Category Archives: News

Sabbatical and Other Projects

Following five years of working down on the OCR Farm we are taking an extended sabbatical – all our ‘creatures’ have been put out to pasture and preserved here in time for your pleasure and enjoyment. 

The last five years have been an amazing revelation and education; trawling through history, re-living it through the eyes of those that have gone before us (when we got time to read through the library of course).

A tremendous amount of time was devoted to preparation, presentation and refinement.

We are working on other projects.  We might resume work on the library if there is a demand.

Enjoy

Team Ultrapedia

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1856 – Chinese Kungsi

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1856 – Chinese Kungsi

As the British Government would not allow me to ask for an exequatur from the Sarawak authorities, I left Kuching for Brunei in August [1856]. It was severing very precious ties. Before I sailed, Arthur Crookshank had returned to his post and brought with him, as his bride, a ‘vision of beauty,’ to use the Rajah’s own phrase.

During this year some capitalists in London formed the Borneo Company, to develop the resources of the territories under Sarawak rule. Coal had been discovered in various places, and there were valuable products to be collected, principally sago, gutta-percha and india-rubber; there was also the produce of the antimony mines, and subsequently cinnabar, or the metal containing quicksilver.

A short time before Mr Macdougall, the head of the Borneo Mission, had been raised in rank, and was named Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak.

As slight returns of fever and ague had weakened the Rajah, he accepted Sir William Hoste’s offer of a passage to Singapore in H.M.S. Spartan, where he passed a few months recruiting his health. Towards the end of January [1857] he returned to Sarawak in the Sir James Brooke, a steamer sent out by the Borneo Company to aid in their commercial work. The Rajah found the country greatly excited by persistent rumours of a Chinese conspiracy. His valuable officer, Mr Arthur Crookshank, fully believed in the hostile intentions of the Chinese Kungsi or Gold Working Company, and had therefore manned the forts with sufficient garrisons. But Sir James Brooke, having summoned the Chinese chiefs before him, and punished them for their illegal acts, was satisfied with their submission, and believed they would not be so insensate as to endeavour to carry out their previous threats. He therefore dismissed the extra men from the forts, and wrote to me on February 14th, Congratulate me on being free from all my troubles.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1855 – Despatches

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1855 – Despatches

In October [1855] Captain Brooke and Charles Grant left us for a visit home, and Arthur Crookshank was still absent in England, so that much work fell on the Rajah. We had scarcely settled down to a quiet life when we were disturbed by the arrival of despatches from Lord Clarendon, enclosing the Blue Book containing all the documents relating to the Commission, and expressing a cold approval of Sir James Brooke’s conduct. I also received despatches, one appointing me Consul General in Borneo, and the other containing an Order in Council directing me to send to the nearest English colony all British subjects accused of crimes and misdemeanours within the Sultan’s dominions, including Sarawak. The absurdity of such an Order in Council appears never to have struck the Foreign Office. In the first place, it was in direct opposition to our Treaty with the Brunei Government; secondly, the sending for trial to Singapore of a prisoner and all the witnesses would have entailed an expenditure of hundreds of pounds, possibly on account of a thief who had stolen the value of a shilling. It was no difficult matter to point out to our Government that it was wiser to let well alone; that the courts of Sarawak had always exercised jurisdiction over British subjects, and that no complaints of injustice had ever been made. I consequently suggested that the system then at work should be continued.

Any other solution would have been felt to be intolerable, both by the Rajah and by the native chiefs. Fortunately wise counsels prevailed in England, and the proposed arrangement, which was founded on ignorance, was reversed. I was authorised to inform the Sarawak Council that Her Majesty’s Government had no desire whatever to interfere with them, or to prevent them choosing what form of government they pleased; and I added that the British Government accepted the plan suggested for settling the question of jurisdiction. In fact, the Sarawak courts were authorised to continue to try British subjects as before.

The Rajah was deeply mortified by Lord Clarendon’s despatches. After all the promises the latter had made to the late Lord Ellesmere, that if the Commission reported in Sir James Brooke’s favour the Government would be prepared to do all that he desired, to receive a bare statement of approval of his conduct was very disheartening. After all the mischief which arose from the mere appointment of the Commission, the loss of prestige which produced the Patingi’s abortive plot, and later on the Chinese insurrection, such treatment was inexplicable to him. He was sore and indignant. He only asked for a steamer to be placed on the coast to check piracy. Even this was refused.

