Concerning the Offices of Judicatory The Division of the Kingdom of Siam by Provinces; The Governor is the Judge; Jor belongs not to the Kingdom of Siam; Nor Patana; The Governor is Lord; The Profits or Rights of the Tchaon-Meuang; The Humanity of the Siameses towards those that have suffered Shipwrack; The Governor is the Judge; Jor belongs not to the Kingdom of Siam; Nor Patana; The Governor is Lord; The Profits or Rights of the Tchaon-Meuang; The Humanity of the Siameses towards those that have suffered Shipwrack; A continuance of the Rights or Profits of the Tchaou-Meuang; The Rights or Profits of the Pou-ran; The Names and Functions of the Officers which compose a Tribunal; An important distinction into Officers within and Officers without.
The Kingdom of Siam is divided into the upper and lower. The upper lies towards the North, (seeing that the River descends from thence) and contains seven Provinces, which are named by their Chief Cities, Porselouc, Sanquelouc, Lacontai, Campeng-pet, Coconrepina, Pechebonne, and Pitchai. At Porselouc do immediately arise ten Jurisdictions, at Sanquelouc eight, at Lacontai seven, at Campeng-pet ten, at Coconrepina five, at Pechebonne two, and at Pitchai seven. And besides this there are in the upper Siam one and twenty other Jurisdictions, to which no other Jurisdiction resorts; but which do resort to the Court, and are so many little Provinces.
In the lower Siam, that is to say in the South part of the Kingdom, they reckon the Provinces of Jor, Patana, Ligor, Tenasserim, Chantebonne, Petelong or Bordelong, and Tchiai. On Jor do immediately depend seven Jurisdictions, on Patana eight, on Ligor twenty, on Tenasserim twelve, on Chantebonne seven, on Patana eight, and on Tchiai two. And besides this, there are likewise in the lower Siam thirteen small Jurisdictions, which are as so many particular Provinces, which resort only to the Court, and to which no other Jurisdiction resorts. The City of Siam has its Province apart, in the heart of the State, between the upper and lower Siam.
The whole Tribunal of Judicature consists properly only in a single Officer, seeing that it is the Chief or President only that has the deliberate voice, and that all the other Officers have only a consultative voice, according to the Custom received also at China, and in the other Neighbouring States. But the most important prerogative of the President is to be the Govenour of his whole Jurisdiction, and to command even the Garrisons, if there be any; unless the Prince hath otherwise disposed thereof by an express order. So that as in other places these Offices are hereditary, it is no difficult matter for some of these Governors, and especially the most powerful, and for the most remote from Court, to withdraw themselves wholly or in part from the Royal Authority.
Thus the Governor of Jor renders Obedience no longer, and the Portugueses give him the Title of King. And it may be he never intends to obey, unless the Kingdom of Siam should extend it self, as Revelations declare, to the whole Peninsula extra Gangem. Jor is the most Southernmost City thereof, seated on a River, which has its Mouth at the Cape of Sincapura, and which forms a very excellent Port.
The People of Patana live, like those of Achem in the Isle of Sumatra, under the Domination of a Woman, whom they always elect in the same Family, and always old, to the end that she may have no occasion to marry, and in the name of whom the most trusty persons do rule. The Portuguese have likewise given her the Title of Queen, and for Tribute she sends to the King of Siam every three Years two small Trees, the one of Gold, the other of Silver, and both loaded with Flowers and Fruits; but she owes not any assistance to this Prince in his Wars. Whether these Gold and Silver Trees are a real Homage, or only a Respect to maintain the liberty of Commerce, as the King of Siam sends Presents every three Years to the King of China, in consideration of Trade only, is what I cannot alledge; but as the King of China honours himself with these sorts of Presents, and takes them for a kind of Homage, it may well be, that the King of Siam does not less value himself on the Presents he receives from the Queen of Patana, altho’ she be not perhaps his Vassal.
The Siameses do call an Hereditary Governor Tchaou-Meuang; Tchaou signifies Lord, and Meuang a City or Province, and sometimes a Kingdom. The Kings of Siam have ruin’d and destroy’d the most potent Tchaou-Meuang, as much as they could, and have substituted in their place some Triennial Governors by Commission. These Commission-Governors are called Pouran, and Pou signifies a Person.
