Preface

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Institute of Historical Research

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W. Noel Sainsbury (editor)

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1884

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7-23

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'Preface', Calendar of State Papers Colonial, East Indies, China and Persia, Volume 6: 1625-1629 (1884), pp. VII-XXIII. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=71239 Date accessed: 29 July 2014.


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Preface

This, the fourth volume of the Calendar of East India State Papers, includes all documents in the Public Record and India Offices from the commencement of the year 1625, and continues the history of the East India Company during the next five years down to the close of the year 1629.

A large portion of the last volume of this Calendar relates to the Amboyna massacre, and to the efforts of our East India Company to obtain justice and reparation from the Dutch. This volume, as will be seen by reference to the Index, contains many depositions, relations, remonstrances, speeches, and other writings on the same subject. According to a deposition of George Forbes, of Aberdeen, gentleman, who was steward to the Dutch at Amboyna when the English were executed. there arose at the very time of the act of execution a great storm, which drove two Dutch ships then in Amboyna road from their anchors, and within twenty days after, there happened a great sickness on the island, such as was there never seen or heard of, so that the people cried out it was a plague upon them for the innocent blood of the English, and between 4,000 and 5,000 died out of 20,000 people then on the island (593).

Now Forbes was the interpreter of the confession of Capt. Towerson, the chief English factor in Amboyna, who when in prison wrote in "two void pages" in his Bible the manner of the proceedings and protestations of his innocence, which he pasted over with white paper, and gave the Bible to Governor Van Speult, to be delivered to his friends in England; but the Governor discovered the writing and commanded Forbes to interpret it. What became of the Bible, Forbes never knew (541, 554).

When some four years afterwards, in 1628, the King was pressing the East India Company to send into Holland the Amboyna witnesses, that is the men who had escaped execution at Amboyna, he desired the Company to send over some original papers with them, and the "bill" of Capt. Towerson and Colson's "Psalm Book" in which were declarations of their innocency, were among the writings sent (722, 744), but there is nothing to show that Towerson's Bible had been received in England.

Although in February 1625 nine-months had elapsed since the news of the massacre was received in London, the Dutch residents were then in great fear of the fury of the people upon the approaching Shrove Tuesday, and the East India Company was called before the Privy Council to answer the complaints against them (61). It appears that "four things" had combined to bring about this state of affairs. The first was a sermon preached by Dr. Wilkinson before the King reproving the cruelty of the Dutch, with a dedicatory epistle by Dr. Meryall; the second a printed pamphlet expressing in effigy the torture inflicted upon the English at Amboyna and Lantar; the third a play setting forth the tragedy of Amboyna; and the fourth a very large picture by Richard Greenbury, wherein is "lively, largely, and artificially" set forth those several bloody tortures and executions. As to the play and the printed pamphlet, Mr. Governor afterwards reported to a Committee of the East India Company that the Company had cleared themselves, and that they had not read the sermon, but it was confessed they had such a. picture, which was done with much art, but that it was for the Company's own private use. The Lords gently admonished the Company not to publish that picture at least till Shrove Tuesday be past, and accordingly it was ordered that the dour of the room in the Company's house where the picture stood should be locked (65). As to the play, the matter with all the circumstances was to have been acted, but through the representation of the Dutch Ambassador to the Council, and fearing some tumult at Shrovetide, it was stopped, "and the merchants and the "painter were checked for their labours" (64). There is a characteristic letter from Chamberlain to Carleton on this subject (71), in which the writer laments the state of the nation, when the basest of people in matter of courage dare brave and trample upon us. The Council, he writes, ordered the picture to be suppressed, the play forbidden, and the book to be called in, and withal a strong watch of 800 men extraordinary against Shrove Tuesday to see the city be kept quiet. It says much, even if it seem strange in the present day, that so great a catastrophe as the Amboyna massacre was not only constantly before the English people for nine months, but was also one of the leading topics of popular interest. Richard Greenbury demanded 100l. for his picture, but was told by the Court of Committees that he was worthy to be blamed for permitting such a multitude to have a sight of it in his house, and that "one proffered to cut it out in brass for 30l., which was a great deal more labour and workmanship than to draw it on cloth" (105). He ultimately accepted 40l. for his work (131).

