Bonds, Covenants, Indentures and Obligations, etc.

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It was common with commercial and government (Royal) controlled enterprises in earlier years, in which citizens were employed to undertake paid services, to require them to sign a Covenant of good behaviour and to limit their activities to the requirements of their employer.

In order to ensure that the terms of the Covenant were respected, it was practice to obtain ‘Guarantees’ from (usually) two citizens (or, ‘Sureties’) of repute. They would be required to issue bonds whereby they undertook to pay a certain sum of money in the event that the employee broke the terms of his Covenant.

This was the practice adopted by the Honourable East India Company for all its employees, from its inception in 1600 until its loss of monopoly in India in 1834 and sometimes beyond. Every British citizen wishing to travel to India required the authority of the Company and, in general, was only given that authority if he was an employee of the Company. Exceptions to this were soldiers of the Companies armies and officers and soldiers of the British Army travelling to India, but they were subject to other military forms of obligation to the Company.

FIBIS resources

The FIBIS database contains two lists of individuals undertaking early Bonds, Covenants, etc, covering thousands of names:

  • Early Bonds 1607-1770 - An index of names. The Bonds themselves have long since been lost.
  • Miscellaneous Bonds 1814-1865 issued by the Company after an Act of Parliament in 1813, lifting restrictions on travel to India of Missionaries, Tradesmen – and Women!

The major series of Bonds and Covenants, to be found in the ‘O’ series in the India Office Records at the British Library, are those issued in respect of Writers, Factors and other Civil Servants of the Company’s Trading service as mentioned in this B.L. link

Examples

The style of the documents involved was fairly standard and examples are given below:

Example of a ‘Bond’

Know all Men by these Presents That we

are held and firmly bound unto the United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East-Indies, in the sum of Pounds of Lawful Money of Great Britain, to be paid to the said United Company or their certain Attorney or Successors, To which Payment well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves and each of us, jointly and severally, and our and each of our Heirs, Executors, and Administrators. Sealed with our Seals dated this .......... day of ........ in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and ............. and in the .......... Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord

by the Grace of God, of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, King Defender of the Faith, and so forth.

WHEREAS is appointed and chosen to the above named United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East-Indies, The Condition of this Obligation is such, That the said .................... do, and shall, from Time to Time, and at all Times hereafter, during his Continuance in the said Office or Service, Faithfully, Honestly, Diligently and Carefully, Execute, Perform, and Discharge the said Office or Service.

And further, if the said ....................... his Heirs, Executors, Administrators and Assigns, and every of them, shall and do well and truly Observe, Perform, Pay, Fulfill and Keep all and every the Conditions, Covenants, Payments, Articles and Agreements contained and specified in one Pair of Indentures, bearing even Date with these Presents, and made between the above-named United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East-Indies, of the one Part, and the said

of the other Part, which on the Part and Behalf of the said his Heirs, Executors, Administrators and Assigns, or any of them, are, or ought to be Observed, Performed, Paid, Fulfilled and Kept, and that in all Things according to the Tenour, Effect and true Meaning of the said Indentures: Then this Obligation to be Void and of none Effect, or else to remain in full Force and Virtue.

Sealed and Delivered (being first stamped

according to the Act of Parliament) in the

Presence of us


Example of an Indenture (Covenant)

This Indenture, made the ..... Day of ............... in the .......... Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord ........... by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and so forth, and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy.........

BETWEEN

of the One Part, and the United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East-Indies, of the other Part: WHEREAS the said ................. is employed in the Service of the said United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East-Indies, as one of their .............. at their settlement of ...................... in the East Indies NOW THIS INDENTURE WITNESSETH, and the said .................. in compliance with a Resolution of the General Court of the said United Company, and for and in Consideration of what he is or shall be intitled to receive from the said Company, in respect of his said Service, or in respect of any other Station, Capacity or Employment in which the said ................ may hereafter be retained or employed by the said United Company or their Court of Directors, doth hereby for himself, his Heirs, Executors and Administrators, covenant, promise and agree to and with the said United Company, that the said shall not, nor will at any Time or Times hereafter, during his being employed in the said Company's Service, in any Station or Capacity whatsoever, either by himself or by any other Person or Persons whomsoever, in Trust for him or for his Use, directly or indirectly, accept, take or receive, or agree to accept, take or receive any Gift or Grants of Land, or Rents or Revenues issuing out of Lands, or any Territorial Possession, Jurisdiction, Dominion, Power or Authority whatsoever, from any of the Indian Princes, Sovereigns, Subahs or Nabobs, or any of their Ministers, Servants or Agents for any Service or Services, or upon any Account or Pretence whatsoever, nor shall or will, at any Time or Times hereafter during his being employed in the said Company's Services, in any Station or Capacity whatsoever, either by himself or any other Person or Persons whomsoever, in Trust for him or for his Use, directly or indirectly, accept, take or receive, or agree to accept, take or receive any Gift, Reward, Gratuity, Allowance, Donation or Compensation in Money, Effects, Jewels or otherwise howsoever, from any of the Indian Princes, Sovereigns, Subahs or Nabobs, or any of their Ministers, Servants or Agents for any Service or Services performed or to be performed by the said .............. in India, upon any Account and Pretence whatsoever; and that all and every such Gifts, Grants of Lands, or Rents and Revenues issuing out of Lands, or any such Territorial Po. Jur Dom. Power or Authority whatsoever, shall come to the Hands, Possession or Power of the said ...................... or any other Person or Persons in Trust for him, or for his Use as aforesaid, shall be deemed and construed to have been received and taken by him or them, for the sole use of the said United Company.

IN WITNESS whereof to one Part of these Indentures the said

hath set his Hand and Seal, and to the other Part thereof the said United Company

have caused their Common Seal to be put the Day and Year above written.


Sealed and

Delivered (being

first duly Stamped)

in the Presence of