France in Asia

 

This chapter includes the articles that detail many French activities in India, primarily at Mauritius and Reunion, but also with Tippoo Sultan at Mysore, at least in so far as they became known to the British.

The French descent on Egypt and its implications for British India remain in the Europe chapters

Reports of French assistance to the Maratha princes Sindhia and Holkar remain in the Asia chapter as do French activities after the Great War – in Tahiti, the Marquesas, etc.

19th/20th January 1793

Notice – the lands ceded by Tippoo Sultan to the Company are being surveyed and inspected. The residents are permitted to trade in all articles except pepper until further orders. 20th December 1792[1]

Sat 2nd Feb 1793

M. Richemont has brought decrees of the National Assembly via Mauritius to Chandernagore for the French residents there. Two deputies, M/s Dumourier and Escalier, will shortly arrive from Paris with testimonials of goodwill from the British Secretary of State.

M Richemont proposed his colonials put aside all past differences with the British. M Gotier is expected to arrive from Mauritius soon and assume the Presidency of the island’s legislative council. The administration presently remains in the hands of the mayor and seven councillors.

Sat 2nd Feb 1793

A subscription Ball and supper will be held at the Bombay Tavern on 6th February 1793 to commemorate the victory of Cornwallis over Tippoo Sultan on 6th February 1792 at Seringapatam which signified the British conquest of Mysore.

(NB – a similar celebration was held at the Calcutta Theatre on the same day, reported in Bombay Courier of 23rd February. The battle was between Cornwallis’ army of 30,000 troops and Tippoo’s garrison of 21,000 within the fort, equipped with 268 cannon)

Sat 2nd Mar 1793

A drummer from Colonel Bayly’s corps has escaped from Seringapatam and says 30+ English prisoners remain in the citadel. Their names have been given to General Abercromby who may be expected to secure their release.

Sat 2nd Mar 1793

Madras 5th February – Colonel Braithwaite, commander in chief, held a review of the troops at Poonamalee. The 36th and 52nd regiments paraded with arms. These were the men who forced the lines at Seringapatam at the point of the bayonet.

The perfect symmetry of their manoeuvres belied the fact this was the first occasion they had exercised in the new Prussian discipline that has been adopted for the Company’s infantry.

Sat 13th April 1793

London news : The Mayor of London has given the freedom of the city to Cornwallis and General Meadows for their defeat of Tippoo.

Sat 20th April 1793

The following appointments have been made to the Company’s government of the newly ceded territories in Malabar (Tippoo’s lands):

  • Wm Gamal Farmer, Supervisor and Chief Magistrate of Malabar;
  • Augustus Wm Handley, James Law and Hay Clephane, assistant Magistrates.
  • James Stephens, Superintendent of the Southern district, assisted by George Waddell and John Strachey;
  • Edward Galley, Superintendent of the Northern district, assisted by John Wm Lankheet and Richard Ramsden.

Sat 11th May 1793

The second dividend of the Cannanore Prize money will be paid at Mr Adamson’s office on 27th May.[2]

Sat 25th May 1793

Notice to ships trading to Malabar – Calicut has been made capital city of the new territories in Malabar and British officers are transferred from Cannanore to work there.

Augustus William Handley is in charge.

Rates for use of the port have been published. A boat will meet every ship entering and provide a tariff of fees. The original tariff is posted in Handley’s office and is approved.

Carpenters for ship-repairs and coopers for water casks are available.[3]

Sat 8th June 1793

H M has made Sir Robert Abercromby a Knight Commander of the Bath.

Sat 6th July 1793

Terms are published for the payment of 6 months batta to officers and troops who served in the late war with Tippoo.[4]

Sat 17th July 1793

Bombay news – Last Thursday was a proud day for Bombay. 13 well-manned and armed ships sailed at noon with the Carron leading. Commodore Montgomery saluted the fort and the fleet got completely out before sunset. A grand and pleasing appearance. We wish them safety and success.

The troops destined for the siege of Pondicherry are now en route. We expect to soon hear that this sole support of France in India will be in our power.

Sat 17th July 1793

Madras news – Capt Hammond with a party of sepoys and a field piece entered Karical on 10th July and received the French surrender from M Jobard. The town was taken to prevent its supplying Pondicherry with grain.

Another detachment of Company troops under Lt Riddell took possession of the French village of Yanam near Ingeram, north of Madras.

Some French tried to take an English brig in port at Coringa but we caught their ringleaders.

A party sent from Negapatam has occupied Karical. There were few French soldiers remaining in the town as the garrison had removed to Pondicherry to reinforce French defences there.

Some small French ships at Ganjam, Masulipatam and Vizagapatam have been captured by the Company’s governments at those ports.

Colonel Floyd is moving on Pondicherry from Wallajabad with cavalry, infantry and guns. He arrived Chingleput on 28th June. (two weeks before notice of the state of war was published in the Courier)

Sat 17th July 1793

The ship Christianus Septimus arrived here from Tranquebar (a Danish enclave) and Pondicherry (French) on 29th June. It is suspected to contain French goods and treasure and has been arrested. All cargo is ordered to be off-loaded for examination.

Sat 20th July 1793

A detachment under Major Campbell marched into Chandernagore on Tuesday 10th June and took possession of the town. A Sepoy of the French garrison guarding one of the gates refused admission to the English, wounded an Englishman in the hand with his bayonet and was instantly run-through and killed.

Sat 20th July 1793

The following French ships have been arrested in Indian harbours under British control: the ex British sloops-of-war Bien Amis, Bien Safant and the schooner Chandernagore.

It is expected the sloops will be fitted-out as warships under Capt Blair’s command (i.e. for use in the Andamans)

Sat 20th July 1793

Notice Fort William, 11th June – all French nationals residing in Calcutta are required to register their names, addresses and occupations with the Police. They should advise their countrymen in all Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and those living in the Zemindary of Benares to do likewise before the local magistrate.

Sat 3rd August 1793

The siege army being sent against Pondicherry will be commanded by Colonel Braithwaite. It is comprised of 12 regiments of native infantry (c. 6,000 men), two regiments of native cavalry (200 men), 6 regiments of English infantry (2,400 men), Floyd’s Dragoons (300 men), artillery (est. 200 men) and 54 battering guns.

Sat 3rd August 1793

A French ship took an English ketch off Coringa. The French ship was carrying marine stores to Pegu where three ships are being built by the French. Then HMS Chichester (Capt Blake) appeared and the French ship both relinquished its prize and beached itself to escape. The French prize crew on the ketch were captured.

Sat 3rd August 1793

From Madras we hear that the French have devastated the country around Pondicherry for forty miles and collected all cattle and grain inside the city.[5] They already have good supplies from the islands. It appears they intend to stay.

Sat 3rd August 1793

Madras Courier, 12th July – The Company’s armed ships Royal Charlotte, Warley and Triton sailed from here on 6th July to join Admiral Cornwallis in an action against the French.

They join HMS Minerva which captured the French armed Brig Concorde earlier the same day (6th July). The Concorde mounted 6 swivels and had 18 Europeans on board. She sailed from Pondicherry on 17th June but had done no damage. The Concorde will be refitted, re-armed and crewed for English use under Lt Manning, 1st officer of the Minerva’s prize crew.

Sat 3rd August 1793

The Hercules has arrived at Bombay from Batavia. She spoke Admiral Cornwallis off Pondicherry and took-off the French prize crew of Concorde who are now imprisoned here.

Sat 10th August 1793

Tippoo Sultan has made a formal offer of bullocks and cavalry to our army, to help us fight the French! It has been received under advisement.

Sat 10th August 1793

Admiral Cornwallis is blockading Pondicherry by sea and has taken several rice ships. A Frenchman from Pondicherry named Anselmede Chaternet has sought our protection. He says distress in the city is terrible.

There is no bread, milk or ghee and the Pondicherry government has little money. The French troops have declared their Republican principles.. They say they will execute their General de Chermont and any other officer who does not subscribe to the principle of equality.

Sat 17th Aug 1793

The Directors are so pleased with Cornwallis’ victory over Tippoo Sultan that they have decided to erect a statue of him in their Court.

Sat 17th Aug 1793

Madras news – The Commander in Chief (Colonel Braithwaite) has set out from Choultry Plain to join the army investing Pondicherry.

The government has exempted all food articles from its usual tax and Braithwaite anticipates an ample supply of provisions on the road.

Admiral Cornwallis has continued to intercept the small boats bringing provisions to Pondicherry.

Four French frigates are said to be convoying a fleet of merchantmen from Mauritius bringing relief to Pondicherry.

Sat 31st August 1793

Calcutta news:

  • Admiral Cornwallis has unsuccessfully chased the French frigate Sybil (44). She is loitering off Pondicherry. The only neutral port on the whole coast is the Danish base at Tranquebar. The Sybil stopped there for information then sailed north but we expect she will return.
  • The Hampshire captured the French snow Active off Aceh. It was en route from Aceh to Pegu with a cargo of red beetle (cochineal) colouring.

Sat 31st August 1793

Madras news:

  • Colonel Hartley took the French settlement of Mahé (near Tellicherry) on 16th July.
  • From Madras we hear Braithwaite has arrived at Pondicherry on 28th July. He is expected to give an ultimatum to the occupants in a few days, before commencing the siege.
  • French cruisers are reported in Eastern Seas but the National Convention is in such dire straits it seems unlikely. Mauritius is exposed to attack and the governor should be deploying his forces defensively. We cannot believe private French interests are speculating in privateers in these circumstances.

Sat 7th Sept 1793

Pondicherry – The French garrison intend resistance. They have fired several hundred pieces of cannon without effect. Braithwaite has 2,000 men of whom 1,200 are Europeans. He has 110 cannon. The French have carefully repaired the damage done in our last siege. It is intended to open our attack on ‘the glorious 10th August.’ An enfilading battery has been constructed quite close to the fort’s walls. Our men could hear the French sentries challenging but the breeze is off the sea and they could not hear us.[6]

On 12th August there was incessant firing from the fort all night. 2 men of the 72nd and a sepoy were killed. A French cavalry officer was captured on the night of 11th August when riding too close to our outpost. He is to be sent to Madras. He says the garrison is riotous and disorderly.

The cruiser Drake has joined the Admiral’s force off the coast.

Sat 7th Sept 1793

Bengal news:

  • It is supposed in Calcutta that we will send a naval expedition to occupy Mauritius. The people of Mauritius were unaware of the war between France and England until 4th June.
  • 7th August Lord Cornwallis will leave for Pondicherry at the end of this week on the Company’s ship Woodcote. The prize Bien Ami has been refitted and will sail with the Woodcote. The Woodcote is to carry three companies of artillery. The Lascar gunners of these companies will embark on other ships.

Sat 14th September 1793

The capture of Pondicherry:

The siege only lasted 9-10 days from first breaking ground on 12th August. The 14-gun battery of 24 pounders north of the town opened at 7.00 am on 22nd August. The enemy was soon obliged to mask every embrasure. At noon the mortar battery opened effectively and flags of truce were seen by 3 pm. At 5.00 pm the Lt Colonel in charge of the town and the town Major came out with a letter from Governor Charmont.

They were conducted to our headquarters where they requested a ceasefire for 24 hours. Braithwaite agreed to suspend hostilities until 8 am next morning at which time another mortar battery was expected to be completed within 250 yards of the walls. The unconditional surrender then took place.

Colonels Floyd and Maxwell took possession of the town. The French officers were put on parole and permitted swords but the troops were not permitted to march out with honours of war. All private property is to be spared and the citizens permitted to remain provided they take an Oath of Allegiance to Britain.

Lt Colonel Bycliffe with a subaltern and 30 men of the 19th dragoons and some others will receive the French prisoners at the Villenove Gate. They will be escorted to Ariancopang and housed in the church until they can be sent to France.

