Sunday, November 05, 2006

The First English Trading at Cuddalore

Cuddalore History

That there was fierce competition and rivalry between the different European nations for trade along the Coromandel Coast is clear from the following events at Karikal and Tranquebar, and that it was probably these events that caused the English to move back north up the coast to Cuddalore.

Captain Bickley arrived at Karikal on the 23rd of May 1624. On the following day he landed some Portuguese prisoners he had made at sea. The Danes from nearby Tranquebar soon learned of their arrival.

May 29. “The princypall of the Danes sent a letter unto our chief merchante, Mr. Joseph Cockram, that we were best for too departe, for there was no trade there too bee had for us, because they had formed [farmed] all the seaports of the Kinges between Nagapatam and Pullacatt for the use and benefit of the Kinge of Denmarke; therefore willed us agayne to bee gone, or else they would send us awaye in haste. Wee badd them doe theire worste, for wee would staye in spite of them all, they being three to one. And soe the partteye that brought the letter departed with his answer.”

Bickley then goes on to write that this Danish commander was probably James Mountney who had sailed in Captain Pring’s expedition in 1617.

On the first of June the Danes sent one of the three large ships they had on the coast to check them out“and demaunded of whence wee were. I bad them looke up to the flage; so presentlye hee departed, without any more wordes the one too the other.”

On the 2nd of June the Indian Governor of Karikal received a letter from the ruler of Tanjore saying that the English were welcome to trade on the coast. On the following two days the English landed two demi culverins as presents for the ruler. These were large cannon of considerable power. No doubt these cannon were a highly acceptable gift to the ruler of Tanjore, as they must have materially enhanced the power of his army.

The Danes meanwhile were taking practical steps to make things as difficult as they possible could for the English ship in order to drive it away. There was probably already trouble amongst the English crew, for on the 6th of June 1624 ten of her men deserted with the ships pinnace. This rowing and fast sailing boat was designed to be able to operate independently of the Hart, and was the type of boat that the English habitually used for scouting and raiding.

Almost immediately these deserters turned pirate and flying the English flag they took what was referred to as a junk. This ship belonged to the Governor of Negapatam and was carrying silver worth 8,000 rials of eight. They then sent a letter to Karikal inviting the other members of the crew to run away and join them. Five more English sailors ran away to join the previous deserters.

This of course left Captain Bickley short handed, and in deep trouble with the local Governors over the piracy. The Danes were not slow to exploit these difficulties. They offered the ruler of Tanjore great bribes to get him to refuse to deal with them.

By the 11th of July the English had sailed on to Tranquebar, where they landed at the fort. The Danes: -

“did couller there former malice in givinge that entertainement unto our merchants, the which they did not exspeckt at there hands; for at there coming and goeing they shott of 150 peece of ordinance from there forte and out of there three shipps. This out of there love gave us a plaster for to cure the wound they gave us at the Kings Courte.”

This demonstration of Danish potential firepower probably gave added cause for Captain Bickley to sail north to Tegnapatam. A return visit by the Danes to the ship on the 14th was cancelled. The English merchants returned to the Harte on the 15th but so many English sailors were missing ashore that they could not sail. Bickley suspected the Danes of enticing them away “by menes of James Mounttany.”

After presumably sending parties ashore to round up his sailors, the Harte finally sailed away on the morning of the 17th of July 1624. The Danes saluted her parting with at least forty guns. As this number of cannon shots was considerably more than the captain would have normally been entitled to by his status, it is likely that there was an element of derision and mockery in the Danes cannonade.

That evening they anchored off Tegnapatam “right against the Malloyes howse, the which is Governour of that towne of Tignapatann.”

On the following day, the 18th of July Mr. Cockram a merchant on the ship landed to “see the Malloyes brother” about some cloth they were to take on board their ship.

On the same day Captain Bickley wrote: -

“When you are are thwarte of the roade you shall see a great pagod, the which when yt is West and by northe from you, then it is just over the Malloyes howse… the Malloyes howse is all very white, and soe it is about the pagod, the which is too bee sene at the least four or five leages of in faire and cleare weather.”

They only stayed off Tegnapatam for one day before sailing north on the 19th of July to Poullaserre or Podasera, which is thought to be Pondicherry. It was described as being four leagues off from Tegnapatam. The town had a very white pagoda in the middle of the town.

Timber that the Harte had bought from Batavia was landed for the Malloye who appears to have controlled much of the trade along this coast, as he appears several times in the accounts of trade up and down the coast as far as Pullicatt. On the 23rd of July an official of the Ruler of Tanjore came on board the Harte and offered the merchants a house and the right to settle in Pullasera. The merchants said that they would return with an answer next year. Between the 24th and 29th of July they loaded salt into the ship as ballast, before departing on the 3rd of August for the north.

The voyage appears to have been a commercial disappointment to the East India Company merchants. The diary of John Goning at Batavia contains an entry dated 20th of November 1624. It is interesting because it shows that the English were still at that point not really interested in locally made cloth and but been hoping to tap into the pepper trade. They were hoping to find that pepper grown on the Ghats inland of the Malabar coast, which was denied to them by the dominant Portuguese and Dutch who controlled the Malabar ports like Kochi and Calicut.

“The ship Hart arrived heer from the Coast of Coromandel. In her returned Mr. Joseph Cockram and Mr. Georg Bruen, with others sent to settle a factory in the Nayck of Tanjours country, having effected nothing ther, more than the buying in of 19 or 20 bales of cloth; finding the country to yeeld but little pepper of a very small sort and that allwayes much wett with the fresh water in portage from the upland mountains. Allso they found the Naick or King very covertous, expecting very great presents yearly, besides payment of 7,000 rials of eight every yeer for use and custome of his porte Cercall, which he would apoynt for us. Howbeit, they found the porte Poodysera, in another Naiks country nearer adjoining to St. Tome, to be a fitter place to procure all sorts of clothing, therabout or about Petepoly made, then in the said Nayck of Tanjours land; and from Naick of Poodysera they had a writing giving the English leave the next yeer to come and settle ther, paying only the custom of 2 ½ per cento, or renting the porte, as wee can best agree.”

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