James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – Good Government


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James Brooke was the first White Rajah of Sarawak. After inheriting £30,000 in 1833 he invested it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailed for Borneo. 

Below is an excerpt from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

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Good Government

James Rajah BrookeWhilst all was proceeding favourably in Borneo, Brooke was much disturbed by the news of the proceedings of Mr Wise, his agent in London. There was no doubt of the talent and earnestness of this man, but those who knew him well felt that he was rather working for his own benefit than for that of his employer. He knew that a true account of the actual state of Sarawak would fail to draw the attention of the mercantile community; he therefore raised false expectations as to the value of the trade which would arise as soon as Borneo was thrown open to British commerce. When Brooke was made aware of this he wrote to his friend Templer, “It does appear to me, judging from Mr Wise’s letters and the steps he has taken, that some exaggerated hopes are entertained, and hopes as unreasonable as exaggerated…. In fact, I will become no party to a bubble; or gain, or accept any negotiation from Government upon false grounds’ (sic).

Brooke’s views on the management of a wild country and the only way to develop commerce among savage, and even among half-civilised peoples, were so wise and trustworthy that they would merit being quoted in full did space permit. He was indeed a most sagacious ruler, with a positive instinct as to the manner in which native races should be treated, and he always insisted that progress to be permanent must be slow, and that throwing capital en masse into an undeveloped country would only produce disappointment and loss.

How true is the following; “Good temper, good sense and conciliatory manners are essential to the good government of natives, and on this point it is that most Europeans are so grossly wanting. They always take with them their own customs, feelings and manners, and in a way force the natives to conform to them, and never give themselves the trouble of ascertaining how far these manners are repugnant to the natives”.  In my long experience I could scarcely name a dozen men whom I have seen treat native races as they should be treated, and most of these were among the devoted followers of Rajah Brooke. His own manners were perfect.

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


Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner