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Chapter 2 – The Struggle with the Portuguese


Captain Best’s fight off Suwali in 1612 sounded like a trumpet-call to the nation. It found the Company ready to make a gallant response. Having resolved in 1612 to adopt the Joint Stock system, the committees raised an unprecedented subscription of £429,000 in 1613 – about equal to the total of all the separate ventures since 1600. They thus got command of a capital which might almost vie with that of the Dutch Company, or with the state-resources of Portugal. The whole sum was not, however, called up at once, but was to be paid during four years for an annual voyage, so that the actual number of ships employed still remained insignificant compared with the long established fleets of England’s rivals.

Before entering on the political events which grew out of this development, let me briefly summarize its commercial results. The four voyages extended from 1613 to 1616, with an average capital of £107,000; a fleet of about seven ships a year which exported goods and silver averaging £47,379 on each voyage, and yielded an average profit of 87½ per cent. on the aggregate

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capital employed3. The return would have been much larger but for the hostility of the Dutch and Portuguese. The two voyages of 1613–1614 are said to have yielded a profit of 120 per cent., and one cargo bought for £9000 in the East sold for £80,000 in England.

By the beginning of 1614 what is officially reckoned as “the voyage of 1613” was ready. It consisted of four vessels; the flagship having been launched on January 1st under the name of the New Year’s Gift, 550 tons – armed and strongly built for trade or war. The command-in-chief was given to a captain of proved capacity for both. Nicholas Downton had been “Lieutenant-General,” or second in command, under Sir Henry Middleton in the sixth voyage of 1610, which came to blows with the Turks in the Red Sea, and left a record of reprisals not soon forgotten by the Moslem world. After many adventures and long trading in the East, Downton brought home his ship, the Peppercorn, with her timbers strained and gaping, in the autumn of 1613, most of his crew dead, the remainder rotting with scurvy, he himself stricken by disease, and his half-sinking craft with difficulty making the Downs. His unconquerable endurance won for him the command of the great expedition then being fitted out, and in March, 1614, he sailed as “General” of the first Joint Stock voyage.

He carried with him the amplest powers which the Company could desire or the Crown grant. For the

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King James I

discipline of his fleet, King James vested in him full power to execute the cruel chastisements then “commonly used in all armies at sea,” with martial law for the punishment by death of mutiny or other capital offences. As regards foreign rivals, his Majesty gave much good advice mingled with some useful suggestions.

“For as much as at this present,” he declared, “We are in amity with all Christian princes,” “And because We are not ignorant of the emulation and envy which doth accompany the discovery of countries and trade, and of the quarrels and contentions which do many times fall out between the subjects of diverse princes when they meet the one with the other in foreign and far remote countries in prosecuting the course

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of their discoveries,” We charge you, Nicholas Downton, not to “go about to set upon” any of our Christian allies, especially Spain, “except you shall be by them first thereunto justly provoked.” If, however, this should happen, “you shall not for any act or acts” needful in the case, “be in danger or subject to the peril and penalties of our laws.” Above all you are “to suffer no spoil to be made of any goods or merchandise” which “shall be recovered by you,” “but to see them safely brought home with their bills of lading, so that We may adjust matters hereafter,” with the offending State.

Truly an Elizabethan commission drafted with an eye to making out an ex post facto diplomatic case worthy of the Great Queen, yet, in spite of its Jacobean pedantry, disclosing a clear perception of the realities of distant sea-trade. James recognized that European treaties had little effect beyond the Cape of Good Hope. He desired his subjects to abstain from offence, yet if offences must needs come, not to be the losers by them; and to repel force by force.

Captain Downton thoroughly grasped the situation. Should spoliation be going, he was determined not to be the despoiled. The fundamental difference of view taken by England and by Portugal as to their relative positions in the East inevitably led to conflict. From the moment that Da Gama’s ships returned in 1499 the Portuguese dynasty affirmed its right to “the sovereignty and dominion, of all we have discovered,” besides its wider claim under the Demarcation Bull of

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1493 and the treaties based upon it. From the first Charter of Elizabeth to the London Company in 1600 the English Crown acknowledged only Portuguese rights based on “actual possession,” and altogether ignored the wider claim under the Demarcation Bull. But the “discovery” of continents and of groups of islands scattered over great oceans and the “actual possession” of them were widely different terms. The real question was – which of the two nations could enforce its view.

