East India Company.

A calendar of the court minutes, etc., of the East India company, 1655-1659 online

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In the general history of England the five years under review
were full of stress and trouble. Abroad there was the ill-judged
war with Spain, in which the acquisition of Jamaica and Dunkirk
was more than balanced by the expense involved and the loss
caused to British trade by the depredations of the Spanish privateers.
At home general confusion and unrest resulted from the constant
plots of the Royalists, from the iron rule of the Major-Generals, and
from the failure of the Protector's attempts to secure a stable con-
stitution and reconcile parliamentary government with the views of
an executive whose main reliance was necessarily on the army.
The death of Cromwell in September, 1658, removed the one man
who could control all these discordant elements, and the fact that
the reins fell into the hands of so weak a character as his son
Richard hastened a conclusion which was perhaps in any case
inevitable. Quarrels ensued between Parliament and the army;
Richard Cromwell subsided into civil life ; and the Government was
left a prey to the ambitions of the various Parliamentary and
military leaders. General Monk's march from Scotland with his
troops (December, 1659), declaring for a free Parliament, was
hailed with relief by a nation tired of anarchy. The new House
met in April, 1660, and after some brief negotiations Charles II was
invited to take possession of his throne. He entered London in
triumph on May 29, and thus closed one of the most remarkable
chapters of the political history of Great Britain.

During this time the merchants who formed the East India
Company had a full share in the general distress, intensified as it
was by heavy financial exactions ; and they found in addition their
trade disorganized by the Government's long hesitation over the
grant of a new charter, without which it was hopeless to attempt to
raise fresh funds. It is true that the gap was filled to some extent
by the dispatch of ships to the East on private account, both by
members of the Company and by outside merchants ; but these

a 2



ventures were largely unsuccessful, ami the political dangers of the
time, particularly the rapid increase of the power of the Dutch in
the East, constituted a powerful ari;umcnt for the effective organiza-
tion of the trade. At last, in October, 1657, the desired charter
was granted, restricting the trade to the East India Company on
a joint-stock basis. The result was seen in the immediate sub-
scription of a sum more than sufficient for the needs of the trade;
and the New General Stock thus started, though it sustained some
serious losses in its earlier years, with the result that in March, 1661,
its shares were selling at 15 per cent, discount {Letter Book, vol. iii,
p. 16), gradually attained a high degree of prosperity.

At the beginning of 1655 such trade as remained to the East

India Company was carried on by two distinct stocks, viz. the

Fourth Joint Stock and the United Joint Stock. The former was

looked upon as the East India Company proper, for it still observed

the forms of the charter, electing a Governor, Deputy-Governor, and

twenty-four Committees annually, while it held and used the

Company's seal. The United Joint Stock, on the other hand, was

managed by a committee of fifteen, though care was taken to include

in this number the Governor and Deputy appointed by the older

body. Both stocks were in the process of winding-up, as the five

years for which the more recent one (the United Joint Stock) was to

carry on the trade had expired, and it was merely holding on until

it could be relieved by the formation of a fresh Stock. This,

however, seemed hopeless unless the Protector could be induced to

confine the trade once again to the members of the Company ; and

all efforts to bring about this consummation had proved unavailing.

Meanwhile, any one who pleased was sending ships to the Indies,

and the Company could only wait for the Government to rnake up

its mind about the future of the trade. At present this seemed as

remote as ever, for the committee to which the Council of State

had referred the Company's petition reported on January 10, 1655,

that, after hearing both sides, it had come to no decision, and could

only remit the matter for the consideration of the Council as a whole ;

and the Council was too much occupied with urgent affairs to devote

time to settling this thorny question.

