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Volume 34, Faits 3 & 4 - (Nos.

195 & IM)




(Covering tbe territories of the Federation of Malaya, the States of

Singapore & Brunei, and the Colonies of Sarawak & North Borneo)

British Missions to Cochin China: 1778 - 1822

compiled and edited


Alastair Lamb

Printed for the MBRAS by


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Copyright MBRAS, 1961

Edited for the Council of the Society by



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Without help from many people it would not have been possible
for me to have compiled this work. I would like especially to thank
Mr. Douglas Matthews of the India Office Library, London, who
searched through records for me and sent me microfilms with
miraculous despatch; Dr. C. A. Gibson Hill, who converted some of
the microfilms into photostats which are so much easier to work from,
and who provided me with books from the Library of the Raffles
Museum, Singapore; Dr. D. K. Bassett, who gave me some very useful
advice, and who read the whole work in proof; Miss J. Waller of the
University of Malaya in Singapore Library, who tolerated with remark-
ably little protest a prolonged loan across the Causeway of several books
in her charge; Miss Khoo, who typed out Chapman's narrative; and,
finally, my wife, who helped in typing, in compiling the index, and in
countless other ways.

Alastair Lamb, September, 1961.

University of Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur.


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Ch. 1. Introduction.

Ch. 2. The Genesis of the Chapman Mission

A. The arrival of the Rumbold .

B. Hastings proposes to send Chapman to Cochin


C. Chapman's instructions. ...

D. French intrigues

Ch. 3. The Chapman Mission

A. Chapman's narrative. 26
B. Chapman's report

C. Chapman's return to Bengal. ...

Appendix A. Narrative of the proceedings in Cochin

China in 1764-65 by Captain Blomfield of the
Admiral Pocock.

Appendix B. Captain Blomfield's observations on the

geography and trade of Cochin China

Ch. 4. Lord Macartney and Cochin China, 1793

Appendix. Barrow's text of the Treaty of Versailles

of 1787

Ch. 5. The First Roberts Mission, 1803.

A. Background

B. David Lance decides not to call in at Cochin China. 101

C. The Select Committee of the Supercargoes at
Canton depute Roberts to Cochin China in place
of Lance.

D. Roberts' instructions.

E. Roberts at Tourane

F. Roberts leaves Tourane for Bengal, and submits a

report on his mission. ... ... ... ... 113
Ch. 6. The Second Roberts Mission, 1804. ...

A. Roberts goes to Calcutta and receives instructions

from Lord Wellesley for a second visit to Cochin

B. Roberts leaves India for Cochin China

C. Roberts' second visit to Cochin China

D. Roberts' proposals to the King

E. Roberts' report.

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Ch. 7. The Failure of the Roberts Missions Discussed. ... 149
A. The Select Committee at Canton consider the
reasons for Roberts' failure. ... ... 149
B. Barrow's views on the need for the establishment
of British relations with Cochin China. ... 154
C. A French account of the Roberts missions. ... 163

Ch. 8. The Crawfurd Mission, 1822.

A. Background to the mission

B. Crawfurd's instructions

C. The Indian Government explain to the Court of

Directors the motives behind the Crawfurd mission. 183
D. Crawfurd's first report to the Indian Government
on the conclusion of his mission to Cochin China. 187
E. Crawfurd's general report on his mission to Cochin
China, dated 3rd April, 1823

F. Memorandum by the Court of Directors of the East

India Company, dated 22nd May, 1823, on the
results of the Crawfurd mission to Siam and Cochin

G. Chaigneau on the Crawfurd mission

Ch. 9. Conclusions




Pl. I. A palanquin as used by persons of rank in Cochin


Pl. II. Cochin Chinese shipping on the Fai-fo River

Pl. III. Route of the Macartney Embassy

Pl. IV. A Cochin Chinese Mandarin

Pl. V. A Cochin Chinese lady

Pl. VI. A Cochin Chinese soldier

PI. VII. A Cochin Chinese entertainment

Pl. Vili. A strange shrine in a tree near Tourane.

Pl. IX. A Cochin Chinese Mandarin of the Civil Order in his

dress of ceremony

Pl. X. A Cochin Chinese Mandarin of the Military Order in

his dress of ceremony. ...

Pl. XI. The Deputy Governor of Cambodia in his dress of


Pl. XII. The King of Cochin China (Minh-Mang) in his dress

of ceremony


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Fig. 1. Chart of the coast between Fai-fo and Hu. ... 25
Fig. 2. A village scene in Cochin China: the game of

Fig. 3. Boats on the Fai-fo River

Fig. 4. A Cochin Chinese temple at Saigon

Fig. 5. Tourane harbour as it appeared to W. Hamilton, a

member of the Macartney Embassy, in 1793. ... 98
Fig. 6. Chart of the Tourane region, from the survey made
during Macartney's visit

Fig. 7. A map of Cochin China reduced from the Tabula

Geographica Imperii Anamitici of the Right Rev.
Jean Louis, Bishop of Isauropolis

Figs. 8 & 9. A map of the Kingdoms of Siam and Cochin China,

compiled by John Walker to accompany the journal
of Mr. Crawfurd's mission


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BETWEEN These China,1
These missions andChina,1
1778 their andand
their narratives
narratives 1822to
four form
British theup the
missions of visitedof
thistovolume. volume.
Cochin British
commerce on preferential terms; they resulted in the founding of no
factories or settlements; they did not succeed in establishing a British
representative at Hu; and they form but a backwater in the main
stream of British policy in South-East Asia during that period which
saw the British acquisition of Penang and Singapore. Though lacking
in positive results, however, the story of these four ventures, of Chap-
man in 1778, Macartney in 1793, Roberts in 1803 and 1804, and Craw-
furd in 1822, is still one of considerable interest; for it throws much
light on the nature of British commercial and political aspirations to the
1. The term Cochin China requires some explanation. It derives from the
Portuguese Cauchichina . a rendering of the Malay Kutchi which would
seem to be an attempt to reproduce the Chinese Chiao-chih. Chiao-chih,
which to the Chinese meant Tonkin and from which is probably derived
the early European name for Hanoi, Cachao, was applied by the Malays
to a wider area. To the Portuguese and other Europeans it came to mean
the regions of Indochina south of Tonkin. The Portuguese seem to have
added the term China to the Malay Kutchi in order to distinguish it
from the Cochin in India.
By the 18th century the Europeans had become accustomed to call
Annam, that part of Indochina ruled by the Nguyen Dynasty, by the name
Cochin China. When, in the early 19th century, the Nguyen had created
a united Vietnamese state embracing Tonkin and much of Cambodia and
Laos, the term the Cochin Chinese Empire covered the whole of this area;
but writers like Crawfurd were always careful to distinguish between
Cochin China proper, that is to say Annam with its capital at Hu, and
the re*t of the Empire.
With the French conquest in the second half of the 19th century
Cochin China came to mean the region of the Mekong delta and Saigon,
which Crawfurd, in 1822, would have included in his term Kamboja or
I have used Cochin China here in the sense intended by the authors
of the narratives and reports printed in this volume, that is to say as the
equivalent either of Annam or of the territory ruled by the Nguyen
Dynasty at the time in question.
I have usually used Vietnam as a racial or linguistic term. In its
geographical sense it would be equivalent to the area now formed by the
states of Vietnam and Vietminh.
Indochina I have used as a wide geographical term to cover all those
regions which eventually came under French rule, Vietnam, Cambodia and
(For the origin of the term Cochin China, see : L. Aurousseau,
Sur le nom de "Cochinchine" , BEFEO XXIV: J. Crawfurd, A Descriptive
Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries, London 1856.
D. 105.)

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Alastair Lamb

east of India during this period, on the quest for a solution to the pro-
blems of the China trade, and on the final phase of that Anglo-French
struggle for eastern dominion which continued for many years after the
classic age of dive and Dupleix. These four missions, moreover, span
a fascinating period of Vietnamese history which saw the conversion of
a state divided by dynastic and social war into a united empire
determined to isolate itself from the influence of the European Powers.
For these reasons it has seemed worthwhile to assemble some account
of these missions between the covers of a single volume.
The narrative of the Chapman mission of 1778 has been printed
before, but it is not easily available in its complete form. Some
passages from it, slightly abridged, were quoted by Staunton in his
account of the Macartney Embassy to China in the section dealing
with Cochin China to which further reference will be made below.
The entire narrative was published, according to Maybon,2 in the
Annual Asiatic Register , 1801, and in the Asiatic Journal and Monthly
Register for British India and its Dependencies, Vols. Ill and IV,
London 1817. A version, slightly abridged, appeared in the Journal
of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia , Vol. VI, Singapore 1852.
H. Berland made a French translation of the text in the Asiatic
Journal and Monthly Register , which he published in the Bulletin de
la Socit des Etudes Indochinoises , NS, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, Saigon
1948. Maybon3 also refers to another French translation by Malte-
Brun, but this I have not been able to see. Harlow gives an admirable
summary of the Chapman mission and of the policy behind it.4 The
version printed here is from China Factory Records , vol. 18, in the
India Office Library in London, to which I have added Hastings'
instructions to Chapman and other documents from Bengal General
Consultations and from General letters from Bengal , both series in
the India Office Library. I have also included here extracts from
two letters from Chevalier, French Chief at Chandernagore to de
Bellecombe, Governor-General at Pondichery, which I have translated
from Taboulet's admirable collection of documents on the French
connection with Indochina.5
In the summer of 1793 Lord Macartney called in at Tourane
on his way to China. While his primary objective was to establish
relations with the Chinese Emperor, Macartney's instructions also
empowered him to open negotiations with the rulers of Cochin China
2. C. B. Maybon, Histoire Moderne du Pays D' Annm, Paris, 1919, p. ix.
3. Loc. cit.

4. V. T. Harlow, The Founding of the Second British Empire, Vol. 1, London

1952, pp. 97-102.
5. G. Taboulet, La Geste Franaise en Indochine , 2 vols., Paris 1955, vol. 1,
pp. 156-160.

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Missions to Cochin China

if he saw fit, and for this reason I have included in this collection some
account of his visit from the narratives of Anderson,6 Barrow7 and

The story of Roberts' two visits to Cochin China, in 1803 and

1804, has been told very briefly by Morse.9 The texts of Roberts'
instructions, journals and reports which I have printed here are from
Secret Consultations China , vol. 268 for 1802-05, in the India Office
Library. To these I have added the translation of an extract from a
letter from M. Janssaud to Count Mol, French Minister of the Marine
and Colonies, dated 15th November, 1818, which gives a French view
of the Roberts mission. This letter has been printed by Cordier10 and
(in part) by Taboulet.11
The Crawfurd mission to Hu of 1822 has been described at
length in Crawfurd's own account,12 and in that of his companion
Finlayson.13 Portions of both these narratives, in so far as they
concern Cochin China, have been translated into French by H.
Berland.14 Moor printed a summary of the Crawfurd mission in his
Notices of the Indian Archipelago15. In 1915 there was published in
Bangkok a collection of documents relating to Crawfurd's visit to
Siam which preceded his mission to Hu; the collection is confined
to matters relating to Siam, but some of the documents included do
refer incidentally to Cochin China as well.16
Crawfurd's own narrative is based on his journal and his general
report at the conclusion of his two missions. The published journal
agrees so closely with the MS version which he submitted to the
Government of India on his return from Hu that I have not thought

6. A. Anderson, A Narrative of the British Embassy to China, London 1795.

7. J. Barrow, A Voyage to Cochinchina, London 1806.
8. Sir G. Staunton, An Authentic Account of cm Embassy from Great Britain to
the Emperor of China, 2 vols., London 1797.
9. H. B. Morse, Chronicles of the East India Company trading to China ,
Vol. 2, Oxford 1926, pp. 432-435.
10. H. Cordier, La France et l'Angleterre en Indo-Chine , and La Reprise des
Relations de la France avec sous la Restauration, both articles in
Toung Pao, NS Vol. IV 1903.
11. Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 276-277.
12. J. Crawfurd, Journal of an Embassy . ... to the Courts of Siam and j Cochin
China, London 1828.
13. G. Finlayson, The Mission to Siam and Hue, London 1826.
14. Bulletin de la Socit des Etudes Indochinoises, 1939 nos. 1 & 2, 1948 no. 1.
15. J. H. Moor, Notices of the Indian Archipelago and Adjacent Countries,
Singapore 1837.
16. The Crawfurd Papers, Bangkok 1915.

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Alastair Lamb

it worthwhile to reproduce the latter and have contented myself with

his preliminary report which he wrote immediately after leaving
Cochin China and which has not, hitherto, been published.17 The
general report, on the other hand, does differ somewhat from the
printed version, and 1 have reproduced here the paragraphs relating to
Cochin China : those sections dealing with Siam were printed in the
Bangkok collection of 1915. To these I have added Crawfurd's
instructions, taken from the Appendix to Crawfurd's published
narrative;18 the Indian Government's explanation of the motives behind
the Crawfurd mission; and the Court of Directors' summary of its
achievements.19 Finally, from Cordier, I have added a translation of
a letter from J. B. Chaigneau, who was at Hu at the time of
Crawfurd's visit, giving a French account of the mission.20
In the method of presentation of this material here I have to some
extent followed the pattern of Taboulet, whose La Geste Franaise en
Indochine , while by no means the last word on the subject, provides
between the covers of two volumes a marvellous store of information
on many aspects of the history of Vietnam and of French colonial
expansion. It is a tribute to Taboulet to say that one wished that his
two volumes had been four or five. These pages could almost be
described as a supplement to Taboulet, La Geste Anglaise en Indochine
as it were, and like Taboulet's book they are far from providing an
exhaustive discussion of the British contacts with Indochina during
this period. The official documents which I have consulted do not tell
the whole story, for example, of the trade with the Cochin Chinese
coast which was carried out by merchant houses in Calcutta and
Madras. There is surely a great deal of information yet to be gleaned
from the French colonial and naval archives and those of the Missions
Etrangres , information which does not appear in collections of docu-
ments like those of Taboulet and Cordier. But the main outline of the
story of the British connection with Vietnam over the years 1778 to
1822 is here, and it is presented for the first time as a continuous
narrative with emphasis on the French as well as the British point
of view.

17. The MS of Crawfurd's journal and report is to be found in Board's Collec-

tions vol. 774, Collection no. 20,935. The preliminary report on his mission
to Hue, dated 25 October 1822, is to be found in Letters from Bengal >
vol. 88.

18. Crawfurd, Embassy , op. cit., pp. 589-595.

19. Letters from Bengal, Vol. 86: Home Miscellaneous, Vol. 673.
20. H. Cordier, Le Consulat de France Hu sous la Restauration, Paris 1884,
pp. 91-96.

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Missions to Cochin China

In 1778 European nations had been trading with the various

regions of Indochina for over two and a half centuries. By 1550 an
appreciable trade was carried on by the Portuguese between Faifo
(Hoi-nan) and Macao. The 17th century saw the arrival of the Dutch,
English and French, the latter as missionaries as well as traders. In
the middle of the century the English experimented with a factory in
Cambodia near Pnompenh and from 1672 to 1697 they maintained an
^establishment in Tonkin in competition with the Dutch. But, with the
brief exception of the English factory on Pulo Condore from 1702
to 1705, the opening of the 18th century saw the disappearance of
European settlements in Indochina. The poverty of the region and its
small demand for European produce did not justify the prolonged
effort of the great East India Companies. It would seem that in
Tonkin, at least, the main profit for the European factories lay in the
supply of fire-arms; and by the end of the 17th century developments in
Vietnamese history resulted in a considerable decline in the demand for
this commodity.21
Since the end of the 16th century Vietnam had been dominated
by three dynasties. The Le Dynasty, which had achieved great power
in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and which had led the
thrust southwards of the Col des Nuages by the Vietnamese at the
expense of the Chams, had by 1600 become a line of faineant rulers.
The Le were the nominal lords of Vietnam, and in this capacity had
their titles conferred upon them by the Chinese Emperor, but the real
power had fallen into the hands of two feudal families, the Trinh
in Tonkin and the Nguyen in Annam and to the south. Until 1672
the Nguyen and the Trinh were continuously at war with each other,
and in the process created a considerable demand for European
munitions. In 1672 they arranged an uneasy truce which continued
until 1774.22
In the 18th century it was to the Nguyen dominions, rather than
to those of the Trinh, that European attention was attracted. The
Trinh, direct neighbours of China, shared that policy of isolation which
had led the Manchus to confine European trade with China to a single
port, Canton, under conditions which were far from ideal for European

21. For more detailed accounts of early European contacts with Cochin China,
see: Maybon, op. cit.; D. G. E. Hall, A History of South-East Asia, London
1958; Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1; Le Thanh Khoi, Le Vietnam, Histoire et
Civilisation, Paris 1955; J. Chesneaux, Contribution a l'Histoire de la Nation
Vietnamienne, Paris 1955; J. Buttinger, The Smaller Dragon, a political
history of Vietnam, London and New York 1958.
22. For a detailed history, see the authorities referred to in note 21 above.

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Alastair Lamb

commerce. The Nguyen, on the other hand, were clearly an expanding

power deeply involved in the main stream of the politics of mainland
South-East Asia. Their continued advance to the south brought
them into frequent conflict with Siam and Cambodia. Their military
ambitions created, in European eyes, a promising demand for
armaments and uniforms; and this added to the advantages detected
in the harbours of Cochin China which were widely described as the
finest in the South China Sea. The Nguyen rulers, moreover, did not
show themselves to be hostile beyond hope of conversion to the idea of
closer relations with the Europeans. While opposed in principle to the
extension of Christianity within their territories, and prepared to
initiate active persecutions from time to time, yet Nguyen rulers like
Vo-vuong (1738-1765) were able to establish relations amounting to
personal friendship with individual missionaries. Thus in 1750, when
Vo-vuong ordered a general expulsion of Christian missionaries from
Cochin China, he still retained at his court the Jesuits Johann Kffler,
Xavier de Monteiro and Juan de Loureiro.23 This fact was appreciated
by the French, who since the days of Colbert had developed a tradition
of close liaison between state and missionary. From 1664, with the
founding of the Socit des Missions Etrangres , France had acquired
a dominant position in the exploitation of missionary enterprise in
Indochina, and it was inevitable that French commerce should endea-
vour to follow in the footsteps of the French clerics.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the 18th century should
see a number of French attempts to exploit the commercial opportuni-
ties of Cochin China; and it was even less surprising that these should
eventually result in the revival of English interest in this region. Pulo
Condore, which had been the site of an unfortunate English factory
from 1702 to 1705, was carefully investigated in 1721-22 by the
engineer Reynault on behalf of the French East India Company then
much reinvigorated by the influence of Law. Reynault concluded
that a French settlement here would not justify the concomitant
expenses, and nothing resulted from his visit; but other schemes were
in the offing. In 1739 the traveller Gentil de la Barbinais made an
eloquent case for French entry into the commerce of Cochin China, and
this was repeated in 1744 by Jacques O'Friell, a nephew by marriage
of Dupleix. During Dupleix' administration of French India a number
of practical experiments were made in opening Cochin China to French
trade on a regular and preferential basis. Dupleix had his own agents
at Tourane trading on his private account, and in 1748-50 the French
East India Company employed Pierre Poivre, at one time a missionary

23. Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., p. 294.

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Missions to Cochin China

in Indochina, to undertake a political and commercial mission to the

court of the Nguyen ruler Vo-vuong.24
The Poivre venture is really the ancestor of subsequent French
and British projects in Cochin China, and as such deserves some
attention here. Poivre was deputed to Cochin China in 1748 by the
French East India Company, and by the French Minister of Marine
Marchault d'Arnouville, with two objectives: on the one hand he was to
open a French commercial establishment, and on the other, he was to
obtain specimens of various spices with a view to their eventual cultiva-
tion in Madagascar to free the French from their dependence upon the
Dutch monopoly of such produce. Dupleix was opposed to Poivre's
scheme, which conflicted with his own projects, but he none the less
provided Poivre with the Marchault , a vessel of 600 tons and 40 guns,
to convey him from Pondichery to Tourane, where he landed in August,
1749. Poivre then made his way to Hu where he was able to talk
with Vo-vuong and to obtain a licence for the French Company to trade
in Cochin China at a very moderate scale of duties; but he did not
establish good relations with the mandarins at the Nguyen capital, and
he involved himself in an acrimonious argument with his interpreter, a
Vietnamese Christian convert. Hostility from Nguyen officials, and the
difficulty of finding a market for French goods, combined with Poivre's
failure to obtain for the French Company the right to establish a per-
manent factory in the Bay of Tourane to convince the French envoy
that only a show of force would open Cochin China to a profitable
French trade. Poivre was to argue this conclusion with greater force in
1768 when he urged the establishment of a French base in Cochin
China as a means of competition with the English in the China trade.
Poivre's mission, therefore, was a failure, and its immediate result, the
consequence of his dispute with his Christian interpreter, was to make
Vo-vuong resolve to expel most of the Christian missionaries from his
24. These ventures are described in some detail in Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1,
pp. 110-156 and in Maybon, op. cit., pp. 153-173.
Pierre Poivre was born at Lyon in 1719. His family had grown
wealthy in the silk trade. Poivre studied for the priesthood and, as a novice,
joined the Missions Etrangres and went out to Cochin China in 1742-43.
Here he seems to have abandoned his vocation. From 1743-45 he was at
Canton, and in 1745, on his way from Canton to Pondichery, he was
obliged to spend some five months in Java, an experience which much
influenced his views on the great wealth to be gained in eastern trade.
Poivre was back in France in 1748, when he received his commission to
return to Cochin China. In 1760, ten years after his return from Cochin
China, Poivre was appointed Intendant du Roi in the Ile de France and
the Ile de Bourbon. From 1767-72 he was in charge of the administration
of the French possessions in Madagascar. He returned finally to France in
1773 and he died in 1786.
See also: M. Ly-Tio-Fane, Mauritius and the Spice Trade : the Odyssey
of Pierre Poivre, Port Louis, Mauritius 1958. I am indebted to Professor
J. Bastin of the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur for bringing this
interesting work to my notice.

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Alastair Lamb

dominions. Dupleix, however, persisted in his belief that France could

profit from a close connection with Cochin China, and until his recall
in 1754 he continued to send envoys and French ships to that country.
A French factory on a modest scale was established at Tourane, and
a limited repeal of Vo-vuong's ban on missionary enterprise was

After Dupleix' recall interest in the prospects of Cochin China

continued in France, and gave rise to what Taboulet has called "a
cascade of projects" for the commercial exploitation of Cochin China
and Tonkin and for the founding of French establishments there. The
Due de Choiseul-Praslin was inspired by Poivre in 1768 - the latter had
just returned from the Ile de France where he had been Intendant du
Roi - to propose an ambitious venture in Cochin China which was
intended to compensate France for her losses in India at the hands of
the British; but the fall of the Choiseul Ministry and, with it, the
suppression of the French East India Company, frustrated this
scheme.25 In 1775 Vergennes revived this project on the grounds that :
it seems that there remains only Cochin China which has
escaped the vigilance of the English; but can one flatter oneself
that they will delay in casting their glance there? If they
decide on that place before us, we will be excluded for ever and
we will have lost an important foothold on that part of Asia
which would make us masters by, in time of war, intercepting
the English trade with China, by protecting our own in the
whole of India, and by keeping the English in a continual
state of anxiety.26
But the onset of the American War and financial crises in France
rendered this project as abortive as had been that of Choiseul-Praslin.
France, however, was not to forget the possibilities of Cochin
China; and the course of Cochin Chinese history was destined to create
circumstances which appeared very favourable for European inter-
vention. Under Vo-vuong it seemed most unlikely that the Nguyen
would surrender any sovereign rights over their territory without great
struggle. Following Vo-vuong's death in 1765, however, the power of
the Nguyen began to decline rapidly. In 1771 a revolt broke out
which was to plunge Cochin China into three decades of civil war and,
for a while, to all but eliminate the power of the Nguyen Dynasty.
This was the so-called Tay-son rebellion. It was in origin a social
movement, a coalition of merchants and peasants against the oppression
of the Nguyen, and it was led by three brothers, Van-Nhac, Van-Le
and Van-Hue, often referred to collectively as the Tay-son brothers
after the name of their native village. By 1773 the Tay-son movement
had become a serious threat to the Nguyen Dynasty, and by 1777 it
25. Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. 1 pp. 151-154.
26. Ibid., p. 155.

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Missions to Cochin China

had all but destroyed it. In 1774 the Nguyen had been so weakened
that the Trinh broke the truce which had obtained for just over a
century and invaded Nguyen territory, occupying Hu. From that
moment Cochin China was plunged into a three cornered civil war,
with the Trinh and Tay-son competing for domination and the Nguyen
struggling to survive in their last remaining strongholds in the south.
This situation was brought dramatically to the notice of both the
French and the English in India in early 1778 when the English
merchantman Rumbold arrived at Calcutta with two Cochin Chinese
Mandarins, refugee adherents of the Nguyen cause, and with the Jesuit
missionary de Loureiro who had resided for many years at the Nguyen

The French Chief at Chandernagore, Chevalier, saw in the arrival

of these men the ideal opportunity for France to win for herself an
empire in Indochina. A French ship, and a small force of French
soldiers, could escort the two Mandarins back to their home. French
military intervention, even on this minute scale, could tip the balance
in favour of the Nguyen Dynasty which, in a gratitude, would give
France all she wanted in Cochin China. Warren Hastings, who was
well aware of this line of reasoning, resolved to anticipate the French
plan and send the Mandarins to Cochin China in an English ship
accompanied by an English envoy, Charles Chapman.
In proposing the deputation of Chapman to Cochin China, Hastings
had much more in mind than the anticipation of French intrigues.
As the Bengal General Consultation of 30th March, 1778, shows clearly
enough, one of the main interests in Cochin China lay in the fact
that here might be found some solution to that chronic problem of
the China trade, the drain of specie to the East. By the 1770s, so
Harlow noted, "the activities of the Company as a genuine trading
association had been transferred from India to China".27 Canton,
the only Chinese port open to European trade, had become a place
of the greatest importance in the scheme of British commerce, and
the conditions of trade there were matters of increasing concern to
the East India Company. The basic difficulty of large scale trade
with China was to be found in the fact that the Europeans sought
Chinese produce, especially tea, for which they were unable to pay with
the export of their own manufactures. Specie had to be exported to
China, the East India Company in the 1780's sending an annual
average of 700,000 of silver. Before 1762 the Company had been able
to secure an appreciable surplus of silver for Chinese investment from
27. Harlow, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 63. Chapter III of this work contains an
admirable discussion of the British occupation of Manila and of the
schemes of Alexander Dalrymple for a British settlement in the Borneo

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Alastair Lamb

its dealings, in the main illegal, with Manila where came annually two
Spanish galleons from Mexico laden with the silver ore of Acapulco.
In 1762, however, with the outbreak of war between England and Spain
and the British occupation of Manila, the flow of silver to the
Philippines was interrupted; and, though the galleons resumed their
sailings at the conclusion of the war, British trade with Spanish
territory in the East did not return to anything like its former volume.
The deficiency, in theory, could have been made up easily enough by the
revenue surplus of British India; but only in times of peace, and these
were rare enough in the Indian subcontinent in the second half of the
eighteenth century, a period which also saw an astronomic increase
in the value of British tea imports from China. It was this problem,
how to finance the rapidly increasing quantity of imports from China
and how to continue the China trade, on which the profits of the
East India Company came increasingly to depend, in the face of
opposition in England from those who saw the Company as a drain
on the nation's wealth, which provided a theoretical economic back-
ground to projects for British expansion into South-East Asia.
There appeared to be more than one practicable solution to this
problem. The most obvious answer, and, so it must at one time
have seemed, the easiest to put into practice, lay in the improvement
of those conditions under which British merchants traded at Canton.
Here monopolistic restrictions raised prices and the attitude of the
local Chinese authorities made the redress of grievances almost impos-
sible to obtain. There was, however, the possibility that were
diplomatic relations once established with the Court at Peking the hold
of the Hong merchants at Canton might be broken and other Chinese
ports might be opened to foreign trade. In these conditions the cost
of Chinese tea and other produce might be reduced, and a Chinese
market of a significant size might be found for British and Indian
manufactures. The cooperation of Peking also held out the hope of
a more rapid settlement of debts which the British found it almost
impossible to collect from those Chinese merchants at Canton whose
solvency was constantly being threatened by the "squeeze" to which
they were subjected by the Canton authorities. These considerations,
among others, led Warren Hastings to attempt to open relations with
Peking through the mediation of the Panchen Lama of Tibet28; and
they gave rise to the abortive Cathcart Embassy to China of 1787
and the Macartney Embassy of 1793.
While the complete solution of the financial problems of the
China trade demanded the establishment of adequate Anglo-Chinese
28. See: A. Lamb, Tibet in Anglo-Chinese Relations, 1767-1842, JRAS 1957,
pp. 164-168; A. Lamb, Britain and Chinese Central Asia: the road to Lhasa ,
1767-1905, London 1960, Chap. I generally.


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Missions to Cochin China

diplomatic relations, there were a number of other ways in which

those problems could be rendered less acute without taking the step,
which, Macartney's experiences in 1793 showed, would probably be
doomed to futility, of sending a full scale British mission to Peking.
There were British or Indian goods, like opium, which did command
a ready sale in China under existing conditions of trade, and the
increased export of these could reduce, if not stop, the drain of specie.
If British manufactures did not sell in China, they might still be
disposed of for bullion in other parts of Asia, and the profits of this
trade could be invested in Canton without affecting the supply of
specie in England or India. Other ports, outside China but astride
the sea route between Canton and India, might serve as meeting places
for Chinese and British merchants and alternative sources of supply
for Chinese goods. Such places, with their promise of attracting junks
not only from Canton but also from all the other ports of the China
coast, had much to offer as sites for British settlements; and here lay one
of the arguments behind the British founding of Penang and Singapore.29
The first attempts to found settlements of this sort, the British
occupation of Manila in 1762, and Alexander Dalrymple's schemes
for an establishment in the Borneo Archipelago which resulted in the
costly and abortive Balambangan venture over the years 1763-1775,
failed to provide the desired answer, but they pointed the way to later
projects in Malaysia and Indochina. They also pointed out, in that
age of European conflict which was the second half of the 18th century,
that the establishment of British bases in South-East Asia both met
and posed strategic as well as commercial problems, and involved
active competition with the Dutch and the Spaniards as well as with
the French who persisted in their challenge to British supremacy in
India. There was a real threat to the security of British sea routes
between India and Canton. There was a serious danger, in the event
(which at times did not seem unlikely) that the Chinese would close
themselves completely to European trade, that the British would find
that the domination of South-East Asia by hostile European powers
would exclude them altogether from contact with sources of Chinese
It was this kind of reasoning which induced Hastings to pay so
much attention to the two Cochin Chinese Mandarins whom chance
had brought to Calcutta. On the one hand, they might provide
the opportunity for the French acquisition of the superb naval base
offered by the sheltered waters of the Tourane region; on the other

29. I have given a fuller discussion of some of these theoretical solutions in

Lord Macartney at Batavia, March 1793, Journal of the South Seas Society,
Singapore 1958.


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Alastair Lamb

they might pave the way for a British settlement in this same area
which would meet many of those requirements later to be catered for
by Penag and Singapore.
Why then did the Chapman mission not mark the beginning
of a British dominated Indochina? The answer lay partly in the state
of Cochin China which Chapman described so graphically in his
narrative and which, despite Chapman's own arguments to the contrary,
offered little attraction for intervention in a region so far from the
settlements of British India. Only a French attempt to meddle in
these troubled waters could have provided the cause for an immediate
sequel to the Chapman mission, and this was ruled out for a while
when, shortly after Chapman's departure, the outbreak of war between
England and France resulted in the British occupation of Pondichery
and Chandernagore.
The story of the Chapman mission, from the arrival of the two
Mandarins in February 1778 until Chapman's return from Cochin
China in February 1779, is told in the next two chapters, in Chapman's
own narrative and report, in correspondence to and from the Bengal
Government, and in extracts of letters from Chevalier at Chandernagore.

Note: The extracts from documents and other sources which are
reproduced below are printed in 10 pt. unleaded type. They either
follow a heading in bold type or they are indented. My own comment,
except in the notes, is always printed here in leaded 10 pt. type.


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The Rumbold, with two Cochin Chinese Mandarins "< and the
Portuguese Jesuit missionary Father Loureiro on board, reached
Calcutta in early February 1778. The news was immediately com-
municated to Warren Hastings by David Kellican of the firm of
Crofts and Kellican, the owners of the vessel. Hastings in Council
decided on 12 February 1778 to house the two mandarins at Company
expense until they could find a ship back to Cochin China; and on
20 March 1778 this decision was communicated to the Court of
Directors in London.

1. Extract from Bengal General Consultations, 12 February 1778.

The Governor General lays before the Board the following note which
he received from Mr. Kellican.

Hon'ble Sir,
I beg leave to inform you that two Mandarines from Cochin
China with a Portuguese Missionary are arrived in Calcutta. They
came in a ship belonging to me called the Rumbold. The Captain was
directed to sail to the Eastward and to the Coast of Cambodia and
Cochin China as far as Turon Bay, where he landed. The two
Mandarines came on board of the Rumbold with an intention to go
down the coast, to a place called Donnai in Cambodia where the
King of Cochin China now resides, but a gale of wind coming on the
ship drove past the Port and was unable to regain it.
I take the liberty of requesting your permission, to present the
Mandarines to you, whenever it may be convenient, as likewise the
Portuguese Missionary.
The Mandarines are men of distinction. One of them is a first
cousin of the King of Cochin China.

Calcutta, I am, etc.,

12th February, 1778. (Signed) David Kellican.
The Governor-General submits to the Board whether, as the Mandarines
from Cochin China are said to be men of considerable rank, it would
not be for the Credit of the Company to allow them a house with a


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Alastair Lamb

suitable establishment during their residence in Calcutta which he

supposes will be but for a short time.
Agreed that a house and a suitable establishment be allowed the
Mandarines from Cochin China and the Governor General is requested
to issue the necessary orders for this purpose.
2. Extract from General Letter from Bengal, 20 March 1778
Par. 11. A China ship which lately imported here having on
board two Mandarines of distinction from Cochin China attended by
a Portuguese Missionary who had embarked with them for a port
on that coast to which the vessel was bound, but which a gale of wind
prevented her reaching, we thought it incumbent on us to show them
every mark of civility and attention in our power, during the short stay
which they must necessarily make in Bengal, and have therefore furnish-
ed them with a proper habitation and a suitable establishment of
servants at the public expense.



Extract from Bengal General Consultations, 30th March, 1778

The Governor General lays before the Board the following

minute: -
An accident having brought to this Settlement two Mandarines of
Cochin China, the one a near relation of the reigning Prince and the
other a man of considerable rank; humanity as well as policy has
induced the Board to afford them every assistance their situation
required and to treat them with an attention which might impress them
with a favourable opinion of the people they were come amongst and
alleviate their anxiety at being separated from their country and
The proper season for their return home is now arrived and they
are extremely anxious to set out. I have therefore not the least doubt
that the Board will concur with me in thinking it expedient to provide
them with the means. It is true the gentlemen in whose ship they
came hither have fitted out a small vessel and offered to send them
back. This was incumbent on them and no more would have been
necessary had they been persons of less distinction. But a greater
degree of attention is I think due to so considerable a Prince as the
King of Cochin China. I would therefore propose that the Amazon
Snow be got ready for their reception. I am induced to wish this
for several reasons. That the vessel is at present unemployed and
may return from the service in the month of December. She will
properly accommodate the Mandarines. She may be employed on a
service of humanity in going in search of a part of the Earl of
Temple's crew, thirteen men of which, I am credibly informed, still


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Missions to Cochin China

remain on the Paracel Islands opposite to Cochin China. She may be

directed to make any surveys or proceed on any other service the
Board may judge proper.
The French Chief of Chandernagore, sensible of the importance
of these people, has I am told made them an offer of a vessel to
return in.30
The above, tho' I think them sufficient, are not my only motives
for proposing to send the Amazon.
The owners of the vessel which brought the Mandarines have
acquainted me that they understand from them as well as other
Channels that great advantages may be reaped from a commercial
intercourse with Cochin China, and, wishing to avail themselves of the
present favourable opening for establishing a trade with that country,
they propose sending a vessel and cargo, and earnestly request that a
person may be deputed, in a public capacity, from this Government,
with the Mandarines as a security to their property and to procure
the sanction of the ruling power of Cochin China to their future
The advantages are represented to be : the extending the sale of
Europe commodities, such as iron, lead, copper, cutlery, glassware and
broad cloth, together with various manufactures of Bengal to the
Cochin Chinese, but more particularly to the Chinese junks, and the
procuring returns in gold, silver, pepper, cinnamon, cassia, elephants'
teeth, aquila wood, and many other valuable articles to the great
benefit of this country and which may in the course of time assist
in the investment of Europe.
The Company have always had in view the encouragement of
a trade with the Chinese junks, this was Mr. Dalrymple' s object when
he proposed the Settlement at Balambangan, and it was this allured
the Company to incur so considerable expense there as they did.31
30. See also pp. 22-23 below.
31. Alexander Dalrymple, 1737-1808. From 1779 to 1808 Dalrymple was
hydrographer to the East India Company, and after 1795 he also served
in the same capacity for the Admiralty. Dalrymple was one of the
leading exponents of the argument that the East India Company should
solve the problems of the drain of specie in the China trade by the vigorous
extension of British trade into South-East Asia. He argued that a British
settlement suitably located in the Archipelago would both provide a
market where British and Indian goods could be sold for specie to be
invested in the China trade and a port where Chinese merchants might
bring their wares for sale at a price lower than that obtaining in the
monopolistic conditions of Canton. His advocacy resulted in the British
acquisition in 1763 of the Island of Balambangan off the north-east coast
of Borneo. The Balambangan venture came to an end after Suluans in
early 1775 captured the British settlement and forced its inhabitants to
flee to their ships.
The arguments behind the Balambangan venture, and the short-lived
attempt to establish a British foothold in the Philippines in 1762. were
now being applied by Hastings towards the establishment of a settlement
in Cochin China. Balambangan had not been an ideal site for a venture
of this sort, and the settlement there had cost a great deal of money
(170,000). Hastings was suggesting here that all that was once hoped for
from Balambangan could perhans be obtained from Cochin China at no
greater expense than the cost of maintaining Chapman as British Resident
at the Cochin Chinese court.
For the Balambangan episode see: Harlow op. cit. pp. 70-77


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Alastair Lamb

It is not now intended to subject them to any charge whatsoever

except the trifling one of maintaining a single gentleman as a resident
in Cochin China, which measure it is hoped may be productive of
many of the advantages expected from the prosecution of that un-
fortunate scheme. I am informed that 70 or 80 junks resort to the
single Port of Turon in one season and that the trade is the chief
support of the town of Macao. That the country itself produces the
several valuable articles above mentioned, is evident not only from the
printed accounts of travellers who have visited it and from the
testimony of living witnesses now in Calcutta, but from samples of
some of them in the possession of the gentlemen who are desirous
of venturing their property in the undertaking.
Cochin China is peculiarly happy in its situation for commerce,
possessing a large extent of coast of its own. It is within five days
sail of Canton, has the Philippines laying opposite to it, the great
Island of Borneo, the Molucca and Bunda Islands a few degrees to
the South-East, with Siam and Malacca to the Westward. Its many
excellent harbours would afford a safe retreat to our Indiamen when
they might be so unfortunate as to lose their passage either to or from
China, instead of being obliged to keep the most tempestuous seas
with great risk to the ships and cargoes.
Satisfied that advantages might accrue to this country and to the
British Nation, from an intimate intercourse with Cochin China; that
expense of the experiment will be but trifling; that there may never
offer an opportunity equally favourable with the present; and that the
arrival of these Mandarines may awake the curiosity of foreign nations,
which it seems has already been the case from the offer by the
French Chief of sending them back; I think it therefore a measure
both prudent and politic to seize the present occasion and to
endeavour to form some kind of commercial alliance with the
ruling power of that country calculated to secure to the English
superior privileges to the French or others; and for this purpose I
propose that a person be sent, in a public capacity, with the Mandarines
to investigate the real state of their country, its sources for trade, and
to discover what connection can be made-^with it advantageous to
Bengal, and that he be likewise vested wi$i powers, should he find
the state of things answer the expectations formed of them, and agree
with the accounts which have been given, to form a Treaty of
Commerce on the part of this Government with that of Cochin China.

(Signed) Warren Hastings.

Mr. Francis. I have no objection to the experiment being made,

and I agree with the Governor in thinking that the civilits we have
already shown to these Mandarines, and even our paying the expense
of their return, might be productive of good effect, but as the Amazon
is the only armed vessel we have in the river, and as many occasions
may possibly arise in which her services may be wanted, I am unwilling
to send her on this expedition. I think it would be better to make use
of the vessel already fitted out by the gentlemen in whose ship the


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Missions to Cochin China

Mandarines come hither, and to make them a compensation for the

expense of the voyage.
Governor General. I think it proper to inform the Board that
the vessel prepared to be sent by the merchants to Cochin China, is
only 120 tons Burthen and has no accommodation for passengers.
Agreed to the Governor General's proposition.
Ordered that the Amazon be prepared immediately to perform the
service intended.
The Governor General recommends Mr. Charles Chapman to be
appointed to accompany the Mandarines, and to perform the services
specified in his minute at Cochin China and proposes that the Captain
of the Amazon be put under the orders of Mr. Chapman.
Agreed to, and resolved that Mr. Chapman be allowed during the
course of the present service 1000 Rupees per mensem.
Agreed that Mr. Totty assistant surgeon be appointed to attend
Mr. Chapman with an allowance of his usual pay, gratuity and full
batta for this service.


chapman's instructions

On 9 April 1778 Hastings issued instruction to Chapman on his

mission to Cochin China, and the decision to undertake this mission
was communicated to the Court of Directors in London on 23 April

1. Extract from Bengal Consultations, 9 April 1778.

The Secretary having prepared instructions for Mr. Chapman lays
them before the Board for approval.
Agreed to the Instructions, and ordered that they be accordingly
delivered to Mr. Chapman as follows:


As we conceive that many advantages might be derived to the

British Nation from a Commercial Intercourse between the Company's
Settlements in India, and the Province of Cochin China, and the
presence of two Mandarines of considerable distinction who lately
arrived from that Country affording a favourable occasion to make
Overtures to the Government there for the encouragement of such an
Intercourse, we have thought proper to order the Company Snow
Amazon to be prepared for the Reception of the said Mandarines, and
accommodating them with a passage to Cochin China. We have
appointed you to accompany them to that place, and to reside there
on the part of this Government, if our wishes to establish a beneficial
Trade can be effected.


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Alastair Lamb

You will receive a Letter of Credence from the Governor General

to the Prince of Cochin China, and v/e direct that as soon after your
arrival there as may be convenient, you propose to him the Establish-
ment of a natural and free Traffic with the English, and use your
Endeavour to obtain his Sanction to the measure in general, and his
promise of a favourable Acception and Protection to the Merchant
Vessels which may in consequence be consigned to his Port.
You will also make such Enquiries into the Sources of Trade
which the Country of Cochin China possesses as will enable you to
judge of the advantages of any Connection that it may be eligible to
form with it, and we hereby authorize and empower you to enter into
a Treaty with the Government there, for the establishment and security
of a Commerce with vesels importing there under English passes, and
in like manner with any Vessels which the subjects of that Nation may
send to either of the Company's Settlements in India. In the Negotia-
tion of this business we recommend it to you to obtain such Rights
and Privileges in favour of the English as the Prince may be willing to
grant, and you will define them as clearly and precisely as possible in
the Treaty which you may form with him in order to obviate mis-
understandings respecting them.
We hope it is needless to urge to you the necessity of showing every
attention and civility in your power to the Mandarines during the
Voyage, as such conduct will be the readiest means to secure their
favourable Report and Assistance in the Prosecution of your
We have placed the Commander of the Amazon under your Orders
in the present Expedition, and we have fixed your Allowances for the
service on which you are deputed at 1000 Rups. per mensem.

Fort William,

9th. April 1778.

2. Extract from General Letter from Bengal, 23 April 1778.

Par. 6. The presence of the two Mandarines from Cochin China
whom we mentioned in the 11th Paragraph of our last Letter to you
and the civil treatment and attention which have been shown them
during their Residence here, affording a favourable occasion to
attempt establishing a Commercial intercourse with the people of that
country, which we conceive might be very beneficial both to the
Company's Possessions in India and to the sale of the Staple Commo-
dities of Great Britain, we have ordered the Amazon Snow, which was
lying unemployed, to be prepared for accommodating them with a
passage to their Native place; and we have appointed Mr. Charles
Chapman, one of your Covenanted Servants, to accompany them.


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Missions to Cochin China

Par. 7 . We have given Mr. Chapman a Letter of Credence

addressed to the Prince of Cochin China which he will deliver, with a
suitable present prepared for that purpose, on his arrival; and if he
meets with a favourable reception from the Prince, we have authorized
him to negotiate and conclude a Treaty for opening and securing a free
Trade with his Dominions. We have further instructed Mr. Chapman
to solicit and use his endeavours to obtain by the Treaty such Rights
and Privileges in favour of the English Merchants and such protection
to their Ships as the Prince may be inclined to grant, and if he finds
encouragement in this undertaking he is to continue Resident at
Cochin China on the part of the English, otherwise he will return
with the Amazon.



Since at least 1773 the French chief at Chandernagore, Chevalier,

had been interested in the prospects of Cochin China as a field for the
expansion of French influence. In 1777 he sent the Diligente there to
report on the situation, and he received news of the outcome of this
venture on the same day that Hastings learnt of the arrival of the
Rumbold. Chevalier lost no time in informing his superior at
Pondichery, de Bellecombe, of the great possibilities offered by the civil
war then raging in Indochina, and urgently advised that France should
not let this opportunity slip.
Three days later, on 15 February, Chevalier wrote to de
Bellecombe about the Rumbold and its passengers. The presence of the
Cochin Chinese mandarins at Calcutta, and the knowledge that Hastings
would put this to good use, made French action all the more essential.
Chevalier proposed to see Father Loureiro as soon as possible in order
to find out what the English were up to and to try to persuade the
Jesuit to work for the French. Meanwhile, he urged, a French expedi-
tion should be sent on its way to Cochin China as soon as possible.
Shortly after the despatch of this second letter to de Bellecombe,
Loureiro came to Chandernagore to confer with Chevalier. Loureiro
proposed that the French should make use of Bernardo Moniz, a
Portuguese merchant who had accompanied the Jesuit from Cochin
China and whose experience of that place would make him well
qualified to be a French agent. The approach to Moniz in this respect,
which is contained in two letters printed below, came to the notice of
the British and provided them with documentary evidence of the


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Alastair Lamb

nature of French ambitions in this region.32 Chevalier, however,

clearly preferred to make use of Loureiro himself as the French agent,
and in April he persuaded the Jesuit to sail to Pondichery to confer
in person with de Bellecombe. Loureiro, Chevalier now proposed,
should return to Cochin China as a French envoy, accompanied by
200 Europeans, an impressive artillery and 200 or 300 sepoys. With
this force he was to offer French aid to the Nguyen against the Tay-son
rebels and, in return, to obtain a treaty along the lines of the document
which Pigneau de Behaine was later to negotiate. But Chevalier's
scheme was not put into execution. The French home government
was apathetic and, in any case, by the time Loureiro reached Pondichery
Chapman had already sailed. Shortly afterwards Hastings learnt of
the French declaration of war against Great Britain arising from the
American crisis, and he lost no time in undertaking the capture of
the French settlements in India. Chandernagore fell in July 1778 and,
in October, after a stout resistance, de Bellecombe surrendered Pondi-
chery. In these circumstances, even had the French home government
at that moment been eager to embark upon an adventure in Cochin
China - which it was not - , the French position in India hardly lent
itself to the pursuit of schemes of this kind. (See : Taboulet, op. cit,
vol. 1, pp. 157-60; Maybon, op. cit. pp. 174-181.)

1. Chevalier to de Bellecombe, 12 February 1778. (Translated from

Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 157-159.)

I make haste to inform you of news which I have just received

from Cochin China by means of a ship which I had sent there. The
events which have taken place there would have provided a great
opportunity to our nation had the government authorised you to take
advantage of all the occasions which offered themselves for augmenting
her power and increasing her trade, and, at the same time, had you
been in possession of all the resources necessary for such a project.
It would have been thus, Sir, that you would have achieved great
things in India and throughout Asia. But the indifference with which
the government in France has continually treated these great
in which we vegetate ....
The Diligente , which I sent to Cochin China under the command
of M. Cuny, captain and supercargo, on reaching Tourane found the
country much devastated by a most vigorous war which was being
waged against the Emperor [of Cochin China] by one of his subjects

32. These letters were probably communicated to the British by Moniz himself.
Moniz accompanied Chapman on his mission to Cochin China and served
in a confidential capacity as a liaison between the British envoy and the
local authorities.


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Missions to Cochin China

called Teisson, who had as a result of his piracies become very

powerful. Having fought the galleys of the Emperor [of Cochin China],
this man then planned ... to sack and burn the town of Faifo and
also that of Tourane. An English ship was then anchored before
Tourane. Its captain having threatened to open fire on the pirate
[Teisson], the latter at once withdrew. M. Cuny . . . did not wish to
be involved in this quarrel. He set sail for Macao despite the fact that
the English captain had proposed that they join forces to defend the
Emperor [of Cochin China], drive away his enemy and restore order
in the country .... The English captain remained behind and
established relations with the court [of the Emperor], whose defence
he wished to undertake; but what could he do without forces and
with only five or six Europeans with him? This was the situation
when Captain le Fer arrived with his big ship, the Lauriston, armed
with 26 guns, but with a mixed crew of lascars and about fourteen
Europeans. He sent ashore to Tourane his surgeon, Philibert by
name, who was well known and loved in this land because he had
lived here when our nation maintained here that establishment which
M. Dupleix had founded. He was warmly welcomed by the mandarins,
some of whom he had known previously. They offered him everything
he might need .... and proposed that the ship be brought in to defend
the place and maintain the interests of the Emperor against his rebel
subject; but M. Philibert, who appreciated the weakness of the crew
[of the Lauriston ], contented himself with asking the mandarins to
convey to the Emperor the good will and sincere friendship of the
French nation, and added that the season was advanced and that he
should take advantage of what was left of the monsoon to return
to China .... Those who . . . had looked upon the arrival of this
ship as the means of their salvation, now fell into a profound state of
alarm and, in tears, accompanied M. Philibert back to the ship. The
mandarins . . . begged him to return and bring with him arms and
ammunition . . . 33
In' such a situation, Sir, it would be easy for us to send a
detachment of troops and so render the Emperor such marked services
as would lead to our ruling in some form in his name and to our
obtaining hold of one of the richest aspects of the trade of the

forces [of Cochin China] would be more than enough to destroy the
enemy, consolidate the Emperor on the throne and restore peace and
tranquility. It would be an important and most profitable operation
for our nation and would require neither great force nor extensive

33. According to Taboulet, the Diligente was at Tourane in September 1777.

By this time the Nguyen Dynasty (to which the term Emperor is here
applied) were facing disaster in the south. Hu was under the control of
the Trinh Dynasty and, according to both Maybon and Le Thanh Khoi,
Quang-nam Province, in which lay Tourane and Faifo, had been confirmed
in the possession of Van-Nhac, the Tay-son leader, by the Trinh ruler
Trinh Sam. From the account of the Diligente, however, as also from
Chapman's narrative (see p. 36 below), it would seem that Nguyen
supporters still retained some power in Tourane at least.
The English ship referred to here was almost certainly the Rumbold.
The Lauriston was a Burmese built vessel.


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I am sure that if we are not in advance of the English, they will

follow this plan, and we will have to experience next year the sorrow
of learning that they have just acquired a new empire
know that the Captain of the Rumbold has sent such a proposal from
Madras to Calcutta, whither he must come soon to argue warmly in
this sense before the Council

of which to meet the expenses which must of necessity arise from a

project of this kind? And even were the funds available, would
you not be held back by the fear that you might be blamed for having
acted without the orders of the Court [of France]? These are the
considerations which forever prevent the Governors of [French] India
from acting on a large scale and with effect. The English, on the
contrary, always have the widest powers to carry out anything which
might augment their power and the trade of their nation

In the present instance it would be easy for us to become the

masters of Cochin China and to establish there a formidable power.
We are going to let the opportunity slip by, and it is the English
who are going to profit from our lack of activity.
It is already a long time since this war [in Cochin China] began,
and it still goes on. I do not wish it to result in the death of the
French missionaries in that land from not informing you [of the
possibilities]. Now, you might without exposing yourself carry out
the revolution in question. The Brillant offers you the means. Instead
of letting her winter at Achin or Ile du Roi, you could send her to
Cochin China with a hundred or so soldiers and some sepoys. The
country would be ours and all its ports open to French ships ....
If Cochin China has in your eyes, Sir, all the importance that it
deserves to have, and if, in consequence, you should decide to follow
my suggestions, then, Sir, I offer to go there myself and I promise
you that I will not return without having accomplished great things ....
I could even provide a ship already to sail, and without costing the
administration a sol , which would only have to provide the people,
supplies, arms and ammunition required. It will suffice to set out in

costs money in Cochin China or in Pondichery, it is the same thing for

the government, to whom it will cost neither more nor less - and you
will mark your government with a monument which will make its
memory eternal, and you will deserve on this just count the thanks of
the nation by the importance of the acquisition which you will have
made for it .

2. Chevalier to de Bellecombe, 15 February 1778. (Translated from

Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 159-160.)

I have just learnt of the arrival of the English ship Rumbold which
had been to Cochin China . . . She brought back with her a Jesuit
missionary of the Spanish nation, Father Loureiro, accompanied by a
mandarin of the first class. Both are now in Calcutta, where I do not
doubt at all they have come to enter into treaty with the English and
to ask assistance from them . . . This Father Loureiro enjoyed for a


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long time great confidence at the Court of Cochin China, where he is a

physician to the Emperor.34 He is said to be a man of great wit, very
wise and a shrewd negotiator. I am on the track of this business and
will spare nothing to discover its outcome. I have sent one of the
priests of this parish to go and call on him . . . and have told him to do
the impossible to make him come to spend several days ... at
Chandernagore. Then he will certainly come to see me and I will
employ all means possible to discover his secret and to bring his ideas
towards us rather than the English

This business, Sir, from every point of view must be considered

by us as being of the greatest importance because of all the develop-
ments which might arise from it with a nation as powerful, as active
and as enterprising as that of the English. One cannot conceal from
oneself the conclusion that if the English send help to Cochin China
they will not delay in becoming masters of the whole country, just as
they did in Bengal and in the rest of their possessions in India. After
which they will easily extend their domination to Siam and Tonkin.
It is thus that they are going to prepare a new empire which, by its
revenues, its situation, and the fertility of its productions, will open
to them another promising source of riches and power. Who knows,
even, that they will not be capable of extending their undertakings
to China, whose immense wealth cannot fail to arouse their cupidity?. . .
There are so many motives in combination which make me wish
with the greatest ardour that you undertake to anticipate the English
by sending as soon as possible the Brillant with 150 Europeans, 300
sepoys, arms, cannon and ammunition. Such an armament .... would
make clear, on its arrival in the Tourane river, that the French, who
have always cherished the friendship and the gratitude for the good
treatment which they have received from the government, are very
pleased to have found the opportunity to prove the sincerity of their
sentiments by sending to the Emperor the help required to defend him
against his enemies.
There can be no doubt that one would be well received for, in
this kind of business, it is always he who arrives first who has all the
advantages. The English, who will arrive after us, will be obliged
to return home ... If we do not take these steps, then I see from afar
a great empire forming itself for the English. If, on the other hand,
we anticipate them, this same empire will fall into our hands and will
be the glorious fruit of our activity and our perspicuity. In the
present situation it is inevitable that some European nation will rule
over the country [of Cochin China], and it will be the country which
first brings help that will win the prize.

34. Jean de Loureiro, Jesuit. Born in Lisbon in 1710. Came to Cochin

China in 1742 and soon became a physician at Hu at the court of the
Nguyen ryler Vo-vuong (1738-1765). He continued to reside at Hu until
1777, when he left Cochin China aboard the Rumbold. He died in 1791.
Father de Loureiro had a considerable reputation as a naturalist and
astronomer, and on his return to Europe in 1781 he became a member
of a number of learned societies. In 1790 he published his Flora
Cochinchinensis. (Maybon, op. cit., pp. 141-142.)


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Alastair Lamb

3. Translation of a letter in Portuguese from Father Loureiro to

Bernardo Moniz. Chandernagore 20 March 1778. (Appendix no. 3
to Chapman's narrative, China Factory Records, Vol. 18.)


Monsieur Chavalier, after being informed by me of the present

state of Cochin China, seems to wish to undertake an expedition from
Pondichery to that place, but being at a loss for a person that is
acquainted with the said State, I took the liberty of mentioning your
name to him, also related the accidents you have met with; whereupon
he has requested me to invite you to Chandernagore and promises
to give you a passage to Cochin China with everything you may be
in need of, which you will see by the enclosed from Monsieur
Chavalier, notwithstanding many other advantages, offers wherein are
no deceit.
I would therefore advise you to stick to this as is the surest; and
I dare to say you will be of the same opinion if you consider well
into it or otherwise. Should you disapprove of this I beg you'll keep
it a secret. Your answer.

4. Translation of a letter in Portuguese from Chevalier to Moniz.

Chandernagore 20 March 1778. (Appendix no. 4 to Chapman's
narrative, China Factory Records, Vol. 18.)

Having had the honor of being acquainted with your character

by my friend Padre Loureiro, meanwhile understood that you intend
returning to Cochin China : therefore should esteem the pleasure
of your company at Chandernagore, and from hence you are welcome
to a passage (with all necessaries) to Pondichery where you will have
the pleasure of seeing Monsieur De Bellecombe who will give you a
passage to Cochin China in any of His Majesty's ships.


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Chapman's Narrative

Mr. Chapman's narrative of Ms voyage to Cochin China.

(China Factory Records, Vol. 18.)34a

Note : - Footnotes marked with an asterisk (*) are Chapman's own notes;
but comment, where it has seemed to be called for, has been added
in parentheses.

It may not be improper before I attempt a description of the few

occurrences of this Voyage to preface it with an account of the
circumstances which led to the undertaking, the reasons urged for the
prosecution of it, and the advantages expected to be derived from it.
Having stated these leading points, I shall proceed with a brief and
faithful detail of the transactions in which I was engaged from the
time of my arrival on the Coast of Cochin China to that of my leaving
it; interspersing and concluding it with some observations on the
country, its inhabitants and produce. Desultory and incomplete as
these observations will of necessity be, I offer them with the utmost
diffidence and trust they will be received with candour. The interval
in which I had to make them was short, curiosity was attended with
many personal dangers. Those which I have experienced I regret not,
and only wish they may be productive of real benefit to that respectable
society of which I am proud of being a servant. The few political
events taken notice of I derived from a source on which they had
made an impression too deep for me to doubt their authenticity. The
family of the relater had often marked them with his blood; he, it is
not improbable, may mark them with his own.
In the month of February 1778 two Mandarines of Cochin China*
were brought to Calcutta in a country ship called the Rumbold . The
novelty of this circumstance excited the curiosity of the whole settle-
ment. It was reported to the Governor General by Messrs. Croftes
and Killican. These gentlemen who, I believe, were either the entire
owners of the gessei or partly concerned in it, likewise acquainted him
that their visiting Bengal was accidental and had happened in the
34a. A copy of the MS is also to be found in British Museum Add. Mss. 29,
214.1. I am indebted to Dr. D. K. Bassett for this reference.
Mandarine is a Portuguese word derived from the verb Mandar to command.
It is totally unknown amongst the Chinese, Cochin Chinese, Tonquinese. The
word used by each of those nations for a person in authority is Quan.
[It seems more probable that the word mandarin is derived from the
sanskrit mantri, a minister of state.]


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following manner. The Rumbold being destined on a voyage to China,

her owners in consequence of some very favourable accounts of Cochin
China had directed the Commander to touch on that Coast in his way
back. He went to the Bay of Turon and during his stay there
application was made to him by Senhor Loreiro, a Jesuit missionary
who had resided in the country between thirty and forty years, for a
passage for himself to Bengal and for two Mandarines of distinction
related to the Royal Family as far as Donai, the most southern
province,35 whither the King had retired on account of an invasion of
the northern provinces by the Tonquinese and a rebellion which had
broke out in several of the midland ones36. The commander, having
heard that Senhor Loreiro was highly esteemed by the natives, and
had behaved with great humanity to the officers and crew of the
Admiral Pocock Indiaman37 when driven into Turon Bay by stress of
weather in the year 1764, complied with his request in both instances.
He soon after weighed anchor intending to land the Mandarines,
agreeable to their request, at Donai; but a strong current and a
violent gale coming on forced the ship so far to the southward of
that Province that he was unable to make it and obliged to bring all
his passengers to Bengal.
The following morning the Mandarines and Senhor Loreiro were
introduced to the Governor General by whom they were received with
the greatest attention and humanity. The Cochin Chinese were assured
of his protection and comforted with those expressions of goodwill
necessary to remove the apprehensions of a few defenceless and alarmed
individuals unacquainted with our customs and dispositions; and to
impress them with a favourable opinion of the people they were come
amongst. They were accommodated with a house, servants and other
necessaries, shown everything curious in the settlement and in general
treated in such a manner that the time they passed amongst us proved
highly agreeable to them.
The Mandarines remained in Bengal till the middle of April. In
the interim Messrs. Croftes and Killican had equipped a small vessel
of beween 70 and 80 tons burthen to carry them back. Some days
before the time fixed for their departure, I was requested by
Mr. Croftes to suggest to the Governor General how acceptable a small
present from him would be to the Mandarines. This took the first
convenient opportunity of doing, and he was not only pleased to
acquiesce in it, but also signified his intention of sending something
handsome to their King and desired that I would consult Messrs.
Croftes and Killican upon the articles proper and bring him a list
of them. While we were adjusting this matter our conversation
naturally turned upon Cochin China. In the course of it, those gentle-
men expatiated on the advantages which might accrue to Bengal and
35. Donnai, the neighbourhood of Saigon.
36. The first great military success of the Tay-son movement, to which
Chapman is referring when he speaks of the "rebellion", was the capture
of Qui-nhon in 1773. The Qui-nhon region was the centre of Tay-son
power and it was here that Chapman met Van-Nhac ("Ignaac"). In 1775
the forces of the Trinh Dynasty, which dominated Tonkin under the
nominal suzerainty of the Le Dynasty, occupied Hu.
37. Captain Blomfield s account of the visit of the Admiral Pocock to lourane
in 1764 is to be found here as Appendix A to Chapter III.


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Alastair Lamb

to the Company, if a commercial intercourse were opened with that

country - enumerated the several valuable commodities it produced
and expressed their wishes that the present favourable occasion might
not be neglected of forming a connection with the Government of it.
Ever possessed with a spirit of enterprize and allured by the hopes of
distinguishing myself, I declared that I would readily undertake the
voyage if the Supreme Council should think it proper to send me in
a public capacity. Some subsequent conversations I had with these
gentlemen, their communicating to me some papers relative to the
country, with the accounts given by the Commander of the Rumbold
and assurances of the Mandarines, all conspired to stimulate me
to the undertaking. At length I made the proposal to the Governor
General, requesting that he would be pleased to take some opportunity
of speaking to Messrs. Croftes and Killican on the subject.
The representations made to the Governor General and other
gentlemen of the Supreme Council had the effect I then earnestly
desired and the Amazon, a small snow belonging to the Company, was
ordered to be made ready for the better accommodation of the
Mandarines. The companions of my voyage were Mr. Bayard, a
gentleman of my own standing in the Company's service, who was
induced to accompany me by motives of friendship and a curiosity to
see the country, Mr. Totty, a surgeon, Captain Maclennan, Master of
the Amazon and Captain Hutton, Master of the Jenny.
The end proposed by my appointment was the establishment of a
commercial intercourse between the Company's settlements in India and
Cochin China and the attainment of such privileges and advantages
to our vessels importing thither, as we might find the Government
disposed to grant. The benefits hoped from the traffic were the
extension of the sales of the commodities of Europe and India to that
country and the importation of its valuable productions in return.
One incitement, added to the motive of humanity for sending the
Mandarines home in a more creditable manner than first intended,
was to frustrate the intrigues which Mr. Chevalier, the French chief at
Chandernagore, had begun to set on foot with them through Padre
Loreiro, who had retired to that settlement, and Mr. Moniz, a
Portuguese merchant who had also accompanied them from Cochin
Having thus explained the inducements to this voyage, I shall
proceed agreeably to what I promised, to a detail of the transactions
which occurred in the prosecution of it.
The Amazon, having fallen down to Budge Budge, I embarked the
16th of April with the principal of the two Mandarines and five or six
of his attendants. The other by his own desire went on board the
little vessel first prepared for them both. She sailed a few days
before and was to rejoin us in the Straits of Malacca, and to accompany
us durinjg the voyage. On board were put small quantities of goods
(as specimens) of the commodities of Europe and India in order to
form a judgement of what would answer in the country we were
bound to. Bad weather and the want of a sloop did not permit
us to dismiss our Pilot until the 29th [of April] when we were obliged
38. See Chapter II, pp. 19-20 above.


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to send him on shore at Ballasore. Exactly a month after this we

anchored at Malacca and sailed from thence the 2nd of June for
Tringano, a Malay port on the other side of the Peninsula. We
reached it the 12th following. Here Mr. Hutton and the Commander
of our little consort informed me of the death of the Mandarine his
passenger which happened a few days after leaving Malacca. This
accident gave me a good deal of concern, as he was a sensible steady
well behaved man and I relied much on him for assistance amongst his
countrymen. We found at this place 30 or 40 natives of Cochin China
whose vessel had been driven off their own coast and wrecked near
Tringano. Agreeably to the policy of the Malays, they were become
the slaves and their effects the property of the Rajah. They gave
our Mandarine some information relative to the state of his country,
posterior to his leaving it, but, as he acquainted me, indistinct and
little to his satisfaction. I endeavoured to procure the release of some
of these poor people and was not a little surprised at a seeming
backwardness in them to accept it. During our stay here I was
spoken to by the King's brother (the King being absent) concerning
the Company's establishing a factory there; and I heard on my return
to Malacca that there had been a letter (making the offer) written
to the Supreme Council. This complaisance arises from the King's
apprehensions of a hostile visit from the King at Rio and from a
desire of extending his territories by means of the Company's
assistance. If it were thought worth while to settle in any part of
the Peninsula of Malaya a more eligible situation might be found.
Some months in the year this is a dangerous lee shore and inaccessible
to shipping. For my own part I do not think that establishments are
to be made amongst the Malays by us with any great prospect of
advantage of a sufficient degree of security*. At Tringano they
purchase annually two hundred chests of opium, some white goods
and a small quantity of iron and copper with a few other articles of
little note, for which they gave in exchange pepper, gold dust and tin.
The latter article is not the produce of the place but carried thither
by Malay and Bugis prows.39
Our stay at Tringano being prolonged a day or two that we
might furnish ourselves with a good store of refreshments as we
expected but scanty supplies in Cochin China, we did not weigh
anchor till the 17th [of June ]. The 20th we came in sight of Pulo Ubi.
The next night we anchored close to it and the following day found
*It is only a few years since the presidency of St. George attempted a
settlement at Acheen under the conduct of the Hon'ble Edward Moncton
but were obliged to withdraw it.
[Chapman is in error here. In early 1772, largely as a reusult of the
representations of Francis Light, the Madras Council sent missions to
Achin and Kedah. The Achin venture was entrusted to Charles Desvoeux
and that to Kedah to Hon. Edward Monckton. The question is discussed
in H. P. Clodd Malaya's first British Pioneer ; the life of Francis Light ,
London, 1948, pp. 14-23.]
39. The Raja of Chapman's narrative was Sultan Mansur I. (See; M. C. ft
Sheppard, Short History of Trengganu, JMBRAS vol. 22, Pt. 3, 1949).
Trengganu was visited by Hon. Edward Monckton after his mission to
Kedah in 1772, and the letter to which Chapman refers probably resulted
from Monckton's visit.