However, when Lord Clarendon agreed to recognise the jurisdiction of the Sarawak courts, the Rajah was greatly mollified. He wrote, “The Government has done far more than I expected, and our misunderstanding is at an end.” The strong expressions of good-will contained in the same despatch had a very tranquilising effect upon him, and he almost thought he had forgiven the Government their great injustice.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1854 – Council of Sarawak

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1854 – Council of Sarawak

Our next six months were passed quietly. The Rajah was anxious about the report of the Commission, but he felt that in all essential points it must be in his favour. During this peaceful time he busied himself with the interior affairs of the country, or retired for recreation to his charming cottage among the hills.

No one who had not lived in close intimacy with the Rajah could form any idea of the charm of his society. His conversation was always attractive, whether he was treating of political or religious questions, and when he was in good spirits, his ordinary talk was enlivened by playful humour. His affectionate disposition endeared him to all, and although subsequently differences arose with some of his followers and relatives, no one among them but preserved a kindly feeling towards their old chief. Our visits to the hill cottage left so pleasant an impression on my mind that they can never be forgotten.

At this time, on the advice of Earl Grey, the Rajah created a Council of Sarawak, the first members of which were himself and his two nephews, to represent the English element, and four Malay chiefs to represent the native inhabitants of Sarawak. It proved a most useful measure, and the native members showed themselves highly efficient.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Heads of Inquiry

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Heads of Inquiry

In spite of the instructions to the Commissioners, which were remarkable for their hostile spirit, these gentlemen reported favourably on all those points on which the public felt any interest; the Seribas and Sakarang Dyaks were declared pirates, and it was found and placed on record that Sir James had not been a trader whilst in the service of the Crown. On matters of opinion they differed, and did not accept Sir James’s claim of the complete independence of Sarawak de jurey though it was so de facto. The other questions were of no practical importance.

Although we did not receive the report of the Commissioners until the end of the following year, I may now notice the findings, and then close this unfortunate story of ministerial weakness and bad faith.

There were four heads of inquiry.

First – Whether the position of Sir James Brooke at Sarawak was compatible with his duties as Commissioner and Consul-General?

It was decided to be incompatible; but Mr Devereux added, ‘It may be stated as regards the past that the junction of the two positions has had beneficial results.’ As the British Government had appointed Sir James to the post without any solicitation on his part, with a full knowledge of his position at Sarawak, any blame would be theirs and not his. As, however, he had resigned his posts, this point had only an academic interest.

Second – Whether the interests of Sir James Brooke as a holder of territory, and as a trader in the produce of that territory, were compatible?

It was found that Sir James was not a trader in the true sense of the term any more than the Governor General of India.

Third – Personal complaints against Sir James Brooke.

Two were made, but not entertained by the Commissioners.

Fourth – What were the relations of Sir James Brooke with and towards the native tribes on the north-west coast of Borneo, with a view to ascertain whether it was necessary that he should be entrusted with a discretion to determine which of these tribes were piratical, or, taking into account the recent operations on the coast, to call for the aid of Her Majesty’s forces for the punishment of such tribes.

Mr Devereux remarked, ‘It appears most desirable that there should be an authority empowered to call for the aid of Her Majesty’s naval forces for the suppression of piracy.’

‘I have already declared my opinion that the Seribas and Sakarang Dyaks are piratical tribes; it was therefore most just and expedient, and in conformity with the obligations of treaty, that punishment should be inflicted on them with the view to the suppression of their atrocious outrages. The exact measure of punishment which should have been inflicted is a question which does not belong to me to decide, but I may say that it was essential that the thing should be done, and done effectually. So far as regards the loss of life inflicted on them, there does not appear any reasonable ground for sympathy for a race of indiscriminate murderers.’

I have thus shortly summed up the proceedings and findings of the Commission. I have not thought it necessary to enter into any details, as the questions are dead, and no one feels any interest in the mendacious statements of a W.N. or a Chameroozow. The Seribas and Sakarang Dyaks are now some of the best subjects of Sarawak, so faithful that they are enlisted as soldiers and garrison the principal forts.

The Commission closed, and we returned to Sarawak towards the end of November with a feeling of great relief. As a ship of war had fetched the Rajah from Sarawak, so a ship of war took him back, and Captain Blaine of H.M.S. Rapid showed him every courtesy, and treated him officially as a prince in his own country.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Hostile Witnesses

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Hostile Witnesses

Grant and I soon followed the Rajah to Singapore, and found the Commission sitting. It was composed of Mr Prinsep and Mr Devereux, the former suffering from a malady which was beginning to show itself at intervals, and quite incapable of conducting the inquiry with dignity; the latter everything which could be desired a man of marked ability, impartial and painstaking.

