Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cesar Federici's "Account of Pegu" (1563) II

The first interesting part of the manuscript is an incident at Martaban between the Portuguese and Bayinnaung's ministers [members of the ruling elite]. I've never seen such an incident in the Burmese chronicle. It certainly gives you a feeling of the uncertainty of life living in the Burmese trading community of that age and would probably qualify as microhistory or history from below:

Arriving in Martaban Frederici found 90 Portuguese "and other base men" residing there (see George Winius, "Portugal's Shadow on the Bay of Bengal") . There was enmity between the Portuguese community and the ruler of Martaban. Portuguese had killed five of Bayinnaung's ministers about a month after he had left with a military expedition to Ayutthaya.

"...they have for custome in this country and kingdome, that the king being wheresoever his pleasure is to be out of this kingdom, that everie fifteene dayes there goeth from Pegu a caravan of falchines [ministers?], with everie one a basket on his heade full with some fruites or other delicates of refreshings, and with cleane clothes:

" chaunced that this caravan passing by Martavan, and resting themselves there a night, there happened betweene the Portugalles and them: wordes of dispight, and from words to blowes, and because it was thought that the Portugals had the worse, the night following, when the falchines were a sleepe with their companie, the Portugalles went and cut off five of their heades.

Blood Money

"Nowe there is a Lawe in Pegu, that whosoever killeth a man, hee shall buy the shed bloud with his monie, according to the estate of the person that is slaine, but these falchines [ministers, officials] being the servauntes of the king, the Retors durst not doe any thing in the matter, without the consent of the king, because it was necessarie that the king should knowe of such a matter.

"When the king [Bayinnaung] had knowledge thereof, he gave commaundement that the malifactors shoulde bee kept untill his comming home, and then he would duely minister justice,

Extraterritoriality Claimed by the Portuguese

"...but the captaine of the Portugalles would not deliver those men, but rather set himselfe with all the rest in armes, and went everie day through the citie marching with the Drumme and ancient [Ensignes] displayed.

"For at that time the Citie was emptie of men, by reason they were gone al to the warres and in businesse of the King: in the middest of this rumour wee came thether, and I thought it a straunge thing to see the Portugalles use such insolencie in another mans Cittie.

A Merchant Concerned About Losing His Goods

"Dealings with the Retor at Martaban And I stoode in doubte of that which came to passe, & would not unlade my goodes because that they were more surer in the ship then on the land, the greatest part of the lading was the owners of the ship, who was in Malacca, yet there were divers merchants there, but their goods were of small importance, al those merchants told me that they woulde not unlade any of their goodes there, unlesse I would unlade first, yet after they left my counsell & followed their own, and put their goods a land and lost it everie whit.

"The Rector with the customer sent for me, and demaunded why I put not my goods a lande, and payd my custome as other men did?

"To whom I answered, that I was a merchant that was newly come thither, & seeing such disorder amongst the Portugalles, I doubted the losse of my goodes which cost me very dear, with the sweate of my face, and for this cause I was determined not to put my goodes a lande, untill such time as his honour would assure me in the name of the king, that I shoulde have no losse although there came harme to the Portugalles, that neither I nor my goodes should have any hurt, because I had neither part nor any difference with them in this rumor:

Guarantees by Local Authorities

"my reason sounded well in the Retors eares, and presently commaunded to cal the Bargits, which are as Counsellers of the Citie & there they promised me on the kings head or in the behalfe of the king, that neither I nor my goods should have anie harme, but that we should be safe & sure: of which promise there was made publike notes,

"and then I sent for my goods and had them a land, and payd my custome, which is in that countrie ten in the hundreth of the same goodes, and for my more securitie I tooke a house right against the Retors house.

"The Captain of the Portugalles, and all the Portugal merchants were put out of the Citie, and I with twentie and two poore men which were officers in the ship. We had our dwelling in the Citie.

The Burmese Attack the Portuguese

"After this, the Gentils devised to be revenged of the Portugales; but they woulde not put it in execution untill such time as our small Shippe had discharged all her goodes,

"and then the next night following came from Pegu fowre thousand souldiers with some Elyphants of Warre;

"and before that they made anie rumor in the citie, that the Retor sent, and gave commaundement to all Portugalles that were in the Citie, when they heard anie rumour or noyse, that for any thing they should not goe out of their houses, and as they tendered their own health.

"Then fowre houres in the night I heard a great rumour and noyse of men of Warre, with Eliphants which threwe downe the doores of the Ware-houses of the Portugalles, and their houses of wood and strawe, in the which

"rumor there were some Portugalles wounded, and one of them slaine; and others without making proofe of their manhoode, which the daye before did so bragge, at that time: put themselves to flight most shamefullye, and saved them selves a boorde of little Shippes, that were at an ancker in the harbour, and some that were in their beddes fledde away naked, and

"that night they caried away all the Portugalles goods out of the suburbes into the Citie, and those Portugalles that had their goodes in the suburbes with all.

The Portuguese Counter-Attack

"After this the Portugalles that were fled into the shippes to save themselves, tooke a newe courage to themselves, and came a lande and set fire on the houses in the suburbs, which houses being made of boord and straw, and a fresh winde; in small time were burnt and consumed, with which fire halfe the Citie had like to beene burnt;

"when the Portugales had done this, they were without all hope to recover any part of their goodes againe, which goods might amount to the summe of sixteene thousande duckets, which, if they had not set fire to the towne, they might have had their goodes given them gratis.

"Then the Portugalles having understanding that this thing was not done by the consent of the king, but by his lieutenant and the Retor of the citie were verie yll content, knowing that they had made a greate fault,

"yet the next morning following, the Portugalles began to batter, and shoote their ordinance against the Citie, which batterie of theirs continued fowre dayes, but all was in vaine, for the shotte never hit the Citie, but light on the top of a small hill neere unto it, so that the Citie had no harme,

"when the Retor perceiving that the Portugalles made batry against the Citie, he tooke twentie and one Portugalles that were there in the Citie, and sent them foure miles into the Countrie, there to tarrie untill such time as the other Portugalles were departed, that made the batterie, who after their departure let them goe at their owne libertie without any harme done unto them.

"I was alwayes in my house with a good guard appointed me by the Retor, that no man shoulde doe mee injurie, nor harme me nor my goodes; in such wise that hee perfourmed all that hee had promised mee in the name of the king,

"but he would not let me depart before the comming of the king, which was my hindrance greatly, because I was twentie and one moneths sequestred, that I coulde not buy nor sell any kinde of merchandize.

"Those commodities that I brought thither, was Peper, Sandolo, and Porcellan of China, so when the king was come home, I made my supplication unto him, and I was licensed to depart when I would.