Sat 21st Sept 1793

Admiral Cornwallis on board HMS Minerva will likely be overlooked in the honours for the successful siege of Pondicherry but his blockade by sea was the means whereby the town was denied all prospect of relief.

Sat 21st Sept 1793

M de Chermont, the late commander of Pondicherry, has explained why he did not surrender the town earlier in the face of the Company’s overwhelming army.

He says the French troops were not amenable to discipline and loudly proclaimed their determination to retain possession of the town. No amount of counseling could penetrate their ignorance of what was about to befall. It was felt impossible, in the current democratic state of French administration, to propose any different course of conduct.

It was only after the batteries opened fire that a disposition to reason was manifested in the troops. Once it was established that a truce was the wish of a majority of them, the white flag was shown. Thereafter a majority of the revolutionaries plunged into intoxication and at length spoke of resuming the fight. At that time Colonels Floyd and Maxwell assumed control of the two gates to the town and their appearance imposed some better order on the rabble although the terms of capitulation were not strictly observed by the French troops.

On 27th August de Chermont attended church (a Catholic mass) in Pondicherry with a majority of the British officers. The French officers had placed the white (Bourbon) cockade in their hats. Several displayed Royal medals. Some Christian merchants of Pondicherry offered respect to the memory of Louis XVI. At the conclusion of the religious service de Chermont called ‘vive le Roi’ which was echoed repeatedly by his officers. Outside the church the French officers came individually to Colonel Floyd and thanked him ‘for the honour he had done them.’ They appeared joyful in spite of the result of the siege.

640 French democrats are now boarded and lodged at Ariancopang. They behave in an orderly way and appear to have reformed.

Pondicherry was found to be well supplied with military stores. A stocktaking is being done by the prize agent .

Once British occupation of the town was effected, Admiral Cornwallis sailed for the north where he is to meet his brother the Marquis (Governor-General).

Sat 12th Oct 1793

Lord Cornwallis has visited Pondicherry on the Swallow whilst en route back to England. He has no time to visit Bombay. This is the ship on which Lord Macartney returned to England after his Governorship of Madras.

Sat 2nd Nov 1793

Calcutta news:

  • Lord Cornwallis left on 9th October. General Abercromby becomes 2 i/c at Calcutta and George Dick’s acting governorship here becomes permanent. Before the Governor-General left, Tippoo completed the payments due to the Company and his sons, whom we have held as hostages against payment, were returned to him.
  • The defences of Pondicherry have been reduced to deter its future military use by France.

Sat 9th Nov 1793

Captain Braithwaite, son of the CiC, is taking the French colours from Pondicherry back to London.

Sat 16th Nov 1793

An American brig has been chartered by the Governor of Madras to go to Mauritius as a cartel ship and bring back the captured passengers of the Winterton.

Sat 23rd Nov 1793

Calcutta news:

The Insurance Agencies of Calcutta have combined to decline insurance to any ship sailing East until a frigate arrives to convoy the shipping.

Sat 30th Nov 1793

Captain Barclay several months ago sailed to Oregon for furs which he sold profitably in Macau. He bought an Imperial-flag (Austrian registry) ship there with the proceeds and loaded a valuable cargo for Ostend but, being ignorant of the outbreak of war, put into Mauritius en voyage where he with his wife and children and the ship and cargo were all seized.

Sat 30th Nov 1793

Madras – an American ship just arrived from Mauritius reports that a French frigate arrived there recently from Europe with instructions from the National Convention. The frigate stayed only a few days for reprovisioning and sailed in company with three lesser ships to an undisclosed destination. The Mauritians are busily preparing their island against attack.

It is rumoured the French propose an attack on Cowper’s Island near Batavia where the Dutch accumulate the spices of the Eastern Islands prior to shipment to Europe. Cowper’s Island has been assessed as incapable of defence and we suppose the Dutch will have removed their valuables to a less exposed place.

Sat 14th Dec 1793

India news:

The last payment due from Tippoo in war indemnity has been received. It was bullion and arrived in 36 tumbrels.

Sat 15th Feb 1794

Prize money of 104,298 gold Star Pagodas will be paid out to those troops of the Company’s Madras Army who were involved in the war with Tippoo.

Sat 15th Feb 1794

Mauritius and Reunion are part of the French Empire. They are planted with a superior species of cotton (Sea Island cotton) and with coffee and indigo. It is all for export.[7]

This commercial slave-owning economy routinely requires the residents to import most of their foodstuffs. Now war is causing hardship to the poor residents through the interruption of trade. Inadequate supplies of grain are being received. The inhabitants have not yet commenced planting grain themselves.

They all seem unconcerned and prefer collecting money from prize-taking than food from the soil. Some of the crew of the captured Indiaman Princess Royal have chosen to join the crews of Mauritian privateers as the lack of provisions on the island disturbed them.

Sat 22nd Feb 1794

The price of French produce at Mauritius has risen. Claret was selling at $3 per bottle in November and brandy has risen from 28 Livres per bottle at the start of the war to 85 Livres now. It is expected to increase further.

Salt beef and pork is 350 – 400 Livres the cask.

McCarthy, the Honorary American Consul at Mauritius, made 1 million Livres profit on a single shipment of salt meat recently.

Sat 8th Mar 1794

Indian news:

Tippoo has completed the indemnity payments to the Marathas that were required by our peace terms. He paid-off the Company earlier.

It is now likely that Tippoo’s sons will be released by the Company and returned to their family as his failure to complete these payments after he completed payments to the Company was the reason we continued to detain them.

Sat 15th March 1794

Count Sulkowski, a Polish nobleman now at Aleppo, has said that when he was in Paris in June 1793 asking ineffectively for the help of the Republican government to restore independence to his country, he learned that the French had no plan for relieving their Eastern colonies and were convinced that they had all fallen into British hands.

Sat 22nd March 1794

Madras news – the Princes of Mysore (Tippoo’s sons) are en route to Seringapatam. They are accompanied by HRH Omdat ul Omrah, the Nabob of the Carnatic. On the release of the children, the Nabob gave handsome presents to the Company worth 50,000 gold pagodas and including 40 Abyssinian slaves.

Sat 29th March 1794

The recent return of the hostage Princes to Tippoo’s capital completes our performance of the treaty terms with him. We hope the good treatment the boys have received from us (they have been wined, dined and danced at all the social occasions of Calcutta) will cause him to be more friendly towards us.

Sat 26th April 1794

We have received no new information in Bombay this week and will reproduce information from the latest Madras Courier which entirely concerns Mauritius:

  • The American ship Hector (Delano) arrived Madras from Mauritius with the following news. The craze for privateering has reduced with the availability of profit. The numbers of ships taken has continued high but the ability to remit proceeds of sale has become uncertain.The ships Canton and Pearl, which were laden with the immense plunder obtained by the privateer Dumourier are both said to have ‘foundered’ en route to Mauritius. Investors in privateering operations are said to have been persuaded to require their ships officers to ransom their seizures in future.
  • The Colonial Assembly of Mauritius exhibits the same inconsistency as the National Convention in Paris. Capt Delano says the passengers of the Winterton were fortunate to return to British India as, shortly after their departure, the Assembly reversed itself and sent a warship after them to try and bring them back.
  • Delano also reports a French intention to take Batavia. It must be a Gasconade – the fort is almost impregnable.
  • He was himself humane and generous to the British prisoners on Mauritius.
  • He mentions the Mauritians are doubtful of supplies and are turning some of their land over to grain production.
  • He heard from another American (Folger, captain of the John, who had just then arrived from the Cape. This may be Timothy Folger a whaler) that a British fleet (apparently 2 ships-of-the-line and three frigates) was there en route to India and that a battle with a French fleet near Madeira had been fought by Admiral Hood.
  • Two American captains and a supercargo are imprisoned on Mauritius for selling their English cargo after it had been condemned.
  • The merchants of Mauritius have started an anti-Jacobin Club to contest for power with the Jacobin Club which is dominated by the lowest sorts of sans culottes.
  • The Mauritian council is unaware of the Portuguese Declaration of War and has released two Portuguese ships that had been taken by privateers earlier. A third Portuguese ship, richly laden with English property, remains under arrest.

Sat 24th May 1794

India news:

General Sir W Meadows will command the expedition against Mauritius and Reunion. Colonel Stuart is 2iC. The troops are assembling at Madras. We hear several regiments from England will join the expedition.

An advertisement in the Madras Courier asks for tenders to supply transport tonnage. It is estimated that 20,000 tons will be needed to carry our army. This should invigorate our shipping interest

Sat 7th June 1794

A French commissioner has arrived at Calcutta on the corvette Minerva with proposals to the Company’s government respecting Mauritius.

The Mauritian ports are blockaded by our warships and cannot receive troops or provisions from France.[8]

Sat 7th June 1794

From the Mauritian newspapers we read that on 30th January the Sans Culottes party petitioned the Colonial Assembly at Port Louis that:

  • all shipping be prevented from leaving port;
  • all provisions be taxed;
  • the salaries of the departing Commissioners of the National Convention (Lescallier, Dumourier, Rirriol and Boucher) be suspended and their power ended effective 4th Feb, and
  • the institution of slavery be ended.

The Assembly agreed the first request but exempted French shipping trading to Reunion. The other requests were rejected.

On 12th February the Assembly ordered that every resident be rationed to a maximum of 6 ounces of bread per day and that the supply of wheat flour to the bakery be limited accordingly.

On 19th February Citizen Enouf, on behalf of the Colonial Committee of Public Safety, told the Assembly that there was a 30-day supply of wheat left and about 90 days of rice (60,000 lbs).

Sat 28th June 1794

Madras Presidency notice:

All sirangs, tindals and lascars (Indian naval crews) employed on the intended expedition against Mauritius will receive the same extra allowances as native troops.

Sat 26th July 1794

The tonnage chartered by the Company for the Mauritian expedition is comprised of Jane, Futty Islam and Ramsay. They will be surveyed before the contract is confirmed.

Sat 10th Aug 1794

Government Orders, 22nd July:

The invasion of Mauritius is postponed. The units assembled at Madras will break-up. The charter parties for transports have been signed and will have to be compromised.

Sat 30th August 1794

The cartel ship La Minerve (Doussere) has arrived at Bombay with 8 prisoners for exchange. Seven are officers of the Pigot, the 8th is Lt Robert Best of the Bencoolen artillery. Another cartel ship Phoenix is going to Madras from Mauritius.

Sat 30th August 1794

News from Mauritius:

Mauritius is preparing to resist the Company’s supposed invasion. The planters have all donated slaves totalling 6,000 men. They are improving the defences and sowing grain crops.

All the French privateers except Revanche (32) and Isle de France (18) are back in port. We suppose those two to have been taken.

A corvette from France arrived in March with orders to rename Port Louis as Port de la Montagne whilst Bourbon becomes Isle de la Reunion.

Governor Malartic has been criticised by the Assembly. He boldly defied the Assembly and made his papers publicly available, from which no evidence of wrong-doing could be traced. The Assembly has apologised.

The Mauritian Assembly has also criticised Governor du Placy of Reunion. La Minerve was sent to bring him before his critics. They found Admiral St Felix there as well. Both have been brought back. Provisional Governor Rubeau will govern Reunion (Bourbon) in the interim.

A discordant note to the democratic proceedings at Mauritius has been provided by the slaves. They sought to address the Assembly to assert their claims to equality, which they consider to involve a proportionate share of everything. This caused the hanging of their most zealous spokesmen (the locally constructed guillotine has been tested on a goat and should be working fluently soon).

La Minerve will leave with 4 French prisoners and has permission to call at the old French factory at Mahé for others. She will drop her Portuguese prisoners at Goa en route.

