Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. II. - The History of British India, vol. 1
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CHAP. II. - 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.
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From the Change of the Company into a Joint-Stock Company, in 1612, till the Formation of the third Joint-Stock in 1631-2.
Hitherto the voyages of the East India traders book i.Chap. 2. 1613. had been conducted on the terms rather of a regulated than a joint-stock company; each adventure being the property of a certain number of individuals, who contributed to it as they pleased, and managed it for their own account, subject only to the general regulations of the Company. Whether this was more adapted or not, to the nature of commerce, and the interests of the nation, it was less favourable to the power and consequence of a Governor and Directors, than trading on a joint-stock, which threw into their hands the entire management and power of the whole concern. Accordingly, they exerted themselves to decry the former method, and, in 1612, were enabled to come to a resolution, that in future, the trade should be carried on by a joint-stock only.1
It still appears to have been out of their power to establish a general fund, fixed in amount, and divided into regular shares; the capital was still raised by a sort of arbitrary subscription, some individuals, whose names stood as members of the Company, advancing nothing, others largely. They now, however, subscribed, not each for a particular adventure, with an association of his own choosing, but all into the hands of the Governor and Directors, who were to employ the aggregate as one fund or capital for the benefit book i.Chap. 2. 1613–16. of those by whom it was advanced. On these terms 429,000l. was raised, which the Directors thought proper to divide for the purpose of four separate adventures or voyages, to be undertaken in as many successive years. The voyages were regulated, and composed as follows:
The purchase, repair, and equipment of the vessels amounted to 272,544l., being the remainder of the stock.
The profit of these voyages was far from setting the management of a court of Directors, as compared with that of individuals taking charge of their own affairs, in a favourable light. The average of the profits on the eight voyages which preceded, leaving out of the account the small adventure of what is called the Company's fourth voyage, wholly unfortunate, was 171 per cent. The average of the profit on the four voyages in question, was only 87 1/2 per cent.1
As the power of the Portuguese in the East carried the usual consequences of power along with it. among other things, an overbearing and insolent spirit, they had already embroiled themselves with the Mogul government: an event favourable to the English, who were thus joined with that government in a common cause. At the same time the splendid achievements of the English, against an enemy whom the governments of India were ill able to resist, raised high their reputation for prowess in war. A book i.Chap. 2. 1613–16. Portuguese fleet burned the towns of Baroach and Goga: and a powerful armament arrived at Swally with the Portuguese Viceroy, in January 1614; which attacked the English; but was defeated, with a loss of 350 men. To improve these favourable circumstances, an agent of the Company repaired to the Mogul court, where he was well received, and obtained a royal phirmaun for a general and perpetual trade; and in the same year took place the celebrated royal embassy of Sir Thomas Roe. The character of an ambassador, and the respect attached to it by the discernment of more enlightened nations, were but little understood at the court of the Mogul. On that occasion the choice of the English Ambassador was happy: Sir Thomas was a man of discernment, and temper, and made the most of the circumstances in which he was placed; though he soon discovered that it was bad policy by which he had been sent. He obtained redress of some of the grievances of which the English merchants complained; and concluded, though with difficulty, a sort of treaty, in which liberty was promised them of trading and establishing factories in any part of the Mogul dominions; Surat, Bengal, and Sindy being particularly named.1
Besides his other services, Sir Thomas bestowed advice upon the Company. “At my first arrival,” says he, “I understood a fort was very necessary; but experience teaches me we are refused it to our own advantage. If the Emperor would offer me ten, I would not accept of one.” He then states his reasons: first, he adduces evidence that it would be book i.Chap. 2. 1613–19. of no service to their trade: “secondly, the charge,” he says, “is greater than the trade can bear; for to maintain a garrison will eat out your profit; a war and traffic are incompatible. By my consent you shall never engage yourselves but at sea, where you are like to gain as often as to lose. The Portugueses, notwithstanding their many rich residences, are beggared by keeping of soldiers; and yet their garrisons are but mean. They never made advantage of the Indies since they defended them: observe this well. It has also been the error of the Dutch, who seek plantations here by the sword. They turn a wonderful stock; they prole in all places; they possess some of the best: yet their dead pays consume all the gain. Let this be received as a rule, that if you will profit, seek it at sea, and in quiet trade; for, without controversies, it is an error to affect garrisons and land wars in India.”
“It is not a number of ports, residences, and factories, that will profit you. They will increase charge, but not recompence it. The conveniency of one, with respect to your sails, and to the commodity of investments, and the well employing of your servants, is all you need.” If Sir Thomas had lived to the present day, he might have urged the trade with China as proof, by experiment, of the proposition he advanced.
“The settling your traffic here will not need so much help at court as you suppose. A little countenance and the discretion of your factors will, with easy charge, return you most profit; but you must alter your stock. Let not your servants deceive you; cloth, lead, teeth, quicksilver, are dead commodities, and will never drive this trade; you must succour it by change.”
“An ambassador lives not in fit honour here. A meaner agent would, among these proud Moors, book i.Chap. 2. 1613–19. better effect your business. My quality, often, for ceremonies, either begets you enemies, or suffers unworthily. Half my charge shall corrupt all this court to be your slaves. The best way to do your business in it is to find some Mogul, that you may entertain for 1000 rupees a year, as your solicitor at court. He must be authorized by the king, and then he will serve you better than ten ambassadors. Under him you must allow 500 rupees for another at your port to follow the Governor and customers, and to advertise his chief at court. These two will effect all; for your other smaller residences are not subject to much inconveniency.”
The permission to the Company's servants to trade privately on their own account, which afterwards produced so many inconveniences, was, it seems, even at this early period, a source of abuse. “Concerning this, it is my opinion,” says Sir Thomas, “that you absolutely prohibit it, and execute forfeitures, for your business will be the better done. All your loss is not in the goods brought home; I see here the inconveniences you think not of; I know this is harsh to all men, and seems hard. Men profess they come not for bare wages. But you will take away this plea, if you give great wages to their content; and then you know what you part from; but then you must make good choice of your servants, and use fewer.”
Sir Thomas tells the Company that he was very industrious to injure the Dutch. “The Dutch,” he says, “are arrived at Surat from the Red Sea, with some money and southern commodities. I have done my best to disgrace them; but could not turn them out without further danger. Your comfort is here book i.Chap. 2. 1617. are goods enough for both.”1 If so, why seek to turn them out?
One of the objects at which the adventurers from England most eagerly aspired was a share in the traffic of the Spice Islands. The spices, from their novelty, were at that time a favourite object of consumption to those the supply of whose wants is so naturally but thoughtlessly regarded by the dealer as peculiarly profitable, the rich and the great: and the commerce, brilliant as compared with that of other nations, which the enterprise and diligence of the Dutch now carried on with the East, almost entirely consisted of those commodities. The English, by their connexion with Sumatra and Java, had their full share in the article of pepper; but were excluded from cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs, and all the finer spices. Agents were now sent from Bantam to Amboyna, Banda, and other islands, who fired the jealousy and cupidity of the Dutch. Defeated in their endeavours at all the places where the Dutch had already established themselves, the English projected, as a last resource, a factory at Macassar, of which the produce was only rice, but which might serve as a magazine for spices collected from the neighbouring islands.2
In the year 1617, or the year of the last of the four voyages in which the general subscription had been employed, the Company's agents reported; That Surat book i.Chap. 2. 1617. was the place at which the cloths of India could best be obtained, though nothing could there be disposed of in return except China goods, spices, and money: That large quantities of Indian wove goods might be sold, and gold, camphor, and benjamin obtained, at the two factories of Acheen and Tekoo on the island of Sumatra: That Bantam afforded a still larger demand for the wove goods of India, and supplied pepper for the European market: That Jacatra, Jambee, and Polania, agreed with the two former places in the articles both of demand and supply, though both on a smaller scale: That Siam might afford a large vent for similar commodities, and would yield gold, silver, and deer skins for the Japan market: That English cloth, lead, deer skins, silks, and other goods might be disposed of at Japan for silver, copper, and iron, though hitherto want of skill had rendered the adventures to that kingdom unprofitable: That, on the island of Borneo, diamonds, bezoar stones, and gold, might be obtained at Succadania, notwithstanding the mischief occasioned by the ignorance of the first factors; but from Banjarmassin, where the same articles were found, it would be expedient, on account of the treacherous character of the natives, to withdraw the factory: That the best rice in India could be bought, and the wove goods of India sold at Macassar: And that at Banda the same goods could be sold, and nutmegs and mace procured, even to a large amount, if the obstruction of European rivals were removed.1
Surat and Bantam were the seats of the Company's principal establishments.
In the year 1617–18, a subscription was opened book i.Chap. 2. 1618. for a new fund, and was carried to the large amount of 1,600,000l. This was denominated the Company's Second Joint-stock. They were now, we are told, possessed of thirty-six ships, from 100 to 1,000 tons burthen; and the proprietors of stock amounted to 954.1 But as the accounts of the Company have never been remarkable for clearness, or their historians for precision, we are not informed whether these ships belonged to the owners of the first joint-stock, or to the owners of the second; or if to both, in what proportion; whether the 954 proprietors of stock were the subscribers to both funds, or to the last only; whether any part of the first joint-stock had been paid back to the owners, as the proceeds came in; or whether both funds were now in the hands of the Directors at once, employed for the respective benefit of the respective lists of subscribers: two trading capitals in the same hands, employed separately, for the separate account of different associations. That such was the case to a certain extent may be concluded from this, that of the last of the voyages, upon the first of the funds, the returns were not yet made. We shall see that, afterwards, the Directors had, in their hands, at one and the same time, the funds of several bodies of subscribers, which they were bound to employ separately, for the separate benefit of each; that they, as well as their agents abroad, experienced great inconvenience in preserving the accounts and concerns separate and distinct; and that the interests and pretensions of the several bodies were prone to interfere.
The new subscription was divided into portions for three separate voyages.
The passion, naturally, of the Company's agents, at the different stations abroad, was to grasp at every book i.Chap. 2. 1618. thing, with little regard to the narrowness of the funds upon which their operations depended. In one point of view this was advantageous: while the ground was yet imperfectly explored, it yielded a wider field for selection. The factors at Surat were captivated with the project of a trade to Persia; it promised a vent for English woollens to a large amount, and would furnish silk and other goods, which, both in Europe and in India, might sell to the greatest advantage. Sir Thomas Roe dissuaded the speculation; on the ground, that the Portuguese were already in possession of the commerce, and that it would cost the Company more to protect themselves in it, than they could hope to gain by it. The views of the factors, because the most flattering, were the most persuasive; agents were sent to the court of Persia; grants of privileges were obtained; and a trade was opened, which experience proved to be of little importance.
The rivalship between the East India Company and the other nations of Europe includes, for a considerable time, the principal incidents of the Company's history. The Portuguese, on the pretence of discovery, had long maintained an exclusive claim to the passage by the Cape of Good Hope: they had, partly by conquest, partly by agreement, made themselves masters of Goa, Bombay, and other places, on the Malabar coast; of Aden, at the entrance of the Red Sea; of Ormus, in the Persian Gulf; of part of the Malay coast, in the Straits of Malacca; of the Molucca islands; and of the coasts of Ceylon, the most valuable of all the eastern islands: they were possessed of factories in Bengal and in Siam; and they had erected the city of Macao on the coast of China.
book i.Chap. 2. 1618. The Dutch, while subject to the crown of Spain, had been accustomed to repair to Lisbon for the productions of the East; which, even at that early period, they were employed in distributing to the rest of Europe. When they broke the chains of their ancient masters, one of the means which Philip employed to distress them was, to deprive them of the commerce of his dominions. Prevented from obtaining Indian commodities by traffic with the subjects of Philip, they became ruinous competitors for the trade with India itself.
At the time when the Dutch commenced their voyages to the East, the crown of Spain was engaged in enterprises of so much importance, in other quarters, and so much engrossed with the contemplation of its splendid empire in the New World, that the acquisitions, in the East Indies, of the Portuguese, now become its subjects, were treated with comparative neglect. The Dutch, accordingly, who entered upon the trade to India with considerable resources and the utmost ardour, were enabled to supplant the Portuguese in the spice trade, and, after a struggle, to expel them from the Molucca islands. That celebrated people, now freed from the oppression of a bad government, were advancing in the career of prosperity with great and rapid strides. The augmentation of capital was rapid, in Holland, beyond what has often been witnessed in any other part of the globe. A proportional share of this capital naturally found its way into the channel of the India trade, and gave both extent and vigour to the enterprises of the nation in the East; while the English, whose country, oppressed by misgovernment, or scourged with civil war, afforded little capital to extend its trade, or means to afford it protection, found themselves unequal competitors, with a people so favourably situated book i.Chap. 2. 1618. as the Dutch.
During that age, the principles of public wealth were very imperfectly understood, and hardly any trade was regarded as profitable but that which was exclusive. The different nations which traded to India, all traded by way of monopoly; and the several exclusive companies treated every proposal for a participation in their traffic, as a proposal for their ruin. In the same spirit, every nation which obtained admittance into any newly explored channel of commerce endeavoured to exclude from it all participators, and considered its own profits as depending on the absence of all competition.
The Dutch, who were governed by the same prejudices as their contemporaries, and actuated, at least in that age, with rather more perhaps than the usual intensity of the appetite for gain, beheld, with great impatience, the attempts of the English to share with them in the spice trade. While contending for their independence against the power of Spain, and looking to England for support, they were constrained to practise moderation and forbearance; and during this time the English were enabled to form a connexion with Sumatra, to establish themselves at Bantam, and obtain a share in the traffic of pepper, which being a commodity so generally produced in the East, could not easily become the subject of monopoly. But before the English made efforts on any considerable scale to interfere with the trade of the further India, where the finer spices were produced, the power and confidence of the Dutch had greatly increased.
That people were more effectual opponents than the Portuguese, between whom and the English the interference was not so direct. The chief settlements book i.Chap. 2. 1618. of the Portuguese on the continent of India were on the Malabar coast, at a great distance from Surat, which was the principal seat of the English: it was in the Persian trade alone that much incompatibility of interest existed: and feeble, in India, as the English at that time were, it is remarkable that they were an overmatch at sea for the Portuguese; and hardly ever encountered them without a brilliant victory, or at least decided advantages. The case was different in regard to the Dutch: the pretensions of the English to the spice trade interfered with the very vitals of the Dutch commerce in the East; and the fleets which the prosperous enterprise of the new republic enabled it to maintain were so far superior to those which the restricted means of the English Company allowed them to send, that contention became altogether hopeless and vain.
It was not till the year 1617–18, that the hostility of the two nations displayed itself in operations of force; the Dutch, in those places where they had formed establishments, having in general been able, by intrigue and artifice, to defeat the attempts of their rivals. The English took possession of two small islands, called Polaroon and Rosengin, which were not formally occupied by the Dutch, but intimately connected with some of their possessions. The Dutch raised pretensions to them, and attacked the English. The English had, however, so well fortified themselves, that the Dutch found it impracticable at the first attempt to expel them; but they found the means, partly by force, and partly by artifice, to get possession of two English ships, on their voyage to these islands; carried them to a Dutch settlement, and refused to deliver them up, till every pretension to the Spice Islands was renounced.1
The proceedings of the Dutch, though regarded book i.Chap. 2. 1618. by the English as in the highest degree unjust and rapacious, were founded on pretensions, not inferior to those on which the English Company endeavoured to convert claims into rights; and on pretensions which it is clear, at any rate, that the Dutch themselves regarded as valid and equitable; since they presented them to the English monarch, as the ground of complaint against his subjects, and of a demand for his interference to prevent the recurrence of similar injuries. In a memorial to James, in 1618, the Dutch Company set forth, that, at their own cost and hazard, they had expelled the Portuguese from the Spice Islands, and had established a treaty with the natives, on the express condition of affording the natives protection against the Portuguese, and enjoying the exclusive advantage of their trade; that the agents of the English Company, however, had interfered with those well-established rights, and had not only endeavoured to trade with the natives, but to incite them against the Dutch.
To these complaints the English Company replied, by an enumeration of injuries, from the resistance, the intrigues, and violence of the Dutch, in places where no factories of theirs had ever existed. But they also enumerated among their grievances, the hostilities experienced at Tydore and Amboyna, places to which the pretensions of the Dutch applied in all their force.1 And if the ideas are admitted, which then prevailed, and on which the English as confidently grounded themselves as any other nation; ideas importing that, in newly-discovered countries, priority of occupancy constituted sovereignty, and that book i.Chap. 2. 1619. the will of the natives was to be counted for nothing; the English could not make out a right to the trade of the Moluccas; for though Polaroon and Rosengin might not, by actual occupancy, have accrued to the Dutch, they form part of a narrow and closely connected cluster of islands, of which the Dutch had seized the principal, and with the security of which the presence of the English in any of the rest could as little be reconciled, as the security of Great Britain could be reconciled with the dominion of Ireland by the French. With respect to Java, and the settlements at Bantam and Jacatra, the English had an equitable plea, of which they appear not to have availed themselves; they might have insisted on the consent of the Dutch, who had not resisted their early settlement on that island, now sanctioned by time.
After a tedious interchange of hostilities, in which intrigue and force were combined, (the practice of buying up the pepper, at prices higher than the English could afford, forming one of the principal subjects of English complaint), it was agreed between the two governments in Europe, at that time allies, to institute a mutual inquiry, and form an arrangement respecting the claims of their subjects in the East. Commissioners were appointed; and, after repeated conferences, a treaty was concluded at London, on the 17th July, 1619. It was stipulated, that there should be a mutual amnesty, and a mutual restitution of ships and property; that the pepper trade at Java should be equally divided; that the English should have a free trade at Pullicate on the Coromandel coast on paying half the expences of the garrison; and that of the trade of the Moluccas and Bandas they should enjoy one third, the Dutch two, paying the charges of the garrisons in the same proportion. Beside these conditions, which regarded book i.Chap. 2. 1619. their opposite pretensions, the treaty included arrangements for mutual profit and defence. Each Company was to furnish ten ships of war, which were not to be sent in the European voyages, but employed in India for mutual protection; and the two nations were to unite their efforts to reduce the duties and exactions of the native governments at the different ports. To superintend the execution of this treaty a council was appointed, to be composed of four members of each Company, called the Council of Defence. And the treaty was to be in force during twenty years.1
This solemn engagement is a proof, if there was not another, of the imperfection which still adhered to the art of legislation. The principal stipulations were so vague, and the execution of them dependent on so many unascertained circumstances, that the grounds of dispute and contention were rather multiplied than reduced. For these evils, as far as they were foreseen, the Council of Defence seems to have been devised, as the remedy. But experience taught here, what experience has uniformly taught, that in all vague arrangements the advantages are reaped by the strongest party. The voice of four Englishmen in the Council of Defence was but a feeble protection against the superior capital and fleets of the Dutch. The English, to secure their pretensions, should have maintained a naval and military force superior to that of their opponents. In that case, they would have been the oppressors; the Dutch would have been expelled from the spice trade; the spice trade would have rested with the English, who would have overlooked the continent of India, because their capital book i.Chap. 2. 1619. would not have sufficed to embrace it; the continent would have been left to the enterprise of other nations; and that brilliant empire, established by the English, would never, it is possible, have received a commencement.
In consequence of this treaty, by which the English were bound to send a fleet of ten ships to India, a larger fund was this year raised than had been provided for any preceding voyage: 62,490l. in the precious metals, and 28,508l. in goods, were exported with the fleet. The return was brought back in a single ship, and sold at 108,887l.1
In the interval between the time of concluding the treaty and the establishment of the Council of Defence at Jacatra, the Dutch had committed various acts of oppression on the English; and, when the council began its operations, the Dutch, after executing some of the least important conditions of the treaty, endeavoured to evade the rest. They consented to restore the ships taken from the English, but not the goods or stores taken by individuals; on the pretext, that the Company could not be responsible for any acts but their own; though, if the letters may be credited of the English factors at Jacatra, they exploded the same pretension when it was urged against themselves: They refused to admit the English to their share of the pepper trade, till indemnified for certain fortifications, and for the expences incurred by them at the siege of Bantam: They insisted that at Jacatra, and all other places where they had erected fortifications, they possessed the rights of sovereignty; and that the English could claim no permission to reside there except under the Dutch laws: They set forth the large expense they had incurred in fortifications on the Spice Islands; the maintenance of book i.Chap. 2. 1619. which they estimated at 60,000l. per annum; and of all this they required the English to advance their due proportion, before they could be admitted to the stipulated share of the trade. The English objected, that some of the fortifications were at places where no produce was obtained, and that none of them were useful but for defence against the Spaniards and Portuguese, with whom they were not at war. On the whole it may be remarked, that if there were fortifications at places where none were required, the English had a right to decline paying for the blunders of the Dutch; but as they claimed a share of the trade upon the foundation of the Dutch conquests, and would not have been admitted to it, without a war, had not those conquests taken place, it was a less valid plea, to say that they were not at war with the Spaniards and Portuguese. In framing the treaty, no distinction was made between past and future expenses. The English intended to bind themselves only for a share of the future: The Dutch availed themselves of the ambiguity to demand a share of the past: And in all these pretensions, they acted with so high a hand, that the English commissioners of the Council of Defence reported the impracticability of continuing the English trade, unless measures were taken in Europe to check the overbearing and oppressive proceedings of the Dutch.1
In the circle of which Surat was the centre, as the English were more of a match for their antagonists, they had a better prospect of success. In 1620, two of the Company's ships, which sailed from Surat to Persia, found the port of Jasques blockaded by a Portuguese fleet, consisting of five large and sixteen book i.Chap. 2. 1622. smaller vessels. Unable to cope with so disproportionate a force, they sailed back to Surat; where they were joined by two other ships. Returning with this re-inforcement, they attacked the Portuguese, and, after an indecisive action, entered the port. The Portuguese retired to Ormus, but, after refitting, came back for revenge. An obstinate conflict ensued, in which the English were victorious over a vast superiority of force. Such an event was calculated to produce a great impression on the minds of the Persians.
The English and Persians agreed to attack with joint forces the Portuguese on the island of Ormus, which that nation in the days of its prosperity had seized and fortified. The English furnished the naval, the Persians the military force; and the city and castle were taken on the 22d of April, 1622. For this service the English received part of the plunder of Ormus, and a grant of half the customs at the port of Gombroon; which became their principal station in the Persian gulf. The agents of the Company at Bantam, who were already vested with the superb title of President and Council, and with a sort of control over the other factories, condemned this enterprise; as depriving them of the ships and effects, so much required to balance the power, and restrain the injustice, of the Dutch.1
The domestic proceedings of the Company at this period were humble. In 1621–22, they were able to fit out only four ships, supplied with 12,900l. in gold and silver, and 6,253l. in goods; the following year, they sent five ships, 61,600l. in money, and 6,430l. in goods; in 1623–24, they equipped seven vessels, and furnished them with 68,720l. in money, and 17,340l. in goods. This last was a prosperous year to the domestic exchequer. Five ships arrived from book i.Chap. 2. 1622. India with cargoes, not of pepper only, but of all the finer spices, of which, notwithstanding the increasing complaints against the Dutch, the Company's agents had not been prevented from procuring an assortment. The sale of this part alone of the cargoes amounted to 485,593l.; that of the Persian raw silk to 97,000l.; while 80,000l. in pursuance of the treaty of 1619, was received as compensation money from the Dutch.1
Other feelings were the result of demands, by the King, and by the Duke of Buckingham, Lord High Admiral, of shares, to the one as droits of the crown, to the other as droits of the admiralty, of the prize money, gained by the various captures of the Company, particularly that of Ormus. The Company, who deemed it prudent to make little opposition to the claims of the King, objected, as having acted not under letters of marque from the Admiral but under their own charter, to those of the Duke of Buckingham. The question was referred to the Judge of the Admiralty court; witnesses were examined to ascertain the amount of the prize money, which was estimated at 100,000l. and 240,000 reals of eight. The Company urged the expense of their equipments, the losses they had sustained, the detriment to their mercantile concerns, by withdrawing their ships from commerce to war. All possible modes of solicitation to the King and the Admiral were employed; but the desire for their money was stronger than their interest. Buckingham, who knew they must lose their voyage, if the season for sailing was passed, made their ships be detained; and the Company, to escape this calamity, were glad of an accommodation. The Duke agreed to accept of 10,000l., which he book i.Chap. 2. 1623. received. A like sum was demanded for the King, but there is no direct evidence that it ever was paid.
The animosities, between the English and Dutch, were now approaching to a crisis in the islands. The English complained of oppression, and were so weak, as to find themselves at the mercy of their rivals. They represented that, in the execution of the joint articles of the treaty, they were charged with every item of expense, though their voice was entirely disregarded in the disposal of the money, in the employment of the naval and military force, and even in the management of the trade; that, instead of being admitted to their stipulated share of the spice commerce, they were almost entirely extruded from it; and that, under the pretext of a conspiracy, the Dutch had executed great numbers of the natives at Banda, and reduced Polaroon to a desert.1 At last arrived that event, which made a deep and lasting impression on the minds of Englishmen. In February, 1623, Captain Towerson and nine Englishmen, nine Japanese, and one Portuguese sailor, were seized at Amboyna, under the accusation of a conspiracy to surprise the garrison, and to expel the Dutch; and, being tried, were pronounced guilty, and executed. The accusation was treated by the English as a mere pretext, to cover a plan for their extermination. But the facts of an event, which roused extreme indignation in England, have never been exactly ascertained. The nation, whose passions were kindled, was more disposed to paint to itself a scene of atrocity, and to believe whatever could inflame its resentment, than to enter upon a rigid investigation of the case. If it be improbable, however, on the one hand, that the book i.Chap. 2. 1623. English, whose numbers were small, and by whom ultimately so little advantage could be gained, were really guilty of any such design as the Dutch imputed to them; it is on the other hand equally improbable that the Dutch, without believing them to be guilty, would have proceeded against them by the evidence of a judicial trial. Had simple extermination been their object, a more quiet and safe expedient presented itself; they had it in their power at any time to make the English disappear, and to lay the blame upon the natives. The probability is, that, from certain circumstances, which roused their suspicion and jealousy, the Dutch really believed in the conspiracy, and were hurried on, by their resentments and interests, to bring the helpless objects of their fury to a trial; that the judges before whom the trial was conducted, were in too heated a state of mind to see the innocence, or believe in any thing but the guilt, of the accused; and that in this manner the sufferers perished. Enough, assuredly, of what is hateful may be found in this transaction, without supposing the spirit of demons in beings of the same nature with ourselves, men reared in a similar state of society, under a similar system of education, and a similar religion. To bring men rashly to a trial whom a violent opposition of interests has led us to detest, rashly to believe them criminal, to decide against them with minds too much blinded by passion to discern the truth, and to put them to death without remorse, are acts of which our own nation, or any other, was then, and would still be, too ready to be guilty. Happy would it be, how trite soever the reflection, if nations, from the scenes which excite their indignation against others, would learn temper and forbearance in cases where they become the actors themselves! 2
book i.Chap. 2. 1623. One of the circumstances, the thought of which most strongly incited the passions of the English, was the application of the torture. This, however, under the Civil Law, was an established and regular part of a judicial inquiry. In all the kingdoms of continental Europe, and Holland among the rest, the torture was a common method of extorting evidence from supposed criminals, and would have been applied by the Dutch judges to their own countrymen. As both the Japanese, who were accused of being accessaries to the imputed crime, and the Englishmen themselves, made confession of guilt under the torture, this, however absurd and inhuman the law, constituted legal evidence in the code of the Dutch, as well as in the codes of all the other continental nations of Europe. By this, added to other articles of evidence which would have been insufficient without it, proof was held to be completed; and death, in all capital cases, authorized and required. This was an ancient and established law; and as there are scarcely any courses of oppression to which Englishmen cannot submit, and which they will not justify and applaud, provided only it has ancient and established law for its support, they ought, of all nations, to have been the most ready to find an excuse and apology for the Dutch.1 From the first moment of acting upon the treaty, the Dutch had laid it down, book i.Chap. 2. 1624. as a principle, that at all the places where they had erected fortifications, the English should be subject to the Dutch laws; and though the English had remonstrated, they had yet complied.
