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The Pirates of Malabar, and an Englishwoman in India Two Hundred Years Ago   By: (1840-1921)

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THE PIRATES OF MALABAR AND AN ENGLISHWOMAN IN INDIA TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO

[Illustration: MAHRATTA GRABS AND GALLIVATS ATTACKING AN ENGLISH SHIP.]

THE PIRATES OF MALABAR AND AN ENGLISHWOMAN IN INDIA TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO

BY COLONEL JOHN BIDDULPH

1907

PREFACE

For most people, interest in the doings of our forefathers in India dates from our wars with the French in the middle of the eighteenth century. Before then their lives are generally supposed to have been spent in monotonous trade dealings in pepper and calico, from which large profits were earned for their masters in England, while their principal excitements were derived from drinking and quarrelling among themselves. Little account has been taken of the tremendous risks and difficulties under which the trade was maintained, the losses that were suffered, and the dangers that were run by the Company's servants from the moment they left the English Channel. The privations and dangers of the voyage to India were alone sufficient to deter all but the hardiest spirits, and the debt we owe to those who, by painful effort, won a footing for our Indian trade, is deserving of more recognition than it has received. Scurvy, shortness of water, and mutinous crews were to be reckoned on in every voyage; navigation was not a science but a matter of rule and thumb, and shipwreck was frequent; while every coast was inhospitable. Thus, on the 4th September, 1715, the Nathaniel , having sent a boat's crew on shore near Aden, in search of water, the men allowed themselves to be inveigled inland by treacherous natives, who fell upon them and murdered twelve out of fourteen who had landed from the ship. Such an occurrence now would be followed by a visit from a man of war to punish the murderers. Two hundred years ago it was only an incident to set down in the ship's log book. But all such outrages and losses were small in comparison with those to which traders were exposed at the hands of pirates.

It is difficult to realize, in these days, what a terrible scourge piracy was to the Indian trade, two hundred years ago. From the moment of losing sight of the Lizard till the day of casting anchor in the port of destination an East India ship was never safe from attack, with the chance of slavery or a cruel death to crew and passengers, in case of capture. From Finisterre to Cape Verd the Moorish pirates made the seas unsafe, sometimes venturing into the mouth of the Channel to make a capture. Farther south, every watering place on the African coast was infested by the English and French pirates who had their headquarters in the West Indies. From the Cape of Good Hope to the head of the Persian Gulf, from Cape Comorin to Sumatra, every coast was beset by English, French, Dutch, Danish, Portuguese, Arab, Malay or other local pirates. In the Bay of Bengal alone, piracy on a dangerous scale was practically unknown.

There was no peace on the ocean. The sea was a vast No Man's domain, where every man might take his prey. Law and order stopped short at low water mark. The principle that traders might claim protection and vengeance for their wrongs from their country, had not yet been recognized, and they sailed the seas at their own risk. Before the close of the seventeenth century the buccaneers had passed away, but their depredations, in pursuit of what they called "free trade," were of a different nature from those of the pirates who succeeded them. Buccaneer exploits were confined to the Spanish main, where they ravaged and burnt Spanish settlements on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, moving with large forces by sea and land. According to Esquemeling, Morgan sailed on his expedition against Panama with thirty seven sail and two thousand fighting men, besides mariners and boys. But the Spanish alone were the objects of their attack. So long as Spain claimed a monopoly of South American trade, it was the business of Spain alone to keep the marauders away; other Governments were not disposed to assist her... Continue reading book >>




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