William Gyfford and his role to maintain the English factory in tonkin (Northern Vietnam) (1672-1675)

Abstract. Via studying activities of William Gyfford, the first chief factor of the English East India Company’s factory in Tonkin, this research argues the significant role he played to maintain the English appearance in Tonkin in a difficult period. By working independently and actively in both trade and diplomacy without suggestions from London or Bantam, Gyfford tried to improve the English trade in Tonkin. That was the way the English learned and adapted with trading situation in long-distant area. Beyond that, the paper argues the role of individuals in the English East India Company’s history, especially in its first century of experimentation.

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46 HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE Social Sciences, 2020, Volume 64, Issue 4D, pp. 46-53 This paper is available online at WILLIAM GYFFORD AND HIS ROLE TO MAINTAIN THE ENGLISH FACTORY IN TONKIN (NORTHERN VIETNAM) (1672-1675) Tran Ngoc Dung Faculty of History, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. Via studying activities of William Gyfford, the first chief factor of the English East India Company’s factory in Tonkin, this research argues the significant role he played to maintain the English appearance in Tonkin in a difficult period. By working independently and actively in both trade and diplomacy without suggestions from London or Bantam, Gyfford tried to improve the English trade in Tonkin. That was the way the English learned and adapted with trading situation in long-distant area. Beyond that, the paper argues the role of individuals in the English East India Company’s history, especially in its first century of experimentation. Keywords: English East India Company, Tonkin (Northern Vietnam), overseas factor, trade, diplomacy. 1. Introduction This paper examines the role of William Gyfford, the chief factor of the Tonkin factory (1672-1675) in the development of the English East India Company (hereafter the EIC) in the seventeenth century [1]. As EIC history at this time is considered as a period of experimentation and expansion, the Company needed highly-skilled servants who could work independently and effectively in Asia. Those factors with great power in Asia became the most important explanation for the EIC ability to compete with other European Companies and Chinese merchants in the region. While Kriti N. Chaudhuri and N. Ferguson argue that the English overseas factors were “wholly beyond the control” of London (the Court of Committees) and damaged the EIC trade in Asia as they worked within their kinship and friendship networks, other scholars demonstrate that the activities of agents or overseas servants contributed to the EIC expansion and influence in the area [2]. This paper considers the role of W. Gyfford who worked in the first period of the Tonkin factory (1672-1675), a small factory in East Asia, to provide precise evidence for the EIC’s policy of using skilful individuals and impacts of this policy on the EIC trading and diplomatic position. Previous studies narrated and described briefly Gyfford’s activities in the Tonkin factory but no one deeply focused on what types of role he played during this period [3]. By investigating the EIC history in Tonkin via the case of an individual, the paper tries to clarify the way the EIC adapted and enhanced its position in Asia by using experienced individuals. In doing so, the research uses primary materials related to the English factory in Tonkin (1672-1675) keeping in the British Library and British Museum in London. Those are diaries, records and journals of the Tonkin factory in G series, reports and letters of the Bantam factory and London relating Received April 10, 2020. Revised April 22, 2020. Accepted May 14, 2020. Contact Tran Ngoc Dung, e-mail address: dungtn@hnue.edu.vn William Gyfford and his role to maintain the English factory in Tonkin (Northern Vietnam) (1672-1675) 47 to the Tonkin factory in this period. All materials from the EIC perspective in different level, stage and job will provide inside evidence of how the relations between the Company and its staffs happened in the seventeenth century. Why did the EIC need highly skilled and experienced employees to work in Asia in the seventeenth century? Firstly, there is no doubt that the EIC had little knowledge of trade in Asia in comparison with other Europeans such as the Portuguese and the Dutch [4]. Until the 1590s, Portuguese and Dutch ships arrived in Asia and came back to Europe with full loads of spices and pepper. Their success was one of the reasons which motivated the English to establish EIC trade in Asia [5]. However, the English had little or even no experience to trade with India, China or other markets in Asia. Previous companies such as the Levant Company, Muscovy Company just dealt with nearer position in Asia and provided no lesson about long-distance trade. As a result, the EIC hired experienced men who had worked for the