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brought to English shores, but the ship contained
records of her earlier trading that came as some-
thing of a revelation to English merchants.


88 The Sea Traders

Besides the trade with Russia, already embodied
in the first of the great chartered companies, the
trade with Turkey and the Levant, embodied in
another, which was about to obtain full incorpora-
tion, and the brilliant possibilities of the trade with
the West Indies, here were India and the East
Indies now looming, in a very practical sense, on
the English mercantile horizon. In view of this the
impetus given by the return of Ralph Fitch, four
years later, from these very regions, can well be

Even before his return an expedition had been
planned, and, in the very month in which he
landed in England, three vessels had sailed for
India, of which only one, the Edward Boriaventum,
an Armada veteran commanded by James Lan-
caster, succeeded in returning, three years after-
wards, with much valuable knowledge. Financially
this voyage, as well as another organized in
August of the same year, were failures, but the
merchants responsible for them refused to be
daunted, and resolved to try, and try again. Ulti-
mately about one hundred of them formed them-
selves into an association, with a capital of some
£30,000, and after a prolonged argument .with
Queen Elizabeth, obtained from her a charter in
the year 1600. Thus was born what was after-
wards to be, for several centuries, the greatest of
all British chartered companies, the East India
Company, representing an integral part of the
growing Empire's economic life.

The East India Company 89

Immediately after receiving this charter another
expedition was organized, again with Captain
Lancaster in command, and consisting of the
Red Dragon of 600 tons, the Hector of 300 tons,
the Ascension of 200 tons, the Susaii of 240
tons, and a smaller ship of 100 tons. Second in
command to him, and captain of the Hector, was
one Henry Middleton, afterwards destined to play
a very considerable part in the pioneer work
accomplished by the East India Company. Of
his early life we know very httle, except that
he was apparently a north-countryman. He
seems to have been a most competent and able
adviser upon everything relating to the proposed
expedition. He was approached and asked to be
one of the three principal factors of the newly in-
corporated company in the overseas possessions
that it was hoped to acquire ; and he was entrusted,
amongst others, with the provisioning of the little

It was on May 2 in the year 1601 that the five
vessels sailed from Torbay, and from thence they
proceeded to the town of Achenn, the principal
harbour of the Island of Sumatra, where an
alliance was formed with the king of the island,
who subsequently wrote to Queen Elizabeth ex-
pressing his deep satisfaction at the arrival of her
English subjects. Not only did this expedition
succeed in acquiring great quantities of pepper and
spices from Sumatra, but it also captured a large
Portuguese vessel, laden with treasure, some of

90 The Sea Traders

which was afterwards exchanged at a considerable
profit, for the native produce of the town of
Bantam in Java, where Henry Middleton and
his colleagues also established mercantile relation-
ships. The expedition was entirely successful, and
came back safely to England in September, 1603,
with a very handsome return for the merchants
who had interested themselves in the project.

The next voyage was undertaken in the year
1604, when Heniy Middleton himself took com-
mand. He was back at Bantam again just before
Christmas, where the company's agents had, in
the meanwhile, been hard at work. They had
bought and accumulated large stores of pepper
and spices and other native products, and with
these Henry Middleton loaded two of the ships for
England, himself taking two other ships on a
further voyage of exploration to Sumatra, opening
up trade with various hitherto untouched islands.
Curiously enough, it was at one of these, Ternate,
nearly thirty j^ears before, that Francis Drake had
landed during his great voyage of circumnaviga-
tion, and so potent was the legend that he had left
behind that the new king of the island was only
too eager to welcome a fellow-countryman of the
great sailor in the person of Henry Middleton.

Back in England again in 1606, Middleton was
knighted for his great services, and three years
later a new, more comprehensive and more per-
manent charter was granted to the company by
James I. This conceded "the whole, entire and

The East India Company 91

only trade and traffic to the East Indies," for an
indefinite period, and secured to the company that
no one should be allowed to have any share in this
sphere of English commerce without a licence from
the directors, all the members of the company being
bound by oath to be loyal to the King and faithful
helpers of the company itself.

