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ARTICLE I.—THE FRENCH IN INDIA.
DURING the bitter struggle between the French and English in India, rare courage, enterprise, and resolution were displayed by both parties. But the French were often, and at critical moments, openly opposed or but weakly supported by their own government.
The policy of the English government with regard to its servants in India much resembled, in principle, the policy adopted by the Church of Rome with regard to enthusiasts. As the Romish Church added largely to its strength by judicious encouragement of those who, like Loyola, ardently wished(to advance their religion, but, in some manner, outside of the lines laid down for their guidance by the rulers of the Church, 80 England added India to her dominions, by encouraging and supporting those enthusiastic men who, wishing to serve their country, wished to serve her by conquering a magnificent realm, instead of by following, as they were expected to do, in the lines of trade and commerce.
For many years after Vasco da Gama braved the perils of an unknown sea, and successfully completed the voyage which has rendered his name so famous, Portugal continued to be the VOL. VII.
only European nation carrying on a maritime commerce with the rich islands and countries laved by the Indian ocean. About the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, both English and Dutch merchants began to trade with India, and Richelieu, in the last year of his life, founded a French East India Company, in order to secure to his own country some share of the magnificent commerce.
Considering the possession of Madagascar important to the commerce in the Indian Ocean, a fort was constructed on that island, and many native chiefs acknowledged the supremacy of the French. But although the Company displayed considerable energy it was not sufficiently encouraged by the government, and was unsuccessful.
To Colbert, the famous peace minister of Louis the Fourteenth, the India trade seemed of great consequence, and he earnestly endeavored to form another East India Company. The king favored his plans, and, in 1664, there appeared an edici establishing the Company which was now to enjoy the privilege of commerce and navigation in the East Indies. The Company was granted all such lands, places and islands as it might conquer or occupy, and it is worthy of mention, that with the zeal for the advancement of their religion in foreign lands which has so strikingly distinguished those of the communion of Rome, the French government ordered that in all territory coming under the control of the Company, the faith of the conquerors should be taught to the conquered.
The new Company, like that of Richelieu, endeavored to maintain a settlement in Madagascar, but the efforts put forth resulted only in disgrace and failure; and it was but a short time before African France, as the island was called, was deserted. Most of the colonists determined to settle in the Isle of Bourbon,
Still, the objects of Colbert were to some extent realized. At Surat and Masulipatam stations were established. Permission to trade without paying duties was obtained from the ruler of the Carnatic. At Porto Novo, near Madras, was built a fortress. In Java a station was established in hopes that the French might there successfully compete with the Dutch.
By the grant of certain land on the coast of Brittany, the Company was provided with a location upon which the necessary warehouses and arsenal might be erected. The military and naval station established on the land thus granted received the name of L'Orient.
A few years after the establishment of the Company, war seemed imminent between France and the Ottoman Empire, and the philosopher Leibnitz presented to the French King an address, setting forth that Egypt should be the point chosen for attack. He adduced weighty arguments to prove the feasibility of his plans. Success would give the French control of the commerce of India.
Had the plan been successfully carried out it is difficult to say what might not have been the result.
Once in actual possession of Egypt, it is not too much to believe that the nation which was even then connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic by means of the great Canal of Languedoc would bave constructed a Suez Canal, two hundred years before the time when, by the genius of a French engineer, that work was actually accomplished. Had Louis then been content with attempting great conquests in the East; had he refrained from madly drawing against himself the power of all Europe; he might have raised France to a state of unexampled prosperity. He was at this time the most powerful monarch in Europe. He might easily have defended his own territories against any aggressor, while at the same time sending large forces to carry out plans of Eastern aggrandizement. But he rejected the plan of Leibnitz, and, deciding to avoid any conflict with the Turks, hurled his armies against Holland.
Meanwhile, although two new settlements, Pondicherry and Chandernagore, both afterwards famous, were established, the affairs of the Company grew decidedly worse.