It was in vain, that the English President and Council at Java, on hearing of the massacre as they called it, remonstrated in terms of the utmost indignation, and even intimated their design of withdrawing from the island. In their representations to the Court of Directors at home, they declared, what might have been seen from the beginning, that it was book i.Chap. 2. 1624. impossible to trade on a combination of interests with the Dutch; and that, negotiation being fruitless, nothing but a force in the islands, equal to that of their rivals, could ensure to their countrymen a share of the trade.
When the news of the execution at Amboyna arrived in England, the people, whose minds had been already inflamed against the Dutch, by continual reports of injustice to their countrymen, were kindled into the most violent combustion. The Court of Directors exerted themselves to feed the popular fury. They had a hideous picture prepared, in which their countrymen were represented expiring upon the rack, with the most shocking expressions of horror and agony in their countenance and attitudes, and the most frightful instruments of torture applied to their bodies. The press teemed with publications, which enlarged upon the horrid scene at Amboyna; and to such a degree of rage were the populace excited, that the Dutch merchants in London became alarmed, and applied to the Privy Council for protection. They complained of the inflammatory publications; more particularly of the picture, which, being exposed to the people, had contributed to work them up to the most desperate resolutions. The Directors, when called before the Privy Council to answer these complaints, denied that they had any concern with the publications, but acknowledged that the picture was produced by their order, and was intended to be preserved in their house as a perpetual memorial of the cruelty and treachery of the Dutch. The Directors were aware that the popular tide had reached the table of the council room, and that they had nothing to apprehend from confessing how far they had been instrumental in raising the waters.1
Application was made to the King, to obtain signal book i.Chap. 2. 1624. reparation from the Dutch government, for so great a national insult and calamity. The whole nationl was too violently agitated to leave any suspicion that the application could be neglected. A commission of inquiry was formed of the King's principal servants, who reported, in terms confirming the general belief and indignation; and recommended an order, which was immediately issued, for intercepting and detaining the Dutch East India fleats, till satisfaction was obtained. With great gravity the Dutch government returned for answer; that they would send orders to their Governor General in the Indies to permit the English to retire from the Dutch settlements without paying any duties; that all disputes might be referred to the Council of Defence; that the English might build forts for the protection of their trade, provided they were at the distance of thirty miles from any fort of the Dutch; that the “administration, however, of politic government, and particular jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, at all such places as owe acknowledgement to the Dutch,” should remain wholly in their hands; and that to the Dutch belonged the exclusive right to the Moluccas, Bandas, and Amboyna.1
This was an undisguised assumption of all the rights for which their subjects were contending in India. It is remarkable enough that the English East India Company, who were highly dissatisfied with the other parts of this answer, declared their acceptance of the first article, which permitted their servants to retire from the Dutch settlements. And here, for the present, the matter rested.