One of the first concerns of the Company was to obtain from the
Dutch and distribute to its members the 85,000/. which, in addition


to the rendition of Pulo Run, had been awarded to them as the
result of the arbitration set up under the Treaty of Westminster.^
The first payment was due at the end of January, 1655, the second
and final two months later. The Dutch, however, insisted on a
formal ratification by the Protector of the terms of the award, and
a further document from him authorizing the transfer of the island
to the Company ; and, as these took time to procure^ the money
was not actually paid over until May. Further delay was caused
by a dispute as to the proper division of the money and the alloca-
tion of the island. The members of the now defunct Third Joint
Stock claimed the whole, on the ground that the injuries for which
the Dutch had agreed to make compensation had been mainly
suffered during the currency of that Stock, or of its predecessors
whose claims it had acquired. To this view the two existing Stocks
demurred, the Fourth Joint Stock demanding a share in the money,
and the United Joint Stock asserting its sole right to the island of
Pulo Run. On the dispute being carried to the Protector, he
referred it to a tribunal composed of the four commissioners who
had been employed in the arbitration of the preceding year, adding
a third lawyer in the person of Dr. Walter Walker, Judge Advocate
of the Admiralty Court ; in the meantime the 85,000/. was
deposited in the hands of Sir Thomas Viner and Alderman Riccard.
The Commissioners set promptly to work, and soon submitted their
report; the claim of the United Joint Stock to Pulo Run was
upheld, and that Stock was further to receive one-ninth of the sum
recovered ; of the rest, two-ninths were to go to the Fourth Joint
Stock, and the remaining two-thirds to the Third Joint Stock.
Before, however, the Protector's warrant could be obtained to
receive the money, the Council of State demanded (July 18) the
loan of the whole sum for a year. To this the Company demurred,
but offered to lend 50,000/. of it on the security of the great seal.
The compromise was accepted, and on August 7 a warrant was
sealed directing the officials of the Exchequer to repay the amount
in three equal instalments, on August 7, 1656, February 7, and

^ As an addendum to what was said on this subject in the introduction to the last
volume (p. xxi), it may be noted that the India Office has since acquired a contemporary
certified copy of the Commissioners' award. This now forms no. 19A of the rarchmcnt


August 7, 1657, respectively.' Iwcn then there was considerable
delay in realizint; the rcmainini; 35,000/. Alderman Fowke was
still prcssini; his long-standing claim against the Company, and
5,000/. of the money in the hands of Viner and Riccard was
ordered to be detained until the case was decided. Towards the
end of July, 15,000/. seems to have been paid over to the Company,
less Soc/. (which may have been allowed to the two bankers for
their trouble); and in October this money was ordered to be
divided, after deducting about 7,000/. for various expenses (p. 49).
On October 36 the Commissioners of the Customs begged the loan
for six weeks of 10,000/. of the money still on deposit, to complete
the payment of Admiral Blake's mariners, just back from the
Mediterranean ; and as they offered to repay the money out of the
sums received for customs and to give their own personal security,
this was agreed to. There seems no reason to doubt that the
amount was punctually replaced in the hands of Viner and Riccard.
In December, Fowke's claims, which had been referred by both
parties to the Protector and his Council, were settled by an award
under which the Company was directed to pay the Alderman 9,000/.
Of this amount, 5,000/. was taken from the balance in the hands of
the two bankers, while the Company agreed that the remaining
4,oog/. should be paid direct to Fowke by the Exchequer, the
amount being deducted from the 50,000/. lent by the Company.
Some time or other a payment of 5,000/. must have been made, of
which there is no trace in the Court Minutes ; for on February 20,
1656, the amount in the custody of Viner and Riccard is noted as
10,000/., and when this was paid, early in the following April, it is
expressly stated to have been the final instalment.

The question whether the Commonwealth ever refunded the
amount (reduced to 46,000/., as above explained) which it had
borrowed is one of some interest. Apparently no one has hitherto
doubted that this was done. Macpherson {European Commerce
ivith India, p. 122) expressly asserts that such was the case, but
the authority he quotes proves that he relied on the mere existence
of the warrant for repayment. Sir William Hunter {History of

1 Out of the money thus obtained, 30,000/. was at once assigned for the payment of
' the forces that are to be reduced in Scotland ' (Thurloe Papers in the Bodleian :
Rawlinson A 29, p. 53 ; also State Papers Do7n., Inter regjium, I. 76, p. 198).


