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" to conceive an idea of the pleasure of sailing- through this beau-
tiful and unparalleled Archipelago, in which every attraction of
nature is combined. The smoothness of the sea, the lightness of
the atmosphere, the constant succession of the most picturesque
lake sceneiy ; islands of every shape and size clustered together ;
mountains of the most fanciful forms crowned with verdure to
their summit ; rich and luxuriant vegetation extending- to the
very edge of the water ; little native boats with only one person
in them, continually darting out from the deep shade which con-
<;ealed them, looking like so many cockle-shells Avafted about by
the wind. Altogether it is a scene of enchantment deserving a
poet's pen to describe its beauties."

Returning from these excursions, Sir Stamford occupied his
time in the improvement of Bencoolen, the consolidation of his
g'overnment, and the pursuit of science; the latter object being
aided by a regular establishment of naturalists and draughtsmen.
Most unfortunately, here, as elsewhere, he was exposed to much
annoyance from the Dutch, Avho lost no opportunity of thwart-
ing his policy. " Prepared as I was," he writes, " for the
jealousy and assumption of the Dutch commissioners in the East,
I have found myself surprised by the unreserved avowal they
have made of their principles, their steady determination to lower
the British character in the eyes of the natives, and the measures
they have already adopted towards the annihilation of our com-
merce, and of our intercourse with the native traders through-
out the Malayan Archipelago. Not satisfied with shutting the
eastern ports against our shipping, and prohibiting the natives
from commercial intercourse with the English, they have de-
spatched commissioners to every spot in the Archipelago where
it is probable we might attempt to form settlements, or where the
independence of the native chiefs affords anything like a free
port to our shipping." In these circumstances. Sir Stamford was
exceedingly anxious that some new settlement should be esta-
blished in a more convenient situation than either Penang or
Bencoolen, in which new settlement some accredited British
authority mij^-ht be at hand to afford protection to the British



sliipping and trade. He thoiig-ht that the most advantag"eou3
situation for such an establishment would be the Straits of Sunda,
if it were practicable to found one there. And it is interesting- to
find that, in fixing on such a situation, he is affectionately revert-
ing- to the island which of all others was dearest to his recollec-
tion — Java. " It is impossible," he says, " not to foresee that
unless the Dutch adopt a very different policy from that which
they are now pursuing, Java must eventually either become in-
dependent of European authority, or on some future occasion of
hostilities ag-ain fall under the dominion of the English. The
seeds of independence have been too generally soAvn, and the
principles of the British administration too deeply rooted, to he
eradicated by a despotic order. In such an event, calculating- on
the bare possibility of its occurrence in fifty or a hundred ^^ear'ii
hence, we shall feel the advantage of the measures I have now

Full of these ideas. Sir Stamford RafHes determined to proceed
to Bengal, to have a personal conference with Lord IVIoira, now
Marquis of Hastings, governor-general of India. When he
arrived at Calcutta, such was the effect of almost his first inter-
view with the marquis, and so high had his character risen since
his retirement from the g-overnment of Java, that although the
marquis had previously condemned his policy, he now became
his sincere friend, and acknowledged his past services in very
flattering terms. Although Sir Stamford did not succeed in
g-aining' over the governor and the council to the full extent of
his views, he roused them to the necessity of doing" something to
resist the Dutch in the Archipelago. " All he asked," he said,
" was permission to anchor a line-of-battle ship, and hoist the
English flag-, at the mouth either of the Straits of Malacca or of
Sunda, and the trade of England would be secured, the mono-
poly of the Dutch broken." The Straits of Sunda, we have seen,
was the position he would have preferred ; but as there were in-
surmountable objections to it, Sincapore was conclusively fixed
upon as the site of the projected settlement.

Sir Stamford was intrusted with the difficult and delicate duty
of founding- the new settlement. Attempts were made at Penang-
to dissuade him from undertaking- so arduous a task. Deter-
mined, however, to accomplish the duty intrusted to him, he
proceeded in person down the Straits of Malacca, and in ten days
after leaving Penang:, that is, on the 29th of February 1819, the
British flag- was waving' in the breeze at Sincapore.


Sincapore, or, as it is sometimes written, Singapore, is an
island measuring- twenty- seven miles in length by eleven in
breadth, situated off the extreme point of the peninsula of Siam
or Malacca. Its climate is healthy, and its interior is gene-
rally laid out in plantations and gardens. The value of the



island consists in its commanding' the Straits of Malacca —
the great channel of trade and communication between India,
China, and the Spice Islands. A more splendid geographical
position could not have been chosen for a mercantile city and
depot. The passage between it and China can be made"^ by a
trading vessel in six days ; and the same time, in the favourable
monsoon, will suffice for the passage between it and Batavia,
Borneo, or Penang*. The following is Sir Stamford's opinion of
it, after a residence of nearly three months. " I am happy to
inform you that everything is going on well here. It bids fair
to be the next port to Calcutta. You may take my word for it,
this is by far the most important station in the East ; and as far
as naval superiority and commercial interests are concerned, of
much higher value than whole continents of territory''."

After residing for a short time at Sincapore, and seeing* the
foundations of the colony fairly laid. Sir Stamford returned to
Bencoolen, in Sumatra, to which we shall follow him. Eager
in his desires for improvement, he had on his first arrival in
Bencoolen, in 1818, planted a garden in a spot which was bare
and desolate. On now reaching the same scene, all was magni-
ficent vegetation, and he found his house embosomed in rich
foliage. The casuarina trees had grown to the height of thirty
or forty feet ; and as the carriage approached the house, it drove
through a shrubbery of nutmeg, clove, cocoa, and cassia trees.
Of all these, the nutmeg is the most beautiful; it spreads its
branches in a wide circle, bearing fruit in profusion, and the
fruit itself is the loveliest in the world ; the shell or outside
covering is of a rich cream colour, resembling a peach ; when
this bursts, the dark nut appears encircled and chequered with
mace of the brightest crimson, which, when contrasted with
the deep emerald green of the leaves, forms a picture most
grateful to the eye. But, what was of more consequence,
society was improving and flourishing as well as vegetation,
eleven months having been sufficient to make the change in
it visible too. Sir Stamford, however, was not a man to rest
satisfied with a few reforms at the outset : he was possessed with
the true reforming and philanthropic spirit : he felt uneasy in
the presence of whatever was wrong, and gave himself no rest
till he had rectified it. Some of his farther schemes and inten-
tions are detailed in a letter to Mr Wilberforce -vNTitten at this
period. Convinced, however, of the necessity of having a thorough
knowledge of the dispositions of any people for whose good one
proposes to legislate, he had appointed a committee to inquire
into the state of society in Sumatra, into the root and origin of
all those strange practices which he intended to abolish. One
of his schemes for the civilisation of the Sumatrans was the
foundation of national schools, and in this he had so far succeeded ;
another, and one of gigantic importance, was the foundation of a
Malayan university, a native college — 1st, for the education of



the higflier classes of natives of the whole Malayan Archipelag-o ;
2d, for the instruction of the company's servants in the native
languages ; and 3d, for the g*eneral interests and advancement
of Oriental literature. The site proper for such an institution
appeared to be Sincapore ; and accordingly Sir Stamford drew up
an elaborate minute on the subject, which he sent to the Marquis
of Hastings. We wish we could quote some passages from this
noble document ; but we can afford room only for the concluding
sentences, which breathe a spirit of true statesmanlike philan-
thro]3y. " If commerce brings wealth to our shores, it is the
spirit of literature and philanthropy which teaches ns how to
employ it for the noblest purposes. It is this that has made
Britain go forth among the nations, strong in her native might,
to dispense blessings to all around her. If the time shall come
when her empire shall have passed away, these monuments of her
virtue shall endure when her triumphs are but an empty name.
Let it still be the boast of Britain to write her name in characters
of light ; let her not be remembered as the tempest whose course
was desolation, but as the gale of spring reviving- the slumbering
seeds of mind, and calling them to life from the winter of ig'no-
rance and oppression. Let the sun of Britain arise on these
islands, not to wither and scorch them in its fierceness, but like
that of her own genial skies, whose mild and benignant influence
is hailed and blessed by all who feel its beams."