In 1624, the Company applied, by petition, to the book i.Chap. 2. 1625. King, for authority to punish their servants abroad, by martial, as well as municipal law. It appears not that any difficulty was experienced in obtaining their request; or that any parliamentary proceeding, for transferring unlimited power over the lives and fortunes of the citizens, was deemed even a necessary ceremony. This ought to be regarded as an era in the history of the Company.1
In the year 1624–5, the Company's voyage to India consisted of five ships; but of the amount of the capital with which they were supplied, no account, it should seem, remains. In 1625–26, it consisted of six ships: and in 1626–27, of seven; farther information wanting as before.2 In the last of these years, we gain the knowledge, collaterally, of one of those important facts, in the Company's history, which it has been their sedulous care to preserve concealed, except when some interest, as now, was to be served by the disclosure. Sir Robert Shirley, who had been ambassador at the court of Persia, made application to the King and Council to order the East India Company to pay him 2000l. as a compensation for his exertions and services in procuring them a trade with Persia. The Company, beside denying the pretended services, urged their inability to pay; stating that they had been obliged to contract so large a debt as 200,000l.; and that their stock had fallen to 20 per cent. discount, shares of 100l. selling for no more than 80l.3
The Company's Persian trade was not prosperous, under the caprice and extortions of the Persian magistrates. At Java their agents, tired out with the mortifications and disasters to which they were exposed from the Dutch, retired to the island of Lagundy, book i.Chap. 2. 1627. in the Straits of Sunda; having abandoned both Bantam and Jacatra, at which the Dutch, under the name of Batavia, had now established their principal seat of government. The island of Lagundy was found to be so unhealthy, that, in less than a year, the imprudent English were anxious to return. Their distress was so great, that out of 250 individuals 120 were sick; and they had not a crew sufficient to navigate a ship to any of the English factories. In these circumstances the Dutch lent them assistance, and brought them back to Batavia.1 On the coast of Coromandel some feeble efforts were continued. The Company had established factories at Masulipatam and Pullicat; but the rivalship of the Dutch pursued and obliged them to relinquish Pullicat. In 1624–5, they projected an establishment in the kingdom of Tanjore, but were opposed by a new rival, the Danes. At Armegum, however, situated a little to the south of Nellore, they purchased, in the succeeding year, a piece of ground from the chief of the district; erected and fortified a factory; and, suffering oppression from the native government at Masulipatam, they withdrew the factory in 1628, and transferred it to Armegum.2
Shortly after the first application to James on account of the injury at Amboyna, that monarch died. In 1627–8, the application was renewed to Charles; and three large Dutch Indiamen from Surat, which put into Portsmouth, were detained. The Company, watching the decline of the royal authority, and the growing power of the House of Commons, were not satisfied with addressing the King, but in the year following presented, for the book i.Chap. 2. 1628. first time, a memorial to the Commons. They represented that, by their failure in the spice trade, and the difficulties they experienced in opening a trade for wove goods on the coast of Coromandel, they were nearly driven from all their factories; and assigned as causes, partly the opposition of the native powers, but chiefly the hostility of the Dutch. The narrowness of their own funds, and their unskilful management, by the negligent Directors of a jointstock, far more powerful causes, they overlooked or suppressed. They set forth, however, the merits of the Company, as towards the nation, in terms repeated to the present day: they employed many seamen: they exported much goods; as if the capital they employed would have remained idle; as if it would not have maintained seamen, and exported goods, had the East India Company, or East India traffic, never existed.1
The detention of the ships, and the zeal with which the injury seemed now to be taken up in England, produced explanation and remonstrance on the part of the Dutch: They had appointed judges to take cognizance of the proceedings at Amboyna, even before the parties had returned from Europe: Delay had arisen, from the situation of the judges on whom other services devolved, and from the time required to translate documents written in a foreign tongue: The detention of the ships, the property of private individuals altogether unconcerned with the transaction, might bring unmerited ruin on them, but could not accelerate the proceedings of the judges; on the other hand, by creating national indignation, it would only tend to unfit them for a sober and impartial inquiry: And were the dispute allowed, unfortunately, book i.Chap. 2. 1628. to issue in war, however the English in Europe might detain the fleets of the Dutch, the English Company must suffer in India far greater evils than those of which they were now seeking the redress. At last, on a proposal that the States should send to England commissioners of inquiry, and a promise that justice should be speedily rendered, the ships were released. It was afterwards recommended by the ministry, that the East India Company should send over witnesses to Holland to afford evidence before the Dutch tribunal; but to this the Company objected, and satisfaction was still deferred.1
In 1627–28, the Company provided only two ships and a pinnace for the outward voyage. They deemed it necessary to assign reasons for this diminution; dreading the inferences which might be drawn: They had many ships in India which, from the obstructions of the Dutch, and the state of their funds, had been unable to return: Though the number of ships was small; the stock would be large, 60,000l. or 70,000l. in money and goods: And they hoped to bring home all their ships richly laden the following year. In 1628–29, five ships went out; two for the trade with India, and three for that with Persia; and though no account is preserved of the stock with which they were supplied, a petition to the King remains for leave to export 60,000l. in gold and silver in the ships destined to Persia. In the succeeding year four ships were sent to Persia, and none to India. Of the stock which they carried with them no account is preserved.2
As the sums in gold and silver, which the Company had for several years found it necessary to export, book i.Chap. 2. 1629. exceeded the limits to which they were confined by the terms of their charter, they had proceeded annually upon a petition to the King, and a special permission. It was now, however, deemed advisable to apply for a general license, so large, as would comprehend the greatest amount which on any occasion it would be necessary to send. The sum for which they solicited this permission was 80,000l. in silver, and 40,000l. in gold; and they recommended, as the best mode of authenticating the privilege, that it should be incorporated in a fresh renewal of their charter; which was accordingly obtained.1
Notwithstanding the terms on which the English stood with the Dutch, they were allowed to reestablish their factory at Bantam after the failure of the attempt at Lagundy: a war, in which the Dutch were involved with some of the native princes of the island, lessened, perhaps, their disposition, or their power, to oppose their European rivals. As Bantam was now a station of inferior importance to Surat, the government of Bantam was reduced to an agency, dependent upon the Presidency of Surat, which became the chief seat of the Company's government in India. Among the complaints against the Dutch, one of the heaviest was, that they sold European goods cheaper, and bought Indian goods dearer, at Surat, than the English; who were thus expelled from the market. This was to complain of competition, the soul of trade. If the Dutch sold so cheap and bought so dear, as to be losers, all that was necessary was a little patience on the part of the English. The fact was, that the Dutch, trading on a larger capital, and with more economy, were perfectly able to outbid the English both in purchase and sale.
