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Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

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diately proceeded with a powerful naval force on the expedition.
The fleet, consisting of upwards of ninety sail, left Malacca on the
18th of June 1811, and after a voyage of six weeks, anchored off
Batavia. In the course of a month, the British troops effected
the conquest of the island; and on the 16th of September Lord
Minto issued a proclamation announcing the general features of
its future government as a British territory. In his letter to the

fovernment in England, Lord Minto announced the capture of
ava in the following terms : — " An empire Avhich for two cen-
turies has contributed greatly to the power, prosperity, and
grandeur of one of the jDrincipal and most respected states in
Europe, has been thus wrested from the short occupation of the
French government, added to the dominion of the British crovv'n,
and converted from a seat of hostile machination and commercial
competition, into an augmentation of British power and pro-

In thus annexing Java to our East Indian ]3ossessions. Lord
Minto took a bolder step than the court of directors of the East
India Company was disposed altogether to sanction at first.
When he had announced to them his intention to attack Java,
the scheme met their decided approbation ; but instead of agree-
ing with Lord Minto in his desire to convert Java into a British
possession, all that they meditated was the expulsion of the Dutch
from the island, and its restoration to the native Javanese. This
they thought would be sufficient; and to one not acquainted
with the condition of the various islands in the Archipelago,
their intention may appear very reasonable and philanthropic.
But Lord Minto saw that the mere expulsion of the Dutch
from the island would be unavailing unless some strong and
benevolent power were to come after them, and take charge of
a country which they had so wretchedly misgoverned. To leave


the Javanese to g'oyern themselves, would be to throw back the
island into hopeless war and confusion. Possessed of all those
qualities which would constitute them good and obedient sub-
jects, it was not to be expected that the Javanese, after submitting*
to Dutch rule for 200 years, could have preserved any notions
of their own ancient government, much less that they could set
up a new one. Accordingly, Lord Minto determined to annex
the island to the British territory, and give it some experience
of rational government. In so doing, he was incurring the re-
sponsibility of exceeding his instructions ; but as Lady Raffles,
in the biography of her husband, nobly says, " No man is fit for
hig'h station anywhere who is not prepared to risk even more
than fame or fortune at the call of judgment and conscience."

Lord Minto immediately appointed Mr Raffles lieutenant-
governor of Java and its dependencies ; and after a stay of six
weeks in the island, returned to Bengal, leaving- the new governor
to commence his arduous duties. The only event that could cast
a shade of sorrow over the important occasion was the death of
Dv Leyden, who had accompanied the expedition to Java, and
who soon fell a victim to his thirst for knowledg'e.

" It would be endless," says Lady Raffles, " to notice the diffi-
culties and obstacles which occurred in the establishment of a
pure and uprig'ht administration in Java. Not only was the
whole system previously pursued by the Dutch to be subverted,
but an entire new one substituted, as pure and liberal as the old
one was vicious and contracted ; and this was to be accomplished
and carried into effect by the very persons who had so long" fat-
tened on the vices of the former policy." Nor were the difficulties
of Mr Raffles such only as resulted from the state of the island,
the government of which he had luidertaken. There was a dis-
heartening circumstance, apart from the condition of the island
itself, under which most men would have either refrained from
doing anything, or at least acted listlessly and carelessly — the
prospect of the British possession of Java being only of short
continuance. Nevertheless, Mr Raffles determined that in the
meanwhile nothing should prevent him from doing his duty, and
he did it nobly.

Mr Raffles's lirst step was to cause to be prepared a complete
body of statistics relating to all the affairs of the island ; and ob-
taining this, he commenced his scheme of reform. His proposed
alterations were of two kinds ; first, a reform of the general
spirit of the government ; and, second, a reform of the actual
institutions of the country, M'herever it apj^eared necessary.