The negotiations in reference to the massacre that slowly drag their course through the present volume—the arrest of the Dutch ships, in accordance with King Charles's protest to the treaty of Southampton, their unexpected release, so great a discouragement to the East India Company (701, 706) that the King sent the Lord Keeper and other great officers of state to explain his reasons for their release (684), and for which it was currently reported a bribe of three tons of gold had been received (640–1, 719), the sending over the Amboyna witnesses to appear before the judges in Holland, and the knotty point of judicature or jurisdiction between the King and the States General, all receive complete illustration in this volume, and may readily be referred to by means of the General Index.

Now these continual dissensions with the Dutch, together with some unhappy disputes which broke out in the East India Company, were all but causing a total collapse of their affairs and a cessation of their trade to the East Indies. In the year in which this volume opens Secretary Conway writes, our Company is hardly kept from abandoning the trade, which, as they must be held by the power of his Majesty's persuasions and command to continue, so must the differences be accorded by treaty (162). Soon after this a Committee of the Company had audience of his Majesty at Hampton Court on Sunday the 6th November 1625, when the King told them that if they would go on stoutly, like honest and worthy merchants, he would leave nothing undone that might encourage and countenance them, and that the Duke of Buckingham had orders to mediate their cause with the States (203), so it was resolved, after much debate, to proceed in their trade, and thereupon ordered that six stout ships be prepared richly laden to be set forth with all expedition (250).

Yet in spite of the King's promises and their own resolutions, the cessation of trade was still the chief subject of debate at the General Courts of the East India Company, for in July 1627 the Governor publicly declared that the continued injuries practised by the Butch palpably proved a settled resolution in them to drive the English out of the Indies (465.) Then came the arrest of there Dutch East India ships at Portsmouth, which again altered the position of affairs for a time, and for which the Governor thanked the King in the name of the whole Company, who once more promised to right and support them, but withal expected they would follow the trade bravely (510).

It is about this time that we see the first effects of the unhappy disputes in the internal government of the Company to which we have before referred. Smethwike was the leader of the faction which caused so much dissension, and his wilful and pertinacious conduct was a source of trouble and annoyance to the Company for more than two years, and had nearly wrecked all their hopes and energies. He seems at first to have been greatly dissatisfied with their refusal to allow him to assign or pass over an adventure. he had purchased, when such was his bold, pressing unbeseeming carriage to Mr. Governor in particular, and to the whole Court, that it was thought fit not to pass by this affront but to "battulate" or forbid him any more to come in or trouble their Courts merely for his own ends (567). The consequence was he did all in his power to thwart the Governor and Committee from carrying out the resolutions that were passed for regulating the affairs of the Com pan v. His "malice, slanders, abuse, and unbeseeming carriage," of which there are many examples (pp. 522–524), were but too frequently listened to, and had unfortunately so much influence upon some members of the Company, that Mr. Governor told them they had in part given a blow to the proposals for raising a new stock which had hitherto proved fruitless (679). One of his last acts to bring discredit on their management, was the distribution of a printed paper by hundreds to both English and Dutch, which from its substance was thought to be a plot purposely to dishearten the affairs of the Company, and to ruin the whole trade, so it was resolved to complain to the Privy Council that punishment might be inflicted upon him (800–1).

At length the King himself took notice of Smethwike's conduct, and commanded the Lord President to signify to the Company that he would not have them discouraged in the prosecution of their trade (717), so Smethwike was in the end compelled to give in his submission, to acknowledge his offences, to express his hearty sorrow, and to promise never again to offend (819).

