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A calendar of the court minutes, etc. of the East India company, 1644-1649 online

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1644— 1649













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* These are our hopes and desires, and wee wish wee may not
come short in any of them. Yet wee are fearfull how far wee shall
be able to performe in this troublesome tymes, when all trade and
commerce in this kingdome is almost fallen to the ground through
our owne unhappie divisions at home, unto which the Lord in
mercie put a good end. And as the badnesse of trade and scarsity
of monyes are here, so is all Europe in little better condition, but
in a turmoyle, either forraighne or domestique warr, by which
meanes monies are not procurable as formerly.' Thus wrote the
Company to Surat in November, 1643, when speaking of their
plans for the following spring; and their words form an apt
reminder of the trouble experienced in carrying on the trade during
the greater part of the period covered by the present volume. Civil
strife, with its concomitants of stoppage of communications,
diminished sales, heavy taxation, increased risks at sea, and general
insecurity, placed almost insuperable difficulties in the Company's
path ; and further, many rich merchants who had been prominent
supporters of the trade — such as Sir Nicholas Crispe and Sir Henry
Garway — had taken the King's side and had been in consequence
proscribed by the Parliament. Still, the more resolute spirits, ably
led by the Governor, William Cokayne, and the Deputy, William
Methwold (formerly President at Surat), struggled bravely on,
hoping for better times — a hope that was not realized until the
restoration of the monarchy brought about a general tranquillity
and restored public confidence.

At the beginning of 1644 two stocks were running side by side,
namely (i) the Fourth Joint Stock, which had been started in 1642
and possessed a nominal capital of about 105,000/., on which no
dividend had yet been declared ; ^ and (2) the First General Voyage,

^ The original subscribers had, however, been credited with 20 per cent, more capital
than they had actually paid in (see the last volume, p. xxvi). This represented the
estimated increased value of the stock.

a a



which dated from 1641, when an equal amount was subscribed.^
A Joint Stock, it may be explained, was the Company's ordinary
method of trading. Its operations were usually spread over several
years ; fresh capital might be raised at the option of a majority of
the adventurers ; and there was no limit to the time the Stock
might run. A 'Voyage ', on the other hand, was a subscription for
the investment of a definite sum, the proceeds of which were to be
realized and distributed as quickly as possible. The latter was
thus the form more in favour with those who wished to avoid heavy
or prolonged commitments ; and it was a device generally resorted
to when the raising of a fresh Joint Stock was seen to be out of the
question. Most of the smaller ventures gave lucrative returns ; and
the First General Voyage had already distributed amongst its
members goods to the value of their principal plus twenty-five per
cent. Both of the current stocks were managed by the ordinary
Committees of the Company, reinforced, when matters of impor-
tance relating to the First General Voyage had to be decided, by
eight special representatives of that stock, known as the * Mixed
Committees ' ; while any dispute between the two bodies of adven-
turers was referred to a body composed of the ' Mixed Committees '
and eight men specially selected from those who had subscribed to
both stocks. * A Court of Committees,' when used without qualifica-
tion as a heading in the present volume, refers always to the Com-
mittees of the Fourth Joint Stock.

In addition to heavy indebtedness at their East Indian settle-
ments, two special troubles, both the outcome of the Civil War,
weighed upon the Company at this time. One was the debt of over
50,000/. due from the royal treasury for the pepper bought by the
King in 1640, as described in the last volume. The non-payment of
so large an amount was a serious embarrassment, and some of the
members were inclined to blame the directorate and to refuse to
adventure further until something was done (p. 2). As will be
seen, efforts were made from time to time to recover part of the
amount from the various sureties ; but those of the latter who were

* On p. 293 the capital is stated at 104,537/'. los. In 0. C. 1791 the round figure
of 105,000/. is given. It is perhaps worth noting that an alphabetical list of the 157
adventurers in this Voyage will be found in vol. A 79 of the Proceedings of the Committee
for Advance of Money {Public Record Office). See Mrs. Green's calendar, part i, p. 25.


still within reach were hard hit themselves and unable to meet the
liability. In the Minutes for 1649 details will be found of an attempt
to obtain part of the money by arresting one of the bondsmen, viz.
James Maxwell, Earl of Dirletoun; but this measure was only
moderately successful.