In the next year yet another voyage was under-
taken, although this time Henry Middleton himself
remained at home, and it was so successful that,
on its return, the shareholders who had invested in
the venture received a dividend of no less than
234 per cent. Encouraged by this, the directors
resolved to build two new vessels, especially
adapted for the new trade, and these w^ere the
forerunners of the East Indiaman which was to
become so characteristic a type of British sailing
vessel. The larger of these vessels, about 1,200
tons, was the biggest merchant ship yet built in
England, and in her — she was appropriately called
the Trades Increase — Sir Henry Middleton sailed
in 1610. She rounded the Cape and sailed up the
east coast of Africa, arriving at Mocha early in
November, where the Turkish Governor professed
great friendhness, and where Sir Henry Middleton
was persuaded to make a stay ashore of some
length. Unhappily, at the back of this invitation
there was a treacherous intent, and he was held
in captivity for six months. He succeeded at last
in escaping, partly by promising never to return
and push his trade there and partly by threatening

92 The Sea Traders

to attack the town. Nor was that the end of his
difficulties. He next approached Surat, where he
found a powerful squadron of Portuguese vessels
posted at the mouth of the river in order to prevent
the approach of traders from any other nation.
He had only three vessels as against the twenty
Portuguese ships, and consequently he at first
tried methods of diplomacy. He had letters from
King James I to the Great Mogul, who was not
under the sovereignty of Portugal, and he pointed
out that, as he wished them no harm, the Portu-
guese had no right to interfere mth him. He
therefore began to trade, but, finding the Portu-
guese opposing him, he decided to stand up forcibly
for his rights, and attacked them with such success
that he sank one ship, captured another, and put
the rest to flight. He then made a treaty with the
natives and laid in valuable cargo.

With that, as it turned out, it would have been
better for him to have been content. But falling
in with some other English vessels, he resolved to
turn to Mocha and wipe out the damage that he
had there suffered to his prestige. This he did,
and then returned again to make further profit for
his company at Bantam in Java, but his three
vessels were now unseaworthy, and, to make
matters worse, the Trades Increase struck a reef.
She only just succeeded in making Bantam, where
she had to be laid up for repairs. One of her con-
sorts was sent back to England, the other was kept
at Bantam with the Trades Increase; and mean-

The East India Company 93

while Sir Henry and his men made their home in
a Httle village not far from the town.

Unfortunately there was no material in the
neighbourhood with which to effect proper repairs
to the damaged vessels, and while he was waiting
for this to be sent out to him the Trades Increase
went to pieces before his eyes. Worse, too, was
happening ashore, for his men, not being acclimat-
ized or immune from the various fevers endemic in
the place, began to die one by one, and finally he
himself became ill. Before the year was out he,
too, had died, far from home, like Drake and
Hawkins, but not before he had laid the founda-
tion for his country of an Eastern trade of supreme

Already, at home, the East India Company
was being remodelled and regularized, and within
a year of Middleton's death an English Ambassa-
dor to the East was dispatched to carry on his
pioneer work. In that extension, with its then
undreamed-of developments, many names were to
shine more brightly, or, let us say, to capture more
strongly the attention both of the public and the
popular historians. But the groundwork of our
Eastern trade, and ultimately of our Eastern
Empire, was probably due as much to the efforts
of Sir Henry Middleton as to those of any of the
others, whose names have since outshone his on
the roll of fame.

These, then, briefly, were the individual
achievements and adventures, out of which the

94 The Sea Traders

great East India Company was born. It was
fortunate to find in its first governor a man of
outstanding qualities. This was Sir Thomas
Smythe, who for twenty-five years was to remain
its chief directing mind. The son of an earUer
Sir Thomas, who had held the post of Farmer of
the Customs under Queen Elizabeth, he had suc-
ceeded to his father's office. But he does not seem
to have allowed this, in any way, to interfere with
his loyal devotion to the young and growling East
India Company. In its best interests he fought
both well and consistently, in and out of Parlia-
ment, and abroad as well as at home ; and it was
he who was largely instrumental in the appoint-
ment of Sir Thomas Roe, of whom we have already
spoken, to be the Ambassador to the East, and
thereby to regularize the commercial relations
between this country, India and the East Indies.

