Ceylon

These articles provide information in the newspapers about Ceylon or Sri Lanka as it is now known. The unique feature of Ceylon then was its traditional Buddhist religion – the Buddhism that the Buddha taught. The Dutch had occupied the island for its clove production, then the sole source of cloves, and had engrossed the European market for it.

When Europeans first walked through the forest of the interior they found the fauna fearless of humanity. It was the same with fish that teemed in the rivers. These features of a vegetarian society were soon lost as Western values were entrenched on the people.

Sat 1st August 1795

The conquest of the Dutch factories at Ceylon and Malacca has been entrusted to two expeditions, one under Colonel James Stuart with the Madras Army and the other under Major Archibald Brown. Details of the composition of the expeditionary forces are given in Bombay Courier.

The Malaccan expedition left 20th July; the Ceylonese on the following day. A force from Bengal will likely reinforce the Malacca conquest.[1]

Sat 12th Sept 1795

The Dutch force at Trincomalee is resisting Colonel Stuart’s force. They were formerly co-operative. It was expected that Colonel Stuart would open fire on the upper fort on about 22nd August.

The King of Kandy has unexpectedly offered us his help. He supposes we are helping him to evict the Dutch and restore his former grandeur. A messenger from him has arrived at Trincomalee offering every support, whether it be provisions, cattle or men. Stuart has accepted the offer of provisions and cattle.

Sat 19th Sept 1795

The Dutch garrison at Trincomalee sortied out against Colonel Stuart’s force. A letter dated 25th August says they killed about 40 of our men. The siege continues and Stuart is expected to assault the place in a few days.

Another report says the lower fort surrendered on 27th August and Fort Orstenbourg (the upper fort) was called upon to surrender the following day.

Sat 26th Sept 1795

The upper fort at Trincomalee, Fort Orstenbourg, surrendered to us on 31st August. The Dutch were mindful to continue a resistance but they lost so many men through desertion it became impractical. Securing this strategic port is important to British interests in India.

Sat 26th Sept 1795

Four Europeans – Colonel Charles Comte de Meuron, his aide-de-camp Capt Bolle, the Comte’s friend Hugh Cleghorn a professor from St Andrews University and another – have arrived at Calicut by dhow from Mocha. They have been sent by Henry Dundas for the home government to arrange the transfer of Dutch possessions into British control.

The Swiss regiment at Ceylon is in Dutch pay. It was raised by the Comte de Meuron and is commanded by his brother Pierre.

Sat 17th Oct 1795

The surrender of Trincomalee on 26th August has been agreed. The Dutch march out with full honours, they retain their arms; the Malay soldiers will return from whence they came. All ammunition expended by the Company will be replaced. No European will be sent to Europe against his wishes. Private property will be respected.

The garrison of Fort Orstenbourg made a separate peace on similar terms.

Sat 17th Oct 1795

The King of Kandy’s ambassador has arrived at Trincomalee and declared his master’s friendship towards England. He will continue to supply cattle to the British troops.

The King is described in the preamble to the agreement as

Blessed with all virtues; Like a silver mountain; King of all Kings; Superior to all warriors; Equal to Vishnu in beauty; Greater than the elephant in wisdom and power; God of the Isle of Lanka; A King whose throne and crown are of precious stones; Whose generation is from the Sun; Whose Court is the Court of all that is good and just.’

The Dutch Governor and Council of Colombo are functionaries of our ally the Stadtholder but they are diligently improving their defences. New outworks and batteries are being made.

The conscription of all males over 14 years is announced. The Governor has 1,500 European and 2,500 native troops, mainly Malays.

Battacalao has surrendered to us.

Sat 14th Nov 1795

Madras Presidency sent Major Agnew to Colombo to negotiate with the Dutch. He has arranged for the Swiss Regiment of the Comte de Meuron to withdraw to Tutecorin where it will come under the command of Colonel Floyd. His other negotiations are frustrated.[2]

Two of Tippoo’s ships were found at Colombo. One had arrived from Mauritius with a cargo of grain and provisions. The cargo is suspected to be French and the ship has been arrested. The other vessel remains within the port.

Sat 5th Dec 1795

Admiral Elphinstone in Ceylon is having difficulty getting the Dutch to relinquish sovereignty of the island. He has asked for H M’s 77th regiment, a native battalion and some artillery for the reduction of Colombo and Point de Galle. The force will assemble at Cochin, on the Kerala coast, and launch the invasion from there.

Sat 13th Feb 1796

Letters of 26th January from Cochin say the invasion force for the siege of Colombo sailed to Tutacorin and a similar force from Madras sailed at the same time to the same destination.

Sat 27th Feb 1796

The Bombay contingent in the force to attack Colombo moved on 2nd February to Negombo on the west coast of the island. Our troops are reportedly keen and, with the help of the King of Kandy, we should soon prevail.

Sat 12th March 1796

Colombo surrendered to us on 15th February. Its dependencies (Point de Galle, etc) have also surrendered. This ends Dutch power in India. Few details are available. We have contracted to protect private property and underwrite the bank-note issue.

van Angelbeck, the Governor, values public property, exclusive of military stores, at 2.5 million rupees. Prize money will be substantial.

Sat 19th March 1796

John Gerard van Angelbeck, member of the Dutch Council of India and Governor of Colombo has surrendered Colombo and its dependencies to Colonel James Stuart. The VOC’s account books at Colombo and its dependencies are two years out of date and the transfer of supplies to us will depend on our stock-taking of those actually found. Van Angelbeck and the Galle administrator van der Spaer will update the accounts within the ensuing 12 – 18 months and be paid for their time in doing so.

