An Englishwoman in India Two Hundred Years Ago
On the 9th March, 1709, the Loyall Bliss, East Indiaman, Captain Hudson, left her anchorage in the Downs and sailed for Bengal. As passengers she carried Captain Gerrard Cooke, his wife, a son, and two daughters, together with a few soldiers. For many years Cooke had served the Company at Fort William as Gunner, an office that included the discharge of many incongruous duties. After a stay in England, he was now returning to Bengal as engineer, with the rank of captain. The Loyall Bliss was a clumsy sailer, and made slow progress; so that August had come before she left the Cape behind her. Contrary winds and bad weather still detained her, and kept her westward of her course. By the middle of September, the south-west monsoon, on which they depended to carry them up the bay, had ceased to blow, so--
"our people being a great many Downe with the scurvy and our water being short, wee called a Consultation of Officers it being too late to pretend to get bengali the season being come that the N.E. Trade wind being sett in and our people almost every man tainted with distemper," it was determined to make for Carwar and "endever to gett refresments there."On the 7th October, they came to anchor in the little bay formed by the Carwar River.
The next day, hearing of a French man-of-war being on the coast, they procured a pilot and anchored again under the guns of the Portuguese fort on the island of Angediva, where lay the bones of some three hundred of the first royal troops ever sent to India. Twenty-six soldiers were sent on shore, 'most of them not being able to stand.' The chief of the Company's factory at Carwar at that time was Mr. John Harvey, who entertained Captain Hudson and all the gentlemen and ladies on board 'in a splendid manner.' One may picture to one's self the pleasure with which they escaped for a time from the ship and its scurvy-stricken crew.
To Mr. Harvey and the Company's officials they were welcome, as bringing the latest news from England. They were able to tell of Marlborough's victory at Oudenarde, and the capture of Lille and Minorca, while Harvey was able to tell them of Captain Kidd's visit to Carwar twelve years before, and to show them where the freebooter had careened his ship. But Mr. John Harvey found other matter of interest in his visitors. There were few Englishwomen in India in those days, and the unexpected advent of a fresh young English girl aroused his susceptibilities to such an extent that he forgot to report to Bombay the arrival of the Loyall Bliss, for which he in due time received a reprimand.
He quickly made known to Captain Cooke that he had taken a very great liking to his eldest daughter. Mistress Catherine Cooke, 'a most beautiful lady, not exceeding thirteen or fourteen years of age.' Cooke was a poor man, and had left two more daughters in England; so, as Mr. Harvey 'proffered to make great Settlements provided the Father and Mother would consent to her marriage,' Mistress Catherine Cooke, 'to oblige her parents,' consented also. There was little time for delay, as the captain of the Loyall Bliss was impatient to be off. The Company's ship Tankerville was on the coast, bound southward, and it was desirable they should sail in company for mutual protection. So, on the 22nd October, the Loyall Bliss made sail for Bengal, where she safely arrived in due time, leaving behind the young bride at Carwar.
To the lookers-on the marriage was repugnant, and can hardly have been a happy one for the young girl, as Harvey was 'a deformed man and in years.' He had been long on the coast, and by diligent trading had acquired a little money; but he had other things to think of besides his private trade, as we find recorded at the time that 'the Rajah of Carwar continues ill-natured.' By the end of 1710, he made up his mind to resign the Company's service, wind up his affairs, and go to England; so Mr. Robert Mence was appointed to succeed him at Carwar, and in April 1711, Harvey and his child-wife came to Bombay.
But to wind up trading transactions of many years' standing was necessarily a long business, and there was no necessity for hurry, as no ship could leave for England till after the monsoon. As always happened in those days, his own accounts were mixed up with those of the Company, and would require laborious disentanglement. Before leaving Carwar, he had leased to the Company his trading grab, the Salamander, and had taken the precaution to pay himself out of the Company's treasure chest at Carwar. Before long, there was an order to the Carwar chief to recharge Mr. Harvey 402 Pagodas, 17 Jett, and 4 Pice he had charged to the Company for the use of the Salamander, the account having been liquidated in Bombay; from which it would appear that he had been paid twice for his ship.
The accounts of those days must have been maddening affairs, owing to the multiplicity of coinages. Pounds sterling, Pagodas, Rupees, Fanams, Xeraphims, Laris, Juttals, Matte, Reis, Rials, Cruzadoes, Sequins, Pice, Budgerooks, and Dollars of different values were all brought into the official accounts. In 1718, the confusion was increased by a tin coinage called Deccanees./1/ The conversion of sums from one coinage to another, many of them of unstable value, must have been an everlasting trouble./2/ In August we find Harvey writing to the Council to say that he had at Tellicherry a chest of pillar dollars weighing 289 lbs. 3 ozs. 10 dwts., which he requests may be paid into the Company's cash there, and in return a chest of dollars may be given him at Bombay.