(NB – In the 25th October edition, the paper reports that La Minerve arrived Mahé but only Dubruice, the late French King’s Procurator, with his family and a ship’s officer, Fournier, accepted the offer of repatriation. The ship sailed from Mahé on 12th September leaving behind L’Archer and the other French employees of the factory, who chose to remain at Mahé)

Sat 30th August 1794

A Dutch prisoner of Hyder Ali has escaped from Seringapatam and reached Cannanore. He says Tippoo is constructing defensive works on European lines around Seringapatam and has dismissed and banished all Portuguese and English people from his Service. He has promoted Buddur al Zaman Khan to a high position in his military.

Sat 6th Sept 1794

Madras papers report a numerous clan of Muslims has arrived having been expelled from Tippoo’s lands around Mysore for practising the Shia version of Islam.[9]

Sat 20th Sept 1794

A number of flat-bottomed boats have been shipped out from London on the Madras Indiaman. It is supposed they are to land troops for an invasion.

Editor – if the war in Europe continues for another season, the Company may resurrect its planned invasion of Mauritius.

Sat 4th Oct 1794

Letter of 19th February from the Directors to the Governor-General:

“The problem in the ceded territories (Tippoo’s lands) is that we have few speakers of Malabari. If we do not know the language, how will we discover the value of the productions in Malabar, how will the Company quantify its share?

“We do not want to become prey to a group of intermediary interpreters as occurred in the Circars in Bengal or on the Coromandel coast.

“It is essential to the proper running of the Company that staff study and understand all the languages of India. Please encourage your junior officers to take up this study and restrict all appointments in Malabar to those who make the attempt.”

Sat 10th Jan 1795

Mauritius and Bourbon (Reunion) have ignored the National Convention’s decree to free all the slaves.

They cannot maintain their economies without slaves and neither can they accept the concept of Negro equality.

Sat 25th April 1795

A Danish ship has arrived at Tranquebar from Mauritius and reports four American ships have just delivered provisions to the island. Conditions on Mauritius are tranquil and the willingness of the merchants to operate privateers has evaporated (a term of Malartic’s supposed agreement with the Governor-General at Calcutta)

Sat 2nd May 1795

The Danes at Tranquebar say that the Committee of Colonial Affairs in Paris has ordered a French fleet of 4 ships-of-the-line, 6 frigates and several transports from Rochefort to Mauritius.

An order has been received at Mauritius postponing the operation of privateers as the approaching fleet will require all the seamen it can get to replace losses en voyage. The island committee has assumed that not all seamen on Mauritius will be required and has sent out two privateers Sybele and Prudente to collect loot.

Sat 9th May 1795

Letter from Tranquebar, 8th April – 13 American and 1 Danish ship have arrived at Mauritius recently each bringing provisions and 5 more Americans are expected.

The latest American arrivals (from Boston via Bordeaux or Brest) have brought French news which has united the Mauritian factions. The dispatches from the French government have arrived but their contents are unknown. They are rumoured to report the conquest of Holland, military success against the coalition of Kings and, supposedly, the intended despatch of a fleet to the East Indies (this fleet has repeatedly been said to be coming since the first days of the war).

A Committee for Public Safety (CPS) has been established at Port Louis and it is more effective than the old Colonial Assembly. The CPS decides, regulates and determines everything. It acts quickly and secretly. The Colony is now in a good state of defence. Mauritius has 9,000 armed men exclusive of the blacks who are only employed in the batteries. It is rumoured that a large merchant fleet will be convoyed from France soon.

Although America publicly asserts a strict neutrality, a secret treaty of offence and defence has reportedly been concluded by her man in Paris (Monroe) with France. She has a consul at Mauritius as well – McCarthy – to superintend the burgeoning American trade with that island. The provisions already delivered to Mauritius, mainly by the Americans, will suffice for 18 months. This is excessive storage for the island’s need but it is also said that a French fleet will depart Europe in about November this year for Mauritius and the provisions may also be intended for its use. That seems more reasonable. The food supplied is simply too much for the existing population.

Saturday, 13th June 1795

Madras news:

3,000 Indians have emigrated from the Pettah in Kerala (land ceded by Tippoo). They resent being subject to the rules of the foreign settlement. A general secession of the inhabitants is feared.[10]

Sat 25th July 1795

On 23rd February the French National Convention heard an address from the representatives on Mauritius, dated 2nd November 1794:

“We are surrounded by enemies. You have forgotten us. Ministers Monge and d’Albarode promised supplies but nothing has arrived. We have 6 ozs of bread per man per day.

“We have previously explained our opposition to Vice Admiral St Felix to you. His expedition to the East offered a chance to remove our enemies but he declined to prosecute it. We fell back on privateering and have distressed our enemies. We are ever vigilant since the treachery of the garrison of Pondicherry delivered that place to the British.

“You have sent us no money for years. We have maintained government by printing ‘bons de caisse’ which we underwrite ourselves. There is now an immense quantity of ‘bons de caisse’ in our islands. Please remember us.

“We have sent this ship to you to ask for assistance.”

Sat 29th Aug 1795

Mercier’s Parisian Press reports a 21st February sitting of the legislature at which the Deputies elected representatives for the Colonies in the East.

Legendre became incensed with a colonial deputy named Garaud and threatened to ‘box his ears’. All the Jacobin opposition shouted for justice. Legendre defended himself – “in attacking their chiefs it is unsurprising I should be attacked by their chiefs’ supporters,” and he identified Thuriot as the Deputy who sought to unite the colonial representatives under his own agenda. Thuriot denied. Legendre reiterated his allegation and added that Thuriot only combated Robespierre (his claim to protection now) because he wanted the supreme power himself.

Every Deputy was alerted and the subsequent vote selected only non-Jacobin representatives for Mauritius – Barras, Letourneur de la Manche and Harmansi de la Meuse.

Sat 5th Sept 1795

The safety of India seems improved. Captain Renaudin, who was thought to have gone to the Cape from Cochin, is actually now in Toulon and Admiral Nielly, whom we thought was preparing Mauritius to attack us, is sent to West Indies.

Latest advices via Tranquebar, where two French ships from Mauritius recently arrived, say no relief from France has arrived at the island as of a month ago.

Sat 12th Sept 1795

The Hirondelle, recently arrived at Tranquebar from Mauritius, reports the sans culottes have fallen from power on the island and the Colonial Assembly has resumed control – it seems moderation is breaking out.

The Americans have supplied sufficient salted provisions, wines and spirits to avert the prospect of famine. The Americans are selling foods for silver dollars only. They are recycling the specie that the islanders have obtained from prize-taking.

The new supplies have enabled the two French frigates and a brig Courier to commence a new cruise. They have captured the Indian Trader (Dunlop) which was carrying the Company’s sugar from Calcutta to London.

The French corvette Le Moineau arrived at Mauritius from Rochefort with dispatches for the government and immediately thereafter 4,000 resident men between 15 – 25 years were conscripted, apparently to supplement a force that is expected from the mother country soon. It is said the force will be brought on 4 ships-of-the-line, four frigates, two corvettes and twenty transports carrying another 3,000 men.

Sat 17th Oct 1795

The American ship John (Moulton) arrived Calcutta 15th September from Salem and whilst coming in, met the French privateering squadron returning to Mauritius with nine prizes, English and Dutch.

The Americans have been placing some large orders in India. They have bought 30,000 pairs of Bengal shoes which has advanced the local price of leather and required native cobblers to work overtime.

Sat 19th Dec 1795

The American ship Five Brothers (Wm Brown) has arrived from Mauritius with some of the officers of the Tazbux which was taken as prize in Malacca Straits. It brings a cargo of iron and wines. We have learned that Mauritius is supplied with slaves from Madagascar and the Seychelles. It has plenty of provisions which are brought by the American ships. The ships arrive almost daily with grain, coconuts, turtle or cattle. The Americans say there is now a shortage of specie at Mauritius. They are obliged to take the island’s own products or buy prize ships or cargoes to obtain payment for their imports.

Five American ships remain at Mauritius awaiting the latest prizes taken in Malacca Straits to obtain exchange for their goods. There are two French armed ships operating from Mauritius now – the Moineau (26) and the Modeste (18).

The frigates Cybelle and Prudente are in Port Louis and, at the time of the Five Brothers’ departure, the former was ready for sea while the latter would be in a fortnight. They are expected to either attempt to intercept the Company’s China fleet on its homeward voyage or remain on station to protect the island.

Commodore St Felix, the chief of Mauritius, and du Plessis, the chief of Bourbon (Reunion), have been released from arrest now the Jacobins are a declining force. The former has retired to his plantation whilst the latter is often seen on the streets of Port Louis.

The new moderation of the Mauritian government is also shown in the treatment of prisoners who are now allowed, on security, to move about the fort. The only complaint of the prisoners is the inadequacy of their monthly allowance of 500 Livres. The paper money (bons de caisse) has depreciated so much 500 paper Livres now equates with 5 Spanish dollars whereas the allowance was fixed when the exchange rate was 20 paper Livres per dollar.

The major fear of the French colonists is the plantation slaves who outnumber them by at least 5:1. To maintain control, the colonists ship-off any aspiring ringleaders to other ports on foreign (American) ships.

One kind act of the colonial government was to promote a subscription by the colonists to buy provisions for the prisoners-of-war on their voyage to India.

Sat 12th March 1796

The French have attacked the small Portuguese enclave of Diu, north of Bombay. On 9th February 1796 three warships under British colours were seen. Capt Josef de Souza of the Portuguese frigate Real Fidelessima supposed them to be Admiral Elphinstone’s squadron returning from the Cape.

He was anchored 2 miles off Diu fort and was preparing to honour the inbound ships in the required way when he received a broadside. The three ships then raised the tricolor and fired a second broadside. De Souza cut his cables and ran in under the fort. The three ships then exchanged fire with the frigate and the fort for about 4 hours when, with dusk approaching, the French left. One of their ships had to be towed away. Afterwards about 500 shot (from 9- 12- and 18-pounders) were collected from the beach where they had rebounded from the stone walls of the fort.

The Real Fidelessima then sailed to Goa with the Diu Governor Caetano de Souza and the colonial supervisor Antonio Baptiste de Cunha as passengers.

Sat 2nd April 1796

A cartel ship has brought British prisoners-of-war back from Mauritius. They say the island is well provisioned. A new barracks for 10,000 troops has been completed. A hospital has been built. These infrastructural improvements are preparatory to a French naval and military probe into Asia. It will be based on Mauritius.

Sat 9th April 1796

Local news – The Five Brothers (Brown) has sailed to Mauritius with Bruix, the former French Resident at Surat, Gautier, commander of Young Agatha, and some other prisoners-of-war who are to be exchanged.

Sat 7th May 1796

The American ship Restoration (Galloway) arrived Madras on 19th April bringing 21 British prisoners-of-war from Mauritius. Galloway says the Prudente, Cybelle and a corvette returned to Port Louis late last month without any prizes. The Triton and Modeste returned at the same time with prizes but, as they had sailed without the permission of the Colonial Assembly, their prizes were confiscated to the Mauritian government. The frigate Modeste is being laid-up. The Triton is to land her cargo then sail to Madagascar for rice and bullocks. The Latchmee and other prizes remain in the harbour unsold.

Provisions were in good supply. The capture of the pilot schooner Gillet was disapproved by the Assembly and the man responsible is to be sent to France for investigation. Captain Galloway believed the great hope of the Mauritians was for peace. Our cartel ship Glasgow left Bombay for Mauritius yesterday.

Sat 21st May 1796

The French prize of the Indian ship Lachmee, held at Mauritius, has been sold to an American for 20,000 rupees and will load a cargo for America soon.