The English at Surat had to sustain at this time book i.Chap. 2. 1630. not only the commercial rivalship of the Dutch, but also a powerful effort of the Portuguese to regain their influence in that part of the East. The Viceroy at Goa had in April, 1630, received a reinforcement from Europe of nine ships and 2000 soldiers, and projected the recovery of Ormus. Some negotiation to obtain the exclusive trade of Surat was tried in vain with the Mogul Governor; and in September, an English fleet of five ships endeavouring to enter the port of Swally, a sharp, though not a decisive action, was fought. The English had the advantage; and, after sustaining several subsequent skirmishes, and one great effort to destroy their fleet by fire, succeeded in landing their cargoes.1
[1.]Bruce, i. 165.
[1.]Bruce, i. 166.
[1.]Bruce, i. 171, &c. Sir Thomas Roe's Journal and Letters. Churchill, i. 770–809.
[1.]Churchill, i. 106–108. He gives another account of his endeavours to injure the Dutch, in the following words:— “The 10th, 11th, and 12th, I spent in giving the king and prince advice that a Dutch ship lay before Surat, and would not declare upon what design it came, till a fleet arrived; which was expected with the first fit season. This I improved to fill their heads with jealousies of the designs of the Dutch, and the dangers that might ensue from them; which was well taken: and, being demanded, I gave my advice to prevent coming to a rupture with them, and yet exclude them the trade of India.” Ib. 774.
[2.]Bruce, i. 174, 178.
[1.]Bruce, i. 188.
[1.]Sir Jeremy Sambrooke's Report on East India Trade (MS. in East India Register Office) quoted by Bruce, i. 193.
[1.]Bruce, i. 199.
[1.]Memorial of the Dutch East India Company to King James, and Reply of the London East India Company thereto, in the year 1616, (East India Papers in the State Paper Office) quoted, Bruce, i. 202.
[1.]Rymer's Fœdera, xvii. 170. Bruce, i. 212.
[1.]Bruce, i. 213.
[1.]Bruce, i. 223.
[1.]Bruce i. 237, 238.
[1.]Accounts in the Indian Register Office. Bruce, i. 225, 234, 241.
[1.]The Dutch, in their vindication, stated that the English intrigued with the Portuguese, and underhand assisted the natives in receiving the Portuguese into the islands. See Anderson's History of Commerce, in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 305.
East India Papers in the State Paper Office. Bruce, i. 241.
[1.]The English had not been so long strangers to the torture themselves, that it needed to excite in their breasts any emotions of astonishment. “The rack itself,” says Hume in his History of Elizabeth, v. 457, “though not admitted in the ordinary execution of justice, was frequently used upon any suspicion, by authority of a warrant from a secretary or the Privy Council. Even the Council in the Marches of Wales were empowered, by their very commission, to make use of torture whenever they thought proper. There cannot be a stronger proof how lightly the rack was employed, than the following story; told by Lord Bacon. We shall give it in his own words: ‘The Queen was mightily incensed against Haywarde, on account of a book he dedicated to Lord Essex, thinking it a seditious prelude to put into the people's head holdness and faction: [to our apprehension, says Hume, Haywarde's book seems rather to have a contrary tendency; but Queen Elizabeth was very difficult to please on that head.] She said, she had an opinion that there was treason in it, and asked me if I could not find any places in it, that might be drawn within the case of treason?. .....Another time when the Queen could not be persuaded that it was his writing whose name was to it, but that it had some more mischievous author, she said, with great indignation, that she would have him racked to produce his author.’ ...Thus, continues Hume, “had it not been for Bacon's humanity, or rather his wit, this author, a man of letters, had been put to the rack for a most innocent performance.”—The truth is, that the Company themselves, at this very time, were in the regular habit of perpetrating tortures upon their own countrymen, and even their own servants—of torturing to death by whips or famine. Captain Hamilton (New Account of the East Indies, i. 362,) informs us, that before they were intrusted with the powers of martial law, having no power to punish capitally any but pirates, they made it a rule to whip to death, or starve to death, those of whom they wished to get rid. He produces (Ib. 376) an instance of a deserter at Fort St. George, “whipt,” as he expresses it, “out of this world into the next.” The power too, of executing as for piracy, the same author complains, was made use of to murder many private traders. “That power (he says, Ib. 362.) of executing pirates is so strangely stretched, that if any private trader is injured by the tricks of a Governor, and can find no redress—if the injured person is so hold as to talk of lex talioni, he is infallibly declared a pirate.” He gives an account of an attempt of an agent of the Company, and a creature of the Governor of Fort St. George, to swear away his life by perjury at Siam. (lb. ii. 183.)—These parallels are presented, not for the sake of clearing the one party at the expence of the other; but, by showing things as they were, to give the world at last possession of the real state of the case.
[1.]East India Papers in the State Paper Office. Bruce, i. 256.
[1.]Bruce, i. 258.
[1.]Bruce, i. 252.
[2.]Ib. 252, 265, 271.
[3.]East India Papers in the State Paper Office. Bruce, i. 272.
[1.]Bruce, i. 262, 264, 268.
[2.]Bruce, i. 264, 269, 290.
[1.]Bruce, i. 276, 277, 282. Anderson in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 351.
[1.]Bruce, i. 285, 287.
[2.]Ib. i. 278, 293.
[1.]Bruce, i. 296, 304, 300, 302.