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might be, the declaration certainly left those states at full liberty to form what political connections they pleased; and there cannot be a question that the English might, at any period between 1795 and 1818, the date of the restoration of Malacca, have formed any connection it suited their policy to contract, with any or all these states. There is little doubt that any one or all of those states would have eagerly embraced an offer, the acceptance of which would have permanently insured them against Dutch interference or dominion. We might have had Singapore, or any island or settlement in any part of the continent. When Malacca fell to be restored to the Dutch at the close of the war, they could have no just right of complaint at any intermediate cession to us by those states; they themselves declared them to be independent; they gave us Malacca only in 1795, and Malacca was all they could expect to receive from us in 1818. It is singular to observe that, during the long course from 1795 to 1818, no means whatever were taken to establish British influence, and to secure those commercial interests against Dutch interference. It was only then that Colonel Bannerman, Governor of Penang, at the suggestion of the mercantile community, sent agents to negotiate with the chiefs of Perak, Salengore, Rhio, and Pontiana, on the island of Borneo; but the terms of any treaty and engagement to be contracted were expressly to be confined to commercial, and not political objects; the main stipulation was, that those states should enter into no new treaty, nor renew any old one, of a nature to exclude the trade with the British nation, or give a preference to any other. The agent arrived too late at Pontiana; the Dutch were before him; but the chiefs of Perak, Salengore, and Rhio, willingly entered into the arrangement. The Sultan of Rhio then agreed to cede to the British Government the Carimon Islands; and such cession, had it then been made, would, under circumstances explained, have given indisputable right of possession; but the Governor of Penang considered himself as restricted from the power of entering into political treaties, and the opportunity of completing the engagement by actual occupation was lost; nor does it appear to have occurred to him that a commercial treaty could be of no use without a political one; that unless the British Government took care to maintain the stability and independence of the contracting state, a mere commercial treaty would be of no avail.
Exactly so it turned out; the Dutch took possession of Malacca in September, 1818. The nature of the commercial treaty previously entered into, but unfortunately not carried into execution, came to their knowledge; the very first thing they did was to despatch the Dutch admiral, to reimpose, by force, upon Rhio, the old treaty of 1784 -a treaty whereby the Sultan declares himself to be a vassal of Holland-the same treaty which the Dutch, in ceding to us Malacca in 1795, declared to have no force and effect, and to have been annulled by the declaration of the Sultan's independence; and by virtue of this treaty so renewed, our subsequent occupation of Singapore was disputed. The treaty of dependence was renewed, much in the same manner, with Rhumbo and Salengore shortly after.
The conduct of the Penang government, from the time of their establishment, as well as that of their immediate predecessors, up to the year 1818, it is not easy to explain. If they acted under restrictive orders from superior authority, nothing more is to be said; but if, as suspected, and there is too much reason to believe, with justice, they wilfully abstained from the exertion of their means and influence, and lost the favourable opportunity of establishing a more eastern settlement, and thus placing the British commerce in the Straits beyond the power of foreign rivalry and competition, from an apprehension that their own settlement might suffer, their conduct cannot be sufficiently reprobated. The course pursued in respect to the small state of Perak was alike inconsistent with sound policy as with justice.
The whole of the events narrated are singularly illustrative of the consequences generally resulting from a forbearing policy, always recommended, and sometimes pursued. To abstain from all interference with our neighbours-to leave them in the independent exercise of their power-is morally right, and would be politically wise, if the other stronger power observed the same policy in regard to the weaker states;
but how seldom is this the case? Many parallel cases might be adduced in the history of India. We forbear, and leave our weak and peaceable neighbour to himself, and he is forthwith overpowered by a strong state; and all we gain by our forbearance is the substitution of a more powerful and troublesome neighbour for the weak and the quiet one; and coming thus in direct collision at last, we go to war, and all the consequences ensue which it was the object of our forbearance to avoid.