In the meantime the East India Company distracted with these dissensions, and with their differences with the Dutch, and uncertain about their future, petitioned Parliament to examine into the whole state of their affairs, and prayed that if their trade was found to be beneficial to his Majesty and the kingdom it might receive encouragement from that House, if otherwise then the Company to be dissolved (633). But the King disapproved of this petition and sent Lord Carleton to assure them once more of his love to commerce in general, and to the Company in particular, and not to doubt his protection (678). It was the general opinion of the Company that the great losses they had sustained through the Dutch was the cause of their trade being so unprofitable, for whereas they had formerly divided two and three for one, their 100l. stock had fallen 20 per cent and was not then worth more than 80l. (283, 444, 555, 688).

The answer of the East India Company to a petition of Smethwike contains a valuable summary of the state of the Company's affairs (786). In it they state that they had sent out 57 ships of 26,690 tons, besides 18 pinnaces, "to be worn out by trading from port to port in the Indies." For relading these 57 ships they bad sent in money and goods, 1,442,145l., and there had been raised in the Indies 289,643l.; in all 1,435,085l.; and the Company declared their readiness to prove that during the last four years, i.e., from 1624 to 1628, they had sent means sufficient to relade home all the ships they had sent out. But even if this were not so, the Company added they were not to blame because the generality had not paid in above 40,000l. per annum, whereas in former years they had paid in 200,000l. So that the Company were not only obliged to continue great sums at interest, but their credit failing upon their own seal they were forced to supply upon individual credit and bonds 80,000l., which disheartened and dismayed their treasurer (p. 616), and they had besides to pay 20,000l. per annum interest (p. 500).

Their debt at interest in June 1628 was 230,000l., which in March 1629 had increased to 300,000l. (pp. 509. 637).

It was about this time that the King sent for Mr. Governor, to whom he imparted how great and urgent his occasions were for the present use of money, and that if he were not supplied with 10,000l. from the Company for three weeks, it might endanger the loss of Rochelle. To this unexpected request Mr. Governor answered that it could never come more unseasonably and that if it should be known it would utterly overthrow a new subscription for prosecution of their trade. Nevertheless, his Majesty's pleasure was it should be moved to the Company, but the Court decided it was impossible to gratify the King, and that even if they had the money it was not in their power to lend, and so Mr. Governor had to make their humble excuses to his Majesty and to beg a gracious interpretation (p. 521). Exactly two months before this transaction King Charles wrote to Vosberghen, the King of Denmark's Resident in London, urging that the money for the collar and jewels belonging to the two Kings, and valued at between eight and ten tons of gold, ought to come to his Majesty's hands, who promised on his part to release the Dutch East India ships in case Vosberghen could come to an agreement with the Dutch Company to raise money on the collar and jewels equivalent to the arrested goods, and give caution that the process pending at the Hague be ended within three months (640–1).

But while many of the reverses suffered by the East India Company were attributed to the action of the Dutch, others were due to the unhealthiness of the places chosen for settlement and to the rapacity of the native Governors. At Bantam the English were for a long time debarred from trade by the Dutch (p. 500). At Batavia they had to spend 40,000 ryals in buying a house from the Dutch and in building warehouses, which were afterwards ransacked, pulled down, and fired by the Dutch (693–5); they were also compelled to buy pepper and other commodities at exorbitant prices (656), which, as our Company declared, forced them to leave their ships to decay for want of lading and to consume their stock in careening and revictualling their ships, and paying mariners' wages (p. 616).

At Masulipatam the English factors were obliged to protest against the conduct of the native Governors, and eventually to leave that place and take all their goods with them. They removed to Armagon, and there is a full account of all they did in the letters and consultations received at Bantam from Masulipatam and Armagon between Sept. 1628 and Aug. 1629, abstracted No. 716.

At the isle of Lagundy where the East India Company had begun building in "the new and hopeful plantation," and where it was thought "a better habitation could not be wished," they were doomed to bitter disappointment, for the unhealthiness of the island soon destroyed the greater part of the intended settlers, and indeed so great was the mortality in the island that they wrote to the Dutch Governor at Batavia and begged him to rescue what few remained from their misery and to take them back to Batavia. The Governor, moved with compassion at the recital of so many miseries, sent a ship of 1,000 tons with 60 men and a pinnace, and these after 20 days' hard work in that infected isle embarked all the English and their goods, about 200 men equipped their deserted fleet, and brought them to Batavia. Yet notwithstanding all these endeavours more than 60 died in a short time after lauding, and a like number of the Netherlanders who assisted them, including the Dutch Commander and his Lieutenant (616). According to a muster of the people at Lagundy out of 225 English and 22 Portuguese, 97 English were sick as well as all the Portuguese (p. 146), and eventually it was found so unhealthy that when the English forsook the island they had lost 120 men (786).

