In the year 1681 the Company had developed their fleet to such an extent that they now owned about thirty-five ships, ranging in size from 775 to 100 tons. In customs alone the Company were paying £60,000 a year, and they were carrying out to India £60,000 or £70,000 worth of lead, tin, cloth and stuffs every year, bringing back raw silk, pepper and other goods of the East. By the year 1683 so profitable were the annual results of the Company’s trading that a £100 share would sell for £500.126 Before long the size of the ships just mentioned was to increase to 900 and even to 1300 tons, such was the demand for Indian products; and between the years 1682 and 1689 no fewer than sixteen East Indiamen varying in size from 900 to 1300 tons were constructed. All the East Indiamen were well armed, for even in the year 1677, when the Company owned from thirty to thirty-five ships of from 300 to 600 tons apiece, these vessels each mounted from forty to seventy guns.

It will be recollected that Bantam had been the first headquarters or chief factory whither the Company’s ships went for their trade. This continued until 1638, when Surat had developed so much, thanks to the concessions by the Great Mogul, that it replaced Bantam in pre-eminence. The last-mentioned factory, together with Fort St George in Madras, Hooghly in Bengal, and those establishments in Persia were all made subservient to Surat. A far-sighted person could have foreseen that all these scattered strongholds of trade might not improbably develop eventually into something very much more important politically. But it was Sir Josiah Child, the principal manager of the Company’s affairs at home, who was one of the first to project the forming of a territorial Empire in India.

We had reason to mention just now a ship which we described as being an interloper. The reader is well aware that in the first instance the charter granted to the English East India Company by Queen Elizabeth conveyed to them the exclusive privilege of trading to the East. This charter was renewed in the years 1609, 1657, 1661 and subsequently in other years. But such was the jealousy, such the covetousness which were aroused by the127 Company’s successful voyages that a number of interlopers, quite contrary to the terms of the charter, fitted out expeditions of their own. These were evidently successful, too, especially during the latter part of the reign of Charles II., for the number of these private adventurers increased considerably. The result, of course, was that the Company became exceedingly indignant and had to exert themselves to put an end to the trouble. But this, again, opened up the whole of the question as to whether the Company should continue to enjoy such a fine monopoly. There was a good deal of resentment against India being restricted to a favoured few. However the Government favoured the Company, for it had been found more than useful to the country in times of crisis, so again in the year 1693 it received its fresh charter.

But between the years 1694 and 1698 this Eastern trade practically was thrown open. And then the State happened to require a loan of £2,000,000. This was found by a newly formed company of associated merchants who had been very vigorous in opposing the East India Company’s privilege. And since this new company wanted only eight per cent. (not a high rate for those days) for their loan, they also received a charter. The result was that there were two companies trading to India and each with its own charter. The title of this fresh association was the New East India Company, and presently a kind of third company arose as an offshoot from this second one. All this competition had a most disastrous effect and brought both the old and new companies almost to ruin. Each company hated the other, while the public detested both most heartily. There were only two possibilities open.128 Either both companies must be wrecked or they must amalgamate. It was wisely decided to choose the latter. They therefore adjusted their differences, and in the year 1708 were amalgamated into one corporation, calling themselves “The United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.” The capital was increased to £3,200,000. They were the means of aiding the Government by advancing to the latter £1,200,000 without interest, and the Government in turn agreed to extend the Company’s charter till the year 1726, with three years’ notice of termination. And it was subsequently extended till 1766.