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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. In 1841 he became the Rajah of Sarawak. Below is an excerpt 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 this series here or search our library here.
Makota Intrigues Against Brooke
Pangeran Makota, who had been Brooke’s enemy throughout all these proceedings, was now ready to act. He knew that the Land Dyaks in the interior, as well as the Malays of Siniawan whom the Englishman had aided to subdue, now looked to him as their protector; he therefore determined to destroy his prestige. He invited the Seribas Sea Dyaks and Malays to come to Sarawak; they came in a hundred bangkongs, or long war boats, with at least three thousand men, with the ostensible object of attacking a tribe living near the Sambas frontier, who had not been submissive enough to Bornean exactions; but every violent act they committed would have been overlooked if they only gave a sufficient percentage of their captives to the nobles. Already these wild devils had received the rajah’s permission to proceed up the river; the Land Dyaks, the Malays, the Chinese were full of fear, as all are treated as enemies by the Seribas when out on the warpath. As soon as Brooke received notice of what Muda Hassim, instigated by Makota, had done, he retired to the “Royalist” and prepared both his vessels for action. The Malay rulers, hearing how angry he was, and uncertain what steps he might take, recalled the expedition, which returned, furious at being baulked of their prey, and would have liked to have tried conclusions with the English ships, but found them too well on their guard.
This very act which Makota expected would lower the Englishman’s prestige, naturally greatly enhanced it, as it was soon known, even into the far interior, that the white stranger had but to say the word and this fearful scourge had been stayed.
Another event soon followed which greatly raised Brooke’s influence among the natives. He received notice that an English vessel had been wrecked on the north coast of Borneo, and that the crew were detained as hostages by the Sultan of Borneo for the payment of a ransom. He now sent the “Royalist” to try and release them, whilst he despatched the “Swift” to Singapore for provisions, and remained with three companions in his new house in Sarawak. Could anything better prove his cool courage? The “Royalist” failed in its mission, but almost immediately after its return, an East India Company’s steamer came up the river to inquire as to its success, and finding the captive crew still at Brunei, proceeded there and quickly effected their release. The appearance of the “Diana” twice in the river had its effect on the population, as it was probably the first steamer they had ever seen.
Makota had been greatly disappointed that his intrigues had failed to force the white strangers to quit the country, but his fertile invention now thought of more sure and criminal means. ‘Why not poison them ?’ He tried, but failed; his confederates confessed, and then Brooke resolved to act. Either Makota or himself must fall. By a judicious display of force, quite justified under the circumstances, he freed the rajah from the baneful influence of Makota, who from that time forward ceased to act as chief adviser, and regained his former ascendency.
Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John
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