Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/228

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The nation, however, relieved at once from a multitude of impositions and vexations which were painfully felt every day at every fireside, was in no humour to dispute the validity of the charters under which a few companies to London traded with distant parts of the world.

Of these companies by far the most important was that which had been, on the last day of the sixteenth century, incorporated by Queen Elizabeth under the name of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading to the East Indies.[1] When this celebrated body began to exist, the Mogul monarchy was at the zenith of power and glory. Akbar, the ablest and best of the princes of the House of Tamerlane, had just been borne, full of years and honours, to a mausoleum surpassing in magnificence any that Europe could show. He had bequeathed to his posterity an empire containing more than twenty times the population and yielding more than twenty times the revenue of the England which, under our great Queen, held a foremost place among European powers. It is curious and interesting to consider how little the two countries, destined to be one day so closely connected, were then known to each other. The most enlightened Englishmen looked on India with ignorant admiration. The most enlightened natives of India were scarcely aware that England existed. Our ancestors had a dim notion of endless bazaars, swarming with buyers and sellers, and blazing with cloth of gold, with variegated silks and with precious stones; of treasuries where diamonds were piled in heaps and sequins in mountains; of palaces, compared with which Whitehall and Hampton Court were hovels; of armies ten times as numerous as that which they had seen assembled at Tilbury to repel the Armada. On the other hand, it was probably not known to one of the statesmen in the Durbar of Agra that there was near the setting sun a great city of infidels, called London,

    worthy any gentleman's perusal." The language of Jeffreys is most offensive, sometimes scurrilous, sometimes basely adulatory: but his reasoning as to the mere point of law is certainly able, if not conclusive.

  1. I have left my account of the East India Company as it stood in 1855. It is unnecessary to say that it contains some expressions which would not have been used, if it had been written in 1858.