The Pirates of Malabar

Chapter VIII: Expedition Against Colaba
Measures taken in England against pirates-- Woodes Rogers at the Bahamas-- Edward Teach-- Challoner Ogle-- Bartholomew Roberts killed-- Matthews sent to the East Indies-- Naval officers' duels-- Portuguese alliance-- Expedition against Colaba-- Assault-- Defeat-- A split in the alliance-- Plot against Boone-- His departure-- Matthews' schemes-- His insulting behaviour-- He quarrels with everybody-- Goes to Madagascar-- The King of Ranter Bay-- Matthews goes to Bengal

As long as their forces had been occupied with the French war and the Highland rising, the English ministry had been powerless to check the depredations of the pirates, which had become intolerable both in the East and West Indies. Now Europe was at peace, and measures could be concerted to put a stop to the evil. As usual, the Peace of Utrecht was followed by an increase of piracy, through the privateersmen being thrown out of employment.

On the 5th September, 1717, a royal proclamation was published, offering a free pardon to all pirates on the American coast surrendering within one year, for all piracies committed before the 5th January. As rewards for the capture of pirate ships, to every captain £100, to other officers £40, to petty officers £30, and to ordinary seamen £20 were to be paid on conviction of the offenders. To pirates, a reward of £200 was offered for the surrender of a pirate captain or commander before the 6th September, 1718. The effect of the proclamation, in conjunction with the measures taken in the Bahamas, was very great. By the 1st July, 1719, to which date the time of grace was extended, all but three or four of the most desperate rovers had retired from business. But against the most audacious of them more vigorous measures were necessary.

It was of little use to hunt down pirates at sea, so long as their haunts in the Bahamas and Madagascar were allowed to flourish; and as the West Indian rovers were the most mischievous to European trade, the Bahamas were first taken in hand.

During the war, the Bahamas had been twice taken and plundered by the French and Spanish; all semblance of authority had disappeared, and it was estimated that there were upwards of two thousand pirates in and about Providence. In 1718, Captain Woodes Rogers leased the islands for twenty-one years from the proprietors, and received a commission as Governor; he sailed for Providence, with a naval force and powers to offer an amnesty to all who submitted. Five or six well-known pirate captains made their peace with the Government, and a number of their crews, though some of them went back to their old trade before long. England, La Buze, and others slipped away and made for Madagascar. A council was then formed, consisting of six of the adventurers and six of the inhabitants who had never been pirates themselves. This was followed by the submission of others; some were hung, and order of a sort was re-established in the Bahamas.

The coasts of Virginia and North Carolina were at this time beset by a number of pirates, the most notorious of whom was Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard, a Bristol man, who had begun his piratical career in the spring of 1717-- the most sinister figure in the annals of piracy. Pirate captains were, as a rule, chosen by their crews, and if their conduct was unsatisfactory to the rovers, they were deposed and sometimes put to death or marooned; but Teach, as fearless as he was merciless, ruled his crew by terror. As an instance of his savage humour, it is related that on one occasion, in a drinking bout, he blew out the light and fired two pistols among his companions, wounding Israel Hands, his sailing master, severely. On being asked why he did it, he damned them, and said if he did not kill one of them now and then, they would forget who he was.

So impressed were his crew with his wickedness, that they believed they carried the devil on board, who appeared at intervals among them as one of the crew, but could not be identified as belonging to the ship's company. Once he fought the Scarborough, a man-of-war of thirty guns, and beat her off. He boldly went ashore when he pleased, forcing the Governor of North Carolina to marry him [=perform his marriage ceremony], and to supply him with medicines for his crew. With his face covered with black hair, and a beard of extravagant length, fantastically tied up in ribbons, he presented a wild and truculent figure that was the terror of the coast.

An extract of a journal he kept, found after his death, is given by Johnson--

    "Such a day, Rum all out:-- Our company somewhat sober: A damn'd confusion amongst us!-- Rogues a plotting;-- great talk of separation.-- So I look'd sharp for a Prize;-- such a day took one, with a great deal of Liquor on board, so kept the Company hot, damned hot, then all things went well again."

Eden, the Governor of North Carolina, was suspected of sharing in Teach's plunder, and his conduct was so suspicious that it could only be set down to dishonesty or to extreme pusillanimity; so in their distress, the North Carolina planters sought the assistance of the Governor of Virginia. There were at this time two men-of-war, the Pearl and the Lime, lying in the James river, but their size was too great to permit of their searching the creeks and inlets frequented by Teach; therefore two small sloops, without guns, were fitted out and placed under command of Maynard, first lieutenant of the Pearl. At the same time a proclamation was published in Virginia offering rewards for the apprehension of pirates, with a special reward of £100 for Teach. Though the whole had been planned with great secrecy. Teach received warnings from friends on shore, but paid no attention to them, and Maynard surprised him at anchor in a small inlet.

Teach cut his cable and tried to stand out to sea, but ran aground. Maynard anchored within half gunshot and set to work to lighten his sloops, while Teach roared out curses and threats, to which Maynard replied that he expected no quarter and would give none. Just as Maynard was ready to attack, Teach got afloat and bore down on the sloops, giving them a broadside that partially disabled one sloop, and killed or wounded twenty men in Maynard's. Nothing discouraged, Maynard kept his men under cover and ran the pirate aboard, and was at once attacked by Teach with fourteen men.

Teach and Maynard met hand to hand, and there was a desperate encounter, Teach fighting like a ferocious animal at bay. Maynard's sword broke, but he was saved by one of his men coming to his assistance, and Teach at last fell dead on the deck of the sloop with twenty-five wounds. The second sloop, meanwhile, had boarded and captured the pirate ship, and Maynard sailed back to the James river with Teach's head at his bowsprit. Fifteen of the pirates were taken alive, of whom thirteen were hung.

A year after Teach's death there appeared on the American coast Bartholomew Roberts, a Welshman from Haverfordwest, who for over two years was the scourge of the American and African traders. It was said of him that he was a sober man who drank tea constantly, which made him an object of suspicion to his crew. His temperance did not prevent him from being the most wantonly wicked pirate who sailed the seas. In a Newfoundland harbour, on one occasion, he burned and sank twenty-one vessels, destroyed the fisheries and stages, and wrought all the havoc he could, out of pure wantonness. On another occasion, he captured a slaver with eighty slaves on board, and burned it, slaves and all, because it would cost too much time and trouble to unshackle the unfortunate wretches.

At the same time, he was a man of order and method. He drew up a set of rules, to which his crew subscribed, in which among other things, it was laid down that no women should be allowed on board; dice and gambling were prohibited; lights were put out at 8 o'clock; and musicians were exempt [=prohibited] from playing on Sundays. The chaplain of Cape Coast Castle having been captured, he was pressed to join the pirates, being promised that nothing would be required of him except to make punch and say prayers. On his declining the office, all church property was restored to him "except three prayer books and a bottle-screw."

In pursuit of Roberts, the British Government despatched Captain Challoner Ogle, with the Swallow and Weymouth. Failing to find him in American waters. Ogle steered for the African shore, and, on the 5th February, 1722, when separated from the Weymouth, he came on the pirates at anchor off Cape Lopez. Putting the Swallow about, and handling his sails as if in confusion and alarm, Ogle stood out to sea, pursued by the Ranger. When well out of sight of land, the Ranger was allowed to draw up, and the pirate crew suddenly found themselves under the fire of a sixty-gun ship, for which their own thirty-two guns were no match, and after a short engagement the black flag was hauled down.

On the 10th, Ogle stood in again to engage the Royal Fortune, disposing his flags to make the pirates believe his ship had been captured by the Ranger. Roberts fought with desperation when he discovered the ruse. Dressed in rich crimson damask, a scarlet feather in his hat, a gold chain with large diamond cross round his neck, he made a resistance worthy of his reputation, determined to blow up his ship rather than yield. At the main he hoisted a black flag, on which were displayed a skeleton and a man with a flaming sword; the jack was black, showing a man standing on two skulls, and St. George's ensign was at the ensign staff. After a desperate encounter, Roberts was slain by a grape-shot, and the Royal Fortune carried by boarding, the pirates resisting to the last. Out of two hundred and seventy-six men captured in the two ships, fifty-two were executed, all of them Englishmen. Ogle was knighted for his able and gallant conduct.

The re-establishment of authority at the Bahamas had led to an increase in the numbers of the Madagascar pirates; so Commodore Thomas Matthews was despatched to the East Indies with a strong squadron, consisting of the Lyon, 50 guns; Salisbury, 40 guns; Exeter, 50 guns; and Shoreham, 20 guns. The Company's ship Grantham was also placed under his orders, to act as a store-ship. In Byng's successful action with the Spanish, off Cape Passaro (August 1718), Matthews had commanded the Kent with credit; but with the exception of courage, he apparently failed to possess a single quality for independent command. Irascible, domineering to his subordinates, and insolent to all others he was brought in contact with, he was entirely devoid of judgment or discretion. Twenty years later, when he became better known, Walpole wrote of his 'brutal manners,' and Horace Mann nicknamed him 'Il Furibondo.' There could not have been a worse selection for the work in hand.

The desire of the Directors was that the squadron should, before going to Bombay, proceed to St. Augustine's Bay and St. Mary's. Thence, that a ship should be detached to Bourbon, where it was supposed a new pirate settlement was being formed; after which, they wished the squadron to proceed to the mouth of the Red Sea, where pirates would in all probability be found waiting for the Indian ships in July and August. But Matthews had views of his own, and was not much concerned with the wishes of the Directors, who had designs of opening up trade with Madagascar, and as a preliminary step, desired to see the pirate settlements rooted out.

In February 1721, the squadron sailed from Spithead, with orders to rendezvous at St. Augustine's Bay. Soon after leaving the Channel, the Salisbury and Exeter were dismasted in a storm, and were obliged to put into Lisbon to repair damages. Matthews continued his voyage with the Lyon and the Shoreham to St. Augustine's Bay. He found no pirate ships there at the time, and good policy demanded that he should await the Salisbury and the Exeter. Instead of doing so, he continued his voyage to Bombay, where he arrived on the 27th September. Before leaving, he entrusted to the natives of St. Augustine's Bay a letter for Captain Cockburn, of the Salisbury, in which a number of particulars were given of the squadron. The proceeding was so ill-advised and so well calculated to defeat the object of the squadron's coming into Indian waters, that it was believed in the squadron that Matthews had done it purposely to put the pirates on their guard. Whether this was his intention or not, it serves to show the opinion held of him by those under his command.

Soon after Matthews' departure, Taylor and La Buze reached St. Augustine's Bay, read the letter, and sailed at once for Fort Dauphin, in the south-eastern end of Madagascar. The Salisbury and Exeter arrived soon afterwards, and getting no news either of Matthews or the pirates, sailed for Bombay. These proceedings were not of happy augury for the success of the expedition. The pirates had information of the squadron being in the Indian seas, and were doubtless kept henceforth informed, from time to time, of its movements through their various sources of intelligence. Taylor, satisfied with his gains, sailed for the West Indies and surrendered to the Spaniards, who gave him a commission.

Matthews' first act on dropping anchor was to force the native vessels in harbour, belonging to Bombay traders, to strike the English colours they were in the habit of displaying, and he next embarked in a squabble with the Governor as to who was to fire the first salute, a matter that was not settled without many messages to and fro. The officers of the squadron, taking their cue from Matthews, 'looked as much superior to us,' Downing tells us, 'as the greatness of their ambition could possibly lead them. There were daily duels fought by one or other of them, and challenges perpetually sent round the island by the gentlemen of the navy.'

The duels seem mostly to have taken place among the naval officers, who must have been a quarrelsome lot. On the voyage from England, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Sutherland, 'son of My Lord Sutherland,' had quarrelled, and Mitchell, considering himself aggrieved, demanded his discharge on arrival at Bombay, which was granted. He then sent a challenge to Sutherland, who wounded and disabled him. But all duels were not so harmless. A few days afterwards, Sutherland and Dalrymple, 'grandson of Sir David Dalrymple, His Majesty's Advocate for Scotland,' both midshipmen, quarrelled over dice, and fought a duel, without seconds, the following morning; when Dalrymple was run through the body and killed on the spot-- a fate that was apparently not altogether undeserved.

Sutherland was tried by court-martial, found guilty of murder, and sentenced to death; but as it was necessary for the death-warrant to be signed by the King, it was arranged to carry him a prisoner to England. Touching at Barbadoes, he made his escape, and remained there till a free pardon was granted him. Not long afterwards a duel, arising out of a quarrel about a lady's health, was fought between Stepney, the second lieutenant, and Berkeley, the third lieutenant of the Salisbury, in which both were badly wounded. Stepney died a fortnight after the duel, but, as the surgeon certified that he had not died of his wound, Berkeley was not brought to a court-martial.

Meanwhile, great preparations were being made for a fresh campaign against Angria, and while these bickerings went on among the subordinates, the Governor and Matthews were engaged in planning the attack. Long before Matthews' arrival, negotiations had been opened between the Portuguese Viceroy, Francisco José de Sampaio e Castro, and the Bombay Council, for a joint attack on Colaba. Through the management of Mr. Robert Cowan, who had been deputed, in March to Goa for the purpose, a treaty of mutual co-operation had been drawn up, by which the Bombay Council undertook to furnish two thousand men and five ships. The Portuguese authorities undertook to furnish an equal force.

The negotiation was not completed till the beginning of September, and Cowan, in recognition of the ability he had displayed, was given a seat in the Council. The combined forces were to assemble at Chaul, then a Portuguese possession, and march overland to attack Colaba. Forgetting the old adage about selling the skin of the bear while the animal was still alive, it was further agreed that Colaba, after capture, was to be the property of Portugal, while Gheriah was to be handed over to the English. The arrival of Matthews' squadron therefore brought a welcome addition to the Bombay armaments.

A camp was formed for the expeditionary force; drilling was the order of the day; Cowan was named general, and various commissions as colonels, majors, and captains were granted to officers of the navy who volunteered for land service. On the 30th October, a seven days' fast was ordered, to secure the Divine blessing on the undertaking, and the chaplain was directed to preach an appropriate sermon.

On the 29th November, the expedition left Bombay, and anchored off Chaul, where the Portuguese force had already assembled. The English force consisted of 655 Europeans and topasses, a troop of 40 horsemen, and 1514 sepoys. Matthews also contributed 200 seamen, of whom 50 were to serve the guns. The artillery consisted of two 24-pounders, two 18-pounders, four 9-pounders, six small field guns, two mortars, and eight coehorns. The Portuguese force consisted of 1000 Europeans, 160 horsemen, 350 volunteers, and 2400 sepoys, with six 24-pounders, six 18-pounders, ten field pieces, and eight mortars, commanded by the General of the North. The Viceroy was also present. Such a force, combined with the men-of-war, was sufficient, under proper direction, to have destroyed all Angria's strongholds along the coast.

Some delay was caused by the necessity of building a bridge over the Ragocim river, and then the army advanced, to be quickly brought to a standstill again till sufficient transport could be brought from Bombay. On the 12th December, after marching round the head of the Alibagh river, the army encamped close to Alibagh fort; while the men-of-war anchored in the roads. During the march, a few of Angria's horsemen had been seen from time to time. On one occasion, while the Viceroy, accompanied by Matthews, Cowan, and other commanders, was riding to view the country, a horseman approached them under cover of a cactus hedge, and threw his lance, wounding Matthews in the thigh. Matthews vainly pursued him, beside himself with rage at his wound and at his pistols missing fire.

On the 13th, an assault was made on the fort, though the heavy guns had not been landed. Outside the fort there were fifteen hundred horse and a thousand foot sent by Sahoojee to Angria's assistance. The Portuguese were to face them, while five hundred English soldiers and marines, led by naval officers, were to force the gateway and scale the rampart. Common sense demanded that Sahoojee's force outside the fort should be disposed of, and the heavy guns that had been brought with so much labour from Chaul should be mounted and used, before any attempt at an assault was projected; but there was a woeful absence of ordinary capacity among the commanders.

At four in the afternoon, the little force under Brathwaite, first lieutenant of the Lyon, who held the rank of colonel for the occasion, advanced to the assault. The gateway was blocked, and could not be forced; many of the scaling ladders were too short, and the affair resolved itself into a struggle, by a small number who had gained the rampart, to maintain themselves, while the rest remained exposed to the fire from the walls. In the midst of it, Sahoojee's force advanced on the Portuguese, who broke and fled in wild confusion, leaving the English force to their fate. The assaulting party, seeing their danger, drew off, leaving many of their wounded behind them, the whole force gave ground, and soon there was a wild rush for the camp, luckily not followed by the Mahratta horsemen.

Thirty-three had been killed and twenty-seven wounded; among the latter, Lieutenant Bellamy of the navy, who had behaved with great dash and bravery. Matthews' marines suffered heavily. Though wanting in discipline, they displayed much courage. All the field guns and a great deal of ammunition fell into the hands of the Mahrattas. The whole blame was laid on the Portuguese, to whom treachery was imputed. Matthews, always violent, flew at the General of the North and assaulted him,/1/ and treated the Viceroy not much better. A little more enterprise on the part of the Mahrattas would have destroyed the whole force. The following day some heavy guns were landed, and a four-gun battery was constructed. But the Portuguese had had enough of it, and were determined to withdraw.

From the beginning, there had been little cordiality between the ill-matched allies. In the English camp, Cowan was devoid of military experience or instinct, and commanded little confidence among men habituated to defeat in their attacks on Angrian strongholds; while Matthews, violent and overbearing, claimed a right to direct operations that he knew nothing about. The Portuguese, on their side, proud in the recollection of the great position they had once held on the Malabar coast-- and which, though now fast falling into decay, was still immeasurably superior to that of the English merchants-- were disgusted at the constant drunkenness, quarrelling, and want of discipline among the English, and incensed at the charge of treachery, for which there was no justification.

Feigning illness, the Viceroy betook himself to his ship. Angria saw his opportunity of breaking up the alliance, and opened negotiations with him. On the 17th, the Viceroy wrote to the English, proposing a suspension of arms. With a bad grace they were obliged to consent, seeing in the negotiation, which was against the compact that neither should treat separately, farther confirmation of their suspicion of treachery. Angria granted the Portuguese full reparation for injuries, and formed an offensive and defensive alliance with them. The English were left to shift for themselves. Full of wrath, they embarked at once, and sailed for Bombay on the 28th.

While the force was engaged at Colaba, the Malwans/2/ strove to make a diversion in Angria's favour by attacking English ships, under pretence that they were Portuguese vessels; they being at war with Goa at the time. The Sunda Rajah also attacked a private English ship, but was beaten off. In the Gulf, the Bombay sloop Prince took a Muscat ship of fourteen guns, but after some days was obliged to relinquish its prize to a Muscat squadron.

It is impossible not to sympathize with Boone's disappointment at the failure of this long-planned expedition, which he had looked forward to as the crowning achievement of his presidentship. The time had come for him to return to England. His successor, Mr. William Phipps, had arrived from Mocha, in August, and had taken the second seat in Council, while awaiting Boone's departure. Boone's last year in Bombay was embittered by a dangerous intrigue against him, headed by Parker and Braddyll, two of the Council. Investigation showed that they had plotted to seize his person, and had even uttered threats against his life. Being arrested and ordered to leave Bombay, they fled to Goa. After a time, Braddyll made his way in a small boat to Bombay, and sought protection on board the Lyon, which was readily extended to him by Matthews. As Braddyll's name appears among those present in Council in Bombay, in 1723, he must have succeeded in making his peace with the Company. Under the Company's rule, in those days, all but the worst offences were condoned, so long as they were not directly aimed at the Company's trade. A plot against the Governor's freedom might be pardoned, but for assistance given to the Ostenders there was no locus poenitentiae [=place for repentance].

On the 9th January, Boone embarked on board the London, after making over the governorship to Mr. Phipps, followed by the good wishes of the community. During his six years of office he had proved himself a faithful and zealous servant of the Company: 'a gentleman of as much honour and good sense as any that ever sat in that chair,' according to Hamilton. He had found Bombay with a languishing trade and open to attack. Under his fostering care, trade had improved, so that merchants from Bengal and Madras had found it profitable to settle there. A good wall had been built to guard the town against sudden raids, and a respectable naval force had been created to keep piracy in check. He deserves remembrance as the first Bombay Governor who tried to put down the coast pirates by active measures. Though his expeditions against them had been uniformly unsuccessful, he had taught Angria that the Company's trade could not be attacked with impunity, and his ill-success was entirely due to the worthlessness of his instruments.

At his departure, salutes were fired from every gun ashore and afloat, except from Matthews' squadron, which did not fire a gun. As he sailed down the coast, accompanied by the Victoria and Revenge, loaded with stores for Carwar and Anjengo, he was attacked by Angria's squadron, but beat them off. Off Anjediva he came on the Kempsant's grabs plundering a ship, which he rescued. One of the grabs was taken and another driven ashore; and so he was gratified with a small success over his inveterate enemies, as he bid farewell to the Indian coast.

As soon as Matthews had returned to Bombay, after the Alibagh fiasco, he applied himself to what, to him, was the principal reason for his coming to India, viz. private trade. For the Company's interests he did not care a button; in fact, anything that injured the Company found an advocate in him. As for the pirates, if they did not come in his way, he was not going to trouble himself much about them. To enrich himself by starting a private trade of his own was his one object, and with this end in view, he sailed for Surat. With him he took Mrs. Braddyll and Mrs. Wyche, with sundry chests of treasure, in spite of Phipps' remonstrances: the estates of both having been attached by the Council.

In Surat he tried to raise a large sum for a venture in the China trade; but the arbitrary conduct of the King's officers had raised so much distrust among the native merchants, that he was unsuccessful. Within three weeks he was back again in Bombay, and was at once involved in an angry correspondence with the Council. Not confining himself to an acrimonious exchange of letters, he affixed at the sea gate an insulting proclamation. Phipps ordered it to be removed, on which Matthews wrote that, if it were not at once replaced, he would publish it by beat of drum through Bombay, and should any resistance be offered, he would not leave a house standing in the place. In this dilemma the Council consented to replace it, but to save their dignity, added a notice that it was licensed by the Secretary. It is difficult to see how this improved the matter. However, Matthews sailed the next day for Madagascar, so no doubt the proclamation did not long remain after his departure.

His absence from Bombay, though doubtless felt as a relief by Phipps and the Council, was probably, before long, a cause of regret in the troubles that shortly beset them; but for the moment we will follow his movements. Not contented with his quarrels with the Council, Matthews was soon at daggers drawn with his own captains. First he proposed to them to employ their ships in trading, on condition that two-thirds of the profits were to be his. The captains refused to have anything to do with the proposal. He had already had a quarrel with Cockburn, his second in command, the first of many that were to follow. Before leaving Bombay, a quarrel arose between him and Sir Robert Johnson, of the Exeter. Johnson threw up his command, and took passage for England in one of the Company's ships, which was lost with all hands on the voyage. With Sir Robert Johnson, his son, a lieutenant in the navy, perished.

Brathwaite was appointed to the command of the Exeter. It had already come to be widely known that anybody who was in trouble with the Company would find countenance and protection from Matthews. He told the Portuguese officials that the Company's vessels were only traders, and therefore not entitled to a salute, gun for gun. This matter of salutes was a very important one in Matthews' eyes. Every trading ship, however small it might be, carried guns, and there was a great deal of saluting. In acknowledging such salutes Matthews always responded with three or four less guns than were given him. On one occasion there is a record of his replying with one gun only./3/ Wherever Matthews could find an opportunity for lowering the credit or hurting the interests of the Company, he seized it.

On reaching Carpenter's Bay in Mauritius, he found an impudent message from the pirates, 'writ on Captain Carpenter's tomb with a piece of charcoal,' to the effect that they had been expecting him and had gone to Port Dauphin. The squadron next proceeded to Bourbon, where they sold some casks of arrack and madeira to the French for a very good profit, and thence proceeded to Charnock Point, St. Mary's Island, Madagascar. Here they found the wrecks of several merchant ships that had been run ashore by the pirates. Scattered on the beach were lying their cargoes, china ware, rich drugs and spices, cloth, guns, and other articles, lying where the pirates had cast them. Men waded knee-deep in pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, such was the quantity. In shallow water were lying the remains of a fine Jeddah ship that had been taken, with thirteen lakhs of treasure on board, by a pirate named Conden, who commanded a ship called the Flying Dragon.

Matthews at once began to transfer the guns and such commodities as were least damaged to his own ships. A flag of truce had been first sent ashore to communicate with England and the other pirates, but it was found that they had fled inland. A week later a white man, accompanied by a well-armed guard of natives, made his appearance. He told them that he was a Jamaica man named John Plantain, that he had been a pirate, but was tired of the trade, and had settled down on the spot. This John Plantain was a man of some note in the piratical world. Every and England had sailed with him, and treated him with much consideration and some fear. He had made himself master of a considerable tract of country, so that the pirates had given him the name of the King of Ranter Bay./4/ He gave an invitation to Matthews to visit his castle, where he entertained some of the officers of the squadron.

Matthews' first idea was to seize him, but finding that John Plantain had a good number of armed natives with him, besides a Scotchman and a Dane, and that his castle had plenty of guns mounted, he decided to trade with him instead. The pirates made no secret of having taken part in the capture of the Goa Viceroy's ship, and of a rich native vessel with eighteen lakhs of rupees on board. So hats, shoes, stockings, wine, and arrack were made over to John Plantain, for which he paid a good price in gold and diamonds. In spite of his notions as to piracy, John Plantain showed himself an honester man than Matthews. Having paid liberally for the things he had bought, he left the hogsheads of wine and arrack on the beach under a small guard. As soon as his back was turned, Matthews manned his boats, brought off all the liquor he had been paid for, and some of the native guard as well. After which notable achievement he sailed away for Bengal, consoling himself with the thought that he was not like one of "those vile pirates, who, after committing many evil actions, had settled down among a parcel of heathens to indulge themselves in all sorts of vice."/5/

After a fortnight at Charnock's Point, the squadron made its way round the north of Madagascar to Manigaro (Manankara) Bay, whence they steered for Johanna. As the Directors afterwards remarked, Matthews ought to have divided his squadron, and searched both coasts of the great island; but his heart was not in the quest for pirates; he was bent only on trade. Sending the Salisbury and Exeter to cruise towards Socotra, he took the Lyon and Shoreham to Bengal, and in the beginning of August,he was at anchor in the Hoogly, near Diamond Harbour. There he remained till the end of October. There were no pirates in the Bay of Bengal, but the sugar trade was very lucrative, and he wanted to invest in it.

He was not long in Calcutta without coming to loggerheads with the Council concerning Mrs. Gyfford, who, as Mrs. Chown, has already been mentioned in these pages,/6/ and whose third husband had perished in the Anjengo massacre eighteen months before. In flying from Anjengo she had carried off the factory books, together with all the money she could lay her hands on. As the Company had large claims on Gyfford's estate, the Council was bent on making her disgorge. Matthews espoused her quarrel, as he did that of all who were in the Company's bad books, and, in defiance of the Council, carried her off to Bombay, and eventually to England. 


/1/ 'Thrust his cane in his mouth.'-- Downing.
/2/ Malwan was a small fortified harbour belonging to Kolapore, about sixty miles north of Goa. The Malwans were noted pirates.
/3/ When Watson came to India, he returned salutes gun for gun.
/4/ Perhaps Autongil Bay.
/5/ This account of Matthews' visit to Madagascar rests to a great extent on the narrative of Clement Downing, who held the rating of a midshipman on board the Salisbury at the time. It is confirmed by the logs of the Lyon and Salisbury. He makes no attempt to conceal his opinion of Matthews' misdoings. He also gives the history of John Plantain, who finally made his way to Gheriah, and took service with Angria.
/6/ See *Chapter III*.

== next chapter == Biddulph index page == Glossary == FWP's main page ==