In the end of 1819, Sir Stamford paid another visit to Calcutta.
His views had by this time taken shape ; and his object was to
suggest the consolidation of the various British settlements in
the x\rchipelago — Penang, Bencoolen, Sincapore, with any others
which might yet be added — into one government, subordinate to
the supreme g-overnment of India. The accomplishment of such a
scheme, and the appointment of Sir Stamford Baffles to be gover-
nor under the Marquis of Hasting's, would in all probability have
been measures of infinite advantage ; but the feeling of the home
authorities was adverse to the proposal. Sir Stamford therefore
returned to Sumatra. No sooner, however, was his philanthropy
disappointed of one object than it fastened on another. The
island of Poulo Nyas has been already mentioned in the course of
this tract as a place supplying* slaves to Java. The island is
within sight of Sumatra, and contained in 1820 a population of
230,000 souls, on a surface of 1500 square miles. Without having
had any communication with civilised nations, the inhabitants of
Nyas had made considerable advances in the arts of civilised life.
Sir Stamford's benevolent eye had singled out this island for one
of his wise experiments, and his efibrts succeeded in inducing
the native chiefs unreservedly to become subjects of Great
Britain. Immediately directing his energies to the suppression
of the slave trade, he succeeded in convincing the chiefs of its
iniquity and inexpediency, and thus in almost entirely abolishing
it — a measure which, however, was labour spent in vain; for



shortly afterwards, Sumatra coming- entirely into the possession
of the Dutch, the slave traflic with Poulo Nyas was resumed.

Sir Stamford and Lady Eaffles began now to look forward to
a return to Eng-land. The health of both required it : three of
their children suddenly fell victims to the climate, and they
were anxious to adopt every precaution to preserve their only
remaining* daughter. Besides, the establishment at Sincapore
was now the g-reat object of Sir Stamford's thoughts — his "poli-
tical child," as he called it ; and he thoug:ht it probable that he
should be more able to promote its interest in London than at
Calcutta. He determined, however, before leaving* the East
Indies, to spend a few months at Sincapore.

Arriving: there on the ICth of October 18"22, he found the in-
formation he had received of its g-rowing" prosperity more than
realised. " All is life and activity," he writes to the Duchess of
Somerset ; " and it would be difficult to name a place on the face
of the globe with brighter prospects or more present satisfaction.
In little more than three years, it has risen from an insignificant
fishing village to a large prosperous town, containing at least
10,000 inhabitants of all nations, actively engag'ed in commercial
pursuits, which afford to each and all a handsome livelihood and
abundant profit. Land is rapidly rising' in value ; and instead of
the present number of inhabitants, we have reason to expect that
we shall have at least ten times as many more before many years
have passed. This may be considered the simple but almost
magical result of the iierfcct freedom of trade which it has been
my good fortune to establish." A few months later, he writes Mr
Marsden to the same effect; and among other details, he gives
the following' estimate of the trade of Sincapore for 1822, as com-
pared with that of the two old ports, Penang and Malacca : —


Sincapore. Penang. Malacca.

14,885,999 dollars. 6,437,042 dollars. 1,266,090 dollars.


Sincapore. Penang. Malacca.

13,872,010 dollars. 5,585,707 dollars. 7,918,163 dollars.

From this period, the trade of Sincapore has progressively
increased, and the most sanguine expectations of its founder as
a free port have been amply realised. In 1836 the population
was about 30,000, a large 23i'oportion being Chinese traders ; and
in that year 539 ships, of the ag'gregate burden of 166,053 tons,
entered the port.