His young wife doubtless assisted him in his complicated accounts, and gained some knowledge of local trade. It must have been a wonderful delight to her to escape from the dulness of Carwar and mix in the larger society of Bombay, and she must have realized with sadness the mistake she had made in marrying a deformed man old enough to be her grandfather, at the solicitation of her parents. She made at this time two acquaintances that were destined to have considerable influence on her future life. On the 5th August, the Godolphin, twenty-one days from Mocha, approached Bombay, but being unable to make the harbour before nightfall, anchored outside; a proceeding that would appear, even to a landsman, absolutely suicidal in the middle of the monsoon, but was probably due to fear of pirates./3/
That night heavy weather came on, the ship's cable parted, and the Godolphin became a total wreck at the foot of Malabar Hill. Apparently all the Englishmen on board were saved, among them the second supercargo, a young man named Thomas Chown, who lost all his possessions. There was also in Bombay at the time a young factor, William Gyfford, who had come to India six years before as a writer, at the age of seventeen. We shall hear of both of them again.
In October came news of the death of Mr. Robert Mence at Carwar. 'Tho his time there was so small wee find he had misapplyed 1700 and odd pagodas to his own use,' the Bombay Council reported to the Directors in London. In his place was appointed Mr. Miles Fleetwood, who was then in Bombay awaiting a passage to the Persian Gulf where he had been appointed a factor. With him returned to Carwar, Harvey and his wife, to adjust some depending accounts with the country people there.
We get an account of Carwar thirty years before this, from Alexander Hamilton, which shows that there was plenty of sport near at hand for those who were inclined for it, and it is interesting to find that the Englishmen who now travel in search of big game had their predecessors in those days--
"This Country is so famous for hunting, that two Gentlemen of Distinction, viz: Mr. Lembourg of the House of Lembourg in Germany, and Mr. Goring, a Son of my Lord Goring's in England, went incognito in the [sic.] of the East India Company's Ships, for India. They left Letters directed for their Relations, in the Hands of a Friend of theirs, to be delivered two or three Months after their Departure, so that Letters of Credit followed them by the next Year's Shipping, with Orders from the East India Company to the Chiefs of the Factories, wherever they should happen to come, to treat them according to their Quality. They spent three Years at Carwar, viz: from Anno 1678 to 1681, then being tired with that Sort of Pleasure, they both took Passage on board a Company's Ship for England, but Mr. Goring died four days after the Ship's Departure from Carwar, and lies buried on the Island of St. Mary, about four Leagues from the Shore, off Batacola, and Mr. Lembourg returned safe to England."
Two months later, Mr. Thomas Chown, the late supercargo
of the Godolphin, was sent down to Carwar as a factor, and, a few
weeks after his arrival, he married the young widow. Application was now
made to the Council at Bombay for the effects of her late husband to be
made over to her, and orders were sent to Carwar for the late Mr. Harvey's
effects to be sold, and one-third of the estate to be paid to Mrs. Chown,
provided Harvey had died intestate. The Carwar factory chief replied that
the effects had realized 13,146 rupees 1 fanam and 12 budgerooks; that
Harvey had left a will dated the 8th April, 1708, and that therefore nothing
had been paid to Mrs. Chown. It was necessary for Chown and his wife to
go to Bombay and prosecute their claims in person. The short voyage was
destined to be an eventful one.
The ketch tried to escape back to Carwar, but was laid aboard by two grabs, and had to surrender when she had expended most of her ammunition. In the action, Chown had his arm torn off by a cannon-shot, and expired in his wife's arms. So again, in little more than three years from her first marriage, Mrs. Chown was left a widow when she could hardly have been eighteen. The captured vessels and the prisoners were carried off, the crews to Gheriah and the European prisoners to Colaba. To make matters worse for the poor widow, she was expecting the birth of an infant.
Great was the excitement in Bombay when the news of Mrs. Chown's capture arrived. The Governor was away at Surat, and all that could be done was to address Angria; so a letter was written to him 'in English and Gentues,' asking for the captives and all papers to be restored, and some medicine was sent for the wounded. Just at this time also news was received of the Indiaman New George having been taken by the French near Don Mascharenas./5/ Sir John Gayer, who was on board, finished his troubled career in the East by being killed in the action.