Ten years, from Best’s coast fight in 1612 to our capture of Ormuz in 1622, sufficed to decide this issue. The Portuguese were no longer the gallant little nation, in the first heat of independence, which opened the Cape route to India and made themselves masters of the Asiatic seas. In less than two centuries from 1385, when the field of Aljubarrota had freed Portugal from the standing menace of Castile and launched her on a career of glory under the House of Aviz, that patriotic dynasty flickered out, and the Portuguese passed under the bigot rule of Philip II. The first half of their “sixty years’ captivity” to Spain (1580–1640) sufficed to exhaust their resources in Philip’s struggle with Dutch Protestantism, and to blight their national vigour.

Portugal ceased to be prolific of great men. The four successors of Albuquerque who stand out in Indian history belonged to the period before her “captivity” to Spain. Nuno da Cunha (1529–1538), who opened out the Portuguese trade to Bengal; Joao de

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Castro (1545–1548), who defended the Portuguese possessions on the western coast from Diu down to Goa against the native powers, and strove to cleanse the Augean stable of Indo-Portuguese misrule; Constantino de Braganza (1558–1561), who conquered Daman and took up De Castro’s task of internal reform; Luis de Athaide, viceroy from 1568 to 1571 and again from 1578 to 1581, who stemmed for a time the rising tide of revolt against Portuguese oppression and beat back’ the Moslem coalition in India and the Archipelago – were the products of an independent Portugal. Her forced union with Spain (1580–1640) was barren of heroes.

In India also a great political change had taken place. Although Portugal had more than held her own in the scuffle of the petty coast rajas, she had never made an impression even on the small isolated kingdoms of the inland south; and after the extension of the Moghul Empire southwards she ceased to have any significance as an Indian land-power.

In the height of her naval supremacy she had felt her weakness on shore. “We sit still,” wrote one of her ablest servants, “perishing without lands out of which to support ourselves, or find shelter.” The little patches of Indian coast did not afford a land-revenue sufficient to support the administration in peace or to serve as a security for loans in war. In 1546, the chivalrous viceroy, Dom Joao de Castro, having to raise a loan for the defence of Diu, ordered the body of his son, lately slain by the Moslems, to be exhumed, and given as a pledge for repayment. But the corpse had

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Bangalore, a Town in Southern India

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Blank page

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decayed. “Thus,” he concludes, “having nothing left in this world, neither gold, silver, nor any other property except the beard on my face, I send it to you to remain with you as a gage.”

As the “confusion of evils” reached its height in their coast-settlements, the Indo-Portuguese, now degenerated into colonies of half-breeds, tried to wring a living from sea-plunder. Their naval system had from the first lent itself to piracy and corsair descents. It developed into unrestrained buccaneering. The Portuguese caravels and galleys became the scourge of the Eastern routes. From their pirate nests on the Bay of Bengal they swooped down on the approaches to the Ganges and terrorized the rich coast traffic of Arrakan and Burma. Sometimes a successful adventurer like Nicote founded for himself a brief dominion. But hasty pillage, careless of the slaughter of infidels, was their main object. Gradually the Eastern sea-races from the Spice Islands to the Persian Gulf roused themselves against the Christian robbers. Ternate in the far Moluccas shook off the Portuguese yoke (1575–1576) ; Malacca, their great half-way place of strength, was again and again attacked by the King of Achin. Ceylon rose against them. Their Indian piracies brought on them the vengeance of the coast princes, and at length the crushing wrath of the Moghul Empire.

Wherever we turn we see tilt same spectacle of oppression and ruin. The Sular islanders of the most eastern archipelago would not on our first arrival come near our ships, as the Portuguese “had used to take

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them and make slaves of them.” At the western extremity of the Asiatic trade-route the Shah of Persia sent an ambassador to Paris begging the King of France for help “to drive the Portuguese out of the East Indies.”

