Of the Siamese People. The Siamese people is a Militia; Is counted and divided into men on the right hand, and on the left, and by Bands; What difference there is between a Band and a Company; The Children are of the same Band with their Parents; The Talapoins and Women are exempt from service, and yet are register’d, and why; The Advantages of the Nai; What at Siam are the dignities of Pa-ya, Oc-ya and the rest; Of the word Oc-; This word is not Siamese, and how they use it; Of the word Pa-ya; Six orders of the Cities of Siam; The dignities of the Siameses are not annext to the single Governments of City or Province; The Equivocations which this causes in Relations.
The Siamese People is a Militia, where every particular person is registred: They are all Souldiers, in Siamese Taban, and do all owe fix Months service annually to their Prince. It belongs to the Prince to arm them, and give them Elephants or Horses, if he would have them serve either on Elephants, or on Horseback: but it belongs to them to cloath, and to maintain themselves. And as the Prince never employs all his Subjects in his Armies, and that oftentimes he sends no Army into the Field, though he be at War with some of his Neighbours, yet for six months in the year he employs such a work, or in such a service as pleases him, those Subjects which he employs not in the War.
Wherefore, to the end that no person may escape the personal service of the Prince, there is kept an exact account of the People. ‘Tis divided into men on the right hand, and men on the left, to the end that every one may know on what side he ought to range himself in his Functions.
And besides this it is divided into Bands, each of which has its Chief, which they call Nai: so that this word is become a term of Civility, which the Siameses do reciprocally give one to the other, as the Chineses do interchange the Title of Master or Governor.
I have said that the Siamese People is divided by Bands, rather than by Companies; because that the number of Soldiers of the same band is not fixed, and because that all those of the same Band, are not of the same Company in the Army: and I have said, that Nai signifies Chief, though some translate it by the word Captain; because that the Nai does not always lead his Band to the War, no more than to the six months Service: His care is to furnish as many men out of his Band, as are required, either for the War, or for the six months Service.
The Children are of the same Band with their Parents; and if the Parents are of different Bands, the Children in the odd rank are of the Mother’s Band, and the Children in the even rank of the Father’s; provided nevertheless that the Mother’s Nai hath been acquainted with the Marriage, and that he hath given his consent thereunto: otherwise the Children would all be of the Mother’s Band.
Thus, though the Talapoins and Women do enjoy all exemption from Service, as not being esteemed Soldiers, yet they cease not to be set down in the Rolls of the People: the Talapoins, because they may return when they please to a secular condition, and that then they fall again under the power of their natural Nai: the Women because their Children are of their Band, or all, or the greatest part, as I have said.
‘Tis one of the Nai’s Priviledges to be able to lend to his Soldier sooner than any other, and to be able to satisfie his Soldiers Creditor; thereby to make his Soldier his Slave, when he is insolvable. As the King gives a Balon to each Officer with a certain number of Pagayeurs, and as there are the Officers, which are also the Nai, every Officer has his Pagayeurs in his Band. They brand them on the outside of the Wrist with an hot Iron and an Anchor over it; and these sort of Domesticks are call Bao. But none of the Bao’s or Pagayeurs owes to his Nai only this service, and that only six months in the year, wherefore they are released from six months to six months, or by month, as it pleases the Nai: the Nai has also some Offices in the Law as we shall see.
Now the more numerous this Band is, the more powerful he is esteemed: The Offices and Employments of Siam being important only in this. The Dignities of Pa-ya, Oc-ya, Oc-Pra, Oc-Louang, Oc-Counne, Oc-Meuing, and Oc-Pan, are seven degrees of these Nai. ‘Tis true that the Title of Oc-Pan is now disused. Pan signifies a Thousand, and it was thought that an Oc-Pan was Chief of a Thousand Men. Meuing signifies Ten Thousand, and it is thought that an Oc-Meuing is the Chief of Ten Thousand Men: not that in truth it was so, but that in the Indies they magnifie the Titles. No person could give me the true signification of these words, Pa-ya, Oc-ya, Oc-Pra, Oc-Louang, Oc-Counne, nor how many men are assigned to each of the five Dignities; but it is probable that as the words Pan and Meuing are Terms of Number, the rest are so too.
The word Oc seems to signify Chief; for they have another Title without Function, viz. Oc-Meuang, which seems to signify Chief of a City, in that Meuang signifies a City, and in that it is necessary to have been made Oc-Meuang before he be effectively made Governor, whom they call Tchaou-Meuang, Lord of a City.