After keeping them a month in captivity Angria sent back his prisoners, except the captain's ransom. In acknowledgment of kindness shown to the released prisoners by the Seedee, that chief was presented with a pair of Musquetoons, a fowling-piece, and five yards of 'embost' cloth. But in the Governor's absence the Council could do nothing about payment of ransom. When he returned, negotiations went on through the European prisoners in Colaba. Angria being sincerely anxious for peace with the English while he was in arms against his own chief, terms were arranged, and Lieutenant Mackintosh was despatched to Colaba with Rs.30,000 as ransom for the Europeans, and the sealed convention.
On the 22nd February (1713) he returned, bringing with him Mrs. Chown and the other captives, the captured goods, and the Anne ketch, but the yacht was too badly damaged to put to sea. According to Downing, Mrs. Chown was in such a state that Mackintosh, 'was obliged to wrap his clothes about her to cover her nakedness.' But her courage had never forsaken her; 'she most courageously withstood all Angria's base usage, and endured his insults beyond expectation.' Shortly afterwards she was delivered of a son. Out of her first husband's estate one thousand rupees were granted her for present necessities, with an allowance of one hundred xeraphims a month.
Very shortly afterwards we find her being married for the third time, to young William Gyfford, with the Governor's approval. According to the statute law of Bombay, no marriage was binding, except it had the Governor's consent; Hamilton tells us how on one occasion a factor, Mr. Solomon Loyd, having married a young lady without the Governor's consent, Sir John Gayer dissolved the marriage, and married the lady again to his own son. In October, two years and a half after her first husband's death, seven thousand four hundred and ninety-two rupees, being one-third of his estate, were paid over to her. It is carefully recorded that neither of her deceased husbands had left wills, though the existence of Harvey's will had been very precisely recorded by the Council, fifteen months before.
Young Gyfford, who was then twenty-five, appears to have been a favourite with the Governor, and had lately been given charge of the Bombay Market. Eighteen months after his marriage, we find William Gyfford appointed supercargo of the Catherine, trading to Mocha. The office was a most desirable one for a young factor. It afforded him opportunities for private trade at first hand, instead of through agents, that in the mind of an adventurous young man quite outbalanced the perils of the sea.
In spite of small salaries, a goodly appearance was made by the Company's servants in public. At the public table, where they sat in order of seniority, all dishes, plates, and drinking-cups were of pure silver or fine china. English, Portuguese, and Indian cooks were employed, so that every taste might be suited. Before and after meals silver basins were taken round for each person to wash his hands. Arrack, Shiraz wine, and 'pale punch,' a compound of brandy, rose-water, lime-juice, and sugar, were drunk, and, at times, we hear of Canary wine. In 1717, Boone abolished the public table, and diet money was given in its place. Boone reported to the Directors that by the change, a saving of nearly Rs.16,000 a year was effected, and the Company's servants better satisfied.
On festival days the Governor would invite the whole factory to a picnic in some garden outside the city. On such an occasion a procession was formed, headed by the Governor and his lady in palanquins. Two large ensigns were carried before them, followed by a number of led horses in gorgeous trappings of velvet and silver. Following the Governor came the Captain of the Peons on horseback, with forty or fifty armed men on foot. Next followed the members of the Council, the merchants, factors, and writers, in order of seniority, in fine bullock coaches or riding on horses, all maintained at the Company's expense.
At the Dewallee festival every servant of the Company, from the Governor to the youngest writer, received a 'peshcush' from the brokers and bunyas, which to the younger men were of much importance, as they depended on these gifts to procure their annual supply of clothes.
Of the country, away from the coast, they were profoundly ignorant. The far-off King of 'Dilly' was little more than a name to them, and they were more concerned in the doings of petty potentates with strange names, such as the Zamorin, the Zammelook, the Kempsant, and the Sow Rajah, who have long disappeared. They talked of the people as Gentoos, Moors, Mallwans, Sanganians, Gennims, Warrels, Coulis, Patanners, etc., and the number of political, racial, religious, and linguistic divisions presented to their view must have been especially puzzling.
Owing to the numerous languages necessary to carry on trade on the Malabar coast, they were forced to depend almost entirely on untrustworthy Portuguese interpreters. Their difficulties in this respect are dwelt on by Hamilton--
"One great Misfortune that attends us European Travellers in India is, the Want of Knowledge of their Languages, and they being so numerous, that one intire Century would be too short a Time to learn them all: I could not find one in Ten thousand that could speak intelligible English, tho' along the Sea coast the Portuguese have left a Vestige of their Language, tho' much corrupted, yet it is the Language that most Europeans learn first, to qualify them for a general Converse with one another, as well as with the different Inhabitants of India."
