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Chapter 6: Expansion

We have seen that the Company were careful to develop both White Town and Black Town. They were not content, however, with mere developments, for they took pains also to extend their territorial possessions.

The strip of land that was acquired by Mr. Francis Day was not large. Roughly, it extended along the seashore from the mouth of the Cooum to an undefined point beyond the present harbour, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Cassimode, and inland as far as what was called the North River, which is now represented by Cochrane's Canal--the canal that runs between the Central Station and the People's Park. It will be interesting to note how some of the various other parts of the present city came into the Company's possession.

On several occasions the representatives of various dynasties that were successively supreme over Madras made grants of additional land to the Company. The village of Triplicane was the first addition,----some twenty years after the acquisition of Madras. The village was granted by the representative of the Mohammedan King of Golconda, for an annual rent of Rs. 175, which ceased to be paid when the Golconda dynasty shortly afterwards came to an end. Later, in compliance with a petition by Governor Elihu Yale to the Emperor Aurangzeb, the Company received a free grant of 'Tandore (Tondiarpet), Persewacca (Pursewaukam), and Yegmore (Egmore).' Still later, in the reign of Aurangzeb's son and successor, the village of Lungambacca (Nungumbaukam), now the principal residential district of Europeans in Madras, was granted to the Company, together with four adjoining villages, for a total annual rent of 1,500 pagodas (say Rs. 5,250). The Emperor's officers argued that the rent ought to have been larger, but the Company, conforming to the spirit of corruption that was in fashion, were wily enough to send by a Brahman and a Mohammedan conjointly a sum of Rs. 700 'to be distributed amongst the King's officers who keep the Records, in order to settle this matter.' The village of Vepery--variously called in olden documents Ipere, Ypere, Vipery, and Vapery--lay between Egmore and Pursewaukam; and the Company, being naturally desirous of consolidating their territory, proceeded at once to try to obtain a grant of the place; but successive efforts on the part of Governor Elihu Yale came to naught; and it was not till much later (1742) when the Nawab of Arcot was lord of the soil, that Vepery was acquired from the Nawab. The manner of its acquisition is interesting. The preceding Nawab had just been murdered, and the Carnatic army disowning the ambitious rival who had murdered him, proclaimed the dead Nawab's son as his successor. The new Nawab was but a youth, and he was residing at the time in one of the big houses in Black Town. The Company were politic enough to celebrate the lad's accession with grand doings. They escorted him in a splendid procession to the Company's Gardens, which were situated along the bank of the river Cooum, where the General Hospital and the Medical College now stand. In the Gardens there was a fine house, containing a spacious hall, which the Company had specially designed for great occasions; and there the lad's accession was formally announced; and finally he was escorted in procession back to his dwelling. The Company profited by their politic demonstration; for, in return for their courtesies to the young Nawab, the lad gratified their desires by making them a rent-free grant of the village of Vepery, and also of Perambore and other lands. It may be added that the boy-king was unfortunate; for he was murdered within two years of his accession, at the instance of the man who had murdered his father.

San Thomé was acquired in 1749; and the story of the acquisition is not without interest. The names 'San Thomé' and 'Mylapore' are often used as alternative designations for one and the same locality; but in bygone days the two names represented quite different places. Mylapore was a very ancient Indian town, which seems to have been in existence long before the birth of Christ. San Thomé was a seventeenth century Portuguese settlement close by. It is an old tradition that St. Thomas the Apostle was martyred just outside Mylapore; and when the Portuguese first came to India some of them visited Mylapore to look for relics of the saint. They found some ruined Christian churches, and also a tomb which they believed to be the tomb of St. Thomas; and soon afterwards a Portuguese monastery was established on the spot. A Portuguese town grew up around the monastery; and in course of time the town became a commercial centre, and was surrounded with a fortified wall, and was the Portuguese settlement of San Thomé, over against the Indian town of Mylapore. An Italian dealer in precious stones who visited India in the sixteenth century wrote of San Thomé that it was 'as fair a city' as any that he had seen in the land; and he described Mylapore as being an Indian city surrounded by its own mud wall. Mylapore was thus in effect the Black Town of San Thomé; but in later days the two towns were combined. When the English came to Fort St. George, the power of the Portuguese was already waning; and the development of the influence of the English at Madras meant a further lessening of the influence of the Portuguese at San Thomé; and it was a natural consequence that San Thomé, including Mylapore, became a prey to successive assailants. Its first captor was the lord of the soil, the Mohammedan King of Golconda. Next, the French took it from Golconda; and two years later Golconda, with the help of the Dutch, recaptured it from the French. The Dutch were content with a share of the plunder for their reward, and left Golconda in possession. On the self-interested advice of the English at Fort St. George, Golconda destroyed the fortifications. He then put the town up for sale. The Company were prepared to buy it, and so were the Portuguese; but a rich Mohammedan named Cassa Verona found favour with Golconda's Moslem officials, and secured the town on a short lease. Next it was leased to the Hindu Governor of Poonamallee; and then for a big price it went back again to the Portuguese. Towards the end of the seventeenth century the great Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb dethroned the lord of the soil, the King of Golconda; and, although the Portuguese were not turned out of San Thomé, it was now a part of the Moghul Empire, and was put in charge of a Moslem ruler. After Aurangzeb's death, the Moghul Empire broke up, and the Nawab of Arcot eventually became independent, and San Thomé was part of his dominions. In 1749, when Madras, after the French occupation, was restored to the English by an order from Paris, in accordance with the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, Dupleix at Pondicherry was bitterly disappointed at the rendition, and he formed designs for the acquisition of San Thomé for France, as a set-off for the loss of Madras. The English at Fort St. George had information of his schemes, and, being in no way desirous of having aggressive Frenchmen for close neighbours, they forestalled Dupleix by persuading the Nawab to make the Company a grant of 'Mylapore, alias St. Thomé,' on condition that the Company should undertake to help the Nawab with men and money whenever he should call upon them to do so. It was thus that San Thomé became a British possession; and, although it was afterwards ravaged successively by the French under Count Lally and by Haidar Ali of Mysore, it has remained a British possession ever since.

We have said enough to show the manner in which the different parts of the modern city of Madras came into the hands of the English. The methods were not always wholly admirable; but we must remember that the East India Company was a mercantile association, fighting for its existence under diamond-cut-diamond conditions; and we must remember also that, although its representatives at Madras were sent out to India not to rule but to earn dividends for the shareholders, yet the Company's rule over Madras was so upright that crowds of people were continually flocking into Madras to enjoy its benefits.