Chapter IV. Calcutta, 1690-1756
Period.--England: William and Mary, Anne, George I. and II. India: Decline of Mughal power; growth of Mahratta power.
Books of Reference.--Early Annals of the English, in Bengal, by C. B. Wilson, 3 vols.; Parochial Annals of Bengal, by the Rev. H. B. Hyde, M.A.; The Parish of Bengal.by the Rev. H. B. Hyde, M.A.; Early English Adventurers in the East, by Arnold Wright; Buateed's Echoes from Old Calcutta; Christianity in India, by the Rev. J. Hough; One Hundred and Forty-five Years at the Old Mission Church, Calcutta, by the Rev. B. T. Sandys, M.A.
THE story of how Calcutta came into being has been told by more than one well-known writer. To the late Professor C. R. Wilson we owe an especial debt of gratitude for his monumental work on The Early Annals of the English in Bengal.
A modern writer alluding to December 31, 1600 (the day on which Queen Elizabeth granted the first Charter to the East India Company), seems to think that from that time onward the age of romance had departed. One cannot help feeling, however, that as daring and the spirit of adventure make up largely our conception of romance, we may fairly extend the period a little so as to include the creation of what was for long years the Capital of British India, even though the pursuit of trade first brought its founders to the East.
Let us endeavour to picture briefly what led to the foundation of this, the greatest city in India. Madras had hardly been founded when trade in that Settlement came almost to a standstill. Report had it, however, that things were far better up the coast to the north and up the Ganges; and so after due consultation it was decided to send a party to spy out the land. A small boat, hardly big enough for ocean sailing, was the only one available at the time, and m it eight brave men sailed away north to search for trade m the new regions. Their voyage was full of peril, not only from the sea but also from their Dutch and Portuguese rivals. After some days they reached the coast of Orissa, where they landed in the estuary of a river. Almost immediately they were embroiled in a dispute with the Portuguese, and after an ugly fight, from which they extricated themselves with some difficulty, they proceeded inland to the town where the last of the indigenous kings, Malcandy or Mudund Deo of Orissa, lived. He, as the Viceroy of the Mughal, received them graciously, and when Cartwright the leader of the party had swallowed his natural repugnance and kissed the Viceregal toe, they got to business. Permission was granted them to start factories at Hariharpur, a place which has long since passed out of history, and at Balasore, which still survives.
At first things went poorly with the East India Company's factors in Orissa. There was much sickness and trade was dull. Indeed, at one time had it not been for the far-seeing and courageous Day, one of the founders of Madras, who visited the Factories in Orissa, they would have been withdrawn altogether. Then things took a happy turn, and instead of returning south it was decided that they should go further forward.
For many years the Portuguese had been settled at Bandel to the north of Hughli, and not long before this the Dutch had also penetrated to these regions with the intention of establishing themselves in a settlement on the river close to Hughli, so there was nothing very remarkable in the decision of the British Company to trade up the Ganges. Their next move was to ask permission to start a Factory at Hughli, very much in the same way as they had asked permission fifty years before to start one at Surat. This they succeeded in obtaining through the kindly influence of Gerald Broughton, formerly a Surgeon on the East India Company's ship The Hopewell. Gerald Broughton had gained great influence at the Mughal Court by his skilful treatment of some royal patient. In due course the Factory was started, and the Imperial Firman was obtained in 1651. Gerald Broughton is not the only doctor of the East India Company who by his skill in caring for sick royalty did good service to his Company and country.
In the Charnock Mausoleum in the Churchyard of St. John's, Calcutta, stands a stone with the following inscription: --
Under this Stone lyes interred
the Body of
"William Hamilton, Surgeon,
Who departed this life the 4th December, 1717.
His memory ought to be dear to his
Nation for the credit he gain'd the English
in curing Ferrukseer, the present
King of Indostan, of a
Malignant Distemper, by which he
made his own Name famous at the
Court of that Great Monarch;
and without doubt will perpetuate
his memory, as well in Great Britain
as all other Nations of Europe."
The Factory at Hughli was not a complete success. Trade was constantly interfered with by the imposition of fresh Mughal taxes, many of them quite arbitrary, and of the pin-prick type, and though the Company in the next two decades opened up Factories at Cassimbazaar, Patna, and Dacca, they were continually being reminded that they lived in any enemy country at the mercy of the Moslem Viceroy. The Factory itself was badly placed, so that it was impossible to defend it successfully against attack.
It was to this Factory in the year 1678, there came the Rev. J. Evans, first Chaplain of the Bay, with wife and family, and it fell to his lot to be present and take an active share in all the troubles that befell the Factory till its close a few years later.
Shortly after Evans arrival the factory at Hughli was visited by Streynsham Master, the President of Madras, who was accompanied by the Rev. Richard Elliott, one of the Madras Chaplains. Streynsham Master remained there for two months. His visit was almost Episcopal in character. He found things, from a religious point of view, in evil case and proceeded to lay down rules, largely on the lines which had obtained in Surat. They read as follows:--
"Hughli, December, 1679:--Orders made by us the Agent and Council for affairs of the Hon'ble English East India Company upon the Coast of Choromandell and in the Bay of Bengale (for advancing the Glory of God, upholding the honour of the English Nation and the preventing of Disorders) to be observed by all persons employed in the Factories in the Bay of Bengale."
