Volume 11, Chapter 13, Section 11 -- Account of the Directories of Coromandel, Surat, Bengal, and Persia.
Having now given a short view of the governments in the disposal of the Dutch East-India Company, which are a kind of principalities, as each governor, with the advice and assistance of his council, is a kind of sovereign, and acts without controul through the whole extent of his jurisdiction, we are now to consider the other establishments of the company in India, for carrying on this extensive trade. In all the countries where their affairs require it, they have factories, in each of which there is a chief, with some title or other, having also a council to assist him in regard to matters of policy or trade.
Among these, the directories of Coromandel, Surat, Bengal, and Persia are all of great importance, and the direction of them is attended with great profit. The directors have the same power with the governors, within their respective jurisdictions; only that they cannot execute any criminal sentences within the countries in which they reside, so that all criminals are executed on board ship, under the flag of the company.
The directory of Coromandel is the first of the four, and has all the forts and factories belonging to the Dutch on that coast under his jurisdiction. Besides Negapatnam, on the southernmost point of Coromandel, and the fort of Gueldria, in which the director resides, they have factories at Guenepatnam, Sadraspatnam, Masulipatnam, Pelicol, Datskorom, Benlispatnam, Nagernauty, and Golconda. The Dutch director is a principal merchant, and if he discharges his office with reputation, he is commonly in a few years promoted to be one of the counsellors of the Indies. It is not uncommon for a governor or director in the Indies, in the space of a few years, to amass a fortune equal to the original capital of the company, or six millions and a half of guilders, or nearly £600,000 sterling.
Formerly, the country of Coromandel was divided into a great number of principalities, and the little princes and chiefs imposed such heavy duties, and gave such interruptions to trade in other respects, as rendered the company very uneasy. But after the war of Golconda, which cost the company a great deal of money, yet ended to their advantage, these princes grow more tractable. At present, the kings of Bisnagar and Hassinga, who are the most powerful in Coromandel, live in tolerably good terms with the Dutch and other European nations; the English and Danes having also a share in Coromandel, with several good fortresses for the protection of their trade.
The great trade carried on here is in cotton goods, as muslins, chintzes, and the like; in exchange for which the Dutch bring them spices, Japan copper, steel, gold-dust, sandal and siampan woods. In this country, the inhabitants are some Pagans, some Mahomedans, and not a few Christians. The country is very fertile in rice, fruits, and herbs, and in every thing necessary to the support of man; but the weather is exceedingly hot during the eastern monsoon. All the manufactures of this country, purchased by the Dutch, are transported first to Batavia, whence they are sent home to Holland, and are thence distributed through all Germany and the north of Europe.
The second and third directories are established at Hoogly on the Ganges, and at Surat on the western coast of India, both in the territories of the Great Mogul, and the two most important places of trade in all Asia. The Dutch, English, French, and other European natives trade to both, and have erected forts and magazines for their security and convenience. The best part of the trade is carried on by black merchants, who deal in all sorts of rich goods; such as opium, diamonds, rich stuffs, and all kinds of cotton cloths.
The empire of the Great Mogul is of prodigious extent, and the countries under his dominion are esteemed the richest in the world. The air is tolerably pure, yet malignant fevers are common, generally attacking strangers as a kind of seasoning sickness; in which, if the patient escape the third day, he generally recovers.
Most of the inhabitants of this country are tall black robust men, of gay and lively dispositions. In point of religion, many of them are idolaters, more of them Mahometans, and some of them Christians. The idolaters are split into numerous sects, some of whom believe firmly in the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls; for which reason they will not take away the life of any living creature, not even daring to kill a fly or a flea. They have even hospitals for worn-out oxen and old cows, where they are fed and attended till they die of age or disease.
These people are in general very industrious, but covetous, false, and perfidious. They employ themselves, such as reside in towns, in the manufactures of silk and cotton; and those who live in the country are very diligent cultivators, so that they annually expect from hence vast quantities of grain to Batavia.
The Great Mogul is one of the richest and most powerful princes in the world, having a most magnificent court, and a numerous army always on foot. The directors at Bengal and Surat know perfectly well how to deal with him, and, by making showy presents, procure valuable diamonds and other precious stones in return. Surat is a town of no great antiquity, yet very large and immensely rich. It is in compass about five miles within the walls, and is computed to contain about 200,000 inhabitants.
