Period.--England: Restoration, Charles II., James II., William and Mary, Queen Anne, and George I. India: The Mughal period; Rise of Bahmani dynasty and Mahratta development
Authorities.--Bombay in the Making, by Malabari; The Rise of Bombay, by S. M. Edwardes; Bombay Gazeteer, vol. 1, History; By-Ways of Bombay; History of Chaplains' Department in Western India, by the Rev. E. E. Hill; Keigwiris Rebellion, by C. Straohey; Annesley of Surat, by Arnold Wright; The English in Western India, by the Rev. P. Anderson; A History of the Cathedral Church of St. Thomas in Bombay (Times of India Press, Bombay).
"A city which by God's help shall be built."--G. Aungier.
NOWHERE are the marks of British genius more clearly manifest than in the city of Bombay, where so many travellers from the West make their first acquaintance with India. One should read with old maps what the authors of Bombay in the Making and The Rise of Bombay have to tell us to fully realise the huge transformation which has welded together "the seven islands" so completely that no ordinary visitor would believe that Bombay had ever been a group of islands.
It would indeed be interesting to see pictures of Bombay at different periods during these last two hundred and fifty years since it first became a British possession; but the period one would most wish to see would be that when its second Governor, Aungier, looking over its unhealthy, foute smelling swamps, made his solemn vow to God concerning its future: "A city which by God's help shall be built."
What pathos and tragedy too is connected with its earliest years! The factors in Surat had often cast envious eyes on it, and on one occasion had even planned along with the Dutch to make a joint attack on the Portuguese fleet while anchored in Bombay, and to take the place from them. Fortunately their plans failed, as the Portuguese Admiral Botelho got wind of their approach and esoaped to sea; so that beyond a raid on the settlement when the Dutch vented their fury in acts of disgraceful sacrilege in the churches, nothing was done.
All things come to those who know how to wait, and what the Company had been longing for and scheming after eventually came into their possession without even a blow. It came as the marriage dowry of the Infanta of Portugal, Katharine of Braganza, on her marriage to King Charles II. Shortly after that came the day for taking over our new possession, when a fleet was sent from England under the Earl of Marlborough with a regiment of soldiers under Sir Abraham Shipman. This, however, was only the beginning of troubles. The Portuguese Viceroy refused to believe that Bombay was to be given up, and cast doubts upon the papers presented by the Earl. Then after a lot of useless palaver the Admiral left Sir Abraham Shipman and the troops on the small island of Angediva, near Goa, and sailed home for fresh orders. Over a year passed before the fresh orders came, and when they came Sir Abraham Shipman and most of his troops were dead. It was a ghastly tragedy.
Then when the Portuguese could no longer refuse to hand over the islands, they raised all sorts of fresh objections. This and that property must be retained; the religious houses were to keep the large properties they had possessed themselves of; and so on. Salsette, the large island which connects Bombay with the mainland, must on no account go. There was much which was decidedly unpleasant about the whole business, and it is clear that the Portuguese Viceroy was far-seeing enough to realise that his country had made a profound mistake in parting with this magnificent harbour. Nor were the English settlers particularly pleased with their new possession at first. Pepys, writing from reports which came home, said the general impression was "the Portuguese had badly choused us."
Bombay remained a Crown possession for seven years, and then the expense of guarding and keeping it up and the little that could be made out of it made the Crown only too willing to hand it over to the East India Company for the paltry sum of £10 a year.
Young men going to the Gold Coast in bygone days used to be advised to make friends with the Baptist Mission, as they possessed "a hearse with plumes." We read of no such luxury in the Bombay of those days, though it seems to have been more deadly than any of the West African stations. Ovington remarks about the extreme unhealthi-ness of Bombay, "that as some of the islands of the West were called 'fortunate' on account of their pure air and genial climate, so the moderns may in opposition to them denominate this 'the Unfortunate One' in the East, because of the antipathy it bears to these two qualities. Of the twenty-four passengers who arrived with him in Bombay at the commencement of the annual rains, twenty as well as the ship's company had died before the rains ceased. It was a common saying, "Two monsoons are the age of a man," whereas at Surat the health of Europeans suffered little.