Besides the Presents which the Tchaou-Meuang may receive, as I have declar’d, his other legal Rights are,
First, Equally to share with the King the Rents that the arable Lands do yield, which they call Naa, that is to say Fields; and according to the ancient Law, these Rents are a Mayon, or quarter part of a Tical for forty Fathom, or two hundred Foot square.
2dly, The Tchaou-Meuang has the profit of all Confiscations, of all the Penalties to the Exchequer, and ten per Cent, of all the Fines to the Party. The Confiscations are fixed by Law according to the Cases, and are not always the whole Estate, nor even in case of sentence of Death; but sometimes also they extend to the Body, not only of the Person condemn’d, but of his Children too.
3dly, The King of Siam gives the Tchaou-Meuang some men to execute his Orders; they accompany him everywhere, and they row in his Balon. The Siameses do call them Kenlai, or Painted Arms; by reason that they pink and mangle their Arms, and lay Gunpowder on the wounds, which paints their Arms with a faded Blue. The Portuguese do call them Painted Arms, and Officers; and these Painted Arms, are still used in the Country of Laos.
4thly, In the Maritime Governments, the Tchaou-Meuang sometimes takes Customs of the Merchant Ships, but it is generally inconsiderable. At Tenasserim it is eight per Cent. in the kind, according to the Relation of the Foreign Missions.
Some have assur’d me, that the Siameses have the Humanity not to appropriate any thing to themselves of what the Tempest casts on their Coasts by Shipwrack; yet Ferdinand Mendez Pinto relates, that Lewis de Monteroyo, a Portuguese, having suffer’d Shipwrack on the Coast of Siam near Patana, the Chabandar, or Custom-house Officer, which he names Chatir, confiscated not only the Ship and its Cargo, but Monteroyo himself, and some Children; alledging, that by the ancient Custom of the Kingdom, whatever the Sea cast upon the Coasts, was the profit of his Office. ‘Tis true, that this Author adds, with great Praises on the King of Siam who then reigned, that this Prince, at the Request of the Portugueses which were at his Court, set Monteroyo at liberty, and restor’d him all the Prize, and the Children; but he subjoins also that it was out of Charity, and on the day that this Prince went through the City mounted on a white Elephant to distribute Alms to the People.
5thly, The Tchaou-Meuang arrogating to themselves all the Rights of Sovereignty over the Frontiers, do levy, when they can, extraordinary Taxes on the People.
6thly, The Tchaou-Meuang do exercise Commerce every where, but under the name of their Secretary, or some other of their Domestics. And this last Circumstance demonstrates that they have some shame, and that the Law perhaps prohibits them; but that in this they are not more scrupulous than their King.
7thly, In some places where there are Fish-ponds, the Tchaou-Meuang take the best of the Fish when the Pond is emptied; but he takes for his own use only, and not to sell, and the rest he leaves to the People.
8thly, Venison and Salt are free throughout the Kingdom, and the King himself has laid no Prohibition nor Impost thereon. Salt is there of little value. I have heard that they have Rock-salt, and they make it of Sea-water; some have told me with the Sun, others with Fire; and, perhaps, both is true. At the places where the Shoars are too high to receive the Sea, and in those, where Wood is not near at hand, the Salt may fail, or cost too much to make, as in the Island of Jonsalam, the Inhabitants whereof do rather chuse to import their Salt from Tenasserim.
The Pou-ran, or Governor by Commission, has the same Honours, and the same Authority as the Tchaou-Meuang, but not the same Profits. The King of Siam names the Pou-ran upon two Accounts, either when he would have no Tchaou-Meuang,or when the Tchaou-Meuang is obliged to absent himself from his Government; for the Tchaou-Meuang has no ordinary Lieutenant who can supply his place in his absence, as in France the Chancellor has none. In the first Case the Pou-ran has only the Profits which the King assigns him at naming him; in the second Case he takes the Moyety of the Profits from the Tchaou-Meuang, and leaves him the other Moyety.
Now follows the ordinary Officers of a Tribunal of Judicature, not that there are so many in every one, but that in any one perhaps there is not more.
Oc-ya Tchaou-Meuang. The Tchaou-Meuang is not always Oc-ya, he has sometimes another Title, and the other Officers of his Tribunal have always some Titles proportion’d to his.
Oc-pra Belat. His Name signifies Second, but he presides not in the absence of the Tchaou-Meuang, because he has no determinative Voice.
