TOPAZ to TOPE
TOPAZ, TOPASS, &c., s. A name used in the 17th and 18th centuries for dark-skinned or half-caste
claimants of Portuguese descent, and Christian profession. Its application is generally, though not universally,
to soldiers of this class, and it is possible that it was originally a corruption of Pers. (from Turkish) top-
chi, a gunner. It may be a slight support to this derivation that Italians were employed to cast guns
for the Zamorin at Calicut from a very early date in the 16th century, and are frequently mentioned in
the annals of Correa between 1503 and 1510. Various other etymologies have however been given.
That given by Orme below (and put forward doubtfully by Wilson) from topi, a hat, has a good deal
of plausibility, and even if the former etymology be the true origin, it is probable that this one was often
in the minds of those using the term, as itstrue connotation. It may have some corroboration not only
in the fact that Europeans are to this day often spoken of by natives (with a shade of disparagement) as
Topeewalas (q.v.) or Hat-men, but also in the pride commonly taken by all persons claiming European
blood in wearing a hat; indeed Fra Paolino tells us that this class call themselves gente de chapeo (see
also the quotation below from Ovington). Possibly however this was merely a misrendering of topaz
from the assumed etymology. The same Fra Paolino, with his usual fertility in error, propounds in another
passage that topaz is a corruption of do-bhashiya, two-tongued (in fact is another form of Dubash,
q.v.), viz. using Portuguese and a debased vernacular (pp. 50 and 144). [The Madras Gloss. assumes
Mal. tópáshi to be a corruption of dubash.] The Topaz on board ship is the sweeper, who is at sea
frequently of this class.
1602.The 12th ditto we saw to sea-ward another Champaigne (Sampan) wherein were 20 men,
Mestiços (see MUSTEES,MESTIZ) and Toupas.Van Spilbergens Voyage, p. 34, pub. 1648.
See under MADRAS.]
1673.To the Fort then belonged 300 English, and 400 Topazes,
or Portugal Firemen men.Fryer, 66. In his glossarial Index he gives Topazes, Musketeers.
is resolved and ordered to entertain about 100 Topasses, or Black Portuguese, into pay.In Wheeler,
1686.It is resolved, as soon as English soldiers can be provided sufficient for the garrison, that
all Topasses be disbanded, and no more entertained, since there is little dependence on them.In
1690.A Report spread abroad, that a Rich Moor Ship belonging to one Abdal Ghaford, was
taken by Hat-men, that is, in their (the Moors) Dialect, Europeans.Ovington, 411.
qui sont des gens du pais quon élève et quon habille à la Françoise, lesquels ont esté instruits dans
la Religion Catholique par quelques uns de nos Missionnaires.Luillier, 4546.
consists of about 250 Soldiers, at 91 Fanhams, or 1l. 2s. 9d. per Month, and 200 Topasses, or black
Mungrel Portuguese, at 50, or 52 Fanhams per Month.Lockyer, 14.
1727.Some Portuguese are
will be served by none but Portuguese Priests, because they indulge them more and
their Villany.A. Hamilton, [ed. 1744, i. 326].
1745.Les Portugais et les autres Catholiques quon
nomme Mestices (see MUSTEES,MESTIZ) et Topases, également comme les naturels du Pays y viennent
sans distinction pour assister aux Divins mystères.Norbert, ii. 31.
1747.The officers upon coming in
report their People in general behaved very well, and could not do more than they did with such a handful
of men against the Force the Enemy had, being as they believe at least to be one thousand Europeans,
besides Topasses, Coffrees (see CAFFER,CAFFRE,COFFREE), and Seapoys (see SEPOY,SEAPOY),
altogether about Two Thousand (2000).MS. Consns. at Ft. St. David, March 1. (In India Office).
effective Europeans would not have cost more than that Crowd of useless Topasses and Peons
of which the Major Part of our Military has of late been composed.In A Letter to a Proprietor of the
E.I. Co. p. 57.
The Topasses of which the major Part of the Garrison consisted, every one that knows
Madrass knows it to be a black, degenerate, wretched Race of the antient Portuguese, as proud and
bigotted as their Ancestors, lazy, idle, and vitious withal, and for the most Part as weak and feeble in
Body as base in Mind, not one in ten possessed of any of the necessary Requisites of a Soldier.Ibid.
App. p. 103.
in this plight, from half an hour after eleven till near two in the morning, I
sustained the weight of a heavy man, with his knees on my back, and the pressure of his whole body
on my head; a Dutch sergeant, who had taken his seat upon my left shoulder, and a Topaz bearing on
my right.Holwells Narr. of the Black Hole, [ed. 1758, p. 19].
1758.There is a distinction said to be
made by you
which, in our opinion, does no way square with rules of justice and equity, and that is the
exclusion of Portuguese topasses, and other Christian natives, from any share of the money granted
by the Nawab.Courts Letter, in Long, 133.
c. 1785.Topasses, black foot soldiers, descended from