The other difficulty was a more general one, namely, how to pre-
serve the Company's monopoly now that a royal charter had ceased
to possess its former validity. Not only was Courteen's Associa-
tion actively pursuing its rivalry with the older body, but others
were encouraged to plan incursions into the field. Moreover, in
the general loosening of the bonds of authority, private trade by
the Company's servants had largely increased, with the result that
the illicit importations of indigo and calicoes seriously affected
current prices. Even while the King was still at Westminster, the
confirmation by Parliament of the Company*s privileges was
urgently desired (see the preceding volume, p. 115, &c.) ; and at
the beginning of 1644 we find the Committees anxious to obtain
from the two Houses an * ordinance' which should at all events
give them back temporarily their old control of the commerce.
As we have seen, such an enactment, * for the upholding of the
trade and settling the government of the Fellowship of Merchants
of London Trading to the East Indies ' had been read a first time
in the Commons on November 32, 1643. It passed the second
reading and was referred to Committee on the loth of the following
February; and when the annual fleet was under dispatch the
Company were hopeful of an early settlement of this important
question. Progress seems, however, to have been much delayed by
the fact that the ordinance included clauses dealing with Courteen's
claims, and agreement on these was not easily to be attained,
There are several references to the consequent negotiations in the
Minutes for February and March, 1644.

The Company's fleet for 1644 consisted of four vessels, of which
two — the William and the Blessing — were destined for Bantam,
while the other two — the Crispiana and the John — were to go to
Surat, the former direct, and the latter after a preliminary visit to
the Malabar Coast. The Crispiana and John carried between them
goods and money to the value of nearly 55,000/. In company with
the Blessing, they sailed from the Downs on April 7, 1644 ; but


the William was forced to wait for some rials expected from
abroad, and did not get away until June. In counting the vessels
dispatched during this season by the East India Company, we
ought also to reckon the Endeavour^ which had started for the
Coromandel Coast at the end of November, 1643. All these ships
were sent out on behalf of the Fourth Joint Stock.

The mention on p. 25 of Captain Bond's intended expedition to
Madagascar, and a further notice on p. 195, recall the references
made in two previous volumes to schemes for establishing a colony
in that island. From a letter addressed by the Company to Surat
in March, 1644 {Factory Records, Miscellaneous, vol. xii, p. 117), it
appears that, in addition to their own fleet, five ships were then
preparing to start for the East, two of which — the Thomas and John
and the Loyalty — were being sent by Courteen for trading purposes,
while the other three — the Sim, the Hester, and the James — were
said to be going under Bond's command ' to erect a new common-
wealth in Madagascar', also under the auspices of Courteen and
his associates. This information was not entirely correct, for Bond
does not seem to have started at all. The fleet, however, carried
out men, women, and children to the number of 140, and left them
at St. Augustine's Bay in March, 1645, under John Smart as
Governor. A settlement was formed, but the island proved to be
very far from the Paradise it had been pictured ; and, after enduring
many hardships and losing eighty of their number, the settlers
abandoned the attempt and sailed for the Comoros in May, 1646.^
In June, 1644, the Mary reached England from Bantam with
/ a cargo of pepper ; but the market proved so bad that a large
(^ proportion had to be shipped to Italy for sale there. On the 1 2th
of the following month a further dividend of 1 2 per cent, (in indigo
or money) was declared upon the First General Voyage. The
Mary was then ordered to be repaired for a further voyage to
Bantam. Meanwhile, three new vessels — a ship of 400 tons and
two small pinnaces for service in the East — had been put in hand,
the Court having arrived at the conclusion that it was cheaper after
all to build than to hire. The rest of the year furnishes nothing
calling for special notice, except, perhaps, the rumour mentioned

* See 0. C. 1993 and the journal of the Antelope in Marine Records, Miscellaneous,
vol. iv ; also Brit. Mus. Addl. MSS., no. 14037.


on p. 49 that five or six ships were being prepared by private men
for dispatch to India ; whereupon representations were made to
Parliament on the subject, in the hope that the long-pending
ordinance would be passed. But the House of Commons was
occupied with affairs of far more pressing importance.

Towards the end of January, 1645, came the startling news that
the John^ which ought some months before to have reached Surat,
had turned back from Johanna (one of the Comoro islands) and
had gone into Bristol, where her commander, John Mucknell, had
handed her over to the royalist authorities. The story, as related
by one of those on board, is given on p. 71 ; and numerous other
documents bearing on the subject will be found in the Original
Correspondence. Mucknell is alleged to have boasted afterwards
that he had planned this act of treachery before he started from
England ; but it seems probable that he would never have attempted
to carry it out, had it not been for the strained relations that
developed during the voyage between him and Edward Knipe, the
chief factor on board, with the result that Mucknell had reason
to fear that he would be removed from his post on arrival at
Surat. Thus nerved to a desperate resolve he, under pretence of
a reconciliation, invited all the merchants and chief officers to
a dinner on shore at Johanna ; then, slipping on board alone, he
harangued the crew, imploring them to stand by him and carry the
ship back to England for the purpose of handing her over to
King Charles. To this the bulk of the men agreed, while the rest
were intimidated into acquiescence. The vessel's sails were at once
shaken out, and the diners on shore arrived at the beach just in
time to see her depart. The English coast was reached \xh the
middle of January, 1645, and the John was taken into Bristol, then
being besieged by the Parliamentary forces. The factors and others
left on shore at Johanna remained there until the arrival, nearly
a month later, of one of Courteen's ships, bound for the West
Coast of India. In this they embarked, but on coming across
a Dutch vessel from Mokha making for Surat they transferred them-
selves to her, and reached Swally towards the end of January, 1645.

The direct loss caused to the Company by Mucknell's action
(apart from the damage to its interests in India) is variously given
as 13,115/. (p. d^) and 20,000/. (p. 96), the latter figure probably


including the ship as well, while the former is stated to be merely
the value of the cargo. From this some deduction must be made
on account of the coral which formed part of her lading. This,
being absolutely unvendible in Bristol, was found untouched when
the city was stormed by Fairfax's troops on September lo, 1645,
and after some delay it was recovered by the Company, on payment
of part of the value as prize money.

/ The three new vessels built by the Company were named the
\^ Eagle ^ Falcotiy and Lanneret, and were all destined for Surat.
Together with the Mary, in which Aaron Baker was going out to
Bantam as President, they sailed from the Downs in the early part
of April, 1645.^ Not long after a rumour reached the Court that
Mucknell, with the John and two other vessels, was about to sail
for the Azores in the hope of capturing some of the Company's
homeward-bound ships. On application to the Commissioners of
the Admiralty instructions were issued to the Parliamentary com-
manders to do their best to protect the traders ; and as a further
precaution the Company arranged to dispatch a small vessel to the
Azores to warn the homecoming fleet, but before a start was made
this arrangement was cancelled and a gold chain was promised
instead to the commander of one of the Parliamentary ships, should
he succeed in capturing Mucknell. The sequel is told in a letter
from the Company to Surat in March, 1646 (Letter Boohs, vol. i,
p. 177), where, speaking of Mucknell's betrayal of the John, they
say that ' allthough hee came with the shipp etc. safe unto Bristoll
and there made awaie with what was found in the shipp, yet that
was not an ende of his villanie, but others also suffered much by his
depredacions and robberies in those parts,^ untill some of the Parlia-
ments shipps had him in chase and forct him upon the rocks of
Sillie, and either there or in Mounts Baye the shipp utterly perished.
For himselfe he escaped to doe future misc[h]iefe, untill Gods hand
or the gallowes make an ende of him \

At the end of July, 1645, the adventurers were cheered by the
arrival from Surat of the Crispiana and Dolphin, In them came

* From 0. C. 1992, 2000 it appears that three interloping ships, the Lioness , Rebecca,
and Friendship, were dispatched to the East in February, 1645.

' See p. 88, where mention is made of the John having captured three ships trading to
the Canary Islands.