Sat 18th June 1796

The French from Mauritius use Madagascan slaves. The merchants from the northern part of Madagascar sail to the Comoros and obtain them from there, particularly the Isle of Joanna. It is said that several of the Comoros Islands are now completely depopulated.

The most formidable assault on those people was two years ago when 1,000 Madagascans, many armed with muskets, arrived at Joanna and remained 50 days rounding-up the inhabitants and pillaging etc. The former population of about 5,000 has now been completely removed and enslaved.

Bakka, the son and representative of the King of the Comoros, and Hussein, the King’s minister, have arrived at Bombay. They petition for British protection.

Sat 2nd July 1796

Mauritius – The American ship Confederacy (Jenckes) arrived Bombay on 25th June. She left Port Louis on 10th June.

Jenckes says the French frigate La Preneuse (44) had arrived with the Decree of the National Convention to free the slaves. The Colonial Assembly was appalled. It immediately sent the warship off on a cruise whilst it deliberated what to do. Her crew was not allowed ashore. The Assembly has banned the importation of any new slaves as a first step. The Assemblymen have approved the expression ‘bois d’ebene’ instead of ‘noir’ to describe their slaves in all documents in order that the slaves cannot be made aware of their improved situation.

Jenckes says HMS Stately and two British war-sloops are patrolling the approaches to Port Louis. The Mauritian privateers are being refitted with less guns but more room for crew. They have also fitted vastly improved sweeps to row to a prize in light airs. It is their belief that boarding prizes is more certain and effective than shooting at them. It preserves value.

M Malartic is still Governeur.

Mauritius has plenty of rice and other provisions but little wheat. Most of the French population are denied their daily pain de campagne.

Sat 16th July 1796

A paper found in the fortress of Darwar at the end of the war with Tippoo contains Tippoo’s military regulations. Here is the preamble:

In Hejira 1160 (1782AD)[11] Timur’s Empire had weakened, mainly due to unfaithful servants, to a state in which Europeans trading on the coast united with enemies of the Mughals and took possession of all Bengal, the southern Carnatic and the port and city of Surat.

They exchanged the pleasing sound of the Muezzin’s voice for the clang of the Christian bell. They took over our trade and Muslim slaves were offered for sale in the markets of China and Africa.

The Power of the Europeans rests on muskets and cannon. They are not capable of receiving instruction.

In Hejira 1167 a mandate was issued by Zein al Abbadin to reduce our form of warfare into a written code, so this hitherto unknown knowledge might be propagated in Hindustan for the defeat of the infidel. To introduce this work, I will first quote some applicable decisions of the Doctors of our Faith:

  • When an infidel enters one of our cities it is incumbent on the people, whether man, woman, child or slave, to kill him. When the infidel does not enter but remains in his own place you should make war on him every year.
  • An ally of the infidel is an enemy of Islam and doomed to Hell
  • It is wrong for Muslims to obey Europeans. This should be avoided.
  • It is lawful for Muslims to besiege infidels; to use water, fire or machines to distress them. They should not be permitted to build or repair churches or monasteries in or near our cities.
  • Infidels may not profess their faith openly. They may not prevent their relatives from becoming Muslims. They should honour Muslims and rise to receive them. They shall not wear clothes resembling Muslim clothes. They shall not ride horses. They shall not buy or carry arms.
  • If an Imam tells an infidel to become a Muslim and he refuses, it is lawful to kill him.

Sat 30th July 1796

Tippoo is insulated in Mysore and little information of his activities is known. Some letters, discovered in the Fort of Darwar when it was captured in the last war, may throw some light on the matter. The dates of the letters cannot be readily verified as Tippoo has created his own calendar.

In one of his letters he says:

“The Koranic instruction ‘to stop a dog’s mouth with a sop’ is not applicable to Europeans. You should recall that ‘a vicious woman prefers anybody to her husband until forced to repentance by disease’.

We rest our hopes on the Divine whilst Europeans depend on territory for income and on mutual support.”

He also expresses hatred for the Marathas who are Hindu, and most particularly the Peshwa.

Sat 1st Oct 1796

The Betsy from Salem has arrived at Madras having last stopped at Mauritius. Whilst there the French frigate Preneuse came in with the Portuguese ship Santa Josef as prize. This ship had been en route from Lisbon to Macau with a cargo of Madeira wine and $240,000 Spanish silver dollars.

The Betsy also reports that Brunel and another Commissioner from the Directory had arrived at Mauritius on the warship La Forte. They were recognised as the same suspicious people who had been on the island nine months earlier before leaving in an American ship for Europe. Brunel presented his credentials which appointed him and his group as sole national representatives of France. He ordered the resignation of Governor Malartic and the dissolution of the Colonial Assembly.

The Assembly was not enthused. Brunel’s credentials were examined and characterised as forgeries. They enquired of the warship captain who merely said that at the moment of departure from a French port, the group had arrived and produced a letter purportedly signed by a member of the Directory requiring him to take the party to Mauritius. Beyond that he knew nothing.

The Assembly then arrested Brunel’s group and placed them on the Moineau which left a few days later for France.

Sat 8th Oct 1796

Brunel and Barco, the Deputies from Paris whom we recently reported had been ejected from Mauritius, were objectionable to the resident officials because they again brought instructions to free the slaves.

The Colonial Assembly categorised the instructions as destructive of the commerce of Mauritius ‘like the horrors that have laid waste to the Antilles’.[12] Some better particulars have now arrived:

On 18th June the French frigates La Forte, La Seine, Regenerée and La Virtu arrived at Mauritius from France with 600 troops. Three Commissioners appointed by the Directory arrived with the ships – Barco, Brunel and Lamarre. They were received with honour and quartered in Government House.

Next day they reviewed the National Guard and the French garrison and required the Mauritian officials and populace all take the civil Oath of Loyalty, which includes a phrase denoting one’s implacable hatred of Royalty. Some took the oath but the majority called ‘Vive Malartic’ (the Royalist Governor’s name).

The commissioners then dissolved the Colonial Assembly. Before complying, the local officials arranged a deputation of their number to examine the new commissioners’ credentials and discuss the new organisation of the Colony. After this meeting there was a riot in the town and thirty armed men rushed into Government House where they peremptorily told the Commissioners to depart. Barco, who was formerly Mayor of Nantes, remonstrated. One of the rioters named Polvert fired at him but his pistol misfired. Commissioner Barco drew his sword but he and the other Commissioners were quickly surrounded and disarmed. They were taken to the corvette Moineau which sailed away with them two hours later.

Malartic then reappeared having ordered the corvette to Manila.[13]

The revolutionary power centre at Port Louis is called the Franciscans Club (who meet in the house of a local woman named Frances) and who have caused several initiatives which have damaged Mauritian trade. They print recipesses which the merchants are required to accept instead of money.

The security on which the Mauritian bank-note issue is founded is the government share of the prizes taken.

The silver dollar is exchanging at 700 Livres in free trade but the Colonial Assembly is exchanging 200 Livres to the dollar on the prizes and cargoes. This devaluation encouraged the officers and crews of the privateers to share out amongst themselves the $250,000 found in the Portuguese ship before they returned to port. When the Colonial Assembly found out they arrested the officers and imprisoned them.

Port Louis has been renamed Port North West by the National Convention.

Sat 5th Nov 1796

The Colonial Assembly of Mauritius has written to the National Convention in Paris:

“For four years we have preserved this island from invasion by the perfidious English. Our sailors have humbled the British flag and reduced the British navy in India to inactivity. Our society is tranquil and happy.

“Some imprudent men came here and nearly destroyed our achievement. Our Republican energy, love of Liberty and filial piety to France sustained us. The disasters that have befallen our West Indian islands have been reported here. We were fearful of an insurrection of the slaves which would destroy our economy and leave us with no place to go. The British have taken the Cape and all India. This island is isolated but we will never submit to the English.

“Then the addresses of the CPS to the Colonial Assembly and the Governor arrived and raised our hopes. New revolutionary measures were to be introduced prudently and temperately to avoid violence. Some suspicion of those measures was already under debate here. We have constantly attended to the condition of the slaves. We have stopped the importation of new slaves. The process of manumitting the remaining slaves is continuing. We have freed about 10% so far. They are all eligible for the vote. Some few slaves disputed the delay and people arriving from France exploited their discontent but we have settled the doubts of the slaves and expelled the troublemaking new arrivals. We have stopped new visitors from passing documents to the slaves.

“Whilst our gradual implementation of the Directive was thus proceeding, some men from the Directory arrived and created a riot. Barco immediately revealed himself to be a terrorist. Brunel has a bad record here and cannot enhance the reputation of France. He used every trick to plunder before fleeing to America. When he reappeared the entire population was enraged. These Commissioners came ashore in six boats each manned by a hundred men with fixed bayonets. They spoke about respect whilst threatening the people on the quay with gunfire. They ordered the suppression of our Assembly after it named nine members who would assist them in effecting changes to our government. They then sought to publish the Decree giving freedom to the slaves. At the time we had about one month’s supplies on hand. If they had been allowed to proceed, the slaves would have revolted, the farms would be untended and famine would have soon overwhelmed us.

“We remonstrated with them but they were intransigent. A threat to hang the Governor and a public insult to America (whose ships have kept us in provisions since the war commenced) revealed their view. A great mass of the population was incited to violence but we were able to save them by putting the trouble-makers back on board their ship which sailed away. The population then became settled and a crowd carried Governor Malartic and General Magellan around the town on their shoulders. Tranquillity was soon resumed. We lament the necessity of expelling two agents of the Directory but, had they remained, France would no longer have this foothold in the Indian Ocean.

“We fear the Directory was betrayed. The appointment of these agents was known in British India long before they arrived[14] and Pitt assured parliament the islands would be taken without a fight. We also note a British cartel ship was in port at the time of these Agents’ arrival. 12,000 Frenchmen and 20,000 slaves swear to you that these islands will never be British.”

  • Sgd Barre, President of the Colonial Assembly,
  • Desrouelles and Suasse, Secretaries of the Assembly,
  • 3rd Thermidor, 4th Year of the Republic.

Sat 12th Nov 1796

The Colonial Assembly of Reunion (Ile de Bourbon) has sent in a memorial to Paris supportive of their colleagues in the Mauritian Assembly. It is signed by Azema the President, Chasserian the Secretary and all twenty-eight members of the council.

Sat 31st Dec 1796

The Danish ship Little Catherine has arrived at Madras from Mauritius and Reunion. The Indiaman Triton, which was taken as prize, has been sold in Port Louis for $60,000 Spanish.

15 American, 1 Spanish and 4 Danish ships arrived in September and October and brought so much food that provisions are again sufficient and cheap. These ships took off cotton, coffee and indigo. The French livre is exchanging at Port Louis at 1,400 to the Spanish dollar.

There are no warships in Port Louis – the 7 frigates, 2 corvettes and 8 privateers that comprise the Mauritian war fleet are all out cruising. One of the privateers looks like a native boat. She sails fast but has no guns. She is crewed by 70 young Frenchmen who black their faces and take prizes by boarding. They took 2 British whalers not long ago. The oil, whalebone and whales’ teeth are being sold in the market at Mauritius.

The British cartel ship Glasgow sailed from Mauritius for the Cape shortly before the Little Catherine’s arrival.

A great majority of the Colonial Assembly of Reunion is in favour of giving the administration of the island to Britain until the war ends. Only four members voted against the proposal. They are reluctant to proceed because they fear the populace would not support them.

 

All the 1797 editions of the newspaper are missing.

 

Sat 6th Jan 1798

Letters of 18th September from Mauritius say the first of a fleet of 22 transports has arrived from France bringing a large body of troops for a secret expedition. We suppose, if it is true, they will come to India.

Sat 13th Jan 1798

On 10th January the Danish ship Norway (Olson) arrived from Batavia which she left on 24th November. On that date two French frigates la Forte (44) and la Seine (36) were in port with a detachment of 500 European troops from Mauritius for the Batavia garrison. They are actually a group of insubordinate soldiers who have won the disfavour of the island’s Colonial Assembly and are being removed.

The frigates left port on 28th October and appear to have been involved in the capture of the Brisk (in Madras Roads) on their return to Mauritius. This is corroborated by the Danish ship Friendship at Tranquebar which left Mauritius on 4th November. She said another two ships from Admiral Sercey’s squadron had left Port Louis to transport a second detachment of troops to Batavia. The master of a Prussian ship at Colombo saw these ships at Seychelles.

Sat 17th Feb 1798

The great depreciation of the paper money at Mauritius has caused unrest. At one time the rate fell so far that 10,000 mandats equated with one Spanish dollar. The Colonial Assembly then forbade all contracts in dollars – that lifted the exchange rate to 5,000 Mandats per dollar.

The problem was caused by the four brokers who monopolise exchange business – those merchants have been taxing us all. Bread is now inexpensive and plentiful again.

Sat 14th April 1798

General Raymond, the French officer in Maratha service, died last month at Hyderabad. He first served under Lally at Mysore.

9 years ago he entered the service of the Nizam Ali Khan for whom he raised a corps of 500 riflemen. He hired the rifles from a French friend at 8 annas per month per gun. When the Nizam joined the confederation against Tippoo, Raymond’s corps was increased to 700. His military abilities endeared him to the Nizam who incrementally increased his force to finally 5,000 men. He armed these men from the military stores we took as prize and sold at auction after we occupied Pondicherry.

Soon afterwards, the Nizam’s son Ali Jar rebelled against his father and Raymond was sent against the son. He quickly obtained Ali Jar’s submission and was then allowed to increase his force to 15,000 men including artillery. He was given personal ownership of all the guns and military equipment. The force has 600 horses, 6,000 bullocks and some elephants and camels.

To pay the men, the Nizam assigned Raymond a jaghire worth 5,200,000 rupees per annum. Raymond employed his own collectors on this Estate.

He had another jaghire worth 50,000 rupees a year which the Nizam gave him to feed his requirement for betel nut – he was a constant user. He lived in European luxury in the heart of India.

He is succeeded by M Perron.

Sat 19th May 1798

The French have landed 300-400 troops at Mangalore for service with the Sultan of Mysore (Tippoo). They landed from the frigate Preneuse i.e. from Mauritius[15]

Sat 2nd June 1798

The Madras Presidency has chartered a ship on 9th May as cartel to take some 300 French prisoners to Mauritius. We have collected them from various sources, mainly from the crews of French and Dutch prizes.

Sat 30th June 1798

Captain Lossack, our commodore on the Mauritius station (the Company’s small fleet from the Cape that is blockading Port Louis), says a member of the island’s Assembly has told him they wish to declare their independence from France and establish peaceful relations with the whole World.

The Colony is certainly in a dismal condition since it dismissed the Commissioners from Paris. The French government is determined to outlaw slavery whilst the island’s representatives are certain they cannot prosper without it.

We are somewhat surprised that Mauritius is willing to abandon its privateering – almost the entire community is involved in it and a tremendous income is received.

Sat 7th July 1798

Calcutta Morning Post, 8th June – Anne-Joseph Hypolite Malartic, Governor-General of Mauritius and Reunion has proclaimed to his people on 30th January 1798:

I have received two ambassadors from Tippoo Sultan requesting an offensive and defensive alliance with us. He offers to pay for any troops we provide to him. He promises to supply everything necessary except wines. If we agree to ally with him, he will commence war on the English to remove them from India.

We have already sent a reinforcement to our Dutch allies at Batavia. The 107th and 108th regiments are fully occupied. So are the troops raised by ourselves.

We invite all interested citizens who wish to enlist under Tippoo’s banner to send in their names. This applies to both black and white citizens. Tippoo has engaged to not detain any volunteers who subsequently wish to leave.

In April, in response to this public invitation, a hundred Frenchmen arrived at Mangalore under General Demoulins to join Tippoo’s army. The Mauritian Assembly is unable to pay soldiers or sailors as the residents have refused to pay a tax for that purpose. This makes Tippoo’s offer attractive.[16]

Sat 28th July 1798

Bengal Hircarrah, Letter from Mauritius, 4th April 1798:

The government here is now controlled by a Committee of Seven. The Committee of Public Safety is abolished. The Seven are elected from the membership of the Assembly. Their appointment includes a waiver of supervision by the Colonial Assembly – they do as they see fit. This Committee sends down ‘proposals’ to the Assembly which duly enacts appropriate law and Governor Malartic signs the Bills.

Their distinctive act so far has been the removal of people deemed to be dangerous. Those counselling the emancipation of the slaves qualify but all sorts of others are caught by the Committee too. Patriotism is thoroughly suspect. Once you have been identified as dangerous, you receive a letter requiring you to sell your property instanter and board the first ship leaving Port Louis (Port North West) wherever it is going. These banishees are not entered in the ship’s muster roll. There is no evidence of their existence on the vessel. It is supposed they place their trust in the Captain to actually deliver them somewhere.

There are the usual spies and informers lurking everywhere on the island and the populace has become prudent. Carefree talking has ceased. Into this tense atmosphere sailed the ambassadors of Tippoo. They were precisely the item that the Committee needed to flush-out dissidents. Tippoo must have been shocked to discover his secret mission was published in the newspaper here but that is what the Committee ordered Malartic to do. Mauritius is a home to foreigners of all nations and whatever is published here is soon widely known. Some 100 young Frenchmen answered Tippoo’s call and were dispatched on the Preneuse frigate to Mangalore.

Shortly after the Preneuse sailed, an English squadron arrived off the port from the Cape. The Commodore sent 40 French prisoners ashore under a flag of truce and asked for an exchange. He also delivered some European newspapers as a friendly gesture. These reported the collapse of the Royalist insurrection in France (Dunkirk, Brittany, Toulon) on which success the Mauritian government had relied. It would have justified their disobedience to the Commissioners from Paris. Now, the future of the Mauritian slave economy is again fraught with uncertainty.

The news of the collapse of Royalist influence within France had in fact already been received from an American ship. It was shocking for the slave-owners to learn the fate of many of their old friends, particularly:

  • Barbe Marbois, the darling of the English and Austrian courts and brother to the President of that Mauritian Colonial Assembly which expelled the National Commissioners.
  • Villaret Joyeuse, brother of the Admiral who surrendered his fleet to the English and thereafter became a Legislator reciting speeches that were written for him.
  • Simeon, the bosom friend of Sercey, who extolled that Admiral from the National Tribune for his achievements in eastern seas (the most daring of which was the pilferage of $100,000 Spanish from the Mynheers of Batavia.)

Capt Lossack in command of a British squadron arrived with news of a French fleet preparing at Rochefort against us. We had received this information earlier and believed it. It seemed a friendly gesture on the part of Lossack and we sent refreshments to him and his lady. His squadron remained off Port Louis for three weeks unmolested by the batteries. Fresh meat and vegetables were sent on board everyday. We sent a boat to Reunion and the British let it pass. It returned with two Deputies authorised to acquiesce in whatever we thought appropriate for the safety of the two islands. Then there were daily discussions between the British captain and the Governor’s aide-de-camp. We suppose some agreement was being made but the nature of the talk is secret. The British squadron then returned to the Cape.

At the same time Malartic assured himself of the reliability of the National Guard. He had them mount two cannon and two mortars on the hill overlooking the barracks and another two cannon in the town square. Then the 3,000 men of the National Guard were called out.

Two battalions of militia called the Mokastreet and Plainevert of totally about 1,000 men are distrusted. They are Republicans. Most of them are shopkeepers and traders. Their commanding officers were arrested at night. In the morning the men were called to parade and found themselves overlooked by Malartic’s cannon and surrounded by 3,000 national guardsmen. They were then marched to the waterfront to embark for Batavia. They declined to go unless the destination was France. This was granted if they would lay down their arms. They refused, preferring to fight and die than disarm. The Governor relented and they marched off with their arms singing the Marseillaise. They boarded the three frigates in harbour and left for France.

The Governor and Council of Seven celebrated. They declared they would resist any force sent against them by France. All the high officials – Malartic, Sercey, Magellan, the department chiefs and commandants of corps – signed this declaration except Dupuy who was sick. They have only to suppress the population which had formerly been true to the Revolution. They have not revealed the extent of their treason but they are confident of success. Their appeal is to greed, like the English – “follow us and you will get rich.”

It is conceivable that the Council of Seven and the Governor arranged the removal of the Republican troops with the English in preparation for an English takeover. If that is the case, it might be frustrated by the arrival of a fleet from France or by the refusal of the English to assume responsibility for the island (it has been a source of useful intelligence).

Sat 8th Sept 1798

Mauritius, 5th April – part of the regiment from Pondicherry (now called the Regiment of Isle de France) was ordered to crew the frigate La Seine, which complement is reduced by fatigue and sickness. The warship is ordered to France by the Governor.

Last night an anonymous letter was thrown over the wall into the regimental barracks saying the removal of the men was part of Governor Malartic’s plan, concerted with the British Capt Lossack (commanding the blockade), to reduce the defence of the island and facilitate its conquest. About 400 soldiers then barricaded themselves in the dormitories, invited their officers to join them and bring ball cartridges, and declined to come out.

At Malartic’s order, General Battie surrounded the barracks with 1,200 men and ordered the men onto the ship. They complied. Then 400 of the National Guard also rebelled. The General turned his artillery towards them. They submitted but alerted their colleagues to join them. Before this junction could occur, the General got them onto the frigates too (a second ship named Neptune was commandeered for the purpose) and 750 disaffected soldiers were sent off to France. This removed the last of the regular troops from the island which now relies entirely on a militia.

A few days later a conspiracy was detected led by Macy the naturalist to liberate the 30,000 slaves on Mauritius and employ this immense force in overturning the autocratic government. This resulted in the arrest of another 250 men who were likewise banished.

Some residual discontent occurred in three areas – River Abord, St Louis and St Joseph – but evaporated on the approach of some national guards with artillery. The leaders of these dissenting groups were questioned and said to merit death but were also transported.

Sat 17th Nov 1798

The last Madras Courier expressed concern over French officers serving under Perron in the Nizam’s service at Hyderabad. There are about 200 of them and they command units of the Nizam’s army. It is their access to Indian regiments and their nationality that makes them suspect. If France really intends to attack England in India it will use men like these.

Indeed the soldiers are infected with the democratic ideal and recently arrested Perron and all his officers. Perron escaped and sought refuge with the British. He solicited Colonel Roberts (our new Resident at Hyderabad replacing Kirkpatrick) to help him. For this reason Roberts held discussions with the Nizam, obtained the loan of some cavalry and French officers and the democrats have quietly surrendered themselves to this detachment under Roberts. No shots were fired.

The 200 Frenchmen (about 40 officers and 160 men) have been taken to Madras and confined at Masulipatam. They will be sent to Europe. The Nizam has settled all their debts and Roberts guaranteed their property. Perron’s corps of 13,000 – 14,000 men surrendered their arms and disbanded. French influence at Hyderabad is at an end.

In the mopping-up operations, Roberts discovered 14,000 new uniforms in a store and 6,000 new muskets. He discovered Perron had created a foundry for both brass and iron cannon and had machinery for drilling musket barrels. It seems the British intervention was timely.

Sat 13th March 1799 Extraordinary

Accounts from Mauritius in late February say the island of Reunion has declared independence.

Sat 30th March 1799

Tippoo Sultan amassed 25,000 men at Periapatam and our new Bombay army marched to confront him. About 1,400 of our troops were surrounded by 12,000 – 14,000 Tippoo’s men but we ran-out our artillery which was too much for them.