He seems to have held, too, the highest ideals
as to English responsibility in these diplomatic
dealings \vith native countries and communities.
Thus, assembling the factors about to depart in
the year 1614 to take up residence in the East,
he exhorted them to avoid tyranny and evil be-
haviour, to be scrupulously honest in their com-
mercial dealings, and thus to avoid "making the
people hate and detest us before we be settled
amongst them." He survived to the year 1625
— sufficiently long to see the company well on its
way to established prosperity*

The last of the Tudor mosarchs, under whom

The East India Company 95

England had made such astounding progress in
almost every sphere of human activity, had now
died, and the troubled era of the Stuarts had
begun. It was fortunate, therefore, for the com-
pany that, through its worst periods, it was to have
at its helm an even greater man than Sir Thomas
Smythe. This was Josiah Child. He was born in
the year 1630, the son of a London merchant, who
became Sheriff of Bedfordshire. The son was the
most remarkable merchant of the whole Stuart

In his earlier life Josiah Child seems to have
been chiefly engaged in commerce with America
and the West Indies, and at the age of thirty-five
we find him importing timber from New England
for naval purposes. Nor were these his only
interests, since he was a contractor for beer for
the navy, and built a brew-house in Southwark to
supply the King's household also. This was in
the reign of Charles II, when he had become the
owner of Wanstead House, where he lived with
his first wife during the Plague of London.

The maritime supremacy for so long held by
Spain had by this time, of course, waned, but a
new and very efficient ocean power had risen above
the horizon in the shape of the Netherlands ; and
it was while Josiah Child was residing at Wanstead
that he produced a very remarkable document, in
which he pointed out, for the benefit of his con-
temporaries, certain features in the general policy
of the Dutch which he thought were worthy of

96 The Sea Traders

the most immediate attention. These features,
he said, it would be well for his countrymen very
seriously to consider ; and his general appreciation
of the problems raised — considering his age, for
he was still only a young man — and the times in
which he wrote, formed an extraordinarily prescient
document over which it is tempting, for a moment,
to linger.

Thus he pointed out, firstly, that the Dutch
were in the habit of calling to their greatest councils
of State and war practical trading merchants who
had had actual experience abroad in most parts
of the world, and who, besides being theorists,
were traders of proved capacity. Secondly, he
drew attention to the laws of inheritance pre-
vailing in the Netherlands, by which every child
shared equally in the parental estates after the
death of the parents, and so were left, as a rule,
considerably better provided for than under the
English custom, whereby the eldest son inherited
and the younger children had usually to shift
unaided for themselves. Thirdly, he commended
the very ' ' exact making of all their native com-
modities and packing of their herrings, cod-fish
and all other commodities, which they send abroad
in great quantities ; the consequence whereof is
that the repute of their said commodities abroad
continues always good, and the buyers will accept
them by the marks, without opening ; whereas the
fish which our English make in Newfoundland and
New England, and herrings at Yarmouth, and our

The East India Company 97

pilchards from the west country often prove false
and deceitfully made."

Fourthly, he laid great stress upon the official
encouragement given by the Dutch to the inventors
of new manufactures, and the discoverers, as he
put it, of any " new mysteries " in trade, and to
those that " shall bring the commodities of other
nations first in use and practise amongst them, by
which the author never goes without his due reward
allowed him by the public charge." He also
praised the Dutch methods of education, whereby
daughters were taught, as well as sons, so that a
man's wife had the capacity to carry on his trade
after his death. In regard to this, he said, the
woman being " as knowing therein as the man, it
doth encourage their husbands to hold on in their
trades to their dying days, knowing the capacity
of their wives to get in their estates and carry on
their trades after their deaths ; whereas if a mer-
chant in England arrive at any considerable estate,
he commonly withdraws his estate from trade
before he comes near the confines of old age,
reckoning that if God should call him out of the
world while the main of his estate is engaged
abroad in trade, he must lose one-third of it,
through the inexperience and incompetence of his
wife to such affairs, and so it usually falls out."

