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are kept so easily in order. 1

1 For facts and figures see Appendix XI.

250 British Colonisation


At one time the trade to be carried on in Further India and
amongst the islands of the Malay Archipelago attracted the
attention of Europeans more than the trade of the great
Indian peninsula. Whilst Englishmen were barely able to feel
their way at Surat, Agra, and the domain of the Great Mogul,
they had developed a fairly lucrative business in Borneo,
Sumatra, and Java. In the reign of James i. English mer-
chant-venturers traded with several ports in those seas ; and
the experience learned here enabled them to prosecute their
efforts along the banks of the Hooghly, thus laying the
foundations of the great city of Calcutta. It is said that the
wreck of a Portuguese Indiaman on the English coast, the
Mother of God, a vessel of 1600 tons, found to contain a
cargo of Eastern produce worth ;i 50,000 when towed into
Dartmouth, first turned the attention of British merchants to
a direct trade with Further India.

On the last day of the sixteenth century Queen Elizabeth
granted a charter to George, Earl of Cumberland, and two
hundred and fifteen knights, aldermen, and merchants to set
forth to the East Indies ' at their own cost and charges.' The
voyage of Captain Lancaster and the establishment of British
factories at Acheen and Bantam were its first-fruits.

There was a long struggle for supremacy in the Spice
Islands viz. Amboyna and the Moluccas between English
and Dutch. The Dutch had supplanted the Spaniards and
Portuguese in Eastern waters, and in 1620 they drove us from
the Spice Islands, and in 1683 from Bantam and Jakatra in
Java. The Dutch used to proclaim themselves ' Lords of the
Southern Seas/ a fact alluded to by Pepys in his Diary
(February 15, 1663-4): 'showing scorn to the English,'
and even beating them out of Surat, ' our only factory there.'
The notable Amboyna massacre (1623) has already been
alluded to, and it continued to be a source of irritation
against the Dutch the greater part of the seventeenth century.

The Straits Settlements 251

Expelled from Bantam, Englishmen succeeded in establishing
themselves in Bencoolen in 1685, their 'sole and humble
object being to secure a share in the pepper trade.' It was at
Bencoolen that William Dampier remained for some time in
1690, acting as gunner of the English fort there.

Little by little England asserted her influence in these
waters, the power of Holland being on the wane. Penang
was occupied, by orders of the Indian Government, under Sir
John Macpherson, in 1786; Malacca was taken from the
Dutch by an expedition sent from India in 1795 > Singapore
was acquired by cession from the Malays in 1819 by Sir
Stamford Raffles, acting under the authority of the Marquis of
Hastings, Governor-General of India. It will be seen, there-
fore, that the Straits Settlements grew, in the first place, out of
our Indian empire ; in fact, they were all Indian colonies, and
until April i, 1867, were administered from Calcutta and
supported for years by the Indian taxpayer.

It may be noted that at the beginning of this century,
during the occupation of the Netherlands by the French, the
Dutch colonies fell into our hands, and a British fleet under
Lord Minto took Java and its dependencies. The result of
Napoleonic campaigns in Europe was to strengthen and extend
our rule in many outlying parts of the world. The Cape fell
into our hands very much for the same reasons as Java and
the Dutch settlements in Further India.

During the present century British power has been destined
to grow. Just as the corollary of our success in India has
been the acquisition, little by little, of coigns of vantage in
Further India, to the exclusion of other nations, so these
coigns of vantage have led up to spheres of territorial influ-
ence protected States in the Malay Peninsula and in Borneo.
England might have swept Holland out of these seas alto-
gether at the beginning of this century, after the Napoleonic
wars, had she so wished it ; but, knowing that the extension of
her Eastern trade was essential to Holland's position in Europe
as an European Power, she restored to her what she had

252 British Colonisation

already taken. But Holland has been unable to grow like
England. British influence is spreading far beyond the limits
of the actual trade centres. A few facts will prove how it has
grown. Here, as elsewhere, the Pax Britannica has worked

In 1872-3 civil wars were going on both in Perak and
Selangor, the cause of dispute being the collection of re-
venue derivable from the tin-mines. In Perak there was a
further complication between the Chinese factions, who were
fighting for the mines of Larut. The time came for active
British interference, and, acting under the instructions of
Lord Kimberley, Sir Andrew Clarke took steps to put a stop
to the existing confusion. So little opposition was there
on the part of the Malays that the Sultans of Perak and
Selangor asked in 1874 that British residents might be
associated with them in the government of their respective

In 1875 Sungei Ujong, a small State to the south of Selan-
gor, possessing a rather unmanageable Chinese element,
accepted a British resident.