In February, 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, sensible of the ruinous consequences likely to result from the complete restoration of the Dutch supremacy on these islands-seeing with regret the great sacrifices of our interests then made; not only as regarded these islands, but also our future intercourse with China-and acting under sanction of the Supreme Government, proceeded to obtain a settlement at the southernmost extremity of the Straits. The Carimon islands appear to have been first thought of; when Singapore was pointed out as the most eligible station, and forthwith occupied. The occupation of the Carimons, by virtue of a cession made before the renewal of the old treaty, and while the Sultan was bonâ fide independent, must, no doubt, have stood good. The subsequent renewal of an old treaty could not have affected a previous act: but in respect to Singapore, they stood certainly on less substantial grounds. Singapore is an island, forming part of the government of Rhio and Johor, and, as already described, might, with the consent of the Sultan, have been occupied by us at any period between 1795 and 1818, without the shadow of a just complaint by the Dutch. But Sir S. Raffles was too late; the old political treaty of 1784 had been imposed on Rhio, and the relation so re-established with the Dutch, gave the latter a right to object to our occupying any part of the territories of the Sultan, except the Carimons, as above explained, without their consent. Sir S. Raffles first attempted negotiation with the real, or, as we shall now call him, the Dutch Sultan of Rhio. That failed; for he resided at Rhio, and was directly under Dutch interest. He had then recourse to the Tamungong, or prime minister, of Johor, who was in actual possession; but deeming the assent of the superior, the Sultan himself, indispensable, he set up one for the purpose, declaring the elder brother to be the real, and whom we shall now call the British Sultan. Both these are illegitimate, and according to our ideas, if any one were allowed to inherit, it would be the elder; but in these states something like election takes place, and is made by the principal officers of state. The actual, though temporary occupant, the mother, had the regalia in her possession, and she declaring in favour of the second son, or rather the Dutch having seized the regalia, under compulsion, he has been recognized by all the Malays as the real Sultan; recognized by us also; for it was with him that Colonel Bannerman's agent negotiated the commercial treaty above alluded to. The Dutch Sultan was, therefore, the Sultan de facto; the English one may be styled the Sultan de jure.
Sir S. Raffles rectified the evils resulting from the long neglect of the British authorities, and the political juggle of the Dutch, by a bold, and as it has proved, a successful political stroke. Had we taken the Carimons, and defended our right on the previous treaty with the Sultan while he was independent, the Dutch could not have complained; but, unfortunately, we waited until the Sultan had fallen again under their power, and took another island, which embroiled us for a time with the Dutch. The occupation of Singapore brought on the discussions which terminated in the treaty of March, 1821. It appears perfectly clear, that from the year 1820, the Dutch had determined on giving up the continental part of the Malay peninsula; for in that year they reverted to the course of policy pursued previous to the cession of Malacca in 1795. The chief of Salengore, who had been compelled to renew the old treaty of vassalage, was again released from his subjection, and declared independent: the same was done in respect to the small state of Rhumbo. From that date the Dutch busily employed themselves in removing to Rhio the stones which formed the old fortifications of Malacca, and at the former place constructed a fortress; in this they continued even after the treaty of 1824 was officially announced. All possible pains seem to have been taken to lessen the value of Malacca, to reduce its
population, and diminish its resources; and they literally withdrew from the orplian chamber 218,000 Java rupees, the actual property of the community of Malacca. While under the British, from 1795 to 1818, the population amounted to 36,000, and the revenue to 60,000 dollars; it was delivered to the British in 1825, with a population diminished, and the revenue amounting to little more than 20,000 dollars. It will be held in mind, that Rhio, with the other states already enumerated, had invariably been considered as dependencies of Malacca, were so regarded in the year 1795, and even again made so in 1818, and the renewal of the treaty with the Sultan of Johor is made with the Dutch government of Malacca. It was only in the year 1825, and but a few months before the 1st of March, the date fixed for the execution of the treaty of 17th March, 1824, and the interchange of territory, that Malacca was altered from a government and made a presidency under Java, Rhio being then only placed under the Government of Batavia. The object of the internal arrangement was clear enough, viz. to displace Rhio from the dependence of Malacca at the time of cession, and thus place it beyond the reach of the articles of the treaty! But what was Rhio at the time the treaty was made? In the eyes of all, and to all intents and purposes, a dependency of Malacca, so considered in the British settlement adjoining; in what light viewed by the high contracting parties in Europe is not known, and by that the question must be determined; by the intent and meaning of the contracting parties, under clear and distinct explanations of the actual state of things forming the subject of negotiation and ultimate contract. I am not aware that this has ever been done. The Dutch are still in possession of Rhio, and it enables them to control a great part of the trade in a quarter where, it is believed, from the foregoing circumstances, they have no right to be, and to injure the British trade. Why, if it were not intended the Dutch should quit Rhio, is it inserted in one of the articles of the treaty, that the English shall not form any settlement on the island of Bintang, on which Rhio is? The intent, doubtless, of the British negotiators was, that the Dutch should evacuate the fort, and the place be left in possession of the native chief; for it is clear they could not have contemplated a British settlement on the same small island on which the Dutch were previously posted. It is hoped this will not be overlooked in any future discussion with the Dutch Government. I do not hesitate to say the British
have, in this case, been taken advantage of.
