James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Commission of Enquiry

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 – Commission of Enquiry

So closed the year [1852], and on the 1st January [1853] appeared the list of the new ministers the Coalition Ministry of Lord Aberdeen. England loves not coalitions, said D’Israeli; and we certainly did not love this one. Probably to strengthen their parliamentary majority, and yielding to the influence of Mr Cobden, the new Government decided to grant Mr Hume’s demand and issue a Commission to inquire into the conduct of Sir James Brooke. Sir James himself had always courted inquiry, and therefore the Ministry might have communicated their intention to him before he left England, which he had decided to do during the first week in April. But instead of consulting with him, they tried to keep the whole affair dark, and it was only accidentally that Sir James heard of it. I never could understand how a frank, loyal man like Lord Clarendon could lend himself to such proceedings, but I suppose he was overruled by Lord Aberdeen and Mr Sidney Herbert.

Finding that their determination to issue a Commission of Inquiry could no longer be concealed from Sir James Brooke, they wrote to him officially on the subject, and stated that they would call on the Governor General of India to choose Commissioners. They further assured Sir James that ‘the inquiry should be full, fair and complete.’ But the whole transaction had been so underhand, so humiliating to him personally, so derogatory to him as ruler of Sarawak, that he felt it bitterly, and he closed his despatch to Lord Clarendon, April 4, [1853], the day he left England, with these words: It is with sorrow unmixed with anger that I leave the world to judge the services I have rendered and the treatment I have received.’

On Sir James Brooke’s arrival in Singapore he found that while the Government had been reticent with him, they had been confidential with Mr Hume, who repaid that confidence by divulging all the details of the proposed Commission to the editor of a hostile paper in Singapore. This personage made the most of it, and indulged in violent tirades, in which he gloated over the disgrace which had fallen upon Sir James. But this abuse affected none of the Rajah’s friends, who were the flower of Singapore society.

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