James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Siamese Affairs

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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 – Siamese Affairs

We soon started again for Sarawak, and on the 17th of January the Rajah left us for Singapore on his way to England. His three offices were thus filled Mr Scott, afterwards Sir John Scott, was in charge of the Colony of Labuan; Captain Brooke of the Principality of Sarawak; and I remained as acting Commissioner.

I should mention that whilst we were away attending to Siamese affairs, Mr Balestier, Special Envoy from the United States, went to Sarawak in a frigate, the bearer of a letter from the President to Sir James Brooke, as ruler of the State of Sarawak, proposing a convention between the two countries. As a British official, Sir James thought it right to submit the subject to Lord Palmerston, who found nothing objectionable in the proposed arrangement; however, amid the heated controversy that was in progress, the question was unfortunately neglected.

We had all hoped that this visit to Europe was for health’s sake; but the requisite rest could not be obtained, as Sir James found himself at once pursued by the malignity of his enemies Mr Wise and the Eastern Archipelago Company who had found channels to diffuse their false accusations, as I have before noticed, in Mr Hume and Mr Cobden. In the debates in the House, Lord Palmerston spoke out strongly and clearly, and the majority was absolutely crushing; but Joseph Hume did not know when he was beaten, and brought the question again and again before Parliament.

Sir James now turned on his enemies; dragged the Eastern Archipelago Company into court, and the case ended by it being declared that The directors had signed a false certificate, knowing it to be false. This was in regard to their capital. Their charter was therefore abrogated and the seal torn off that document. These directors must have bitterly regretted having joined Wise in his campaign against the Rajah.

Sir James was also busy in answering hostile attacks, and his letters addressed to Mr Drummond, [M.P.], on Mr Hume’s assertions, were considered masterly compositions, completely establishing his case the view entertained by all reasonable men. Mr Sidney Herbert also determined to break a lance with the Rajah, but soon repented of his temerity and retired discomfited from the field. Sir James had this advantage over his adversaries, that his conduct in Borneo had been marked by so much courage, and was so straightforward and honourable, that they could find no weak point in his armour.

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