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The Company were now again threatened by that competition with their fellow-citizens, which they have always regarded as their greatest misfortune. From the renewal of their charter, shortly after the accession of Charles II., their monopoly had not been disturbed, except by a few feeble interlopers, whom they had not found it difficult to crush. In the year 1682-3, the design was disclosed of opening a subscription for a new joint-stock, and establishing a rival East India Company. The scheme was so much in unison with the sentiments of the nation, and assumed an aspect of so much importance, that it was taken into consideration by the King and Council. It had so much effect upon the views of the Company, though for the present the Council withheld their sanction, that, in Mr. Bruce's opinion, it introduced into their policy of 1682-83 a refinement, calculated, and intended, to impose upon the King and the public. It induced them to speak of the amount of their equipments, not, as usual, in terms of exact detail, but in those of vague and hyperbolical estimate. What we know of their adventure of that year is only the information they forwarded to their Indian stations, that the stock to be sent out
| Bruce, ii, 275.-M. Bruce's words are “a new practice, probably a refinement in policy,” ii. 477.-W.
would exceed one million sterling. In the course of BOOK the next season they equipped four ships to Surat. Of that year we only further know that 100,0001. in 1683-85. bullion was intended for Bengal. In 1684-85, information was forwarded to Surat, in general terms, that the tonnage and stock would be considerable : Five ships sailed for Fort St. George and Bengal, with 140,0001. in bullion : Of other circumstances nothing is adduced: and for several succeeding years no statement of the tonnage and stock of the annual voyages appears.
Under the skill which the Court of Directors have all along displayed in suppressing such information as they wished not to appear, it is often impossible to collect more than gleanings of intelligence respecting the Company's debts. At the present period, however, they appear to have been heavy and distressing. In 1676, it was asserted by their opponents in England that their debts amounted to 600,0001. ;and we have already seen that, in 1674, the debt of Surat alone amounted to 135,0001.3. In 1682-83, the Directors authorized the Agency in Bengal to borrow 200,0001., and, in 1683-84, it is stated that the debt upon the dead stock at Bombay alone amounted to 300,0001. It seems highly probable that at this time their debts exceeded their capital.
In a war between the King of Bantam and his son, in which the English sided with the one, and
I Bruce, ii. 476, 481-496, 506-528, 531.
Bruce, ii. 482, 499.
BOOK I. the Dutch with the other, the son prevailed; and CHAP. 5.
- expelled the English from the place. The agents -85. and servants of the factory took shelter at Batavia,
and the Dutch Governor made offer of his assistance to bring the property of the Company from Bantam. As the English, however, accused the Dutch of being the real authors of the calamity, they declined the proposal, as precluding those claims of redress which the Company might prosecute in Europe. Various efforts were made to regain possession of Bantam, but the Dutch from this time remained sole masters of Java.
Upon the loss of Bantam, the Presidency for the government of the Eastern Coast, which had hitherto, with a fond desire for the traffic of the islands, been stationed at that place, was removed to Fort St. George.
The nation becoming gradually more impatient under the monopoly, the numbers multiplied of those who ventured to break through the restraint which it imposed on the commercial ardour of the times.3 The Company, not satisfied with the power which they had already obtained of common and martial law, and of seizing, with their property, and sending
Bruce, ii. 492.
? Ib. 502. 3 It would appear, from the way in which these interlopers are spoken of, that they were unconnected merchants seeking only to carry on trade with India on the principles of individual adventure and free competition. It seems, however, that they attempted more than this, representing themselves as a new Company chartered by the King, whose purpose it was to deprive the old of their privileges. They endeavoured also to establish themselves permanently at various places in the Dekhan, and offered to the King of Golconda 15,000 Pagodas for permission to erect a Fort at Armagon. It was not without cause, therefore, that the Company regarded them with fear, and endeavoured to suppress their commerce.-W.
to England, as many of their countrymen, as their BOOK I.
CHAP. 5. interests or caprice might direct, still called for a wider range of authority: and, under the favour of 1683-85. government which they now enjoyed, obtained the powers of Admiralty jurisdiction, for the purpose of seizing and condemning, safe from the review of the courts of municipal law in England, the ships of the interlopers. The servants of the Company were now invested with unlimited power over the British people in India.
Insurrection again appeared at Bombay, and assumed a very formidable aspect. The causes were such as have commonly, in the Company's affairs, been attended with similar effects. Efforts had been made to retrench expenses; unpleasant to the Company's servants. The earliest experiment of the Company in territorial sovereignty agreed with the enlarged experience of succeeding times: the expense of the government exceeded the revenue which the population and territory could be made to yield. The Directors, new to the business of government, were disappointed; and having first laboured to correct the deficit by screwing up the revenue, they next attempted the same arduous task by lessening the expense. By the two operations together, all classes of their subjects were alienated : First, the people, by the weight of taxation ; next, the instruments of government, by the diminution of their profits. Accordingly Captain Keigwin, commander of the garrisou at Bombay, was joined by the troops and the great body of the people, in renouncing the authority of the Company, and
1 Bruce, ii. 496.
BOOK I. declaring by proclamation, dated December 27, 1683,
– that the island belonged to the King. Keigwin was 1683-85. 85. by general consent appointed Governor; and imme
diately addressed letters to the King and to the Duke of York, stating such reasons as were most likely to avert from his conduct the condemnation to which it was exposed."
The President and Council at Surat, conscious of their inability to reduce the island by force, had recourse to negotiation. A general pardon, and redress of grievances, were promised. First three commissioners were sent; afterwards the President repaired to Bombay in person. But neither entreaties nor threats were of any avail.
As soon as intelligence arrived in England, the King's command was procured, directing Captain Keigwin to deliver up the island; and instructions were forwarded to proceed against the insurgents by force. When Sir Thomas Grantham, the commander of the Company's fleet, presented himself at Bombay, invested with the King's commission, Keigwin offered, if assured of a free pardon to himself and adherents, to surrender the place. On these terms the island was restored to obedience. For the more effectual coercion of any turbulent propensities, the expedient was adopted of removing the seat of government
· Bruce, ii, 512. Governor Child is accused by Hamilton of wanton and intolerable oppressions; and that author states some facts which indicate excessive tyranny. New Account of the East Indies, i. 187–199.
2 Bruce, ii. 515.
3 The first was surrendered on the 20th Nov. 1684, upon stipulations which secured entire immunity to the mutineers, with leave to return to Europe or remain at their pleasure. In the interval, a civilian, Dr. St. John, had been sent out with a Commission from the King, and one from the Company, to preside in all judicial proceedings at Bombay.-W.