But it was not the piracies of the Portuguese that most deeply stirred the much-enduring Eastern races. In 1320, Marino Sanuto the elder had submitted his famous Secretum Fidelium Crucis to the Pope, for seizing the Egyptian route and securing the proceeds of the Indian trade as a war fund to retake Jerusalem. To the Portuguese sovereigns and Grand Masters of the Military Order of Christ the conquest of the Asiatic Ocean seemed the true continuation of the Crusades. Their determined efforts to reach the Christian kingdom of Prester John, by land or by sea, ended in Da Gama’s discovery of India. Seekers are apt to find what they go in quest of, and Da Gama’s companions were at least half-convinced that the Malabar temples were Christian churches. On their return, King Emmanuel at once wrote to their Catholic Majesties that when these “Christian people” of India “shall have been fortified in the faith,” they would help in “destroying the Moors of those parts.” To Rome he announced that “the king [of Calicut] looks upon himself and the major part of his people as Christian.” This exaggeration, although quickly corrected, served to perpetuate the legend of the Crusades.

The Portuguese in fact, by a happy chance, landed on a strip of Indian coast to which the ancient trade-

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A monoliothic Temple at Mahabalipur in Southern India

route had brought Nesborian emigrants, and where Christians had long formed a recognized caste. But the zeal of the newcomers could not rest satisfied with their good fortune. They resolved to turn the old “St. Thomas” Christians into Catholics, and the infidels who came under their power they strove, by force or threats, to convert.

The appalling narrative of their cruelty and folly forms part of the general history of Christianity in India, but need not be entered into here. The early intermittent methods of the friars, who arrived with the annual fleets, blossomed into a native church under the apostolic teaching of St. Francis Xavier (1542) and the Society of Jesus. But the saintly fervour of the great Jesuit proved too mild for the Dominican bigots who, in the complaint of the Goanese,

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“cast souls into hell through fear.” In 1560 the Inquisition was established in India under the Dominican Order. Its atrocities reached Europe in a perhaps exaggerated form. But a Portuguese writer states that seventy-one autos da fé, or general burnings, were held in 173 years, and that at “a few” of them 4046 persons were sentenced to various punishments, 121 being condemned to the flames.

These savageries were perpetrated chiefly, but not altogether, on the unhappy Nestorian or “St. Thomas” Christians, who had dwelt quietly in India for centuries before the advent of the Portuguese. Wherever the Portuguese established their power, from Ceylon to the distant Spice Islands, they tried to make conversions. Every convert was a possible apostate, and to apostasy the Inquisition showed no mercy. The tolerant spirit which I have noticed in some of the early Portuguese treaties with native princes seemed little short of a denial of Christ to the zealot who in 1580 united the crowns of Portugal and Spain. Philip II would have no paltering with either the Indian infidels or the orthodox Nestorians. After drawing the rope tighter round the neck of Indian heresy in 1594, he delivered his stroke at the non-Christians in 1598. He learned that previous viceroys had granted some tolerant provisions in regard to the temples and worship of the native faiths. “I deem it good,” wrote his Majesty, “that they be revised by the Inquisitors and theologians who reside in those parts.” ‘

In the following year, 1599, he struck a more fatal

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Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes, third archbishop of Goa and first primate of the East Indies (1695–1610).

blow at the ancient native Christians. The Synod of Diamper (i.e. Udayampura), assembled in session, then denounced Nestorius and his heresies, and for a time extinguished the Indian Nestorian Church. The sacred books of the “St. Thomas” congregations, their missals and church ornaments, were publicly burned, and their consecrated oil was poured upon the flames. Their religious nationality as a separate caste was abolished, and for the next half-century the Malabar Christians chafed under a line of Roman Catholic prelates, and groaned beneath the Inquisition. In the same year, 1599, in which the Synod of Diamper crushed the ancient Church of Malabar, the London merchants met in Founders’ Hall to establish an East India Company.