In 1883 Governor Sir Frederick Weld induced the group of
small States lying between Sungei Ujong, Pahang, Malacca,
and Johor (called the Negri Sembilan, or the Nine States) to
confederate, and to conduct their government under the
advice and with the assistance of a British officer.

In 1888, in pursuance of an agreement between Sir Cecil
Clementi Smith, the present Governor of the Straits Settle-
ments, and the Sultan, Pahang, a large State on the east
coast of the peninsula, was added to the number of the
protected States, and its administration assisted by the
appointment of a British resident. British influence does
not stop here, but is gradually being spread over the whole
Malay Peninsula.

Such are the steps by which England has extended her
influence in Further India. Her present position is not the
result of a preconceived policy, the original intention of the

The Straits Settlements 253

Indian Governor-Generals having been to limit rather than to
extend her sway. In 1837 an Indian official wrote to Lord
Auckland on the subject of the * Strait Settlement,' as it was
called : * These details may appear to your Lordship to be
petty ; but then everything connected with these Settlements
is petty, except their annual surplus cost to the Government
of India.'

Apropos of this depreciatory statement, Mr. Maxwell
remarked in a paper read before the Royal Colonial Insti-
tute in December 1891 : 'It is amusing to recall an official
remark of this kind now in 1891, when the colony of the
Straits Settlements, with a history of twenty-four years of
independent existence as a Crown Colony, may, in spite of
recent temporary reverses, fairly claim to be the most pro-
sperous of all the Crown colonies, having a revenue of
four and a half million dollars, surplus assets at the begin-
ning of 1891 of two and a half million dollars, and no public

There is no doubt that the acquisition of Hong Kong and
the influence England has been able to bring to bear upon
the Chinese, who are met with everywhere, has greatly
strengthened our position in the whole of the Malay Peninsula,
Borneo, and elsewhere. The Chinese have come to under-
stand and appreciate our methods of trade, our government,
and our customs. Much as the Chinese despise all barbarians,
they appear at any rate to mix with their general contempt a
certain feeling of respect for England and England's methods.
Perhaps there is no nation in the world that could have
broken down Chinese prejudices better than England no
nation on the whole more conciliatory and regardful of Chinese
prejudices, saving and excepting certain blots.

England's methods of trade are more open and generous
than those of other nations. As already pointed out, the
junk trade has developed quickly under the system of free
ports. It is a curious thing that the Dutch up to recent
times should have failed altogether to conciliate the Acheen

254 British Colonisation

native power. The French have had a fair start in Chinese
waters, and hold territorially a large empire in close proximity
to our own.

The French were associated with ourselves in the Chinese
War, and indirectly'we have reaped from their presence a good
many of our trade advantages. The greater the extent of
French dominion, the more, apparently, the British thrive.
It is with Hong Kong and Singapore that the French colony
has its principal trade, and the more complete the pacification
of Annam and Tonquin the greater the prospects of the
English ports. Certainly the French endeavour to force an
exclusively French trade upon their dependencies by differ-
ential duties ; but this policy is, according to some, detrimental
to their own best interests, and ' does more to keep the people
estranged from their new rulers than even the presence of
much that reminds them of their old sovereigns.'

Captain Norman, in his work on Colonial France, has
remarked that 'of the imports from France a very large
proportion consisted in 1882 of articles for the use and sub-
sistence of the troops, of munitions of war, or material for the
construction of public works in fact, Government goods.
Of the exports, which have now reached the respectable total
of two million one hundred thousand pounds, rice formed the
major portion upwards of one and a half million pounds'
worth of that commodity having been exported. Here again
we find France and the French colonies aiding little in
the commercial development of Cochin China the \ total
value of rice sent to French possessions amounting only to
^1749, whilst the British colony of Hong Kong imported
^"1,248,260 worth.'

