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THE ORIENTAL HERALD.
No. 19.-JULY 1825.-VOL. 6.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE BRITISH POWER IN INDIA.
In this epitome of British Indian history, it will not be possible to take any notice of what foreign nations have done in Hindoostan; our attention must be strictly confined to the operations of our own countrymen; and of these, to such only as to us may appear to have contributed to the consolidation or extension of our power in that country, or to the development of the views of the East India Company. History, indeed, appears to us no otherwise valuable, than as it unfolds the expedients which men have resorted to, from time to time, for the increase or preservation of their happiness; and the part which distinguished individuals have acted in the furtherance or obstruction of those endeavours. In almost all other histories, the circumstances which originally gave rise to the society or body of men whose struggles and mutations they describe, are known but imperfectly, for want of early records; but in the history of the East India Company the example is nearly complete, as we are well acquainted with the beginning, and can look forward with tolerable certainty to the end.
The beginnings of this commercial body were mean and unpromising. About the year 1527, one Robert Thorne, an English merchant, who had resided several years in Spain, and acquired considerable knowledge of the intercourse of the Portuguese with India, laid before Henry VIII. a project for opening a commerce with Hindoostan. As the south-east passage was conceived to belong to the Portuguese, because they discovered it, he suggested the possibility of ailing to India by the northThe reception his scheme met with is not known; but two voyages for the discovery of a north-west passage were undertaken during Henry the Eighth's reign; one about the period of Thorne's representation, and another ten years afterwards.
In 1582, the English first attempted a voyage to the East by the Cape of Good Hope. The expedition consisted of four ships, and was dèstined for China. But having been driven upon the coast of Brazil, where it met and fought with some Spanish men-of-war, it was compelled to return to England for want of provisions. The next expedition, which was also destined for China, and bore letters from Queen Elizabeth to the Emperor of that country, was fitted out in 1596. It was
Oriental Herald, Vol. 6.
wrecked upon the coast of Spanish America, where all those engaged in it perished, with the exception of four persons.
Previously tose expeditions, however, Sir Francis Drake had reached the Moluccas by the Straits of Magellan and the Great Pacific. He sailed from Plymouth with five vessels, and 164 select sailors, in 1577; and having lost four of his ships on the way, and purchased spices, and other valuable commodities, at Ternate, Java, and other islands, he returned to Plymouth on the 26th of September 1580, being the first Englishman who had circumnavigated the globe.
Cavendish's expedition followed very closely on Sir Francis Drake's. He left England with three ships, and 126 men, in 1586. With these he passed through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific, coasted along the eastern side of the continent of America, till he reached the shores of California, about lat. 24° north; and sailing from thence to the Ladrone and Philippine Islands, returned to this country in 1588.
By land, our countrymen had opened an indirect communication with India at a still earlier period. After the discovery of the port of Archangel, a Company had been formed to carry on the trade with Russia. This Company imported the commodities of India through Persia; for in 1558, Anthony Jenkinson, an agent of the Russian Company, sailed down the Wolga, crossed the Caspian, and entered the Persian port of Boghar, where he found merchants from various parts of Persia, from Russia, China, and India. He performed this voyage seven times, and opened a trade in raw and wrought silks, carpets, spices, precious stones, and other productions of Asia.
About the year 1590, certain members of the Turkey, or Levant Company, performed a journey into India. They passed by the route of Aleppo to Bagdad, carrying with them a quantity of cloth, tin, and other merchandise; from thence down the Tigris to Ormus, in the Persian Gulf, and so on to Goa, on the coast of Malabar. Their enterprising spirit now prompted them to bolder undertakings: they visited Agra, the capital of the Mogul Empire, and Lahore; and crossing Bengal, travelled to Pegu and Malacca; and returned to England in 1591.
In 1589, several merchants addressed a memorial to the Lords of Council, applying for the permission of Government to send out three ships, and as many pinnaces, to India. This was the first application made, and the reception it met with is not known. But in 1591, Captain Raymond fitted out the first expedition that ever left this country direct for India. Its object was rather plunder than commerce. The whole of this expedition did not, however, reach the place of its destination; for one of the three ships was sent back with the sick before they reached the Cape of Good Hope; another was lost in a storm; and Captain James Lancaster, having arrived in the East with the third, and sailed thence to the West Indies, lost that also, and returned to Europe in a French privateer.
Meanwhile, the Dutch, in 1595, sent out four ships to trade with India, by the Cape of Good Hope. This seems to have roused the jealousy and ambition of the English; for in 1599, an association was formed, and a fund subscribed, which amounted to 30,1331. 6s. 8d., and consisted of 101 shares, the subscriptions of individuals varying from 1007, to 30007. In the Committee of Fifteen, chosen to manage on this occasion, we dis
cover the origin of the Court of Directors. The Queen was petitioned for a charter of privileges, and for warrant to fit out three ships, and export bullion. Sir Foulke Greville, to whom the morial was referred, made a favourable report; and, in the same year, Jonn Mildenhall was sent overland to India, by the way of Constantinople, as the Queen's ambassador to the Great Mogul. This embassy was attended, however, with but little success, owing to the intrigues of the Portuguese and Venetian agents.
In the course of the year 1600, the charter of privileges was obtained : five ships were fitted out, whose cargo (consisting of iron, tin, lead, cloths, and smaller articles for presents) was estimated at 4545l., exclusive of bullion. Captain James Lancaster was chosen to command the fleet.
The charter granted to the East India Company in 1600, which was the foundation of the vast and irregular power it afterwards reached, was not remarkably different from the incorporative charters obtained in that age by other trading associations. It formed the adventurers into a body politic and corporate, by the name of The Governor and Company of Merchants of London, trading to the East Indies;' and their affaire were to be managed by a committee of twenty-four, and a chairman, both to be chosen annually.
The first fleet equipped by the East India Company, sailed from Torbay on the 2d of May 1601, under the command of Captain Lancaster. It arrived safe in the East; and the first port it entered was that of Acheen, in the island of Sumatra. The English were favourably received; entered into a treaty of commerce with the sovereign; obtained permission to build a factory; purchased pepper; sailed for the Moluccas; left agents at Bantam, in Java; and returned to England in 1603.
Between this period and the year 1613, eight other voyages were performed. But, meanwhile, in 1604, a license to trade to China, Japan, and other eastern countries, was granted to Sir Edward Michelbourne and others, which infringed on the charter of the Company, and alarmed its Directors. But in 1609, King James's Government constituted them a body corporate for ever, with the understanding, however, that upon its being proved, at any time, that their exclusive privileges were injurious to the nation, those privileges should cease after three years' notice.
All the early voyages undertaken by the Company were directed to the islands of the Indian Archipelago, and the imports consisted of raw silk, fine calicoes, indigo, cloves, and mace. But in the year 1611, they sent a fleet to the continent of India, and succeeded in establishing factories at Surat, Ahmedabad, Cambaya, and Goga. They were to pay a duty of 31 per cent., and to be subject to no other exaction. A firman of the Emperor, conferring these privileges, was received on the 11th of January 1612; and thus the English first got a footing on the continent of India.
Up to the year 1612, the members of the East India Company were at liberty to subscribe or not, as they pleased, for any particular adventure, which was managed by themselves, although subject to the Company's general regulations. As this mode of proceeding did not, however, confer sufficient power and distinction on the Governor and Directors, they used all their influence to discredit it; and, in the year above mentioned, succeeded in passing a resolution, that, in future, the trade should be B 2