The British wish to confiscate the stores on the two Dutch ships in harbour and in the warehouses of Colombo. The Dutch say that whilst these are public stores, they have been incumbered as security for loans received from VOC employees for which 500,000 rix dollars of Promissory Notes were issued of which about half remains to be redeemed. They also say most VOC employees are in arrears of salaries.[3]

The governor values the stock of cinnamon at 3 rupees per pound, pepper at 100 rupees per candy and cardamoms at one rupee per pound plus the piecegoods at invoice price – altogether these supplies are worth 2,500,000 Rupees. The debts and Promissory Notes in circulation total about 600,000 rupees.

He accordingly requests the British government to honour the Promissory Notes of £50,000 in circulation and, if they wish, to issue their own certificates on the amount at 3% per annum for the duration of the British occupation.[4]

Sat 30th April 1796

Since our occupation of Ceylon, we have distributed the cinnamon plant, which formerly only grew on that island and was a Dutch monopoly, and it is now growing in numerous parts of India. A few plants have just been brought to Bombay. It has long been a Company objective to open the spice trade and end the Dutch monopoly.

Sat 7th May 1796

Lt Wedgborough has returned on the Company’s cruiser Queen after a survey of Adam’s Bridge (the land bridge between Ceylon and Tamil Nadu) and Palk’s Passage.

Wedgborough reports there is no way for a ship to pass this strait between India and Ceylon but there is considerable cross-straits trade. The Dutch, who rarely neglect a source of possible revenue, have taxed this trade heavily. The islands in this vicinity are used by the Dutch mainly to raise cattle and horses.

Sat 11th June 1796

The latest reports from Ceylon reveal it is wealthier than we had supposed. It abounds with cinnamon and pepper, teak and betel nut. There are many elephants and a rich market in ivory.

A British visitor to Trincomalee says, with 600 men to work two months on its defences, it could be as redoubtable as Gibraltar. Osnaburg (Koddiyar) Bay is sufficiently spacious to provide anchorage for two thirds of the Royal Navy secure against wind from every direction.

Sat 16th July 1796

The new British regulations for Colombo fix the import duty for all goods that have not previously paid British customs duty at 5%. Those that have paid British duty (i.e. Indian exports) pay 2½%. Provisions may be imported duty-free. The export of cinnamon, coffee and pepper is monopolised by and restricted to the Company.

Sat 23rd July 1796

Our garrison at Trincomalee is experiencing disease. Over ten men die each day. The illness starts with acute pain in the pit of the stomach, followed by a general swelling of the whole body and terminates a few hours later in death. People who work cheerfully all day are found in bed next morning bloated and dead.

Sat 22nd Oct 1796

Ceylon – Once it became known that war in Europe had obliged England to fight the Dutch, the King of Kandy offered his assistance in expelling his old enemy from the coasts of his island. He sent an ambassador to Madras to indicate his friendship. We drafted a treaty with the ambassador which he took back with him to Kandy. Mr Andrews of the Madras Presidency went to Kandy to develop the connection. He left Colombo on 27th June escorted by a company of the Bombay grenadiers under Lt Knox and accompanied by Lts Campbell and Mahoney and Mr Atkinson.

The roads are so poor even horses cannot pass, but the soil is clearly fertile (more so than most of India) and well cultivated. The population is numerous and appeared generally unfriendly which we attributed to the prior acts of the Dutch.

On 5th August we reached Goonarowic, a few miles short of Kandy, where we were required to stop while notification of our impending arrival was sent ahead. After several days nothing had happened and Andrews asked when he might continue the journey. The 13th August was fixed but it was intimated that the party should arrive at dusk and depart before dawn the following morning to prevent the people seeing us.

We set off at 6 pm that day and commenced our procession into the court at 10 pm. When the curtain was opened to disclose the King, covered in jewels and seated on his gold throne, all the attendants prostrated themselves six times, proclaiming ‘may the King of Kings live forever’. The King was attended by his minister and the governors of the four provinces into which the island is divided administratively. There were some other people there in authority but we did not discover their functions.

Andrews presented his credentials. We learned that the King is known by 120 titles and they all have to be mentioned in every question and every answer. This, together with our need for an interpreter, made the interview endlessly time-consuming and tiresome and hardly productive. We were then taken to a large saloon and given refreshments. The only advantage obtained was the King’s offer to sign the treaty on 18th August.

The city is defended by some Malays and Portuguese and the artillery was few and small (the largest gun we saw was a 4-pounder). Kandy does not appear to be a wealthy city so far as we could tell.

Sat 27th Jan 1798

Lord Hobart, the Madras Governor, and his suite have embarked on HMS Suffolk for Colombo to settle the discontent amongst the Ceylonese of that town. The visit is expected to take a month.[5]

Sat 19th May 1798

Letters from Madras reveal the pearl fishing monopoly we have taken from the Dutch on Ceylon is lucrative. In 1796 the Company sold it for 150,000 Pagodas but it seems we under-priced that. In 1797 the Company sold it to a Tamil from Jaffnapatam for 260,000 Pagodas. The price increased because the fishing area was extended to the most distant banks.

The Dutch harvested pearls from those banks only once every three years. The Tamil holder of the monopoly sub-divides the banks into areas and rents them to fishermen. They start collection in February and complete it before the onset of the summer monsoon in mid April. Once the monsoon starts the water becomes turbid from run-off and the oysters cannot be seen. The banks are farmed successively for 3-4 years and then permitted some 7 years to recover. Farming is limited in time and fishermen in their haste to turn a profit tear up the oyster beds, young and old together – it takes longer for them to recover.