The British administration of the Indian peninsula has
rightly called forth the enthusiastic appreciation of the world ;
and the machinery of government there is a most wonderful
study. Less is known, and less is said, of the administration
of Further India and the Malay Archipelago ; yet here, too,
Englishmen can point to triumphs and successes.

The Straits Settlements 255

Administrators like Sir Hugh Low, who had won great
success in dealing with the Malay races in Sarawak under
Rajah Brooke, and in Labuan, have, by the honourable fulfil-
ment of their duties as residents in the Malay Peninsula, quieted
down disturbances such, indeed, as arose after the murder
of Mr. Birch and introduced law and order into the country.
One example of this will suffice. Under Sir Hugh Low the
revenue of Perak advanced from 312,000 dollars in 1877 to
1,435,000 dollars in 1884. Thaiping is the principal town of
Perak, and is the centre of a rich tin-mining district. Here
law and order are preserved by a well-drilled Malay police
force, and by a magnificent Sikh force of infantry artillery with
mountain-guns and a few cavalry. This Sikh force is very
popular in India, and might be indefinitely enlarged. Indians
also swarm to the Straits Settlements, as they do to every place
where the British flag flies or where the appeal to English
justice lies.

Speaking more particularly, the Straits Settlements consist
of: (i) Singapore; (2) the island of Penang, with part of
the mainland covering an area of 270 square miles; (3) the
Bindings, with the island of Pangkor; (4) Malacca; (5)
Christmas Island, situated in the Indian Ocean, in lat. 10 30'
S., long. 105 40' E.

The city of Singapore or Singapura, ' the City of the Lion,' has
a long history, being founded in 1160. De Barros alludes to
it as a resort of navigators from India, Siam, China, and of the
many thousand islands that lie towards the east. It seems,
however to have fallen into decay until taken over by Sir
Stamford Raffles in 1819. Since then a city of about 150,000
has arisen, of which more than 90,000 are Chinese, 24,000
Malay, 13,000 Indian, about 3000 Europeans and Americans,
with a military force. 1 There are twenty-five nationalities
enumerated in the census. As a coaling centre Singapore is of
the very highest importance, fully 300,000 tons being kept there,

i Paper by Sir Frederick Weld, Governor of the Straits Settlements,
read before the Fellows of the Royal Colonial Institute, 1883-4.

256 British Colonisation

with plenty of hands to coal. The colony is said by Sir
Frederick Weld to have an ample revenue and large surplus
assets, is unencumbered by debt, and is free from vexatious
frontier wars. The exports and imports are about ^"40,000,000,
and Singapore is a depot for the outlying islands ; for although
Java lies half way, yet, owing to the restrictive policy of the
Dutch colony, whilst Singapore has free trade, the English
merchant is able to carry his commerce far afield and supply
countries as far as Tonquin on the north and Australia on the
south. Here as elsewhere the Chinese are the great labour
pioneers of the country. According to some close observers,
it is certain that the Chinese will in course of time fill Tonquin,
Cochin China, and overrun the Malay Peninsula. In the
Straits Settlements they are book-keepers, clerks, and labourers,
and they can work in any climate. They will probably effect
what the Malay Rajahs have not yet done for Malaya, i.e.
clear the jungle, exploit the mines, and open up the whole
country. Singapore has been described as the centre of a sea
area over which passes British trade to the value of some
250 millions sterling. Yet, until quite recently, both Singapore
and Hong Kong were comparatively defenceless. Had a war
broken out six or eight years ago enormous interests might
have been imperilled. Here, however, matters have been
placed on a more satisfactory footing. The colony itself has
been called upon to contribute ^"100,000 a year for military
defences, together with ^60,000 for barracks. The annual
contribution is at the rate of 33. 6d. per head of the population,
whilst in the United Kingdom the charge is i6s. per head.
The colonists, therefore, of the Straits Settlements cannot be
said to be unfairly taxed. 1 Considering the number of the
European population, which is only about 3000 or 4000, the
revenue, which in 1888 amounted to nearly four million dollars,
or ^800,000, is proportionately large.

Penang, or ' Pulau Pinang,' the equivalent for ' Betel-nut
Island,' is situated 360 miles north of Singapore, and is next

i See Lord Brassey's speech in the House of Lords, July 24, 1891.