Might, I am aware, does not constitute right; and it by no means follows, in a moral point of view, that because we can we ought to do a certain thing; but in the case before us, might, right, and good policy, were with us. The Malay states are not the natural subjects of Siam; they never were so; they are of a different race, religion, and language. Their ancestors came not from the north; not from Siam, but from the island of Sumatra. They established themselves on the unoccupied shores of the Malay peninsula, owed no allegiance to Siam, and were purely independent states. We did not seek their subjugation to ourselves; we wanted none of their territory; on the contrary, every principle of sound policy forbade such acquisition. From the possession of regions of trackless jungles and primeval forests, no advantage could be drawn, however fertile the soil may be found in a tropical country, without industrious inhabitants. Those we find from Martaban to Point Romania are comparatively sunk in apathy and indifference in many places, in consequence of the unsettled and disturbed state of the country; yet we find that Quedah formerly exported largely grain, poultry, and other produce, for the supply of the British settlements. The Malay now looks for wealth principally in his prahu, by trade, or too often by piracy, as opportunity may best afford. That the introduction of industrious agriculturists from Europe, however, would give a stimulus to the improvement of the land, and the discovery of the minerals and other treasures with which the peninsula abounds, and that, if a protecting system were extended, there is no question, but that such would be cordially received under many of the native governments. It is with a view to commerce alone that the British Government must look for advantage from connection or intercourse with these states;
by the maintenance of their independence by us, all the commercial resources of the country would have been and still may be at our command, as if the country were our own; and by that intercourse, and the influence derived from the relations in which we stood to them, their mental improvement, civilization, and amelioration of their habits, must have gradually ensued. Our right to protect was, at least, as good as that of the Dutch or Siamese to subdue; our means were infinitely greater, if they had only been used. There is not a state, either of the Malay peninsula or Sumatra, that did not hail with joy the appearance of the British flag in these Straits-not one that did not eagerly seek the alliance and protection of the Penang Government. As Governor Fullerton justly observed, "For fear of involving ourselves with the Dutch, a nation that with difficulty keeps its footing, and owes its existence in these parts to our forbearance, we long forfeited the profitable and extensive trade of the Eastern archipelago; and it is painful to think that, for a mere bugbear-the fear of collision with Hindu-Chinese states, the fear of giving offence to a race of such silly and contemptible savages as the Siamesewe should have swerved so far from the right, the honourable course, a course which not only would have insured our own interests, but made the British name respectable in the eyes of all surrounding states; still more lamentable it is now to reflect that, when the means of retracing our steps, of restoring the King of Quedah, and with him our lost reputation, even within our reach, we should have given up the advantage, and consummated our own disgrace, by the total sacrifice and abandonment of our ally, the son of a chief who first gave us a footing in the Straits of Malacca-and all for fear lest an envoy should part in anger with the Siamese, or, to speak the plain truth, with the Rajah of Ligore."
Colonel Burney has made some statements adverse to the claims of the King of Quedah; I shall submit a few opinions of an opposite and more favourable tendency:
1. Mr. Light, who obtained the cession of Penang from the father of the present ex-rajah, now in durance at Malacca, in remarking upon the stipulation made by the King for protection, as the condition of such cession, suggests to the Government of Bengal, that some caution should be observed in the wording of it in the treaty, So as to distinguish," as he writes, "between an enemy endeavouring or aiming at his destruction or the kingdom, and one who may simply fall into displeasure with either the King or his ministers." The Bengal Government afterwards accepted the grant, and informed Mr. Light, that "this Government will always keep an armed vessel stationed to guard the island of Penang and the coast adjacent belonging to the King of Quedah. The Governor-general in Council, on the part of the English EastIndia Company, will take care that the King of Quedah shall not be a sufferer by an English settlement being formed on the island of Penang."
