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It may be had by way of purchase from the Great Matram, King of the island of Java. An ambassador should be sent to him on that account. This purchase would be a very advantageous thing to the company, because in all likelihood, the pepper, rice and all sorts of provisions for the mouth would flow in there from all sides and in greater abundance than to Batavia, whither all those commodities have constantly been carried hitherto, and because the Chinese a people so serviceable and so tractable who inhabit the territory of Batavia would infallibly come and fling themselves among the French to free themselves from the insupportable charges and taxes put upon them some years last past in that place by the Dutch Company, who treat them with extreme severity and rigor.

The staples or public marts on the Indian coast for the South Sea trade might be on the coast of Malabar and the other on the coast of Coromandel. There is upon this last coast a place called St. Thomas which may be had without any great difficulty. In the meantime, as the establishment of trade in the South is a great and important enterprise and the success of it depends on a wise and prudent conduct it is necessary to send out of hand, a deputation to the great Mogul.

This deputation will settle things in those quarters and upon their arrival the commerce will be free and open to Surat, to the coast of Coromandel, and to Bengal- the three principle places of traffic. Pepper and cassalinga will without trouble be bought, and abundantly, even on the coast of Malabar, especially if the price thereof be raised ever so little. It is quite the contrary with them. They are paid for everything, and beforehand, too. One can ask nothing of them but with a present in one's hand, and they have thereupon this proverb that one comes back from a judge as one went to him.

As much as to say that if one goes there with an empty hand, one comes back without having any justice done one. The poorest and most miserable people never appear before a great man, or one from whom they would ask some favor, but at the same time they offer a present which is never refused, even by the greatest lords of the kingdom, such as fruit, fowls, lamb, etc. Everyone gives of that which he is possessed of most and of the profession which he is of, and those who have no profession give money. It is accounted an honor to receive these sorts of presents; they make them publicly and generally take that time when there is most company.

This is the general custom throughout all the East and it may be one of the [most ancient] in the world. As this seems very mean and dishonest with the Europeans, I shall not add, that it is neither perhaps the most reasonable and I shall not take upon me to defend it. I shall only say that the Persians do the service always for which they take the present, and that they do it instantly, or the first opportunity that offers.

They likewise make presents to their patrons and benefactors upon festivals and other such like solemn occasions, without asking any particular favor of them [ back ]. The presents [given to the king] are consigned to the chief of the king's buttery, who is the superintendent of that apartment. The price is set thereupon some days after according to the valuation of the merchants, and those that are best skilled therein.

Travels in Persia, 1673-1677 (eBook)

Each part of the present is afterwards distributed to those of the king's officers, who have the charge of things of the same nature. The tapestry, for example, is delivered into the magazine of the place where the royal manufacture thereof is practiced. The arms and cannon are put in the arsenal, the jewels are laid up in the treasury, and so of the rest. The particular intendants of each respective apartment enter the same into their books. The present is likewise registered in the chamber of accompts belonging to the demesne, and it is enrolled in so many registers that it is impossible that any part thereof should be lost.

If they had a mind to know, one by one, all the presents which have been made to the kings of Persia for these two hundred years, nothing would be easier, and the detail thereof readily found. It is not to be believed, the vast expense the king of Persia is at in these presents. The number of garments he thus bestows is infinite; his wardrobes are always kept full of them, and the nazir causes them to be delivered according to the king's pleasure. They are kept in separate magazines according to their respective sorts.

The nazir only marks upon a ticket what magazine the garment which the king gives is to be taken out of. The officers of these magazines and wardrobes have a settled duty paid them out of these clothes, which amounts to half the value thereof. This duty or fee is the chief prerequisite of these officers, and when the king commands any habit to be given without taking fees, which very rarely happens he makes them good to the officers, so that they never lose them. It is the same in all the presents the king makes. If it be in ready money, the superintendent of the treasury takes five percent, which is shared among several officers of the king's household.

The nazir has, for his particular share, two percent. If it be horses, the master of the horse has the like fee out of it; if it be of jewels, the chief of the goldsmiths has the same, and so of the others. To conclude, the king of Persia never dismisses any stranger till he has sent him a calate , and likewise one to each of the principal persons of his retinue, and to his interpreter. At night I went to court to see several noblemen who owed me money.

The king's high steward, the captain at the gate and the receiver of presents who were of the number, desired me to go to the envoy of the French company and to tell him that it was wondered at.. That therein he was wrong informed of the customs of Persia, since all ambassadors and generally all those who make presents to the king from what place soever they come, pay those fees which were an established duty, and the chief prerequisite of their places and of the other officers, who had a share therein. That it was in vein he struggled not to pay them, for he would certainly find he must.

That lord made some steps indeed in order there unto. He read to the king the petition which the envoy had presented to that purpose. On the other hand, the great men who were concerned therein preferred likewise their petitions in opposition to his; this difference made a noise. The first minister did not declare his opinion. The envoy alleged that his colleague, who had a greater liberty in his orders, was dead, but as for himself, he had no power to give anything beyond what was prescribed in his commission. The nobles alleged in their behalf the customs, and that this fee was a part of their salaries.

At last the king's council ordered that the matter should be examined among the English, the Portuguese and the Hollanders, and that if it appeared that any ambassador or envoy of those nations had, at any time, been exempted from paying that duty, this envoy should likewise have the same favor.