William Fremlen, ex-President of Surat, who had an exciting story
to relate of the hardships and perils encountered on the homeward
voyage. He had left Surat in the Dolphin^ accompanied by the
Discovery, at the end of January, 1644. All went well until
March 24, when a fearful hurricane separated the two vessels.
The Discovery was never heard of more, and the Dolphin all but
went to the bottom as well. With four and a half feet of water in
her hold, she lay ' for more then an howers tyme without righting ',
until her mainmast was cut away. Then, the storm gradually
abating, she struggled to Mauritius, where she found the Hopewell,
homeward-bound from Bantam. This vessel had likewise suffered
much from bad weather, and the two, after refitting as far as they
could, proceeded to Madagascar, in the hope of meeting the fleet
from England and thus obtaining supplies. After waiting for some
time in vain, they both departed for the Comoros, where they were
joined by the Crispiana, outward-bound. As the Dolphin needed
a new mainmast and the Hopewell was also in a parlous condition,
it was reluctantly decided that they should proceed to Surat in
company with the Crispiana. All three reached India in safety,
and the Dolphin sailed once again for England at the close of
November, 1644, followed by the Crispiana a few weeks later ; the
two arriving, as already mentioned, in the following July.

Although Fremlen was still a comparatively young man, his
eighteen years of service had fatally weakened him, and he only
survived his return from India by about seven months. From his
deathbed he sent his ' duty ' to the Court of Committees and
acquainted them that he had bequeathed 500/. to the Company's
hospital ; upon which the Committees desired Methwold ' to present
their love unto him '. He died on March 13, 1646, and was buried
in the parish church of St. Leonard, Shoreditch. A fine marble
monument ' of the lonick order ' was raised to his memory on the
south side of the altar {New View of London, vol. i, p. 311) and was
still there when Seymour's Survey of London was published in
1735 (vol. ii, p. 724). In the following year, however, the church
was pulled down and rebuilt by the elder Dance ; and, as there
is now no trace of the tomb, we may surmise that it was destroyed
at that time. Besides the 500/. already mentioned as left to the
almshouse at Poplar, Fremlen bequeathed 200/. to St. Leonard's


parish for the benefit of the poor. This charity has recently been
merged with others in a pension scheme, under the orders of the
Charity Commissioners.

The loss of the Discovery, following so soon the betrayal of the
John, was a heavy blow to the Company ; but some consolation was
afforded by the arrival, in September, 1645, of the William and
the Blessing from Bantam. It was now decided to freight two ships
^ for Bantam to fetch home the goods remaining there on account of
( the First General Voyage ; and the Ulysses and the Endymion ^
were accordingly hired for this purpose. Meanwhile, some progress
was being made in the Commons with the proposed ordinance, but
it was still delayed by disputes over the protection of Courteen's
interests. His affairs were by this time in a hopeless condition.
At his father's death in 1636 he had inherited an estate much
embarrassed, particularly by the adventure to India under Weddell
and Mountney. The sinking of the Dragon and Katherine on their
homeward way caused a loss estimated at 150,000/. ; and the
younger Courteen's fortunes were only temporarily restored by his
marriage to the Lady Katherine Egerton, daughter of the first
Earl of Bridgewater (and therefore, as the reader will at once
recollect, sister to ' The Lady ' of Comus). With the help of his
aristocratic connexions, and of sundry merchants who were glad
enough to take the opportunity of venturing to India under the
protection of his privileges, he was able to set out, as we have seen,
several fresh ships ; but misfortune still followed his efforts. The
Bona Esperansa was captured by the Dutch in the Straits of
Malacca in 1643, causing a loss estimated at 75,000/.; while the Henry
Bonaventure went to pieces on the island of Mauritius during her
homeward voyage. Further, the Little William^ outward-bound,
was wrecked on the coast of Africa in June, 1643, ^.nd only about
5,000/. in gold and some brass guns were saved. These were taken to
Madras by one of the Company's ships, and much wrangling ensued
at home between Courteen's representatives and the Court of Com-
mittees as to the payment of the money. Courteen himself, finding
it impossible to satisfy his creditors, had withdrawn to the Conti-

^ Her master appears to have been the Robert Knox (Senior) who died a captive in
Ceylon in 1661 (p. 112). He did not, however, command the Endymion this voyage,
as he was superseded just before she sailed (p. 133).



nent,^ leaving his wife and her friends to save what they could from
the wreck of his fortunes. His claims, and those of his creditors,
gave no small trouble to the Committees, quite apart from the
embarrassment caused by his applications to Parliament for redress
of the wrongs he conceived himself to have suffered at the hands of
the Company.

