Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. I. - The History of British India, vol. 3
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CHAP. I. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 3 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 3.
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The Constitution of the East India Company, its practical Arrangements for the Conduct of Business, and Transactions till the Conclusion of the War with France by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
When the competitors for Indian commerce werebook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. united into one corporate body, and the privilege of exclusive trade was founded on legislative authority, the business of the East India Company became regular and uniform. Their capital, composed of the shares of the subscribers, was a fixed and definite sum: Of the modes of dealing, adapted to the nature of the business, little information remained to be acquired: Their proceedings were reduced to an book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. established routine, or a series of operations periodically recurring: A general description, therefore, of the plan upon which the Company conducted themselves, and a statement of its principal results, appear to comprehend every thing which falls within the design of a history of that commercial body, during a period of several years.
When a number of individuals unite themselves in any common interest, reason suggests, that they themselves should manage as much as it is convenient for them to manage; and that they should make choice of persons to execute for them such parts of the business as cannot be conveniently transacted by themselves.
It was upon this principle, that the adventurers in the trade to India originally framed the constitution of their Company. They met in assemblies, which were called Courts of Proprietors, and transacted certain parts of the common business: And they chose a certain number of persons belonging to their own body, and who were called Committees,1 to manage for them other parts of the business, which they could not so well perform themselves. The whole of the managing business, therefore, or the whole of the government, was in the hands of,
1st. The Proprietors, assembled in general court;
2dly. The Committees, called afterwards the Directors, assembled in their special courts.
At the time of the award of the Earl of Godolphin, power was distributed between these assemblies according to the following plan:
To have a vote in the Court of Proprietors, that is, any share in its power, it was necessary to be the owner of 500l. of the Company’s stock: and no additionalbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. share, contrary to a more early regulation, gave any advantage, or more to any proprietor than a single vote.
The directors were twenty-four in number: No person was competent to be chosen as a Director who possessed less than 2,000l. of the Company’s stock: And of these directors, one was Chairman, and another Deputy-Chairman, presiding in the Courts.
The Directors were chosen annually by the Proprietors in their General Court; and no Director could serve for more than a year, except by reelection.
Four Courts of Proprietors, or General Courts, were held regularly in each year, in the month of December, March, June, and September, respectively; the Directors might summon Courts at other times, as often as they saw cause, and were bound to summon Courts within ten days, upon a requisition signed by any nine of the Proprietors, qualified to vote.
The Courts of Directors, of whom thirteen were requisite to constitute a Court, were held by appointment of the Directors themselves, as often, and at such times and places, as they might deem expedient for the dispatch of affairs.1
According to this constitution, the supreme power was vested in the Court of Proprietors. In the first place they held the legislative power entire: All laws and regulations, all determinations of dividend, all grants of money, were made by the Court of Proprietors. To act under their ordinances, and manage the business of routine, was the department reserved for the Court of Directors. In the second place, the supreme power was secured to the Court of Proprietors, book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. by the important power of displacing, annually, the persons whom they chose to act in their behalf.
In this constitution, if the Court of Proprietors be regarded as representing the general body of the people, the Court of Directors as representing an aristocratical senate, and the Chairman as representing the sovereign, we have an image of the British constitution; a system in which the forms of the different species of government, the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical, are mixed and combined.
In the constitution however of the East India Company, the power allotted to the democratical part was so great, that a small portion may seem to have been reserved to the other two. Not only were the sovereignty, and the aristocracy, both elective, but they were elected from year to year; that is, were in a state of complete dependence upon the democratical part. This was not all: no decrees, but those of the democracy, were binding, at least in the last resort; the aristocracy, therefore, and monarchy, were subordinate, and subject. Under the common impression of democratic ambition, irregularity, and violence, it might be concluded, that the democratic assembly would grasp at the whole of the power; would constrain and disturb the proceedings of the Chairmen and Directors; would deliberate with violence and animosity; and exhibit all the confusion, precipitation, and imprudence, which are so commonly ascribed to the exercise of popular power.
The actual result is extremely different from what the common modes of reasoning incite common minds to infer. Notwithstanding the power which, by the theory of the constitution, was thus reserved to the popular part of the system, all power has centered in the court of directors; and the government of the Company has been an oligarchy, in fact. So far frombook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. meddling too much, the Court of Proprietors have not attended to the common affairs even sufficiently for the business of inspection: And the known principles of human nature abundantly secured that unfortunate result. To watch, to scrutinize, to inquire, is labour, and labour is pain. To confide, to take for granted that all is well, is easy, is exempt from labour, and, to the great mass of mankind, comparatively delightful. On all ordinary occasions, on all occasions which present not a powerful motive to action, the great mass of mankind are sure to be led by the soft and agreeable feeling. And if they who act have only sufficient prudence to avoid those occurrences which are calculated to rouse the people on account of whom they act, the people will allow them abundant scope to manage the common concerns in a way conformable to their own liking and advantage. It is thus that all constitutions, however democratically formed, have a tendency to become oligarchical in practice. By the numerous body who constitute the democracy, the objects of ambition are beheld at so great a distance, and the competition for them is shared with so great a number, that in general they make but a feeble impression upon their minds: The small number, on the other hand, entrusted with the management, feel so immediately the advantages, and their affections are so powerfully engaged by the presence, of their object, that they easily concentrate their views, and point their energies with perfect constancy in the selfish direction. The apathy and inattention of the people, on the one hand, and the interested activity of the rulers on the other, are two powers, the action of which may always be counted upon; nor has the art of government as yet exemplified, however the science may or may not have discovered, book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. any certain means by which the unhappy effects of that action may be prevented.1
For conducting the affairs of the Company, the Directors divided themselves into parties called Committees; and the business into as many separate shares.2
The first was the Committee of Correspondence, of which the business was more confidential, as well as extensive, than that of any of the rest. Its duties were, to study the advices from India, and to prepare answers for the inspection of the Court of Directors: To report upon the number of ships expedient for the trade of the season, and the stations proper for each: To report upon the number of servants, civil and military, in the different stations abroad; on the demand for alterations, and the applications made for leave of absence, or leave to return: All complaints of grievances, and all pecuniary demands on the Company, were decided upon in the first instance by this Committee, which nominated to all places, in the treasury, and in the secretary’s, examiner’s, and auditor’s offices. It performed, in fact, the prime and governing business of the Company: The rest was secondary and subordinate.
The next Committee was that of Law-suits; of which the business was to deliberate and direct in allbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. cases of litigation; and to examine the bills of law charges. It is not a little remarkable that there should be work of this description sufficient to engross the time of a committee.
The third was the Committee of Treasury. Its business was, to provide, agreeably to the orders of the Court, for the payment of dividends and interest on bonds; to negociate the Company’s loans; to purchase gold and silver for exportation: to affix the Company’s seal to bonds and other deeds; to examine monthly, or oftener, the balance of cash; and to decide, in the first instance, on applications respecting the loss of bonds, on pecuniary questions in general, and the delivery of unregistered diamonds and bullion.
The Committee of Warehouses was the fourth. The business of importation was the principal part of its charge. It framed the orders for the species of goods of which the investment or importation was intended to consist: It had the superintendance of the servants employed in the inspection of the purchases; determined upon the modes of shipping and conveyance; superintended the landing and warehousing of the goods; arranged the order of sales; and deliberated generally upon the means of promoting and improving the trade.
The fifth was the Committee of Accounts; of whose duties the principal were, to examine bills of exchange, and money certificates; to compare advices with bills; to examine the estimates, and accounts of cash and stock; and to superintend the office of the accountant, and the office of transfer, in which are effected the transfers of the Company’s stock and annuities, and in which the foreign letters of attorney for that purpose are examined.
book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. A committee, called the Committee of Buying, was the sixth. Its business was, to superintend the purchase and preparation of the standard articles of export, of which lead and woollens constituted the chief; to contract with the dyers and other tradesmen; to audit their accounts, and keep charge of the goods till deposited in the ships for exportation.
The Committee of the House was the seventh, and its business was mostly of an inferior and ministerial nature. The alterations and repairs of the buildings, regulations for the attendance of the several officers and clerks, the appointment of the inferior servants of the House, and the control of the secretary’s accounts for domestic disbursements, were included in its province.
The eighth Committee, that of Shipping, had the charge of purchasing stores, and all other articles of export, except the grand articles appropriated to the Committee of Buying; the business of hiring ships, and of ascertaining the qualifications of their commanders and officers; of distributing the outward cargoes; of fixing seamen’s wages; of issuing orders for building, repairing, and fitting out the ships, packets, &c. of which the Company were proprietors; and of regulating and determining the tonnage allowed for private trade, to the commanders and officers of the Company’s ships.
The ninth was the Committee of Private Trade; and its occupation was to adjust the accounts of freight, and other charges, payable on the goods exported for private account, in the chartered ships of the Company; to regulate the indulgences to private trade homeward; and, by examining the commanders of ships, and other inquiries, to ascertain how far the regulations of the Company had been violated or obeyed.
The tenth Committee was of a characteristic description.book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. It was the Committee for preventing the growth of Private Trade. Its business was to take cognizance of all instances in which the licence, granted by the Company for private trade, was exceeded; to decide upon the controversies to which the encroachments of the private traders gave birth; and to make application of the penalties which were provided for transgression. So closely, however, did the provinces of this and the preceding Committee border upon one another; and so little, in truth, were their boundaries defined, that the business of the one was not unfrequently transferred to the other.
Other transactions respecting the employment of troops and the government of territory, required additions to the system of Committees, when the Company afterwards became conquerors and rulers. But of these it will be time to speak when the events arrive which produced them.
The Chairmen, as the name imports, preside in the Courts, whether of Directors or Proprietors; they are the organs of official communication between the Company and other parties, and are by office members of all the Committees.
The articles in which the export branch of the Indian trade has all along consisted are bullion, lead, quicksilver, woollen cloths, and hardware, of which the proportions have varied at various times.
The official value of all the exports to India for the year 1708, the year in which the union of the two Companies was completed, exceeded not 60,915l. The following year it rose to 168,357l. But from this it descended gradually till, in the year 1715, it amounted to no more than 36,997l. It made a start, however, in the following year; and the medium exportation for the first twenty years, subsequent to book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. 1708, was 92,288l. per annum.1 The average annual exportation of bullion during the same years was 442,350l.
The articles of which the import trade of the East India Company chiefly consisted, were calicoes and the other woven manufactures of India; raw silk, diamonds, tea, porcelain, pepper, drugs, and saltpetre. The official value of their imports in 1708 was 493,257l.; and their annual average importation for this and the nineteen following years was 758,042l. At that period the official value assigned to goods at the Custom House differed not greatly from the real value; and the statements which have been made by the East India Company of the actual value of their exports and imports for some of those years, though not according with the Custom House accounts from year to year, probably from their being made up to different periods in the year, yet on a sum of several years pretty nearly coincide.2 The business of sale is transacted by the East India Company in the way of auction. On stated days, the goods, according to the discretion of the Directors, are put up to sale at the India House; and transferred to the highest bidder.
At first the Company built and owned the ships employed in their trade. But in the progress and sub-division of commerce, ship-owning became a distinct branch of business; and the company preferred the hiring of ships, called chartering. It was in hired or chartered ships, accordingly, that from this time the trade of the Company was chiefly conveyed; and a few swift-sailing vessels, called packets, more forbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. the purpose of intelligence than of freight, formed, with some occasional exceptions, the only article of shipping which they properly called their own. This regulation set free a considerable portion of the funds or resources of the Company, for direct traffic, or the simple transactions of buying and selling.1
That part of the business of the Company which was situated in India, was distinguished by several features which the peculiar circumstances of the country forced it to assume. The sale indeed of the commodities imported from Europe, they transacted in the simplest and easiest of all possible ways; namely, by auction, the mode in which they disposed of Indian goods in England. At the beginning of this trade, the English, as well as other European adventurers, used to carry their commodities to the interior towns and markets, transporting them in the hackeries of the country, and established factories or warehouses, where the goods were exposed to sale. During the confusion, however, which prevailed, while the empire of the Moguls was in the progress of dissolution, the security which had formerly existed, imperfect as it was, became greatly impaired: and, shortly after the union of the two Companies, a rule was adopted, not to permit any of the persons in the Company’s service, or under their jurisdiction, to remove far into the inland country, without leave obtained from the Governor and Council of the place to which they belonged. According to this plan, the care of distributing the goods into the country, and of introducing them to the consumers, was left to the native and other independent dealers.
For the purchase, collection, and custody of the book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. goods, which constituted the freight to England, a complicated system of operations was required. As the state of the country was too low in respect of civilization and of wealth, to possess manufacturers and merchants, on a large scale, capable of executing extensive orders, and delivering the goods contracted for on pre-appointed days, the Company were under the necessity of employing their own agents to collect throughout the country, in such quantities as presented themselves, the different articles of which the cargoes to Europe were composed. Places of reception were required, in which the goods might be collected, and ready upon the arrival of the ships, that the expense of demurrage might be reduced to its lowest terms. Warehouses were built; and these, with the counting-houses, and other apartments for the agents and business of the place, constituted what were called the factories of the Company. Under the disorderly and inefficient system of government which prevailed in India, deposits of property were always exposed, either to the rapacity of the government, or under the weakness of the government to the hands of depredators. It was always therefore an object of importance to build the factories strong, and to keep their inmates armed and disciplined for self-defence, as perfectly as circumstances would admit. At an early period the Company even fortified those stations of their trade, and maintained professional troops, as often as the negligence permitted, or the assent could be obtained, of the Kings and Governors of the countries in which they were placed.
