East India Company.

The dawn of British trade to the East Indies as recorded in the Court minutes of the East India Company, 1599-1603; containing an account of the formation of the Company, the first adventure, and Waym online

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Online LibraryEast India CompanyThe dawn of British trade to the East Indies as recorded in the Court minutes of the East India Company, 1599-1603; containing an account of the formation of the Company, the first adventure, and Waym → online text (page 1 of 35)
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UnvwriH^ ^^ '^a^fipm






Containing an account of the formation of the Company

The first Adventure and Waymouth's Voyage

in search of the North- West Passage






HENRY STEVENS & SON 115 St. Martin's Lane

Over against the Church of St Martin in the Fields










HE original manuscript from which this
volume is printed, is preserved in the
India Office, London, w^here it is known
as the first volume of the Court Minutes
of the East India Company ; and consists
of 1 20 leaves foolscap folio, written in the
old court hand of the Elizabethan period. Some few years
ago it was sent, with other documents, to the Public Record
Office to be calendared, and there fell under the notice of my
late father, Mr. Henry Stevens of Vermont, who, ever watch-
ful for new materials for history, especially American, imme-
diately recognised its importance. Finding that only a very
small portion had ever been quoted, he determined with the
sanction of the Authorities of the India Office, to print it in
full, and forthwith employed an expert to transcribe it exadtly
with all its peculiarities of spelling aad contrailion. This
proved a work of time and of considerable difficulty, as the
handwriting is extremely illegible in places, and in some cases
several opinions were required to decipher certain passages.

The transcript, on completion, was handed to Messrs. Charles
Whittingham and Co. of the Chiswick Press, with instructions


to follow copy in the minutest particulars of spelling and contrac-
tions, a task which somewhat taxed their resources and
ingenuity for peculiar types. The proofs, after careful correftion
with the transcript, were re-read with the original manuscript
by an independent expert, and many and curious were the
corredlions which resulted.

Mr. Stevens's intention was to have written a lengthy essay
by way of introdudlion, but he was unfortunately prevented by
failing health and the pressure of other work. I may add,
however, that from his memoranda it appears he was probably
more interested in the volume from an American than from an
Indian point of view. Perhaps this is pardonable when it is
remembered how close were his sympathies and studies with
the history and geography of the land of his birth ; never-
theless, the importance of the British and Indian aspedl of the
volume must by no means be lost sight of Finding that his
memoranda were not sufficiently detailed to be capable of ex-
tension, Sir George Birdwood has kindly assented to my re-
quest to write an introduilion.

Of the voyage for the discovery of the North-West Passage
here recorded, very little has hitherto been known beyond the
details given by Waymouth himself in his Journal, printed by
Purchas, volume iii. pages 809-814. The present volume tends
to contradict some of the statements there given, for in the
opening paragraph of the Journal Waymouth says, his ships
were " thoroughly victualled and abundantly furnished with all
necessaries for a yeere and an halfe, by the right WorshipfuU
Merchants of the Moscouie and Turkie Companies," whereas
we now learn that the expedition was undertaken at the sole
instance of the East India Company, and certainly at first
with some opposition from the Moscovie Company. George
Waymouth was one of my father's most favourite subjects for
study, and I have hopes that some interesting particulars re-
specting him may yet be gleaned from memoranda made for


the introdudion to an account of another of his Voyages which
is also in the press.

Another point which greatly interested Mr. Stevens in this
volume is the mention of the ' May flowre,' and 1 have heard
him express a very decided opinion that the vessel here
referred to was undoubtedly the veritable Pilgrim Ship. The
mention of Hakluyt is also worthy of attention. On the
29th of January 1600 (see page 123) he is referred to as
" M' Hacklett the historiographer of the viages of the East
Indies," and " was required to sett downe in wryting a note
of the principall places in the East Indies wher Trade is to be
had to thend the same may be vsed for the better instruccon
of o"^ fa6lors in the said voyage," and on the i6th of February
(see page 143) we find that £10 was paid to him for his
" advyses." The further payment of 305. for three maps on
the same date, raises the delightful query as to what maps they
were, whether three different ones or three copies of Molyneux's
" true hydrographical description of so much of the world as
hath been hitherto discovered and is come to our knowledge,"
published just about this time and inserted by Hakluyt in some
copies of his * Principall Navigations,' but of which only
some nine or ten specimens have come down to posterity.
The last copy came to light in 1881, when it realised £1"^! at
public au6tion. It would indeed be interesting if another copy
should turn up amongst the East India Company's records.

The letters printed on pages 265 to 283, are probably draft
letters of the ** Company of Levant Merchants," and they
commence at the opposite end of the manuscript volume to
the minutes of the East India Company. From the first letter
being dated March, 1599, while the first entry of the East India
Company is September, 1599, it would appear that the book
originally belonged to the Levant Company, but was afterwards
used by both companies in common. This tends to show that
the East India Company was partially an outgrowth of the


Levant Company, as several persons mentioned appear to have
been prominent members of both Companies, notably Sir
Thomas Smith, who held the office of Governor of each (see
pages 62 and 281). Under these circumstances it was thought
best to print these letters, although they do not pertain diredlly
to the East India Company.

A word as to method of printing. The manuscript has been
followed with the greatest possible care, though in one or two
instances the greatest experts of the Record Office and others
were at variance over a word or figure. The reader's indul-
gence is therefore requested should he discover an error. The
words printed within brackets [ ] are struck through in the
original as corre6lions, but have been printed here, as in many
cases they tend to the better understanding of the sentence.
The passages printed in italics are interlineated in the manu-
script. The Index, which I undertook at my father's request,
I have endeavoured to make as copious as possible.

Henry N. Stevens.


"Qui mare tcneat, eum necessc rcrum potiri." — CICERO, Ep. ad Alt., x.

HE History of the East India Company
is a work that has still to be written,
although from its rise, at the close of
the sixteenth century, to its disappear-
ance thirty years ago, the Company
was careful to provide all the necessary material for the
task, and to place on formal record the simplest afts of
its administration, and the reasons which prompted all its
decisions. The value of these contemporary annals — for
the Court Books, Fadory Diaries, Consultations, and
general correspondence, really constitute a continuous
narrative — has been only impaired in a small degree by
the ravages of time, and by the negledl of less careful
custodians than the men who originally determined that
their successors in office should gain by their example
and experience, and that the Company itself should not
suffer in the eyes of posterity from any ambiguity as to
its proceedings. The present volume, printed as a labour



of love under the diredion and at the charge of the late
Mr. Henry Stevens, is, so far as print can be made a fac-
simile of manuscript, identical with the first Court Book
kept by the adventurers trading to the East Indies, who
received from Queen Elizabeth in the last year of the
sixteenth century a patent, or charter, recognizing them
as the East India Company, with a monopoly of trade
and specified privileges for a given term of years.

The first entry is of the names of those persons who
subscribed on 22nd September, 1599, to " the "pretended
voiage to the Easte Indias, the whiche it maie please the
Lorde to psper ; " and the last is the report of a committee
meeting on 28th June, 1603. Within those four years
is contained the germ of every triumph subsequently
achieved in the seas and lands of the East. The
committees to which the adventurers entrusted the
guidance of ■ their affairs not merely laid down the
countries with which it was desirable to trade, and the
English commodities for which their markets might
provide a vent, but they dwelt upon the inconveniences
of the long sea route by the Cape of Good Hope to
India, and listened with approval to any projed, however
visionary, for bringing London nearer to the wealthy
kingdoms of Asia. As will be seen, their hopes centred
in the North- West passage, which Robert Thorne had
been the first to advocate in Henry VIII. 's reign as
furnishing a road to Cathay and India, and which long
continued to dangle before the eyes of the Company as
a glorious possibility, never realizing its promise until in
our time the discovery has been made, and the feat


accomplished, not by naval skill and daring, but by the
connexion of the two great oceans of the world by a
line of railway. The early references to America con-
tained in this volume will be of peculiar interest to the
descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers of the May Flower j^
who have so rapidly spread themselves over that mighty
continent, and who have so brilliantly carried on the
commercial traditions of the Mother Country of us all.

The present volume, the first Court Book, furnishes
irrefragable evidence that the managers of the East
India Company began their undertaking in a thoroughly
praflical and businesslike manner. They encountered a
rebuff, however, on the very threshold of their enterprise,
for after three meetings they were obliged to postpone
their first voyage until the following year in consequence
of the negotiations then in progress with Spain for the
conclusion of a peace. The adtive life of the Company,
therefore, did not commence until the meeting at
Founders' Hall, on 23rd September, 1600, whereat it
was announced that " it was her Ma" pleasure that they
shuld proceade in ther purpose." The first steps taken
were the appointment of committees to select and pur-
chase suitable vessels for the voyage, as well as the
necessary stores and equipment. The Susan^ or more

^ The East India Company possessed in 1659 a ship called the
May Flower, which I believe subsequently foundered in the Bay of
Bengal. In my Report on the Miscellaneous Old Records of the India
Office (H.M.'s Stationery Office, 1879), I ask whether it could
have been the same ship as the May Flower, which landed the Dutch,
Scotch, and English emigrants from Delft Haven, Southampton, and
Plymouth, in New England, 25 Dec, 1620.


stri(5lly the Great Susan^ the He5for^ and the Assention,
were the first three vessels purchased, and then, after
protraded bargaining with its owner, the Earl of Cum-
berland, the Mare Scurge^ afterwards re-named the Red
Dragon^ was procured as the Admiral's ship. These four
vessels constituted what is termed *' the First Voyage,"
but a fifth, and much smaller vessel, named the Guift^
was added to them for the conveyance of some of the
indispensable supplies of the squadron, and it was to be
cast adrift at the discretion of the commander. The
committees had to report to the Court every particular
of their transa6lions with the Owners of the ships,
and these form the substance of the first half of the
present volume. The inventories of the four ships
named, given at pp. 15-20, pp. 22-4, pp. 42-4, are
exceedingly curious, and mention everything on board
from culverlns and masts to " i pease pott & 2 grid-
irons." The Mare Scurge, of 600 tons burden, and
twice the size of the next largest vessel of the fleet, the
He^or^ cost ^3,700. The Susan was purchased for
j^ 1,600 ; but the prices given for the others are not
stated. The Guift cost ;^300. These sums included
everything on board, as well as the vessels themselves,
and with regard to two of them it was stipulated that
the seller should take back his ship at half price on its
safe return.

The ships having been procured, the next thing was

' The received names of the ships here called Mare Scurge, and
Guift, are Malice Scourge and Guest. The name of the Assention is
usually spelled Ascension.


to make them ready for sea, and this was done with all
dispatch — the workmen on the Mare Scurge being
allowed a barrel of beer a day to prevent their running
to the ale-house. They were then provided with their
proper companies, the Mare Scurge having 200 men, the
HeElor 100 men, the Susan 80 men, and the Assention
80 men. The sailors received two months' wages in
advance, and the officers were treated in an equally
liberal manner. Great care was shown in the selection
of the latter, and when the Lord Treasurer made a
special appeal for Sir Edward Michelborne to be em-
ployed in the voyage the Court firmly refused " to
imploy anie gent," and requested " leave to sort ther
busines w^^ men of ther owne quality." Captain James
Lancaster was appointed Captain of the Mare Scurge^
and Admiral of the Squadron. Captain John Middleton
commanded the He^or, with the succession to the chief
command in the event of Lancaster's death. Both these
officers were also appointed principal factors. The
Master of the Susan was Samuel Spencer, and of the
Assention^ Roger Hankin.

The Company had difficulties of its own. Some of
the adventurers were not prompt in paying up their
instalments, and in April, 1601, the Company was
£jjOOO in default, and had to appeal to the Lords of the
Privy Council for special powers to deal with those that
" shewe themselves remisse & vnwillinge to furnyshe
there promyssed contribucons," and this request was
granted. The order is a charadleristic one, and will be
found at pp. 165-6. The Company issued warrants


against the defaulters in accordance with this order, and
we may assume that this summary mode of dealing was
attended with satisfadlory results as the subjeft gradually
disappears from the Court Minutes. V^"|

On 1st May, 1601, the Court sandlioned the pay-
ment of "twentie merkes" to the King of Heralds for
assigning Corporate Arms to the Company, but these
were not the same Insignia^ of Community, with the
motto " Auspicio Regis et Senatus Anglias," which, at a
later date, became renowned throughout the East. Very
stringent rules were also passed for the maintenance of
order in the Court, and some of them would not be
without their value in a more august assembly at the
present day, as, for instance, the regulation providing
that no brother of the Company should speak to any
one matter " above three sundry tymes." The penalty
of doing so was 3^. 4

Online LibraryEast India CompanyThe dawn of British trade to the East Indies as recorded in the Court minutes of the East India Company, 1599-1603; containing an account of the formation of the Company, the first adventure, and Waym → online text (page 1 of 35)