Whilst the pearls are being harvested a market develops at the landing places comprising vendors of food and drinks and vast numbers of jewellers and speculators. An important industry is pearl-sorting which is done with brass plates with holes of increasing sizes drilled through them. Another industry is drilling the individual pearls so they may be strung together. It is easily done and inexpensive. There is a constant smell of putrefaction from the dead oysters that pervades the whole area.

Wed 6th June 1798 Extraordinary

Frederick North has arrived on the Indiaman Brunswick to take up his job as Governor of Ceylon.

Sat 23rd June 1798

The Bombay-based Company cruiser Swift (Bond) has arrived at Madras. She is carrying treasure obtained from Trincomalee on 16th May.

Le Preneuse, the French privateer from Mauritius, has been endeavouring to intercept the Swift, knowing her cargo.

Sat 29th Sept 1798

Frederick North, former MP for Banbury and 5th Earl of Guilford, has received H M’s Commission as Governor of Ceylon and has embarked from England for that island.

Sat 1st Dec 1798

26th October 1798 – The Company has discovered a valuable source of mercury about 6 miles from Colombo in our new acquisition of Ceylon. A guard has been placed over it until it can be worked commercially.

The Government of Madras has been informed. Mercury is important to refine gold and silver and has previously been available mainly from Spain.

Sat 22nd Dec 1798

21st December – The following Commercial Regulations for Ceylon are effective immediately:

  • All salt brought to Ceylon is a Company monopoly.
  • The trade in cinnamon is a Company monopoly. Heavy penalties for competing.
  • All arrack for export will pay 8 Rix Dollars per leager of 75 welt.
  • All betel nut exported will pay 10 Rix dollars per 24,000 nuts.
  • The former Dutch duties on tobacco and timber exports are continued.
  • With effect from 1st January 1799 all imports of silk, muslin or cotton cloth will pay 7½% ad valorem.
  • All other duties remain as set by the Dutch.
  • The import of saltpetre, sulphur, gunpowder, arms & ammunition is illegal.

Editions for the second half of 1799 and all 1800 are missing from the Library copy.

Sat 10th Jan 1801

The British merchants of Colombo have Addressed King George III on 4th December 1800:

“We are horrified at the recent attempt to kill you. The assassin must be mad. All your subjects love you.”

Sgd Frederick North Governor, General MacDowell CiC, and 127 others.

Sat 27th March 1802

One of the main problems with Madras is that every year when the summer monsoon sets in, the open roadstead becomes too rough and all the shipping has to put out to sea. Commonly, the masters take their ships around the Cape to shelter on the western side of the peninsula. This leaves Madras unprotected.

In the war with France in 1783, the French had Trincomalee and complete protection from the summer weather whilst we had Madras and no protection at all. This disabled Sir Edward Hughes from effectively attacking the French fleet of Admiral Suffrein.

Ceylon is now ours. We should make a dockyard at Trincomalee to fit-out and repair our ships. It is the only port on the eastern coast of India that will answer to our needs.

The second attraction of Ceylon is the fertility of the soil. The Dutch have previously brought seedlings of spices from Banda, where the best spices grow, and from the Celebes, and these have flourished around Ceylon. Cultivation can be continually expanded until Ceylon provides all of Europe’s spice needs.

The kingdom of Kandy occupies about a quarter of the island and produces all sorts of jewels – sapphires, rubies and topazes – indeed the King has one stone in his collection that incorporates the colours of all three of these jewels.

It is curious that, as a result of the war, the only useful harbour in West Indies (Trinidad) has been ceded to us by Spain and the only useful harbour in eastern India (Trincomalee) has been surrendered to us by the Dutch.

Sat 29th May 1802

Frederick North, Governor of Ceylon, has built a lodge overlooking the pearl fisheries. He intends to live there throughout the harvesting season.

Sat 5th Mar 1803

Sir Frederick North’s Proclamation of 29th January 1803 (published in the Madras Gazette of 15th February 1803):

Since Ceylon was occupied by England, I have tried to preserve friendship with the King of Kandy but his emissaries to British settlements create animosity to our rule. In March and April 1802 some merchants from Putelam, in the British part of the island, bought Rix $2,920 of areca nuts in Kandy. When they arrived at Cakanaculi the nuts were stolen from them under the authority of the King of Kandy.

Our investigation revealed the Putelam merchants had acted correctly and respectfully throughout and the theft was due solely to the venality of the King.

I sent a remonstrance to Kandy and in October 1802 received acknowledgement of the justice of my complaint and a promise of reparation. We agreed that the Putelam merchants should return to Cakanaculi to get their goods. They waited 35 days there before being told they should return again in January 1803 when they would be satisfied with a fresh supply from the new harvest.

At about the same time the King wrote me (14th November) that the original nuts had been sold and an equal quantity was being sought to compensate the merchants. I sent a local chap to Cakanaculi on 14th January 1803 as my Commissioner. That was the time the replacement nuts were expected to arrive there. He was told the nuts would be available in a couple of months. He replied that the time of delivery had already been fixed by the King and demanded monetary compensation. This was refused and bodies of Kandian troops began to assemble.

I determined to meet force with force and sent the King an ultimatum to that effect. In the interim I have ordered my troops in Kandian territories to exercise restraint, respect Buddhism and protect any people not in arms against us.

