Charnock, Job (DNB00)
|←Charlton, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 10
CHARNOCK, JOB (fl. 1693), founder of Calcutta, arrived in India in 1655 or 1656, not, it would seem, in the service of the East India Company, which, however, he joined shortly afterwards, and in which he passed the remainder of his life. In 1658 he was a junior member of the council of the bay, as the council in Bengal was then styled, and was stationed at Kásimbázár (Cossimbazar), at that time the site of one of the company's most important factories. About 1664 he was appointed chief of the Patna factory, but afterwards returned to Kásimbázár as chief, and remained there apparently until 1686, when he was transferred to Hugli, effecting his removal to the latter place not without difficulty; for, owing to a dispute with the nawáb of Bengal regarding claims preferred by natives employed in the Kásimbázár factory against Charnock and his colleagues, that factory was watched by the nawáb's troops to prevent Charnock from leaving it. Charnock by this time had become chief of the council of the bay, his predecessor, Mr. Beard, having died in the previous year. Shortly after his arrival at Hugli, which he reached on 16 or 17 April 1686, Charnock became involved in hostilities with the foujdár of that place, over whom, with the aid of troops lately sent out by the court of directors for a different purpose, he gained a very decisive victory. A truce was made through the mediation of the Dutch residents at Hugli; but before the end of the year, owing to the threatening attitude of the nawáb of Bengal, Charnock deemed it necessary to leave Hugli, and to place himself and his followers in a more defensible position. In taking this step he was justified by instructions which some time before had been received from the court of directors, ordering that their establishment at Hugli should be moved to a place more accessible by sea, and therefore more defensible. It had been suggested that they should seize for this purpose one of the islands at the mouth of the Ganges; but to this, for various reasons, the court objected, deeming that their object would be best attained by the seizure of Chittagong, and by the erection of a fort at that place. 'We,' they wrote, 'have examined seriously the opinion of the most prudent and experienced of our commanders, all which doe concenter in this one opinion (and to us seeming pregnant truth), viz. that since those governors (i e. the native rulers) have by that unfortunate accident and the audacity of the interlopers, got the knack of trampling upon us, and extorting what they please of our estate from us, by the besieging of our factorys and stopping of our boats upon the Ganges, they will never forbear doing so till we have I made them as sensible of our power as we have of our truth and justice, and we, after many deliberations, are firmly of the same opinion, and resolve, with God's blessing, to pursue it.' In conformity with this decision they sent out a squadron and six complete companies of soldiers, with instructions to take on board the chief and principal members of the council of the bay, to seize all vessels belonging to the mughal pending an answer to a letter which was to be despatched to the nawáb of Bengal, and, in the event of no satisfactory settlement being come to with the nawáb, to proceed to Chittagong, 'where, after summons, if the fort, town, and territory thereunto belonging be not forthwith delivered to our lieutenant-colonel Job Charnock, we would have our forces land, seize, and take the said town, fort, and territory by force of arms.' At that time troops sent out to the company's factories were not accompanied by any officers of higher rank than lieutenant, the posts of colonel, lieutenant-colonel, major, and captain being filled by the members of the council on the spot.
In regard to the details of Charnock's exodus from Hugli some uncertainty exists. According to Orme, 'Charnock on the 15th December took the field, and, marching down the western bank of the river, burned and destroyed all the magazines of salt and granaries of rice which he found in his way between Hughley (Hugli) and the island of Ingelee (Hijili), which lies at the mouth of the river on the western shore' (Orme, History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan, ii. 12, Madras edition, 1861). In a native account, written apparently in the beginning of the present century, Charnock is described as having left Hugli by water, and, taking his vessel out to sea, 'proceeded towards the Dakhen,' i.e. Southern India (Elliot, History of India as told by its own Historians, viii. 378 seq.) In this account Charnock is credited with the possession of supernatural powers, which were exhibited by his burning, by means of a burning-glass, the whole of the river face of the city of Hugli as far as Chandernagore, and by his cutting through with his sword a heavy iron chain which had been stretched across the river for the purpose of intercepting his vessel. Both these accounts are silent regarding the fact, which has been revealed by some old official correspondence recently discovered (1886) at the India Office, that the place to which Charnock repaired after leaving Hugli was Sutánati, one of three villages which then stood on the site of the present city of Calcutta, and that there he entered into an agreement with an agent of the nawáb for the security of the company's trade, which, however, was not ratified by the nawáb. Failing to obtain a ratification of the treaty, Charnock proceeded to Hijili, the island at the mouth of the river already referred to, where he and his party remained for three months, exposed to occasional attacks from the troops of the nawáb, but suffering far more from fever, which carried off two-thirds of Charnock's force. Eventually the emperor of Delhi, finding that his revenues were suffering from the hindrance to trade caused by the naval operations of the company on the western coast, decided to redress the grievances of the company's agents on both sides of India, and sent orders to the nawab of Bengal, which resulted in a discontinuance of hostilities at Hijili, and in the execution of a treaty under which the English were permitted to return to all their factories in Bengal, and likewise to erect docks and magazines at Ulabarea, a village on the western bank of the Hugli, about fifbv miles from the mouth of the river. After a short stay at Ulabarea, Charnock returned to Sutanati, where he obtained leave to establish himself ; but owing to a fresh outbreak of hostilities between the company and the emperor on the western coast, the treaty made at Hijili was set aside by the nawáb, who again assumed a hostile attitude. At this juncture Charnock, who had disappointed the expectations of the court of directors by delaying to give effect to their instructions for the seizure of Chittagong, was temporarily superseded by a Captain Heath, who, after a series of extraordinary proceedings, including a futile demonstration against Chittagong, carried Charnock and the rest of the company's agents in Bengal to Madras, at that time tne chief settlement of the company on the eastern coast of India. After a stay of some fifteen months at Madras, Charnock, again through the intervention of the emperor, returned in July 1690 for the third and last time to Sutanati, where he obtained from Arangzib a grant of the tract of country on which Calcutta now stands. This he cleared of jungle and fortified; confirming, it is said, the emperor's favourable disposition by sending to Delhi an English physician, who cured the emperor of a carbuncle. There is a tradition that fourteen years before his death Charnock married a young and beautiful Hindu widow, whom he had rescued by force from the funeral pile, and had several children by her. On her death he enclosed in the suburbs of Calcutta a large piece of ground, which now forms the site of St. John's Church, and erected there, over his wife's remains, a mausoleum, in which he was himself buried on his death in January 1693. There is also a legend that Charnock, after the death of his wife, every year sacrificed a cock to her memory in the mausoleum.
Charnock appears to have enjoyed in an unusual degree the confidence of the directors of the East India Company. In the official despatches of the time he is constantly mentioned in very laudatory terms. He is described as having rendered 'good and faithfull service;' as 'one of our most ancient and beat servants;' as 'one of whose fidelity and care in our service we have had long and great experience;' as 'honest Mr. Charnock;' as 'a person that has served us faithfully above twenty years, and hath never, as we understand, been a prowler for himself beyond what was just and modest ; ' &c. &c. The only occasions on which the court adopted a different tone towards Charnock were when he failed to carry out their instructions to seize Chittaffong, a project which Charnock justly deemed to be, in the circumstances, impracticable, and when, in their opinion, he was not sufficiently firm in demanding the execution of the terms of the agreement made with the nawab's agent at Sutanati; but even in these cases the unfavourable remarks were qualified by expressions of confidence in Charnock ana by allusions to the perplexities occasioned to him by the machinations of his enemies in the council. The despatch relating to the second of these matters ends with the following remark: 'The experience we have of Mr. Charnock for tliirty-four years past, and finding all that hate us to be enemies to him, have wrought such a confidence in our mind concerning him, that we shall not upon any ordinary suggestions against him change our ancient and constant opinion of his fidelity to our interest.' The court's treatment of Charnock certainly contrasts very favourably with that which in those days they meted out to most of their governors and agents, whom, as a general rule, after appointing them with every expression of confidence, they treated with a capricious harshness altogether unworthy of wise administrators. The high opinion which the court entertained of Charnock was not shared by Sir John Goldsborough, their captain-general in succession to Sir John Child, who viaited Sutanati shortly after Charnock's death. In a report written by that functionary in 1693 animadversions are made upon Charnock, which reflect alike upon his administrative capacity and upon his private character. He is there charged with indolence and dilatoriness in the performance of his public duties and with duplicity in his relations with his colleagues and subordinates.
[This account of Charnock is based chiefly upon a collection of the official correspondence of the time, imperfect in parts, which has been recently compiled by Colonel Yule, and printed for the Hakluyt Society. Reference has also been made to Mill's History of British India, i. 84-6, edit, of 1868; Orme's History of Hindostan, ii. 12-15, Madras edit. of 1861; Marshman's History of India, i. 211-14, edit. of 1867; Gent. Mag. 1824, part i. p. 196; Men whom India has known, pp. 33-4, Madras, 1871.]