The o'eneral spirit of the Dutch government, as has been
shown, Xvas that of utter selfishness — it was the government of a
band of robbers. Java was retained for the single purpose of
yielding a revenue, without the slightest regard to the comfort
or prosperity of the people. The g'uiding principle of the govern-
ment introduced by I^Ir Raffles was diametrically opposite — it
li " y


was the general good of the ichole population. In confonnity
with the proclamation of Lord Minto before his departure from
the island, he exhorted the people " to consider their new con-
nexion with England as founded on the principles of mutual ad-
vantage, and to be conducted in a spirit of kindness and affection."
He studied the feelings and the prejudices of all classes of society,
entering into the most cordial and familiar intercourse with per-
sons of intelligence and influence, whether they were Dutch or
native Javanese, and in every possible way tried to produce a
feeling that he had no other object in view as governor than the
happiness and prosperity of the inhabitants. He permitted the
poorest Javanese to have free access to his presence ; and whatever
measure he adopted, or regulation he found it necessary to pass,
he took care to have it widely published, and even to have the
reasons on which it was founded made known, thus addressing as
much as possible the natural good sense of the natives. One reso-
lution which he adopted at his first entrance into office delighted
and gratihed the Javanese as much as it surprised the Dutch. In
travelling through the island, which it was necessary for him to
do frequently, and to great distances, he would not carry arms,
nor suffer himself to be attended by any escort, and he enjoined
his staff to do the same. At first, such had been the false reports
spread by the Dutch relative to the character and habits of the
Javanese, that this resolution of the governor was considered
foolhardy and Quixotic ; but at length the wisdom of such a
policy became evident. Not a single act of violence occurred in
consequence of this display of confidence ; on the contrary, the
natives regarded it as a compliment, and anticipated the highest
things from a govei^nor who put such trust in their quietness and
honesty. " Whilst driving along," says a visitor to Java at this
time, "in an open carriage at the rate of nine miles an hour
through the gorgeous forests of that delicious climate, we could
scarcely believe that we were quite at the mercy of the Malays
and other tribes, falsely proverbial for treachery and ferocity."
Mr Raffles always entertained a high opinion of the character of
the natives of Java, and believed that, if properly treated, there
was not a more docile or more easily governed people on the
face of the earth.

To detail all the changes which Mr Raffles introduced into the
administration of Java during the five years of his residence in
the island, would be a needless task. It will be sufficient to
notice the three principal alterations — his reform of the revenue
system, his establishment of a better system of police and public
justice, and his abolition of the slave trade.

Our readers are already aware of the nature of the system of
internal management which the Dutch pursued. Alnfost the
whole territory was farmed out to native regents or officers, who,
besides paying a small rent or recognition money to the Dutch
authorities, handed over to them annually the whole produce of


their respective districts at a fixed government price. By dis-
posing of this produce, either by exporting- it or by selling it back
again to the Javanese themselves, the Dutch raised a revenue ;
and in this monopoly, therefore, consisted the sole advantage
derived by them from the possession of Java. The Dutch
themselves had begun to be ashamed of this system of colo-
nial government, and had made some attempts to introduce a
better ; but none of these attempts succeeded, and it was reserved
for Mr Raffles to confer on Java the boon of a well-devised go-
vernment. The following is his own brief and distinct account
of the reform which he effected. " The whole system of native
management has been exploded, and the mass of the population
are now no longer dependent on a regent or other chieftain, but
look up direct to the European power which protects them. In
the first place, the lands are let, generally speaking, to the heads
of villages, as this description of people appear to me to be the
resident superintending farmers of the estate. In so extensive
a population, there will naturally require to be some deviations in
different districts, but the plan of village rents will g'enerally pre-
vail. After the experience of one year, leases for three years will
be g'ranted ; and at the conclusion of that period, the leases may
either be made for seven or for ten years, or the land granted to
the actual possessors in perpetuity. You will thus see that I have
had the happiness to release several millions of my fellow-creatures
from a state of bondage and arbitrary oppression. The revenue
of government, instead of being' wrung by the grasping hand of
an unfeeling farmer from the savings of industry, will now come
into the treasuries of government direct, and be proportioned to
the actual capability of the country."