The Straits Settlements 257

to it in importance. Formerly it was occupied in 1786 by
Captain Light. The capital of the island of Penang is
Georgetown. Facing the mainland is the province of Wellesley,
separated by a strait about two miles in width. Penang
carries on a brisk trade with Perak and other native States, and
also with Sumatra ; but the Acheenese War and the restrictive
policy of the Netherlands Indian Government hinder its trade
with the Dutch colony.

. The Bindings territory, lying south of Penang, includes the
island of Pankor and part of the continent. Geographically
it forms part of Perak, and the Superintendent acts under the
Resident of this country. Here also is a magnificent harbour,
with a population of about 2000. It produces tin, timber,
and ebony.

For a Power which, like Great Britain, holds the command
of the ocean, these islands, such as Hong Kong, off China,
Singapore, Penang, and Pankor, off the Malay Peninsula, are
obviously most valuable possessions. They are placed most
advantageously for offence and defence as strategic points,
whilst for the purposes of commerce and trade they fulfil for
the Eastern seas what Venice of old did for Europe.

Malacca is the third province of the colony proper, and is
also under a Resident Councillor. This part of the Straits
Settlements is less busy than Singapore or Penang, and is the
centre of a quiet Malay life. Malacca has a long history. It
was founded shortly after the fall of old Singapore by a
Javanese Rajah, who had usurped the throne of Singapura.
It rose quickly to a considerable prosperity, but was conquered
in 1511 by the Portuguese. When Albuquerque was there, it is
said that the Sultan, Mahomed Shah, brought an army of 60,000
men against him. Large fleets and reinforcements came over
from Acheen, and the Portuguese authority never seems to have
extended far beyond the limits of the settlement. The Dutch
took Malacca from the Portuguese in 1641, and the English
took it from the Dutch in 1795. It was returned, however, by
England to Holland in 1818, and was finally ceded to us by


258 British Colonisation

treaty in 1824 in exchange for our Sumatra possessions.
Malacca is described as a quaint old town, where the remains
of the Jesuit Church of Santa Maria della Monte, defaced by
the Dutch and called St. Paul's, are an interesting object to the
visitor. Within it lay for a time the remains of St. Francis
Xavier before they were taken to Goa. 1


The success attending the colonies of Hong Kong and the
Straits Settlements prompted the idea that portions of Borneo,
which forms the largest of the whole group of islands stretch-
ing from the Philippines to Australia, over 40 of longitude,
might be brought under British influence. The value of this
country had long been known, and Captain Daniel Blackman,
in his account of his voyage to Borneo in 1714, alludes to the
existence of a flourishing trade with China. At the initiative,
therefore, of some energetic Englishmen, the task of Borneo
colonisation was seriously taken up, and the British North
Borneo Company formed in November 1881. The area ac-
quired extends over 30,000 square miles, and, as all the islands
are included, Borneo occupies an important position in the
China seas. According to the best authorities, this protectorate
may be developed best by means of Chinese labour. Both
Americans and Australians have agreed to exclude the Chinese
from their shores as being unwelcome competitors in the
labour market ; but there appears to be no reason why the
Mongolians should not be employed to develop the resources
of such a land as Borneo, lying close to their doors. Sir
Richard Temple has stated that, man for man, the Chinaman
is 50 per cent, better than the Indiaman as a labourer. Such
auxiliaries, therefore, may be impressed into the service of the
Borneo Company with advantage. Already the nucleus of a
small police force has been formed, the Sultan of Brunei may
possibly come under the British protectorate, and, as the
i For facts and figures see Appendix XII.

Borneo and Labuan 259

present Governor of British North Borneo is also Consul-
General of Sarawak and Acting Consul of Labuan, a consolida-
tion of British interests may not unreasonably be expected to take
place. The progress of North Borneo deserves to be watched
narrowly, as here too is a possible germ of British power. 1


Labuan is a very insignificant British colony, and is an
island situated about six miles off the north-west coast of
Borneo, distant about thirty miles from Brunei, the capital of
Borneo proper. The island was ceded by the Sultan of Borneo
in 1847, being then uninhabited. The first Governor was Sir
James Brooke. The island was believed to possess profitable
coal-mines, but this has been discovered not to be the case. 2

