Gov. Elihu Yale, controversial benefactor of Yale university, USA and some interesting facts

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

Elihu Yale's life and career offer a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of British colonial rule in India. As the Governor of Madras Presidency from 1687 to 1692, Yale's tenure was marked by both notable achievements and significant controversies.

Key Facts and Achievements:

  1. Governorship of Madras:

    • Start of Governorship: Yale assumed control of Fort St. George, Madras, on July 26, 1687.
    • St. Thome Acquisition: He successfully negotiated the control of St. Thome from the Portuguese for three years.
    • Municipal Reforms: Yale was instrumental in the establishment of the Corporation of Madras on December 30, 1687, which came into effect on September 29, 1688. This was a significant step towards self-governance for British and Protestant inhabitants, allowing them independence from company law

Yale Lord Cavendish, et al

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

2. Personal ife:

  • Marriage: Yale married Catherine Hynmers, a widow, in 1680 at St. Mary's Church, Fort St. George, Chennai. Their wedding was the first registered at the English church.
  • Philanthropy: Despite controversies, Yale contributed significantly to St. Mary's Church and later, indirectly, to Yale College. His donation of 20 pagodas for the construction of the church, which was three-quarters of his salary, exemplifies his philanthropic efforts.

3. Controversies and Misdeeds:

  • Slave Trade: Yale's administration witnessed a flourishing slave trade in Madras. Although he implemented laws on February 2, 1688, to restrict the trade and transportation of young children, the practice persisted under his watch.
  • Corruption and Taxation: Yale's tenure was marred by accusations of corruption and high-handedness. He imposed high taxes, leading to revolts that were brutally suppressed. His actions and arrogance eventually led to his dismissal from the British East India Company in 1692.
  • Misuse of Funds: Yale was believed to have used company funds for personal gains, including the purchase of Fort Saint David.
statue of Elihu Yale, Yale univ. old campus.

Masula boat model.

4. Legacy:Yale College

: Despite his controversial career, Yale's name endures through his association with Yale College. His promised but unrealized donation, followed by the sale of his personal belongings after his death, contributed significantly to the college's endowment

.Death and Epitaph: Yale died on July 8, 1721, in London. His epitaph intriguingly included the phrase “To My Wicked Wife,” with the entry left blank, hinting at unresolved personal conflicts.

Elihu Yale's story underscores the duality of many colonial administrators who, while contributing to institutional and infrastructural developments, also engaged in practices that were exploitative and oppressive. His mixed legacy serves as a reminder of the complex human dimensions behind historical figures.

                                             (re-edited - June 6, 2024)