It is necessary to explain this system adopted by Mr Raffles
a little more fully. In the first place, the regents or native
officers who had been intermediate between the government
and the mass of the native population, and who had shamefully
ground doAvn the latter in order to make large profits from
their situations, were completely laid aside, receiving an allot-
ment of lands, or a sum of money, as a suitable compensation
for the loss of their lucrative office. The lands thus placed
at the disposal of the government were let at a fair rent to a
number of small proprietors, who were generally the heads of
villages. To give an idea of who these heads of villages were,
we may quote Mr Raffles's own description of a Javanese village.
*' The cottages of the Javanese are never insulated, but fonned
into villages whose population extends from 50 to 200 or 300
inhabitants ; each has its garden ; and this spot of ground sur-
rounding his simple habitation the cottager regards as his pecu-
liar patrimony, and cultivates with peculiar care. He labours to
plant and to rear in it those vegetables that may be most useful
to his family, and those shrubs and trees which may at once
yield him their fruit and their shade. The cottages, or the



assemblage of huts that compose the villag'e, become thus com-
pletely screened from the rays of a scorching' sun, and are so
tjuried amid the foliage of a luxuriant veg-etation, that at a small
distance no appearance of a human dwelling- can be discovered ;
and the residence of a numerous society appears only a verdant
grave, or a clump of evergreens. Every village forms a com-
munity in itself, each having' its officers, its priest, and its temple."
It was generally, then, to the native heads of such villages, dis-
tinguished by the various titles of Petingi, Bakal, or Surah, that
the lands were let out by g'overnment according to the system
introduced by Mr Raffles. In some cases, however, and parti-
cularly in those districts where the Chinese had planted them-
selves most thickly, it w^as necessary to depart from this regula-
tion, and let the land to others. The land was let on short leases.
It was indeed proposed to sell the lands entirely, so as to constitute
the heads of villag'es into permanent landlords instead of govern-
ment tenants ; but Lord Minto seems to have disapproved of this
plan of permanent sale, and therefore that of short leases alone
M'as practised. The amount of rent was fixed as equitably as
possible by a reference to the circumstances of each particular
case, two-Hfths of the average annual rice produce of the soil
being about the usual rate. This rent being' duly paid, the heads
of villages or other government tenants were at liberty to dispose
of the produce of their respective farms to the best advantage,
and at any price they could obtain in the market, the govern-
ment laying no claim to any exclusive right of purchase. In
order, however, to encourag-e the growth of coffee, which Mr
Raffles anticipated might become an important article of export
in the course of a few j^ears, government engaged to receive
any surplus quantity of that commodity from the growers at a
reasonable and fixed rate, when a hig'her price could not be
obtained for it in the market ; thus at least securing the coffee
g'rowers against loss. Under the old system, besides claiming a
monopoly of the produce, the government had a right of vassal-
age or feudal service over the native regents, and, through them,
over the mass of the people ; that is, the government had a right
to make the natives labour, without wages, on roads and other
public works. This feudal exaction, one of the most intolerable
that can be imagined, and one under which France groaned
before the Revolution, Mr Raffles at once abolished. If the heads
of villages paid their rent regularly, they were considered as
having discharged all their obligations to government ; and
whatever labour government might require, it was to pay for at
the ordinary market rate of wages.

