Chapter I. Surat
Contemporary Period in England.--Reigns of James I., Charles I., Commonwealth, Charles II., and James II.
Contemporary Period in India.--The Mughals: Jahangir, Shahjahan, Aurungzebe; Beginnings of Mahratta Movement--Sivaji.
Books of Reference.--Hunter's History of India; Arnold Wright's Early English Adventurers in the East India; India Through the Ages, by Mrs. F. A. Steele; Gazetteer of Gujerat; A Voyage to East India, by the Rev. Edward Terry, Chaplain to the Right Honble. Sir Thomas Roe, Kt., Ambassador to the Great Mughal; A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, by the Rev. James Ovington; The English in Western India, by the Rev. Philip Anderson; Dr. Fryer's (John Comnay's Surgeon) Travels; Hamilton's A New Account of the East Indies; Surat and the English, by Mrs. H. R. Scott.
"We seek Christians and spices."--Vasco da Gama.
SURAT has the honour, to which neither Calcutta nor Bombay can lay claim, of having been "the cradle of the British Empire in India." Three hundred years ago, before Calcutta was dreamt of and when Bombay was but a group of small and swampy islands, barely connected at low tide, the residence of poor fisher folk, Surat was the foremost seaport of India.
Situated one hundred miles to the north of Bombay, on the left or southern bank of the Tapti, about eight miles from the sea, it had an almost world-wide reputation for trade and manufactures. Mandelslo, a German nobleman, one of several distinguished travellers who visited it in those days, speaks of its trade in the following terms:--
"By land, caravans went and came by the Tapti Valley, south-east to Golconda, east to Berar, and from that on to Agra, and north through Ahmedabad to Delhi and Lahore. By sea, ships came from the Concan and Malabar Coast, and from the west, besides the great trade with Europe from, the ports of East Africa, Arabia and the Persian Gulf; south, they came from Ceylon, and east from Madras and the Bengal coasts, from Pegu and Malakka, and even from Atchin and Sumatra."
Another contemporary writer describes Surat as "a prime mart of India, no nation sailing in the Indian Ocean but what puts into Surat to buy, sell, or load."
The articles exposed in its markets excelled those spoken of by the Hebrew Prophets of the merchandise of ancient Tyre, and included "iron, copper, alum, diamonds, rubies, rock-crystal, agate and cornelian cups, wheat, valuable medicines, drugs, soap, sugar, paper, wax, opium, indigo, and silk and cotton cloth."
It is interesting too to note that amongst English goods which were specially in demand at Surat were "broadcloth, sword-blades, knives, looking-glasses, quicksilver, lead, 'cases of strong drink,' ingeniously constructed toys, and big English bull-dogs."
Surat was itself a manufacturing city, and was specially famous for its ship-building, furniture-making and wood-carving. In its shipyards were built sea-going vessels up to a thousand tons in burden. So strongly were they built that it was quite common for them to last one hundred years. Its articles of household furniture, painted and lacquered with different colours and designs, its sandal-wood boxes beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, were famous then as they are to-day.
Surat had another claim to fame, for it was there that Mahomedan pilgrims from all parts of India and Central Asia assembled annually for the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca; so much so that its popular title at that time was the "Gate of Mecca."
Here, in the monsoon of 1608, came Captain Hawkins in his ship The Hector, carrying merchandise from London, and bearing a letter from His Majesty King James I. of England. The letter was addressed to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, asking permission for the London Company of merchants to trade in the city of Surat and within his realms.
It was a six-months' voyage from London to Surat in those days, and these voyages were not only long, but nearly always fraught with danger. Few sailors left the Port of London for the East Indies but anticipated that when once round the Cape of Good Hope, they would have to be prepared at short notice to do battle with their rivals the Portuguese.
Terry, Chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, in the account he gives us of his voyage to India, describes a really fierce two-days' sea-fight between his little ship with its two small companions and a huge Portuguese vessel heavily gunned, in which two important persons, the Captain and the cook of his ship, lost their lives!
It was after all but natural that the Portuguese of those days bitterly resented the intrusion of the English and Dutch into what they regarded as their own special preserves. Ever since Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese admiral, had shown the way East, more than a century before, the Portuguese had been undisputed masters of these Eastern seas. Their settlements were dotted along the coasts of India, extending right away to the islands of Java and Sumatra, among the "famous spice islands of the Eastern Archipelago," and up the Chinese coast to Macao. But now that her power was beginning to decline, Portugal found that strong rivals from the West had come to dispute her supremacy. The fact,' too, that these rivals came from England and Holland, countries which had repudiated the authority of the Holy See at the Reformation, only increased her feelings of anger by adding to a natural trade jealousy the bitterness of religious hatred.
The reception which Captain Hawkins met with in Surat was on the whole favourable. After spending a short time there he proceeded up-country to the Imperial Court at Ajmer in Rajputana, where he presented his letter to the Mughal Emperor, who graciously granted him permission to trade within his dominions.
Encouraged by this success English merchant vessels soon began to appear with such remarkable frequency in the shallow roadstead off the mouth of the Tapti that the fears of the Portuguese were thoroughly aroused lest their long-standing trade rights should be interfered with. Judging it useless to parley, they determined to fight. Their first encounter was something like a surprise attack on their part, when four large galleons bore down one day on Captain Best as he lay at anchor in the roadstead. Unluckily for the Portuguese commander, he soon found himself at grips with one of the toughest and most daring old Vikings of the Elizabethan school. Captain Best had only two vessels under his command, but one of them, the Red Dragon, better known in sea circles as the famous privateer Malice Scourge, was so wonderfully handy in battle that soon she and the Osiander put their enemies to flight. Still unwilling to own defeat and thirsting for revenge, the Portuguese Viceroy, accompanied by the flower of the Portuguese nobility then in India, prepared a large fleet of sixty small war frigates, two vessels of two hundred tons burden and six large galleons, and sailed away north to annihilate this English pest. Again he was up against an Elizabethan sea-dog in Captain Downton, and again the tiny English fleet turned what seemed certain defeat into a glorious victory. It was a repetition in miniature of the story of the great Armada. Downton's victory was an epoch-making event in the East, as hitherto the Mughals had regarded the Portuguese as invincible at sea.
Shortly after this victory the Mughal Viceroy of Ahmed-abad visited Surat in person, when articles were drawn up for the settlement of trade with the English in Surat, Cambay, and other places in Western India, and this treaty was confirmed by a charter from the Great Mughal a few months later.
The Portuguese, however, were not yet disposed of; and it seemed as if a treaty which had actually been signed between them and the Great Mughal, whereby the English and Dutch were to be expelled from all Mughal ports, would have taken effect when Sir Thomas Roe, our first Ambassador from the Court of King James I. to the Great Mughal, arrived at Surat with a British fleet.
Arnold Wright gives us an interesting description of Sir Thomas Roe and his days in Surat and at the Imperial Court at Ajmer, extracted from the Knight's own diary. Our first Ambassador to India clearly possessed the qualities needed for an immensely difficult task. A man of great firmness and courage, he refused to be bullied or cowed or in any way to lower his dignity; and his sang-froid, tact, and good humour eventually so impressed Jahangir that he was able to induce that most uncertain of despots to grant considerable concessions to the merchants of the East India Company. Sir Thomas Roe was, besides all else, a man of real goodness and deep religious faith. While at Ajmer, the Rev. John Hall, B.A., Magdalen College, Oxford, his Chaplain, who had accompanied him to India, was taken ill and died. Sir Thomas's description of poor Hall is pleasant reading. "A man of most gentle and mild nature, religious and unspotted life." That it was by no means a matter of indifference to our Ambassador whether he had or had not a Chaplain is evident from the fact that he writes immediately to the East India Company, urging them to send him another Chaplain. His letter runs as follows: "Here I cannot live the life of an atheist. Let me desire you to endeavour me supply, for I cannot abide in this place destitute of the comfort of God's Word and Holy Sacrament." In answer to this letter the Rev. Edward Terry, a Fellow of Corpus Christi, Oxford, was sent out to India to fill the vacant Chaplaincy.
Terry was the first of a long list of English Clergy in India with literary gifts. To him, as well as to the Rev. J. Oving-ton, we are indebted for an interesting description of the life of the English in India in those days. Terry, it is true, remained in India but four years, but, while there, he had ample opportunities of seeing a great deal of the country, and his book is well worth reading.
As a great deal of the life of the English in Surat and in other parts of India in those days centres in the Factory, it will be well, I think, to give some account of what a Factory was like. It must be remembered that the word "Factory" did not bear in those days the meaning which it does to-day. It was then used in India to denote the quarters in which the factors, or merchants, as we now call them, lived, where also they had their offices and warehouses for the storing of articles of export and import, which were being continually received and despatched. There was almost nothing of what we call manufacturing connected with these Factories in those early days.
In 1614 the first Factory was opened in Surat. It was on a small scale and occupied by only two merchants. Trade, however, developed rapidly, and within less than ten years the number of factors had increased to a dozen. In accordance with one of the provisions of Sir Thomas Roe's treaty with the Emperor, a palatial building of stone and excellent timber with good carving was erected near the river-side for which a nominal rent of sixty pounds a year was paid to the Imperial landlord. When one visits the old Factory House in Surat to-day, one reads with interest the inscription erected on one of its walls by order of Lord Curzon, telling how the house was built in 1618 by Prince Khurrum, the son of Jahangir, better known in history as the Emperor Shahjahan.
This house was a two-storied quadrangular building with upper and lower verandahs, enclosing a square courtyard. On the ground floor were go-downs, offices, warehouses, cellars, a large tank or swimming-bath, and a "hummum," or Turkish bath. Upstairs were the living-rooms, common-rooms, Chapel and bedrooms. In 1638 we find as many as twenty-four merchants and other officers living in the Factory House, which had, besides "several decent apartments for the President, accommodation for no less than forty persons."
The Factory was situated in an extensive garden beautifully laid out with flowers and flowering shrubs on the banks of the Tapti. The table appointments are described as being all of pure silver, "massy and substantial," and the dishes of the most dainty obtainable, "prepared to please the curiosity of every palate by an English, a Portuguese, and an Indian cook." The every-day beverages consisted of tea, Persian wine and punch, but on Sundays, European wines and English beer were added, and the table further embellished by game and fruit.
The President of the Factory at Surat was an important person. Once a year agents from eight subordinate Factories came to give their accounts to him at Surat. In 1630 his dignity was enhanced by his receiving the title of "the Chief of the Honourable Company of English Merchants trading to the East."
Life in the Surat Factory was conducted on the collegiate principle. All lived together, dined together at the common table, attended Chapel morning and evening, and were subjected to severe penalties for swearing, brawling, drunkenness or lying out at night. We may smile, no doubt, as a modern writer truly observes, "at the Puritanical restrictions upon the morals and manners of the young factor." But such rules were necessary at a time when the East presented temptations the like of which can nowadays be only dimly imagined; when, between the departure of one boat and the arrival of the next, the little band of merchants was as completely cut off from England as Robinson Crusoe in his island; and when, moreover, there was no public opinion to set a standard of conduct. How bad things quickly became when the bonds of discipline were relaxed, may be gathered from the Company's files of the succeeding period, when we find the Directors lamenting in vain the "itch of gambling spreading like a plague," or reprimanding the little Factory of Bencoolen in Sumatra (of nineteen persons) for drinking in a year seventy-four dozen bottles of wine, fifty dozen of French claret, twenty-four dozen of Burton, two pipes and forty-two gallons of Madeira, two hundred and seventy-four bottles of toddy, and one hundred and sixty-four gallons of Goa arrack. They commended "a little tea boiled in water and kept till cool."
"The staff of the Factory consisted of the President and his Council, comprising the Accountant, the Storekeeper, the Purser Marine and the Secretary, the Chaplain and the Surgeon, and Factors, Writers and Apprentices, the latter often having been 'Bluecoat Boys.' The President received £200 to £500 per annum; the senior factors, £100 to £200; the Chaplain, £100; the Surgeon, £40; and the Writers, £15 and £7. This seems extraordinarily small, but we must remember that the purchasing power of money was far greater at that time than it is at present. Terry tells us, for example, that a good sheep or four couple of fowls cost only a shilling, a hare or three partridges one penny, and the rest in proportion.
"Though their salaries were so small, the English servants of the Company lived comfortably in Surat, and in many cases returned to England with large fortunes. Of perquisites, in addition to their pay, the young men received from the Indian brokers at every Diwali festival (September to October) presents of jewels and cloth, enough to serve them for great part of the year. The Surgeon gained considerably by his 'outward practice and traffic.' "Those of the members of the Factory who were in a position to engage ml trade had other opportunities for making their fortunes. Though the privilege of private trade was withdrawn in 1657, the country trade between ports east of the Cape of Good Hope was, in 1661, handed over to the Company's servants. "Such was the profit in this trade, that even "bose of the merchants who had no capital of their own afford to borrow from native money-lenders, paying them at the rate of twenty-five per cent. Another source of profit during part of this time was the trade in diamonds, which, though taken away from their servants in 1680, was again restored by the Company in 1698. The new Company (1698) allowed their servants both the privilege of private trade and the right to trade in diamonds."
"At times, from October to March, ships came and went from the Suwali roads near the mouth of the Tapti, and then during the hours of business from ten to noon and again from four till dark, below stairs among the packers and warehouse-keepers it was 'a mere Billingsgate,' and all over the Factory a 'continued hurly-burly.' The rainy season, from June to October, was, to many of the Factory, a less busy time. Then their chief duty was to lay in a stock of cotton-yarn and keep the weavers at their work, so that the supply of cloth might be ready against the season of ships. Even in the busy season, however, the members had their times of rest and holidays. Sent down to the roads at Suwali to meet the ships from Europe, a few days would often be passed pleasantly, hearing the news from England, enjoying the hospitality of the ships' captains, and finding some shooting in the country near Suwali."
"In Surat, 'on solemn days,' after the mid-day banquet was over, the President generally invited the whole Factory abroad 'to some pleasant garden near the city,' where they sat' shaded from the beams of the sun, and refreshed by the neighbourhood of ponds and waterworks.' Here they listened to music, shot at marks, and enjoyed the society of the ladies of the Factory."
"Besides the Factory establishment of cooks, butlers, and menials, of whom 'every one, according to his quality, had some to wait on him in his chamber and follow him out,' the Chaplain and Members of Council were supplied with four or five men to attend on their coach. There was also a Pundit engaged to teach young Cadets to read and write the native languages, and an Indian doctor to help the English Surgeon, and a body of forty messengers (or chuprassies). When the President moved, 'besides a noise of trumpets, there was a guard of English soldiers consisting of a double file led by a Sergeant, a body of forty Moormen, and a flagman carrying St. George's colours, swallow-tailed, in silk fastened to a silver partisan.' On solemn days when they went in state to their garden parties, the English 'Lodge' passed through the heart of the city with still more show. On these occasions before the President were carried two large English ensigns; then curious Persian or Arabian horses 'rich in their trappings'; then the Captain of the peons, himself on horse-back, leading a band of forty or fifty attendants on foot; then the Council in large coaches drawn by stately oxen; and last of all, the factors in coaches, or upon horses with saddles of velvet richly embroidered, their headstalls, reins, and croupers covered with solid wrought silver."
Until well on in the seventeenth century no English woman was allowed by the Company to accompany her husband to India. It would seem that two of the earlier factors, Steele and another, had married, and their two ladies were so troublesome that by the strong advice of Sir Thomas Roe the Company forbade their servants having their wives with them in India. While this enabled this "Chummery" kind of existence to continue for two generations, it unquestionably led to a lowering of moral tone and a great deal of drinking to drive dull care away. Mandelslo speaks rather pathetically of "the hush which, fell on the table after dinner, when the President stood up to propose the toast of absent wives, 'God bless them.'"
As regards dress the factors in early days, with true English conservatism, clung to their home style of dress. Sir Thomas Roe seems to have made a point of this, thinking he was more likely to secure respect by keeping to his national costume than by adopting an Indian style. One can easily imagine what tortures our pioneers must have endured in the hot weather and rains in their thick English broad-cloth breeches, and above all in their wigs, until common sense at length came to the rescue and considerations of health and comfort led them to adopt dress made out of the Indian cotton and silk which they exported so largely to England.
Later on, in 1690, we read that "when many of the merchants had their wives living with them, it was usual for the English in Surat not only to wear European clothes, but, as far as possible, to have them made according to the latest fashion. There were tailors in Surat who could fashion coats according to the prevailing mode in England; and ladies found native artistes able to contrive their towering head-dresses with as much skill as if the head-dresses had been an Indian fashion, or as if the tailors themselves had been apprentices at the Royal Exchange.
In Surat the early Europeans would seem to have lived on somewhat familiar terms with the natives. According to Ovington, "their grand style of living made the native governors and other persons in high position value their friendship, and place an honour on their intimacy and acquaintance." The factors, too, were hospitable, entertaining natives, at least Musalmans, at their own tables, and in turn dining with them, imitating, when they did so, the customs of the East in lying round the banquet upon Persian carpets.
The factors kept open house and were always ready to welcome travellers. On one occasion we read of a Portuguese hidalgo or nobleman, who came to stay at the Factory House, Surat. He had left Goa, according to his own account, after killing several persons in duels. Shortly after his arrival at the Factory he informed his hosts that he had left Goa "because he was tired of living among Christians." When informed by one of the factors that the English claimed to belong to that category, he calmly replied, "By------it is the first time I ever heard it." Doubtless this reflected the general opinion of the Portuguese about the English and then-Reformed Church at that time.
Another strange personality who visited the Factory at Surat in the seventeenth century was Thomas Coryate, better known as the Odcomb Leg-stretcher. Coryate had formerly been a kind of Jester at the Court of King James I. in London. This strange being, after walking from one end of Europe to the other, and having hung up his shoes in Odcomb Church as a memorial of this "trek," again started eastwards, intending to walk round the world. Like Qliver Goldsmith, he lived on the countries through which he passed. Having passed through Palestine and Syria, he made his way down the valley of the Tigris to Bagdad. From there on foot he continued his journey across Persia, Beluchistan, and the Punjab to the Court of the Emperor Jahangir, where for a time he seems to have been a source of annoyance to Sir Thomas Roe, but of considerable amusement to the Emperor and his Court. During his stay in Surat after a late night he was taken ill and died. Terry the Chaplain wrote the following epitaph on his grave:--
"Here lies the wanderer of his age,
Who living did rejoice
To make his life a pilgrimage,
Not out of need, but choice."
We should give but a one-sided impression of the life of our pioneers in Surat were we to make no reference to the difficulties and dangers to which they were from time to time exposed. It is clear that while the Directors of the East India Company fully recognized the importance of making the life of the exiles as comfortable and home-like as possible while they were within the walls of the Factory House at Surat, they were unable to secure such happy conditions for those factors of theirs who were stationed in the smaller Factories. The lives of the men must have been lonely, monotonous, and by no means free from danger.
These were certainly difficult days for the Englishman in India. In the first place there existed a constant and bitter rivalry between them and the other trading countries--Dutch, French, and Portuguese. Woe betide the unhappy Englishman who fell into the hands of the Portuguese in those early days!
There was also an almost constant friction between our merchants and the native Governors of Surat. These officials, whose period of office was always brief, used every effort during their short innings to enrich themselves by exorbitant demands, which if not acceded to, were used as reasons for bringing our trade to a standstill.
Later on in the century it must be admitted that the Mughal authorities had some reason for suspecting the good faith of the English. Pirate vessels manned by Englishmen, and often sailing under the English flag, ravaged the Mughal shipping on the west coast of India, and in spite of all the Company's denials of complicity in this nefarious practice, it was hard at times for the Mughal officials not to hold them in some sense responsible for their losses, more especially as the Company's vessels were seldom, if ever, attacked.
Again, as the Mughal power, began to decline during the reign of Aurungzebe, a new danger to peace and settled government appeared in the formof Sivaji and his Mahratta hordes. Early in his career the eyes of this daring chieftain were fixed on Surat, which was at this time a city of enormous wealth, and which, apart from its fort by the river-side was practically unprotected on the land side. '
On Sivaji's first appearance at Surat in 1664 the Mughal Governor took fright very badly and shut himself up in his castle. The only persons who then offered anv resistance were the English and Dutch merchants who having armed all their retainers, not only saved their own property but also a considerable part of the native city. So pleased indeed was Aurungzebe at the courage of the English in this matter, that he granted them an entire remission of custom duties for a year, amounting to £2500, and afterwards an abatement of 1 per cent, on all duty levied.
It gives one some idea of the enormous wealth of Surat, when we read that on this occasion Sivaji "carried off not less than a million sterling, and that in one shop alone he found twenty-two pounds weight of strung pearls." Again and again he seems to have returned to Surat whenever his coffers needed replenishment, and so great was the dread of him that even the English, before his annual visitations, sent their treasure on board ships and the townspeople forsook it in large numbers. That they had good reason for their fear is pretty evident when one reads a letter written by a Chaplain named L'Escaillot to Sir Thomas Brown, dated January 26, 1663-64, and now registered in No. 1860 folio 5 of the Sloane MSS. in the British Museum. He says in his letter: "The English President, Sir John Oxindon, a most worthy discreet courageous person," took effectual measures for the defence of the Company's premises. Anthony Smith, "a servant of the Companyes, one whoe hath been chif in severall factoryes," was taken prisoner as he came ashore, and barely escaped with his life. A man having failed in a bold attempt to kill Sivaji, "the crye went, Kill the prisoners, whereupon some were miserably hacked," the survivors being brought up to judgment. "Sevajee, according as it came in his mind, caused them to cutt of this man's head, that man's right hand, both the hands of a third. It comes to Mr. Smith turne, and his right hand being commanded to bee cutt of, hee cryed out in Indostan to Sevajee rather cutt of his head, unto which end his hatt was taken of, but Sevajee stopt execution and so praised be God hee escaped. There, were then about four heads and 24 hands cutt of after that Mr. Smith was come away."
The Chaplain then proceeds to give a detailed and sickening description of the way in which these hands were cut off, the instrument used being a blunt knife. After reading it we can understand Smith preferring decapitation.
And now for a word or two about the part which the Chaplain played in the life of this strange community.
"The Chaplain," we read, "was a prominent figure in Factory life. He received £100 a year, with diet and con- venient lodgings, a peon to attend him in his chamber, and the command of a coach or horse at any time he thinks fit to use them, besides many private gifts from merchants and masters of ships, who seldom fail of some valuable oblation to him, or rarity of the place they come from, and the noble large gratuities which he constantly receives for officiating at Marriages, Baptisms, and Burials." He did not, however, live an idle life. "The Minister is obliged to a public dis- course once, and public prayers thrice on Sunday, and to read prayers morning and evening in the Chapel each other day in the week, viz. about six in the morning before the factors are called forth to business, and at eight at night, when all is past. He is engaged to catechise all the youth; to visit the subordinate Factories upon the coast of Malabar, at Carwar, Calicut, etc., and to give instructions for their administration of Divine Service in his absence." The Chapel where they meet at prayers is within the Factory, "decently embellished so as to render it both neat and solemn, without the figure of any living creature in it for avoiding all occasion of offence to the Moors, who are well pleased with the innocence of our worship." "For want of a Minister qualified for the administration of Baptism among the Dutch at Surat, they request that favour from the English, who performs it for them in their Chapel, which at first sight might be very, well taken for a guard-chamber, because they keep arms in it."
We owe to Penny, in his Church in Madras, some interesting information regarding the early Chaplains in Surat. The earliest Chaplain, he tells us, who was appointed by the Directors of the East India Company, was "one the Rev. William Leske. The Directors were well satisfied by his learning and gravity, and of his being able to contest with and hold argument with Jesuits who were then busy at Surat." He went to Surat in 1614, and stayed there for three years. Sir Thomas Roe writes of him an appreciative letter in 1616, but unfortunately later on he was relieved of his charge for unworthy conduct.
It is obvious that the atmosphere of the Factory, where every one was absorbed in money-making, can hardly have made the task of a Chaplain particularly easy.
Great importance was attached, and naturally, to the possession of a good and equable temper on the part of their Chaplain. One can easily imagine that in the trying Indian climate, with a large body of men living together in this huge "Chummery," and especially over their evening wine-cups, there must have been frequent occasions for irritation and loss of temper, and it was above all things desirable that the Padre should be a man of peace. One reads of more than one instance of Chaplains failing in this respect.
Arnold Wright speaks sympathetically of the troubles which befell the famous Commander Downton at the hands of "a turbulent cleric named the Reverend Peter Rogers," whom he describes (we fancy mistakenly) as the first Chaplain who came to India. It is not altogether easy to decide from Wright's account, which seems unduly biassed in Downton's favour, what exactly Rogers' special faults were beyond the fact that he wrote a strong letter to the Company, speaking of Downton's "old soaked humour," "of his inveterate hatred and continuence where he once takes dislike," and of the fact that "the General is not the man you take him to be touching religion: he always ill-treats his Ministers; he neglects prayer on the week days, and very often on the Sabbath the exercises of religion to the great offence and discouragement of many. He is much given to backbiting, and he has answered my fatherly remonstrances by saying scornfully that he could tell his duty better than I could advise him, and such-like demonstrances of pride and hypocrisy."
Of one Chaplain who stayed eight years in the East, and died on his voyage home, part of which time was spent at Surat, the factors wrote to the Company on his departure in the following terms:--
"Lastly, Mr. Rund, our preacher, is the conclusive passenger of note who hath lovingly this last Sabbath included us in his hearty prayers." "He hath lived among us peacefully without any touch of spleen or faction. His function he hath ever observed conformably and his life no way deserving public reproach, though not free from imbecilities, as in all of us might be wished a bettering."
In 1617 the Company engaged the Rev. Thomas Friday, M.A., Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as Chaplain for their Factory at Surat. After serving six years in India, he returned to England in 1623. The glamour of the East had clearly laid hold of him, for he returned to India in 1624, and died in Surat six years later. He is referred to in the Court Minutes of the Directors as one "Who came home with a good reputation--only some small touch of private trade."
Mr. Friday writes in 1625 to the Company, dwelling on the jealousy between the Dutch, Portuguese, and English who were contending for the trade of the East, and deploring the extreme measures they adopted towards one another in the Eastern seas in consequence of that jealousy. Of the Dutch, Terry the Chaplain also wrote as follows:--
"This I can say of the Dutch, that when I lived in those parts and we English there were more for the number than they and consequently could receive no hurt from them, we then used them as neighbours and brethren; but in other places, where they had the like advantage of us, they dealt with us neither like Christians nor men."
Of the Rev. Henry Goulding, another of the early Surat Chaplains, we know but little, save that his family had considerable landed property in Essex, and that before coming to India he was private Chaplain to a nobleman. He was certainly not a favourite in Surat, for the factors in their home letter, 1618, describe him as "the gentlewomen's Chaplain," and added that "so long as the Company choose preachers recommended by noblemen's letters, how can they expect to be served better?"'
Arnold Wright tells a story of him, how that "when a request which he had preferred to accompany Mrs. Hawkins and her English maid, the wife of Richard Steele, to Ahmedabad had been refused, he disguised himself in Moor's apparel and surreptitiously joined the ship in which the ladies were sailing."
One of the best known of these early Indian Chaplains was the Rev. Patrick Copeland, who made several voyages to India between 1612 and 1619. He seems to have been deeply imbued with a Missionary spirit, and is referred to in the Court Minutes as "that worthy preacher" and as "a sober discreet man." Copeland made very genuine endeavours while in the service of the Company to bring about a better feeling between the English and the Dutch, and even expostulated with the Dutch for their unfriendliness as well as for their jealousy of the English merchants. He reminded them of the assistance given to them by the English against the Spaniards at home, and added, "Now you are free from the Spaniard at home you fall out with your friends abroad."
He also was bold enough to blame the English Commanders for quarrelling with the Dutch, and preached a sermon on one of the Company's ships which caused the Commander to complain that the effect of his preaching was to imperil the fighting spirit of his crew. This charge was duly examined in London, and Copeland had to appear before the Court of Directors in Leadenhall Street. The plain fact was that any endeavour to stop the quarrels and jealousies existing between the Dutch and the English at that time was almost useless and most unpopular. The brutal murder, after torture, of a body of English sailors at Amboyna, the chief of the Spice Islands in the Dutch East Indies, by the Dutch Governor Van Speult, left such an impression of the Dutchman's callous cruelty that it took generations to efface it. The Directors were obviously on the side of the Commander, for, while acknowledging the goodness of Cope-land's intentions, they would not offer him another appointment.
During one of his voyages to India, Copeland had met with an Indian boy in Bengal whom he prepared for baptism. This boy was brought by him to England, but before baptising him he felt it right to ask for permission from the Directors of the London Company. The Court referred "this weighty matter" to no less a person than the Archbishop of Canterbury, who after due consideration gave it as his opinion that there was no reason why the Indian boy should not be baptised. King James I. was therefore asked to name the child and gave him the name of Peter. Peter was duly baptised on December 2, 1616, in one of the old City Churches, in the presence of some members of the Privy Council, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London and certain members of the East India Company. He was baptised by the simple name of Peter, but later on seems to have adopted the surname of Pope.
Of another of the Surat Chaplains, the Rev. Thomas Fuller, B.A., Pembroke College, Cambridge, 1612, we read that he was sent to Suwali, a small Factory close to Surat, on the Bombay coast. The Chief of the Factory had a high opinion of him, as is evident from the fact that he informed the Company that "Mr. Fuller supplied his room with the goodwill of all men," and added, "we would have kept him, but he was not very willing to stay; we are bold to entreat in his behalf, if he is willing to come back; his doctrine and life being so exemplary as we doubt of his like." In another letter of the same year they say, "Mr. Fuller our Minister has at last been persuaded to stay. We doubt not a man of his quality and demeanour will draw a blessing upon our labours surpassing the Company's charge by his detention."
Of other of the Chaplains of that early period it is to be regretted that we do not have so favourable an account. One of the Chaplains who had matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, and had been sent to one of the Factories in Persia, was rebuked by the Chief Agent at Ispahan for dice-playing, and is referred to when writing to the Company, as "their criminal Minister, who with their critical agent Monnox and their infernal physician Strachan formed a triple conspiracy against merchantly carriage and good manners."
Of another of the Chaplains, the Rev. George Collins, who remained four years in Ispahan, the Company's Agent wrote:--
"His country travels have quite disheartened him for any longer residence, therefore he is departing, he supposes, to seek a place of more ease; not that we do not desire the conversation of an upright man that might guide us in the true way, but do not much sorrow for his miss, we have more addo to accommodate these Ministers to their desires than most the factors besides; they are so troublesome. The two that have been here in Gibson's time the tenderest chickens we ever met; and unless hereafter they are hardier, to be plain, we had rather have their room than their company."
It must have been a most difficult matter for the Directors of the Company to find the sort of Clergy suitable for the peculiar life which Englishmen had to live in India in those days. It is clear that in early days long intervals elapsed before Chaplains were appointed to fill vacancies caused by death in a country where the uncertainties of life were very great. As time went on, however, the authorities in London realised more fully the importance of the work of their Chaplains, and even appealed to the English Universities to help them in their quest for the best men.
Of the Clergy who came East some were doubtless animated by the same high motives which impelled the best men at home to enter the sacred ministry of the Church. A few, too, were men of a scholarly type like Terry, Henry Lord, and Samuel Crook, a distinguished Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who came East to pursue his Oriental studies. Some were of an adventurous type, prepared to run risks to see the wonders of the gorgeous East; but of others it would seem they belonged to that type of persons for whom life at home had no great attractions, and who shared the same worldly hopes as the factors to whom they ministered of shaking the pagoda tree and returning to their own native land to enjoy its fruits.
It would be hard to pass Surat by without some mention, at least by name, of its more distinguished factors and Presidents. Of the earlier factors and Chiefs little or nothing need be said. They were men of a rough type, brave and determined, but obviously residing in the East for the purpose of making money. One of the least satisfactory features in the characters of some like Sir John Child and Sir Nicholas Waite was their willingness, from motives of spite, revenge, or rivalry, to betray one another to the Mughal Governor or his emissaries.
Fortunately for England's reputation, there were some bright stars, however, amongst them who have left names behind of which their country may be justly proud. Of Sir George Oxenden, Gerald Aungier, and Streynsham Master, who can speak too highly? They were great and good men who, while they looked after the interests of their Company, never forgot their duty towards the natives of India as well as their duty towards their God.
Few spots in India exceed in interest the old English Cemetery at Surat, where the ashes of many of the pioneers rest. "The manner of our burying is so decent," says an old writer, "that the natives (who are also very decent in that particular), though they may not come near a dead corpse by reason that they esteem it a polluting or defiling themselves, yet they will behold our burials, and at the funeral of Sir George Oxenden, the street, balconies and tops of the houses were so full as they could stand one by another."
Unlike the simple monuments in our cemeteries at home, the factors, copying largely from their Mahomedan neighbours, "succeeded in raising such stately piles that many of them looked more like mosques or royal tombs than the resting-place of foreign traders." On one quite unostentatious monument in the cemetery we read the following inscription:
"Here lies Francis Breton, who, after he had for five years discharged his duties with the greatest diligence and strictest integrity, went unmarried to the celestial nuptials on July 21st, 1649."
Over the remains of Sir George Oxenden and his brother Christopher, who was also an official of the Company, there is a magnificent monument, part of which was provided by Sir George Oxenden at his brother's death, and part by the Company in gratitude for his own services. It is forty-five feet high with an inside diameter of not less than twenty-five feet, and bears the following striking inscription:
"Here is laid Christopher Oxenden, in his life a pattern of fair dealing, in his death a proof of the frailty of life.
"He comes and he is gone. Here he ended his ventures and his life.
"Days only, not years, could he enter in his accounts, for of a sudden death called him to a reckoning.
"Do you ask, my masters, what is your loss and what your gain?
"You have lost a servant, we a companion, by his life but against this can he write 'Death to me is gain.'"