Anjengo became the first port of call for outward-bound ships. The Anjengo fortification appeared so formidable to the Dutch, that they closed their factories at Cochin, Quilon, and Cannanore./7/ About 1700, Rani Ashure died, and the little principality fell into disorder. It was a tradition that only women should reign, and Ashure's successor was unable to make her authority felt. The Poolas, who governed the four districts into which the principality was divided, intrigued for power against each other, and before long the Rani became a puppet in the hands of Poola Venjamutta.
In 1704 a new Governor, Sir Nicholas Waite, was appointed to Bombay. For some reason he left Brabourne without instructions or money for investment./8/ Their small salaries and their private trading seem to have made the Company's servants very independent. We constantly find them throwing up the service and going away, without waiting for permission. Brabourne went off to Madras, after delivering over the fort to Mr. Simon Cowse, who had long resided there, apparently as a private merchant, and who proved, as times went, a good servant to the Company.
The Company's service in those days was full of intrigue and personal quarrels. The merchant second in rank at Anjengo, John Kyffin, intrigued against Cowse so successfully that Cowse was deposed, and Kyffin was made chief of the settlement. He appears to have been a thoroughly unscrupulous man. To enrich himself in his private pepper trade 'he stuck at nothing.' He took part in the local intrigues of Attinga from which his predecessors had held aloof, played into the hands of Poola Venjamutta, quarrelled with the other local officials, and behaved with great violence whenever there was the slightest hitch in his trade. Kyffin's want of loyalty to the Company was still more clearly shown by his friendly dealings with their rivals, a proceeding that was strictly forbidden.
In June 1717, Kyffin made known to the Council at Bombay his wish to retire, and William Gyfford was appointed to succeed him as soon as the monsoon would permit. So in due course of time, Gyfford and his wife went to Anjengo; but in spite of his resignation, Kyffin stuck to his office, and evidently viewed Gyfford with unfriendly eyes. In the following April, intelligence reached the Council at Bombay that Kyffin had had dealings with the Ostenders, and had been 'very assisting' to them; so a peremptory order went down from Bombay, dismissing him from the Company's service, if the report of his assisting the Ostenders was true. If the report was not true, no change was to be made. A commission to Gyfford to assume the chiefship was sent at the same time. Interlopers and Ostenders, he was told, were not to receive even provisions or water. So Kyffin departed, and Gyfford reigned at Anjengo in his stead.
But the follies of Kyffin had roused a feeling against the English that was not likely to be allayed by Gyfford, who exceeded Kyffin in dishonesty and imprudence. He threw himself into the pepper trade, using the Company's money for his own purposes, and joined hands with the Portuguese interpreter, Ignatio Malheiros, who appears to have been a consummate rogue. Before long, religious feeling was aroused by the interpreter obtaining possession of some pagoda land in a money-lending transaction. Gyfford also aroused resentment by trying to cheat the native traders over the price of pepper, by showing fictitious entries in the factory books, and by the use of false weights.
The only thing wanting for an explosion was the alienation of the Mahommedan section, which before long was produced by chance and by Gyfford's folly. It happened that some Mahommedan traders came to the fort to transact business with Cowse, who had resumed business as a private merchant; but he was not at leisure, so they went to the interpreter's house, to sit down and wait. While there, the interpreter's 'strumpet' threw some hooli powder on one of the merchants. Stung by the insult, the man drew his sword, wounded the woman, and would have killed her, if he and his companions had not been disarmed.
Gyfford, when they were brought before him, allowed himself to be influenced by the interpreter, and ordered them to be turned out of the fort, after their swords had been insultingly broken over their heads. The people of Attinga flew to arms, and threatened the fort. For some months there were constant skirmishes. The English had no difficulty in defeating all attacks, but none the less trade was brought to a standstill; so Mr. Walter Brown was sent down from Bombay to put matters straight. Poola Venjamutta, who had all the time kept himself in the background, was quite ready to help an accommodation, as open force had proved useless.
Things having quieted down, Gyfford, 'flushed with the hopes of having Peace and Pepper,' devoted himself to trade. He had at this time a brigantine called the Thomas, commanded by his wife's brother, Thomas Cooke, doing his private trade along the coast. The year 1720 passed quietly. Force having proved unavailing, the Attinga people dissembled their anger, and waited for an opportunity to revenge themselves. So well was the popular feeling against the English concealed, that Cowse, with his long experience and knowledge of the language, had no suspicions.
There had been an old custom, since the establishment of the factory, of giving presents yearly to the Rani, in the name of the Company; but for some years the practice had fallen into abeyance. Gyfford, wishing to ingratiate himself with the authorities, resolved on reviving the custom, and to do so in the most ceremonious way, by going himself with the presents for seven years. Accordingly, on the 11th April, 1721, accompanied by all the merchants and factors, and taking all his best men, about one hundred and twenty in number, and the same number of coolies, Gyfford started for Attinga, four miles up the river. Here they were received by an enormous crowd of people, who gave them a friendly reception.
