East India Company.

A calendar of the court minutes, etc. of the East India company, 1635-1639 online

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THE Court Minutes of the East India Company, now
preserved in the Record Department of the India Office,
have been calendared down to the close of 1634 in the late
Mr. W. Noel Sainsbury's invaluable series of Calendars of
State Papers, East Indies, the last instalment of which was
published by the Public Record Office in 1892. In the
present volume Miss Sainsbury continues her father's work,
and carries it to the end of the year 1639. It is to be
noted, however, that there is a gap in the Minutes from
July, 1637, to July, 1639, owing to the loss of the volume
containing the entries for that period.

In order to make the work as complete a reflex as
possible of the Company's home administration, abstracts
of the documents in the East Indies series at the Public
Record Office have been added ; also a few papers from
other collections at that office and some miscellaneous items
from the India Office Records. In addition, the references
to Indian affairs in the Domestic State Papers have been
reproduced, the descriptions being for the most part quoted
(by permission) from the official calendars.

Where the location of a document is not specified, it is
to be understood to be in the India Office. Except in the
case of well-known persons and places, it has been thought

a a


advisable to spell all names as given in the documents
themselves. The reader is thus left to form his own
judgement as to which of the several .variations is to be
regarded as the right one.

Acknowledgements are due to Sir Henry Maxwell- Lyte,
K.C.B., Deputy Keeper of the Records, for advice on
various points ; to Mr. Edward Salisbury, of the Public
Record Office, for assistance in examining the documents
there ; and to Mr. Wallace, of the Privy Council Office,
for affording facilities in consulting the Privy Council
Registers of the time.

The Index has been prepared by Miss Sainsbury.

W. F.


AT the beginning of 1635, the date when this Calendar com-
mences, the Worshipful Company of Merchants of London Trading
into the East Indies had been in existence just over a third of
a century. Its career had been a chequered one. Far and wide
over the lands and seas of Southern Asia its servants had roamed,
from Persia and the Red Sea ports on the west to Japan and the
Isles of Banda on the east, and many fair hopes had been built
on its early successes. But, as time passed, factory after factory
was abandoned, owing either to Dutch competition or to the
impossibility of developing any trade capable of yielding the high
profits required to balance the expenses and risks incurred ; while
of those that were still maintained several were rather a drain than
otherwise. Much of the money attracted to the Company's coffers
by its favourable start had been wasted in these futile experiments,
and the confidence of the investors in the golden nature of Eastern
trade had sustained a rude shock. Nor were other discourage-
ments wanting. The cost of shipping was always heavy ; vessels
wore out rapidly in tropical waters, and many a precious cargo
disappeared beneath the waves in the hazardous homeward voyage.
Then, too, the Company's servants had more and more openly
devoted themselves to trading on their own account. To a certain
extent this was recognized as legitimate ; but it was notorious that
most of the factors pushed the practice to excess, and we are told
that in one year the amount of private trade carried on reached
the high total of 3o,ooo/. 1 The example set by the factors was
assiduously followed by the officers and seamen of the Company's
ships. Royal proclamations had fixed the amount and kinds of
goods allowed to be exported and imported as private trade, and
had threatened punishment to all who exceeded these limits. But

1 Mr. Sainsbury's preface to the Calendar for 1630-34, p. xix. Boothby, in his True
Declaration, alleges that two of the Company's servants made 3o,ooo/. and 2o,ooo/.
respectively in less than six years.


not a vessel left or returned to English waters without smuggling
goods aboard or ashore ; while in the East it was impossible to set
bounds to the port-to-port trade. When we add the losses
sustained through the troubles with the Dutch, and the discourage-
ment caused by the King's readiness to allow interlopers to invade
the Company's monopoly, we can easily understand why at times
the most optimistic of the adventurers gave way to despondency.

