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The East India Company's Maritime Service, 1746-1834

The East India Company's Maritime Service, 1746-1834: Masters of the Eastern Seas

Jean Sutton
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 324
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt163tc6z
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  • Book Info
    The East India Company's Maritime Service, 1746-1834
    Book Description:

    Awarded the prestigious Anderson Medal by the Society for Nautical Research for the best volume published on an aspect of maritime history for 2010. This book covers every aspect of the East India Company's trade during the final century of its commercial life as the focus moves steadily eastwards, driven by Britain's unquenchable thirst for China tea. The whole spectrum of the trade, physically and temporally, unfolds through the careers of three generations of an important East India shipping family. Starting as second mate in Salisbury in 1746, William Larkins gained a command, then entered the powerful circle of managing owners who monopolized the supply of the Company's ships. His sons and grandsons followed him, all playing a significant part in the wider struggle to establish Britain's political supremacy in India and dominance of the China Sea trade. From the end of the eighteenth century liberalization eroded their power and wealth: they had to compete in the provision of the Company's ships, while the virile free merchants in the eastern seas finally broke down the Company's privilege of trading between Britain and the east. The last member of the Larkins family to serve the Company adapted to the prevailing conditions following the Company's withdrawal from trade in 1834, carrying British manufactures to China and bringing back tea, boosting his earnings by investing in smuggled opium. JEAN SUTTON is a maritime historian, author of the highly acclaimed Lords of the East, the East India Company and its Ships (1981, second edition 2000).

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-911-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations: plates and maps
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. The Larkins Family
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    CATHAY! FOR centuries its siren cadence lured European adventurers over land and sea. The Spanish searched to the west while the Portuguese penetrated ever further south down the coast of Africa. Within five years of Columbus’s arrival in the Bahamas Vasco da Gama had rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached the ancient emporium of Calicut on the Malabar coast of India. Although the Spanish had failed to reach China, the silver they acquired in America fuelled the European trade with the East for centuries.¹ The Portuguese systematically established control over the eastern seas through powerful fortifications at Mozambique,...

  7. Part I In the Company’s Service

    • One A HAZARDOUS VOYAGE
      (pp. 19-35)

      ON 31 JANUARY 1746 William Larkins, a thirty-four-year-old seaman from Dover, entered the headquarters of the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies in Leadenhall Street. In a committee room ‘scarce inferior to anything of the like nature in the City’,¹ Thomas Hall, managing owner of several East India ships, introduced William to a few directors who formed the Committee of Shipping.² He presented William as the second mate of his shipSalisbury, hired by the Company for a voyage to Madras and Bengal. William duly swore the traditional oath not to trade in the goods...

    • Two BOMBAY AND ‘THE GULPHS’
      (pp. 36-53)

      ON 29 JULY 1748 invited guests streamed over the new ship built for Captain Benjamin Braund in the Blackwall Yard, an island of industry amidst the marshy wastes where the River Lea flows into the Thames.¹ From their vantage point high above the river they looked out over the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich, Deptford, Rotherhithe and St Pauls dominating the distant mass of the city. To the east the river snaked away across thirty miles of low-lying ground to the Hope and the Thames estuary. The East India Company’s presence was everywhere. Only a few years after the yard...

    • Three FROM MALABAR TO WHAMPOA
      (pp. 54-76)

      IN THE event, William barely had time to unpack his chest before Richard Crabb summoned him to London. As commander ofDurrington, Captain Crabb had made his fortune on the Mocha voyage in 1749 and had now retired to become her managing owner, along with other of Samuel Braund’s ships.¹ Her new commander was Richard Drake, related to Roger Drake, the Company Chairman that year.² Consequently, he had been offered the best voyage of the season, traditionally in the Chair’s gift.Durringtonwas stationed for Madras, Bengal and Bombay, offering William the best opportunity to trade from port to port....

  8. Part II William Larkins, Commander and Managing Owner

    • Four THE WORST VOYAGE: SUMATRA
      (pp. 79-102)

      FOR THE first time William arrived home to find his eldest son absent. Clinton had made a quick round trip to Bombay, arriving back in the Downs on 5 October 1757. William was arriving at Cork when Thomas rejoinedClintonfor another voyage to Bombay. Thomas must have performed well on his first voyage as Nathaniel Smith, now in command ofClinton, had given him a midshipman’s berth. Thomas’s young friend Nathaniel Dance was also a midshipman so they were still together. But William had two other sons to occupy him. His namesake, now three-and-a-half years old, was forced to...

    • Five ABUSE, PAINS AND PENALTIES
      (pp. 103-117)

      AT THE Jerusalem William heard disquieting news from Calcutta. William’s old friend’s son, Captain Brook Samson, and Nathaniel Smith, both back from Bengal, talked of anarchy in the Council and an orgy of private trading up country. Mir Jafar had fulfilled none of his promises and failed to produce any of the money he had pledged. Henry Vansittart, whom Clive had left as Governor, was a man of great integrity but he was quite unable to curb his fellow councillors’ excessive private trading in league with their Hindubanias. The councillors had persuaded the weak Governor to replace Mir Jafar...

    • Six THE COMPANY IN CRISIS
      (pp. 118-134)

      WHEN WILLIAM arrived back in London in July 1770 he found the Company’s financial situation worse than in 1767 following the Company’s appointment asdiwan. News of the French build-up at Mauritius had reached London a few months after William had reported it to the Governor of Bengal. This, soon followed by reports that Haidar Ali and his troops were before Madras, had caused the now volatile Company stock to collapse. Yet the belief that Bengal was the goose that laid golden eggs persisted. Company servants who returned and joined the ‘Bengal Squad’ in the General Court demanded an ever...

