Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D.
Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India
Aryabhatta and Varaha Mitra, not only adopted the Greek zodiac and its divisions, but made use of the Greek names slightly orientalised. There were many routes by which this intercom- munication of ideas, religious, artistic, and social, could have taken place. There was the well-known route by the Persian Gulf through Palmyra, a city which became so renowned that Aurelian, jealous of its wealth and power, razed it to the ground in 273 A.D., and carried off its Queen Zenobia. Arab mariners also sailed from India and the further East, keeping close to the coast till they reached Berenice in the Red Sea, whence the goods were transported to Coptos, thence down the Nile to Alexandria. Under such emperors as the cruel and dissipated Corn- modus, the plundering barbarian Caracalla, and the infamous Eleogabalus, the wealth that came from the East through Alexandria to the imperial city of Rome passed away to Constantinople, founded in 320 A.D., and to the rising cities along the Medi- terranean.
So the trade between the East and the West grew and flourished till suddenly a new power arose, claiming for itself the temporal and spiritual supre- macy over the whole known world.
From the deserts of Arabia came forth the haughty message to Christendom, that Muhammad had pro- claimed himself as the only Prophet of the One True God. To all idolaters he gave the choice between accepting his mission and teachings, and of being put to the sword ; while all Christians and Jews were to be subdued and made to pay tribute to his followers, who now came swarming from their tents, drunk with a new religious fanaticism, eager to seek fresh homes in the stately palaces of the lands they were soon to overrun.
Within the space of eight years Bostra, Damascus, Heliopolis, Jerusalem, Aleppo and Antioch fell before the Crescent, and Syria passed for the next three hundred years under the sway of the followers of Muhammad, Persia falling in 636 A.D., after the battle of Kadesia. In 640 Amru marched into Egypt and took possession of Alexandria, leaving the Arabian conquerors in command of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, the two great trade routes from the East. One route alone remained by which Eastern pro- duce could reach the cities of the Mediterranean free from the prohibitory dues exacted by the Muham- madan conquerors : that by the Indus along the ancient route by the banks of the Oxus, across to the Caspian, thence to the Black Sea, Constantinople, and the Mediterranean. To gain possession of this route, and to avoid the duties enforced at Alexandria, amounting to one-third the value of all produce exported, Venice, founded in 452 A.D., on the islets of the Adriatic by fugitives from North Italy, strove incessantly, knowing well that alone by a command of the Eastern trade could she rise to be mistress of the seas. To the pilgrims of the Fourth Crusade she agreed to give shipping if they would but for a time forget their holy mission and aid in reducing her rival Constantinople. The compact was made. In 1204 Constantinople fell, the rich homes of its peace- ful citizens being given over to rapine and flames, its art treasures, the finest and most prized that the world has ever known, being broken in pieces and trampled underfoot by the marauding crusaders and hired mercenaries of the merchants of Venice. Count Baldwin of Flanders was enthroned Emperor of the East, the Venetians holding the forts to gain command over the Eastern trade. Of these advantages on the Black Sea Venice was, however, soon deprived by Genoa, Pisa, and Florence — cities now eager to enter into the competition for the monopoly of the gems, spices, and silks of India sent to the further West in exchange for Easterling or sterling silver. Pisa gave up the struggle after her defeat at Meloria in 1284, and in 1406 fell subject to Florence, which, under the Medici, had become the city of bankers for all nations. Genoa fought on down to the fifteenth century when Venice again became supreme, selling the valued products of India to the Flemish mer- chants who sailed with them to Sluys, then the seaport town of Bruges, to Bergen in Norway,
Novgorod in Russia, to the many associated towns of the Hanseatic League, and also to their steel- yard or warehouse on the Thames.
In these Western cities it was known that the costly goods they so prized came from the East, but the way there was unknown. In Portugal Prince Henry the Navigator spent his life in endeavouring to discover how his ships might reach the Indies by sailing round Africa. In i486 Bartholomew Diaz went south with three ships, and discovered what he called ” The Cape of Tempests,” renamed in joy ” The Cape of Good Hope ” by King John II.
In 1492 Columbus, a Genoese, after offering his services in vain to Genoa, Portugal, and England, sailed away to the West, hoping thus to reach India, and discovered America.
When Emmanuel succeeded John II. as King of Portugal, he resolved to send a gentleman of his household, Vasco da Gama, to find out if land lay beyond the wild southern seas.
On the 8th of July, 1497, Vasco da Gama sailed from the Tagus with three small ships, the Sam Gabriel the Sam Rafael, and the Sam Miguel each of some 100 to 120 tons burden, having crews amounting in all to 170 men.
By the time Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope the pilots and sailors were so wearied from the incessant labour of working the pumps to keep the frail ships afloat, and so terrified by the heavy seas, that they mutinied and demanded that their leader should turn back and no further seek to brave the unknown perils of a trackless ocean. Vasco da Gama at once placed the pilots in irons, threw all the charts and instruments of navigation overboard, declaring that God would guide him, and other aid he required not ; if that aid failed, neither he nor any of the crews would ever again see Portugal. So the ships had to toil on, many of the sailors dying of scurvy, a disease now heard of for the first time in history. Their labours were at length rewarded. Eleven months after they had left home they sighted the west coast of India, and cast anchor near the city of the Zamorin, or Ruler of the Seas, whence many people came crowding to the beach, wondering greatly at the Portuguese ships.
The Zamorin and his Indian subjects were willing to open up a friendly intercourse with Vasco da Gama and his sailors, but the Arab mariners, or Moors, as they were called, who for many centuries had held in their own hands the trade between the west coast of India and the Persian Gulf, or Red Sea, were unwilling to see any rivals in their lucrative business. Having succeeded in inducing Vasco da Gama to come on shore, they carried him off on various pretexts through the malarious lagoons bor- dering the coast, hoping that he might resent their treatment and so give them some excuse to slay him and drive away his ships. By quiet patience he eluded all the plots laid against him, until his ships were laden with such scanty stores of pepper, cinnamon, and spices as his captains were able to purchase. Vasco da Gama at length obtained his release, and departed from Calicut, vowing to come back and wage a war of extermination against the Moors — a vow which he and his successors ever afterwards barbarously and ruthlessly endeavoured to fulfil. From Calicut he sailed back towards Cannanore, where we hear, as recorded by Gaspar Correa l in his account of Vasco da Gama’s voyages, of one of the many strange prophecies told in the East. It is there recorded, ” In this country of India they are much addicted to soothsayers and diviners. . . . According to what was known later, there had been in this country of Canna- nore a diviner so diabolical in whom they believed so much that they wrote down all that he said, and preserved it like prophecies that would come to pass. They held a legend from him in which it was said that the whole of India would be taken and ruled over by a very distant king, who had white people, who would do great harm to those who were not their friends ; and this was to happen a long time later, and he left signs of when it would be. In consequence of the great disturbance caused by the sight of these ships, the King was very desirous of knowing what they were ; and he spoke to his diviners, asking them to tell him what ships were those and whence they came. The diviners conversed with their devils, and told him that the ships belonged to a great king, and came from very far, and according to what they found written, these were the people who were to seize India by war and peace, as they had already told him many times, because the period which had been written down was concluded.”
The king and his counsellors were so assured of the truth of this prophecy, that they received the Portuguese with great honour and friendship, pressing on them more presents and goods than could be stored away in the ships, which were soon able to sail away with ample cargoes of pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, and nutmegs.
Such was the commencement of the modern history of commerce between the East and the West. Vasco da Gama reached Portugal in 1499 to the great delight of the king, who immediately assumed the title of ” Lord of the Conquest, Navigation, and Commerce of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia, and China,” a title confirmed in 1502 by a Bull from Pope Alexander VI.
The profits of the voyage being found to be sixty times the expenses incurred, King Emmanuel deter- mined to send to the East ” another large fleet of great and strong ships which could stow much cargo, and which, if they returned in safety, would bring him untold riches.”
Vasco da Gama never forgave the Moors for their treatment of him on his first arrival at Calicut. When he visited the coast again, in 1 502, he captured two ships and sixteen small vessels, and having cut off the hands and ears and noses of eight hundred unfortunate Moors, who formed the crews, he broke their teeth with staves, placed them all in a small ship which he set on fire and allowed to drift ashore, so that the Zamorin might judge of the fierce wrath of the Portuguese sailors. No wonder the Portuguese historian writes, as recorded in the Introduction to the Hakluyt Society’s account by Correa, ” The con- quest of India is repugnant to us, and strikes us with horror, on account of the injustice and barbarity of the conquerors, their frauds, extortions and san- guinary hatreds ; whole cities ravaged and given to the flames ; amid the glare of conflagrations and the horrid lightning of artillery, soldiers converted into executioners after victory.”
The native princes were determined not to sur- render without one final struggle. Against Cochin, where Duarte Pacheco, a Portuguese captain, had been left in command of a little over one hundred Portuguese soldiers and three hundred Malabar native troops, the Zamorin of Calicut advanced at the head of an immense army of fifty thousand troops and numerous cannon, aided by a sea-force of some three hundred ships.
For five months he strove to drive the handful of Portuguese from India. Time after time his troops were defeated, ten thousand of them being slain, and all his ships sunk save four. He at length retreated, finding that his undisciplined native troops could not avail against European soldiers, and Duarte Pacheco was left victorious, the first to show to the West the possibility of founding an empire in India, and the first of the long line of heroes whose services to their country were repaid by neglect or insult, poverty or death.
Before the trade from the East finally passed to the Atlantic the Portuguese had to fight one more fight. The Sultan of Egypt, seeing that the course of commerce, through his dominions to the Medi- terranean ports, was passing to the new route round the Cape of Good Hope, resolved to gather together a great fleet and send it to India to destroy the Portuguese ships now trading at Cochin, Cannanore, and Ouilon. Dom Lourenco de Almeida, aged eighteen, son of Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first great Portuguese Viceroy of India, met the Egyptian and an allied native fleet off Chaul, where, after two days’ fighting, the Portuguese were defeated and forced to retreat.
Dom Lourenco’s ship was surrounded, and he him- self wounded. Disdaining to yield, he fell fighting amid a brave band of heroes.
With fierce wrath the Viceroy hastened to avenge the death of his son. He ravaged and burned the hostile city of Dabhol, scattered the Egyptian and allied native fleet of two hundred ships, plundering and burning them all with the exception of four, and slaying three thousand of the Moors, thus establishing the supremacy of the Portuguese in the Eastern seas. The same sad fate, allotted to so many who strove to knit together the East and the West, followed the footsteps of the first great Viceroy of India. De- prived, by orders from home, of his command, he departed from India in proud anger to meet with an ignominious death in a petty fray with some Kaffir savages at Saldanha Bay in Africa — perhaps a happy release from the slow, cankering life of neglect and contumely meted out to Pacheco, La Bourdonnais, Dupleix, Lally, Clive, Hastings, and many others who lived to be judged by their fellow- countrymen, whose fight they had fought and won.
For a century the Portuguese held the ” Gorgeous East in fee,” trading unmolested from the Cape of Good Hope to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, to the Spice Islands and China, their possessions along the Atlantic, in Africa and Brazil, filling up the full measure of a mighty empire destined to fall to pieces and sink to decay when the trade from the East passed from its hands.
Francisco de Almeida, the first Viceroy, saw clearly that Portugal could never establish a great colonising empire in India, that territorial possessions would prove too heavy a drain on her population and resources. His constant admonition to King Em- manuel was that the trade with India would ulti- mately fall to the nation whose forces ruled the seas.
His successors, brave and wise men as many of them were, saw but the immediate present ; they possessed not the divine gift, granted but to few of India’s early administrators, such as Almeida, Dupleix, Clive, and Hastings, of viewing all events that passed before them as mere phases in the world’s history, directed and moulded by the irresistible principles which govern the destiny of nations, and not as springing from the irresponsible actions of men or chance decision of battles.
Alfonso de Albuquerque, the next Viceroy, deemed that by the prowess and valour of his European soldiers he could establish a lasting empire for his people in the East. In 1510 he captured Goa, which soon grew to be the wealthiest and most powerful city in the East ; he reduced Ormuz, thus closing the Persian Gulf to the Arab traders ; he built a fortress at Socotra to command the Red Sea, and left the coast from the Cape of Good Hope to China in the hands of his successors.
Portugal held the commerce of the East, sending its goods north to Bruges, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Nuremberg, and Augsburg, until she became united with Spain in 1580, when the Dutch, who, under William of Orange, had in 1572 shaken off the Spanish yoke, could no longer trade with Lisbon. It was then that the Dutch, determining not to be de- prived of their share in the Eastern trade, sent their navigators to the north-east, hoping to discover some new route to India and learn something of its com- merce.
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 left the seas free for the Dutch and English to sail south round the Cape of Good Hope and take part in the commerce of the Eastern world, independent of Portugal.
In 1595 one Jan Huygen van Linschoten, a West Friesland burgher, who had travelled to India with the Archbishop of Goa, returned home after thirteen years’ residence in the East and published a celebrated book, in which he gave a full account of the route to India as well as of the commerce carried on there by the Portuguese. In 1595 the Dutch de- spatched four ships under Cornelius Houtman to sail round the Cape of Good Hope ; in 1602 trading factories were set up in Ceylon and along the west coast of India, and in the farther East from Batavia in Java to Japan and China.
By this time news had also reached England of the wealth of India. Thomas Stevens, the first English- man who ever visited India, had sailed from Lisbon to Goa in 1579 and had become Rector of the Jesuit College at Salsette. From there, in a series of letters written to his father, he aroused the interest of the English people in the East by the vivid account he gave of the trade of the Portuguese and the fertility of the land.
In 1583 three English merchants, Ralph Fitch, James Newberry, and William Leedes, started over- land for India. They were made prisoners by the Portuguese at Ormuz, to the despair of Newberry, who wrote : ” It may be that they will cut our throtes or keepe us long in prison, God’s will be done.” They were, however, spared, and sent on to Goa where they saw Thomas Stevens and the celebrated Jan van Linschoten. Escaping, after many adventures, from Goa, they travelled through a great part of India, giving in letters home an interesting account of the country and the customs of the people, all strange and wonderful to these first English travellers. From Bijapur, Fitch writes that there ” they bee great idolaters, and they have their idols standing in the woods which they call Pagodes. Some bee like a Cowe, some like a Monkie, some like Buffles, some like peacockes, and some like the devill.” Golconda is described as ” a very faire towne, pleasant, with faire houses of bricke and timber.” Fitch then made his way to Masulipatam, on the east coast, ” whether come many shippes out of India, Pegu and Sumatra very richly laden with pepper, spices and other commodities.” Agra is described as ” a very great citie and populous, built with stone, having faire and large streetes.” ” Fatepore Sikri and Agra are two very great cities, either of them much greater than London and very Populous. Between Agra and Fatepore are twelve miles and all the way is a market of victualls and other things as full as though a man were still in a towne.” ” Hither,” we are further told, ” is a great resort of merchants from Persia and out of India, and very much merchandise of silke and clothe and of precious stones, both Rubies, Diamonds and Perales.”
John Newberry departed from Agra for home, journeying through Persia ; William Leedes took service as jeweller with the Emperor Akbar, and Ralph Fitch continued his travels, proceeding towards Bengal, noting the power and influence of the Brahman priests, who, he says, are ” a kind of craftie people worse than the Jewes.” The myriad temples, the bathing ghats, and sacred wells of Benares call forth his wonder.Travelling from Benares towards Patna he found that the road was infested with bands of robbers ; nevertheless he managed to reach Bhutan in safety, returning, to ” Hugeli, which is the place where the Portugals keepe in the country of Bengala,” and thence sailing for home he arrived at Ceylon, where the king was very powerful, ” his guard are a thousand thousand men, and often he commeth to Columbo, which is the place where the Portugals have their fort, with an hundred thousand men and many elephants. But they be naked people all of them, yet many of them be good with their pieces which be muskets.”
Fitch reached home in 1591, after an absence of eight years from his native country, where, in the meantime, more certain and accurate knowledge of the route to India and the Portuguese commerce had been gained.
In the year 1587 a large Portuguese ship named the San Filippe had been captured by Sir Francis Drake off the Azores on its way from Goa to Lisbon, and amid great rejoicing towed into Plymouth, where its papers were examined and its cargo of Eastern produce found to be of .£108,049 value.
A few years later another great ship, the largest in the Portuguese navy, the Madre di Dios, was also cap- tured off the Azores on ks way home from India, brought into Dartmouth, and her cargo of jewels, spices, nutmegs, silks, and cottons sold for .£150,000; the papers found in her giving a full account of the trade and settlements of the Portuguese in the Eastern seas.
In 1591 three ships, the Penelope, the Merchant Royal, and the Edward Bonadventure, sailed under command of George Raymond and James Lan- caster, on the first voyage to India from England. By the time they reached the Cape of Good Hope scurvy had so weakened the sailors, and the tem- pestuous seas and storms so damaged the ships, that the Merchant Royal had to be sent home with fifty of the crews. Six days after, on ” the 14th of September, we were encountered,” witnesses James Lancaster in his account as recorded by Hakluyt, ” with a mighty storme and extreeme gusts of winde, wherein we lost our general’s companie, and could never heare of him nor his ship any more.” So Lancaster had to sail on, the Bonadventure alone being left out of the three ships to encounter more sore perils and trials, for ” foure dayes after this uncomfortable separation in the morning toward ten of the clocke we had a terrible clap of thunder, which slew foure of our men outright, their necks being wrung in sonder without speaking any word, and of 94 men there was not one untouched, whereof some were stricken blind, others were bruised in the legs and armes and others in their brests, others were drawen out at length as though they had been racked. But (God be thanked) they all recovered saving only the foure which were slaine out right.”
Lancaster reached India, cruised about for some time in the Eastern seas, pillaging such Portuguese vessels as he captured, and then sailed for home, passed the Cape, reached the West Indies and the Bermudas, where he and nearly all his remaining sailors landed on a desert island, ” but in the night time, about twelve of the clocke, our ship did drive away with five men and a boy onely in it ; our carpenter secretly cut their own cable, leaving nineteen of us on land without boate or anything, to our great discomfort.”
From this position Lancaster and the few survivors of the ill-fated expedition were rescued by a French ship, and arrived at Dieppe on the 24th of May, 1594, having “spent in this voyage three yeeres, five weekes and two dayes, which the Portugals performe in halfe the time.”
In 1596 a second effort was made to reach India, Captain Benjamin Wood sailing in charge of the Bear, the Bears Whelp, and Benjamin, but neither he nor his ships were ever heard of again. Renewed and more vigorous efforts were now necessary, for the Dutch, were gradually monopolising the trade with the East. In 1599, they raised the price of pepper in the English market from 3s. to 8s. per pound, and the Lord Mayor of London imme- diately called together a meeting of the principal City merchants to consider what course should be pursued. On the 22nd of September, Sir Stephen Soame, the Lord Mayor, sundry aldermen, and others of less dignity, such as grocers, drapers, vintners, leather- sellers, skinners, and haberdashers, met together at Founders’ Hall, Lothbury, and there agreed — with their own hands to venter in the pretended voyage to the EastIndies, the which it may please the Lord to prosper.”
One year after the merchants of London had first assembled together they received the announcement that it was Her Majesty’s pleasure ” that they should proceed in their purpose,” the Lords of the Council shortly after admonishing them “that you should therein use all expedition and possible seeded to advance the same, knowing that otherwise you may much prejudice yourselves by your staggering and delaies.”
Four ships, the Malice Scourge, of 600 tons, the Hector, of 300 tons, the Ascension, of 260, the Susan, of 240, and a small pinnacle were accordingly purchased and made ready for sailing when a difficulty arose. The Lord Treasurer strove to place Sir Edward Michelborne, a Court favorite, in charge of the expedition — a proposal which the City merchants objected to, giving as their reason that ” they purpose not to employ antigen in any place of charge or commandant in the said voyage,” their intention being ”to sort their business with men of their own quality.” The Malice Scourge, rechristened the Red Dragon, was placed in charge of James Lancaster, with a crew of 202 men, Captain John Davis, the famous North- West navigator, being pilot; John Middleton was made commander of the Hector, with 108 men ; William Brand commander of the Ascension, with 82 men ; and John Heywood commander of the Susan, with 88 men ; the Guest, a small vessel of 1 30 tons, being purchased to accompany the fleet as a victualled.
On the 31st of December, 1600, the merchants received ” The Charter of Incorporation of the East India Company by the name of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies,” with power to export ^”30,000 in bullion out of the country, the same to be returned at the end of the voyage, the Charter being granted for a term of fifteen years.
On the 2nd of April, 1601, the four ships started on their memorable voyage, having on board the sum of .£28,742 in bullion, and £6,860 worth of British staples, such as cutlery, glass, and hides, wherewith they hoped to open up a trade in the Eastern seas. This laudable enterprise they commenced, after the fashion of the times, by capturing, on the 21st of June, a Portuguese ship bound from Lisbon to the East Indies, and taking from her 146 butts of wine, much oil and other goods, ” which was a great helpe to us in the whole voyage after.” By the time the ships reached Saldanha Bay, now known as Table Bay, the crews of three of the ships were so weakened by scurvy, from which disease 105 in all died, that they had not strength left even to let go their anchors, the crew of the Dragon alone escaping, as they abstained as much as possible from eating salt meat and drank freely of lemon juice. James Lancaster went ashore to ” seeks some refreshing for our sicken and weaken men, where he met with certain of the Country people and gave them divers trifles, as knives and pieces of old iron and such like, and made signs to them to bring him down Sheep and Oxen. For he spoke to them in the chattels Language, which was never changed at the Confusion of Babell, which was Mouth for oxen and kina, and Baa for Sheep, which language the people understood very well without any interpreter.”
Recovering their health and strength they sailed
and on the 5th of June anchored off Achin. Here a treaty of peace was drawn up between James Lancaster and the King, who took more interest in cock-fighting than in listening to the letters from Queen Elizabeth to ” her loving brother, the great and mighty King of Achem.” Seeing that he could obtain but small store of goods or pepper, on account of failure in the previous year’s harvests, ” the generally daily grew full of thought how to lade his shippers to save his own credit, the merchants’ estimation that set him awoke, and the reputation of his country: considering what a fouled blot it would be to them all in regard to the nations about us, seeing there were enough merchandise to be bought in the Indies, yet he should be likely to return home with empty ships.” Sailing away to the Straits of Malacca a Portuguese ship of 1,900 tons was sighted, on the 3rd of October, and, as told in the journals of the voyage, transcribed in ” Purchas his Pilgrims,” published in 1625, “within five or six daies we had unladen her of 950 packs of Calicoes and Pintados, besides many packets of merchandise: she had in her much rice and other goods whereof we made small account.” In the simple narrative we are further told that ” the General was very glad of this good hap, and very thankful to God for it, and as he told me he was much bound to God that had eased him of a very heavy care, and that he could not be thankful enough to Him for this blessing given him. For, saith he, He hath not only supplied my neces- sities, to lade these ships I have ; but hath given me as much as will lade as many more shippers as I have, if I had them to lade.’
Delighted at their good fortune they sailed on to Bantam, in Java, where ” wee traded here very peace- ably, although the Javians be reckoned among the greatest Pickers and Thieves in the world.”
The ships returned to England in the summer of 1603, the Court Minutes of the Company stating that on the 1 6th of June of that year the Ascension appeared in the river with a cargo of 210,000 lbs. of pepper, 1,100 lbs. of cloves, 6,030 lbs. of cinnamon, and 4,080 lbs. of gum lacquer. The Lord High Admiral demanded one-tenth of the value of the prizes taken at sea, and a further sum of £917 had to be paid for Customs dues; nevertheless, the voyage was successful enough to encourage the East India Company to subscribe together a sum of ^60,450 for a second expedition which sailed in 1604 in charge of Henry Middleton.
Reaching Bantam, two of the four ships which formed the fleet were laden with pepper and the other two sailed on to Amboyna. The Portuguese and Dutch were here found to be engaged in a fierce war. Each was determined to gain the mono- poly of the trade in the Moluccas, but both were equally determined to combine against a new com- petitor. Middleton, finding himself unable either to open up factories, or enter into friendly negotiations with the natives, was obliged to depart with his ships unladen. Although one of the ships was lost at sea, the Company, on casting up their accounts, found they had made a profit of 95 per cent, on the entire capital subscribed for their two first ventures.
This lucrative source of wealth soon brought forth competitors eager to share in its profits. In 1604 James I., in direct contravention of the Company’s exclusive right of trading with the East, gave permis- sion to Sir Edward Michelborne, whom the London merchants had refused to place in charge of their first expedition, to sail on a voyage of discovery to China, Japan, Corea, and Cathay. Starting with the Tiger, a ship of 240 tons, and a small pinnace, the Tiger’s Whelp, Sir Edward Michelborne sailed east, where he captured and pillaged some Chinese vessels. The voyage is memorable for the fact that the simple-souled John Davis, the North-West navigator, who accompanied the expedition, was treacherously slain by some Japanese pirates whom he allowed to come on board his ship under the belief that they were peaceable traders bringing some useful information.
Notwithstanding the interference of these private traders or ” interlopers ” the Company continued to send their ships to the East. In 1606 three ships went to Bantam for pepper and to Amboyna for cloves ; the latter sold in England for .£36,287, the original cost being £2,947 J 5 S – The two ships sent out on the fourth voyage in 1607 were lost, nevertheless the Company made on its third and fifth voyages a net profit of 234^ per cent.
By degrees trade was opened up at Surat and Cambay, where cloths and calicoes were purchased and carried to Bantam and the Moluccas to be ex- changed for the more valued spices and pepper. The Charter, as renewed by James I. in 1609, granted the Company not only the exclusive right in perpetuity of trading to the East Indies but also the right of holding and alienating land — concessions which inspired so much confidence that the subscriptions for the sixth voyage reached the sum of .£82,000. The sixth voyage is memorable for the fact that the largest merchant ship then in England, the Trades Increase, of 1,100 tons, was sent out to the East.
The Portuguese made strenuous efforts to pre- vent the adventurers trading at Surat, whereon the English commander, Sir Henry Middleton, captured one of their ships laden with Indian goods, so that the profits of the voyage amounted to £121 13s. 4d. per cent. The Trades Increase, however, struck on a rock and subsequently capsized — a calamity which so affected Sir Henry Middleton that he died of grief.