Sat 12th March 1803

Two British army units are converging on the Kingdom of Kandy to enforce the ultimatum in Governor North’s Proclamation. General MacDowell’s force has reached Kattadenia on the Kandian frontier whilst Lt Colonel Barbut’s force is marching from Trincomalee.

Sat 19th March 1803

The British invasion of Kandy is progressing. General Hay MacDowell has written Governor North on 19th February that he has engaged and defeated Kandian armies at Galle, Gederah and Geriagamme. He expects to reach Katoogastotte tomorrow. He has no news from Lt Colonel Barbut’s detachment.

Sat 26th March 1803

The King of Kandy and his minister fled their capital after firing the palace and several temples. General MacDowell arrived 20th February and found the town deserted. He has put out the fires but most buildings are totally damaged. The palace was built of white chunam and had stone doorways.

The palace was immense and was comparable in extent to Seringapatam. In one room he found an enormous seated Buddha made of brass and two smaller Buddhas seated before it. The river flowing through Kandy is full of fish as the people are vegetarians. A herd of milk-white deer were found grazing in the palace grounds.

MacDowell reports that Kandy is one of the finest countries in the world. The valleys are full of fruit trees, the foot paths are numerous and well-trodden and the mountains are cultivated right to the summits.

Most of the houses are made of dried mud and raised off the ground by five feet. You ascend a short staircase to enter them. The richer houses are whitewashed and tiled.

The King removed his treasure when he fled and the army has no prize money. Very few valuable things have been discovered by the officers.

Sat 16th April 1803

Our new Governor of Ceylon has visited some of the lands taken from the late King of Kandy.[6] We have the whole island now. The King has fled and we are fixing a treaty with his former minister whom we have recognised as the chief of Kandy.

The headmen of the towns and villages in the Kandian territories have submitted to the Company. Some of the officers of the former King have taken advantage of the truce offered to them and submitted to us as well.

Sat 13th August 1803

The garrison we left in Kandy has been massacred by the natives. It was comprised of H M’s 19th Regiment, the 51st Foot and the Malay Regiment.

They capitulated to the natives and obtained agreement for their evacuation to Trincomalee with their arms and ammunition but were cut down as soon as they exited the fort. Only a few officers survived.

The small garrison at Dambadenia is also under attack and a relief column is marching from Colombo.

Wed 5th Oct 1803 Extraordinary

In September the King of Kandy celebrated a religious festival. During the proceedings Major Davy of the Malay Regiment and Lieutenant Humphreys of the Bengal artillery were brought out and publicly executed.

Our native soldiers who had been captured in the late war were then brought out and their ears and noses cut off. They were then freed to return to us.

There is widespread insurrection against British rule throughout Ceylon and Governor North has declared Martial Law.

Sat 5th Nov 1803

The supporters of the King of Kandy have gone to the town of Batticaloa and politicised the towns people. Our Revenue Agent there, Joseph Smith, dispersed the crowds militarily and they sustained considerable loss. The 19th foot regiment has been actively clearing the north of the island. Many people are dying.

Most of our Malay regiment have been captured but a few escaped and have returned to Colombo with their women and children. The Ceylonese are a peaceful people – they should submit soon.

Then we will annex the whole island to the British crown.

Sat 30th March 1805

The insurrection of the people of Kandy against Company rule is continuing and repeated fighting occurs throughout the south and east of the island where the Company’s government was thought to be strongest.

Sat 4th May 1805

London news:

Major General Thomas Maitland has been appointed Governor of Ceylon and CiC of the forces there. He is to clean-up the Kandian mess caused by his predecessor.

Sat 15th Feb 1806

The Governor of Ceylon has proclaimed that there are many debtors in the prison of Colombo and their creditors are daily increasing their claims by the amount of subsistence required to be paid to maintain the debtors in prison.

The Governor accordingly enacts that the debtors are to be freed and their property distrained to the extent of their debts. The Colombo magistrate is to examine all people held for debt since last year or before, ascertain the facts of each case and then release them. No debtor is to be re-arrested for the same debt.

Creditors may seize property the debtors now have or which they may hereafter come to possess.

Sat 3rd May 1806

Alexander Johnstone is appointed Chief Justice of Ceylon.

Sat 28th June 1806

Colombo, 28th May 1806 – The former Dutch government legislated against Catholicism although it did not enforce its restrictive laws. There is a large Catholic community in Ceylon, apparently resulting from the earlier Portuguese influence. The British government permits their worship and full civil rights; Catholic marriages are allowed. This regulation takes effect on 1st June 1806.

Sat 29th Nov 1806

Colombo , 22nd October – two cartel ships are coming from Batavia to take away the Dutch population. After they have gone, for the duration of the war, there will be no further communication with Batavia. The ex-employees of VOC are welcome to remain. The other Dutchmen will not be protected after 1st November.

Sat 25th March 1809

Lt Colonel Kerr of the 2nd Ceylon Regiment has court-martialled Captain Charles Henry Steel for ‘conduct unbecoming an officer’. The Court considered the evidence and acquitted Steel. It objected to Kerr’s attempts to influence the testimony of young officers who were his prosecution witnesses.

When informed of the result Lt General Maitland, CiC Ceylon, published an order reprehending a document signed by all the officers of the 2nd Ceylon Regiment which he considered revealed a mercenary impulse. He ordered his words to be read before every regiment in Ceylon.

Sat 2nd Sept 1809

The recent disturbances in New South Wales have caused the NSW Corps to be transferred to Ceylon.