Of the commodities collected for the European market, that part, the acquisition of which was attended with the greatest variety of operations, was the produce of the loom. The weavers, like the other laborious classes of India, are in the lowest stage of poverty, being always reduced to the bare means ofbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. the most scanty subsistence. They must at all times, therefore, be furnished with the materials of their work, or the means of purchasing them; and with subsistence while the piece is under their hands. To transact in this manner with each particular weaver, to watch him that he may not sell the fabric which his employer has enabled him to produce, and to provide a large supply, is a work of infinite detail, and gives employment to a multitude of agents. The European functionary, who, in each district, is the head of as much business as it is supposed that he can superintend, has first his banyan, or native secretary, through whom the whole of the business is conducted: The banyan hires a species of broker, called a gomastah, at so much a month: The gomastah repairs to the aurung, or manufacturing town, which is assigned as his station; and there fixes upon a habitation, which he calls his cutchery: He is provided with a sufficient number of peons, a sort of armed servants; and hircarahs, messengers or letter carriers, by his employer: These he immediately dispatches about the place, to summon to him the dallâls, pycârs and weavers: The dallâls and pycârs are two sets of brokers; of whom the pycârs are the lowest, transacting the business of detail with the weavers; the dallâls again transact with the pycârs; the gomastah transacts with the dallâls, the banyan with the gomastah, and the Company’s European servant with the banyan. The Company’s servant is thus five removes from the workman; and it may easily be supposed that much collusion and trick, that much of fraud towards the Company, and much of oppression towards the weaver, is the consequence of the obscurity which so much complication implies.1 Besides book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. his banyan, there is attached to the European agent a mohurree, or clerk, and a cash-keeper, with a sufficient allowance of peons and hircarahs. Along with the gomastah is dispatched in the first instance as much money as suffices for the first advance to the weaver, that is, suffices to purchase the materials, and to afford him subsistence during part at least of the time in which he is engaged with the work. The cloth, when made, is collected in a warehouse, adapted for the purpose, and called a kattah. Each piece is marked with the weaver’s name; and when the whole is finished, or when it is convenient for the gomastah, he holds a kattah, as the business is called, when each piece is examined, the price fixed, and the money due upon it paid to the weaver. This last is the stage at which chiefly the injustice to the workman is said to take place; as he is then obliged to content himself with fifteen or twenty, and often thirty or forty per cent. less than his work would fetch in the market. This is a species of traffic which could not exist but where the rulers of the country were favourable to the dealer; as every thing, however, which increased the productive powers of the labourers added directly in India to the income of the rulers, their protection was but seldom denied.
The business of India was at this time under the government of three Presidencies, one at Bombay, another at Madras, and a third at Calcutta, of which the last had been created so lately as the year 1707,book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. the business at Calcutta having, till that time, been conducted under the government of the Presidency of Madras. These Presidencies had as yet no dependance upon one another; each was absolute within its own limits, and responsible only to the Company in England. A Presidency was composed of a President or Governor, and a Council; both appointed by commission of the Company. The council was not any fixed number, but determined by the views of the Directors; being sometimes nine, and sometimes twelve, according to the presumed importance or extent of the business to be performed. The Members of the Council were the superior servants in the civil or non-military class, promoted according to the rule of seniority, unless where directions from home prescribed aberration. All power was lodged in the President and Council jointly; nor could any thing be transacted, except by a majority of votes. When any man became a ruler, he was not however debarred from subordinate functions; and the members of council, by natural consequence, distributed all the most lucrative offices among themselves. Of the offices which any man held, that which was the chief source of his gain failed not to be the chief object of his attention; and the business of the Council, the duties of governing, did not, in general, engross the greatest part of the study and care of a Member of Council. It seldom, if ever, happened, that less or more of the Members of Council were not appointed as chiefs of the more important factories under the Presidency, and, by their absence, were not disqualified for assisting in the deliberations of the governing body. The irresistible motive, thus afforded to the persons entrusted with the government, to neglect the business of government, occupied a high rank among book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. the causes to which the defects at that time in the management of the Company’s affairs in India may, doubtless, be ascribed. Notwithstanding the equality assigned to the votes of all the Members of the Council, the influence of the President was commonly sufficient to make the decisions agreeable to his inclination. The appointment of the Members to the gainful offices after which they aspired, was in a considerable degree subject to his determination; while he had it in his power to make the situation even of a member of the Council so uneasy to him, that his continuance in the service ceased to be an object of desire. Under the notion of supporting authority, the Company always lent an unwilling ear to complaints brought by a subordinate against his superior; and in the case of councilmen, disposed to complain, it seldom happened, that of the transactions in which they themselves had been concerned, a portion was not unfit to be revealed.
The powers exercised by the Governor or President and Council, were, in the first place, those of masters in regard to servants over all the persons who were in the employment of the Company; and as the Company were the sole master, without fellow or competitor, and those under them had adopted their service as the business of their lives, the power of the master, in reality, and in the majority of cases, extended to almost every thing valuable to man. With regard to such of their countrymen, as were not in their service, the Company were armed with powers to seize them, to keep them in confinement, and send them to England, an extent of authority which amounted to confiscation of goods, to imprisonment, and what to a European constitution is the natural effect of any long confinement under an Indian climate, actual death. At an early period of the Company’s history, it had been deemed necessary to intrust them with thebook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. powers of martial law, for the government of the troops which they maintained in defence of their factories and presidencies; and by a charter of Charles II., granted them in 1661, the Presidents and Councils in their factories were empowered to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction according to the laws of England. Under this sanction they had exercised judicial powers, during all the changes which their affairs had undergone; but at last it appeared desirable that so important an article of their authority should rest on a better foundation. In the year 1726 a charter was granted, by which the Company were permitted to establish a Mayor’s Court at each of their three presidencies, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta; consisting of a mayor and nine aldermen, empowered to decide in civil cases of all descriptions. From this jurisdiction, the President and Council were erected into a Court of Appeal. They were also vested with the power of holding Courts of Quarter Sessions for the exercise of penal judicature, in all cases, excepting those of high treason. And a Court of Requests, or Court of Conscience, was instituted, for the decision, by summary procedure, of pecuniary questions of inconsiderable amount.
This reform in the judicature of India was not attended with all the beneficial effects which were probably expected from it. Negligence was left to corrupt the business of detail. The charter is said to have been procured by the influence of an individual, for the extension of his own authority; and when his ends were gained, his solicitude expired. The persons appointed to fill the judicial offices were the servants of the Company, bred to commerce, and nursed in its details: while a manuscript book of instructions comprised the whole of the assistance which the wisdom book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. of the King and the Company provided to guide uninstructed men in the administration of justice.
Nor was the obscurity of the English law, and the inexperience of the judges, the only source of the many evils which the new arrangements continued, or produced. Jealousy arose between the Councils, and the Mayor’s Courts. The Councils complained that the Courts encroached upon their authority; and the Courts complained that they were oppressed by the Councils. The most violent dissensions often prevailed; and many of the members of the Mayor’s Courts quitted the service, and went home with their animosities and complaints.
Besides the above-mentioned tribunals established by the Company for the administration of the British laws to the British people in India, they erected, in the capacity of Zemindar of the district around Calcutta, the usual Zemindary Courts, for the administration of the Indian laws to the Indian people. The Phousdary Court for the trial of crimes; and the Cutcherry for civil causes; besides the Collector’s Court for matters of revenue. The judges, in these tribunals, were servants of the Company, appointed by the Governor and Council, and holding their offices during pleasure; the rule of judgment was the supposed usage of the country, and the discretion of the court; and the mode of procedure was summary. Punishments extended to fine; imprisonment; labour upon the roads in chains for a limited time, or for life; and flagellation, either to a limited degree, or death. The ideas of honour, prevalent among the natives, induced the Mogul government to forbid the European mode of capital punishment, by hanging, in the case of a Mussulman. In compensation, however, it had no objection to his being whipped to death; and the flagellants in India are said to be so dexterous, as to kill a man with a few strokes of thebook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. chawbuck.1
The executive and judicial functions were combined in the Councils, at the Indian presidencies; the powers even of justices of the peace being granted to the Members of Council, and to them alone. If complaints were not wanting of the oppression by these authorities upon their fellow-servants; it is abundantly evident that the Company were judge in their own cause in all cases in which the dispute existed between them and any other party.
The President was Commander-in-Chief of the Military Force maintained within his presidency. It consisted, partly of the recruits sent out in the ships of the Company; partly of deserters from the other European nations settled in India, French, Dutch, and Portuguese; and partly, at least at Bombay and Surat, of Topasses, or persons whom we may denominate Indo-Portuguese, either the mixed produce of Portuguese and Indian parents, or converts to the Portuguese, from the Indian, faith. These were troops disciplined and uniformed; besides whom, the natives were already, to a small extent, employed by the Company in military service, and called Sepoys, from the Indian term Sipahi, equivalent to soldier. They were made to use the musket, but remained chiefly armed in the fashion of the country, with sword and target; they wore the Indian dress, the turban, cabay or vest, and long drawers; and were provided with native officers according to the custom of the country; but ultimately all under English command. It had not as yet been attempted to train them to the European discipline, in which it was book iv.Chap. 1. 1708. possible to render them so expert and steady; but considerable service was derived from them; and under the conduct of European leaders they were found capable of facing danger with great constancy and firmness. What at this time was the average number at each presidency, is not particularly stated. It is mentioned, that at the time when the presidency was established at Calcutta in 1707, an effort was made to augment the garrison to 300 men.
The President was the organ of correspondence, by letter, or otherwise, with the country powers. It rested with him to communicate to the Council the account of what he thus transacted, at any time, and in any form, which he deemed expedient; and from this no slight accession to his power was derived.
The several denominations of the Company’s servants in India were, writers, factors, junior merchants, and senior merchants: the business of the writers, as the term, in some degree, imports, was that of clerking, with the inferior details of commerce; and when dominion succeeded, of government. In the capacity of writers they remained during five years. The first promotion was to the rank of factor; the next to that of junior merchant; in each of which the period of service was three years. After this extent of service, they became senior merchants. And out of the class of senior merchants were taken by seniority the members of the Council, and when no particular appointment interfered, even the presidents themselves.1
Shortly after the first great era, in the history of the British commerce with India, the nation was delivered from the destructive burthen of the long war with France which preceded the treaty of Utrecht: And though the accession of a new family to thebook iv.Chap. 1. 1708. throne, and the resentments which one party of statesmen had to gratify against another, kept the minds of men for a time in a feverish anxiety, not the most favourable to the persevering studies and pursuits on which the triumphs of industry depend, the commerce and wealth of the nation-made rapid advances. The town of Liverpool, which was not formed into a separate parish till 1699, so rapidly increased, that in 1715 a new parish, with a church, was erected; and it doubled its size between 1690 and 1726. The town of Manchester increased in a similar proportion; and was computed in 1727 to contain no less than 50,000 inhabitants: the manufactures of Birmingham, which thirty years before was little more than a village, are stated as giving maintenance at that time to upwards of 30,000 individuals.1 In 1719, a patent was granted to Sir Thomas Lombe, for his machine for throwing silk, one of the first of those noble efforts of invention and enterprise which have raised this country to unrivalled eminence in the useful arts. The novelty and powers of this machine, the model of which he is said to have stolen from the Piedmontese, into whose manufactories he introduced himself in the guise of a common workman, excited the highest admiration; and its parts and performances are described to us by the historians of the time with curious exactness; 26,586 wheels, 97,746 movements, which worked 73,726 yards of organzine silk by every revolution of the water-wheel, 318,504,960 yards in one day and a night; a single water-wheel giving motion to the whole machine, of which any separate movement might be stopped without obstructing the rest; and book iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. one fire communicating warmth by heated air to every part of the manufactory, not less than the eighth part of a mile in length.1 London was increased by several new parishes. And from the year 1708 to the year 1730, the imports of Great Britain, according to the valuation of the custom-house, had increased from 4,698,663l. to 7,780,019l.; the exports from 6,969,089l. to 11,974,135l.2
During this period of national prosperity, the imports of the East India Company rose from 493,257l., the importation of 1708, to 1,059,759l. the importation of 1730. But the other, and not the least important, the export branch of the Company’s trade, exhibited another result: As the exportation of the year 1708 was exceedingly small, compared with that of 1709 and the following years, it is fair to take an average of four years from 1706 to 1709 (two with a small, two an increased exportation), producing 105,773l.: The exportation of the year 1730 was 135,484l.; while that of 1709 was 168,357l.; that of 1710, 126,310l.; that of 1711, 151,874l.; and that of 1712, 142,329l.