The power and trade of the Portuguese had rapidly waned from 1580, when they were united with Spain under Philip II.; but in the East they still strove to hold their once opulent settlements. In 161 2 four Portuguese galleons and twenty-five frigates attacked the English fleet under Captain Best at Swally, off Surat, and were driven off with heavy loss. In 161 5 they made one final effort to drive from the vicinity of Goa and Surat the English, whom they describe in a letter to the King as “thieves, disturbers of States, and a people not to be permitted in a commonwealth.” Eight galleons, three lesser ships, and sixty frigates came up with the New Year’s Gift, the Hector, the Merchant’s Hope, and the Solomon, off Swally, the natives anxiously looking on to see the contest between the two great European powers. Three of the Portuguese ships drew alongside
the Merchant’s Hope, which was boarded, but after an obstinate fight they were driven off with a loss of some five hundred men, the three ships set on fire and allowed to drift ashore, the rest of the fleet retreating during the night after a severe cannonade.
For many reasons it was impossible that Portugal could ever have established a permanent empire in India. The union with Spain, the smallness of her population, the deterioration of her soldiers from habits of pampered luxury and intermarriage with native women, added to their heavy losses in war, are facts lying on the surface. Recent researches have brought to light graver reasons why the native powers themselves were nothing loth to be relieved from the contamination of a so-called civilization introduced by foreigners who had lived amongst them and grown wealthy for a period of over one hundred years. The Portuguese historians tell how the tomb of the great Portuguese Viceroy, Don Francisco de Almeida, was. for many years after his death, visited both by Muhammadans and Hindus, who prayed that he might rise up and defend them from the barbarities, cruelties, and greed of his successors. From 1 560 the tortures and the burnings at the stake of supposed witches, sorcerers, and Christians suspected of heresy, native and European alike, not only made every per- son within its jurisdiction fearful for his honour, life, and liberty, but also sent a shudder of horror through Europe when the full tale of its iniquities was made known. The whole history is summed up by the Portuguese editor of Correa’s history: “Perfidy pre- siding over almost all compacts and negotiations conversions to Christianity serving as a transparent veil to covetousness: these are the fearful pictures from which we would desire to turn away our eyes. … It was, therefore, to this moral leprosy, to these internal cankers, that Gaspar Correa chiefly alluded, and to which Diogo do Conto attributed the loss of India, saying that it had been won with much truth, fidelity, valour, and perseverance, and that it was lost through the absence of those virtues.”
From their settlements and fortresses in the Eastern seas the Portuguese were rapidly driven out by the English and Dutch. In 1622 Ormuz, at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, was captured by the English fleet, assisted by a Persian army under Shah Abbas, the Portuguese population of over two thousand souls being transported to Muscat. The prize-money due to the Company from this conquest was estimated at ,£100,000 and 240,000 rials of eight, of which James I. claimed ;£ 10,000, his share as King, and the Duke of Buckingham ^10,000, his share as Lord High Admiral, the Company not being permitted to send any ships from England until they consented to pay these amounts.
A few years later, in 1629, the Emperor Shah Jahan captured the Portuguese settlement at Hugh’, carried off some four thousand men, women, and children, slew over one thousand of the garrison, and took three hundred ships of the fleet. From all sides disaster soon followed. Goa was blockaded by the Dutch, who gradually gained entire control over the
trade in the Spice Islands, Java, Ceylon, and on the mainland, leaving Portugal by the middle of the seven- teenth century stripped of her wealth and deprived of her commerce.
As the trade in the East gradually fell from the hands of the effete and degenerate descendants of the early Portuguese adventurers the struggle commenced between the Dutch and English, each eager to seize this source of wealth, the true value of which was yearly becoming more apparent. In the nine voyages made by the Company up to 161 2, the average profit on each share held by the London merchants had been 171 percent. From 161 3 to 161 6 four voyages were made, the subscriptions being united as an in- vestment for the joint benefit of all the proprietors. Owing to the opposition shown by the Dutch to the English trade in the Spice Islands the profits made on each of these four voyages fell to ^89 10s. per share of .£100. In spite of this the subscriptions increased to.£1,600,000, subsequently expended in three voyages on a second joint stock account.
In 1621 the subject of the Eastern trade excited so much controversy in England that Thomas Nun issued his celebrated tract as a counterblast to the growing contention that ” it were a happier thing for Christendom (say many men) that the navigation of the East Indies, by way of the Cape of Good Hope, had never been found out.” He pleaded that, as a result of the discovery of the route to India by the Cape, ” the Kingdom is purged of desperate and unruly people who, kept in awe by the good discipline at sea, doe often change their former course of life and so advance their fortunes.” He then asserts that the new trade with the East “is a means to bring more treasure into the Real me than all the other trades of the Kingdom (as they are now managed) being put together.”
Respecting the ships which had been employed in the Eastern seas he gave the following succinct information : ” Since the beginning of the trade until the month of July last, anno 1620, there have been sent thither 79 ships in several voyages, whereof 34 are already come home in safety richly laden, four have been worn out by long service from port to port in the Indies, two were overwhelmed in the trimming thereof, six have been cast away by the perils of the Sea, twelve have been taken and surprised by the Dutch, whereof divers will be wasted and little worth before they be restored, and 2 1 good ships doe still remayne in the Indies.”