Before proceeding to summarize the events recorded in the
present volume, it may be convenient to introduce to the reader
the members of the directorate and their principal officers. The
important post of Governor was filled at this time by Sir Morris
Abbot, knight and alderman, who had been elected to that position
in March, 1624, on the death of Alderman Halliday. He belonged
to a group of clever brothers, of whom one (George) became Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, and another (Robert) Bishop of Salisbury.
Morris (Maurice) had devoted himself to foreign trade, and was
now in the front rank of London merchants. The Deputy
Governor was Alderman Christopher Clitherow, who, like Abbot,
had occupied his post for nearly eleven years. The duties of the
Treasurer were discharged by Robert Bateman. He had held this
responsible office, first in conjunction with William Stone and then
alone, from March, 1620. The list of the twenty-four ' Committees'
or Directors contained the names of six aldermen Sir Hugh
Hammersley, Anthony Abdy, Henry Andrews, Richard Fenn,
Henry Garway, and Hugh Perry ; the others being Samuel
Armitage, Thomas Bownest, Thomas Burnell, William Cokayne,
Matthew Craddock, Richard Davies, William Garway, John Gayer,
Job Harby, Thomas Kerridge (formerly President at Surat),
John Langham, John Milward, Thomas Mun (the writer on
economics), Thomas Mustard, Abraham Reynardson, William
Spurstowe, Thomas Styles, and John Williams. Of the officers
of the Company the most important was the Secretary, Edward
Sherborne, who had been appointed to that post in April, 1625,
having previously served in the same capacity the Lord Treasurer
Salisbury and the Lord Keeper Bacon. 1 His assistant was John
Cappur, who held also the quaint appointment of ' Remembrancer '.

1 Early in 1636 he succeeded to the post of Clerk to the Ordnance Board, retaining,
however, his position at the India House (p. 246).


The Accountant was an old and trusted servant named Jeremy
Sambrooke ; and with him we may mention the Book-keeper,
Andrew Ellam. Of the rest we shall most frequently hear of
Mr. William Acton, the Company's Solicitor ; of Richard Mountney,
the ' Husband ' ; of his son John, who appears to have been em-
ployed in the counting-house ; and of John Spiller, the Beadle.

The actual financial position at the beginning of 1635 appears to
have been as follows. The current stock was that known as the
' Third Joint Stock ', which had been started four years earlier with
a capital of 42o,jool. 1 No dividend had yet been paid, and on
June 20, 1634, the Governor had told the subscribers that they
must not look for any return for a year or two longer. In addition
to this general fund, three subscriptions had been raised for
separate ' Persia Voyages ', and an abortive attempt had been
made in May, 1631, to raise a fourth. This division of interests
had resulted in such an inextricable tangle of accounts that in
October, 1634, it was agreed that the three Voyages should be
amalgamated with the Joint Stock at a valuation of i6o/., i8o/.,
and 1407. per cent, respectively. 2 In addition to its liabilities to
its stockholders the Company was considerably in debt both in
India and England ; in the former country it owed ioo,ooo/., and
in the latter 300,0007. (p. 24). This was not in itself especially
alarming, as the Company had always borrowed largely to carry on
its trade ; but it was somewhat disquieting that these heavy com-
mitments should coincide with a great depression in the Indian
trade, due to the frightful famine which had ravaged Gujarat in

The natural result of the absence of a dividend was a certain
amount of discontent amongst the shareholders, many of whom

1 A paper noted on p. 284 gives the original subscription as 425,0007. and the amount
actually expended up to June, 1637, as 8oo,ooo/. This of course included borrowed money.

2 These amounts included both capital and profits. The latter may seem to be fairly
large, but it must be remembered that the stocks had been running for several years,
and that the current rate of interest in London, for well-secured loans, was from 6 to 8
per cent, per annum. As a matter of fact, the adventurers of the First Voyage had
already received back their principal and 40 per cent, profit ; those in the Second their
principal and 50 per cent, profit ; and those in the Third their principal only. Hence the
sums now placed to their credit in the Joint Stock were 20, 30, and 40 per cent, respec-
tively of their original subscriptions. The final profit on the Third Joint Stock was
35 per cent. (Sambrooke's Account).