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ourselves in the latitude of 8 35' North which must have been

nearly the latitude of the Point of Cambodia,40 as it then bore
west of us. It is laid down by our Geographers and Hydrographers
10 or 15 miles more to the northward. Pulo Ubi is a small island,
seen from a great distance, and situated exactly on the eastern
extremity of the Gulph of Siam. My intention in taking this notice was
that we might have an opportunity of coasting the southern shore of
Cambodia which is but little known; of entering the Western branch
of the great river which separates that country from Cochin China
where I expected certain accounts of the state of the country; and of
procuring an interview with the King who was said to be in Donai,
the southmost province. On our leaving Tringano I requested Captain
Maclennan, the Commander of the Amazon , to be as particular in his
observations upon the coasts, its ports, and harbours, as our stay
and situation might admit of; and to form charts of the most remark-
able parts. I was induced to do this from the general utility of such
observations, and from a conviction of the ability of the person I
applied to, being a man of science and mathematical knowledge in
his profession; but a severe disorder, which in a short time deprived
him of his life, frustrated my wishes. We were but a little more than
two days from Pulo Ubi to Cambodia River. The Point of Cambodia
as well as the whole coast from thence to the mouth of the western
branch of the river is covered with underwood and exceedingly low.
The water is so shallow that at the distance of five or six miles from
the shore we rarely had more than four fathoms. The small vessel,
our consort, in repeated attempts made by the Commander could
never approach the shore nearer than within two or three miles.
Few inhabitants appeared, and only two boats near the entrance of
the river. Our boat was sent to speak with them, but the people,
proving to be poor Chinese fishermen, were not able to understand our
Cochin Chinese linguist.
The 24th June we anchored in sight of the mouth of the west
channel of Cambodia River* between three and four o'clock in the
afternoon in barely three fathom water, a strong ebb tide setting out.
The tide to the westward had been observed the preceding evening
to rise two fathoms and a half. It therefore certainly behoved us to
have been on our guard against its falling as much. The Captain
was apprized of this by his officer, but he making light of it, we were
subjected to the following disagreeable consequences. By six o'clock
the tide left the vessel fast aground, but as she lay in soft mud our
situation was by no means dangerous and the sequel convinced us that
we had better have remained in it until the morning. We should then,
as the tide turned at 20 minutes after 9, have had the water rising till
near day break and might easily have gone out with the ebb, or
searched for a deeper and securer anchoring place. The Captain made
sail as soon as the vessel floated in a dark night uncertain whither a
rapid tide might drive us. The consequence was she grounded a
second time and when the following tide relieved her from this, still a
third time here or on some other part of the shoal. I expected we
40. Point of Cambodia = Pt. Camau.
*Lat. 9, 30'N from hence in a clear day you may see Pulo Condore which lies
in lat. 8 40' No:


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must have left the vessel. Her head was only in a fathom and a
half water and her stern was thumping upon a sand as hard as a rock.
The boat with the Chief Officer and most of the Europeans was now
sent to sound. During their absence the water rose to two fathoms
and a quarter. The Amazon drew twelve feet. The flood tide was
fully made. Anxious for our boat we made signal after signal for it
to return. When the officer came, his report was far from satisfactory
having met with shoals all round us. Get under way we must, and
trust to fortune for the rest. There was now a threatening sky and
the appearance of a hard squall coming on. At first the water deepened
a little. This gave us a gleam of hope, but a momentary one. The
man with the sounding line warned us there was but a few inches
more than the vessel drew. Every instant we expected to feel the
shocks of the vessels striking for the last time, and it being the top of
high water of a spring tide, we had no prospect of further relief.
Happily however we again increased the depth; and the squall
coming on presently drove us to our great joy into five fathoms when
we dropped our anchor.
After the fatigue and anxiety which we suffered the preceding
night we were most of us happy to devote this day, the 25th , to
The 26th. I went on board the Jenny , which lay at a considerable
distance from our vessel near the mouth of the river. The
Commander acquainted me he had sent his boat into the river for
intelligence and proposed to me to stand in and meet it. Having no
objection, he weighed his anchor. As soon as we opened the first
reach we perceived a vessel at anchor and the boat making towards
us. We continued our course in a good channel of three and four
fathoms water, as far as the tide would permit us. By the officer
sent in the boat, we learnt that the vessel in sight was a Portuguese
snow from Macao; that there was another higher up at a village
called Bathai,41 and that a ship had left the river seven or eight days
before. Mr. Moniz (a Portuguese gentleman I before mentioned to
have accompanied the Mandarines to Bengal) who went on board
the Portuguese vessel, acquainted me that he heard from the
Commander that the rebel Ignaack had carried everything before him
in Cochin China; that the King having fled to Pulo Condore had been
taken there and put to death and that his brother had fallen into
the hands of the Usurper who obliged him to marry his daughter.
I afterwards found that his brother was the elder of the two sons
left by the late King; but that Queck Foe, the Prime Minister who
had acquired an unbounded influence in the latter part of the reign,
had married his daughter to the younger Prince and contrived upon
the death of the old King to place his son in law upon the throne.
This, with the Minister's unpopular measure of imposing a poll tax*
upon all the native inhabitants of whatsoever age, sex or condition
was the cause of the troubles which broke out in the interior provinces,
and furnished a pretext for the Tonquinese to invade the country; for
when their army entered the northern provinces they declared their
41. The reference here is probably to Bassac or Ba Tac, the most westerly
mouth of the Mekong.
* It amounted to about a Spanish dollar a head.


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Alastair Lamb

designs to be solely bent against the person of the Minister whose

maladministration had involved his country in a civil war; and
promised upon his being delivered up to them to assist the King in
subduing all his other enemies. The young King, instigated by the
enemies of this Minister, blindly fell into the snare and thereby proved
to have acted as politically as the sheep who delivered their dog to the
wolves. Queck Foe, tho' a bad man, was allowed to be a man of abilities,
and by the discerning, esteemed the only one capable of making head
against the dangers that now threatened the King on all sides. Sensible
of this the Tonquinese, as soon as he was delivered into their hands,
treated him with the utmost deference and made use of his knowledge
to possess themselves of the country. They immediately laid siege
to Hue, the capital, and took it. The King fled to Donai; from
thence to Pulo Condore where he was taken and put to death. The
Minister was carried to Tonquin where he was allowed to enjoy an
honourable retreat.42
The next day I returned on board the Amazon to prepare a few
necessaries to go up to Bathai in the Jenny , and desired Captain
Hutton to wait for me where he was. Early in the morning I set out
accompanied by Mr. Bayard and Mr. Totty. On approaching the
mouth of the river I perceived the Jenny running out with the
Portuguese snow. Expressing my surprise at this, I found Captain
Hutton had received intelligence that some persons he had left at
Turon the year before had been put to death by Ignaack , and that
42. Chapman gives here a slightly confused version of the conflicts between the
Nguyen, Trinh and Tay-son which marked this first phase of the civil wars.
lgnaac is Van-Nhac, the eldest of the three brothers who commanded
the Tay-son movement.
Queck Foe can only be Truong Phuoc Loan, the Regent during the
minority of the Nguyen ruler Dinh-vuong. Truong Phuoc Loan fell into
Trinh hands in late 1774 and was removed to Tonkin where he died in 1775.
In its opening phases, the Tay-son movement was directed against
Truong Phuoc Loan, and Van-Nhac claimed to be the defender of the
Nguyen against this corrupt official. In this he was able to exploit the
circumstances of the succession following the death of Vo-vuong who had
ruled the Nguyen territories from 1738 to 1765. It would have been
expected that Chuong Vo, Vo-vuong's second son who had for some time
been associated as ruler with his father, would have succeeded him. How-
ever, either through the machinations of Truong Phuoc Loan or through a
deathbed change of heart on the part of Vo-vuong, the succession passed
to Dinh-vuong, Vo-vuong's sixteenth son, and thus passed over not only
Chuong Vo but also Hieu, the late king's ninth son. In 1765 Chuong Vo
also died, and the claims of Hieu were thus strengthened. Van-Nhac had,
therefore, a strong argument when he advanced the claims of Prince Duong,
Hieu's son and heir. He made Duong declare himself chua, or ruler, and
married him to one of his daughters.
In 1776 Prince Duong escaped from Van-Nhac's surveillance and fled
to join his uncle Dinh-vuong in Donnai. Here, in late 1777, both Dinh-
vuong and Duong were killed by the Tay-son in what was nearly a
complete massacre of the Nguyen ruling family.
In referring to the escape to Pulo Condore, Chapman is probably con-
fusing thei events of this massacre with the fortunate escape of Nguyen Anh,
the only surviving Nguyen leader. Nguyen Anh was the second son of
Chuong Vo (the eldest son died in the 1777 massacre). He escaped the
Tay-son largely through the help of the French missionary Pigneau de
Behaine and made his way to Pulo Panjang (Tho-chu Island), where he
was able to rally the remaining Nguyen forces and whence he returned to
the mainland to reteover Donnai.


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20 or 30 of his gallies were then cruising in a branch of the river two

days sail from Bathai. Unacquainted with the force of these gallies
and having too much reason from the information to suspect their
hostile disposition towards us, especially if they were apprised of our
having a relation of the late King on board, and the Amazon being
deemed to draw too much water and built too sharp to be brought
into the river, I thought it most prudent entirely to drop my designs
of proceeding to Bathai. Understanding however that there was still
a party of the King's people making head against lgnaac in Donai, it
was determined to proceed thither, in order to place our Mandarine
and his people amongst their friends.43 Captain Hutton having
received what instructions the Portuguese Captain could give him
respecting the passage (no pilot being to be had) was to lead the way;
we were to follow. These points adjusted, I returned on board my
own vessel and the next morning we sailed.
The first of July we anchored under a promontary, supposed to
be Cape Saint James, about a Degree and an half distant from the
west channel of Cambodia River. This was the first high land on
the Continent we met with. Here again we were all at a stand,
nobody being able to point out the road to Donai. The Mandarine and
his people never having been there, could give us no information.
Vexed at my disappointment, I determined to go on shore myself
in our pinnace and to endeavour to gain some intelligence. Mr. Bayard
and the second officer were so obliging as to accompany me. I
took two of the Mandarines' servants as linguists. When we
reached the beach I sent them on shore, keeping everybody else in
the boat. After sometime they came back leading two or three of
the most miserable objects I ever beheld, upon the very point of
perishing with hunger and disease. The linguists telling us we might
land in security, we did so. These poor wretches then acquainted
me that they belonged to a village hard by in which were left about
fifty more much in the same condition as themselves; that a fleet of
lgnaac' s in its way to Donai, which it was now blockading, had two
months before paid them a visit and plundered them of the scanty
remains left by a horrid famine, supposed in the preceding year to
have carried off more than one half of the whole inhabitants of
Cochin China; and that they had nothing to eat but a root thrown
up by the surf on the beach which caused them to break out in
blotches all over their bodies. It was shaped something like a sweet
potatoe but longer. I was now no longer at a loss to account for
the indifference the wretches I saw at Tringano shewed to my offer
of procuring their release; they were not possessed of sufficient
patriotism to prefer liberty with so scanty a fare in their own country
to slavery with a full belly in a foreign one. There is no slavery in
Cochin China. On perceiving the mouths of two or three rivers to
the N.W. and asking their names, they told me one of them led to
Donai. Several more of these objects were now gathering round me.
Distressed at this scene of misery, not in my power to relieve, I
hastened on board my boat and took with me an old man who
43. The reference here is to the recovery of Donnai and the reoccupation of
Saigon by Nguyen Anh, which had taken place shortly before Chapman's


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Alastair Lamb

appeared the most intelligent to inform our Mandarine of all he

knew and to enable us to determine what was next to be done.
A comfortable meal having cheered up the old man's spirits, he
had a long conversation with his countrymen. The result of it
was that a village called Huttien a few hours sail from where we
then were, having resisted the attack of lgnaac* s fleet, the Mandarine
was desirous of going to it hoping to get some satisfactory intelligence
of his friends. Thither we bent our course, the old man serving as
a pilot. The next morning we anchored abreast of it. A number
of fishing boats hovered about the vessel but kept aloof till two of
the Manderine's servants were sent to them in a small prow. They
then came to the number of 14 or 15. Our Mandarine sent a
message to the chief of the village by them. The people in these
boats were stout, personable men and had not the least appearance
of want amongst them. Every boat was well furnished with bows
and arrows, swords and lances. In the afternoon the Mandarine of
the village sent his compliments to our Mandarine with a present of
fish and beetle and apologized for not waiting upon him in person
on account of his being much indisposed. Our Mandarine appeared
so well satisfied that he resolved to go on shore. Next morning,
myself and the other gentlemen promising to attend him; having sent
the Mandarine of the village notice of our intentions early in the
morning, some boats came from the shore to conduct us to the
landing place. Our Mandarine's servants who went on shore the
evening before and staid all night came with them and gave their
master a favourable account of the inhabitants. They also brought
on board with them a man who had formerly served as a soldier
under the Mandarine's command. He seemed transported with joy
on recognising his old master. After breakfast we set out, the soldier
sitting at the Mandarine's feet, and during our passage towards the
shore he recounted to his master the particulars of Ignaac's successes,
the King's death; and how the people of this district had repulsed
the rebel fleet. He acquainted him that the King's brother, whom
they called Antoine,44 dissatisfied with his wife, and the restraint he
was kept under, had found means to escape from lgnaac and was
gone in arms with a considerable force into Benthoan.45 Yet before
the boat reached the shore our Mandarine was seized with a panic
which I never could learn the real cause of, and desired me in a
little broken Portuguese to put about and return to the vessel.
Unable to conceive his motives, his own servants assuring me there
was no cause of apprehension, we continued our course till the
pinnace came into shallow water and could proceed no further. Here
we were preparing to get into a country boat when the Mandarine
caught hold of my clothes earnestly intreating me to desist, crying out
Tyson , Tyson ,46 which is the name the adherents of lgnaac go by
44. By Antoine most probably is meant Prince Duong, the Nguyen pretender
who escaped from Van-Nhac's control in 1776. He was a nephew, not a
brother, of the late King, by whom Chapman must mean Dinh-vuong. He
was killed in 1777 (see above, note 42).
45. Berland, op. cit., p. 24, suggests that by Benthoan is meant Ben Dinh, a
fishing village near one of the mouths of the Mekong.
46. Tay-son.


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Missions to Cochin China

in the country. Mr. Moniz, seeing this, offered to go on shore to

learn who the people really were. Mr. Bayard accompanied him;
they soon came back with the principal Mandarine of the village.
He came into our boat and invited our Mandarine on shore, the
soldier offering to remain as an hostage and to forfeit his head if
any harm befell him. All was insufficient to remove his fears, he
still cried out louder than ever to put back. Finding his timidity
not to be overcome, I asked the Mandarine of the village to go with
us to see our vessel. He did not hesitate. After he had been on
board a short time he complained of being very sick, and he really
looked so. I therefore dismissed him, first making him a small
What to do, or whither to go I was now at a loss. If I
determined to avoid every place in the hands of the enemies or
suspected enemies of our Mandarines I was at once excluded from
the whole country and nothing remained but to return without further
loss of time to Calcutta. Unwilling, however, or, indeed, rather
ashamed to leave Cochin China almost as totally uninformed as
when I sailed from Bengal, I resolved at all events to prosecute my
voyage as far as the Bay of Turon and eventually even to make a
visit to the Court of lgnaac. I was the more induced to this on
account of the dispute which had arisen between some of his people
and those of an English ship the year before in Turon Harbour, the
particulars of which I was not well informed of when I left Bengal.
With these resolutions I left the village of Huttien desiring the
Captain to stop at any remarkable places upon the coast. We
continued our course along shore 6 or 7 days till we anchored at a
fishing village near Pulo Gambir de Terre,47 to enquire for water and
other refreshments which we began to want. The inhabitants civilly
showed us the only well they had, the water being brackish. We were
told that better might be procured at Quinion48 with every other kind
of fresh provision. The fishermen offering to pilot us, we got under
way for that place. No sooner did our Mandarine learn that we
designed to touch at Quinion than he rushed from his cabin and
threw himself upon the ground apparently in the most violent agony.
When this subsided and he became calm enough to tell me the reason
of his being so afflicted I learnt that Quinion was the province in
which lgnaac resided, and that the harbour we were going to, known
by the same name, was the rendezvous of his fleet. Upon enquiring
of our pilot I found this true. It did not however hinder me from
proceeding. We wanted water and other refreshments and this was
the only place likely to procure any good. Besides, I knew that the
greatest part of lgnaac* s force was to the southward at Donai and I
was informed that there were some Macao vessels at Quinion. I
therefore pacified the Mandarine as well as I could and assured him
that he was perfectly safe while he staid in the vessel which must
be taken sword in hand before I would suffer any injury to be done
to him. We continued our course and the 13th of July we anchored
47. Berland, op. cit., p. 25, suggests Pulo Ccir de Terre, a little to the south
of Cape Padaran.
48. Quinon = Qui-nhon.


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Alastair Lamb

in the Bay.* The coast, in many places highly cultivated, had now a
most delightful appearance, the lowlands planted with paddy and the
hills with pepper to their very tops.
Here we found two Portuguese snows, and the supercargo of one
of them coming on board a little before we anchored, I understood
from him that we had nothing to fear; on the contrary that Ignaac
himself was exceedingly alarmed at our arrival and would be well
satisfied to find that we had no hostile designs against him which he
was in dread of from what had happened last year at Turon. This
dispute I found arose from the rebels attacking and taking a boat
conveying military stores from an English ship to the royal party. I
also learnt that, the King's party having received a signal defeat while
the ship lay in the harbour, the Mandarines fled on board for
protection and induced the Commander to carry them to Donai by
promising to indemnify him for this loss when he arrived there. How
they came to be disappointed and brought to Bengal I have before
related.49 As soon as we anchored, I sent a young man who served
me as a writer on shore with my compliments to the Mandarine in
charge of the port to acquaint him that the vessel belonged to the
English Government of Bengal and that our business in Cochin China
was to settle a friendly intercourse and commerce between the two
countries. In the evening he returned with a very civil answer from
the Mandarine purporting that he should immediately send notice of
our arrival to the King ( Ignaac ) and that in the meantime we were
welcome to furnish ourselves with water and all other refreshments
the place afforded. The next day the Mandarine himself came on
board and brought me a present of a hog. Ever after this, while we
staid, he was no unfrequent guest but came almost daily and took a
cheerful glass of wine which he was so polite as to allow was better
than any he could procure in Cochin China. He was a jolly old man
of between 50 and 60. By his desire I sent my writer on shore to go
with him to the King's brother who lived near, to whom I sent a
present of a piece of muslin, two pieces of chintz and some bottles
of liquor. On his return he acquainted me that he had been
graciously received and assured me that the King was exceedingly
well disposed towards the English and would not fail to treat me
with the most honorable distinction. He said also that the King's
son-in-law who was his Prime Minister would come down to see
me in a few days.
He accordingly arrived the 16th [of July] and the next morning,
having received an invitation, I landed to make him a visit. We

* Quinion or Chinchn Bay is an excellent harbour where vessels may be per-

fectly sheltered from every wind. The entrance is very narrow and the want
of a sufficient depth must oblige ships of large burthen to wait till high water
to go in. It is situated in Lat. 13 52' North.
49. The reference here is to the visit to Tourane of the Rumbold in 1777. The
final defeat of the Nguyen party in Tourane, from Chapman's account,
must have taken place just after the departure of the Diligente and the
Lauriston. It is intriguing to speculate whether, had these two French
vessels remained a little longer in Tourane Bay, they would have had the
opportunity to offer passage to the Mandarins, and thus would have pre-
vented the British from obtaining that opportunity which led to the Chap-
man mission. See pp. 20-21 above.


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were met on the beach by the Mandarine of the Port who conducted
us to a large straw shed which he informed me was his house, where
his Highness was waiting to receive us. On each side of the entrance
were drawn up twelve of his guards dressed in blue linen and a kind
of helmet upon their heads made either of leather or of paper lackered
over and ornamented with flowers and devices of black tin, as were
the hilts and scabords of their swords, so that they made a regular, if
not a martial appearance. On our entrance we found a young man
of a pleasing aspect seated cross legged upon a bench, or rather a
low table. He rose on my approach and pointed to some chairs which
were placed on each side of him for our accommodation. After a
few ordinary questions on his side, as whence we came, what had
brought us to Cochin China, how long we had been on our passage
& c., I acquainted him I was a servant to the English Government in
Bengal to which the vessel I came in belonged, and yet it was not a
merchant vessel; that my business in Cochin China was to settle a
friendly intercourse and commerce between the two countries which
I had no doubt would be for the advantage of both. I then desired to
know whether he was authorised to inform me upon what conditions
such commerce could be carried on to the ports in their possession.
Instead of answering me, he desired to know what presents I had
brought for the King and whether I intended to go to Court. I told
him I would go if the King sent me an invitation, and carry such
presents with me as I hoped would be acceptable. I presented him
with a pair of neat pistols and some pieces of cloth & c.. I could now
get him to talk of nothing but presents. Before we parted I applied
to him for the use of a straw hut near the watering place. He told
me he was not authorised to grant it. He then informed me he should
return to Court the next day, and invited me to accompany him. I
begged to be excused, as I wished, before I set out, to receive an
invitation from the King. He appeared rather hurt at this, fearing I
suspected he had not authority to invite me. I observed that his
refusal of so mere a trifle as a hut to live in which I offered to pay for
was almost sufficient to make me doubt it. Soon after I took my leave
when he assured me he would desire his father to send me an invitation
without delay; and as for a house, I might take any one I chose in
the place.
Three days after I received a formal written invitation and safe
conduct from Ignaac. It was brought on board with great ceremony
by several Mandarines. They desired the Colours might be hoisted
on the occasion, an umbrella exalted to open it under, and that I would
stand up to receive it. All these requisitions being most respectfully
complied with, it was opened, read and presented to me. The
Mandarines did not fail hinting to me how exceedingly happy the
bearers of this distinguishing mark of the royal favour would be to
receive some token of acknowledgment for their trouble. Having
treated them with a desert of wine and sweetmeats, I dismissed them
satisfied, first settling with the port Mandarine to be on shore next
morning, sleep at his house and set off the following morning for the
royal residence. He engaged to have a palanquin ready for me,
horses for the two gentlemen and my writer, who were to be of the
party, and coolies to carry the King's present and our own necessaries.


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Alastair Lamb

When this invitation was explained to me I was much surprised to

find that his Majesty should think it incumbent on him to account to me
how he became possessed of his present dignity. It began by setting
forth "that the late King of Cochin China and his Ministers having
by their oppression starved the people, it has pleased God to make
him the instrument of their deliverance and to raise him to the
Throne & c.. Our poor unfortunate Mandarine, who was now on board
incog., and the better to conceal himself dressed in an English dress,
his beard shaved, his teeth cleaned and, what distressed him most of
all, his nails reduced three or four inches, desiring to see the paper
told me with tears in his eyes that the seal affixed was the ancient
seal of the Kings of Cochin China, which the villainous possessor had
stolen; that the reasons he assigned for seizing the Government were
false, for that he alone was the sole author of the calamities his
country had and still experienced. He conjured me not to trust myself
in his power for I should never return. Indeed, there was reason to
believe from what I heard afterwards, we should not have got away
so easily as we did if he had known we had a relation of the royal
family on board.
Pursuant to my agreement, however, with the Mandarine, we went
ashore the 22nd July in the evening. He, together with several others,
received us upon the beach and conducted us to his house. When it
grew dark we were entertained with a set of dancing women. These
ladies differed little in their performance from those of Indostan,
excepting that they had rather less action. The music consisted of a
kind of pipe and tabor castinets and an humble imitation of the violin
to that we have in India. At the commencement of this entertainment
the Mandarine brought us a few bundles of sapadas;* and told us
whenever we approved any of the songs to throw them to the
performers. This was to arouse us to a liberality in which I shrewdly
conjecture he himself was to come in for a principal share. It had
the effect and drew from us to the amount of eighteen or twenty
dollars. About ten we retired to supper upon our own provisions; for
the Cochin Chinese are no longer interested, or rather no longer able, to
treat in that hospitable manner for which they are so celebrated in the
writings of some travellers I have read. Mats and cots were provided
for our repose. Upon them we spread our beds and after supper I
enjoyed a comfortable sleep. We rose about 4 in the morning hoping to
begin our march before sunrise, but it was not till half past eight that our
horses and coolies were ready to depart. Fortunately for my companions
who rode, the whole day proved cloudy. As for myself I travelled
much at my ease in a silken net extended at each end by a piece of
ivory about 20 inches long, through several small holes in which
passed the threads it was woven with, which being collected together
formed a loop by which it was suspended to a pole in the form of
a hammock. Over the pole was a pinjaree of fine mats covered

*A sapacia is a small coin made of a mixture of lead and copper with a hole
through the middle of it. 600 strung upon a cord make a quan and 5 quans
a Spanish Dollar. The price however varies; in some places, they will give
6 quans for the Dollar, in others only 3J. [See p. 194 below, note, for
details of Vietnamese currency.]


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with painted paper. I really experienced this to be a very com-

modious way of travelling, preferable in some respects even to a
palanquin. It requires but two bearers, for with that number I
compute I was carried 15 miles in the day without changing. It was
much cooler than the bed used in a palanquin and, the net affording
an equal support to every part of the bcxiy in whatsoever position
you lie, prevents that wearing you are liable to in the other. Our
route at first lay along the banks of a considerable river till we
entered a well cultivated valley which appeared encompassed on all
sides with high mountains. In this valley we passed through three or
four pretty villages pleasantly situated in which as well as on other
parts of the road were public houses where country tea (most vile),
fruits and other refreshment are sold to travellers. At noon we
alighted at one of them where a dinner was soon prepared for the
Mandarine who accompanied us. We partook of it and paid for it.
It consisted of fowls cut in small pieces, dressed up with a little greens
and salt, some fish and tea. We left this village about 4 in the
afternoon, and in the dusk of the evening reached another which we
were told was within an hours ride of the King's residence; but the
Mandarine recommended to us to stay here for the night as we
should be too late to get admittance into the Fort. Our servants and
baggage not being come up we readily consented. A cold fowl and
piece of salt beef we had brought with us made a comfortable supper,
but, a fire breaking out near us, the cracking of the bamboos and
cries of the people endeavouring to extinguish it proved quite unfavour-
able to our repose.
Early in the morning we pursued our journey along a bad road
through paddy fields, and passed several ill-constructed bridges. About
eight o'clock we came in sight of the Fort his Majesty resided in.
The east front, by a gate of which we entered, extended about three
quarters of a mile; and was merely a straight stone wall, in many
places much out of repair, without guns, embrazures, flanking towers
or any other requisite to make it a place of strength. It is sufficient,
however, for the purposes of its possessor; I was informed it was a
square and that the other sides correspond with the one we entered at.
When we came to the gate we were made to wait half an hour in a
hovel. The gate and wall were entirely without guards and the ground
within laid out in paddy fields. Our conductors were at some trouble
to persuade me to alight from my palanquin and the gentlemen
with me from their horses; but, understanding we had some distance
to go, we insisted on retaining them and we prevailed. Proceeding
on about ' mile, we alighted at the house of the King's son-in-law.
He expressed himself exceedingly glad to see us; we sat with him
about half an hour and were treated with a little beetle. He then
conducted us to a tolerable house near his own which he acquainted
us was alloted for our residence and belonged to him. He requested
to see what we had brought for the King, which we shewed him;
afterwards he took his leave desiring we would repose ourselves for
that day and recover from the fatigues of our journey. The King,
he said, would grant us an audience next morning. In regard to
provisions we were obliged to shift for ourselves and a bad meal
we were likely to make. A man who offered to be our provider

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Alastair Lamb

Fig. 2. A village scene in Cochin China: the game of shuttlecock. (W. Alexander in
Staunton, op. cit., Atlas of Plates).


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Missions to Cochin China

furnished us with a fowl, a duck and some greens. He had the

assurance to say that this was all he could procure for five dollars
that had been advanced him, and to avoid disputing the point he
got out of the way. By six o'clock next morning a message was brought
us that His Majesty was ready to receive us, but, this being so much
earlier than we expected to be summoned, we were obliged to keep
His Majesty waiting for at least half an hour while we dressed. We
then attended our conductor for near a mile till we came in sight
of the palace from an eminence. Here we were desired to dismiss
all our attendants, not so much as a boy with an umbrella being
allowed to follow us, and to leave our swords as they assured us it was
never permitted anybody to enter into the presence with arms. The
preliminaries adjusted, we advanced towards the palace. In the
front were drawn up two ranks of men consisting of an hundred
each with spears, pikes, halberds & c. of various fashions with some
banners flying and from within appeared the muzzles of two long
brass cannon. In the middle of a gravelled terrace in front of the palace
was laid the presents I brought. As soon as we ascended this terrace
the Mandarine our conductor told us to make our obeisance in the
same manner he did, which consisted in prostrating himself three
times with his forehead to the ground. This mode of salutation,
however, appearing to us rather too humiliating, we contented our-
selves with making as many bows after the English fashion. We
mounted half a dozen steps to the apartment his Majesty and his
Court were assembled in. It was open in the front and at the sides,
the roof tiled and constructed after the Cochin Chinese fashion sup-
ported by fine wooden pillars the back part wainscotted; against this
was placed the throne which rose two or three steps above the floor
of the apartment, and upon the eminence stood an arm-chair, painted
red and ornamented with the gilded heads of dragons, in which the
King sat, having before him a small table covered with a red silk
cushion wrought with gold flowers for him to lean on. On each
side of the throne was also placed a chair. In one was seated his
brother, the other was empty and as I understood belonged to another
brother who was then absent at Donai. Several rows of benches were
behind these, and upon them were seated the Mandarines according
to their rank. The King was clothed in a robe of silk of a deep
yellow upon which dragons and other figures were wrought in gold;
upon his head he wore a kind of close cap turned up behind, the
front ornamented with some jewels and on the top of it was a large
red stone through which passed a wire raising it a few inches. It
shook and sparkled as he moved himself. The Mandarines were
many of them clad in gowns of silk of different colours adorned with
dragons and their caps with flowers of gold or gilt. Round their
waists they wore girdles some of which were covered with scarlet
broad cloth fastened with clasps of gold and decorated with cornelian
stones set in the same metal. Upon the whole, the appearance was
a fine one, and, altho' the scene wanted many of the requisites which
constitute grandeur and magnificance amongst other Eastern Princes, as
a profusion of jewels, carpets attendants & c., the regularity and decorum
observed here presented one with some adequate ideas of a powerful
sovereign surrounded by his Court. Behind the whole, farthest from


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Alastair Lamb

the throne, was placed a bench for me and my companions. This

I, however, objected to, conceiving that both as an ambassador (in
that character I at least appeared there), and a stranger, I had a right
to a more honorable one, and also that it would be very inconvenient
for addressing myself to the King or hearing what he said. As soon
as he understood this he desired me to come forward to the front
bench and we were seated next to his son-in-law.
I then through the interpreter addressed myself to the King
telling him that "I was a servant to the English Government in Bengal
from whence I had been deputed to settle a commercial and friendly
intercourse with inhabitants of Cochin China". He said "that the
fame of the English exploits at sea had reached him and that he had
heard they exceeded all other nations in the number of their ships
and excelled in the management of them. But they made an ill
use of the advantage, for he had also been informed that they indis-
criminately attacked and plundered whatsoever vessels they met
with. That he was very willing to permit the English to trade to
his ports and hoped that they in return would not molest his gallies,
boats, or other vessels." I replied "that the first part of his information
respecting the power of the English by sea was strictly true but the
latter was absolutely false and must have been insinuated to him by
those who were jealous of our prosperity and wished to give him an
unfavourable and unjust opinion of us; that the English were at the
present time at peace with all foreign nations and that their ships
resorted to almost all the parts in the known world where their
merchants were renowned for their probity and the fairness of their
dealings". He then desired the interpreter to acquaint me that the
English might trade to his ports in the same manner as the Portuguese
did. Upon this I begged leave to observe that the English would
be ready to pay all the just duties of his government, but as I had
been informed that the Portuguese and others trading to Cochin
China were subjected to many obstructions and delays in carrying
on their business (by reason of these duties being undefined which
sometimes involved them in disputes with the Mandarines and officers
of government), I wished, in order to avoid such disagreeable cir-
cumstances, that in lieu of the various presents, anchorage & c. required
from the Portuguese, some specific payment might be agreed on either
by way of duty or otherwise as His Majesty might judge proper".
After he had taken a short time to consult with the Mandarines about
him, he replied that he had considered my representation and to show
how willing he was to settle everything to our satisfaction he proposed
that every three masted vessel for the liberty of trading a whole season
in Cochin China should pay 10,000 quans (they allowed us five quans
for a Spanish Dollar); that large two masted ones should pay seven
thousand and smaller ones four thousand. I urged to him that
"these were large sums which I was afraid would deter any merchants
from sending their vessels, that I therefore hoped he would lower
them something as an encouragement". It was at length settled that
for vessels of three masts seven thousand quans should be paid, of
two masts four thousand, and smaller ones two thousand. He now
desired to know whether and upon what terms I would assist him


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with the vessels I had under my orders against his enemies. I told
him "I had no authority to act offensively or to interfere in the disputes
subsisting in the country, and I requested to know the reason of his
putting to death some persons left in the country the preceeding year".
He said that this circumstance had happened at Turon where one
of his Mandarines commanded, that he himself was not thoroughly
informed of the matter but understood the persons I mentioned to
have been killed fighting against his people. His Majesty then withdrew
and I was acquainted that he expected some further conversation
with me at his private house.
We accordingly followed him. This house we were informed
was the residence of his family, the one we left being entirely appro-
priated to the assembling of the Council, receiving Ambassadors and
to other public services. Round it was a bamboo fence through which
we entered by a gate leading to a spacious court and crossing this
we ascended by three steps to a large hall open in the front and
furnished with small screens to keep off the weather. In the back
part of this apartment, within a smaller one whose front was also
open to the hall, divested of his robes and cap of state, and having
on a plain silk jacket buttoned with small diamonds and a piece of
red silk wrapped round his head in the form of a turban, His Majesty
was sitting to receive us there. Our conversation was without
constraint and general. He began it with repeating his good intentions
towards us and assuring me how desirous he was of connecting himself
with the English; that altho' to save appearances before his Council
he had mentioned a sum of money to be paid by our ships for the
liberty of trading, yet to procure the friendship of the English nation
he would never exact it from them but would show them every
indulgence in his power. He enumerated the articles produced in this
country as pepper, cardemons, cinnamon, agula wood, elephants teeth,
tin and many others which he said the ignorance of the inhabitants
prevented them from making the most of, and that for this reason as
well as for instructing his people in the art of war he earnestly desired
that the Governor of Bengal would send him a capable person. He
said the country, owing to the late commotions in it, was in some
confusion which he should apply himself to settle.
He was then pleased to disclose some of his future designs to
me. They were no less than to subdue the Kingdom of Cambodia
with the whole peninsula as far as Siam, and the Provinces belonging
to Cochin China to the north now in the hands of the Tonquinese. To
effect these (and indeed it would be requisite) he wished much for
the assistance of some English vessels, in recompense for which he
would make them such grants of land for settlement as they might
think proper. He concluded with saying how ready he should be
to do anything to satisfy the English if they would assist him and
secure to him and his family the Government of Cochin China.
I promised him faithfully to report what he had said to the
Governor-General in Bengal. The rest of our conversation was of
little moment. He particularly desired amongst other articles that
I would procure a horse to be sent him, cost what it would, by the
first vessel to Cochin China, of a gray colour and with fine sharp


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Alastair Lamb

pointed ears. After being treated with tea and beetle we took our
leave. In the evening he sent me three papers; one, sealed with the
great seal of the Kingdom, set both the conditions upon which English
ships were to trade to his dominions and his desire of having some
person sent to him capable of instructing his subjects in the military
science; the other two were sealed with a smaller seal, one described
the horse & c., the other contained his licence for visiting any of his
ports. The latter I had requested of him in order to go in search
of the little vessel that came in company with us and had been
separated from us a few nights before we arrived at Quinion. I
supposed the commander had proceeded to Turon. The next morning
we set out on our return to the vessel, the King's son-in-law furnishing
us with horses and coolies for which I paid him thirty dollars. Those
which came with us he said had dispersed, he knew not whither.
Before we set out I sent a message to the King to acquaint him that as
I had made him a handsome present, I expected he would send one
to the Governor General of Bengal which I would call for on my
way back from Turon. He returned me for answer that he would
most willingly. We reached Quinion the same day ( the 26th July)
and in two days after sailed for Turon. Our poor Mandarine, and
indeed all on board the vessel to whom he had in some measure
communicated his apprehensions for us, were exceedingly rejoiced at
our safe return. Upon the road coming from the Court we were
passed by his Majesty who was going, on account of some bad news
from his fleet at Donai, to perform a sacrifice at a Temple situated in
the Bay our vessels lay in. He traveled in one of the net palanquins I
have before described, distinguished by its being red, which colour no
subject is allowed to use in dress or equipage. We afterwards saw
him from the deck cross the river and land at the Temple. He was
in a covered boat attended by five or six gallies and about two hundred
men. The ceremony I was informed chiefly consisted in bowing his
head to the ground before the idols and sacrificing a buffalo; I made
application to be present at it, but it did not succeed.
One might be led to imagine from the conversation I had with this
rebel that he was possessed of resources in some degree adequate to his
ambition, and that amongst the nations around him he might blaze
into a meteor as baneful and as transitory as a Nadir .50 In the rise
of their fortunes there may be traced a remarkable concurrence of
circumstances : like the Persian, he was the commander of a small
fortress in a strong situation from whence he sallied and made a prey
of the unwary; like him he grew into consequence at about the same
age, and under the pretence of supporting his sovereign made himself
master of the throne; like him he declared himself the avenger of the
wrongs of his country and became a tyrant more odious and destructive
than it had ever before experienced; and like him it is not improbable
he may finish his career, at least it will be a reward best proportionable
to his merits. Happily, however, there is the appearance of some
insuperable barriers which promise to confine his future deeds to the
scene he is now acting in. Ignaac himself is allowed to have abilities,
but these are ill seconded by the Mandarines who govern under him.
50. Nader Shah, the Persian ruler who captured Delhi in 1739.


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Fig. 3. Boats on the Fai-fo River. (From W. Alexander, as printed by Pinkerton).

They are all low illiterate men chosen from amongst the inhabitants of
his native village of Tyson who, as soon as they have got into power,
have been remarkable only for their perfidy, cruelty and extortion, and
if at a distance barely acknowledge a dependence on the hand that
raised them. Famine and its attendant pestilence have distroyed one
half of the inhabitants of the country. Shocking are the accounts of
the methods taken by the remainder to preserve a miserable existence.
At Hue, the Capital, though in possession of the Tonquinese and better
supplied than any other place, human flesh was publicly sold in the
market. The country is almost drained of gold and silver*, part, on
* At least apparently so. Padre Loreiro, as I am informed by a gentleman
who conversed with him on the subject at Canton, is of a different opinion
and says there are vast sums concealed. He should be better informed than
me. The Portuguese in speaking of Cochin China constantly compare it to
the Brazils.


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Alastair Lamb

breaking out of the troubles, was plundered and carried away by

the Tonquinese and Chinese. The remainder, since the great neglect
of cultivating the lands and the distruction of manufactures, is daily
decreasing by sums sent to China in return for the common necessaries
of life supplied from thence at an exorbitant price by the junks. The
force of lgnaac by land is very inconsiderable and so deficient in the
art military that I may safely aver a hundred disciplined men would
rout his whole army. His marine force, consisting of a few gallies
and three or four junks seized from the Chinese, is almost as despicable,
and in this his main dependence. He met with a severe loss which I
was in the country by the secession of one half of it on a dispute
arising between his brother and one of the principal commanders
under him.
Finally, his government is held in the utmost detestation; yet the
spirits of the people are so broken by the various calamities they have
been afflicted with that they want courage to resist it effectually.
Many of his soldiers and almost all principal people I met with
openly declared to me and to those with me how reluctantly they
submit and expressed their wishes that the English would take them
under their protection, assuring us that upon the least appearance of
a force the whole country would fly to join them; but more of this in its
proper place.
Thus circumstanced, I think there is little probability of his
executing the projects he mentioned at our conference. I rather con-
clude while the Tonquinese possess the finest provinces to the north-
ward, with an old claim to the whole country*, and his attempts are
baffled upon Donai, that he has more reason to dread the loss of his

* After the great revolution which made the Tartars master of the Empire of
China, the western provinces threw off their allegiance and were formed into
a kingdom under a prince, whose descendant now reigns at Tonquin. A
colony from thence about the beginning, of the 15th century possessed
themselves of Cochin China, having driven the original inhabitants back to
the mountains, and after long and bloody struggles with the Tonquinese, who
still consider them as rebels, became independent.
[The Le Dynasty acquired control over Vietnam in 1427 after a rebellion
against the Chinese. In the 16th century it became little more than a line
of faineant kings, and the real power passed into the hands of the feudal
chiefs of the Trinh Dynasty. In the early 17th century the Trinh lost control
of Annam to the Nguyen Dynasty but remained masters of Tonkin. For the
greater part of the 17th century the Trinh tried to dispossess the Nguyen,
but with no success, and by the end of the century an uneasy truce existed
between the two dynasties. In 1774, taking advantage of the Tay-son troubles,
the Trinh renewed their attack on Nguyen territory and occupied Hu, the
traditional Nguyen capital.
In 1786, after the Tay-son leader Van-Hue, Van-Nhac's younger brother,
had defeated the Trinh and occupied much of Tonkin, the Le attempted with
Chinese aid to reassert their ancient supremacy. The outcome was a
decisive victory by Van-Hue and the flight of the last of the Le line to a
Chinese exile. Van-Hue assumed the imperial title which had once been that
of the Le, taking the regnal name Quang-trung, and he was confirmed in this
by the Chinese Emperor in 1790. See also Chapman's note, p. 61 below.
Chapman, in this note, also refers to the southwards march of the
Vietnamese at the expense of the Chams. The Vietnamese crossed the Col
des Nuages into Quang-nam Province in the 15th century, and thereafter
moved steadily down towards the Mekong delta. The process is well
illustrated in Map 16 in Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., p. 530.]


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present possessions than to flatter himself with the hope of future

About two degrees to the North of Quinion lies an island called
Pulo Canton, and between thirty and forty minutes north of this
another named Pulo Campella. The latter possesses a convenient
place for ships to anchor in and other advantages, which induced the
French some years ago to send a vessel with a letter from the King,
accompanied by rich presents, offering to purchase it from the
Government of Cochin China. The offer was, however, wisely refused.
I believe it would now be at the service of any nation who would be
at the trouble of taking possession of it.50a Upon the continent, opposite
to this island, is the entrance of a river by which the junks go up to
Faifo, and there is a branch of it which falls into the harbour of
We anchored in Turon Bay the second of August , and found here
four Macao vessels; a few days after they were joined by another.
There had also been a small Spanish snow trading upon the coast
this season. The Portuguese of Macao buy up the refuse of the
Canton market, after the departure of the Europe and India ships,
which they hitherto disposed of in Cochin China to great advantage;
but this year they complained much of their losses and of the
impositions they had suffered. Having obtained the permission of
the Mandarine, I hired a tolerable house in the village of Turon.
It is built upon the banks of a river falling into the harbour to the
southeast, and communicates, as I before observed, with the river of
Faifo. There had been several large and good houses here, but
most of them were destroyed in the troubles. The banks of the
river were cultivated with rice, brinjalls,50b and some sweet potatoes.
The country farther back seemed entirely neglected, covered, however,
in several places with groves of oranges, limes, jacks, plantains, and
bamboos, in most of which were the remains of dwelling houses.
When I had been here three or four days the Mandarine who governs
the Province of Cham on the part of Ignaac came down the river
attended by four gallies rowing between forty and fifty oars each, and
landed at a house on the opposite side to where I lived. The same day
he sent to know when he should wait on me. I chose, however, to be
first to make this compliment and crossed the river in one of his
gallies for that purpose. He received me in great form, himself seated
upon a bench placed on an eminence, the lesser Mandarines and soldiers
to a considerable number ranged on each side of him. I presented
to him the passport I had received from the King, which he respect-
fully stood up to hear read, and then welcomed me to Turon. This was
the Mandarine with whom the dispute had happened the preceding
year; I begged therefore he would inform me how it had arisen and
the cause of his severity to the people who had fallen into his hands.
He replied that the commander of the English ship had been prevailed
on by some Mandarines of the former government then in arms at
Turon to assist them with men and arms, and that the ships boat

50a. The Poivre mission.

50b. Brinjall or Brinjaul is the egg-plant. Yule, Burnell, op. cit., pp. 86-87.


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Alastair Lamb

being sent up the river with them had been attacked by his people and
taken; that some of the crew were killed, some jumped into the river,
and were drowned, and some fled to the woods where they perished
with hunger. He then gave me a licence for trading, strictly enjoining
all persons to pay for what they purchased, and in no wise to molest
or ill treat us or our attendants upon pain of being severely punished.
The misfortune was we could not find anybody capable of purchasing
in the Province. After he had given me an invitation to visit him
at Faifo, I took my leave. He returned the same night.
The thirteenth [of August] I set out for Faifo in a small galley
provided by the Mandarine of Turon. We left the village between
six and seven in the evening and reached Faifo about nine o'clock
the next morning. It was a pleasant serene night, the water perfectly
smooth, no noise to be heard but the regular strokes of our oars and
a song not destitute of harmony from the rowers. Listening to
this and chatting amongst ourselves we gradually fell asleep, and
when we were awakened at the places the galley stopped at, to give
an account of who we were, it was only to be returned to a like
pleasing repose. On one of these occasions we were not a little alarmed
when on opening our eyes we found ourselves under a high mountain
part of which impended over the river, and it seemed ready to tumble
and bury us under its ruins; returning by day we found this place
really curious. It was a large mountain of white marble situated
on a low plain close to the water-side unconnected with any of the
distant hills. We could perceive several cracks and holes in the body
of the mountain and round it were lying some vast fragments which
we concluded to have been separated from it. The eye in wandering
over it presented the fancy with the ideas of pillars, houses, towers
& c., near it were a few huts inhabited by stone cutters. I did not
see any other specimens of their ingenuity than pestles and mortars of
different sizes; probably the marble was formerly applied to a more
extensive use. On arriving at Faifo we were surprised to find the
recent ruins of a large city; the streets laid out on a regular plan
paved with flat stone and well built brick houses on each side. But,
alas, there was now little more remaining than the outward walls
within which, in a few places, you might behold a wretch who formerly
was the possessor of a palace sheltering himself from the weather
in a miserable hut of straw and bamboos. Of the few edifices left
standing was a wooden bridge built upon piles over a narrow arm
of the river with a tiled roof. The temples and their wooden gods
were no further molested than in being robbed of their bells which
I understand the present usurper had seized for the purpose of
coining them into money. After refreshing ourselves at Faifo, I
set out for the Mandarine's residence which I reached in about five
hours. The course of the river from Turon to Faifo was a little to
the eastward of south. It now seemed to spread all over the country
in a great numbef of branches. Near his house was a very populous
village where I procured some pineapples and jacks [jack-fruit] both
excellent in their kind. Over the river in this place, about fifty yards
broad, was a floating bridge of bamboo hurdles. Here I was obliged
to leave the galley and proceed by land in my net for about two


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Missions to Cochin China

miles through paddy fields. The Mandarine's house, like several

others I saw, was within an enclosure formed by driving strong stakes
into the ground intermixed with bamboos growing, and for some
distance round it short pointed bamboos were driven obliquely into
the ground as if designed to keep off cavalry. Several good chevaux
de frise were lying about in different places. The house was spacious,
partly consisting of brick and partly of thatch and bamboo. He was
almost as well attended as his master Ignaac ; several of his people were
well dressed and had swords in their hands, the hilts and scabbards
ornamented with plates of beaten gold. My conversation with the
Mandarine was but short. I was informed that he was an illiterate
man and had the character of being cruel and oppressive. An
instance of cruelty and perfidy was related to me at Faifo - there
was a certain distant relation of the royal family who lived in disguise
in that part of Cochin China possessed by the Tonquinese with whom
this Mandarine had some acquaintance. He made it a pretence to
send him a pressing invitation to come and reside under his protection
with his family and dependants, not only assuring him of personal
security, but promising him his friendship. The poor man, deceived
by these specious professions of personal regard, set out with his wife,
his children and the rest of his family to a considerable number.
When he arrived in Turon Bay he procured an expeditious conveyance
to the Mandarine's residence, leaving his family to follow him in their
boats. He was received by the Mandarine apparently with the highest
marks of satisfaction and regard. They partook of a repast together
and when it was finished the Mandarine told him that his attendants
would conduct him to a house he had prepared for his reception, but
he had no sooner passed the threshold than he was seized by the
soldiers and had his head immediately severed from his body. To
conclude the scene as he had begun, he embarked on one of his
gallies to meet the family who were on their way up to town and as
soon as he had reached their boat he instantly caused the women and
children to be bound together and thrown into the river, seizing all
that they had brought with them for his own use. I was afterwards
assured that I ran the greatest risk in trusting myself in the power of
this man who no further obeyed the orders of Ignaac than they answered
his own purposes. This I had some suspicion of at our interview,
for the King having desired to have some articles which were in the
Jenny , I told him I would prevail on the Captain to deliver them
to his Mandarine at Turon if he would write to him to receive and
pay for them. I mentioned this circumstance and he acknowledged
the King had done so, but said if he made any purchases they would
be on his own account. Finding nothing to detain me in Faifo and,
indeed, not being altogether satisfied that we were secure there, I
stayed only one day and returned to the vessel. It was now the
fifteenth of August, to which time we had warm dry weather with a
few light showers, but the latter end of this month rain began to fall
frequently and heavy and the wind to blow strongly from the south.
On my arrival on board the Amazon I was visited by a Portuguese
merchant just come from Hue*, the capital of Cochin China. He
* Hue lies in Lat. 17. 30' North.


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Alastair Lamb

acquainted me that he was charged with a verbal invitation to me

from the Tonquinese Viceroy to proceed thither and to dispose of my
articles of trade we might have remaining. I have omited to mention
that I had dispatched my writer accompanied by Mr. Moniz, with a
letter to the Tonquinese Mandarine requesting this favor. He said it
had not been received when he came away, nor had the Mandarine
any intimation of my design of going, but had sent this invitation
entirely of his own accord. I determined therefore not to write for
an answer as the weather began to grow bad and the Portuguese
informed me I might procure any kind of refreshment there and pass
my time more agreeably than where I was till the season would admit
of my proceeding to the southward. Hearing that there was but a
very small depth of water upon the bar of Hue river, I proposed to
the Commander of the Jenny to go in his vessel, which might give
him an opportunity of disposing of his investment. He consented, and
leaving the Amazon in Turon Bay I embarked with Mr. Bayard the
eighteenth of August. The Doctor was so good as to remain with
Captain Maclennan who was dangerously ill. I prevailed with some
difficulty upon our Mandarine to accompany me. He alleged that he
was equally apprehensive of the Tonquinese and Tysons who were both
the declared enemies of his family. The Portuguese merchant, however,
acquainting me that the Tonquinese had never yet put any of the royal
family to death but suffered them to live unmolested in the country
provided they made no disturbances, I at last brought him to consent.
He was well known to the Portuguese to whom he voluntarily
discovered himself. I really believe that he had now contracted so
strong a relish for the European manner of living, that the utmost of
his ambition was to go back to Bengal. In our way up we anchored
in the Bay of Chimoy,51 which is the boundary of the Tonquinese
possessions. I was informed that grapes grew wild in the hills which
surrounded this Bay, but I never saw any myself. In the country here
I was met by my writer accompanied by a Mandarine with an answer
to my letter containing the permission of the Viceroy to proceed to
Hue, and to bring the vessel into the river if we found it practicable,
The Mandarine's name was On-ta-hia. He was the offspring of a
Chinese by marriage with a Tonquinese woman. By trading to
Canton he had acquired some knowledge of the mode practised by
the Europeans in conducting their commerce. He appeared to
approve highly of our opening a trade with Cochin China and to
have a view of procuring the management of it under the denomina-
tion of the Companies Merchant. I did not think it necessary to
discourage his expectation. In the course of our conversation he
took an occasion to abuse the government he was a member of, and
hinted if the English thought it an object, how easy it would be for
them to become masters of the country. The hook was too unskil-
fully covered for the bait to allure. I utterly and entirely disclaimed
any such intention. When we came to the entrance of the river, the
Mandarine stationed there came on board in a galley with a number
of soldiers and undertook to pilot the vessel in. She was, however,

51. Cape Choumay, half way between the Bay of Tourane and the mouth of
the Hu River.


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run aground and remained so in some danger until the following night
the tide rose here about six feet.
It was two days after the vessel anchored within the mouth of the
river ere I received permission to go up to town. A galley was then
sent to carry me. The distance from the place we lay at was about
fifteen miles. Towards the sea, the country was sandy and barren;
advancing, the scene gradually changed. The land put on every
appearance of fertility and we saw the husbandmen on the banks
busied in cultivation. Abreast of the town twenty-five Chinese junks
were at an anchor, innumerable country boats were passing and
repassing, and the shore was thronged with people. We landed at
On-ta-hias house. It was the resort of the Chinese, as his office
consisted in reporting the arrival of their junks and procuring them
their clearances when they were leaving the port. The next day he
carried me to the Tonquinese Viceroy. Before we set out On-ta-hia
decided to see what presents I designed for the Viceroy and what for
the General*. I showed them to him. He approved them but
advised me as a friend to reserve the best articles for the latter, giving
as a reason that the Viceroy was a good man who really meant to be
a friend to us, but that the favour of the General who was an Eunuch
and of bad character, was only to be purchased by sacrificing to his
avarice. I observed that I had heard from a like principle, they
offered the most costly perfumes to the evil being, while they totally
disregarded the supreme and benevolent one. He allowed the com-
parison to be just and supported the principle they acted upon. 1
requested him to select such things as would procure me a favorable
reception from this counterpart of the infernal one. He made choice
amongst others of a gold repeating watch set with a few small
diamonds and emeralds; I, however, took care to reserve an equivalent
which I hoped would sufficiently satisfy the respect I entertained for
the virtues of the Viceroy. He resided in the palace of the Kings of
Cochin China, six miles higher up the river than the town I landed at.
The Abb Raynalla informs us its circumference is a league and the
walls of it planted with thousands of cannons. This description is
certainly heightened. I visited it several times myself and a person
who accompanied me found an opportunity of examining the whole.
The fortification is an oblong square, the greater sides extending, as
near as I could guess, half a mile, the lesser, two thirds of that distance.
It is formed by a retaining wall behind which a rampart of earth ten
or eleven feet high was thrown up, with steps rising to a convenient
level for the discharge of missile weapons. It had no embrasures, the
guns being pointed through a kind of portholes, made in the bottom of
the retaining walls. The number mounted was about sixty, the largest
nine pounders. For six or eight feet without the wall, short pointed
bamboos from twelve to six inches long were driven obliquely into

* The second Mandarine, who had the command of the fleet and the army.
51a. Guillaume Thomas Francois Raynal (1713-1796), author of L'Histoire
philisophique et Politique des Etablissements et du Commerce des
Europens dans les deux Indes, 4 vols., Amsterdam 1770. An English
translation appeared in 1776, and it is probably to this that Chapman is
referring here.


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Alastair Lamb

the ground; beyond these was a ditch, eight feet wide and as many in
depth, fenced with bamboos growing which was succeeded by another
space with pointed ones driven in the ground, and the whole encom-
passed by a low checkered bamboo rail. The ground within the fort
was divided by a number of brick walls meeting at right angles and
forming squares; some were allotted to holding markets, others to
granaries, quarters for the soldiers, stables for elephants and horses.
The whole was much out of repair, the gates of communication were
mostly down and the walls falling.
The palace deserved the name of a good lower-roomed house.
A terrace thrown up about six feet formal the floor; fine polished
pillars of wood with stone pedestals supported the beams and rafters
upon which the tiled roofs of the different compartments were laid.
Illese were without ceilings. The capitals of the pillars, the beams
and rafters were ornamented with carved work. The buildings were
laid out in spacious verandahs and private rooms, generally wainscotted
up in the center where the roof was highest and admitted of making
lofts above them. Their furniture consisted of very few movables,
mats spread upon the floor with hard cushions, great silken lanthorns
painted in different colours suspended from the roofs, with some frames
hung up against the pillars containing sentences written in large
characters, composed the whole. In one of the verandahs I was
introduced to the Viceroy. I found him swinging in a net hammock
extended between one of the pillars and the wainscot of the inner
apartments. He was a venerable old man about sixty years of age,
with a thin silver beard, of most engaging manners. His dress was
plain and simple like the rest of the Tonquinese, consisting of a loose
gown of black glazed linen with large sleeves, a black silk cap on his
head stiffened into a particular form, and sandals on his feet. The
cordiality which he received us with, and to the last apparently
preserved towards us, still inclines me to acquit him of being voluntarily
the author of the unmerited ill treatment we afterwards experienced.
He himself and others often hinted to me that although the first in
rank, he was subject to the control of his colleagues. I acquainted him
with my business in Cochin China, much in the same terms I had
made use of to Ignaac , adding that the high character given of his own
personal virtues and the lenity and humanity I had heard the
Tonquinese had shewn to their vanquished enemies, had inspired me
with so strong a desire of making him a visit and forming a connection
with so deserving a people that soon after my arrival at Turon I was
induced to apply for his permission to come up to the Capital. The
voluntary invitation he had sent me by the Portuguese previous to the
receipt of my letter, I assured him, enhanced the obligation I was
under to him, and that I would study to deserve so high a mark of his
favor. I then requested he would receive the present I had brought as
a small token of my respect. Pleasure seemed to dance in the old
gentleman's eyes at the few little compliments I made him. He
descended from his net and seated himself upon the ground nearer
to us. The linguist told me that he seized every opportunity the
intervals in my address allowed him of making a favourable comparison
to the Mandarines about him of our manners and deportment with


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Missions to Cochin China

those of other Europeans that had hitherto fallen under his notice.
He desired the linguist to assure me of a hearty welcome at the seat
of his Government. He admired the presents I brought him, but
lamented that I should think it a necessary part of my introduction to
him. He approved, he said, of my proposal to form a commercial
intercourse with his nation, and would promote it all in his power. To
encourage us to prosecute the design he remitted the payment of
anchorage and all duties whatsoever on account of the vessel in the
river. He requested to be furnished with a list of the articles on board,
some of which he said he would purchase himself, the remainder the
Commander had free liberty to dispose of to whomsoever he might be
able. He desired, should obstructions be thrown in our way by any of
his people, be their rank what it would, that I would without ceremony
order them to be thrown into the river. He then inquired several
particulars respecting the nation I belonged to as to our force by sea
and land, our commerce, customs and religon with the grounds of our
difference in the latter article from the Portuguese. I satisfied him as
I was able.
He also requested permission to examine our hats, swords and
the other parts of our dress, frequently apologising for his curiosity.
The evening was now approaching, and we had been with him some
hours, I made a motion to retire but he insisted on our staying to
partake of a repast. It was presently brought and a small low table
being set before us it was covered with a number of basins and saucers
containing fowls mixed with a few vegetables and a little salt and
water, pork and buffalo, beef cut into small thin slices, fish stewed
with soy and onions, several fish sauces - some not unlike anchovie
in flavour, plain boiled rice, and rice moistened with the broth of
meat, and a few other articles.
Chopsticks were given us to eat with but observing we managed
rather awkwardly he ordered some porcelain spoons and pieces of
pointed bamboos to be given us, and, with these we did pretty well.
A desert of fruits and China sweetmeats was afterwards served up,
tea was made for our drink and when we asked for water, it was
brought, warm and sweetened with sugar. We were desired to taste
some excellent Tonquinese liquor. It was a hot spirit and had a
strong flavor of some grain from which it was distilled. A separate
table was spread before the Viceroy. He desired all our attendants
to be called, for every one of whom a mat was brought to sit on.
He was much surprised at their hesitating to sit in my presence and
more so when the vessel men refused to eat any of his cookery. He
ordered them to be asked if there was anything they could eat that
would not interfere with their religious prejudices, and on their
mentioning fruits, some of every kind was set before them. He
politely requested I would dispense with the ceremony of their
standing - an English tar of our party afforded much diversion to the
Viceroy and his attendants by the keenness of his appetite and the
unaffected relish he appeared to have for the Tonquinese brandy in
which we begged leave with great submission to drink towards their
honour's good health.


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Alastair Lamb

During our repast several war elephants were brought into an

area fronting the verandah where some figures of soldiers were placed
in ranks. These the elephants attacked with great fury, seized them
with their trunks, loosed them in the air and stamped them under their
feet. Some soldiers were employed in shooting at a bull with long
matchlocks which had swivels and three-legged stands to fire them on.
The workmanship of these pieces was as good as any I have seen of
the kind in Hindostn. The Viceroy acquainted me they had been
fabricated under his own inspection. I now made a second motion
to retire. This brought on a renewal of the Viceroy's professions of
friendship and regard. He hoped, he said, I should find here suffi-
ciently agreeable to induce me to prolong my stay, and that during
it he should see me as often as possible; that when the season
demanded my departure, he would make a request to me to carry
one or two of his people to Bengal. I thanked him in the highest
terms that occurred to me for the honorable and friendly reception he
had given me, assured him that I meant to avail myself of his kind
invitation for passing the approaching winter under his protection where
peace, plenty and regularity seemed to abound, so different from the
situation I found in the other parts of Cochin China, and that if he
should persevere in his intention of sending anybody to Bengal, I would
with pleasure accommodate them with a passage and engage for their
meeting with every return of the civilities he had shown me. When
we stood up to depart he ordered all the Mandarines who were with
him to attend me to the Eunuch's to whom it was necessary, he said,
I should make a visit whenever I came to him. Just as we were
leaving him he expressed himself sorry he had no equivalent to make
me for the present I had given him. I desired he would suffer no
uneasiness on that account for the. Government I belonged to did
not admit of my receiving any. The old gentleman was some time
silent with an apparent admiration. He, however, ordered two ingots
of silver (value near twenty-eight Spanish Dollars) to be brought and
forced our acceptance of them by saying he could not consider our
hearts and words to be of one accord if we refused. We took them
but found an opportunity of disposing of them amongst his attendants.
Highly satisfied with the reception we met with from the Viceroy,
we left the palace to pay our respects to Quart Tam Quon*, the Eunuch
Commander-in-Chief of the gallies and army. The distance between
their habitations was too short to complete the pleasing presages we
were drawing of an agreeable residence at Hue, and the praises we
were lavishing on the person we expected would chiefly contribute to
it. The prospect, though not altogether enveloped in darkness, was
presently obscured.
Attended by a numerous train of Mandarines who marched in
ranks before and behind us we presented ourselves at the Eunuch's
gate. I attempted to enter but was rudely pushed back and made
to wait a considerable time in the open street. This afforded an
opportunity of observing the architecture of his house. It differed
from the others I saw in the fort in having upper apartments. I was
informed that it had been the Council house in the time of the Kings.
* This title signifies Commander of the fleet.


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Missions to Cochin China

Fig. 4. A Cochin Chinese temple at Saigon. (From Crawfurd,

Embassy, 2nd edition, vol. 2.)

The most adequate idea of the external appearance of the best dwelling
houses in Cochin China as well as of the Temples of their Gods may
be formed from views painted on the chinaware, screens and other
articles imported from Canton.
Half an hour elapsed ere we were ushered into a large hall. The
roofs were finally arched with planks and supported by wooden
pillars about thirty feet in height. We seated ourselves upon some
chairs placed for us before a rattan screen from behind which a shrill
voice called our attention to the object of our visit. He did not
however become visible till the common questions were passed and I
had acquainted him with the reasons of my coming to Cochin China.
The screen was then turned up and a glimmering light diffused from
a small waxen taper, disclosed to our view, not the delicate form of
a woman the sound had conveyed the idea of, but that of a monster
disgustful and horrible to behold. He was sitting in a kind of boarded
shrine in form like a clothes press. I can be no judge of his height as
I never saw him standing, but I believe he was short of stature. This
was, however, amply made up to him in bulk and, I may venture to
affirm he measured an ell over the shoulders. Great flaps hung down
from his cheeks like the dewlaps of an ox, and his little twinkling
eyes were scarcely to be discerned for the fat folds which formed deep
recesses around them. Tho' I had said every handsome thing that
occurred to me, yet there was so evident a difference between his
behaviour and that of the Viceroy. He hardly appeared civil. He
received my present with indifference, notwithstanding it was chosen
by his own jackal. In my subsequent visits I found he was a great
pedant and valued himself much on his knowledge of books. It may
be worthy of remark that he had one day a volume written in Chinese


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Alastair Lamb

open before him which he said contained an account of Bengal.