Sat 23rd March 1811

Formerly European residents of Ceylon were allowed to own land only in Colombo and its near vicinity. The King of Kandy has now ‘graciously removed’ the restriction’ and land is freely available for purchase everywhere, except in Trincomalee.

Sat 21st Dec 1811

Sir Alexander Johnstone has arrived at Ceylon on 13th November with the new Judicial Charter for the island. It was approved by the King-in-Council and is enacted under an Order-in-Council. Johnstone is to be Chief Justice of Ceylon. He also brought the Great Seal of Ceylon which H M has approved for future use.

The new Charter introduces Trial by Jury to criminal cases. The Jurors can be either Europeans or natives. They will make majority verdicts. Both the civil and criminal jurisdictions will be applied throughout the island to both Europeans and natives. The Supreme Court is fixed at Colombo and a regional court is established at Jaffna. The Provincial Courts are abolished and the Dutch Landraad Courts are re-introduced to replace them.

Sat 21st Dec 1811

Sir Wm Huskisson is the Colonial Agent for Ceylon in London. It’s a sinecure in the gift of the King. He wishes to open commerce between Ceylon and London. The Company’s Directors have acceded to Huskisson’s wishes and sent instructions to Madras to permit the Ceylon Government to send one 400-ton ship to London each year, subject to the same terms as regulate the trade of merchants in India with London (i.e. the Ceylonese exporters will be able to load a cargo of British manufactures for the return voyage). All exports must be the original productions of Ceylon with the exception of Tuticorin cloth and cinnamon which exports are banned to private merchants.[7]

Editor – trade between Ceylon and the Cape of Good Hope was recently allowed by the Company. These two measures should begin to relieve the commercial distress of the Ceylonese merchants.

Sat 4th April 1812

Colombo, 10th March – Lt General Robert Brownrigg arrived here today with his family to assume the government of Ceylon. He is also CiC and High Admiral of the island. He has brought a new Charter for the administration of justice to replace that brought by Sir Alexander Johnstone a few months ago.

The new Charter revives the Dutch provincial courts that Johnstone’s Charter dis-established.

Sat 3rd July 1813

Britain proscribed the trade in African slaves to its people in March 1807. It was extended to all slaves in May 1811. Those laws have been applicable to Ceylon since 1st January 1812. The Admiralty Court at Colombo is now hearing a case involving the sale of Singhalese children to Arabia. The defendants are three British subjects and three foreigners. The foreigners are a man from Mocha, Ahmed Carsim Patcherin, who is an officer on an Arab dhow Johan Banny, a Malay Muslim priest from Malacca and a Malabar Lascar. The Britons are two Muslim merchants from Galle and a Burgher who has taken the Oath of Allegiance to George III.

A similar case occurred at Calcutta a few years ago which Sir William Jones heard. In his Judgment, Jones held that the export of children for profit was a despicable crime.

Mocha is a great slaving market in the Ottoman empire. It handles much of the business from the African east coast (Zanzibar) and Madagascar.

The Johan Banny entered Galle harbour in January 1813 at a time when considerable shortage and famine was affecting the area. Many children were willing to do anything to get food. Badgammegey Simon is a pauper who led children to the ship. Fifteen were found on board.

Sat 8th Jan 1814

The Company’s government of Ceylon intends to licence about 150 boats to conduct pearl harvesting at Aripo for 30 days commencing 20th February 1814. Interested boatmen and divers should assemble at Condaatjie by 10th February. The pearl banks open this year are Kooda Paar and parts of Chivel Paar.

The Company’s procedure will be to sell the specialised fishing boats. Make your bids in Star Pagodas (the gold coin of Madras). Specimens from the pearl banks were examined last December and a survey certificate is attached. Contact James Sutherland, Superintendent of Pearl Fisheries, at Colombo for more information.

Sat 5th Feb 1814

The Ceylon government has arranged with Calcutta that all persons sentenced to transportation from Ceylon will be sent to the Company’s possessions. Ceylon has direct shipping links with Java and the Moluccas but not New South Wales. If the Company needs more settlers in Australia, Ceylonese convicts may be sent via Calcutta.

Sat 10th Dec 1814

Our government of Ceylon has made a Proclamation detailing several murders done by people we say are subjects of the King of Kandy.

This sort of Proclamation usually precedes a military strike.

Sat 17th Dec 1814

Ten Ceylonese merchants from Mahara who visited Kandy for trade were arrested and seven were executed. The three mutilated survivors have just returned to Colombo and reported their story.

Governor Brownrigg has proclaimed this was an act of barbarity and says the protection of British subjects is his primary duty. All residents of British territories are warned not to visit Kandy. On the other hand the merchants of Kandy are assured that they will be well-treated in the Company’s domains and should continue their trading visits.

The King of Kandy is upset with the Company, most recently because his minister (Chief Adigar) defaulted and fled to Colombo where we are protecting him.

Sat 4th Feb 1815

Colombo, 10th January – Our Ceylon government has declared war on the King of Kandy. They say they are friends of the people of Kandy and only wish to punish the King. They say representatives of five Ceylonese provinces have asked for military intervention against Kandy.

The Company will now send an army to capture the King. It will be instructed to respect private property. The religion and temples of the Buddhists will not be damaged. Only people opposing the army’s progress will be attacked.

Sat 4th March 1815

Castlereagh has told the House of Commons that Ceylon has become an integral part of the British empire. The Dutch have ceded Ceylon to us by treaty. It is one of the keys to India and will not be returned.

Likewise Castlereagh expected that the Cape would also remain British in light of its significance as a provisioning and watering base on the route to / from India. He thought some satisfactory compensatory arrangement could be made with the Dutch.

Sat 18th March 1815

Ceylon Government Gazette, 17th February – We have sent a retributive force to invade Kandy and liberate those ‘long-suffering’ people. We have published a Proclamation to the people of Kandy:

“Some people of Malabar, both Hindu and Muslim, have protested against our rule.[8] The Company has a list of names of the dissenters. These people have become subjects of the King of England and the Company. So long as they are tranquil we will protect them. As British subjects they have duties towards us. If they oppose us they are not only our enemy but are traitors, subject to legal punishment. Submit to our government and you will not be hurt.”

Our war aim is the liberation of the Ceylonese people. We cannot negotiate with the King because he might kill our messengers – we have to fight him.

We captured the King with two of his wives at Dombera. We have also caught his mother and 36 other female relatives together with an immense amount of treasure. D’Oyly is an old resident of Kandy and has agreed to represent the Company in negotiations with the King’s previous minister.

We now proclaim the end of the Kingdom of Kandy. All the chiefs of the surrounding hill country have come to us and submitted. Those lands are subsumed into the British Empire and the residents are now British subjects.

We thank God for a successful invasion of Kandy and for securing the entire country to us in forty days without any loss to the Company’s army. The oppression of the old government is at an end. Ceylonese trade and prosperity will increase. Most prisoners-of-war will be released.

Sat 1st April 1815

On 2nd March, Governor Brownrigg of Ceylon met with the King of Kandy’s former minister (D’Oyly’s friend) and chiefs of the various dependencies of Kandy. A treaty has been agreed establishing the Company’s government at Kandy and the Union Jack was flown from the King’s palace for the first time.

We have proclaimed that the Malabari King Wikrame Rajah Singha has ruled unjustly and is deposed. He, his family and their posterity are forever excluded from the throne. All male members of his family are declared enemies of the Kandy government. They are banished and will be killed if they return.

The former rights, privileges and powers of the subsidiary chiefs (about twenty of them) are affirmed. The protection of persons and property is affirmed. The religion of the Kingdom is Buddhism. Local institutions will be respected and maintained. All forms of torture are outlawed. No chief may execute a sentence of death without the Company’s approval.

Subject to the preceding stipulations, the Chiefs may administer their lands as they chose. Molligodde is the (acting) first chief.

The terms of the treaty we have imposed were then read in Singhalese by Abraham de Saram.

Non-Kandian people are subject to the Company’s law. The British garrison is subject to army law, not civil law.

The revenue of the country will be collected for the people by the Company’s agents. The Governor undertakes to facilitate the trade of Kandy with the other British provinces of Ceylon.[9]

Sat 8th April 1815

D’Oyly has been appointed British government agent in the Kingdom of Kandy in recognition of his help in replacing the King.

A conference has settled the division of power and wealth amongst the district chiefs. Mampiteye Bandara is appointed ruler by their common consent. Kandy now comes under British administration.

Sat 27th May 1815

The Company’s government of Ceylon is selling the prize goods captured in the latest invasion of Kandy. They will be publicly auctioned on 15th September. They comprise gold, silver and ivory items and bolts of cloth.

Sat 8th July 1815

The King of Kandy is in ‘close confinement’ and his kingdom is now opened to us. Lt Malcolm and a party of Company soldiers have ascended Adam’s Peak. They used the route of the Caltura River valley to Talabula where they met many pilgrims. The monks tried to discourage Malcolm’s armed party from ascending further, averring the sanctity of the Peak, but they were ignored. Malcolm had to climb over two hills to get to the foothills of Adam’s Peak itself.

The summit of the Peak is surrounded by a stone parapet and in the middle is a large ironstone rock with the famous footprint of the Buddha on it. The footprint is protected under a small wooden roof. The party fired off a feu de joie of three volleys on arrival which shocked the Buddhist pilgrims.

1816 – Whole year missing in BL copy

1817 – Whole year missing in BL copy

Sat 14th Feb 1818

One of the family of the ex-King of Kandy (‘the Malabar usurper’ in the newspaper) has returned to the highlands and has successfully politicised the residents thereabouts to revolt.

Our army is acting against him but the terrain is unsuitable for artillery and he moves more quickly than we can. Some of the rebels are offering submission if we exempt them from execution or banishment.

Sat 18th April 1818

Company’s Proclamation for the assassination of Ellepolla:

Ellepolla, the native at Kandy who is leading the local chiefs in their rebellion against our rule, has been revealed to be the secret assistant of the ex-King. He fled before we could arrest him but his lands and treasure have been confiscated and he is publicly proclaimed a traitor by the Company. He has forfeited the Company’s protection and may be killed on sight. A reward of 1,000 Rupees is payable to whoever brings him in.

We have difficulty with the Kandian rebels as they remain in the mountains where our form of artillery warfare is difficult to accomplish. We are able to subdue the Kandian populace by the presence of our army but, when our soldiers leave, the rebels reassert themselves.

Madras Presidency is sending reinforcements to Colombo in the transports Grant, Jessye, Minden, Pascoa and Perseverance. They will be based in the new barracks on Slave Island.

Latest news from Colombo says Ellepolla may not be a relative of the ex-King but a former Buddhist monk who is a protégé of Kapitipola, the ruler of Ouva. There are two other Kandian chiefs supporting Kapitipola’s insurrection and we are offering 1,000 Pagodas for the arrest of each of them. We are offering a tariff of rewards starting at $500 Rix for an ordinary official up to the 1,000 gold Pagodas for a chief.

The difficulty is that the rebels have the support of the people. Indeed they are able to quickly assemble thousands of supporters in almost every part of the country. Fortunately they are not skilled in war and use spears and arrows to fight against us. Only a few of our chaps have been hurt.

The people of the rich provinces like Kornegalle provide our opportunity – they have much to lose and are unwilling to risk all. Our troubles are in the more marginal provinces where everyone is poor.

Sat 5th Sept 1818

Kapitipola, the chief of the Ceylon insurgency in the highlands of the Kingdom of Kandy, continues to avoid our detachments and expeditions.

Sat 19th Sept 1818

Colombo, 15th Aug – Kapitipola’s rebellion seems to be ending. He has exhausted his capital and the people in his heartlands do not want to pay any more. He appears to have withdrawn from those areas that we can police.

Sat 10th Oct 1818

Ceylon is more tranquil. Communications between Colombo and Batticaloa are reopened. People are returning to Kandy but we do not allow them back unless they bring a weapon to surrender – that is the evidence we need to establish genuine submission.

Sat 28th Nov 1818

Kapitipola’s entire family have been captured near Narangamme. We have his younger brother, his wife, mother and grandmother, two young sons and a large number of personal attendants. That should give him pause.

We have captured some minor rebel leaders and their public executions are eroding the spirit of resistance amongst the people – Ceylon should be pacified soon. The regiments of Madras volunteers that were intended for Ceylon are likely to be diverted elsewhere – perhaps the disturbances in Sumatra.

Sat 5th Dec 1818

Ceylon Government Gazette, 19th Nov – Kapitipola and his henchman Pelime Talawe have been captured.

We have executed several other rebel chiefs – Ellapola was publicly beheaded outside the Bogambera tank at Kandy on 27th September. He was convicted by court-martial and sentenced to hanging but he himself requested beheading. We used a Maratha sword but it broke on the first stroke and separation took a little longer than usual. All the monks turned out to watch and a good many residents too. Under the former law of Kandy the body should have been left to the dogs but we are civilised people and buried it.

One of the rebels named Kiwulgedera had an inflammatory paper – it said ‘our country is invaded by the English with people from Ouva who will kill us and take our property. All the other countries have submitted to them. We must collect our people and fight. The alternative is to kill ourselves.’

The captured rebel chiefs will be tried by courts-martial.

Sat 9th Jan 1819

Colombo, 28th November 1818 – The Governor and CiC of this island, Lt General Robert Brownrigg has issued a Proclamation:

The Ceylonese could not endure the harshness of Wikrame Rajah Singha, the King of Kandy, and sought our help to depose him and his family. We did so and incorporated Kandy into the British Empire under our protection. We provided a mild government but some troublemakers rebelled in October 1817.

We expected the Kandians to be grateful but the very people we raised to power in replacement of the ex-King rebelled against us. We have had a year of conflict which has reduced Kandy to absolute poverty…….

(next page and next few issues missing)

Sat 16th Oct 1819

House of Commons, 11th May – Sir William Champion, 2nd Baronet de Crespigny MP for Southampton, spoke on Ceylon:

We befriended the minister of the King of Kandy. The King repudiated him. We invaded and made a treaty with many of the King’s ministers, expelling him and establishing them as the government under our protection.

The appointments we made to this new Kandian government were unacceptable to the people and brought on a revolution. The Company’s army again invaded, incidentally obliging Ceylonese residents to carry its baggage and stores. The Ceylonese objected to unpaid work and the insurrection intensified.

Henry Goulburn, MP for West Looe, said de Crespigny was wrong.

Charles Forbes, MP for Malmesbury, said Ceylon has been a war zone for all 1815 and most of 1816 – it’s a worthy subject for debate. He thought we might retain the coast if we stopped disturbing the interior but we seem incapable of restraint. The costs of war in Kandy have been prodigious in treasure and lives. The House should investigate, he said.

Sat 18th Dec 1819

Calcutta Journal – One of the Company’s Collectors on Ceylon, James Agnew Farrell, required his local native headman to provide a bearer from his village to pull the Collector’s palanquin. The headman had no man available so the Collector required the headman to take up the task. After travelling a hundred yards or so the headman fell down. The Collector alighted and beat him whereupon he returned to his labour. A few ten yards further on the headman fell down again. Some villagers declared he was not fit for the task but the Collector gave him another thrashing. This did not cause the Headman to get up and after a few hours he expired. Whilst the man was dying, the local Magistrate passed by and the headman petitioned his help.

Both the Collector and Magistrate overlooked this complaint and prevailed on others, who were necessarily involved in recording the death, etc., to also keep quiet. The circumstances were however well known amongst the Ceylonese and soon came to the ears of the Puisne Judge who told Governor Brownrigg. The Governor is about to return to England but the paper says the Magistrate was suspended from duty whilst the Collector was brought to Colombo.

This is the first occasion in which we have had a senior Company official under threat of execution, the mandatory award, should he be found guilty of murder.

Farrell was tried by a special jury of senior civil servants in Ceylon. At the close of the prosecution case involving 20 witnesses, the Jury found the charge not proven. The Judge agreed and acquitted Farrell. “You are restored to your rank and station in society with unblemished record.”

An anonymous correspondent to the Calcutta Journal who protested the ‘crime’ of the Collector and the response of his peers in Court, has been excoriated by the British community in that port. The Madras Courier Editor says there was no evidence of abuse of the Headman or of concealment of the ‘crime’ discovered in the investigation. He hopes Farrell will seek for punitive damages from the Calcutta Journal for libel.