The Moorish and even the Indian merchants here are many of them prodigiously rich. The former chiefly addict themselves to the diamond trade, which is very precarious; for sometimes a small stock produces an immense fortune, while at other times, a man wastes immense sums without finding stones of any great value: For, at the diamond-mines, the adventurers purchase so many yards square at a certain price, employing slaves to dig and lift the earth, taking whatever stones are found in that spot; which sometimes are of great value, and sometimes so few and small as not to pay costs.
Other Moorish merchants deal largely in foreign trade; and as the Mogul is a very easy master, some of them acquire prodigious wealth, and carry on commerce to such an extent as can scarce be credited in Europe. About twenty years ago [that is, about the year 1700], there died a Moorish merchant at Surat, who used yearly to fit out twenty sail of ships, from three to eight hundred tons, the cargoes of each of which were in value from ten to twenty thousand pounds, and who always retained goods in his warehouses equal in value to what he sent away. The customs of Surat amount every year to upwards of £160,000 sterling, and, as the merchants pay three per cent. at a medium, the value of the goods must exceed five millions yearly.
The fourth and last factory under a director, is that of Gambroon or Bendar-abassi on the coast of Persia. The director here is always a principal merchant, having a council and a fiscal to assist him. As this city stands on the Persian gulf or sea of Basora, being the only port of Persia on the Indian sea, and lies at a great distance from Batavia, this direction is not so much sought after as others; and besides, the heat at this place is greater than in any part of the world, and the air is excessively unwholesome. To balance these inconveniences, the director at Gambroon has an opportunity of making a vast fortune in a short time, so that in general, in four or five years, he has no farther occasion to concern himself in commerce.
There are several other European nations settled here besides the Dutch, but they have by far the best factory, and have fortified it so effectually that the inhabitants of the neighbouring mountains, who are a crew of bold and barbarous robbers, have never been able to gain possession of it, though they have made frequent attempts. The king of Persia, who reigned about 1722, came sometimes to Gambroon, and distinguished the Dutch above the other European nations by many marks of his favour, and by the grant of many privileges. Some time before that period, he sent a gold saddle very richly wrought, and adorned with precious stones, a present to the governor of Batavia, desiring in return an European habit for himself and another for his queen.
Gambroon is a disagreeable place to live in, as in August it is unbearably hot; and yet the winter is so cold that they wear English cloth lined with furs. They have here beeves, sheep, goats, poultry, and fish, all good of their kinds, and tolerably cheap. They have also grapes, melons, and mangoes in the utmost perfection, and excellent wine, which is esteemed superior to that of all other countries, insomuch that it still preserves its flavour after being diluted with four times its quantity of water.
At the time when our author was in India, intestine wars raged to such a degree in Persia, that a ship had to be constantly stationed at Gambroon to bring off the factory, in case of danger. Another inconvenience to the trade on this coast proceeded from the multitude of pirates on those seas, mostly Europeans, who, having run away with the ships of their owners, subsisted by robbing all nations. Among these at this time was a stout ship named the Hare, which had been sent from Batavia to Persia: But the crew mutinied, and forced their officers to turn pirates.
After committing many depredations on this coast, they sailed to the Red-Sea, where they attacked and plundered many Arabian pirates. At length, being short of provisions, and not daring to put into any port, they resolved to return; and finding themselves also in want of water, they resolved to supply themselves at an island. With this view, most of them crowded into the pinnace and put off from the ship, which gave an opportunity to the officers to resume their authority; wherefore they cut the cable, and brought the ship into the harbour of Gambroon, by which means the ship and cargo were restored to the Company.
In 1701, the Ballorches, who rebelled against the Shah, attempted to make themselves masters of the English and Dutch factories at Gambroon, with a body of four thousand men, but were beat off at both places; but a warehouse belonging to the Dutch, at some distance from the factory, fell into their hands, in which were goods to the value of twenty thousand pounds. A short time afterwards, the famous rebel Meriweys made himself master of Ispahan, where he plundered both the English and Dutch factories, taking from the former goods to the value of half a million, and from the latter to the value of two hundred thousand pounds.
[Footnote 1: This seems to be a misprint for Narsinga, otherwise the Carnatic. --E.]
[Footnote 2: This is an obvious mistake, as by far the greater part of the population is idolatrous. --E.]
-- *Index of Part Two, Book Four* -- *Glossary*-- *Robert Kerr index page* -- *FWP's main page* --