When the Commission opened its sittings, only two complainants came forward the ex-Lieutenant Governor of Labuan, and an editor of a newspaper. Both of these were informed that their cases were beyond the scope of the Commission. As, however, above fifty inhabitants of Singapore had signed an address to Mr Hume, supporting his demand for an inquiry into the character of the tribes of Seribas and Sakarang, the Commissioners naturally thought that they would be prepared with some evidence of their assertion that these tribes were not piratical, and that they had been massacred under false pretences; but all the memorialists who were called by the Commissioners denied having any knowledge on the subject, and many had signed under the impression that they were aiding the cause of Sir James Brooke. The Commissioners waited day after day for hostile witnesses, but none came.

While we were all waiting for that testimony which was not forthcoming, a gentleman who was sitting next me said, wish should like to give evidence’ I mentioned his to the Commissioners. He was then called forward, and stated that his name was Boudriot; that he was in the Civil Service of the Dutch Government; that he had resided four and a half years in Borneo. He knew of the Seribas and Sakarang Dyaks; he had always known them as pirates, killing and murdering all along the coast. They came down in large, armed boats, holding each a crew of from eighty to ninety, killing the men they met and carrying off the women and children as slaves. In one excursion they killed about four hundred men. This happened in the Dutch possessions. They had ravaged the Dutch settlements; probably the recorded instances would number one hundred.  As every one in Borneo knows them (as pirates), I am surprised that anyone should question their existence.

When it is remembered that this evidence was given unsolicited by a high and experienced Dutch official, who, on his way home on furlough, happened to be passing through Singapore, and that the Netherlands Government had shown itself exceedingly jealous of Sir James Brooke’s position in Borneo, no further evidence would seem to have been required. Mr Boudriot’s coming forward to bear testimony in favour of a political opponent was as honourable to the Dutch official as to his Government, which he knew would not object to his testifying in favour of the truth.

The witnesses called by the hostile memorialists came to curse, but remained to bless. Reluctant as they were to tell all they knew, enough was dragged out of them to show the true character of the Seribas and Sakarang Dyaks. One was the dismissed Lieutenant Governor of Labuan, the second a man of German extraction, who had lived on Sir James Brooke’s bounty for many years, and the third the banished Patingi of Sarawak; but he showed no animus against Sir James Brooke. In point of fact, they did not prove hostile witnesses, as the testimony of the first two, apart from the feeling displayed, was quite satisfactory. Mr Devereux and Mr Prinsep observe in their reports that the memorialists or their agent did what they could to prevent the native witnesses from appearing, but enough came forward to prove to both Commissioners the piratical character of these Dyaks, and Mr Devereux pointedly remarks that no undue severity was exercised.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – The Commission

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – The Commission

On our arrival at Sarawak we had news of the Commissioners being expected at Singapore, and H.M.’s. brig Lily arrived to convey Sir James Brooke and his followers to our Straits Settlements, but the Rajah had to go alone, as Grant, Brereton and myself were down with fever, the result of over-exposure to sun and rain and the cold watches of the night. Brereton did not recover, and in him the Rajah lost a most efficient and devoted officer.

No one now cares for the Commission sent to inquire into the position and conduct of Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, and Commissioner and Consul-General in Borneo; but as its results were so disastrous I must devote a few pages to it.

As I have before mentioned and here I am obliged to repeat some observations I have previously made when Sir James Brooke found that his agent in England, Mr Wise, was trying to involve him in schemes which he considered doubtful, he endeavoured to check him, and used strong language about his projects, looking upon them as designs to defraud the public by false representations. Mr Wise accidentally came to know the energetic expressions used by his employer, and decided to have his revenge, but he held his hand until the right moment had arrived. He still continued to press Sir James to join his gigantic companies, but failed in his attempts. Other events occurred which excited him still more, such as the Rajah’s handing over to the British Government, instead of directly to himself, the grant of the coal seams in certain portions of the Sultan’s dominions which Sir James had received whilst Her Majesty’s Agent. At length, when his employer called upon him to produce his accounts, as a very large balance was due to him, Mr Wise began to denounce him publicly. The Farquhar expedition furnished him with the opportunity, and he now posed as a humanitarian, and furnished certain members of the press with garbled information. We may imagine how unscrupulous he was when Lord Clarendon stated, ‘It had been detected in the Foreign Office that Mr Wise’s “Papers printed for use in the Government Offices” could not be relied on, and that some were “simple forgeries.’