A change like this could not fail at once to create a hearty
spirit of contentment and industry. " All is altered now," we
may imagine one of these heads of villages or government tenants
saying; " I have no longer to sell all my rice, my coffee, and my
pepper, to a greedy government for a wretched pittance, hardl^''



enough to remunerate me for my toil. All that I have to do is"-
to pay my rent to government ; and then I have all my rice,
my coffee, and my pepper to do as I please with. All that I
raise above what pays my rent and other expenses is clear
profit." In order to jDrovide farther against the practice of any
extortion by these government tenants upon their inferiors or
sub-tenants (which, hoAvever, was not likely to happen, the greater
part of the government tenants, namely, the heads of villages,
having a natiu*al bond connecting them in feeling and interest
with their inferiors), a superintendence was exercised by govern-
ment over the mode in which the lands were sub-let to the minor
tenants. Thus, down to the lowest ranks of society the beneficial
influence of the change of system extended ; and every man
began to feel that the fruits of his industry and energy would
not, as formerly, be swallowed up by the insatiable maw of
government, but would be really and truly his own.

It was necessary, however, not merely to allow the natives
to be the sole and exclusive proprietors of the produce of their
industry, but also to open up the channels of commerce, so that
they might bring that produce to a profitable market. It would
have been of no use for government to have given up its claim
to a monopoly of the produce, and at the same time to have kept
up those restrictions which would have prevented the growers
from finding any other market for it, so that they would have
been obliged to come to g'overnment and say, " Rather than have
our rice rot on our hands, we will give you it at your own price,"
thus actually restoring the monopoly. Accordingly^, as a part
of the system of Mr Raffles, all the tolls and internal imposts of
the island, which operated as checks to internal traffic, were abo-
lished ; all the ports of the island, without exception, were thrown
open ; almost all the export duties were abrogated ; the import
duties were reduced to the lowest possible jjoinl ; and no descrip-
tion of goods was excluded from the island. Free trade, in
short, in a sense almost as wide as it is possible to understand it,
was realised ; the only cost incurred in the transmission of g'oods
from one part of the island to another, or from the island itself
to other parts of the Malayan Archipelago, being the cost of
carriage. This change must have been agreeable to all classes
of the community, except perhaps to the Chinese, who had been
the great farmers of taxes under the old system, and who were
of course obliged now to betake themselves to some other course
of industry.

Mr Raffles effected as important a change in the department
of justice as he had in the department of revenue. Under the
Dutch government, the natives had been subject to laws utterly
averse from their natural feelings and superstitions, and with
which also they were totally unacquainted. The Dutch laws
were doubtless good, but, as applied without modification to the
native Javanese, they gave rise to the most tyrannical and unjust



decisions, especially as the juries consisted exclusively of Euro-
peans. Mr Raffles reversed all this. " By means of the num-
berless inquiries he had instituted all over the island," saj'-s a
writer who speaks from local knowledge, " and particularly by
his own personal investig-ations, he discovered that the Javanese
possessed, from time immemorial, amongst themselves, a system
of police as well as of jurisprudence, which, if not precisely
squaring in all points with our notions of such things, it was
fair to infer were more or less suited to the peculiar circum-
stances of the island. Strangely enough, the Dutch were ignorant
of the existence of many of these native institutions, though
some of them were never entirely extinguished during the two
centuries of their administration. Mr Raffles, however, at once
saw how important it would be to enlist the prejudices and
established habits of the natives in his cause, and, by giving the
sanction of his authority to local usages w^hich the natives were
already in possession of, to attach, as it were, as many ready-
made wheels to the machinery of his government." While, how-
ever, he introduced into his administration as many of the native
Javanese forms as possible, he did not do so indiscriminately ;
but wherever he found any native custom or regulation which
was inconsistent with his own notions of justice, he changed or
modified it so as to make it suit. The deposed Javanese rajahs
or regents he turned to good account, by availing himself of
their services in the department of police ; and the dignity which
he thus assigned to them, together with the lands and money
which they received in lieu of their regencies, was considered by
most of them as more than a compensation for what they had
lost. By a very simple expedient, Mr Raffles provided for the
prompt administration of justice in the island. " One member
of each of the courts of justice was appointed a judge of circuit,
to be present in each of the residencies at least once in every
three months, and as much oftener as was found necessary. The
formalities of the Roman law employed by the Dutch were
avoided. A native jury, consisting of an intelligent foreman
and four others, decided upon the facts ; the law was then taken
down and expounded by the native law officers ; and the sen-
tence, with the opinion of the judge of circuit upon the appli-
cation of the Dutch and colonial law in the cases, was forwarded
for the modification of the lieutenant-governor." At the same
time the utmost pains were taken to acquaint the natives with
the details of the system. The regulations w^ere translated into
the Malayan and all the other languages spoken in Java, and
jDublished as widely as possible.