Portugal thus entered on her struggle with England for the Eastern seas burdened with the traditions of the past and beset by the passionate vengeance which her attempt to enforce those traditions had aroused

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among the Asiatic races. She represented the reactionary spirit of medievalism, as against the modern methods of the Protestant nations. To the English and the Dutch, the Indies were simply a new world for commerce, to the Portuguese they were a vast arena for mingled commerce and crusades. The Indian trade of Portugal had dwindled since her union with Spain in 1580. Philip II wanted money for his wars. America supplied silver, the East Indies drained it away, and Philip could not any more than Charles V pay his troops in pepper and cloves.

The Spanish king had guaranteed in 1580 the undisturbed enjoyment of the East Indian trade to the Portuguese, and he kept his word by neglecting their Indian possessions. His heavy war demands dried up the Portuguese supplies of money and men; and the capital which the Jews formerly furnished had been driven by persecution to Holland. Of the 806 vessels which Portugal sent to India, from the setting forth of Vasco da Gama in 1497 to the English sea victory off Surat in 1612, only 186 sailed during the thirty-two years after the union of the two Iberian crowns in 1580. But the deterioration was in quality as well as in numbers. For of the sixty-six carracks or ships lost between 1497 and 1612, no fewer than thirty-five perished at sea during the thirty-two years of Spanish domination, besides four taken by the enemy. In 1596 Spain became bankrupt and repudiated her public debts. In 1612 the English ambassador reported from Madrid that “the Indian ships go much poorer than they were

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Temple at Ramnager, Showing Carving.

wont.” Philip’s ill-fated Armada of 1588 had given a death-blow to the sea power of Portugal as to that of Spain.

The accession of our James I in 1603 seemed to promise her a respite. Lerma, the all-powerful Spanish minister, saw no reason, with the exception of the English claim to trade in the East Indies, for continuing the war. A large exception, yet within the range of diplomacy. The war-party in. England, with Sir Walter Raleigh as their spokesman, fell into discredit; the squadron fitted out against Spanish trade in the last year of Elizabeth was stopped; and King James, in June, 1603, issued a proclamation declaring that all prizes taken from Spain or Portugal after April 24th must be restored. The treaty of peace, signed in 1604, was followed by a further proclamation in 1605 against attacks on Spanish or Portuguese vessels. The pacific spirit reached even to the Indies, and in 1605 the Portuguese captain-general gave the Governor of Manila a warrant to trade with the English.

Then the pendulum swung back. In 1607 Spain informed our ambassador that she could never be friendly with those who traded to the Indies. In 1603 she proposed to occupy the Cape of Good Hope and there to intercept all ships proceeding to the East. In 1609 the truce of Antwerp gave Spain a freer hand with the English, and the wrangle in 1610–1611 of the two governments over the Persian ambassador in Europe flamed out in broadsides on the Indian coast.

However King James might hanker after marriages

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General view of Diu

at Madrid, the English nation had made up its mind that in the Asiatic seas there could be no peace with Portugal. To this conviction Captain Nicholas Down-ton of the first Joint Stock voyage gave practical effect. Arriving in Suwali Roads off Surat on October 15, 1614, with his four ships, and “not having above four sick men in the whole fleet,” he found the Moghul governor besieging the Portuguese coast settlements of Daman and Diu.

When the governor pressed him to take part against the Portuguese, he refused “for that there was peace between our king and the King of Spain.” The Moghul governor replied that if the English would do nothing for him, he would do nothing for them; but Downton sternly declared that he would not be hired to fight the Portuguese, yet would not be withheld from fighting if they attacked him first. The governor accordingly forbade all trade on shore with the English ships.

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On December 6, 1614, Downton heard that the Portuguese viceroy at Goa was equipping a great force against him. It was to be on a scale sufficient to crush, without hope of escape, the insolent intruders into the Asiatic seas. Best’s fight had taught the Portuguese the unwisdom of engaging the English with anything like equal forces, and the viceroy gathered the naval strength of Portugal in Indian waters for one overwhelming attack. While collecting his armada at Goa he sent on some light vessels to occupy our attention, and” on December 23, 1614, twenty-two Portuguese “frigates,” or rowed galleys, anchored during the night in the shallows between our ships and the river mouth. They were protected from us by sand-banks, and as traffic with the shore was forbidden by the native governor, Downton could not victual or refit to enable him to take to sea. Moreover, like Best in 1612, he realized the advantage which the more skilful handling of the English ships gave amid the mud-banks and currents of the Tapti estuary. The Portuguese thought they had shut him in among the shoals, and he made the shoals fight for him. By January 18, 1615, the whole Portuguese fleet had arrived, including six great galleons, three smaller ships, two galleys, and sixty “frigates,” or rowed barges, with “twenty soldiers apiece and eighteen oars a side.” The Viceroy of Goa, Dom Jeronimo de Azevedo, commanded in person, flying his flag as admiral of the Indian seas.

The English were cruelly overmatched. The largest Portuguese galleon was of 800 tons burden and carried

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260 fighting men with 28 pieces of ordnance. Five others were of 700 to 400 tons. The “frigates” alone carried about 1200 soldiers in addition to the rowers. The total strength of the armada amounted to 2600 Europeans, whose duty it was to work 234 guns, besides the native crews to the number of 6000, who sailed the ships.

Downton, with his four vessels, 400 men, and 80 guns of much inferior calibre, seemed caught in a trap, with the Moghul governor unfriendly on shore, the “frigates” guarding the shallow entrance to the river, and the great galleons and galleys cutting off retreat to sea. But Downton felt that on that fight depended “all hope of future times;” for if he were defeated, the Portuguese would make peace with the native governor and the English would be expelled from the country for ever.

What troubled him most was the unequal drudgery thrown on his men. The work of the Portuguese ships was done by slaves and “inferior sea-people,” while their soldiers remained fresh for battle. The English crews, on the other hand, before actual fighting could begin, “are first tired or half-spent with the labour of the ship, as heaving at capstern, and getting up our anchors ... making them in hot countries both weary and faint.” Downton poured out his heart in secret prayer, “ever as I could be solitary, or free from others, very earnestly craving aid and assistance from the Lord of Hosts.” But he showed a bold face to his crews, and asked all the captains and some of the

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mates of his little squadron to supper – January 19, 1615.

They assembled in a mood not less resolute than his own. Downton’s plan was first to weaken the enemy by luring some of them aground, as had happened during Best’s fight at the same spot in 1612. Trusting to his superior seamanship, and to the quicker handling of his vessels, he accordingly, on January 20, 1615, sent the Hope ahead of his three other ships toward the southern sand, in the expectation that the great galleons would follow to seize her. But the Portuguese admiral, while keeping between her and the sea, avoided the shoals, and Downton, thinking there would be no fighting that day, cast anchor, leaving the Hope some way in advance.

The Portuguese swallowed the bait, and beset her with three vessels of light draught and thirty-six “frigates.” Before Downton could get clear of his anchors and come up, the enemy had rowed boldly round the Hope, fastened themselves to her sides, boarded her thrice, and were thrice beaten back, finding “no quiet here.” After the third bloody repulse, unable to unloose their swarm of grappled vessels under the English shot, they set fire to them and leapt overboard, expecting that the Hope would perish in the circle of flames. They themselves trusted to be picked up by the galleons, but the fire from the other three English ships which had cut their cables and come to the rescue of the Hope prevented succour to the despairing swimmers.

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An early English warship

After a painting by Holbein.

The galleons, now separated at ebb-tide from our ships by a spit of sand, could only fire across it, doing some damage to rigging, but none to the hulls. Meanwhile the flames from the burning vessels caught the mainmast of the Hope. By heroic efforts she at length cast them off, and they drifted on to the shoals, burning to the water’s edge.

One hard day’s battle, January 20, 1615, taught the Portuguese that, if they were to capture our squadron, it must be by fair fighting with their larger ships, and that their mosquito swarm of “frigates” had better keep out of range. They cost us but five men killed; while a Persian reported that the Portuguese sent 350 men ashore to be buried at Daman, and Downton reckoned their loss at one hundred men slain besides those drowned. Next day, the 22d, the Portuguese endeavoured to patch up a truce

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with the native Governor of Surat, but he, seeing the change of fortune, turned a deaf ear.