After 7 hours of battle, two Company regiments arrived after a forced march to reinforce our chaps and we then quickly dispersed the remainder of Tippoo’s men.

Our men were too tired to follow-up.

Tippoo left 400 bodies on the field and took away his wounded. He was not directly involved but was said to have been nearby with 6,000 cavalry men, ready to take advantage of the situation should the battle have gone well for him.

He is supposed to have retired to Seringapatam.

Sat 20th April 1799

The Company has been inspecting the letters of French residents of Pondicherry and has now obtained details of a plot.

They have been corresponding with Tippoo.

70 French residents were shipped off to Europe on four hours notice.

We have some suspicion that Tippoo’s plans may link with Vizier Ali (late of Oudh) who was in communication with residents of Lucknow as were the French.

Our Resident at Lucknow has persuaded Saadat Ali Khan, the new Nabob, to request and pay for an extra British regiment to deter rebellion.

The Danish Governor of Tranquebar is fearful of French plots in his town. It seems he may know something. He has asked Madras for assistance.

Sat 11th May 1799

The Company’s armies from Bombay and Madras have joined-up before Seringapatam and are commencing a siege of Tippoo’s fortified town.

Sat 23rd May 1799

Seringapatam, the capital city of Mysore, fell to our arms (again) on 4th May 1799. A British officer and 12 of his men were taken prisoner during the attack. When we found their bodies, it was seen that they had been executed by driving nails into their heads. This angered our men. We offered terms (retention of half his remaining lands + 20 million rupees income, his four sons as hostages together with four named officials) but Tippoo declined them.

Tippoo was killed in the assault (two serious bayonet wounds and a fatal shot through the head) and two of his sons have been captured.

Chapuy and fifty French were taken prisoner in the fort and several more have since wandered in to our camp from outside. We found 3 million Star Pagodas in specie, 6 million Star Pagodas worth of jewels and 300,000 Star Pagodas in pearls (later amended to 10 million Pagodas of gold & silver and a larger amount in jewels and pearls).

A day’s batta is issued to the troops on the Bombay establishment. Thus expires France’s last overt friend in India. The Portuguese Viceroy at Goa celebrated the event with a Royal salute from all his forts.

Wed 4th June Extraordinary

The Company’s military victory at Seringapatam in detail.

 

The second half of 1799 and all 1800 is missing from the British Library copy.


Sat 10th Jan 1801

Before the funeral of Malartic, our friend the late Governor of Mauritius, a boat put off from the island to the blockading English squadron asking for a day’s suspension of hostilities.

Not only was this agreed, but on the morning of the interment, the ships came in close to shore, lowered their flags and pennants to half-mast, and fired minute guns in unison with the garrison.

The following day the squadron received handsome provisions from the islanders.

Sat 10th April 1802

HMS Penguin arrived at Mauritius from the Cape in January with news of the peace agreed between France and England. Most people believed the report but the prize-takers and merchants were displeased. Many people on Mauritius have been enriched by war and don’t want it to end. The Mauritians are like the English – having never seen the downside of war, they are willing for it to continue.

The Governor has ordered a general illumination of the town (Port Louis) and, uniquely, has warned there is a fine equating with £50 for non-compliance. His fears were well justified. A large part of the commercial population displayed only a single horn-lamp with a single candle at their doors – the light was barely discernible.

Another celebration ordered by the Governor was a performance of the play ‘the Prisoner.’ The leading actor so travestied his part that the Governor ordered him gaoled for two days. Many of the British prisoners on the island took the opportunity of HMS Penguin’s presence to arrange their repatriation.

Others left for the Cape on the American ship Portland.

Some others are remaining on the island as they wish to come to India when a ship is available. However, their subsistence allowance of $0.75 per day from the colonial government has stopped with the peace. The commanders and officers of ships taken by privateers have been receiving $1.50 – $2 per day for subsistence from the privateer owners but that payment is supposed to have also stopped.

Sat 10th April 1802

The Prince (Scott) sailed from Madras on 18th October 1801 in convoy of HMS Suffolk for Europe. She carried a group of French prisoners all reportedly on parole – 47 officers from the garrison at Pondicherry and the Frenchmen taken in the frigate La Chiffone and from the fort of Seringapatam. In addition there were 380 ‘other ranks’ who were confined below at night.

On 28th October a storm approached, the crew were ordered aloft to bring-down the sails and most of them were off-deck. The Captain was taking dinner with some of his officers, amongst whom were two of the Frenchmen, M/s Froment and van Ness. Suddenly a group of prisoners appeared, armed with knives and sticks and with the swords of the sentries who had been guarding the storeroom. The diners were overwhelmed and subdued.

They discovered that the officers on watch had been taken and the whole crew was confined on the orlop deck.

The leader of the prisoners’ revolt was Pinaud. He said their carriage together with ‘other ranks’ was a breach of proper conditions and justified the officers’ own breach of parole. Dusk fell and no lights were permitted until the ship had drifted away from the convoy. Next morning the Captain estimated the ship was sailing NNE at 7-8 knots. He learned the prisoners had considered going to Mauritius or Reunion or Batavia and ultimately selected the first. All the officers’ servants were released next morning and permitted to provide service.

The Prince eventually made Mauritius on 20th November. They were visited by a French officer and invited to land on Cooper’s Island, about two miles from Port Louis. The present governor of Mauritius is Magellan.

The ships’ officers and crew were well cared for by the French and by the two Consuls on the island – Sir Charles Pelgrom, representing Denmark and Austria and Mr Stacey representing America.

Sat 22nd May 1802

The French corvette Adele (16) has arrived at Mauritius from France. A group of officials boarded her and ordered the Captain to deliver his dispatches. He arrested the group and detained them whilst he took the dispatches ashore and delivered them to Governor Magellon. He then returned on board and liberated the officials.

The ship brings news of the peace which has been ill-received by the Mauritian merchants. It also reports a force of 3,000 soldiers with a new Governor are on their way to restore Republican virtue to Mauritius. France requires Mauritian exports to be sent in future only to Toulon and Marseilles.

The corvette then left Mauritius for the Seychelles to revive that Colony.

Sat 29th May 1802

4th May was the anniversary of the fall of Seringapatam, the defeat of Tippoo and our receipt of much of his wealth and territories. The Governor-General gave a breakfast to 700 prominent people of Calcutta in celebration of the event and Government House was opened to their inspection.

The Governor-General wore Tippoo’s Star & Jewels which were taken by our army and gifted to the Governor-General by decision of the Court of Directors.

At Madras Presidency the Governor gave a ball and supper to the British residents in celebration of the same event.

Sat 10th July 1802

Peace in Europe seems to mean peace in Malabar. Tippoo’s government at Mysore has continually promoted dissent in the lands he ceded to the Company and we have constantly opposed these dissenters militarily.[17]

Since then we have got most of the rest of his lands but those additions have not yet been surveyed.

Now with the publication of peace and the certainty that France will not be coming to his rescue, Tippoo seems to have acquiesced in his fate. Rebellion in the ceded province of Malabar is fading.

Sat 14th Aug 1802

Early in July two French ships arrived at Mauritius from respectively Bordeaux and Marseilles. A week later a frigate arrived with a new Governor and 300 troops. He says more troops are on the way.

Neither reports of the signing nor of the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace has yet been published on the island.

Sat 19th March 1803

A letter from Mauritius dated 8th January 1803 says the people deported from France and transported to the Seychelles have been causing trouble there.

The natives complain the former Prince of Hesse has been robbing the men and ravishing the women.[18]

All except a few quiet banishees are now expelled from Seychelles and have been sent to Malindi in East Africa.

Sat 13th August 1803

The French people of Mauritius are divided into three groups:

  • The landed interest has been ruined by war. The costs of their estates and the maintenance of the slaves has continued but the produce cannot easily be sold with an English frigate cruising off Port Louis. They are uniformly against war.
  • The urban population of Port Louis on the other hand has drained the wealth of the island and remitted it for Indian trade. These investments ultimately end-up in Europe and impoverish Mauritius.
  • The third group is comprised of adventurers and speculators who operate both privateers and the slave trade with Madagascar. They get rich and poor in turns.

Sat 20th August 1803

The French ship-of-the-line Marengo has arrived at Pondicherry with a fleet of 3 heavy frigates and a corvette. They disembarked the army officers and the wives of the naval officers, together with the money they had brought, and immediately put to sea again.

Sat 3rd Dec 1803

A report from Mauritius of 26th August says a 74-gun warship with 3 frigates and 2 corvettes has arrived with 1,400 troops from France. Formerly there were 300 – 400 troops in total on the island. The islanders have a militia of two artillery corps and several battalions of infantry. There are also some squadrons of light cavalry in the militia. In the harbour are French, American and Danish merchant ships and one of our ships from Calcutta. A further 1,200 troops are expected from France but the increased population has already strained the food supply and there is little money available for exchange.

The French officers from Pondicherry have advised the Mauritian Assembly that our Indian sepoys are fearful of Africans. Mauritius has a huge population of Madagascan slaves working the fields and an idea is forming that Negro battalions should be formed. There are 300 cannon in the island but only 150 have gun carriages.

The new Governor is General de Caen who is an Anglophobe. He arrived with Linois’ squadron from Pondicherry in mid-August.

As we have long occupied Pondicherry and sent the French residents to Europe, the Mauritius is still without independent French confirmation that a state of war again exists between our countries.

A French corvette visited Tranquebar on 26th October. It remained a few hours in the roads and then departed.

Sat 25th Feb 1804

Admiral Linois arrived at Bencoolen on 1st December in an 80-gun capital ship with 2 frigates and a sloop. He captured the Eliza Ann of Madras and the Countess of Sutherland of Calcutta. We burnt the Marlborough, Flora and Ewer to prevent his getting the advantage of their capture. Linois destroyed the Company’s pepper godown and its stock of 400 tons of pepper and left on 5th December towards Batavia.

He was reportedly joined by a Dutch squadron at Batavia on 15th December and is supposed to be cruising in the Sunda Straits. After he left Bencoolen, the Bugis and Malays landed and plundered the Company’s factory. Finally, the Sumatran hill people came down and took whatever remained.

Editor – our China fleet left Macau on 11th January. It would be difficult for Linois to work up to the Malacca Straits to catch them in time. He must have assumed the China fleet would depart via the Sunda Straits.

Sat 17th March 1804

Last year charitable legacies and donations to the French government totalled over 2 million Francs. These exclude the huge legacy of General Martin of Lyons[19] as his wealth is invested in London and cannot be recovered until the war ends.

Sat 28th Dec 1822

John Bull in the East, 5th December – M Claude Martin of Lyons came to India as a private soldier and died at Lucknow in 1800. Lucknow is the wealthy city in Oudh which province was by then partly held by the Grand Mughal and partly by the Company. Martin achieved the rank of Major General in the Company’s army.

His Will, and the Schedule of Bequests attached to it, is very long.

His executor is Palmer of the great Calcutta Agency House with a branch in Hyderabad. The failure to pay a variety of beneficiaries has brought the conduct of the Executor before the Court. After the many bequests were deducted from the Estate, there still remained over 800,000 Rupees.

The French legatees maintain that, according to English Law, interest is payable on the bequests, because the estate might have been converted into money immediately after Martin’s death and thus distributed timely. Palmer says the bequests intended for each legatee were specified by Martin and should not be varied by the Court. He had always been ready to pay any person who could establish a claim. He had always wanted to divest himself of the responsibility and hoped the Court would take over Martin’s Estate.

The Court thought an Executor might have a reasonable time, say a year, to sort out an estate and thereafter interest should start to run. The amount remaining in Palmer’s hands after 20 years is still 2.3 million Rupees.