Amongst several extraordinary things he told me were related in it
one is curious and I believe is allowed to have had some foundation in
truth. It was that so good a police was observed there that a traveller
might lie down to sleep under a tree with his purse exposed by his
side without danger of losing it. He also mentioned the custom of
burning the dead.
A month elapsed in a mutual intercourse of civilities. During this
space the frequent interviews I had with the Mandarines were generally
taken up in conversing upon the subject of our opening a trade with
their country. I omitted no occasion of expatiating on the benefit
both nations would derive from it and they seemed to be convinced
of the justice of what I advanced. They had been furnished with
lists of the cargo of the Jenny and after having adjusted the prices of
the different articles she brought, they from time to time sent written
orders to the Commander and myself for such as they stood in need
of. Iron, copper, lead, hardware, glass, Bengal and Madras cloths,
small quantities of each, but the whole together amounting to a
considerable sum, were delivered on these requisitions without
hesitation. We had been informed by the Portuguese and themselves
that it was an invariable custom for them not to adjust their accounts
till the vessel was about to leave the port. The season obliging us to
remain some time longer, we were not importunate.
I had hitherto resided in the house of Ong-ta-hia , but finding this
inconvenient, I made repeated applications to him to procure me a
separate one. He had often evaded complying, and by his underhand
influence prevented my being able to hire one. He was afraid, should
he suffer me to remove from immediately under his own eye, some
parts of the unreasonable profits he hoped from his connection with
us might escape him, and his disappointment in the expectations he
had formed, added to his unwillingness to discharge the amount of his
purchases, may be considered as the first causes leading to the troubles
we were afterwards involved in. As I found this man was the
particular agent of the Eunuch I made him several considerable
presents but all inadequate to satisfying his rapacity. The latter end
of September the rains were so heavy and the floods came down with
so much violence from the mountains that almost the whole town was
overflowed in a single night, during which the noise made by the
rushing of the water through the streets and the cries of the people
removing their effects was horrible and alarming beyond idea. In
the morning great numbers of boats were passing the streets and small
ones even entering the houses. The floor of the house I was in was
a foot under water; fortunately our beds were placed in the small
sleeping apartments, the boarded floors of which were raised something
above that height. Notwithstanding these floods happening several
times during the periodical rains, few precautions are observed by
the inhabitants to secure themselves and their effects against the
sometimes melancholy consequences. The convenience of transacting
business draws the people to the river side where the ground is low
and I am told that the Government is so absurd and unreasonable as
not to allow any person except their sovereign an upper roomed


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Missions to Cochin China

house. Attention to our health obliged me to be urgent with Ong-ta -

hia for his consent to remove to a drier habitation, and the application
of a present apparently reconciled him to it. It was only in
appearance, for we had been gone but two or three days when a young
man, who with his father served me as linguists, came and complained
to me that he had been cruelly beaten by Ong-ta-hia for being
instrumental in my leaving his house and assisting in procuring me
another. The following day I was alarmed by the same person
running to me and conjuring me to hasten to Ong-ta-hia if I wished
to save two of my people he was just going to put to death. I
went immediately, accompanied by Mr. Totty. We found his house
filled with a great number of Chinese, some of whom were busy in
binding a poor sick Frenchman and a cook belonging to Captain
Hutton to the pillars of the house. Ong-ta-hia had a drawn sword in
his hand and foamed at the mouth like a madman. I desired to know
the reason of his behaving so, but he was too much agitated to
acquaint me, and retired. I then applied to some of the Chinese.
They told me that the Frenchman had some trifling dispute with a
woman in the bazar that sold eggs, who had made a complaint to
Ong-ta-hia, and, they believed, his having taken a larger dose of opium
than usual, was the cause of his behaving in this outrageous manner.
The Doctor and myself released the prisoners without any opposition
from the people, some hundreds in number about them. We
immediately repaired with them to the Viceroy. To him I offered to
deliver them up for punishment should he upon inquiry into the affair
find they merited it. He declined, however, taking charge of them,
highly blamed the conduct of Ong-ta-hia and promised to send some
people to enquire into the affair who should give me ample satisfaction.
The following day two Mandarines arrived and entered upon the
investigation with great formality. A decision was given in our favor,
no redress however was to be obtained; after receiving presents from
both parties, they advised us to be friends and departed. In my next
visit to the Viceroy and the Eunuch I remonstrated with them on the
unmerited affront afforded me and claimed the promise of the former
to see justice done on the offender. The Viceroy replied by saying
he was sorry it was not in his power to act as he wished, but hoped
we should meet with no more such disagreeable occurrences, desired we
would have no further connection with Ong-ta-hia and that he and
his colleagues would appoint another person to transact our business.
The Eunuch was not so civil; he hardly vouchsafed me an answer to
what I said; gave orders for some more goods being sent him and
acquainted me that having broken the repeating watch I gave him it
was become unless and he should return it. Both he and the Viceroy
however gave me the strongest assurances that they would immediately
oblige Ong-ta-hia to pay for what he had purchased of the Captain
and would order his house and other effects to be sold for that
purpose if he delayed it more than fifteen days. Apprised of this,
the villain counterfeited frenzy, got upon the roof of his house and
hurled the tiles upon the passengers in the streets and acted a number
of other tricks equally suitable to the character he had assumed to
complete the comedy. The Magicians were sent to consult with : they


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Alastair Lamb

wisely pronounced his distemper to proceed from an evil spirit that

had gotten possession of him, but had great hopes of being able to
oblige him to quit his hold. The exorcists began by illuminating the
house with a number of candles placed before their idols. This was
followed by a din of copper basins, drums, trumpets and bells, while
the conjurors clothed in whimsical garments uttered some words in a
chanting tone and practised a number of gesticulations and leapings
till at length the patient, overcome with the noise, fell into a kind of
stupor. They then acquainted us the devil had left him but desired, as
the exortions made in ejecting him had much weakened the patient, he
might not be troubled for some days. In the meantime, we left the
town and lost our money about the commencement of the above
disagreeable affair. I received a letter from Captain Maclennan
acquainting me that the bad state of his health had led him to resolve
on bringing up the vessel to the mouth of the river that he might
land and try the benefit of a change of air. I was accordingly sorry
that Captain Maclennan's health should render so imprudent a step
necessary. Altho' the vessel could not be brought into the river, I
was convinced it would alarm the Government or at least furnish a
pretence for their appearing so. Either might be productive of dis-
agreeable consequences to myself and those with me. It was also
exceedingly hazardous to risk the vessel on the coast in the present
inclement season. To obviate the first of these objections I had to her
coming, I hastened to the Viceroy and Eunuch and acquainted them
with the cause of it, notwithstanding which a parade of guards was
made and a number of precautions taken which alarmed us not a little.
To exculpate myself from the second, I thought it necessary to protest
against the Captain for any consequence that might arise from so
impudent an action.
The Amazon anchored at the mouth of the river the last of
September . Captain Maclennan came on shore the next day, but in
such a situation as to produce all hopes of his recovery given over
by our Surgeon. He was desirous of trying whether anything could
be done for him by the Physicians of the country. Two of them
successively exerted their skill upon him, but to no other purpose than
their own emolument; an exorbitant charge of near three hundred dollars
was made for ginseng alone. This drug is held in the highest estimation
in China and the adjacent countries and accounted a sovereign remedy
for almost all curable disorders. In mortal ones they say it will detain
the fleeting spirit of life beyond the prescribed limit and even preserve a
kind of general warmth in the body long after it has taken its flight. Our
poor Captain, however, breathed his last the second of October . I
was obliged to apply to a Portuguese to take the management of the
funeral. By his means I obtained the loan of a fine painted bed to
lay the corpse on, and a number of Christians to carry it. The coffins
are made here of very thick plank, so compactly joined and lined on
both sides with oiled paper, that it is a common practice with the
principal people of the country to keep their relations in their houses
without inconvenience a month after their decease. The top is arched
and the whole of the same size from the head to the foot. The
outside is covered with silks or rich stuffs according to their fancy


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Missions to Cochin China

or ability of the family the deceased beloned to. The seventh of

October was fixed for the funeral, and having invited the Portuguese,
we assembled early in the morning to attend it. On the night
preceding I was informed that the owner of the house Captain
Maclennan died in had declared he would not suffer the corpse to be
removed. Upon enquiry into the reason, it appeared to be done to
extort money under pretence of defraying certain ceremonies to purify
the house; to comply was my only alternative. When we came to
the door we were alarmed at perceiving a large concourse of Chinese
armed with bludgeons; they had been assembled by the landlord to
dispute our entrance and to prevent the coffin from being carried out,
but, as his demands were complied with, they forebore any act of
hostility. The behaviour of the Chinese had latterly been very
suspicious. On my first arrival, supposing I was come with a force
to avenge the wrongs done to the English ship the year before by the
Mandarine commanding at Turon, they seemed to vie with each other
in showing me civilities, and the principal people amongst them made
me repeated offers to raise a body of their countrymen to support my
designs either against the Tysons or even against the Tonquinese
themselves. In these offers I believe they were sincere; the injuries
they had experienced had irritated them against both governments.
Supported by a power of whose courage and skill they had a high
opinion, they flattered themselves with the pleasing expectations of
retaliating and of coming in for a share of the plunder which would
compensate them for all their losses. Disappointed by the declaration
of my intentions being entirely pacific, which it was some time before
they would give credit to, and finding my views bent on the establish-
ment of a commerce they were afraid would be rather detrimental
to them than otherwise, an alteration in their behaviour soon became
evident. They represented to the Mandarines that the English were
come to drive them off the country; and to exasperate them against
us they invented a number of falsities, the most improbable and
groundless. I was frequently warned that they intended to plunder
us, and assured it was at the hazard of being murdered I remained
amongst them. Our lives and property were equally at their mercy,
for the whole town was occupied by them and a few of the poor
broken-spirited natives of the country. All the Tonquinese resided
five or six miles higher up the river.
The Portuguese burial ground where I purchased permission to
deposit the remains of Captain Maclennan was at the distance of seven
or eight hours journey. We went part of the way by land and part by
water. The beauty of the country round this spot is not to be paralleled
by that of any I had before seen; in the East fine rising grounds and
fruitful valleys watered by rivulets whose crystal streams might vie
with the famed ones of Europe formed the most delightful prospect.
The next day I made a visit to the Mandarines and found a most ridicu-
lous report had been carried to them of my having made a pretence of
attending the funeral of Captain Maclennan that I might have an
opportunity to examine the country and the gold mines said to be
situated near the place he was interred at. They were even almost
made to believe that the funeral was a sham contrivance to effect


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Alastair Lamb

some purpose or other. Complaints were daily carried to them, or

they pretended so. A Chinese junk was said to have run foul of the
Jenny and to have been plundered by our people; they were also
accused of having seized a new boat which had broken adrift and cut
her up for firewood. For the former there were no grounds whatever,
for the latter, no other than the Lascars having picked up a few old
planks that had floated down with the tide. My house was continually
filled with Mandarines sent to hear and adjust these complaints, from
whence there was no other means of dislodging them than by presents;
and this, in the end, only proved an inducement to fresh parties to
visit me. Something or other was daily devised to give me trouble,
and they seemed anxious to engage me in a dispute with them. But
I avoided everything that might give rise to one, and rather chose to
suffer their impositions than enter into fruitless altercation. A demand
was now made for anchorage and duties notwithstanding the
Mandarines had publicly and unsolicited exempted us from both on
our arrival. When I represented this and the daily vexations I
experienced to the Viceroy, he referred me to the Eunuch, in whose
province the adjustment of all those matters lay, and lamented it
was not in his power to afford me redress; from the Eunuch an
accumulation of injuries and insults was all I could procure.
Things continued in this disagreeable situation till the beginning
of November. I was obliged to make so many pesents upon every
little complaint that was justly or unjustly preferred against us and
even, at last, to procure admittance to the Mandarines, that I was
afraid our little vessel would soon prove incapable of answering the
drafts we daily made on her. The monsoon beat with great violence
in the coast and our prospect of getting away, which we now
anxiously looked for, was still distant.
A few days after the vessel anchored in the river the Mandarine
we brought from Bengal left her and retired amongst some of his
relations who lived in disguise at a distance from the town. The
dangers he would have been exposed to by a discovery would not
permit of his seeing me while I remained in the house of Ong-ta-hia,
but his servants daily came with inquiries after my health and
accompanied them frequently with little presents of fruit and specimens
of their cookery. From the time of my arrival in Cochin China I
continued to receive the strongest proofs of the gratitude and attach-
ment of this poor man, and it will presently appear that myself and
those with me were indebted to him for the preservation of our lives.
As soon as I removed to another house he made me a visit. Although
we had not been a long time separated, the most lively emotions of
joy took possession of him on meeting me and some others of his
shipmates. When he had composed himself and poured forth a
number of grateful acknowledgements for the friendly treatment he
had met with from the English, he told me he had been informed of
the alteration in the behaviour of the Tonquinese and that it gave him
a good deal of anxiety. During the subsequent month that I
remained in Hue I had two or three more interviews with him and
several with some other relations of the late King and Officers of
his Government who, like him, were necessitated to pass their time


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Missions to Cochin China

in obscurity and disguise. To these our Mandarine had recounted the

wonders of his voyage and fondly inspired them with hopes that the
English would one day assist them to resume their rights. Many were
cur conversations on this subject, and various the plans proposed,
but they all agreed that a very inconsiderable number of the fine
fellows who had passed in review before our Mandarine in Bengal
would effectually do the business. Several applied to me for a
passage down the coast to Donai where they said the King had still
a party in arms, and some urged me to permit them to accompany
me to Bengal. To the former place I promised to conduct two
young ladies, the King's sisters, and their uncle, but my precipitate
retreat deprived me of the pleasure of their company.
From the beginning of October I had received frequent hints from
many of the Cochin Chinese that the Government had treacherous
designs against us. I was informed that the Eunuch, our declared
enemy, had at length brought over a majority of the Council to his
measures and that the principal Mandarine, who was still reported to
be inclined to favour us, would be no longer able to protect us. To
these reports I gave little credit, but on the seventh of November , as
myself and Mr. Totty were sitting at breakfast, a messenger came in
from our Mandarine and desired to speak with me. Immediately he
told me that his master, alarmed at the danger we were in and anxious
for our preservation, had sent him to advise us to secure ourselves on
board the vessel without delay. He added that his master understood
that the King (or rather the Chooua*) of Tonquin, instigated by the
representations of the Eunuch and his party and allured with the hope
of obtaining a valuable booty, had sent an order to the Government to
seize our vessel; that the Mandarines were in consequence of it arming
their gallies and had ordered their troops to hold themselves in readiness
for service. He concluded with saying that, although his master could
not absolutely determine whether the design originated with the Man-
darines at Hue or was adopted in consequence of orders from Tonquin,
he was confident it was resolved to seize upon us and exhorted me
instantly to take measures for our security.
Whilst I was employing a few minutes in ruminating on this intelli-
gence, the landlord of the house we lived in came and informed me
that the Tonquinese were determined to take our vessel and that he
was in hourly dread of a party of soldiers being sent to secure our
I was now beyond a doubt convinced of the treacherous intentions
of the Tonquinese. At any rate, to have waited for a further confirma-
tion would have been folly when an escape might have been imprac-
ticable. Having, therefore, put what we had most valuable into a small

* The Sovereign of Tonquin is styled Booas which signified King or Emperor;

he has only the shadow of authority, the? whole power since the beginning
of the 15th century having fallen into the hands of the Chooua or General.
[Chapman is here commenting on the two dynasties in Tonkin. The Le
ruler, though faineant, was still the titular king or emperor. His title was vua,
which term is intended by Chapman's booas. The Nguyen and Trinh rulers,
in theory feudal chiefs subject to the Le vua , were entitled to be called
chua or lord. Chapman's chooua is a surprisingly close approximation. The
Nguyen and Trinh rulers also used the title vuong, meaning prince].


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Alastair Lamb

country boat I kept in pay, Mr. Totty and myself with three or four
Bengal servants and some Cochin China rowers left the town between
eight and nine in the morning, and fortunately reached the vessel at

The following day ( November the eighth) my writer whom I had

left in town contrived to send a part of my baggage to the vessel.
The ninth in the morning five Portuguese came on board. They
acquainted me that they had fled from town in consequence of having
received intelligence that the Tonquinese Mandarines, irritated at our
escape, which they were suspected of being instrumental in, had come
to the resolution of putting them all to death. In the evening they
were followed by my writer, and another Portuguese disguised in the
habit of the country, who informed me they had been obliged to make
a precipitate retreat for the same reason. They added that a little
before they left town a Tonquinese of the Eunuch's family came pri-
vately to them and offered for a sum of money to disclose some intelli-
gence which intimately concerned the English, and that, having bribed
him with two ingots of silver and some pieces of cloth, he declared
to them that it had been resolved in council to seize me and to make
themselves masters of the vessel. All hands joined in putting our little
bark in the best state of defence she would admit of. Our force con-
sisted of the Captain and a Mate, one English sailor, two Frenchmen,
two Portuguese and twelve or thirteen Lascars which with myself, the
Doctor, my writer and our servants, amounted to about thirty persons.
Most of my Cochin Chinese servants also remained with the vessel,
which was armed with seven or eight old and very bad two pounders
for which we had scarce any shot, two swivels, some wall pieces and
twelve muskets.
The 10th [of November ] I sent my compliments to the Mandarine
of the lookout house just opposite to which the vessel lay, requesting
he would send me a writer as I wanted to write a letter to the principal
Mandarines. He complied with my request. I wrote to them that my
"reason for leaving town in so abrupt a manner was the several reports
brought me of their not being so much my friends as formerly and
that they had even formed a design of doing me an injury; that although
I myself did not believe them capable of so base an action, yet as I
knew a number of lies had been circulated to our disadvantage, I could
not be certain of the effect. I assured them that I was as much their
friend as ever and had no design of molesting them or anything
belonging to them unless they began in which case I was not afraid of
them". Nothing occurred the next day.
The 12th, the look-out Mandarine sent off a boat with his com-
pliments, desiring permission to bring a friend on board who wished
much to see the vessel. I returned for answer that I should be happy
to receive them. When they came they told me they were ordered
by the principal Mandarines to assure me of their friendship and of
the falsity of the reports I had heard. This they did with a profusion
of compliments. The person who accompanied the Mandarine was an
aged man and very particularly examined the vessel. It was conjectured
afterwards that this was the person appointed to conduct the attack
on us.


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The thirteenth. In consequence of the message I received, I

determined to send my writer to the Mandarines, either to endeavour
to settle matters or to learn what was going on. I also gave him
directions to send down the remainder of the things I left at Hue as
well as a quantity of goods belonging to the Jenny's cargo if he found
it practicable. He left the vessel early in the morning and, as the
distance he had to go was considerable concluded he might be
absent two days. He, however, returned on board about mid-
night. Upon demanding the reason of his sudden and unexpected
appearance, he informed me that, having called at Hue on his way up
to the Mandarine's residence, and proceeded to the house I rented, he
found both it and the warehouse the goods were deposited in occupied
by parties of Tonquinese soldiers who were busy in breaking open all
the chests and packages and carrying off their contents. That upon his
demanding by what authority they acted, he was told by that of the
two principal Mandarines, and menaced, if he offered to interfere, that
he should be deprived of his head. Alarmed at this, he was glad to
seize the opportunity which their attention to their plunder gave him
of retreating to his boat and returning to the vessel. In the course of
this day we observed some gallies and large boats come from town
which brought to at a little distance above where we lay. We after-
wards learnt that they were laden with guns and stores. These they
carried over a neck of sand forming one shore at the entrance of the
river to erect batteries to prevent our escaping them. Five gallies
which lay at the look-out Mandarine's were observed to move up to
a kind of dockyard to take in their stores.
The fourteenth. At daybreak I was awakened by our Captain to
acquaint me that two large armed gallies full of men were dropping
down with the tide upon the vessel, as if with the intention of boarding
us, for that on being hailed and desired to keep clear of us no answer
was returned, nor did they make any other use of their oars than to
preserve a proper direction to board us. The Captain therefore
earnestly requested by permission to fire at them, giving it as his opinion
that if they were suffered to come alongside we must inevitably be
taken. I myself was not so apprehensive, and as earnestly desired him
to have patience. While we were parleying our people stationed on
the forecastle, who had been exceedingly alarmed at the accounts
brought from town by my writer, and were yet more terrified at the
warlike appearance the gallies made on their near approach, fired
some swivels and two or three guns at them. Upon this the gallies
immediately dropped their anchor and the people in great numbers
began to jump into the river.
I now gave up all hopes of effecting an amicable accommodation;
at the same time considering should we suffer them to recover from
the panic they appeared struck with, they would redouble their efforts
against us, I therefore instantly determined to prosecute what had
been begun and to deprive them of the means of hurting us. For
this purpose, I ordered two little jolly boats to be manned and armed
and sent them to board the gallies, furnishing them with two or three
hand grenades each, which I directed them to throw into the gallies
before they attempted to board them. This precaution proved highly


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Alastair Lamb

necessary, for although great numbers had already deserted them and
not a man appeared on their decks, yet on the bursting of the hand-
grenades thirty or forty more jumped overboard from each of them
and swam to the shore. Our people with the aid of some Cochin
Chinese then towed them off as well as five others which were lying
near the shore and preparing as was apprehended to come to their
assistance. We were obliged, as we knew not what to do with them,
to destroy all the gallies except one which had a brass gun in her, a
nine or twelve pounder. She foundered three days after, in a violent
gale of wind, as she lay astern of our vessel. The largest of these
gallies was about fifty feet long and ten or twelve broad, the head and
stern sharping off to a point; they were armed with spears from fifteen
to twenty feet in length and matchlocks some of which had large bores
and turned upon swivels, with great quantities of powder and balls
made up in bamboo cartridges.
The fifteenth [of November]. One Senhore Pascal, an old man,
who had formerly been linguist to the Dutch Company when they traded
to Cochin China, and the landlord of the house I resided in at Hue,
arrived with a message from the Viceroy. They told me they were
instructed to assure me of the continuance of his friendship; that he
entertained no resentment against us for the destruction of his gallies
which he was convinced we had been driven to by the ill-treatment we
had met with, but never with his consent or participation, and that he
earnestly desired to effect an accommodation. After delivering this
message, Senhor Pascal took me aside and told me that such was the
fair speech he had been ordered to make me, but that he advised me to
be constantly on our guard as the Tonquinese were manning the re-
mainder of their gallies, and also intended to attempt burning our vessel
by means of fire floats.
My answer to the Mandarine was that I was happy to find he had
adopted such sentiments respecting what had happened, and assured
him that nothing but the indignation raised in our people on finding their
property plundered by the authority of the Government, and their lives
threatened, could have induced them to carry matters to the lengths
they had. I begged him to recollect I had told him in the presence of
his whole Court that the English were a great and generous people, that
always retained a grateful sense of any favours conferred on them, and
on the contrary never failed amply to revenge any injuries that were
offered them. I concluded with desiring the linguist to tell the Man-
darines that I should be happy to join with them in accommodating
our differences, hoping as a preliminary to it that they would give
immediate orderes for all the property we had been plundered of to be
restored. The linguist, having taken down the purport of my answer,
We now held a council to consider our situation and what was to
be done. It was generally agreed that the aim of the Tonquinese was
to protract by entering into a negotiation with us till they were pre-
pared to attack us with advantage, and that it behoved us to get away
as fast as possible. In this opinion I concurred, but I was at the
same time exceedingly apprehensive of attempting to cross the bar of
the river at the present inclement season; I recollected the difficulty we


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Missions to Cochin China

experienced and how nearly the vessi was lost in crossing it in the
finest weather, assisted by the people of the country and the boats
belonging to the Chinese junks. For these considerations I resolved to
write to the Commander of the Amazon acquainting him with our
situation, and to desire if he found it practicable, to come up to the
mouth of the river to favour our escape, or to send us his boat to
assist us in getting over the bar. To carry my letter I was obliged to
send to the shore to press a country boat. Our boat brought one off
together with her crew who, being all Cochin Chinese, were without
much difficulty prevailed on to undertake the trip. The sixteenth: we
dispatched a boat to the Amazon .
The seven following days the weather was so exceedingly bad that
we could expect no news from the Amazon; and the wind having con-
tinued to blow violently almost from the time of our dispatching the
boat, we doubted of their being able to reach Turon. In this interval
several messages and some letters passed between the Viceroy and me.
He continued his assurances of friendship with promises to restore all
our property, and earnestly invited me to an interview. The people,
however, who were the bearers of these messages and letters, as regularly
as they brought them, advised me of the insincerity of his professions,
and of the preparations carrying on against us. They informed me
that nothing but the badness of the weather, which had rendered useless
four large fire floats the Tonquinese had constructed to burn our vessel,
if they should find themselves unable to master us by any other means,
had for some days retarded an attack being made on us. We also
learned, from Cochin Chinese boats that frequently stole off to the
vessel to dispose of fruit, that a number of guns were carried down
to erect batteries which would incommode us when we attempted to
cross the bar, and that should we touch the ground, as they expected,
our destruction was deemed inevitable.
The twenty fourth [of November ]: in the morning the weather
appearing more fine the Captain resolved to move the vessel farther
out, and we anchored about a mile from a prodigious high surf which
broke across the mouth of the river. We had not been long in this
situation before we observed crowds of people on the shore on each
side of us busy in bringing down guns, fascines and stores to the water-
side. They immediately began to erect batteries. We endeavoured to
disturb them by firing some shot at them, but the smallness of our guns
gave them but little interruption. At six o'clock in the afternoon three
or four guns began to play upon us, which continued till it was dark.
One shot only struck the vessel. A little before they began to fire at
us we perceived a boat in the offing. Shortly after, she came on board
and proved to be the one I dispatched to Turon. By her I received
the two guns and shot I had written for and a letter from the Captain
of the Amazon informing me that he had sent up his boat with three
Europeans and five Lascars to our assistance as he did not think it
possible to come up with his vessel. The people acquainted me that
when they were in the offing, the Amazon's boat was in sight. From
the dismal account given us of the surf they had passed through and
the approach of night, we were exceedingly anxious for her safety.


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Alastair Lamb

In the night I was awakened by some shocks I conceived occa-

sioned by the vessel striking the ground. I immediately started up
and went upon the deck. lbe scene which then presented itself was
dismal to the last degree. The heavy swell having driven the vessel
from her anchor, she was then thumping her bottom upon a hard
sand. Not a single person was keeping watch. The Captain and her
mate overcome with fatigue were both asleep, the lascars and the rest
of the ship's company, to shelter themselves from the rain, were all
in the hold. To add to our distress, during the confusion the country
boat upon which our ultimate hopes were placed for preserving our
lives in case of an accident to the vessel, broke loose with two of our
people on board, and we heard no more of her. It was fortunately
low water: when the tide rose we got off without damage.
The twenty fifth. At day break the Tonquinese, having completed
their batteries in the night, fired briskly at us. Their shots mostly flew
high and the damage they did was chiefly in our rigging. A few
struck the hull and one wounded a Frenchman in the foot. We re-
turned their fire with very little effect. Having seen nothing of the
Amazon boat, we gave her up for lost. The wind blew very fresh
from the N.E.; we anxiously waited for a little change to attempt our
The twenty sixth . We moved the vessel a little, but so confined
was our situation between the surf and the sands that we found it
impossible to get out of the way of the shots. The Tonquinese began
to take better aim; several shots struck the vessel's hull, and one killed
the only English sailor we had on board. The spirits of our people,
depressed by the accident, received a momentary relief about noon. A
cry of joy resounded from every part of the vessel that the Amazon's
boat was in sight. This was but of a short duration. Those who were
judges of the matter were convinced it was impossible for her to come
to us. For a considerable time we saw her cruising backwards and
forwards at the back of the surf in search of the channel. Unfor-
tunately she made choice of a part where the surf broke with the
greatest violence, and no sooner had she entered it than she disappeared.
The deepest consternation immediately became visible in the counten-
ances of all on board our vessel. Unable to afford them any assistance
we concluded the whole boat's crew must perish. The Tonquinese, to
express their joy at the accident that had befallen us, fired at us with
redoubled fury. Regardless of the danger, every eye on board appeared
fixed with melancholy steadfastness on the place the boat overset. In
about an hour the heads of two persons were discovered swimming
towards the vessel. Our boat instantly put off to meet them, and
shortly after returned with two Europeans, and those Englishmen. As
soon as they were provided with clothes and their spirits revived with
some warm wine, they informed me that a Dutchman was drowned in
the surf, that they supposed some of the lascars gained the shore
towards which they themselves first swam but turned about and deter-
mined to endeavour to reach the vessel on the Tonquinese with wanton
cruelty firing at them with small arms.
In the evening part of the cargo was thrown overboard to lighten
the vessel.


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The twenty seventh [of November ]. All our fore topmast rigging
was shot away with two of the fore shrouds, and one shot struck the
vessel between wind and water. The damage done by the latter was
with much difficulty and labour repaired.
The twenty eighth . Things become still more serious and the
damages we sustained more alarming. Hitherto the largest shots fired
at us were four pounders. Today some additional guns began to play
and several struck us, weighing nine and six pounds; these gave terrible
shocks to our little bark. The trysail mast and one of the flukes of
the stream grapple were shot away. The best bower cable parted close
to the hawsehole, supposed to have been cut by a shot, and a poor
Lascar in the boat received a wound in his arm which obliged the
Surgeon to amputate it. Night brought us a short reprieve from the
dangers which every instant flew round us in the day. But the inter-
mission of them by affording us time to reflect on our melancholy
situation rather served to increase than to alleviate our anxiety. The
vessel had already received considerable damage in the hull and rigging,
one anchor only which she was riding by remained, that could be
depended on. In short, it was more than probable fom the number
of guns now brought against us, that by the next evening she would
either be totally destroyed, or so shattered as would entirely preclude
us from any chance of escaping. I therefore earnestly conjured our
Captain, and every other person on board I thought capable, seriously
to give their attention to the forming of some expedient for our deliver-
ance. In consequence of this a considerable part of the night was spent
in a fruitless debate. To return to our former station in the river, it
was alleged, was returning to inevitable ruin, batteries might be erected
there with the advantage of being nearer to us. The gallies, boats and
fire floats which the high swell and rough sea we lay in prevented
from approaching us enabled us to act, and we were not precluded from
immediately availing ourselves of a change of wind, to run out. On the
other hand, to pass the bar while the wind blew in its present direction
was impossible, and to remain where we were, exposed to the fire of
nine or ten pieces of cannon, was certain destruction. Thus all were
sensible of our difficulties yet none offered a remedy for extricating us.
Critical as our situation was, it was necessary that something should
be done, and as I found our escape for the present impracticable I
resolved, although with little hope of success, to attempt bringing about
an accommodation.
The twenty ninth. At daybreak I ordered a white flag to be hoisted
at our top gallant mast head and some of our people by beckoning to
the Tonquinese to invite them on board. To our great astonishment
they immediately began to pull down the war flags displayed in the
batteries and to beckon to us to return. Two or three guns only were
fired and these it was imagined without shot. We could plainly per-
ceive them assembled in a consultation at the grand battery. One boat
attempted to come to us, but was obliged to put back by the high sea.
The Tonquinese, as we supposed, waiting for orders from town,
suffered us to remain unmolested the whole day. In the evening the
wind changed and at half an hour past nine o'clock was at W.S.W.
The Captain then acquainted me it was possible to get out, and was for


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Alastair Lamb

making the experiment. Our anchor, was accordingly weighed and our
sails set. In profound silence we steered S. E. I must confess for
my own part I expected nothing better than to be wrecked amongst
the breakers, conceiving that in a dark night there was little chance of
finding our way over a dangerous bar, through a channel not more than
sixty yards wide. At one time the vessel's head was close upon the
breakers of the sea reef when our sails were most fortunately taken
aback. At half past ten o'clock we crossed the bar. The Tonquinese
then perceived that we were giving them the slip and kept up a brisk
fire at us till long after we were beyond the reach of their guns; but
the darkness of the night prevented their taking good aim and not a
shot struck us. Th wind continued favourable the whole night and
the next day at eleven o'clock in the forenoon we anchored in Turon
As it was thought that the season would now admit of our pro-
ceeding to the southward I resolved to make my stay here no longer
than would allow the Jenny to repair her damages, intending to call
at Quinion for the present Ignaac had promised to send to Bengal, and
from thence to take a pilot to conduct us to Donai. In the interim I
expected our Mandarine, with some of his friends from Hu, would
contrive to join us. But I apprehend they must either have found it
impossible to escape the vigilance of the Tonquinese or been prevented
by the extreme badness of the weather, as I never after heard of them.
The Commander of the Amazon having informed that during my
absence two Europeans, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, had run away,
I despatched my writer to the Mandarine at Faifo requesting him to
return them and a small Malay prow they had gone off in. I likewise
directed him to acquaint the Mandarine of the behaviour of the Ton-
quinese and what had happened in consequence.
My messenger returned the fifth of December. He informed me
that the Mandarine expressed himself highly pleased on his recounting
to him our disputes with the Tonquinese and that he offered in case
it should be our intention to attack them to assist us with his whole
force by sea and land. In regard to the two deserters, he acknowledged
they had been with him, and proposed to him if he would furnish them
with five or six of his gallies to seize both our vessels; he promisi to
search for them and send them down. I afterwards was at a great deal
of pains to recover these villains, but without effect. One probable
opportunity that presented itself I lament letting escape me which was
not detaining two Mandarines with their attendants who came on board
to make a bargain for delivering them up.
A Portuguese merchant who accompanied my writer as an inter-
preter acquainted me that while they were at Faifo they were privately
spoken to by some of the principal inhabitants earnestly expressing their
wishes that the English would come and assume the government of the
country, assuring them that all the natives would joyfully and instantly
submit to them as soon as a force capable of protecting them should
appear. As an inducement to this they set forth the former flourishing
state of the country, the valuable commodities it produced, the various
manufactures (now almost lost) it excelled in, and the extensive trade
it carried on. They concluded with saying that the arrival of the


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English had inspired them with hopes which they trusted they should
not be disappointed in, and requested that I might be made acquainted
with them.
The next day a letter was brought on board by a fisherman which
he said was delivered to him by a person he did not know, and who
desired him to carry it on board the English vessel. It was addressed
to Ong-tom-being* and the English gentlemen at Turon and written in
the name of a person who styled himself Teon-tow-Comtuck , nephew
to the late King and Commandant in the woods. The purport was to
inform us that he had heard of our treatment by the Tonquinese, that
he had a considerable army under his command and that if we intended
to fall upon the Tysons he desired we would fix the day when he would
co-operate with us. There was no person on board competent to judge
of the genuineness of this letter. I had suspicions of its being an arti-
fice of the Tysons to discover our intentions and detained the fisherman
two days, sending his wife and boat with orders to bring me the person
who delivered the letter to him. As we were going to sail, I then dis-
missed him thinking it not worth the trouble to concern myself further
about the matter. From the eighth to the eighteenth of December
when we finally left Turon we made repeated attempts to put to sea
and were as often till then driven back by the badness of the weather.
In one of these attempts the Jenny was separated from us.
The nineteenth. The wind increased to a violent gale which
continued to the twenty first , in the morning when we found ourselves
becalmed in a most disagreeable situation near Pulo Sapata and very
near to some rocks and breakers. About eight o'clock in the morning
a breeze sprung up with which for some time we endeavoured to steer
for Donai, but it beginning to blow very hard against us towards the
evening we were obliged to bear away and to abandon all hopes of
being able to regain the Coast of Cochin China.
The twenty third we passed Pulo Condore. The first of January ,
One thousand seven hundred and seventy nine , we anchored in Malacca
roads. Sailed from thence the eighth [of January] and arrived at
Calcutta the sixteenth of February.51*

chapman's report

A sketch of the geography of Cochin China, some particulars relative

to the manners, customs and history of the inhabitants and a few
considerations on the importance of forming an establishment in that
country (China Factory Records, Vol. 18.)
I have been imperceptibly led into a detail of much greater length
than I intended: yet satisfied as I am of the great importance of a
settlement in Cochin China might be to the British Nation as well as to
the Company, I cannot prevail on myself to abandon the subject
* The name of the Mandarne who came with me from Bengal.
51b. See pp. 160-161 below for Barrow's version of the Chapman mission.


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Alastair Lamb

without giving a more connected account of the country and offering

some further remarks on the advantages to be made of its situation and
its productions.
Cochin China, called by the natives Anam, extends from about the
twentieth degree of North Latitude to Pulo Condore which lies in eight
degrees forty minutes. It is bounded by the Kingdom of Tonquin on
the north, from which it is separated by the River Sungen,52 by the
Kingdom of Laos and by a range of mountains which divides it from
Cambodia on the west, and by that part of the Eastern Ocean, generally
called the China Sea on the south and east.
The Kingdom is divided into twelve provinces all lying upon the
sea coast and succeeding each other from north to south in the following


Cong-bing ... in the possession of the

Hue - or the Court

Cham ...


Phu-yen ...,
Bing Khang ..., ... Dubious whether by Ignaack or
Nha-tong [ m the possession of the
Bing-thoan or Champa
The breadth of the country bears no proportion to its length;
few of the provinces extend further than a degree from east to west,
some less than twenty miles. Donai which is properly a province of
Cambodia is much larger.
The whole country is intersected by rivers which although not large
enough to admit vessels of great burthen yet are exceedingly well cal-
culated for promoting inland commerce; their streams are gentle and
the waters clear.
The climate is healthy, the violent heat of the summer months
being tempered by regular breezes from the sea. September, October
and November are the season of the rains, the low sands are then fre-
quently and suddenly overflowed by immense torrents of water which

52. Sungen = Song Giang.

S5rlan(?> P* c^*' P* makes the following identifications:
Ding-oie = Dong-hoi, the capital of Quang-binh province,
Cham == Quang-nam province,
Cong-bing = Quang-binh province,
Ding-cat = Dinh Cat, a town in Quang Tri province,
Cong-nai = Quang-ngai, town and province,
Quinion = Qui-nhon,
Nha-tong = Nha Trang, capital of Kanh-hoa province,
Bing-thoan or Champa = Binh-thuan, the last bit of the country in which
the Chams retained a degree or autonomy,


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fall from the mountains. The innundations happen generally once a

fortnight and last for three or four days at a time. In December,
January and February there are also frequent rains brought by cold
northerly winds which distinguish this country with a winter different
from any other in the East.
The innundations have the same effect here as the periodical over-
flowings of the Nile in Egypt, and render the country one of the most
fruitful in the world. In many parts the land produces three crops of
grain in the year. All the fruits of India are found here in the greatest
perfection, with many of those of China.
No country in the East, and perhaps none in the world, produces,
richer or a greater variety of articles proper for carrying on an advan-
tageous commerce, cinamon, pepper, cardamons, silk, cotton, sugar,
aguila wood, sapan wood and ivory, are the principal.
Gold is taken almost pure from the mines, and before the troubles
great quantities were brought from the hills in dust and bartered by the
rude inhabitants of them for rice, cloths and iron. It was from them
also the Aguila and Calambao woods54 were procured with quantities
of wax, honey and ivory. For some years past the communication
between the hills and the low lands has been entirely cut off.
The animals of Cochin China are bullocks, goats, swine and buffa-
loes, elephants, camels and horses. In the woods are found the wild
bear, tiger and Rhinoceros with plenty of deer. The poultry is excel-
lent and the fish caught on the coast abundant and delicious. The flesh
of the elephant which I never heard that any other nation thought eat-
able is accounted a great dainty by the Cochin Chinese, and when the
King or the Viceroy of a province kills one, pieces are sent about to
the principal Mandarines as a most acceptable present. The breeding
of bullocks is little attended to, their flesh is not esteemed as food and
they are made no use of in tilling the land which is performed by
buffaloes. As for milking their cattle, they are totally unacquainted
with the art strange as this may appear to us who have been accus-
tomed to find the most savage nations we have discovered depending
for a considerable part of their food on the milk of their cattle and
flocks, yet I am inclined to think that the use of it was formerly un-
known amongst the nations from the Straits of Malacca eastward: the
Malays make no use of milk, the Chinese very little; amongst the latter
it was probably introduced by the Tartars.
The aborigines of Cochin China are called Moyes and are the
people which inhabit the chain of mountains which separates it from

54. Aguila and Calambao woods. An aromatic wood found in various parts
of eastern India and S. E. Asia. It is sometimes called eagle-wood or
aloes-wood. By Calambao is meant Calambac, a word which Crawfurd
deriveis from the Javanese kalambac, and which refers to the finest grade
of eagle-wood. See: Berland, op. cit., pp. 70-72; H. Yule and A. C.
Burnell, Hobson-Jobson, London 1886, pp. 110, 258; J. Crawfurd,
Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries,
London 1856, pp. 6-7.
Sapan wood, or Sappan wood. The wood of Caesalpinia sap pan, or
Brazil-wood. Used for making dyes. See: Yule, Burnell, op. cit., p. 600;
Crawfurd, Dictionary, op. cit., p. 376.


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Cambodia.55 To these strongholds they were driven when the present

possessors invaded the country. They formerly paid an annual tribute
for the liberty of bringing down the produce of their hills and bartering
it for such commodities as they stood in need of. They are a savage
people, very black and resemble in their features the Caffries.56
Monsieur Le Gai,57 a Frenchman who was in Cochin China in the
year one thousand seven hundred and twenty, mentions another race
of people distinct from the Cochin Chinese, who inhabit the province
of Champa called Loys.58 He also says the Mahomedan is one of the
prevailing religions. But from the most particular enquiries I made
I did not find that there are now any people distinguished by that name,
and I never met with a musselman in the country.
It was about the year One thousand two hundred and eighty of the
Christian era that the first Tarter prince became possessed of the Throne
of China. This revolution afforded an opportunity to the western
provinces bordering on the sea to throw off their dpendance and they
were formed into a kingdom under a prince whose descendant now
reigns in Tonquin and is called Kuah-Whang. About the beginning of
the fifteenth century a large body of people from these provinces being
disaffected to the government, joined under a leader of abilities and
marched to the southward; meeting with little opposition they soon
became masters of the coast of Cochin China as far as Cape A vrilla.*
The Moys, the original inhabitants, retired to the hills bordering their
country to the westward, where they have ever since remained. The
emigrants, under their conductor, founded the Kingdom of Cochin
China. His successors extended it to the great River of Cambodia and
raised it to a high degree of splendor and opulence. The continual
wars they were engaged in with the Tonquinese, who considered them
as rebels, about one hundred and fifty years ago made the Cochin
Chinese build a wall, on the southern extremity of the province of
Ding-noi to prevent the irruptions of the Tonquinese.59 Every commu-
nication by sea was forbidden under the severest penalties. Long wars
and mutual jealousies have rendered the Tonquinese and Cochin Chinese
inveterate and implacable enemies. In the year One thousand seven
hundred and sixty four when the Indiaman was in Cochin China,60 the

55. The Moi people, a generic term for the Indochinese aboriginies.
56. Caffries = Kaffirs.

^ * 'f ^ac> cominander of the French East India Company frigate

Galathee, which visited the Cochin Chinese coast in 1720. One of the
officers of this ship visited Binh-thuan, where a vestige of the ancient Cham
state still persisted. (Maybon, op. cit., p. 114.)
58. By the Loys is clearly meant the Chams.
* Cape A vrilla lies in the latitude of 20.30 N.
[Cape Avrilla = Cape Varella.]
59. The wall of Dong-hoi and the wall of Truong-duc were constructed by the
Nguyen early in the 17th century as a defense against attack by the Trinh.
They were situated not far to the north of Hu and they ran across the
narrow coastal plain between the mountains and the sea. See: Le Thanh
KJioi, op. cit., p. 246; Le Mur de Dong-hoi, by M. L. Cadire. BEFEO VI

60. See pp. 78~7it below for the account of the visit to Tourane of the Admiral
Pocock in 1764-65.


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country was in a flourishing condition and governed by a prince of

abilities. Soon after her departure, his son, whose misfortunes and
fate I have briefly given an account of, in the foregoing narrative, suc-
ceeded to the throne and anarchy and confusion ensued.61
The Cochin Chinese bear evident marks of being derived from the
same stock as the Chinese. They resemble them in their features and
in most of their manners and customs. Their religion is the same.
Their oral language, though different, appears formed upon the same
principles, and they use the same characters in writing. They are a
courteous, affable, inoffensive race, rather inclined to indolence. The
ladies are by far the most active sex. They usually do all the business
while their lazy lords sit upon their haunches smoking, chewing beetle
or sipping tea. Contrary to the custom in China they are not shut up,
and if unmarried a temporary connection with strangers who arrive in
the country is deemed no dishonour. Merchants often employ them
as their factors and brokers and it is said the firmest reliance may be
placed on their fidelity.
The habit of the men and women is cut after the same fashion
and is one of the modestest I know of. It is a loose robe buttoning
with small collar round the neck and folding over the breast like a
banyan gown with large long sleeves which cover the hands. People
of rank and especially the ladies wear several of these gowns, one over
the other, the undermost reaches to the ground, the succeeding ones
are each shorter than the other, so that the display of the different
colours makes a gaudy appearance as they walk along.
Such are the few particulars relative to Cochin China that occur
to me as curious or interesting. It now only remains to show how a
connection with this country may prove beneficial to my own and to
conclude the subject.
The drain of specie from the Company's settlements in India is
become a matter of such serious import that I make no doubt any plan
which may be offered to remedy so growing an evil will be deemed
worthy of consideration. I am sanguine in my expectations that a
settlement in Cochin China would conduce to that desirable end as well
as be productive of many other advantages.
Our two little vessels brought from Cochin China to the amount
of about sixty thousand rupees in gold and silver bullion. Had we
been paid for all sold the sum would have been much more consider-
able. The Rumbold the year before also brought bullion to consider-
able amount. This money was received on account of sales of Bengal
61. Chapman is surprisingly well informed on the history of Vietnam, and his
historical comments are far more reliable than those1 of Barrow whose
elaborate sketch of Vietnamese history is very confusing. (Barrow, op. cit.,
pp. 249-285).
In this passage Chapman refers first to the "march to the south" of the
Vietnamese which, between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, resulted
in the extension of Vietnamese domination from the Col des Nuages to
Cape Camau at the expense of the Chams and the Cambodians. Next he
describes the long wars between the Nguyen and the Trinh, and he mentions
the wall of Dong-hoi, one of the two elaborate defensive works which the
Nguyen constructed north of Hu as a protection against Trinh attack.
Finally, he refers to the death of Vo-vuong and the succession of Dinh-
vuong in 1765, the year after the visit of the Admiral Pocock.


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Alastair Lamb

and Madras cloths, opium, iron, copper, lead, hardware and glass;
some enquiries were made for broadcloth but we unfortunately had
none. These are matters of a trifling nature. In the sequel I hope to
fix the attention to many of greater importance.
The situation of Cochin China is excellently well adapted to com-
merce. Its vicinity to China, Tonquin, Japan, Cambodia, Siam, the
Malay Coast, the Philippines, Borneo, the Moluccas, & c., renders the
intercourse with all these countries short and easy. The commodious
harbours found on the coast, particularly that of Turon, afford a safe
retreat for ships of any burthen during the most tempestuous seasons
of the year.
The nations of Europe, having hitherto found it impossible to
provide cargoes sufficiently valuable to barter for the commodities of
China, are obliged to make up the deficiency by sending thither immense
quantities of bullion, by which means it has, for a number of years past,
drained the eastern and western worlds of their specie. The number of
junks annually resorting to Cochin China plainly proves how much the
productions of it are in demand amongst the Chinese. These produc-
tions, had we a settlement and a confirmed influence in the country,
might with ease be brought to center with us, purchased with the staples
of India and of Europe. Turon would become the emporium for them,
where our ships bound to Canton, from whence it is only five days sail,
might call and receive them. The quantity procurable it is impossible
to determine. Whatever it might be, it would prove a saving of so
much specie to Great Britain or India as the value of the commodities
amounted to China. In a few years there is every reason to believe a
very considerable investment might be provided.
Our trade to China has ever been burdened with enormous imposts
and exactions. These under various pretences are annually increasing,
and in process of time may become insupportable. It is an opinion
latterly grown current that the Chinese are desirous of totally excluding
all Europeans from their country. May we not hazard a conjecture that
the vexations they oblige them to suffer are the premeditated schemes of
this politic people to effect it. Were such an event to happen the want
of a settlement to the eastward would be severely felt. The Chinese
would export their own commodities and Java or the Philippines as the
nearest ports would become the marts for them. As there is no reason
to suppose that our inability to procure them from the first hand would
hinder their consumption, we must buy them either from the Dutch
or from the Spaniards. A settlement in Cochin China will give us a
superior advantage to either, both as its situation is nearer and the
Chinese are more accustomed to resort thither. In all events there is
reason to suppose it will enable us to procure the commodities of China
at a much more reasonable rate than now purchased by our factors
at Canton, and certainly on less humiliating terms to the nation. Large
colonies of Chinese have from time to time emigrated from the parent
country and fixed their abode in different parts of Cochin China. These
have their correspondents in every sea port of the Empire. Through
their means, teas, chinaware and the various other articles, the objects
of our commerce with China, might be imported in junks to our own
settlement equally good in quality, and cheaper, as the Chinese are


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Missions to Cochin China

exempted from the exorbitant duties levied on foreigners. Some of the

best workmen might be encouraged to settle in Cochin China and under
direction manufactories carried to as great a degree of perfection as at
China itself.
The intercourse between Japan and Cochin China might be renewed
and we might participate in a trade for many years monopolised by
the Dutch.
An advantageous trade might be carried on with the Philippine
Islands, and Madras and Bengal goods introduced amongst them by
means of the junks for the consumption of Spanish America.
The Siamese and Cambodians would bring the produce of their
respective countries and barter or sell them for such articles as they
wanted from Cochin China; amongst them it is probable a vent might
be found for quantities of Bengal cloths.
The lower class of people in Cochin China are, for the most part,
clothed in Cangos, a coarse cotton cloth brought from China, but the
preference which I had an opporunity of observing they gave to Bengal
cloths, on account of their being wider and cheaper, would soon induce
them to adopt the use of them.
The demand for opium, already in some measure become a neces-
sity of life to the Chinese, would increase in proportion to the facility
of procuring it, the importation of it no longer confined to Canton, but
carried by the junks to every sea-port in the country would spread the
demand for this drug to the remotest parts of the Empire.
But what inspires the most flattering hopes from an establishment in
this country is its rich gold mines celebrated for ages as producing the
richest ore, so pure that the simple action of fire is said to be sufficient
to refine it. I omitted no opportunity of making enquiries respecting
this valuable article and was informed that mines were formed in dif-
ferent parts of the northern provinces, particularly in Hu, where the
ore lay so near the surface of the earth that it was dug up with little
labour, under the direction of a skilful metallurgist. What might not
be expected from such a source!
Great as the commercial advantages are, the political ones resulting
from a settlement in Cochin China would be scarce inferior. Turon
Bay would not only afford a secure retreat to our Indiamen in case of
losing their passage to China, but from thence we might also intercept
the fleets of any hostile power either going to or returning from that
country. We should become formidable neighbours to the Dutch and
to the Spaniards and, in the event of a war with either of them, attack
with advantage their most valuable settlements. In short, all the
arguments in favour of a settlement at Balambangan may with much
more propriety be urged for one in Cochin China.
Should anything that has been said appear sufficiently well grounded
to induce the Company to form a settlement in Cochin China, it may
be effected on principles strictly just and at a small expense. Several
of the Royal Family, besides the Mandarines who were in Bengal, with
many officers of the late government urged me to use my endeavours
with the Government of Bengal to induce it to afford them assistance,
promising a powerful support whenever we should heartily engage in
their cause. To restore their lawful sovereign to the throne would be


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Alastair Lamb

now a measure so popular, that the sincerity of their offers cannot be

doubted. To relieve an unhappy people groaning under the weight of
the most cruel oppression would be an act worthy of the humanity of
the British nation. Fifty European infantry, half that number of artil-
lery and two hundred sepoys would be sufficient for this and every other
purpose; the natives of Cochin China are infinitely below the inhabitants
of Indostan in military knowledge. I have, however, no doubt that a
body of them, well disciplined and regularly paid, would prove faithful
to us, and contribute as much to the security of any possessions which
we might acquire to the eastward, as the Sepoys do to our territories in
India. In case of any distant expeditions they would be found superior,
being entirely free from all religious prejudices, and having no objection
to the sea.
While Cochin China remains in its present distracted state, a
favourable opening is presented to the first European nation that may
attempt to obtain a footing in the country. Three years ago, the French
sent a frigate to Turon Bay and from the pains taken to be informed
of the produce and political state of the country there is strong reason
to conclude some such decision was in agitation. Since that period,
the accurate accounts Mr. Chevalier must have received of Padre
Loreiro during his residence with him at Chandernagore, added to the
loss of all their settlements in India, will most probably induce them to
resume it. If they do not, some other power may adopt the scheme;
should the Company therefore entertain a design of making an esta-
blishment in Cochin China, no time should be lost in carrying it into


chapman's return to bengal

1. Bengal General Consultations, 4 October, 1779.

Read the following letter from Mr. Chapman.
Hon'ble Sir & Gentlemen,
I do myself the honour to lay before the Board a narrative of my
transactions in Cochin China.
Altho' I failed in the object of establishing a factory, I hope it will
appear that it did not arise from any misconduct or want of exertion on
my part, but from the distracted state of the country, and the total
suppression of the party I relied on for support.
I have a satisfaction in the reflection that the miscarriage has been
attended with a very small expense to the Hon'ble Company, and I
flatter myself if the scheme of making a settlement in Cochin China
should ever be revived, the information I have obtained will not be use-
less. I beg leave to refer the Hon'ble Board to the two last sections for
short sketch of the geography of the country, and for some observation
on the advantages which appear to me may be derived from an esta-
blishment there.


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Sensible how much I need the indulgence of the Hon'ble Board I

submit my narrative to them with the greatest deference, and hope they
will excuse its length and defects.

Calcutta I am etc.
17th Sept., 1779. (Signed) Cha. Chapman.
Ordered that the *narrative be copied apart from the Consultations,
and transmitted by the first ship to the Court of Directors.

* This narrative is of considerable length, and is bound up in a

separate volume in the India House.

2. General Letter from Bengal, 14 January, 1780.

Par. 48. Mr. Charles Chapman, who was deputed to the Govern-
ment at Cochin China in order to enquire into the advantages of a
commerce with that country and to endeavour to establish a freedom
of trade to all the Company's Settlements under the sanction and
authority of the ruling power of the place, has laid before us since his
return a narrative of his proceedings and observations on Cochin China
and Tonquin, a copy of which makes a number in the packet. We are
pleased with his conduct in this troublesome and perilous service, and
recommend his narrative of it and the observations which follow it as
deserving of your attention.


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Alastair Lamb


Narrative of the proceedings in Cochin China in 1764-65, by Captain

Blomfield of the Admiral Pocock. (China Factory Records, Vol. 18.)
The Pocock arrived at Cochin China in the month of December
one thousand seven hundred and sixty four and continued there five
months; from thence they went to Canton and carried with them soft
sugar and sugar candy which yielded them from twenty-five to thirty
percent profit. During their continuance at Faifo (which is a town
thirteen miles up the river) they were very well treated by the inhabitants
who are a very harmless inoffensive people (a boy by a pistol acci-
dentally going off killed one of the natives which occasioned some
trouble to the Captain of the Pocock just before he left the place).
There is not the least danger to be apprehended from the natives as the
Pocock1 s men were dispersed about different parts of the country and
never any of them received any injury nor did the natives shew any
disposition to hurt them.
There is no foreign trade carried on except by the Chinese junks
from Canton; five or six of which annually come there in the months
of January and February for sugar and sugar candy which they carry
back in the months of July and August.
The Pocock lay in a fine Bay during their stay at Cochin China,
free from risk of winds or weather where they had fine anchoring
ground. There is no danger to be apprehended from the Chinese junks
nor from a sort of galley which belong to the Cochin Chinese; they are
pretty large with a good number of oars. It is however proper to be
on your guard to prevent any accident should any attempt be made.
The Pocock' s people never had the least reason to suspect any of the
natives, they always kept up the appearance of being prepared by
showing their guns and having their arms always ready and occasionally
exercising some of their men upon deck and fired regularly an evening
and morning gun.
On the way up to the Faifo (the principal town) there are two
Custom houses where all boats stop. The passport from the ship is
given by a Mandarine at the fishing town called Turon at the entrance
of Faifo River. He will make probably some objections in order to
extort something. Two or three Spanish dollars generally removes his
doubts. It is the same with any boats that leave Faifo for the ship.
The man in office there is called the Quansi.
The Port charges are very trifling. The Pocock' s people paid no
duties upon the goods they brought away with them, nor were any
demanded except a sort of perquisite to the man in office at the above
Their government is absolute like the Chinese and the inferior
officers of government are as corrupt. The great staple of the country
is sugar of which they cultivate immense quantities, and as they have
no vend for it but to the Chinese who send their junks there, it is
remarkably cheap. When the Pocock7 s people first arrived amongst
them, which was in the month of December, their crop of canes was not
ripe, therefore the Pocock's people paid at the rate of four Spanish


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Dollars a pecul [or picul] for such sugar as we call in England the
Finest Lisbon. Their pecul is exactly two hundred pounds weight but
in the months of April, May and June sugar is to be bought at least
forty percent cheaper. Sugar candy of the best sort is about twenty-five
percent dearer than sugar. They make a sort of damask and a great
qantity of pilongs, which they sell considerably cheaper than at Canton.
Cotton is produced there much of the same kind as in China, but they
do not appear much acquainted with the manufacturing of it. They
have a cloth like dungaree but they seem ignorant in bleaching. There
are likewise great plenty of Aguila wood and of the finest timber, like-
wise birds nests which one sold very cheap. Silver is a scarce article
amongst them, but they have great plenty of gold in ingots. Silver may
be exchanged for gold upon every advantageous terms.
As Faifo is not the capital of the country, Captain Blomfield cannot
particularly describe what branches of trade and manufactures may be
carried on at and about the capital where the King resides which is three
days journey from Faifo. A great part of the inhabitants even at Faifo
appeared in silk dresses from which it is natural to infer there is great
plenty of that article produced in the country. There is a great appear-
ance of plenty and riches amongst them.
It is very necessary to carry some presents for the King such as
gold and silver, muslim, kincobs,62 a few pieces of broadcloth, cheap
cutlery, glassware and a pair of glasses, some cordials and sweet wine;
as the King offered to grant Captain Riddle an exclusive trade to his
country we may expect the same indulgence by judicious management.
At our first setting out, some presents of inferior value will be necessary
for the Minister and Mandarines about his Majesty; some attention
must likewise be given to Padre Loreiro, a Portuguese Jesuit who has
long resided there and is a man of influence with his Majesty.

62. Kincobs. A gold brocade fabric. See: Yule, Burnell, op. cit., pp. 368-369.


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Alastair Lamb

appendix .

Captain Blomfield's observations on the Geography and Trade of

Cochin China. (China Factory Records, Vol. 18.)
If I were to sail for Cochin China any time in the S.W. Monsoon,
I would go within the Paracels for which navigation there are ample
instructions in the ninety-seventh page of Herbert's Directory. But I
cannot find he carries you with any certainty further than Pulo Canton
which is an island on the coast of Cochin China in latitude fifteen
degrees forty minutes. N.W. from it about twenty-five leagues lies the
island Campello which you may go boldly in with the Chinese junks.
All come into Faifo River (which runs into Turon Bay) to the south-
ward of Campello. But from all the intelligence I could gain from the
fishermen there is not above fourteen or fifteen feet water in that chan-
nel. In the Admiral Pocock we went into Turon Bay round the N.W.
end of a long crooked island that defends the Bay, which island lies
about twelve leagues W.N.W. from Campello. It is a noble entrance
and quite clear of all danger. We lay within a cable and half's length
of a little round island which is not seen until you open the whole Bay,
not more than two stones throw in diameter. It is full of pineapples
and has a well of good water. Our cooper did all his work on this
little island. We might have lain three miles nearer Turon, the fishing
town at the entrance of Faifo River. The winds on that part of the
coast are variable all the year as indeed they are close in with most
lands, that is, I would be understood to mean that the periodical winds
lose their influence near the shore - I mention this that you may not be
deterred from engaging this coast at any season. We closed with it
the latter end of November and had our doubts as we considered it as
a lee shore at that season, but had not necessity overruled our objections
experience showed us we had little to fear. In the S.W. Monsoon a
ship may be at Macao in five days very well from this port and in the
N.E. Monsoon she would not be longer from Macao back.
Of the produce cf the country as it is connected in trade: -
The attention of the husbandmen in this country is chiefly turned
to cultivating the sugar-cane. It may be said sugar is the staple com-
modity cf this country. It is both finer and richer than any sugar in
the East, or perhaps the West. The crops are taken in about May.
When we first got there we found it near fiftv percent dearer (which was
in December) than when we left them, which was in June. But I do
not think it was entirely owing to the season so much as that on our
first coming amongst them they entertained great notions of our wealth,
therefore it will be highly necessary to be careful how you show them
monev. Tf they found a scarcity of it, I am inclined to think they
would covet many of the Bengal and Madras manufactures as well as
abundance of those from Europe. We latterly purchased sugar at the
rate of two hundred pounds weight for six silver Rupees. But I believe
two new Spanish Dollars would have bought as much. The suar
candv was always about twenty-five percent dearer than the sugar. We
saw but little else they had to sell, except pilongs,63 sattins and Aguila
wood; thev showed us some birds nests, which they told us thev got
from the Paracel Islands. They appeared to be as f?ood as what I
63. A kind of chinz bed cover.


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have seen at Soolor64 or anywhere to the eastward. As we did not

want to buy any we enquired but little about them. The pilongs are
considerably cheaper than in China, and so are their damasks of which
they have much, but not very stout.
Their Government is much like the Chinese. The inferior officers
of the Revenue are like those in China and are called Mandarines - a
trifle of money overrules their objections which they are constantly
making. From Turon, a fishing town at the entrance of the River, you
take your pass for Faifo, the Capital Town. This is obtained from a
little Mandarine stationed there, he must be frequently touched and
kept in good humour; whenever we failed sending a trifle, which we
usually did once or twice a week, he never failed reminding us by put-
ting a stop to our daily supplies we received from Turon under some
pretence of ill behaviour in some of our people that went on shore.
There are boats come on board every morning, from Turon, with all
sorts of things to sell, and they usually remain till sunset. They distil
a spirit there from rice which by being sold extremely cheaply may pro-
mote much drunkeness in our ship. Boats that load from Faifo with
anything for the ship are obliged to obtain a pass there from a man in
office, whom they call a Quansi. He is a sort of Mandarine, and of a
much superior order to him at Turon. The people we purchased our
sugar from usually got the pass. The boats in their way down are
stopped, generally twice, to be examined. After we had been two
months there, some Mandarines, of a very superior order, came down
from Court and regulated matters. They were very attentive to any
complaints we made - some elegant presents to them would be of use.
They seemed to be much superior to anything mean. There is a Jesuit
at the Court who has much influence and is a Mandarine. He is of a
high family in Portugal, in all respects an exceedingly worthy person;
his name is Loreiro. There is vast plenty of good timber at Faifo. We
got lower yards and top-masts made there of a sort of poone, and very
well it turned out. It is here, as in China, they have but one real
coin; it is exactly the same as the China cash but here they are called
Sappecas - all their other money is ideal. We heard of nothing but a
Quan which is equal to six hundred Sappecas; they used to give us five
hundred for a Spanish Dollar, and two hundred for a Rupee, but as our
silver grew scant, especially our dollars, they gave us more. When we
had been about two months among them they gave us six hundred
Sappecas for our Spanish Dollar, and at last they took two Rupees for
a Quan, or six hundred Sappecas. I take the Quan to be nearly equal
to the Chinese Tale.65 It is incredible how greedy they were of our
silver, of which they have but little-^- gold they have in abundance, it
was brought us in ingots of about four or five ounces. It seems they
have a great deal of gold dust in their rivers, but as all our views were
taken up with sugar, we gave ourselves but little trouble concerning
the gold - indeed, none of us knew the mode of buying gold. I have
no doubt but four Rupees would buy one of their peculs (which is two
hundredweight) of the very best sugar and six as much of their good
suear candv, provided thev did not discover vou had olentv of money.
64. Soolor = Sulu.
65. See p. 194 below.


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CHINA, 1793

CHAPMAN'S the political proposalsthe
statepolitical statenotofChinaCochin
of were Cochin followedChina
future too uncertain to make the prospect of an attempt to
was up. too too disturbed
It was clear andand
establish a British settlement there very attractive. In any case, shortly
after Chapman's departure the strategic need for such a settlement
became far less pressing with the British occupation of the French
possessions in India following the French intervention in the American
war. France, without Pondichery, could not be expected to achieve
much in Cochin China; and only the fear of sustained and successful
French intervention in this region could have produced an active British
policy. Cochin China was remote from British territory, and the
arguments for an establishment there had to compete with proposals for
the solution of some of the problems of the China trade in other
directions: for example, proposals for the establishment of British
relations with Peking, either direct or through the mediation of the
Panchen Lama of Tibet, and for the extension of British influence in
In 1785 Pondichery was returned to France, and this event
coincided with the reappearance of the threat of French power in
Cochin China. By 1787 France was on the verge of acquiring a pro-
tectorate over the territories of the Nguyen Dynasty. The Treaty of
Versailles of that year promised French help to Nguyen Anh against
the Tay-son in return for French settlements and preferential status in
Indochina. Had this document been implemented, and had the French
Monarchy survived to exploit the opportunities which it presented, it is
most probable that Indochina would have become a real base for
French rivalry with British India. Even in its failure the Treaty of
1787 provided a psychological basis for French intervention in Indo-
china in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Treaty of Versailles was the achievement of a French
missionary, Pigneau de Behaine, Bishop of Adran, who was able to
help Nguyen Anh in his escape from the Tay-son in 1777, and who
thereafter won a great measure of confidence and affection from the
Nguyen ruler. Pigneau de Behaine, who became in 1775 the head of
the establishments of the Missions Etrangres in Indochina, appreciated


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Pl. Route of the Macartney
Embassy. (From Staunton, op. dt,
Atlas of Plates.)

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Missions to Cochin China

that a victory of the Nguyen offered the best chance for the spread of
Christianity in these regions. Vo-vuong, with his friendship to the
Jesuits Kffler, de Monteiro and de Loureiro, had established a tradition
which Pigneau de Behaine hoped Nguyen Anh would follow to become
not only the champion of the Christian cause but also the ally of
Nguyen Anh was certainly most reluctant to accept the French
help which Pigneau de Behaine offered to secure for him. It was only
in 1783, after the disasters to his forces which accompanied the fourth
capture of Saigon by the Tay-son, that he gave serious consideration to
this prospect and entrusted his son Prince Canh to the French bishop
as a pledge of his earnestness in this matter. It was not until the end
of 1784, when an attempt to recoup his fortunes with the help of King
Rama I of Siam had failed, that he authorised Pigneau de Behaine to
go to seek this aid.
Pigneau de Behaine, accompanied by the young Prince Canh,
arrived in Pondichery in February 1785 with a draft Franco- Vietnamese
treaty in his pocket; but he found that the government of the French
settlements in India was opposed to his plans. Pondichery had just
been returned to France by the British. The acting governor,
Coutenceau des Algrins, shared the death-bed conclusion of Bussy that
the French only existed in India so long as the British tolerated them.
He disapproved, therefore, of Pigneau de Behaine' s project which he
saw as yet another of those schemes which had frittered away French
power in the East. On the folly of French intervention in Indochina he
wrote that:
a prince [Nguyen Anh] who has fought for eight years
and has never had any success is either without great ability
or is not loved by his subjects. An attachment cannot exist
between a man who carries out all his whims and men bent
under the yoke of tyranny and oppression. The expenses
which must be met in going to take this prince and his suite,
and the far more considerable ones involved in transporting
troops and arms to wage war at one of the ends of the world,
cannot be borne by us who are at this moment lacking much
that is indispensable

undertake any expenditure to rstore His Cochin Chinese

Majesty. Even if all these reasons which I have advanced to
the prelate [Pigneau de Behaine] are not accepted according
to the wise principles of a moderate government, yet the nature
of the French administration and the character of the nation
are forever opposed to such distant expeditons on the vain
pretext of commercial profit. Such an expedition could only
be acceptable to a worn-out nation which pursues every
chimerical hope in order to blind itself to its real state. France,


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Alastair Lamb

happily, is not in so desperate a situation as to lead it to

throw itself on to the cake of the fable. I believe that the
Minister, to whom I have passed on this little digression, can
only approve the reply which I have made. I suspect that the
dear prelate, who is said to be on very familiar terms with the
King of Cochin China, has a strong desire to increase his
revenues and the credulity of the catholics of that kingdom.66
In the face of this opinion Pigneau de Behaine had no alternative
but to go on to Paris, where he and the young Prince Canh arrived in
February 1787. Here he presented to the French Government the
following argument in a forceful memorandum:
the political balance in India is so inclined towards the
English nation . . . .that one must consider it a most difficult
task to bring it back to equality. Perhaps of all the methods
one could use an establishment in Cochin China would be the
surest and most effective. In fact, if one glances at the
resources of Cochin China and at the location of its ports, one
will see clearly that by settling there one will obtain the
greatest advantages both in peace and in war.
1st advantage. - It is to be supposed that the surest means
of opposing the English in India is by ruining or weakening
their commerce. In peacetime one would decrease greatly the
profit they could make from their China trade by trading
oneself at much less cost and with far greater ease.
2nd advantage. - In wartime it would be easy to prohibit
this same trade to all enemy nations; because, by cruising at the
outlet of the Straits [of Malacca] or, even more effectively, at
the Bocca Tigris which is the entry to the Canton River, one
could prevent from entering or leaving those whom one wished
to prevent.
3rd advantage. - One would find in Cochin China easy and
inexpensive facilities for recaulking ships, for careening them,
and, even, for building new ones.
4th advantage. - One would find there all one could need
for supplying naval squadrons and for providing the basic
needs for other colonies.
5th advantage. - One could find there, in case of need,
assistance in men, soldiers, sailors, etc.
6th advantage. - One would easily stop the English in those .
projects which they appear to have in mind to extend them-
selves on their eastern side.
Other advantages, perhaps more important though more

Government would not approve at this moment. It has thus

seemed necessary to hold to those which speak for themselves,
and to leave on one side those which one can only forsee in
the distant future.67

66. Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 179-180.