Mr Wise, however, managed, as I have said, to persuade Mr Joseph Hume to enter into his projects, who found an ally in Mr Cobden, and they both commenced a campaign in the House of Commons against the Rajah. This continued until the Coalition Ministry, under Lord Aberdeen, came into power in [1853]. To secure the Parliamentary support of the Free Trade party, Lord Aberdeen weakly consented to issue a Commission on the lines suggested by Mr Hume, Sir James’s vindictive adversary.

The Commission might have been issued with the concurrence of both parties, as Sir James was anxious for a full inquiry; but the Government, whilst informing Mr Hume of their intention to accede to his demand, thought it becoming- to keep Sir James ignorant of it, and he found it out by accident.

Forty-five years have passed since this event occurred, and yet I cannot write of it without a flush of indignation. Mr Gladstone made this observation: His (Sir James’s) language respecting Mr Hume and Mr Cobden, two men of the very highest integrity; is for the most part quite unjustifiable. Mr Hume’s integrity, by his own confession, was not above suspicion, and Mr Cobden may be judged by the following extract: ‘Sir James Brooke seized on a territory as large as Yorkshire, and then drove out the natives, and subsequently sent for our fleet and men to massacre them.’ The insolence and ignorance displayed in the latter statement, as I have elsewhere observed, are about equal.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – The Expedition

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – The Expedition

The Rajah then tried an experiment, of which some doubted the wisdom, of supplying the place of the deposed Datu by appointing the head of the Mohammedan priesthood in Sarawak to become the third ruling Malay chief. He was brother to the Datu Bandhar a quiet, honest, good Malay. How well the Rajah judged has been shown by the subsequent history of Sarawak. The Datu Imaun has always proved the mainstay of the English in all their troubles and difficulties; and, although much over eighty, I heard of his being well and active until quite recently.

The Rajah had intended to adopt no warlike measures against the pirate Dyaks, headed by the notorious chief Rentab, until the Commission was over, but after waiting fifteen months, and finding no signs of its assembling, he determined to lead an expedition against them. Previous attempts by his officers had failed, but this expedition was so well organised that its success was assured.

Eight thousand Malays and Dyaks answered to the summons of their chief, whilst an expedition of fifteen hundred men threatened the enemy in the interior of the Rejang, and well-armed war prahus anchored in the Seribas. We pushed up the great Batang Lupar river, then ascended the Sakarang as far as our big war boats would go, built a fort for their protection, left a garrison and there the Rajah was persuaded to remain, as his state of health did not permit him to expose himself to the further hardships of the advance.

We proceeded in our light boats, or pushed through the jungle. I never saw such a go-as-you-please expedition. An enterprising enemy might have cut us off as we scattered through the woods, but fortunately they were over-awed by the reports of our numbers and of our arms. Captain Brooke, who was in command, saw the danger of this method of advance, and decided to continue the expedition in boats. Our people had found a large number of these in the jungle, hidden there by the enemy, so we soon had enough for the Malays. At first most of the Dyaks preferred to walk, but gradually they secured sufficient canoes to enable all to advance by the river.

The object of the expedition was to attack Sungei Lang a large fortified village held by Rentab and his followers, and, if possible, a stronghold he had constructed on the summit of the Sadok Mountain. After much skirmishing and firing, the fort was gallantly stormed, and before sunset was completely in our hands. And glad we were that there had been no delay, as scarcely were we housed, when a violent tempest burst, that would have effectually drenched us had we remained in the open. We stayed in this village whilst our men were employed punishing the followers of Rentab; but no attempt was made to attack his fortified post on the summit of the Sadok mountain. Natives seldom care to continue a campaign after its announced object has been accomplished, and our object was to take Sungei Lang. Sadok defied successive expeditions for eight years more. The Sakarang river was now in flood, so that on our return we passed over all natural obstructions in safety. We were heartily received by the Rajah and congratulated on our success, as the storming of Rentab’s stronghold was no mean achievement with only native followers.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – The Patingi Chief

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – The Patingi Chief

Upon our return to Sarawak we heard of Lord Clarendon’s instructions to the Commission which was to inquire into Sir James Brooke’s conduct and position. As I propose to devote a few pages to it later on, I need not dwell upon them now.