The profit made by the voyages is summed up as follows: ” First there hath been lost ,£31,079 in the six Shipps which are cast away, and in the 34 shapes which are returned in safety there have been brought home £356,288 in divers’ sorts of wares which hath produced here in England towards the general stock thereof £1,914,000. So there ought to re- main in the Indies to be speedily returned hither £484,088.” Elsewhere he shows in detail how pepper, mace, nutmegs, indigo, and raw silk, which would have cost £1,465,000 if purchased at the old rates, could now be purchased in the East Indies for about £511,458.
The opposition of the Dutch to English enterprise in the East yearly became more openly aggressive until finally, in 1623, the Massacre of Amboyna sowed the seeds of that bitter animosity which sprang up between the two nations, leading to a long series of conflicts for the supremacy of the seas.
At Amboyna, in the Moluccas, Captain Towerson and his English factors, eighteen in number, occupied a house in the town, the Dutch holding a strong fort garrisoned by two hundred of their soldiers. Suddenly Captain Towerson and his assistants were seized on a charge of conspiring to surprise the Dutch strong- hold. It was in vain that the prisoners protested their innocence; the torture of the rack, according to the barbarous custom of the day, was applied until they were forced, in their agony, to admit the truth of the accusation. Captain Towerson, nine English sailors, nine natives of Japan, and one Portuguese were be- headed, praying forgiveness from each other for having in their torment confessed to the false accusation. The indignation excited in England on receipt of news of this outrage was carefully heightened by the Directors of the East India Company who widely distributed a picture depicting, in all the exaggerated extravagance capable of being conjured up by the imagination of the time, the tortures inflicted on the English factors, coupled with the statement that the Dutch had sued the London Company for the ex- penses of a black pall wherewith the body of Captain Towerson had been covered.
The oppression of the Dutch, however, continued, the English trade gradually decreasing until by 1628-9 the Company had incurred debts to the amount of .£300,000, shares of £100 falling down to j£8o, although previously shares of £60 had been sold ” by the candle ” for as much as .£130.
To add to the depression permission was given, in 1635, to a rival Company under Sir William Courten to trade with the East. In 1640 the King, as usual in grievous want of money, forced the old Company to sell him on credit all the pepper they had in store for the sum of ^63,283 lis. id., which the King imme- diately sold for ,£50,626 17s. id., ready cash ; it does not appear that the Company ever received any com- pensation, beyond some .£13,000 owing for Custom dues.
The Company, driven by the Dutch from the Eastern Archipelago gradually commenced to estab- lish factories and settlements along the coast of India. In 1632 a factory was reopened at Masulipatam under an order known as the ” Golden Firman,” obtained from the Muhammadan King of Golconda. This settlement soon became the chief place of trade in India, its affairs being regulated by a Council. The Chief of the Council, Mr. Francis Day, made a visit to the Portuguese settlement at St. Thome, the supposed place of martyrdom of St. Thomas the Apostle, and founded there in 1640 a new factory and center of trade known as Madras town. A more important concession was obtained in 1636 by Mr. Gabriel Boughton, surgeon of the Hopewell. He was sum- moned to attend the Emperor’s daughter who, through her clothes catching fire, had been badly burned. De- lighted with the rapid recovery of his daughter, under the hands of the skillful English surgeon, the Emperor Shah Jahan, at Mr. Boughton’s request, granted the Company permission to establish a factory at Hugh’ and to make a settlement lower down the coast at Balasor where a fort was built which soon became the strong- est position held by the Company on the east coast.
Bombay, given by the Portuguese to Charles II. on his marriage with Catherine of Braganza, as part of her dower, was leased by the King in 1669 to the Company on a rent of ^10 per annum — a possession which from 1685 grew to be the chief port of trade on the west coast.
While the London merchants were thus establish- ing centres of trade abroad, efforts were being made by the home Government to undermine the growing enterprise of the Dutch who, in 1622-3, had founded New Amsterdam, now New York, in America, and in 1650 commenced the colonization of the Cape of Good Hope. By the Navigation Act, passed in 165 1, Cromwell not only prepared the way for the future extension of English shipping and commerce, but struck a decisive blow at the prosperity of the Dutch, then the carriers of the world’s sea-borne trade. By this Act no goods from the East, from Africa or from America, were allowed to be imported into Great Britain unless carried in ships belonging to England and her colonies.
In the war which ensued the Dutch had much to lose ; attacks could be made on their rich merchant ships and their supplies cut off. England, on the other hand, had but little carrying trade to defend and was secure in her own agricultural resources. The Dutch fleet, under Martin Tromp, was defeated by
Blake off Dover in 1652 — a defeat retrieved by the end of the year when Tromp won a decisive victory, afterwards sailing down the Channel with a broom flying at his masthead to show that he had swept the P2nglish from the seas. In March, 1653, Blake and Monk defeated Tromp and De Ruyter in the three days’ fight off Beachy Head. In August Tromp was killed in the engagement off the Texel peace being afterwards concluded between the rival powers, neither able to gain much advantage by continuing the conflict.