67. Ibid, vol. 1, p. 181.


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Missions to Cochin China

These arguments held a far greater attraction for the Ministry than
those of Coutenceau des Algrins. France, indeed, was in that very
condition which the acting Governor General at Pondichery declared so
confidently she was not; and the vision offered by Pigneau de Behaine
was irresistible. Thus, on 28th November, 1787, Comte de Montmorin,
the French Foreign Minister, and Pigneau de Behaine, as Nguyen Anh's
plenipotentiary, signed a treaty at Versailles which embodied the terms
on which France would give aid to the Nguyen Dynasty.
1 . The French agreed to help in the most effective way they could
the efforts of the King of Cochin China to regain control of his
2. For this purpose the French agreed, to send to Cochin China
four frigates with 200 infantry, 200 artillerymen, and 250 native soldiers.
These troops would be fully equipped.
3. The King of Cochin China agreed to cede to France "even-
tually" the absolute property in and sovereignty over "the island which
forms the principal port of Cochin China, called Hoi-nan and by the
Europeans Tour on ".
4. Apart from this island, the French would have the right to
found all the settlements which they might consider it desirable to
possess on the mainland.
5. The King of France would also be given possession of Pulo

6. The French would be free to trade throughout the Cochin

Chinese dominions, which would be closed to the commerce of all other
European nations. They would not be restricted in their trade and
only subject to reasonable duties and taxes.
7. The King of Cochin China would extend his full protection
over the French subjects resident in his territory.
8. Once France was in possession of Hoi-nan and Pulo Condore
she would come to the aid of Cochin China in the event of an attack
by any European or Asian power. This help, in troops, ships and
arms, would be provided within three months of its being asked for;
but the King of Cochin China was not to use this force beyond a region
bounded by the Moluccas, Sunda and the Straits of Malacca.
9. The French would help the King of Cochin China in maintain-
ing internal security in Cochin China.
10. These terms were subject to ratification by the two sovereigns
In an additional article Pigneau de Behaine committed the Cochin
Chinese to undertake the initial cost of constructing and fortifying the


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Alastair Lamb

proposed French settlements on Hoi -nan (which the English knew as the
Island of Callao) and Pulo Condore.68
While the French Ministry was prepared to negotiate this Treaty,
it was still in considerable doubt as to the wisdom of intervention in
Cochin China. It had been much alarmed by the anti-French policy
which, with the help of Prussian troops, William V had been able to
impose on the Netherlands in 1787, and which deprived the French
of so many potential bases in eastern waters. Hence de Montmorin
left the final decision as to the sending of French aid to Nguyen Anh
to the Comte de Conway, Governor General at Pondichery. In May
1788, when Pigneau de Behaine and the Prince Canh reached Pondi-
chery on their way back to Cochin China, they brought with them not
only the text of the Treaty of Versailles but also secret instructions for
de Conway which, unknown to the bishop, empowered the Governor
General to make up his own mind as to the wisdom of the Cochin
China venture.
De Conway, like Coutenceau des Algrins, was strongly opposed to
Pigneau de Behaine's scheme which he felt was beyond the available
resources of France and likely to lead to trouble with the British.
Pigneau de Behaine was able, however, despite de Conway's refusal to
help, to raise and equip from his own resources four ship-loads of
volunteers whom he promptly despatched to Nguyen Anh. This help
reached Indochina in September 1788, and Pigneau de Behaine followed
it in May 1789. Thus de Conway's opposition had not prevented
French intervention in Indochina; but it altered significantly its shape.
The Treaty of Versailles had provided for support to the Nguyen by
the French Monarchy. What in fact materialised was a private enter-
prise of Pigneau de Behaine, and the Treaty was to all intents and
purposes a dead letter. With the outbreak of the French Revolution
and the disappearance of the monarchy it lost any remaining force;
but this did not prevent later French statesmen and admirals from
reviving this document.
Nguyen Anh must have been glad to discover that events had
turned out in this way. During Pigneau de Behaine's absence his
fortunes began to change for the better. In September 1788, with
Siamese support, he recaptured Saigon for the fourth and last time.
While the aid which Pigneau secured was still of great value, it no
longer offered the only hope of a Nguyen victory and it certainly did
not justify any longer the eventual cession to France of Vietnamese
territory. Numerically, French help was of no great significance. Its
chief importance lay in the provision of a few military and naval experts
who were able to bring something of European organisation and equip-
68. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 185-188.


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Missions to Cochin China

ment to Nguyen Anh's forces. Improvements in the fleet were of

special importance in the struggle which broke the naval power of the
It is probable, however, that Nguyen Anh would have defeated his
enemies without any French help at all, though the process might well
have taken much longer and been less complete. By 1786 severe strains
were becoming apparent in the structure of the Tay-son state. In
that year Van-Hue undertook the conquest of Tonkin from the Trinh.
His successes aroused the jealousy of his elder brother Van-Nhac and
provoked Chinese intervention on behalf of the Le Dynasty which saw
in the collapse of the Trinh the last chance for the revival of its
ancient power. In the summer of 1787 the two Tay-son leaders came
to blows. Van-Hue besieged Van-Nhac in the latter's capital at
Qui-nhon, but was forced to come to an uneasay truce under pressure
of events in Tonkin. The Chinese intervention in Tonkin was repulsed,
and Van-Hue was recognised by China as the successor to the Le with
the reginal title of Quang Trung; but on his death in 1792 his power
was far from being consolidated and relations between the northern
Tay-son kingdom and China remained strained. Van-Hue left a ten
year old son to succeed him, Quang Toan, under the regency of Bui
Dac Tuyen. In the south Van-Nhac was now far less formidable than
he had been in Chapman's day. In 1793 Nguyen Anh was only pre-
vented from capturing Qui-nhon by the timely arrival of forces from
Tonkin. When, at the end of 1793, Van-Nhac died, his possessions
were taken over by Bui Dac Tuyen in the name of the young Quang
Toan. By this time the Tay-son had lost much of that popular support
which they enjoyed earlier in their history. The country was devastated
by continual war and the Tay-son rulers had abandoned many of those
altruistic principles which had made them so attractive to the peasantry
and the merchants in the 1770s.
When Macartney called at Tourane in May and June 1793 he found
Vietnam divided into three parts. From Quang-nam Province, in
which lay Tourane and Faifo, to the north of Tonkin extended the
kingdom of Quang Toan, the young son of Van-Hue (or Quang Trung),
which was then ruled through the Regent Bui Dac Tuyen. To the
south of Quang-nam lay the territories of Van-Nhac with their capital
at Qui-nhon. In the extreme south, based on Saigon and Gia-dinh
Province, were the forces of Nguyen Anh and their small band of
French advisers. At the very moment when the British Ambassador
was going ashore at Tourane, the Nguyen army and navy were begin-
ning an attack on Van-Nhac's capital, Qui-nhon, which, but for the
timely intervention of Bui Dac Tuyen and a Tonkinese army, would
have resulted in the complete reconquest of the southern Tay-son state.


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Alastair Lamb

The political situation in Vietnam offered little, therefore, to tempt

British diplomacy at this time. The nothern Tay-son kingdom seemed
powerful enough, but its relations with China were very strained - just
before his death in 1792 Van-Hue had laid claim to Kwangtung and
Kwangsi Provinces - ; and it was unlikely that a British Embassy bent
on establishing closer relations with the Chinese Emperor would fish in
these troubled waters without the express approval of Peking. The
southern Tay-son kingdom seemed to be on the verge of collapse. The
Nguyen Dynasty, it was clear, was committed to Pigneau de Behaine
and his French companions; but this fact implied no great threat to
British commerce in the east so long as Pigneau de Behaine was in no
way sponsored by the Revolutionary French Government. Even the
prospect of a British settlement in Indochina in the most favourable
political circumstances would not have been so tempting in 1793 as it
might have been in 1778; for by the time of Macartney's visit the
British had obtained in Penang most of those advantages which Chap-
man had reported to be inherent in a British establishment in the
neighbourhood of Tourane.
It must not be supposed, however, that Indochina had lost all
interest to the British by 1793. The possibility of a French forward
policy here at some future date could not be ignored completely, and
there were good arguments for taking a close look at those areas in the
neighbourhood of Tourane which would have become French had the
Treaty of Versailles been implemented. Cochin China, moreover, was
a region with commercial potentialities which merited a fresh investiga-
tion. As Dundas' instructions to Macartney stated:
in the small but fertile kingdom of Cochin China not only
tea but sugar in great abundance is said to be produced, and
exported from thence at a cheaper rate than from any other
part of the East or West Indies. The alarming increase in the
price of the last article in Europe not only affects the lower
classes of the people, among whom it has become a necessary
of life; but the public revenue, as well in its own diminished
consumption as in that of other taxable articles with which it
is used. This consideration renders any country that is likely
to supply the want of it at a reasonable rate an object of
attention in the present instance.69
Thus Macartney was authorised to visit Cochin China or depute Sir
George Staunton there, either on his way to China or on his return.
This accorded well with the general objectives of the Macartney
Embassy. Its primary purpose was to secure improvements in the
terms on which the British traded with China. The restrictions at
Canton which limited trade to a single port and obliged British mer-
69. Morse, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 241.


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Missions to Cochin China

chants to deal exclusively with a single trading monopoly resulted in

greatly increased prices for Chinese goods, especially tea. With the
Commutation Act of 1784, which drastically reduced the duties imposed
on the import of tea to England, the consumption of this commodity
there increased by over three hundred per cent; and the consequence
was a corresponding rise in the export of specie. It was felt that this
"drain of specie" could best be checked by the freeing of the conditions
of the China trade. The results hoped for were a reduction in the cost
of Chinese produce and an increase in the sale in China of European
manufactures. But it was appreciated that China was not the only
direction in which these benefits might be sought. There was a possi-
bility, to which Macartney's instructions refer, that Chinese tea might
be obtained in Japan at a lower price than that prevailing at Canton;
and Macartney was authorised to visit Japan if he thought it worth
while. Chinese merchants, as it was argued at the time of the founding
of Penang, might be encouraged to bring their wares to markets outside
the Chinese Empire and free of the monopolistic greed of the Canton
authorities. Chapman had seen such a market in Cochin China, and
Macartney was well aware of his observations.
The Macartney Embassy arrived in Tourane Bay on 26th May,
1793, and left for Canton on 16th June. Its transport and escort con-
sisted of four vessels, the Lion, the Hindostn , the brig Jackhall and
the brig Clarence , the last having been purchased at Batavia to replace
the Jackhall which was at one time thought to have been lost at sea.
The appearance of this force off Tourane seems to have led the local
authorities to believe that a French squadron had come to attack the
place on behalf of the Nguyen. Macartney did not succeed entirely in
removing the suspicions of Quang Toan's government. The proceed-
ings of the Macartney Embassy at Tourane are outlined briefly by
Aeneas Anderson, as follows: 70

Anderson's account of Lord Macartney's visit to Tourane in May

and June 1793.

Sunday , 26th May , 1793. At nine in the evening anchored in

Turon Bay, in Cochin China. Found here a Portuguese brig, who
saluted us with eleven guns.
Monday 27th. The ship's company employed in watering. The
water here is of a reddish colour. Several proas came along-side the
Lion with ducks, cocoa-nuts, and joghry,71 for sale. Several mandarins
also came on board to see the ship.
Tuesday 28th. Men were sent on shore to raise tents for the sick.
70. Anderson, op. cit., pp. 50-56.
71. Joghry or Jaggery. A coarse brown sugar. Yule, Burnell, op. cit., pp.


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Alastair Lamb

Wednesday 29th. The Ambassador was visited by several man-

darins, with a great train of attendants. They were entertained with
wines and liquors of various kinds, which, however, they were very
cautious in tasting, till Lord Macartney banished all apprehension by
setting them the example: they then drank, without reserve, whatever
was offered to them; but they appeared to prefer cherry and raspberry
brandy, above all the other liquors with which they were regaled.
The dress of these persons consisted chiefly of a black loose gown,
of a kind of crape, with silk trousers, slippers, and a black turban: a
girdle, of silver cordage, was also tied round their waists. Some of
them, but whether it arose from accident, or was a badge of distinction,
I cannot tell, wore dark blue gowns of the same stuff. The domestics
were clad in a plaid, or Tartan dress; their trousers were tucked up to
the knee, and they wore no shoes or slippers; their legs were entirely
naked; and their turban was of plaid, like the rest of their very curious
Friday 31st . In the evening, the Prime Minister of the King of
Cochin China, came on board the Lion, accompanied by several man-
darins, and a considerable train of attendants, to request the Ambassa-
dor's company to dinner, in the name of the King, who had given his
minister a special commission to make this invitation. It was, accord-
ingly, signified to this distinguished personage, that his Excellency
received the message with the utmost respect, and would, in conse-
quence of it, go on shore on Tuesday morning, at ten o'clock.
After this conference, the Cochin Chinese minister, and his suite,
returned in their barges, which were decorated in a very gaudy manner.
They were saluted on their departure from the ship with five guns.
Saturday , 1st June. In the forenoon the Ambassador received a
visit from two mandarins, who brought from the King of Cochin China
a present, consisting of
10 Buffaloes

50 Hogs
150 Ducks

200 Bags of rice, and

6 Large jars of samptsoo
The last is a liquor made in China, and imported from thence.
Sunday 2nd. I went ashore in the forenoon and saw the town,
the name of which is Fie-Foo [Faifo]. It consists of nothing more than
a crowd of wretched bamboo huts, though it contains a spacious
market-place, well supplied with ducks, fowls, eggs, cocoanuts, and
fruits. The surrounding country is flat, and very fertile: but the natives
seem to have little or no idea of cultivation, which would make it the
scene of extreme abundance. Their principal traffic seems to be with
their women, by consigning them, for a certain consideration, to the
society of Europeans who touch here. They have no coin, but a sort
of small caxee; and all their silver is in the form of long bars, or
wedges. The residence of the principal mandarin consists of a large
open range of bamboo huts, of a better form, and more elegant appear-
ance than the rest; containing several rooms of a tolerable size and


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Plate IV. A Cochin Chinese Mandarin. (Crawfurd. Embassy, op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

proportions, which are fitted up and furnished in a neat and ornamental


Monday 3rd . In the afternoon the Ambassador's guards, with

some of the marines, went on shore to practise the ceremonial duties
that had been assigned them for the following day.
Tuesday 4th. This morning the Ambassador, atended by his whole
suite, in full uniform, with Sir Erasmus Gower, Captain Mackintosh,
and several of the officers of the Lion and the Hindostn , went on shore
with great ceremony; when, in honour of the birthday of our most
excellent Sovereign, George the Third, he was saluted with twenty-one
guns by the Lion , the Hindostn , and Portuguese brig. The British
troops, with their officers and band of music, had been previously sent
ashore to wait his Excellency's arrival.
On this day the royal standard of Great Britain was displayed at
the main-top-gallant-royal mast; the St. George's ensign at the fore-top-
gallant ditto; and the union at the mizen.
The Ambassador was received, on his landing, by several man-
darins with every mark of attention and respect; when he proceeded,
under an escort of his own troops, to the house of the Prime Minister,
where a collation in the best manner of the country was prepared for
him. Here his Excellency remained for some time; and, after an ex-
change of mutual civilities, returned to the Lion , when he was saluted
by fifteen guns from all the ships lying at anchor.
Wednesday 5th. I went ashore in the afternoon, and purchased
some fruit and sugar of a very good quality: it is made in large cakes,
and resembles fine bread, for which, at some small distance, it may be
actually mistaken. I also saw six large elephants, which had been
brought for the amusement of the mandarins: they appeared to be
perfectly innocent, were obedient to every command, and performed
many feats of unwieldly agility. These huge animals moved at the rate
of eight miles an hour.
Friday 7th. On this morning the sick were received on board the
ships from the station on shore.
Mr. Jackson, master of the Lion, went in the cutter to take sound-
ings in the bay; but having gone up the mouth of the river Campella,
which rises about eighty miles up the country, and forms a confluence
with the river that discharges itself into Turon Bay, he inconsiderately
began to survey, and take plans of, the coast; but, in attempting to
execute this design, he, with the seven men who accompanied him,
were made prisoners by the natives, who seized the boat, and carried
them to the capital city of the kingdom.
This very disagreeable intelligence was communicated from the
shore by the mandarins, whose good offices were earnestly solicited by
Lord Macartney, and Sir Erasmus Gower, to obtain the return of these
men to the ship. Indeed, this unreflecting conduct of the master might,
as it was apprehended, be attended with consequences that would have
interrupted the course of the embassy; as the country of Cochin China
is tributary to the Chinese empire, and sends an annual Ambassador to
the court of Pekin; so that all this business might have been mis-
represented in such a manner to the Chinese government, as to have
lessened the good dispositions we were disposed to believe that they


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Alastair Lmb

entertained towards the British embassy. In short, it appeared, that

very serious apprehensions were entertained on that subject, by those
who were the best qualified to form a right judgment of the policy and
temper of the court which was the object of our destination.
Tuesday l Ith. Mr. Niaung, one of the interpreters, went on shore
with some of the Ambassador's suite, to inquire concerning the British
prisoners, and he was informed by the mandarins, that they had been
released, and were on their return.
Wednesday 12th. William Tothill, Esq., purser of the Lion , died
this morning, after an illness of a few days.
The King of Cochin China sent another large present of rice to
the Ambassador.
Thursday 13th . The body of Mr. Tothill was interred on shore
with every possible mark of respect and regard: Sir Erasmus Gower
also ordered an inscription to be cut in wood, which was afterwards
placed on his grave.
At four o'clock in the afternoon Mr. Jackson returned with the
cutter and his men, from their imprisonment; during which period they
had undergone the severest sufferings both in body and mind; and no
circumstance, but their belonging to the British embassy, could have
preserved them from being put to death.
Sunday 16th. At four in the afternoon weighed and set sail from
Turon Bay

The discussions between Macartney and the Vietnamese produced

no significant results. Relations were friendly enough despite the initial
impression that the British squadron was a French fleet allied to Nyuyen
Anh, and despite the crisis which arose over the arrest of some members
of Macartney's party who were engaged on a survey of Tourane Bay.
An important official of Quang Toan's government, whom Anderson
calls "Prime Minister" and who may well have been the Regent Bui
Dac Tuyen who was ruling during Quang Toan's minority, came down
from Hu to talk with the Ambassador. As the following extract from
Staunton shows, the Regent had good reasons to seek some sort of
alliance with the British, but Macartney resolved to keep himself free
from any commitment until he had seen the Chinese Emperor.
Overtures were made for the purchase of arms and ammu-
nition; and it was easy to perceive that any assistance given to
the cause of the prince, then reigning at Turon, as well as at
the capital and northern parts of the kingdom, would have
been willingly purchased on any terms. His situation, indeed,
was verv far from being secure. Beside the province of Donai,
or southern part of Cochin-china, which had reverted to the
ancient family of its sovereigns, Quin-nong, or the middle
province of the kingdom, was in the hands of the late usurper


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of the whole. He had entrusted to bis younger brother the

care of his conquests, to the northward; but the latter availed
himself of his command, first to invade the neighbouring king-
dof of Tung-quin, which he effected with complete success,
notwithstanding the assistance given to the latter by the
Chinese, and then declared himself sovereign both of Tung-
quin and Cochin-china: intending to wrest, for his own use,
from his elder brother, whatever the latter still possessed of
the last-named kingdom, as well as whatever part had been
recovered by the lawful sovereign. This new usurper was an
able warrior, and had formed vast projects of conquest, even
of some Chinese provinces; he was one of those politicians to
whom all means are equally eligible that can contribute to their
successes. He died in the midst of them in September, 1792.
Of his sons he left the eldest, who was illegitimate, in the
government of Tung-quin. The youngest, who was his legiti-
mate offspring by a Tung-quinese princess, was at Turon at the
time of his father's death. He instantly assumed the reins of
government, as lawful successor to his father, while his elder,
but illegitimate brother, retained, possession of Tung-quin, and
claimed a right to the whole of his father's conquests.72
The state of rebellion or civil warfare in Cochin-china had
begun upwards of twenty years before, in the course of which
so very many of the combatants were slain, the country was
so exhausted, and the surviving parties so balanced, that, at
this time, no considerable enterprize was undertaken by any
of them; tho' each was busy in preparing new plans for the
support of himself and the overthrow of his enemies. In the
mean time the people began, in some degree, to breathe; but
had the kingdom even been more settled, the Embassador did
not think it would have been proper to enter into any sort of
negotiation, or even to present the credential letters, with which
he had been entrusted for that kingdom, before he had deli-
vered, in the first instance, those he had in charge for the
Emperor of China. His Excellency, therefore, determined to
confine himself to messages of compliment and respect, and
to a return of presents for those he had so seasonably receivd
for the use of the squadron. An uninterrupted communica-
tion was continued to be maintained with the people of Turon;
but not without some marks of mistrust, and consequent watch-
fulness, on both sides.73

72. It is hard to reconcile this story of a disputed succession on Quang Trung's

death with the recorded facts of Vietnamese history. Quang Trung was
succeeded by his ten year old son Qu$ng Toan, whose uncle Bui Dac
Tuyen became Regent. Bui Dac TuyenV administration was harsh and
unpopular, and perhaps it was this fact, as heard through bad interpreters,
which gave rise to Staunton's story here.
73. Staunton, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 376-378.


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Alastair Lamb

Macartney's visit to Tourane, however, was not without its results.

In the first place, the neighbourhood, coast and islands, was surveyed
by Jackson, master of the Lion , and by Captain Parrish and Barrow
who took a careful look at Callao or Campellos Island, which would
have been French had the Versailles Treaty been fulfilled. Before these
surveys, it would seem, the only available charts of this coast were
rough sketches prepared by members of the Admiral Pocock's crew in
1764.74 In the second place, the views of Chapman as to the potential
value to British commerce of an establishment in Cochin China were
examined anew and found to have much to support them; always with
the proviso that political conditions were favourable, which they were
not in 1793. As Staunton noted:

considering Cochin-china in a general view, it must be

allowed to be excellently well adapted to commerce. Its vici-
nity to China, Tung-quin, Japan, Cambodia, Siam, the Philip-
pines, Borneo, Sumatra, and Malacca renders the intercourse
with all these countries short and easy. The commodious
harbours with which the coast is intersected, and particularly
that of Turon, afford a safe retreat for ships of any burden
during the most tempestuous seasons of the year.75

These advantages, Staunton thought, might well have been exploited

by the French had circumstances been a little different; and a French
establishment on Callao Island would probably have resulted both in
French expansion on to the mainland and in the French entry into the
China trade on terms which might have presented the British with
serious competition. As he put it:
want of shelter in the south-west monsoon would
soon induce the French, were they once in possession of
Callao, to seek for a further settlement near it, upon the main
land of Cochin-china. The coast abounds with navigable
rivers. In settled times several hundred junks, from forty to
one hundred and fifty tons burden, from the different ports of
China, frequented those of Cochin-china, to procure cargoes,
chiefly of areca nut and sugar, the last article alone equalling
annually about forty thousand tons. They paid for these
cargoes in a few manufactures of China; but, for the greatest
part, in silver. The distance is very short between the two
countries, and the voyage made in four or five days with a
favourable monsoon; and, as these junks leave their own ports
almost in ballast, it is probable that they would, readily, bring
teas, or other articles in demand among Europeans, for a tri-
fling freight to Cochin-china. It being generally understood
that no duties are levied in China on articles of trade exported

74. Ibid, vol. 1, p. 369.

75. Ibid, vol. 1., p. 401.


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by its own subjects in their own vessels, possibly the French

might have had in contemplation to be able, by the means of
a settlement on the coast of Cochin-china, to procure Chinese
articles at a cheaper rate than could be obtained by any
foreigners trading immediately to China, where the duties and
exactions, amounting, upon an average, to about ten thousand
pounds upon every considerable ship and cargo, must mate-
rially affect the price of the exported articles, and enable those
exempted from them to be sold at a lower rate in Europe.
While, indeed, the jealousy of foreigners continues so great
in China as to confine their trade to Canton, the method of
carrying it on by their own vessels, sailing between their own
ports and Cochin-china, might be desirable, especially if the
European manufactures could by those means, as is likely, be
imported, not into Canton only, but into other Chinese ports.
Until such jealousy shall be done away by a more familiar
communication with the government of China, which must be
followed by the vent of an immense quantity of foreign manu-
factures throughout the whole empire, the mode of obtaining
their commodities, and supplying them with those of Europe,
through their own people, might certainly be more advanta-
geous and secure, as well as more agreeable to them, than by
the present method of foreigners going immediately amongst
If, from these considerations, a solid settlement in Cochin-
china were to be productive of advantage to any European
nation, it must peculiarly be so to Great Britain; because,
beside the opening it would make for the sale of its own manu-
factures, among the people of the country, the British posses-
sions in Hindostn would be sure of a very considerable
demand from thence for their production.76

Macartney intended to return to Tourane after his mission to

China had been completed. The failure of his Chinese negotiations,
however, probably deterred him from further ventures in oriental
diplomacy and, in any case, by early 1794 conditions did not favour
extended travel in eastern waters. The war between England and
Revolutionary France which broke out in early 1793 began to make
itself felt in the Far East by the end of that year. By September
French cruisers, based on the Isle of France, were operating in the
Straits of Malacca, and a number of English vessels had fallen prize
to them. In January 1794, therefore, Macartney resolved to return
to England in safe convoy. The war with France, however, seems to
have had to effect upon the conduct of Macartney at Tourane; indeed,
it is most unlikely that he received news of it until after his arrival
at Canton.

76. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 419-422.


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Alastair Lamb



Barrow gives the following text of the Treaty of Versailles of 1787
which Pigneau de Behaine negotiated on behalf of Nguyen Anh with
the French Government: 77
I. - There shall be an offensive and defensive alliance
between the Kings of France and Cochinchina; they do hereby
agree mutually to afford assistance to each other against all
those who may make war upon either of the two contracting
II. - To accomplish this purpose, there shall be put under
the orders of the King of Cochinchina a squadron of twenty
French ships of war, of such size and force as shall be deemed
sufficient for the demands of his service.
III. - Five complete European regiments, and two regi-
ments of native colonial trops, shall be embarked without delay
for Cochinchina.
IV. - His Majesty Louis XVI shall engaged to furnish,
within four months, the sum of one million dollars; five hun-
dred thousand of which shall be in specie, the remainder
in saltpetre, cannon, musquets, and other military stores.
V.- From the moment the French troops shall have
entered the dominions of the King of Cochinchina, they and
their generals, both by sea and land, shall receive their orders
from the King of Cochinchina. To this effect the commanding
officers shall be furnished with instructions from his Catholic
Majesty to obey in all things, and in all places, the will of his
new ally.
On the other hand,
I. - The King of Cochinchina, as soon as tranquillity shall
be re-established in his dominions, shall engage to furnish, for
fourteen ships of the line, such a quantity of stores and pro-
vsions as will enable them to put to sea without delay, on the
requisition of the ambassador from the King of France; and
for the better effecting this purpose, there shall be sent out
from Europe a corps of officers and petty officers of the marine,
to be put upon a permanent establishment in Cochinchina.
II- - His Majesty Louis XVI shall have resident consuls
on every part of the coast of Cochinchina, wherever he may
think fit to place them. These consuls shall be allowed the
privilege of building, or causing to be built, ships, frigates, and
other vessels, without molestation, under any pretence, from
the Cochinchinese government.
III. - The ambassador of his Majesty Louis XVI to the
Court of Cochinchina shall be allowed to fell such timber, in
any of the forests, as may be found convenient and suitable
for building ships, frigates, or other vessels.
77. Barrow, op. cit., pp. 261-264.


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IV. - The King of Cochinchina and the Council of State

shall cede in perpetuity to his most Christian Majesty, his
. heirs, and successors, the port and territory of Han-san (bay
of Turon and the peninsula), and the adjacent islands from
F ai jo on the south to Hai-wen on the north.
V. - The King of Cochinchina engages to furnish men and
materials necessary for the construction of forts, bridges, high-
roads, tanks, &c. as far as may be judged necessary for the
protection and defence of the cessions made to his faithful
ally the King of France.
VI. - In case that the natives shall at any time be un-
willing to remain in the ceded territory, they will be at liberty
to leave it, and will be reimbursed the value of the property
they may leave upon it. The civil and criminal jurisprudence
shall remain unaltered; all religious opinions shall be free; the
taxes shall be collected by the French in the usual mode of
the country, and the collectors shall be appointed jointly by
the ambassador of France and the King of Cochinchina; but
the latter shall not claim any part of those taxes, which will
belong properly to his most Christian Majesty for the support
of his territories.
VII. - In the event of his most Christian Majesty being
resolved to wage war in any part of India, it shall be allowed
to the Commander in Chief of the French forces to raise a levy
of 14,000 men, whom he shall cause to be trained in the same
manner as they are in France, and to be put under French
VIII. - In the event of any power whatsoever attacking
the French in their Cochinchinese territory, the King of
Cochinchina shall furnish 60,000 men or more in land forces,
whom he shall clothe, victual, &c. &c.
Beside these articles, the treaty contained some others of
inferior importance, but all of them, as might be expected,
greatly in favour of the French.

Maybon points out that his version differs somewhat from the
official text, of which a summary has been given above. Its arrange-
ment is not the same and it gives far higher figures for the quantity of
French aid than were in fact specified. On the other hand, as Maybon
also notes, Barrow's text agrees very closely with the version which has
been preserved in Vietnamese sources, and which probably represented
a preliminary draft of the proposed treaty as drawn up by Nguyen
Anh and Pigneau de Behaine.78
Where did Barrow obtain this text? His account gives no answer
to this question. Much of Barrow's information on the history of
Cochin China was derived from a memoir by Barizy, a Frenchman
who had at one time served under Pigneau de Behaine (see p. 102 below).

78. Maybon, op. cit., pp. 413-416.


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Alastair Lamb

Perhaps Barrow's text came from this source. On the other hand, it is
possible that this version might have been communicated to the British
by someone in Pondichery at the time of Pigneau de Behaine's journey
to France, and thus have been known to Macartney when he was in
Tourane. Staunton's narrative suggests some familiarity with the terms
of this treaty; and the Macartney Embassy was certainly aware of the
proposed cession of the Island of Callao to France. The British seem
to have been under no illusions as to Pigneau de Behaine's intentions
from the moment he left Cochin China for Pondichery; Francis Light,
for example, sent to Bengal in January, 1786, a fairly full account of
the missionary bishop's plans which he had derived mainly from
Siamese sources.79

Fig. 5. Tourane harbour as it appeared to W. Alexander, a member of the Macartney

Embassy, in 1793. (From Staunton, op. cit., Atlas of Plates).

79. Straits Settlements Records , Vol. 1. Light to Bengal 25 January 1786.


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Fig. 6. Chart of the Tourane region, from the survey made dur
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/';-=09 )(8* =-0/']

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In the nine years following the visit of Macartney to Tourane

Nguyen Anh completed the conquest of the Tay-son dominions. In
1799 Qui-nhon was taken, and in 1802 the Nguyen were once more in
possession of their traditional capital at Hu. In the same year Nguyen
Anh acquired most of Tonkin, executed Quang Toan and the rest of
the Tay-son ruling family, and proclaimed himself emperor of Vietnam
with the regnal title Gia Long. By 1802 the number of Frenchmen in
the service of the Nguyen, never very large, had dwindled to four.
Pigneau de Behaine died in 1799. Many of his companions had by this
time returned home or died or left the king's service to become mer-
chants. By 1802 only Philippe Vannier, Jean Baptiste Chaigneau, de
Forsanz and Dr. Despiau remained as French "mandarins". They
were treated with honour by Nguyen Anh, and their advice was listened
to, especially on questions concerning relations between Vietnam and
the European Powers, but they could be hardly said to be a dominant
force in the realm. Nguyen Anh tolerated Christianity and several
French missionaries lived freely in his territory, but he was far from
becoming a French puppet or an europeanising king. Indeed, it is now
clear that Nguyen Anh, once his success had been assured, resolved to
avoid all entanglements with the Europeans and began that anti-Western
trend which, under his son and successor Minh-Mang was to result in
renewed persecution of Christians, and eventually was to bring about
the Vietnamese rejection of all things European.
During the period 1793 to 1802 France made no attempt to exploit
the foothold which Pigneau de Behaine had gained in Cochin China.
The elaborate proposals of Captain Larcher, which were presented to
the Directory in 1797, seemed to have aroused no enthusiasm. No
thought was given to the execution of this sort of plan until the Peace of
Amiens, when Napoleon attempted, though somewhat halfheartedly, a
reassertion of French power in eastern waters. Larcher had urged the
creation of a French base in the Philippines - in the possession of
France's Spanish ally - , and had pointed out the advantages which


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Alastair Lamb

France already possessed in Cochin China thanks to the work of

Pigneau de Behaine. An establishment in Cochin China would: -
make France the mistress of the commerce of the Straits of
Malacca and the Gulf of Siam, and would give her a dominat-
ing position in the trade of China. In concert with the esta-
blishment in the Philippines, and with the government of
Manila, at the least provocation by the English the East of Asia
would be closed to them, and one could defy all the naval
forces of that power to break through these barriers.80
By the Treaty of Amiens, which was signed in March, 1802, the
British agreed, though reluctantly, to return to France her Indian
settlements. Napoleon, whose thoughts had been directed since 1798
towards the means of attacking the British possessions in India, saw
here an opportunity for the reassertion of French power in the East.
General Decaen was appointed to the post of Captain-General of the
French territories in the East and sailed from France in March, 1803*
with some 1,300 troops and a naval force of six vessels under the com*
mand of Durand de Linois. Decaen's aide de camp, it is interesting
to note, was one Captain Stanislas Lefebvre, a nephew of Pigneau d
As events turned out, Decaen's mission was a failure. He was
prevented from reoccupying Pondichery. His fleet, mishandled by
Durand de Linois, missed its chance to strike a serious blow against
British trade when it allowed the China convoy to pass through the
Straits of Malacca in February 1804.82 From the Isle of France Decaen
was never in a position to intervene in Cochin China along the lines of
Larcher's plan of 1797 or of a similar proposal of Charpentier de
Cossigny in 1803. 83
To the British in early 1803, however, the despatch of General
Decaen implied a number of alarming possibilities should war with
France break out once more, as then seemed more than probable.
Among other things there seemed to be a chance, albeit slight, that the
French might now pursue those opportunities in Indochina which were
allowed to lapse when de Conway refused his help to Pigneau de
Behaine. It was for this reason that Castlereagh at the Board of
Control for India resolved in the spring of 1803 to send an envoy to
Cochin China. A French dominated Cochin China at this date, it
should be remembered, was a far more formidable a prospect, united
80. Larcher's proposal, which was aimed at "bringing proud England down
from that state of splendour to which trade had raised her and which
makes her so insolent towards all nations" is printed in full by H. Cordier
in his paper La France et l'Angleterre en Indo-Chine et en Chine sous le
Premier Empire, T'oung Pao, Series II, Vol. IV, 1903, pp. 207-211.
81. Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 273.
82. C. N. Parkinson, War in Eastern Seas 1793-1815, London 1954, Chapter XI.
83. Cordier, Toung Pao Vol. IV op. cit., pp. 202-206.


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Missions to Cochin China

as it now was under Nguyen Anh, than ever was the war torn country
which Chapman and Macartney had visited. This mission to Cochin
China, in fact, was another demonstration of that fear of the use to
which France might put the coming of peace which had been an
important consideration behind Symes's mission to Ava in 1802. As
Lord Wellesley, the Governor General of India, observed in his instruc-
tions to Symes:
His Excellency thinks it extremely probable that the
Government of France will take advantage of the season of
peace to endeavour to establish a connection with the State of
Ava, an occurrence which may eventually be productive of
material injury to the British interests in India. It is this con-
sideration which principally constitutes the political importance
to the Company of an improved alliance with the State of
Ava, which would necessarily tend to the exclusion of the
French interest.84

The envoy selected was David Lance, who was about to go out to
Canton to take a seat on the Select Committee of the Supercargoes
there. He was instructed by the Secret Committee of the Court of
Directors of the East India Company to call in at Cochin China on
his way to China, and to establish relations with the king of that coun-
try. Lance, on board the Coutts commanded by Captain Torin,
reached Cape St. James in early September, 1803. He intended to
proceed to Saigon, where he had reason to believe the king was then
residing, but an encounter with the brig Eleanor, commanded by
Captain Allan, caused him to change his plans, for Allan sent a note
to say that the king was at present either in Hu or campaigning in


Extract from David Lance's Diary, 9 September, 1803, off Cape

St. James.86

Captain Allan of the Eleanor brig came on board and confirmed

the intelligence conveyed by his note; said he had a valuable cargo of
opium and piece goods; that the intelligence of the removal of the King
to Hui was known in India before he quitted the coast and brought by
84. D. G. E. Hall, ed., Michael Symes, Journal of his second embassy to the
Court of Ava in 1802, London 1955, p. 106. See also Hall's admir-
able introduction, pp. xxix-xxxv, which discusses the French question in
Burma with some reference to Cochin China.
85. Lance's Diary. Secret Consultations China, vol. 268.
86. This document, like all the English documents relating to the Roberts
mission which are printed here, is to be found in Secret Consultations
China, vol. 268, in the India Office Library, London.


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Alastair Lamb

a vessel built by the King [of Cochin China] and given by him to
Messrs. Abbott & Co.; that had the weather favoured him he should
have endeavoured to have disposed of his cargo at Saygon but the
season was too far advanced for that delay, and as no commerce of
consequence could be carried on but with the King, he intended to
proceed immediately to Hui. He fully confirmed the accounts of the
favourable disposition of the King towards the English, and that of their
exemption from all dues. He said that Mns. Barisy87 was dead and
that a ship, the Griffin , from Madras was daily expected on the coast
belonging to the house of Abbott & Co. to take away the proceeds of
200,000 dollars belonging to that house entrusted to the management
of Mns. Barisy; that we should get no intelligence of any kind in the
Bay [of St. James] and he conceived it would be at least four days
before we could reach Saygon where at present there only resided a
mandarin of inferior rank. Captain Allan was of the opinion that the
King could send an answer to me at Canton to any letter I might send
by him, either overland or by a returning vessel, and promised carefully
to deliver any I might entrust to him.
From the above information, which I have no reason to suspect, I
am of the opinion it was a cause of much risk of delay to proceed into
the Bay of St. James and from thence to Saygon from whence it
appears the respectable establishment is now removed; and I could only
have communication with inferior officers who probably can give me
no information on the motions of the court.


Lance considered it pointless to open discussions with the inferior

mandarins in Saigon. C^tain Torin told him, moreover, that the
season was too advanced to justify the risk of going on to Tourane if
87. Laurent Barizy was born in Brittany in 1769. In 1793 he entered the
service of Nguyen Anh, and took part in many of the major battles against
the Tay-son. His chief service to the Nguyen, however, lay in the securing
of supplies, which gave him the opportunity to visit India, Manila and
Malacca. In early 1801, while Nguyen Anh was away campaigning,
Barizy fell foul of the mandarins who had him sentenced to the cangue;
but he was soon freed and restored to favour. Later in that year he took
part in some of the final actions against the Tay-son leading to the capture
of Hu. He died in 1802. He was married to a Vietnamese, and one of
his daughters, Helne, became in 1817 the wife of J. B. Chaigneau.
Barizy was the Cochin Chinese agent of the Madras merchant house
of Abbot and Maitland which was doing a profitable business supplying the
Nguyen with armaments. (See: Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 253-253.)
The Griffin was commanded by Captain Pureroy, whose trading on the
Cochin Chinese coast was to result in many arguments with the Government
of Gia Long which were destined to trouble both Roberts and Crawfurd.
Purefoy wrote an account of his experiences in Cochin China during the
years 1800-1807, a French translation of which, entitled Remarques sur la
Cochinchine, was published in Nouvelles Annales des Voyages , July-
Setember, 1826. For more about Purefoy, see pp. 133, 136 below.


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Missions to Cochin China

he hoped to reach Canton that year. Accordingly, Lance wrote a letter

to the King, which Captain Allan said he would deliver, explaining the
objects of his mission and the reasons for its postponement, and
announcing his intention to return later in the year. He then left the
Bay of St. James for Canton.
On his arrival at Canton in November, Lance found that his health
was such that he did not feel he could risk again exposing himself to
the humid heat of Indochina. He proposed, therefore, that his mission
should be entrusted to John William Roberts, one of the Supercargoes
at Canton. This was considered by the Select Committee on 11th
November, 1803. It was agreed that Captain Barbor of the Gun java
should be engaged to carry Roberts to Tourane and thence to Calcutta.
Barbor was to be paid 2,000 dollars for the voyage, 2,000 dollars for
the keep of Roberts and his party, and a further sum at the rate of
Rs. 6,000 per month for every day over twenty days that he had to
wait for Roberts at Tourane.
On 20th November, 1803, the Select Committee wrote to Lord
Wellesley, the Governor General, to inform him of these decisions.
They drew the Governor General's especial attention to the case of the
Nonsuch , which had captured a vessel belonging to the King some
years before, and for which incident the Select Committee felt it might
be equitable to make reparation, especially since the King had recently
helped a British vessel in distress. It was suggested that Roberts might
be empowered to act in this matter.89
The Select Committee appreciated that the French missionaries
resident in Annam might prove of great value to Roberts as interpreters
and advisers on local affairs. Accordingly, they wrote to J. B. Mar-
chini, Agent for the Propaganda Fide at Macao, to request that he
provide letters of introduction to these missionaries. Marchini was
asked to approach only those priests who were known to be friendly
to the British, and it was emphasised that the aims of Roberts' mission
should be kept secret for as long as possible from the French officers
in Cochin Chinese service, those former companions of Pigneau de
Behaine who might well be opposed to any extension of British influence

88. I have been unable to find any information on Roberts' early life. In
January 1807 he became President of the Select Committee of the Super-
cargoes at Canton, but was dropped from the Committee in December,
1810. In 1812 he was reappointed a member of the Committee. He died
at Canton in November, 1813.
89. For the Nonsuch affair see note 96 below.
The aid to a British vessel in distress was probably the incident to
which Barrow referred, Barrow, op. cit., p. 280. An English vessel from
Canton, according to his story, called in at Saigon where both the master
and the first officer died. The Cochin Chinese authorities thereupon
instructed Barizy to assemble a crew, sail the vessel back to Canton and
hand it over to its owners. Barrow gave no date for this incident.


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Alastair Lamb

in this quarter. On 16th November Marchini prepared the letters which

the Select Committee had requested, addressed to Bishop Labartette90
and to Fathers Liot and Gerard. The missionaries were asked to give
Roberts all the help they could and to interpret for him.
Roberts received his instructions on 19th November and sailed from
Canton for Tourane on 24th November.



Instructions freni the Select Committee to J. W. Roberts on his mission

to Cochin China, 19th November, 1803.

Mr. Lance being empowered by his Instructions from the Secret

Committee of the Court of Directors in case any event should render
it inexpedient or impracticable for him to proceed on an Embassy to
the King of Cochin China to which they had done him the honour to
appoint him, to select one of the Supracargoes on the spot to supply his
place; confident in your zeal and abilities he has nominated you to a
mission such had circumstances permitted it would have been the object
of his ambition to have personally executed.
Herewith is a copy of Mr. Lance's Instructions from the Secret
Committee which you are implicitly to follow as far as circumstances
will permit.91 But as a variety of events have taken place of which the
Secret Committee were in ignorance when these were drawn up, and
which have materially changed the situation of the King, and as in the
various conversations Mr. Lance has had with the Secret Committee on
this subject it appeared that uninformed as they were of the actual
state of Cochin China they left much to the discretion of the person
honoured by their mission, to act as circumstances might require, we
think it proper to add such advice to these instructions as will tend to
promote the object wished to be obtained and which the altered position
of affairs may render necessary.
Mr. Lance's letter to the King of Cochin China92 will have
announced to him his mission and he will be prepared for the reception
of an Envoy from the Company. The accompanying letter will explain
the cause of Mr. Lance's not proceeding and will place you in every
respect in the same situation he was to have held.
90. Jean Labartette, Bishop of Veren, 1744-1822. In 1799, on the death of
Pigneau de Behaine, Labartette became head of the Catholic mission in
91. I have been unable to find a copy of Lance's instructions, which are not
included in the collection of documents on the Roberts mission in Secret
Consultations China , vol. 268.
92. Dated: off Cape St. James, 9th September, 1803. This letter explained why
Lance had postponed his mission and announced that he intended to return
to Cochin China shortly.


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Missions to Cochin China

Two memoirs presented by Mr. Dalrymple93 to the Secret Commit-

tee have been communicated to you: these contain the History of
Cochin China from the commencement of their Revolution down to
1801. The papers communicated by Mr. Drummond continue its
sequel to the present period - when we find the King not only in posses-
sion of his hereditary Dominions but of the whole Kingdom of Tonquin,
having at his command a victorious army of 300,000 men and a navy
hitherto unequalled by any native power in the East - a nominal feuda-
tory to the Empire of China for the Tonquin Kingdom but in fact a
rival power and dangerous neighbour to that Empire, should discus-
sions take place so probable between jealous powers whose frontiers
Detailed information is furnished you by Mns. Barisy's and Mns.
Marchini's letters.95

93. Dalrymple's two memoirs are not, unfortunately, included in the collections
in Secret Consultations China, vol. 268. Dalrymple (see pp. 11, 15 above)
was much impressed by Cochin China as the potential site of a British
settlement. In his Oriental Repertory , 2 vols., London 1808, vol. 2, pp. 321-
322, under the heading " Some notes concerning the trade to China" and
written in 1790, he made the following observations on Cochin China:
it is obvious that the Chinese trade must lie under great
disadvantages, from the regulations under which it is necessarily
carried on: and it is equally certain that very great advantages
would have attended a settlement of our own, in the vicinity of
China, to which the Chinese junks from all the maritime ports of
that Empire could have freely come. The pamphlet I formerly
published on the proposed settlement at Balambangan has discussed
that matter at large; and although all circumstances considered I
know of no situation so admirably adapted for an Oriental empo-
rium, considered with respect to China only I should prefer Cochin
China even to it : and as it is likely that the French in their present
confusion should abandon, if they have not already abandoned, that
enterprise, it would be very desirable to get possession of Turon,
which is a harbour formed by a high peninsula connected to the
continent by a long low isthmus, and consequently has a natural
capacity to be rendered impregnable, at a small expense; and this
peninsula is of sufficient extent for all necessary cultivation and
habitation: and the Chinese junks, of all sizes, would navigate
thither, never being out of sight of land and but a very little way
out of sight of their own coasts.
A depot in China, which was in contemplation, cannot answer
the desired purpose, because, supposing, what is by no means pro-
bable, that the Chinese Government would have allowed an
European fixed establishment in their country, the trade would be
carried out under the1 same restrictions as at present, and the vicinity
would expose them to effectual obstructions from the officers of
government. This objection would operate against Macao, should
the course of European politics ever eixpose the Portuguese flag to
hostility. Macao is also very strong by natural situation, but the
peninsula is barren and not fit for cultivation like that of Turon, and
the harbour of Macao will not admit ships of the largest size.
94. This is certainly a most exaggerated account of the strength of the forces
of the Nguyen. Barrow, op. cit., p. 283, apparently quoting Barizy, des-
cribed an army of 1 1 3,000 men and a navy of 26,800 men.
95. Neither of these is in Secret Consultations China , vol. 268. Barizy's letter
may well be that document which Barrow relied upon for so much of his
information on Cochin China. (Barrow, op. cit., p. 271.)
Marchini was in close touch with the missionaries in Cochin China.
Barizy also corresponded with him and seems to have been a close friend.


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Alastair Lamb

Every account confirms the King's good will to our nation, and
desire of connecting himself with us; unfortunately his advances have
hitherto met with no encouragement; on the contrary by some un-
accountable neglect, they have either been forgotten or slighted; and
in return for acts of hospitality and kindness he has been subject from
ignorance of our maritime regulations to losses by predatory war.
It appears that on the 20th of October, 1799, he addressed a letter
in duplicate to His Majesty. The original, it is attested, was sent to
His Excellency the Governor General and the duplicate to Tranquebar
to be forwarded to the Danish Ambassador at our Court. There is
reason to suppose that neither of these letters reached His Majesty, at
least there was no advice of them at the Office of the Board of Control.
The object of this letter, after conveying professions of esteem and
expressing desire of a connexion, was to reclaim a vessel belonging to
him captured by the Nonsuch , Capt. Thomas, and condemned and
sold on pretence of wanting some necessary documents.96
The King's regard for the English is said to have suffered some
diminuition from this act and the subsequent inattention to his letters
and claims. It must be your first object to explain this affair in the
best manner you are able. You may positively assert that his letters
have not reached England and that the want of customary papers may
have rendered his vessel subject to capture, by the right of our Maritime
Laws, you have little doubt on the affair being explained to the
Governor General, he will give him redress.
The favourable state of the King's affairs will now, we hope, render
all European aid unnecessary to him, as we fear such assistance would
ultimately prove fatal to his independence and would probably be the
cause of great expense and final embarrassment to us; but it may happen
that we shall be obliged to give him this assistance to prevent his receiv-
ing it from our Enemies, which, and their probable consequent establish-
ment, it must be our great object to prevent. Should any overtures be
made to you on this subject, you should offer to convey them to the

96. In August, 1797, off Penang Captain Thomas of the British frigate Nonsuch
confiscated the merchant vessel Armida and its cargo. The Armida, which
was commanded by Barizy, was trading on behalf of Nguyen Anh and
carried a cargo, mainly of sugar, destined for the Danish firm of Harrop
and Stevenson of Tranquebar which had been acting as an agent of the
Cochin Chinese King. Captain Thomas put the Armida' s cargo to sale,
and no doubt justified this action on the grounds that Barizy was a French
national. Barizy hastened to Calcutta to protest against this action, but
found little sympathy on the part of the British authorities there. Nguyen
Anh then sent another Frenchman in his service, Olivier de Puymanel, to
Calcutta to seek the return of the Armida and its cargo. Olivier impressed
the Company with his argument that the King of Cochin China, an ally
of the Chinese Emperor, might well be in a position to harm the British
trading position at Canton, and it was decided at least to return to the
Cochin Chinese the value of the Armida and its cargo. The Armida was
eventually returned to Saigon, but not until the King of Cochin China
had attempted to use Danish mediation in an appeal to the King of
England. (See: Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 254; S. Karpels, Un cas de
droit maritime international en 1797 , Bulletin de la Socit des Etudes
Indochinoises, NS, vols. 3 & 4, 1948, pp. 125-131. Neither of these authori-
ties states when the reparation took place. From what the Select Com-
mittee wrote one may presume that in 1803 either this reparation had not
yet taken place, or they had not been informed of it.)


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Missions to Cochin China

consideration of the Governor General, and at the same time generally

assure the King that we are convinced in case of necessity that the
Company would be willing to give him assistance rather than he should
apply for it to our enemies the French whom we could never suffer to
get a footing in his country from which they would certainly endeavour
to exclude us and interrupt the friendship subsisting between him and

At the same, time he should be informed that a connexion of a very

long standing unites us to the Chinese Empire by ties of mutual
interest: that nothing can entice us to hazard this in any degree:
therefore should he ever have occasion to require aid from us, it is to
be understood that under no circumstances whatever it can be employed
against our allies.
In Mr. Dalrymple's memoir it is suggested that the King might be
induced to relinquish the Province of Donai to the Company on their
paying the present annual amount of its revenue.97 A proposal to that
effect could not be attempted in this early stage of our connexion, and
it is much to be doubted if his policy would permit him to allow such
powerful neighbours to establish themselves in so fertile and consider-
able a province; but it is not improbable that as a proof of his good
will, and desire to form a connexion with us he might be induced to
give us an establishment on his coast, which would answer every purpose
of commercial accommodation and security without being of such extent
as to occasion any dread of political aggrandizement - such we conceive
would be the Island of Callao or Campellos, situated about seventy
miles to the S.W. of the harbour of Touron. A detailed description
and survey of this Island is given in the History of Lord Macartney's
Embassy,98 and it is asserted and supposed that nearly at the period
of the commencement of the disturbances in Cochin China the French
had obtained a grant of the Island;99 a very good account of the com-
mercial advantages of this Island as a depot is given, to which we think
might be added, that of a resource in the event of disturbances in the
Chinese Empire, where we might receive its produce, now so necessary
both to our commerce and revenue. This possession might contribute
to extend the sale of opium should the Port of Macao no longer be a
depot for that article as may be the case in the event of war with
Portugal. Chinese junks from the Provinces of Tchekian and Fokien
to the amount of several hundred used to frequent this part of the
coast, going in ballast to take back returning cargoes of beetle nut and
other gross goods. As the chief consumption of opium in this Empire
is in these provinces, it is most probable that should the Chinese find
a constant supply of that article ready for them at this port, a consider-
able fraction of the consumption of China may be taken from thence
without hazard to our trade here, or dependence on the vile inhabitants
of Macao. The piracies on the west coast of China have for some years
interrupted this commerce, but it is not to be supposed that a state so
disgraceful to the Empire can long be suffered to continue.

97. By Donai is meant the region of Saigon.

98. Staunton, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 410-422.
99. Pigneau de Behaine's Treaty of Versailles of 1787. See pp. 85-86 above.


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Alastair Lamb

In an interview Mr. Lance had with the Right Hon'ble President

of the Board of Control a few days before his departure, after expressing
his opinion of the consequence and necessity of a connexion with the
Government of Cochin China, he declared it to be his intention, should
Mr. Lance's reception be favourable, of which he entertained little
doubt, to have a constant Resident at that Court. You will therefore
prepare the King for the reception of an Envoy either immediately from
England, or from the Government of Bengal, and you will represent this
Mission as a circumstance intended to do him honour, and which you
doubt not he will consider in that light.
Should the King wish to send an Envoy to accompany you to the
Governor General, we would recommend you to encourage the proposal.
The splendour and magnificence of the capital of our flourishing Empire
in the East and the reception we doubt not he will receive from the
distinguished personage presiding there must make an impression highly
favourable of our national consequence and character.
As the King is the principal and almost the sole merchant in his
dominions, your commercial overtures must be made to him, and we
have little doubt that a most beneficial intercourse will be the result.
The commerce of Cochin China with the European nations before the
Revolution must have been of considerable extent, as both the French
and Dutch Companies sent their ships to Touron, and about a century
ago there was a large vent of woollens at Tonquin, now a part of that
In 1770, on the commencement of the troubles, Mns. Poivre, since
Intendant at the Isle of France, was at Hui as Embassador from France,
and two of their large Company's ships, the Maunpas and Choiseul,
were in Touron Bay;100 a trade with such a representation and carried
on in such ships must have been of importance.
The articles of import from Europe are lead, iron, glass, woollens,
hardware- from India, opium, saltpetre, and Bengal piece goods. The
exports to Europe, sugar, pepper, raw silk, cassia lignia the finest in the
world, gold and silver in ingots - for China, cotton, beetlenuts, carda-
mums, sapari wood, aquila wood, gum lack and birds nests. As they
have hitherto been supplied with woolens either by ships touching at
their ports or from Macao from whence they must have come with an
accumulation of charges and duties, you will probably find the price
of that article very high, but as it is the liberal policy of our Hon'ble
Masters rather to look to national benefit by the extension of the sales
of our manufactures, than to their own particular advantage by a con-
siderable profit on a limited vent, the same view should regulate your
conduct, and in the proposal you make for the delivery of our manu-
factures you should diminish the expected profit in proportion to the
extension of the order.
We should conceive the King will willingly engage to receive a
cargo from Europe of the articles above mentioned, and as you are
100. The Select Committee, of course, were in error here. The Poivre mission
?Ln in some mention bas been made in pp. 6-7 above, took place in
1749-50. I can find no reference to the Maunpas and the Choiseul:
perhaps the Marchault and the Fleury are meant.


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Missions to Cochin China

furnished with samples of all the woollens imported here by the Com-
pany, have sanguine hopes that a considerable portion of it will consist
of that valuable article of our national manufacture. In return you
will engage to take such articles of export as will find a market at
Canton. Probably at the commencement of this exchange these may
not be procurable in considerable quantities, yet as the relative value
of gold to silver is less in that country than in any part of the East,
an advantageous payment of any balance might be received in that
article. Sugar was formerly sold at Touron for 2' dollars per picul,
and the finest cotton at nine tales.
We would advise you first to proceed to the port of Touron which
is within thirty miles of the capital of Hui, or Hui Foo, where you will
procure information of the King's residence and take the first oppor-
tunity of advising him of your arrival and mission, and endeavour to
procure an audience as soon as possible. Should the King not be
at his Court, you will take the speediest mode of following him.
The term of your residence must be regulated by your own discre-
tion; at that period when you conceive you have attained the object
of your mission you will proceed to Bengal, touching at Malacca or
Pulo Penang, leaving there with the Governor or Resident a packet for
the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors (with a communication
to be destroyed in case the ship by which it may be sent should be in
danger from an enemy) advising them of your proceedings and of
the course of your mission, which is to be conveyed by our ships from
hence, should they pass through the Straits of Malacca, or otherwise
forwarded by the way of Madras. At the same place, and to be
conveyed in the same manner, you will leave the various specimens
of the produce and manufactures of Cochin China, duplicates of which
you will take with you to Bengal.
On your arrival at Calcutta you will deliver the packet you will
receive from us for the Most Noble the Governor General, and com-
municate to him the whole of your proceedings, and your future conduct
will be guided by such instructions as you will receive from him.
Mr. Charles Mackintosh, late a commander in the country service
and well known to you, is going passenger in the Gunjava to Bengal;
as this gentleman, when engaged in commerce, had it in view to touch
at Cochin China, and in consequence cultivated the acquaintance of
the Cochin Chinese Ambassadors when at Canton last season and has
received from them letters of recommendation to their Sovereign101,
as he is perfectly acquainted with the navigation of the China Seas and
particularly with the coast of Cochin China, we have thought proper
to communicate to him the object of your mission which he has oblig-
ingly offered his services to promote. As he is well versed with the

101. Fallowing the completion of the conquest of Tonkin, Nguyen Anh sent
an embassy to the Chinese Emperor to seek Chinese confirmation of his
rule. The two junks conveying this mission arrived in the Bogue in
August, 1802, and were detained there for about a month before permis-
sion came for the envoys to go on to Peking. The result of this embassy
was that while Nguyen Anh was acknowledged as a tributary of China,
this was done in such a way as to arouse his resentment, or so Roberts
was to report. (See: Morse, Chronicles, op. cit., vol. II, p. 398.)


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Alastair Lamb

trade of India, and is a person of much general knowledge and extreme

discretion, we think you may on all occasions have recourse to his advice
and assistance, and we think his professional knowledge may not only
be highly useful to you on this occasion, but also beneficial to the public.
We have engaged the ship Gunjava, Captain J. Barbor, to convey
you to Cochin China and thence to Calcutta, on the terms and condi-
tions therein specified, and should any unforeseen emergency occasion
your detention beyond the 20 days stipulated, you will give Captain
Barbor written directions to await your further orders, and in that event
you will ascertain the additional sum to which he may be entitled, and
apply to the Most Noble Governor General to discharge the sum.
Through the Revd. J. B. Marchini, Agent of the Propaganda Fide
at Macao, we have procured you letters of introduction to the Mis-
sionaries resident with the King, on whom you will have to depend as
interpreters, and the grateful sense which the French ecclesiastics
throughout the East appear to entertain of the manifold kindness and
unremitting attention shown to their emigrant bretheren by the British
Nation, will we have no doubt stimulate their exertions to aid you in the
object of your mission; and their zeal will be strengthened by the assist-
ance they may hereafter expect to demand from our Hon'ble Masters and
His Majesty's Ministers. We should recommend however the utmost
attention to their behaviour and proceedings, and a candid declaration
should you discover any backwardness on their part to promote the
Hon'ble Company's views, that the need and support they may here-
after expect from the British Nation will entirely depend on their zeal
and attachment on the present occasion.

We are,

Your humble servants,

Canton (Signed by the Select Committee.)
19th November, 1803.



Roberts left Canton on 24th November, 1803, and arrived in

Tourane Bay on 4th December. He wrote immediately after his arrival
letters to the King and to the chief mandarin of Tourane which he
entrusted for delivery to a mandarin from Faifo who came to call on
him. On the following day Roberts learnt that the King was not then
at Hu, but somewhere near the Tonkin border where he was still


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Missions to Cochin China

Roberts was in some doubt as how best to send his letters of

introduction from Marchini to the French missionaries. He wished to
keep his connection with these men as discreet as possible and did not
feel justified in giving the letters into the hands of a local agent. He
resolved, therefore, to confine himself to writing to Labartette, Liot
and Gerard to announce his arrival; and this he did on 7th December,
sending the letters by way of the chief mandarin at Faifo. At the
same time he addressed a request to the Governor of Hu that a senior
and responsible official be sent to receive him at Tourane.
On 11th December Roberts made a short excursion to Faifo, where
he paid a courtesy call on the local authorities. He was told here that
two senior mandarins had just left Hu and would soon be in Tourane
to welcome him.
On 14th December Roberts received by way of Canton a letter from
Captain Allan to David Lance, dated 7th October, which described
Allan's visit to Tourane after leaving Lance off Cape St. James. Allan
reported that he had put Lance's letter to the King into the hands of
a Frenchman in the King's service, M. J. B. Chaigneau.102 Chaigneau
seemed well disposed towards the British and might, so Allan thought,
prove helpful to any British mission to Cochin China. But Allan also
warned against too great a reliance on the French mandarins at Hu,
and he quoted the opinion of Captain Purefoy, with much experience
of these parts in the service of Abbot and Maitland, that some of these
Frenchmen were far from friendly to the Britsh.
In the early afternoon of 16th December the two mandarins from
Hu reached Tourane and called on Roberts. One of them was
M. Philippe Vannier,103 a Frenchman in the King's service who, like
J. B. Chaigneau, had at one time been a companion of Pigneau de
Behaine, Bishop of Adran. His conversation with Vannier, which as
recorded in his diary is printed below, convinced Roberts that he would
be well advised to leave Tourane at this time and return later in the
year when the King would surely have returned to Hu from Tonkin
where he was at present reported to be. Vannier seemed friendly and
not unhelpful, but very reluctant to provide Roberts with information.

102. Jean Baptiste Chaigneau was born in Brittany in 1769. After service in
the French navy he came to Indochina in 1794 and joined Pigneau de
Behaine. He fought with Nguyen Anh on land and sea against the Tay-
son. He was given the Vietnamese rank of general in 1803. In 1820,
after the Bourbon restoration, he was appointed French Consul in Hu.
He left Indochina in 1824 and died in France in 1832.
103. Philippe Vannier was born in Brittany in 1762. He served in the French
navy and then, in 1789, joined Pigneau de Behaine. With J. M. Dayot he
helped Nguyen Anh build up an effective naval force. In 1802 he was
confirmed by Nguyen Anh (who had just assumed the name Gia Long)
in the rank of 1st class mandarin. He left Indochina in 1824 and died in
France in 1842.


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Alastair Lamb

Extract from Roberts' diary. Tourane, 14th December, 1803.

About two o'clock Mns. Vannier with the other mandarin (who
I found spoke very good Portuguese and had in the early part of his
life visited Bengal) came aboard. They stated the letters to the King
and the Governor of Hu had been received and that in consequence
they had been sent down by the General Council to conduct us to what
place we chose and to afford us every accommodation during our stay
in Turon, which, with the supply of every article the ship might require,
was very politely offered by the Cochin Chinese mandarin who is known
to the Europeans by the name of Sr. Juan Babtiste and who appeared
an active intelligent man.
By these gentlemen I was informed that the King was at present
in Tonquin and his present situation was very uncertain as he was
making a tour of that part of his dominions, repairing and constructing
such fortifications as he considered necessary for the defence and
security of his country, and that before his return he expected an
embassy from the Emperor of China; and from these circumstances
they did not think I could expect an interview in less than two or three
On a further consideration of the subject, seeing no reason to alter
the resolution I had taken, this information which I could not doubt
was correct determined me to inform these gentlemen that if it was
impossible to see the King sooner than the time now mentioned it was
my intention to proceed to Bengal and return to the dominions of His
Majesty early in the month o June or as soon as the season would
permit. They affirmed that an interview with the King could not be
expected in a shorter space of time, and that they thought that by the
period mentioned for my return I might rely on finding His Majesty at
his capital unless in the event of his being engaged in a war with
China, which was considered by them as probable as the King had
claimed the Island of Haynan and some places bordering on Tonquin,
which, it was asserted, tho' now annexed to the Chinese dominions, had
formed part of that of Tonquin, and his right in virtue of his conquest
of that kingdom. These claims they assured us His Majesty would
not relinquish, that his ambition was without bounds, and that at the
head of a victorious army whose discipline and valor he considered
far superior to that of the troops of any neighbouring prince, he felt
no doubt of the issue of a contest with the Emperor of China. Not-
withstanding these high ideas which he perhaps with justice might have
formed, he will, I conceive, have some hesitation in engaging in a
contest with a power in numbers so much his superior, and particularly
when his authority at home cannot be established on any firm basis.
As it appeared that these officers were sent to Turon as well as for
the purpose of offering such assistance as we might require as to ascer-
tain the objects of my mission with which Mr. Vannier seemed very
desirous to be made acquainted, he was therefore informed that it was
the wish of the Hon'ble Company to form such commercial connexion
with His Majesty of Cochin China as might tend to the advantage of
both parties and in every possible manner strengthen the friendship
subsisting between them. He seemed of the opinion that if our purpose
was commercial, every agreement we could desire would be entered


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Missions to Cochin China

into by the King, but that as he was now in full possession of his
dominions he did not require any foreign aid nor would he be disposed
to grant any tract of land or island. I again repeated what had before
been said with assurances that nothing further was required but what
would afford mutual advantage and security to the proposed commerce.
Unacquainted with the character and sentiments towards our nation of
the person who made these observations, it is impossible to say what
degree of reliance may be placed on them. It may be proper to observe
that on every occasion he seemed to wish to impress us with the power
and resources of the King in whose service he was.
Having come to the resolution of quitting this port without waiting
for an interview with His Majesty, it remained for consideration the
propriety of leaving the presents with the delivery of which I was
charged, or of carrying them to Malacca. By leaving them much of
their effect would be lost, and as perhaps it would be thought improper
to return without something for the King, it would be exposing the
Hon'ble Company to additional expense. The object to be gained by
leaving them was preventing their exposure to loss by capture which I
conceived was so considerable a risk that I determined to make the
offer of presenting them by the means of Mns. Vannier if he was
authorised and disposed to receive them. It was accordingly proposed
to him, but on his observing that perhaps the King would wish to be
made acquainted with the objects of the mission prior to receiving any-
thing of that nature, the intention was immediately relinquished. It is
unnecessary to note the remainder of the conversation, during which
we endeavoured without success to procure commercial information
from our guests.