But although death was ever shadowing this little community, it can hardly be said that among the majority it produced anything like a serious attitude towards life; and bad water, bad food, foul smells from the fish manure with which the palm trees were plentifully nourished, and the undrained and insanitary native town, took a big toll of life. Arrack punch and dissolute lives seem to have swelled this ghastly account to almost incredible dimensions. [Bombay has the unenviable distinction of having given its name to this well-known drink, so called from its "five" ingredients.] Anderson tells us of a duel fought between Mr. Hornigold and Captain Minchin, which had its origin at some wild orgies, and, as President Aungier remarked, was "the usual effect of that accursed Bombay punch, to the shame and scandal and ruin of the nation and religion."
He was a bold man who volunteered for Bombay in those days, but this did not prevent certain Englishwomen who wished to get married coming out in the Company's ships in search of husbands. They hardly seem to have been the most suitable kind of wives for such men. "A modish garb and mien," notes Ovington, "are all that is expected from any women that pass thither, who are many times matched to the chief merchants upon the place, and advance thereby their condition to a very happy pitch. A modest woman may very well expect, without any very great stock of honour or wealth, a husband of repute and riches there, after she has run all this danger and trouble for him."
Fortunately for Bombay, its early life under the East India Company (after seven short years under Crown government) was guided by one of the best and wisest of Englishmen in India at that time. It was Gerald Aungier who laid the foundations of what is now one of the greatest cities in the world, and laid them surely and firmly. Through his wisdom and statesmanship many of the difficult questions connected with the old Portuguese settlers and their religious houses were settled. It was through an absolute trust in his justice and goodness that large numbers of respectable Indian merchants were induced to settle on the island and so to develop its trade.
His establishment of Courts of Law where justice was administered impartially to English and Indian alike reveals him as a far-sighted and wise man. Writing of this aspect of his work, Hamilton the Interloper quaintly remarks, "Aungier brought the face of justice to be unveiled."
In addition to his gifts as an administrator, Aungier also possessed the capacity and instincts of a soldier. Within a year of his appointment as President, the Dutch Admiral appeared off the coast of Bombay with a large fleet, determined to drive the English out of their new possession. While the whole place seethed with excitement at the threatened attack, Orme the historian tells us, "Aungier exerted himself with the calmness of a philosopher and the courage of a centurion." Defences were everywhere organised, and the soldiers and half-trained island militia called out. So effective indeed were Aungier's dispositions that the Dutchmen, after making some futile demonstrations, withdrew.
Nor was Aungier merely content with the material prosperity of the town. The condition of the Settlement from a moral standpoint stirred him deeply. Ovington, who spent some weeks there, writes of it in the following strain: "I cannot without horror mention to what a pitch all vicious enormities were grown in this place. Their principles of action, and consequent evil practices of the English, forwarded their miseries and contributed to fill the air with those pestilential vapours that seized their vitals and speeded their hasty passage to the other world. Luxury, immodesty, and a prostitute dissolution of manners, found still new matter to work upon."
It must be admitted that the Court of Directors did what they could to arrest the progress of vice at Bombay; but Anderson is convinced that the evil influence of the English Court of King Charles II. had spread so far and wide throughout the nation that "it was not expected that a warning voice from London would gain respectful attention in India." It is interesting none the less to read some of these despatches which came out from Leadenhall Street.
"The Governor, Deputy Governor, and Committees of the East India Company, having been informed of the disorderly and unchristian conversation of some of their factors and servants in the parts of India, tending to the dishonour of God and the shame and scandal of the English nation," make certain regulations with a view to render "the religion we profess amiable in the sight of those heathens among whom they reside."
The following directions were issued for religious observances: The Agents and Chiefs of the several Factories were also strictly enjoined "to prevent all profane swearing and taking the name of God in vain by cursed oaths; all drunkenness and intemperance, all fornication and uncleanness." If any persisted in committing these sins they were to be punished, and, if found incorrigible, sent to England.