The details of what followed are imperfectly recorded, and much is left to conjecture, but Gyfford's foolish over-confidence is sufficiently apparent. In spite of their brave display, his men carried no ammunition. Poola Venjamutta was not to be seen. They were told he was drunk, and they must wait till he was fit to receive them. He was apparently playing a double part, but the blame for what followed was afterwards laid on his rival, Poola Cadamon Pillay.
Cowse's suspicions were aroused, and he advised an immediate return to Anjengo, but Gyfford refused to take the advice. He is said to have struck Cowse, and to have threatened with imprisonment. The Rani also sent a message, advising a return to Anjengo. It was getting late, and to extricate himself from the crowd, Gyfford allowed the whole party to be inveigled into a small enclosure. To show his goodwill to the crowd, he ordered his men to fire a salvo, and then he found that the ammunition carried by the coolies had been secured, and they were defenceless. In this hopeless position, he managed to entrust a letter addressed to the storekeeper at Anjengo, to the hands of a friendly native. It reached Anjengo at one o'clock next day, and ran as follows:--
"Captain Sewell. We are treacherously dealt with here, therefore keep a very good look-out of any designs on you. Have a good look to your two Trankers,/9/ We hope to be with you to-night. Take care and don't frighten the women; we are in no great danger. Give the bearer a Chequeen."/10/But none of the English were to see Anjengo again. That night, or the next morning, a sudden attack was made, the crowd surged in on the soldiers, overwhelmed them, and cut them to pieces. The principal English were seized and reserved for a more cruel death.
In the confusion Cowse, who was a favourite among the natives, managed to disguise himself, got through the crowd, and sought to reach Anjengo by a little frequented path. By bad luck he was overtaken by a Mahommedan merchant who owed him money. Cowse offered to acquit him of the debt, but to no purpose. He was mercilessly killed, and thus the debt was settled. 'Stone dead hath no fellow,' as the chronicler of his death says. The rest of the English were tortured to death, Gyfford and the interpreter being reserved for the worst barbarities. Ignatio Malheiros was gradually dismembered, while Gyfford had his tongue torn out, was nailed to a log of wood, and sent floating down the river.
It is easy to picture to one's self the consternation in Anjengo, that 12th April, when soon after midday, Gyfford's hasty note was received; and the same evening, when a score of wounded men (topasses) straggled in to confirm the worst fears; 'all miserably wounded, some with 12 or 13 cutts and arrows in their bodyes to a lower number, but none without any.' Gyfford had taken away all the able men with him, leaving in the fort only 'the dregs,' old men, boys, and pensioners, less than forty in number. At their head were Robert Sewell, who describes himself as Storekeeper, Captain and Adjutant by order of Governor Boone; Lieutenant Peter Lapthorne, Ensign Thomas Davis, and Gunner Samuel Ince.
The first three of them were absolutely useless, and Gunner Ince, whose name deserves to be remembered, was the only one of the four who rose to the situation. His first care was for the three English women, whose husbands had just been killed. By good fortune there happened to be in the road a small country ship that had brought a consignment of cowries from the Maldives. Mrs. Gyfford, for the third time a widow, Mrs. Cowse with four children, and Mrs. Burton with two, were hastily put on board, and sailed at once for Madras.
No mention appears of Mrs. Gyfford having any children with her, but she carried off the factory records and papers, and what money she could lay her hands on. She was no longer the confiding girl who had given herself to Governor Harvey eleven years before. She had learned something of the world she lived in, and intended to take care of herself as well as she could. She even tried to carry off Peter Lapthorne with her, but Sewell intervened and prevented it. So giving him hasty directions to act as her agent, she passed through the dangerous Anjengo surf and got on board. A letter to her from Lapthorne, written a few weeks later, relates that the only property he could find belonging to her were 'two wiggs and a bolster and some ophium' in the warehouse.
Having got rid of the white women, Sewell and his companions set to work to hold the fort against the attack that was inevitable. From the old records we get an idea of what the fort was like. As designed by Brabourne, it covered a square of about sixty yards each way, but this did not include the two Trankers, palisaded out-works, alluded to in Gyfford's note. Ten years before, the attention of the Council at Bombay had been drawn to the bad condition of the
"Fort house, being no more then timber covered with palm leaves (cajanns) so very dangerous taking fire," and the chief of the factory was ordered to build "a small compact house of brick with a Hall, and conveniencys for half a dozen Company's servants. And being advised that for want of a necessary house in the Fort, they keep the Fort gate open all night for the guard going out and in, which irregularity may prove of so pernicious consequence as the loss of that garrison, especially in a country where they are surrounded with such treacherous people as the Natives and the Dutch," it was ordered that a "necessary house over the Fort walls" should be built, and the gates kept locked after 8 o'clock at night.How far these orders had been carried out does not appear; but the Company's goods were still kept in a warehouse outside the walls; some of the Company's servants also had houses outside, and the palm-leaf roofs were still there.