Dutch or a free merchant as William Adam to explore their trading knowledge and experience to compete with European rivals [6]. Secondly, the problems of overseas trade namely distance and timing, required the EIC to hire seasoned staff to drive trade independently and successfully. Due to the issue of distance, English ships needed around eighteenth months to complete a voyage from London to Asia and back, whereby they could only stay in Asian ports for fewer than six months [7]. Accordingly, all trading information in Asia was out of date when they arrived in London and Europe or in return all instructions from the Court of Committees to overseas factories and factors could not guarantee the EIC success in daily trading life. Studies by David Veevers and Anna Winterbottom show that because London lacked resources to manage overseas factors and factories, the role of distant servants was important for the trading and political development of the EIC [8]. It means that the Court of Committees was hard put to make any trading decision in Asia so they relied on local skilful and professional agents to drive their activities [9]. 2. Content 2.1 William Gyfford and his working experience for the English Company Before being the chief factor of the English factory in Tonkin, Gyfford started working as the EIC staff from 1657 in the Kásimbazár factory (Cossimbazar, West Bengal), and then in 1659 at Macassar (Makassar, Indonesia). Gyfford worked there until 1665 as he came back to England because of the hostility between him and the chief agent of the factory [10]. With around ten-year working for the EIC in Asia, Gyfford gained relevant knowledge about the trading situation in this area. After the death of Quarles Browne in 1663, the chief factor of the Cambodia factory (1651-1656) and agents of the English factory at Bantam (1658-1663), Gyfford was noticeable to be the most expericened staff in London who knew quite clearly about Asian trading situation. With those experience, Gyfford was chosen as the first chief factor of the Tonkin factory in 1672 with a salary of £120 per year, to build Tonkin as a part of the Eurasian trading network linking Tonkin with Japan, India and Europe for the key silk-silver trade [11]. Being a chief factor of the Tonkin factory, Gyfford was privileged to “take his sister on the Zant Frigate to the South Seas” as he sailed from London to Bantam and Tonkin in 1672 [12]. He was also believed to have become a member of the Council of the Bantam factory as he stayed in Bantam before sailing to Tonkin in July 1672. Using staff such as Gyfford, the EIC wanted to apply their trading experience and professional abilities to drive overseas trade successfully and limit any risks in new markets. Understanding the dependence of a factory in Tonkin on the reputation of the English in Japan, Gyfford and Samuel Baron, a half Dutch and a half Tonkinese who in 1671 had recommended that London should settle a factory in Tonkin, considered postponing the voyage to Tonkin until 1673 to wait for information from the English Tran Ngoc Dung 48 in Japan [13]. As Tonkin was a new market, Gyfford did not want to create a for the EIC any risks and he tried to wait to have information from Japan and Taiwan before sailing to Tonkin. However, Henry Dacres, the chief factor and the rest of the Council of the Bantam factory decided to send the Zante Frigate quickly to Tonkin to find increased opportunities to trade as summer season was the trading time in Tonkin, Siam, Bantam or any other monsoon trading places [14]. This event not only showed Gyfford’s trading experience and caution, but also started a conflict between Gyfford and the Council of the Bantam factory about the trade in Tonkin. Gyfford worked as the chief factor in Tonkin from 1672 to 1675 as he was discharged by the Bantam Council in 1675 for doing private trade. However, after this event, Gyfford still showed his influence within the EIC as the Company needed his trading knowledge and experience in Asia. After considering the journal of the Tonkin factory from 1672 to 1675, the Court of Committees decided that Gyfford did not do any illegal trade before and during his time at Tonkin and therefore that he could continue as Tonkin’s chief [15]. Consequently, London decided that sending a voyage to Manila was Gyfford’s attempt to find silver for the EIC, maintain the Tonkin factory and expand English trade in East Asia [16]. Gyfford was ordered to give the EIC advice on trade in Tonkin as his experience of Asian trade was vital to the Company. For example, in 1677, he sent a letter to the English captain of the Flying Eagle to make ensure his success in its voyage [17]. Remarkably, in December 1680 London sent him back to Asia and promoted him as the Governor of Fort St. George (India) [18]. Although the Bantam Council, particularly Dacres, blamed Gyfford for illegal trade, the Court of Committees supported him and even granted him more power in Madras. Gyfford thus continued to contribute to the EIC enterprise until 1686 when Elihu Yale replaced him [19]. Accordingly, Gyfford worked for the EIC in Asia in three different periods (1657-1665), (1672-1675), and (1680-1686) in different places. During that period, Gyfford gained a lot of experience about Asian trading and his role became more important for the EIC expansion and influence in Asia. The next part will discuss in detail what he did during his time in Tonkin (1672-1675) to evidence the role of experienced staff for history of the EIC in the seventeenth century. 