With regard to the rate of profit, during this period, or the real advantage of the Indian trade, the Company, for part of the year 1708, divided at the rate of five per cent. per annum to the proprietors upon 3,163,200l. of capital; for the next year, eight per cent.; for the two following years, nine per cent.; and thence to the year 1716, ten per cent. per annum. In the year 1717, they paid dividends on a capital of 3,194,080l., at the same rate of ten per cent. per annum, and so on till the year 1723. That year the dividend was reduced to eight per cent. per annum, at which rate it continued till the yearbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. 1732.1
In the year 1712, on the petition of the Company, the period of their exclusive trade was extended by act of parliament, from the year 1726, to which by the last regulation it stood confined, to the year 1733, with the usual allowance of three years for notice, should their privileges be withdrawn.2
In the year 1716, they obtained a proclamation against interlopers. Their complaints, it seems, were occasioned by the enterprises of British subjects, trading to India under foreign commissions. As this proclamation answered not the wishes of the Company, nor deterred their countrymen from seeking the gains of Indian traffic, even through all the disadvantages which they incurred by entrusting their property to the protection of foreign laws and the fidelity of foreign agents; they were able, in 1718, to procure an act of parliament for the punishment of all such competitors. British subjects, trading from foreign countries, and under the commission of a foreign government, were declared amenable to the laws for the protection of the Company’s rights; the Company were authorized to seize merchants of this description when found within their limits, and to send them to England, subject to a penalty of 500l. for each offence.3
The Company’s present alarm for their monopoly arose from the establishment for trading with India, which, under the authority of the Emperor, was formed at his port of Ostend. After the peace of book iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. Utrecht, which bestowed the Netherlands upon the house of Austria, the people of those provinces began to breathe from the distractions, the tyranny, and the wars which had so long wasted their fruitful country. Among other projects of improvement, a trade to India was fondly embraced. Two ships, after long preparations, sailed from Ostend in the year 1717, under the passports of the Emperor; and several more soon followed their example. The India Companies of Holland and England were in the highest degree alarmed; and easily communicated their fears and agitations to their respective governments. These governments not only expostulated, and to the highest degree of importunity, with the Emperor himself; but, amid the important negotiations of that diplomatic period, hardly any interest was more earnestly contended for in the discussions at the courts both of Paris and Madrid.1 The Dutch captured some of the Ostend East India ships: The Emperor, who dreamed of an inundation of wealth from Indian trade, persevered in his purpose; and granted his commission of reprisal to the merchants of Ostend. In the beginning of 1720, they sent no fewer than six vessels to India, and as many the year that followed. The English East India Company pressed the Government with renewed terrors and complaints. They asserted that, not only the capital, with which the trade was carried on, was to a great degree furnished by British subjects, but the trade and navigation were conducted by men who had been bred up in the trade and navigation of the British Company: They procured, in 1721, another act of parliament, enforcing the penalties already enacted; and as this also failed in producing the intendedbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. effects, another act was passed in the spring of 1723; prohibiting foreign adventures to India, under the penalty of triple the sum embarked; declaring all British subjects found in India, and not in the service, or under the licence of the East India Company, guilty of a high misdemeanour; and empowering the Company to seize, and send them home for punishment.1 The Emperor had been importuned, by the adventurers of Ostend, for a charter to make them an exclusive company; but, under the notion of saving appearances in some little degree with England and Holland, or the maritime powers, as they were called in the diplomatic language of the day, he had induced them to trade under passports as individuals. In the month of August, however, of 1723, the charter was granted; in less than twenty-four hours the subscription books of the Company were filled up; and in less than a month the shares were sold at a premium of fifteen per cent. Notwithstanding the virulent opposition of all the other nations, already engaged in the Indian trade, the Ostend Company experienced the greatest success. At a meeting of Proprietors, in 1726, the remaining instalment on the subscriptions, equal to a dividend of thirty-three and one-third per cent., was paid up from the gains of the trade. But by this time political difficulties pressed upon the Emperor. He was abandoned by his only ally, the King of Spain, and opposed by a triple alliance of France, England, and Holland. To give satisfaction to this potent confederacy, and to obtain their support to the pragmatic sanction, or the guarantee of his dominions to his daughter and only child, he submitted to sacrifice the book iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. Ostend Company. To save appearances, and consult the imperial dignity, nothing was stipulated in words, except that the business of the Ostend Company should be suspended for seven years; but all men understood that, in this case, suspension and extinction were the same.
By the act of 7 Geo. I. c. 5, the Company were authorized to borrw money on their common seal, to the amount of the sums lent by them to government, if not beyond the sum of five millions sterling in the whole. They were permitted, however, to borrow solely for the purposes of their trade. They were expressly interdicted from receiving moneys in any of the capacities of a banker; and for that purpose several restrictive clauses were inserted in the act; they were not to borrow any sums payable on demand, or at a shorter date than six months; they were not to discount any bills; or to keep books or cash for any persons sole or corporate, or otherwise than for the real business of the Company.1
When the Company commenced operations in India, upon the new foundation on which their affairs were placed by the grand arrangements in 1708, Shah Aulum, successor of Aurungzebe, was Emperor of the Moguls. His second son Azeem Ooshaun had been appointed Viceroy of Bengal before the death of Aurungzebe, and having bent his chief attention to the amassing of a treasure, against the impending contest between the competitors for the throne, he accepted the bribes of the company, and granted them proportional privileges. Under his authority they had purchased, in 1698, the Zemindarship of the three towns of Sutanutty, Calcutta, and Govindpore, with their districts. When Azeem Ooshaun left Bengal to assist his father, in the warbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. which ensued upon the death of Aurungzebe, he left his son Feroksere his deputy. In 1712 Shah Aulum died; Azeem Ooshaun lost his life in the struggle for the succession; and Feroksere, by the help of two able chiefs, the Syed brothers, gained the throne. The government of Bengal now devolved upon Jaffier Khan, and the company experienced a change. This chief, of Tartar extraction, was born at Boorhanpore, in Deccan, and rose to eminence in the latter part of the reign of Aurungzebe, by whom he had been appointed duan (or controller of the revenues) of Bengal. It would appear that he was nominated, by Shah Aulum, to the viceroyalty of Bengal, shortly after his accession to the throne; but it is probable that, during the short reign of that prince, the appointment never took place; as, at the time of his death, Feroksere was in possession of the province. Upon the departure, however, of Feroksere to ascend the imperial throne, Jaffier Khan was invested with entire authority, as subahdar of Bengal; and the English Company, along with his other subjects, began speedily to feel the effects of his severe and oppressive administration.1
In 1713, the first year of the reign of Feroksere, the Presidency of Calcutta applied to the Company at home for leave to send an embassy, with a handsome present, to the Mogul durbar, in hopes of obtaining greater protection and privileges. Two of the Company’s factors, under the direction of an Armenian merchant, named Serhaud, set out for Delhi; and the Emperor, who had received the most magnificent account of the presents of which they were the book iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. bearers, ordered them to be escorted by the governors of the provinces through which they were to pass.
They arrived at the capital on the eighth of July, 1715, after a journey of three months; and, in pursuance of the advice which had been received at Calcutta, applied themselves to gain the protection of Khan Dowran,1 a nobleman in favour with the Emperor, and in the interest of Emir Jumla. Whatever was promoted by the interest of Emir Jumla was opposed by that of the vizir. The influence also of Jaffier Khan was exerted to defeat an application, which tended to abridge his authority, and impeach his government. The embassy and costly present of the Company were doomed to imperial neglect, had not an accident, over which they had no control, and the virtue of a public-spirited man, who preferred their interest to his own, opened an avenue to the grace of Feroksere. The intemperance of that prince had communicated to him a secret disease, from which the luxury of the harem does not always exempt: Under the unskilful treatment of Indian physicians the disorder lingered; and the Emperor’s impatience was augmented, by the delay which it imposed upon the celebration of his marriage with the daughter of the Rajah of Judpore. A medical gentleman of the name of Hamilton accompanied the embassy of the English Company: The Emperor was advised to make trial of his skill: A cure was the speedy consequence: The Emperor commanded his benefactor to name his own reward: And the generous Hamilton solicited privileges for the Company.2 The festival of the marriage, however, ensued; during which it would not have been decorousbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. to importune with business the imperial mind: and six months elapsed before the ambassadors could present their petition. It was delivered in January, 1716; and prayed, “that the cargoes of English ships, wrecked on the Mogul’s coast, should be protected from plunder; that a fixed sum should be received at Surat in lieu of all duties; that three villages, contiguous to Madras, which had been granted and again resumed by the government of Arcot, should be restored in perpetuity; that the island of Diu, near the port of Masulipatam, should be given to the Company, for an annual rent; that all persons in Bengal, who might be indebted to the Company, should be delivered up to the presidency on the first demand; that a passport (dustuck, in the language of the country), signed by the President of Calcutta, should exempt the goods which it specified from stop-page or examination by the officers of the Bengal government; and that the Company should be permitted to purchase the Zemindarship of thirty-seven towns, in the same manner as they had been authorised by Azeem Ooshaun to purchase Calcutta, Sutta-nutty, and Govindpore.” The power of the vizir could defeat the grants of the Emperor, himself; and he disputed the principal articles. Repeated applications were made to the Emperor, and at last the vizir gave way; when mandates were issued confirming all the privileges for which the petition had prayed. To the disappointment, however, and grief of the ambassadors, the mandates were not under the seals of the Emperor, but only those of the vizir, the book iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. authority of which the distant viceroys would be sure to dispute. It was resolved to remonstrate, how delicate soever the ground on which they must tread; and to solicit mandates to which the highest authority should be attached. It was now the month of April, 1716, when the Emperor, at the head of an expedition against the Seiks, began his march towards Lahore. No choice remained but to follow the camp. The campaign was tedious: It heightened the dissensions between the favourites of the Emperor and the vizir; the ambassadors found their difficulties increased; and contemplated a long, and probably a fruitless negotiation, when they were advised to bribe a favourite eunuch in the seraglio. No sooner was the money paid, than the vizir himself appeared eager to accomplish their designs, and the patents were issued under the highest authority. There was a secret, of which the eunuch had made his advantage. The factory at Surat, having lately been oppressed by the Mogul governor and officers, had been withdrawn by the Presidency of Bombay, as not worth maintaining. It was recollected by the Moguls, that in consequence of oppression the factory at Surat had once before been withdrawn; immediately after which an English fleet had appeared; had swept the sea of Mogul ships, and inflicted a deep wound upon the Mogul treasury. A similar visitation was now regarded as a certain consequence; and, as many valuable ships of the Moguls were at sea, the event was deprecated with proportional ardour. This intelligence was transmitted to the eunuch, by his friend the viceroy of Guzerat. The eunuch knew what effect it would produce upon the mind of the vizir; obtained his bribe from the English; and then communicated to the vizir the expectation prevalent in Guzerat of a hostile visit from an English fleet. The vizir hastened to preventbook iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. such a calamity, by granting satisfaction. The patents were dispatched; and the ambassadors took leave of the Emperor in the month of July, 1717, two years after their arrival.
The mandates in favour of the Company produced their full effect in Guzerat and Deccan; but in Bengal, where the most important privileges were conceded, the subahdar, or nabob as he was called by the English, had power to impede their operation. The thirty-seven towns which the Company had obtained leave to purchase, would have given them a district extending ten miles from Calcutta on each side of the river Hoogley; where a number of weavers, subject to their own jurisdiction, might have been established. The viceroy ventured not directly to oppose the operation of an imperial mandate, but his authority was sufficient to deter the holders of the land from disposing of it to the Company; and the most important of the advantages aimed at by the embassy was thus prevented. The nabob, however, disputed not the authority of the President’s dustucks; a species of passports which entitled the merchandise to pass free from duty, stoppage, or inspection; and this immunity, from which the other European traders were excluded, promoted the vent of the Company’s goods.1
The trade of the Company’s servants occasioned another dispute. Beside the business which the factors and agents of the Company were engaged to perform on the Company’s account, they had been allowed to carry on an independent traffic of their own, for their own profit. Every man had in this manner a double occupation and pursuit; one for the benefit book iv.Chap. 1. 1708–23. of the Company, and one for the benefit of himself. Either the inattention of the feebly interested Directors of a common concern had overlooked the premium for neglecting that concern which was thus bestowed upon the individuals entrusted with it in India: Or the shortness of their foresight made them count this neglect a smaller evil, than the additional salaries which their servants, if debarred from other sources of emolument, would probably require. The President of Calcutta granted his dustucks for protecting from the duties and taxes of the native government, not only the goods of the Company, but also the goods of the Company’s servants; and possibly the officers of that government were too little acquainted with the internal affairs of their English visitants to remark the distinction. The Company had appropriated to themselves, in all its branches, the trade between India and the mother country. Their servants were thus confined to what was called the country trade, or that from one part of India to another. This consisted of two branches, maritime, and inland; either that which was carried on by ships from one port of India to another, and from the ports of India to the other countries in the adjacent seas; or that which was carried on by land between one town or province and another. When the dustucks of the President, therefore, were granted to the Company’s servants, they were often granted to protect from duties, commodities, the produce of the kingdom itself, in their passage by land from one district or province to another. This, Jaffier Khan, the viceroy, declared it his determination to prevent; as a practice at once destructive of his revenue, and ruinous to the native traders, on whom heavy duties were opposed: And he commanded the dustucks of the President to receive no respect, except for goods, either imported by sea, or purchased for exportation.book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. The Company remonstrated, but in vain. Nor were the pretensions of their servants exempt from unpleasant consequences; as the pretext of examining whether the goods were really imported by sea, or really meant for exportation, often produced those interferences of the officers of revenue, from which it was so great a privilege to be saved. Interrupted and disturbed in their endeavours to grasp the inland trade, the Company’s servants directed their ardour to the maritime branch; and their superior skill soon induced the merchants of the province, Moors, Armenians, and Hindus, to freight most of the goods, which they exported, on English bottoms. Within ten years, from the period of the embassy, the shipping of the port of Calcutta increased to 10,000 tons.
