Yale, Elihu (DNB00)

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YALE, ELIHU (1648–1721), governor of Madras, was born in or near Boston, Massachusetts, on 5 April 1648. He was the second son of David Yale, a native of Denbighshire (d. 14 Jan. 1690), who had sailed from England with his stepfather, Theophilus Eaton, to Newhaven, Connecticut, on the foundation of the colony there, but had migrated to Boston. The family returned to England in 1652 and settled in London. In 1672 Elihu went out to India in the service of the East India Company, and, after filling various subordinate positions, rose to be governor of the company's settlement at Fort St. George (Madras) in 1687 (see Talboys Wheeler, Madras in the Olden Time, i. 173–258, chaps. viii. and ix.). In this capacity he is said to have acted at times in a high-handed manner, and to have hanged his groom, a man named Cross, ‘for riding two or three days' journey off to take the air.’ The story is found in Harris's ‘Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels’ (1764, i. 917), and has been repeated by later writers. But it will be seen that Harris took it verbatim from Captain Alexander Hamilton's ‘New Account of the East Indies’ (1727, i. 362); and Elphinstone (Rise of the British Power, 1887 edit., p. 53) has shown that Hamilton is not a trustworthy witness where the company or its servants are concerned. In 1692 Yale was suspended from the governorship, his successor being Nathaniel Higginson. He had undoubtedly made a fortune by private trade, and as usual had disputes with his council at Madras, and with the directors in England.

Returning to London in 1699, Yale was made a governor of the East India Company, and became known for the open-handed liberality with which he scattered his gifts. It is even said that the method of sale by auction was originated by him, to relieve the plethora of goods and chattels which he brought back from India. The library of St. Paul's school possesses a number of volumes given by him, and he was a liberal benefactor to the church of Wrexham in North Wales, near which he often resided, in an old mansion named Plas Grono (pulled down in 1876), bought by his father. He died in London on 8 July 1721 (Hist. Reg. 1721, Chron. Diary, p. 29), and was buried on 22 July in the churchyard of Wrexham, where his curious epitaph is still to be seen.

Yale married a Mrs. Hincmars, widow of his predecessor in the governorship of Fort St. George, and left three daughters but no son. His last lineal descendant, Dudley Long North, M.P., died in 1829.

Yale's name is permanently commemorated by Yale university at Newhaven in Connecticut, U.S.A. In 1718 Cotton Mather invited Yale to help the struggling collegiate school of Connecticut, which was established first at Saybrook and was afterwards removed to Newhaven. Yale sent over a cargo of books, pictures, and other effects, the sale of which realised upwards of 560l. In gratitude for this his name was given to the new college building at Newhaven, and afterwards, by the charter of 1745, the whole institution was entitled Yale University. His portrait, a full-length by Enoch Zeeman, the gift of D. L. North, hangs in Alumni Hall.

[Dexter's Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College (New York), 1885, pp. 101, 176, and Sketch of the History of Yale University, 1887; Cat. of the Portraits … belonging to Yale University, Newhaven, 1892; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, vol. vi.; Madras Mail, 31 July 1895; Lady E. S. Wortley's Travels in the United States, 1857, i. 123; Bigland's Beauties of England and Wales, xvii. 595; information from Alfred Neobard Palmer, esq., of Wrexham. In The Yale Family, by Elihu Yale (Newhaven, 1850, p. 23), the subject of this article is wrongly stated to have been the third son of Captain Thomas Yale (d. 27 March 1683), and to have been born in Newhaven. Two letters from Yale to Thomas Pitt [q. v.] are in No. 22851 of the Additional and Egerton Manuscripts in the British Museum, ff. 65, 170, and several are printed in the Diary of Sir William Hedges (Hakluyt Soc.), iii. A pedigree of the Yale family, drawn up by C. H. Townshend of Raynham, Newhaven, appeared in the New England Historic and Genealogical Register for January 1899.]

J. H. L.