The President and Council at Surat give a long account of "their miserable usage" there and of a "perfidious combination even of those who had but lately taken "their accursed oaths to the contrary," who prevailed upon the Great Mogul for firmans for apprehending their persons and expulsion out of his country. The factors were all imprisoned in irons, to be the shameful subjects of daily threats, revilings, scorns, and disdainful derisions of whole rabbles of people; their warehouses and private chests were ransacked and all that was gold or silver disposed of towards satisfaction of the [native] merchants' pretences (56).When the Company received news of this "unhappy disaster" it was the general opinion that it would be but a money matter, for that the like trick had been put upon the Dutch and cost them 70,000 guilders (139, 149). And so it turned out, for Capt. Hall afterwards reported to the Company that he had attended Secretary Conway and was examined about taking nine junks in the Red Sea from the Guzerats, and that he had answered that when the Company's servants were in trouble and prison at Surat, the better to make a more easy, composition for their release he had seized those junks, but that so soon as satisfaction was given to the Company and their servants were restored to liberty they were given up without detention of any part of their goods (327).

It was fortunate for the future prospects of the East India Company that in a time of so great depression the representations of the English factors in Persia were the means not only of turning the attention of the Company to trade in that country, but of inducing many members to underwrite for large sums of money to furnish ships for voyages to Persia. The Shah's firmans and contracts for silk, for which the Company were to deliver three parts in merchandise and one part in money, was one of the chief inducements to undertake these voyages (852, 857), although after much debate it was subsequently resolved that the ships should trade at Surat and Bantam, as well as in Persia. Forty-five out of 48 adventurers were for a second or new subscription, to which divers had already subscribed 500l, 1,000l., 1,500l., and some 3,000l. each (765). The total subscription for the new stock amounted to 125,000l. (p. 638). The "new adventurers for Persia" were originally bound to underwrite for not less than 200l. per man (797), but when a new subscription was agreed to for a second voyage it was reduced to 100l., the limit of 200l. having been complained of as too great a sum (836).

The numerous references to the rival Ambassadors from Persia—to Sir Robert Sherley (one of the three Sherley brothers), and to Nukud Aly Beg, the Persian, also to Hogga shan su war, the Persian merchant and his household, who came over to reside in England and died here, and to Sir Dodmore Cotton, who was sent out to Persia by King Charles, are not the least interesting parts of this volume, and illustrate fully the history of their transactions with our Company and all that took place in consequence.

During the five years between 1625 and 1629, comprised in this volume, the East India Company built and purchased twelve ships to replace those which had been lost or laid up as unserviceable (p. 730); one, a Dutch praw was bought for 655l, and named by our Company the (new) Expedition (241). Two, the Elizabeth and Ruby, were sold in England; eight, the Abigail, Anne, Bull, Coaster, Cocoanut, Diamond, Eagle, and Roebuck had during the same period to be laid up in the East Indies as unserviceable, and five were wrecked and lost, viz., the Lion, burnt by the Portuguese, the Moon, wrecked in Dover Road the Morris, wrecked in Holland, and the Rose and the Spy lost in the East Indies (p. 731).

The arrival in England of five ships at once in the winter of 1625, was noted as a circumstance which had net happened before, and the chief accountant's extraordinary labour in consequence was duly rewarded by the East India Company (p. 282). The total value of the ships come home in 1626 was estimated at 360,000l. (p. 284.)

The William returned to England in 1628, as rich a ship as the Company ever had from the East Indies, with not a sick man in her nor any dead on the way. Her lading was computed to be worth 170,000l. (769).