During his visit in 1822, Sir Stamford did much to promote
this prosperity, which, founded in justice and humanity, may
be said to be placed on an imperishable basis. Writing' from
Sincapore in June 1823, he says — "My time is eng'aged in
remodelling and laying out my new city, and in establishing



institutions and laAvs for its future constitution — a pleasant duty
€noug"h in Eng-land, where you Lave books, hard heads, and
lawyers to refer to ; but here b}' no means easy, where all must
depend on my own judgment and foresight. Nevertheless, I
hope that though Sincapore may not be the first capital estab-
lished in the nineteenth century, it will not disgrace the brightest
period of it." The noble feeling which influenced him in all
this is thus expressed by himself. " I should have but ill ful-
filled the high trust reposed in me, if, after having- cong*regated
so large a portion of my fellow-creatures, I had left them with-
out something like law and regulation for their security and

It is impossible within our narrow limits to describe even
briefly the constitution which Sir Stamford g*ave to the important
city which he had founded — a constitution Avhich was the most
perfect production of his mind, the condensation, as it were, of
all his past experience. The constitution breathed a spirit of
liberality throughout. It was expressly provided that Sincapore
should now and for ever be a free port to all nations ; that all
races, all religions, all colours, should be equal in the eye of the
law ; and that such a thing as slavery should have no existence
there. But Sir Stamford descended to the minutest details ; the
establishment, for instance, of standard weights and measures,
and local as Avell as general matters of police. The benevolent
will not peruse without feelings of delight the following extract
from the " Laws and Regulations" laid down b}'- Sir Stamford
for the administration of Sincapore : —

" By the constitution of England, the absolute rights of the
subject are defined as follows : — 1st, The right of personal secu-
rity, which consists in a person's legal uninterrupted enjoyment
of his life, his limbs, his body, his health, and his reputation.
2d, The right of personal liberty, which consists in the power of
locomotion, of changing' situation, or removing one's person to
whatever place one's own inclination may direct, without im-
prisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law. 3d, The
rig'ht of propert}', which consists in the use, enjoyment, and dis-
posal of all acquisitions, without any control or diminution, save
only by the laws of the land.

There seems no reason for denying corresponding rig-hts to all
classes of people residing" under the protection of the British flag
at Sincapore, the laws of the land being such as are or may be
enacted under the provisions of Regulation No. III. of 1823,
dated the 20th of Januaiy last, with such others of a more gene-
ral nature as may be directed by a higher authority, or which
may necessarily accrue under the provisions of the legislature,
and the political circumstances of the settlement, as a depen-
dency on great Britain, Admitting these rights to exist, it fol-
lows that all acts by which they are invaded are wrongs ; that is
to say, crimes or injuries.



In the enactment of laws for securing- these rights, legal obliga-
tion must never supersede or take the place of, or be inconsistent
with, or more or less onerous than, moral obligation. The Eng-
lish practice of teaching prisoners to plead not guilty, that they
may thus have a chance of escaping from punishment, is incon-
sistent with this, and consequently objectionable. It is indeed
right and proper that the court should inform itself of all the
circumstances of a crime from witnesses, as well as from the
declaration of the prisoner himself. Denial is, in fact, an aggra-
vation of a crime, according to every idea of common sense ; it
disarms punishment of one of its most beneficial objects, by cast-
ing a shade of doubt over its justice.

The sanctity of oaths should also be more upheld than in Eng-
lish courts. This may be done by never administering them
except as a last resort. If they are not frequently administered,
not only will their sanctity be more regarded, and in this way
their breach be less proportionately frequent, but of necessity
much more absolutely uncommon, and consequently much more
certainly visited with due punishment. Truth, however, must
be required, under pain of punishment, in all cases of evidence
given before a court of justice.

The imprisonment of an unfortunate debtor at the pleasure of
his creditor, by which the services of the individual are lost to
all parties, seems objectionable in this settlement ; and it is con-
sidered that the rights of property may be sufficiently protected
by givino; to the creditor a right to the value of the debtor's
services for a limited period, in no case exceeding five years, and
that the debtor should only be liable to imprisonment in case of
fraud, and as far as may be necessary for the security of his per-
son, in the event of his not being able to find bail during the pro-
cess of the court, and for the performance of the decree after
judgment may be passed.