"For as much as by persons of all professions the name of God ought to be hallowed, His services attended upon and His blessing upon our endeavours sought by daily prayers as the quality therefore of our plan and Imployment requires, and in discharge of our duty both to God and Man, first we doe Christianly admonish every one imployed in the Service of the Hon'ble English East India Company to abandon lying, swearing, cursing, drunkenness, unclean-ness, profanation of the Lord's Day and all other sinful practice and not to be out of the house or from their lodgings late at nights or absent from or neglect morning or evening Prayers or do any other thing to the dishonour of Almighty God, the corruption of good manners or against the peace of the Government; but if any will not hear us admonishing them, we doe by virtue of the powers derived to us from the Hon'ble the Governour and Company of Merchants of London trading in the East Indies and by authority of the King's Majesties Royal Charter to them granted, order and appoint that whoever shall be found guilty of the following offences shall undergo the penalties hereunto annexed:--
"1. Whoever shall remain out of the house all night (without licence from the Chief) or be found absent at the shutting of the gates after 9 at night (without a reasonable excuse) shall pay tenn rupees to the use of the Poore or sitt one whole day publickly in the stocks. . . .
"5. Whoever (Protestant) shall lodge in the house (wether actually in the Company's service or not) that shall be absent from the public prayers morning and evening on the week days (without lawful excuse) shall pay twelve pence for the Poore or be confined one whole week within the house for every such default and whatever Christian in the Hon'ble Company's service that shall be absent from the Public prayers morning and evening on the Lord's Day (without lawful excuse) shall pay twelve pence for the poore for every such default and in case of non-payment after demand the said sum shall be levied by distress and saile of the offenders good and in default of such distress the offender shall suffer imprisonment until payment of said summ so forfeited by law.
"6. If any by those penalties will not be reclaimed from their vices or any shall be found guilty of adultery, fornication, uncleanness or any such crimes or shall disturb the peace of the Factory by quarrelling or fighting and will not be reclaimed, then they shall be sent to Fort St. George there to receive condigne punishment.
"7. These orders shall be read publickly to the Factory twice in a year that is upon the Sunday next after Christmas day and upon the Sunday next after Mid-summer day in the forenoon after divine service that none may pretend ignorance thereof and all persons concerned therein are hereby stoutly charged and commanded to give due observance and not to act contrary to same upon pain of undergoing the penalties appointed and suffering further displeasure.
"In confirmation whereof we have hereunto sett our hands and the Hon'ble Company's Seal the twelfth day of December anno Domini 1679 and in the one and thirtieth year of the reigne of our Sovereigne Lord Charles the Second by the grace of God King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.
"One of the factors or writers shall be monthly appointed by the respective Chiefs to note and collect the forfeitures and to pay the same to the Chief who is every yeare to send it to the Chiefe at Hooghly and they are to remit the whole collections every yeare to the Agent, &c, at the Fort (i.e. Fort St. George), there to be paid to the overseers of the Poore."
Streynsham Master's visit to Hooghly must have meant a great deal to Evans. Streynsham Master had inherited, if he himself had not helped to create, the Surat traditions of religious observance in the Factories of Western India, and his strength of character and uprightness made him an immense influence for good. The fact, too, that he was accompanied by the Rev. R. Elliott, the first Chaplain of St. Mary's, Madras, must have brought to Evans a sense of sympathy in his work which was a rare privilege in those "*ys. If at the present time an English Chaplain is often? tne loneliest clerics on earth, what must it have been 08^ days with Evans, who was the sole Chaplain of the wk*cl1 term included the whole of Eastern India? of the recognized duty of the Chaplain of Hooghly to visit as out-stations Dacca, Cassimbazaar, Patna, and Balasore.
We still possess some of Evans' letters written when on tour. Between the year of his arrival and 1682 he and his wife endured the great sorrow of losing both their children. His wife's sister, who had accompanied them to India and had married one of the leading factors, had also died in child-birth. Hooghly seems, however, to have agreed with Mrs. Evans, as in one of his letters he writes "Mrs. Evans has grown exceeding fat."
Evans was clearly a man of exceptional ability, with a distinct gift for business. It was, as we have already seen, an understood thing in those days, that all the servants of the Company, including the Chaplain, might, without prejudice to their ordinary duties, undertake a little private trading on their own account. They were permitted, for example, to purchase things up-country and dispose of them elsewhere in India. They might even do a little trading with China and the far East. What, however, they were not allowed to do, was to take any part in trading with England or the Continent of Europe. This was exclusively the privilege of the Company. We shall see later on how by means of this local trading Evans acquired a very considerable fortune before he left India. To those who are inclined to condemn unreservedly such a custom which permitted a Minister of the Gospel to mix himself up with such mundane affairs, it is well to bear in mind the times in which he lived as well as the conditions of his service.
In those days the Chaplain received a salary of £50 a year. To this was added, if he satisfied those in authority, an additional gratuity of £50 a year. He had also a messing allowance and other small privileges. He was, however, granted no furlough, and could look forward to no pension. Life too was most uncertain (the majority of Chaplains survived only a few years), and if the Chaplain was a married man it was impossible for him to make any provision for his wife and family, unless he availed himself of the privilege of private trade. Certainly no one to-day who saves money and invests it in Government or other securities has any right to hold up the finger of scorn against the Chaplain who traded in those early days.
Where, however, Evans laid himself open to criticisms of an unfavourable kind, which he received in abundance, was in the way in which he mixed himself up with the Interlopers and actively assisted those gentlemen who openly ignored the Company's Charter, and in defiance of it traded on their own account. Penny, in his Church in Madras, makes out a very strong case against the Interlopers. The East India Company paid large sums to the British Government for their right to be sole traders in the East. This carried with it both prestige and protection. The Interlopers reaped the benefits of this protection without paying anything for it. Conspicuous amongst the Interlopers at that period was Thomas Pitt, the grandfather of the first Earl of Chatham, who had found a wife in Hooghly, and whom Evans apparently met constantly both there and when visiting his out-station at Balasore. To have in any way associated with such persons was, in the eyes of the East India Company, a heinous offence, and in the long run it brought Evans into serious trouble.
Up to the year 1686 life went on very much as usual at Hooghly. There had been, however, a growing feeling that though trade was not actually decreasing, it was being so hampered that it was never likely to be a real success. A writer on that period sums up the situation in the following manner: "In the absence of any proper status the Englishmen were treated with scant courtesy at almost all times, and not unfrequently with actual injustice. Protests made against oppressive exactions of local officials were either disregarded altogether or contemptuously dealt with. In fine, the Company were at the mercy of every capricious wind that blew in India at a time when the conditions of Government were constantly changing."
The Dutch too, who had successfully expelled the Company from any share in trade in the Spice Islands and throughout the East Indian Archipelago, were bent on doing the same up the Ganges, and it was known that a good deal of our trouble with the Indian rulers could be traced to Dutch intrigue. Under these circumstances the Directors of the Company reluctantly came to the conclusion that without a fortified settlement in Bengal trade would certainly be unsuccessful and might in time become impossible.
The actual crisis came towards the end of the year 1686. In the April of that year Job Charnock, who had then been *& India for thirty years, was transferred from the Patna Factory and appointed Agent at Hooghly. Charnock had long been a close observer of the way things were moving in India. He was convinced that the power of Aurungzebe was everywhere weakening, and that he was quite unable to hold in check the unruly elements in his outlying Provinces. He was also convinced that without a fortified settlement of their own the Company could accomplish nothing. He was a man of courage, and when the crisis came he was quite ready for vigorous action.
Early in the winter of 1686 there arrived at Hooghly from England a considerable fleet of the Company's ships. Three of the vessels were of considerable size, the largest carrying seventy guns and the smallest fifty. There were also three frigates and a number of small vessels. The crew of this fleet numbered six hundred British seamen. The fleet also carried four hundred soldiers of the Company fully trained in the art of war.
There can be no doubt that the arrival of this fleet caused considerable excitement in Hooghly and up the river, and was partly responsible for bringing things to a head. One afternoon three English soldiers were on their way to market, when they were beaten, bound, and carried off prisoners by a body of Mughal troops. The first attempt to rescue them proved a failure, and the Mughals, emboldened by this success, proceeded to bombard the ships and to set fire to the buildings round the Factory.
Things had now taken a very serious turn. The bulk of the English troops happened to be some miles away down the river and before they arrived the English sustained yet another reverse. With their arrival, however, things speedily took on a different complexion. The Mughal troops were put to flight, half of Hooghly was in flames, the other half was pillaged and the native Governor was abjectly suing for peace. The matter was duly reported to Shayasta Khan, Nawab of Dacca, who was then the supreme Mughal authority in this region.
Now while the Mughal Governor of Hooghly was filled with a wholesome fear of the Company's troops, it was very different with this Mughal Nawab. Enraged beyond words, he determined that the English must at all costs be expelled from Bengal. To conceal his plans, however, and to gain time he pretended to be desirous of concluding a permanent arrangement, and even asked Charnock to formulate his demands. Charnock seized the opportunity to elaborate a full list of claims: "He asked for site for a Fort, for permission to establish a mint, and to conduct trade free of customs." In addition to this he stipulated that the native Governor should rebuild at his own cost the Company's Factory, restore all the money he had appropriated, and assist to recover the Company's debts." At first Charnock was given to understand that all his demands would be complied with, but thia proved to be only a blind to give the Nawab sufficient time to gather his army. When the real reply came, it came in the form of a return of the treaty unsigned, with a declaration of war phrased in language of strong indignation at the insolence of the English in preferring such demands. Charnock was not dismayed. He at once took the initiative by burning down the Imperial Salt Houses on the banks of the river and capturing the forts at what is now called Garden Reach.
On December 20, 1686, Charnock withdrew with his Council and the whole of the effects and the establishment of the Factory "All ye Right Honourable Company's concerns and our own" to the low and swampy village of Sutanuti Hatt beside Calcutta. As it was impossible to defend themselves against the Mughals in this place, they moved still further down the river to the Island of Hidgelee, where for several months they held at bay a large Mughal army.
In the whole story of warfare there are few more romantic episodes of daring and gallantry than the Siege of Hidgelee. The "pleasant island" proved to be saturated with malaria, "a low-lying pestilential spot," and as the hot weather came on disease quickly appeared. "Hardly ever was the proportion of sick less than one-third."
It seemed as if nothing awaited the defenders save speedy annihilation, when the arrival of a solitary English vessel with a detachment of only seventy soldiers proved to be the turning-point of the campaign. With rare imagination Charnock ordered these seventy men to be disembarked and marched up to the small fort with band playing and flying colours. He then made them embark again and again disembark. This performance of embarking and disembarking went on all day until the Mughal General, whose Intelligence Department was hardly up to modern standards, Was quite convinced that he was face to face with a big Elih army. This he did not bargain for, so honourable terms were agreed to and Charnock on June 10, 1687, marched out of the Fort with all the honours of war.
From Hidgelee the English went to Ulabaria for three months, and after that once more established themselves at Sutanuti. Why Charnock selected Sutanuti is not entirely clear. Professor Wilson, however, points out, in his Early Annala of the English in Bengal, that Sutanuti possessed valuable strategic qualities. "It can only be approached on one side. To attack it the Mughal troops must cross the river higher up and march down upon it from the north. But if the river were crossed while the English ships still commanded it, the attacking force was opposed to sure and certain destruction."
The English were not on this occasion to remain in Sutanuti for more than a year. In September, 1688, Charnock, who had poweful enemies in England, was superseded by Commander Heath, an able seaman but a man utterly ignorant of India and totally unfit for the delicate work of diplomacy which was then required by our position at Sutanuti. For a time the idea was seriously entertained of abandoning Sutanuti and endeavouring to capture Chittagong in Eastern Bengal and establishing the Company's headquarters in that remote port. This, however, was fortunately abandoned. The new Agent, who was "everything by turns and nothing for long," started the idea of assisting the Mughals in a war against the King of Aracan. When this had fallen through, he gave orders for the watering of his ships and removed all the Company's servants and effects to Madras. Thus ended for the time the East India Company's venture in Bengal, where, through the rank stupidity of a headstrong man, everything seemed to have been lost.
But India is a land of surprises, and while Heath was prepared to abandon our English enterprises in Bengal, curiously enough the Mughal Emperor Aurungzebe was unwilling that they should. Never a lover of the English, he had been for long impressed by the strength which they had displayed at sea, and he felt that if he continued at strife with them he would not only lose a source of trade which was most lucrative, but would find the route from India to Mecca in the hands of infidels. He therefore, issued instructions to "the famously just and good Nawab Ibrahim Khan," the new Viceroy of Bengal, to invite the English to return. His instructions run as follows: "It has been the good fortune of the English to repent them of their irregular past proceedings, and they are not being in their former greatness he was not to create for them any further trouble, but let them trade in Bengal as formerly." Job Charnock was reinstated in his former position and returned with his party from Madras in July, 1690.
He began his third and final occupation of the village of Sutanuti on August 24, 1690. This is the true foundation day of the city of Calcutta. During the whole of this disastrous period from the time of the abandonment of the Factory at Hooghli until Commander Heath sailed away to Madras with the whole personnel and establishment of the East India Company, Evans and his wife had shared to the full the perils and hardships which befell Charnock and his companions. Evans did not, however, return with Charnock, the Chief of the Factory, to Bengal, but remained at Madras as second Chaplain of St. George's till April, 1691, after which it is not recorded that he performed any sacred rite for four months. It is possible that he spent this period at Sutanuti and Hooghli, where the independent merchants were forming a depot. While in Madras he seems to have employed his commercial talents to the full and to have helped some of his old friends who had left the Company in the steps they were taking to form a new and rival one. His immense local knowledge of Bengal was naturally of the greatest importance to any new Company, and the Court of Directors, being fully aware of this, were naturally greatly exasperated. In one letter they allude to him as "The Quondam Minister but late great merchant." In July, 1692, a letter was received by the President, dismissing him. It reads as follows:--
"Mr. Evans having betaken himself so entirely to merchandising, we are not willing to continue any further salary or allowance to him after the arrival of our two Ministers."
Evans' last recorded spiritual act was the performance of a marriage at St. Mary's, Madras, in November, 1692. He had now definitely decided to leave India, but before doing so he seems to have spent nearly a year in his old haunts up the Ganges. He reached England in 1694. Shortly after his return he was presented by the Bishop of Bangor to a Welsh living. In 1695 he was admitted by his University (Oxford) to the degrees of B.D. and D.D. He afterwards held other livings, but spent most of his time at his London residence in Great Russell Street, near Montague House. His name was amongst the first promoters of both S.P.G. and S.P.C.K. He subscribed generously to every good work, and was on the governing body of S.P.G.
In 1701 he was made Bishop of Bangor by King William. Referring to his elevation to the Episcopate, Governor Pitt of Madras writes in the following terms to Sir Edward Littleton, Governor of Calcutta: "I hear your old friend Dr. Evans is made Bishop of Bangor, and it is said by your means. I am glad you are so much in love with Bishops that you contribute to the making of them, so hope you will send home a superfine piece of muslin to make his sleeves." Dr. Evans, unlike many of his successors, was a Welsh-speaking Bishop.
In 1716 he was translated to Meath, the premier Bishopric of Ireland. He died of gout in Dublin in 1724, and left nearly all his considerable fortune to the Church. His portrait is at Lambeth Palace, dated 1707, the 57th year of his age. "In it he appears as a man of fine stature with marked and handsome features suggestive rather of gentleness than of the strong determined character which, itr is known, was his." The epitaph inscribed on his tomb gives a most picturesque description of his career, and can be read in Hyde's Parochial Annals of Bengal.
As we have already said, it is not for us to judge him by our higher standards of to-day. Mr. Hyde gives what may be regarded as a very balanced estimate of his career: "It would not be fair to judge the pastoral career of this eminent man by the increasingly lofty ideals to which the Catholic revival is now, in God's providence, accustoming the English Church. We possess, after all, but an one-sided view of his Indian life. It is fair to remember that he quitted England while but an inexperienced priest, and found himself at once in circumstances which he could not justly forecast in his quiet cure at Isleworth, and in which both poverty and approved custom seemed to justify a resort to secular pursuits as a means of maintenance. He was a man of strong conscientious convictions, as the latter thirty years of his life prove, in the direction of Orange Whiggery, and, to use the term in its modern sense, Protestantism: reformatae fidei vindex acerrimus. He would, therefore, have rejected as Popish all but the most superficial views of his sacerdotal stewardship. For the rest he seems to have been, though gentle in speech, of a stern, upright, character--suavis sermone, aspectu gravis, moribus severus--a man respecting whom the world might be challenged by the testimony of her who knew him best. 'He ever had greatly at heart to fulfil the Ministry which he had received in the Lord.'"
On his return to Calcutta Charnock found things in a deplorable state. The diary of the new settlement exhibits Charnock and his two Councillors, Ellis and Peachie, with a few factors and thirty soldiers living on sloops and country boats, as their former mud-built houses had nearly all fallen down. Months passed before they were able to better their condition. Things were made all the more difficult for them owing to the fact that the Mughal authorities were still suspicious and refused to allow them to build anything like a defensible Factory.
Charnock too was not what he once was. Long years of residence in India, combined with the strain of the years between 1686 and 1690, had robbed him of his energy and self-reliance. "The expectation of the formation of a rival Company daunted him. The law courts at Madras scared him exceedingly, so that he was afraid to think of meddling with anybody. Everybody did what was right in his own eyes." "He never even planned out the premises of a Factory. Every one built houses, enclosed lands, or dug tanks just as and when he chose. His feebleness was accompanied by a restless temper and savage moods." It was believed by some that he had turned heathen, because he sacrificed a cock on the grave of his Indian wife at each anniversary of her death. Quarrels and even duels amongst the factors and subordinates were of quite frequent occurrence, and the Agent did nothing to prevent, and some say even encouraged them. The settlement was given over to drunkenness and debauchery." Charnock had been too long in India, cut off from the wholesome influence of the homeland. May we not hope that the words of the epitaph in his Mausoleum in St. John's Church-yard, Calcutta--in which it is stated that he is buried as a Christian according to his expressed wish--represent what he really was in God's sight?
Shortly before the close of his life in the winter of 1693, Sir J. Goldsborough, the Company's Supervisor, Commissary-General and the Chief Governor in East India, visited Calcutta, and has left an account of its deplorable condition.
Reforms instituted by Goldsborough were unfortunately never carried out owing to his untimely death. One of his earliest acts had been to depose Ellis from the post of Agent, owing to his unsatisfactory conduct and to appoint Charles Eyre, Charnock's son-in-law, in his place.
During all this period the Chaplaincy of the Bay was vacant. The Rev. W. Rudsby, a Company's ship's Chaplain, had volunteered for the post, but he was not appointed. Not until 1698 was a Chaplain, the Rev. Thomas Clark, chosen on the recommendation of the Bishop of London, and he, sad to relate, died within two months of his landing in Calcutta. Shortly after his death a ship arrived bearing the Rev. R. Harwood, the newly appointed Chaplain of Hooghli. Alarmed at what he had heard of the Whiggery of the new Company at Hooghli, Harwood, who was a High Church Tory, threw up his appointment and made his way to Calcutta, where he remained for some months.
The new Company had its Chaplain at Hooghli, while the old retained its Chaplain in Calcutta. A few years later we shall see the Chaplains of Hooghli and Calcutta making a joint appeal for a Church in Calcutta, so perhaps we are justified in thinking that the happier and more kindly feeling which existed between the rivals in Bengal did not arise solely from the fact that they were not, as in Surat, living in the same city, but that the influence of the two Chaplains had some share in the matter.
On June 6, 1700, Sir Charles Eyre, who had recently been knighted while on leave in England, arrived in Calcutta, accompanied by the Rev. Benjamin Adams, a graduate of Magdalene College, Cambridge. The Court's letter to Bengal, written shortly before his departure, reads: "With our President Eyre, Mr. Benjamin Adams now takes his passage as our Chaplain, at the usual allowance of fifty pounds per annum Salary and fifty pounds Gratuity; he is recommended to us for a sober, virtuous, learned man, and we hope will fully answer his character." Adams seems to have been a friend of Eyre's, and the latter's resignation after seven months must have been a great blow to the young Chaplain. It is possible that he did not find the new Chief so sympathetic, as a letter written by him in 1702 dwells on the discouragements which he had received in high quarters:--
"The Missionary Clergy abroad live under great discouragement and disadvantage with regard to the easie and successful discharge of their important office. For, to say nothing of the ill treatment they meet with on all hands, resulting sometimes from the opposition of their Chiefs, who have no other notion of Chaplains but that they are the Company's servants sent abroad to act for, under, and by the them upon all occasions; and sometimes from the perverse-ness and refractoriness of others; 'tis observable that it is not in their power to act but by Legal Process upon any emergent occasion, when Instances of Notorious Wickedness present themselves; and because that can't conveniently be had at so great a distance, hence it comes to pass, that they must suffer silently, being incapacitated to right themselves upon any Injury or Indignity offer'd, or (which is much worse) to vindicate the Honour of our Holy Religion and Lawes from the encroachments of Libertinism and Prophaneness.
"This everybody knows, and that knowledge is constant ground for licentiousness and ill manners, to those especially whose dissoluteness prompts them to level both Persons and Things, when that may serve to the gratifying of their own extravagant and wild Humour and Interest.
"Were the Injuries and Indignities small and trivial, and such as in time by a competent care and prudence might either be avoided or redrest, a man would choose to bear them with patience, rather than give himself the trouble of representating them to superiors. But notorious crimes had need be notoriously represented, or the Infection would grow too strong and Epidemical."
It is to be observed that in this letter Adams describes himself and his fellow-Chaplains in India as "Missionary Clergy." Mr. Hyde in his Parochial Annals of Bengal, has explained to us his meaning. "The Company from the first appointment of its Chaplains had kept the evangelistic idea in view." Their Circular, addressed to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 1658, asking for assistance in finding suitable men for Chaplains, opens thus: "The East India Company has resolved to endeavour the advance and spreading of the Gospel in India."
Adams lost his wife in 1703. There is a tablet over her grave in St. John's Churchyard, Calcutta. In 1704 he threw himself vigorously into the project of building a Church in Calcutta. He seems to have had a wonderfully persuasive tongue, for numbers of the people responded to his appeal, including Commanders of ships then visiting the port. The Council made a grant of Rs.1000, and ordered "that a sufficient piece of ground to build it on be appointed in the Broad Street, and that a broad way be left on the side next to the river, full sixty feet broad clear from the Church." Adams was assisted in his church-building efforts by the Rev. William Owen Anderson, who had till recently been Chaplain of Hooghli. Before, however, the Church was even begun Adams had sent in his resignation and left India. He was clearly in ill health, for he died shortly before reaching England.
Anderson, who eventually succeeded him, was apparently doubtful whether the Directors of the United Company (formed under Godolphin's Award, 1708) would appoint him to the vacancy, and so to make things sure he sent home four of his sermons. The texts of his sermons, which we quote, certainly indicate the disorders of the Settlement, which the preacher boldly denounced.
(i) St. Matt. v. 44: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies." (ii) St. James ii. 16: "Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." (iii) Titus iii. 1: "Put them in mind to be subject to Principalities and Powers, to obey Magistrates." (iv) Prov. xv. 10: "He that hateth reproof shall die."
Early in 1708 Anderson reported to the Bishop of London that the Church was almost ready for consecration. The Bishop of Bangor, our old friend Dr. Evans, backed up his application, and. a Commission to consecrate was sent to Anderson in a sealed box. The 5th June, 1709, was a great day in Calcutta, for on it its first Church was consecrated. It was given the title of St. Ann (the mother of the blessed Virgin), as a compliment to the reigning Sovereign, Queen Anne. Amongst others who sent gifts was the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which sent a silver chalice. A steeple was added to the Church in 1712, when a bell was sent out from England.
Mr. Hyde, in his Parochial Annals, gives us several specimens of the last wills of the early Chaplains of Calcutta. They nearly all, run in the following manner:--
"In the Name of God, Amen. I........being of a sound mind and perfect memory, but of an infirm state of health, do declare this my last Will and Testament. First I recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God as a Faithful Creator: which I humbly beseech Him to accept of His Own boundless and infinite Mercy, looking upon it not as it is in itself, infinitely polluted with sin, but as it is redeemed and purged by the Precious Blood of His dearly beloved Son, my Saviour Jesus Christ, in confidence of Whose Merits and Mediation I cast myself upon the Mercy of God for the pardon of my sins and the hopes of eternal life.
"As for my body I bequeath it to the earth, from whence it was taken, to be decently buried, but with as little charge as possible.
"As for my worldly goods, after the payment of all my lawful debts and demands, I dispose them as follows."
Anderson died September 1710, in the forty-second year of his age. After Anderson's death the Chaplaincy was vacant two years. Then came three Chaplains in fairly rapid succession, all of whom died young.
Captain Hamilton, speaking of Calcutta Church, uses the following language: "Ministers of the Gospel being subject to mortality, very often young merchants are obliged to officiate, and have a salary of £50 a year, added to what the Company allowes them, for their pains in reading Prayers and sermons on Sundays."
The first of Anderson's successors was the Rev. Samuel Briercliffe, M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge. He arrived in Calcutta in August 1713, when he was only twenty-seven years of age. He was a man of considerable earnestness. "He landed in Bengal full of zeal to promote the projects of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. One of these was the establishment of Charity Schools at the Indian Settlement; trusting partly, no doubt, to the Company's paying the school-masters as required by the Charter. Briercliffe's efforts were unfortunately unsuccessful, as the idea did not at that time find favour in Calcutta. It did, however, later on, and to Briercliffe belongs the credit of having first put forward the idea of a Charity School in 1713, which was destined, when started, to continue up to the present day, first of all as the Charity School and then as the famous Free School. We may therefore say of him "that he being dead, yet speaketh." Briercliffe was a large-minded and generous man. He gave the Rev. Richard Cobbe considerable assistance with the building of his Church at Bombay and, though quite a poor man, sent himself a generous subscription of Rs. 100.
During his Chaplaincy the Court of Directors made an important decision which, in spite of changes of English life in India, continues to the present day. They ordered their Presidents and Council to send annually "an account, with a proper title and certificate in form, signed and the time when done by the Chaplain for the time being, of the Europeans' Marriages, Births, or Burials within his Parish or Precinct, and on two or more ships send duplicates thereof." They add the following: "This may be sometimes absolutely necessary for the benefit of the persons married and especially born there, and without it they may suffer very greatly, as we have had experience in two or three instances." Briercliffe died in August 1717, aged thirty-one. He had never married.
After his death two years and five months elapsed before his successor was appointed. During this period Henry Frankland, who was afterwards Governor of Fort William, acted as Churchwarden of St. Ann's, and conducted official business. The two Factory Surgeons read Divine Service, and the junior of the two received a reward of Sikka Rs.400, "being the usual gratuity allowed by the Company to their Chaplains over and above their stated salary and allowances."
About this period we have a quaint account of the religious state of Calcutta, given by Alexander Hamilton:--"In Calcutta all religions are freely tolerated, but the Presbyterian: and that they brow-beat. The Pagans carry their idols in procession through the town. The Roman Catholics have their Church to lodge their idols in, and the Mahomedan is not discountenanced; but there are no polemics except between our High Church men and our Low, or between the Governor's party and other private merchants on points of trade."
Of Briercliffe's two successors little need be said. The Rev. Joshua Thomlinson, who immediately succeeded him, did not arrive in Calcutta till January 23, 1720. He had been Company's Chaplain at St. Helena for twelve years. His career in India lasted a little over four months, and his widow barely survived him. Even in this short period Thomlinson had realised the need of a school for the poor Anglo-Indian children. We find that both he and his wife bequeathed something from their small estate towards this deserving object. There is an interesting sentence in Mrs. Thomlinson's will next to that in which this bequest is made: "I give my slave wench Nancy, which I left along with Mrs. Elizabeth Lacy in St. Helena, her freedom. I give forty rupees towards a Charity School in Calcutta."
There was again an interval of nearly two years before the arrival of the next Chaplain, the Rev. Joseph Paget of Jesus College, Cambridge, who in his second year, while on tour, died and was buried at Dacca. He was quite a young man, only twenty-six.
Calcutta seems indeed to have been a most unhealthy place at this period, for in one year out of twelve hundred Europeans there were four hundred burials. Hamilton's description of the medical arrangements is, as might be expected, somewhat original: "The Company has a pretty good Hospital at Calcutta, where many go in to undergo the grievance of physic, but few come out to give account of its operation "!
One can imagine the post of Chaplain of Calcutta had begun to bear a rather unenviable reputation, when there arrived a Chaplain in middle life, thirty-six years of age, the Rev. Gervase Bellamy, who, as Mr. Hyde describes, was destined to set the climate at defiance for thirty years, and then to perish, not by an Indian sickness, but by suffocation in the Black Hole tragedy.
The Calcutta which Mr. Bellamy found on his arrival has been described for us by Mr. Hyde. The principal European residences clustered round what is called to-day Dalhousie Square, in a place which was then called "The Park." The Fort William of those days, where the Governor and his Council resided, was between "The Park" and the River, and was far removed from its present site. The Church of St. Ann with its tall spire faced the Fort. From the south-west corner of the Fort was a road which led by a' Ghat to the Hospital and burial-ground. A creek came away from the river to the south of the Fort, passed the old burial-ground, and wandered inland in a rather devious course, dividing the village of Chowringhee from the English Settlement. The present famous Maidan was then a tiger-haunted jungle, very swampy and marshy towards Chowringhee. Beyond the English Settlement were four villages, mud and bamboo, one of them whose name lingers on in the famous Chowringhee. Leading away from the English Settlement towards Chowringhee was a road now called Bow Bazar, on the other side of which houses of wealthy independent merchants and rich Indians had already begun to appear. The English had begun to make themselves very comfortable. They had, so Hamilton tells us, a Company Garden (the forerunner of Company Gardens which in due course spread all over India in Mofussil stations) "that furnishes the Governor's table with herbage and fruits; and some fish-ponds to serve his kitchen with good carp, calkops, and mullet."
Its social life was already becoming markedly gay. According to Hamilton, "Most gentlemen and ladies in Bengallive both splendidly and pleasantly: the forenoons being dedicated to business and after dinner to rest, and in the evening recreate themselves in chaises or palanquins in the fields, or to gardens, or by water in their budgeroes, which is a convenient boat that goes swiftly with the force of oars. On the river sometimes there is the diversion of fishing or fowling, or both; and before night they make friendly visits to one another, when pride or contention do not spoil society, which too often they do among the ladies, as discord and faction do among men. . . . The garrison of Fort William generally consists of two or three hundred soldiers, more for to convey their fleet from Patna with the Company's saltpetre, and piece-goods, raw silk, and some opium belonging to other merchants, than for the defence of the Fort."
To Bellamy belongs the actual honour of having started the Charity School. Its first schoolmaster was a Goanese Friar named Aquiare, whom Bellamy received into the Church of England in 1730.
It seems that through the munificence of a Mr. Bourchier, afterwards Governor of Bombay, and others a very fine school-house was built in 1731 on the present site of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. This school-house turned out to be far too big for the number of pupils attending; and so it was decided to let a considerable portion of it to the recently appointed Calcutta Corporation. The Corporation found it convenient to use the rooms which they thus acquired, for offices and committees. Finally, the school was withdrawn to another and more suitable building, and the house became known as the 'Court House'.
The rent paid by the Corporation to the Charity School Committee enabled the school to be carried on successfully. Eventually the Court House was abandoned and dismantled, and on its site the present Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew was built.
Bellamy had several assistants during his long incumbency. One rather famous one, the Rev. Charles Webber, B.D., Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, displeased the Company so greatly by his visiting their Factories without licence that he was dismissed. Another, the Rev. John Mapletoft, of Clare College, Cambridge, was apparently a young man of considerable ability. He arrived in the autumn of 1750. To him Bellamy made over charge of the Charity School, and by his energy the school seems to have benefited greatly.
Copying the boys of the Blue Coat School in London, they wore blue cassocks, but unlike their brothers in London, without yellow stockings and buckled shoes.
Mapletoft was a good linguist. After mastering Portuguese, he applied for a transfer to Murshedabad for the purpose of studying Persian at the seat of the Mughal Viceroy. Ere he got permission he had married and abandoned the idea.
About this time irreligion and immorality were again very marked in Calcutta, and the Council received a series of strong despatches from the Court about it. The Governor was ordered to attend Church and to interest himself in the moral life of the community.
Trinity Sunday, 1756, was the last Sunday in which Divine Service was held in St. Ann's. Already the Mughal army was approaching Calcutta, and before many days the Settlement was in ruins. The story of this disaster can only be briefly told. For certain reasons Suraj-ud-Doula, the Nawab of Bengal, had conceived a bitter hatred against the British. Though only a youth, he had already gained an evil reputation for vice of all kinds as well as for cruelty His aunt, Ghasita Begum, a wealthy and ambitious woman on the death of her father, the old Nawab, anxious to preserve her fortune, sent away a large portion of it to Calcutta, to the care of the afterwards notorious Omichand, a Hindu merchant. Suraj-ud-Doula, already convinced that the Jtoghsh were opposed to his succession, on hearing where the treasure was, believed that the English were assisting his enemies. For this reason he determined to capture Calcutta. Several weeks' warning had been given of his intention, but the Governor, who, according to Clive, was more interested in his own property than anything else, made quite inadequate preparations to meet the Mughal attack, and summoned no extra troops to his assistance.
The first brush with the enemy took place on Wednesday, June 16,1756, when an English battery broke up an advanced party at Chitpore and caused a temporary check. On Thursday, however, the English being forced to return, burnt the neighbouring bazaars and retreated within the Fort. On Friday the enemy appeared in enormous numbers. Our outposts were speedily driven in, and everything outside the Fort, including the Church, was abandoned. All Englishwomen were ordered on board the ships lying off the Fort, and all Friday night was spent in meeting the now inevitable storming.
Daybreak on Saturday saw every available man hard at work at the defences of the Fort, native labour being then quite unprocurable. Holwell, in his genuine narrative of the "Deplorable deaths of the English Gentlemen and others who were suffocated in the Black Hole," states:--
"Early on the morning of the 19th, the President, Mr. Mackett, the Rev. Mr. Mapletoft and myself and others were employed in cutting open the bales of cotton and filling it in bags to carry it up on the parapets. . . . Shortly after this Mapletoft and some others went on board the Diligence to take farewell of their wives and children. When about to return to their posts they saw to their astonishment two boats hastily leaving the Fort, in which were the Governor Drake, the senior Commandant-Captain Minchin, and other officers and factors, who stated that the Fort was in the enemy's hands, and that all was over. By the Governor's order every ship, vessel and boat lying off the fort immediately cast off its moorings and dropped down stream."
It was certainly one of the most discreditable acts ever committed by a British Governor and Commander of troops. They had left behind them at least one hundred and fifty men, brave and true, who under the command of Holwell, continued the defence of the Fort for another thirty hours. The Governor, in his panic and cowardice, had ordered away every ship and so made it impossible for this brave little garrison to escape, even if they desired to do so.
By six o'clock on Sunday evening the Nawab was in possession of the Fort and on that hot June night one hundred and forty-six prisoners, some of them wounded, were forced by his orders into the Black Hole, a room eighteen feet square with only two small grated windows, and, despite their agonising appeals, were left there to suffocate. By day-break only twenty-three remained alive. It is a tale of horror unrelieved by anything save the magnificent courage displayed by those who had refused to flee. Of one of these heroes, Leach, the Company's smith and clerk of the parish, Holwell tells us, "This man had made his escape when the Moors entered the fort and returned just as it was dark to tell me he had provided a boat and would ensure my escape, if I would follow him through a passage very few were acquainted with, and by which he had then entered. I thanked him in the best terms I was able; but told him it was a step I could not prevail on myself to take, as I should thereby very ill repay the attachment the gentlemen and the garrison had shown to me; and that I was resolved to share their fate, be it what it would, but pressed him to secure his own escape without loss of time, to which he gallantly replied that then he was resolved to share mine and would not leave me."
Holwell himself was amongst the few survivors of that awful night. During the night, he tells us, "my poor friend Edward Eyre, the brother of the Dean of Wells, came staggering over the dead to me, and with his usual coolness and good nature, asked me how I did; but fell and expired before I had time to make him a reply." Later still he says: "I found a stupor coming on apace, and laid myself down by that gallant old man the Rev. Gervase Bellamy, who lay dead with his son, the Lieutenant, hand in hand, near the southernmost wall of the prison."