The Portuguese then tried a blockade. Their rowed “frigates” held the shallows and partially cut off supplies from the shore, while their great galleons and galleys, with a fighting force many times the number of our whole crews, anchored outside the English. There our four vessels lay, one of them disabled, between the crowd of “frigates” protected by shoals and the line of war-ships to seaward. Downton says it was only the impossibility of renewing the burned mainmast of the Hope that prevented his trying his fortune against the Portuguese viceroy in deep water. But each morning and evening he fired off a volley at the enemy, aiming his best cannon at the viceroy’s prow – “which I did to try his temper.” The capture of the English ships seemed, however, only a question of time. After two weeks of constant watch and patient endurance, on February 3, 1615, writes Downton, “it pleased God, this day, at night when I had least leisure to mourn, to call to his mercy my only son.” “The volleys aforesaid appointed to try the temper of the viceroy,” he sternly adds, “served also to honour his burial.”

But the spectacle of a great armada not daring day after day to attack four small ships had its effect on the native governor’s mind, and the Portuguese viceroy found that the English temper could better sustain a blockade than his own could prolong it. So on February 8th, the great galleons, having received further

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reinforcements, at last came “driving up with the flood” against us, only to “make away as fast as they might” from our guns. The next day, February 9th, after a like attack and retreat (probably a feint), they sent two fire-ships down on our little squadron, in the night. But the frigates that towed them lost heavily under our guns, and hastily cast off the fire-ships, which passed us without harm. On February 10th another attempt with fire-ships and frigates failed. Meanwhile Downton, fearing that the galleons might land their troops and march on Surat, had so disposed his ships as to attack them if they tried to disembark their fighting men.

The Portuguese viceroy reluctantly realized that he was outwitted in strategy and beaten in fighting. On February 11, 1615, his unwieldy galleons, which had been reduced to inaction through fear of the shallows, dropped down southwards to the bar, and on February 13, 1615, the armada sailed away and was no more seen. Downton admits that throughout the long struggle he never saw men fight more bravely than the Portuguese. He himself had obtained supplies from shore by means of country boats, armed by the English factory at Surat – craft which eventually mounted two to six small pieces of cannon and, under the name of grabs or gallivats, became the nucleus of our Indian navy.

The Moghul governor watched the progress of the fighting, and probably felt that Downton’s strategy had saved Surat from a land-attack by the Portuguese. He now threw himself heartily on the side of the English,

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Portuguese residents at Bantam

pitched his camp with great state on the shore close to our ships, and amid mutual congratulations and Homeric pledges exchanged his Eastern sword “with hilt of massie gold,” wrote Downton, for his own less costly English side-arms. After friendly entreaties to delay his departure, Captain Downton sailed for Bantam and there died. on August 6, 1615; leaving a name never surpassed for endurance and skilful valour. He had established the supremacy of the English over the Portuguese on the Indian coast. Next year, 1616, Captain Keeling boldly entered into a treaty with the Zamorin of Calicut to seize the neighbouring Portuguese settlements and to hand one of them over to the English.

It is not needful to follow step by step the decline of a gallant enemy. If the Portuguese, unwillingly linked to the decaying Spanish monarchy, could no longer conquer, they knew how to die. In 1616 a great carrack, carrying an admiral’s flag, fought four smaller English vessels for three days; replying to our summons to surrender that “Don Meneses had promised his master, the King of Spain, not to quit his ship: out of which he raight be forced, but never commanded.”

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During two nights he hung out a lantern to show his track to his enemies; on the third the battered hull drove upon the rocks and was set fire to by the remnants of her crew.

But valour could not stay the cancer of misrule. The abuse of patronage which had shipped off young women from Lisbon with the gift of an Indian appointment as their dowry for a husband to be picked up at Goa, reached its height after the forced union of Portugal with Spain in 1580. The sale of Indian offices was an illicit trade at the Court of Philip II; under Philip III of Spain it became a source of the public revenue. The Lisbon fleet of 1614 carried orders to the Goa viceroy “that all commands and high appointments that would be likely to yield money were to be put up to sale, there being then no other visible means whereby to provide for the wants of the administration.” Old incumbents were ruthlessly dispossessed, and were succeeded by men who clutched at everything to repay the price of their unstable appointments. In 1637, and perhaps on other occasions, the auction included the command of fortresses. In 1618 two English ships took a Portuguese carrack with £517,500 in specie, “which was the pay of all the soldiers in the East Indies,” according to the records in the State Papers. The Spanish kings began to look upon the East Indies as a mere drain to their silver supply from America, and the stories of their indifference to Portuguese interests in Asia border on the incredible. During the three years that Fernão de Albuquerque was viceroy at Goa,

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1619–1622, he is said to have received not a single letter of instruction or information from the court of Spain.

Yet in this very viceroyalty a catastrophe had taken place which might have stung even Spain into a spasm of remorseful energy. Ormuz, the pearl of Portuguese Asia, fell to the English. During the century since Albuquerque captured the island in 1515, the Portuguese had dealt with it as their own, and dominated from its fortress the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Of the treaties by which they bound the princes of Ormuz I have already spoken. On the death of a king of Ormuz, says a Venetian traveller, Cesare de’ Federici, circ. 1565, “the captain of the Portugals chooseth another of the blood-royal,” and “sweareth him to be true” “to the King of Portugal as his Lord and Governor.” Their oppressions and piracies had led the Shah of Persia to appeal for help to France in 1603, and seven years later to England. In 1618 a trade was opened between our agents at Surat and the port of Jask, near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and in 1620 James I addressed a letter to Shah Abbas with a view to obtaining a factory on shore. The Portuguese opposed our ships as usual with a greatly superior force, and in November, 1620, the English gained a victory which made them a recognized power in the Persian Gulf.

The Persian governor determined to use us against the general oppressor – the Portuguese – and in 1621 refused to allow our ships to embark their cargoes until

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Gombroon, or Bunder Abbas, on the Persian Gulf

we agreed to join with him in an attack on Ormuz. The blow was delivered early in the following year. Five ships and four pinnaces of the English Company defeated the Portuguese fleet in the Persian Gulf, and in concert with a Persian land-force captured Ormuz. On April 27, 1622, the 2500 survivors of the Portuguese garrison were shipped off to Goa in vessels compassionately given by the English, who with difficulty protected them from the vengeance of the natives.

In spite of our efforts, the unfortunate men were stripped and maltreated by the Persians. Shah Abbas rewarded the English by a settlement on the mainland of Persia at Gombroon, afterwards called Bunder Abbas in his honour, and gave them a patent for half the customs duties, the first of those revenue grants which were to end in the transfer of great Indian provinces to British administration:

Thus went down the power of Portugal in 1622 in

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the Persian Gulf, as it had gone down before the English in 1612 and 1615 on the Indian coast. In the last years of her proud nationality, Portugal had divided her Asiatic empire into three governments (1571): the coast of East Africa, India with the Persian Gulf from Cape Guardafui to Ceylon, and the Eastern Archipelago with its headquarters at Malacca. Nine years later (1580) she was forced into union with Spain, and within a generation a new power from the North had broken her chain of Asiatic possessions at the middle link. Her two other governments on the African coast and in the Eastern Archipelago, thus thrust asunder, became an easy prey. From 1622, India and the Persian Gulf lay open to England so far as Portugal was concerned.’ Before Portugal could break loose from Spain and reassert her independence in 1640, her supremacy in the Asiatic seas had become a legend of the past. In 1642 she partially, and in 1654 she finally, accepted the situation, and agreed that the English should have the right to reside and trade in all her Eastern possessions. The treaty which assured this latter agreement was one entered into between Oliver Cromwell and King John IV of Portugal, and dated at Westminster, July 10, 1654. It has a special importance as marking the end of the old Portuguese monopoly and formulating the new policy of England in the East.


3. For statistics concerning the four voyages see Appendix II, D.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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