For garrison they only had about thirty-five boys and pensioners, 'whereof not twenty fit to hold a firelock,' and for want of a sufficient garrison, it was necessary to withdraw from the Trankers, which were thought to be so important for the safety of the place. Desperate as was the outlook. Gunner Ince exerted himself like a man, animating everybody by his example. By his exertions, seven hundred bags of rice, with salt fish for a month, and the Company's treasure were got in from the warehouse, and an urgent appeal was sent to Calicut.
The surgeon had been killed with Gyfford; they had no smith or carpenter or tools, except a few hatchets, and the Attinga people swarming into Anjengo burned and plundered the settlement, forcing a crowd of women and children to take refuge in the small fort. Though no concerted attack was made at first, the assailants tried with fire arrows to set fire to the palm-leaf roofs, which had to be dismantled; and all through the siege, which lasted six months, the sufferings of the garrison were increased by the burning rays of a tropical sun or the torrential rains of the monsoon.
On the 25th April, they were cheered by the arrival of two small English ships from Cochin, where the intelligence of the disaster had reached; and received a small reinforcement of seven men with a consignment of provisions. A message of condolence also had come from the Rajah of Quilon, who offered to receive the women and children, so one hundred and fifty native women and children, widows and orphans of the slain, were sent off. On the 1st May, an ensign and fifty-one men, collected by Mr. Adams from Calicut and Tellicherry, joined the garrison, and gave some relief from the constant sentry duty that was necessary.
The enemy, meanwhile, had contented themselves with harassing the garrison by firing long shots at them; but it was rumoured that the Rajah of Travancore was sending troops, and then they would have to sustain a serious attack. Gunner Ince, on whom the whole weight of the defence rested, let it be known that in the last extremity he would blow up the magazine. It is cheering to find that there was at least one man who was prepared to do his duty. Sewell and Lapthorne got drunk, and joined with the warehouseman, a Portuguese named Rodriguez, in plundering the Company's warehouse and sending goods away to Quilon; the soldiers followed the example, and plundered the rooms inside the fort, while the late interpreter's family were allowed to send away to Quilon effects to the value of one hundred thousand fanams, though it was known that the Company had a claim on him for over two-thirds of the amount, on account of money advanced to him. Davis was dying of a lingering illness, to which he succumbed in the beginning of July.
On the 24th June, a vigorous attack was made on the fort from three sides at once. On one side the enemy had thrown up an entrenchment, and on the river side they had effected a lodgment in Cowse's house, a substantial building close to the wall of the fort. This would have soon made the fort untenable, so a small party was sent to dislodge the occupants. At first they were repulsed, but a second attempt was successful. Marching up to the windows, 'where they were as thick as bees,' they threw hand grenades into the house, which was hurriedly evacuated; numbers of the enemy leaping into the river, where some of them were drowned. Ince then bombarded them out of the entrenchment, and the attack came to an end.
Several of the garrison were wounded, but none killed; but what chiefly mortified them was that the arms of the men slain with Gyfford were used against them. After this the land blockade lingered on, but no very serious attack seems to have been made. A second reinforcement of thirty men was sent down by Adams from Calicut, and the Rani and Poola Venjamutta sent 'refreshments,' and promised that the attacks of their rebellious subjects should cease. The Rani also wrote to the Madras Council, and sent a deputation of one hundred Brahmins to Tellicherry, to express her horror of the barbarities committed by her people, and her willingness to join the Company's forces in punishing the guilty.
Intelligence of the disaster at Anjengo did not reach Bombay till the beginning of July. The monsoon was in full force, and no assistance could be sent till it was over. Men and supplies were gathered in from Carwar and Surat, and on the 17th October Mr. Midford, with three hundred men, reached Anjengo. His report on the state of affairs he found there makes it a matter of surprise that the place had not fallen. The safety of the fort had been entirely due to Gunner Ince. Sewell's behaviour was that of a fool or a madman. Together with Lapthorne, he had set the example of plundering the Company, and their men had done as much damage as the enemy. Sewell, as storekeeper, had no books, and said he never had kept any. Lapthorne had retained two months' pay, due to the men killed with Gyfford, and asserted his right to it.