Roberts, having decided to leave Tourane, wrote to the King and

the French missionaries to explain his reasons for this step. On 16th
December he delivered these letters to Vannier along with copies of
them for Vannier's eyes. Vannier observed that:
the views of the Hon'ble Company as now stated were very
different from what had been understood; and .... from repre-
sentations that had been made the King had been led to sup-
pose the principal object of the Company was to obtain a settle-
ment on his coast.
On the afternoon of 16th December Roberts set sail from Tourane
for Bengal, having been in Cochin China for just twelve days. At
Malacca, which he reached on 24th December, Roberts sent off to the
Secret Committee of the Court of Directors a report on this stage of his
mission; and this document is printed below.


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Alastair Lamb

To the Hon'ble the Secret Committee of the Hon'ble Court of Directors.

Malacca, 24th December, 1803.

Advices from Canton will have conveyed to your Hon'ble Commit-

tee information of Mr. Lance being prevented the honour of proceeding
to the Court of His Majesty the King of Cochin China, as directed by
the Hon'ble Company, and my consequent nomination, to carry those
orders into execution.
In pursuance of the instructions received from the Select Committee
at Canton, I embarked on board the Gun jay a on the 24th November ,
and on the 4th December anchored in Touron Bay. Detailed accounts
of my proceedings during my stay there I have the honour to transmit.
On my arrival my first consideration was, with as little delay as possible,
to lay before His Majesty of Cochin China the orders with which I have
the honour to be entrusted, and was much disappointed to find him
absent from his capital, and in Tonquin, at such distance as precluding
the possibility of my seeing His Majesty within such period as would
enable me to forward to your Hon'ble Committee the event of my mis-
sion by the ships of the present season; the most material object to be
gained by an immediate interview with the King.
Having ascertained the impracticability of this point, I resolved to
proceed to Bengal, and return to the dominions of His Majesty as early
as the season will permit, by which means, it appearing probable that
no agreement could be concluded until the sentiments of the Most
Noble the Governor General are known, the negotiations will be ter-
minated as soon as it could have been under any circumstances, and
opening with the advantages to be derived from his instructions.
Had I remained and detained the ship the Hon'ble Company would
have been exposed to a very heavy expense without any benefit being
derived as until advice could be forwarded to Europe the period of
entering into any agreement with the King of Cochin China was of little
importance, it being scarcely possible any occurrence could take place
in the interim tending to prejudice the views of the Hon'ble Company.
Remaining singly, as I must have done had the ship been des-
patched, appeared objectionable in many respects. Unprepared for a
residence, my manner of living could not have been suitable to the
situation I have the honour to hold, which must have created un-
favourable impressions in a nation fond, we are to believe, of pomp
and show; and might be made use of by any persons inimical to the
interests of the mission (of which I have reason to believe there were
some) as an argument to prove want of attention and respect on the
part of the Hon'ble Company. Under these circumstances, therefore,
I trust your Hon'ble Committee will approve the resolution I have
From my short stay in Cochin China I feel but little qualified to
offer any remarks worthy of attention of your Committee. The few
observations that have occurred, however, I consider it to be my duty
to communicate and, acquainted with the circumstances under which
they are offered, such attention may be paid to them as, in your judge-
ment, they may merit.


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Missions to Cochin China

The injury the trade of the Hon'ble Company to China must

experience from our enemies having any settlement on the coast, or
protection in the ports of Cochin China, are so fully known to your
Hon'ble Committee that any observations on the advantages to be
derived in a political point of view from a connexion with that country
are unnecessary.
The prospect, therefore, of commercial benefit is the only subject
on which it is necessary to communicate my ideas.
In a country long a prey to internal commotion and every evil
attendant on a usurping and tyrannical government, it cannot be sup-
posed that commerce will immediately flourish, in its recommencement
after the severe checks it has for thirty years experienced. The progress
must be slow and gradual; but from the industry, population and natural
wealth of the country joined to the known disposition of the King and
his subjects to cultivate commercial intercourse with foreigners, there
is every reason to suppose a commerce with Cochin China will in time
become valuable to the Hon'ble Company.
The kingdom of Tonquin has formerly, and doubtless would again
when means are offered, consumed the British woollen manufacture to
a considerable extent, the case of which might also be extended to the
northern part of Cochin China; in the southern, perhaps, the heat of the
climate may prevent woollen becoming the dress of any but the soldiers
whose uniform the King seems disposed to make of that manufacture.
Various articles of glass and hardware, there is also reason to
believe, would be in general demand, and as it is probable that the north
eastern part of China might be supplied with such articles of European
and Indian produce as they require by means of their junks on more
moderate terms than they can receive them after paying the high duties
of Canton and the additional duties and charges on their carriage to the
northwards, an established commerce with the dominions of the King
of Cochin China might become flourishing and lucrative, and by this
means, perhaps, cargoes might be obtained for Europe. At present
the produce of Cochin China is principally suited to the China or Indian
Obtaining the desirable point of forming a depot for opium in
any part of the King of Cochin China's dominions will be attended
with difficulty, as it is an article the importation of which is strictly
prohibited. Admission of its sale to foreigners may therefore at present
be questioned.
As the means of commencing the commercial intercourse, it might
be advisable to order one of the Hon'ble Company's ships to touch at
Touron Bay with instructions to the Hon'ble Company's resident in
Cochin China to dispose of such part of the cargo as he may find a
vent for. Previous to any arrival taking place every agreement with
the King of Cochin China will be completed and the woollens and other
articles, in consequence, delivered on the stipulated terms. Should
no such engagement be entered into, and they cannot be disposed of on
terms advantageous to the Hon'ble Company, the ship will proceed to
China and no other loss or inconvenience be incurred than what may
arise from the trifling addition to the length of the voyage.


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Alastair Lamb

At the commencement of this trade it is most probable that but

small quantities of woollens would be in demand, and still less of any
other European manufacture, it might therefore be proper in the first
instance to confine the investment entirely to woollens. It may also be
advisable to send as specimens a few articles of hardware such as
mirrors of small value, not that in my opinion they will ever become in
such demand as to merit the attention of the Hon'ble Company; but it
will still be desirable to ascertain how far these articles of our national
manufacture may answer in the private trade of the Commanders and
Officers of the Hon'ble Company's ships.
The assortment of woollens should chiefly consist of long ells and
the coarser kind of cloths. Black, dark and light blue, scarlet and green
are the colours they seem most to admire. Yellow in small quantities
will also be required. It appears absolutely necessary very much to
confine the importation of European manufactures until the probable
consumption can be determined as a great and sudden influx must
lessen their value in the estimation of the Cochin Chinese in such
manner as not to be easily recovered.
Should it be the intention of the Hon'ble Company, as I conceive it
will be, to endeavour to promote a trade with Cochin China, the neces-
sity of appointing a Resident at that Court, as well for the purposes
proposed by the Hon'ble Company as occasionally to control the con-
duct of individuals trading to that Empire, is strongly manifested; as
even in the small intercourse at present carried on I have reason to
believe their conduct in one instance has caused some dissatisfaction
and, if repeated, cannot fail to alienate the frienship and esteem at
present entertained by all ranks of people for the European character
in general and particularly for that of the English,
I much regret my inability to forward to your Hon'ble Committee
more full and satisfactory information on a subject that may prove
ultimately of great importance to the Hon'ble Company. Immediate
benefit is not to be expected, and attention and perseverance will be
necessary to ensure success, the greatest obstacle to which appears the
ambition of the King; and unless he remains satisfied with the recovery
of the dominions of his ancestors and allows his subjects to enjoy the
blessings of peace, little commercial activity can be expected; and
should he be tempted to carry his hostile views against the Emperor of
China into execution, it may remain a question the possibility of the
Hon'ble Company, with a regard to the valuable trade carried on with
that Empire, remaining in friendship with him. For these views, how-
ever, I have only the authority of the French gentleman with whom I
had an interview at Touron, and who was on every occasion anxious
to display the power and resources of the King he served.
The Europeans residing in Cochin China, being all natives of
France, many of whom from motives of self interest I conceive would
be desirous of promoting the views of the Hon'ble Company, and in
consequence, that the public service would be much forwarded by send-
ing translations in French of such letters as I might have occasion to
write, and as my knowledge of that language did not qualify me for
that purpose, previous to my arrival at Touron, I requested the


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Missions to Cochin China

assistance of Mr. Guise, a passenger on board the Gunjava, a gentle-

man well known at Canton, and on whose judgement and discretion I
know every confidence might be placed. To him, and Mr. Mackintosh,
I feel under many obligations for their ready and serviceable assistance
on every occasion.
From Calcutta, or by the earliest opportunity, I shall have the
honour of transmitting to your Hon'ble Committee the remarks which
have been made by Mr. Charles Mackintosh on the coast of Cochin
China and, more especially, Touron Bay.
I have the honour to be with greatest respect,

Hon'ble Sirs,
Your most faithful, humble servant,
Malacca, J. W. Roberts.

24th December, 1803.


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After a short stay in Penang, Roberts arrived at Calcutta on 1st

February, 1804. On 7th March he wrote a long report to Lord Welles-
ley in which he suggested some of the possibilities inherent in British
relations with the powers in Indochina. He pointed out the strategic
importance of this coast in any conflict between England and France.
He remarked on the strong position which the French mandarins had
secured for themselves at the court of Nguyen Anh (who assumed in
1802 the title Gia Long). But the French Revolution, Roberts thought,
had damaged French strength. Nguyen Anh was much alarmed by the
acts of a regicide government. Even the Frenchmen, missionaries and
mandarins, were probably royalist at heart and likely, for this reason,
to prove willing to help the British against the revolutionary rulers of
France.104 He argued that the main objective of his mission should
be the securing of the Island of Callao or a port on the Cochin Chinese
coast both as a commercial settlement and a strategic base: this, in view
of what Vannier had said, would take time, but its attainment was well
worth the patience. The King of Cochin China, Roberts went on,
should be provided with British arms and Indian saltpetre on the con-
dition that he did not use these war materials against the Chinese. On
the basis of these remarks Lord Wellesley issued to Roberts the follow-
ing instructions dated 20th April, 1804:

104. The fortunes of a family like that of Barizy, by no means atypical of this
troubled period of French history, could well give grounds for such a
belief. Barizy wrote to Marchini in April, 1801, that the Revolution had
affected his family thus:
M. de Flotte, my uncle, Governor of Toulon for the King,
his throat cut; my uncle M. Boisquenai, commander at Lorient,
degraded, forced to flee for his life, proscribed; my uncle M. Barizy,
priest, imprisoned in a dungeon; my brother-in-law M. Lorach,
hanged; my cousin M. Le Veyer, hanged. (Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. I,
p. 253.)
Moreover, men like Vannier and Chaigneau were Bretons, and thus came
from a region which remained strongly Monarchist and clerical.


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Plate V. A Cochin Chinese Lady. (From Crawfurd, Embassy , op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

Extract from Lord Wellesley's instructions to Roberts, dated 20th April,


4. The objects of your mission to the Court of Cochin China are

stated by the Hon'ble Committee to be the establishment of an amical
connection and a commercial intercourse with the state of Cochin China
and the permanent exclusion of the power of France from that country.
5. The Governor General in Council is of the opinion that the
latter object is more important than the former, in the degree in which
it is more desirable to provide for the security of our commercial
interests in China than to extend the branches of our commerce in that
quarter of the world.
6. This also appears to have been the sentiments of the Hon'ble
Committee, whose instructions direct that the first of the two objects
described in the preceeding paragraph be made if practicable subser-
vient to the second.
7. It appears from the diary of your proceedings in Cochin China,
and from information contained in your address to the Governor
General in Council of 7th March, that some of the French clergy reside
in Cochin China and are in the confidence of the King, and that some
of the principal offices of His Majesty's Government are held by
8. His Excellency the Governor General in Council has directed
his special attention to the course of argument contained in your letter
of 7th March tending to infer an opinion that the subjects of France
residing in Cochin China and possessing influence and power at the
Court of His Majesty, are favourably inclined to the British interest,
and would readily promote the accomplishment of the objects of your
mission to that Court. His Excellency in Council apprehends that it
may prove a dangerous policy to depend upon any supposed disposition
of the French in Cochin China, or to resort to this agency for the
accomplishment of the objectives of the Secret Committee.
9. The aversion of those persons to the present system of govern-
ment in France, and their attachment to the monarchy, do not neces-
sarily involve either a desire to obstruct the general aggrandisement of
the power and supremacy of their nation, especially in remote foreign
countries, or a disposition to promote the interests of the British Gov-
ernment by a sacrifice of the national interests of France.
10. The ambition of the Monarchy was directed with more diplo-
matic policy, and with more wisdom and energy, to the injury of the
British interests in the East, than has yet been manifested by France
since the period of the revolution. The cause of monarchy in France
therefore, is not necessarily the cause of Great Britain in India. Those
of the French nation who desire the subversion of the existing system
of government in France, cannot be supposed to desire a diminuition of
the national power of France abroad, or to have abandoned that general
sentiment of attachment to the power and honour of their country.
11. It cannot therefore be confidently expected that the subjects
of France residing and exercising power in the dominions of the King
of Cochin China would cordially employ their influence and exertions
in promoting an arrangement in favour of the British Government pre-


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Alastair Lamb

judicial to the views and interests of the French nation. It may rather
be supposed that those persons will endeavour to frustrate both our
political and commercial views in Cochin China.
The private interest and the local and temporary views of the
French now resident in Cochin China may however render their services
useful to you under proper precautions. I am directed with these
observations to suggest to you the inexpediency of rendering any of
these persons the channel of confidential negotiation with the King of
Cochin China, if you should be enabled either to communicate per-
sonally with his Majesty or to employ agents of another description for
purposes of negotiation.
12. If the disposition of the King of Cochin China towards the
British Government be as favourable as it has been represented to be,
his ready consent to the establishment of a commercial connexion with
the Company may reasonably be expected.
13. It may also be expected that His Majesty will be induced to
consent to the conclusion of engagements with the British Government
of a Commercial and Political nature on principles of reciprocal benefit,
and the following are the general terms of a political nature which in the
judgement of His Excellency in Council would promote the accomplish-
ment of the objects in the contemplation of the Hon'ble Committee.
1st. A stipulation of the permanence of friendship between the
two states.

2nd. The free use of the ports of Cochin China to all British ships
for the purposes of commerce or of obtaining provisions and of repair-
ing eventual damages.
3rd. The grant of an island or tract of land on the coast of Cochin
China in perpetual sovereignty of the the Hon'ble Company.
4th. A stipulation on the part of His Majesty never to permit a
French establishment within his dominions for any real or ostensible
purpose whatever.
5th. The Hon'ble Company to engage to supply His Majesty with
arms and military stores at the amount of their actual cost to any
practicable extent provided that such arms and military stores be not
at any time required by His Majesty for the purpose or prosecuting
hostilities against the Emperor of China or against any other state or
country in alliance or friendship with the Company.
6th. A provision for the annual supply of a specified quantity of
saltpetre from India to Cochin China under the reservation stated in
article 5th.
14. The stipulations of a commercial nature, which should form a
part of die proposed engagements with the King of Cochin China, must
depend in a great degree on the further information which you may
acquire in Cochin China with respect to the demands and the products
of the country, and the instructions of the Hon'ble Committee added
to your own just comprehension of that subject, preclude the necessity
of any suggestion on tiiat branch of the proposed arrangement.
15. The preceding stipulations involve the utmost extent of con-
cessions which under actual circumstances the King of Cochin China
can be expected to grant.


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Missions to Cochin China

16. You will, however, be regulated in proposing them by the

information which you will acquire on your arrival at Cochin China
with regard to the disposition of the King, and the situation of His
Majesty's affairs. His Excellency in Council entirely concurs in the
justice of the observations contained in your letter of the 7th of March
on the subject of obtaining a grant of an island or tract of territory in
Cochin China, and His Excellency in Council desires that you will be
guided in soliciting that concession, or in abstaining from such a request,
by the considerations stated in your letter of the 7th of March.
17. The Governor General in Council is of the opinion that every
effort should be employed to obtain His Majesty's consent to the pro-
posed stipulations for the exclusion of the French, and with that view
it will be proper that you should confirm in the mind of His Majesty
the just sentiments which His Majesty appears to entertain with regard
to the nature and operation of these licentious principles which have
long influenced the councils of France, and you should explain to His
Majesty in the most impressive manner the dangers to which the
independence of His Majesty's dominions will be exposed by permitting
the French Government to establish its authority and influence in any
degree within His Majesty's dominions.
18. In this point of your negotiation the supposed dispositions and
prejudices of the French now residing in Cochin China may prove
serviceable to the progress of your views. The French now residing in
Cochin China will probably concur in your representation of the evils
which have been occasioned by the operation of those principles on
which the existing government of France is founded, and if the King
of Cochin China be endowed with the capacity which he is supposed
to possess, it will not be difficult to satisfy His Majesty that the restora-
tion of monarchy in France cannot reasonably be expected with any
period of time or under any circumstances which would render the
admission of a French establishment in Cochin China a safe or prudent
measure for the interests of the monarch of that country. Whatever
may be the policy of admitting a British setlement in Cochin China, the
King of Cochin China cannot reasonably expect to derive any advantage
from the admission of a French establishment proportionate to the
evident peril of such an arrangement.
19. If the King should refuse to accede to the proposed stipula-
tions for the exclusion of the French, it will be proper that you should
apprize His Majesty, in distinct terms, that if His Majesty by granting
to the French an establishment within his dominions, or by any other
concessions shall afford to that nation any additional facilities in the
prosecution of hostilities against the British Government or against the
Empire of China, His Majesty will be considered to be an ally of France
and to have placed himself in the condition of a public enemy of the
British Government.
20. If the King should be averse to the conclusion of engagements
in the manner proposed, His Majesty may still be induced to consent
to the commercial arrangements suggested by the Hon'ble Secret Com-
mittee, and the establishment of such arrangements may ultimately be
rendered subservient to the attainment of the political objects of the
proposed connexion with Cochin China. Every object, however, both


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Alastair Lamb

of a commercial and of a political nature, will manifestly be facilitated

by the residence of an agent on the part of the Hon'ble Company in
Cochin China. His Excellency in Council, therefore, deems it proper
to recommend this object to your most particular attention. It will
be proper under any circumstances that you endeavour to ascertain the
disposition of His Majesty on the subject of admitting the permanent
residence of a representative of the Hon'ble Company at His Majesty's
Court. If His Majesty should be disposed to receive a British Officer
in that capacity, you will transmit to His Excellency in Council the
earliest practicable intimation of His Majesty's consent to that arrange-
ment, and if His Majesty's disposition on this point should appear to be
favourable, the Governor General in Council desires that you will act
in the capacity of a representative in Cochin China on the part of the
Company until you shall receive further advices from the Governor
General in Council.
21. In all your preceedings under these instructions you will care-
fully attend to the cautions contained in the instructions of the Hon'ble
Secret Committee on the subject of adopting any measures calculated
to alarm the jealousy of the Chinese Government; and the Governor
General in Council authorizes you to deviate from the preceding instruc-
tions by limiting or otherwise modifying the terms of the proposed
engagements if such deviation should appear to you to be advisable
with a view to the principal caution prescribed by the Hon'ble
22. By a communication contained in your diary of proceedings,
it appeared to be probable that the King of Cochin China would b
involved in a war with the Chinese. If at the period of your arrival at
Cochin China the King should actually be at war wtih the Chinese, or
should have proceeded to any acts of a nature to produce a rupture
between the two states, the Governor General in Council is of the
opinion that you should communicate with the Select Committee of
Supracargoes and obtain the benefit of its opinion previously to the
commencement of any negotiation with the Court of Cochin China.
23. Under such circumstances it might be most advisable that
you should proceed in the first instance to Macao, and should com-
municate personally with the Supracargoes previously to the commence-
ment of any negotiation in Cochin China.
24. With a view to enable the Select Committee to suppress any
emotion of jealousy or apprehension which might be excited in the
minds of the Chinese, by any misinformation with regard to the nature
and design of the proposed connection between the Hon'ble Company
and the state of Cochin China, it would be advisable that you should
forward to the Select Committee of Supracargoes a copy of these instruc-
tions at the earliest practicable period of time, and that you should
transmit to the Committee by every opportunity the most ample
information of your proceedings and negotiations in Cochin China and
the Governor General in Council expects that you will attend to any
suggestions which you may receive from the Committee on all ques-
tions connected with the objects of this letter and of your mission.
25. The Governor General in Council has taken into consideration
the suggestions contained in your letter of the 9th of February on the


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Missions to Cochin China

subject of adding to the presents with which you are already charged
for the King of Cochin China, and of providing presents to the officers
of Government and other persons in Cochin China.
26. The Governor General deems it highly expedient that you
should be furnished with presents for His Majesty to be delivered in
the name of the Governor General, and also with such articles as may
enable you occasionally to make presents to the officers of Government
and to other persons in Cochin China whose situation or services may
render such donations advisable. You will accordingly be pleased to
transmit to me a list of such articles as you may deem necessary for
the purposes above described to be submitted to the aprobation of His
Excellency the Governor General.
27. You will be furnished by the Persian Secretary with a letter
to the King of Cochin China which His Excellency the Governor
General in Council has deemed it proper to address to His Majesty on
this occasion.
(Signed: N. B. Edmonstone, Secretary to Government, 20th April, 1804)



Roberts left Calcutta on 3rd June, 1804, aboard the Page -

formerly the General de Caen - Captain Mackintosh commanding, and
reached Penang on 24th June. Here he talked with the Lieutenant
Governor, R. J. Farquahar, who warned him that a French privateer
was then cruising off the Indochinese coast. Farquahar offered Roberts
the escort of the brig Amboyna, Lt. Trinder commanding, and suggested
that after his mission Roberts could send the Amboyna on to Canton
whence it could return to Penang as escort to the China junks then
waiting the north east monsoon; for, as Farquahar wrote to the Select
Committee on 26th June to advise them of this arrangement, "it is of
considerable moment to the progress of this rising settlement that those
junks should not be plundered or infested by pirates on their voyage
under the Straits of Malacca".
From Penang Roberts went to Malacca and thence, on 6th July, set
sail for Tourane. On 15th July he reached Cape St. James, where he
learnt the King was in Hu, and on 22nd July he reached Tourane
Bay. The events of his stay in Annam between 22nd July and 25th
August, 1804, are described at length in his diary which is reproduced


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Alastair Lamb



Extract from Roberts' diary 22nd July to 25th August, 1804.

July 22nd.
Anchored at about one o'clock this day in Turon Bay, when the
mandarin who had before visited the Gun java came on board, to whom
I delivered the letter to be forwarded to Fai Foo, with which he
immediately went on shore. At anchor off the entrance of the harbour
were two of the King's junks, bound to Hu, but the appearance of
blowing weather had alarmed them and they stood into the Bay with
us. These for country vessels appeared remarkably well constructed.
They had been much improved in imitation of European ships .... The
commanders of these vessels came in the evening to visit us. At the
termination of the war the guns had been taken out of these vessels,
and they were now employed in conveying a cargo of rice from the
southward to the capital.
July 23rd.
Late in the evening a mandarin from Fai Foo came on board,
accompanied by the mandarin of Turon. He informed me that the
letter I had written had been received and immediately sent to the
capital, and in four or five days an answer might be expected and
some person sent to conduct us to His Majesty's court.
Until the 29th we remained in expectation of hearing from the
King. On the evening of that day I was informed by Mr. Rock,105 who
had been on shore, that a mandarin from Hu had just arrived and
that three boats were on their way down for my conveyance to Hu.
He also said this person wished to see me on shore the following
July 30th.
Early in the morning the mandarin from Turon came on board
and acquainted me with the arrival of the mandarin from Hue Foo
whom he represented as one of three deputed by the King to conduct
me to his capital. It appeared that his commission was jointly with
the others, and that he had hastened down to make preparations for
their reception. Under these circumstances therefore I did not think
it necessary to visit him but sent my compliments, and that if he was
inclined to come on board or had anything to communicate, I should
be happy to see or hear from him.
July 31st .
The next morning he came on board accompanied by one of the
principal mandarins of Fai Foo. In the person arrived from Hu we
recognized the junior member of the council at Fai Foo when we visited
that place in December. They acquainted us with the arrival of the

105. Mr. Rock was a Frenchman with trading experience of Cochin China who
accompanied Roberts from Calcutta and who acted as an interpreter and
liaison officer.


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other mandarins from Hu, of which we had long before been informed
and had seen the boats pass. This appeared merely a visit of ceremony.
They brought with them a present of poultry and fruit and such articles
as they thought would be acceptable on board, and said the mandarins
just arrived were fatigued with their voyage but would visit me the next
morning. After partaking of some refreshment these men took their
leave. Some hours after their departure a servant of the mandarins
from Hu attended by an old linguist came on board with the compli-
ments of his masters, and said that from fatigue they were unable to
come on board but would be happy to see me on shore. As I could
not without inconvenience at that time quit the ship, and not being
very desirous of complying with an invitation delivered in the manner
this was, I sent word I could not conveniently visit them at that time,
but Captain Macintosh intended going on shore in the evening and
would pay his respects to them, and that I should be happy to receive
them on board the following morning. On Captain Macintosh's return
I found he had been received by the mandarins from Hu, one of
whom, the superior, seeming a man of some consequence. The other
was Snr. Joao Babtiste who had been sent to Turon when I was there
in December last, and, I understood, acted in the capacity of interpreter
to the King. They informed Captain Macintosh they would come on
board or receive me on shore as I preferred, but as they had some
communication to make and wished to be informed of the nature of the
business I was come upon, the latter would be the most convenient as
they had their writers and other conveniences more about them than
they would have on board. In consequence I determined to go on
shore the next morning.
August 1st.
Early in the morning a boat was sent from the mandarins with a
message communicated by the inferior mandarin of Fai Foo importing
that it was sent for my conveyance. I preferred, however, going in the
ship's boat, and about nine o'clock, accompanied by Captain Macintosh
and Lieut. Trinder I proceeded on shore where we were received much
in the same manner as on former occasions except that guards and
attendants in general were more numerous. They informed me they
were ordered to assure me of His Majesty's satisfaction at my arrival,
and requested to be informed of the nature of my mission. I replied
that they had been fully informed when I was at this port in December,
and with which Snr. Joao Babtiste to whom I addressed myself was
acquainted. They were not however satisfied with this but now desirous
of having copies of the letters I had in charge, with which the senior
mandarin would immediately proceed to Hu and return with the
necessary accommodation for our conveyance to the court of His
This request under many circumstances I should not have thought
proper to have complied with, but in a situation where there was reason
to suppose reports of the purport of the mission highly injurious to its
interests would be circulated, I considered there could not be a more
effectual mode of removing the impression such reports might have
caused than giving publicity to letters so strongly expressive of the desire
of strengthening the friendship at present subsisting between the British


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Alastair Lamb

Government and the state of Cochin China as those I had in my charge,

and that a refusal might be employed by persons inimical to the views
of the Hon'ble Company as an argument to prove the truth of any
report they might have propagated. Resolving therefore upon a com-
pliance, I informed these mandarins that the letters I had in charge I
was directed to deliver to His Majesty of Cochin China and I considered
the request of delivering copies of them to any other person as very
unusual. Snr. Joao Babtiste said it was invariably the custom of their
country in their communication with China and other neighbouring
governments. I replied by saying that I wished by every means in my
power to prove the friendly disposition of the Hon'ble Company towards
His Majesty of Cochin China and should therefore be happy to comply
with the customs of their country as far as I consistently could; that I
would acquaint them with the substance of the letters which they might
communicate to the council at Hu: the which I did by reading
Portuguese translations of the letters, and if they would come on board
the Page they should be furnished with copies of the letters; to which
they agreed, and we shortly after returned to the ship.
About one o'clock the mandarins came on board, and finding we
could not make them sufficiently understand the contents of the letters
to enable them to give their meaning in Cochin Chinese, they were
furnished with copies and translations in Portuguese with which, after
having dined, they took their leave and said the principal mandarin
would immediately proceed to Hu.
In the course of the morning's conversation I stated to Snr. Joao
Babtiste that I considered the detention we had and were likely to
experience as very extraordinary, particularly as His Majesty was
acquainted of my intention of returning. I had hoped some prepara-
tion would have been made for my reception and that I should not
have experienced these unpleasant delays. I was unwilling to commence
a negotiation that should be conducted in the most amical manner by
representations unpleasant to both parties, but that a longer continuance
of such conduct would render this absolutely necessary, and I requested
he would impress the officers of government with whom he acted with
these sentiments. He assured me every expedition should be made and
that on the third day from this I might depend upon everything being
in readiness.
August 8th.
I continued daily amused with promises of the immediate arrival
of an answer and boats from the capital until the morning of the 8th,
when the mandarin who had before been sent down arrived accom-
panied by five boats and came on board the Page to announce his
return and readiness to accompany me to Hu. I informed him I was
ready to set off whenever he would send boats to take on board the
presents and my necessaries. As we had neither of the interpreters on
board we could only explain our meaning by the Chinese written charac-
ter which he did not seem very fully to understand, and in a short time
took his leave to proceed on shore. At two o'clock he returned accom-
panied by Snr. Joao Babtiste and the mandarin of Turon, bringing with
him the boats this morning arrived and the three before sent. These
vessels were about 50 feet long, in proportion very narrow, little more


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Missions to Cochin China

than 8 or 9 feet in the widest part, rowed from 24 to 28 oars. They

carry a carriage gun in the bow, and four swivels, two on each side.
The prows and stems are raised and ornamented gaudily with paint and
gilding. The boat we were to embark on board had a cabin in the
centre 8 feet long and 9 or 10 broad and very low. These boats, tho'
1 have no doubt very serviceable for the purposes of war in this country,
do not afford very comfortable accommodation. The one resting for
myself was singular in having a fixed cabin, the others had merely a
temporary covering of mats. The dress of the rowers in the five boats
last arrived made a very handsome appearance. It consisted of red
short trousers with a loose jacket, or rather covering to the body
without sleeves, of scarlet serge bordered with blue cotton cloth and a
narrow edge of lighter blue. On either side of the border on the dark
blue small pieces of tin near the size of a common button were fixed
about three of four inches distant. The men in the other boats wore
black jackets and red collars and cuffs. These men, tho' always
employed on board the King's vessels, are occasionally made use of as
regular land forces.
The presents and baggage having been got onto the boats in the
course of the evening, leaving the instructions for Lieutenant Trinder . . .
[to follow in the Amboyna ] ... at night I embarked accompanied by
Captain Macintosh and about two o'clock in the morning got under
August 9th.
At daylight we found ourselves clear of Turon harbour and at half
past 8 were abreast Cape Chou-moy .106 Round the next point which
forms with the cape a bay near 6 miles wide, we entered the small
mouth of the river leading to Hu. At 11 o'clock we anchored at a
small village where an inferior mandarin with a guard is stationed to
protect the river and give information of any arrivals. At this place
we found a more commodious boat ready for our reception. Its con-
struction was similar to those already mentioned but of greater dimen-
sions with a very good cabin in the centre richly ornamented with
paint of various colours and gilding. Changing our boat with allowing
the people who had been at the oar since leaving Turon some rest
caused a delay of an hour and a half, when we proceeded along a
broad but shallow river running nearly parallel to the coast. Its banks
appear as all sandy soil not capable of much cultivation. We expe-
rienced some little delay in waiting for the boat in which our dinner
was carried, and arrived at the guard house at the principal entrance
of the river about 8 o'clock where we remained until three the next

106. Cape Choumay. Findlay describes this as "the extremity of a round and
rugged peninsula of moderate height, which, united to the coast by an
isthmus of sand, appears like an island with two summits when seen from
the N.E. or S.W. A chain of high mountains with round summits extends
almost to the coast. There is a good anchorage in a small bay on the
West side of the cape where there is a river. A canal leads from Cape
Choumay to Hu, and facilitates the communication between that city and
Turon." (A. G. Findlay, A Directory for the Navigation of the Indian
Archipelago , etc., 2nd edition, London 1878, p. 455.)


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Alastair Lamb

August 10th .
At daybreak found ourselves approaching the capital of Cochin
China. The port of the city we passed does not present a very magni-
ficent appearance but is apparently extensive and populous. The houses
being all of wood and straw gives a mean appearance to those accus-
tomed to more substantial structures. As we proceeded against the
tide our progress was slow, and at eight o'clock we landed immediately
fronting the house fitted up for our reception, at the entrance to which
we were received by two mandarins, one we understood to be the Prime
Minister - meaning I believe only a man high in his sovereigns confi-
dence - the other whose office I could not exactly learn was a man
deputed by the King as his ambassador to the Emperor of China.
These men made some enquiries respecting some part of the letters they
did not understand, and shortly after took their leave.
The place fitted up for us appeared to have been originally intended
as a place of worship. It was now provided with partitions of cotton
cloth with silk hangings in different places, and made a very com-
fortable temporary lodging place for our attendants, and offices were
also provided. Shortly after our arrival a more than sufficient quantity
of such articles as it was supposed we should require was sent, and
we were informed we should receive a daily suuply and that every other
necessary required should be furnished. In the course of the morning
I received a message expressing His Majesty's congratulation and satis-
faction at my arrival with repeated enquiries to know if every wished
for necessary was supplied. A boat was also sent should we wish to
divert ourselves on the river. The old mandarin, by name Ong-to-noe,
still continued with us and the interpreter was our almost constant
attendant. This man, whom I considered might be extremely useful, I
endeavoured to make my friend by every means; but he refused every
present offered to him as improper to be received until I had seen the
King. That ceremony over, he expressed his willingness to receive any
mark of my friendship. It was hinted to him that in the event of a
commerce being established between his nation and the Hon'ble
Company he would no doubt be appointed interpreter to them, with a
monthly salary. This man had in the early part of his life visited
Bengal, and returned to his native country with Captain Hutton, Com-
mander of the Jennv, when Mr. Chapman visited Cochin China, and
acting as servant to Captain Hutton during his stay in the country. The
mandarin who returned on that occasion was, we learnt, uncle to the
present King.
August 11th.
The morning of the 11th the mandarin who had received us visited
me for the purpose of obtaining a more full explanation of the letters.
The translations they had made were explained to me, and I was happy
to find were much more correct than I had expected. I endeavoured
to amend such parts as seemed to reauire it, and I trust the sentiments
of the Hon'ble Company and His Excellency the Governor General
will be fully conveyed to His Majesty. Thev also wished to have a list
of the presents, and as this was more easilv done by shewing them
than by description, thev were unpacked and exhibited. I was sorry
to find that the frames of the convex mirrors nearly destroyed and also


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Missions to Cochin China

one of the supports of the cylinder of the electrical machine broken.

Considering, however, the length of time these articles had been packed,
and the number of times they had been landed and reshipped, this
rather a matter of satisfaction that more were not destroyed. All the
other articles we found in very tolerable order. This business occupied
the greater part of the morning. Previous to these mandarins quitting
us, I requested they would express to His Majesty my readiness to
deliver the letters in my charge whenever he might think proper, which
they said they would do, and took their leave.
In the evening I was informed the Amboyna had arrived in the
river, and at a late hour Lt. Trinder arrived to acquaint me the
Amboyna had anchored above the bar, over which he had found
abundance of water: tho' he had passed it when the tide was nearly at
the lowest, he had never less than 17 feet. The passage he represented
as intricate. Mr. Rock, who was absent when we quitted Touron on a
visit to some of his friends at Fai Foo, had been, Lt. Trinder informed
me, of considerable assistance in bringing up his vessel.
About 10 o'clock the interpreter returned and acquainted me the
King had appointed the morning after the following day for my
reception. During this and the preceding day I received several visits
from different officers of government, some I imagine from curiosity
and others in execution of their duty. These men appeared desirous of
being very civil, but according to our ideas are by no means polished
in their manners. In their best manner, however, they seemed desirous
of showing me civility and attention, and our wants were immediately
supplied by those who seemed deputed for that purpose. I also received
a message from Mns. Chaigneau saying he was desirous of paying his
respects, but as a foreigner did not think it would be proper until the
ceremony of my reception was over.
August 12th.
The ceremonies to be observed on my reception were during this
day adjusted. I was given to understand that no person was permitted
to sit in the presence of the King, and that as the usual ceremonies with
which he was approached was with Europeans dispensed with, he
expected they would conform in this respect. As this appeared reason-
able, after some little conversation it was agreed I should bow on being
introduced and continue standing during the audience, which, they
assured me, should not be long. In the evening I received a message
saying the King had appointed an early hour for receiving me as he
knew Europeans were unaccustomed to exposure to the sun. I returned
my thanks for his attention, and that I should be in readiness to attend
at any hour he would appoint.
August 1 3 th.
At 4 o'clock in the morning I was called, and informed the man-
darin Ong-to-noe had arrived, and directed the presents to be sent on
board a boat in readiness for their reception, which was accordingly
done, and at half past five I embarked, accompanied by Captain
Macintosh and Lieut. Trinder, having sent the two 6 pounders under
charge of a guard of sepoys with my palanquin and some of the servants
to await my arrival at the landing place, where we disembarked a
quarter of an hour after leaving my residence. Fronting one of the


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Alastair Lamb

gates of the old fort near the landing place were four handsome large
brass guns which had lately been cast at this place. Their dimensions
were: calibre eight and eight tenths inches; length from muzzle to
breach 17 feet; greatest diameter two feet five inches, smallest one foot
six inches. Some little delay taking place in bringing the presents on
shore, we wlked to the place were these guns were, and from thence
proceeded to the palace by the gateway opposite to which we landed, to
the left of which is a large building open in front and looked used as
an arsenal. In the front, pointing to the river, were six long handsome
brass guns. The wall of the old fort is nearly destroyed, I imagine to
furnish material for carrying on the extensive new works the King is
constructing. Behind the arsenal is a flag staff on which the yellow
fl^g was displayed on our approach. About 80 yards in a line behind
the first building is a council hall, a large open building before which
the presents were laid. At some distance in front as well as the sides
sheds are at present erected for the carpenters employed in preparing
materials for the new palace. On each side of the council hall and
sheds in front, 10 elephants were drawn up forming between them
and the buildings an avenue on either side. Two lines of troops, one
armed with muskets, the other with spears, were drawn up from each
front corner of the arsenal to the river; and in the same manner from
the council hall to the carpenters' sheds, these armed with muskets and
swords. A number of men with drums were in front of each line.
There was also a guard at the gateway who presented arms on my
passing. Our palanquin's guard and servants were not permitted to
pass the gateway.
We were conducted along the avenue to the right, and passing a
small gateway in a wall continued from the back of the council hall at
which a small guard was stationed who likewise presented arms, turn-
ing immediately to the right we entered a spacious court. At the upper
end was the hall of audience. Two lines of troops in the same manner
as before the other buildings were drawn up, and within them the
principal officers of government. The dress of the troops was mainly
similar to that of the rowers already described, except that they were
of various colours, yellow, green and blue and all with big sleeves.
The general covering of the head was a conical cap with some ornament
on top. One body of men had no caps.
We were conducted to the centre of the square, and desired to
pay our respects to the King whom we observed seated cross legged
on a low couch with a table before him and a handsomely painted
screen behind. His dress was yellow silk with figures of dragons
embroidered, and a black cap richly ornamented with gold. At this
place the letters were delivered by the men who had brought them
thus far to two mandarins of superior rank, and after bowing we were
conducted to the end of the right line of mandarins, who on an order
given advanced some of them within the building; and the letters being
conveyed and placed on the table before His Majesty, we followed
and were placed in a direction with the line of pillars to the right of the
throne nearly in front of the building. After making our bow the
King commenced the conversation by enquiring how long we had been
on our passage from Bengal, and whether myself and Captain Mac-


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Plate VI. A Cochin Chinese soldier, drawn by W. Alexander
(From Barrow, Cochinchina , op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

intosh were the persons who had been in Touron last season; also the
name of Lieut. Trinder; which being answered, he observed that we
had experienced much trouble in visiting him, to which I replied I
could not consider as trouble the execution of orders that offered me
the satisfaction of paying my respects to His Majesty, that I had the
honour of presenting him in the name of the Hon'ble Company and
His Excellency the Governor General the letters and presents which
I had now delivered in testimony of their sentiment of friendship and
regard. He replied that with the Governor General he was well
acquainted, but that the Company was not well known to him. On
attempting to explain the nature of the Company, I was stopped by
the interpreter observing with that His Majesty was well acquainted,
and was given to understand that it was meant to be implied that from
a correspondence which had taken place with the Government of Bengal
His Majesty was acquainted with the Governor General, but that this
was his first communication with the Company. His Majesty further
said that in proof of his friendly disposition towards the Hon'ble
Company and His Excellency the Governor General he would accept
the King of England's picture and a few of the presents, but that the
whole was more than he could receive; that his country might at present
be considered as new and requiring but little; that Tonquin was in a
different state and might require some woollens, but as they, however,
were hot climates the demand would not be very great; that English
ships would be received at any of his ports on paying the customary
charges; and when he required anything he would write to the Hon'ble
Company. The former part of his reply appeared so very extraordinary
and unexpected, I scarce knew what answer to make. I observed that
I had the honour in the name of the Hon'ble Company and His Excel-
lency the Governor General to request His Majesty's acceptance of the
articles now presented, which request His Majesty would comply with
entirely or in part as he thought proper. The interpreter took some
pains to explain this mode of acceptance as conformable to their
customs on the commencement of any intercourse, that at any subse-
quent period His Majesty would receive whatever the Hon'ble Com-
pany or Governor General should send, and that I must not consider
it as unfriendly. I informed him it was so contrary to any customs
I was acquainted with that I could scarce consider it otherwise. The
King then enquired if I had anything further to communicate more
than the letters contained. In reply I stated that it was the desire
of the Hon'ble Company as expressed in their letter to form a commer-
cial connexion and by every means strengthen the friendship at present
subsisting, and requested His Majesty if it was his wish to meet the
views of the Hon'ble Company that he would consider in what manner
they might be most effectually accomplished, and I should be happy
to have the honour of adjusting this matter with him. He answered
he would see and consult with his council; and we shortly after took
our leave with the same forms as on entering and were then accom-
panied to the council hall where refreshments of tea and sweetmeats
were provided and handsomely served in a variety of bowls many of
gold richly ornamented. This hall as well as the hall of audience are
large buildings, low and supported by numerous pillars without much


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Alastair Lamb

ornament. At present the ornamental part appears neglected in con-

sequence of His Majesty's intention of building another palace. In
the centre, nearly at the back of the hall, is a chair richly gilded raised
about four feet intended for His Majesty when he sits in council, which
is, I understand, never the case. A table was in front with chairs on
either side. In one front corner was suspended a large gong, extremely
sonorous, for the purpose of beating time during the night; and in the
opposite corner a large bell for the same purpose. Returning, we
went into the arsenal, where a number of guns of various sizes were
deposited, principally ship guns and their carriages, in general nine
pounders. From this we returned to our place of residence, accom-
panied by Ong-to-noe and the interpreter.
Shortly after our return the mandarin who had been deputed to
the Court of China, and who had received us at this place and attended
us during our stay there, arrived saying that His Majesty would accept
the picture of the King of Great Britain with some of the other pictures,
the chronometer, sextant and case of mathematical instruments. To
this person I represented that the manner in which the King had
accepted the presents offered was contrary to the customs of every
country I was acquainted with, that I could not but consider the repre-
sentations I should have to make to the Hon'ble Company and the
Governor General would be very unsatisfactory. He replied that it was
conformable to the customs of his country and had been adopted by
the Emperor of China in his reception of the presents he had delivered
to him in the name of his King. He was informed that the reception
of the English Embassy at the Court of China was very different as it
had been at every Eastern court with which the English had held
communication; that with respect to their own customs I believed this
was the first time the King had ever received a public minister. Of
course he would act as he thought proper, but that I did not consider
this the mode to secure the friendship of the English nation.
I desired the interpreter would acquaint His Majesty that if it was
his intention to enter into any connexion with the Hon'ble Company,
it was my wish to have the honour of a private interview; which he
promised to do in the evening.
About 4 o'clock Mr. Rock, who had been to visit his countrymen
Messrs. Liot and Chaigneau, returned and delivered me two letters
from the Bishop of Veren, one dated 13th December, 1803, in reply to
my letter to him on my first arrival but not sent in consequence of
hearing of my departure from Turon, the other dated 30th April, 1804,
replying to my last letter from aboard the Gun java and addressed to
me at Cape St. James but, I believe, never forwarded to that place,
containing strong professions of a wish to render every service in his
power and in one or the other recommending to my confidence all the
French gentlemen about the King, particularly Messrs. Liot and Chaig-
neau. The only information contained was that after receiving on
the 22nd of February last the patent of the Emperor of China,
the King was solemnly proclaimed King of Tonquin and Cochin China.
Mr. Rock also delivered me the compliments of the other gentlemen,
and that they regretted it had not been in their power to render the
services as interpreter. They would gladly have done, but that they


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Missions to Cochin China

had received a message from the King on my arrival saying that as our
nations were at war he did not suppose it would be proper they should
have communication with me. He also said that these gentlemen had
informed him that the character of the English had suffered in the
opinion of the King and his mandarins from the representations of
those Portuguese commanding vessels from Macao, as well respecting
our possessions in India as that we had on obtaining Pulo Penang
entered into engagements with the King of Queda which had never
been fulfilled, and that we were now coming to Cochin China with the
same intention; and that Mr. Chaigneau had much lost the confidence
of the King from having been represented as concerned in some
unpleasant disputes between the Cochin Chinese and Captains Purefoy
and Makepeace when in this country in charge of the English vessel
the Griffin 107 He concluded by saying that now the ceremony of my
acceptance was over these gentlemen would request the permission of
the King to visit me tomorrow.
In the evening a complaint was made to the mandarin then with
us that some of our servants had been behaving improperly to the
Cochin Chinese without the house, which was represented to us with
some warmth on the part of the mandarin. I should not have re-
counted these circumstances had not the frequency of these complaints
induced a belief that it was intended to harass us with triflng vexa-
tious disputes in the hope of hastening our departure. On the present
occasion I found that the boy who had given rise to the complaint had
not passed the doorway of our house, and that his offense consisted
in making improper signs to some of the women without. I represented
that this was much too trifling an occurrence to make subject of serious
dispute. They had been informed that I had given most positive orders
to any person belonging to me to behave in the most civil manner to the
natives of this country, and had not suffered any person to go out after
dark. These orders had been repeated at their request, and I had no
reason to believe they had in any way been deviated from; on the
contrary, I had seen the sepoys on guard indulge with the greatest good
humour the curiosity of the people in examining their dress and acoutre-
ments; that similar vexatious circumstances had frequently occurred
which, coming in the most friendly manner we had not a right to
expect; that if by the orders of the King we were not to be received as
friends, and he was not disposed to have any intercourse with the
English, I requested that he would order boats to be in readiness for
our return to the ship; and the old mandarin returned to us with many
professions of personal esteem.

107. Captain Purefoy was in the employ of the Madras firm of Abbot and
Maitland, the owners of the Griffin. He was in Cochin China during the
period 1800-1807 to settle the many financial disputes which arose between
his employers and the Cochin Chinese Court. The disputes referred to
here, however, were of a different nature, being concerned with the Cochin
Chinese claim that members of the Griffin's crew had committed thefts
and other outrages in Tourane. (See p. 151 below.) Purefoy later
wrote a brief account of his Cochin Chinese experiences which, according
to Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 275, was published in French translation
in Nouvelles Annales des Voyages, July-September 1826, pp. 338-355.


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Alastair Lamb

August 14th.
Early in the morning we were informed that His Majesty extended
us the honour of sending us breakfast, which arrived at 7 o'clock with
the mandarin who visited us yesterday and had received us at the
palace. The breakfast, consisting of three large trays one destined
for ourselves, was spread upon the table and would have been fully
sufficient for twenty times our number. One of the trays was for our
servants, and the other with the remains of ours was destined for the
people in attendance about the house. Among other articles set before
us were several bowls of small pieces of raw pork folded up in a fresh
leaf: of the merits of this dish I am unable to speak. The ceremony
did not last long and concluded by our requesting the mandarin would
return my thanks to His Majesty for his attentions. After the break-
fast was removed, the mandarin informed me that His Majesty very
much admired the chronometer, sextant and mathematical instruments,
but that he did not understand them; they were very valuable and, if
left with him, would be spoiled. He therefore returned them and
would take one of the gun carriages instead. I repeated that I had
before expressed my sentiments and that His Majesty would act
respecting the presents as he thought proper. We then rose from the
table and, requesting to speak to this officer of government, we retired
into the inner room when I desired he would return my thanks to His
Majesty for the orders he had given for our accommodation and
supply of every requisite, which orders had been most satisfactorily
executed by the persons he had deputed for the purpose; that I had
yesterday the honour of presenting His Majesty in the name of the
Hon 'ble Company and His Excellency the Governor General letters
and several presents which they requested his acceptance in testimony
of the regard and friendship they extended towards His Majesty and
expressive of their desire of forming such connexion with His Majesty
as might be mutually advantageous. The manner in which His Majesty
had been pleased to accept the presents was so different from any mode
of friendly reception I was acquainted with, or that had been expe-
rienced by the Hon'ble Company in their communication with the
Eastern courts that I must apprehend the representations I should
have to make would be extremely unsatisfactory. I trusted His
Majesty would consider the advantages that might be derived from the
friendship and commerce of the English nation, and that in forming
his opinion he would not give implicit confidence to reports which may
have been concocted by persons inimical to the Hon'ble Company from
ignorance and self interested motives: that if His Majesty was disposed
to meet the views of the Hon'ble Company I should be happy to adjust
the business with him, either by personal conference or any other mode
His Majesty might prefer, and requested His Majesty would favour me
with an answer. This message he promised to deliver, and bring an
answer by six o'clock in the vening. I considered it necessary to re-
quest this mandarin would state this to the King as I had found that
the interpreter had not made any request for a private interview.
In the cours of the morning one of the gun carriages was removed
About nine o'clock I received a note from Mr. Liot saying he would
have the honour of calling on me in the course of the morning, to


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Missions to Cochin China

which I returned an answer expressing the pleasure I should have in

seeing him; and in a few hours he called, accompanied by Messrs.
Chaigneau and Forsans,108 officers in the service of the King of Cochin
China. As it was rather a visit of ceremony, little communication of
consequence took place. On taking leave Mr. Liot observed with many
professions of service and friendship for the English that the mis-
sionaries here were of but little importance, meaning, I imagine, to
imply that he had it not in his power to render very material assistance.
In the evening the interpreter returned with an answer to the
message I had desired in the morning might be delivered to His
Majesty, saying that the mode in which His Majesty had received the
presents was according to the customs of the country, and that he would
give me an audience the day after tomorrow.
August 15th.
In the morning, after walking to see the new works carrying on,
we were informed a theatrical representation was prepared for our
entertainment, and that the King had ordered a company of his come-
dians for that purpose. Previous to the commencement I returned the
visit of the French gentlemen, whom I had before invited to dine with
me this day. On our return from them we quitted our boat to
examine a very handsome vessel we had observed in passing the sheds
on the bank of the river opposite the city erected for the purpose of
sheltering the boats of His Majesty. That which attracted our atten-
tion had been built during the time of the Taysons and was extremely
magnificent. At the head and stern there was an apartment richly
carved and gilded, as were the sides of the vessel and mouldings of the
gunnels; and rowed by fifty oars.
On our arrival home we found preparations making for com-
mencing the play, which between two and three o'clock began and
continued till we were disposed to retire at about twelve o'clock It
was nearly similar to the Chinese, except that in the evening female
dancers were introduced. In consequence of this representation, which
Mr. Liot as a priest could not witness, we were deprived of his com-
*1 "inner- 9ther two gentlemen, however, attended. From
the different conversations with these gentlemen I could form but a
very unfavourable opinion of the success of the mission. They repre-
sented the Kmg as extremely apprehensive of any settlement of the
English those of in his country that he was willing to receive English ships as
been those of other nations but nothing further. These fears they said had as
had been fallen produced by some incautious and unwarranted expressions that had
tion had fallen ot from the commander of the vessel that first expressions brought intima- that
tion ot the mission, in giving reason to suppose that it was the Hon'ble
ioT to a / belief ,hntfnt/n that it was t0- in get Psses,si?n of Turon. This had given rise
St. to a belief that it was in contemplation to seize either Turon or Cane
St. James, and that the English character had suffered from the or stories Cane
King fn m a / favourable wrtUr4eSe'u but Thfy rePresented the disposition of the
mandarins King m a favourable light, but that he was much influenced by of the the
mandarins in his confidence, many of whom were prejudiced ignorant the
108. Godefroy de Forsanz another Breton, came to CochinChinain 1789
(Taboulef, op.T" vol p. 2570 COmmander' He died at Hu in 181 1789 '


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Alastair Lamb

men. From their report Mr. Chaigneau observed he had suffered in

the estimation of the King, who was informed he had been concerned
with Captain Purefoy and influenced his conduct in this country which
had given great offense from his intemperate behavour. Among other
acts, I understood, several articles of food had been violently taken
from the shore, and a Cochin Chinese boat fired upon from the ship.
The cause given for such conduct, I was informed, he was irritated
by the King's refusal to comply with an engagement entered into for
the supply of muskets for which payment was refused in consequence
of their being found inserviceable. This was represented by the other
party as arising from their having been exposed to all the injuries of
the weather as they had been left after landing for a considerable time
on the beach. I represented to Mr. Chaigneau that this strongly
pointed out the necessity of His Majesty, if he desired an intercourse
with the English, forming a connexion with the Hon'ble Company by
which means all similar occurrences would be prevented; that I had
requested a private audience when I should state to His Majesty the
terms on which the Hon'ble Company were willing to form such a
connexion with him, the heads of which were stated to him, when he
made many professions of friendship and desire to render assistance.
August 16th.
I was informed His Majesty could not see me till the next morning,
and that he requested nothing further on the subject of the presents
might be mentioned.
August 17 th.
At half past six in the morning I proceeded to the palace accom-
panied by Captain Macintosh and Lieut. Trinder, also the mandarin
Ong-to-noe and, as usual, the interpreter. We were received in the
same hall as on the 13th, but without the same ceremony. There were
not any troops drawn up except the usual guard that accompanies the
King. The mandarins present were few in number and in their com-
mon dresses; among them on this occasion we observed the Frenchmen.
We paid our respects as before and were also kept standing. After a
few questions respecting our health, His Majesty expressed his thanks
to the Company for their attention and that he was ready in every
way to serve them. I then observed that I had requested this audience
for the purpose of stating to His Majesty, if he was disposed to enter
into commercial engagements with the Hon'ble Company, the mode
which in my opinion the arrangements might be most advantageously
made. He answered by saying his country required only cloths, and
those but little; that at present he did not require any but when he
did he would write to the Hon'ble Company. To this I replied that
the Company did not send any persons in their ships with authority
to dispose of their cargoes, therefore if inclined to trade with the
Hon'ble Company he must permit a resident at his court by which
means any communication with the Company would be facilitated and
unpleasant disputes with individuals of the English nation might be
amicably adjusted. To this I was answered that he would consult with
his council. I also stated that if the articles given in return for the
Company's goods were of a nature not to find a market at the port
where their ships might be bound, they must have liberty to dispose


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Missions to Cochin China

of them to any persons inclined to purchase. I was then requested

to state in writing what I had to say on this subject which would be
submitted to his council. This I thought and replied would be the
best mode. I observed I feared His Majesty had heard many false-
hoods circulated by persons inimical to the English, but that when he
had a better acquaintance of that nation I trusted he would be con-
vinced of their falsity. He replied he should see who was right. We
were frequently asked if we had anything further to say, whether from
a wish to know if the stories the King had heard were well founded,
or from an impatience to have finished with us, I am unable to deter-
mine. I requested to assure His Majesty that the views of the Hon'ble
Company were of the most friendly nature, in proof of which I was
authorized to enter into an engagement with him tending to strengthen
the friendship subsisting between His Majesty and the English Nation.
He replied that everything should be submitted to his council, when
the conversation concluded by my requesting, as it was late for ships
to make their passage to China, he would oblige me by giving me
an answer as soon as possible; which he said he would do, and we
took our leave. During the conference the King asked, in case his
council should approve a resident at his court, whether I should be
content to have a house or wish to build one in the English style. As
this question was not put in a manner as of mere curiosity, I concluded
there was some apprehension of too great show being made and replied,
certainly, I should be satisfied with such house as could be hired.
After quitting the hall of audience we were conducted to a room on
one side of the court where tea and refreshments were served up; and
we soon afterwards returned home when I wrote ... [a letter to the
King] . . . and delivered it to the interpreter, with which he took his
leave to carry it to the court.109
In the evening I heard from Mr. Rock that the French gentlemen
rather thought themselves implied in the observations I had made
this morning respecting the reports that had been circulating, but from
the manner in which these apprehensions were stated I imagine it was
only their wish to determine if such was my intention. They stated
that the King had expressed his surprise to them that I should suppose
they had prevented his receiving the presents, to which nothing that I
had said could certainly in the smallest degree allude; and as it was the
wish of His Majesty expressed thro' the interpreter that nothing on
that subject should be mentioned, it is not probable he would have
introduced it himself.
August 21st.
Till the 21st the time was occupied in having my letter of the
17th translated, and passing thro' the forms of laying it before the
council. On the morning of this day the mandarin Ong-how-bow, who
had been in China and who attended us upon all public occasions,
came to me with a verbal answer. He read the translation that had
been made of my letter, and then communicated His Majesty's deter-
mination not to admit any representative of the Hon'ble Company
at his court, and repeating his former declaration that English ships
would be received in the same manner as those of other nations, but
109. Tne letter is printed here below, pp. 142-143.


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Alastair Lamb

nothing more would be granted. This decided rejection of the pro-

posals I had made, so strongly evinced a determination to avoid all
intercourse with the English, and as I at different times had as strongly
as in my power endeavoured to impress these men with the advantages
to be derived from a commerce with the Company, I considered it only
necessary to reply that on any other terms than those proposed it was
impossible for the Hon'ble Company to trade with his country, and
as I considered this answer decisive of the King's resolution not to
enter into any engagements with the Hon'ble Company, I requested
His Majesty would be pleased to order as soon as possible boats to be
in readiness for our return to Turon.
August 22nd .
Early this day the arrival of the mandarin who had yesterday
brought His Majesty's answer to my letter of the 17th was announced,
and on meeting him I found he was deputed to deliver the answer
of the King to the letters of the Hon'ble Company and His Excellency
the Governor General, with sundry presents consisting of elephants'
teeth, cinnamon, Aguila and Columba woods, and with two horns of
the Rhinoceros of extraordinary length and age. Considering that the
King had marked in the strongest manner his determination to decline
all intercourse with the Company and this rather in a contemptuous
manner, in the first place after accepting part of the presents changing
and selecting such as were likely to be useful and taking the carriage
of one of the 6 pounders and returning the gun, in returning a verbal
answer, refusing every proposition contained in my letter of the 17th
without condescending to state any reason whatever, and repeating he
was willing to receive the English ships as those of other nations, as
had always been the case, was in part saying he was willing to trade
with the English in the manner he had already done but declining any
more intimate connexion; had the presents been received in a friendly
or even handsome manner and this declaration candidly made, I cer-
tainly could not have hesitated in receiving it with attention and civility;
in addition to these circumstances is to be observed my long detention
at Turon and demand of an explanation of the nature of my mission
which my communication to Mr. Vannier in December must have fully
informed the King, and his general reserve and imperious conduct,
avoiding all means of private conference, keeping me at a great distance
at the audience I requested might be private, and from the little cere-
mony observed was I suppose meant to be considered so, during which
also putting a stop to all explanation by referring every question to his
council, and by hastening the business over by asking almost after
every sentence if I had anything further to state; under these circum-
stances I did not think I would be justified in accepting on the part of
the Hon'ble Company and the Governor General any presents from
His Majesty. I therefore stated my willingness to take charge of the
letters, but declined accepting either the presents for the Hon'ble
Company or those for the use of the ship which were offered, con-
sisting of bullocks, goats, rice and such other articles as they thought
would be acceptable. After much argument with these men, who
urged mv acceptance of at least a part, saying that they were presented
to the Hon'ble Company and His Excellency the Governor General,


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Missions to Cochin China

and not to myself, to this I replied that they must be aware that as I
had in the present occasion the honour of being their representative,
my acceptance or refusal was to be considered as theirs, and frequently
repeated to them my reasons for not complying with their request.
Finding me determined, they retired to state the circumstances to His
Majesty. I was rather surprised on their return to find no notice taken
of my refusal but did not consider it necessary to say anything on the
subject. In the course of the morning we found that the packages
had been secretly conveyed to the boats preparing for our departure
by order of the interpreter, and on sending for him to enquire the
reason, he affected not to understand what I had said and considered
I only meant to refuse the presents for the ship. So direct a falsehood
could not be received with perfect coolness. On repeating part of this
conversation, his observations on their being offered to the Company
and Governor General, so strongly proving he did understand me, he
was obliged to shift his ground and lay the blame on Ong-how-bow
to whom he asserted he had explained what I had said, but that the
King had not been informed. It was evidently their intention that the
presents should be conveyed to the ship when I suppose they relied
that representing the difficulties and disgrace attending their return
would induce my acceptance. Finding me persist in a refusal, he
retired, and shortly after returned with Ong-how-bow, when a conversa-
tion nearly similar to this morning took place. They appeared under
considerable apprehension of representing the case to the King, and
were very anxious for my acceptance of a least a part. I replied that
the reasons I had before given rendered it impossible but that if His
Majesty wished to explain any part of his conduct or make remarks
for the attention of the Hon'ble Company, it might be done by deputing
a dependable person to His Excellency the Governor General at Fort
William, where I promised he should be received with every respect
due to the representative of the King of Cochin China, and that if an
English vessel was required for the conveyance of an embassy, on
application to Canton one would be supplied. It was observed that
if I refused what the King had offered he would return the presents
of the Hon'ble Company which he had accepted. I could only answer
in this respect the King would do as he thought proper. They shortly
after went to the King and returned saying that His Majesty would
return the presents that he had accepted, and requesting the letter that
had in the morning been delivered for the purpose of altering those
parts acknowledging the receipt of presents and specifying those sent
in return. I represented this as unnecessary, that His Majesty by those
letters expressed his intentions and I should have to explain the reason
of their not being carried into execution. The letters, however, were
wished for and delivered. They then took their leave, saying they
would be returned the next morning.
In the course of the day Lieut. Trinder returned to his ship,
intending to proceed to Turon as soon as possible. The two six
pounders and carriage were sent to the Amboyna as the most ready
means of conveyance to India.
I also received a visit from Messrs. Liot and Chaigneau, who
furnished me with French translations of the King's letters to the


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Alastair Lamb

Company and Governor General, and seemed desirous I should employ

them to procure from the King a written reply to my propositions of
the 17th.
August 23rd.
The letters for the Hon'ble Company and His Excellency the
Governor General were in the morning delivered to me, and I under-
stood had been returned at a late hour last night, unaltered, whether
in consequence of my suggestion I know not. reason assigned
by the interpreter was not to lose my time. The gun carriage and
prints were early returned, and these as well as the other articles being
embarked, about noon we quitted Phu-tchuan not with quite the same
honours as on entering. The boats prepared were exactly the same, the
large boat for our accommodation to the mouth of the river, and the
others for our conveyance afterwards, but no troops drawn up or
mandarins in attendance.
Previous to my departure I was desirous of making some presents
to the soldiers and different people who had been employed in
attendance upon us, and considered the most regular mode of doing
it would be to give a sum in charge of their superior to be divided
according to the situation of the men. On enquiry finding who was
considered as their immediate commander on the present occasion, I
desired he might be called, and after waiting a considerable time he
arrived accompanied by another mandarin who appeared to have the
direction of our supplies. To this man I gave the sum I thought
sufficient to be distributed among the people who had attended us.
They represented that the people were in the service of the King and
that he would be much offended should they receive any compensation
for the employ they had been ordered upon. We, of course, explained
this was not intended as a payment for service but merely as a token
of its being performed agreeably, and should have been happy could
they have been persuaded to have received what would have been
extremely acceptable to a number of well disposed oppressed men.
However I imagine it would have been inconsistent to receive anything
themeselves at the time they were refusing for others. These men
returned the few presents of cloth and cetera I had previously made.
This was a species of insolence I did not chuse further to expose
myself, therefore desired if they did not think proper to accept what
I had offered that it might be returned, and leaving them walked to the
boat where the things were afterwards sent. We were soon joined by
our companion Ong-to-noe and the interpreter and took leave of the
capital of Cochin China.
The city had been almost entirely destroyed by the present King,
who is now rebuilding it upon a very magnificent scale. The fortifica-
tions are to enclose a square of one mile and a half, within which
palaces are building for himself and family. The city is also to be
very great. From whence the means of building it are to arise was
not pointed out, and from the poverty of the people I imagine it will
be some time before completed. Upon the works at present carrying
on 5,000 men are said to be employed besides those in distant situations
cutting wood and making bricks & cetera. The soldiers are employed
for these purposes, and as their pay is not increased it is really insuffi-


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Missions to Cochin China

cient for their support; and as most of them are brought from the
provinces where by means of their families they are able to gain a live-
lihood, in their present situation are at all times in great distress, and
in case of sickness or accident die from want of attention and nourish-
ment. In addition to this, from the numbers employed, there is not
left sufficient to gather in the harvest. This ostentatious display may
therefore perhaps leave His Majesty forts and palaces without defence
or attendants.
The situation and climate of this country make it capable of being
one of the most flourishing in the world, and no people in my opinion
are better qualified to render it so than its present inhabitants under a
proper government. They appear an extremely mild, well disposed,
hardy and industrious race; and as this appears under the present dis-
couraging circumstances, what might not be accomplished from proper
encouragement. Extreme poverty pervades everywhere. Commerce,
therefore, cannot immediately flourish, and under the present order of
things it is difficult to say when it may. Could the King be induced
to grant any establishment it might soon I conceive be rendered valuable
but among the natives from their not possessing the means of purchase,
even the smallest cargo would go off so low that the expenses of a
ship remaining would never enable a trade carried on in that way to
answer. Some place therefore where goods could be landed and dis-
posed of to the Chinese or other persons trading to Cochin China
becomes essential in the first instance.
As much has been said respecting the navy of the King, it may not
be improper to mention the naval force he at present possesses, which
consists of three vessels, one entirely constructed at Saigon, the other
two French vessels rebuilt, that is, by degrees, every plank and timber
changed. One of these vessels we saw, I believe the largest. She
appeared capable of mounting 16 or 18 guns. He has also one vessel
originally built as a junk, but the upper works finished in the European
manner and rigged as a ship. The King had originally 17 Junks, or
Tows, similar to those we met with on entering Turon. Only five of
these are now remaining, the others having been lost. In addition to
these, the King has we were told fifty boats similar to those sent for
our conveyance, of larger and smaller dimensions. These, I imagine,
he considers his best defence, and appears very much increasing their
At one o'clock we got under weigh and proceeded by the same
track as before. After waiting from daylight the next morning until
late the evening at the entrance of the river under apprehension of
blowing weather, we arrived early on the 25th aboard the Page , when
I wrote a letter to the King and delivered it the next morning to the
mandarins, of whom we then took leave; and having given in charge
to Lieutenant Trinder the address to His Excellency the Most Noble
Governor General from the King with my dispatches for the Lieut.
Governor of Prince of Wales's Island, he was directed to proceed to
that island, . . . and at two o'clock we quitted Turon Bay.

