Concerning the French:
With some Enquiries what should make
the King detain white Men as he does.
And how the Christian Religion is maintained
among the Christians there.
About the year MDCLXXII. or LXXIII, there came Fourteen Sail of great Ships from the King of France to settle a Trade here. Monsieur De la Hay Admiral, put in with this Fleet, into the Port of Cottiar. From whence he sent up Three men by way of Embassy to the King of Cande. Whom he entertained very Nobly, and gave every one of them a Chain of Gold about their Necks, and a Sword all inlay’d with Silver, and a Gun. And afterwards sent one of them down to the Admiral with his Answer. Which encouraged him to send up others: that is, an Ambassador and six more. Who were to reside there till the return of the Fleet back again, being about to Sail to the Coast.
To the Fleet the King sent all manner of Provision, as much as his Ability could afford: and not only permitted but assisted them to build a Fort in the Bay. Which they manned partly with their own People, and partly with Chingulays, whom the King sent and lent the French. But the Admiral finding that the King’s Provisions, and what else could be bought in the Island would not suffice for so great a Fleet, was forced to depart for the Coast of Coromandel; promising the King, by the Ambassador afore-mentioned, speedily to return again. So leaving some of his Men with the King’s Supplies to keep the Fort till his return, he weighed Anchor, and set sail. But never came back again. Some reported they were destroyed by a Storm, others by the Dutch. The Admiral had sent up to the King great Presents, but he would not presently receive them, that it might not seem as if he wanted any thing, or were greedy of things brought him: but since the French returned not according to their promise, he scorned ever after to receive them. At first he neglected the Present out of State, and ever since out of Anger and Indignation. This French Fort at Cotiar was a little after easily taken by the Dutch.
But to return to the Embassador and his Retinue. He rode up from Cotiar on Horseback, which was very Grand in that Countrey. And being with his Company gotten somewhat short of the City, was appointed there to stay, until an House should be prepared in the City for their Entertainment. When it was signified to him that their House was ready for their Reception, they were conducted forward by certain Noblemen sent by the King, carrying with them a Present for his Majesty. The Ambassador came riding on Horse-back into the City. Which the Noblemen observing, dissuaded him from, and advised him to walk on foot; telling him, It was not allowable, nor the Custom. But he regarding them not, rode by the Palace Gate. It offended the King, but he took not much notice of it for the present.
The Ambassador alighted at his Lodgings. Where he and his Companions were nobly Entertained, Provisions sent them ready Dressed out of the King’s Palace three times a day, great Plenty they had of all things the Countrey afforded. After some time the King sent to him to come to his Audience. In great State he was Conducted to the Court, accompanied with several of the Nobles that were sent to him. Coming thus to the Court in the Night, as it is the King’s usual manner at that Season to send for foreign Ministers, and give them Audience, he waited there some small time, about two hours or less, the King not yet admitting him. Which he took in such great disdain, and for such an affront, that he was made to stay at all, much more so long, that he would tarry no longer but went towards his Lodging. Some about the Court observing this, would have stopped him by Elephants that stood in the Court, turning them before the Gate thro which he was to pass. But he would not so be stopped, but laid his hand upon his Sword, as if he meant to make his way by the Elephants; the People seeing his resolution, called away the Elephants and let him pass.
As soon as the King heard of it, he was highly displeased; insomuch that he commanded some of his Officers, that they should go and beat them, and clap them in Chains: which was immediately done to all excepting the two Gentlemen, that were first sent up by the Admiral: for these were not touched, the King reckoning they did not belong unto this Ambassador; neither were they now in his Company; excepting that one of them in the Combustion got a few Blows. They were likewise disarmed, and so have continued ever since. Upon this the Gentlemen, Attendants upon the Embassador, made their Complaints to the Captain of their Guards, excusing themselves, and laying all the blame upon their Ambassador; urging, That they were his Attendants, and a Soldier must obey his Commander and go where he appoints him. Which sayings being told the King, he approved thereof, and commanded them out of Chains, the Ambassador still remaining in them, and so continued for six Months. After which he was released of his Chains by means of the Intreaties his own men made to the great Men in his behalf.
The rest of the French men, seeing how the Embassador’s imprudent carriage had brought them to this misery, refused any longer to dwell with him. And each of them by the King’s Permission dwells by himself in the City; being maintained at the King’s charge. Three of these, whose Names were Monsieur Du Plessy, Son to a Gentleman of note in France, and Jean Bloom, the third whose Name I cannot tell, but was the Ambassador’s Boy, the King appointed to look to his best Horse, kept in the Palace. This Horse sometime after died, as it is supposed of old Age. Which extremely troubled the King; and imagining they had been instrumental to his Death by their carelessness, he commanded two of them, Monsieur Du Plessy and Jean Bloomto be carried away into the Mountains, and kept Prisoners in Chains, where they remained when I came thence.
The rest of them follow Employments; some whereof Still Rack, and keep the greatest Taverns in the City.
Lately, a little before I came from the Island; the King understanding the disagreements and differences that were still kept on foot betwixt the Ambassador and the rest of his Company, disliked it and used these means to make them Friends. He sent for them all, the Ambassador and the rest, and told them, That it was not seemly for Persons as they were at such a distance from their own Countrey, to quarrel and fall out; and that if they had any love for God, or the King of France, or himself, that they should go home with the Ambassador and agree and live together. They went back together, not daring to disobey the King. And as soon as they were at home, the King sent a Banquet after them of Sweetmeats and Fruits to eat together. They did eat the King’s Banquet, but it would not make the Reconcilement. For after they had done, each man went home and dwelt in their own Houses as they did before. It was thought that this carriage would offend the King, and that he would at least take away their Allowance. And it is probable before this time the King hath taken Vengeance on them. But the Ambassador’s carriage is so imperious, that they would rather venture whatsoever might follow than be subject to him. And in this case I left them.
Since my return to England, I presumed by a Letter to inform the French Ambassador then in Londonof the abovesaid Matters, thinking my self bound in Conscience and Christian Charity to do my endeavour, that their Friends knowing their Condition, may use means for their Deliverance. The Letter ran thus,
These may acquaint your Excellency, That having been a Prisoner in the Island of Ceilon, under the King of that Countrey near Twenty years; by means of this my long detainment there, I became acquainted with the French Ambassador, and the other Gentlemen his Retinue; being in all Eight Persons; who was sent to Treat with the said King in the Year MDCLXXII. by Monsieur De la Hay, who came with a Fleet to the Port of Cotiar or Trinkemalay, from whence he sent these Gentlemen. And knowing that from thence it is scarce possible to send any Letters or Notice to other Parts, for in all the time of my Captivity I could never send one word, whereby my Friends here might come to hear of my Condition, until with one more I made an Escape, leaving Sixteen English men yet there; The Kindness I have received from those French Gentlemen, as also my Compassion for them, being detained in the same place with me, hath obliged and constrained me, to presume to trouble your Lordship with this Paper; not knowing any other means where I might convey Notice to their Friends and Relations, which is all the Service I am able to perform for them. The Ambassador’s Name I know not; there is a Kinsman of his called Monsieur le Serle, and a young Gentleman called Monsieur du Plessey, and another named Monsieur la Roche. The rest by Name I know not. And then an account of them is given according to what I have mentioned above. I shall not presume to be farther tedious to your Honour; craving Pardon for my boldness which my Affection to those Gentlemen being detained in the same Land with me hath occasioned. Concerning whom if your Lordship be pleased farther to be informed, I shall be both willing and ready to be,
The Ambassador upon the receipt of this, desired to speak with me. Upon whom I waited, and he after some Speech with me told me he would send word into France of it, and gave me Thanks for this my Kindness to his Countreymen.
It may be worth some inquiry, what the reason might be, that the King detains the Europæan People as he does. It cannot be out of hope of Profit or Advantage; for they are so far from bringing him any, that they are a very great Charge, being all maintained either by him or his People. Neither is it in the power of Money to redeem any one, for that he neither needs nor values. Which makes me conclude, it is not out of Profit, nor Envy or ill will, but out of Love and Favour, that he keeps them, delighting in their Company, and to have them ready at his Command. For he is very ambitious of the Service of these Men, and winks at many of their failings, more than he uses to do towards his Natural Subjects. As may appear from a Company of White Soldiers he hath, who upon their Watch used to be very negligent, one lying Drunk here and another there. Which remisness in his own Soldiers he would scarce have indured, but it would have cost them their lives. But with these he useth more Craft than Severity to make them more watchful.
These Soldiers are under two Captains, the one a Dutch man and the other a Portugueze. They are appointed to Guard one of the King’s Magazines, where they always keep Sentinel both by Day and Night. This is a pretty good distance from the Court, and here it was the King contrived their Station, that they might swear and swagger out of his hearing, and that no body might disturb them, nor they no body. The Dutch Captain lyes at one side of the Gate, and the Portugueze at the other.
Once the King to employ these his white Soldiers, and to honour them by letting them see what an assurance he reposed in them, sent one of his Boys thither to be kept Prisoner, which they were very Proud of. They kept him two years, in which time he had learnt both the Dutch and Portugueze Language. Afterwards the King retook the Boy into his Service, and within a short time after Executed him. But the King’s reason in sending this Boy to be kept by these Soldiers was, probably not as they supposed, and as the King himself outwardly pretended, viz. To shew how much he confided in them, but out of Design to make them look the better to their Watch, which their Debauchery made them very remiss in. For the Prisoners Hands only were in Chains, and not his Legs; so that his possibility of running away, having his Legs at liberty, concerned them to be circumspect and wakeful. And they knew if he had escaped it were as much as their lives were worth. By this crafty and kind way did the King correct the negligence of his white Soldiers.