France was now commencing her struggle for participation in the commerce of the world. As early as 1604 French companies had been formed and ships sent out to the East, but no serious efforts had been made to interfere with the Dutch and English. It was not until the year 1664 that Colbert, successor to the celebrated Minister Mazarin, suc- ceeded in arousing the interest of Louis XIV. in a scheme for enriching France by a fostering of her resources and development of her commerce. The exclusive right of trading to the East was granted to a powerful Company, formed with a capital of fifteen million francs, while as a basis for naval operations in the narrow seas, Louis XIV., in 1662, purchased from Charles II. the fortress of Dunkirk taken by England in 1658 from the Spanish Nether- lands.
In 1664 France laid claim to the whole of the Spanish Netherlands — a claim which, if enforced, would have enabled her to open up the Scheldt to navigation and divert the commerce from the Dutch at Amsterdam to Antwerp, whence the trade had drifted after its sack in 1576 by the Spaniards. The whole history of the next fifty years centres round this policy of Louis XIV., which by its failure left the trade to the East and the supremacy of the seas in the undisputed possession of England.
At first France met with a short but brilliant suc- cess, typical of all her subsequent enterprises to gain an Eastern Empire. Colbert fixed on an adventurer, Francois Caron, formerly cook and chief steward on a Dutch man-of-war, who by his erratic versatility had risen to be Member of Council of the Dutch settle- ment at Batavia, to inaugurate the new policy, and dispatched him to India, in 1667, as Director-General of French commerce. Caron succeeded in establish- ing factories at Surat and Masulipatam, earning for himself the order of St. Michel from Louis XIV. as a reward for the rich cargoes he sent home. Em- boldened by his success he seized the Dutch settle- ment at Trinkamali in Ceylon, and took St. Thome from the Portuguese, only to find his adventurous career cut short by his recall on the news reaching Colbert that the Dutch had recaptured Trinkamali and ignominiously driven the French out of Ceylon. Caron, on his way home, heard that his failure had sealed his fate ; in endeavoring to escape, the ship in which he sailed foundered and he was drowned, thus escaping the ignominious fate of his successors La Bourdonnais and Dupleix who strove with all the power of their imaginative genius to accomplish a task foredoomed to failure — the foundation of French supremacy in India. It was not in the East but in
Europe that the real struggle took place between the Western nations for maritime supremacy on which command over the destinies of India could alone be based.
In England the policy of weakening the commercial prosperity of the Dutch continued incessantly with a fixedness of purpose which seemed inevitably to work towards its result, success. Charles II. continued the commercial policy of Cromwell, enacting by his Navi- gation Act, which ruled the importation of goods into England down to 1 849, that no goods of Turkey or Russia should be carried into England unless borne by British ships, while a long list of scheduled goods were absolutely forbidden, under any conditions, to be imported from Germany, Holland, or the Nether- lands.
The commercial rivalries soon led to open hostilities, culminating, early in 1665, in a declaration of war between England and Holland. The English fleet beat the Dutch off Lowestoft, only to meet with a disastrous reverse in the famous four days’ fight off Dover — a reverse retrieved by the defeat of the Dutch off the North Forelands and the burning of the Dutch ships in their harbours. Content with this suc- cess Charles II. neglected his navy, allowing many of his best ships to be paid off. The day of awakening, however, came when De Ruyter appeared at Graves- end and in the Medway, burned the English ships at Chatham and seized Sheerness.
The Plague and the Great Fire had already broken the spirit of the English nation ; the fires from the burning ships in the river completed the disasters.
Peace was restored by the Treaty of Breda in 1667, England gaining New York and New Jersey, the Dutch once more consenting to salute the English flag on the high seas.
Holland too was glad to be at peace. Not only was her maritime power threatened but her very existence as a nation was at stake. Louis XIV. had finally rejected the statesmanlike policy of Colbert — a policy pressed on him by Leibnitz who, with prophetic insight, pointed out how the trade from the East would be held by the nation wise enough to com- mand the immediate and ancient route by way of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea — a route England is obliged to hold to-day in order to safeguard her own commercial supremacy. ” The possession of Egypt,” wrote Leibnitz, ” opens the way to con- quests worthy of Alexander ; the extreme weakness of the Orientals is no longer a secret. Whoever has Egypt will have all the coasts and islands of the Indian Ocean. It is in Egypt that Holland will be conquered ; it is there she will be despoiled of what alone renders her prosperous, the Treasures of the East.”
England remained the supreme maritime power to pursue her career and gain, without chance of failure, the monopoly of the commerce of the East. Holland was crippled ; the subsequent efforts made by France are merely interesting as historical facts, for without a command of the seas she was powerless to compete with England in the East. In India itself the Com- pany had but little to fear. The Mughal Empire was falling to pieces, the people separated from each other by differences of race, religion, language, customs, and local tradition, lacked the essential elements where- with to combine in a national sentiment of opposition to the invasion of a foreign power whose resources and strength were secured on the seas. In 1693 the Old English Company had lost its Charter, notwithstanding the fact that it had ex- pended ^90,000 in efforts to bribe the Privy Council, for a new Company, known as the London Company, had lent the Government two millions sterling at 8 per cent, and in return had been granted the exclusive right of trading to the East. In 1702 a compro- mise was effected by the exertions of Godolphin, the two Companies being amalgamated under the title of the United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies — a Company better known as “The Honourable maintained down to the Mutiny when the Crown assumed direct control
1 ” Lendas da India,” translated by the Hon. E. J. Stanley for the Hakluyt Society.
East India Company,” under whose rule the British Empire was established in India and 2. OLD EAST INDIA HOUSE. (From “Gentleman’s Magazine,” 17S4.)