Elihu Yale (5 April 1649 – 8 July 1721) was a British merchant,
slave trader, President of the
East India Company
East India Company settlement in Fort
St. George, at Madras, and a benefactor of the Collegiate School in
the Colony of Connecticut, which in 1718 was renamed
Yale College in
3 Tenure as President of Madras
3.1 Accusations of corruption and removal
5 Yale University
6 Cultural references
8 External links
Plas yn Iâl, seat of the Yales, c.1795
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, to David Yale (1613–1690) and Ursula,
he was the grandson of Ann Lloyd (1591–1659), who after the death of
her first husband, Thomas Yale (1587–1619) in Chester, Cheshire,
England, married Governor
Theophilus Eaton (1590–1658) of New Haven
Yale's ancestry can be traced back to the family estate at Plas yn
Iâl near the village of Llandegla, Denbighshire, Wales. The name
Yale is the English spelling of the Welsh place name Iâl.
The Yale family left
Boston and returned to
England when Elihu was
three years old and he grew up going to school in London.
For 20 years Yale served the Honourable East
India Company. In 1684 he
became the first president of Fort St. George, the company's post at
Madras (now Chennai), India. He succeeded a number of agents from
Andrew Cogan to William Gyfford. Yale was instrumental in the
development of the Government General Hospital, housed at Fort St.
Yale amassed a fortune while working for the company, largely through
secret contracts with Madras merchants, against the East India
Company's directive. By 1692, his repeated flouting of East India
Company regulations and growing embarrassment at his illegal
profiteering resulted in his being relieved of the post of
Plas Grono, Yale family mansion near Wrexham, Wales
Yale returned to Britain in 1699. He spent the rest of his life at
'Plas Grono', a mansion bought by his father near Wrexham, Wales, or
at his house in London, spending liberally the considerable wealth he
Yale married Catherine Hynmers, a widow, in 1680. The wedding took
place at St. Mary's Church, at Fort St. George, where Yale was a
vestryman and treasurer. The marriage was the first registered at the
Tenure as President of Madras
Elihu Yale Memorial, St. Mary's Church, Madras
Elihu Yale was re-appointed as president of the administration of Fort
St George on 26 July 1687. He then implemented an order dated 14
January 1685 which required the English at
Fort St George
Fort St George to make all
attempts at procurement of the town of St Thome on lease. To this
effect, Chinna Venkatadri was sent to negotiate with the local
governor on 4 August 1687. The mission was successful and Chinna
Venkatadri assumed sovereignty over St Thome for a period of three
years. Notwithstanding the vehement protests of the Portuguese
inhabitants of St Thome, the English gained absolute control over all
lands up to
St Thomas Mount
St Thomas Mount for a period of three years.
In September 1688, the Mughal Emperor
Golconda after a
prolonged battle. The Mughals took Sultan of
Golconda prisoner and
annexed the state. The newly designated Mughal
Subedar of the province
immediately sent a letter to the British authorities at Fort St George
demanding that the English at Madras acknowledge the overlordship of
the Mughal Emperor. The English complied willingly. Aurangazeb
guaranteed the independence of Madras, but in return demanded that the
English supply troops in the event of a war against the Marathas. It
was around this time that Yale's three-year-old son David Yale died
and was interred in the Madras cemetery.
The records of this period mention a flourishing slave trade in
Madras, a trade in which Yale participated and from which he profited.
He enforced a law that at least ten slaves should be carried on every
ship bound for Europe. In his capacity as judge he also on several
occasions sentenced so-called "black criminals" to whipping and
enslavement. When the demand began to increase rapidly, the English
merchants even began to kidnap young children and deport them to
distant parts of the world, very much against their will. At a time
when profits from the slavetrade were dwindling and pressure from the
Mughal government to stop the enslavement was mounting, the
Fort St George
Fort St George eventually stepped in and introduced
laws to curb enslavement.
During Yale's presidency, a plan for setting up a corporation in
Madras was conceived by Josiah Child, the President of the Board of
Directors of the East
India Company, in a letter addressed to the
factors at Madras on 28 September 1687. Three months later, Josiah
Child and his deputy had an audience with James II, and as per the
ensuing discussions, a Charter was issued by the king on 30 December
1687 which established the Corporation of Madras. The charter came
into effect on 29 September 1688, and a Corporation was established
comprising a Mayor, 12 Aldermen, 60-100 Burgesses and sergeants.
Nathaniel Higginson, who was then the second member of the Council of
Fort St George
Fort St George took office as the Mayor of Madras.
In August 1689, a French fleet appeared near the coast of Ceylon
compelling the Governor of
Pulicat Lawrence Pitt who was on high seas
to seek protection within the bastions of Fort St George. Throughout
the year 1690, French naval ships from Pondicherry ravaged the coast
in order to drive the English and the Dutch out of the East Indies but
were unsuccessful. They eventually withdrew from their enterprise when
faced with heavy losses. It was also during this time that the English
purchased the town of Tegnapatnam from the Marathas.
