Interesting facts of Governor Elihu Yale of Yale university

Elihu Yale ounder of Yale University.
Yale's first wedding took place here1680. St. Mary's Church, Chennai

During the British rule in India centuries ago, numerous British people joined the British East India company for better job prospects in a strange tropical land where the natives spoke different languages. Among them,  some got job promotion with additional responsibility. Over a period of time, driven by greed and over ambition to make quick bucks, some became corrupt. Once they made a bundle, they returned to their native land and lived comfortably like Indian Maharajahs.  Elihu Yale was a good administrator and through sheer hard work and guts rose to the position of eminence and in late 1600s he became the Governor of Madras Presidency, an important British settlement on the East coast of South India. Yale married  one Catherine Hynmers, a widow, in 1680. Their wedding took place at St. Mary's Church, in Fort St. George, Chennai  where Yale was a vestryman and treasurer. The marriage happened to be the first registered at the  English church.

The following are some facts:

01. On July 26, 1687,Yale took over the administration of Ft. St. George Madras, India.

02. Gov. Elihu Yale was instrumental in getting  the absolute control over the town of St. Thome (now a suburb of Chennai) for three years from the Portuguese.

03. Yale's three-year old son David Yale died and was interred next to Hynmers, twice acting Governor of Madras, in the Madras cemetery- St. Mary's church.

04. The records of this period mention a flourishing slave trade in Madras. Because of increasing demand for the slaves the English merchants began to kidnap young children and deport them to distant parts of the world, very much against their will.

05. On February 2, 1688, Elihu Yale, through laws restricted slave trade and made transportation of young children, in particular,  unlawful.

Yale Lord Cavendish, et al

Above image : Elihu Yale, Lord James Cavendish, Mr Tunstal and a Page, c.1708, Canvas print. Wall Art........................

06. In the later part of the 17th century, Madras steadily progressed during the period of the East India Company and under many Governors. Although most of the original Portuguese, Dutch, and British population had been killed during the Golconda period, under the Mughul protection, large numbers of British and Anglo-American settlers arrived to replenish these losses. As a result during the Governorship of Elihu Yale (1687–92), the large number of British and European settlers led to the most important political event which was the formation of the institution of a 'Mayor' and the Corporation for the city of Madras. Under this Charter, the British and Protestant inhabitants were granted the rights of self-government and independence from company law. In 1693, a Perwanna was received from the local Nabob granting the towns Tondiarpet, Purasawalkam and Egmore to the company which continued to rule from Fort St. George.

statue of Elihu Yale, Yale univ. old campus.

07. On December 30, 1687 the Corporation of Madras was established. The charter came into effect on September 29, 1688.

08. It was believed that Yale purchased territory for private purposes with East India Company's funds, including a fort at Tevanapatam, now Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.  In 1690, the British won by out bidding the Dutch and the French and Elihu Yale, Governor of Madras,  successfully handled the negations. After long protracted negotiations, he acquired the fort and named it Fort Saint David after a Welsh Saint. When the French took over Ft. St. George in Madras in 1746, Clive and some of his men took refuge in Ft. St. David. Later he became a great hero.

09. After Yale imposed high taxes for the maintenance of the colonial garrison and town, there were several revolts by the local Indians, but they were brutally put down by garrison soldiers. Further, Yale had a stable boy mercilessly hanged for petty crime and became unpopular among the locals. Being highly corrupt, high handed and arrogant, he was fired from the British company in 1692 as he got a bad rap wherever he worked. Yale died on July 8, 1721 in London, England.

10. Yale had donated 20 Pagodas or gold coins when  St. Mary's Church was being built. This was equal to three quarters of his salary at the time. However, he made  up for it by marrying Catherine Hynmers, the widow of a rich merchant who had happened to be his best friend.

11. As for donation to Yale when funding was going on, it was at the  request of one  Cotton Mather who was after rich people for donations.  It is likely he approached Yale because of this connection with Boston. He was born in Boston, but  after the family had  left North America, Yale never returned to his birthplace.

12. Yale  died and so  he could  not make good on his promise for a large donation for the college project during his life time. However, the sale proceeds of his personal belongings, books, etc fetched 562 (some reports mention 800 pounds) pounds enough to procure fame,

13.  There is  strange  epitaph in the will that Yale left to the memory of his rich widow: he signed his will, “To My Wicked Wife” and left the entry blank. It is a mystery as to why he left the entry blank.

Masula boat model.

14. When Yale landed on the shores of the English settlement, Madras on a  Masula  boat, he was barely 24 years old with bleak future. His sheer trust in him and the ability to get things done had kept him apart from others.

Yale would not have thought that one day he would become the Governor of Madras Presidency, marry a rich lady and make a big fortune.  In the later years, as it was  common among many colonial masters, Yale never failed to display  all the arrogance of the English men for which they were well-known.  Anyway, his philanthropy - benefactor of the Collegiate School of Connecticut, (renamed Yale College in his honor)  - overshadows his misdeeds  and racial disparity while in the employ of British East India company, Madras, India. 

                                             (re-edited 2 August, 2019)