes full of the inhabitants, who brought provisions to exchange for commodities, and so crowded about the ship, that the English, when they had finished their traffic, discharged some of their fire arms to drive them away.1 With the Philippines, to which book i.Chap. 1. 1586. they next proceeded, they opened a more protracted intercourse; having cast anchor at one of the islands, where they lay for nine days, and carried on an active trade with the inhabitants.
The cluster of islands, to which the Europeans have given the name of the Philippines, was discovered by Magellan. Philip II., shortly after his accession to the Spanish throne, planted there a colony of Spaniards, by an expedition from New Spain; and a curious commerce had from that time been carried on across the Great Pacific between this settlement and the dominions of Spain in the new world. To Manilla, the capital of the Philippine colony, the Chinese, who resorted thither in great numbers, brought all the precious commodities of India; and two ships were sent annually from New Spain, which carried to the Philippines the silver of the American mines, and returned with the fine productions of the East. The impatience, however, of the natives under the Spanish yoke, was easily perceived. When they discovered that the new visitors were not Spaniards, but the enemies of that people, they eagerly testified their friendship; and the princes of the island, where Cavendish landed, engaged to assist him with the whole of their forces, if he would return and make war upon the common adversary.
This adventurous discoverer extensively explored the intricate navigation of the Indian Archipelago, and observed the circumstances of the new and extraordinary scene with a quick and intelligent eye. He visited the Ladrones; shaped a course among the Philippines, which brought the greater part of those islands within his view; passed through the Moluccas; sailed along that important chain of islands, book i.Chap. 1. 1588. which bounds the Indian Archipelago from the Strait of Malacca to the extremity of Timor; and passing the Strait of Bally, between the two Javas, cast anchor on the south-west side of the great island of that name, where he traded with the natives for provisions, and formed a sort of treaty, stipulating a favourable reception when his visit should be renewed.
He sailed for the Cape of Good Hope on the 16th of March, careful to treasure up information respecting a voyage, which was now the channel of so important a commerce. He made astronomical observations; he studied the weather, the winds, and the tides; he noted the bearing and position of lands; and omitted nothing which might facilitate a repetition of the voyage to himself or his countrymen. He passed the Cape with prosperous navigation about the middle of May, and, having touched at St. Helena to recruit his stores, he landed at Plymouth on the 9th of September, 1588. In the letter which, on the very day of his arrival, he wrote to Lord Hunsdon, then Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, he says, “I navigated to the islands of Philippines, hard upon the coast of China, of which country I have brought such intelligence as hath not been heard of in these parts; a country, the stateliness and riches of which I fear to make report of, lest I should not be credited. I sailed along the islands of Moluccas, where, among some of the heathen people, I was well entreated, and where our countrymen may have trade as freely as the Portugals, if they themselves will.”
The tide of maritime adventure which these splendid voyages were so well calculated to swell, flowed naturally towards India, by reason of the fancied opulence, and the prevailing passion for the commodities, of the East. The impatience of our countrymen had book i.Chap. 1. 1588. already engaged them in a circuitous traffic with that part of the globe. They sailed to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where they found cargoes of Indian goods conveyed over land: and a mercantile company, denominated the Levant Company, was instituted, according to the policy of the age, to secure to the nation the advantages of so important a commerce.1 The Company which, after the discovery of the port of Archangel, had been formed to carry on the trade with Russia, had opened a communication with Persia, and thence imported the commodities of India: Mr. Anthony Jenkinson, an active and enterprising agent of the Russia Company, sailed down the Volga, in 1558, to the Caspian Sea, which he crossed into Persia, and at Boghar, a city of some importance, found merchants not only from various parts of the Persian empire, but from Russia, and China, and India. This voyage he performed seven times; and opened a considerable trade for raw and wrought silk, carpets, spices, precious stones, and other Asiatic productions. In 1563, there was business enough to require the presence of three agents at Casbin, the seat of the Persian court; and the traffic flourished for several years.