Indeed his inclinations are much towards the Europæans; making them his great Officers, accounting them more faithful and trusty than his own People. With these he often discourses concerning the Affairs of their Countreys, and promotes them to places far above their Ability, and sometimes their Degree or Desert. And indeed all over the Land they do bear as it were a natural respect and reverence to White Men, in as much as Black, they hold to be inferior to White. And they say, the Gods are White, and that the Souls of the Blessed after the Resurrection shall be White; and therefore, that Black is a rejected and accursed colour.
And as further signs of the King’s favour to them, there are many Privileges, which White Men have and enjoy, as tolerated or allowed them from the King; which I suppose may proceed from the aforesaid Consideration; as, to wear any manner of Apparel, either Gold, Silver, or Silk, Shoes and Stockings, a shoulder Belt and Sword; their Houses may be whitened with Lime, and many such like things, all which the Chingulayes are not permitted to do.
He will also sometimes send for them into his Presence, and discourse familiarly with them, and entertain them with great Civilities, especially white Ambassadors. They are greatly chargeable unto his Countrey, but he regards it not in the least. So that the People are more like Slaves unto us than we unto the King. In as much as they are inforced by his Command to bring us maintenance. Whose Poverty is so great oftentimes, that for want of what they supply us with, themselves, their Wives, and Children, are forced to suffer hunger, this being as a due Tax imposed upon them to pay unto us. Neither can they by any Power or Authority refuse the Payment hereof to us. For in my own hearing the People once complaining of their Poverty and Inability to give us any longer our Allowance, the Magistrate or Governor replied, It was the King’s special Command, and who durst disannul it. And if otherwise they could not supply us with our maintenance he bad them sell their Wives and Children, rather than we should want of our due. Such is the favour that Almighty God hath given Christian People in the sight of this Heathen King; whose entertainment and usage of them is thus favourable.
If any enquire into the Religious exercise and Worship practised among the Christians here, I am sorry I must say it, I can give but a slender account. For they have no Churches nor no Priests, and so no meetings together on the Lord’s Dayes for Divine Worship, but each one Reads or Prays at his own House as he is disposed. They Sanctifie the Day chiefly by refraining work, and meeting together at Drinking-houses. They continue the practice of Baptism; and there being no Priests, they Baptize their Children themselves with Water, and use the words, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and give them Christian Names. They have their Friends about them at such a time, and make a small Feast according to their Ability: and some teach their Children to say their Prayers, and to Read, and some do not
Indeed their Religion at the best is but Negative, that is, they are not Heathen, they do not comply with the Idolatry here practised; and they profess themselves Christians in a general manner, which appears by their Names, and by their Beads and Crosses that some of them wear about their Necks. Nor indeed can I wholly clear them from complyance with the Religion of the Countrey. For some of them when they are Sick do use the Ceremonies which the Heathen do in the like case, as in making Idols of clay, and setting them up in their Houses, and Offering Rice to them, and having Weavers to Dance before them. But they are ashamed to be known to do this; and I have known none to do it, but such as are Indians born. Yet I never knew any of them, that do inwardly in Heart and Conscience incline to the ways of the Heathen, but perfectly abhor them: nor have there been any, I ever heard of, that came to their Temples upon any Religious account, but only would stand by and look on; without it were one old Priest named Padre Vergonce, a Genoez born, and of the Jesuits Order who would go to the Temples, and eat with the Weavers and other ordinary People of the Sacrifices offered to the Idols: but with this Apology for himself, that he eat it as common Meat, and as God’s Creature, and that it was never the worse for their Superstition that had past upon it. But however this may reflect upon the Father, another thing may be related for his Honour. There happened two Priests to fall into the hands of the King; on whom he conferred great Honours; for having laid aside their Habits they Page 189kept about his Person, and were the greatest Favourites at Court. The King one day sent for Vergonse, and asked him, if it would not be better for him to lay aside his old Coat and Cap, and to do as the other two Priests had done, and receive Honour from him. He replied to the King, That he boasted more in that old habit and in the Name of Jesus, than in all the honour that he could do him. And so refused the King’s Honour. The King valued the Father for this saying. He had a pretty Library about him, and died in his Bed of old Age: whereas the two other Priests in the King’s Service died miserably, one of a Canker, and the other was slain. The old Priest had about Thirty or Forty Books, which the King, they say, seized on after his Death, and keeps.
These Priests, and more lived there, but all deceased, excepting Vergonse, before my time. The King allowed them to build a Church; which they did, and the Portuguezeassembled there, but they made no better than a Bawdy-house of it; for which cause the King commanded to pull it down.
Although here be Protestants and Papists, yet here are no differences kept up among them, but they are as good Friends, as if there were no such Parties. And there is no other Distinctions of Religion there, but only Heathens and Christians: and we usually say, We Christians.