Signed: J. W. Roberts, Turon Bay, 26th August, 1804.


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Alastair Lamb


Roberts to Gia Long, 17th August, 1804.

To His Majesty Ya Laun, King of Cochin China.

May it please Your Majesty,
In consequence of Your Majesty's wish to have the proposals I
had the honour this morning to make to Your Majesty on the part
of the Hon'ble English East India Company expressed by letter, I have
now the honour to submit to Your Majesty's consideration the means
by which I consider the proposed commercial connexion may be esta-
blished in the most advantageous manner for all parties concerned.
I request in the first place to assure Your Majesty that the views
of the Hon'ble Company are of the most friendly nature, and trust in
forming your determination on the present subject Your Majesty will
not place undue confidence in false representations that may have
reached the ears of Your Majesty circulated by those inimical to the
English nation from ignorant and self interested motives.
I am well aware that in a country as long subject to the miseries
of war an extension of commerce cannot be immediately carried on.
The happy success which has crowned the reign of Your Majesty's
arms has rendered your dominion of great magnitude which, with the
security and prosperity that must arise from the energy and good
government of Your Majesty, will undoubtedly in a few years place
the country in a situation to enable commerce to flourish. That a
commercial intercourse with the English nation affords the most pro-
bable means of increasing the wealth and prosperity of Your Majesty's
subjects will I imagine be admitted. Such intercourse the Hon'ble
Company are willing to form on conditions as follows.
1st. That Your Majesty will receive and constantly permit to
reside at your court as representative of the Hon'ble Company a resi-
dent on the part of the said Company for the purpose of superintending
their affairs, controlling the conduct of individuals and regulating all
matters affecting the English nation in Cochin China.
2nd. To the representative of the Hon'ble Company Your
Majesty will state the articles required from Europe and the quantity,
also what will be given in return, the terms to be setled from time to
time as the demand may arise. Should Your Majesty wish for any
immediate supply, I shall have the honour of furnishing Your Majesty
with specimens of the different cloths, the manufacture of England.
3rd. To afford every encouragement to the industry of the coun-
try the Hon'ble Company are willing to take any articles of its produce
in return for their goods. Should they, however, be of such a nature
as not to find a market at the ports to which the Hon'ble Company's
ships may be bound, they should have full permission to dispose of
such articles to the Portuguese, Chinese and any persons willing to
purchase them.
4th. In order to afford facility to the proposed commerce the
ships of the English nation shall be received on the most favourable


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Missions to Cochin China

terms. Should Your Majesty think proper to demand any sum for
anchorage, a stated sum shall be fixed; but in case the Hon'ble Com-
pany shall deem it necessary to send ships for the sole purpose of
conveying to India the articles they may have received in return for
merchandise, these ships shall be admitted free of every charge what-
ever as it is understood the ship who imported has already paid
5th. The ships of the English nation shall have permission to
touch and trade at any port of Your Majesty's dominions of Cochin
China and Tonquin; but as the port of Turon is most conveniently
situated for the trade of the Hon'ble Company, Your Majesty will agree
there to receive and deliver such articles as may be required and given
in exchange; and in case it should be found necessary to deposit the
whole or any part in warehouses, such conveniences shall be furnished
by Your Majesty or permission given for their being built by the
Hon'ble Company.
I have thus stated the points on which it is necesary for Your
Majesty to decide. Should it be your desire to enter into commercial
intercourse with the Hon'ble Company, every further arrangement Your
Majesty may deem requisite or that circumstances from time to time
make necessary on that subject or any other relative to the English
nation it is to be understood will be adjusted with the resident on the
part of the Hon'ble Company in which situation, if it is Your Majesty's
pleasure to accede, I am willing and authorised to remain.
Permit me further to state to Your Majesty in proof of the earnest
desire of the Hon'ble Company to confirm by every means in their
power the friendship at present subsisting between Your Majesty and
the English nation that I am authorised on their part to enter into any
engagement with Yor Majesty that you may consider desirable for
that purpose.

I have the honour to be with the highest consideration,

Your Majesty's most faithful and
obedient servant,
Phu-tchuan, [Hu], J. W. Roberts.
17th August, 1804.



Roberts to Lord Wellesley, 26th August, 1804.

1. After quitting our pilot on the 8th of June I experienced some

detention from the severity of the weather and reached Prince of
Wales Island on the 25th. On my arrival a note from Mr. Drummond
was communicated, intimating the probability of a French privateer
cruizing off the coast of Cochin China. In a confidential conversation


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Alastair Lamb

with Mr. Farquahar on the subject it was proposed that, as the services
of the Hon'ble Company's armed brig Amboyna were not at present
absolutely required in the Straits, she should accompany me. As well
as for the purposes of defence, I considered this arrangement might be
extremely desirable by affording means of conveying to your Excellency
early information of the event of my mission, should it be necessary.
2. It is with much regret that I have to avail myself of this
conveyance to acquaint your Excellency my reception at the Court of
Cochin China has been extremely different from what I had reason to
expect, and such as I fear will entirely frustrate the intentions of the
Hon'ble Company of forming a friendly connexion with that country.
At the same time I have received every mark of personal respect and
attention I could expect or require.
3. The Amboyna joined me at Malacca on the 6th of July , the
presents for the King of Cochin China having been embarked on board
the Page and everything in readiness for several days, we sailed in the
evening, and after touching at Cape St. James for information,
anchored in Turon Bay on the 21st of July. Altho' three or four days
only are required for communication with the capital, I did not receive
any reply to the notice I had given of my arrival until the 31st when
I was informed a Mandarin from Hue Foo was at Turon and under-
stood he wished to see me on shore. Desirous of proving it was my
wish to act in the most friendly manner, I the next morning went on
4. On being introduced to this officer of Government, who
appeared of some rank, I was acquainted he had been deputed for the
purpose of enquiring the nature of my mission and requested copies
of the letters I had in charge, with which he would return to the capital.
This I thought proper to comply with, considering it probable that
reports might be circulating respecting the intentions of the Hon'ble
Company on the present mission injurious to its interests, to which a
refusal would give strength. Copies of the letters were therefore given,
and the business generally explained.
5. I represented to the interpreter, who was the person sent with
M. Vannier to receive me when at Turon in December last, that as
His Majesty was apprized of my intention of returning to the country
I was surprised at the detention I had experienced. I was unwilling
to commence a negotiation I was desirous should be conducted in the
most amicable manner by representations unpleasant to both parties,
and that a longer continuation of such conduct would render them
necessary. These sentiments I desired he would impress on the minds
of the officers of Government with whom he acted. Notwithstanding
promises of the greatest expedition, I heard nothing further till the
morning of 8th of August , when the same Mandarin returned with
boats for my conveyance to the Court of His Majesty. In the evening
I went ashore and arrived early in the morning of the 10th.
6. On the 13th I obtained an audience [with His Majesty.]
[This audience, and that on the 17th of August , are described in
Roberts' diary, to which he makes reference here].
7. The King's acceptance of only part of the presents was repre-
sented by all with whom I had an opportunity of conversing as com-


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Missions to Cochin China

formable with the customs of this country. Admitting this to be the

case, I cannot but consider some part of his conduct in this respect
must have proceeded from ignorance or intentional disrespect, as after
having received a few prints, chronometer, sextant and case of
mathematical instruments, the three last were returned as articles he
could not make use of and would be spoiled by being left with him,
desiring to have one of the gun carriages in lieu, which we were given
to understand was complimenting the Governor General by accepting
part of his presents as well as those of the Hon'ble Company.
8. As many professions of friendship were made, I should have
been content to pass over these circumstances unnoticed until I could
have the honour of receiving your Excellency's further instructions, had
the conduct of the King in other respects given reason to suppose these
professions were sincere.
9. In consequence of the King's desire, I wrote on the 17th
stating the mode in which the Hon'ble Company were willing to engage
in a commerce with his country, as I had teen informed that the King
was by some means strongly prejudiced against the English nation. I
trust your Excellency will approve my avoiding as much as possible
any request that could be considered unreasonable and confining myself
to such demands as would merely secure the Hon'ble Company from
inconvenience in the event of their engaging in trade with this country,
relying on a resident being able in confidential communication with the
King to remove unfavourable impressions and gradually obtain such
concessions as might be deemed necessary.
10. To every part of this letter ... I on the 21st received a verbal
reply conveying a positive refusal, repeating that the King was willing
to receive English vessels on the same terms as those of other nations
but nothing further would be granted. As I could not but consider
this as a final rejection of the friendly overtures of the Hon'ble
Company, and as every means of confidential intercourse was avoided
either with the King or any person authorized by him whom I might
have convinced of the advantages to be derived from a friendly inter-
course with the English nation, I considered it unnecessary to lose time
in attempting any further explanation by writing; and understanding
this was his final answer, I desired the King might be informed I
considered this a positive refusal to have any intercourse with the
Company and requested that he would order boats to be in readiness
for my return.
11. After a full and attentive consideration of every part of His
Majesty's conduct, it appears as far as my judgement will enable me
to decide to have evinced from the first a determination to decline any
connexion with the English nation. On my arrival being so long
detained at Turon with the pretence of sending to enquire the nature
of my mission which my communication to himself and M. Vannier
in December last must have fully explained as far as in the first instance
could be necessary, will not, I imagine, be considered a mode of
reception that would have been adopted had it been the intention of
the King to accede to the proposals of the Hon'ble Company.
12. The manner in which the King after much deliberation
accepted the presents, tho' justified as the usage of his country, the


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Alastair Lamb

only instances given in proof were his reception of those sent by the
King of Siam and that of the articles sent by His Majesty to the
Emperor of China. On both these occasions, I believe, the receivers
were desirous of asserting superiority, a circumstance which, tho' never
in the smallest degree hinted respecting the Company, I should ex-
tremely regret could be implied from any act of mine.
13. My opinion is also formed from the imperious manner in
which the King conducted himself, apparently studiously avoiding every
means of private communication on my first and ceremonious audience,
and insisting upon my standing. As the customs of his court may be
thought correct, and considering it in that light, I had no hesitation in
complying; but on the second occasion, which I requested might be
private, and from the little ceremony observed was I suppose con-
sidered so by himself, being kept at so great a distance was not I
considered the reception I should as coming with friendly propositions
have received.
14. Under these impressions I did not think I should be justified
in receiving on the part of the Hon'ble Company or your Excellency
any return presents and, in consequence, when on the morning of
the 22nd the letters for your Excellency and the Hon'ble Company
were delivered, I expressed my willingness to deliver the letters but
declined the acceptance of the presents as well as those offered for
the use of the ship. After much consideration the Mandarin retired
to communicate the determination to the King, which I imagine his
fears prevented, as I found the packages had been secretly conveyed
to the boats preparing for my departure. The Mandarin again
attended and nearly the conversation of the morning was repeated.
When finding my determination fixed, the King was actually informed,
and answered that as I had refused the presents he had sent, he should
return those he had accepted. As he had intimated previously would
be the case, they were delivered the next morning and I shortly after
quitted his capital.
15. The motives which have induced this attitude in the King,
though in many instances perhaps the effect of ignorance, are repre-
sented as having arisen from his apprehension of admitting the English
to form any establishment lest it should gradually increase even to the
subversion of his Government. These fears are stated by the French-
men, the only persons from whom I could procure information on this
subject, to have been produced by some expressions used by the com-
mander of the vessel that brought the letter to the King announcing
the mission, giving rise to an idea that it was the intention of the
Company to obtain Turon or some other Port. This report, injurious
to the English character, circulated by the Portuguese from Macao, has
strengthened and confirmed the principal officers of government in their
distrust of the intentions of the Hon'ble Company, and that they have
in this instance completely influenced the conduct of the King.
16. Altho' these reports are of a nature I can readily conceive to
have originated with a native of Macao, I do not think they would
have gained the strength they unfortunately have unless confirmed by
persons more in the influence of the King. Whether the Frenchmen
have been instrumental in this effect it is impossible for me to deter-


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Missions to Cochin China

mine. Their conduct in some respects however justifies a belief that

such has been the case. In the first place abstaining from all inter-
course with me until the ceremony of my reception was over under
pretence that the King had so ordered. It appears scarcely probable
as they were admitted to what was intended to be a private interview
they should be directed to absent themselves from one of mere cere-
mony. Secondly that they professed to be unable to render any ser-
vice from the little attention paid to their advice. They represented
the King's acceptance of part of the presents as arising from their
advice as he had previously determined to reject the whole, and claimed
the merit of everything they considered would be pleasant to me having
been done by their recommendation. Any circumstances of a con-
trary nature, I was informed, had been determined upon in haste or
when they were absent. These contradictory proceedings corresponded
with the rest of their conduct, expressing on every occasion regret that
the King should have been influenced by unfavourable impressions
which they had not power to remove, at the same time insinuating that
tho' not admitted to his public council, the King was much swayed by
their private advice - as indeed he must be to men to whom he is in a
great measure indebted for his kingdom.
17. The reply of the King to the address of your Excellency
with a copy to the Hon'ble Company I have the honour to forward
to Prince of Wales Island to be transmitted to Fort William by the
most expeditious means. Of these letters, it is only necessary to
observe that His Majesty endeavours to conceal the time between my
arrival and reception by stating my arrival as taking place in August,
and what little proof of his desire of friendship he might have been
thought to have given by accepting part of the presents is I conceive
completely done away by representing this to have taken place in
consequence of my persuasions. I repeated the offer of the presents
but certainly never requested his acceptance of a part, nor have reason
to suppose at the time I was present that anything was said by the
interpreter. As I have however detected him in several falsehoods, I
cannot be confidently assured for what may have afterwards passed
unauthorized by me. As this man was appointed interpreter by the
King, all official communication of necessity was by this means, and
being a native hoped he would have been trustworthy. I had, how-
ever, but little reason to be satisfied with his conduct as well from the
circumstances above mentioned as his avoiding on all occasions giving
me information on subjects of which he could not have been ignorant.
18. Considering it more desirable to obtain the advantages to be
desired from an intercourse with this country by friendly than any other
means, should circumstances produce an alteration in the sentiments
of the King, in my address from hence .... I have mentioned that a
deputation of some confidential person to your Excellency is the only
mode by which an intimate connexion with the Hon'ble Company can
now be formed.
19. The situation of Cochin China and the security of its har-
bours renders it a place that may be advantageous to the English, and
must be extremely detrimental to our trade in the possession of our
enemies. The present situation of the Country renders commerce,


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Alastair Lamb

except upon a very limited scale, for many years impracticable. Ex-
treme poverty pervades every order, and under the present Government
must continue. The King has destroyed the principal city, and his
attention is at present engaged in building fortifications of greater
extent than he can have the means to defend, and magnificent palaces
for himself and family upon which such numbers are employed on a
pay insufficient for their support, that there are not people to collect
the produce of the fields.
20. When these undertakings are completed, the Frenchman
assert from their knowledge of the King's character that he will not
remain inactive, and China, they represent, as the great object of his
ambition. In an attack on that country he expects to be joined by a
number of Chinese disaffected with the Tartar Government. The
King, they said, is offended with the Emperor of China for not having
acknowledged him King of Tonquin by the title he demanded. Should
these his intentions be carried into execution, it would perhaps be a
favourable opportunity of establishing our influence in his country, and
by diverting his attention proving our desire of assisting the Chinese
Government by the means of extending our interests in that quarter.

Dated. Turon Bay. 26th August, 1804.


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It is not difficult to see why Roberts failed to achieve anything

in Cochin China. Gia Long had no particular need for the support
of the British - or, for that matter, of any other European power - now
that he had emerged victorious from the long years of Vietnamese
civil war. He had no wish whatsoever of entangling himself with the
British or of granting them any territorial concessions. With the
example of the spread of British power in India to warn him of the
danger of allowing the British a foothold in his dominions, and, even
closer to hand, with the demonstration provided by the rulers of Kedah
whose cession of Penang brought them very little advantage indeed, it
was hardly likely that the cautious and experienced Gia Long was
going to offer to the Company the Island of Callao. Nor was he likely,
at Roberts' request (which Roberts was never given the opportunity
to make) to banish the French missionaries and the four remaining
French mandarins. The French nation itself no longer threatened
Vietnamese independence, and towards those individual Frenchmen
who had done so much to make Vietnam what it was Gia Long seems
to have felt some loyalty and, even, affection. He had not forgotten
his old friend Pigneau de Behaine, whose memory sufficed to preserve
a measure of toleration of Christions. But it is significant that when,
following the restoration of the Bourbons, France made serious efforts
once more to establish political ties with Vietnam, Gia Long showed
himself to be no more receptive to French diplomatic overtures than
he had to those which Roberts had made to him on behalf of the
It is clear from these considerations, therefore, that the Roberts
mission was doomed from the start. Only a show of force might have
won the British any concessions in Vietnam in 1804; and force, as


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Alastair Lmab

Lord Wellesley's instructions to Roberts had made clear, was quite

out of the question, if only because it would certainly annoy the
Chinese and thus put in jeopardy the Company trade at Canton. It is
probably true, however, that even had political conditions favoured
Roberts' enterprise the hostile advice of men like Chaigneau and
Vannier, combined with the bad impression created by British crews like
that of the Griffin , would have sufficed to frustrate it. Vannier and
Chaigneau were friendly and helpful to Roberts, but only, one cannot
help feeling, because they were certain that he would fail. Even though
they had no sympathy for the political idealogy of the French Revolu-
tion, they were still Frenchmen inspired by the imperial visions of
Pigneau de Behaine. Similarly, the Portuguese, who had long traded
with Cochin China, were most unlikely to do anything to help open this
market to wider British competition. Roberts was very much at the
mercy of these people, French and Portuguese, whose knowledge of the
politics and the language of Cochin China he could not match. It
seems very likely that had Roberts been able to circumvent Vannier
and Chaigneau he would have been able to make a far more effective
presentation of the British case.
Was Roberts justified in making such an issue of the King's refusal
to accept his presents? Should he have accepted the King's presents?
It is probable that had Roberts decided to accept the humiliation
which he felt was implied in the King's attitude towards the question
of the presents, he would have left Cochin China with greater pomp
and circumstance. But it is most unlikely that anything Roberts might
have done would have changed Gia Long's attitude towards the
objectives of the British mission. The Dutch embassy to Peking of
Van Braam and Titsing in 1794-95, which accepted every indignity
which the Chinese chose to put its way, was no more successful than
the mission of Lord Macartney and the British refusal to kow-tow
before the Emperor; and the same considerations applied to some
extent in Cochin China which was much influenced by Chinese diplo-
matic practice. On the Chinese analogy, even the fact that Roberts
was the envoy of the Company and not of the British crown- a point
which Gia Long emphasised - had in all probability little consequence
to the outcome of the mission. Had Roberts been a Royal envoy,
however, the presents crisis might not have developed and Roberts
might have left Hu on more amicable terms with the Cochin Chinese
Court. As Hall has shown in the case of Burma and Siam, this ques-
tion of the distinction between the representative of the Governor


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Missions to Cochin China

General and that of the Britsh Crown was one of great significance in
Asian eyes.110
The Select Committee of the Supercargoes at Canton failed to
appreciate the inevitability of Roberts' failure. When, on 11th Septem-
ber, 1804, they considered the report on this mission, the point to
which they attached most importance was that Roberts seemed to have
been opposed with success by persons hostile to the British who had
obtained the confidence of Gia Long. They noted that:
in the perusal of Mr. Roberts' Diary of Proceedings we
have had frequent occasion to remark that some secret springs
and inimical influence have been employed to poison the mind
of the King in respect to the views and intentions of the
British Nation: but whether proceeding from the few officers
in his service, or from the Portuguese who annually visit
that country, appears in some measure doubtful. Perhaps it
may be attributed to the combined suggestions of all parties.
They also noted, in this connection, the scant assistance afforded to
Roberts by the French missionaries, and for which the missionaries
had thought it necessary to provide some explanation in a letter to
Marchini in which they claimed that the Purefoy incident - the per-
petration, so they said, of various crimes in Tourane by members of the
crew of the Griffin - had so annoyed the King that any open friendship
to the British cause on their part would have endangered their own
position in the country. The Select Committee were not convinced.
They felt the circumstances of the postponement of Lance's mission
had given the enemies of the Company ample time to work for the
failure of this project, and that this time had been well used.
The Select Committee concluded with some remarks on the strate-
gic significance of Roberts' failure, and on the part which might have
been played in securing that failure by one M. Dayot, as follows:

Extract from Select Committee Consultation, 11th September, 1804.

Any establishment formed in Cochin China or footing obtained in

the country either by the French or Spaniards may eventually be pro-
ductive of the most injurious and pernicious effects to our commercial
intercourse with China. The position is favourable almost beyond belief
to the equipment of a naval force, and the ingress and egress to ports
and harbours capable of containing half the navy of England attended
with so little difficulty or danger at any season of the year, that our
enemy might molest or destroy our trade to this country [China] with
even more facility than from Manila and the Eastern Coast. We are
more induced to advert to this circumstance from the information

110. Hall, Symes, op cit., pp. lvii-lviii.


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Alastair Lamb

obtained that a Mr. Dayot11 formerly in the King's employ and in

command of his naval forces for several years, having visited that
country in the month of January or February last, ostensibly for the
purpose of procuring a supply of rice for Manila where a scarcity
prevailing, but secretly we believe on a mission from the Governor of
Manila to the King to whom he also carried presents, tho' whether
valuable or considerable we are not apprised. Mr. Dayot is a French-
man well educated and possessed of considerable abilities, and having
left the King of Cochin China's service in disgust, or rather indeed

111. Jean Marie Dayot was born in 1759. In 1788, after a period of naval
service, he joined Pigneau de Behaine and became the chief force in the
construction of Nguyen Anh's fleet, and was its commander in several
major engagements with the Tay-son. Dayot, whose ability was of the
highest order, aroused the hostility of some of the most influential Viet-
namese mandarins. Shortly before Pigneau de Behaine's death in 1799
these officials managed to seicure Dayos disgrace and punishment by the
cangue. On his release he made haste to leave Cochin China (along with
his younger brother Felix Dayot who had joined him there in 1789) for
Manila. Here Dayot set himself up as a merchant, and he was soon act-
ing as a commercial agent of the Cochin Chinese government, Gia Long
haying forgiven his former servant. In early 1804, between Roberts' two
visits, Dayot came to Tourane to propose a closer commercial relationship
between Cochin China and the Philippines on behalf of the Governor of
that Spanish colony. Since Spain was then an ally of France, it is very
likely that Dayos mission had its anti-British features and that the Select
Committee were justified in their interpretation of its nature. It is
interesting that Roberts made no mention of Dayot, and it seems as if
Dayos visit was kept secret from him.
What effect would Dayos words, as they were imagined by the
Select Committee, have had on Gia Long? On the one hand, the King
would have had good grounds for trusting Dayos judgements on naval
affairs, and would probably have paid close attention to any reports of
the impending arrival of powerful French fleets. On the other hand,
from his experience in the period of the Treaty of Versailles he would
have derived a certain scepticism about promises of the arrival of large
French forces; and from the battle of Pulo Aur in February, 1804, of
which news would have surely reached him before Roberts' second visit,
he would have learned of the incompetence of Durand de Linois whose
ships had failed to stop the British China convoy from passing through
the Straits of Malacca. On the whole, one may well conclude that any-
thing Dayot might have had to say would have done no more than
confirm Gia Long in an already well established determination to avoid
all entaglements with any of the European powers in the East.
Dayos career provides an admirable demonstration of Lord Welles-
lay's wisdom in doubting Roberts' suggestion that the French in Cochin
China, good monarchists and catholics, would help the British against
Revolutionary Franch. In 1807, through Renouard de Sainte-Croix, an
officer who had served on Decaen's staff and whom Dayot met in Macao,
he presented to Napoleon Bonaparte the charts of the Indochinese coasts
which he had prepared, urged that France assert herself once more in the
East and offered his services as French consular agent in Cochin China.
Like so many such proposals in the past, this one came to nothing
despite the efforts which Renouard de Sainte-Croix made on its behalf
when he returned to France in 1808.
Dayos maps and sailing instructions were finally published in 1818
by the Restoration government under the title Le Pilote de Cochinchine.
Crawfurd made use of them during his mission to Cochin China in 1822.
Dayot died in a shipwreck in the Gulf of Tonkin shortly before or
after the publication of his great hydrographical work. (See: Taboulet,
op cit., vol. 1, pp. 249-250; Cordier, T'oung Pao 1903, pp. 219-224.)


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Missions to Cochin China

obliged to retire in the apprehension of the King's vengeance having in

some manner given offence, it is the more probable that unless filling
some ostensible situation in a foreign service, he would scarcely from
his knowledge of the King's temper and disposition have again ventured
himself in his power, it having been frequently asserted His Majesty
threatened to put him to death if he should ever return.
By letters from the missionaries shown by Mr. Marchini to the
President, it appears that Mr. Dayot was certainly vested with powers
from the Governor of Manila and afforded presents to the King which,
unlike his behaviour to Mr. Roberts, were all accepted. It is said also
that Mr. Dayot used some freedom in his observations on the English
character, dwelling on their ambitious views in the East and the exten-
sion of their conquests over those countries in which similarly with
the supposed object of our embassy to his they had in the commence-
ment obtained a footing under the cloak of commercial views. The
declaration of war with France was announced, and Spain was also
declared to be engaged in the contest. There existed every possibility
of a general combination of the Powers of Europe against England
which, it was asserted, must inevitably prove her ruin. Powerful fleets
both of the Spanish and French nations being hourly expected in India
would speedily destroy those of the English; and a request was pre-
ferred soliciting His Majesty's consent to their admission into his har-
bours, and for the supply of timber and naval stores, the produce of
his dominions. If any treaty was completed, or promises made known,
they do not appear to have obtained publicity, as the priests do not hint
at any circumstances of this nature in their correspondence. It is
obvious, nevertheless, that the King must have been pleased with the
mission, having permited Mr. Dayot to withdraw his family which from
the period of his departure from the country has been invariably
refused, and from his also having been appointed agent for the King
both at Manila and in China.
Neither can it be questioned that these reports corroborated,
doubtless by the other Frenchmen in his service, have in great measure
operated to rendering the King inimical to the English interests. The
views of this Eastern tyrant, for such he in reality appears to be con-
sidered by all those around him, are probably vast and unbounded,
and when the fort on which he is now employed shall be completed
and his family and riches can be securely protected against the revolt
of any of his mandarins, it is not impossible that he may be induced to
make some attempt on the adjoining Chinese territory. Policy at the
present moment will deter any such hazardous enterprize, for tho' he
may contemn the military of China, he cannot but be aware the power
and resources of the empire are infinitely too strong for him to continue
against in the existing state of his country and affairs. It is said, tho'
with what truth we cannot aver, that the Tonquinese are much dis-
satisfied with his Government and ready for revolt whenever oppor-
tunity presents itself. All attempts, however, to throw off the yoke
will doubtless be deferred until some person be found capable of lead-
ing them, or the probability of success justify the instance; and in the
present moment this appears very unlikely, the King having many of
his best troops in garrison there, and not a descendant or relation of


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Alastair Lamb

the usurper's family being in existence, the whole and every person
of power and consequence together with their wives and children having
been barbarously murdered.
On a review of the subject and after giving it their best considera-
tion, it does not appear this committee are called on to adopt any
further measures towards opening a friendly intercourse with Cochin
China; and Mr. Roberts, having already transmitted to the Governor
General detailed accounts of his proceedings, it only remains for them
to forward the duplicates accompanied by such of their foregoing re-
marks as have not come to Mr. Roberts' knowledge, and His Excel-
lency will be more competent to decide on the propriety of those steps
which for the attainment of the object it may be found expedient to




With the report of Roberts' mission in their hands, the Select

Committee felt that they had done all they could, or wished, in this
region. The French threat, for all the machinations of J. M. Dayot,
could hardly be described as serious at that moment, and the com-
mercial possibilities were not likely to be improved by further British
missions. The Indian Government also seems to have felt that it could
afford to neglect Cochin China for a while. For one thing, the real
centre of French power in the East, the De de France, had first priority
as a target for British policy. For another, French influence in Burma
and French exploitation of the Dutch possessions in Indonesia seemed
far more dangerous to British trade and diplomacy than anything that
Vannier or Chaigneau might do at the Court of Gia Long. Thus
Cochin China, never a major target of British policy, became once
more a South-East Asian backwater.
There were, however, British observers who felt that the Roberts
mission should be followed up. The Dalrymple school of thought still
had its adherents, and amongst them was John Barrow. Born in 1764,
Barrow had accompanied Macartney to China as comptroller of his
household, and had written two of the standard accounts of the
Macartney Embassy. In 1804 Barrow was appointed 2nd Secretary at
the Admiralty, where he no doubt came into close contact with Alexan-
der Dalrymple. Barrow was also a close friend of Dundas. He was made
a Baronet in 1835 and died in 1848. In 1806 Barrow published his
Voyage to Cochinchina, a work devoted mainly to the journey of the


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Missions to Cochin China

Macartney Embassy from England to Canton; and in Chapter XI of

his book Barrow summed up his views on the desirability of continued
British relations with Gia Long's dominions. Though his personal
experience of Cochin China dated from his visit of 1793, Barrow in
this chapter was writing from the viewpoint of 1806. He was well
informed on the history and results of the Roberts mission, and he
was familiar with the main events of European diplomacy in the East
which followed the Macartney Embassy. His views, however, are in
some ways archaic, belonging more to the period of the Chapman
mission than to that of Crawfurd in 1822; and as such they form an
interesting epilogue to the story of the Roberts mission.

Advantages of a Commercial Intercourse with Cochinchina (Barrow,

op. cit., pp. 334-349.)
The Bishop Adran, in negotiating the treaty between Louis XVI
and the King of Cochinchina, has clearly shewn that, however great his
attachment might be to the latter, he was not at the same time by any
means unmindful of the interests of the former. The terms of this
treaty also prove that, by fixing on the peninsula of Turon as the
cession to be made to France, the good Bishop had not been inattentive
to the comparative merits of the local advantages which the coast of
Cochinchina possessed. He seems to have been well aware that if
France was once permited to occupy this neck of land, she would
thereby be enabled to secure to herself , a permanent establishment in
the East. In fact, the peninsular promontory of Turon (or Hansan) is
to Cochinchina what Gibraltar is to Spain; with this difference in
favour of the former that, to its impregnability, it adds the very
important advantage of a convenient port and harbour, securely shel-
tered from all winds and at all seasons of the year, possessing every
requisite for a grand naval station, where ships can at all times refresh
and refit, and where abundant rills of clear fresh water fertilize the
numerous vallies which open upon the shores of the bay. Near a
small island, connected with the peninsula by a neck of land which is
uncovered at low water, ships of any magnitude might conveniently
be hove down and careened; and opposite to it, on the peninsula, is a
sufficient extent of level surface for a small town, with a naval arsenal,
and magazines of every description: the whole capable of being ren-
dered perfectly defensible by a handful of men.
A small island called Callao , situated at the distance of about
thirty miles to the southward of Turon bay, was also included in the
territory to be ceded. This island completely commands the entrance
of the main branch of the river on which Fai-joo , the ancient mart for
foreign commerce, is situated; and is completely inaccessible on every
side but that which faces the mouth of this river. Here a small but
a fertile and well-watered valley opens upon a bay, wherein ships of
any size may lie at anchor in perfect security.
The views of France in fixing upon this part of the coast, which
are obvious indeed from the whole tenor of the above-mentioned
treaty, were evidently directed to the building and equipment of a


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Alastair Lamb

naval force that should one day overawe our territorial possessions in
the East; and it is by no means certain that the attempt will not be
renewed, and that Imperial France may not accomplish what Monar-
chical France had only in contemplation. Their complete exclusion
from the coasts of Hindostn will render that of Cochinchina the more
inviting, especially as from this station our valuable trade to China, as
well as our possessions in India, may most effectually be injured and
annoyed. But independent of the mischief which the possession of
this place might enable an active enemy to meditate against our con-
cerns in the East, the advantages, on the other hand, which it holds
out to our naval and commercial interests in this part of the world
ought alone to entitle it to a higher degree of consideration than has
yet been bestowed on it. I would not here be understood as speaking
of this part of Cochinchina in a colonial or territorial point of view.
We may perhaps already possess as many colonies as we can well
maintain, and as much territory as is rendered useful to the state; but
we never can have too many points of security for our commerce, nor
too many places of convenience and accommodation for our shipping.
To dwell upon the necessity of keeping up our commerce, and the
policy of adding facilities to the distribution of the fruits of our pro-
ductive industry, would be wholly superfluous. The loss of commerce
must inevitably be followed by the loss of that rank which England
at present holds in the scale of nations. France, having a larger
territory in proportion to its population, perhaps generally speaking, a
more favourable climate, a more fertile soil, and more varied produc-
tions, may be excused when she affects to despise foreign commerce,
and to speak with contempt of the nation who depends solely on its
support. The miseries, the misfortunes, and the devastations, however
occasioned in such a country, may certainly be repaired without the
aid of foreign commerce. But this is not the case with regard to
England. We need only cast a glance at the articles with which the
numerous large and well-stocked shops and warehouses in the capital
are stored, at the multitudes of shipping which frequent our ports, to
make it obvious that the national industry is more employed, and
consequently more productive, in manufacturing the raw material of
foreign growth than in raising such as are congenial with our own
climate and soil. From Tyburn turnpike or from Hyde Park Corner
to Whitechapel almost every house is a shop or a warehouse, and two
thirds at least of these shops and warehouses are stored with articles
of foreign growth. Any check, therefore, to our commercial pros-
perity, and to that preponderance which we now enjoy in foreign trade,
could not fail to be attended with the most injurious consequences to
the country at large. In fact, having advanced perhaps a little too far
in this career to retreat with safety, every exertion must now be made
to hold our own, to give protection and permanent security to that
commerce which has hitherto enabled us to measure our strength with
an enemy as implacable as he is powerful. It may be necessary even
that the paws of the British Lion should yet be extended - that they
should grasp every point which may add to the security of what British
valour and the industrious and adventurous spirit of the British nation
have acquired and annexed to her original dominions.


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Missions to Cochin China

But beside the security which, on the one hand, the possession
of the strong peninsula of Turon would afford to our valuable fleets
employed in the China trade and, on the other, the annoyance it could
not fail to give us if in the hands of an active and enterprizing enemy,
the important advantages which would result to our Indian commerce
by having in this part of the world a secure harbour, where water and
every kind of refreshment may be procured, are not lightly to be appre-
ciated. Considered in this point of view only, if the management of
our China ships was less dexterous and the means of preserving the
health of the crews less efficacious than they really are, the having of
such a port to resort to, in the event of a ship being too late in the
season and caught by the adverse monsoon, which sometimes happens,
would be an invaluable acquisition. Many other considerations might
be urged in favour of establishing an intercourse with Cochinchina,
but I shall at present confine the few observations I have to make to
a brief view of those advantages which the East India Company would
derive in their commercial concerns with China, by establishing a
factorv on the peninsula of Turon bay.
That the China trade is the most important and the most advan-
tageous of the Company's extensive concerns is, I believe, universally
admitted; and that it is worthy of high consideration in a national point
of view requires but little oroof. It employs direct from England
20.000 tons of shipping, and nearly three thousand seamen; it takes
off our woollen manufactures and other productions to a very consi-
derable extent; and it brings into the Exchequer an annual revenue
of about three millions sterling. It is the grand prop of the East India
Company's credit, and the only branch of their trade from which per-
haps they may strictlv be said to derive a real profit. The reason of
these superior advantages is pretty obvious. To India the Company
trade as sovereigns; to China as merchants. Yet it is unquestionably
true that the balance of the trade between England and China is greatly
in favour of the latter, and that this balance is drawn from the former
in hard monev to the amount of about half a million sterling annually.
The bullion, however, thus sent out for the purchase of teas is con-
verted into a productive capital, and has hitherto been replaced with
large profit by the continental nations of Europe. There is besides a
very considerable trade carried on by British subjects between India
and China, the balance of which is nearly as much against the latter
as in the other case it is in its favour against England. With Europe
in general the balance of trade remains, however, greatly in favour of
China; and the Spanish dollars which are carried thither to pay this
balance are never again returned into circulation, but, being converted
into a new and totally different shape, remain locked up in the country.
In all despotic governments, where the laws are not sufficient for the
protection and security of property, land and houses are considered of
a nature too tangible to represent wealth. The object of every one
whose revenues exceed his expenses is to secure the greatest possible


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Alastair Lamb

value in the least possible space, which in the evil day can most con-
veniently be concealed. In such countries the profits upon trade are
usually hoarded up in the precious metals. Such, I believe, is pretty
much the case in India, and still more so in China: the latter may
therefore be considered as a perpetual sinking fund for European
This annual drain of hard money to China is of the less conse-
quence to us, so long as, by our supplying the continent of Europe
with a considerable part of the return cargoes, with our manufactures,
and the produce of our colonies, the metals which are dug out of the
mines of Potosi shall ultimately find their way up the Thames; or, in
other words, so long as the general balance of trade of the whole
world shall remain in favour of England. Notwithstanding, however,
this may be the case at present, it would still be a desirable object to
accomplish an equalization of the trade between this country and
China, and thereby put a stop to the annual drain of specie required
by the latter. An intimate connection with Cochinchina would, in my
opinion, go a great way towards effecting this object. This country
furnishes many valuable articles suitable for the China market, and
would open a new and very considerable vent for many of our manu-
factures; and its situation in the direct route from England to China
is an unexceptionable consideration. The forests of Cochinchina pro-
duce, for instance, a variety of scented woods, as the rose wood, eagle
wood, and sandal wood; all of which are highly acceptable in the
China market, and bear most extravagant prices. The Cochinchinese
cinnamon, though of a coarse grain and a strong pungent flavour, is
preferred by the Chinese to that of Ceylon. It is said to be a species
of Cassia, and not of the Laurus. For rice there is a never-failing
demand in the populous city of Canton, and sugar and pepper are
equally acceptable; all of which are most abundantly produced in the
fertile vallies of Cochinchina. The price of sugar at Turon was about
three dollars for 133 lb., of pepper six or eight dollars for the same
quantity, and of rice only half a dollar. To these productions may be
added the areca nut, cardamoms, ginger, and other spices; swallows'
nests, which are collected in great abundance on the large cluster of
islands running parallel with the coast, and known in the charts by the
name of the Paracels; the Bichos do Mar , or sea-snakes, more properly
sea-slugs, and usually called Trepan in commercial language, which
with sharks' fins, Moluscas or sea-blubbers, and other marine products
of a gelatinous quality whether animal or vegetable, are at all times in
demand by the Chinese. It furnishes besides many other valuable
products, as gum lac, Camboge, indigo, elephants' teeth, cotton, and raw
silk; and there seemed to be no want in the country of gold, silver,
and copper. The hilts of the officers' swords and the clasps of their
belts were generally made of silver, but we frequently observed them
of solid gold. It is said, indeed, that a very rich gold mine has lately
been discovered near Hu , the northern capital. Silver is brought to


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Missions to Cochin China

market in bars about five inches long, in value about eleven Spanish
All these articles, so well adapted for the China market, might
be taken by us in exchange for fire arms and ammunition, swords,
cutlery and various manufactures in iron and steel, light woollen cloths,
camblets, Manchester cottons, coarse Bengal muslins, naval stores,
opium, and a few other drugs. Articles of this nature, when carried
to the ports of Cochinchina, have usually been disposed of at an
advance of from 20 to 30 per cent., and their value paid for in ingots
of silver.
There is another consideration which renders the possession of a
port on the coast of Cochinchina, or at least a factory in some of
them, extremely desirable for the concerns of the East India Com-
pany. It is well known that the Chinese government has more than
once intimated a design of excluding foreign traders altogether from
their ports, and very serious apprehensions have been entertained in
consequence of it. In such an event, the trade might still be carried
on, and perhaps with advantage, by means of Chinese junks bringing
cargoes of tea and silks to Turon bay, or other parts of the coast;
thus avoiding the exorbitant duties levied at Canton on foreign vessels.
But if in such case we should have no establishment within the limits
of Chinese navigation, the Spaniards at Manila, the Portuguese at
Macao, and the Dutch at Batavia, would be put into the possession of
the whole commerce carried on by Chinese junks, and England would
become in a great degree dependent on them for the share they might
be disposed to allow her in their respective ports.
If, however, the Cchinchinese should not be disposed to cede
any part of the coast or adjacent islands to a foreign power, which,
after the fortunate turn of affairs in favour of the legitimate sovereign,
will in all probability be the case, we might still derive important
advantages from a mere commercial intercourse. The timber alone
which this country is capable of supplying, suitable for the purposes of
building ships, is an object highly deserving the consideration of
government. The docks of Bombay and those intended to be esta-
blished on Prince of Wales's Island must rest their dependence on a
supply of teak and other timber on very precarious grounds. If in the
former it be intended to encourage the building of ships of the line, it
may be doubted whether, in a few years hence, the whole of the
Malabar coast will afford a sufficient supply to keep a single ship on the
stocks of seventy-four guns. Even now the greater part of what is
valuable is exhausted, and such as would be fit for building large ships
of war is not procurable without very considerable difficulties and
delay. Equally precarious is the supply of teak timber, which is floated
down the river Ayerwaddy from the dominions of Ava or, as it has
lately been called, the Birman empire. Yet this is the grand source
from whence the supplies are meant to be drawn for the docks of
Prince of Wales's Island. We have little, however, to trust to or to
hope from the favourable disposition of the government of Rangoon.
The French have obtained here, as well as in every other part of
Eastern India, a decided superiority of influence beyond all other
Europeans; and they will not fail to exert it to the utmost, in order to


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Alastair Lamb

render nugatory our grand scheme of increasing our navy by establish-

ing docks for building at Prince of Wales's Island, which they would
most effectually accomplish by shutting up the Ayerwaddy against us,
and thus cut off the grand supply of that timber which is best suited
for the purpose.112
The river Sai-gong , usually called Cambodia, flowing into the sea
at the southern extremity of Cochinchina, runs through inexhaustible
forests of stately trees, possessing every quality requisite for naval
architecture, such as teak, ironwood (Syderoxylon), and poon ( Callo -
phyllum); the last of which grows tall and straight as the Norway fir
or the larch, and is extremely well adapted for ships' masts. In the
forests of Cochinchina are also ebony (Dios peros), cedars, mimosas,
walnuts, and indeed most of the timber trees that grow in India. Down
this magnificent river all kinds of timber might be brought to Prince
of Wales's Island, almost as conveniently as from Rangoon.
Having thus briefly stated some of the important advantages which
an intimate connection with Cochinchina might be expected to pro-
duce, the next point to be decided is the mode in which such a con-
nection would most effectually be established. With this view it may
not be amiss to inquire whether any, and what, steps have hitherto
been taken for the accomplishment of so desirable a purpose. The
first attempt to open a friendly intercourse with this country appears
to have been made by Mr. Hastings, in the year 1778, when, on his
receiving some favourable representations of the advantages that would
probably result from such a measure, he was induced to give permis-
sion to a mercantile house to send a couple of ships laden with mer-
chandise, entrusting, at the same time, a sort of demi-diplomatic
commission of a public nature to a gentleman connected in the firm
of the house. Whatever the motives were which influenced the con-
duct of Mr. Hastings in this instance, the result of the mission might
easily have been foreseen. The character of merchant is here, as well

112. The value of Burmese teak for ship building had been appreciated by both
the French and the English East India Companies early in the 18th
century. Dupleix had tried to support the Mon rebels against Alaungpaya
in the hope of obtaining a monopoly of this strategic material and of the
usei of the shipyards at Syriam (near the modern Rangoon); but he had
been frustrated by that lack of support from his superiors which culmi-
nated in his recall in 1754. Shortly after Dupleix' departure the supres-
sion of the Mns by Alaungpaya put an end for a while to French plans
in this direction. In the 1770s the French established a dockyard near
Rangoon, where a number of ships were built (including the Laiiriston,
see pp. ? above). This was abandoned in 1778, following the English
capture of the French settlements in India. In 1783 Bussy and Suffren
made a fresh attempt to establish French influence on the banks of the
Irrawaddy, but without success. But the British were not able to convince
themselves of the failure of French ambitions in this direction, and in the
last decade of the 18th century they sent a number of missions to Burma
with, as one important objective, instructions to investigate the French
threat. Even as late as 1809, when the British were preparing to invade
the Ile de France, Lord Minto thought it prudent to send Canning to
Rangoon to explain to the Burmese that an attack on the French base
in no way implied British hostility towards the Court of Ava. Canning
was able to confirm the nugatory nature of French influence in Burma;
but this was three years after Barrow wrote his Voyage to Cochinchina.
(See: Hall, Symes, op. cit., pp. xix-xxv, xxix-xxxv, lxxxix.)


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as in China, held in very low esteem, and the government is equally

jealous of admitting an indiscriminate introduction of foreigners into
its ports. How much soever, therefore, the monopolizing system of
the East India Company may be deprecated, and the wisdom of
that policy questioned which prohibits English ships from doubling the
Cape of Good Hope, whilst those under the flags of every other nation
profit by such restriction, I am decidedly of opinion that the trade to
China and to Cochinchina ought never to be thrown open to individual
merchants. The Chinese, in particular, are so averse to their subjects
trading promiscuously with foreigners, that the government appoints
an united body of merchants who exclusively are allowed to deal with
strangers; and one of whom is obliged to become security for the fair
dealing and the good conduct of the Captain and crew of every ship
which visits the port of Canton. All trade is considered by these
nations as a species of gambling, in which the number of foul players
far exceeds the number of those who play fair. The temptations indeed
of large profits, which commerce sometimes presents, are difficult to be
resisted; and when individual interest comes in competition with the
public service, the latter is very apt to give way to the former. Hence,
without adopting the illiberality of the Chinese maxim, the impolicy is
obvious of committing the affairs of government into the hands of those
who are in any shape connected with the concerns of trade. However
honourable a merchant may be in his dealings, he cannot be responsible
for the good conduct of a whole ship's company; nor, with the cargo
which he transfers to the management of another, can he transfer at
the same time character and principle. But independent of the frauds
and tricks that are too frequently connected with trade, there is some-
thing in a commercial intercourse which is inconsistent with diplomatic
agency. There is every reason to believe that all those employed on
Mr. Hastings' mission conducted themselves with a proper degree of
forbearance and circumspection; yet, having called at different ports
on the coast of Cochinchina, and traded with different parties then
struggling for the government of the country, they were suspected by
all of them, and were unfortunately drawn into actual hostilities with
the ruling power at Hu , where they had a narrow escape from having
their vessel seized, and themselves in all probability put to death; and
although they were obliged to leave behind them unsold a part of their
merchandize, they contrived to bring away a large sum of specie or
bullion in ingots of silver. An interesting narrative of the whole tran-
saction is published in the Asiatic Annual Register for the year 1801.
The second and last attempt to open a public intercourse with
Cochinchina was made about two years ago, when, from representa-
tions communicated to the Directors of the East India Company of the
advantages which might be derived from a connection with this country,
and of the favourable disposition of its present Sovereign towards the
English nation, from which reasonable hopes of success might be
entertained, a resolution was taken by the Court to send back to
China one of its servants, who had retired from the factory at Canton,
with instructions to proceed from that port on a secret mission to the
King of Cochinchina. This gentleman, on his arrival at Canton, find-
ing the state of his health would not permit him to go through the


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Alastair Lamb

fatigue of a voyage to Cochinchina, transferred his instructions to one

of the supracargoes in the Company's employ at that factory, who lost
no time in proceeding to the Court of Cochinchina. The King saw
him, it is true, but received him in so cool and distant a manner as to
point out very clearly that the shorter he made his visit the more
agreeable it would be to the Cochinchinese government. In fact, he
found the Sovereign Caung-shung 113 completely surrounded by French-
men; and as he knew nothing himself of the language of the country,
nor had any one with him who did, every proposition he had to offer,
and every explanation regarding his mission, were necessarily made
through the French missionaries. That these men are but little dis-
posed to be friendly to the English nation might have been known with-
out sending to Cochinchina for the information, and the consequence
of making overtures through them to the King easily foreseen. The
very reserved, not to say contemptuous, conduct of every one about the
Court to the Company's Ambassador makes it probable that the pro-
posals he had to offer on the part of his employers were wholly mis-
represented: they might indeed be interpreted by the French into
insults. The conclusion drawn by the East India Company from the
complete failure of this mission, is that the King of Cochinchina is not
favourably disposed towards the English nation.
The correctness of this conclusion may, however, in my opinion
fairly be called in question. However well qualified the gentleman
might be who was sent on this embassy, in every respect except in his
not knowing a single character of the written or one syllable of the
spoken language, the want of the indispensable means of communica-
tion seems quite sufficient to have rendered the object of the mission
completely abortive. As far as the joint testimonies of several English
gentlemen, who a few years ago were at the Cochinchinese Court, and
of French officers in the service of that Court, can be allowed to have
weight- as far as any confidence is to be placed in professions declared
in public edicts - as far as actions may be considered to develope senti-
ments - and as far as we were enabled to judge of the disposition of the
people during our stay at Turon, I should be inclined to conclude that
the contrary is the case, and that neither the King of Cochinchina nor
the people would be in the smallest degree averse to an intimate con-
nection with the English, provided suitable overtures were made to
them in a direct manner from the British government, and not through
those Frenchmen to whom the Sovereign owes so many personal
obligations, nor through the medium of the East India Company.114
Where the prejudices of the people will not admit of any honourable
distinction being annexed to the profession of merchant, whilst the
utmost deference is paid to a royal commission, official rank and
literary acquirements, it is neither politic nor expedient to fly in the
face of opinions so long and so deeply rooted. I have heard it was
once in contemplation, shortly after the truce of Amiens, to follow up

113. Gia Long.

114. This was certainly a weakness of the Roberts mission (see p. 150 above),
but there is no reason to suppose that Gia Long would have welcomed
in any circumstances a closer political relationship with the British.


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Missions to Cochin China

the communication with the Court of Pekin, so favourably opened by

the Earl of Macartney, with a splendid embassy to proceed from the
Governor-General of Bengal.115 Those who flattered themselves with
the successful issue of such a measure must have known little of the
temper and character of the Chinese government. I have no hesitation
in saying, that all the splendour and magnificence of the East, unless
accompanied by a royal commission, would not have secured for the
Ambassador more respect and consideration than the fine velvet dresses
trimmed with broad gold lace were able to procure for Mynheers Tit-
sing and Van Braam . Without such a commission, the great Bahadur
from Bengal, like these two compliant Dutchmen, would infallibly incur
the risk of being lodged in a stable.116 Whether, therefore, it may be
found advisable to keep up the communication with the Court of Pekin,
or endeavour to establish an intercourse with the Cochinchinese, it will
in either case be politic and expedient that the Ambassador be fur-
nished with the King's commission, and that he proceed on his mission
in a King's ship.



In 1818, when the Government of Louis XVIII in France was

once more considering an active policy in Cochin China, J. Janssaud
(whom Taboulet calls Jaussaud) wrote to Count Mol, Minister of the
Marine and Colonies, to offer his services as French representative in
that country. After a lengthy discussion of the advantages which
France might derive from a such a step, Janssaud gave an account of
Roberts' visit to Hu, which is of great interest as a French view of
this mission. Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 275-277, prints an extract
from this letter as his sole document relating to Roberts. Cordier, in
his La Reprise des Relations de la France avec sous La
Restauration , T'oung Pao, Series II, Vol. IV 1903, prints the letter in
its entirety, and it is from this work that I have translated the extract
reproduced here.
Janssaud had been a merchant engaged in eastern trade, and had
travelled in India and Malaysia; but he does not appear to have visited

115. Instead, in 1804, a letter was sent from King Getorge III to the Chinese
Emperor to warn that ruler against being beguiled into any alliance with
the French. (Cordier, T'oung Pao 1903, op. cit., pp. 216-217).
116. For a full account of the abortive embassy of Van Braam and Titsing
of 1794-1795, see: J. J. L. Duyvendak, The Last Dutch Embassy to the
Chinese Court (1794-1795), T'oung Pao XXXIV 1939; J. J. L. Duyvendak,
Supplementary Documents on the Last Dutch Embassy to the Chinese
Court, T'oung Pao XXXV 1940; . R. Boxer, Jan Companie in Japan
1600-1850, The Hague 1950, pp. 158-164.


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Alastair Lamb

Cochin China. Where did he obtain his information on the Roberts

mission? Perhaps from P. J. L. de la Bissachire, a missionary who
left Cochin China in 1806 and whose notes on the history and economy
of Indochina, compiled in 1807, were used by a number of French
writers.117 In 1817 de la Bissachire became director of the Paris
Seminary of the Missions Etrangres , and there was no one then living
in France with a greater knowledge on Cochin Chinese affairs. But
whatever the immediate source, Janssaud's story must have derived
from Chaigneau or Vannier.
Chaigneau and Vannier were certainly responsible, if indirectly,
for the account of the nature of the presents. From Roberts' diary
one learns that the presents he brought for Gia Long included such
objects as mirrors, an electrical machine, a chronometer, mathematical
and astronomical instruments, and a portrait of King George III and
"some other pictures". What these "other" pictures were Roberts did
not say, but nowhere in the collection of Roberts material from which
the documents quoted here have been taken is there any mention of a
pictorial demonstration to Gia Long of the regicide nature of the
French Revolution; though, as has already been noted above (p. 118),
Roberts did suggest to Lord Wellesley that this aspect of recent French
history might well win to the English cause the support of the French
missionaries and mandarins in Cochin China. When Crawfurd was in
Cochin China in 1822, Vannier mentioned this matter of the presents to
him, but on this occasion gave an account somewhat different from that
in Janssaud's letter. He said that Roberts had presented to Gia Long
illustrations of the British capture of Seringapatam and of the death of
Tipu, and that the Cochin Chinese King had concluded that "the
Governor General of India wishes to intimidate me by pointing out
the fate of the Indian prince".118
Had Roberts indeed thought of any such scheme of pictorial pro-
paganda, it seems very likely that he would have mentioned it in his
diary or his report. He made no bones about his efforts to bribe the
mandarin Ong-to-noef and the general tone of his diary suggests a
rather naive honesty. The evidence, therefore, rather suggests that
Vannier and Chaigneau somewhat modified the facts of the Roberts
mission when they told about it to other people. The Janssaud version
was the one most likely to attract attenion in Restoration France, while
the version told to Crawfurd was certainly a more tactful story for
English ears.
117. P. J. L. de la Bissachire, Le Relation sur le Tonkin et la Cochinchine . .
ed. . . Maybon, Paris 1920.
De la Bissachire's material was made use of by Renouard de Sainte-
Croix in his Voyage Commercial aux Indes Orientales, Paris 1810.
118. Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit., p. 255.


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Missions to Cochin China

In Janssaud 's story of the way in which Roberts had won over the
mandarins to his side we may perhaps detect the French mandarins in
an attempt to make the most of their role of protectors of French
interests in Cochin China. From Roberts' diary one does not get the
impression that the mandarins were particularly co-operative. Ong-to-
noe , one of the very few Cochin Chinese officials with whom Roberts
came into close contact, was clearly interested in the proposition of the
English envoy (see p. 128 above), but he refused to commit himself in
any way until Roberts had seen the King. It does seem likely, how-
ever, that the mandarins saw in the arrival of Roberts a useful lever
against the French officers of whom they were clearly jealous, and
they may well have pointed out to Gia Long that, now that the English
were showing an interest in Cochin China, he would be wise to get rid
of the Frenchmen; but this does not mean that they would have advo-
cated the granting to the English company of any special privileges.
If this argument has any truth in it, however, Chaigneau and
Vannier would have had strong motives of self preservation in prevent-
ing the King from showing any signal marks of friendship towards the
British; and they may well have, as the Select Committee believed,
distorted somewhat the nature and wording of Roberts' proposals.
The letter which Taboulet quotes, and which he said Roberts had sent
to Gia Long on 14th August, 1804, to protest against the King's
"imperious, proud and arrogant conduct",119 is hard to reconcile with
the text of Roberts' letter of 17th August, the only written communica-
tion which the English envoy sent to the King while at Hu (see pp. 142-
143 above). It sounds more like a distorted version of Roberts' verbal
observations of 14th August, which the French mandarins - or Cochin
Chinese mandarins, for that matter - had turned into a formal state-
ment of outspoken complaint (see p. 134 above).
Janssaud speaks of Roberts as "chief of the Supercargoes at
Canton"; but Roberts, of course, did not obtain this position, that is
to say the Presidency of the Select Committee, until 1807.

Janssaud to Mol, Paris 15th November, 1818 (extract).

You will get a better idea of the character and resolution of the king
Gia Long from the way in which he dismissed an English representative
who was sent to him about fourteen years ago, not long after he had
conquered Tonkin.
This event, which placed the King of Cochin China amongst the
ranks of the princes of the most powerful countries, attracted the
attention of the English who, till then, as much because of the extent
of their possessions in the other parts of India as because their corn-
il 9. Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 276, quoting the text printed by Abb L. E.
Louvet in La Cochinchine Religieuse, 2 vols., Paris 1885, vol. 2, pp. 496-


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Alastair Lamb

merce in these regions was mainly carried on at Canton, had neglected

Cochin China: and perhaps this was also because they did not see
there any rivals from whom they had to fear an annoying influence on
their system of world wide trade.
However, the King of Cochin China did not seem to be a man to
be ignored, and the East India Company resolved to send to him one
of its most distinguished representatives. It selected Mr. Roberts,
chief of the Supercargoes at Canton, and entrusted to him a mission
which was both diplomatic and commercial.
This envoy arrived in Cochin China in about 1804 with two ships
loaded with goods and presents. He began by bringing over to his
cause the chief mandarins, whom he had little difficulty in persuading
that a trade with the English would offer them great opportunities for
enriching themselves. These mandarins in turn persuaded their king
to accept the presents intended for him and to grant the audience
sought for by the English envoy, who already believed that the success
of his mission was assured.
The English were not unaware of the special esteem and favour
which the French enjoyed under Gia Long; also they neglected nothing
which might prevent this having any effect. For instance, among the
presents intended for this prince were pictures illustrating the most
tragic periods of our revolution, and which brought to mind above all
the sufferings of the unfortunate Louis XVI for which Gia Long had
often expressed his regrets. One did not need to go further to make
certain of the French missionaries from whom, it seemed, one had
nothing to fear and who were, in effect, foreigners to their motherland.
But two other Frenchmen, sailors in the service of the King of
Cochin China, were at the Court at this time. Gia Long consulted
them on the power of the English in Europe and in India, and also on
the mission of Mr. Roberts who asked nothing less than the cession
of a port. These gentlemen revealed to the King that it was just about
in this way that the English began to establish themselves in other
countries, of which they subsequently became the masters and the
oppressors of those very princes who had received them with a
On hearing this the King Gia Long (although by nature verging on
the avaritious) returned without hesitation all the presents which he
had already received, and told Roberts that the English who from now
onwards came to trade in his dominions would enjoy there without
distinction the same privileges as all other people.
This reply was a dismissal for the English envoy who left at once
for Canton.


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The failure of Decaen, which culminated in the British capture

of Ile de France in 1810, marked the end of the attempt of
Revolutionary and Napoleonic France to take advantage of the
groundwork laid down by Pigneau de Behaine. With the return of
of the Bourbon, however, France once more began to look for
fields of commerce and glory in the East. The Duc de Richlieu,
who succeded Talleyrand as French Foreign Minister in 1815, almost
at once turned his thoughts to a revival of the French connection with
Cochin China, on which country he was well informed by de la
Bissachire of the Socit des Missions Etrangres. Richlieu's ideas
were very welcome to the French Chambers of Commerce, especially
that of Bordeaux, who saw great prospects for French trade in eastern
markets. Cochin China, with its excellent harbours, its proximity to
the ports of South China, and its long history of close relations with
France, was an obvious choice as a base for any commercial enterpise
in this direction, and the Chambers of Commerce were not slow in
pointing out to the Government its advantages.
By the end of 1817 a definite course of action had been decided
upon by the French Government. Ventures in eastern trade would
receive some Government assistance in the form of special rates of
customs. A French Consular Agent would be appointed to Cochin
China to protect French interests there. A French diplomatic mission
would be sent to Hu. Communication would be established between
the French Government and the French officers still remaining in
Vietnamese service. These lost two tasks were entrusted to M. de
Kergariou, who left Brest for Cochin China aboard the frigate Cyble
in July 1817 with instructions to bring presents to Gia Long and to
inform that monarch of the changes which had taken place in France
since the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbon.
Kergariou was to seek assistance from the authorities for French
ships which might put in to Cochin Chinese ports, and to request
fair and reasonable terms of trade for them, but he was not to


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Alastair Lamb

attempt to open any formal negotiations with Gia Long. His most
important commission was to get in touch with Chaigneau and Vannier,
to whom he was to present the insignia of membership to the Lgion
After visiting Manila and Macao, Kergariou arrived at Tourane
on 30th December, 1817, full of hope for a successful mission, for he
had learnt at Macao from Father Marchini that Gia Long had no love
of the English. Marchini told him that in 1812 an English ship had
called at Tourane and demanded, with a threat of force, that payment
of a debt which since 1807 the Cochin Chinese considered to have been
cancelled. This reference, it is presumed, to the disputes which
Captain Purefoy conducted with Gia Long's Government on behalf
of Abbot and Maitland of Madras was accompanied by a report of
the Cochin Chinese King's declaration that he would rather be
smothered beneath the debris of his kingdom than give way before the
unjust demands of the English; and it was said that in anticipation
of an English attack he had strengthened the fortifications of the Bay
of Tourane.121 But Kergariou soon discovered that whatever fear the
Cochin Chinese King might have of English ambitions, this did not
imply any desire for a close connection with France. Vannier was
sent down to Tourane to meet Kergariou, and the French envoy was
treated with considerable ceremony by the local mandarins, but he was
not permitted to go to Hu and he was refused an audience with Gia
Long. Indeed, the Court declined to recognise Kergariou as the
properly accredited representative of the French Monarchy. On 22nd
January, 1818, the Cyble left Tourane for France, calling on the way
at Malacca where Kergariou was regally entertained by Farquahar,
and reaching Brest in October.122
The Kergariou mission could not be described as a success, but
it had little effect on the optimism of those French merchants who
saw great prospects in the trade of Cochin China, for they had already

120. The Duc de Richlieu also tried to communicate with Chaigneau by letter,
dated 17th September, 1817, entrusted to an agent of the French merchant
firm of Opperman-Mandrot, and which does not seem to have reached
its destination until 1819. In this letter the Duc de Richlieu requested
information about commercial and political conditions in Cochin China,
and informed Chaigneau of the projects then being contemplated by the
Bordeaux firms. (See; Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 286-287.)
121. On Captain Purefoy, see also pp. 102, 133 above. The issue here was an
argument between the Cochin Chinese and Abbot and Maitland over the
quality of some rifles which the Madras firm had supplied. This dispute,
in which the Cochin Chinese saw ample evidence of British bad faith,
was still sufficiently alive in 1822 to be brought to Crawfurd's notice.
Finlayson, op. cit., pp. 356-357.
122. Documents relating to the Kergariou mission were printed in H. Cordier,
Bordeaux et la Cochinchne sous la Restauration, T'oung Pao, Series II,
Vol. IX, 1908, pp. 176-213.


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Missions to Cochin China

made practical experiment in that commerce which they found quite

encouraging. The initiative was taken by two Bordeaux firms of
shipowning merchants, Balguerie, Sarget et Cie., and Philippon et Cie.
Balguerie-Stuttenberg, the head of Balguerie, Sarget, had been attracted
to Cochin China by what he had learnt of the cartographical work
of J.-M. Dayot; and through an intermediary, Paul Nairac, a
representative of the Bordeaux Chamber, he had approached the Due
de Richlieu on this matter in 1816. Early in 1817 Balguerie, Sarget
sent a ship, La Paix , to Cochin China; and Philippon et Cie. rapidly
followed suit with the despatch of the Henry.
La Paix arrived off the Cochin Chinese coast in August, 1817, and
both at Saigon and at Hu its supercargo, Auguste Borei, negotiated
with the authorities over such matters as harbour dues. Borei was
welcomed by Chaigneau and Vannier, and he was treated with
consideration by the Mandarins. The cargo of La , however,
seems to have been badly chosen so that the venture was something
of a commercial failure, though Borei concluded that with more
experience Cochin China could be developed into a region of great
value to French trade. In December, 1817, just before the arrival of
Kergariou on board the Cyble , La Paix left Tourane on its way back
to France only to be wrecked off Ile de France in February, 1818. The
Henry , commended by Captain Rey, reached Tourane at about the
same time as La Paix and had much the same commercial experience.
It returned to Bordeaux in August, 1818, having survived the storm
which wrecked La Paix.
In 1819 Philippon et Cie. sent the Henry under Captain Rey back
to Cochin China, and Balguerie, Sarget et Cie. sent the Larose. Their
captains and supercargoes visited Hu where they were entertained by
Chaigneau and Vannier and had discussions with important Mandarins.
They acquired a return cargo consisting mainly of tea, sugar and
silks in exchange for their fire-arms and other French manufactures.
At the end of 1819 the two ships set sail for France. Chaigneau, who
had for many years longed to see his family in France, obtained leave
of absence from Gia Long and took passage aboard the Henry , which
reached Bordeaux in April, 1820.123
These two years of experience in the Cochin Chinese trade showed
that there were no great political difficulties in its way so long as it
was carried on at a very moderate scale. Gia Long, who had no reason
to love the English, and who appeared to be somewhat annoyed by the
conduct of the Portuguese, welcomed a fresh source of supply for arms

123. H. Cordier, Bordeaux et La Cochinchine sous la Restauration, T'oung

Pao, Series II, Vol. V, 1904, pp. 505-560. Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. I,
pp. 282-293.


