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Yale's arrival coincided with the repeal of a law in England which had forbidden the export from Britain of bullion (metal - usually gold or silver - in lump form). This enormously increased the scope of the company's trade, exchanging gold which had originated in the mines of South America (1) for fine luxury goods from China and Japan. New regulations introduced in 1678 allowed more scope for private trade. Yale, despite his junior status, was entrusted with missions in 1674 to negotiate the establishment of a station in the principality of Jinjee and in 1675 to accompany a representative of the company, Major William Puckle, on a tour of inspection of the company's properties in Bengal. A report by Puckle into irregularities in Madras resulted in Langhorne's dismissal for, among other things, receiving money for favours from one of the leading Indian traders, Kasi Viranna.

(1) See the item on Henry Morgan also on the 'British Values' website

Early in 1680, Joseph Hynmers died and in November of the same year, Yale married his widow, Catherine. He refers to her in his will rather mysteriously as 'my wicked wife' but the marriage brought him a small fortune which he used mainly to set up in business trading precious stones. Catherine Hynmers was herself a native Indian (2) and probably had a fortune of her own, independent of Hynmers. In 1682, with William Gyfford as governor, he joined the council at Fort Saint George with the rank of 'mint master'. He had been in India for ten years. Towards the end of the year he set out on an important mission to establish a new agency at Cuddalore, in the land of the Mahrattas.

(2) An email from Dave McCall tells me that 'Catherine was born Catherine Elford, the daughter of Turkey Merchant Walter Elford and his wife Ann. I’ve seen this “native Indian” comment about Catherine before but it’s clearly incorrect. It’s relatively easy to find Catherine’s genealogy working back from her marriage to Joseph and details of both her maiden name and her parents. It’s possible - just possible - that Catherine was actually born in Alicante while her father was trading in that city.'


Shivaji Maharaj

This was actually a resumption of his previous mission in 1674 to Jinjee. The Mahrattas were a Hindu people originating in the Western Ghat mountains, who, in the mid seventeenth century, under the leadership of Shivaji Maharaj, were engaged in an extraordinary adventure of war against the dominant Muslim kingdoms - both the Mughals to the North, where in 1670 they went so far as to threaten Surat (and therefore the East India Company based there), and to the East, where they had suppressed the Muslim kingdom of Bijapur. This gave them control over Jinjee and over the port of Cuddalore, South of Madras. Yale was charged with negotiating the use of this or other similar ports. The matter had become urgent because the English at Fort Saint George had fallen out with Lingapa, local representative of the Golconda kingdom, who had placed them under embargo.

Yale wrote a report of his journey and of the negotiations with the Mahrattas which has been preserved, though in very poor condition. There is a detailed account in Hiram Bingham's biography of Yale. Near Cuddalore, Yale saw a Dutch factory called Tegnapatam. 'Within less than half a mile Sanbojee (Sambhaji, Shivaji's son and successor) has an indifferent large fort, well fortified, which undoubtedly is a troublesome and dangerous neighbour to them.' In 1690, as governor of Madras, Yale arranged the purchase of this fort from the Mahrattas through his brother Thomas. He renamed it Fort Saint David.



Yale finally became governor, or 'President', of the Madras factory in 1687. By this time he was a very wealthy man. The records of the council mention several occasions when they had to borrow money from him and Bingham reckons that he owned at least four ships. The main source of this wealth seems to have been his involvement in the precious stones trade made possible through his marriage with Catherine Hynmers.

Yale's period as governor was very fraught and turbulent. It was a period of intense war and conflict within India, within England, and among the European powers. Fort Saint George was threatened successively by the Mahrattas, the Mughal and the French. It was also a period of conflict between the company and the population of Madras and between Yale himself and a number of members of the governing council; and it was a turbulent period in his own personal life.

In India, the rise of the Mahrattas prompted the Great Mughal, Aurungzebe, to sweep southwards in a vast campaign of conquest. At the same time the company at Child's instigation organised an invasion of Bengal because of perceived mistreatment of the English at the Mughal's hands. The attempt went disastrously wrong and the English agencies in Surat and Bombay in the West and Houghly in the East were siezed by Aurungzebe at the very moment when he was also suppressing the Kingdom of Golconda, where Madras was situated.

Fortunately for the English Aurungzebe considered their trade too profitable to be suppressed and the quarrel was settled but it left the Directors of the Company convinced that they had to do more to turn themselves into a political power. In their instructions issued in 1689 they declared:

"The increase of our revenue is the subject of our care, as much as our trade:—'tis that must maintain our force, when twenty accidents may interrupt our trade; 'tis that must make us a nation in India;—without that we are but as a great number of interlopers, united by his Majesty's royal charter, fit only to trade where nobody of power thinks it their interest to prevent us;—and upon this account it is that the wise Dutch, in all their general advices which we have seen, write ten paragraphs concerning their government, their civil and military policy, warfare, and the increase of their revenue, for one paragraph they write concerning trade."

While Yale was making his personal fortune, the Company as a whole was sinking deeper into debt and its problems were compounded by the loss of the crucially important station at Bantam to the Dutch. In these circumstances, the Directors had been pressing Yale's predecessor, William Gyfford, to impose a tax on the residents of Madras to help pay the costs of the garrison in Fort Saint George.

The area controlled by the British had been divided between the fort, called 'White Town', which was essentially the company and the garrison, and the area outside the fort with its native population, called 'Black Town'. The 'Black Town' (based largely on the two Indian villages - Chennapatnam and Madraspatnam) had grown enormously in size, attracting merchants and craftsmen with the prospect of selling to the Europeans. It has also been suggested that many Indians took refuge there from the wars that were ravaging the country since the area was protected by the agreements made with the English and by the guns of the fort. As well as its Indian population, 'Black Town' also attracted Portuguese, Jewish (largely Portuguese in origin) and Armenian traders.

The attempt to impose a tax provoked determined opposition in the town - conflict that continued throughout the 1680s in which strikes by local workers and shopkeepers were met by threats to pull down houses and execute ringleaders. The conflict was intensified by conditions of famine and disease and by instructions coming from London calling for ever harsher measures.

One pleasing consequence of the Mughal conquest of Golconda was the suppression of the slave trade which had been carried on in a small way in Madras. In September 1687, with Yale as governor, the council had ordered one of its officers to purchase 'forty young sound slaves for the Right Honourable Company' to be trained as boatmen, but in May 1688, the council resolved that the trade had become more trouble than it was worth: 

'Monday, 14th May, 1688. The custom by the exportation of slaves here, being now of little advantage to the Right Hon'ble Company by their scarcity, and it having brought upon us great complaints and troubles from the country government, for the loss of their children and servants spirited and stolen from them, which being likely to increase, by the new government of the Mogul's who are very averse, and prohibit all such trade in his dominions, and has lately expressed his displeasure therein against the Dutch for their exporting of slaves from Metchlepatam. To prevent which prejudice and mischiefs for the future, and we having received a late letter from the Seer Lascar about it, — it is agreed and ordered that, after the 20th instant, no person inhabitant of this place, either Christian or other, do directly or indirectly buy or transport slaves from this place or any adjacent Port (whereby the Government may be any ways troubled or prejudiced) upon the penalty of fifty Pagodas for each slave bought and transported against this order.'