Sat 4th March 1820

Colombo, 5th February – The Company’s cinnamon monopoly on Ceylon is being supplied with inferior cinnamon by the farmers. Up to 200,000 lbs of the annual harvest is too coarse for the English market.

To preserve the home market and improve the profitability of the monopoly, the Company has decided to sell the inferior spice on restrictive terms and is offering a contract for three years commencing 1820 for between 100,000 – 200,000 lbs per annum. People offering to buy must be bonded in 2/- per pound (£10,000 – £20,000 annually) not to ship the spice anywhere west of the Cape of Good Hope – it can be sold only in Asia.

Sat 6th May 1820

Ceylon, 27th March – the pearl oyster banks at Aripo have been surveyed and only Modrogam Paar is suitable for harvesting this year. The approximate value of the harvest is estimated at 250,000 Rupees. Sales will be conducted on the beach as usual.

Sat 29th July 1820

Ceylon Gazette, 10th June – the insurrection in Kandy has not ended as hoped. The Governor has promulgated rewards for the arrest of some headmen who are interfering with our communications between Kandy and Trincomalee.

Sat 19th Jan 1822

The Royal Navy at Trincomalee invites tenders for supply of teak from Malabar delivered alongside the Naval Dockyard. 450 loads each of 50 cu ft are required, 200 before end October 1822 and the rest before April 1823. For every 100 loads of logs we require 50 loads of planks in equal amounts of 3” and 4” thickness.

The logs should be squared-off to be more easily stacked. The successful tenderer will square-off the edges. Any defects will result in deductions from the tender price. Payment will be in Stirling by Bills of Exchange on the Admiralty or in Madras currency by Bills payable at Madras or Calcutta at seller’s option. Successful tenderer will make a Bond of 1,000 Madras Rupees for performance.

Sat 8th June 1822

The Company’s Government of Ceylon, which has a monopoly on cinnamon production, will open export of the commodity to all interested parties. In future cinnamon will not be taken to London in the Company’s ships for sale at the Company’s auctions but will be auctioned at Colombo and the spice may be carried wherever the purchaser wishes.

Qualified purchasers are Britons and the nationals of any other country at peace with Britain. Auctions will be held on the first Monday of each month commencing December 1822 and about 50,000 lbs will be on offer each month, packed in bales of 100 lbs each and sorted into 1st, 2nd and 3rd quality. Each Lot will be comprised of 5 bales. Payment is required in Ceylon money or specie. A formal Company certificate of quality and quantity will accompany each purchase. This document permits exports duty-free.

The public is reminded that the export of cinnamon without a licence is a criminal offence attracting a fine of $300 Rix per Pound exported. Retail of cinnamon through licensed shops within the island will continue under the current Regulations.

Sat 23rd Nov 1822

Colombo – the auction of government cinnamon will be held on 2nd December. Successful bidders will pay 10% of their bid as deposit. Balance payable on taking receipt. Goods will be stored subsequently in the government warehouse for 3 months free of charge.

Sat 13th Sept 1823

George IV-in-Council issued an Order on 31st January 1823 for the trade of Ceylon. British wool, cotton, iron and steel goods may be imported to Ceylon by British or foreign ships. If the latter, the import duty is increased by 50% unless the foreign country allows Ceylonese goods in British ships at the same tariff as its own shipping. Competing foreign goods will be confiscated. Ceylonese exports loaded to foreign ships will be charged 8% ad valorem more than the duty charged to British ships, unless the above reciprocity is permitted.

Friend of China 23.2.43 edition

Ceylon – the papers say coffee cultivation in the interior has been very successful. In 2 – 3 years Ceylon will supply all the needs of the English market.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Company strategic thinking assesses Ceylon as one of the ‘keys to India’. It has the enhanced defensive security of an island but is large enough to provision great armies. It additionally has a superb port at Trincomalee. It thus comprises a good place from which to invade India or, if one is expelled from India, to retreat to in time of difficulty.
  2. The de Meuron regiment of mercenaries, originally from Neuchatel, entered British service at this time. They led the assault on Seringapatam, acted as garrison in Malta, fought in the Peninsula and later Canada.
  3. The war at home has meant VOC employees abroad are running the Company themselves.
  4. The low level of interest payable suggests the London East India Company chose to pay excessively for its loans in India. In the next edition it is said the value of the cargoes on the two Dutch Indiamen in harbour is £1.8 millions, about ten times the value set on Dutch property by Governor van Angelbeck. There are two other smaller ships entirely full of cinnamon which was at the time a Ceylonese (and therefore Dutch) monopoly. A few days after the Dutch capitulation, the King of Kandy visited Colombo.
  5. The first public inklings of resentment at the thoroughly corrupt regime that Madras has established in Ceylon
  6. Frederick North continued as Governor from 1798 until 1805.
  7. The former would compete with the Company’s Chinese nankeens and the later is one of the Company’s monopolies, like the Ceylon pearl fisheries
  8. The Malibari referred to are Ceylonese who have a distinct language and generally follow the Buddha’s path although there are some ethnic similarities. The people of Malabar are Muslim or Hindu. The Company’s position is that it has obtained Oaths of Allegiance from residents and will enforce them on the natives as though they are British.
  9. This is an example of the Company’s common procedure with recalcitrant native states – by just cutting-off the head and leaving the rest of the government intact it permits a seamless transfer of power. Replace the King – nothing; replace the minister – trouble.

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