2. Mr. Light also thus writes to the Governor-General in October, 1786::-" I returned for answer" (to a letter addressed to him respecting an expected invasion from Siam), "that his best policy is to have as little communication as possible, but to put his country in a state of defence; and that, while the English are here, they will assist him if distressed."
3. The Governor-General of India wrote to the King of Quedah, after possession was taken of Penang :-"I have ordered a man-of-war to guard Pulo-Penang and the coast of Quedah;" inferring that the protection sought for would be granted.
4. The Hon. Mr. Petrie, the Governor of Penang, writes as follows to the King of Quedah, in 1816, two years subsequent to the date of Captain McInnes's report, referred to by Colonel Burney:-" It is true, as my friend observes, Quedah and Penang are but one country, and I trust this amicable footing will endure as long as the sun and moon continue to revolve. I am very sorry to hear of the design entertained by the Siack chiefs against Perak, for although not so intimately connected with that country as with Quedah, I feel interested in all our neighbours, and I should desire by all means in my power to promote their prosperity. This, I have no doubt, is the disposition of my friend also; and I beg that, in writing to Tuanko
Long and Syud Zein, my friend will acquaint them that, though not bound by treaty to protect Perak from invasion by sea, as in the case with Quedah, I shall treat as pirates any whom I find waging hostility so near this island as any part of the Perak territory."
5. The Penang Government, under date Nov. 1821, thus gives its opinion:-" In apprizing your Excellency of the present state of affairs at Quedah, it cannot be considered unimportant to observe, that unless some arrangements are made, by which the Siamese power may be withdrawn from our immediate neighbourhood, there will be an evident necessity for increasing our disposable force at this presidency, in view to secure against that arrogant and formidable power, the tranquillity of this settlement, and the freedom of trade with its northern ports. Hitherto, there has been no difficulty in this respect; the state of Quedah has served as a barrier between the Siamese possessions and the Company's territories, and has been bound to us by treaty, and reciprocally engaged for our benefit."
6. Colonel John Alexander Bannerman, many years ago a director of the EastIndia Company, and afterwards Governor of Penang, in alluding to the demands of the Siamese, in 1818, says :- Independent of the cause of humanity, which has never been disregarded by the British Government or our honourable employers, there are many other motives that strongly bias me at this juncture in favour of his Majesty of Quedah's proposition."
7. Mr. Phillips, who was Governor of Penang at the time of the invasion of Quedah by the Siamese, observed, in Dec. 1821:-"It appears to me, that the British Government should not hesitate to endeavour to obtain the restoration of our ally to the throne of his ancestors" (the same chief styled by Captain Burney "late governor"), "because it is our undoubted policy to prevent the near approach of the Siamese influence and power, and because his restoration, if effected by our means, would redound highly to the honour and reputation of the British character amongst the surrounding Malay states."
[Some official documents, published in Calcutta, place the affairs of Quedah and the case of Tuanku Mahomed Saad in a light more favourable to our Indian Government than that in which they were exhibited before the Recorder's Court at Penang, and we can only regret that the non-appearance of a representative on the part of the Government, at the trial, kept back these facts from the public, and suffered its judgment to go by default.
It is stated, that no promise was made to the king of Quedah, who ceded Penang, to assist him against the Siamese or any of the Malay states; that the king was perfectly aware of the anxiety of Lord Cornwallis's Government to avoid any engagement that could bring it into collision with Burmah or Siam, and he accepted a money consideration, on a clear understanding that no political aid was to be afforded him. It appears that Capt. Glass, in 1787, Mr. Crawfurd, in 1821, and Col. Burney, in 1825, expressly stated, as the result of inquiry, that Quedah was tributary to and dependent upon Siam, and had been so from the earliest knowledge which Europeans had of the state; that, after the cession of Penang to us, the uncle of the present king having usurped the throne, he went to Bankok, performed homage, and received an honorary title, together with an order to the uncle to resign the throne, which order was obeyed, and that the present king of Quedah, some years after, sent up his eldest son and prime minister to do homage before the king of Siam, and again acknowledged Quedah to be dependent on Siam. The treaty for the cession of Penang is said to have been broken by the king of Quedah's refusal to permit the free export of provisions to Penang. When, in 1810, the king applied to the Straits' Government for protection against the Siamese, the