The third great reform accomplished by Mr Raffles was the
abolition of the slave trade, and its attendant practice, piracy.
Unfortunately, we have but very scanty information on this
point : it w^ ould appear, indeed, that, in abolishing the iniquitous
traffic in slaves, Mr Raffles did not meet with so much difficulty



as mig-ht have been expected. The following" notice on the sub-
ject occurs in Lady Raffles's life of her husband : — '' Mr Raffles
was anxious to diifuse the blessings of fi'eedom throug-hout the
whole of the varied populations under his charg-e ; and as the
British parliament had at this time passed an act which declared
the slave trade to be felony, he established it as a colonial law ;
and it continues in force to this day, since it cannot be repealed
without express authority from the mother country. The lead-
ing: inhabitants possessing slaves concurred with him in his
efforts to abolish this dreadful evil throughout the Dutch pos-
sessions ; and the whole of the slaves in the island were regis-
tered according to the forms of the West India islands, with the
view of giving them their liberty. The Bengal authorities,
however, refused their sanction ; because, as they alleged, it had
not been determined whether the government of Java was to be
permanently administered by the king of Great Britain or by
the East India Company."

The highest testimony to the merits of the changes of whicli
we have just given an account is the fact, that while all classes
of society were contented with the administration of Mr Raffles,
and the native Javanese adored his name, the revenue derived
by the government itself was eight times as large as it had been
tinder the Dutch. The highest revenue ever raised by the Dutch
in Java was four millions of rupees, or half a million of pounds
sterling in a year ; whereas before Mr Raffles left Java, the
revenue amounted to thirty millions of rupees, or nearly four
millions of pounds sterling.

Unfortunately, this course of reform, which was renovating the
island of Java, and raising it to prosperity greater than it had
ever experienced before, was arrested by an event which the
governor had from the first anticipated. Looking forward to
the restoration of the island to the Dutch, Mr Raffles thus ex-
pressed himself in a letter to Lord Minto, dated July 2, 1814.
" If I were to beheve," says he, " that the Javanese were ever
again to be ruled on the former principles of government, I
should indeed quit Java with a heavy heart; but a brighter
prospect is, I hope, before them. Holland is not only re-
established, but, I hope, renovated : her prince has been edu-
cated in the best of all schools — adversity ; and I will hope the
people of Java will be as happy, if not happier, under the Dutch
as under the English. Mr Muntinghe has ol^en reminded
me, that when conversing with your lordship on the judicial
regulations, you observed it was not certain whether England
would retain permanent possessions in Java; hut in the mean-
time let us do as much good as we can. This we have done, and
whatever change may take place, the recollection can never be

In the beginning of 1816, Mr Raffles, after five years' residence
in Java, was relieved of the government, and Mr Tindal came



out to succeed him. The intelligence of his departure caused
demonstrations of lively regret by the natives as well as Euro-
peans. On the morning- of his embarkation, the roads of Batavia
were filled with boats, crowded with people of various nations,
all anxious to pay the last tribute of respect within their power
to one whose services they so highly appreciated. On reaching-
the vessel, he found the decks filled with offerings of every de-
scription — fruit, flowers, poultry, whatever they thought would
promote his comfort on the voyage. When the order was given
to weigh anchor, there was a universal scene of distress; the
people felt that they \vere losing for ever the great man who
had so nobly regenerated their country, and been their common

The new governor of Java had scarcely time to enter on his
duties ; for, on the fall of Napoleon, the congress of European

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 39 of 59)