Much of the Company's treasure was unaccounted for, and Mrs. Gyfford had carried off the books. Midford sent Sewell and Lapthorne under arrest to Bombay, where they were let off with a scolding, and proceeded to restore order. The Rani and Venjamutta were friendly, but told him he must take his own vengeance on the Nairs for their inhuman action. So he commenced a series of raids into the surrounding country, which reduced it to some sort of subjection. Soon there came an order for most of his men to be sent back to Bombay, where warlike measures against Angria were on foot. A cessation of arms was patched up, and Midford installed himself as chief.
He proved to be no honester than his predecessors. He monopolized the pepper trade on his own private account, making himself advances out of the Company's treasury. In less than a year he was dead, but before his death Alexander Orme,/11/ then a private merchant on the coast, was sent to Anjengo as chief of the factory, at the special request of the Rani. Before long, Orme had to report to the Council that there were due to the Company from Gyfford's estate 559,421 fanams, and that 140,260 gold fanams had disappeared during Midford's chiefship which could not be accounted for. Midford had also drawn pay for twenty European soldiers who did not exist. The Council ascribed Midford's misdeeds to his 'unaccountable stupidity,' and the Directors answered that 'the charges against Mr. Midford are very grievous ones.'
In September 1722, the Council received from Orme a copy of the treaty he had made with the Rani. The following were the chief provisions. The ringleaders in the attack on Gyfford were to be punished and their estates confiscated; all Christians living between Edawa and Brinjone were to be brought under the Company's protection; the Rani was to reimburse the Company for all expenses caused by the attack on Anjengo; the Company was to have exclusive right to the pepper trade, and were empowered to build factories in the Rani's dominions wherever they pleased; the Rani was to return all arms taken in the late out-break, and to furnish timber to rebuild the church that had been burned. The treaty was guaranteed by the Rani's brother, the Rajah of Chinganatta. By the Directors it was received with mixed feelings.
"Last years Letters took some notice about the Affair at Anjengo, We had not then the Account of the Treaty Mr. Orme made with the Queen of Attinga and King of Chinganetty, We are sorry to find it included in the Treaty, That We must supply Souldiers to carry on the War against her rebellious Subjects for which she is to pay the Charge, and in the Interim to pawn Lands for answering principal and Interest, because it will certainly involve us in a trouble if We succeed, and more if We dont, add to this, the variable temper and poverty of those people may incline them to refuse to refund, and in time they may redemand and force back their Lands, If the Articles are fully comply'd with they seem to be for the Companys benefit, But We fear we shall have the least Share of it, To what purpose is her Grant to Us of all the Pepper in her Countrey, If Our unfaithful people there get all for themselves and none for Us, as you Charge Mr. Midford with doing, We dont want an Extent of Lands, if We could but (obtain) pepper cheap and sufficient, And what benefit will it be to Us, to have the liberty of building Factorys, which in Event is only a Liberty to lavish away Our Money, and turning Quick Stock into dead, unless you could be morally certain it would be worth while to get a small residence in the King of Chengenattys Countrey, where it is said the Dutch make great Investments of Peice Goods cheaper and better, than they used to do at Negapatam, and therefore have deserted it, We consider further, if such Goods as are proper for Our Europe Market were procurable, how comes it We have had none hitherto, It is true We have had Cloth from Anjengo good of the Sorts, but Invoiced so dear that We forbad sending more unless to be purchased at the prices We limited, since then We have heard no more about it, But we are told it is Traded in to Bombay to some profit, What profit will the putting the Christians between Edova and Brinjohn under Our Jurisdiction yeild to Us, and what Security can you have that the King of Chenganattys Guarranteeship will answer and give full satisfaction, These are what appear to Us worthy your serious and deliberate consideration to be well thought of before you come to a determination What Orders to give, We find by your Consultations in January 1722/23 You had sent down Treasure to Anjengo, to enable the Chief to levy Souldiers to revenge the Murder of the English, since you could not spare Forces which as there exprest is absolutely necessary, for else the Natives will have but contemptible thoughts of the English, who will then loose their Esteem, had We ever found a benefit by their Esteem, something might be said for it, But in the present Case We fear We shall buy Our Esteem at too dear a Rate, We should be extreamly glad to be mistaken and to find in effect what your 120th Paragraph says in words, that you hope to make it a Valuable Settlement."/12/
From Madras to Calcutta she was pursued by the demands of the Bombay Council. The books had been restored at Madras, and the Bengal Government extracted Rs.7312 from her; but in reply to further demands, she would only answer that she was 'an unfortunate widow, struggling with adversity, whose husband had met his death serving our Honourable Masters,' and that it was shameful to demand money from her, when she herself was owed large sums by the Company. She could only refer them to her agents at Madras and Anjengo. Still, she was in a considerable dilemma, as she could not get out of the country without a full settlement of accounts, and, if resistance was carried too far, her father might be made to suffer.