The Java settlement was abandoned, as was also Masulipatam.
For a moment it seemed possible that in Japan the French might compensate themselves for their failure in India. Japanese dislike of the Jesuits drove the Portuguese from the island empire, and it was thought by Colbert that French Protestants might be allowed to take the places of expelled Portuguese Catholics. But Louis would not consent to break bis rule of excluding Protestants from all the colonies. Swift's
bitter satire, of a somewhat later date, on the humiliations which the Dutch were willing to endure in order to secure the profits of the Japanese trade, will occur at once to every one.
In Siam it also seemed for a time that the French might obtain signal advantages. The Siamese monarch favored them and granted them liberty of commerce and the privilege of teaching Christianity. But at that king's death the French were at once expelled from the country.
Little else of importance occurred during the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. In 1693 the Dutch captured Pondicherry, but the place was restored by the Treaty of Ryswick. The Isle of France, more commonly known by the name given it by the Dutch in honor of their great Maurice, Prince of Orange, and celebrated as the scene in which the touching story of Paul and Virginia is laid, was, on account of its good harbors, very valu. able as a naval station, and in 1715 was occupied by the French.
Early in the new reign the famous Mississippi scheme was projected, and the Company of the West, formed to carry out the plans of John Law, soon annexed to itself the East India Company, the African Company, and a recently created China Company, thus gaining control of almost all the colonial commerce of France. It now took the name of the Company of the Indies.
The commerce with the East began to exhibit new life, and now rapidly increased. The town of L'Orient became a prosperous city, and splendid buildings arose on the spot where but lately there was a mere trading station containing less than one thousand inhabitants.
But while commerce flourished, and protection for it was of, vital importance, the miserable government of France neglected the navy, as that of Charles the Second had done at a critical period, and the ships of war were allowed to decay and fall to pieces at their docks.
Two great men, Dupleix and Labourdonnais, upheld the French interests in the East. The abilities displayed by Labourdonnais, both in private affairs and in the service of the Company, procured him in 1734 the appointment of Governor of the Isles of France and Bourbon. In this position he gave
signal proof of his immense energy and capacity. He wished to create great improvements and to carry out reforms, and earnestly did he set himself to the task. Under his administration the defences of the island were greatly strengthened, the condition of the inhabitants was improved, and evil customs were abolished. But be found that one who earnestly strives to reform abuses is certain to encounter much opposition even from those who most should assist him.
Dupleix, while still a young man, obtained, through the influence of his father, a position in the Council at Pondi. cherry. By means of his commanding abilities he soon attained a far higher position. His genius was recognized and he was sent to direct affairs at Chandernagore, which rapidly became an important center of trade. The French commerce in Bengal soon far outstripped the English. In 1740 Dupleix became Governor of Pondicherry and presently obtained the title of Governor General of the French possessions in India.
War was declared between France and England, and Labourdonnais, after overcoming the greatest difficulties, set sail with a fleet for India. Early in July, 1746, he sighted the English squadron, but only a distant cannonade followed, and he proceeded to Pondicherry. Here he met Dupleix. The two men, each equally anxious to attain the same end, differed widely as to the choice of means. Their respective powers were incapable of and the jealous nature of Dupleix rendered him undefined, acting in harmony with his energetic and ambitious associate.
Dupleix was asked for assistance in strengthening the fleet, and responded by allowing an inadequate supply of cannon and ammunition. He further granted a supply of water, but so bad as to cause sickness on board the fleet. Labourdonnais was again unable to bring the English squadron to an engagement, and, still opposed by Dupleix, proceeded to Madras. On September 15th he arrived in front of the town.
For sev. eral days a bombardment was kept up, when, seeing that resistance was hopeless, the English governor capitulated. It was stipulated that but a moderate ransom was to be exacted and that the place was to be restored to the English. Labourdonnais honorably protected the inhabitants, and, while confiscat