Accidental circumstances contributed to enliven the admiration excited by the Indian trade. During that expedition to the coast of Spain, on which Sir Francis Drake was sent, by Queen Elizabeth, to harass the Spanish shipping, and prevent as far as possible the preparations for the Invincible Armada, he took one of the Portuguese ships from India, known at that time by the name of Carracks. The value of her cargo inflamed the imaginations of the merchants; and the papers which she carried afforded information respecting the traffic in which she was engaged.1 A book i.Chap. 1. 1593. still more important capture of the same sort was made in 1593. An expedition fitted out for the West Indies by Sir Walter Ralegh, and commanded by Sir John Boroughs, encountered near the Azores the greatest of all the Portuguese Carracks, a vessel of 1,600 tons, carrying 700 men, and thirty-six brass cannon, and after an obstinate contest carried her into Dartmouth. This was the largest vessel which had ever been seen in England, laden with spices, calicoes, silks, gold, pearls, drugs, porcelain, ebony, &c.; and stimulated the impatience of the English to be engaged in so opulent a commerce.2
Some members of the Turkey or Levant Company finished about the same time an expedition to India.3 They had carried some cloth, tin, and other goods from Aleppo to Bagdat, which they next conveyed down the Tigris to Ormus in the Persian Gulph, and thence transported to Goa, the great mart between the Portuguese and Indians on the coast of Malabar. From this place they commenced an extensive survey of the adjoining countries; repaired to Agra, at that time the capital and residence of the Mogul Emperor; visited Lahor; traversed Bengal; travelled to Pegu and Malacca; and, returning by sea to Ormus, retraced their steps to Aleppo, whence they sailed for England, bearing with them important and extensive information respecting the countries they had explored. Intelligence now poured itself into the nation by a variety of channels. An Englishman, of the name book i.Chap. 1. 1593. of Stevens, had sailed with the Portuguese from Lisbon to Goa, by the Cape of Good Hope, and wrote an account of his voyage, which was read with avidity, and contributed to swell the general current of enterprise which now ran so vehemently toward India.1
The first application which was made to government was by a memorial, in the name of “divers merchants,” addressed to the Lords of Council, in 1589, for the royal permission to send three ships, and as many pinnaces, on a voyage to India. They enumerated the different places, at which the Portuguese had already effected settlements, on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, in Malacca, and in the Banda and Molucca islands, places from which it seemed to be tacitly understood that other nations were bound to abstain. But they added, that the islands and shores of the Indian ocean presented many other places, open to the enterprise of English merchants, an intercourse with which might yield the greatest advantages.2 What reception this application received is unknown. But the unfortunate expedition of Captain Raymond; remarkable as being the first of which India was the immediate destination, though its object was not trade, so much as plunder, by cruising against the Portuguese; was fitted out in 1591. Disease had made such ravages among the crews, before they reached the Cape of Good Hope, that one of the vessels was sent home with the sick; and the rest, two in number, had not long doubled the Cape, when the principal ship was lost in a storm. Captain James Lancaster, in the remaining vessel, after a disastrous voyage to the East, sailed to the West Indies, where he lost the ship, and with great difficulty found means to return book i.Chap. 1. 1599. in a French privateer.1
While the English fluctuated between desire and execution in this important enterprise, the Dutch, in 1595, boldly sent four ships to trade with India by the Cape of Good Hope.2 This exploit added fuel, at once, to the jealousy, and to the ambition of the English. In 1599, an association was formed, and a fund subscribed, which amounted to 30,133l. 6s. 8d., and consisted of 101 shares; the subscriptions of individuals varying from 100l. to 3,000l. It was agreed to petition the Queen for a warrant to fit out three ships, and export bullion, and also for a charter of privileges. A committee of fifteen, the origin and foundation of a Court of Directors, were chosen to manage. The approbation of the government was readily signified; but as a treaty was then pending with Spain, policy appeared to counsel delay. The subscribers, known by the name of the adventurers, were impatient, and presented a memorial, distinguishing the places with which the Spaniards and Portuguese had established an intercourse, from others to which, without any ground of complaint on the part of those nations, the English might with unspeakable advantage resort. The council replied, that “it was more beneficiall for the generall state of merchandise to entertayne a peace, then that the same should be hindered, by the standing wth ye Spanishe comissions, for the mayntayning of this trade, to forgoe the oportunety of the concluding of the peace.”3 The memorial was referred to Sir Foulke Greville, who made a favourable report: and in the course of the same year, the Queen sent John Mildenhall over land by Constantinople on an embassy to the Great Mogul.
It was attended with little success. The Portuguese and Venetian agents exerted themselves to raise suspicions against the designs of the English, and effectually obstructed the endeavours of the ambassador.
Towards the end of the year 1600 the efforts of the adventurers were renewed; and the consent of government was obtained to proceed in preparations for an Indian voyage, while the patent of incorporation was still under consideration. Meanwhile an application was made from government, with what views does not appear, for the employment of Sir Edward Michel-bourne in the expedition. The answer of the committee, though petitioners for a favour not yet conceded, affords a curious specimen of their independence, and of the mode of thinking of the times. They stated it as their resolution “not to employ any gentleman in any place of charge,” and requested “that they may be allowed to sort theire business with men of their own qualitye, lest the suspicion of the employmt of gentlemen being taken hold uppon by the generalitie, do dryve a great number of the adventurers to withdraw their contributions.”1 The adventure was prosecuted with ardour. On the 8th of October the five following ships were already provided; the Malice Scourge, of 200 men, and 600 tons burden; the Hector, of 100 men, and 300 tons; the Ascension, of eighty men, and 260 tons; the Susan, of eighty men, and 240 tons; and a pinnace of forty men, and 100 tons. To provision these ships for twenty months the cost was computed at 6,600l. 4s. 10d.; and the cargo, consisting of iron and tin, wrought and unwrought, of lead, cloths, and some smaller articles, chiefly intended as presents, was estimated, exclusive of bullion, at 4,545l. It was determined that thirty-six book i.Chap. 1. 1600. factors or super-cargoes should be appointed for the voyage, divided into separate classes, rising above one another in trust and emoluments. Captain James Lancaster, whose difficult return from a predatory expedition has already been mentioned, was chosen to command the fleet; and on the 31st of December the charter of privileges was obtained.1
This charter, the origin of a power so anomalous and important as that which was afterwards accumulated in the hands of the East India Company, contained nothing which remarkably distinguished it from the other charters of incorporation, so commonly in that age bestowed upon trading associations. It constituted the adventurers a body politic and corporate by the name of “the Governor and Company of Merchants of London, trading to the East Indies;” and vested them with the usual privileges and powers. The plan which they had already adopted for the management of their affairs, by a committee of twentyfour, and a chairman, both to be chosen annually, was confirmed and rendered obligatory. With a reservation in favour of the rights granted to other associations, and with prohibition extending to all such places as might be already occupied by the subjects of states in amity with her Majesty, and whose objection to rivals should be declared, the privilege of trading to the East Indies, that is, to all places beyond the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan, was bestowed upon the Company, with power to export in each voyage 30,000l. in gold and silver, also English goods for the first four voyages exempt from duties, and to re-export Indian goods in English ships under the same privilege to the end of the book i.Chap. 1. 1600. charter. According to the principle of the times, the charter was exclusive; prohibiting the rest of the community from trading within the limits assigned to the Company, but granting to them the power, whenever they pleased, of bestowing licenses for that purpose. It was granted for a period of fifteen years; but under condition that, if not found to be advantageous to the country, it might be annulled at any time under a notice of two years: if advantageous it might, if desired by the Company, be renewed for fifteen years.
The ardour of individuals, where any thing is to be risked, is more easily excited, than upheld. Though the list of subscribers, while the scheme of Indian adventure was yet in contemplation, had been readily filled up, the calls of the committees for the payment of the instalments were very imperfectly obeyed. Even when the charter was obtained, it was either understood to confer no power of compelling payment, or the directors were afraid to make use of it. Instead of exacting the stipulated sums, and trading upon the terms of a joint-stock company, the subscribers who had paid were invited to take upon themselves the expense of the voyage, and, as they sustained the whole of the risk, to reap the whole of the profit.
The sums which were thus advanced amounted to 68,373l. which greatly exceeded the capital originally subscribed. Of this, 39,771l. was expended in the purchase and equipment of ships—the four, excluding the pinnace, which were taken up by the committee of original adventurers: 28,742l. was expended in bullion: and 6,860l. in goods; consisting partly of British commodities, cloth, lead, tin, cutlery, glass, &c.; partly of foreign, as quicksilver, Muscovy hides, &c. The choice of Captain Lancaster to command the fleet was renewed; and it sailed from Torbay on the 2d of May, 1601, carrying letters of recommendations book i.Chap. 1. 1600. from the Queen to the sovereigns of the different ports to which it might resort.1
A first and experimental attempt was naturally unproductive of any remarkable result: but the first voyage of the East India Company was not discouraging. The first place in India to which they repaired was Acheen, a principal city in the island of Sumatra, at which they were favourably received. They formed a treaty of commerce with the chief or sovereign of the place; obtained permission to erect a factory; and, having taken on board a quantity of pepper, set sail for the Moluccas. In the Straits of Malacca they captured a Portuguese vessel of 900 tons burthen, carrying calicoes and spices, which sufficed to lade the fleet. They diverted their course, therefore, to Bantam in the island of Java; where the Captain, delivering his letters and presents, and meeting with a book i.Chap. 1. 1603–13. favourable reception, left some agents, the first rudiments of the Company's factories; and returned to England, where he arrived, in September, 1603, with a handsome profit to his owners on the capital of the voyage.1
In the course of the years from 1603 to 1613, eight other voyages were fitted out, on similar terms. The first, in 1603, under the command of Captain Middleton, consisted of the ships which had but just returned from the preceding voyage; and the capital subscribed was 60,450l.; of which, 48,140l. was laid out in the preparation and provision of the ships; 11,160l. in bullion, and 1,142l. in goods. The second, in 1606, consisted of three ships commanded by Captain Keeling, with a capital of 53,500l.; of which 28,620l. was for the equipment of the fleet, 17,600l. was in bullion, and 7,280l. in goods. The third, in 1607, consisted of two ships, 15,000l. in bullion, and 3,400l. in goods. The fourth voyage, in 1608, had but one ship; 13,700l. subscription; expense of equipment, 6,000l.; bullion, 6,000l.; goods, 1,700l. The fifth, in 1609, had three ships, larger than in any former voyage; capital subscribed 82,000l.; cost of shipping 32,000l.; the investment, 28,500l. bullion, and 21,000l. goods. The sixth voyage, in 1610, had four ships; and subscription, 71,581l.; divided into 42,500l. for shipping, 19,200l. bullion, 10,081l. goods. The seventh, in 1611, of four vessels, had 76,355l. subscription, expended 48,700l. on the fleet, had 17,675l. in bullion, and 10,000l. in goods. The eighth, in 1612, had one ship, and subscription, 7,200l.; divided into 5,300l. for the vessel, 1,250l. bullion, and 650l. in goods. All these voyages, with one book i.Chap. 1. 1603–13. exception, that in 1607, of which both the vessels were lost, were prosperous: the clear profits, hardly ever below 100 per cent, being in general more than 200 on the capital of the voyage.1
The years in which these voyages were performed were not without other incidents of considerable importance. In 1604, the Company were alarmed by a licence in violation of their charter, granted to Sir Edward Michelborne and others, to trade to “Cathaia, China, Japan, Corea, and Cambaya, &c.” This injury was compensated in 1609, when the facility and indiscretion of King James encouraged the Company to aim at a removal of those restrictions which the more cautious policy of Elizabeth had imposed. They obtained a renewal of their charter, confirming all their preceding privileges, and constituting them a body corporate, not for fifteen years, or any other limited time, but for ever; still, however, providing that, on experience of injury to the nation, their exclusive privileges should, after three years notice, cease and expire.
The earliest of the Company's voyages were exclusively directed to the islands in the Indian Ocean, as Sumatra, Java, and Amboyna, the returns being raw silk, fine calicoes, indigo, cloves, and mace. In 1608, the factors at Bantam and in the Moluccas reported that the cloths and calicoes imported from the continent of India were in great request in the islands; and recommended the opening of a trade at Surat and Cambaya, to supply them with those commodities, which might be exchanged, with extraordinary profit, for the spice and other productions of the islands. To profit by these advantages, the fleet book i.Chap. 1. 1603–13. which sailed under the orders of Sir Henry Middleton, in 1609, was directed to steer for the western coast of the Asiatic continent, where they made several attempts to establish a commercial intercourse. At Aden and Mocha they were opposed by the Turks; who surprised one of the ships, and made the Captain and seventy men prisoners. On the coast of India their endeavours were frustrated by the influence of the Portuguese. A fleet which sailed in 1611 had better success. Attacked at Swally, a place at no great distance from Surat, by a large Portuguese armament, it made a successful defence; and, notwithstanding the intrigues and efforts of the Portuguese, obtained a favourable reception at Surat. The English now succeeded in forming a commercial arrangement. They obtained permission to establish factories at Surat, Ahmedabad, Cambaya, and Goga, which were pointed out, by the agents of the Company, as the best situations; and agreeing to pay a duty of 3 ½ per cent, received assurance, that this should be the only exaction to which their merchandise should be subject; that protection should be afforded to their factories; and that their property, even in the case of the death of their agents, should be secured till the arrival of another fleet. A phirmaun or decree of the Emperor, conferring these privileges, was received on the 11th of January, 1612; and authorised the first establishment of the English on the continent of India, at that time the seat of one of the most extensive and splendid monarchies on the surface of the globe.1
[1.]Anderson's History of Commerce in the reign of Elizabeth, passim. See also Hakluyt's Voyages, ii. 3, 96. Ibid. iii. 690. Guicciardini's Description of the Netherlands. Sir William Temple. Camden, 408.