were inclined to attribute the ill success of the Company's opera-
tions to the bad management of the governing body. This
irritation was evinced in many ways, and was not lessened by
the long-standing dispute as to the exact relations of the directorate
and the ' generality '. Many of the stockholders maintained that
the Governor and Committees were merely delegates, who ought
to keep their constituents fully acquainted with the state of affairs,
and refer all matters of importance to them for decision. Sir
Morris Abbot and his colleagues, however, while admitting a certain
responsibility to the generality, were inclined to fight for a free
hand in the management of the affairs of the Company, relying on
past practice and the wording of the charter. They resented the
imputation that they were salaried officials, and they noted
significantly that they, personally, held more stock than four
hundred of the generality (p. 46). It was, in fact, a weakness in
the constitution of the Company that the members all voted on
a footing of equality, irrespective of the amount of their holdings ;
so that the man with io,ooo/. at stake had no more voice in
a decision of the General Court the ultimate authority on all
great issues than one with ioo/. Now, the Company may be
said roughly to have been composed of two classes. The first
consisted of merchants largely dependent on the Indian trade,
being themselves engaged either in the sale of the commodities
at home or in their re-export to foreign countries. These mostly
took out their dividends in goods, and thus made a second profit ;
and in any case it was vital to their interests that the trade should
continue. The majority of the Company, however, were small
shareholders, who regarded the stock merely as a means of invest-
ment, and, when they saw little chance of a dividend, were chiefly
eager to withdraw their principal. The former class was of course
strong in the Court of Committees, for by a rule established in
1628 no one was eligible for election to that body unless he
possessed stock to the value of 2,ooo/. ; but the small holder was
supreme in the General Court, with the result that from time to
time serious friction arose between the two bodies. 1 In the present

1 When the Joint Stock of 1657 was started, a rule was introduced by which votes were
proportioned to a member's holding, and this system was continued until the dissolution
of the Company.


instance the malcontents were strong enough to give considerable
trouble. At a General Meeting held on November ai, 1634, they
proposed the appointment of a special committee of twelve share-
holders to look into the accounts ; but the suggestion was in-
dignantly scouted by the governing body, and Sir Morris Abbot
refused to put the motion. This somewhat high-handed action
was followed a month later (December 24) by an order of the
Court of Committees prohibiting any of the ordinary members
of the Company from examining the accounts and correspondence
or attending (as had been not unusual) to hear the letters from the
East read. On February 6, 1635, the Committees went so far as
to determine to put down the Quarterly General Courts, on the
ground that they only begat troublesome debates. When, how-
ever, on the afternoon of the same day, they faced their dissatisfied
constituents, their courage seems to have ebbed rapidly away, and
we hear no more of this valiant intention. The first breeze was
over the transfer of the ' Persia Voyages ' to the Joint Stock. The
opponents could not deny that this had been authorized at
a general meeting, but they declared that the proposal had been
made without sufficient notice, and carried too hastily. The
suggestion for the appointment of a committee of investigation
was again brought forward, but it was staved off by a declaration
that four of the regular Committees were already engaged on the
task, and hoped within two or three months to produce a perfect
statement of accounts. Finally, the meeting fell upon the recent
order forbidding promiscuous examination of the letterbooks and
ledgers. 'An honourable lord' denied the right of the Com-
mittees to give such orders to the detriment of the generality ;
to which the Governor replied that the action had been taken for
the good of the Company, and partly in consequence of a censure
from the State for suffering their letters to be made so public ;
adding that the order was not intended to exclude lords and
gentlemen who were adventurers, but certain persons who used the
opportunity to create scandals and dissensions. This attempt to
draw a distinction failed to improve matters, and a division was
challenged on the question whether the Committees had any power
to make such an order without the sanction of the general body.
This was decided in the negative, and it was then determined to


remit to the next Quarterly Court the consideration of the advisability
of confirming or rejecting the new rule.