The Court agreed to assume conduct of the matter and a Master was appointed. His commission on an Estate of this size will approximate 140,000 Rupees.

Sat 19th Oct 1805

Four American ships have recently arrived at Mauritius from France bringing shipments of naval stores. The Governor, General Du Caen, has followed the practise of the previous war and merely gives an acknowledgement of receipt. The freight is prepaid.

Sat 16th Nov 1805

Le Moniteur of 1st June 1805 says Captain Pierre Paul du Buc (or Dubocque), who formerly distinguished himself in the Indies as Admiral of Tippoo’s fleet, and Thomas Rossolin, a Boulogne pilot living in London for the last ten years, landed at Morlaix on 18th November 1804 from HMS Nile and engaged themselves to the ci-devant Baron d’Imbert (one of the people who surrendered Toulon to the English in 1793) to act as spies for England against France.

They were provided with much money and enabled to correspond with d’Imbert through the British merchant-house of M/s Power of Hamburg. They were charged with espionage, tried by court martial, convicted and executed.

Sat 28th June 1806

Surcouf, the Governor of Mauritius, has been recalled. He sold up all his interests on the island and collected 300,000 Rupees to take back to France with him.

Sat 21st Feb 1807

Madras Presidency has permitted American ships to bring grain for sale until 31st December 1807. This will divert some of the American business that normally goes to Mauritius.

Sat 14th Nov 1807

The Indian Agency Houses are upset that Mauritius remains a French Colony after years of war. It is the base from which French privateers disrupt British shipping in the east. The merchants say the value of property already lost to the Mauritian privateers is more than adequate to finance an invasion of that island and nearby Reunion.

They are frankly suspicious how Mauritian independence has been maintained so long and wonder why government has not protected their trade better.[20]

Sat 27th May 1809

22nd March 1809 – Admiral Bertie at the Cape has ordered a strict blockade of the French islands (Mauritius and Reunion)

Sat 29th July 1809

The new British blockading fleet at Mauritius and Reunion is comprised of a 50-gunner, 3 frigates, 3 sloops and a brig. They have arranged an exchange of prisoners and a cartel ship is being sent from India.[21]

Sat 25th Nov 1809

The invasion of the French islands has commenced. On 21st September we captured Rodriguez and landed unopposed on Reunion. On 23rd September we agreed articles of capitulation with the French garrison of St Pauls on Reunion.

Sat 6th Jan 1810

We recently captured the French Colonel la Houssaye in a proa off the west coast of Sumatra. It appears his mission was to survey all the new plantations of spices that we have established on that coast. We suppose his survey was preparatory to an expedition being sent to destroy them.

Sat 26th May 1810

Madras news, 12th May – an expedition under Lt Colonel Fraser of H M’s 86th Regiment sailed last week to the South.

NB – 4 French frigates and a brig left the Loire in early December, evaded our blockade and are thought to be coming to Mauritius.

Sat 25th Aug 1810

The island of Reunion surrendered to British forces on 8th July 1810. The interior of this island is more or less impenetrable and our aim was solely to secure the garrison and the persons of the Governor and Deputy Governor at St Denis.

To achieve this, we landed a good part of our force, took the outlying posts and were preparing our positions for an attack on the town when a trumpeter announced a parlez and an officer came to surrender the whole island by capitulation.

Our preparatory leaflets had informed the inhabitants that English rule would restore commerce and make them rich. The French garrison will march out with their arms and baggage and full honours of war. They will lay down their arms on the beach and embark, as prisoners of war, for either the Cape or England. Colonel Susanne, the Governor, and his family are permitted to go to Mauritius. We had four men killed and a few others wounded.

Robert Townsend Farquhar is appointed Governor of Reunion and Capt Barry is Chief Secretary and Mayor of St Denis. Two prize agents are appointed, one for HM troops and the other for Company’s troops. They will liaise with the prize agent of the navy and stocktake and secure all public property. The Spanish silver dollar will be the currency of Reunion during our occupation.

Sat 25th Aug 1810

The French cartel ship Camille has arrived at Madras from Mauritius with 25 British and 50 Lascar Prisoners-of-War for exchange.

Sat 1st Sept 1810

The French have held Mauritius since 1715. They now have about 30,000 slaves there. The main agricultural product is lately grain but they still have some excellent cotton.

The only reason Mauritian coffee has not been as profitable as it should, has been the existence of a native woodlice that kills off entire orchards.[22] The Mauritian spices (transplanted cloves and nutmeg) are tasty and they have a good crop of cinnamon, originally from Ceylon. Indigo, pepper and cattle do not thrive.

The colony has not been self-sufficient to France. It costs the home government about 4 million Livres (£167,000) a year to maintain but they continue to hold it as it is their only base in Eastern seas. The costs of invading this island will be prodigious and the value of keeping it comparatively small. That is why the Company has long dissuaded the London government from acting. It now appears that London insists on its invasion. Sir Home Popham is said to be sailing here to command the expedition.

Sat 29th Sept 1810

The fall of Reunion to us has animated the people of Mauritius. Reunion was an important source of food for them but they have their own supply and other alternatives and will not be entirely deprived by our act. They have 5,000 troops for their defence and about the same number of militia.

Sat 6th Oct 1810

The ordnance for the invasion of Mauritius includes a large number of Shrapnel’s new shells which are expected to be well-suited to deal with the French horse artillery, the most fearsome part of the Mauritian defences.

Mon 21st Jan 1811 Extraordinary

We conquered Mauritius on 3rd December 1810. We made our landing east of Grande Baie and used the flat-bottomed landing craft made at Madras that carry 50 men each, exclusive of crew. Hardly a man got his shoes wet. The Bombay-built bunder boats were not so efficient – they are heavier, draw more water and carry less men. The French had no idea where we would land and their principal defences were on the other side of the island and at Port Louis. They have always said this island was impregnable. We lost only 56 officers and men.

With the recent capture of Reunion and Rodrigues, this pushes the nearest French naval support base back to the limited facilities of the Seychelles where the few residents have already informally welcomed us. The East is ours.

General Decaen, the Mauritian Governor, could only rely on 1,400 troops. His militia, the residents generally and the slaves were disaffected and did not oppose us. It was a short invasion. We did not make the French garrison prisoners-of-war – it was more like checking-in and out of a hotel. Decaen and his troops have embarked for the return to France. Very few of the residents saw them off.

The shops re-opened the day after the capitulation was signed. Some French administrators are staying behind to settle-up the ex-government’s accounts. We were surprised to discover that the French have been growing their own spices here. Like us, they must have brought the plants from the Spice Islands.

There is an Irishman at Mauritius named Barry who was responsible for disaffecting many of the British prisoners-of-war detained on that island and encouraging them to join the French army. We do not blame our troops, we blame Barry and he is now being actively sought for.

The residents of Mauritius have 20 days to accept us. In that time they will either make an Oath of Allegiance to George III or they will leave.

Sat 2nd March 1811

The merchants of Calcutta have congratulated Governor-General Minto on the capture of Mauritius. The island is the French key to the east and its availability to Britain assures our Asian commerce of trouble-free maritime trade in future. They offer to have Minto’s portrait painted as a gift.

Sat 20th April 1811

The Company has a slight embarrassment. The British legislature is proud of its anti-slave trade law which is persuasive evidence that there are limits to Britain’s quest for profit.

This law should now apply in Mauritius and the other French islands that we have conquered. There are approaching 100,000 slaves there, nearly all traded from Mozambique, and their labour is fundamental to the economy of the islands.[23]

Sat 4th May 1811

News from Mauritius:

The Marie Louisa left France on 18th September and has just put-in to Port Louis at Mauritius without knowing we had occupied the island in the interim. She was immediately arrested.

Her crew bring some news from France. They say Louis Bonaparte has fled Europe and joined his brother Lucien in America and that Fouché, the interior minister, is reportedly arrested and is to stand trial.

A planned riot by a small number of dissident Mauritians has been detected early by our vigilance and suppressed.

Sat 25th May 1811

After the conquest of Mauritius, a part of the expedition sailed to Madagascar to occupy the French settlement at Tamatave, collection centre for most Mauritian slaves. As the force was leaving Madagascar a severe hurricane came on and all the shipping in our expedition was lost except HMS Eclipse.

The entire French garrison of Tamatave which had been embarked on the Duchess of York has perished.

A great part of the destruction ashore was caused by the failure of the Chumbrunbancum Tank, which is 24 miles long. The banks burst in the great downpour of rain and an immense flood of water descended on the coastal villages below. The fleet was anchored well off-shore in 9 fathoms of water but the waves were breaking against them at that depth.

The occasional flash of lightning revealed that most of the wrecked ships had been blown onto the beach.

Sat 29th June 1811

The Company’s appointment of R T Farquhar as Governor of Mauritius has not been approved by the British government. They want a military Governor for the island and have replaced the administrator with Major General H Warde.

Farquhar left Mauritius on 24th April to become Governor of Reunion instead. Warde has published a Proclamation saying he will punish dissent and has extended the time available for residents to take the Oath of Allegiance to George III to 30th April. Those disinclined to take the Oath are to leave at their own expense before that date.

Sat 24th Aug 1811

London Gazette 2nd March 1811 – The Prince of Wales has reappointed Farquhar as Governor of Mauritius and Reunion. It is a reversal of the Governor-General’s recent arrangement wherein the civil servant was replaced by a General.

Sat 12th Oct 1811

The French frigate La Clorinde visited the Seychelles in late May / early June 1811 and found the Union Jack flying over the town. Captain St Cricq commands the frigate and Marechal commands the marines aboard it. They called on the residents to supply such labourers and boats as may be necessary to provision the ship. They promised to pay for everything. Marechal intended to imprison the British Resident but released him on his own parole.

The islands have twice capitulated to British naval squadrons and the English subsequently sent officers to prescribe laws for the government of the Colony. Since then the English flag has flown over the port although no formal treaty has been concluded with France.

The French frigate captain says he will respect the capitulation made by the islanders only for as long as it is convenient to him to do so.

The two great farmers of the island – Mr Paupinel and Ms Nayeau – have so far failed to provide the necessary labourers and boats to provision his warship. He threatened to fire their houses unless they co-operated with him but before this ominous threat could develop Captain St Cricq abruptly left Seychelles shortly before a British warship visited.

Sat 12th Oct 1811

The Edinburgh Review has commented on Eastern trade. It says it is peculiar that British ships are excluded from Asia by the Company’s Charter but American ships are welcomed. There are parts of Asia that the Company ignores but which everyone agrees are within the area of its Charter.

Madagascar, the African east coast and the Philippine Islands all have valuable trade. The former two are exploited by the Arabs and Portuguese and (until our conquest of Mauritius) the French, who predated on Portuguese and Arab trade along the Madagascan coast and took their prizes to the Mahé Islands until the typhoon season when our blockading cruisers outside Port Louis are withdrawn and they can slip back into Mauritius.

The Americans were the chief buyers of Mauritian prizes including numerous valuable East Indiamen. With our conquest of Mauritius, it should now be easy to extend our trade to Madagascar, the Comoro Islands and the east coast of Africa up to the area of our existing trade with Muscat and the Gulf.

Far to the East are the many islands of the Philippines which trade is presently conducted by the Dutch, Americans, Malays and Chinese. These countries, that the Company has chosen not to trade with, should be opened to British trade generally.

The Company says it has insufficient money to develop new markets – well, let them be opened to private British capital. The amount of business available seems worthwhile when we reflect that, in the last year of Mauritian trade before our blockade, over 300 American ships touched there in the course of their Eastern voyages.

