« PrécédentContinuer »
this contest, France and England, the latter involved BOOK IV by her Hanoverian interests, had both engaged as auxiliaries; and in the end had become nearly, or rather altogether, principals. From 1739, England had been at war with Spain, a war intended to annul the right claimed and exercised by the Spaniards, of searching English ships on the coast of America for contraband goods. England and France, though contending against one another, with no ordinary efforts, in a cause ostensibly not their own, abstained from hostilities directly on their own account, till 1744; when the two governments came to mutual declarations of war. And it was not long before the most distant settlements of the two nations felt the effects of their destructive contentions.
On the 14th of September, 1746, a French fleet anchored four leagues to the south of Madras; and landed five or six hundred men. On the 15th the fleet moved along the coast, while the troops marched by land; and about noon it arrived within cannonshot of the town. Labourdonnais, who commanded the expedition, then landed, with the rest of the troops.
The whole force destined for the siege, consisted of 1000 or 1100 Europeans, 400 Sepoys, and 400 Caffres, or blacks of Madagascar, brought from the island of Mauritius: 1700 or 1800 men, all sorts included, remained in the ships.?
Madras had, during the space of 100 years, been the principal settlement of the English on the Coro
Mémoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 124. Mr. Orme, i. 67, says the third, the difference being that of the styles: the old style, it appears, was used by the English historian. ? Mémoire, ut supra, p. 125. Orme, p. 67.
BOOK IV mandel coast. The territory belonging to the Com
pany extended five miles along the shore, and was 1746. about one mile in breadth. The town consisted of
three divisions. The first, denominated the white town, in which resided none but the English, or Europeans under their protection, consisted of about fifty houses, together with the warehouses and other buildings of the Company, and two churches, one an English, the other a Roman Catholic church. This division was surrounded with a slender wall, defended with four bastions, and four batteries, but weak and badly constructed, decorated with the title of Fort St. George. Contiguous to it, on the north side, was the division in which resided the Armenian, and the richest of the Indian merchants, larger, and still worse fortified than the former. And on the northern side of this division was a space, covered by the hovels of the country, in which the mass of the natives resided. These two divisions constituted what was called the black town. The English in the colony exceeded not 300 men, of whom 200 were the soldiers of the garrison. The Indian Christians, converts or descendants of the Portuguese, amounted to three or four thousand; the rest were Armenians, Mohammedans, or Hindus, the last in by far the largest proportion; and the whole population of the Company's territory amounted to about 250,000. With the exception of Goa and Batavia, Madras was, in point both of magnitude and riches, the most important of the European establishments in India.
I A Letter to a Proprietor of India Stock, published in 1750, by a per
The town sustained the bombardment for five days, BOOK IV when the inhabitants, expecting an assault, capitulated. They had endeavoured to save the place, by the offer of a ransom; but Labourdonnais coveted the glory of displaying French colours on the ramparts of fort St. George. He engaged however his honour to restore the settlement, and content himself with a moderate ransom; and on these terms he was received into the town. He had not lost so much as one man in the enterprise. Among the English four or five were killed by the explosion of the bombs, and two or three houses were destroyed, Labourdonnais protected the inhabitants, with the care of a man of virtue; but the magazines and warehouses of the Company, as public property, were taken possession of by the commissaries of the French.
Labourdonnais, with the force under his command, had arrived in India in the month of June 1746. At that time the settlements of France in the Indian seas were under two separate governments, analogous to the English Presidencies; one established at the Isle of France, the other at Pondicherry. Under the former of these governments were placed the two
son who was evidently concerned in the government of Madras at the time, states, that the soldiers were not only few, but of a very indifferent description ; that the town was ill provided with ammunition-stores, and that its fortifications were in a ruinous condition. The necessity for rigid economy at home, having withheld the means of maintaining the establishment abroad in a state of efficiency.-W.
1 The memoir cited in the preceding note, describes discussions which took place at home, in regard to the payment of certain bonds given by the government of Madras, to raise money to the extent of 100,000 pagodas, which it is intimated, were presented to the French commander as the price of his moderation.-W.
* Mémoire pour Labourdonnais, i, 126-142. Orme, i. 64–69.
BOOK IV islands; the one called the isle of France, about sixty
leagues in circumference; the other that of Bourbon, of nearly the same dimensions. These islands, lying on the eastern side of Madagascar, between the nineteenth and twentieth degrees of latitude, were discovered by the Portuguese, and by them called Cerne, and Mascarenhas. In 1660 seven or eight Frenchmen settled on the island of Mascarenhas; five years afterwards they were joined by twentytwo of their countrymen ; the remains of the French colony which was destroyed in Madagascar sought refuge in this island; and when it became an object of some importance, the French changed its name to the island of Bourbon. The island of Cerne was, at an early date, taken possession of by the Dutch, and by them denominated the island of Mauritius, in honour of their leader Maurice, Prince of Orange; but, after the formation of their establishment at the Cape of Good Hope, was abandoned as useless. The French, who were subject to great inconvenience by want of a good harbour on the island of Bourbon, took possession of it in 1720, and changed its name from the isle of Mauritius, to the isle of France. Both islands are fruitful, and produce the corn of Europe, along with most of the tropical productions. Some plants of coffee, accidentally introduced from Arabia, succeeded so well on the island of Bourbon, as to render that commodity the staple of the island.
Pondicherry was the seat of the other Indian government of the French. It had under its juris
| Raynal, ii. 271.
Mémoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 88, 95.
diction the town and territory of Pondicherry; and BOOK IV three factories, or Comptoirs, one at Mahé, not far south from Tellicherry on the Malabar coast, one at Karical on one of the branches of the Coleroon on the Coromandel coast, and one at Chandernagor on the river Hoogley in Bengal."
The form of the government at both places was the same. It consisted, like the English, the form of which was borrowed from the Dutch, of a Governor, and a Council; the Governor being President of the Council, and allowed according to the genius of the government in the mother country, to engross from the council a greater share of power than in the colonies of the English and the Dutch. The peculiar business of the Governor and Council was, to direct, in conformity with instructions from home, all persons in the employment of the Company; to regulate the expenditure, and take care of the receipts; to administer justice, and in general to watch over the whole economy of the establishment. Each of the islands had a Council of its own; but one Governor sufficed for both. 2
In 1745 Labourdonnais was appointed Governor of the islands. This was a remarkable man. He was born at St. Malo, in 1699, and was entered on board a ship bound for the South Sea at the age of ten. In 1713 he made a voyage to the East Indies, and the Philippine islands; and availed hinself of the presence of a Jesuit, who was a passenger in the ship, to acquire a knowledge of the mathematics. After performing several voyages to other parts of the
Mémoire, ut supra, p. 94. Raynal, ut supra, p. 217. ? Mémoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 95. Mémoire contre Dupleix, p. 8.