While this dispute was going on, the Committees were busily
engaged in preparing two vessels for dispatch to Surat. Of these,
the William had been for some years in the Company's service,
and the Crispian had recently been purchased for 3,7OO/. from
Captain (afterwards Sir Nicholas) Crispe, with a condition that her
name should not be changed. Richard Gilson was appointed
master of the former, and Thomas Lee of the latter ; while
Captain Browne was chosen chief commander of the fleet, to
hoist his flag in the William. Full details are given of the
purchase of stores and goods, the hiring of men, the provision of
ordnance, &c. ; and we may specially note the active part taken in
all these matters by the Committees themselves. Most of the
actual purchasing seems to have been done by members of the
Court, and it is not unusual to find them 'entreated' to make
journeys of considerable length on the Company's business. In
spite of all efforts, however, it seems to have been the middle of
March, 1635, before the vessels left the Thames. The Court then
turned its attention to the unlading of the Dolphin, which had arrived
from the East towards the end of January with a cargo of pepper,
cloves, and sugar, estimated to be worth 58,ooo/. This was her
last voyage, for she was pronounced unfit for further service, and
was thereupon sold, together with another ship, the Exchange.
The Mary seems to have been the only ship now left at home,
and it was resolved in consequence to make a considerable reduc-
tion in the charges of the Company's dockyard at Blackwall ;
whereupon the salaries of several of the principal officers employed
there were largely reduced (May 8), to their great dissatisfaction.

On April 24 another General Court was held. The Committees
had previously determined to resist any motion permitting private
members to view the accounts, on the ground that this would
hinder the auditors and accountants, who were now busily engaged
upon them ; but the meeting was for once harmonious, the share-
holders being too much engrossed with the question of the sale
of the Dolphins goods to go into other matters. On the 8th of
the following month, however, the question was fully discussed.
The order forbidding access to the Company's ledgers (except


to the separate accounts of the adventurers) was now presented
for confirmation, and Sir Morris Abbot urged its adoption.
A long discussion followed, and at length it was agreed that the
accountants should be allowed to finish their work undisturbed, and
that when they had drawn out a balance, a special committee of
six of the adventurers elected by the meeting should go through
and report. The order regarding promiscuous examination of the
accounts was directed to be brought up in an amended form at the
next Quarterly Court.

The long-expected statement of accounts was ready by June 12,
when a somewhat strange course was adopted by the Court of
Committees. On the proposal of the Deputy Governor it was
decided to conceal from the recently appointed committee of
investigation the amount of the Company's indebtedness. The
accountants were ordered to revise their statement, and meanwhile
all present and the Company's officials were enjoined to strict
secrecy. When in the afternoon the generality assembled to hear
the expected statement, they were told that it was ready, but that
the Court had decided to have it ' perfected ' by some of its own
members before submitting it to the Special Committee. This at
once raised a hubbub, the objectors clamouring to have the state-
ment presented intact to the investigators ; but the Deputy and
others strongly withstood this, declaring that for want of proper
information from the East it was merely ' a roving estimate ', and
might prove to be misleading. These arguments, however, were
brushed aside, and it was ordered that the accountants' figures for
the stock abroad should be delivered on the following Monday
to the Special Committee, and that a second balance, for the
Company's estate at home, should be prepared within ten days,
and handed to the same Committee. The members of the latter
were then to go through these accounts, and present them to the
generality at a special meeting. On the motion of the Deputy,
the members of the Committee were instructed to keep the
particulars secret ; and a resolution was also carried to shorten
the minutes of future General Courts by omitting ' impertinent
passages and discourses '. Either the idea of concealing the debt
from the investigators was abandoned, or else they were talked
into conniving at its suppression, for they seem to have had full


access to the accounts, and to have been satisfied with the results.
The adjourned general meeting was held on July i, but only three
members of the Special Committee attended, and they differed in
their conclusions. They agreed, however, that the statements
submitted by the accountants were full and accurate. With this
the generality, after hearing the statements read, professed them-
selves well satisfied, and the powers of the Special Committee were
declared to be at an end. The assembly declined, however, to pass
the desired order prohibiting members of the Company from viewing
the accounts or attending to hear the letters read, but deferred its
consideration to a later date.