[2.]Hakluyt, iii. 4. Rymer's Fœdera, xii. 595. Anderson's History of Commerce, published in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 11. Robertson's History of America, iv. 138.
[3.]Hakluyt, iii. 129. Harris's Collection of Voyages, i. 874.
[1.]Hakluyt, ut supra.
[3.]Hakluyt, i. 226, &c.
[4.]Anderson's History of Commerce in Macpherson, ii. 166.
[1.]Hakluyt. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 145, 158, 159.
[2.]Hakluyt. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 175, 180, 185.
[1.]Anderson, ut supra, ii. 171.
[2.]Purchas, b. iii. sect. 2. Anderson, ii. 210.
[3.]Hakluyt, iii. 440. Harris's Collection of Voyages, i. 14. Camden's Annals, 301, &c.
[1.]Harris is not satisfied with the merit of those productions, which reached not, in his opinion, the worth of the occasion; and seems to be rather indignant that no modern poet has rivalled the glory of Homer, “by displaying in verse the labours of Sir Francis Drake:” i. 20.
[2.]Her Majesty appears to have been exquisitely gracious. The crowd which thronged after her was so great that the bridge, which had been constructed between the vessel and the shore, broke down with the weight, and precipitated 200 persons into the water. As they were all extricated from their perilous situation without injury, the Queen remarked that so extraordinary an escape could be owing only to the Fortune of Sir Francis Drake. Harris, i. 20.
[1.]I am sorry to observe that no great respect for human life seems to have been observed in this proceeding; since, directly implying that the guns had been charged with shot, and levelled at the men, the historian of the voyage jocosely remarks, “that 'tis ten to one if any of the savages were killed; for they are so very nimble that they drop immediately into the water, and dive beyond the reach of all danger, upon the least warning in the world.” Harris's Collect. of Voyages, i. 27.
[1.]Monson's Naval Tracts. Hakluyt. Anderson's Hist. of Com. published in Macpherson's Annals, ix. 169, 198. Rymer's Fœdera.
[1.]This is not a conclusion merely drawn from the circumstances of the case, which however would sufficiently warrant it; but stated on the testimony of Cambden, who related what he heard and saw. Cambden's Annals. Anderson's Hist of Commerce.
[2.]Anderson's Hist. of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 201.
[3.]They returned to London in 1591. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 198.
[1.]Harris's Voyages, i. 875.
[2.]This Memorial is preserved in the State Paper Office, and a short account of it has been given us by Mr. Bruce Annals of the East India Company, i. 109.
[1.]Anderson's Hist. of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 199. Harris's Voyages, i. 875.
[2.]Anderson, ut supra, ii. 209. Harris's Voyages, i. 920.
[3.]Minutes, &c. (Indian Register Office.) Bruce's Annals, i. 112.
[1.]Minutes of a General Court of Adventurers, preserved in the Indian Register Office. Bruce's Annals, i. 128.
[1.]Bruce's Annals, i. 129–136. Anderson's History of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 216. Harris's Collection of Voyages, i. 875.
[1.]Bruce's Annals, i. 146. “But forasmuch,” says Sir William Monson (Naval Tracts, iii. Churchill's Collection of Voyages, 475), “as every innovation commonly finds opposition, from some out of partiality, and from others as enemies to novelty; so this voyage, though at first it carried a great name and hope of profit, by the word India, and example of Holland, yet was it writ against.” He then exhibits the objections, seven in number, and subjoins an answer. The objections were shortly as follows, the answers may be conceived:
These objections, with the answers, may also be seen in Anderson's History of Commerce, ad an.
[1.]Harris, i. 875. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 217, 218. Bruce's Annals, i. 151, 152.
[1.]Bruce's Annals, i. 152–163.
[1.]Bruce's Annals, i. 164.