2.2 Gyfford and the EIC diplomatic connections with the Tonkin Court Gyfford demonstrated his role by maintaining the Tonkin factory in difficult circumstances as no English commercial ship came to this kingdom during the third Anglo-Dutch war (1672- 1675). He not only provided detailed information to London about the special requirements of the Tonkin Court but also applied gift diplomacy effectively to secure English influence. Firstly, Gyfford revealed to London any requirements for connecting with the Tonkin Court as Tonkin maintained a hard policy towards foreigners and prevented them from staying in Thang Long or other important towns and markets due to their concern with national security [20]. Tonkin’s policy differed from that of other Asian countries where the governments needed foreign merchants for profit and power [21]. Accordingly, English diplomacy and commerce in Tonkin were considered under “a system of gifts, perquisites and exactions” [22]. In 1672, Gyfford reported to London that “the King was King of Tonkin [meaning the Trinh Lord (Trinh Tac) rather than the Le Emperor (Le Gia Tong)] before wee [the English] came and would be after we were gone and that this country hath now neede of any forreigne thing” [23]. Importantly, via connections with Tonkinese officials, Gyfford recognised the necessity and importance of extant gift-giving diplomacy to gain trading privileges. All foreigners had to report why they arrived in Tonkin and how many goods they carried before sending the King and Crown Prince gifts for entry-fee and trade [24]. Sometimes the King ordered silver as a compulsory condition for entry when foreign ships arrived in Tonkin [25]. Therefore Gyfford required that the Bantam Council “paid att a dearer rate than the Dutch and bee esteemed as other straingers not receiving ye privilege of Dutch till we settle as they have done” and “when we served him [King of William Gyfford and his role to maintain the English factory in Tonkin (Northern Vietnam) (1672-1675) 49 Tonkin] as the Dutch do, we should have the same privileges as they have” [26]. That awareness was fundamental for subsequent English gift-giving diplomacy in Tonkin to gather and maintain their position in competition with the Dutch and the Chinese. Secondly, diplomatic activities of the Tonkin factory under Gyfford’s orders from 1672 to 1675 kept the English resident in Tonkin [27]. Gifts were used as an effective solution to enter the kingdom and “make friends” with Tonkinese officials. The English presented gifts eleven times in 1672 - nine occasions in July - as the entry fee. Those who received the gifts included the King, Princes, the Governors of Hien and Thang Long (where the English stayed and the capital), Ungia Thay, Ungja Deduckluck (the King and Crown Prince’s Dispatchdores [Tonkinese Mandarins who took care overseas trade with foreigners]) and their secretaries [28]. Interestingly, Gyfford sent annual gifts to the King, Crown Prince and some important Mandarins in the Tonkin Court for the New Year festival, the King’s birthday and the mid- Autumn festival to maintain their relationship, although no English commercial ships sailed to Tonkin until 1676. Gyfford recognised the role of gifts as well as diplomacy to further EIC influence future in Tonkin to create good connections with the Tonkin Court. His experience was advantageous as he chose powerful people in Tonkin to secure the connection and these individuals were the people to contact to secure more trading privileges. For example, although the King was the most important person in Tonkin, the English needed his overseas trading officials to deal with their trading proposals, secure benefits, deal with debts or gain a presentation. The Governor of Hien was a necessary contact because all English ships which arrived in Tonkin needed to stay at Hien before sending goods to Thang Long. Therefore, Gyfford kept good relations with those officials who became intermediaries for the EIC to serve the higher aim of obtaining trade deals and securing a factory in the capital, Thang Long. Gyfford thus created a close relationship between the English and the Tonkin Court which subsequent chief factors just needed to follow to maintain trading privileges in Tonkin. 