James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – The Attack on the Sakarangs


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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 or search our library here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke –  The Attack on the Sakarangs

James Rajah BrookThe attack on the Sakarangs was similar in its incidents to that on the Seribas. The river was staked, but nothing could stop the onset of the invaders. The town was taken without much opposition; but the greatest loss on the British side was incurred from the imprudence of a scouting party. Brave old Patingi Ali had been sent ahead to reconnoitre, when, probably urged on by a Mr Stewart, who had been concealed in his boat, he proceeded too far; and when a large force rowed down the river to attack him, he found his retreat cut off by long rafts which had been pushed off from the banks and completely closed the river. He and his party were overwhelmed, and out of seventeen men only one escaped; Mr Stewart was among the killed.

Having completed their work, Captain Keppel and Brooke pulled back to Patusin, where they were joined by Sir Edward Belcher and the boats of the Samarang. They now all returned to Sarawak, but within a few days after their arrival the news came that the Arab chiefs and their followers were collecting at Banting on the Linga, the chief village of the Balow Dyaks, under the protection of Sherif Jaffer. The expedition immediately returned, and drove off the intruders; and Pangeran Budrudin, in the name of the Bornean Government, deposed Sherif Jaffer, and so settled the country, under the advice of Brooke, that comparative peace reigned there for nearly five years.

At this time it was calculated that Sarawak had received an increase of five thousand families, or, more probably, individuals; it was a genuine proof of the confidence of the people of the coast in the only spot where peace and security could be obtained, but it was also a sign of the terror inspired by the piratical fleets, and the general bad government of the districts under the rule of the native chiefs.

The greatest service Sir Edward Belcher ever did for Sarawak was the removal of Muda Hassim to Brunei. He had been long anxious to leave, but he would not do so, except in state. So Sir Edward arranged that not only the rajah and his immense family should be received on board the Company’s steamer the Phlegethon, but as many of his rascally followers as possible; and then, with Brooke on board, the Samarang set sail for Brunei. The expedition was received with some suspicion, but ultimately Muda Hassim and the Sultan were to all appearance reconciled, and the former was restored to his position as prime minister. An offer was made by the Sultan to cede Labuan to England as a British settlement, and that offer was transmitted to the English Government. Labuan is an island off the mouth of the Brunei and neighbouring rivers, which appeared admirably adapted for a commercial and naval post, and the discovery of coal there settled the point.

As soon as Muda Hassim had departed from Sarawak, and Brooke was left, de facto as well as de jure the only governor, confidence in his remaining in the country grew rapidly, and trade improved. But the negotiations which his friends were carrying on with the British Government moved slowly and drew forth some impatient remarks from him. Henceforth I may occasionally call him the Rajah, par excellence as he now was in truth the only rajah in Sarawak.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here or search our library here.

Catch-up with our series on Henry Keppel here.

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