He further praised their banking arrangements,
which he estimated to secure a profit for the public
amounting to at least £1,000,000 a year, and their
religious tolerance, " by reason whereof many in-


98 The Sea Traders

dustrious people of other countries, without dis-
sent from the estabUshed government of their own
churches, resorted to them with their famiUes and
estates, and after a few years' cohabitation with
them, become of the same common interests."
He also noted the promptness of their civil litiga-
tion by which " all controversies betw^een mer-
chants and tradesmen are decided in three or four
days' time, and with not the fortieth part (I might
say, in many cases, not the hundredth part) of the
charge they are with us." He laid stress, too,
upon the facilities granted in the Netherlands for
the transference from one man to another of bills
of debt, whereby it was made possible to turn over
stocks twice or thrice for every once in England.

Lastly, he emphasized the low rate of interest
there prevalent as compared with that charged in
England. "Here in England," he said, "the
high rate of interest makes matters difficult for the
young merchant, while it tempts the older ones to
turn usurer, so that instead of continuing at their
honest trades they have found the sweetness of
interest ; neither scattering by their experiences so
as the poor may glean after them, nor working
with their hands or heads to bring either wax or
honey to the common hive of the kingdom, but
swelling their own purses by the sweat of other
men's browns, and the contrivances of other men's
brains." He was also a most trenchant critic of
the existing English methods of harrying the
beggar and the poor in general.

The East India Company 99

This, then, was the man, with economic views
far ahead of most of his contemporaries, who was
destined, during his later hfe, to be at the helm
of the East India Company. We can gather a
good idea of its general position from a summary
of his own writing, at the age of thirty-nine. From
this it appears that the company then employed
regularly about thirty vessels and three thousand
sailors ; that it supplied the nation with its salt-
petre, pepper, indigo, calicoes and drugs to an
amount equivalent to nearly £180,000 per year;
and that it supplied the same articles for re-ex-
portation to something like three times that
amount. " Were it not for the East India
Company," he wrote at this time, " we should be
at the mercy of the Dutch traders ; we should
have to buy foreign linens instead of calicoes that
come from our own dependencies, and we should
lose the protection secured for the country by
the employment of so many stout ships and

This was in the year 1669, and eight years
later another of Child's reports showed further
substantial progress. Over £400,000 worth of
goods and bullion were now being annually ex-
ported in the company's vessels, and about thrice
that amount was being yearly conveyed in the
shape of other commodities to the English markets.
This prosperity was, of course, reflected in the
shares of the company, which rose from a value of
£70 in the year 1664 to £360 in 1691 ; and Josiah

100 The Sea Traders

Child himself, by the end of Charles II's reign,
held about one-third of the total stock.

With a bold nose, an obstinate mouth and two
deep furrows between his eyebrows, his portrait is
not that of a man who could pass through life
without making enemies. Moreover, he was ruth-
less to incapacity and dishonesty in any form, and
did not hesitate to purge very thoroughly the
personnel of East India House. Apart from these
very obvious causes of enmity, of course, many
individual merchants and other companies, such,
for instance, as the Levant Company, were directly
hit by the enormous strides which the East India
Company was making under Josiah Child's able

But Child paid very little heed to his enemies,
pursuing his own course and extending his trade
wherever possible. In India, Ceylon, Java and
Japan evidences were to be found of his activities
in almost every commercial field. Made a baronet
in the year 1678, he seems to have stood aside
from politics, as far as any man was able to do
so during a period of such sudden and violent
changes. But it was in his brain that the idea of
a political Indian Empire seems first to have taken
shape. This was partly owing to an unfortunate
incident leading to a passage of arms with the
Great Mogul, in which his own elder brother. Sir
John Child, the Governor of Bombay, was seriously

Thus, writing in the year 1689, the directorate

The East India Company loi

of the company, reflecting no doubt the master
mind of Josiah Child, said that "the increase of
our revenue is the subject of our care as much as
our trade. 'Tis that must maintain our force when
twenty accidents may interrupt our trade. 'Tis
that must make us a nation in India ; without that
we are but as a great number of interlopers, united
by His Majesty's Royal Charter, fit only to trade
where nobody of power thinks it their interest to
prevent us ; and upon this account it is that the
wise Dutch in all their general advices which we
have seen, write ten paragraphs concerning their
government, their civil and military policy, war-
fare, and the increase of their revenue, for one
paragraph they write concerning trade."

