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In later years one

by tangwei 中國6 月前

In later years one of the most valuable commodities which India was to produce and send to England in these ships was tea. The first importation by us was in the year 1667. Only a small amount, consisting of 100 lb. Polar , was sent, but it was not long before this was greatly exceeded. However, the early years of the eighteenth century were marked by a disappointment in the trade which the Company was doing. Although the latter’s ships were now trading also with China, yet the value of our exports to the East were less than £160,000 a year: and this, let it be remembered, included also military stores for the Company’s settlements in the East and at St Helena. The reason for this slump is easily explained. Every authority will admit that the finest tonic for trade is competition. Monopoly is death to enterprise, while a spirit of rivalry encourages progress. The East India Company was suffering from the decaying, deadening influence of its exclusive privilege and this went on till about the middle of the eighteenth century. The first half of that century is decadent, not merely with regard to India, but most things English. Art was at its lowest, manners were never less sincere, morals were corrupt, politics were little better. It almost seems as if England had lost the fair wind which had carried her through the Tudor times and then become gradually becalmed in the Stuart era till she rolled about with no progress, making only stern-way. And then, after a period of profitless existence, she seems to have picked up another breeze which has sent her along through the successful industrial age, the great wars, the Victorian and Edwardian years of prosperity up till to-day. The end of the eighteenth century is a period quite different from its130 first portion. And if it was so generally it could scarcely be different in regard to a corporation directed and managed by men of this period.

Just for a moment let us go back to that time when the East India Company decided it were best to close the Deptford yard and obtain their ships ready built. Now as time went on the hiring of ships to the Company for this Eastern trade led to great abuses. Officially the Company did no longer build their ships dermes . But the Company’s directors used to build them privately and then hire them out to the Company, to the great personal gain of the directors. There were few other ships big enough or strong enough. The directors would know how many to build and to what extent prices could be demanded from the Company: and altogether they feathered their nests very nicely. This went on till the year 1708, when the old and new East India companies had become amalgamated. After this year the directors were prohibited by Act of Parliament from supplying ships to the Company.

Instead of the former corrupt arrangement, ships for the East India Company were to be hired in the future by open tender from the commander and two owners. But here again was a difficulty. Inasmuch as a special type of stalwart ship was required for this trade, the supply was small and in the hands of a ring called the Marine Interest. Therefore the Company was just about as badly off as before. And throughout the eighteenth century there was one continued contest between the East India Company and the shipbuilders, who did their level best to fleece the former as it had been fleeced by the State at different dates.

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