Twenty-eight ships were laden by the East India Company, and arrived in the East Indies during these five years; three, the Discovery, Expedition, and London, having made two voyages; while 30 ships were dispatched from the East Indies and arrived in safety in England, eight of which the Blessing, Discovery, Expedition, Hart, Jonas, Mary, Star, and William also made double voyages (pp. 730–732). The names of the captains and commanders will be found on pp. 729–730 of the General Index, and the names of the Company's factors and the places where they were employed on pp. 740–742.

There are several accounts of severe encounters and pitched battles at sea with the Portuguese. In 1625 the Palsgrave, Dolphin, and Lion fought two days with the Portuguese near Damaun. According to the relation of our factor at Ahmedabad the Dutch commander, though he had three stout ships in port, would not consent to their going out (209), and the President and Council at Batavia, after describing the fight, remark that the Dutch lost much reputation in denying to go forth with us, and that the Portuguese gain is nothing; our loss is great, but not to be esteemed in respect of what it might have been, and the forewarning us not to live in such security in these parts. This, therefore, President Hawley quaintly declares may rather be called a blessing than a misfortune, and he that fareth best is not made so happy but at least one feather is fallen from his plume which, though presently not missed, may yet prejudice him in the time to come (pp. 208–9). The English "preacher" at Batavia, Thomas Friday, gives the following graphic account of the battle in a letter to Robtert Bell, one of the Committee of the East India Company. "There were four great galleons came from Lisbon and challenged the English and Dutch ships in Swally Road, ship to ship or all together, but they refused. In the meantime the fleet from England arrived on the coast, and the galleons encountered them and fought with them three days. They boarded the Lion thrice, the master, Richard Swanley, being slain, and she valiantly freed herself. The Palsgrave and Dolphin fled and left the Lion in this distress, while the Jonas and Anne, and three Dutch ships in the road most basely lay still, yet heard their ordnance and were urged by President Kerridge to succour them. The Lion escaped to Gombroon, and there her goods were landed, which Rufrero [the Portuguese admiral] perceived, being there with a fleet of frigates, and resolutely assaulted her. The men made such resistance as their weak ability could perform, but being unable to defend her blew her up and fired her. The Portuguese saved the men, whom they presently hanged, but one they saved and sent with letters to Kerridge" (358).

From President Hawley we have another account of the plucky behaviour of the Lion. He says she was encountered by five galleons but defended herself bravely and escaped with much difficulty to Gombroon, where she landed her money, coral, and cloth. The next day Rufrero, with his fleet again assailed her, and though she defended herself a second time valiantly, "to Rufrero's great disadvantage," she was at last with multitudes so oppressed that she fired herself; her poor remainder of men, but 26, leaped into the sea, but were taken by the Portuguese and all, save one, put to death. Hawley adds that the Palsgrave and Dolphin forsook the Lion in her chief distress in her first conflict, but, pursued by the five galleons and divers frigates, the English vessels made two days' fight, but not known what has become of them. The galloons returned to Bombay in a disabled state, having lost both masts and yards (p. 208).

Some three years later Capt. Slade, who had made prize of two Portuguese vessels, was at Swally road assaulted by seventeen Portuguese frigates, and after a long defence, in which the master was slain, one of the prizes was blown up with the loss of 30 men. Many escaped by swimming and one. John Dury, of the Jonas, was pitifully burnt and died five days afterwards, "suddenly and without any outward sign of death" (p. 594).