The Rajah had long meditated a scheme to bring the Land Dyaks of Sarawak, Samarahan and Sadong under the direct rule of the Government. Up to the year [1853] the Dyak tribes had been apportioned among the three Datus or Malay chiefs, which was the immemorial custom; but it was found in practice to work badly, particularly in the hands of the Datu Patingi. He was an ambitious man, fond of parade, and kept up two large establishments for his principal wives. To support the expense, he not only exacted all that was legally due to him, but carried on a system of forced trade, preventing the Dyaks from buying, except of him and his agents a truck trade on an extended system and in its worst form. The complaints which reached headquarters were numerous. After he had married his daughter to one of the Arab adventurers on the coast, who pretended to be a descendant of the Prophet, his extortions knew no bounds.

The Rajah determined to pay the Datus fixed salaries, fifty per cent, beyond their legal dues, and to insist on the trade with the Dyaks being as free in practice as it was in theory. The Malay chiefs were pleased with the arrangement; but gradually the old abuses of forced trade were reintroduced by the Patingi, and the Rajah was often obliged to interfere to protect the Dyaks.

The Patingi became dissatisfied when he found his evil courses checked, and began to conspire against his benefactor, who had saved his life after the civil war was ended; and when he heard that a Commission had been appointed by the English Government to try the Rajah, he became very active in his intrigues, and proposed to the other chiefs to expel the English from Sarawak. None joined him, and though they kept a watch on his proceedings, they never breathed a word of the nascent conspiracy either to the Rajah or to any of his officers. When the whole executive Government, English as well as Malay, were away on an expedition, a brave young chief, Abong Patah, came to me (I was then Her Majesty’s acting Commissioner) and revealed all the details of the plot. I instantly sent off the news to the Rajah, who did not doubt its truth for a moment. He had himself observed very suspicious movements of the Patingi’s armed vessels, and had also noticed that whenever that chief anchored near the English war prahu, where all the Rajah’s officers assembled every evening, the other chiefs would, apparently by accident, allow their prahus to drop alongside. The Rajah communicated the discovery to some of his most trustworthy followers, both English and Malay, but left the Patingi in ignorance, though judicious precautions were taken to frustrate his machinations.

As soon, however, as the Rajah returned to the capital, he summoned a meeting of all the chiefs and principal men of the country, and in open court accused the Patingi of all his crimes and misdemeanours. He told him that on account of the respect he had for his family he would not try him for high treason; but that all his arms and ammunition must be handed over to abide the decision of the Government. The Patingi was too surprised to deny his guilt; in fect, he knew that every chief present was aware of his criminal intentions. It ended by his being permitted to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Rajah’s leniency, though judging by subsequent events misplaced, was so natural that it met with general approval, except among the more far-seeing of the Malays, who predicted that this ungrateful chief would yet do the English an ill turn.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Grant of Sarawak

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Grant of Sarawak

As soon as the Rajah was sufficiently recovered, he decided to visit the capital. The Sultan Omar Ali was dead, and Pangeran Mumein had been chosen to fill that office, although he did not belong to the royal family. We started in the same little merchant brig Weeraff) and were soon at the capital.

The Rajah knew that every kind of intrigue had been going on during his long absence. The Eastern Archipelago Company had sent their agent to try and induce the late Sultan to complain of the conduct of Her Majesty’s Commissioner; and the Ex-Lieutenant Governor of Labuan had also written to the Brunei Government to tell them of the Commission, and to insinuate that Sir James was no longer the powerful personage that he had been. The Queen had decided to inquire into his conduct; so now was the time to act. However, these intrigues completely failed.

The Rajah had not been a week in the capital when his influence was as completely re-established as when he had an admiral and a squadron at his back. The grant of Sarawak was confirmed, and a new deed was made out, giving him the government of the rivers, as far as the Rejang, on the payment of £1000 a year. Not even Mr Hume could say that he obtained these concessions by the use of force.

While we were in Brunei, we lodged in the Sultan’s palace, and were fed from the royal kitchen; we found the cuisine excellent. The Sultan and pangerans were constant visitors, and we enjoyed our stay among them. Not only did the Brunei Government confirm public grants, but they handed over to the Rajah the originals of the letters addressed to them by Mr Napier and others, showing how active his enemies had been as soon as it was known that a Commission of Inquiry had been granted by our vacillating ministers.

Nothing could better illustrate the conduct and character of the Rajah than the results of this visit. Here was this man, under the ban of the British Government, exposed to every insult from a reptile press fortunately among English papers a very small minority and apparently in deep disgrace. Yet in his own adopted country he was respected, loved and trusted beyond any other man by all races and creeds.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner