James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Siam Mission

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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 – 1850 – Siam Mission

On our arrival in Singapore we received the particulars of the debate of July 12, [1850], which had taken place in the House of Commons concerning our proceedings against the Seribas pirates. Though Mr Hume’s motion had been rejected by a great majority, Sir James justly complained that no minister had stood up to express their approval of his policy.

However, though these attacks might irritate, they could not do away with the pleasure afforded by the good news from Sarawak. The civil war which had broken out in Sambas between the Chinese goldworking companies and the Sultan, backed by the Dutch, had caused about 4000 Chinese agriculturist to fly from that country and take refuge in Sarawak. This was a welcome addition, for wherever Chinese settle there are trade and cultivation, and revenue follows in their footsteps.

As soon as we could send off the papers connected with the Siam Mission we proceeded to Sarawak to find great activity there. The Chinese were spreading about the town and in the interior, and the Rajah was soon busy regulating the affairs of the country, preventing the encroachments of the Chinese on the Dyaks, to which they were very prone, and visiting various inland tribes to mark their progress. At one of those villages we were struck by the intelligent questions put by several of the Dyaks regarding Siam and the neighbouring states, and on inquiry we found that before the advent of the white Rajah the rulers of the country were accustomed to send them to pull an oar in the pirate fleets which then cruised throughout these seas. They had evidently used their eyes to some purpose whilst thus employed. A very severe attack of fever and ague interrupted the Rajah’s activity, and he was at length persuaded to listen to the voice of his medical man, and to return to England for the benefit of his health. But he first visited Labuan, which he found still making but slow progress; and, though it appeared at one time that there was really about to be an influx of Chinese and Malays from the capital, when it was found that the Governor was returning to England they made up their minds not to move until he came back. Some of the latter had had their prahus towed over by the Nemesis but they soon went away again, and the contemplated movement never took place. The fact was that at that time they trusted only the English Rajah, and if he were not in Labuan to protect them they would not risk exciting the hostility of the Brunei Government.

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