At this juncture an unexpected way of escape presented itself. Twelve months before this, Commodore Matthews had arrived in Bombay with a squadron of the Royal Navy for the suppression of piracy. But Matthews was more bent on enriching himself by trade than on harrying pirates; and, as his own trading was inimical to the Company's interests and certain to set the Company's servants against him, he had from the first assumed a position of hostility to the Company. Every opportunity was seized of damaging the Company's interests and lowering the Company's authority. All who were in the Company's bad books found a patron and protector in Matthews; so, when in September, 1722, the flagship appeared in the Hooghly, Mrs. Gyfford was quick to grasp the opportunity that presented itself, of bidding defiance to her pursuers.
She at once opened communication with Matthews, and besought his protection. She was an unfortunate widow who had lost two husbands by violent deaths in the Company's service, and now that she was unprotected, the Company was trying to wring from her the little money she had brought away from Anjengo, while she herself had large claims against the Company. This was quite enough for Matthews. Here was a young and pretty woman with a good sum of money, shamefully persecuted by the Company, to which he felt nothing but hostility. At one stroke he could gratify his dislike of the Company and succour a badly treated young woman, whose hard fate should arouse sympathy in every generous mind; so the Bengal Council were told that Mrs. Gyfford was now under the protection of the Crown, and was not to be molested.
In the hope of securing some portion of the money due to the Company, the Council attached the brigantine Thomas, commanded by Mrs. Gyfford's brother. A letter was at once forthcoming from Matthews to say that he had purchased Mrs. Gyfford's interest in the vessel. Finding themselves thus forestalled, the Council begged Matthews not to take her away from Calcutta till she had furnished security for the Company's claim of Rs.50,000; Matthews replied that he should take her to Bombay, where she would answer anything that might be alleged against her.
As soon as he had completed his trading in Bengal, Mrs. Gyfford, with her effects, embarked on board the Lyon, and so returned to Bombay. There, in January 1723, we find her living under Matthews' roof, much to the wrath of the Council and the scandal of her former acquaintances. By this time, the Council had received from Anjengo more precise details as to what was due to the Company from Gyfford's estate. All the cowries, pepper, and cloth that were said to belong to Gyfford had been bought with the Company's money, and the Company's claim against his estate was nearly £9000. A stringent order was sent to Mrs. Gyfford, forbidding her to leave Bombay till the claim was settled. Matthews at once put her on board the Lyon again, and there she remained; not venturing to set foot on shore, lest the Council should lay hands on her.
By the end of the year, Matthews was ready to return to England. Intent to the last on trade, he touched at Carwar, Tellicherry, and St. David's; and in Mrs. Gyfford's interests, a visit was also paid [to] Anjengo, to try and recover some of the property she claimed to have left there. She was not going to be put off with Lapthorne's 'two wiggs and a bolster.' In July (1724) the Lyon reached Portsmouth, and was put out of commission.
At first the Directors appear to have paid little attention to Mrs. Gyfford, perhaps not thinking her worth powder and shot. Their principal anger was directed against Matthews, against whom they obtained a decree in the Court of Chancery for unlawful trading. But Mrs. Gyfford would not keep silence. Perhaps she really believed in the justice of her claims. She bombarded the Directors with petitions, till at last, two years after her arrival in England, they tardily awoke to the fact that they themselves had substantial claims against her. They offered to submit the claims to arbitration, to which Mrs. Gyfford consented; but as she still refrained from coming to close quarters, they filed a suit against her in the Court of Chancery, nearly four years after her arrival in England.
Mrs. Gyfford promptly replied with a counter-suit, in which among other things, she claimed £10,000 for presents taken by Gyfford to the Rani of Attinga on that fatal 11th April, seven years before. Four years later, she was still deep in litigation, having quarrelled with her agent, Peter Lapthorne, among others. It is to be hoped, for her sake, that Chancery suits were cheaper than they are now. Here we may say good-bye to her. For those who are curious in such matters, a search among the Chancery records will probably reveal the result, but it is improbable that the Company reaped any benefit from their action. And so she passes from the scene, a curious example of the vicissitudes to which Englishwomen in India were exposed, two hundred years ago.
They were issued at the rate of sixty-five for a rupee; before long, their
value was reduced to seventy-two for a rupee, at which price they were
much in request, and the Governor reported that he expected to coin sixteen
tons of them yearly.
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