The year 1730 was distinguished by transactions of considerable moment in the history of the Company. In England, a new sovereign had but lately ascended the throne; an active and powerful Opposition made a greater use of the press, and more employed the public mind as a power in the state, than any party which had gone before them; success rendered the trading interest enterprising and highminded; intellect was becoming every day more enlightened, more penetrating, more independent; and experience testified the advantages of freedom in all the departments of trade.
Though the gains of the East India Company, had they been exactly known, would not have presented an object greatly calculated to inflame mercantile cupidity; yet the riches of India were celebrated as proverbially great; the boastings of the Company, in the representations they had made of the benefit derived to the nation from trading with book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. India, had confirmed the popular prejudice; and a general opinion seems to have prevailed, that the British subjects at large ought to be no longer debarred from enriching themselves in the trade which was invidiously, and, it seemed, imprudently, reserved for the East India Company.
Three years were still unexpired of the period of the Company’s exclusive charter: yet the plans of those who desired a total alteration in the scheme of the trade were moulded into form, and a petition, grounded upon them, was presented to the legislature so early as February, 1730.
As the payment of 3,200,000l. which the Company had advanced to government at an interest of five per cent. was a condition preliminary to the abolition of their exclusive privileges, the petitioners offered to lend to government an equal sum on far more favourable terms. They proposed to advance the money in five instalments, the last at Lady-day in 1733, the date of the expiration of the Company’s charter; requiring, till that period, interest on the money paid at the rate of four per cent., but offering to accept of two per cent. for the whole sum, from that time forward: Whence, they observed, a saving would accrue to the public of 92,000l. per annum, worth, at twenty-five years’ purchase, 2,500,000l.1
For the more profitable management of this branch of the national affairs, the following was the scheme which they proposed. They would constitute the subscribers to this original fund a company, for the purpose of opening the trade, in its most favourable shape, to the whole body of their countrymen. It was not intended that the Company should tradebook iv.Chap. 1. 1730. upon a joint stock, and in their corporate capacity; but that every man in the nation, who pleased, should trade in the way of private adventure. The Company were to have the charge of erecting and maintaining the forts and establishments abroad; and for this, and for other expenses, attending what was called “the enlargement and preservation of the trade,” it was proposed that they should receive a duty of one per cent. upon all exports to India, and of five per cent. on all imports from it. For ensuring obedience to this and other regulations, it should be made lawful to trade to India only under the licence of the Company. And it was proposed that thirtyone years, with three years’ notice, should be granted as the duration of the peculiar privileges.
It appears from this account, that the end which was proposed to be answered, by incorporating such a company, was the preservation and erection of the forts, buildings, and other fixed establishments, required for the trade in India. This was its only use, or intent; for the business of trading, resigned to private hands, was to be carried on by the individuals of the nation at large. And, if it were true, as it has been always maintained, that for the trade of India, forts and factories are requisite, of such a nature as no individual, or precarious combination of individuals, is competent to provide, this project offers peculiar claims to consideration and respect. It promised to supply that demand which has always been held forth, as peculiar to Indian trade, as the grand exigency which, distinguishing the traffic with India from all other branches of trade, rendered monopoly advantageous in that peculiar case, how much soever proved to be injurious in others. While it provided for this real or pretended want, it left the trade open book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. to all the advantages of private enterprise, private vigilance, private skill, and private economy; the virtues by which individuals thrive, and nations prosper: And it afforded an interest to the proposed Company in the careful discharge of its duty; as its profits were to increase in exact proportion with the increase of the trade, and of course, with the facilities and accommodation by which the trade was promoted.
As no trade was to be carried on by the Company, the source, whence dividends to the proprietors would arise, was the interest to be received from government, and the duties upon the exports and imports: And as the territorial and other duties belonging to the forts and establishments in India were deemed sufficient to defray the expense of those establishments, this source was described as competent to yield an annual return of five or six per cent. upon the capital advanced. Under absence of risk, and the low rate of interest at the time, this was deemed a sufficient inducement to subscribe. Had the pernicious example, of lending the stock of trading companies to government, been rejected, a very small capital would have sufficed to fulfil the engagements of such a company; and either the gains upon it would have been uncommonly high, or the rate of duties upon the trade might have been greatly reduced.
The friends of this proposition urged; that, as the change which had taken place in the African trade, from monopoly to freedom, was allowed to have produced great national advantages, it was not to be disputed, that a similar change in the Indian trade would be attended with benefits so much the greater, as the trade was more valuable; that it would produce a larger exportation of our own produce and manufactures to India, and create employment for a much greater number of ships and seamen; that itbook iv.Chap. 1. 1730. would greatly reduce the price of all Indian commodities to the people at home; that it would enable the nation to supply foreign markets with Indian commodities at a cheaper rate, and, by consequence, to a larger amount; that new channels of traffic would thence be opened, in Asia and America, as well as in Europe; that a free trade to India would increase the produce of the customs and excise, and “thereby lessen the national debt;” that it would introduce a much more extensive employment of British shipping from one part of India to another, from which great profit would arise; and that it would prevent the nation from being deprived of the resources of those who, for want of permission or opportunity at home, were driven to employ their skill and capital in the Indian trade of other countries.
The attention of the nation seems to have been highly excited. Three petitions were presented to the House of Commons, from the merchants, traders, &c. of the three chief places of foreign trade in England, London, Bristol, and Liverpool, in behalf of themselves and all other his Majesty’s subjects, praying, that the trade to India might be laid open to the nation at large, and that they might be heard by their counsel at the bar of the House. The press, too, yielded a variety of productions, which compared with one another the systems of monopoly and freedom, and showed, or pretended to show, the preference due to the last. Though competition might appear to reduce the gains of individuals, it would, by its exploring sagacity, its vigilance, address, and economy, even with an equal capital, undoubtedly increase the mass of business, in other words, the annual produce, that is to say, the riches and prosperity of the country: The superior economy, the superior book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. dispatch, the superior intelligence and skill of private adventure, while they enable the dealers to traffic on cheaper terms, were found by experience to yield a profit on the capital employed, not inferior to what was yielded by monopoly; by the business, for example, of the East India Company, whose dividends exceeded not eight per cent.: Whatever was gained by the monopolizing company, in the high prices at which it was enabled to sell, or the low prices at which it was enabled to buy, was all lost by its dilatory, negligent, and wasteful management: This was not production, but the reverse; it was not enriching a nation, but preventing its being enriched.1
The Company manifested their usual ardour in defence of the monopoly. They magnified the importance of the trade; and asked if it was wise to risk the loss of known advantages, of the greatest magnitude, in pursuit of others which were only supposed: they alledged that it was envy which stimulated the exertions of their opponents; coveting the gains of the Company, but unable to produce any instance of misconduct, without going forty years back for the materials of their interested accusations: The Company employed an immense stock in trade, their sales amounting to about three millions yearly: The customs, about 300,000l. per annum, for the service of government, ought not to be sacrificed for less than a certainty of an equal supply: And the maintenance of the forts and factories cost 300,000l. a year. Where, they asked, was the security that an open trade, subject to all the fluctuation of individual fancy, one year liable to be great, another to be small, would afford regularly an annual revenuebook iv.Chap. 1. 1730. of 600,000l. for customs and forts? By the competition of so many buyers in India, and of so many sellers in Europe, the goods would be so much enhanced in price in the one place, and so much reduced in the other, that all profit would be destroyed, and the competitors, as had happened in the case of the rival companies, would end with a scene of general ruin.
Under the increased experience of succeeding times, and the progress of the science of national wealth, the arguments of the Company’s opponents have gained, those of the Company have lost, a portion of strength. To exaggerate the importance of the Indian trade; and because it is important, assume that the monopoly ought to remain, is merely to say, that when a thing is important, it ought never to be improved; in things of no moment society may be allowed to make progress; in things of magnitude that progress ought ever to be strenuously and unbendingly opposed. This argument is, unhappily, not confined to the use of the East India Company. Whoever has attentively traced the progress of government, will find that it has been employed by the enemies of improvement, at every stage; and only in so far as it has been disregarded and contemned, has the condition of man ascended above the miseries of savage life. Instead of the maxim, A thing is important, therefore it ought not to be improved; reason would doubtless suggest, that the more any thing is important, the more its improvement should be studied and pursued. When a thing is of small importance, a small inconvenience may suffice to dissuade the pursuit of its improvement. When it is of great importance, a great inconvenience alone can be allowed to produce that unhappy book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. effect. If it be said, that where much is enjoyed, care should be taken to avoid its loss; this is merely to say that men ought to be prudent; which is very true, but surely authorizes no such inference, as that improvement, in matters of importance, should be always opposed.
The Company quitted the argument, to criminate the arguers: The objections to the monopoly were the impure and odious offspring of avaricious envy. But, if the monopoly, as the opponents said, was a bad thing, and free trade a good thing; from whatever motive they spoke, the good thing was to be adopted, the evil to be shunned. The question of their motives was one thing; the truth or falsehood of their positions another. When truth is spoken from a bad motive, it is no less truth; nor is it less entitled to its command over human action, than when it is spoken from the finest motive which can enter the human breast; if otherwise, an ill-designing man would enjoy the wonderful power, by recommending a good course of action, to render a bad one obligatory upon the human race.
If, as they argued, the East India Company had a large stock in trade, that was no reason why the monopoly should remain. The capital of the mercantile body of Great Britain was much greater than the capital of the East India Company, and of that capital, whatever proportion could find a more profitable employment in the Indian trade, than in any other branch of the national industry, the Indian trade would be sure to receive.
With regard to the annual expense of the forts and factories, it was asserted by the opponents of the Company; and, as far as appears, without contradiction, that they defrayed their own expense, and supported themselves.
As to the customs paid by the East India Company;book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. all trade paid customs, and if the Indian trade increased under the system of freedom, it would pay a greater amount of customs than it paid before; if it decreased, the capital now employed in it would seek another destination, and pay customs and taxes in the second channel as well as the first. To lay stress upon the customs paid by the Company, unless to take advantage of the gross ignorance of a minister, or of a parliment, was absurd.
The argument, that the competition of free trade, would make the merchants buy so dear in India, and sell so cheap in England, as to ruin themselves, however depended upon, was contradicted by experience. What hindered this effect, in trading with France, in trading with Holland, or any other country? Or what hindered it in every branch of business within the kingdom itself? If the two East India Companies ruined themselves by competition, why reason from a case, which bore no analogy whatsoever to the one under contemplation; while the cases which exactly corresponded, those of free trade, and boundless competition, led to a conclusion directly the reverse? If two East India Companies ruined one another, it was only an additional proof, that they were ineligible instruments of commerce. The ruin proceeded, not from the nature of competition, but the circumstances of the competitors. Where two corporate bodies contended against one another, and the ruin of the one left the field vacant to the other, their contention might very well be ruinous; because each might hope, that, by exhausting its antagonist in a competition of loss, it would deliver itself from its only rival. Where every merchant had not one, but a multitude of competitors, the hope was clearly vain of wearing all of them out by a contest of loss. Every book iv.Chap. 1. 1730. merchant therefore would deal on such terms alone, as allowed him the usual, or more than the usual rate of profit; and he would find it his interest to observe an obliging, rather than an hostile deportment towards others, that they might do the same toward him. As it is this principle which produces the harmony and prosperity of trade in all other cases in which freedom prevails, it remained to be shown why it would not produce them in the Indian trade.
The subject was introduced into parliament, and discussed. But the advocates for the freedom of the trade were there overruled, and those of monopoly triumphed.