Courteen himself, then, about this time dropped out of the com-
petition for the East India trade ; but his place was taken by
a group of merchants who had been acting with him and who were
equally determined to disregard the claims of the Company to
a monopoly of Eastern commerce. Foremost among them was
Maurice Thomson, who had been a busy trader to Virginia, the
West Indian islands, and Guinea, and had twice got into trouble
for disregarding chartered rights (see the Calendar of State Papers^
Colonial^ 15 74- 1660). He and his associates were strongly imbued
with the idea of establishing English colonies in the East, in
imitation of the Dutch and Portuguese ; and, as we shall see, they
were able later on to force their views upon the Company. This
movement, which was evidently the outcome of the general tendency
towards colonization that marked the reigns of the two first Stuarts,
is of special interest, though it made no permanent impression upon
the Company's policy of jealous exclusiveness. It is true that for
ten years or more Thomson and his supporters exercised a very
powerful influence in the directorate ; moreover, in December,
1657, he succeeded Cokayne as Governor and, when he vacated the
chair at the election of 1659, it was only to hand it over to Thomas
Andrews, who had acted with him from the first. But the Restora-
tion put an end to his career, for he had been an intimate friend of
Cromwell and a strong supporter of his government. He managed,
however, to make his peace with King Charles, and lived quietly at
Stepney until his death in 1676.

Reverting to the closing months of 1645, we find the Company
endeavouring to prevent the sailing of two vessels which Thomson,

1 He died at Florence in 1655. His son, William, who changed his name to Charlton,
made extensive collections of botanical specimens and other curiosities, which he housed
in the Temple, where they aroused the admiration of Evelyn. After Charlton's death
they became the property of Dr. Hans Sloane, and thus passed in time to the British
Museum. The dried plants are still preserved in the Natural History Department at
South Kensington.


Andrews, and others had prepared for a voyage to India. Find-
ing their efforts unavailing and deeming it wise to prevent at any
cost such undesirable competition, the Committees in December,
1645, agreed to purchase both ships. These — renamed the Ante-
lope and the Greyhound — departed in the following April for Surat,
accompanied by the Dolphin ; while at the same time the William
set sail for Bantam. All four were on account of the Fourth Joint
Stock. The Ulysses and Endyntion, hired (as already related) by
the First General Voyage for a voyage to Bantam, had set out
just before. The Crispiana^ being practically worn out, was ordered
to be sold.

Towards the end of May, 1646, the Eagle arrived in the Downs
from Surat ; and in the following month it was decided to make
a further division of 40 per cent, to the shareholders in the First
General Voyage. Some time in July the Mary returned from
Bantam. Part of the pepper brought home was shipped as before
to Italy for sale there, doubtless owing to the deadness of the
English market.

Early in September a general court was held, at which the
measures to be taken to maintain the trade were discussed. The
Governor made a hopeful statement regarding the progress of
the ordinance in the Lower House, and held out the prospect of
its speedy enactment. The adventurers in the Joint Stock were
told that, if they refused to send out further shipping and stock to
India, there were private merchants who would not hesitate to do
so ; and, moved perhaps by this consideration, they sanctioned the
Committees* scheme for sending five vessels (including one or two
pinnaces) to the East with 80,000/. stock. Thereupon it was
decided that the Mary should be dispatched to Bantam, the Eagle
and Blessing to Surat, and a new pinnace which the Company was
building (afterwards named the Farewell) to the Coast. The pinnace
sailed about the end of the year; the others departed in April,
1647. The two for Surat carried out a stock of 52,674/. ((7.C

On December 5, 1646, the long-expected ordinance was passed
by the Commons and sent to the Lords for their concurrence.
By its terms the Company was to have the exclusive trade in the
regions extending from the Cape to Japan, provided that its

Online LibraryEast India CompanyA calendar of the court minutes, etc. of the East India company, 1644-1649 → online text (page 1 of 44)