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Alastair Lamb

for his army and was prepared to help the French merchants up to
a point; though it was clear that he would give them no exclusive
rights and would not cede any territory to them or in other ways lay
the foundations for a French settlement in Cochin China. From a
commerciai point of view, however, these ventures were not very
successful. The voyages of 1818-19 did not realise a profit sufficient
to cover the costs of the first experiment of 1817, a fact which
determined Philippon et Cie. to withdraw from the field to leave
Balguerie, Sarget et Cie. as the sole French participants in the Cochin
Chinese trade. A profitable trade, in fact, seemed to demand some
sort of established political relationship between France and Cochin
China maintained by a French representative in Hu; for obstacles and
disputes, which were by no means absent during the ventures of 1817
and 1818-19, were bound to arise in the future to threaten the already
slim margin of profit. The obvious candidates for such a post were
Chaigneau and Vannier whose loyal services to France had been
recognised in 1817 by membership of the Legion d'Honneur .
Chaigneau's return to France in 1820 made his selection inevitable.
Chaigneau had been considered in this light since at least 1817,
when the Duc de Richlieu had tried to correspond with him on the
part he might play in "the establishment of a permanent and regular
commerce with the country where you reside". His appointment was
strongly advocated by Balguerie, Sarget et Cie. There seems little
doubt that this question was one of the major factors behind his
decision to return to France.124 In the summer of 1820 Chaigneau
was granted an audience by Louis XVIII and made a member of the
Order of St. Louis. In October he was appointed French Consul
in Hu, Agent de France at the Court of the ruler of Cochin China,
and Commissaire du Roi for the negotiation of a commercial treaty
between France and Cochin China. As Agent de France Chaigneau
was to conduct diplomatic relations between France and Cochin China;
as Consul he was to exercise jurisdiction over French subjects in
Cochin China and to deal with purely commercial matters; and as
Commissaire du Roi he was empowered to negotiate on behalf of
France a treaty which would enable him to act in his other two
capacities, and would guarantee the lives and property of French
subjects trading in Cochin China. To these three functions Chaigneau
suggested the addition of a fourth, that which would now be performed
by the Alliance Franaise , the education of the Cochin Chinese in
the arts and industries of France, and he asked that he be provided

124. It seems most probable that the Duc de Richlieu 's letter of 1817 reached
Chaigneau in 1819 by way of the Henry or the Larose. See Taboulet,
op. cit., Vol. I, p. 286.


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Missions to Cochin China

for this purpose with a small library including the latest edition of
L'Encyclopdie. On 1st December, 1820, Chaigneau left Bordeaux
for Cochin China on the Lar ose, and arrived at Hu on 1st May,
1821. 125

On his return to Cochin China Chaigneau discovered that Gia

Long had died, and his son Minh-Mang was now reigning. Minh
-Mang did not share his father's affection for and loyalty to those
Frenchmen who, with Pigneau de Behaine, had helped the Nguyen
Dynasty in its hour of need. Nor did he have any love for the
Christian missionaries who had for many years worked virtually
unmolested in Cochin China, and whom he now began to consider
as the spearhead of European influence behind which would come
European rule. As Labartette, Bishop of Veren and head of the
Catholic mission in Cochin China, wrote in June, 1822, in a letter to
M. Bourdel of the Missions Etrangres in Macao:
this King detests all dealings with the Europeans. He is at
present showing a friendly face to our two gentlemen
Chaigneau and Vannier who are here; but I am certain he
would like to see them removed far away from him. He is
destroying all that his father has done, and he is superstitious to
the last degree. Since he is very well educated, he is the
greatest partisan of Confucius and of all the literati. He
threatens to chase us all out of his kingdom on the least com-
plaint which might be made to him against us. Since he has
ascended the throne our holy religion has made very little
The death of Gia Long, in fact, removed the one element in the
Cochin Chinese political scene which promised to help the French
in their plans for the commercial development of this region.
Balguerie, Sarget et Cie., it is true, established a factory at Tourane
under Edouard Borei, brother of that Auguste Borei who was
supercargo on La Paix; but in 1832, two years after the total wreck
of one of their ships, the Saint Michel , off the Paracels, they closed
it down and withdrew for good from the Cochin Chinese trade. The
French Consulate was doomed to failure from the start. The fact that
Chaigneau was now the servant of two masters, Louis XVIII and
Minh-Mang, made the French mandarins objects of even greater
suspicion to the latter monarch; and in 1824 both Chaigneau and
Vannier left Cochin China for France, never to return. The attempts
by Chaigneau's nephew, Eugne Chaigneau, to carry on the Consulate
ended in disaster, when the French representative was involved in the
wreck of the Saint Michel and arrived at his post destitute and almost
125. See H. Cordier, Le Consulat de France a Hu sous la Restauration, Paris
1884, pp. 1-55.
126. Translated from Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 295.


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Alastair Lamb

naked. He lost no time in returning to France, and thus brought to

an end the history of the first French efforts to establish their influence
in Indochina.127
The futility of the Restoration attempts to open Cochin China
to French influence are now apparent. The experience of the second
half of the 19th century was to show that European influence here
could only be secured by force of arms, and that the bonds of
sentiment which once linked Nguyen Anh with Pigneau de Behaine
were of little lasting political significance. It is hard to believe now
that Gia Long (Nguen Anh) would have welcomed the implications
of the French Consulate any more than did Minh-Mang. Gia Long,
towards the end of his reign, seems to have been moving steadily
towards that conservative frame of mind which rejected European
ideas in favour of the traditional Confucian principles of government
which Vietnam had acquired from China. He tolerated Christianity
because of the memory of Pigneau de Behaine, but he did not like
that religion; and one may well speculate how long that toleration
would have persisted had he lived, in view of the 19th century
development of an identity between missionary enterprise and national
expansion. Gia Long's foreign policy, once he had found that he
would not be bound by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of 1787,
was to treat the European powers civilly, but to give no one of
them any special concessions. He feared, from his observation of
the course of recent Asian history, that concessions to any power
other than England would result in English pressure for similar terms,
and any concession to the English seemed to have a habit of developing
into English occupation. For this reason he would never have given
France any exclusive commercial treaty; and in this respect Minh-Mang
was simply following in his father's footsteps. Thus the arrival
off Tourane of the vessels of Balguerie, Sarget et Cie. and Philippon
et Cie., and the appointment of Chaigneau to the Hu Consulate,
did not by themselves imply an impending change in the balance
of European power in the Far East. This would have demanded
an active French intervention on a scale which was quite beyond the
capabilities and the intentions of the Restoration Monarchy.
To many British observers, however, in the years immediately
following the Congress of Vienna, the renewal of French activity
along the coasts of the South China Sea had dangerous implications.
The long Anglo-French struggle in Asia was not so easily forgotten;
and in this fact lies one of the two most important factors behind

127. Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 300-301.

On Minh-Mang's foreign policy and his attitude towards the missionaries
see Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., pp. 338-343.


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Missions to Cochin China

the deputation of Dr. Crawfurd to Cochin China in 1822, and the

justification for placing in this volume the Crawfurd mission in the
same category as those of Chapman and Roberts. The other factor,
of course, was the quest for markets and sources of trade which
followed logically the foundation of Singapore in 1819. Neither of
these factors however, were likely to have induced the British to send
a diplomatic mission to Hu in 1822 had it not been for the fact
that such a mission could well be combined with a far more important
venture in Siam.
Siam was a market and source of supply with great attractions
to the East India Company. Its teak forests could, it was hoped,
supply the potential shipyards of Penang, which place would also
become the port of entry whence European manufactures made their
way to Bangkok. Penang, moreover, was in contact with Siam
through the rulers of Kedah, who had ceded Penang to the Company
and whose territories marched with the British mainland possession
of Province Wellesley. Kedah's troubled relationship with Siam
culminated, in 1821, in a Siamese invasion of that state which threatened
the security the British possessions in northern Malaya and promised
much diplomatic embarrassment, the Sultan of Kedah and many
of his subjects having sought refuge on British territory, and their
surrender having been demanded by the Raja of Ligor who commanded
the Siamese forces. The British could not comply with this request,
nor could they agree to help the Sultan of Kedah against the Siamese,
with the result that that ruler started to intrigue with the Burmese and
thus complicate an already difficult situation. The British, above
all, wished to avoid a serious rupture with the Chakri dynasty of
Siam, in whose territories and dependencies originated the greater
part of the tin upon which the prosperity of Penang so depended.
These circumstances decided the Indian Government of the Marquess
of Hastings to send a diplomatic mission to Bangkok.128
John Crawfurd, (1783-1868), who was selected to head this
mission, was an obvious choice for the task. After five years in the
Bengal Medical Service he served in Prince of Wales Island from
1808-1811. From 1811-1817 he was with Raffles in Java and at one
time was Resident in Jogjakarta. In 1820 he published his monu-
mental three volume History of the Indian Archipelago , one of the
pioneering landmarks in the English study of South-East Asia. His
scholastic turn of mind, his active curiosity and his experience of
South-East Asian politics thus all combined to suggest that he would
128. The background to the Crawfurd mission to Siam has been discussed
briefly but adequately in D. G. E. Hall, A History of South-East Asia,
London 1958. pp. 444-446. See also Crawfurd's Instructions, Para. 21,
p. 181 below.


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Alastair Lamb

make the best use of such a mission not only to secure diplomatic
benefits but also to obtain information of a scientific and commercial
nature about a part of Asia which was then virtually unknown to
the British. After his return from Siam and Cochin China, Crawfurd
was, in 1823, given charge of the recently established British settlement
of Singapore, where he remained until 1826 when he was sent on
another diplomatic venture of great importance, this time to Ava.
In 1827 Crawfurd retired and returned to England, where, after four
failures to enter Parliament in the years 1832-37, he spent the re-
mainder of his long life in compiling works of reference on South-East
Asia and composing memoranda of a somewhat Radical persuasion
on the proper conduct of British policy in that region.129
Crawfurd's mission to Siam was no great diplomatic triumph,
partly, no doubt, because he was the representative of the Governor
General and not of King George IV; but he was able to dispel many
British illusions as to the great strength of the Siamese army and to
collect much information on the commercial possibilities of that
country. These were embodied in his Journal of an Embassy from the
Governor-General of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China
which appeared in 1828 and which was based on his official reports
and journal. Some of these last documents, in so far as they related
to Siam, were published in their original form in Bangkok in 1915
by the Vajiranana National Library under the title The Crawfurd Papers .
The mission to Hu, which must be regarded as little more than
an additional dividend which the East India Company hoped to derive
from the investment involved in sending an envoy to Bangkok, was
likewise far from a complete success.- As the documents printed below
will show, Crawfurd was refused an audience by Minh-Mang, who
also rejected his presents, both actions being explained on the
grounds that the British representative was not accredited by his
own king, and that he had come about purely commercial matters
of a kind which did not merit personal discussion with the Cochin
Chinese ruler. Crawfurd was told at Hu that the British could trade
at Cochin Chinese ports on the same terms as the Chinese junks, but
not in Tonkin (which, at an early stage in the discussion, was said to
be open, but was later reported closed because, as a recent conquest,
"it was not deemed expedient to encourage the resort of strangers to
it") 130 All this was in accordance with Minh-Mang's policy of not
trying to shut out foreign trade but refusing to accept diplomatic
entanglements with the Europeans - and, as the Robert mission of

129. For a brief account of Crawfurd's life, see J. Bastin, John Crawfurd,
Malaya, Dec. 1954.
130. Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit., p. 272.


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Missions to Cochin China

1832 showed, with Americans as well.131 As far as commerce was

concerned, Crawfurd achieved very little in Hu beyond the acquisition
of a considerable body of information about the products and pros-
pects of the region. Diplomatically, the mission achieved even less.
Crawfurd was instructed not to try to secure any Anglo-Cochin
Chinese treaty, but he did hope that an interview with the King would
put the ruler of Cochin China in a more amicable frame of mind
towards the British, and pave the way for future British missions; but,
as we have seen, such an interview was refused, and Crawfurd could
hardly claim to have been honoured by any particular marks of dis-
tinction by the Cochin Chinese Court.
The Crawfurd mission to Cochin China, however, was not without
its importance to the history of subsequent British policy in South-East
Asia. For one thing, Crawfurd was able to show that the influence of
the French, still regarded as of possible significance in his instructions,
was of no importance in Hu; and thus he was able to lay to rest a
bogey which had persisted since 1778. For another thing, it was
demonstrated that the power of the Vietnamese monarchy was much
overrated, and that as a centre for British trade Cochin China offered
nothing which was not already to be found in Singapore. The King
of Cochin China was not a key factor in South-East Asian politics.
The Dalrymple dream ,of a British base in the Bay of Tourane was a
dream only, and after the Crawfurd mission we hear no more of it.
The chronology of the Crawfurd mission was as follows:
September 1821, Crawfurd while in Calcutta appointed to the
mission by the Marquess of Hastings,
23rd November, sailed from Calcutta aboard the John Adam ,
380 tons, accompanied by G- Finlayson as medical officer and
naturalist, Captain Dangerfield as deputy, and Lt. Rutherford in
charge of an escort of 30 sepoys,
12th December, arrived at Penang,
5th January 1822, left Penang,
13th January, arrived at Malacca,
17th January, left Malacca,
27th January, landed at Singapore,
25th February, left Singapore,
24th March, anchored at the mouth of the Menam,

131. The mission of the American Robert, not to be confused with the envoy
of the East India Company whose narrative has been printed here, is
discussed briefly in Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., p. 340.
Edmund Robert was twice sent by President Jackson, in 1832 and
1836, to try to contact Minh-Mang. Both these missions, which appear
to have been among the very first diplomatic ventures in the Far East of
the United States of America, were failures. See Buttinger, op. cit., p. 308.


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Alastair Lamb

29th March, arrived at Bangkok,

16th July, left Bangkok,
22nd August, called in at Pulo Condore,
24th August, anchored off Cape St. James,
29th August, arrived at Saigon,
3rd September, left Saigon,
15th September, anchored in the Bay of Tourane,
26th September, landed at Hu,
17th October, left Hu by land,
22nd October, visited Faifo,
24th October, reached Tourane,
31st October, sailed from Tourane for Singapore,
16th November, reached Singapore,
23rd November, sailed from Singapore,
5th to 8th December, in Penang,
19th December, arrived in Calcutta.


crawfurd's instructions

G. Swinton to Crawfurd, 29 September, 1821. (Crawfurd, Embassy,

op. cit., pp. 589-595.)

Your appointment as Agent to the Governor-General, to proceed

on a mission to Siam and Cochin China, has been already notified to
you in my letter of the 1st instant; and I am now commanded, by
the Most Noble the Governor-General in Council, to furnish you with
the necessary instructions for your guidance.
2. You are aware, that in the earlier period of the Indian com-
merce of the European nations, the trade of Siam and Cochin China
constituted no unimportant branch of it;132 and that during their
struggle for superiority among themselves in India, and those contests
with the native powers which led to the establishment of territorial
possessions, the commerce with these two countries was overlooked
or neglected; so that, during the first half of the last century, that
trade became extremely inconsiderable, and during the last seventy
years may be looked upon as having altogether ceased.
3. From the most authentic information in the possession of this
government, there is every reason to believe that the industry and

132. Referring to the 17th century, when the English and the Dutch were active
in these markets.


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Missions to Cochin China

civilization, together with the geographical position and natural fertility

of the soil which characterise the kingdoms of Siam and Cochin China,
are such as to render it extremely desirable, under the present stagna-
tion of trade, to negotiate with the Sovereigns of those countries the
renewal of a commercial intercourse with Great Britain and her Indian
dominions. The subject, indeed, of cultivating a more intimate con-
necxion with Siam has been repeatedly brought to the notice, of the
Supreme Government by the Government of Penang, and towards the
end of last year, a proposition from that Government to depute an
Agent to Siam received the sanction of his Lordship in Council. That
sanction has, however, only been partially acted on, and the design
may now be conveniently superseded by the Mission which his Excel-
lency in Council has resolved to commit to your charge.
4. I now proceed to state to you some general Rules and
Observations for the guidance of your conduct in the execution of the
important duty in which you are about to engage.
5- It is not unknown to you, that among the various states of
farther Asia, beyond the peninsula of Malacca, a very general fear and
distrust of Europeans, highly detrimental to the interests of commerce,
is predominant; resulting, it is too much to be feared, from the vio-
lence, imprudence, and disregard of natural rights, which occasionally
characterised the conduct of all the European nations in the earlier
periods of their intercourse. The first object of your attention will
be to endeavour to remove every unfavourable impression which may
exist as to the views, or principles, of the Honourable Company and
the British nation, in seeking a renewed connexion solely for purposes
of trade.
6. The Governor-General in Council does not contemplate, in
the first instance, the practicability of establishing our commercial rela-
tions with the countries in question upon a permanent and beneficial
footing, by the absolute removal of those restrictions which national
jealousy and ancient prejudices at present oppose to the progress of
external commerce. His Lordship in Council entertains hopes, how-
ever, that well timed and judicious representations on your part to the
Rulers of these countries, may have in a great measure the effect of
disarming their apprehensions, removing their antipathies, and, by so
doing, laying the foundation of a friendly intercourse, which may
prepare the way for the establishment of a commercial relation, com-
mensurate in extent with the apparent resources and population of
those extensive regions, and our known capacity to supply their wants.
7. After the first establishment of a friendly intercourse with the
nations in question, his Excellency in Council conceives that the trade
with them will require little assistance in the way of diplomatic agency;
and that its prosperity and extension will mainly depend upon the
degree of freedom with which it may be conducted on both sides, and
the experience of the mutual advantages it may confer. Upon this
principle, you will carefully refrain from demanding or hinting at any
of those adventitious aids or privileges upon which the earlier traders
of Europe were accustomed to found their expectations of commercial
benefit; such as the establishment of forts and factories, exemption
from municipal jurisdiction and customary imposts, monopoly of


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Alastair Lamb

favourite articles of produce, and exclusion of rival European nations.

Upon a dispassionate review of our commercial transactions in former
times, his Excellency in Council is disposed mainly to attribute to the
effect of the unpopular privileges so obtained, and to the indiscreet
exercise of them, of which so many examples are recorded in the his-
tory of that period, the subsequent extinction of our commerce, as well
as that of other European nations, or its arbitrary restriction, with all
the considerable and independent countries of farther Asia.
8. Independently of the obstacles which jealousy of the European
character opposes to the establishment of a commercial intercourse,
we have to contend with another difficulty common to all the nations
which bear any mark of the Chinese stamp of civilization - real or
pretended contempt for foreign traffic in general. Under the influence
of this feeling towards the traders who may resort to their ports, they
impose on them various vexatious restrictions. For example, the
Sovereign, in particular cases, claims and exercises the right of pre-
emption ,and retains in his own hands a monopoly of certain articles
most in demand, while the exportation of some of the native produc-
tions of the country is altogether prohibited. Your attention will of
course be directed to the means which, in your judgement, will be
most conducive to the remedy of this serious obstacle to the freedom
of commerce, and by employing such arguments and representations
as are most applicable to the character of the people, and least likely
to offend their national pride or excite their jealousy.
9. Adverting to the state of civilization and the peculiar character
of the people to whom you are deputed, his Excellency in Council sees
less cause to apprehend obstruction to an improved commercial inter-
course from the avowed magnitude of the imposts on external trade,
than from the vexatious mode in which they are levied. His Lordship
in Council considers the levying of duties in kind, the rude examina-
tion of cargo in detail by the native officers, the depredations of which
it is thence liable, and the irregular exactions of the revenue officers,
to be such serious impediments to the operations of commerce, that a
still higher rate of impost, levied in a less exceptional manner, would
be greatly preferred. If urged with prudence, it is not at all impro-
bable that the native Governments may be induced, as well from the
apparent as the solid advantages of such an arrangement, to accede to
it. With this view, his Lordship in Council would suggest the advan-
tages of establishing, in lieu of all others, one simple impost in the
form of a duty upon tonnage or measurement - a mode of proceeding
which, it is believed, is not inconsistent with the established usages of
those countries. Any trifling inequality which might arise in practice
from the adoption of this principal, would be much more than com-
pensated by the exemption of vexatious interference which it would

10- In conformity with the principals now laid down, adapted

to the people among whom you are to appear, and the relative situa-
tion of the British Government in India in regard to them, you will
be furnished with letters to the Kings of Siam and Cochin China, in
the terms of the English drafts which accompany these instructions.
11. With regard to the practical details which may arise out


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Plate IX. A Cochin Chinese Mandarin of the Civil Order in his dress of
ceremony. (From Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

of the principles above stated, and which must be, in a great measure,
contingent upon the knowledge you obtain in the progress of your
mission, his Lordship in Council relies on your judgement and expe-
rience, and necessarily commits the conduct of them to your discretion,
to be regulated according to circumstances.
12. Although Government is not inclined to contract formal
treaties, lest the native powers to whom you are now deputed should
capriciously imagine their independence or their prerogatives com-
promised by such engagements; yet, his Excellency in Council is
sensible of the great advantage which would result from obtaining
from the Cochin Chinese or Siamese Government official and authentic
records of such concessions as they might be induced to make to the
freedom and security of commerce, either in the form of letters from
the Sovereigns to the Governor-General, or from their Ministers to
yourself, in the character of an edict addressed to their subjects.
13. As his Lordship in Council conceives that, after the first
establishment of a friendly intercourse with Siam and Cochin China,
the extension and improvement of our amicable relations with these
states will be greatly promoted by the maintenance of epistolary com-
munication, you will see the propriety of encouraging a correspondence
respectively on the part of the Sovereigns with the head of this Govern-
ment, and on that of his Ministers with the subordinate Governments
of India, especially with the Government of Prince of Wales's Island,
and the Chief of the Settlement of Singapore. This will have the
salutary effect of impressing the native Governments with a conviction
that our traders resorting to their ports have the constant protection
of their own Government, while it will not be accompanied by any
of the inconveniences that may result from an attempt to exercise a
more direct control.
14. The Governor-General in Council calculates on your being
able to proceed from hence, at the very latest, by the 1st of November.
It is to be hoped that you will reach Siam, which will be the first object
of your attention, about the middle of December; touching at Prince
of Wales's Island and Singapore for necessary information and assist-
ance. If, as Government has reason to hope, your reception by the
Court of Siam be friendly, it is not proposed to limit your residence
there to any specific period, but to leave it to your own discretion;
keeping in mind the advantage which may result from remaining for
such a time as will afford you an opportunity of obtaining a competent
knowledge of the character of the Court, the manners of the people,
and the resources of the country.
15. After accomplishing the objects of the mission, as far as Siam
is concerned, it will be necessary for you to return to Singapore or
Prince of Wales's Island, and there await the favourable monsoon, to
prosecute your mission to Cochin China. In your voyage from Siam
to the Straits of Malacca, an opportunity will be afforded you of
examining, and reporting upon, the condition and resources of the
tributary and petty States upon the shores of the Gulf of Siam; but you
will be careful to satisfy yourself, in the first place, that your holding
communication with these chiefs will not excite the jealousy of the
Siamese Government, nor give cause of complaint to the Dutch, that


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Alastair Lamb

we are interfering with the settlements which they may have formed in
that quarter.
16. The Governor-General in Council contemplates the probabi-
lity of your reaching Cochin China in the month of May, with the
commencement of the westerly monsoon.
17. In your intercourse with a Court so jealous of strangers, and
so reluctant to enter into any intimate intercourse with the nations of
Europe as that of Cochin China, much care and circumspection will
be necessary. Should the mission be so far countenanced that you are
called to the Court, you will endeavour to prolong your stay at the
capital, that you may thus be afforded an opportunity of acquiring an
acquaintance with the genius and habits of the Cochin Chinese Court,
and of availing yourself of such favourable occasions as may from time
to time occur, for disarming the jealousies of the Cochin Chinese, and
for inclining them to cultivate a more intimate connexion with our
nation. His lordship in Council is not unaware, that, in the endea-
vour to attain the objects of your mission at Cochin China, you will
have to contend with the previously established, and possibly adverse
influence of other European nations at that Court 133 It will be your
especial duty, however, as far as practicable, to make yourself ac-
quainted with the views and policy of those nations, and the footing
on which they stand with the native Government; also avoiding, how-
ever, any appearances that may countenance the erroneous belief that
your mission is directed towards objects of a political nature.
18. Looking to a successful reception of your mission at Cochin
China, it is supposed that you may be detained in that country until
the beginning of July. At this period it will be impracticable, or diffi-
cult, to return to the westward against an adverse monsoon by a
direct passage.
19. Your easiest route will therefore be by the established eastern
passage, which, without inconvenient loss of time, will enable you to
touch at Manila, the Sooloo group of Islands, the independent portion
of the Spice Islands, with such other countries by the way as are not
under the control of other European nations. These countries are all
imperfectly known, and a knowledge of their social condition and
commercial resources is intimately connected with the great object
which the Government have in view by your mission - the extension
of the commercial relations of the nation in general, and more
particularly of its Asiatic possessions. It is not the wish of the
Governor-General in Council, however, that you should enter into any
negotiation with the rulers of those countries. The expediency of any
extension of the views of the Government in that direction will be
matter for future consideration; and it is probable that the deliberations
of his Lordship in Council may be materially influenced by the informa-
tion which you will obtain. After thus completing the objects of your
mission in the manner above pointed out, you will return to Singapore
and Penang; and unless you should, at either of these places, find
instructions of a different tenor awaiting you, you will be pleased to
proceed directly to Bengal.134
133. The French.

134. This part of the mission, in the event, was not attempted.


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Missions to Cochin China

20. Having thus sketched out the general objects of your mission
to Siam and Cochin China, it is necessary to revert to the views and
objects of the Government of Penang, in suggesting at various times
the deputation of an Agent to Siam, as stated in the third paragraph of
this letter.
21. In the year 1813-14, an application was received by the
Government of Prince of Wales's Island from the King of Queda, for
the friendly interference of the British Government in his favour with
his superior, the King of Siam. On that occasion, the Government of
Prince of Wales's Island referred the question to the consideration of
the Supreme Government, when it was determined that, whatever might
be the claim which the King of Queda might be thought to possess to
the attention and regard of the British Government, our mediation for
the adjustment of the differences subsiting between Siam and that
country might lead us into an embarrassing participation in the interests
and concerns of one or both States; and the Government of Penang
was accordingly instructed to limit its proceedings to opening a com-
munication with the King of Siam, and addressing a letter to him,
framed in conformity with the views and principles which wre dis-
tinctly laid down for its guidance. The subject was resumed in the
year 1818, when the Governor of Prince of Wales's Island recorded a
Minute, taking a full view of the former proceedings regarding the
King of Queda, and another tributary of Siam, the Chief of Pera, and
stating his deliberate opinion of the great political and commercial
advantages which the Government of Penang would derive from culti-
vating a more intimate connection with Siam. Copies of the whole
correspondence which passed between the Government of Prince of
Wales's Island on the occasion above adverted to, and also of a later
correspondence in the year 1820, which led to his Lordship in Council
sanctioning the deputation by that Government of an Agent to Siam
for purely commercial objects, are now inclosed for your information.
22. Although the Governor-General in Council is solicitous to
avoid mixing anything of a political nature with your negotiations at
Siam, it seems desirable that you should be in possession of the grounds
on which the Governor of Penang has felt an anxiety for the security
of the States of Queda and Pera; and that you should be prepared to
avail yourself of any favourable opportunity of accomplishing the
wishes of the Governor in Council by a friendly and unostentatious
representation to the Court of Siam. His Lordship in Council relies
entirely on your discretion for acting on this suggestion, or abstaining
from any advertence to the subject, according to the experience you
will obtain of the general disposition of the Siamese Government, and
the chances of an overture of this nature meeting with a favourable
reception. Your visit to Penang will enable you to learn from the
Honourable the Governor in Council the actual state of the relations
between Siam and its dependencies in the Malayan Peninsula, and to
ascertain more precisely the views and objects of the Governor of
Penang with regard to those States.
23. You will be provided with letters to the Honourable the
Governor of Prince of Wales's Island, and also to the Resident of
Singapore, who will be requested to afford you any information or


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Alastair Lamb

assistance in promoting and facilitating the success of your mission.

24. You are apprised that the ship John Adam has been taken
up for the accommodation of yourself and suite, and will be at your
entire disposal; the commander being instructed to consider himself
subject to your orders in every matter, saving what may be connected
with the immediate nagivation of the vessel.
25. His Lordship in Council proposes to appoint Captain Danger-
field, of the Bombay establishment, to be your assistant, with a monthly
allowance of six hundred rupees. With a view to provide against the
contingency of your illness, or other casualty exposing to injury the
special service trusted to your care, Captain Dangerfield will be autho-
rized, in such event, to assume charge of the Mission, and act upon
the instructions contained in this letter.
26. A party of thirty Sepoys, under the command of a native
officer, will be attached to the Mission. Lieutenant Rutherford of the
14th Native Infantry, will be ordered to do duty with the escort.
27. You will be furnished with a small supply of instruments for
surveying, to be used in the event of circumstances being favourable
for such operations. His Lordship in Council is satisfied that you will
carefully avoid any use of them which can tend in the slightest degree
to excite the jealousy of the Governments to which you are accredited.
A medical officer will also be attached to the Mission, and it will be
the endeavour of Government to select for this duty a gentleman quali-
fied by scientific attainments to avail himself of any opportunity that
may offer of extending our knowledge of the natural history of the
countries which you will visit.
28. In conclusion, I am directed to desire that you will report
to me, for the information of His Excellency in Council, the progress
of the Mission from time to time; and that, in addition to an ample
diary of your proceedings, you will be prepared, on the termination
of the duty now assigned to you, which it is calculated will not exceed
a twelvemonth from this date, and your return to Bengal, to submit a
full and digested account of the transactions and negotiation on all
points connected with the objects of the Mission, which you may have
been enabled to collect during the period of your employment.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient, humble servant,
Geo. Swinton,
Secretary to the Government.
Fort William,
29 th September, 1821.


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Missions to Cochin China


Letters from Bengal, Vol. 86; Bengal Political Letter of 23rd

November, 1821. 134a
Honorable Sirs,
1. We avail ourselves of the earliest opportunity to report to
your Honorable Court our adoption of an experimental measure which
in the present depressed state of commerce both in England and this
country appeared to us to be well deserving the trial and likely in its
result to be productive of great national benefit by opening a new and
extensive field for British Traffic. We allude to a mission to the King-
doms of Siam and Cochin China for the purpose of cultivating a
friendly connection and negotiating and establishing an improved com-
mercial intercourse with these countries, a measure which we trust will
be honored with the sanction and approbation of your Honorable
Court as worthy of the greatness and liberality of the Honorable
Company and as affording the nation at large the strongest proof of
your cordial disposition to co-operate with alacrity and zeal in forward-
ing the success of any enterprise in this quarter of the globe which may
afford a well grounded hope of relieving the general distress of the
manufacturing community at home. The object in truth is the pro-
motion of the welfare and interests of the British Empire at large as
well as to extend the commercial relations of your Indian possessions.
2. Your Honorable Court is fully aware that even in the earlier
and ruder period of the commercial intercourse of European nations
with India, the trade of Siam and Cochin China formed an important
and valuable part of it.135 It could not therefore be a matter of doubt
that in the improved state of modern navigation and the superior
intelligence and active spirit of adventure which characterise the British
merchants of the present day, every facility and encouragement which
could be afforded to the revival of a trade with those countries would
be eagerly contributed. As those Kingdoms contain a population of at
least 30 millions and possess a soil equal in fertility to that of any por-
tion of the globe, the establishment of commercial relations with them
would open a vast field for the improved energies alluded to, and
would be attended with incomparably more extensive benefits than in
former times. Those benefits will be largely partaken by the Posses-
sions of the Honorable Company with which a commercial intercourse
134a. With the exception of paras. 7-9, this document has been printed in
The Crawfurd Papers , op. cit., pp. 1-12.
135. At various times in the 17th century English factories were established
at Patani, Ayuthia, Lovec near Pnompenh, and various sites in Tonkin.
All these had been abandoned by the end of the 17th century. In 1702
an English settlement was established on Pulo Condore, but it was aban-
doned three years later after the mutiny of the Macassar troops which
made up its garrison. After the Pulo Condore disaster no official move
was made towards the exploitation of the commercial possibilities of Siam
and Indochina until the Chapman mission of 1778.
See: D. K. Bassett. The Trade of the English East India Company in
the Far East, 1623-84. JRAS Pts. 1 & 2, 1960.


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Alastair Lamb

of considerable and increasing value and importance cannot fail to re-

sult from an opening of the general trade with the countries in ques-
tion. The Honorable Company has therefore a direct interest in the
success of the measures in our contemplation, without which, however
solicitous we might be for the improvement of the commercial resources
of the Empire at large, we should not have felt ourselves altogether
justified in undertaking the mission at the sole expense of the Honor-
able Company without the previous authority of your Honorable Court.
3. From the most respectable sources of information we are
warranted in stating that Siam, besides minor commodities, may be
expected to afford in such an intercourse valuable returns of sugar
and pepper for Europe and Western Asia, salt for the Indian Islands,
and teak at a cheap rate as well as in abundance for the British Settle-
ments: while Cochin China will furnish as staple articles of exportation
raw silk for Europe and sugar for both European and Indian markets.
It is known also that Cochin China produced to the earlier European
traders the largest supply of raw silk of any country in Asia, and
should it prove equally abundant in that article at present, the British
manufacturer under any favourable alteration in the impost on this raw
material, such as we now believe is contemplated by the Legislature,
would be enabled successfully to contend with the continental trade
and our silk manufactures would be placed in point of extent and
prosperity on a scale with cotton.
4. With respect to the export of British manufactures to Siam
and Cochin China, if we may judge from the success with which they
have been introduced into Hindoostan, the Indian Islands, and even
China, there is every probability that the demand will be considerable.
The inhabitants of those regions of Asia are not understood to be,
themselves, a manufacturing people in the most limited acceptation of
the term, and they have in all times gladly received the imperfect and
high-priced fabrics of Hindoostan and China.
5. If we succeed in removing the groundless fears and jealousies
hitherto believed to be entertained by the Siamese and Cochin Chinese
Governments with regard to an intercourse with Europeans, and in
establishing a general freedom of traffic, an extensive demand may be
expected for woollens, cotton goods, raw and wrought iron, Bengal
opium and various other articles of minor note. The trade with Siam
is chiefly conducted at present by the Chinese settled in that country,
who bring its produce to the European ports in the Straits of Malacca
and receive European and Indian goods in return: while Chinese
junks and a few colonial Portuguese ships from Macao conduct the
traffic between the territories of the King of Cochin China and China.
But, by laying the trade with those countries directly open to the
activity of European enterprise an extension of commerce would follow
which it would be vain to expect from the feeble, unskilful and indirect
efforts of native speculation. Under all the imperfections of the exist-
ing system of intercourse with Siam, a trade of no inconsiderable
amount is carried on between that country and the Settlement of Prince
of Wales's Island; and your Honorable Court will have perceived in
the correspondence of the Government of that Presidency an anxious
solicitude and an apparently well-grounded hope for an extension of


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Missions to Cochin China

that commerce through the means of more intimate relations between

the two Governments.
6. We do not anticipate any obstacles of a serious nature to the
opening of a general trade with Siam. American and British country
ships have within the last five years visited it in considerable numbers.
The principal object which, we conceive, the deputation of a friendly
mission from this Government might effect was to place the intercourse
on a defined and permanent footing so as to expose the British trade
to the least possible vexation and to hold out to the Sovereign of the
country the prospect of obtaining such an increase of revenue as would
make it his interest to afford his protection to the foreign merchants.
This, it appeared to us, would be best effected by establishing some
summary mode of levying the import duty as is practised by the
Chinese, by which the import becomes comparatively light, while the
inquisition of the native officers into the particulars of the cargoes
imported and all of the chicanery to which it is liable are entirely
7. With the more populous and wealthy Empire of Cochin China
the establishment of a commercial intercourse may be attended with
more difficulty at first; but not to such a degree as to deter from the
attempt if introduced in a manner which we contemplate. It is true
that for the last century and upwards European nations have been
nearly excluded from all parts of the present Empire, but we are of
the opinion that this exclusion may be mainly ascribed to the intem-
perence and violence which marked the proceedings on the part of
the European traders of those times.
8. It is known to your Honorable Court that in the year 1778
a mission was sent from this Government to the King of Cochin China.
At the period in question the Agent deputed by Mr. Hastings found
a country in a state of anarchy and rebellion and labouring under the
miseries of a famine. He was courted by the rebel chief in possession
of the sea ports in the hope of obtaining British aid, but ultimately
came to an open rupture with one of the inferior chiefs and, after
committing acts of hostility, quitted the country. In 1804 another
mission was sent from Canton under instructions from your Honor-
able Court, the failure of which was attributed to the influence of the
French party at the court of the Sovereign and the want on the part
of the envoy of any channel of communication with the court. These,
we believe, are the only instances of an endeavour on our part to esta-
blish an intercourse with Cochin China and its dependencies since the
end of the 17th century.
9. At present a few French missionaries we believe are from
political causes patronised by the reigning King of Cochin China, and
it is generally supposed that the French nation at least are not likely
to experience any impediments to the establishment of a trade.
treaty136, the precise nature of which we have not been able to ascertain,
is said to have been concluded between the King of Cochin China and
the present Government of France, and we have been informed that a

136. There was, of course, no such treaty. The reference here is, no doubt,
to the Kergariou mission and the appointment of Chaigneau to the Hu


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Alastair Lamb

large investment of goods for that country was preparing for shipment
at Bordeaux about the end of the last year. We have also heard
that a Dutch ship from Java obtained a cargo last year in the ports of
Cochin China.137 and hence it may be inferred that the difficulty of
gaining admission to those ports has at all times been over-rated.
But, even if better terms could not be obtained, it would be an object
of some moment to place the trade of Cochin China on a footing at
least with our intercourse with China, and we cannot suppose that the
Sovereign of the former country would refuse to listen to a proposal for
opening a trade when we could hold up to his view the pecuniary
advantages resulting to the Chinese Government from our dealings in
that Empire.
10. It appears to us, after a mature consideration of the subject,
that a mission from the Governor General, as the supreme British
authority in India, to the Kings of Siam and Cochin China would, if
conducted with moderation, temper and address, afford a fair promise
of success in realising the important objects which we had in view as
above detailed. We were decidedly of the opinion that the more pru-
dent and politic course would be to confine the object of the proposed
mission to the revival merely of a commercial intercourse on an
improved basis by more accurately defining the principles on which the
trade should be conducted, and by avoiding all negotiation for any
territorial cession. Any attempt to establish a factory on a permanent
footing in the country, we were satisfied, would only tend to rouse the
jealousies of those states and thus to defeat the very object we were
anxious to obtain.
11. In the selection of the Agent to whom we determined to con-
fide the charge of this mission we confidently anticipate the approba-
tion of your Honorable Court. The former employment of Doctor
Crawfurd of your Bengal Medical Establishment in a diplomatic capa-
city in Java, his intimate acquaintance with the manners, customs and
commerce of the various nations of the Eastern Archipelago, and the
high reputation for ability, judgement and discretion which he has so
deservedly acquired, pointed him out to us as a person emminently
qualified for the successful conduct of this delicate and important
duty.138 We understood, indeed, that he had directed his particular
attention to the trade with Siam and Cochin China, and he was thus
prepared for the task by the full and accurate knowledge he had
previously acquired with regard to everything connected with the
former and present political and commercial history of those countries.

137. This, it seems probable, is the same Dutch ship which Chaigneau men-
tioned in the memorandum on Cochin China which he drew up for the
French Government in the summer of 1820. If so, then the vessel must
have arrived before Chaigneau left Tourane for France in November,
1819. See Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 299.
138. Crawfurd was Resident at Jogjakarta during the British occupation of
Java, 1811-1816. In 1820 he published his great History of the Indian
Archipelago in three volumes.


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Missions to Cochin China

12-23. (These paragraphs, dealing with the cost and scale of the
mission, have been omitted.)
Honorable Sirs,
Your most faithful,
humble servants,
Fort William, Hastings
23rd November, 1821. J. Adam
John Fendali




Letters from Bengal, Vol. 88; Political Letter of 27th December, 1822,
enclosing Crawfurd to G. Swinton, 25th October, 1822, written at

I have the honour to submit for the information of His Excellency

the Most Noble the Governor General in Council the following sum-
mary narrative of the proceedings of the mission from the period of
our quitting Siam until the termination of the negotiations with the
Court of Cochin China, with a brief statement of the objects considered
to be obtained by the mission as connected with that country, reserving
the principal details for my arrival in Bengal.
After finally quitting the bar of the river of Siam upon the 4th of
August , we found it necessary to sail for a group of islands, called
Si-chang,139 at the head of the Gulf of Siam and about forty miles
139. Ko Si-Chang Islands, which Hamilton referred to as the Dutch Islands.
This group of islands provided an excellent harbour commanding the
approaches to the mouth of the Menam, and in his journal Crawfurd
noted their strategic importance to any European power wishing to domi-
nate the maritime trade of Siam. As the Singapore Chronicle remarked in
March 1826 (in an article perhaps written by Crawfurd or quoting his
journal) :
as a station for an enemy meditating hostile measures against
Siam, no place can be better adapted than this harbour. A
very small fleet in possession of these islands would effectually
blockade the port of Bangkok, at which nearly the whole trade
of the Siamese empire is concentrated; and thus dictate terms
to the monarch of Siam, without further exertion than the sei-
zure and detention of the numerous junks which trade to Bang-
kok from various quarters.
(See: Board's Collections, vol. 774, Crawfurd's journal, entry of 4th
August, 1822; A. Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indies, edited
by Sir W. Foster, 2 vols., London 1930, vol. 2, p. 104; J. H. Moor,
Notices of the Indian Archipelago and Adjacent Countries , Singapore
1837, pp. 197-198, an extract from the Singapore Chronicle of 16th
March, 1826, on the Harbour of Ko-Si-Chang; A. G. Findlay, A Direc-
tory for the Navigation of the Indian Archipelago, China and Japan,
2nd edition, London 1878, pp. 423-424; Finlayson, Siam and Hu, op.
cit. pp. 267-280; Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit. pp. 187-193.)


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Alastair Lamb

distant from the mouth of the Ma-nam, for the purpose of ballasting
and watering the ship or otherwise preparing her for our voyage to
Cochin China. These operations detained us ten days, but this delay
gave us an opportunity of affecting a complete survey of this group of
islands which, besides commanding the entrance to the river of Siam
and the approach to the capital - making it in a great measure a key
to all that is most valuable in the kingdom - contains a good harbour
and lies in the direction of all the native commerce conducted in the
Gulf of Siam. On the 14th of August we sailed for Cochin China, and
on the 22nd, with a view of obtaining some information respecting the
actual state of that country, visited the Islands of Pulo Condor which
are under its authority.140 On one of these islands an English settle-
ment once existed, the avowed object of which, as it was to secure to
our nation a portion of the trade of the countries lying between Siam
and China, gave it a peculiar interest as connected with the objects of
our mission . . . ,141
The information received at Pulo Condor confirmed me in the
determination .... to visit Sai-gon, the capital of Lower Cochin China.
This place is situated upon the great River of Kamboja, and after
Cachao in Tonquin is the most considerable commercial town in the
kingdom, and under the government of the most powerful chief of the
country, left by the will of the late King protector of the kingdom and
guardian of his son, the reigning prince. On the 24th we anchored in
the River of Kamboja. Immediately upon my arrival I addressed a

140. Visiting, en route, Pulo Panjang on 20th August.

141. While at Pulo Condore Crawfurd was able to find abundant traces of
the abandoned English settlement. After 118 years the brick founda-
tions of the factory could still be seen, and the surrounding neighbour-
hood abounded in fragments of earthenware and porcelain.
In his journal Crawfurd noted that the French had investigated Pulo
Condore in 1720 with a view to founding a settlement there, but had
abandoned the project after an adverse report from the party despatched
Tne island, in fact, had attracted the notice of the French as early
as 1686 when Vret, chief of the French East India Company's factory
at Ayuthia, reported on the commercial advantaged of its situation. The
first attempt at European settlement, however, was that of the English
under Ketchpole from 1702-1705 which culminated in the massacre of
most of the settlers by mutinous Macassar troops. In September, 1721,
the French frigate Danae anchored off Pulo Condore and landed the
engineer Reynault who remained there until June, 1722. Reynault advised
against the projected establishment and the plan was dropped.
In January, 1780, the Discovery, Captain Gore, visited the island.
Despite a search, no trace of the English factory could be seen. Captain
King, who described this visit, reported that he came across a sign of
French influence in the shape of a note to all passing European vessels
from Pigneau de Behaine, dated 10th August, 1779, which stated that the
Mandarin bearing this note was an official in the service of the Nguyen
instructed to look after European ships and to obtain the latest news
from them. King and Gore were much puzzled by this document.
The Macartney Embassy made a very brief visit to Pulo Condore on
their way to Tourane from Batavia.
(See: Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit., pp. 195-201; Finlayson, Siam
and Hu, op. cit., pp. 287-294; Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 114-116;
J. King, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, Vol. 3, London 1784, pp. 450-^
464; Barrow, Cochinchina, op. cit., p. 244.)


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Missions to Cochin China

letter to the Governor of Sai-gon, proposing to pay him a visit and

explaining to him in a few words the true objects of the mission. On
the 28th I received an answer to my letter and an invitation to go there.
It was accompanied by a deputation of Mandarins to compliment us
upon our arrival, and by four handsome gallies to conduct us to the
place. On the same evening I proceeded to Sai-gon accompanied by
a small number of our party, and arrived the next morning. From
the Governor of Sai-gon we received a handsome reception,142 and he
addressed his Court in recommendation of the objects of our mis-
sion.143 We continued at that place for five days.144 This afforded us
an opportunity of making enquiries into the commercial resources of
this part of Cochin China which are such as I trust will conduce to
forward the views of His Excellency the Most Noble the Governor
General as connected with the immediate objects of our mission. The
river of Sai-gon is perhaps the noblest navigable stream in Asia, and
without difficulty or danger is accessible even to ships of the line up to
the city. The Province of Lower Cochin China itself is an alluvial
tract of great fertility, and is considered one of the finest grain countries
in this part of the world. Sai-gon carries on at present a considerable
commerce with China, Tonquin, Siam, and lately with Singapore and
the Straits of Malacca. During our stay at the place we received the
most pointed and flattering attentions from the wealthy Chinese mer-
chants who reside there, who expressed the most earnest desire for the
success of our undertaking and the utmost anxiety to establish a com-
mercial intercourse with us. On the 3rd of September we returned to
the ship, and early the next morning proceeded on our voyage to the
Bay of Turon. On the 13th of September we arrived there. A few hours
after our arrival the principal Mandarine of the place came on board,
and through him I communicated with the Governor of the Province
residing about fifty miles distant, and with the Court. On the 22nd of
September I received an invitation to proceed to the city of Hui, the
capital, situated about fifty miles to the north of the Bay of Turon, and
upon the banks of a navigable river a few miles from the sea. A
Mandarine of rank came to conduct us, and two large gallies were pro-
vided for our accommodation. The persons to proceed along with me
were limited by an express order of the Court to a very small number,
nor was the accommodation furnished sufficient for more. The osten-
sible pretext for this was that the accommodation was the same as that
always furnished to the Siamese Ambassador, and lately to the Envoy
from France. I offered a temperate remonstrance against this, but found
142. Crawfurs journal gives the name of this official as the eunuch An-tak
kien; and Berland, BSEI 1948, p. 49, identifies him as Le-van-Duyet.
143. But not before a great deal of haggling had taken place over the exact
terms of the letter from the Marquess of Hastings to the King of Cochin
China, as it was to be rendered into Vietnamese.
144. While in Saigon Crawfurd met the young French naturalist Pierre Diard
(1794-1863). Diard, a pupil of Cuvier, had been travelling in the East
since 1817, visiting Bengal and meeting in Sumatra with Raffles whom he
accompanied to Singapore. Diard came to Cochin China in 1821 and
remained there until 1824. He became a good friend of J. B. Chaigneau,
but had little respect for that person in his capacity of French Consul in
Cochin China. Diard is said to have been the first Frenchman to set
eyes on the ruins of Angkor. (See: Taboulet, op. cit., pp. 305, 308-310.)


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Alastair Lamb

the difficulties against my obtaining any alteration in the arrangements

prescribed by the Court insuperable. Influenced therefore by reasons
and motives of which I shall hereafter have the honour of laying in
ample detail before His Excellency the Most Noble Governor General,
I resolved to accept of the invitation from the Court of Cochin China
on its own terms to avoid all risks of embarrassing the negotiation by
entering into a contention upon points of etiquette in these early stages
of my intercourse with a people singularly pertinacious of form and
jealous of strangers.
On the evening of the 24th I left the ship on my journey to Hui, and
on the following night arrived there. Our first reception at this place
consisted of a mixture of distrust and jealousy, but yet of personal
respect and attention of which it is no easy matter to convey an adequate
description. We were accommodated in one of the rest houses in the
place, which was railed round, or rather barricaded, with a fence of
bamboo and the only two approaches to it strictly guarded by bodies of
soldiers denying egress or ingreSs without the special permission of the
Mandarine in charge. While thus jealously watched, the people were
not allowed to pass our habitation without offering some mark of respect
to us, and all horsemen were expressly commanded to dismount as they
passed our doors. Although some share of this conduct was to be attri-
buted to the etiquette of the Cochin Chinese Court, yet it was but too
evident that a great political jealousy of our Nation existed, and that
the real objects of the mission had been misunderstood or misrepre-
sented. An extraordinary degree of caution and moderation therefore
became peculiarly necessary on our part.
On the 29th, three days after our arrival, we had an audience with
the first Minister.145 Mm. Vanier and Chaigneau, two French gentle-
men who have the rank of Mandarines at the Court, were present. In
this audience the Minister informed me that he was commanded by His
Majesty to state that the request of His Excellency the Most Noble
Governor General of India as contained in his letter was agreed to, and
that our trade should be admitted to the ports of Cochin China on the
same terms with the Chinese or other most favoured nations; that an
answer would be prepared to the letter of His Excellency the Most
Noble Governor General to this effect; and that I should be supplied
with an official copy of the regulations of trade. I expressed the great
satisfaction I felt at this, and assured him that I considered the essential
objects of the mission fully attained in this declaration of His Majesty.
Notice having been taken of introducting us into His Majesty's presence,
I begged that a day might be fixed for granting me an audience. This
subject, now and on subsequent occasions, gave rise to much discussion,
and on the part of the Court to a good deal of equivocation;146 but after
145. According to Crawfurs journal in the MS in Board's Collections
Vol. 774, this audience took place on the 28th; but the published version
(Crawfurd, Embassy , op. cit., p. 246) gives the 29th, agreeing with the
narrative here.

146. An attempt was made to argue that an audience had been denied to
Roberts in 1804. Crawfurd appealed to Vannier, who said that he had
been sick at the time of Roberts' visit, but that there could be no doubt
that an audience had taken place. (Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit., p. 249-
Finlayson, op. cit. p. 359.)


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Plate X. A Cochin Chinese Mandarin of the Military Order in his dress of
ceremony. (From Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

a delay of some days it was finally resolved that no audience should be

granted, and that the presents of His Excellency the Most Noble
Governor General should be declined as the letter of which I was the
bearer was not directly from His Majesty the King of England. In
explanation it was stated that the Envoy sent by the Court of France in
1817 to his late Majesty had received no audience, and that the presents
sent by His Majesty Louis XVIII were declined because the letter of
which the Envoy was the bearer was not written in the name of His
Majesty the King of France but in the name of one of His Majesty's
Ministers of State.147 The remonstration and explanations which I sub-
mitted in reply will in course of time be laid before His Excellency the
Most Noble Governor General. This measure owed its origin in some
respects, I have reason to believe, to the suggestion of the French gentle-
men at the Court, still more to the personal pride of the reigning Prince
and his ambitious imitation upon every occasion of the pomp and
etiquette of the Court of China.
After this audience little restraint was placed on us. Visitors were
permitted to frequent our house and we were permitted ourselves to go
abroad freely to any part of the city. The following day we were
invited to inspect the works and fortifications of the city with its arsenals
and granaries. The whole works, which are between five and six miles
in circuit, surrounded by a double moat, may without exaggeration be
termed truly extraordinary in any country and wonderful in the one in
which they exist. They are generally constructed on scientific principles
and of most excellent materials, and the arsenal contains more than two
thousand pieces of artillery, the greater number cast in Cochin China
and of beautiful workmanship.148
On the 2nd of October the Intendant of the Port waited upon me
by order of the first Minister to discuss with me certain matters respect-
ing trade, when I proposed that our commerce should be admitted into
Tonquin and Kamboja as well as into Cochin China. This valuable
concession to our trade was acceded to without any difficulty. On
the 6th , the same person called again, and I had a further discussion
with him on the subject of our trade, when the principle upon which the
duties to be levied upon our ships was determined. On this day and
on two other occasions during our stay at Hui deputations of Man-
darines directly from the King in their robes of ceremony waited upon
us with complimentary messages from His Majesty and presents of fruits
and other refreshments.
On the 12th of October I had another audience with the first
Minister, the object of which was to exhibit to me the answer to the
letter of His Excellency the Most Noble the Governor General, with the

147. This was the mission of de Kergariou, of which Crawfurd, according to

the entry in his journal of 1st October, 1822, had learnt practically
nothing until his visit to Hu.
148. Some of the guns were cast by the Portuguese, but in Cochin China or
Cambodia, as far back as 1664.
Over 800 pieces of ordinance were employed in the Hu fortifica-
tions. More? than 2,000 cannon, in addition, were stored in the arsenal,
so Crawfurd noted in his journal on the basis of information from
Chaigneau and Vannier. The printed version does not give this last
figure. (Crawfurd, Embassy , op. cit., pp. 253-254.)


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Alastair Lamb

commercial regulations. The Minister's two assistants were present as

well as two Mandarines deputed directly from His Majesty to deliver
to me the answer to the letter of His Excellency the Most Noble the
Governor General. Copies of the different documents were read and
presented to me, the contents of which, with one exception, appeared to
be highly satisfactory. The exception regarded certain presents pro-
posed by His Majesty to be sent to His Excellency the Most Noble
the Governor General. The Minister announced to me that these
presents had been prepared by His Majesty, and some trifling ones
for his agent with certain refreshments and provisions for the ship's
crew and the followers of the mission, and that the presents for His
Excellency the Most Noble the Governor General would be exhibited
tomorrow morning at the Palace, where I should be received in state
by the Minister of Ceremonies for this particular purpose. This was a
matter the discussion of which required some caution and delicacy to
avoid giving any offence to His Majesty's known pride and pertinacity
upon points of this nature. I resolved therefore to accept the trifling
presents offered to my myself and the provisions for the ship; but for
obvious reasons declined those for His Excellency the Most Noble the
Governor General, avoiding, however, all discussions tending to excite
irritation respecting the motives for doing so. The Minister seemed
satisfied with the reasons I assigned, but an officious member of the
deputation in spite of my endeavours to the contrary brought on a dis-
cussion of the subject which ended in a reference to His Majesty. The
concessions originally granted on a former occasion of trading to Kam-
boja and Tonquin were formally withdrawn upon this, under what
council unfriendly to us I could not ascertain, but ostensibly because the
countries were new conquests and His Majesty did not think it right for
a short time to encourage resort of strangers to them.
Our final departure from Hui had been set for the 14th, but the
discussions which took place on the 12th necessarilv put it off. On the
15th the two principal assistants of the Minister waited upon me. Their
object was to induce me to accept His Majesty's presents for His Excel-
lency the Most Noble the Governor General, but, as I firmly declined
this, they informed me that as I did not find myself authorised to
comply with the customs of the country it was contrary to etiquette to
send any reply to His Excellency's letter, which could not therefore be
done. They then proceeded to give to me the commercial document
duly sealed and signed.
On the following day I waited upon the first Minister and took
leave. He endeavoured to persuade me to accept the presents, and as
an inducement stated that His Majesty would be present himself in the
Hall of Audience when they were offered, but as I persisted in my first
resolution, he expressed his regret that no answer could be given to the
Governor General's letter owing to my thus declining an acknowledged
form of the etiquette of the Court.
During the whole of the negotiation which ended in this day's visit,
obstacles of considerable difficulty were encountered. Counsellors hos-
tile in a national point of view to our interests were on the spot to advise
His Majesty, and he was jealously alive to our ambition and fearful of
our power. The great object which I held in view in my intercourse


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Missions to Cochin China

with them was to dispel these unfavourable prepossessions and to con-

vince them of the real justice and moderation of our views. Had the
objects of the mission in any respect been of a political nature, or had
there been any chance of our maintaining a future connection with the
country, it would perhaps have been necessary to have assumed a higher
tone, but under existing circumstances such a line of conduct in the
negotiations certainly did not appear to me the best means of ensuring
our present success or the proper security against embarrassing the
government I had the honour of representing.
We quitted Hui on the morning of the 17 th to return to the Bay of
Turon by land, having previously obtained permission for this purpose
and having been supplied with travelling equipage by the Cochin Chinese
Government. This afforded us an opportunity of seeing a small part
of the interior of the country of which I was glad to avail myself.
On the 19th we reached the ship.
The Intendant of the Port had been despatched from the capital to
receive us and to deliver to me the presents for myself and the refresh-
ments for the ship. On the 20th I went on shore for the purpose of
being present at the ceremony of delivering the presents in question.
While at Hui I had obtained permission to visit the town of Fai-fo,
the principal commercial emporium of the northern provinces of Cochin
China, distant about 36 miles in a southerly direction from the Bay of
Turon where we lay at anchor. This object I effected on the 22nd , 23rd
and 24th of October. By the merchants of this place, who are all
Chinese, we were handsomely received as at Sai-gon, and they did not
fail to express on every occasion the deepest anxiety for a commercial
intercourse with our Nation. By this journey I brought to a conclusion
as far as lay in my power every object pointed out to me by the spirit
of my instructions.
It is with great pleasure that I report that the concessions granted
to our trade by the Government of Cochin China are equal to the highest
expectations of success entertained by His Excellency the Governor
General as pointed out in my instructions. Our trade is admitted into
the three principal ports of Cochin China on the same terms as that of
the Chinese. These are the terms which were granted to the French
about three years ago, and imply a reduction of the former imposts of
one third of the whole amount. No import duties of any description
are charged and export duties apply only to a few inconsiderable articles
and commonly do not exceed five per cent. The duty on tonnage or
measurement is fairly rated according to the size of the ship, and the
amount is extremely moderate, being short - according to the nearest
estimate I can make - of one half of that levied in China. There are
neither port nor anchorage fees and the excellence of the harbours of
Cochin China precluded the necessity of pilots and the charges incident
to them. Ships paying the duties at one port are exempted at all the
others during a whole season; and ships touching at the ports of Cochin
China for refreshment or for making enquiries into the state of trade


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Alastair Lamb

are exempted from all charges whatsoever. These regulations appear

so equitable and moderate as to leave little further to be desired on this
subject with the exception of the admission of our trade to Tonquin,
which from the private assurances made to me I have little doubt will
soon be conceded to us.149
I have omitted no opportunity of collecting information respecting
the commercial resources of every part of the country we have visited,
and I shall have it in my power to lay before His Excellency the Most
Noble the Governor General in Council details of considerable length
on this subject. These resources, indeed, as well as the population and
military strength of the country, have been greatly overrated by the
French and other European writers, but are still respectable. Cochin
China will afford a market for some of our manufactures and colonial
produce, and supply us in return with articles suited both to the
European and Indian market; but according to my best judgement it
appears to me that the intermediate commerce which it will enable us
to maintain with portions of the Chinese Empire with which we have
at present either no intercourse at all or a moderate one will prove a
more valuable channel for the employment of our trade than our direct
intercourse wtih the country itself. The Chinese carry on trade with

149. These were not, in fact, special terms for the British or concessions on
the part of lhe Cochin Chinese authorities, but merely the terms of trade
then prevailing for the Chinese and, since the Bordeaux entry into this
market, the French.
The duties on measurement were as follows, according to an appendix
to Crawfurd's report:
At Hu

Vessels 14-25 cubits (1 cubit = 16 inches) wide, 84 quans per cubit

- - 54 - -
2 " " ^ " " "
" 7- 8 21 ,,
At Sai-gon
Vessels 14-25 140
11-13 90
,, 70
7~ 8 35
Chaigneau, writing in 1820, gave very similar figures:
At Hu

Vessels 14-25 cubits wide, 96 quans per cubit

7-13 60
A t Sai-gon
" " " "
7"13 100 "
(See: Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 298.)
The currency of Cochin China was as follows:
The sapeca or dong , copper cash, was the basic coin.
60 sapecas equalled a mas or tien.
10 mas equalled a quan.
2 quan 8 mas equalled 1 tael.
1 quan 5 mas equalled 1 Spanish Dollar.
(See: Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., p. 329.)


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Missions to Cochin China

Cochin China from every province of that Empire from Canton to the
Yellow Sea, including at least ten different ports with which our Nation
has no direct intercourse. What these traders are at a loss for in
Cochin China are return cargoes, and if we supply them with the
manufactures of Europe and Indian produce, particularly cotton, opium,
pepper and tin, they will leave the rough produce of Cochin China,
sugar, raw silk and cinnamon, for us to export. Besides this channel of
employment for our capital through the maritime ports of China, a new
and to a great measure an untried one is held out to us for disseminating
our productions among the Chinese in the connection which subsists
between the northern portions of Cochin China and those provinces of
China which immediately border upon it, particularly the extensive one
pf Yu-nan. A brisk international trade is at present conducted between
these countries, and even also our opium and some of our European
manufactures find their way from Canton to the Western Provinces
through the route of Tonquin. The most intelligent of the Chinese
merchants with whom I conversed in the different parts of Cochin
China which I visited pointed out these resources of employment for our
trade and capital.
The political condition of the Kingdom of Cochin China may be
described in a few words. It embraces the whole of Tonquin, the whole
of Cochin China and the largest and best part of Kamboja,150 thus
uniting three distinct states and constituting a more extensive power
than ever was established in the countries lying between China and
Siam in any other known period of their history. The political impor-
tance, however, appears to have been greatly overrated. From the
information obtained by us in both countries, it does not appear that its
population is superior, if indeed equal, to that of Siam. Its territory is
in general of inferior fertility and its foreign commerce scarce amounts
to one half of that of the latter kingdom. In Cochin China a military
organisation has been established through the example and assistance
of the French refugees in the country which has at least a very imposing
appearance. The army consists of about forty thousand men uniformly
clothed in British broad cloth, officered after the European manner and
divided up into battalions under brigades. The park of artillery is
numerous and excellent. Not only cannon is cast in Cochin China, but
shells, cannon ball and grape, and very good gunpowder is manufac-
tured. All this makes the power of Cochin China sufficiently formid-
able to its native neighbours, but it is in all probability the very circum-
stances which would render it an easier prey to the ambition of any
European power that might attempt its conquest. The principal part
of the army, the whole magazines and granaries of the Kingdom, are
at the seat of government the capture of which, no arduous enterprise
to an European power, would be nearly equivalent to the conquest of
150. Cambodia, as the term is now understood, had become a protectorate of
Gia Long's by 1812, and was thereafter a bone of contention between
Vietnam and Siam. Crawfurd uses the term Cambodia (Kamboja) in a
wider sense to take in the whole Mekong delta region including Saigon.


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Alastair Lamb

the whole Kingdom. What degree of military courage was displayed

by the Cochin Chinese troops in the long civil contest which took place
among themselves I do not know, but as far as our own short experience
went the soldiers appeared to us to be remarkable only for their timidity
and singularly destitute of the confidence necessary to make good
soldiers. The terror of the European name was in particular here felt
to an extent which I have never seen equalled even among the most
timid of the peasantry in Western India.
I make no hesitation in giving it as my decided opinion that no
foreign influence exists at the Court of Cochin China hostile to our own
political interests. Of all European nations the Cochin Chinese enter-
tain great jealousy, nor is it in the least degree probable as long as the
country remains as it now is, united and free from insurrection or inter-
nal dissention, that they will permit any European party to establish an
influence of the least importance in their councils. The whole of what
is now called the French party in Cochin China never amounted to
above 12 or 13 individuals, of whom two only are now alive.151 The
missionaries have no influence whatever and never come near the seat
of government. Of the French who have recently visited Cochin China,
neither his present nor his late Majesty ever permitted an individual to
come into his presence. The greater number of them indeed have not
even been permitted to come within the walls of the new city, still less
do they hold any fresh employments. Had the treaty which was con-
cluded with France in 1787, when the Kingdom was divided by a civil
war, been carried into effect matters would have taken a very different
turn from what they have done, and the certain result would have been
a French conquest of the country. The war between France and Great
Britain put an end to this expectation, and ever since the year 1802,
when the power of the late King was established without opposition
throughout the whole of his present dominions and the assistance of
the individuals of the French nation employed by him in his wars was
no longer necessary, they ceased to have any influence or authority.
In December, 1817, a mission from the Court of France arrived in
Cochin China. The Envoy was Mr. Kargariou, an officer of rank in
the French Navy, and from what I could learn from native authority
the object of the mission was to require the cession of the Bay and
territory of Turon tfiven to France by the treaty of 1787, as well as the
payment of a certain debt said to be owing to the Court of France by
that of Cochin China. The late King, although the prince who had
formed the French connection, would neither see the Envoy nor receive
the presents of His Majesty Louis XVIII, highly offended, as I was
given to understand from the same source, at the nature of the proposi-
151. At the time of Roberts visit to Hu in 1804 there were four Frenchmen
in the service Gia Long, Chaigneau, Vannier, de Forsanz and Despiau.
De Forsanz died in 1811. Dr. Despiau, however, was still in Hu at the
time of Crawfurd's visit and died there of cholera in 1824. Despiau
was, by all accounts, a physician of abysmal mediocrity whose mental
faculties, towards the end of his life, declined considerably. He failed
to make a fortune during his long stay in Cochin China- he came out in
1J95 - and he enjoyed no political influence at all. It is not surprising
that Crawfurd should make no mention of him.
(See: Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 296; Maybon, op. cit., pp. 387-


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Missions to Cochin China

tions made to him.152 In March last the Franch frigate Cleopatre

touched at Turon Bay, and it was generally given out that the com-
mander was charged with some diplomatic mission from the Court of
France, but neither would his present Majesty grant this officer an
audience. 153i The French gentlemen at the Court of Cochin China them-
selves gave it out that His Majesty the King of Cochin China declined
making over to France the territorial cession yielded in the treaty of
1787 only because he apprehended that Great Britain in the event of a
war with France would seize upon the territory in question and make it
a pretext for establishing its power in the Kingdom. The explanation
however offered by the natives, which represented His Majesty as
152. Crawfurd, of course, was misinformed as to the objectives of the Kerga-
riou mission (see pp. ? above). Kergariou's instructions, which are
printed below, make it quite clear that the French envoy was authorised
to do no more than show the flag of the Restoration Monarchy and
exchange compliments with Gia Long.
Crawfurd does not state his source for this information, but implies
that it came from some official personage. Perhaps we can detect here
an example of the determination of the Cochin Chinese to avoid foreign
entanglements, and can conclude that this information was given to
Crawfurd to convince him that there was no danger of the Cochin
Chinese permitting the establishment of French influence.
Extract from de Kergariou's Instructions, issued by the French
Ministry of the VIarine and Colonies. (Translated from T'oung Pao,
Series 2, Vol. IX, 1906, p. 177.)
On your arrival in that Bay [the Bay of Tourane] you will
write to Messrs. Chaigneau and Vannier, former Naval Officers
at present Mandarins at the King's Court. These gentlemen,
having rendered services to His Majesty, should be able to help
in obtaining an audience.
But your mission having solely for its object to show the flag
of the King of France in 1he seas of Asia, to protect there
French vessels who might find themselves there, to collect useful
information on trade and navigation, and there being no question
of opening any negotiations, you will so inform Messrs. Chaig-
neau and Vannier.
You will, besides, say to them that His Majesty having
ordered you to call at Cochin China, has wished to offer to the
Sovereign of this Kingdom a small present as a token of the
friendship which the unfortunate Louis XVI had for him and of
that which he had also held for His Majesty, as much for their
respective merits as for the similarity of their destinies. You will
do your best to obtain an audience with His Majesty and present
to him yourself this gift. But, whether you succeed in this or
not, you will take this opportunity to inform His Majesty of the
return to the kingdom of his ancestors of the King of France,
Louis XVIII, and you will seek in his name the aid of His Majesty
the King of Cochin China and Tonkin for the sailors and mer-
chants of France who might come to the ports of his dominions.
You will stay in the port of Tourane no longer than is
necessary to fulfil this part of your mission; you will then set
sail and cruise down the coasts of Cochin China. I authorise
you to put in at those ports of this kingdom in which the safety
of your frigate, the purchase of fresh provisions and the need
for water or wood should induce you to enter. You should leave
this region by the middle of February [1818].
153. The French frigate Cloptre, commanded by Courson de la Ville Hlio,
anchored at Tourane on 28th February, 1822. Its commander sought an
audience with Minh-Mang which was refused. The Cloptre set sail
on 2nd March, 1822. (See: H. Cordier, Le Consulat de France Hu
sous la Restauration, Paris 1884, pp. 81-83.)


