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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 – Brookes Intentions
Hearing that some members of Sir Robert Peel’s Government had stated that they did not understand Brooke’s intentions, the Rajah wrote rather indignantly – “December 31, …. I am surprised, however, that they say they do not understand my intentions. Independently of my published letter, I thought they had had my intentions and wishes dinned into them. My intention, my wish, is to develop the island of Borneo. How to develop Borneo is not for me to say, but for them to judge. I have, both by precept and example, shown what can be done; but it is for the Government to judge what means, if any, they will place at my disposal. My intention, my wish, is to extirpate piracy by attacking and breaking up the pirate towns; not only pirates direct, but pirates indirect. Here again the Government must judge. I wish to correct the native character, to gain and hold an influence in Borneo proper, to introduce gradually a better system of government, to open the interior, to encourage the poorer natives, to remove the clogs on trade, to develop new sources of commerce. I wish to make Borneo a second Java. I intend to influence and amend the entire Archipelago, if the Government will afford me means and power. I wish to prevent any foreign nation coming on this field; but I might as well war against France individually, as to attempt all I wish without any means.
Was this policy not clear enough? Had it been followed, the independent portion of the Eastern Archipelago would have been completely under our influence, and would have ended by becoming practically ours. We should have had New Guinea and the islands adjacent, and thus given the Australians a free hand to develop what certainly should be considered as within their sphere of influence. How the English Rajah’s policy was wrecked, I must explain later on; at this time  all seemed advancing to its fulfilment.
In the meantime the British Government were acting in their usual cautious, half-hearted way. They did not really care a rush about Borneo or the Eastern Archipelago, and I have no doubt that the subordinate members of the Government offices looked with disgust on those who were urging them to intervene in Borneo. They hated any new thing, as it forced them to study and find out what it was all about. But as they could not stand still, they sent out Captain Bethune to inquire. He arrived in February, in H.M.S. Driver and brought with him the temporary appointment of Brooke as Her Majesty’s confidential agent. This was a distinct advance, as he had now to proceed to the capital to deliver officially a letter from the Queen to the Sultan and the Government of Brunei. With Captain Bethune came Mr Wise, the Rajah’s agent in England.
In Brunei they did not find Muda Hassim’s Government very firmly established, as they were threatened not only by Pangeran Usop, a connection of the Sultan’s and a pretender to the throne, but by the pirates of the north, with whom Usop was in league. During their stay in Brunei, both Brooke and Captain Bethune examined the coal seams near the capital, but they do not appear to have been considered workable, as no one has ever attempted to open a mine there. The quality of the coal has been pronounced good, and as the seams crop out of rather lofty hills it cannot be considered as surface coal.
Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John
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