Living to the age of nearly seventy, he was
destined to be survived by his third wife, who is
recorded as being in her old age so closely allied
to the chief nobility of England that eleven dukes
and duchesses used to ask her blessing, and that
some fifty great families would go into mourning
for her. Of Sir Josiah Child himself a contem-
porary historian wrote as follows, " He was a man
of great notions as to merchandise, which was his
education, and in which he succeeded beyond any
man of his time. He apphed himself chiefly to the
East India trade, which by his management was
raised so high that it drew much envy and jealousy,
both upon himself and upon the company. He had
a compass of knowledge and apprehension unusual
to a man of his profession. He was vain and

102 The Sea Traders

covetous and thought too cunning, though he
seemed to be always sincere."

Whatever may have been his faults, however,
Josiah Child was, at any rate, the ablest director
of its affairs that the great company had had, and
furnishes incidentally an interesting example of the
great extent to which the British aristocracy is
derived throughout its history from the ranks of
the commercial classes.



Westward Ho I — The Earlier British Colonies in America —
Bristol and the Trade with the New World — Colston's
Enterprise and Benefactions — William Paterson and His
Early Days in America — A Plan for Colonising the Isthmus
of Darien — William Paterson and his Part in the Union
between England and Scotland.

"VIT'E have been following hitherto the expansion
" " of English oversea trade as it developed east-
wards during the reigns of the Tudor and earlier
Stuart monarchs ; and the merchant-adventurers, at
whose history we have lately been glancing, have
been associated chiefly with the city of London.
In the person of Edward Colston, however, a pro-
vincial contemporary of Josiah Child, we return
again to Bristol, and must first take a brief sui-vey
of what had been happening in the New World
beyond the Atlantic.

Founded in the year 1636, about half-way
through the reign of Charles I, several of the North
American colonies, or plantations as they were at
first called, were already so well established as to
have become a source of profit to the country's
trade. The oldest of these was Virginia. As we
have seen, the pioneer w^ork there had been largely
done by Sir Walter Raleigh, and a patent had


104 The Sea Traders

been granted in the year 1606 to two Companies
of Merchant- Adventurers, the one in London
and the other in Bristol. Ten years later this
colony had already become prosperous, and by
1622 several Virginian towns had outpaced in
size and wealth those that had been established
two generations earlier in the Southern Continent
by the Spaniards. Then, and for many years
afterwards, tobacco was of course the staple pro-
duct of this senior North American colony, but
wheat and timber were also becoming important
exports. Eight years before Colston was born the
plantation was supporting three thousand inhabi-
tants, and its annual production of wealth was
estimated at £400,000.

Four years later, in the year 1632, and four
years before the birth of Edward Colston, the
colony of Maryland had been founded by Lord
Baltimore, and here again the tobacco leaf was the
chief article of culture, although this colony was
rapidly developing a trade in timber, pitch, tar
and furs. Farther north, in the year 1621, New
Plymouth had been established by the Pilgrim
Fathers ; the colony of Massachusetts had been
first settled in the year 1629, New Haven in
the year 1635, and Connecticut in the year 1636.
By the time Edward Colston was seven years old
these four latter plantations, or settlements, had
been combined in the name of the United Colonies
of New England — New Hampshire, Maine, and
Rhode Island being soon afterwards associated

Colston and Paterson 105

with thcrii. It was a rich country, heavily tim-
bered, with a fertile soil, and deposits of iron and
copper, and it was w^ashed by seas of which the
fisheries were soon to prove a considerable asset in
the new colonies' wealth.

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