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Alastair Lamb

indignant at the prospect for a cession of part of his territory to a foreign

power, appears to me to be more reasonable and more consonant to the
real character of the government and to the political station which it at
present occupies.
If the Court of France in sending the mission of 1817 really con-
templated an acquisition of territory, an establishment in 'the country
or any other political advantages beyond a fair commercial intercourse,
it must have acted in profound ignorance of the real state of the country
and the character of the government. Mr. Chaigneau, one of the French
Mandarines now at the Court, returned to France in 1820 and, as he
held an intercourse with the French Ministry, would have put them in
possession of such information respecting the true state of the country
as must dissuade them from any other attempt to acquire political
influence in Cochin China until some internal change takes place in the
Should however at some future period foreign European influence
hostile to ourselves be established in Cochin China, or the government
of that country be led into an offensive alliance against us, it appears in
my judgement that there is no situation where such an influence could
be more easily destroyed without the smallest risk of involving ourselves
in the affairs of the country. The capital and all the central provinces
of the kingdom of Cochin China depend chiefly for subsistence upon
the fertile countries lying upon the two great rivers of Tonquin and
Kamboja, and the government receives the principal part of its revenues
from the same quarter. A blockade of these two rivers, therefore, which
could be done safely and effectively with the smallest naval force, would
soon reduce the government of Cochin China to any terms that it might
be found necessary to prescribe to it. The necessity of such a measure,
however, from the fair character of the Cochin Chinese government, but
above all from its great apprehension of the British power in India, can
from present appearances be viewed only as a remote probability.

I have, & ca.,

Bay of Turon, J. Crawfurd.
Cochin China,
October 25th, 1822.


crawfurd's general report on his mission to cochin china, dated

3RD APRIL, 1823.

Board's Collections, Vol. 774, Collection No. 20,935

115. I now proceed to offer a sketch of Cochin China. The

Empire known to us by that name appears to be in geographical extent
at least the largest state which has ever existed in the regions between
Hindustan and China, for it comprehends by far the larger part of that


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Plate XI. The Deputy Governor of Cambodia in his dress of ceremony.
(From Crawfurd, Embassy , op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

extensive peninsula which is situated between the Gulfs of Siam and

116. This Empire, which took its existing form in the first years
of this century, comprises the whole of Cochin China, the whole of
Tonquin, the principal part of Kamboja and the little state of Champa.
Its geographical limits extend from the point of Kamboja .... to the
northern confines of Tonquin .... It is bordered to the north by the
Chinese provinces of Canton, Kwangsi and Yu-nan, and to the west by
the kingdoms of Laos and Siam. The Gulfs of Siam and Tonquin and
the China Sea bound it in every other direction.
117. For an estimate of the population of Cochin China I unfor-
tunately found it impracticable to obtain any correct statements. There
is every reason to believe however that it has been very greatly exag-
gerated. The last European writer whose work appeared as late as
1810 goes the length of stating it as no less than 23 ,000,000. 155 Tonquin
is by far the most populous portion of the Empire, and there is no
question that the extensive alluvial districts situated on its fine river are
very thickly inhabited. Cochin China with the exception of a few
favourable spots is a sterile and mountainous country and but thinly
populated. The same observations apply to Champa and Kamboja.
The French gentlemen156 with whom I conversed in Cochin China
154. The first 114 paragraphs of this report, which deal with Crawfurd's mis-
sion to Siam, have been printed in The Crawfurd Papers, Bangkok 1915.
A French translation of the paragraphs printed here, which relate to
Cochin China, was published by H. Berland in BSEI (NS) No. 1, 1948,
Les Papiers du Dr. Crawfurd. This was intended to provide those portions
relating to Cochin China which were excluded from the documents printed
in The Crawfurd Papers, Bangkok, 1915. The Bangkok collection was
translated into French by Berland and published in BSEI 1941.
155. Pre de la Bissachire, a French missionary who lived in various parts
of Cochin China from 1789 to 1806, provided much information on the
history and economy of Cochin China which was incorporated into the
following two works: Felix Renouard de Sainte Croix, Voyage Commer-
cial aux Indes Orientales, Paris 1810; and Baron de Montyon, Expos
statistique du Tonkin et de la Cochinchine, London 1811. Crawfurd is
referring to one these two books.
156. Chaigneau and Vannier. Much of Crawfurd's information on Cochin
China, its economy and history, seems to have been derived from this
source. Crawfurd had access to a memorandum compiled by Chaigneau
while in France in 1820, and intended for the information of the French
Government. Crawfurd, in his Embassy, op. cit., refers to this document
as the M.S. of M. Chaigneau. The portion of this quoted in Crawfurd,
Embassy, op. cit., pp. 519-520 note, is a direct translation of part of
Chaigneau's memorandum which Taboulet prints, Taboulet, op. cit., Vol.
I, pp. 297-300. It seems unlikely, however, that Crawfurd was allowed
to see this document in its entirety, for Chaigneau in his concluding
summary points out the following advantages of a closer connection
between France and Cochin China:
in times of war against England, [Chaigneau observed] French
frigates would be able to undertake on these seas patrols useful
for us and harmful for the enemy, who would not be able to
bring past the produce of China. Our ships would always find
in Cochin China safe harbours, supplies of every kind, and,
among the natives, friendly dispositions
disdains the advantages which the favourable inclination of the
Emperor [Gia Long] would make it easy to obtain, it is to be
feared that a rival nation will seize them.


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Alastair Lamb

seemed inclined to estimate the whole population of the Kingdom at

about ten millions, but even this appears to me to be greatly overrating
it; and upon the whole holding in view the character of the govern-
ment, the state of civilisation and industry, the nature of the soil and
the geographical extent of the country, and comparing all these circum-
stances with those of countries the amount of whose inhabitants have
been better determined, I should not be inclined to rate the population
of the Cochin China Empire at above 6,000,000 of inhabitants. One
ingredient in the population of Siam, namely the Chinese, forms in the
mass of that of Cochin China comparatively but an unimportant and
inconsiderable one. They were estimated to me to amount throughout
the Kingdom to about 40,000, of which 30,000 were assigned to Ton-
quin, 5,000 to Kamboja - or, rather, to Sai-gon - and as many more to
the central provinces including the capital.
118. The Kingdom of Cochin China, although I thought inferior
to Siam in fertility of soil and in variety and richness of productions,
possesses extraordinary advantages for commerce, both from its central
situation and its navigable rivers and its innumerable and excellent
119. Within the whole Kingdom there appear to be no less than
5 great or considerable navigable rivers, viz., that of Kangkac,157 of
Kamboja, of Sai-gon, of Tonquin and Hui.
120. The first of these empties itself into the Gulf of Siam, and
upon this are situated Athien158 and Pontiemas.159 This river, which
connects itself with the great river of Kamboja and thro' it leads to the
capital of that Kingdom, Panomipen,160 was much frequented about a
century ago by European traders. This is the place to which in my
negotiation with the Cochin Chinese Court I was anxious to obtain a
free access as being the only considerable Cochin Chinese port upon
the Gulf of Siam and offering a more direct access into the interior of
121. The River of Kamboja appears to be one of the longest in
Asia. It empties itself into the sea in about the latitude of 10, extends
thro' the whole of Kamboja, the Kingdom of Laos, the Chinese province
of Yu-nan and, if the map of the Jesuits can be relied upon, passes
through Boutan and has its origins in the mountains of Tartary about the
latitude 35. Owing to the anarchy and disorder which have for more
than a century back prevailed in Kamboja, this river has for a long time
scarcely been frequented by Europeans. Yet at one period it seems to
have been well known and tolerable delineations have been handed down
to us of the lower portions of it.

157. The river Kangkac. The Giang-thanh river leading to the Vinh-te canal
which joins the Bassac branch of the Mekong at Chau Doc. The details
of this waterway are shown in PI. Ill of Vol. 1 of L. Malleret, L'Archo-
logie du Delta du Mekong, Paris 1959.
158. Athien = Ha-tien.

159. Pontiemas was situated a few miles upstream from Ha-tien. Until 1717,
when it was destroyed by the Siamese, it was the main port by which
European traders approached Pnompenh. (See: Hamilton, East Indies
op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 105-108.)
160 Panomipen = Pnompenh.


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122. The River of Sai-gon ... is politically one of the safest and
most commercial navigable streams in the world. Ships of almost any
size may enter into it without a pilot and even sail to the city of Sai-gon,
50 miles up the stream, by the common sailing directions. The natives
informed me that the river was navigable for craft of considerable
burden for 20 days voyage above this place. The River of Sai-gon is
not only convenient for navigation, but the alluvial districts in its vicinity
are highly productive; and on this account it forms the second place of
commerce in the Kingdom, ranking next to Cachao in Tonquin, and
of late years it has attracted the whole commerce of Kamboja which
used formerly to be conducted on the great river of that country itself.
123. Cochin China proper has no navigable river of any magnitude.
The River of Hui,

being but shallow, is not of extensive utility either to external or internal

navigation. Its estuary, however, forms a fine harbour. In the South
West Monsoon ships of 200 tons burden enter and quit it in great safety.
In the opposite Monsoon, on the contrary, it is almost inaccessible.
124. In Tonquin there is one river which in former periods was
well known to European navigators, and appears to have been then
accessible, notwithstanding the bar at its mouth, to vessels of 400 or 500
tons burden.161 From the best information I could obtain the entrance
appears at present to be much obstructed by sand banks, and the river
is not navigable for vessels above 200 tons burden. The capital of
Tonquin is situated upon this stream at a distance of about 120 miles
from its mouth. This river, which fertilises a great tract of country, is
the principal source of the productiveness of Tonquin, and, having its
origin in the centre of the great Chinese province of Yu-nan and extend-
ing throughout the whole of Tonquin, it would appear to afford a very
extensive and useful internal navigation.
125. In regard to harbours Cochin China appears to be singularly
fortunate. Within the 6 degrees and a half of latitude which intervene
between Cape St. James and the Bay of Turon there are no less than
11 of the finest harbours in the world, accessible with every wind and
safe to approach, and when attained affording the most complete pro-
126. The high roads and canals, constructed by the late king,
may here be alluded to as contributing very materially to encourage
the trade and industry of the country. By the latter as well as the
former Cochin China proper and Tonquin are now united to each other
and by this channel a constant trading intercourse is maintained between
them independent of the Monsoons.
127. An extensive chain of primitive mountains divides Kamboja
a low country - from Cochin China, while Tonquin is generally a
wide champaign country. This formation of the land is a source of
considerable diversity in climate and productions, and renders much of
these component parts of the Empire in a commercial point of view the
more necessary to each other. In the champaign countries of Kamboja
and Tonquin the two dry seasons correspond with those of Bengal and
161. See: Maybon, op. cit., pp. 403-409, for an account of the river of
Tonkin, which was used by merchants of the English East India Com-
pany in the 17th century.


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Alastair Lamb

other countries about the northern Tropic, but owing to the extensive
range of mountains which run between Kamboja and Cochin China
the seasons are exactly reversed, and the rain begins to fall in the
middle of October extending throughout the whole of the cold season.
128. The productive grain countries are necessarily those situated
upon the great rivers of Tonquin and Kamboja and consequently supply
the capital and the central part of the kingdom with a very large portion
of their consumption. The latter could not well subsist without a large
supply from the former, and this is the source of the most extensive
branch of its trade.
129. I shall proceed to enumerate the principal products of the
country in reference to their importance to us as articles of foreign
trade. Sugar is the most valuable of them. This is cheaply produced
in the central districts of Cochin China proper, and both in agriculture
and manufacture is the result of the labour of the natives of the country
and not of that of the Chinese as in Siam. Upon the whole the com-
modity, of a good grain, is inferior in whiteness to that of Siam. The
whole exportation appears to be about 130,000 piculs and has princi-
pally been sent to China.
130. Raw silk is the next article in value. Of this there is little
or none produced in Kamboja, but in Cochin China the culture as we
had an opportunity of observing ourselves is extensive, and in Tonquin
is still more so. The quantity of this commodity which the whole king-
dom could export was estimated to me at about 120,000 lbs. weight a
year. TCie objections to it are the shortness of the skein and, therefore,
its unsuitableness to our machinery, and the want of gloss in the staple
resulting from the solution of the gummy matter owing to the cocoons
being subjected to too high a temperature in reeling them. A seer162 o
it duly examined in the Calcutta market was considered to be worth
11 Rs., being considered somewhat better than Bengal silk not produced
at the Company's filatures. The French ships which lately visited
Cochin China carried home considerable quantities of it, and it appears
that the coarser kind was found to answer very well in the French
131. Cochin China produces the true cinnamon. The whole pro-
duce of this article for exportation appears to be about 2,000 piculs163
or 266,000 lbs. Its growth is confined to the mountains of central
Cochin China, from whence it is exported to Kamboja and Tonquin,
but principally to China where it is much more highly valued than any
other quality of this aromatic. Altho' in taste highly agreeable and
aromatic in its present state of preparation, it is not suited to the Indian
or European markets. To render it suited to our consumption it would
be necessary that the natives should be instructed in freeing it from
the epidermis and otherwise packing and preparing it as practised in
Ceylon, a matter which might be communicated without difficulty
through the Chinese.
132. Another exclusive product of the central provinces which is
extensively cultivated and supplied to the neighbouring provinces is
162. By a seer Crawfurd meant a weight of about 3 lbs. 40 seers made a
163. A picul equals 100 catties or 133i lbs.


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tea. This is a very coarse and very cheap commodity, the price seldom
exceeding a penny or two pence a pound. Whether under other cir-
cumstances of our relations with this part of the world this tea might
not be exported for the consumption of the poorer estates in England
may be a subject for consideration.
133. The productions of the alluvial districts of the kingdom and
the adjacent forests are nearly identical with those of Siam, and it will
only be necessary to enumerate the principal of them. These are for
Kamboja: gamboge,164 cardomuns, eagle wood, areka,165 ivory, stick
lac,166 hides and bones, dried fish, rare woods and woods for naval and
domestic architecture. For Tonquin they are: varnish, stick lac and
woods and roots for dying.
134. Of these commodities it will only be necessary to specify
2 or 3. Valuable timber is only found in Kamboja. A small quantity
of teak-wood, but undeserving of notice, is found in the forests of this
country. The wood used for ship-building and for the manufacture of
gun carriages, and for almost all architectural purposes is one called
in the native language Sao. Not having seen the tree which produces
it, we had no opportunity of ascertaining its botanical character. This
timber from all accounts is strong and durable. It is carried to the
capital in large quantities and from it were constructed the whole of the
public buildings as well as the numerous and very beautiful gun car-
riages which we had an opportunity of examining in the Royal Arsenal.
A hard black wood is extensively used in cabinet work, and being of
large dimensions and affording a fine polish seems extremely well suited
to this purpose, and may probably answer for exportation to our settle-
ments. Kamboja also produces the timber called by the Portuguese
rose-wood, and this the Chinese export as they do from Siam.
135. Of the vegetable products exported from Tonquin I shall
advert only to one. This is a species of root called in the Annam
language Mao Kin and in that of Canton Shu-leong .166a It forms the
dead-weight of all Chinese cargoes exported from Tonquin. This,
which is a very cheap material, is extensively used both throughout
Tonquin and Cochin China as well as in China as the material for a
red dye, and it is on this account that I notice it here, believing it
possible that it may be applied to similar purpose by own manu-

164. Gamboge. A drug prepared from the sap of a species of jungle tree
related to the mangostine tree. The name appears to be derived from
Kamboja, the Malay name for Cambodia which is the chief source of
this commodity.
165. Areka. The fruit of the Areka palm. The dried Areca nuts were widely
consumed in India and China, where they were appreciated as a stimu-
lant comparable with tea, coffee or tobacco.
166. Stick lac. An incrustation produced on certain trees by the lac insect.
The crude resinous product is known as stick lack, from which is pro-
duced lac dye and the varnish base known as shellac. The lac dye pro-
duces a red colour, and from the word lac is derived the English term
lake as in crimson lake. The lac insect occurs throughout S.E. Asia, but
the best quality product is to be found in the mainland rather than the
166a. Berland, BSEI 1947, p. 55n, equates this with the Tonkinese dyestuff
cu-nau, which provides the burnt Sienna colour of the clothes most com-
monly worn by the ordinary people of Tonkin.


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Alastair Lamb

136. Tonquin is the only portion of the Cochin Chinese Empire

which yields the metals. Among these are iron, gold and silver. The
iron of Tonquin, which seems to be nearly as cheap as that of Siam,
supplies the whole kingdom with the exception of Sai-gon which is
furnished from the latter country.
137. About 12 days journey from Cachao,17 the capital of Ton-
quin, and lying in a westerly direction from it, are situated the gold
and silver mines of Ton-Seng and Sai-Seng. These as well as the iron
mines, are entirely wrought by Chinese settlers and not by the natives.
Of the quantity of gold these yield I could procure no account, but
the ackowledged amount of the silver is 215,000 to 220,000 ounces
annually. Of both metals a large quantity, it is admitted, is smuggled
into the neighbouring provinces of China. The gold and silver of Ton-
quin is both cast and coined into ingots in the country itself.
138. Tonquin also affords both copper and spelter, but commer-
cially only, for I have reason to believe that these 2 metals are imported
from Yu-nan. In whatever way obtained, the price of the spelter at
least appears to be very moderate at Cachao, where it is largely pur-
chased by the government to be coined, as it forms the principal cur-
rency of the kingdom.
139. The commodities which the Cochin Chinese receive in the
course of commerce in exchange for their productions now enumerated,
are: the manufactured goods of China, certain of the productions of
the Malayan Islands and of India, and a few of the manufactures of
140. The productions they receive from China are manufactured
silks, porcelain, medical drugs, a very large supply of paper principally
for religious purposes and some fine teas. From the Malayan coun-
tries they receive pepper, cloves and nutmegs with sandal wood and
tin; and from India opium and saltpetre. From Europe the present
importations consist only of broad cloth and fine cotton goods, fire
arms and wrought iron.
141. Upon some of these articles I shall offer a few remarks.
Pepper of a good quality but in small quantity and of high price is
produced in the central provinces of Cochin China. The quantity is
inadequate to the demands which the Chinese trade creates for its
exportation, and this article as well as tin may be pointed out as com-
modities likely to be imported with advantage into Cochin China. Of
opium the consumption of the kingdom, estimating the wholesale price
at 3,500 Spanish Dollars the chest, is stated to be about 150 chests a
year, two thirds of this being estimated for Tonquin and one third for
Cochin China and Kamboja. Until the establishment of Singapore the
whole of this supply had been obtained indirectly from Canton, some
portion of it by the junks and a great deal by land communication.
142. Broad cloth seems long to have been consumed in Cochin
China, and at present the army amounting to 40,000 men is uniformly
and amply clothed in British woollens consisting chiefly of strong coarse
scarlet broad cloth, and a small quantity of yellow and green of the
same texture with a few serges. Independently of these, there is a

167. The old Hanoi.


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Missions to Cochin China

demand for some woollens of a finer fabric among the better classes
of the people for occasional winter use.
143. From Canton and Singapore the junks have of late brought
small quantities of fine heavy cotton goods, which are much in request
amongst the better classes. Chintzes and other coloured cotton goods,
so well suited to the taste of the Siamese, are not at all consumed by the
Cochin Chinese with the exception of handkerchiefs. Neither are our
coarse white cottons such as are manufactured in India fit to be
imported in Cochin China, for from the specimens which I brought
from that country it does not appear that we are capable of competing
with them in this direction with their domestic manufacture.
144. The Cochin Chinese, notwithstanding their skill in the fabri-
cation of cannon and the manufacture of ammunition, are incapable of
supplying themselves with fire arms and have at all times been furnished
with them by Europeans. One of the French ships which came out in
1819 supplied the King of Cochin China with 10,000 stand of arms,
yet these still continue as articles in demand.168 Notwithstanding the
apparent cheapness of the native iron of both Siam and Cochin China,
still this does not exclude the importation of the same commodity from
Europe, the use of which, from the little loss sustained in the operation
of forging compared to the native metal, has advantages over it even
in point of dearness.
145. The foreign trade of the Cochin Chinese Empire is almost
exclusively with China. The trade which it carries on with Siam is
inconsiderable, and that with Europeans still smaller. The Cochin
Chinese, like the Siamese and, I presume, for the same reasons, are
prohibited from going abroad, and whatever foreign trade they possess
is carried on not by themselves but by the natives of those countries
with whom they hold intercourse. The subjects of Cochin China, how-
ever, are permitted to go abroad by licence, and in this manner a few
of them visit China; and within the last two or three years several of
their merchants have visited the European ports in the Straits of
Malacca and particularly Singapore. I may here remark that were the
Cochin Chinese permitted the liberty of freely going abroad I know no
people of the East so well fitted to make expert mariners from their
hardiness, their activity and their prompt and cheerful habits of
obedience. The Cochin Chinese, altho' not permitted to go abroad,
conduct a considerable traffic by sea between one part of the Empire
and another. In the course of this, as well as in the transporting of
the tributes to the capital, they acquire a good deal of maritime
experience. Their vessels, it has been remarked by good judges, are
the best description of native craft anywhere to be seen in India, and
fit to encounter without danger the worst weather. In addition to this
testimony, the 2 French gentlemen at the Court of Cochin China who
had each commanded a corvette of 16 guns manned entirely by Cochin
Chinese assured me that they made brave and expert seamen.
168. The Henry, commanded by Captain Rey and belonging to the Bordeaux
merchant house of Philippon, made its second voyage to Cochin China in
1819 - the first voyage was in 1817-1818 - with a cargo of 10,000 rifles.
(See: Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 290-292; H. Cordier, Bordeaux et la
Cochinchine sous la Restauration , T'oung Pao 1904, p. 529; Moor, Notices
of the Indian Archipelago, op. cit. p. 230.)


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Alastair Lamb

146. The Chinese trade of the Empire is chiefly conducted with

Cachao in Tonquin, Sai-gon in Kamboja and Hui and Faifo in Cochin
China, but there is also some intercourse with the minor ports of
Pung-tai, Ya-trang, Fu-yin, Sam Chao, Kwin-nyon and Kwang-yiieo
147. On the part of China the trade is conducted with all the
4 great maritime provinces from the Gulf of Tonquin up to the Yellow
Sea, and commonly with several ports of each. Of all this trade, it
may be generally observed that from the nature of the monsoons an
annual voyage only can be made. The trade between Tonquin, Hainan
and Canton, from their nearness and relative position, is an exception
and admits of 2 voyages yearly.
148. The following sketch will convey a tolerable idea of the
character and amount of the Chinese trade.
Port of Cachao in Tonquin.
From the Island of Hai-nan 18 junks of 2,000 piculs
burden each

From Canton 11 junks of 2,250 piculs burden each 24,750

From Fokien 7 junks of 2,250 piculs burden each 15,750
From Kiang-nan and Chi-kiang 7 junks of 2,500 piculs
burden each

Port of Sai-gon in Kamboja.

From Hai-nan 20 junks of 2,250 piculs burden each 45,000
From the port of Canton 2 junks of 6,000 piculs
burden each ...

From Fokien 1 junk of 7,000 piculs burden

From the provinces of Chi-kiang and Kiang-nan 7

junks of 6,500 piculs burden each
Port of Faifo in Cochin China.
From Hai-nan 3 junks of 2,750 piculs burden each 8,250
From the port of Canton 6 junks of 3,000 piculs
burden ....

From Fokien 4 junks of 3,000 piculs burden each ... 12,000

From Kiang-nan and Chi-kiang 2 junks of 2,500
piculs burden each

Port of Hui.
From Hai-nan, Canton, Macao and the Northern Pro-
vinces generally 10 junks averaging at about 3,000 piculs

Minor Ports of Cochin China.

From different ports in China 18 junks of about
2,000 piculs burden each ... 36,000
(Total) Piculs ... 311,750
149. The whole of this trade, at a rate of 16 piculs to a ton.
amounts to nearly 20,000 tons, being very little more than one half
of the Chinese trade of the single port of Bangkok, such is the benefit
derived to the latter from the numbers and free enterprise of the
Chinese residents of that country, for I make no doubt that it is to them
alone that the superiority of the Siamese trade is to be attributed.

169. Pung-tai - ? Phanri; Ya-trang = ? Nha-trang; Fu-yin = Phuyen; Sam

Chao = ? Song-cau; Kwin-nyon = Qui-nhon; Kwang-yi = ? Quang-tri.


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Missions to Cochin China

150. The trade of Cochin China with Siam and which is confined
to the port of Sai-gon I have already described.170
151. The Cochin Chinese Government is in theory nearly as
despotic and arbitrary as that of Siam, but in practice it is, if not
milder, certainly of a more manly and candid character. The Cochin
Chinese in their forms of Government, as they do in their other institu-
tions, imitate the Chinese; and they fall as much short of these people
in the administration of their laws as they do in ingenuity and enter-
prise. The only rank amongst them is official, and this, as in China, is
divided into 2 great classes, a civil and a military, an arrangement which
creates throughout the provinces a sort of double administration.
152. The form of the administration is regular in the habits and
modes of transacting business, equally prompt and methodical. Instead
of the procrastination which characterises most eastern governments, a
stranger will be surprised in Cochin China to find the almost alacritous
despatch in all official business; but it is probable that this is an acci-
dental advantage belonging to the personal character of the Sovereign.
153. In Cochin Oiina the princes of the blood seem to have no
share in the administration.171 The first dignity in the Kingdom is that
of Kwan. This is commonly bestowed upon the First Minister and
upon the Governor of Kamboja and Tonquin. Under the First Minis-
ter are 6 principal officers of state, who execute the details of the
administration. The first in rank of these is the Chancellor who is
charged with the care of the archives and public correspondence. The
second is the Minister of Ceremonies and religions - for these two
departments are considered to have a direct relation to each other.
The third is the Minister of Justice, the fourth the Minister of Finance,
the fifth the Minister of War and the sixth the Minister of Woods
and Forests. The duties of the latter officer are a little complex and
170. In paragraph 32 of this report Crawfurd gives a few more details of this
trade. Apart from Saigon, Ha-tien was also concerned in the Siam-
Cochin China trade, which was carried out almost exclusively by Chinese
merchants. Cochin China imported from Siam iron, and exported to it
raw silk. He estimated, in paragraph 36, that 18 junks of 850 piculs
burden each traded annually between Bangkok and Saigon.
171. Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., p. 324, gives the following account of Gia Long's
central administration:
The central government consisted, as under the Le, of six
ministers ( luo-bo ) . . . The Minister of Personnel ( bo-Lai ) selected
the civil servants, conferred titles and grades, drew up edicts and
proclamations. The Minister of Finance (bo Ho) was in charge
of the state treasury, the regulation of taxes and the fixing of
prices. The Minister of Rites (bo L) arranged the public cere-
monies, examinations and rewards for meritorious persons. The
Minister of the Army (bo Binh) recruited officers and soldiers
and kept watch over public order. The Minister of Justice
(bo Hinh) concerned himself with laws and punishments and with
the review of legal cases. The Minister of Public Works
(bo Cong) arranged the construction of public buildings, citadels
and war junks, and organised the conscription of labour and the
purchase of materials. Each ministry consisted of a president
(i thuong-thu ), two vice-presidents (tham-tri) and two assessors
(thi-lang). It was this council, and not the minister by himself,
which made all the decisions. The disagreement of a single
member resulted in the need for reference to be made to the


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Alastair Lamb

not fully expressed in the title. He not only superintends the forests
but everything that is constructed of wood, which of course includes
the public buildings and houses.
154. The Governors of Kamboja and Tonquin have their courts
and public officers as at the capital, but they make regular reports of
all their proceedings in every department to the Government.
155. The bane of the Government of Cochin China, like that of
Siam, is the universal conscription. One third of the whole adult male
population of the country is constantly employed upon the public ser-
vice, and, as in Cochin China there is a numerous priesthood to escape
to for immunity from the levee; and as a pecuniary commutation is not
admitted for the natives, the conscription falls perhaps a little more
heavily upon the people than in Siam itself. Altho' the conscription
is ostensibly for military service, yet the soldiers are compelled to per-
form many species of hard toil and menial offices that the officers of
the Government may please to exact of them over and above their
military duties, such as the construction of fortifications, rowing and
navigating the King's gallies and those of the chiefs and conveying the
taxes and tributes to the capital. We ourselves had opportunities of
seeing them drawing water and carrying the chiefs' palanquins, and
this too in their military uniforms.
156. Of the laws of Cochin China it is only necessary to say that
they are borrowed from China, but that they are evidently administered
in a spirit of less justice and mildness than in that country. The cane
seems to be the great remedy for all offences. Every one who is but
a single grade above another, either in a civil or a domestic relation,
seems to consider himself warranted in applying it without scruple.
The petty officer punishes the soldier and the officer the petty officer.
The husband punishes his wife and the wife her children. Altho' our
experience of them was but short and our intercourse casual, we had
oportunities of seeing examples of all these and I had certainly not
believed that corporal punishment could have been so frequently exer-
cised in any country until I had experienced the Cochin Chinese.
157. Corruption and extortion among the officers of the Govern-
ment are almost universal, and they appear to have no respect for the
property or the services of the lower classes except in so far as they
may contribute to their own convenience or emolument.
158. The military force of Cochin China forms as it is at present
constituted the most singular part of its government. The Cochin
Chinese army which consisted during the latter years of the civil war
of 150,000 men does not at present exceed 40,000. The men com-
monly consist of the elite of the general conscription. This army is
dressed, equipped and disciplined after the European manner. A
regiment consists of 10 companies of 60 men in each of which there
are no less than 12 non-commissioned officers and a 1st and 2nd
captain. The regiment is commanded by a Colonel and a Lieutenant
Colonel. 5 regiments constitute a legion or brigade which has a chief
and a 2nd chief. 172 The artillery is a distinct service from the
172. Brigade = doanh ; regiment = ve; company = doi. Crawfurs table of
organisation for the army agrees well with that given in Le Thanh hoi,
op. cit., p. 330.


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Plate XII. The King of Cochin China (Minh-Mang) in his dress of ceremony.
(From Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit.)

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Missions to Cochin China

infantry, and forms the completest and best organised portion of the
army. There is no cavalry, for the small horses of the country are
unfit for this description of service. The allowances of the troops
consist of pay and rations. They receive pay only when on actual
duty, and receive neither pay nor rations when on furlough. The pay
of a common soldier of the infantry as well as of the non-commissioned
officers, for in this respect there is no distinction between them, is one
kwan a month and one measure of rice which consists of almost 64
lbs. The 2nd captain has 2 kwans and 2 measures of rice; the 1st
captain 3 kwans and 3 measures of rice; and the Colonel 8 kwans and
8 measures of rice; and the commander of a brigade has 30 kwans and
30 measures of rice. A regular pensionary system exists, and as the
reward of merit or eminent services pay is often advanced when no
promotions take place. Besides all this, a large sum is disbursed by
the King for the funeral of every soldier, the only religious ceremony
to which the Cochin Chinese attach any importance.
159. The fortifications and arsenals of the Kingdom are still
superior to the army. Almost everything in this department is upon
an European model. Besides the fortifications and arsenals of the
capital which I have described in my journal, there are also a strong
and well constructed fortress and well arranged arsenal at Sai-gon, a
strong fortress at Ya-trang and another at Kwin-nyon, not to mention
the redoubts in the Bay of Turon and the strong fort at the mouth of
the river of Hui.
160. Since the termination of the civil wars the navy of Cochin
China has been permitted to fall into decay. The late King had at one
time 2 fine corvettes mounting 18 guns each, which were commanded
by the French gentlemen who are still at Court, with an extraordinary
number of war-gallies after the Cochin Chinese fashion. Of the latter
a good number still exist. They are lugg rigged vessels of 70 or 80
feet long, but extremely narrow. Their crew commonly consists of
about 50 men, and they are usually rowed by 40 oars, carrying about
10 small pieces of brass cannon. It was in them that we were conveyed
to the capital, and therefore we had a good opportunity of observing
the extraordinary degree of good order and systematic discipline which
was maintained in them.
161. The whole of this system of military organisation was the
creation of the late King, who received his instruction from a few
Europeans, principally of the French nation. The most remarkable
person among these was Pignon, a native of Brussels and titular Bishop
of Adran. A splendid mausoleum has been erected to the memory of
this singular man by the gratitude of his employer, which is to be
seen within a few miles of Sai-gon. 173 The plan once matured,
however, now exists without the assistance of any European talent and

173. Pigneau de Behaine, who was born in 1741 at Origny-en-Thierache in

the department of Aisne, and not in Brussels as Crawfurd says here.
(See: A. Faure, Les Francais en Cochinchine au XVIlIe Siecle: Mgr.
Pigneau de Behaine, Eveque Adran, Paris 1891.)
The French, in 1861, declared Pigneau 's tomb to be a national
monument. (Ibid., p. 232.)


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Alastair Lamb

it is very remarkable that there is not a foreigner of any description

whatever in the ranks of the army, nor employed in superintending
the arsenals, foundries or fortifications.
162. I believe the revenue of Cochin China to be very small in
proportion to its extent and population. It arises from a land tax,
a capitulation tax and imposts upon trade. The rigor of the con-
scription, while it appears to place the whole resources of the Kingdom
at the disposal of the Sovereign, really impoverishes the people and dries
up every fountain of production. The property of the cultivated land
is considered to be vested in the Sovereign, but the tax or rent which
the best description of them pay is fixed at one twentieth part of their
produce which is paid in kind. In conveying this tax to the capital
an enormous and cumbrous establishment is constantly maintained, of
which we had ourselves an opportunity of seeing a very large pro-
portion. The capitulation tax amounts to kwan or a Spanish Dollar
for each family whether natives or strangers. The imposts upon trade
consist principally of duty on measurement or tonnage with an export
duty upon a few articles of luxury. These are levied only upon
foreign commerce, and the domestic trade is nearly free from duties.
The rudeness and unskilfulness of their fiscal arrangements will go a
considerable way towards accounting for the real poverty of the
Cochin Chinese Government notwithstanding its ostentatious display
of military strength and resources.
163. The religious institutions of Cochin China provide the
most singular contrast with those of the Siamese and their immediate
neighbours. Instead of the systematic fabric of religious belief which
exists in Siam, the Cochin Chinese seem to have no fixed scheme of
worship, their religion consisting of scarcely anything better than
superstitious observances. The priesthood, so respected and so
numerous in Siam, are in Cochin China despised and few in number,
and have no political influence whatever. The only form of religion
which lays hold on the imagination of the Cochin Chinese is the
worship or veneration of the names of ancestors. Unbounded honours
are paid by them to the tombs of the dead. These are almost always
within a few yards of their dwellings, and they never willingly quit
them. This feeling has a powerful influence in attaching the Cochin
Chinese to the place of their birth and suppressing in them all dis-
position to foreign enterprises. The late King of Cochin China, taking
advantage of this powerful sentiment on the part of his countrymen,
constructed at the capital 2 handsome temples in honour of the names
of departed worthies, the one being devoted to persons of civil and
the other of military employments. I may observe as a singular fact
that to the honour of the last he admitted Europeans. We saw only
the exterior of these temples, for they are opened only once a year.
164. The character of the Cochin Chinese, notwithstanding the
severity of their political institutions, is remarkable for nothing so
much as its cheerfulness and even volatility. The higher classes,
indeed, commonly affected Chinese gravity, but the lower orders are
full of curiosity, of gesticulation, great laughers and great talkers. We
went freely into the villages and were everywhere treated with hospita-
lity, kindness and good nature.


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Missions to Cochin China

165. Like the Siamese, the Cochin Chinese carry no arms. I was
assured by the French gentlemen, who had so many years experience
of them and who were masters of their language, that docility and
good nature were the most remarkable features of their nature and
that they were so little actuated by the spirit of revenge that murder
and assassination were crimes little heard of amongst them. The
existence of the unprotected and unarmed travellers whom we ourselves
saw passing along the highways in such perfect security must be
admitted as a substantial proof of this character perhaps as much as
of the vigilance of the Government. The vanity of the Cochin
Chinese takes a different character from that of their neighbours the
Siamese. It is of a national and not of a personal nature. They
look upon themselves as one of the first people in the world and their
King as one of the first of princes; but personally their conduct
towards strangers is obliging and unassuming and they make no
objections to give to foreigners their personal services. Instead of the
difficulties experienced among the Siamese in this respect, we found an
abundance of Cochin Chinese ready to perform for us cheerfully every
menial office.
166. As soldiers they are obedient, hardy and, considering that
they are the shortest race of people in Asia, remarkably athletic.
With all these qualities, however, unaccustomed as they are to the
use of arms and cowed by the severe despotism under which they
labour, I feel perfectly convinced that notwithstanding all the military
display about them, they will be found not only far from martial but
even a timid race.
167. Cochin China after a civil war of nearly 30 years con-
tinuance, has now experienced tranquility for more than 20 years, and
I have no doubt, from the information given me, has made a very
considerable start in prosperity and population. The conscription is
indeed a great check to the last. The men cannot marry until they
are in a capacity to purchase a wife, a practice universal in this
country. This, considering the demand for his services by the public,
he is seldom able to accomplish before 25 or 30. The effect of the
conscriptions is, as in Siam, to throw an unusual share of the
labour upon the women. The latter, therefore, are industrious, while
their military and desultory employments render the men idle and
unskilful. The women toil in every employment. They conduct the
whole petty traffic of the country, they carry heavy burdens, they
plough, sow and reap. The effect of all this is, that a woman's
labour is as valuable as that of a man, and her wages the same, a
matter I should suppose peculiar to the state of society in Cochin

168. The price of day labour in the vicinity of the capital is

about 4 ann$s a day, which is far beyond that of labour in Bengal.
The average price of rice at the same place may be considered at
about 2 kwans the picul, at which estimate the labour of an individual


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Alastair Lamb

is capable of earning sustenance for 6 persons as far as the mere

article of grain is concerned, and probably for about 3 including
lodging, clothing and other necessaries. From this statement, if
accurate, it may be concluded that the reward of labour in Cochin
China is ample and that the population, therefore, if not impeded by
other causes ought to be progressive. Infanticide and similar practices
which prevail in China, indicating that the population is pressing upon
the means of sustenance, have no existence in Cochin China.
169. Cochin China appears to have been at various times subject
to very severe famines. Towards the commencement of the civil war
one of these scourges is stated by Mr. Chapman to have carried off
near one half of the population. It apears to me that the central
provinces which include the capital are peopled far beyond their own
means of affording subsistence and that any interruption of the supply
from Tonquin or Kamboja would at any time bring on a famine.
Such however has been the good order and tranquility maintained for
more than 20 years back that there has not even been the appearance
of a scarcity.
170. I may here shortly advert to the check which the population
lately received by the depredations of the epidemic cholera. This
disorder was traced along the east coast of the Gulf of Siam, and
broke out in Sai-gon in Kamboja in the month of June 1820. In
August it appeared at the capital, and its ravages throughout the
Kingdom are said to have carried off 140,000 of the inhabitants.
171. Cochin China is at present at peace with all its neighbours.
It has no political connection with any people except the Chinese,
the Siamese and recently, perhaps, with the Birmans. Of the two
latter relations I have already spoken. 174 The King of Cochin China
professes himself as a tributary of China, and by the pride of the
174. Crawfurs report, paragraphs 88 and 89, has this to say on the relations
between Burma, Siam and Cochin China:
an uninterrupted course of embassies subsists between the Cochin
Chinese and the Siamese, yet they are mutually jealous of each
other. The dismemberment of the Kingdom of Kamboja is the
principal subject of contention* Each party has seized a portion
of the country, and this having brought them into immediate
contact with each other, there always exists some subject for
dispute or contention between them. Their territories, population
and resources are probably nearly equal, but the military strength
of the Cochin Chinese, with the aid of European discipline, is
infinitely better organised and is, as well as the national charac-
ter, more fit for aggression and enterprise than that of the
Siamese. If these two nations should quarrel, altho' neither be
suited to maintain a permanent dominion over the other, yet an
ambitious Cochin Chinese prince would find no difficulty in
seizing the Siamese portion of Kamboja, or making formidable
inroads into the Siamese territory and, especially, of destroying
or sacking the capital which, defenceless as it is, would fall an
easy prey to any sudden incursion.
89. Some attempt at a coalition between the Cochin Chinese
and the Birmans, a people between whom there seems never
before to have existed any diplomatic or other intercourse, has


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Missions to Cochin China

latter Court is recognised only as the governor of a distant province.

The dependence of Cochin China is, however, an affair rather of
immemorial usage and hardly of necessity. Every King upon his
accession receives a letter of investiture from the Court of Pekin, but
here the connection seems to end. The year before we were in Cochin
China the present King proceeded to the frontier of Tonquin to meet
a deputy from Pekin and was there duly invested.
172. Cochin China is indeed as essentially independent of China
as China is of it. I should indeed be inclined to think under their
relative forms of Government more so, considering the unwarlike
character of the Chinese, but an ambitious and able King of Cochin
China at the head of an army disciplined in European principles, would
find at least the plunder and depredation of a Chinese province, if
not the permanent occupation of one, an enterprise of no great diffi-
culty. The late King of Cochin China had indeed at one time such
a project in view. That Cochin China itself is safe from the risk
of conquest on the part of China may be inferred not only from the
present relative condition of the parties but from the history of their
174. (contd.)
been made within the last two or three years, the alleged object
of which is the conquest and partition of Siam. In the year
1821 an envoy was sent from Cochin China to Ava, and
from recent accounts it is understood that a mission has been
sent in return from the Birmans. When I was at Saigon, from
which the Cochin Chinese embassy sailed, I endeavoured, but
ineffectually, to obtain a correct account of the object of this
mission. I could only learn that his conduct was in general dis-
approved of, and that when he returned he would be in con-
siderable risk of losing his head. It appears when he arrived
in Ava he was then received as a suspicious person and that
doubts were entertained of his coming direct from the Court of
Cochin China, upon which he was imprisoned. The long deten-
tion occasioned by this circumstance was received by the Cochin
Chinese as a crime which they were preparing to punish in the
manner I have described b
a. The dismemberment of Cambodia. Between 1812 and 1814 Cam-
bodia was more or less partitioned between Vietnam and Siam. In 1833
the Siamese undertook ihe conquest of the whole of Cambodia, acting
ostensibly in support of a rebellion against Vietnamese domination; but
Minh-Mang, as Crawfurd prophesied, had no great difficulty in driving
back the Siamese. The Siamese, however, did not abandon their interest
in Cambodia. In 1845 they recovered their rights over the western pro-
vinces of Cambodia, including Battembang and Angkor, rights which
they subsequently lost to the French, recovered through the Japanese
and lost again after World War II. (See: Le Thanh Khoi, op. cit., pp.
b. Cochin China and Ava. After writing this report, Crawfurd, in
1826, undertook an embassy to Ava in the course of which he learnt
much more about the Cochin Chinese mission to Ava and the Burmese
reply, the latter taking place in 1823. The Cochin Chinese mission deve-
loped from a commercial venture on the part of Chao , the Governor
of Cambodia, for the purchase of Burmese bird's nests. The return Bur-
mese mission was intended to obtain Minh-Mang's support for a project
for the conquest and partition of Siam, but Minh-Mang refused to see
the Burmese envoy and to have anything to do with this scheme. (See:
Crawfurd, Embassy, op. cit., pp. 571-586, where Crawfurd prints as an
appendix the journal of this Burmese mission.)


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Alastair Lamb

former connection. During the civil wars, when the authority of the
Tay-sons or usurpers prevailed, China, taking advantage of the dis-
tracted state of the country, invaded Tonquin, which was defended by
one of the rebel brothers, with a numerous army. The Cochin Chinese
met this army with an inferior force and defeated and nearly annihilated
it. This is still a subject of triumph with the Cochin Chinese, who
hold very cheaply the military character of their more civilised
neighbours. I must however here observe that notwithstanding such
opinions as these, the Cochin Chinese admit without hesitation
the superior civilisation of the Chinese, and that in manners, religion,
literature and art they are proud to imitate them and follow their
example. This is always the source, whatever political differences they
may wish, of an indissoluble and useful connection between them.
173. With European nations the Cochin Chinese maintained
scarcely any connection, except that which is kept up by the Catholic
Missionaries, for nearly a century, and until the commencement of the
French Revolution, when some French adventurers, generally Royalist
emigrants, found their way into the service of the late King, disciplined
his armies to restore him to the throne and may truly be said to have
been the founders of that extensive Empire which now reaches from
Siam to China. The King of Cochin China in his distress sent his
son to France, concluded a defensive alliance with the French nation
and made them an extensive cession of territory. The war which
followed in Europe and the success of the British arms in India
prevented France from improving the advantages which chance had
thus placed in her way. Of the 12 or 13 individuals of the French
nation who were at one time in the service of Cochin China, 2 only
remain, and these are without influence or authority. 175 The political
connection with France may therefore be now looked upon as an
affair of mere history. The authority of the Sovereign is indisputably
established throughout his dominions. He has no longer occasion for
the service of strangers, and I make no doubt that at present the
French are looked upon with more jealousy than any other Europeans,
the English alone excepted.
174. In regard to our own relations with the Cochin Chinese,
it does not appear to me that any advantage can arise to us from
any direct political connection with them. They are too distant and
too insulated from the sphere of our Indian political relations, except
indeed in the single case of Cochin China's becoming the scene of a
political intrigue on the part of our European rivals against our
Indian Empire or commerce, to be of any real importance to us.
In such an event, however, there can be no doubt but that the
existence of a foreign European influence in Cochin China would
during war be very prejudicial to our prosperity. A very slender naval
force, for example, issuing from the many ports of Cochin China
would be sufficient to cut off or harrass our extensive commercial
175. See p. 196 above, note.


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Missions to Cochin China

intercourse with China. This however under existing circumstances is

a state of things from which we have very little to apprehend and
considering the unenterprising character of the Cochin Chinese as a
nation when left to themselves, and the fair, impartial and prudent
policy of the Government, we have certainly nothing to apprehend
from their hostility.
175. I may here repeat however that in the event of the Kingdom
of Cochin China ever becoming the scene of political intrigue against
our Indian Empire thro' the machinations of an European enemy,
the easy and ready means of crushing such a combination present
themselves in the blockade of the rivers of Tonquin and Kamboja;
a measure which can be effected with great safety by a very incon-
siderable naval force, and which in a few months must reduce the
Court, which chiefly depends both for subsistence and revenue on the
fertile districts upon the two great rivers, to any terms.
176. It is in a commercial point of view alone, however, that
a connection with Cochin China is at present of any interest to
European nations. I shall briefly describe the principles upon which
this intercourse is conducted. . . .
177. An erroneous opinion is prevalent amongst European
nations, communicated by some of the most recent writers, respecting
Tonquin and Cochin China, that the resort of European traders is
in great measure interdicted in this Kingdom on the same principles
as in Japan and in all the ports of the Chinese Empire with the
exception of one. This is so far from being true, that I believe that
in no Asiatic country are European merchants admitted upon terms
more easy and liberal than in Cochin China. European ships have
indeed been subjected to higher rates of duties than the vessels of
Asiatic nations previous to the year 1818; but in that year the late
King established a new tariff for the foreign commerce and all foreign
traders were upon that occasion placed upon an equality.
178. By this regulation all vessels pay a rated measurement duty
moderate in its amount, are exempted from all import duties or
examination of import cargo, and pay a small export duty upon a
few articles only. 176 Vessels driven into the ports of Cochin China
by stress of weather, or visiting them for the purpose of making
commercial enquiries, are free from all charges; and four of the
ports of the Cochin Chinese Empire are open to European commerce.
179. These moderate and liberal arrangements leave little to be
desired in the way of mere regulation; but it is still more of conse-
quence to the interests of foreign trade that in Cochin China neither
the Sovereign nor his officers are traders themselves, that there are
no royal monopolies and no claim of right of pre-emption, the exercise
of all of which is infinitely more mischievous even than the heaviest
180. The French are the only people who have availed themselves
of the new regulations of the Cochin Chinese Government in favour of
European trade. 4 French vessels of considerable burden have since

176. For details of the duty on measurement, see p. 194 above, note.


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Alastair Lamb

then visited Cochin China.177 They brought out fire-arms, iron,

copper, woollens and some curiosities for the Court; and all received
full cargoes of sugar, with considerable quantities of raw silk. A
respectable merchant house at Bordeaux has left two French gentlemen
as agents at Turon for the purpose of providing them with cargoes. 178
181. I shall conclude this report with a few general reflections
upon the advantages which may result to our trade from an extended
commercial intercourse with Siam and Cochin China, the great object
of the mission which I had the honour to be entrusted. These 2
kingdoms between them certainly contain not less than 11,000,000 of
inhabitants who, in point of civilisation stand at least in the 2nd
rank of Asiatic nations, and whose Governments, altho' arbitrary and
despotic, still afford a certain protection to the lives and properties
of their subjects, and are probably after all not worse than the generality
of eastern governments while for mere security they are greatly superior
to those of all the minor nations and tribes of Asia.
182. No intercourse having taken place with these nations for
upward of a century, should a commerce be established with them
it will not be too much to assert that 11,000,000 of consumers and
producers will strictly be added to the mass of our Indian commerce.
This population inhabits a fertile country and lies upon the shores
of the most frequented and accessible portions of the Indian seas.
Both nations are at the same time in a state more favourably circum-
177. The following are the names of those European vessels which visited
Cochin China between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Crawfurd
mission of which I can find any record:
1817. La Paix , belonging to Baigliene, Sarget et Cie. of Bordeaux,
commanded by Captain Chavelaure. Visited Saigon and Tourane.
Wrecked at Isle of France in February 1818.
1817. La Cyble, the French frigate bringing Captain de Kergariou.
1817. Henry , belonging to the Bordeaux firm of Philippon and
commanded by Captain Rey. She was at Tourane at the same time as
La Paix . She was of about 450 tons burden.
1819. Larose, belonging to Balguerie-Stuttenburg, commanded by
Captain Hardy. The Larose, a vessel of some 700 tons, was in Tourane
at the same time as the Henry.
1819. The Beverly , an American ship commanded by Captain
Gardner, called at Tourane when the Larose and the Henry were both in
that port.
1819? A Dutch ship from Batavia is mentioned by Chaigneau.
1821. Larose anchors at Tourane on 17th May, 1821, and lands
Chaigneau on his return from France.
1821. Constance, a French brig, reaches Tourane from Isle of
France shortly after the arrival of Larose. She was commanded by
Captain Doret.
1822. Clo ptre, a French frigate commanded by Captain Courson
de la Ville Hlio, arrives at Tourane in March.
1822. The John Adam, bringing Crawfurd and his party. (These
details are gleaned from Taboulet, op. cit., Cordier, Consulat a Hu, op.
cit., and Moor, Notices, op. cit.)
178. The brothers Auguste and Edouard Borei, agents for the Bordeaux firm
of Balguerie, Sarget et Cie. Auguste Borei first came to Cochin China
with La Paix in 1817. Edouard Borei, who who appears to have come
out with Larose in 1819, resided in Tourane as agent for Balguerie, Sar-
get et Cie. until 1832 when, following the loss of its vessel Saint Michel off
the Paracels in 1830, the firm decided to discontinue its connection with
Cochin China. This marked the effective end of French trade with this
region until 1858. (See: Taboulet, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 283, 301.)


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Missions to Cochin China

stanced for maintaining a foreign trade than in any known period

of their history. Regular, even strong, Governments are established
in them, and they now have been for some years recovered from
anarchy and civil war. The Siamese, it appears to me, are likely to
become the most extensive consumers of our Indian and European
manufactured goods, particularly our cottons. From the sketches I
have given of their trade some opinion may be entertained of their
taste and capacity for the consumption of these and their ability to
afford returns. The Cochin Chinese, from their peculiarity of taste
and the state of society amongst them, are upon the whole not so
likely to be such extensive consumers of our manufactured goods as
the Siamese, with perhaps the exception of woollens, but they are
more likely to occasion a demand directly or indirectly for the raw or
unwrought productions of our Indian possessions.
183. I am inclined to hope that the trade of Siam and Cochin
China will also afford an indirect channel for the employment of our
capital still more extensive and advantageous than the direct trade
with those nations themselves. I mean a trade with China. This
is more particularly applicable to Cochin China than to Siam because
it lies more in the direct route of trade and the Chinese vessels which
frequent its ports stand more in need of return cargoes than they
do in Siam; but it applies indeed to both and embraces an aggregate
trade amounting to 60,000 tons.
184. By this channel an indirect but still an easy intercourse
may be kept up with every port of China from Hai-nan up to the
Yellow Sea, and by these means may be conveyed to the ports of
China also the commodities of the Indian Archipelago, of India and
of Europe known to be suitable to the Chinese market; while by the
same course we might receive in return from the principal markets
the teas and plain and wrought silks of China. This is a commerce
which might exist independent of the caprice of the Chinese Govern-
ment and which would increase in proportion to the freedom with
which it was conducted. I may here remark that the Chinese
merchants of Cochin China with whom I conversed constantly urged
this branch of commerce upon my attention and showed themselves
most solicitous to enter into it.
185. Independent of the advantages which we may draw from
the maritime intercourse between Cochin China and the ports of the
Chinese Empire, I may mention here before concluding that the
internal intercourse between Tonquin and the Chinese provinces to
the north and west of it, and which is chiefly conducted thro' the
great river of Tonquin, may afford another channel of disseminating
our products in parts of China which have at present no cheap or
direct communication with the only port which we are allowed to
frequent. We should receive in return in this branch the precious
and useful metals which are productions either of Tonquin itself or
of the great Chinese province of Yu-nan which borders immediately
upon it.
^ t J. Crawfurd.
Calcutta, ^ t
3rd April, 1823.


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Alastair Lamb




Home Miscellaneous Series in the India Office Library, London,

Vol. 673.

In their Political Letter of the 23rd November, 1821, the Supreme

Government inform the Court that, taking into consideration the
depressed state of Commerce in England and in India, they had resolved
to send an Agent to Siam and Cochin China, for the purpose of
establishing a commercial intercourse with those Countries upon a
surer footing than had hitherto existed; and that they had selected
Dr. Crawfurd of the Bengal Medical Establishment for that service,
on account of the diplomatic experience he had acquired at Java,
and his peculiar knowledge of the languages, trade, institutions, etc.,
of the Eastern Islands.
As their principal inducements for this undertaking they observed,
that as the trade of Europeans with those Countries formed an impor-
tant and valuable branch of intercourse with Asia in the earlier periods
of Anglo-Indian History178a, there was little doubt but that a consider-
able addition would be made to it, in the improved state of modern
navigation and the superior intelligence and spirit of adventure which
characterized British Merchants of the present day. That as those
Countries contained a population of at least thirty millions, possessed
a soil of equal fertility to that of any portion of the globe, were
almost devoid of manufactures, and had proved a ready market for
the imperfect and high priced fabrics of India and China, it might be
fairly presumed, from the success which had attended modern trade
with Hindustan, the Eastern Islands and China that, the groundless
fears and jealousies which influenced those Governments once removed,
an extensive demand would be created for woollens, cotton goods,
raw and wrought iron, Bengal opium and various other minor articles.
For these, it was observed, that Siam might make valuable returns to
Europe and Western Asia of Sugar and Pepper, Salt for the Indian
Islands, and Teak for the British Settlements, to which Cochin China
would add raw Silk in such abundance (being the most productive
Country in that article in Asia) as might place the English manu-
facturer, under an improved regulation of the trade, upon a footing
with the Continental.
Trade at Siam is at present carried on by certain Chinese residing
there, who bring its produce to the European Ports in the Straits of
Malacca and receive European and Indian Goods in return; and at
Cochin China by Chinese J unks and a few Colonial Portuguese
Traders, who would speedily yield to the energy of Europeans. Even
178a. For an account of early European contacts with Siam, see: Adventurers
in Siam in the Seventeenth Century, by E. W. Hutchinson, London 1940,
which was also published in French translation by H. Berland in BSEI


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Missions to Cochin China

under existing disadvantages a considerable trade is maintained

between Siam and Prince of Wales Island and, for the last five years,
with Americans and British Country Traders.
The opening of an intercourse with Cochin China , which has only
been attempted twice since the seventeenth Century; (once in 1778,
which failed in consequence of the distracted State of the Country and
the imprudent conduct of the Agent in involving himself in its hostili-
ties, and 2nd in 1804 which was frustrated by the French) would be
more difficult: but as the French are said to have succeeded in con-
cluding a Treaty with that State and have some Missionaries residing
there, as the Dutch succeeded in procuring a Cargo so lately as 1820,
and as the pecuniary advantages derived by China from her intercourse
with England and India must necessarily operate as a strong temptation
to a mercenary government like the one in question, they had few doubts
but that temperance and perseverance would at length induce that
government to put our trade with it upon, at all events, a footing with
that carried on with China. Instructions to this effect were accordingly
addressed to Dr. Crawfurd on the 29th September, 1821, accompanied
by letters and Presents to the Kings of Siam and Cochin China, the
former of whom had already opened a Correspondence upon commer-
cial subjects with the Resident at Singapore.
The Political Letter from Bengal of the 27th December, 1822, just
received, reports the result of this Mission. From this it appears that
in consequence of the continued preponderance of the party which had
occasioned the expulsion of the King of Queda from his dominions
under the pretence of his having refused to co-operate with their forces
against the Birmans, Dr. Crawfurd had failed in his attempt at pro-
curing his restoration: but that the right of the British Government to
the Sovereignty of P. of W. Island and the discontinuance of the
payment of the annual sum of 10,000 Dollars to the Kings of Queda
(by whom the Island was ceded to the British) upon the death of the
exiled sovereign, which was involved in that question, had not even been
alluded to during the discussion. Dr. Crawfurd thinks too that the high
tone assumed by him during the discussion is likely to produce a more
conciliatory line of conduct on the part of the Chief of Ligor than has
been hitherto manifested by him towards the Penang Government, and
conceives that the approximation of the Siamese to P. of W. Island,
by the conquest of Queda is more likely to lead to a good understanding
with that pusillanimous and corrupt Government, than otherwise.
Should any occurrence lead to a rupture with it, one gun brig would
be sufficient to put a stop to its trade, and another to destroy its capital.
In regard to the main object of the mission, the establishment of
a Commercial intercourse, Dr. Crawfurd reports that although he had
at first succeeded in procuring the consent of the Government to the
establishment of a "free and fair intercourse" between the two nations,
he had the mortification of finding those words exchanged and a pledge
of assistance from the officers of Government substituted in the letters
which were addressed to him and to the Supreme Government, just
before his departure. The only concession too, which he was able to
procure in regard to duties was their continuance on their present
footing, a circumstance that may be attributed to the monopoly which


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Alastair Lamb

the Government had extended to almost every article produced in the

Country. These Reports were dated on the 13th July, 1822. Soon
after which Dr. Crawfurd left the place for Cochin China. On the
19th October of the same year the attention of the Government of
P. of W. Island was drawn to an outrage committed by the Siamese
authorities on the Captain and Supra Cargo of a vessel called the
Phoenix , of so gross and apparently unprovoked a nature as cannot
possibly be overlooked by our Government.17815
Dr. Crawfurd's account of his reception in Cochin China and
character of the Government are highly satisfactory. So far from
throwing impediments in his way, every concession was immediately
granted to him, and he had the satisfaction of reporting to the Supreme
Government that the trade of the British had been admitted into the
three principal Ports of the Country upon the same terms as the Chinese
- that is to say one third less duties than formerly. No import duties
were required, and generally speaking not more than five per cent
export; the duty on tonnage and measurement about half that levied in
China. No port nor anchorage fees. No pilots necessary, nor duties
levied upon Ships touching for refreshments or enquiring into the state
of trade. At an early period of the mission the leave was extended to
Tonquin and Kamboja but forfeited by Dr. Crawfurd's persisting in
refusing to accept the presents offered by the King to the Governor
General* though he thinks that the privilege will ere long be conceded
to us. The main advantage however derived, in Dr. Crawfurd's
opinion, from this alliance, is the facility which it will afford for indirect
intercourse with large portions of China which are now either not at all
or inadequately supplied by us.
He speaks of the Chinese residing in these Dominions as ardently
anxious for trade with the British; the Cochin Chinese army as well
appointed, clad in British broad cloth and disciplined, by French re-
fugees, in the European manner; their Capital (the capture of which
would be tantamount to the conquest of the kingdom) as wonderfully
fortified; their cannon as well cast and beautiful; but their resources,
strength and population as much overrated, particularly the latter, which
he thinks inferior to that of Siam. Dr. Crawfurd speaks very lightly
of the French influence, and says that the Government, like that of
Siam, may at any time be brought to terms by the blockade of these
two principal rivers.


Not only did the Crawfurd mission to Hu put an end to any illu-
sions which the British might still have harboured up to that time as
to the extent of French influence in Cochin China, but it also seems to
* in consequence of the King having refused to accept of those of th Govern-
ment General, as not being a Sovereign.
178b. For a detailed amount of this episode, see The Crawfurd Papers,
Bangkok 1915, pp. 225-285, where the "outrage" perpetrated on Captain
Smith and Mr. Storm by the Siamese authorities in Bangkok in October
1822 is illuminated by several documents.


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Missions to Cochin China

have had a most adverse effect on what little remained, in fact, of that
influence. As Chaigneau's letter, which is reproduced here below,
indicates, Crawfurd's arrival, combined with the impression created by
the recent founding of Singapore, served to reinforce Minh-Mang in
his determination not to allow the British any opportunity to establish a
foothold in his dominions. Minh-Mang seems to have appreciated
that in no way could he better attract the attentions of the British than
by granting special conditions of trade and diplomacy to the French.
Chaigneau clearly felt that the Crawfurd mission had made his already
difficult position in Hu, both as Cochin Chinese mandarin and as
French representative, almost impossible; and he noted that it had,
almost at once, damaged the conditions of French trade. The Larose ,
which put in to Tourane shortly after the departure of the John Adam ,
was obliged to pay anchorage dues, not charged to French vessels since
at least 1817, as well as the normal duties on measurement; and this
meant that France was now trading with Cochin China on terms worse
than those which had been promised to Crawfurd.179
Chaigneau, however, saw some faint silver lining to the cloud that
Crawfurd had created. The two British ships which visited Tourane
between Crawfurd's departure and October, 1823, brought cargoes of
rifles which cost more and were of poorer quality than those provided
by Balguerie, Sarget et Cie., and Minh-Mang had refused to buy any of
them.180 Public opinion in Cochin China, Chaigneau added, was far
from hostile to France and far from friendly to England. All this sug-
gested that a fresh French diplomatic effort in this part of Indochina
might yet succeed. But such a task was not for Chaigneau, who, like
Vannier, was getting on in years and anxious to see once more his
family in France, and who considered that his position in Hu, diplo-
matically speaking, was now untenable. In November, 1824, the two
French mandarins and their large families boarded a Chinese junk at
Tourane and sailed for Singapore. There they found the Balguerie,
Sarget et Cie. ship, Courrier de la Paix , which landed them at Bordeaux
in September, 1825. 181
Chaigneau had scant grounds, beyond wishful thought and a refusal
to accept the conclusion that his long career had not advanced the
interests of France, for the belief that further French missions would
do any better than he had done himself. In 1821 the French Government
had instructed Courson de la Ville Hlio, commander of the frigate
Cloptre , to seek while he was on the Cochin Chinese coast an audience
with Minh-Mang; but, as has already been noted, the King refused to

179. See p. 225 below.

180. See p. 225 below.
181. Taboulet, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 310-311.


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Alastair Lamb

see the French officer when the latter requested an interview early in
1822. The visit of the Cloptre , in fact, was treated almost as if it
was the vanguard of a French attack on Tourane. In 1824, the Villle
Ministry (one of the members of which was Chateaubriand, a relative of
Chaigneau's), proposed yet another mission to Minh-Mang. This was
entrusted to Captain Henri de Bougainville, commander of Thtis , 44
guns and one of the newest ships in the French navy. De Bougainville,
so his instructions from Clermont-Tonnerre, Minister of the Marine,
read, was to call in at Tourane during the course of his planned voyage
around the world, and in an audience with Minh-Mang he was to dis-
cuss matters "of peace and the protection of commerce". Thtis
arrived at Tourane on 12th January, 1825, to be joined there a few
days later by the corvette L'Esprance. De Bougainville was enter-
tained at Tourane by Edouard Borei, agent of Balguerie, Sarget et Cie.,
but he was refused permission to visit Hu and see the King. The
letter which he had with him, from the French King to Minh-Mang, and
the presents were refused. De Bougainville, in a letter to the Minister
of the Marine dated Tourane, 12th February, 1825, explained his
failure in these words:

I have much regret in informing your Excellency that I

have failed in the mission with which the King [of France] had
honoured me, and that I was unable to make the King of
Cochin China receive the letter and presents which I was
instructed to give to him. The impossibility of reading and
interpreting this letter was the excuse with which this prince
covered his refusal; but I am convinced that the fear of the
English, whose invasion of the Kingdom of the Burmans has
caused him great worry, was the real motive for it. Having
refused to see Mr. Crawfurd, he did not feel able to give me
an audience without offending them [the English]; perhaps he
feared lest, at the news of the reception of Frenchmen at his
Court, they would send another embassy which would embar-
rass him greatly, resolved as he appe