Gayer, John (d.1711?) (DNB00)

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GAYER, Sir JOHN (d. 1711?), governor of Bombay, was the son of Humfrey Gayer, merchant, of Plymouth, Devonshire (fourth son of John Gayer, who died in 1593), by his wife, Miss Sparke of the same town, and nephew of Sir John Gayer (d. 1649) [q. v.] (Vivian, Visitations of Cornwall, ed. 1887, p. 172; Visitation of London, 1633-5, Harl. Soc., i. 306; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629-31, p. 152). His uncle bequeathed to him 100l. At an early age he entered the service of the East India Company, and rose to be a sea-captain.

On being appointed by the owners commander of the ship Society, he was admitted into the freedom of the company on 7 April 1682. On 3 June 1692 he was chosen go-vernor of the port and island of Bombay. In 1693, when Sir John Goldsborough [q. v.] was appointed 'General and Commander-in- Chief, &ca.,' Gayer (who had been knighted on 18 March) was appointed (10 April) 'our Lieutenant-Generall, Governour of Bombay, and Directore-in-Chief of all our Affaires and ffactoryes, . . . next and under Our Generall Sir John Goldsborough,' whom he was to succeed in case of death. He went out in December 1693 as governor of Bombay and general, reaching the Indian coast at Calicut on 5 March 1693-4, and there hearing of the death of Goldsborough. Gayer's prolonged tenure of office was much troubled by difficulties with the 'interlopers' and the growth of the New Company. In 1699 the forerunners of the New (or English) East India Company were followed by Sir Nicholas Waite (a dismissed agent of the old company) as president at Surat and king's consul. The servants of the Old (or London) Company refused to recognise the new men or even the authority of Sir William Norris, who came out as King William's ambassador to the Great Mogul. Waite unscrupulously turned every engine against the Old Company, not even hesitating, it would appear, to stimulate the native excitement by charging his rivals with piracy. The native government was ready enough to take advantage of these rivalries. The ambassador arrived on 10 Dec. 1700, convoyed by four king's ships. A contest in bribery began between the agents of the two companies. Gayer, who had left his stronghold at Bombay and come to Swally, the roadstead of Surat, to arrange the disputes in which the governor of Surat was involved, was arrested there, in consequence apparently of Waite's charges. Along with his wife and some of his council, he was removed to Surat by a body of native troops, and confined to the factory. His confinement, with some temporary suspension, endured for years. He was still a prisoner in the beginning of 1709, when the companies had been amalgamated. Before going to Surat, Gayer had desired to retire on account of ill-health (see his letter to the company from 'Bombay Castle, Aug. the 18th, 1699 '). In their letters to the court dated from Surat, 31 March and 25 April 1706, Gayer and his council give a frightful picture of the anarchy in Guzerat and the country between Surat and Ahmedabad. At length the Old Company, in a letter to Gayer, dated 20 April 1708, intimated that Waite had been removed, although his perverse violence had driven his council previously to confine him; and, as Gayer's captivity disqualified him from succeeding, William Aislabie, deputy-governor at Bombay, had been appointed general in his place. They also hinted that Gayer might have gained his liberty had he not stood so much on the punctilios of release. He was certainly released by 5 Oct. 1710. On that day he made his will in Bombay Castle, and died there, probably in the following year (Probate Act Book, P. C. C. 1712, f. 64). He was twice married, but left no issue. His first wife, a Miss Harper, had died in India, and he desired, should he himself die there, to be buried in her tomb. His will was proved at London by his second wife, Mary, on 17 April 1712 (registered in P. C. C. 70, Barnes). After making liberal bequests to his relatives and friends, he left 5,000l. for the benefit of young ministers and students for the ministry, especially desiring that the recipients should be of the same principles as Richard Baxter.

[Diary of William Hedges, Esq., ed. Colonel Sir Henry Yule (Hakluyt Soc.), ii. cxxxvii-clv; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, 1857, v. 97.]

G. G.