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Buenos Ayres with notice

Another peril which these East Indiamen had to remember was the presence of pirates. These consisted not merely of local Eastern craft, but of such people as Captains Avery and Kidd, two of the most notorious men in the whole history of piracy. In the early part of the eighteenth century the latter were found in many parts of the Indian Ocean. Madagascar was a favourite base for these rovers, but they would be found off Mauritius, or at the mouth of the Red Sea awaiting the East Indiamen returning from Mocha and Jeddah. Not content with this, these European pirates would hang about off the157 Malabar coast, and the East India Company’s ships suffered considerably, and feared a repetition of these attacks. And yet, when we consider the matter dispassionately, were Avery, Kidd and his fellow-pirates very much worse than some of those captains who first took the English ships out to the Orient, who thought it no wrong but a mere matter of business to stop a Portuguese ship and relieve her of her cargo just as these eighteenth-century pirates would assail the ships of the present monopolists of the Eastern trade? The only difference that seems obvious is that Lancaster and those other early captains were acting on behalf of a powerful corporation having a charter from the sovereign: whereas Avery, Kidd and the like were acting on their own and were outlaws. And even this cannot be pushed too far, seeing that at one time of his career Kidd received a commission from William III. to go forth and, as a private man-of-war,” capture other notorious pirates, free-booters and sea-rovers,” on the old principle of setting a thief to catch a thief.

Sometimes these East Indiamen were taken for the enemy even by English men-of-war. You will remember the famous voyage of Lord Anson round the world in the years 1740-1744. One day whilst they were in the South Atlantic they saw a sail to the north-west, and the squadron began to exchange signals with each other and to give chase and half an hour after we let out our reefs and chased with the squadron ... but at seven in the evening, finding we did not near the chace ... we shortened sail, and made a signal for the cruisers to join the squadron. The next day but one we again discovered a158 sail, which on nearer approach we judged to be the same vessel. We chased her the whole day, and though we rather gained upon her, yet night came on before we could overtake her, which obliged us to give over the chace, to collect our scattered squadron. We were much chagrined at the escape of this vessel, as we then apprehended her to be an advice-boat sent from Old Spain to Buenos Ayres with notice of our expedition. But we have since learnt that we were deceived in this conjecture, and that it was our East India Company’s packet bound to St Helena.” This is certainly a fair proof of the sailing qualities of the Company’s ships, seeing that not even the English cruisers could overhaul the merchant ship you beauty hard sell.

At this time the chief cargoes which these East Indiamen took out to the East still included those woollen goods which had been sent ever since the foundation of the first Company, and they continued to bring back saltpetre, but now tea was becoming a much more important cargo. But in addition to that tea which came home in the Company’s ships and paid custom duty, there was a vast amount brought in by smugglers. And one argument used to be that this had to be, because the East Indiamen brought back chiefly the better, higher priced kind, compelling the dealers to send to Holland for the cheaper variety groom suit rental.

The East Indiamen’s captains were not above engaging in the smuggling industry, at any rate as aiders and abettors. One of the methods was to wait until the ship arrived in the Downs. Men would come out from the Deal beach in their luggers and then take ashore quantities of tea secreted about their159 person. This was the reason why the Revenue cruisers were told to keep an especial watch on the Company’s ships when homeward bound, because of the illicit practices that are continually attempted to be committed by them.” So notorious indeed and so ingenious were the methods to land goods without previously paying duty, that the Revenue cutters were ordered to follow these bigger ships all the way up Channel, keeping as close to them as possible as long as they were under sail, and when the East Indiaman came to anchor, the cutter was to bring up as near as possible to her. This was to prevent goods (such as silk and tea) being dropped through the ship’s ports into a friendly boat that had come out from the beach, a practice that was by no means unknown on board these merchant craft home from the Orient DSE Maths Mock Paper.
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