It is well known that the Malay race are sensibly alive to
shame, and that in many cases they would prefer death to
ignominy. This is a high and honourable feeling-, and ought to
be cherished. Let great care be taken to avoid all punishments
which are unnecessarily degrading. Both the Malays and
Chinese are a reasoning people, and though each may reason
in a way peculiar to itself, and different in some respects from
our own way of reasoning, this germ of civilisation should not
be checked. Let no man be punished without a reason assigned.
Let the principles of British law be applied not only with mild-
ness, and a patriarchal kindness and indulgent consideration for
prejudices of each tribe, as far as substantial justice will allow,
but also with reference to their reasoning powers, however weak,
and that moral principle which, however often disregarded, still
exists in the consciences of men.

Let native institutions, as far as regards religious obser-
vances, marriage, and inheritance, be respected when the same



may not be inconsistent with justice and humanity, or injurious
to the peace and morals of society.

Let all men be considered equal in the eye of the law. Let no
man be banished the country without a trial by his peers, or by
due course of law.

Let no man be deprived of his liberty without a cause, and no
man be detained in confinement beyond forty-eight hours,
without a rig'ht to demand a hearing- and trial according- to due
course of law.

Let the public have a voice through the magistracy, by which
their sentiments may at all times be freely expressed."

It was not without considerable opposition that Sir Stam-
ford succeeded in establishing Sincapore on such a liberal basis.
" I have been opposed throughout," he writes, " in establishing-
the freedom of the port, and anything like a liberal mode of
management, and not only by the Penang" government, but also
in Bengal. The Bengal merchants, or rather one or two of them
whom I could name, would have preferred the old system, by
which they mig'ht have monopolised the early resources of the
place, and thus checked its progress to importance."'

Beturning to Bencoolen in the middle of the year 1823, Sir
Stamford set sail for England on the 2d of February 1824. On
the evening after leaving the harbour, and when the ship was
about fifty miles from land, the crew were roused by the cry of
fire. They had just time to lower the boats and escape — Sir
Stamford half-dressed. Lady Baffles and the children taken out
of bed with neither shoes nor stockings, and only a blanket
round them — when the ship burst out into one mass of flame.
After a hard night's rowing they reached Bencoolen, and were
once more in the home they had left but a few hours before.
Almost the only loser by this calamity was Sir Stamford ; but to
him the loss was beyond all repair. The whole of his drawings,
all his collections in botany and zoology, all his written descrip-
tions and papers, every document and memorandum he possessed,
fell a prey to the flames. Yet such was his perseverance, that on
the morning after his loss he set about doing all he could to lessen
it, recommencing an elaborate map of Sumatra, and despatching
men into the forests for specimens of plants and animals.

On the 8th of April Sir Stamford again set sail, and in a few-
months he landed at Plymouth. For nearly two years his time
was occupied in furthering at home those objects to which he
had devoted himself abroad. It was only indirectly, indeed, that
he could exert any influence over the island of Sumatra ; for in
1824 Bencoolen was given up to the Dutch in exchange for
Malacca, so that the whole island of Sumatra, as well as Java
and the smaller Spice Islands, was now in their possession. In
the progress of Sincapore, however, he took especial interest ; and
to the last, his scheme of a great educational institution for ail
the Malays of the Archipelago was near his heart. His health,



lirowever, had suffered severely from his long- and arduous ser-
vices in the East, and being- taken suddenly ill, he died on the
ath of July 1826, in the forty-fifth year of his age.


Thus died at a comparatively early ag-e one of the g-reatest
modern statesmen, a man not more remarkable for his bene-
volence of disposition, than his comprehensive abilities and sound
practical views. Hampered in all his magnificent designs by
events over which he could exercise no control, prevented from
adding a new and flourishing- empire to Britain, we have yet seen
how much he accomplished wdtli the means at his disposal, what
tyrannic barbarisms he quelled, what a measure of civilisation
and human happiness he achieved. His successful institution of
new and vigorous states of society in Java, Bencoolen, and Sin-
capore, with the whole apparatus of enlightened laws and muni-
cipal establishments, must ever be considered one of the grandest
facts in British colonial history — grand from its very contrast
with the narrow-minded policy usually pursued with relation to
our distant possessions and settlements — and marks alike the

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 41 of 59)