Accusations of corruption and removal
As president of Fort St. George, Yale purchased territory for private
East India Company
East India Company funds, including a fort at Tevnapatam
(now Cuddalore). Yale imposed high taxes for the maintenance of the
colonial garrison and town, resulting in an unpopular regime and
several revolts by Indians, brutally quelled by garrison soldiers.
Yale was also notorious for arresting and trying Indians on his own
private authority, including the hanging of a stable boy who had
absconded with a Company horse.
Charges of corruption were brought against
Elihu Yale in the last
years of his Presidency. He was eventually removed in 1692 and
Nathaniel Higginson as the President of Madras.
Yale's grave on the grounds of St. Giles' Church in Wrexham
Yale died on 8 July 1721 in London, but was buried in the churchyard
of the parish church of St. Giles in Wrexham. His tomb is inscribed
with these lines:
Born in America, in Europe bred
In Africa travell'd and in Asia wed
Where long he liv'd and thriv'd; In
Much good, some ill, he did; so hope all's even
And that his soul thro' mercy's gone to Heaven
You that survive and read this tale, take care
For this most certain exit to prepare
Where blest in peace, the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the silent dust.
In Boston, Massachusetts, a tablet to Yale was erected in 1927 at
Scollay Square, near the site of Yale's birth. Yale president Arthur
Twining Hadley penned the inscription, which reads: "On Pemberton
Hill, 255 Feet North of This Spot, Was Born on April Fifth 1649 Elihu
Yale, Governor of Madras, Whose Permanent Memorial in His Native Land
is the College That Bears His Name."
Cotton Mather contacted Yale and asked for his help. Mather
represented a small institution of learning that had been founded in
1701 in New Haven, Connecticut, as the Collegiate School of
Connecticut, which needed money for a new building. Yale sent Mather
417 books, a portrait of King George I, and nine bales of goods. These
last were sold by the school for £800 pound sterling, a substantial
sum in the early 18th century. In gratitude, officials named the
new building Yale; eventually the entire institution became Yale
Yale was also a vestryman and treasurer of St. Mary's Church at Fort
St. George. On 6 October 1968, the 250th anniversary of the naming of
Yale College for Elihu Yale, the classmates of
Chester Bowles, then
the American ambassador to
India and a graduate of Yale (1924),
donated money for lasting improvements to the church and erected a
plaque to commemorate the occasion.
On 5 April 1999,
Yale University recognized the 350th anniversary of
Yale's birthday. An article that year in American Heritage magazine
Elihu Yale the "most overrated philanthropist" in American
history, arguing that the college that became
Yale University was
successful largely because of the generosity of a man named Jeremiah
Dummer, but that the trustees of the school did not want it known by
the name "Dummer College".
In her article for
The Atlantic about Skull and Bones, a secret
society at Yale University,
Alexandra Robbins alleges that Yale's
headstone was stolen years ago from its proper setting in Wrexham. She
further alleges that the tombstone is now displayed in a glass case in
a room with purple walls.
Elihu later became the name of a "senior society" founded in 1903 at
Tom Wolfe, who earned a Ph.D. in
American Studies from Yale, named the
Atlanta police chief in
A Man in Full
A Man in Full Elihu Yale.
Yale College, a former college in Wrexham, Wales, since renamed to
Coleg Cambria, was also named after Elihu Yale.
Elihu Yale is the name given to a JD Wetherspoons pub in the town of
Theodore Roosevelt's son Quentin kept a
Hyacinth macaw named Eli Yale.
Yale University student or alumnus is known informally as either an
Eli or a Yalie.
^ a b c "
Elihu Yale (English merchant and philanthropist)".
Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-08-10. English merchant,
official of the British East
India Company, and benefactor of Yale
^ a b Henry Davidson Love Indian Records Series Vestiges of Old
Chennai 1640-1800 Mittal Publications
^ Madras Medical College History Archived 24 February 2007 at the
^ a b "Yale, India, and the failure of the 'global university'". The
Hindu. 4 May 2005. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
^ The Hindu, paragraph 10
Elihu Yale Was a
Slave Trader". Digital Histories at Yale. Archived
from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
^ "A Complete History of Connecticut" Page 35, 1818
Boston Erects Tablet in Honor of Elihu Yale". The Harvard Crimson.
25 January 1927. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
^ Gordon, John Steele (1999). "Philanthropist". American Heritage. 50
(3): 68. ISSN 0002-8738.
^ Robbins, Alexandra. "George W., Knight of Eulogia". The Atlantic.
The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elihu Yale.
"Yale, Elihu". Dictionary of National Biography. 63. 1900.
"Yale, Elihu". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.
"Yale, Elihu". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
Namesake: Elihu Yale
Peter Salovey (predecessors)
Provost: Ben Polak
Undergraduate: Yale College
Graduate: Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Engineering & Applied Science
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Defunct: Sheffield Scientific School
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In popular culture
Category • Commons • Wikinews
President of Madras
8 August 1684 – 26 January 1685
President of Madras
25 July 1687 – 3 October 1692