From the few sketches given above of the British Colonies
some idea may be gained of their history, resources, and
general character. Not the least interesting part of the story
is to understand how we first gained a foot-hold in each place,
and how we either conquered or succeeded to the great heri-
tage. Collectively this heritage may be termed ' our second
colonial empire,' and it provides us with a wonderfully diver-
sified record of enterprise and adventure in every conceivable
part of the globe. At one time we seem to be following the
footsteps of our explorers, pioneers, and backwoodsmen in the
snowy wastes of the great North-West of Canada ; at another
to the dark, remote sources of a great river like the fabled
Orinoco, mysterious Nile, or Niger ; at another over the
burning Sahara-like wastes of Australia ; at another to the
Alpine solitudes of some Antipodean mountain ; at another to
the deep forest solitudes, such as those of British Honduras or
Burmah or Borneo : men venturing both life and limb, and on
hopes more forlorn at times than those of the ' deadly, immi-
nent breach.' No matter where the land is, or what the climate
1 For facts and figures see Appendix XIII. See Appendix XIV.

260 British Colonisation

is, there the British explorer and hunter is found. Surely he
has for generations encompassed the ends of the world, seen its
limits, and laid bare its most hidden secrets. Then, if we
follow the course of those who have gone down to the sea in
ships and have occupied their business in great waters, we
seem to picture our sailors, now in the tumbling ice-fields of the
North in Hudson or in Baffin Bay, seeking the El Dorados of
the East by the North- West Passage ; now fishing off the stormy
banks of Newfoundland ; now in the Antipodes following the
huge whales of the South on either side of the South American
continent, and calling forth by their exploits the wonder and
admiration of the great Burke ; now coasting along the sultry
coasts of Guinea ; now in the South Pacific, anchoring off
palm-fringed tropic islands ; now in the Far East, as buccaneers
or traders following in the wake of Spaniard, Frenchman, and
' Portingals,' and ending by driving all these competitors from
these marts, and making the highways of ocean their own.
Ever and always there is the picture of the British tar holding
aloft the flag of successful enterprise.

It has been said that the epics of adventure are over, and
that the prose work of administration and settlement has
begun ; but what pages of national daring and hardihood to
brood over, what thrilling episodes to remember, what tales
to unfold ! It must be a callous breast that is unmoved by the
recital of England's great exploits by sea and land. Yet we often
forget what the result of all this is. It is England's second
colonial empire. This empire is the climax of our struggles,
the sum and crown of our endeavours, the chief boast of
patriots, the prop of our wealth, without which England would
sink into insignificance. Nevertheless, it is certain that the
popular imagination does not apprehend, in any adequate
degree, the immmsa majestas of this British colonial empire ;
its story is neglected, its glories are hidden, its trophies are as
unknown as the waters in which they have been won. The
very story of exploration is left unexplored by the callous
legatees of the priceless heritage.

Conclusion 261

Still, the trophies must remain and be a national glory,
especially the trophies of successful native administration. In
the West Indies, on the coasts of West Africa, in Kaffraria, in
British Borneo, in Malaya, and in many Pacific islands,
British administration has been humane, enlightened, and a
signal success. No proud proconsuls of former days have
ever won for Rome more enduring laurels than the numerous
English governors and administrators have won for England,
who, clad in broadcloth and undistinguished by pomp and
ceremony, and to look at simple, unassuming English gentle-
men, wield the rod of empire. West Africans, Kaffirs, Chinese,
Japanese, Malays, all recognise their sway and bend before
their words.

Together with the Pax Britannica, England introduces the
Lex Britannica and the Lingua Britannica, and the passport
of an Englishman takes him further now than ever.

Can England rest from her world-wide task, and pause in
her cfareer? It would seem that this is impossible. What,
in the first place, would become of those native races in Africa
and Asia and elsewhere who, whilst they have received from
us the arts of peace, have forgotten the arts of war ? At one
time Kaffirs and Malays could dare to resist all comers ; Eng-
land has broken down their opposition, and must now protect
them. Otherwise they will be the easy prey of the 'first enemy.
If England pacifies, she must to a certain extent emasculate.

It is clear to the most casual observer that England's
empire, lying athwart the world in both hemispheres, is open
at many places to hostile attack. To organise and to defend
must be her duty. Come what will, she must hold command
of the sea, in conjunction, it may be hoped, with all loyal and

Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 22 of 31)