British India, vol. ii, p. ii3) also says (without giving any proof of
his assertion) that the loan was ' faithfully repaid '. The detailed
examination of the records made in the present volume goes,
however, to show that the Company never received a penny of the
money. On November 7, 1656, the first instalment, due in the
preceding August, had not been paid, and in the following month
the Company petitioned the Protector on the subject, only to be
assured that their desires would be taken into speedy consideration.
The matter was not pressed, possibly because the Committees were
unwilling to jeopardize the prospects of their obtaining a fresh
charter by making so embarrassing a demand on the Exchequer.
In August, 1657, when the final date had come without any sign
of the discharge of the liability, it was resolved to address a fresh
petition to His Highness ; but the charter negotiations were still at
a delicate stage, and no action seems to have been taken. A fresh
attempt to obtain the money was decided upon early in October ;
it was known then that the grant of the charter was reasonably
assured, and possibly it was thought that this reminder of what the
State owed to the Company would clinch the matter. However,
the finances of the Commonwealth were going steadily from bad to
worse, and the application, if made, was apparently ignored. Thus
matters drifted on until July 16, 1658, when a Mr. David Offley
undertook to recover the debt, on condition of receiving a commission
of two per cent, if his efforts were successful. Evidently nothing
came of his endeavours, for on April 14, 1659, *^he Company
decided to petition the Protector either to pay the 46,000/. or to
allow them to deduct it from the customs on their imported goods.
This is the last we hear on the subject, and, bearing in mind the
disorganized state of the public finances, we may feel certain that
the debt was not discharged before the Restoration, which of course
put an end to all hopes of the recovery of the money. The fact that
the warrant under the Great Seal was not surrendered, but remained
in the possession of the Company, is perhaps another proof that
the repayment of which it was a pledge was never made.

Another matter engaging the attention of the Company at the
time when this volume opens was the 'plantation' of Pulo Run.
In December, 1654, it had been resolved to dispatch thither a
ship with sixty men to found a colony on the island and fortify


it securely. It was necessary, however, to proceed cautiously.
Pulo Run was about Hoc miles from Macassar, the nearest place
where there was an English factory, while Macassar was in turn
900 miles from the l-lnglish head-quarters at Bantam. Moreover,
supplies could only be sent thither during certain months of the
year. All the other islands of the Banda group were in the
occupation of the Dutch, who were perfectly aware that the value
of this insignificant island in the eyes of the English was that it
would give them a share in the clove trade, which Holland had so
sedulously endeavoured to monopolize; consequently no help could
be counted on from them. It was therefore necessary, before
hazarding so long and dangerous an expedition, to make sure that
no obstacle would be placed in the way of the occupation of the
island. The Dutch East India Company could hardly be expected
to do more than they were strictly obliged in facilitating the
transfer, and it is not surprising to find that they were slow to move,
and inclined to stickle for the performance of all due formalities.
They now demanded a document signed by the Protector, authoriz-
ing the Company to take over the island ; and this was not procured
before April, 1655, by which date it was too late to dispatch the
ship, and the matter had perforce to be deferred till the next year.

As we saw in the last volume, the Committees of the United
Joint Stock decided in the autumn of 1654 to send a ship to the
Coromandel Coast and Macassar. The Three Brothers was
accordingly hired, and, after being detained for some time by
a leak, quitted the Channel on March 20, 1655. She carried orders
that the factories on the eastern side of India were to be reduced
to two, viz. Madras and Masulipatam, the number of factors to
three, and the garrison of Fort St. George to ten English soldiers and
a surgeon. Early in May the Welcome reached Plymouth from
Surat ; while in June and July respectively arrived the Katherine
from Madras and the Eagle from Surat. In the Katherine Aaron
Baker returned, having handed over the charge of the Coast
factories to Henry Greenhill ; while the Eagle brought back
Captain Blackman, the President at Surat, who had been succeeded,
in the absence of John Spiller, by Edward Pearce. The effect of
the arrival of these three ships is seen in the declaration in
September of a 30 per cent, division by the United Joint Stock,


following one of lo per cent, resolved upon in April. In October,
the Fourth Joint Stock resolved to make a distribution of 20 per
cent. — the first return yet made to its shareholders.

As the United Joint Stock had practically ceased to trade,
a number of its members (including the Governor), together with
some ex-servants of the Company and some outside merchants,
formed a syndicate to take part in the trade, in competition with the
numerous private merchants who were sending out ships. A capital
of 46,300/. was subscribed, and the association took the name of The
Adventtircrs in the Ship William, etc. This was in August, 1655 ;
and in the following November they dispatched the Hopeful io Guinea
and India, and the Benjamin to the Coroniandel Coast. The William,
their principal ship, did not start until the next spring, under the
command of Henry Bornford, a former servant of the Company and
one of the chief subscribers to the enterprise. He was instructed
to make for Surat, where it was hoped he would be joined by the
other two ships, and all three would be able to return in company.
The Benjamin, however, came back alone at the end of 1657 ; the
history of the other two ships is at present obscure. Of the
financial results of the venture one cannot speak with certainty, but
it is known that divisions amounting to 53I per cent, were made
in 1658 and 1659.

It was possibly the formation of this syndicate that stimulated
the main body of the United Joint Stock to a fresh effort. Towards
the end of August, 1655, a general court was held, at which the
Governor pointed out the advisability of doing somewhat to
continue the trade. As the five years for which the United Joint
Stock was supposed to carry on trade had expired, it was resolved
to value its estate and to allow any shareholders to withdraw who
wished to do so, it being hoped that others would come forward to
fill the gap, and the Stock could then continue its operations
without risk of being accused of having broken faith with its
members. At the same time a fresh attempt was to be made to
induce the Protector to confirm the Company's charter.^ When the

^ To this period belongs a curious document printed in Birch's Thtirloe Papers (vol. iv,
p. 30). It is a proposal made to Thurloe in September, 1655, by Richard Wylde (who
had been President at Surat, 1628-30). Should the trade be entrusted to a 'regulated'
company, a Consul would be required at Surat, remunerated by a percentage on all
transactions ; and if Thurloe would use his influence with Cromwell to secure the appoint-


valuation had been completed, however, nothing more was said
about allowing members to withdraw ; and it was decided to send
out three siiips to Surat, Madras, and Bantam respectively, with
a stock o( money to complete their cargoes, if necessary, though it
was hoped that great part of the lading of each would be provided
from the goods in the East awaiting shipment. On September 28
it was dcicrmined to endeavour the flotation of a fresh Stock, and
a preamble was drawn up accordingly, a fund of 300,000/. being
proposed, to carry on the trade for a period of five years. The
attempt, however, proved a failure, doubtless because of the
uncertainty whether the charter would be renewed. Against this
disappointment might be set the arrival of another ship from Surat,
viz. the Poir, which reached the Downs on November 22. About
two months later, the East India Merchant came in from Bantam.

The three ships fixed upon by the United Joint Stock for dispatch
to the liast this season were the Eagle for Surat, the Mayflower for
the Coast, and the Endyinion for Bantam. The Mayflower started
at the beginning of January, 1656, and the Endyinion a month later ;
but the Eagle did not take her departure until the end of March.
She carried instructions for the factors in the Surat Presidency to
be reduced to eight, whose expenses, apart from salaries, were not to
exceed 500/, per annum.

The question of occupying Pulo Run had not been forgotten.
Towards the close of January, a deputation waited upon Secretary
Thurloe with the draft of an instrument required by the Dutch East
India Company as a condition of the surrender of the island. The
Secretary then pressed the Company to give an assurance that no
time would be lost in occupying and colonizing their new possession,
adding that a favourable reply on this point would probably lead to
the grant of the privileges they desired. This strong hint from the
Government produced a new effort. It was decided to send out some
ships without delay, and fresh letters were sent to Holland requesting
the Dutch Company to give the necessary orders to its servants in

ment for Wylde (for three years or more), the latter would pay him 500/. a year during
the tenure of the post, and would in addition present to ' Mr. Sacataries ladie ' a ' fair
Jewell ' set with twenty-one diamonds. If, on the other hand, the present East India
Company's patent should be renewed, and Thurloe would get for him the post of President
at Surat, with a salary of 500/. a year, Wylde would still give the jewel described, and
add a number of rarities from India, but he would be unable to make any cash payment.


the East. An important question was how to provide the necessary-
funds for the enterprise, the cost of which was estimated at 30,000/.
At a general court held on February 26, it was decided that the
money should not be drawn from the cash of the United Joint Stock,
but that a separate subscription should be opened, each adventurer
being invited to contribute twenty per cent, of his holding. As
nothing more is said in the Minutes, it may be concluded that this
scheme failed to secure the necessary support ; and as, in addition,
the negotiations with the Dutch Company were still unfinished, the
dispatch of shipping had perforce to be abandoned. Meanwhile,
instructions were sent to the Bantam factors to depute one of their
number to visit and survey the island, and letters were written both
to the Dutch Governor-General at Batavia and the Governor of the
Bandas, asking that the Company's representative might be allowed
to take passage in a Dutch vessel to Pulo Run and might be
afforded all necessary facilities on his arrival there. The Governor-
General replied politely in January, 1657, declaring his willingness
to comply with the request, but adding that Skinner, the Company's
Agent at Bantam, when notified of this, had replied in outrageous
terms, saying that neither he nor any of his colleagues was willing to
proceed to the Bandas, and would rather quit the Company's service
than do so {O.C. 2606). The cause is not far to seek. The seizure
by the Bantamese in April, 1656, of some Dutch vessels and the
murder of their crews had provoked the authorities at Batavia to
declare war upon the King of Bantam and to blockade his port. The
English factors claimed the right to continue their trade and to send
their ships in and out of Bantam without interference ; to this the
Dutch would not consent, and consequently the relations between
the two nations in those parts were much embittered.

In the spring of 1656 the enemy's privateers were active in the
Channel and the neighbouring seas. This doubtless explains the
entries under date of February 39 and March 4, relating to
a meeting held of London merchants to consider a proposal for
imposing an additional customs duty to defray the cost of providing
convoys; against this the East India Company took a firm stand,
alleging that the necessary protection ought to be afforded out of the
proceeds of the existing customs, which on the average amounted,
they said, to over ten per cent, of the value of the goods.


As no ship had been sent to Surat in 1655, the Company's factors
there had been instructed to make use of private vessels for such
goods as they had to send to I^^ngland. They therefore engaged
tonnage in the Constantinople Merchant and the Merchant Adventure
for about 14,000/. worth of goods. These ships left Svvally on
Januarj' 19, 1656; the former reached England in June, and the
latter in July. In the Constantinople Merchant returned President
Pearcc, who had made over his post to John Spiller.

The summer and early autumn of 1656 wore away without any
sign of the Protector and his Council coming to a decision regarding
the future of the trade. At last, on October 14, the Committees of
the United Joint Stock resolved to propose to their shareholders
that the Company's houses, privileges, etc., in the East should be sold
for 14,000/. to certain of the adventurers who were apparently
willing to buy them at that figure. When, however, a general court
was held two days later to consider the matter, it was decided that
in lieu of this a further effort should be made to secure the renewal
of the Company's charter. A fresh petition was therefore presented
to Cromwell, who on October 20 referred it to his Council for their
' speedy consideracion ' ; and they in turn appointed for this purpose
a committee of eight of their members, with Colonel Philip Jones as
chairman (p. 118).^

The delay had at least had one advantage. The experiment of
leaving the trade open had now had a fair trial, with the result that
its disadvantages were patent. The ships of private merchants —
their stay being necessarily limited — were competing frantically with
one another in the Eastern ports, with the result that they were
being forced to sell their English goods at whatever prices they could

Online LibraryEast India CompanyA calendar of the court minutes, etc., of the East India company, 1655-1659 → online text (page 1 of 40)