2.3 Gyfford’s attempts to develop English trade in Tonkin Gyfford completed his job of collecting and sending information to London in 1672. He also clarified the EIC trading plan in Tonkin. With limited information, London’s initial plan in 1671 was only experimental, to export English products to Tonkin but without detailing imports except for suggested “luxury goods” [29]. Gyfford, however, identified types of Tonkinese silks which included baas, chomongees (or chiourons by Dutch), lyng or pelangs (plain and flower), hockin or lua, the thua (loa in Portuguese), Thea Ming Whing and raw silk, while famous Chinese products in Tonkin were velvet and musk. He described in detail several products: “bass a sort of silk made here very good for Japon, both raw & diet of a pure color”; “Chomongoos was a sort of wrought silk called by the Dutch chiourons, they are well flomish long ½ well broad & better vety good for Japon”; “Pelangs or Lyngs plained & flowers for merchadise good for Japon”; “White hockins or lua a few are proper for Japon they arelong & broad they maybe painted at Japon”; “The Thua in Portuguese called Loa both flower & plain” and “The Lua plain the silk much twifres proper for yt coaft for woomans badgoods.” [30] Importantly, he argued that Tonkinese silks could not only serve the demand in Japan but also was available to export to Europe together with Chinese goods collected in Tonkin [31]. Recognising the limited market for English cloth, in 1673 Gyfford ordered from London a low quantity of 100 bales for the Tonkin Court, while other goods were ordered in higher amounts including 500 peculs (Chinese weight, 1 pecul/picul is equivalent to 60,382 kg or 100 catties or 1600 taels of weight) of pepper, 200 peculs of saltpetre, 20 peculs of brimstone and 10 great guns [32]. Together with information about commodities, Gyfford provided the EIC with new data about the Tonkin trading network. In October 1672, he recognised the potential of settling a Tran Ngoc Dung 50 land-trading route between Tonkin and China by using the power of Tonkinese Mandarins [33]. Importantly, he confirmed London’s previous knowledge about the potential of Tonkin in the intra-Asian trading network, particularly through the link with Japan’s silk-silver trade [34]. Unlike London’s wish to send one ship to Tonkin yearly, Gyfford thought that two small ships could sail from London or Bantam via Jambeo (now Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia) to collect pepper and then arrive in Tonkin in March or April annually for trading [35]. He advocated increasing the role of Tonkin in the regional trading system and expected that the trade would provide the EIC with greater opportunities for collecting silver from the intra-Asian trade. Beyond collecting trading information, Gyfford suggested a set of trading relationships based in Tonkin instead of depending on Japan. Recognising London’s failed attempts to trade with Manila in the 1640s and 1660s, Gyfford proposed a plan to build a new trading system in East Asia linking Tonkin, Japan and Manila [36]. He reported to London in 1672 that “if your Honours would get an allowance of the King of Spain to trade from here [Tonkin] to the Manila, it would prove as beneficial to you as the Japon trade, because it takes off all the popular commodities of this country” [37]. In Gyfford’s opinion, the Manila-Macao-Tonkin link helped to collect both Chinese products (as Chinese merchants traded there regularly) and silver which was exported from Spanish-America through the system of the “Manila Galleon” to finance the transoceanic trade. Tonkin was to provide white raw pelang, velvet, musk, and porcelain in return for white wax, sugar candy, brimstone, silver (rials of eight). Moreover, Gyfford believed that the Tonkin factory could collect sugar, damask, satin, Chinese silks, chinaroot and tutenague from Macao (on the link with Manila) to exchange with Tonkin raw hockins, velvet and raw white silk [38]. He proposed that English ships from Tonkin should sail to Macao and then transport their goods to Manila in exchange for Mexican silver or be dispatched to Japan for the silk-silver trade. Through this system, Manila would became the EIC main silver supplier for English factories in East Asia besides from Japan. In 1674 Gyfford again requested that the Company re-negotiate with Spain to trade with Manila: “it must be continued to have a factory at Manila which is as proper for yt agent for commodities of this place as Japon itself.” [39] If this plan ran well, the position of Tonkin in the EIC trading chain would completely change to become the principal place to collect money for the English trading system in East Asia and therefore a central hub for the EIC, rather than just a supplementary market. The above proposal was not new as the EIC had considered trade with Manila from the 1640s, but Gyfford made it clearer. He ordered the third Tonkin factor, Nicholate Waite, to voyage to Macao and Manila in 1673 to break the English isolation in Tonkin as the Dutch controlled all sea-routes in the South China Sea during the third Anglo-Dutch war (1672-1675). Quiason’s argument, that this was a major influence on Henry Dacres (the chief factor of the Bantam Council) on the Manila project, seems problematic. Dacres suggested to London in 1674 that “it very probable that by affactory in Tywan, being scituated where Tonqueen