Aungier was convinced that the absence of Englishwomen was the main cause of this unhappy state of things, especially as far as the soldiers of the garrison were concerned. As an English Churchman he objected most strongly to the British soldiers marrying Portuguese women, who were of course strict Roman Catholics, and who expected their children to be brought up in their own faith. He therefore sends the following despatch to the Court of London:--
"Whereas, for want of Englishwomen, many of the English and other Protestant soldiers sent out do marry with Portuguese mesties (half-caste women), natives of the island, who are Roman Catholics, by which means the children of the said Protestants are through their fathers' neglect brought up in the Roman Catholic principles, to the great dishonour and weakening the Protestant religion and interest: wherefore for the preventing the evil consequences which may in time accrue therefrom, that the Company would please not only to encourage the sending out of Englishwomen, but also to establish a standing order that the children of all Protestant fathers be brought up carefully in the Protestant religion, though the mothers thereof be Roman Catholics, and that severe penalties be inflicted on all offenders, especially on the Padres who shall endeavour to baptise the said children or any attempt to inveigle or entice them away from the Protestant faith."
It was a strange and unwholesome atmosphere in which the Chaplain had to do his work, and the fairly constant expressions of rather unctuous piety in these despatches which went to and from London--a fashion begotten in Puritan days--might easily deceive us into thinking that things were better than writers like Ovington have represented them. One of the early Chaplains of Bombay had a strange experience which throws some light on the tone of society at that period. This gentleman, who was "present one night at a convivial party, was suddenly asked by an amorous pair to make them man and wife." Regarding the application as a joke, he merely supposed that they were enjoying themselves at his expense. However, he replied that he could not think of marrying them at that late hour; but if they continued in the same mind next morning, he would do as they required. What must have been his surprise to find that a charge against him for neglect of duty was grounded upon his refusal, and he was formally called upon by the President to state his reasons for not discharging the functions of his office.
The life of the Settlement of Bombay was destined to pass through an experience as strange as it was exciting in its early days.
It was obvious from the first that Bombay would have to be fortified against attacks both from sea and land. On land their Mahratta neighbours were growingly aggressive, and on sea the Siddees, who were nothing better than Mughal pirates, were constantly giving trouble. The defences of Bombay obviously involved the raising of an island militia and the sending of some trained English troops to stiffen it. It is obvious from various despatches from the Court of Directors in London, as well as from the accusations brought against Aungier for his extravagance in expenditure on the fortifications of the settlement, that the Directors were extremely anxious to spend as little money as possible on either their soldiers or the fortifications. The following despatch is amusing reading:--
"We would have the inhabitants modelled into trained bands under English or other officers as there shall be cause, and make of them one or two regiments, or more, as your number will hold out, exercising them in arms one day in every two months, or as often as you shall think may be convenient, but you need not always waste powder at such exercise but teach them to handle their arms, their facmgs, wheeling, marching and counter-marching, the first ranks to advance, as is often used with learners in our artillery ground but sometimes they must be used to firing lest in time of action they should start at the noise or the recoil of their arms.
The first Commandant of the troops in Bombay was one Richard Keigwin, a bold and adventurous spirit. After his first short period of service in India he had gone to England, and on his return to Bombay found that his position on the Bombay Council had been reduced by orders of the President, Sir John Child. It seems that even in those early days the Civil and Military were sometimes at loggerheads. About the same time the soldiers and officers under his command found, greatly to their disgust and resentment, that their pay had been cut, and that certain of their recognised allowances had been docked. Worse still, they found that the promise of the Company to them of a month's pay after three years' service, with a free discharge, was now being repudiated. In spite of ominous warnings, the Court of Directors in London, listening entirely to Sir John Child, refused to con-Bider these grievances; with the result that in 1682 the whole garrison rose to a man in mutiny; the Deputy Governor, Ward, was confined in his quarters, and Keigwin assumed the post of Governor. As at one time he had been Governor of St. Helena, the role of Governor was not an entirely new one to him, and during the year that he held hia self-assumed office he seems to have administered affairs with remarkable ability.
His first act on assuming the Governorship was to send an official report to King Charles, informing him in language of dutiful respect that they had restored to him this portion of his marriage dowry; and that his sole reason for taking such strong action was on account of the intolerable injustice of the Company's administration of Bombay. Like Winter's rebellion in Madras, it makes one realise the difference between the India of to-day and the India of two hundred and fifty years ago, when we find that Keigwin was able to hold his own in defiance of the Company for considerably more than a year. In vain Sir John Child, the President at Surat, threatened, implored, and coaxed him. The Missions which he sent from Surat to interview Keigwin were invariably treated courteously but returned without accomplishing anything, and the interesting fact is that every one in Bombay seems to have sympathised with Keigwin and to have been content with his rule. As Governor he showed ability and integrity. He strengthened the defences of Bombay and confirmed a treaty with the Mahrattas much to the advantage of England, At length compelled to surrender to the British fleet under Sir Thomas Grantham, he was, in spite of all the terrible threats of John Child, allowed to depart to England in peace. His adventurous life was eventually cut short when leading his regiment in storming a fort in the West Indies.
During the rebellion the position of the Chaplain would under any circumstances be one of great difficulty. Watson, however, seems to have shown such sympathy with Keigwin and the soldiers that the Company would have nothing further to do with him. He was dismissed the Company's service and compelled to pay his own passage home. Their despatch runs as follows:
"Watson, that scandalous Chaplain at Bombay, let him have no salary from us ... and let Watson know he is no more our servant, banish him the island and let him take care to pay for his own passage home, and provide yourselves of another Chaplain for Bombay out of some of our ships, if you cannot meet with any so much to your satisfaction as you have at Surat in the room of Mr. Badham deceased."
After Keigwin's rebellion, so Anderson tells us, the East India Company, mainly under the influence of Sir Josiah Child, Chairman of the Court of Directors, began for the first time to hanker after political importance and power. We get some idea of the overweening conceit of this prince merchant from one of his letters to the Chief in Surat. "The English laws are a heap of nonsense compiled by a few ignorant country gentlemen." "My orders, Sir, are to be your rules, and not the laws of England."
Years before, Sir Thomas Roe, our first Ambassador, had warned them not to follow the example of the Dutch. They now decided to adopt an entirely new policy. "The wise Dutch," they remarked, "took ten times more interest in administrative functions and military operations than in the affairs of commerce." The Company must increase its revenues. "It is that must make us a nation in India," they wrote; "without revenues they were merely," they said, "a great number of interlopers." These words were symptomatic of the change which was passing over the Company. The era of trade was passing away, the era of administration was beginning.
Sir Josiah Child found in his namesake John Child an instrument for carrying out his projects. John Child had lived most of his life in India, and, if we are to accept what Hamilton says of him, was an extremely unscrupulous, even cruel, man. Though bearing the same name, it seems that he was in no way related to Sir Josiah Child. The first act of his new policy was certainly one of the greatest folly. Knowing nothing about fighting, he deliberately made war with the Great Mughal. It was a war of a midget against a giant. The Mughal ships under a determined commander landed on the island of Bombay, and before a few weeks were over the English garrison were in such a miserable condition that they were compelled to capitulate. Aurungzebe accepted their capitulation contemptuously, and laid on them terms of the most humiliating kind: one of which was that Sir John Child was to leave India immediately. He died before he left. The Company lost nearly half a million by this war.
The closing years of the seventeenth century and the opening ones of the eighteenth century were dark and unhappy ones for the old Company everywhere in India, but especially in Bombay and Surat. In England there had arisen strongly hostile feeling against them, mainly on account of their jealous monopoly in the Indian trade and also owing to the unfavourable reports of their harshness and cruelty towards any rivals. The way was being paved for the formation of a rival Company which, after a good deal of bribery and corruption, very prevalent in those days, received its Charter in 1698 during the reign of William and Mary. Then with the advent of the rival Company there was such a scene of envy and strife between Englishman and Englishman in India as to fill the Mughal's mind with astonishment and almost contempt for these traders from the West, and to bring shame and disgrace upon the nation. The old Company intrigued against the new, and the new Company retaliated to the full against the old Company. So bitter was this feeling of hatred between the two Companies tnat when Edwards, a Chaplain of the new Company died m Surat, the old Company refused to allow the body to be ouned in their cemetery, and but for the kindness of the Armenian Christians in that city, he would not have received Christian burial.
It was when this rivalry was at its height, that for the second time an Ambassador was sent to the Court of the Great Mughal. The history of Sir William Norris's mission with all its magnificence is told graphically in the pages of Arnold Wright's Annesley of Surat. Next to his own stupidity and high-handed manner in dealing with the Mughal officials, his failure may be laid at the door of his fellow-countryman, Sir John Gayer, President of the old Company.
In 1702 efforts were made to heal this unhappy division, and for six years the two Companies worked side by side with a semblance of unity. The principle of a "Rotation Government" was adopted, by which the heads of the rival Companies acted as President in alternate years. How unworkable the whole arrangement was soon became evident. It was during this period of truce that Sir Nicholas Waite, President of the new Company, anxious to retain the position for himself, arranged by bribing the Mughal Governor of Surat that Sir John Gayer, President of the old Company, should be kept a prisoner in the Factory at Surat. His imprisonment lasted for three years.
Not until the two Companies really united under Earl Godolphin's Award in the year 1708, when the Companies were amalgamated into one, did the East India Company "nourish, and the name of England seem really great in the eyes of the Indians." From this time forward the amalgamated Company was known as "The United Company of Merchants of England trading with the East Indies."
In the charter of the United Company there were special provisions for an educational and religious establishment. A Minister and Schoolmaster were to be maintained in every garrison, "in superior Factories, and a decent place appropriated exclusively for Divine Service." Every ship of five hundred tons burden and upwards was ordered to carry a Chaplain. All Clergymen, whether sent for duty in ships or in Factories, had to be approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London, and care was to be taken that they were treated with respect. It was strictly enjoined also that all Chaplains who went to reside in India should learn the Portuguese language within one year after their arrival, and should also apply themselves to learn the language of the country, "the better to enable them to instruct the Gentoos that should be the servants or slaves of the same Company, or of their Agents, in the Protestant religion."
About this time a Prayer for the Honourable United Company of Merchants of England trading with the East Indies was prepared by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, which reads as follows:--
"O Almighty and most merciful Lord God, Thou art P the sovereign Preserver of all that trust in Thee, and the Author of all spiritual and temporal blessings. Let Thy grace, we most humbly beseech Thee, be always present with 9 Thy servants, the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies. Compass them with Thy favour ft as with a shield, prosper them in all their public undertakings, B and make them successful in all their affairs both by sea and fe land. Grant that they may prove a common blessing, by the increase of honour, wealth, and power to our native country. Give to us and all Thy servants whom Thy Providence has placed in these remote parts of the world, grace to discharge our several duties, with piety towards Thee our God, loyalty towards our King, fidelity and diligence towards them by whom we are employed, kindness and love towards one another, and sincere charity towards all men; that we adorning the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour in all things, these Indian nations among whom we dwell, beholding our good works, may be won over thereby to love our most holy religion, and glorify Thee, our Father which art in heaven. All this we beg for the sake of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom, with Thee and the blessed Spirit, be ascribed all honour, praise, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
"December 2nd, 1698.
"We do conceive that this Prayer may be very proper to be used, for the purpose expressed in the title of it.
It is beside our purpose to give anything like a full account of the history of this interesting period. Our object is to make clear to our readers the setting in which Englishmen had to live their lives in India at that time and in which our Chaplains had to do their work. How strange that work sometimes was, is evident from the following:--
When Edwards, the Chaplain of Surat, died, Hackett. who was then Chaplain of a ship in port, was appointed to fill the vacancy. The owners of this merchant vessel had arranged with Hackett that he was to receive £100 on his return to England. When, therefore, he was offered this Chaplaincy he asked that the Company should indemnify him for the financial loss which he would suffer by breaking his agreement. Sir Nicholas Waite, the President of the new Company, agreed to this, and in a letter to the Company dated April 9, 1700, adds, "I hope that he will by his piety and diligence in his station be such an example of virtue as may deserve this favour from your honours."
Hackett was apparently a parson of a manly type, for shortly afterwards he was sent to Berhampore in charge of the brass guns which had been left behind at Surat by the Ambassador. Sir William Norris was then up-country with the Mughal Emperor. On this occasion we find Hackett commanding ten soldiers, six writers, and two Surgeons. He apparently did not care for India, as he retired shortly afterwards.
Hackett was succeeded by the Rev. Pratt Physon, who undertook the duties of Chaplain for six months. Physon bore a bad name. He purchased goods of great value for which he had no means of paying. Anderson speaks of him as follows: "And so passes off the scene this Acting Chaplain, leaving a smell of brimstone behind him."
After his departure we find Sir Nicholas Waite writing to the Court of Directors as follows:--
"We shall be without a Chaplain for reading prayers and instruction of your youth, until your honours please to send a pious and ingenuous man whose learning and behaviour may be exemplary to all your servants and inform the world of the glorious mysteries as yet unknown amongst these people."
It is strange to think that the person who could have written such a letter as this was the same person who intrigued successfully to keep his rival incarcerated in the Factory at Surat for three years!
One of the least pleasing features of the period was the tone of unctuous piety adopted by persons whose ordinary conduct seems to have been both irreligious and unrighteous.
Before concluding this chapter on early Bombay, some account of the building of its first Church, now the Cathedral of St. Thomas, must be given. Something too must be said of the interesting and vigorous personality of the man who was mainly responsible for building it. The actual story of the building is so well told by the Rev. J. L. C. Dart, in A History of the Cathedral Church of St. Thomas in Bombay, that we cannot do better than repeat a good deal of what he has written.
"In 1682 the whole of the English community was housed in the Fort, and worshipped in an upper room. But from the beginning the conscience of the little settlement seems to have been uneasy about the inadequacy of this arrangement, and under the second Governor of Bombay (Sir George Oxenden--the first Governor ruled for only one year) it set about collecting funds for the building of a Church. The earliest existing account of this beginning is to be found in the pages of George Hamilton's New Account of the East Indies, which was published in 1727. Hamilton says, "Sir George Oxenden began to build (a Church) and charitable collections were gathered for that use; but when Sir George died, piety grew sick, and the building of Churches was grown unfashionable. . . . There were reckoned above £5000 had been gathered towards building the Church, but Sir John Child, when he came to reign in Bombay, converted the money to his own use, and no more was heard of it. The walls were built by his predecessors to five yards high, and so it continued till the year 1715."
The accusation of misappropriation of funds here made has been widely circulated and believed. But Hamilton's statement is inaccurate. The foundation of the Church was laid under the direction of "President" Aungier, and not of his predecessor. Aungier contributed liberally to the scheme, and left in his will a legacy of Rs.5000 towards its completion. His executor and principal legatee was his brother, the Earl of Longford, who resided in England. In spite of all the efforts of the Directors of the Company in London and its Governors in Bombay, Lord Longford could not be induced to part with the money, and from this fact appears to have arisen the story of misappropriation of funds, which scandal was magnified and handed down to us. The true cause of the cessation of work seems to have been that the little community attempted more than it was possible for it to carry out. Less than three hundred in number, they planned and began to build a Church designed to hold one thousand. It is possible also that when the leading spirit was removed, "Piety grew sick" and enthusiasm waned.
It was not until 1715 that the building was recommenced. As the prime mover in the matter was the Rev. Richard Cobbe, it may be as well to let him tell the story as much as possible in his own words.
"In the good ship Katherine, in company with the Thistlewood ... we set sail by God's permission, from Deal, March 29, 1714, with a prosperous gale and in high spirits, towards our intended port. . . . We made the inner passage, between the continent of Africa and Madagascar, alias St. Laurence, having touched nowhere since we left England, till we came to Johanna. . . . From thence we reached to Bombay, our desired haven, God be praised, safe and well in about six months' time, with a very pleasant and prosperous voyage all the way, were it not for burying our worthy Commander, Captain Edward Godfrey, and his chief mate, Mr. William Thaxton, and one William Palmer, a midshipman. We arrived at Bombay, September 21, 1714, St. Matthew's day; when I was received by the Governor, the Honourable William Aislabie, Esq., the gentlemen of the Council, etc., courteously and respectfully.
"Being thus safely arrived . . . and having considered the inconvenience, and unsuitableness withall, of performing our public devotions in so private a manner, as we did in the Fort having only two upper rooms beat into one, which served us for a Chapel, and being locked up in the Fort or Castle, in time of Divine Service; I ventured to propose the building of a Church for God's honour and service, according to the use of the Church of England, that all the island might see we had some religion amongst us. . . . Whereupon I took the freedom on Sunday, June 19, 1715 . . . to recommend in a sermon the building of a Church. After sermon, in the morning ... I waited on the Governor . . . according to custom, at his lodgings in the Fort, before dinner. Who was pleased to address me very friendly in these words:
"'Well, Doctor, you have been very zealous for the Church this morning.'
"'Please your Honour, I think there was occasion enough for it, and I hope without offence.'
"'Well, then, if we must have a Church, we will have a Church! Do you see and get a book made and see what every one will contribute towards it, and I will do first.' Which was accordingly done, leaving a blank for the Company's subscription, which was afterwards filled up with ten thousand rupees. A rupee is half a crown."
Cobbe threw himself with great energy into the task of raising money. He wrote letters to all the English settlements in India and Persia, going so far afield as to address the "Members of the Church of England at China." Very seldom was the response unsatisfactory. From Surat one, George Bowcher, who had subscribed in President Aungier's day sent him Rs.200, together with the following somewhat peevish letter: "Sir, I wish you better success than your predecessor, who built little, raised and destroyed abundance of money to no purpose; he had finished a stately organ which I saw in the Fort, what is become of it God knows. God Almighty bless your endeavours and also, Reverend Sir, your most humble servant." But Bowcher seems to have repented of his distrust, for later he expressed his pleasure that the "fabrick, which has been so long in agitation now in a short time may rejoice and sing anthems to her heavenly King. May you proceed prosperously, long enjoy your labour, and reap a plentiful harvest in the Lord's vineyard." Madras refused altogether to subscribe. The Chaplains, replying to Cobbe's appeal, criticised the size of the projected Church, and stated that Madras was engaged in raising funds to found a Charity School. "However, sir," they wrote, "we are so willing to encourage everything that has but the remotest tendency to advance the glory of God, or the honour of His religion; that whatever sum the gentlemen of Bombay will contribute to our Charity School, we will use our utmost endeavours to raise as much towards the building of your Church." Rebuffs such as these made very little difference. Money poured in so fast that it was considered safe for the Deputy Governor, the Worshipful Stephen Strutt, to lay the first stone of the new work on November 18, 1715."
"On Christmas Day, 1718, the Governor and Council attended by the free Merchants, Military, etc., Inhabitants of the place, proceeding from the Fort in great order to the Church, and approaching the great door at the West end, were met by the Chaplain in his proper habit, and introduced repeating the twenty-fourth Psalm, with the Gloria Patri. The Church was dressed with palm branches and plantain trees, the pillars adorned with wreaths of greens, and the double crosses over the arches looked like so many stars in the firmament. Service began as usual on Christmas Day, but with this additional satisfaction, the making a new Christian the same day in our new Church; a good omen, I hope of a future increase; the Governor, Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Crommelin stood gossips; who came down to the Fort in time of Divine Service, where the child was baptised according to order, by the name of Susannah; a whole crowd of black people standing round about Bammagee, and all his caste, who were so well pleased with the decency and regularity of our way of worship that they stood it out the whole service."
There is an ancient custom in the English Church of prefacing the sermon by a "bidding prayer." The practice has fallen into disuse, except for the University Churches and Cathedrals, but in 1718 it was universal. The "bidding" used by Richard Cobbe proclaimed, "Ye ought humbly to implore the blessing of God upon the whole race of mankind; that He would be pleased to have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, Hereticks and Schismaticks, that He would take from them all blindness and hardness of heart; that so His ways maybe known upon earth, His saving health unto all nations." "Sermon ended, Isaiah lvi. 7, the Governor, Council, and ladies repaired to the vestry, when having drunk success to the new Church in a glass of Sack, the whole town returned to the Governor's lodgings within the Tort, where was a splendid entertainment, wine and music and abundance of good cheer. After dinner the Governor began Church and King, according to custom; but upon this occasion an additional compliment of twenty-one guns from the Fort, which were answered by the European ships in the harbour, with several other healths drinking and firing until almost four o'clock, and lest so good an opportunity should slip, by the Governor's leave I brought in the subscription book, and got above two thousand four hundred rupees to our Church, of which the Governor, for example's sake, launched out one thousand rupees himself. . . . Thus was the ceremony of opening Bombay Church performed with all the public demonstrations of joy, with that decency and good order as was suitable to the solemnity."
We have already alluded to the low tone of society in Bombay at this time. It was inevitable that a man whose zeal for God's glory was as great as Richard Cobbe's should sooner or later come into conflict with those whom he regarded as evil-doers. In 1720, within two years of the opening of the Church, Cobbe found himself in serious opposition to one of the leading members of Council. Anderson's description of the whole dispute is so graphic (he professes to give us the ipsissima verba of the conversations and the scene in the Council Chamber) that one cannot but regret that limited space prevents us quoting it in full.
To those who are not strict Sabbatarians the origin of the trouble seems hardly to have justified the uncompromising attitude adopted by Mr. Cobbe, but to him the matter appealed in quite a different light. Braddyll, a member of Council, who disliked Cobbe, was in the habit of employing workmen on Sundays to repair his house. This the Chaplain, in common with most people in those days, regarded as an open breach of the Fourth Commandment. He remonstrated with the culprit, privately, but to no effect, and at last felt compelled to act publicly. One Sunday when the Sabbath-breaker was in Church, he addressed him by name from the Altar, demanding whether he repented of his "open and notorious sin," and threatening him with excommunication unless he amended. This seems to have afforded Braddyll the opening he desired. He complained to the Council, who took the matter up. Accusations against Cobbe came pouring in. He had preached a seditious sermon, in that he had seemed to refer to the justice of the Council's expulsion of a member; he had compelled people to remove their gloves before approaching the Altar, observing that "they would not keep them on at the Governor's table"; he had preached "personally at" different members of the congregation,
Cobbe was thereupon called on by the Governor-in-Council to ask Mr. Braddyll's pardon publicly in the Church on the following Sunday immediately after reading the Communion Service. This he absolutely refused to do, and, according to Anderson, protested most solemnly against such a degrading punishment. He even disputed the Governor's authority in such a matter, and maintained that he held no Commission from the King of England. He admitted, however, that he might have chosen a fitter place for his admonition than the Church, and expressed his willingness to apologise to Mr. Braddyll, though not in Church. He concluded his defence in the following manner: "You know, gentlemen, how unthankful an office this is, and how few there are that care to undertake it, but to make a public acknowledgment of what we are satisfied is our duty and to ask pardon for what we are expressly enjoined to reprove, would be to render this office contemptible, as it is extremely precarious, ineffectual, and useless."
The Council, however, were unwilling to accept this modified apology, partly because of his questioning the authority of the Governor, and so the builder of Bombay Cathedral was suspended and ordered to be sent home. When informed of his suspension he is reported to have said, "Very well, what your Honour pleases."
On his return to England he presented the Bodleian Library with the first copy of the Avesta which had been seen in England. He was shortly afterwards presented to the living of Wint, in Dorsetshire, which he held until his death. Many years later he wrote an account of the Church in Bombay, which he dedicated to the East India Company, in which he refers gratefully to their generous benefaction and satisfaction. It has been inferred from this, not unnaturally, that the Court of Directors had not seen eye to eye with the Bombay Council in their treatment of this worthy man, and that it was probably through their influence he had been presented to his living. It is worthy of record that the Church which Richard Cobbe built, and which was opened in 1718, was consecrated by Bishop Middleton in 1816, nearly one hundred years later.
When we are tempted to think lightly of the Chaplains who ministered in India in those dark ages because of the failure of some, let us recall to memory this doughty soldier of the Cross, who rather than compromise with what he regarded as evil was willing to be deprived of his means of livelihood and deported!