The interpreters of those nations were thereupon sent for, and the registers of the receiver of the presents were likewise brought and searched. At last they all agreed; that no European had ever been freed from that duty, and that the French envoy must do as the rest had done. They showed him [ This duty is fifteen percent by constitution, but the abuses that have crept into it have made it amount to near five and twenty.

The lord high steward has ten of it, which right he ought to share with the Yessaouls , who are the king's gentlemen in ordinary, and are four and twenty in number, but he gives them little or nothing out of it. The other fifteen percent are for the intendants of the galleries or magazines where the presents are laid up, as has been said.

Thus the duties on the jewels which are presented to the king are for the chief of the treasury, and the chief of the goldsmiths, and so of the rest. When I left that lord's house I went to pay a visit to Zerguer bachi who is the head of all the goldsmiths and jewelers in the kingdom and intendant over all the works of gold and silver and precious stones that are made for the king.

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He puts the price upon every thing that is sold at court, out of which he has a right of two percent [brokerage] and one percent for what is sold of those kinds throughout the town. It is easy to judge from hence, the indispensable necessity I was under, of obtaining his favor in this affair. I asked his pardon for not being so diligent as I ought to have been in seeking the opportunity to pay my respects to him, telling him among other things, that I knew very well the success of my business depended on him.

He answered me, that I had done very well to have shown him in private what I had brought for the king before I had seen the nazir because we might have talked about the price, by which means he could better have told me how to have set the value.

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In the meantime that it was never the worse as it happened, for the nazir and he were very good friends, and reposed a mutual confidence in each other. That for his part he had never given any cause for merchants to complain of his proceedings, and that he would give me none, nor be any hindrance to me in selling the whole. I thanked him heartily, assuring him at the same time that I would not fail of making him some acknowledgments.

That's a thing one must never forget to have at one's tongue's end in Persia. I am an honest man, and am content with my right of two percent out of what is sold. The grandees in Persia are more ready and officious than in any place in the world to forward the communication of those things that will please the king; but you must be very careful who you chose for your introductor; for if I had addressed myself first to this man, for example, the nazir, who is the king's overseer, that is to say his great minister, principal agent, and superintendent, would have highly resented it, pretending that everything that was to be laid before the king ought to come directly to him first.

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On the 7th, at three in the afternoon, I ordered all my jewels that were specified in a memorandum I had given the nazir the day before, to be carried in a box to his house. He was with the king, who had sent for him and returned about five o'clock. The president of the Divan, one of the principal officers of the crown, the head of the goldsmiths and several other lords of the court were with him. He viewed them all, piece by piece, and compared them with the memorandum, and putting them all into the box again, he affixed his own seal to the lock and sent it to his wardrobe.

All this he did with a negligent air and a very great indifference; but that was affected as well by reason of the company then present, as that I might take no advantage by discerning in the least which he thought to be the finest and best done.

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I was not at all discouraged at his acting thus, knowing the manner of the Persians on such occasions, and with what ease and address they fashion and comport themselves according as their interest requires. After that lord had dispatched some affairs, he inquired of me if I had brought no more than what he had seen.

I answered him that I had still some jewels left by me, which I did not think worth the king's seeing. His Majesty must have the first sight of them, and if you act otherwise, you will create [for] yourself trouble, and me too. Upon the 11th the nazir sent me several horsemen, to conduct me to his palace when he should be come back from the king.

He had there got an assembly together of the most skillful jewelers in the city, Mohammedans, Armenians, and Indians, to the number of eighteen or twenty. What the king had made choice of were in a large gold basin of china fluted. I was in a manner thunderstruck when I cast my eyes on what the king had set apart, which was not one quarter of what I had brought. I became pale and without motion. The nazir perceived it, and was touched thereat. I was just by him, he therefore leaned towards me and said in a low voice, "You afflict yourself that the king has liked only a small part of your jewels.

I protest to you that I have done more than I ought, to create in him a liking to them all, and to make him take at least one- half of them; but I could not succeed therein because your large pieces, as the saber, the poynard and the looking-glass are not well made according to the fashion of the country. However compose your mind you shall sell them if it pleases God.


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I was much surprised, and very much afflicted that the nazir had been sensible thereof. However, I recovered myself as well as I could without disguising at the same time too much, the displeasure I had and which was so well grounded seeing that the great pains which I had taken for four years together, instead of making my fortune, and heaping honor upon me, as the late king of Persia had promised me, were like to afford me nothing but losses and fresh labor.

Then making me sit near him, he told me that there was no great difference betwixt the price I asked and that which the valuers had set; that it would be impossible to conclude anything, unless I abated at least one half. That he had told me himself, and caused me to be told to consider the low rate to which jewels and precious stones were fallen, by reason the king did not mind them and the poverty of the court, which was not in the condition to buy any of me.

That the times of the late king were over, and that had it not been for his solicitations with the king, he would not so much as have looked at my jewels, so that I could not expect to make any great gains, as I might have done formerly. That he was altogether surprised at the excessive rates I set upon my things, and that according to what the Armenians who are constantly going to, and coming from Europe had valued them at and they could not but know very well the current price of precious stones he found I had a mind to gain two for one.

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The nazir seasoned his discourse with so many civilities and protestations of good will to serve me, that to tell the truth I fell into his snares, and took all those dexterous fetches, for openness and sincerity of the heart.