THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

07 September 2017

David Scott, India merchant, and British Supercargoes at Macao

Country ships, privately-owned British and Portuguese merchant vessels, were frequently employed by the networks of India merchants David Scott, William Fairlie and William Lennox.  Their myriad of business activities in India, China and elsewhere was also greatly helped by their use of agency houses, together with the establishment of Portuguese partners in Goa.  David Scott was a founder of many of these local and international alliances.

Portrait of David Scott
Portrait of David Scott (1746-1805), merchant and director of East India Company, by John Young (1798).  Image courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland  

Macao was important for both intra-regional and global trade.  Its residents included the Fitzhughs who were members of the East India Company Select Committee at Canton/Macao, and the British merchants John Henry Cox, a pioneer of the Nootka maritime fur trade, and Thomas Beale.  William Fitzhugh played a key role by going to Manila in 1787 to negotiate the Canton Committee's contract with the Royal Philippine Company with regard to bullion exchange.

Bird's ey view of Canton
Bird’s-eye view of Canton (Guangzhou) c.1770 

Merchants Michael Hogan, Alexander Tennant & Captain Donald Trail were all associates of David Scott. They traded slaves at Mozambique from the Cape and were at the vanguard of merchants making alliances with the Portuguese merchants in Goa and Macao to ship slaves to Brazil after British Abolition.

View of Goa Harbour
James Forbes, View of Goa Harbour (1813)

Another development was the illicit Malwa opium trade to China in the 18th century centred on Goa.  Scott, Adamson, Fairlie and the others were trading in opium from the 1780s, a precursor to the rise of the 19th century Bengal trade.

As merchants withdrew from their slave trading activities after British Abolition, they continued with 'investment' in the trade through Asian agency via Macao and India.
 
Ken Cozens and Derek Morris
Independent scholars

Further reading:
José Maria Braga, A Seller of 'sing-songs': A Chapter in the Foreign Trade of China and Macao (1967)
Cheong Weng Eang, 'Changing the Rules of the Game (The India-Manila Trade: 1785 - 1809)', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Volume 1, Issue 2 September 1970, pp. 1-19.
Michael Greenberg, British Trade and the Opening of China 1800-1842 (1951).
Richard J. Grace, Opium & Empire: The Lives and Careers of William Jardine & James Matheson (2014)
Celsa Pinto, Trade & Finance in Portuguese India: A study of the Portuguese Country Trade 1770-1840 (1994)
Arvind Sinha, The Politics of Trade: Anglo-French Commerce on the Coromandel Coast 1763-1793 (2002)