In order to aid the parliament in coming to such a decision as the Company desired, and to counteract in some degree the impression likely to be made by the proposal of their antagonists to accept of two per cent. for the whole of the loan to government, they offered to reduce the interest from five to four per cent., and, as a premium for the renewal of their charter, to contribute a sum of 200,000l. to the public service. On these conditions it was enacted that the exclusive privileges should be prolonged to Lady Day in the year 1766, with the usual addition of three years’ notice, and a proviso that nothing in this arrangement should be construed to limit their power of continuing a body corporate, and of trading to India on their joint stock with other of their fellow subjects, even after their exclusive privileges should expire.1
On the ground on which the affairs of the East India Company were now established, they remainedbook iv.Chap. 1. 1732. till the year 1744. From 1730 to that year, the trade of the Company underwent but little variation. Of goods exported, the amount indeed was considerably increased; but as in this stores were included, and as the demand for stores, by the extension of forts, and increase of military apparatus, was augmented, the greater part of the increase of exports may be justly set down to this account. The official value of the goods imported had kept rather below a million annually; sometimes indeed exceeding that sum, but commonly the reverse, and some years to a considerable amount; with little or no progressive improvement from the beginning of the period to the end. The exports had increased from 135,484l., the exportation of the first year, to 476,274l., that of the last; and they had been still greater in the preceding year. But the greater part of the increase had taken place after the prospect of wars and the necessity of military preparations; when a great addition was demanded in the article of stores.1
In the year 1732, the Company first began to make up annual accounts; and from that period we have regular statements of the actual purchase of their exports, and the actual sale of their imports. In the year 1732, the sales of the Company amounted to 1,940,996l. In 1744, they amounted to 1,997,506l.; and in all the intermediate years were less. The quantity of goods and stores paid for in the year 1732 amounted to 105,230l.; the quantity paid for in 1744, to 231,318l. The quantity of bullion exported in 1732 was 393,377l.; the quantity exported in 1744 was 458,544l. The quantity then of goods exported was increased, and in some degree, also, that of bullion, while the quantity of goods imported remained book iv.Chap. 1. 1732–44. nearly the same. It follows, that the additional exportation, not having been employed in the additional purchase of goods, must have been not merchandize, but stores. It is to be observed, also, that in the amount of sales, as exhibited in the Company’s accounts, were included at this time the duties paid to government, stated at thirty per cent.; a deduction which brings the amount of the sales to nearly the official valuation of the imports at the custom-house.1
In 1732, the Company were obliged to reduce their dividends from eight to seven per cent. per annum; and at this rate they continued till 1744, in which year they returned to eight per cent.2 The Dutch East India Company, from 1730 to 1736, divided twenty-five per cent. per annum upon the capital stock; in 1736, twenty per cent.; for the next three years, fifteen per cent. per annum; for the next four, twelve and a half per annum; and in 1744, as much as fifteen per cent.3 The grand advantage of the English East India Company, in the peculiar privilege of having their trade exempted from duties in Bengal and in the other concessions obtained by their embassy to the court of the Mogul, had thus produced no improvement in the final result, the ultimate profits of the trade.
The Company seem to have been extremely anxious to avoid a renewal of the discussion on the utility or fitness of the monopoly, and, for that purpose, to forestal the excitement of the public attention by the approach to the conclusion of the privileged term. At a moment accordingly when no one was preparedbook iv.Chap. 1. 1744. to oppose them; and in the middle of an expensive war, when the offer of any pecuniary facilities was a powerful bribe to the government, they made a proposal to lend to it the sum of one million, at an interest of three per cent. provided the period of their exclusive privileges should be prolonged to three years’ notice after Lady-day 1780. On these conditions, a new act was passed in 1744; and to enable the Company to make good their loan to government, they were authorized to borrow to the extent of a million on their bonds.1
On the death of the Emperor Charles VI. in the year 1740, a violent war, kindled by competition for the imperial throne, and for a share in the spoils of the house of Austria, had begun in Germany. In this contest, France and England, the latter involved by her Hanoverian interests, had both engaged as auxiliaries; and in the end had become nearly, or rather altogether principals. From 1739, England had been at war with Spain, a war intended to annul the right, claimed and exercised by the Spaniards, of searching English ships on the coast of America for contraband goods. England and France, though contending against one another, with no ordinary efforts, in a cause ostensibly not their own, abstained from hostilities directly on their own account, till 1744; when the two governments came to mutual declarations of war. And it was not long before the most distant settlements of the two nations felt the effects of their destructive contentions.
On the 14th2 of September, 1746, a French fleet book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. anchored four leagues to the south of Madras; and landed five or six hundred men. On the 15th the fleet moved along the coast, while the troops marched by land; and about noon it arrived within cannon-shot of the town. Labourdonnais, who commanded the expedition, then landed, with the rest of the troops. The whole force destined for the siege, consisted of 1000 or 1100. Europeans, 400 Sepoys, and 400 Caffres, or blacks of Madagascar, brought from the island of Mauritius: 1700 or 1800 men, all sorts included, remained in the ships.1
Madras had, during the space of 100 years, been the principal settlement of the English on the Coromandel coast. The territory belonging to the Company extended five miles along the shore, and was about one mile in breadth. The town consisted of three divisions. The first, denominated the white town, in which resided none but the English, or Europeans under their protection, consisted of about fifty houses, together with the warehouses and other buildings of the Company, and two churches, one an English, the other a Roman Catholic church. This division was surrounded with a slender wall, defended with four bastions, and four batteries, but weak and badly constructed, decorated with the title of Fort St. George. Contiguous to it, on the north side, was the division in which resided the Armenian, and the richest of the Indian, merchants, larger, and still worse fortified than the former. And on the northern side of this division was a space, covered by the hovels of the country, in which the mass of the natives resided. These two divisions constituted what was called the black town. The English in this colony exceeded not 300 men, of whom 200 were the soldiers of the garrison. The Indian Christians, converts or descendantsbook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. of the Portuguese, amounted to three or four thousand; the rest were Armenians, Mahomedans, or Hindus, the last in by far the largest proportion; and the whole population of the Company’s territory amounted to about 250,000. With the exception of Goa and Batavia, Madras was, in point both of magnitude and riches, the most important of the European establishments in India.
The town sustained the bombardment for five days, when the inhabitants, expecting an assault, capitulated. They had endeavoured to save the place, by the offer of a ransom; but Labourdonnais coveted the glory of displaying French colours on the ramparts of fort St. George. He engaged however his honour to restore the settlement, and content himself with a moderate ransom; and on these terms he was received into the town. He had not lost so much as one man in the enterprise. Among the English four or five were killed by the explosion of the bombs, and two or three houses were destroyed. Labourdonnais protected the inhabitants, with the care of a man of virtue; but the magazines and warehouses of the Company, as public property, were taken possession of by the commissaries of the French.1
Labourdonnais, with the force under his command, had arrived in India in the month of June, 1746. At that time the settlements of France in the Indian seas were under two separate governments, analogous to the English Presidencies; one established at the Isle of France, the other at Pondicherry. Under the former of these governments were placed the two islands; the one called the isle of France, about sixty leagues in circumference; the other that of Bourbon, book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. of nearly the same dimensions. These islands, lying on the eastern side of Madagascar, between the nineteenth and twentieth degrees of latitude, were discovered by the Portuguese, and by them called Cerne, and Mascarhenas. In 1660 seven or eight Frenchmen settled on the island of Mascarhenas; five years afterwards they were joined by twentytwo of their countrymen; the remains of the French colony which was destroyed in Madagascar sought refuge in this island; and when it became an object of some importance, the French changed its name to the island of Bourbon. The island of Cerne was, at an early date, taken possession of by the Dutch, and by them denominated the island of Mauritius, in honour of their leader Maurice, Prince of Orange; but, after the formation of their establishment at the Cape of Good Hope, was abandoned as useless. The French, who were subject to great inconvenience by want of a good harbour on the island of Bourbon, took possession of it in 1720, and changed its name from the isle of Mauritius, to the isle of France. Both islands are fruitful, and produce the corn of Europe, along with most of the tropical productions. Some plants of coffee, accidentally introduced from Arabia, succeeded so well on the island of Bourbon, as to render that commodity the staple of the island.1
Pondicherry was the seat of the other Indian government of the French. It had under its jurisdiction the town and territory of Pondicherry; and three factories, or Comptoirs, one at Mahé, not far south from Tellicherry on the Malabar coast, one at Karical on one of the branches of the Coleroon on the Coromandel coast, and one at Chandernagor onbook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. the river Hoogley in Bengal.1
The form of the government at both places was the same. It consisted, like the English, the form of which was borrowed from the Dutch, of a Governor, and a Council; the Governor being President of the Council, and allowed, according to the genius of the government in the mother country, to engross from the Council a greater share of power than in the colonies of the English and the Dutch. The peculiar business of the Governor and Council was, to direct, in conformity with instructions from home, all persons in the employment of the Company; to regulate the expenditure, and take care of the receipts; to administer justice, and in general to watch over the whole economy of the establishment. Each of the islands had a Council of its own; but one Governor sufficed for both.2
In 1745 Labourdonnais was appointed Governor of the islands. This was a remarkable man. He was born at St. Malo, in 1699; and was entered on board a ship bound for the South Sea at the age of ten. In 1713 he made a voyage to the East Indies, and the Philippine islands; and availed himself of the presence of a Jesuit, who was a passenger in the ship, to acquire a knowledge of the mathematics. After performing several voyages to other parts of the world, he entered for the first time, in 1719, into the service of the East India Company, as second lieutenant of a vessel bound to Surat. He sailed again to India, as first lieutenant in 1723; and a third time, as second captain in 1724. In every voyage he found opportunity to distinguish himself by some book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. remarkable action; and during the last he acquired, from another passenger, an officer of engineers, a knowledge of the principles of fortification and tactics. He now resolved to remain in India, and to navigate a vessel on his own account. He is said to have been the first Frenchman who embarked in what is called the country trade; in which he conducted himself with so much skill, as to realize in a few years a considerable fortune. The force of his mind procured him an ascendancy wherever its influence was exerted: A violent quarrel was excited between some Arabian and Portuguese ships in the harbour of Mocca, and blood was about to be shed, when Labourdonnais interposed, and terminated the dispute to the satisfaction of the parties. So far did his services on this occasion recommend him to the Viceroy of Goa, that he invited him into the service of the King of Portugal, gave him the command of a King’s ship, the order of Christ, the rank of Fidalgo, and the title of agent of his Portuguese Majesty on the coast of Coromandel. In this situation he remained for two years, and perfected his knowledge of the traffic and navigation of India; after which, in 1733, he returned to France. Apprized of his knowledge and capacity, the French government turned its eyes upon him, as a man well qualified to aid in raising the colonies in the eastern seas from that state of depression in which they remained. In 1734 he was nominated Governor General of the isles of France and Bourbon; where he arrived in June 1735. So little had been done for the improvement of these islands, that the people, few in number, were living nearly in the state of nature. They were poor, without industry, and without the knowledge of almost any of the useful arts. They had neither magazine, nor hospital, neither fortification, nor defensive force, military or naval. They had nobook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. roads; they had no beasts of burden, and no vehicles. Every thing remained to be done by Labourdonnais; and he was capable of every thing. With the hand to execute, as well as the head to contrive, he could construct a ship from the keel; He performed the functions of engineer, of architect, of agriculturist: He broke bulls to the yoke, constructed vehicles, and made roads: He apprenticed blacks to the few handicrafts whom he carried out with him: He prevailed upon the inhabitants to cultivate the ground; and introduced the culture of the sugar-cane and indigo: He made industry and the useful arts to flourish; contending with the ignorance, the prejudices, and the inveterate habits of idleness, of those with whom he had to deal, and who opposed him at every step. To introduce any degree of order and vigilance into the management even of the hospital which he constructed for the sick, it was necessary for him to perform the office of superintendant himself, and for a whole twelvemonth he visited it regularly every morning. Justice had been administered by the Councils, to whom that function regularly belonged, in a manner which produced great dissatisfaction. During eleven years that Labourdonnais was Governor, there was but one law-suit in the isle of France, he himself having terminated all differences by arbitration.
The vast improvements which he effected in the islands did not secure him from the disapprobation of his employers. The captains of ships, and other visitants of the islands, whom he checked in their unreasonable demands, and from whom he exacted the discharge of their duties, filled the ears of the Company’s Directors with complaints; and the Directors, with too little knowledge for accurate book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. judgment, and too little interest for careful inquiry, inferred culpability, because there was accusation. He returned to France in 1740, disgusted with his treatment; and fully determined to resign the government: But the minister refused his consent. It is said that being asked by one of the Directors of the Company, how it was, that he had conducted his own affairs so prosperously, those of the Company so much the reverse; he replied that he had conducted his own affairs according to his own judgement: those of the Company according to that of the Directors.1
Perceiving, by the state of affairs in Europe, that a rupture was approaching between France and the maritime powers, his fertile mind conceived a project for striking a fatal blow at the English trade in the East. Imparting the design to some of his friends, he perceived that he should be aided with funds sufficient to equip, as ships of war, six vessels and two frigates; with which, being on the spot when war should be declared, he could sweep the seas of the English commerce, before a fleet could arrive for its protection. He communicated the scheme to the ministry, by whom it was embraced, but moulded into a different form. They proposed to send out a fleet, composed partly of the King’s and partly of the Company’s ships, with Labourdonnais in the command: And though he foresaw opposition from the Company, to whom neither he nor the scheme was agreeable, he refused not to lend himself to the ministerial scheme. He sailed from L’Orient on the 5th of April, 1741, with five ships of the Company: one carrying fifty-six; two carrying fifty; one, twentyeight; and one, sixteen guns; having on board about 1,200 sailors, and 500 soldiers. Two King’s ships had been intended to make part of his squadron; butbook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. they, to his great disappointment, received another destination. He also found that, of the ship’s crews, three-fourths had never before been at sea; and that of either soldiers or sailors hardly one had ever fired a cannon or a musket. His mind was formed to contend with, rather than yield to difficulties: and he began immediately to exercise his men with all his industry; or rather with as much industry as their love of ease, and the opposition it engendered, rendered practicable. He arrived at the Isle of France on the 14th of August, 1741; where he learned, that Pondicherry was menaced by the Mahrattas, and that the islands of France and Bourbon had sent their garrisons to its assistance. After a few necessary operations to put the islands in security, he sailed for Pondicherry on the 22d of August, where he arrived on the 30th of September. The danger there was blown over; but the settlement at Mahé had been eight months blockaded by the natives. He repaired to the place of danger; chastised the enemy; re-established the factory; and then returned to the islands to wait for the declaration of war between France and England. There he soon received the mortifying orders of the Company to send home all the vessels under his command. Upon this he again requested leave to resign, and again the minister refused his consent. His views were now confined to his islands, and he betook himself with his pristine ardour to their improvement. On the 14th of September, 1744, in the midst of these occupations, the intelligence arrived of the declaration of war between France and England; and filled his mind with the mortifying conception of the important things he now might have achieved, but which the mistaken policy or perversity of his employers had prevented.
book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. Unable to do what he wished, he still resolved to do what he could. He retained whatever ships had arrived at the islands, namely, one of forty-four guns, one of forty, one of thirty, one of twenty-six, one of eighteen, and another of twenty-six, which was sent to him from Pondicherry with the most pressing solicitations to hasten to its protection. The islands, at which unusual scarcity prevailed, were destitute of almost every requisite for the equipment of the ships; and their captains, chagrined at the interruption of their voyages, seconded the efforts of the Governor with all the ill-will it was safe for them to show. He was obliged to make even a requisition of negrees to man the fleet. In want of hands trained to the different operations of the building and equipping of ships, he employed the various handicrafts whom he was able to muster; and by skilfully assigning to them such parts of the business as were most analogous to the operations of their respective trades, by furnishing them with models which he prepared himself, by giving the most precise directions, and with infinite diligence superintending every operation in person, he overcame in some measure the difficulties with which he was surrounded. In the mean time intelligence was brought by a frigate, that five of the Company’s ships which he was required to protect, and which he was authorized by the King to command, would arrive at the islands in October. They did not arrive till January, 1746. The delay had consumed a great part of the provisions of the former ships: those which arrived had remaining for themselves a supply of only four months; they were in bad order: and there was no time, nor materials, nor hands to repair them. Only one was armed. It was necessary they should all be armed; and the means for that purpose were totally wanting. The ships’ crews, incorporated with the negroes and thebook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. handicrafts, Labourdonnais formed into companies; he taught them the manual exercise, and military movements; showed them how to scale a wall, and apply petards; exercised them in firing at a mark; and employed the most dexterous among them in preparing themselves to use a machine, which he had invented, for throwing with mortars grappling-hooks for boarding to the distance of thirty toises.1
He forwarded the ships, as fast as they were prepared, to Madagascar, where they might add to their stock of provisions, or at any rate save the stock which was already on board; and he followed with the last on the 24th of March. Before sailing from Madagascar, a storm arose by which the ships were driven from their anchorage. One was lost; and the rest, greatly damaged, collected themselves in the bay of a desert island on the coast of Madagascar. Here the operations of repairing were to be renewed; and in still more unfavourable circumstances. To get the wood they required, a road was made across a marsh, a league in circumference; the rains were incessant; disease broke out among the people; and many of the officers showed a bad disposition; yet the work was prosecuted with so much efficiency, that in forty-eight days the fleet was ready for sea. book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. It now consisted of nine sail, containing 3,342 men, among whom were 720 blacks, and from three to four hundred sick.
In passing the island of Ceylon, they received intelligence that the English fleet was at hand. Labourdonnais summoned his captains on board, many of whom had shown themselves ill-disposed in the operations of industry; but all of whom manifested an eagerness to fight. As Labourdonnais understood that he was superior to the English in number of men, but greatly inferior in weight of metal, he declared his intention to gain, if possible, the wind, and to board. On the 6th of July, on the coast of Coromandel, the English fleet appeared to windward, advancing with full sail toward the French.1
Immediately after the declaration of war between France and England, a fleet, consisting of two ships of sixty guns each, one of fifty, and a frigate of twenty, commanded by Commodore Barnet, had been dispatched to India. It cruized, at first, in two divisions; one in the straits of Sunda, the other in the straits of Malacca, the places best fitted for intercepting the French traders, of which it captured four. After rendezvousing at Batavia, the united fleet appeared on the coast of Coromandel, in the month of July, 1745. The Governor of Pondicherry, the garrison of which at that time consisted of only 436 Europeans, prevailed on the Mogul Governor of the province, to declare Pondicherry under his protection, and to threaten Madras, if the English fleet should commit hostilities on any part of his dominions. This intimidated the government of Madras, and they requested Commodore Barnet to confine his operations to the sea; who accordingly left the coast ofbook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. Coromandel, to avoid the stormy season, which he passed at Mergui, a port on the opposite coast; and returned in the beginning of 1746. His fleet was now reinforced by two fifty gun ships, and a frigate of twenty guns from England; but one of the sixty gun ships had become unfit for service, and, together with the twenty gun frigate, went back to England. Commodore Barnet died at Fort St. David in the month of April; and was succeeded by Mr. Peyton, the second in command; who was cruizing to the southward of Fort St. David, near Negapatnam, when he descried the enemy just arriving on the coast.1
Labourdonnais formed his line, and waited for the English, who kept the advantage of the wind, and frustrated his design of boarding. A distant fight began about four in the afternoon, and the fleets separated for want of light about seven. Next morning Mr. Peyton called a council of war, and it was resolved, because the sixty gun ship was leaky, to sail for Trincomalee. The enemy lay to, the whole day, expecting that the English, who had the wind, would return to the engagement. The French, however, were in no condition to pursue, and sailed for Pondicherry, at which they arrived on the eighth day of the month.2
Joseph Francis Dupleix was at that time Governor of Pondicherry; having succeeded to the supreme command of the French settlements in 1742. To book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. this man are to be traced some of the most important of the modern revolutions in India. His father was a farmer-general of the revenues, and a Director of the East India Company. He had set his heart upon rearing his son to a life of commerce; and his education, which was liberal, was carefully directed to that end. As the study of mathematics, of fortification, and engineering, seemed to engross his attention too exclusively,1 his father in 1715 sent him to sea; and he made several voyages to the Indies and America. He soon imbibed the taste of his occupation, and, desiring to pursue the line of maritime commerce, his father recommended him to the East India Company, and had sufficient interest to send him out in 1720 as first Member of the Council at Pondicherry. Impatient for distinction, the young man devoted himself to the business of his office; and became in time minutely acquainted with the commerce of the country. He embarked in it, on his own account; a species of adventure from which the poverty of the servants of the French Company had in general debarred them. In this station he continued for ten years, when his knowledge and talents pointed him out as the fittest person to superintend the business of the Company at their settlement at Chandernagor in Bengal. Though Bengal was the richest part of India, thebook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. French factory in that province had, from want of funds and from bad management, remained in a low condition. The colony was still to be formed; and the activity and resources of the new manager soon produced the most favourable changes. The colonists multiplied; enterprise succeeded to languor; Dupleix on his own account entered with ardour into the country trade, in which he employed the inheritance he derived from his father, and had frequently not less than twelve vessels, belonging to himself and his partners, navigating to Surat, Mocca, Jedda, the Manillas, the Maldivias, Goa, Bussora, and the coast of Malabar. He realized a great fortune: During his administration more than 2,000 brick houses were built at Chandernagor: He formed a new establishment for the French Company at Patna; and rendered the French commerce in Bengal an object of envy to the most commercial of the European colonies.
The reputation which he acquired in this situation pointed him out as the fittest person to occupy the station of Governor at Pondicherry. Upon his appointment to this chief command, he found the Company in debt; and he was pressed by instructions from home, to effect immediately a great reduction of expense.
The reduction of expense, in India, raising up a host of enemies, is an arduous and a dangerous task to a European Governor. Dupleix was informed that war was impending between France and the maritime powers. Pondicherry was entirely open to the sea, and very imperfectly fortified even toward the land. He proceeded, with his usual industry, to inquire, to plan, and to execute. Though expressly forbidden, under the present circumstances of the Company, to incur book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. any expense for fortifications, he, on the prospect of a war with the maritime powers, made the works at Pondicherry a primary object. He had been struggling with the difficulties of narrow resources, and the strong temptation of extended views, about four years, when Labourdonnais arrived in the roads.1
The mind of Dupleix, though ambitious, active, and ingenious, seems to have possessed but little elevation. His vanity was excessive, and even effeminate; and he was not exempt from the infirmities of jealousy and revenge. In the enterprizes in which the fleet was destined to be employed, Labourdonnais was to reap the glory; and from the very first he had reason to complain of the air of haughtiness and reserve which his rival assumed. As the English traders were warned out of the seas, and nothing was to be gained by cruizing, Labourdonnais directed his thoughts to Madras. The danger however was great, so long as his ships were liable to be attacked, with the greater part of their crews on shore. He, therefore, demanded sixty pieces of cannon from Dupleix, to place him on a level in point of metal with the English fleet, and resolved to proceed in quest of it. Dupleix alleged the danger of leaving Pondicherry deprived of its guns, and refused. With a very inferior reinforcement of guns,2 with a very inadequate supply of ammunition, and with water given him at Pondicherry, so bad, as to produce the dysentery in his fleet, Labourdonnais put to sea on the 4th of August. On the 17th he descried the English fleet off Negapatnam, and hoisted Dutch colours as a decoy. The English understood the stratagem; changedbook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. their course; and fled. Labourdonnais says he pursued them all that day and the next; when, having the wind, they escaped.1 He returned to Pondicherry on the 23d, much enfeebled by disease, and found all hearty co-operation on the part of the governor and council still more hopeless than before. After a series of unfriendly proceedings, under which he had behaved with a manly temperance; after Dupleix had even commanded him to re-land the Pondicherry troops, he resolved to send the fleet, which he was still too much indisposed to command, towards Madras, for the double purpose, of seizing the vessels by which the people of Madras were preparing to send away the most valuable of their effects, and of ascertaining whether his motions were watched by the English fleet. The cruise was unskilfully conducted, and yielded little in the way of prize; it afforded presumption, however, that the English fleet had abandoned the coast. Labourdonnais saw, therefore, a chance of executing his plan upon Madras. He left Pondicherry on the 12th of September, and on the 14th commenced the operations, which ended, as we have seen, in the surrender of the place.
It was in consequence of an express article in his orders from home that Labourdonnais agreed to the restoration of Madras.2 But nothing could be more adverse to the views of Duplex. He advised, he intreated, he menaced, he protested; Labourdonnais, book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. however, proceeded with firmness to fulfil the conditions into which he had entered. Dupleix not only refused all assistance to expedite the removal of the goods, and enable the ships to leave Madras before the storms which accompany the change of monsoon; he raised up every obstruction in his power, and even endeavoured to excite sedition among Labourdonnais’ own people, that they might seize and send him to Pondicherry. On the night of the 13th of October a storm arose, which forced the ships out to sea. Two were lost, and only fourteen of the crew of one of them were saved. Another was carried so far to the southward, that she was unable to regain the coast; all lost their masts, and sustained great and formidable injury. Disregarding the most urgent entreaties for assistance, Dupleix maintained his opposition. At last, a suggestion was made, that the articles of the treaty of ransom should be so far altered, as to afford time to the French, for removal of the goods; and Labourdonnais and the English, though with some reluctance, agreed, that the period of evacuation should be changed from the 15th of October to the 15th of January. This was all that Dupleix desired. Upon the departure of Labourdonnais, which the state of the season rendered indispensable, the place would be delivered into the hands of Dupleix, and he was not to be embarrassed with the fetters of a treaty.1
The remaining history of Labourdonnais may bebook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. shortly adduced. Upon his return to Pondicherry, the opposition, which he had formerly experienced, was changed into open hostility. All his proposals for a union of counsels and of resources were rejected with scorn. Three fresh ships had arrived from the islands; and, notwithstanding the loss occasioned by the storm, the force of the French was still sufficient to endanger, if not to destroy, the whole of the English settlements in India.1 Convinced, by the counteraction which he experienced, that he possessed not the means of carrying his designs into execution, Labourdonnais acceded to the proposition of Dupleix that he should proceed to Acheen with such of the ships as were able to keep the sea, and return to Pondicherry after they were repaired; resigning five of them to Dupleix to carry next year’s investment to Europe. At its departure, the squadron consisted of seven ships, of which four were in tolerable repair; the rest were in such a condition that it was doubted whether they could reach Acheen; if this was impracticable, they were to sail for the islands. In conformity with this plan, Labourdonnais divided them into two parts. The first, consisting of the sound vessels, was directed to make its way to Acheen, book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. without waiting for the rest: he himself remained with the second, with intention to follow, if that were in his power. The first division outsailed, and soon lost sight of the other; with which Labourdonnais, finding it in vain to strive for Acheen, at last directed his course to the islands. Hastening to Europe, to make his defence, or answer the accusations of his enemies, he took his passage in a ship belonging to Holland. In consequence of the declaration of war she was forced into an English harbour. Labourdonnais was recognized, and made a prisoner; but the conduct which he had displayed at Madras was known and remembered. All ranks received him with favour and distinction. That he might not be detained, a Director of the East India Company offered to become security for him with his person and property. With a corresponding liberality, the government declined the offer, desiring no security but the word of Labourdonnais. His treatment in France was different. The representations of Dupleix had arrived: A brother of Dupleix was a Director of the East India Company; Dupleix had only violated a solemn treaty; Labourdonnais had only faithfully and gloriously served his country; and he was thrown into the Bastile. He remained in that prison three years; while the vindication which he published, and the authentic documents by which he supported it, fully established his innocence, and the ardour and ability of his services. He survived his liberation a short time, a memorable example of the manner in which a blind government encourages desert.1
He had not taken his departure from Madras,book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. when the troops of the Nabob appeared. Dupleix had been able to dissuade that native ruler from yielding his protection to Madras, a service which the English, who had prevailed on Commodore Barnet to abstain from molesting Pondicherry, claimed as their due. Dupleix had gained him by the promise of Madras. The Moor (so at that time the Moslems in India were generally called) quickly however perceived, that the promise was a delusion; and he now proposed to take vengeance by driving the French from the place. As soon as Labourdonnais and his fleet disappeared, a numerous army of the Nabob, led by his son, invested Madras. From the disaster however which had befallen the fleet, Labourdonnais had been under the necessity of leaving behind him about 1200 Europeans, disciplined by himself; the French, therefore, encountered the Indians; astonished them beyond measure, by the rapidity of their artillery; with a numerical force which bore no proportion to the enemy, gained over them a decisive victory; and first broke the spell which held the Europenas in subjection to the native powers.1
The masters of mankind, how little soever disposed to share better things with the people, are abundantly willing to give them a share of their disgrace. Though, on other occasions, they may affect book iv.Chap. 1. 1746. a merit in despising the public will, they diligently put on the appearance of being constrained by it in any dishonourable action which they have a mind to perform. In violating the treaty with the English, Dupleix recognized his own baseness; means were therefore used to make the French inhabitants of Pondicherry assemble and draw up a remonstrance against it, and a prayer that it might be annulled. Moved by respect for the general voice of his countrymen, Dupleix sent his orders to declare the treaty of ransom annulled; to take the keys of all magazines; and to seize every article of property, except the clothes of the wearers, the moveables of their houses, and the jewels of the women; orders which were executed with avaricious exactness. The governor and principal inhabitants were carried prisoners to Pondicherry, and exhibited, by Dupleix, in a species of triumph.1
The English still possessed the settlement of Fort St. David, on the coast of Coromandel. It was situated twelve miles south from Pondicherry; with a territory still larger than that of Madras. Besides Fort St. David, at which were placed the houses of the Company, and other Europeans, it contained the town of Cuddalore, inhabited by the Indian merchants, and other natives; and two or three populous villages. The fort was small; but stronger than anybook iv.Chap. 1. 1746. of its size in India. Cuddalore was surrounded, on the three sides towards the land, by walls flanked with bastions. On the side towards the sea, it was open, but skirted by a river, which was separated from the sea by a mound of sand. A part of the inhabitants of Madras had, after the violation of the treaty of ransom, made their way to Fort St. David; and the agents of the Company at that place now took upon themselves the functions of the Presidency of Madras, and the general administration of the English affairs on the Coromandel coast.1
Dupleix lost no time in following up the retention of Madras with an enterprise against Fort St. David, the reduction of which would have left him without a European rival. In the night of the 19th of December, a force consisting of 1700 men, mostly Europeans, of which fifty were cavalry, with two companies of the Caffre slaves trained by Labourdonnais, set out from Pondicherry, and arrived next morning in the vicinity of the English fort. The garrison, including the men who had escaped from Madras, amounted to no more than about 200 Europeans, and 100 Topasses. At this time the English had not yet learned to train Sepoys in the European discipline, though the French had already set them the example, and had four or five disciplined companies at Pondicherry.2 They had hired, however, 2000 of the undisciplined soldiers of the country, who are armed promiscuously with swords and targets, bows and arrows, pikes, lances, matchlocks or muskets, and known among the Europeans by the book iv.Chap. 1. 1747. name of Peons; among these men they had distributed eight or nine hundred muskets, and destined them for the defence of Cuddalore. They had also applied for assistance to the Nabob; and he, exasperated against the French, by his defeat at Madras, engaged, upon the promise of the English to defray part of the expense, to send his army to assist Fort St. David. The French, having gained an advantageous post, and laid down their arms for a little rest, were exulting in the prospect of an easy prey, when an army of nearly 10,000 men advanced in sight. Not attempting resistance, the French made good their retreat, with twelve Europeans killed and 120 wounded. Dupleix immediately entered into a correspondence with the Moors to detach them from the English; and, at the same time, meditated the capture of Cuddalore by surprise. On the night of the 10th of January, 500 men were embarked in boats, with orders to enter the river and attack the open quarter of the town at daybreak. But, as the wind rose, and the surf was high, they were compelled to return.1
Dupleix was fertile in expedients, and indefatigable in their application. He sent a detachment from Madras into the Nabob’s territory, in hopes to withdraw him to its defence. The French troops disgraced themselves by the barbarity of their ravages; but the Indian army remained at Fort St. David, and the resentment of the Nabob was increased. On the 20th of January, the four ships of Labourdonnais’ squadron, which had sailed to Acheen to refit, arrived in the road of Pondicherry. Dupleix conveyed to the Nabob an exaggerated account of the vast accession of force which he had received; describing the English as a contemptible handful of men, devoted to destruction.book iv.Chap. 1. 1747. “The governments of Indostan,” says Mr. Orme on this occasion, “have no idea of national honour in the conduct of their politics; and as soon as they think the party with whom they are engaged is reduced to great distress, they shift, without hesitation, their alliance to the opposite side, making immediate advantage the only rule of their action.” A peace was accordingly concluded; the Nabob’s troops abandoned the English; his son, who commanded the army, paid a visit to Pondicherry; was received, by Dupleix, with that display in which he delighted; and was gratified by a considerable present.1
Blocked up, as it would have been, from receiving supplies, by the British ships at sea, and by the Nabob’s army on land, Pondicherry, but for this treaty, would soon have been reduced to extremity.2 And now the favourable opportunity for accomplishing the destruction of Fort St. David was eagerly seized. On the morning of the 13th of March, a French army was seen approaching the town. After some resistance, it had crossed the river, which flows a little way north from the fort, and had taken possession of its former advantageous position; when an English fleet was seen approaching the road. The French crossed the river with precipitation, and returned to Pondicherry.3
The fleet under Captain Peyton, after it was lost sight of by Labourdonnais, on the 18th of August, off Negapatnam, had tantalized the inhabitants of Madras, who looked to it with eagerness for protection, by appearing off Pullicat, about thirty miles to book iv.Chap. 1. 1747. the northward on the 3d of September, and again sailing away. Peyton proceeded to Bengal: because the sixty gun ship was in such a condition as to be supposed incapable of bearing the shock of her own guns. The fleet was there reinforced by two ships, one of sixty and one of forty guns, sent from England with Admiral Griffin; who assumed the command, and proceeded with expedition to save Fort St. David, and menace Pondicherry. The garrison was reinforced by the arrival of 100 Europeans, 200 Topasses, and 100 Sepoys, from Bombay, beside 400 Sepoys from Tellichery: In the course of the year 150 soldiers were landed from the Company’s ships from England: And, in the month of January, 1748, Major Laurence arrived, with a commission to command the whole of the Company’s forces in India.1
The four ships which had arrived at Pondicherry from Acheen, and which Dupleix foresaw would be in imminent danger, when the English fleet should return to the coast, he had, as soon as he felt assured of concluding peace with the Nabob, ordered from Pondicherry to Goa. From Goa they proceeded to Mauritius, where they were joined by three other ships from France. About the middle of June, this fleet was descried off Fort St. David, making sail, as if it intended to bear down upon the English. Admiral Griffin waited for the land wind, and put to sea at night, expecting to find the enemy in the morning. But the French admiral, as soon as it was dark, crowded sail, and proceeded directly to Madras, where he landed 300 soldiers, and 200,000l. in silver, the object of his voyage; and then returned to Mauritius. Admiral Griffin sought for him in vain. But Dupleix, knowing that several days would be necessary to bring the English ships back to Fort St. David, against the monsoon, contrived another attack uponbook iv.Chap. 1. 1748. Cuddalore. Major Laurence, by a well executed feint, allowed the enemy at midnight to approach the very walls, and even to apply the scaling ladders, under an idea that the garrison was withdrawn, when a sudden discharge of artillery and musketry struck them with dismay, and threw them into precipitate retreat.1
The government of England, moved by the disasters of the nation in India, and jealous of the ascendancy assumed by the French, had now prepared a formidable armament for the East. Nine ships of the public navy, one of seventy-four, one of sixty-four, two of sixty, two of fifty, one of twenty guns, a sloop of fourteen, a bomb ketch with her tender, and a hospital-ship, commanded by Admiral Boscawen; and eleven ships of the Company, carrying stores and troops to the amount of 1,400 men, set sail from England toward the end of the year 1747. They had instructions to capture the island of Mauritius in their way; as a place of great importance to the enterprises of the French in India. But the leaders of the expedition, after examining the coast, and observing the means of defence, were deterred, by the loss of time which the enterprise would occasion. On the 9th of August they arrived at Fort St. David, when the squadron, joined to that under Griffin, formed the largest European force that any one power had yet possessed in India.2
Dupleix, who had received early intelligence from France of the preparations for this armament, had book iv.Chap. 1. 1748. been the more eager to obtain an interval of friendship with the Nabob, and to improve it to the utmost for laying in provisions and stores at Pondicherry and Madras; knowing well, as soon as the superior force of the English should appear, that the Nabob would change sides, and the French settlements, both by sea and land, would again be cut off from supplies.1
Preparations at Fort St. David had been made, to expedite the operations of Boscawen, and he was in a very short time ready for action; when all Englishmen exulted in the hope of seeing the loss of Madras revenged by the destruction of Pondicherry. Amid other points of preparation for attaining this desirable object, there was one, to wit, knowledge, which they had, unfortunately, overlooked. At a place called Ariancopang, about two miles to the southwest of Pondicherry, the French had built a small fort. When the English arrived at this place, not a man was found who could give a description of it. They resolved, however, to take it by assault; but were repulsed, and the repulse dejected the men. Time was precious; for the season of the rains, and the change of monsoon, were at hand: A small detachment, too, left at the fort, might have held the feeble garrison in check: But it was resolved to take Ariancopang at any expense: Batteries were opened; but the enemy defended themselves with spirit: Major Laurence was taken prisoner in the trenches: Several days were consumed, and more would have been added to them, had not a part of the enemy’s magazine of powder taken fire, which so terrified the garrison, that they blew up the walls and retreated to Pondicherry. As if sufficient time had not been lost, the English remained five days longer to repair thebook iv.Chap. 1. 1748. fort, in which they resolved to leave a garrison, lest the enemy should resume possession during the siege.
They advanced to Pondicherry, and opened the trenches on the northwest side of the town, at the distance of 1,500 yards from the wall, though it was even then customary to open them within 800 yards of the covered way. The cannon and mortars in the ships were found capable of little execution; and, from want of experience, the approaches, with much labour, went slowly on. At last they were carried within 800 yards of the wall; when it was found impossible to extend them any further, on account of a large morass; while, on the northern side of the town, they might have been carried to the foot of the glacis. Batteries, at the distance of 800 yards, were constructed on the edge of the morass; but the enemy’s fire proved double that of the besiegers; the rains came on; sickness prevailed in the camp; very little impression had been made on the defences of the town; a short time would make the roads impracticable; and hurricanes were apprehended, which would drive the ships from the coast. It was therefore determined, by a council of war, thirty-one days after the opening of the trenches, that the siege should be raised. Dupleix, as corresponded with the character of the man, made a great ostentation and parade on this unexpected event. He represented himself as having gained one of the most brilliant victories on record; he wrote letters in this strain, not only to France, but to the Indian princes, and even to the Great Mogul himself; he received in return the highest compliments on his own conduct and bravery, as well as on the prowess of his nation; and the book iv.Chap. 1. 1749. English were regarded in India as only a secondary and inferior people.1
In November news arrived that a suspension of arms had taken place between England and France: and this was shortly after followed by intelligence of the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, in which the French government had agreed to restore Madras. It was delivered up in August, with its fortifications much improved. At the distance of four miles south from Madras was the town of San Tomé, or St. Thomas, built by the Portuguese, and, in the time of their prosperity, a place of note. It had long however been reduced to obscurity, and though inhabited mostly by Christians, had hardly been regarded as a possession by any of the European powers. It had been found that the Roman Catholic priests, from the sympathy of religion, had conveyed useful information to the French in their designs upon Madras. To prevent the like inconvenience in future, it was now taken possession of by the English, and the obnoxious part of the inhabitants ordered to withdraw.2
No events of any importance had occurred at the other presidencies, during these years of war. The Viceroy of Bengal had prohibited the French and English from prosecuting their hostilities in his dominions. This governor exacted contributions from the European colonies, for the protection which he bestowed; that however which he imposed upon the English did not exceed 100,000l. A quantity of rawbook iv.Chap. 1. 1749. silk, amounting to 300 bales, belonging to the Company, was plundered by the Mahrattas; and the distress which the incursions of that people produced in the province, increased the difficulties of traffic.1
The trade of the Company exhibited the following results:—
The bills of exchange for which the Company paid during those years were:
The amount of sales for the same years (including thirty per cent. of duties, which remained to be deducted) was:
The official value at the custom-house of the imports and exports of the Company, during that period, was as follows:
book iv.Chap. 1. 1749.
The dividend was eight per cent. per annum, during the whole of the time.2
During the same period, the trade of the nation, notwithstanding the war, had considerably increased. The imports had risen from 6,362,971l. official value, to 8,136,408l.; and the exports from 11,429,628l. to 12,351,433l.; and, in the two following years, to 14,099,366l. and 15,132,004l.3
Committees; i. e. Persons to whom something is committed, or entrusted.
Letters Patent, 10 Will. III., Collection of Charters, &c.
Not in the East India Company alone; in the Bank of England also, the constitution of which is similar, oligarchy has always prevailed. Nor will the circumstances be found to differ in any joint stock association in the history of British Commerce. So little does experience countenance the dangerous maxim, of the people’s being always eager to grasp at too much power, that the great difficulty, in regard to good government, is, to get them really to exercise that degree of power, their own exercise of which good government absolutely requires.
The following account is derived from an official report on the business of the Committees, called for by the Board of Control, and transmitted officially by the Court of Directors, of which the substance is given in Mr. Bruce’s Historical View of Plans for the Government of British India, p. 600.
Custom House accounts. See Sir Charles Whitworth’s Tables, p. 9.
Try, for example, the sum of the exports for twenty years from 1710, in Sir Charles Whitworth’s Tables, and that in the Company’s accounts; the table, for instance, No. 7, in the Appendix to Mr. Macpherson’s History of European Commerce with India. See too, the averages in Bruce’s Historical View of Plans for British India, p. 295.
Ninth bye-law of the Company, in Russel’s Collection of Statutes.
The obstinate adherence of the natives to their established customs, renders it not easy to quit the track which on any occasion they have formed; and under the ignorance of their manners and character which distinguishes the greater proportion of the Company’s servants, it would be mischievous to attempt it. Where the agent however is intelligent, and acquainted with the language and manners of the people, he does simplify and improve the business to a certain degree; and were it performed by men who had an interest to establish themselves in the country, and who would make it a business, it would gradually acquire that rational form which the interests of a rational people would recommend.
Seventh Report from the Committee of Secresy on the State of the East India Company, in 1773.
See Ninth Report, Select Committee, 1783, p. 11.
Anderson s History of Commerce, Anno 1727.
Anderson’s History of Commerce, A. D. 1719.
Sir Charles Whitworth’s Tables, part i. p. 78.
Third Report from the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, on the State of the East India Company, in 1773, p. 73.
10 Ann c 28. See Collection of Statutes, p. 42.
Anderson’s Hist. of Commerce, A. D. 1716 and 1718, and Collection of Statutes.
See Coxe’s Memoirs of Sir Robert, and Lord Walpole, and Hist. of the House of Austria, ad annos.
5 Geo. I. c. 24; 7 Geo. I. c. 21; 9 Geo. I. c. 26.
Collection of Statutes, p. 50.
Orme’s History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in India, i. 17–19. Seer Mutakhareen, i. 17 and 296.
He is named Caundorah by Mr. Orme (Ibid. p. 20), who erroneously makes Houssein, instead of Abdoolah Khan, vizir.
This incident is related with some additional circumstances by Scott, History of Aurungzebe’s Successors, p. 139. From the manner in which he speaks of the Emperor’s disease (he speaks very vaguely), he appears not to have thought it of the sort which is generally represented; the question is of small importance.
Orme, Hist. ut supra, ii. 20–25.
See a distinct summary of the proposals, and of the arguments pro and con. in Anderson’s Hist. of Commerce, A. D. 1730. For the proceedings in parliament, consult the Journals, with Boyer’s Political State, and Hansard’s Parliamentary Hist.
It was asserted by the merchants, and, as far as appears, without contradiction, that foreigners possessed at least a third part of the stock of the East India Company; and one third of their gain was thus made for the benefit of other countries. Political State, A. D. 1730, xxxix. 240.
As a corporate body is seldom hurt by its modesty, the Company alleged that they had a right, by a preceding act of parliament, to the monopoly in perpetuity; but to avoid disputes, they consented to wave this claim, for a certainty of thirty-six years. 3 Geo. II. c. 14. Collection of Statutes, p. 73. Anderson, ad an. 1730. Political State. xxxix. 258.
Sir Charles Whitworth’s Tables, part ii. p. 9.
Third Report of the Committee of Secrecy, on the State of the East India Company, (House of Commons, 1773,) p. 75.
Ibid. p. 73.
Histoire Philosoph. et Polit. des Establissemens, &c. dans les Deux Indes, par Guillaume Thomas Raynal, liv. ii. sect. 21. Table at the end of the vol.
Anderson’s Hist. of Commerce, ad an. 1744; Collection of Statutes, p. 84, 17 Geo. II. c. 17.
Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 124. Mr. Orme, i. 67, says the third, the difference being that of the stiles: The old stile, it appears, was used by the English historian.
Memoire, ut supra, p. 125. Orme, p. 67.
Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 126–142. Orme, i. 64–69.
Raynal, ii. 271. Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 88, 95. Orme, i. 92.
Memoire, ut supra, p. 94. Raynal, ut supra, p. 217.
Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 95. Memoire contre Dupleix, p. 8.
Raynal, liv. iv. sect. 20.
This seems to be the same invention exactly with that of Captain Manby, for throwing a rope on board a vessel threatened with shipwreck. See an essay on the Preservation of Shipwrecked Persons by G. W. Manby, Esq. and Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 80. The obvious expedient of training the sailors for land operations is of high importance; and it argues little for the heads of those who have conducted enterprises in which the mariners might have been, or were to be, employed for laud operations, that such training has so rarely been resorted to. How much more instructive, than that of the vulgar details of war, is the contemplation of the ingenuity, the industry, and the perseverance of such a man as Labourdonnais, in the various critical situations in which he was placed!
For the above details respecting Labourdonnais, see Memoire, ut supra, pp. 10–92.
Orme, i. 60–63.
Orme, i. pp. 62, 63. Memoire, ut supra, pp. 88–90. Mr Orme says, the challenge of Labourdonuais was only a feint, and that he was in no condition to renew the engagement; he himself in the Memoire, says, that it was not a feint, and that ce fut avec un extreme regret qu’il vit les Anglots lui échapper.
The character he manifested at school bears a resemblance to what is reported of Napoleon Bonaparté “La passion avec laquelle il se livra à l’etude des mathematiques, le degout qu’elle lui inspira pour tous les arts aimables qui ne lui paroissoient que frivoles, le charactere taciturne, distrait, et meditatif, qu’elle parut lui donner, et la retraite qu’elle lui faisoit toujours preferer aux amusemens ordinaires de la société.” Memoire pour Dupleix, p. 9. The coincidence in character with these men of another remarkable personage, Frederick the Great of Prussia, while a boy, is perhaps worth the remarking. His sister says, “Il avoit de l’esprit; son humeur etoit sombre et taciturne; il pensoit long temps, avant que de repondre, mais, en recompense, il repondoit juste.” Memoires de Frederique Sophie Wilhelmine de Prusse, Margrave de Bareith, i. 8–22.
Memoire pour Dupleix, pp. 9–26.
Labourdonnais (Memoire, i. 109) does not state the number of the guns from Pondicherry with which he was obliged to content himself. Orme, i. 64. says he obtained thirty or forty pieces; but it is a grievous defect of Mr. Orme’s history, that he never gives his authorities.
Memoire pour Labourdonnais, ut supra, p. 110, and Orme, p. 64, who here adopts the account of Labourdonnais.
Il est expressément défendu au sieur de la Bourdonnais de s’emparer d’aucun etablissement ou comptoir des ennemis pour le conserver. Mem. p. 105. This was signed by M. Orry, Controuleur General. It appears, by the orders both to Labourdonnais and Dupleix, that the French government, and East India Company, shrunk from all idea of conquest in India.
Memoire, ut supra, pp. 142–220. Orme, i. 69–72. Dupleix, in his apology, involves the cause of his opposition to Labourdonnais in mystery. It was a secret, forsooth! And a secret, too, of the ministry and the company! The disgrace, then, was tripartite; Great consolation to Labourdonnais! And great satisfaction to the nation! “Le Sieur Dupleix,” says the Memoire, “respecte trop les ordres du ministere et ceux de la Compagnie pour oser publier ici ce qu’il lui a été enjoint d’ensevelir dans le plus profond secret:” p. 27. In the usual style of subterfuge and mystery, this is ambiguous and equivooal. The word ordres may signify orders given him to behave as he did to Labourdonnais; and this is the sense in which it is understood by Voltaire, who says, “Le gouverneur Dupleix s’excusa daus ses Memoires sur des ordres secrets du ministère. Mais il n’avait pu recevoir à six mille lieues des ordres concernant une conquête qu’on venait de faire, et que le ministère de France n’avait jamais pu prevoir. Si ces ordres funestes avaient été donnés par prevoyance, ils etorent formellement contradictoires avec ceux que la Bourdonnais avait apportés. Le ministère aurart eu à se reprocher la perte de neuf millions dont on priva la France en violant la capitulation, mais sur-tout le cruel traitement dont il paya le genie, la valeur, et la magnanimité de la Bourdonnais.” Fragm. Histor. sur l’ Inde, Art. 3. But the word ordres may also signify orders merely not to disclose the pretended secret. This is a species of defence which ought ever to be suspected; for it may as easily be applied to the greatest villainy as to the greatest worth, and is far more likely to be so.
Orme, i. 69, 73.
Memoire, ut supra, pp. 221–280. Orme, i. 72, Raynal, liv. iv. sect. 20. Voltaire, amid other praises, says of him, “Il fit plus; il dispersa une escadre Angloise dans la mer de l’Inde, ce qui n’etoit jamais arrivé qu’ à lui, et ce qu’on n’a pas revu depuis” Fragm. Histor. sur l’Inde, Art. 3.
Memoire pour Dupleix, p. 28; Mem. pour Labourdonnais, i. 243. “It was now more than a century,” (says Mr. Orme, i. 76) “since any of the European nations had gained a decisive advantage in war against the officers of the Great Mogul. The experience of former unsuccessful wars, and the scantiness of military abilities which prevailed in all the colonies From a long disuse of arms, had persuaded them that the Moors were a brave and formidable enemy; when the French at once broke through the charm of this timorous opinion, by defeating a whole army with a single battalion.”
Mem. pour Labourdonnais, i. 252. Orme, i. 77. Dupleix, in his Apology, (Mem. p. 27) declines defending this breach of faith, repeating the former pretence of secrecy—to which, he says, the Ministry and the Company enjoined him. Experience justifies three inferences; 1. That the disgrace was such as explanation would enhance; 2. that the Ministry and the Company were sharers in it; 3. that having such partners, his safety did not depend upon his justification. He adds, that it is certain he was innocent, because the Ministry and the Company continued to employ him. It was certain, either that he was innocent, or that the Ministry and the Company were sharers in his guilt. And it was a maxim at that time in France, that a Ministry never can have guilt: If so, the inference was logical.
Orme, i. 78.
The two important discoveries for conquering India were; 1st, the weakness of the native armies against European discipline; 2dly, the facility of imparting that discipline to natives in the European service. Both discoveries were made by the French.
Orme, i. 79–83.
Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 259. Memoire pour Dupleix, p. 29. Orme, i. 84, 85.
So says Dupleix himself, Mem. p. 29.
Orme, i. 87. Mem. pour Dupleix, p. 29.
Orme, i. 66, 87, 88.
Orme, i. 88–91. Orme says that 200 soldiers only were landed by the French at Madras. Dupleix himself says, Trois cens hommes, tant sains que malades. Mem. p. 32.
Orme, i. 91–98.
Memoire pour Dupleix, p. 31, 32.
Orme, i. 80, 98–106. Dupleix (Mem. p. 32) says that the trenches were open forty-two days, and that the siege altogether lasted fifty-eight. The memoir drawn up by the French East India Company, in answer to Dupleix, alleges more than once that Dupleix was defective in personal courage; and says he apologized for the care with which he kept at a distance from shot, by acknowledging que le bruit des armes suspendoit ses reflexions, et que le calme seul convenoit à son genie: p. 18.
Orme, i. 107, 75, 131.
Orme, ii. 45.
Report, ut supra, p. 74.
Whitworth’s Tables, part i. p. 78.