Monday, 30 December 2013

Mr. Hutchinson at Anjengo, 1796 and his families later claims on the Travancore Royal family.

Anjengo in the 1790's.
The period from 1760 until about 1790 had been exceptionally profitable for many of the senior East India Company officials.  They had been able to make huge sums of money from private trade, accepting bribes, commission and through lending money out to Rajah's.  This had become a matter of huge concern in Britain, where the existing political establishment was finding its position threatened by the returning Nabobs, who had become wealthy enough to challenge the status quo. 

Following the trial of Warren Hastings and the official enquiries into the loans to Arcot steps were taken by government to try to limit the opportunities for private gain amongst East India Company officials.

This was aim was relatively easy to achieve in the major settlements like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras,however it would prove much more difficult to achieve in remote locations like Anjengo and Tellicherry. Much of the political and physical conflict on the Malabar Coast from 1790 until 1809 can be traced directly to the corrupting effect that EIC officials like John Hutchinson, Torin and Murdoch Brown were having.

Anjengo was one of the first settlements by the British in India, and was often the first, or very last stop by East Indiamen travelling to or from India. It was frequently used as an outpost for the leaving of messages warning shipping of the event of war in India or Europe.
John Hutchinson, filled the office of Commercial Resident at Anjengo from 1782 until 1797.
Walter Ewer visited Anjengo in 1796 and wrote the following interesting report about the situation there.

Anjengo belongs to the Company,& some of the Pepper is shipped off from thence; Iron & other articles are sold here by the Resident on account of the company. I should be glad to see the event of my Tillicherry Investment, before I propose any alteration here. Indeed, an alteration wou’d be no easy matter, the Resident, Mr. Hutchinson being a very singular man. His salary is only 200 & odd Rupees, per month; he has made a very large Fortune by Trade saving; he once had the whole to himself but now the Rajah has got it all. I really think there ought not to be such a Difference between the two commercial Residents that the Anjengo ought to have the same Commission as the Tillicherry one, he has exactly the same Trouble weighing & shipping, & more in procuring it. He has a Commission on the Piece Goods, but the allowances of a station are far short of the consequence of it. Another will not find the same advantages Mr. H. has, by which means, there is a Risk of its falling to a junior servant, which will be very detrimental to the interests of the Company. I wou’d not however recommend an alteration in Mr. H’s time, he having made quite sufficient already. But, altho’ he has had the good luck to amass some how or other, an immense Fortune, his assistant Mr. Dyne, though honour’d with the Title of joint Factor, after 7 years service, has only 140 Rup’s per Month, without any other advantage; this is absolutely starving, he must quit the station, as there is not a writer of this year but has more. many of his juniors in the service have several Thousand Rupees per annum. This Gentleman with the Experience of some years resigning the Post, a Person quite ignorant of the Business, the weighing & shipping of the Pepper, will be sent to supply his place. Liable to be constantly imposed upon, by those who cut for the ships.
The retired situation & the great Distance from the Presidency, enable the Resident to exercise a Power over his Juniors, which wou’d not be submitted to in other places. Mr. Snow the other assistant has only got 90 Rupees per Month.
If I mistake not, the Court found fault with Mr H. for refusing to go into Council, they certainly ought not to have done so, for a more unfit man, they cou’d not have fixed upon. His long Residence, almost out of the World, independently of his singularity of Character, disqualify him totally for such a station.

John Hutchinson had been making the most of his situation, and was clearly amassing a substantial sum of money. 

He then in turn used this money to lend to the Travancore Royal family.  In time, and long after his death, these loans became subject to a court case in London, and were eventually investigated by a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Martis, 10 die Aprilis, 1832.

That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Allegations contained in the Petition of Mr. Bury Hutchinson, presented to The House on the 15th day of December 1831, complaining of the interference of the East India Company in preventing the payment of a Debt due from the Rajah of Travancore to Mr. John Hutchinson's Estate, and to report their observations thereupon to The House: And a Committee was appointed of— The select committee heard amongst a great deal of other evidence. That during such Commercial Residency, a large debt became due to the said John Hutchinson, for money advanced by him to the Rajah of Travancore; and that all such money was advanced before the passing of the Act 37 George III. C. 142, by which loans from British Subjects to Native Princes were prohibited, unless made with the consent and approbation of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, or the Governor in Council, or one of the Company’s Governments in India:

"That in the year 1795 [the claims of the said John Hutchinson against the Rajah were inquired into, and examined at Travancore by] Mr. Duncan, then appointed Governor of Bombay, [who expressed himself fully satisfied with the justice of such Claims; and] by the desire of the Rajah, and in part payment of the balance due to the said Rajah from the Bombay Government, paid Mr. John in 1796, upwards of four lacs of rupees, by bills of exchange drawn on the Honourable Company in his favour: "That the said Rajah died in the year 1797,and the said John Hutchinson died a little earlier in the same year ; after which event certain officers of rank belonging to the nephew and successor of the said Rajah, were appointed by and on behalf of that Prince to investigate the matter of the aforesaid debt, in conjunction with George Parry, Esquire, the Company's then Resident at Anjengo, who acted, [with the permission of the Governor of Bombay], on behalf of the said John Hutchinson. "That the Accounts were fully gone into by the said Referees who, after a lengthened examination of the vouchers and other proofs, finally declared, on the 13th March 1800, that a balance then was due to the estate of the said John Hutchinson, deceased, of the sum of Rupees 4,89,734. 3 qrs. 80 reas, and directed the payment thereof by instalments of the several amounts, and at the times mentioned in a written Paper or Certificate, dated the said 13th March 1800, and signed by the said Referees, and which Certificate the Rajah confirmed: "That payments on account of the said balance to the amount of about R" 2,80,000 were made through the hands of the Company's Commercial Resident at Anjengo for the time being, [and, as Your Petitioner verily believes, with the sanction of the East India Company expressed by the proper authorities in India of the said Company:] [That the Debt so due from the Rajah to the said John Hutchinson as aforesaid was, in consequence of the repeated and vexatious interference of the Company's Political Resident at Travancore, subsequently inquired into and examined by the Marquis of Wellesley in 1804, by Sir George Barlow in 1806, and by Lord Minto in 1809, who were successively Governors General of India, and all of whom not only declared themselves fully satisfied with the justice of the said Debt, but sanctioned and directed its payment:]

This evidence can be read in full in Reports from Committees: Eighteen Volumes - Vol. V (Session 6 December 1831 ... from page 445 onwards, which is available on Google Books.

Thomas Baber had been in contact with the Travancore Royal family as far back as 1809, and possibly even earlier, and he had become sympathetic to their situation. Members of the Travancore Royal family had visited him at Tellicherry in 1818.

It appears that at some point he began to advise the family on their rights under British law, and he may have assisted them to find lawyers in London.

After the death of Sir Thomas Munro, Thomas Baber who had been trying to bring in reforms fell foul of the new governor of Madras, Sir Stephen Lushington, who was far more reactionary.

Baber returned to Britain for the first time since 1797, to a rapidly changing political situation, where Reform was in the air.  He was soon giving evidence to committees of the House of Lords on the situation in India.

At some point he decided to return to India. On February 1833, Thomas and Helen Baber sailed from Portsmouth on board the Herefordshire, a 1279 tonne East Indiaman, under the command of Captain. E. Ford. The ship was bound for Bombay and Whampoa. They arrived in Bombay on 11th June 1833, and almost immediately Thomas started writing to his many former Indian friends.

The EIC officials in India, were no longer allowed under the new India Act to control people coming out from Britain to India.  They had however decided to monitor very closely what Thomas Baber was doing in India. This included intercepting his post, and steaming open his letters.
A heated official correspondence started in which Thomas Baber was instructed to cease corresponding directly with Rajah's, and he was forced to provide lists of the Rajah's he had been corresponding with, and details of what he had been writing.

The letter below is particularly interesting because it illustrates how he was advising the Travancore Royal family on their rights under British law in respect to fighting the claims being made by the Hutchinson family against them for debts incurred as far back as 1797.

From T. H. Baber Esq. 
Sea Grove at Bombay
To John Bax Esq. Secretary to Government Political Department

Your letter of the 31st Ultimo – Calling upon me to explain under what circumstances I was induced to write to the two Umma Tamburettees and to the young Rajah of Travancore, except through the channel of the Resident of that Court, reached me only this day, and I now hasten to reply to it, that the Right Honorable the Governor in Council may not, for a moment entertain the idea that, either in the matter of, or mode of addressing my native correspondence, there can be anything that I am not fully prepared to justify – or that Government could possibly object to. Although I have not preserved copies of the many letters I have written since my return to this country, to the several Rajahs and other Chieftains,with whom I have been on terms of intimacy and have considered me, under all circumstances, their best, because disinterested, friend, and cannot call to mind the precise purport of my communications – I can have no hesitation in saying that the three letters in question were merely complimentary announcing the return of myself and family to this country and enquiring into their health etc.