The French tried to make Mauritius both the entrepot of French Eastern trade and the power-base from which to control and protect all their Asian commerce. As we hold the Cape and Ceylon, Mauritius is of less importance to us, but it does have a safe and commodious harbour, good supply of provisions and a geographical location that is central for the Asian market. It would also lend itself to servicing the needs of our whale fishery. Once Mauritian trade is no longer cramped by the Company it should become a valuable possession.

We should end slavery on Mauritius. The island gets its slaves from Madagascar where France employs 40 commercial agents who travel the country fomenting war between the villages and selling-off the survivors of the losing side. The Madagascans copied this forceful-style of European trade and sent huge fleets, sometimes of 300 boats, to the Comoro Islands to capture slaves for the French. As a result the delightful island of Johanna was and is depopulated. We ourselves have ceased slaving and recently pressed the Portuguese to emulate us. With the French now removed from Asia, we have a chance to end that hideous trade and restore the productiveness of the natives.

Our control of Eastern seas brings the opportunity to reduce the size of our Indian naval fleet. We have 6 capital ships, 32 frigates and 6 sloops cruising East. They cost the country an estimated £1.5 million a year to maintain. We can reasonably reduce this force by half. Its not only a cash saving but less of our seamen will be exposed to the great variety of tropical diseases. The subsequent natural increase of trade, increase of revenues and reduction of losses will more than compensate for any slight increase in the expense of colonial administration.

It is also the case that France used Mauritius to keep alive the wish for independence amongst the native peoples of India. Disaffection to our rule in India was created in Mauritius and dispensed to the Marathas and others whenever required. It was French adventurers from Mauritius who provided Persian dissidents with arms and ammunition and the instructions in their use, using the support services of the French Agencies at Basra and Muscat. All that anti-British activity is now either ended or severely curtailed. We should grasp the opportunity, etc.

Sat 1st Feb 1812

Colonel Keating, a Catholic, has exceptionally been made Governor of Reunion.

Sat 8th Feb 1812

The occupation of Mauritius and Reunion is occasionally an embarrassment to the Company. In November 1811 the slaves at St Leu, a town on the west coast of Reunion, revolted and killed two white farmers. They had to be suppressed by men of the British garrison under Colonel Picton.

Governor Farquhar has proclaimed that British rule is fair to all. He requires all slave owners to explain this basic feature to each of their slaves individually and post a copy of his Proclamation of British Fairness in a conspicuous part of their Estates.

The slave Figaro, who exposed the conspiracy at St Leu, is to get a 150 piastre pension for life. He is given a plot of land sufficient for the maintenance of his family.

Sat 25th April 1812

Charles Marsh Schomberg, the senior British naval officer at Mauritius, has reported the recapture of the French base at Tamatave, Madagascar. A detachment of the British 22nd Regiment garrisoned the fort until captured by the crews of French warships. This French squadron left Brest on 2nd Feb for the relief of Mauritius. Arriving in the Indian Ocean too late, it has been cruising the Madagascar coast and inter alia recaptured and garrisoned Tamatave as its support base. The approach to the shore at Tamatave is through reefs and the British relieving squadron had no local pilot. We captured La Renommee (44) with 470 crew and marines, disabled La Nereide, which had 200 troops on board and caused La Clorinde (Le Cricq) to strike her flag (but she later escaped). We had 25 killed and rather more wounded.

Fortunately the garrison agreed to surrender when summoned to do so. To preserve life, the expedition commander granted terms to send them to Mauritius from whence they will be repatriated to France. They are not to be treated as Prisoners-of-War.

The 22nd Regiment is in poor health and needs replacement. We are dismantling the fort at Tamatave and will remove the guns.

Sat 13th June 1812

The Caledon (Eastwick) has arrived 10th June from the island of Rodrigues bringing all the British establishment from that island. A few French families and some negroes remain.

Mon 22nd June 1812 Extraordinary

The British subjects captured at Mauritius after our invasion have been sent to London and are to be tried for treason at Horsemonger’s Lane.

Sat 11th July 1812

The disposal of the Mauritian traitors:

William Cundell is one of several men (many with Irish names) being tried for Treason at the Sessions House, Horsemonger Lane. He was a seaman in the Laura which was taken as prize to Mauritius where he was imprisoned. He was later seen by English prisoners to be wearing a French uniform. Cundell says the prison was filthy and smelly with rats everywhere. The prisoners slept on boards. The French offered booze and money to join their service. After six months in the prison, he and some others took the money (which, in the event, was never paid) and put-on the uniform.

Mauritius was one of those French Colonies that the British did not seem to want – it remained French for the first 15 years of war – and he despaired of rescue.

A witness saw Cundell salute French officers but never the English officers who were in prison or on parole in Mauritius. He said Cundell ridiculed his former prison-mates for staying in prison unnecessarily. Another said Cundell had encouraged him to join the French for better conditions.

A defence witness said he and Cundell and others had tried to escape when they heard a British squadron was blockading Port Louis. This was about 2 months after Cundell’s first arrest. They had been detected and threatened with transfer to France but had begged to be allowed to stay on Mauritius. They got 22 days of solitary confinement on bread & water and were then released.

The Articles of Capitulation agreed between our invasion force and the former Mauritian Assembly required all people in French service to go to France.

2-3 other British subjects were tried together with Cundell. They were all accused of similar behaviour. The Jury found the men ‘not guilty’.

A new jury was sworn-in to hear the case against the remaining seven from Mauritius. They were all found ‘guilty’ by the Jury with a recommendation for mercy. The Chief Baron Macdonald sitting in judgment, sentenced them to hanging, to be cut down and disembowelled whilst alive and then to be beheaded and quartered, their bodies not to be returned to their families but held at the disposal of the King.[24]

Sat 25th July 1812

The new British administrators of Mauritius and Reunion are having difficulty restraining the slave trade in their territories. Both islands operate a slave economy and need constant replenishment of supply whilst British government policy is to end supply and incrementally direct the farmers into using paid labour.

Nevertheless, the supply of slaves from Madagascar and the African east coast continues. The vice Admiralty Court of Bombay has just released La Prudente from condemnation under the Prize Act. The ship had a slave cargo and the Court could not contemplate returning them to Madagascar although it found no legal means to prevent it.

Governor Farquhar is persuaded that he should interdict the traffic, house the prospective slaves temporarily at government expense and obtain a decision of the High Court of Admiralty in London on which to base his future policy towards them.

The admiral at the Cape has solicited this interference and Farquhar is making an appropriate Proclamation to the Mauritian farmers.

Sat 5th Sept 1812

The Company will bring a considerable quantity of superior cotton seed from Mauritius next Spring. Anyone who wishes to cultivate long-staple cotton on Salsette or Caranja will be supplied free.

Sat 5th Sept 1812

Trade has stopped at Mauritius. Farquhar enacted a duty of 15% on all exports of silver and gold to prevent a domestic shortage arising and that stopped the visiting ships from selling. There is a 12% premium on issue of government Bills. The American ships and those from India are stuck at Port Louis without means of remitting the proceeds of their sales. There has been a huge import of rice, mainly from Bombay, and prices have dropped from $12 to $4 per bag.

Sat 9th Oct 1813

General Sir Barry Close has died. When we ultimately overthrew the House of Hyder Ali of Mysore and substituted our own nominee, Barry Close was the man chosen by Lord Wellesley to advise the young prince. His services as Resident at Mysore were highly valued.

He received his knighthood from Lord Buckingham (then Lord Hobart), now President of the Board of Control, who liaised closely with him as Governor of Madras.

Sat 9th July 1814

Governor Farquhar of Mauritius has left that island for Reunion – he is in dispute with the Mauritian Judiciary over slavery.

Sat 11th Feb 1815

The newly installed Bourbon King Louis XVIII has appointed Desbassins to be Governor of Pondicherry. He left France in mid-August.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Whilst the Company was pro-trade it was of course primarily pro-Company. Trade to Europe in the superlative or unique products of the day – Travancore pepper, Mocha coffee, Yemeni frankincense, and later Malabar cardamoms, Ceylonese cinnamon – were monopolised as far as possible.
  2. Cannanore is a major port in Tippoo’s lands in Malabar. It became the headquarters of British forces after Mysore was occupied and partitioned.
  3. Calicut was the great centre of international trade before, and at the time of, the arrival of the Portuguese in India. Arabs and Chinese mingled with Muslim merchants from all over South and South East Asia. Its trading importance extended back beyond the time of the Romans with which people the city ran a positive trade balance. The Chinese traded there, selling porcelain primarily for big Arab horses.
  4. Batta is an allowance to the army when out of cantonments.
  5. These are tactics of Asian warfare that will be adopted by Wellington around Lisbon in the Peninsular War and by the Russians against Napoleon’s pan-European army in 1812.
  6. The ‘glorious 10th August’ in 1792 is the day that Parisians attacked the Tuilleries.
  7. The usual colonial deal. The colony produces commodities required by the mother country. The income from these exports pays for necessaries imported from the mother country.
  8. This marks the beginning of a strangely convivial relationship between the Mauritian Government and the Company, during which prize-taking ceases.
  9. The Nizam of Hyderabad’s people follow the Shia form under the nominal leadership of Isfahan. These people might have been under his care.
  10. Such secessions occurred sporadically. The Indian farmer ‘owned’ his land through continual use and the respect of his neighbours. The Mughals introduced the Zamindar to manage surpluses but did not question the farmer’s ‘ownership’ of his field and house. Then Cornwallis instituted the capitalist concept of land ownership in British India. Land became a chattel. Farmers discovered they had landowners set over them who demanded rents. Secessions of farmers became associated with lands under the Company’s jurisdiction.
    In Madras Presidency attempts at secession were not infrequent and were ultimately deterred by the army (which collected rents) demanding a heavy pre-payment from the involved farmers.
  11. The Islamic calendar commenced 622AD with the Messenger’s emigration to Medina.
  12. See the North America chapter for the rather limited reporting on West Indian and Caribbean events. Danton’s freeing of the slaves destroyed the commodity economies of Santo Domingo and Guadaloupe and deranged production on several others for years.
  13. After the corvette got to sea the Commissioners persuaded the captain to divert to Madagascar and land two people to return to Mauritius for undisclosed duties. The corvette then returned to France.
  14. Possibly due to the overland route but more likely to Malartic’s previous negotiations with the Governor General. The relationship between the Mauritian government and the India Company appears to have been quite close at all times.
  15. Mangalore is Tippoo’s main port with a satisfactory road into his domains. This act is better explained in a Bengal Hircarrah article below, dated 28th July 1798
  16. This initiative removes a good many of the violent Republican opponents to Malartic.
  17. Tippoo’s cessions to the Company in 1791 totalled 21,589 square miles which, added to the Company’s existing holdings (in 1783) of 182,122 square miles, is an increase of over 10%. The extent of the latest cessions has not yet been revealed.
  18. The Prince is not further identified. He is conceivably Frederick, son of Louis IX Landgrave of Hesse Darmstadt, who died shortly after this time.
  19. Reportedly somewhat in excess of £150,000.
  20. A hint is given in the execution of the Frenchman Du Buc or Duboque for treason on his return to France. He is called the French admiral in Asian waters by the British.
  21. This is a real blockade, not the occasional single frigate of former years.
  22. The coffee production of the French islands comes entirely from Reunion where the shrub grows wild and the farmers have assiduously grafted the Mocha (Arabica) variety onto it. The result has been a superior bean which ripens in the dry season and can thus be stored longer than West Indian coffee which must be harvested in the rainy season and easily rots, so the Reunion farmers say.
  23. The institution of slavery is an aspect of Muslim life and accordingly widespread in many parts of India but it is supposed to not occur within Presidency towns. Actually slavery in Asia appears to have been less oppressive than the West Indian variant.
  24. The King sends all his bodies to the London hospitals for anatomical studies.

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