But this word Oc is not Siamese; Chief in Siamese is called Houa, and this word Houa properly signifies the Head. From hence comes Houa Sip, Chief of Ten, which is, as I have elsewhere said, the Title of him that mounts the Elephant at the Crupper. After the same manner they call him, that bears the Royal Standard in the Balon where the King is, Houapan, or Chief of a Thousand. To return to the word Oc, a Superior never useth it to an Inferior. Thus the King of Siam speaking to Oc-Pra Pipitcharatcha, will not, for example, say Oc-Pra Pipitcharatcha, but only Pipitcharatcha; A man relating his own Title himself, will also modestly suppress this term Oc; and in fine, the inferior People in speaking of the highest Officers will omit the word Oc, and will say for example, ya-yumrat, for Ocya yumrat; Meuing Vai for Oc Meuing Vai.
The Portuguese have translated the word Pa-ya, by that of Prince; not in my opinion, from their right understanding it, but because they have seen this Title given to Princes, and that the King of Siam gives it himself; but he sometimes gives it also to the Officers of his Court, which are not Princes, and he gives it not always to the Princes of the Blood. The Lords of the Great Moguls Court are called, according to Bernier, Hazary, Dou-hazary, Penge, hecht, and Deh-hazary, that is to say, One Thousand, Two Thousand, Five, Eight, and Ten Thousand, as if one should say, Lords over so many Thousands of Horse: though in reality they could neither maintain, nor command so great a number. The great Moguls eldest Son, he says, is called Twelve Thousand, as if he had the effective command of Twelve Thousand Horse. ‘Tis no strange thing therefore that the King of Siam’s Subjects being esteemed Soldiers, as those of the Great Mogul are esteemed Horsemen, have equally assumed in both Courts the term of number, to express the highest Dignities, and to name the Princes themselves; yet I cannot affirm this is so at Siam, by reason that I know only that the Dignity, which I have mentioned, some have informed me that they are Balie, and that they understood them not. I know that in the Country of Laos the Dignities of Pa-ya and Meuang, and the honourable Epithets of Pra are in use; in may be also that the other Terms of Dignity are common to both Nations, as well as the Laws.
In reference to the six Dignities (for that of Oc-pan is obsolete, as I have said) there are now at Siam six Orders of Cities, which have been anciently determined according to the Rolls of the Inhabitants. So that such a City, which was then found very populous had a Pa ya for Governor, and such which was less populous had an Oc-ya, and the rest had also other Dignities in proportion to the inhabitants which they contained. But it is not necessary to believe that these Cities have ever been so populous as the Titles of their Governors import; by reason, as I have often alledged, that the People are very proud in Titles. Only the Greatest Titles were given to the Governors of the biggest Cities, and the least Titles to the Governors of the Cities less inhabited. Thus the City of Me-Tac, of which I have spoken at the beginning, had a Governor called Pa-ya Tac, and the word Me which signifies Mother, and which is joyned to Tac, seems to intimate that the City of Me-Tac was very great. The City of Porselouc had also a Pa-ya; Tenasserim, Ligor, Corazema and other, have still some Oc-ya. Lesser Cities, as Pipeli and Bancock, have the Oc-pra, others have the Oc-Luang, or the Oc-Counnes, and the least of all have the Oc-Meuing. The Portuguese have translated these Titles according to their fancy by those of King, Vice-Roy, Duke, Marquis, Earl, etc. They have given the Title of Kingdom to Metac, Tenasserim, Porselouc, Ligor, and Pipeli; either by reason of their hereditary Governours, or for having been like Pipeli the residence of the Kings of Siam: and to the Kings of Siam they have given the Title Emperor, because the Spaniards have ever thought the Title of Emperor ought to be given to Kings, that have other Kings for Feudaries. So that upon this single reason some Kings of Castille have born the Title of Emperor, giving to their Children the Title of Kings of the Several Kingdoms which were united to their Crown.
To return to the Title of the Siameses. They are given not only to the Governors, but to all the Officers of the Kingdom; because that they are all Nai: and the same Title is not always joyned to the same Office. The Barcalon, for example, has sometimes had that of Pa-ya, as some have informed me, and now he has only that of Oc-ya. But if a Man has two Offices, he may have two different Titles in respect to his two Offices: and it is not rare that one Man has two Offices, one in the City and the other in the Province, or rather one in Title and the other by Commission. Thus Oc-ya Pra-Sadet who is Governor of the City of Siam in Title, is now Oc-ya Barcalon by Commission: the King of Siam finding it his interest, because upon this account he gives not to one Officer a double Sallary.
But this Multiplication of Offices on the same Head causes a great deal of Obscurity and Equivocation in the ancient Relations of Siam; because that when a man has two Offices, he has two Titles, and two Names, and when the Relation imports that such an Oc-ya for example, is concerned in such a thing, one is inclined to believe that the Relation has stil’d this Oc-ya by the title of the function which it attributes to him, and frequently it has named him by the title of another Office. Thus if a Relation of the Kingdom of France made by a Siamese should intimate that the Duke of Mayne is General of the Suisses, the Siameses might groundlessly perswade themselves , that every General of the Suisses bears the Title of Duke of Mayne. And this is what I had to say touching the People of Siam.