  9. Part III Thomas Larkins, Commander and Managing Owner

    • Seven THE DARKEST YEARS
      (pp. 137-154)

      THE GLOOMY prospects for East India shipping pervading the Jerusalem in the middle of the 1770s lasted barely five years. By the middle of 1779 the Committee of Shipping was facing a shortage of tonnage to carry exports and troops to India, where the struggle with the French and Mysore was becoming a matter of survival. The Court met the immediate shortfall by suspending the 39th by-law and taking up two ships for a fifth voyage.¹ When ships began to arrive from India they brought news from the Presidencies of delays in the despatch of shipping.² Immediately the Court gave...

    • Eight THE DOMINATION OF TEA
      (pp. 155-170)

      JOHN ARRIVED home in August 1785, four and a half years after sailing from the Downs, to find everything had changed. He was probably prepared for the sad family circumstances. News of his father’s death must have reached St Helena whereNassauhad anchored in May. At the Jerusalem everyone regretted the passing of this kindly, reliable man, who was respected by all for his skilful seamanship. Heartening news from Calcutta lifted the family’s spirits at this sad time. William’s wife had at last given birth to a son. He had been christened Warren Hastings after his godfather and was...

    • Nine DIVERSIFYING: BRAHMINS AND CONVICTS
      (pp. 171-186)

      JOHN ARRIVED back in Blackheath to find Thomas already a seasoned managing owner of three ships. He had taken over the family business from his mother, Christian, and was building on his father’s foundations. With the completion of a voyage to ChinaDoverhad handsomely repaid the outlay on her refitting. Thomas now sold her to government contractors Camden, Calvert & King for use as a transport and boughtRoyal Admiralfrom Sir Richard Hotham, who was withdrawing from ship ownership. She had completed her four voyages but Thomas hoped to hire her to the company for a fifth and...

  10. Part IV John Pascall Larkins, Esq., Managing Owner

    • Ten COMPETITION AND CONFLICT
      (pp. 189-206)

      JOHN’S RESPONSIBILITIES were wide-ranging. William was an invalid, with slender financial resources, though the Bengal government’s repeated recommendations in his favour persuaded the Court to reward his efforts and enable him to live comfortably in West Grove, Blackheath, near the rest of the family.¹ Susannah now looked to John to help those of her children who wanted a career in the service and his own wife’s kinsmen, John Brook Samson and Henry Morse Samson, depended on him to advance their careers.² Everything depended on John’s continuing the successful management of the family’s ships. His first task was to apply for...

    • Eleven AN EVENT UNIQUE IN THE COMPANY’S HISTORY
      (pp. 207-223)

      NATHANIEL DANCE, with William Pascall Larkins as first mate, had already sailed onEarl Camdenbefore Thomas returned onComet.¹ The Chairs had backed John’s efforts to get Nathaniel on his feet by offering him one of the most profitable voyages: Bombay and China. In a bid to get a share in the profitable trade exporting Gujarati raw cotton to Canton, the Company stationed four large China ships annually for the west coast Presidency and China.² Any part of the Company’s allocation that it could not fill was auctioned in Bombay by public notice among the private merchants there, the...

    • Twelve THE FORTUNES OF WAR
      (pp. 224-244)

      CAPTAIN THOMAS Larkins needed a good voyage to turn the small capital he had made from the sale of his teas to good account. He was none too pleased to hear thatWarren Hastingswas stationed as the annual ship for St Helena, Benkulen and China for the season 1804/5, not a voyage likely to generate much profit in private trade. Thomas’s spirits were not lifted by the bad weather, which scarcely let up from coming afloat in November. After leaving Gravesend they were exposed to extreme cold. Reports of gales and damage to shipping came in from Sheerness, Margate...

  11. Part V The New World Disorder

    • Thirteen THE MACHINERY OF JUSTICE
      (pp. 247-266)

      JOHN PASCALL Larkins, who had managed the family business for a quarter of a century, had died in August 1818. In his will John expressed his regret at not having provided more adequately for his children.¹ However, as managing owner of nine ships in the Company’s service between 1793 and 1818, he had provided a living for several members of his extended family. Henry Morse Samson took over the management of Larkins & Co.’s remaining ships:Marquis Camden,Warren Hastings(2) and (3) andLarkins.

      John’s own son, always called Tommy by family and friends, had been sworn in to...

    • CONCLUSION
      (pp. 267-276)

      THE DIRECTORS resolved as early as June 1825 to hire the China ships on short-term contracts ending in 1834, a clear indication that they expected the Company to lose its monopoly of the tea trade at the renewal of the Charter in 1833.¹Marquis Camdenspent the final years of her service with the Company stationed for St Helena, Bombay and China, calling en route either at Penang, Malacca and Singapore, or at Singapore only. She entered the East India Dock for the last time as a Company ship in May 1834, at the end of her tenth voyage.²

      Tommy...

  12. Appendix I AT A COURT OF DIRECTORS OF THE UNITED COMPANY OF MERCHANTS OF ENGLAND, TRADING TO THE EAST-INDIES, HOLDEN DECEMBER 24, 1760
    (pp. 277-280)
  13. Appendix II [ESTABLISHED BY?] THE RIGHT HONORABLE [SIC] THE LORDS COMMISSIONERS OF THE ADMIRALTY, RESPECTING IMPRESSMENT FROM THE EAST INDIA COMPANY’S SHIPS
    (pp. 281-282)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-288)
  15. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 289-292)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 293-316)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)