Saturday, December 30, 2006

Alexander Hamilton's Account of Fort St David

Alexander Hamilton was an Interloper, trading to India. An Interloper was someone who was from Britain who was not an official of the East India Company. He travelled and traded extensively around the Indian Coastline between about 1688 and 1723.

It is not possible to date his visit to Cuddalore exactly, but it was probably after 1700.

Fort St. David is next, a Colony and Fortress belonging to the English. About the Year 1686 a Moratta Prince sold it to Mr. Elihu Yale, for 90000 Pagadoes, for the Use and Behoof of the English East-India Company. The Fort is pretty strong, and stands close to a River; and the Territories annexed to the Fort by Agreement, were as far as any Gun the English had, could fling a Shot, every Way round the Fort; but whether the Buyer or Gunner were Conjurers or no, I cannot tell, but I am sure that the English Bounds reach above eight Miles along the Sea-shore, and four Miles with in Land. The Country is pleasant, healthful and fruitful, watered with several Rivers that are as good as so many Walls to fortify the English Colony. And ever since the Time that Aurengzeb conquered Visapore and Golcondah, there are great Numbers of Malcontents and Freebooters that keep on the Mountains, and often fall down into the open Country, and commit Depredations, by ravaging and plundering the Villages; and all the Mogul’s Forces cannot suppress them.

When the English bought Fort St. David, the Dutch had a little Factory there, about a Mile from the Fort, and the good-natured English suffer them still to continue a few Servants in it. Our Company did not find so much grace from the Dutch at Couchin, nor the gentlemen of Bantam and Indrapoura, when the Dutch seized those Places. It is true, the Dutch can drive no open Trade there, but what they must pay the English Company Customs for.

About the Year 1698 the Freebooters aforementioned had almost made themselves Masters of the Fort by Stratagem and Surprize. They pretended, that they had been sent from the Mogul’s Vice-Roy at Visapore, to take Charge of the Revenue collected at Porto Novo, and to carry it to the Treasury at Visapore, and desired Leave to put their feigned Treasure into the Fort for a few Days, to secure it from the Moratta Freebooters aforementioned, who, they said, were plundering the open Country, which Favour Mr. Frazer, Governor at the Time, granted, so they brought into the Fort ten or twelve Oxen loaded with Stones, and each Ox had two or three Attendants, and about 200 more of that Gang, who came along with the Carriage Beasts as a Guard, lodged themselves in a Grove near the Fort Gate, to be ready, on a Signal given, to enter the Fort. The Freebooters within took an Opportunity the very next Morning, and killed the Sentinel and a few more that were asleep in the Gate-way next to the Grove; but, before they could break the Gate open, the Garison was alarmed, and killed all their treacherous Guests, and the Ambush without being come into the Parade before the Gate, met with so warm a Reception, that they retreated in Confusion, and the English pursuing them, killed severals, but lost some of their own Men.

Mr. Frazer ordered directly the Grove to be cut down, for fear of future Danger from it, but Fort St. David being subordinate to Fort St. George, the Governor and Council there called Mr. Frazer to their Court, and fined him for Presumption, in cutting down so fine a Grove for Enemies to skulk in, without Leave asked and given in due Form; but; their Right Honourable Masters adjusted all that Matter, and ordered the Fine to be refunded, with the Interest; but Governors of different Views and Humours seldom agree.

This Colony produces good long Clothes in large Quantities, either brown, white, or blue dyed, also Sallampores, Morees, Demities, Gingees
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Assistance of this Colony, that of Fort St. George would make but a small Figure in Trade to what it now does.

The River is but small, tho’ very convenient for the Import and Export of Merchandize. And Cuddelore, that lies about a Mile to the Southward, is capable to receive Ships of 200 Tuns in the Months of September and October. The Rivers have both of them Bars, but are very smooth, whereas Fort St. George is always going ashore and coming off.

The Company has a pretty good Garden and Summer-house, where generally the Governor resides; and the Town extending itself pretty wide, has Gardens to most of their Houses. Their black Cattle are very small, but plentiful and cheap. And their Seas and Rivers abound in good Fishes.

From Alexander Hamilton's "A New Account of the East Indies."

1 comment:

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