Oc-pra Jockebatest, a kind of Attorney-General, and his Office is to be a strict Spy upon the Governor. His Office is not Hereditary, the King nominates some person of Trust; but Experience evinces, that there is no Fidelity in these Men, and that all the Officers hold a private Correspondence to pillage the People.
Oc-Pra Peun commands the Garrison, if there is any, but under the Orders of the Tchaou-Meuang; and he has no Authority over his Soldiers, but when they are in the Field.
Oc-Pra Maha-Tai, is, as it were, the Chief of the People. His Name seems to signifie the Great Siamese; for Maha signifies Great, and Tai signifies Siamese. ‘Tis he that levies the Soldiers, or rather that demands them of the Nai: who sends Provisions to the Army, who watches that the Rolls of the People be well made; and who, in general, execute all the Governor’s Orders which concern the People.
Oc-Pra Sessedi makes and keeps the Rolls of the People. ‘Tis an Office very subject to Corruption, by reason that every particular person endeavors to get himself omitted out of the Rolls for money. The Nai do likewise seek to favor those of their Band, who make Presents to them, and to oppress those with labour who have nothing to give them. The Maha Tai, and the Sassedi, would prevent this disorder, if they were not the first corrupted. The Sassedi begins to enter down Children upon the Rolls, when they are three or four Years old.
Oc-Louang-Meuang is, as it were, the Mayor of the City; for, as I have already said, Meuang signifies the City; but as for what concerns the Title of Oc-Louang, it does not signifie Mayor, and is no more applied to that Office than another Title. This Mayor takes care of the Polity and Watch. They kept a Watch every Night round the Ambassador’s Lodgings, as round the King of Siam’s Palace, and this was a very great Token of Honour.
Oc-Louang-Vang is the Master of the Governor’s Palace, for Vang signifies Palace. He causes it to be repair’d, he commands the Governor’s Guards, and even their Captain; and, in a word, he orders in the Governor’s Palace, whatever has relation to the Governor’s charge.
Oc-Louang-Peng keeps the Book of Law and the Custom, according to which they judge; and when Judgment is passed, he reads the Article thereof, which serves for the Judgment of the Process: and, in a word, it is he that pronounces the Sentence.
Oc-Louang Clang has the Charge of the King’s Magazine, Clang signifies Magazine. He receives certain of the King’s Revenues, and sells to the People the King’s Commodities, that is to say those, the Trade of which the King appropriates to himself, as in Europe the Princes do generally appropriate the Trade of Salt to themselves.
Oc-Louang Couca has the Inspection over Foreigners; he protects them, or accuses them to the Governor.
Moreover there are some Officers in every superior Tribunal to send to the inferior Justices, when the Tchaou-Meuang or Pouran are dead, whilst that the King fills the place: and the number if these Offices are as great as that of the inferior Justices.
Oc-Louang or Oc-Counne Coeng is the Provost: he always armed with a Sabre, and has Painted Arms like Archers.
Oc-Counne Pa-ya Bat is the Keeper of the Goal or Prisons: and the word Pa-ya, which the Portuguese have translated by that of Prince, seems exceedingly vilified in the Title of his Office. Nai-Goug is the true Goaler, Couc signifies a Prison, and nothing is more cruel than the Prisons of Siam. They are Cages of Bambou exposed to all the injuries of the Air.
Oc-Counne Narin commands those that have the care of the Elephants, which the King has in the Province: for there are some in several places, because it would be difficult to lodge and feed a very great number of Elephants together.
Oc-Counne Nai-rang is the Purveyor of the Elephants. In a word, there is an Officer in every Tribunal to read the Tara or Orders from the King to the Governor, and an House in an eminent place for to keep them: As within the inclosure of the King of Siam’s Palace there is a single House, on an eminent place, to keep all the Letters which the King of Siam receives from other Kings.
These are the Offices which are called from within. Besides these, there are others which are called from without, for the Service of the Province. All have an entire dependence upon the Governor; and altho those without have the like Titles, yes they are very inferior to the Officers within. Thus an Oc-Meuang within the Palace, is superior to an Oc-ya without; and in a word it is not necessary to believe that all those who bear great Titles, must always be great Lords: That infamous fellow who buys Women and Maids to prostitute them bears the Title of Oc-ya; he is called Oc-ya Meen, and is a very contemptible person. There are none but debauch’d persons that have any Correspondence with him. Every one of the Officers within has his Lieutenant, in Siamese Balat, and his Register in Siamese Semien, and in his House, which the King gives him, he has generally an Hall to give his Audience.