The General Court of Election for 1635 was held on July 3.
Abbot was reappointed Governor, and Mr. Robert Bateman, in
spite of some objection on his part, was again elected Treasurer.
It was necessary to find a new Deputy, for Alderman Clitherow
was to be the next Lord Mayor, and therefore could not undertake
to serve the Company any longer ; whereupon the assembly elected
Alderman Abdy to the post. He was absent at the time, and
apparently had not been asked whether he would stand, for at the
next meeting of the Committees he both by letter and in person
refused to accept the office. As no fresh election could be made
except by the general body, the post remained vacant until their
next meeting (September 9), when Alderman Garway was appointed
to fill the vacancy, while Abdy consented to take Garway's place
as a Committee. On the latter date, also, the Governor had the
pleasing task of announcing to the adventurers the arrival of three
ships from the East, viz. the Jonah (or Jonas) from Surat, and the
Hart and Swan from Bantam. A motion was at once made that
a dividend should be paid, but this was refused. As the Company
was now in funds, Sir Morris Abbot frankly disclosed the conceal-
ment which had been practised regarding the debt, and took
occasion to read the generality a little homily on their mistrust
of the Court. Further, he announced that the prospects of trade in
India had been much improved by a convention which President
Methwold had negotiated in person with the Portuguese Viceroy at
Goa in the preceding January. By this important agreement (p. 4)
the treaty which had been concluded at Madrid in November, 1 630,
was extended to the East Indies, and an end was put to the desul-


tory warfare which had troubled the Indian seas from the first
appearance of our countrymen in those waters.

Methwold's good services in this respect were cordially acknow-
ledged by the Committees in their next dispatches. They were,
however, still rather despondent about the Surat trade, for they
ordered a private letter to be written to Methwold warning him to
prepare for the withdrawal of the Indian factories if better treatment
were not experienced, and they also decided to ask King Charles to
write to the Great Mogul to the same effect (p. 116). In Persia,
too, the aspect of affairs was disquieting, for the Shah was showing
a royal disregard of his contract with the Company, and the trade
was much disorganized in consequence. In order to stir up the
monarch to a proper sense of his obligations it was resolved to send
him (no doubt with an altered date) a letter from King Charles
which the Company had previously procured but not dispatched
(p. 126). Mention is also made of a flowery epistle from the
Persian monarch to His Majesty of England, which was presented
to the latter on December 15 by a deputation headed by the
Governor. The King ' vouchsafed to read every word himselfe,
commending therein the high and lofty style ' ; and noticing a
desire expressed by the Shah for the services of European clock-
makers, painters, and limners, he recommended the Company to
comply as far as possible with this request (p. 132).

The unfavourable aspect of the trade induced the Court to
scrutinize carefully its outgoings, and particularly the expenses
at home. As already mentioned, several economies had been
effected at Blackwall ; and although the home charges now
amounted only to 5,226^. 13^. 4d. (p. 117), it was resolved to
apply the pruning-knife to the salaries of the office establishment.
Two days before Christmas a revised list was adopted, which,
except in the case of a few favoured individuals, showed reduc-
tions of from 20 to 50 per cent, in the emoluments of the staff.
The Court also decided that the Company was too poor to give
its usual New Year's gifts to courtiers and officials, with the
significant exceptions of the Clerks of the Privy Council, the
Judge of the Admiralty Court, and the King's master-cook. The
customary Christmas benevolences were not, however, omitted ;
a sum of io/. was distributed among the poor of Stepney, a chal-


dron of coal and zos. given to the almsmen at Poplar, and a further
sum to the widows of men who had died in the Company's service.

The year 1635 is memorable in the annals of the Company
for the commencement of a competition on the part of a rich
and influential body of interlopers under the direct encouragement
of the Crown. The willingness of Charles to ignore the privileges
granted by his predecessors had already been shown by his dis-
patching the Seahorse under Captain Quail to the Red Sea in 1630,

Online LibraryEast India CompanyA calendar of the court minutes, etc. of the East India company, 1635-1639 → online text (page 1 of 43)