At a Court of Committees held on the 10th of January 1625, Samuel Purchas, "a preacher and bachelor of divinity, "presented four volumes containing many treatises of the Indies and other remote parts of the world, he had previously presented the same to his Majesty and the Prince, wherein is recorded particularly the many discoveries made by the East India Company, together with the great benefit which this kingdom reapeth thereby (p. 10). He had undertaken this work just three years before, in February 1622 (Cal. 1622–1624, No. 38). He also presented at the same time an epistle, which he read to the Court, and asked whether they wished it to be inserted in his history. They took in very thankful part his labours, and in token of their good acceptance of them gratified him with 100l., and the Company to have three sets of his books. The epistle, with some additions and alterations, which Purchas again read to the Court two days after, was then well liked, and left to Mr. Purchas' discretion to be inserted if he please (pp. 10, 15). On 26th January he gave humble thanks to the Company for their favour and bounty towards him, and told them it was beyond his expectation, his only end having been the glory of God and honour of this nation, and he besought the Company to make use of his services "as of a man obliged to them." It seems that he could not then persuade the bookbinder to insert his epistle, in which the general injuries of the Dutch were set down, as he had taken advice upon it and was told it might be dangerous (23). Edward Elrington, "a scholar," translated Purchas' work into Latin, and having shown his desire to honour the Company by publishing their actions to the world, was gratified with 10l. to relieve his urgent necessities and to help pay his expenses to Germany (458, 470).

When a preacher was appointed for the East Indies it was usual for the Company to choose a text from which he was to preach a sermon before the Court. The text selected for Lewis Williams, appointed to go as a minister to Lagundy, was the 107th Psalm, verses 22, 23 (277). Sometimes, however, as in the case of Mr. Fuller, it was left to the preacher to choose his own text (768). He was requested to preach a thanksgiving sermon for the safe arrival of three of the Company's ships, and "his approbation sermon" was very much approved, the same giving a general content and liking to the hearers, whereof Mr. Governor and the chief of the adventurers were present (776). But before the Company would appoint him they demanded why he being a married man would undertake such a voyage and absent himself so long from his wife. He confessed that was the chief cause of his desiring this employment for that she was a woman whose life and conversation was incompatible and not to be endured, and with whom he never intended to have any conversation or fellowship, as well in respect of her uncivil and dishonest behaviour as for the many wrongs and injuries she had done him. He referred for the truth of his remarks to Mr. Hammond, in Southwark, his wife's first husband's executor and overseer (pp. 603–4). Inquiries were made and the Court was satisfied, but nevertheless advised Mr. Fuller to procure from his wife a note giving her consent to his going, and not to trouble the Company in his absence for more than the third of his wages, which he was content to allow her (p. 607). He was at length entertained to go as preacher with Capt. Weddell, and the Court reminded him to fit himself with books and other things necessary, and to be careful so to demean himself both aboard and ashore by his honest conversation and civil attire and sound doctrine as to give no just cause of scandal to religion and men of his profession, which, he promised faithfully to perform to the utmost of his endeavours (p. 634).

The President and Council in Batavia, in a letter of upwards of 50 pages to the East India Company, describe their preacher Mr. Jas. Rynde, who was on his return home, as the conclusive passenger of note, who hath lovingly this last Sabbath included us in his hearty prayers. He hath lived amongst us peacefully without any spleen or faction. His function he hath ever observed conformably, and his life no way deserving public reproach, though not free from imbecilities as in all of us might be wished a bettering (p. 160). He died on his passage home (425) in 1626, having been eight years in the East Indies: he was appointed to go out preacher in Sir Thos. Dale's fleet in 1618.

This volume has already exceeded the usual limits, so we must refer our readers to the General Index for the numerous subjects of interest it contains which we cannot even refer to in this place. Of the many proverbs and quaint sayings one or two may be noticed. Idleness is the devil's cushion whereon he takes his ease, writes President Wylde from Surat (p. 648); and he that knows not how to obey can worse govern is the remark of Wm. Burt, the Company's agent in Persia (p. 628). President Hawley says an evil name is half a hanging (p. 377), and that to covenant upon presumptions where there is no certainty may bring us home by weeping cross (p. 369). Alderman Garway concluded a speech with the proverb it is not fit to muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn (p. 364); and Lord Carleton, our Ambassador at the Hague, told Secretary Coke the States would not treat with a foot upon their threat (as their phrase is), 576. The Company ordered that any baker serving "naughty bread" should be forthwith dismissed from baking for the Company (745).

It is again my pleasing duty to return my best thanks to J. E. Ernest S. Sharp, Esq., of this office, for his valuable assistance.

W. Noel Sainsbury.

28th March 1884.