With the first of these Ladies Mawilikara Umma Tamburette, and her relation attinga Umm Tamburette, my acquaintance commenced as far back as the year 1810 (When the former’s son, the late Kerula Wirma Rajah, who had been adopted and raised to the Ellen Rajah (Heir Apparent) to the prejudice of the attinga Umma Tamburetta, was placed order of the Governor General in Council, under my immediate charge / and continued up to the period of my quitting Malabar in 1818, in which latter year, I had the gratification of receiving and providing accommodation for the Elder of these Ladies during a visit she paid me at Tellicherry. At this time as well as at the present I was divested of any Official Character such as to render it a duty incumbent upon me beyond Courtesy to show her these civilities – and I have yet to learn that, in so doing I have infringed any order, or rule of Etiquette, and in regard to the complimentary Letters, the Subject of your reference, I could never suppose that any restrictions the Government have no doubt for the best of reasons imposed upon correspondence between Europeans and Native Princes, could possibly be construed as applying to such a correspondence as the one in question and especially to so old a Civil Servant, who never has directly or indirectly had any transactions of a pecuniary nature with a Native Prince – Who never has received and never would receive a favour from any one of them, and above all, who has, thro’ life, set his face against all sorts of understandings between Europeans and Native Princes that in any way compromised the honor and character of British Government. With respect to the letter to the Rajah of Travancore, to the best of my recollections, I did allude to, or at least intended so to do, to the proceedings carrying on in Parliament relative to the long standing alleged Claim on the part of the Heirs of the late Mr Hutchinson Resident in Travankore, conjunctively with the Office of Commercial Resident in Travankore state for the sum of Two Lacks of Rupees and upwards, with interest from March 1800, and to which having paid very considerable attention having been in communication with the Chairman of the Court of Directors and moreover having been called and Examined before the Committee of the House of Commons, I found myself bound, by every principle of Justice to the Parties, as well as to the Honorable Company to acquaint them with the view and part I had taken, and in which, and for which, I had no other object or motive than, to discountenance all hopes of the Claimants being able to fix the responsibility of this dormant demand upon the Rajah of Travancore, or the Honorable Company and especially to counteract the most erroneous impressions in regard to the measures adopted by the Honorable Company.
I have not preserved copies of my communications but the accompanying original letters from the two chairmen Sir Robert Campbell and Mr Ravenshaw, will be satisfactory to the Right Honorable the Governor in Council, that those authorities attached sufficient consequence to my information and my opinions, to deem them worthy of the Consideration of their standing Council and I have reason to believe that they did tend considerably to fortify the arguments of Mr Sergeant Spankie in his defence of the Honorable Company during that inquiry.  If necessary, I can also produce a document from the claimants themselves to show that from them I never concealed my candid sentiments of the utter hopelessness of their ultimate success, notwithstanding the strong disposition of the House of Commons in their favour.
My letter to the Rajah of Travancore upon the same subject, has, it appears, been transmitted by the Madras, to this Government. I will not enquire how and by what means this has been effected because it would be calling into question the acts of a Public Officer for whom I have the highest respect, I will therefore confine myself to observing, that I could not, consistently with my knowledge of the orders of the Honorable the Court of Directors to the Government of Fort St George in the Political Department dated 12th May 1824 “to abstain from all interference in the matters between parties, one way or the other” communicate thro’ the channel of the Resident, what it was, and is, of so much importance to the Travancore State to know, the events which have already, and are now taking place, in parliament with respect to the long standing and important demand upon it—and from whom could such a communication come with so much propriety as myself one who was totally independent of, or unconnected with both parties – but who at the same time had proved himself on various occasions, both in upholding the rights + of the present dynasty and in maintaining the Public tranquillity the staunchest and most disinterested of friends. If after this hurried explanation, the Right Honorable the Governor in Council of Madras should still think it open to objections my holding a correspondence with the Rajah of Travancore all I can do is bow to that decision, and at the same time to express my readiness to obey the directions of Government as to the disposal of the documents I have brought out with me from England, and which, I believe, compose all that has been done in Parliament Expressly for the information and use of the Travancore State. I have the honor to be etc. 

Bombay Sea Grove 
signed/T.H. Baber

+ Mr Baber’s letter to the Resident of Travancore dated 1st Dec 1810 The Right Honourable the Governor General’s letter dated 9 Feb 1811 Hamilton’s Hindostan Quarto Edition 2nd Vol page 316 Coll Munro’s Public thanks in his letter dated 29th No 1812 Mr Secretary Hill’s letter dated 15th June & Numerous other documents [2]

[1] Anjengo IOR/H/438 Papers of Walter Ewer Folio 205 onwards. [2] OIOC F/4/1460 (57461) folio 12 to 17.


Ramachandran said...

Excellent.Even local traders,like Avira Tharakan in Travancore were lending money to the Royal family. In Pondicherry Kanakaraya Muthali gave money to French East India Co,without interest!

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