Founding of modern Singapore

Founding of modern Singapore

The founding of modern Singapore in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles paved the way for Singapore to become a modern port and established its status as a "gateway" between the Western and Eastern markets.

This was distinct from its earlier probable use as a port in ancient times during the dominance of Srivijaya, and later, the Melaka in the region. This was because previously, the main markets were India and China. However, with the founding of modern Singapore, Europe, and to an extent, the United States, had now become sources of trade as well.

Raffles' Landing and Arrival

In 1818, Raffles managed to convince Lord Hastings, the then governor-general of India and his superior at the British East India Company, to fund an expedition to establish a new British base in the region. Raffles then undertook weeks of lengthy searching and found several islands that seemed promising but were later revealed unfit for use either because they were already occupied by the Dutch, or could not function as a port for reasons such as having too shallow a harbour. Eventually, after contemplating several maps, Raffles happened upon the island of Singapore, which upon investigation, seemed to be a natural choice. It lay at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, near the Straits of Malacca, and possessed an excellent natural harbour, fresh water supplies, and timber for repairing ships. Most importantly, it was unoccupied by the Dutch.

Raffles' expedition arrived in Singapore on 29 January 1819. He found a small Malay settlement at the mouth of the Singapore River, headed by a Temenggong (governor) of Johor. The island was nominally ruled by Johor, but the political situation there was extremely murky. The current Sultan of Johor, Tengku Abdul Rahman, was controlled by the Dutch and the Bugis, and would never agree to a British base in Singapore. However, Abdul Rahman was Sultan only because his older brother, Tengku Hussein, also known as Tengku Long, had been away in Penang getting married when their father died.

The treaty

With the Temenggong's help, Raffles managed to smuggle Hussein, then living in exile on one of the Riau Islands, back into Singapore. He offered to recognize Hussein as the rightful Sultan of Johor, and provide him with a yearly payment; in return, Hussein would grant them the right to establish a trading post on Singapore. cite web | title = Singapore - Founding and Early Years | url = | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ] This agreement was ratified with a formal treaty signed on 6 February, 1819, and modern Singapore was born. [cite web| title = 1819 - The February Documents | publisher = Ministry of Defence (Singapore) | date = 1997-02-07 | accessdate = 2006-07-18 | author = Jenny Ng | url =] [cite web| title = Milestones in Singapore's Legal History | publisher = Supreme Court, Singapore | accessdate = 2006-07-18 | url =]

Early growth (1819–1826)

Raffles returned to Bencoolen soon after the signing of the treaty, leaving Major William Farquhar in charge of the new settlement, which initially consisted of some artillery and a single regiment of Indian soldiers. Establishing a trading port from scratch was in itself a daunting prospect, but Farquhar's administration was, in addition, practically unfunded, as Raffles did not wish his superiors to view Singapore as a liability. In addition, it was forbidden from earning revenue by imposing port duties, Raffles having decided from the outset that Singapore would be a free port.

In spite of these difficulties, the new colony rapidly proved to be a spectacular success. As news of the free port spread across the archipelago, Bugis, Peranakan Chinese, and Arab traders flocked to the island, seeking to circumvent the Dutch trading restrictions. During the first year of operation, $400,000 (Spanish dollars) worth of trade passed through Singapore. By 1821, the island's population had increased to around five thousand, and the trade volume was $8 million. By 1825, the population had passed the ten thousand mark, with a trade volume of $22 million (in comparison, the trade volume for the long-established port of Penang was $8.5 million during the same year.)

Raffles returned to Singapore in 1822. Although Farquhar had successfully led the settlement through its difficult early years, Raffles was critical of many of the decisions he had made. For instance, in order to generate much-needed revenue for the government, Farquhar had resorted to selling licenses for gambling and the sale of opium, which Raffles saw as social evils. Raffles arranged for Farquhar's dismissal, and set about drafting a set of new policies for the settlement. He arranged for a second treaty with the Sultan and Temenggong, signed on 7 June 1823, which extended British possession to the entire island, except for the residences of the Sultan and Temenggong. The latter also gave up their rights to numerous functions on the island, including the collection of port taxes, in return for lifelong monthly payments of $1500 and $800 respectively. This agreement brought the island squarely under British law, with the proviso that it would take into account Malay customs, traditions and religion, "where they shall not be contrary to reason, justice or humanity."

Raffles, also shocked at the disarray of the colony, then arranged to organise Singapore into functional and ethnic subdivisions under the drafted Raffles Plan of Singapore. Today, the remnants of this organisation can be found in the ethnic neighbourhoods.

After installing John Crawfurd, an efficient and frugal administrator, as the new governor, Raffles departed for Britain in October 1823. [Bastin, John. "Malayan Portraits: John Crawfurd", in Malaya, vol.3 (December 1954), pp.697-698.] He would never return to Singapore. Most of his personal possessions were lost after his ship, the Fame, caught fire and sank, and he died only a few years later, in 1826, at the age of 44. [cite web| title = The Death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781 – 1826) | publisher = Singapore Medical Journal | date = 1998 | accessdate = 2006-07-18 | author = J C M Khoo, C G Kwa, L Y Khoo | url =]

traits Settlements

The status of Singapore as a British possession was cemented by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, which carved up the Malay archipelago between the two colonial powers. The area north of the Straits of Malacca, including Penang, Malacca, and Singapore, was designated as the British sphere of influence, while the area south of the Straits was assigned to the Dutch. This division had far-reaching consequences for the region: modern-day Malaysia and Singapore correspond to the British area established in the treaty, and modern-day Indonesia to the Dutch. In 1826, Singapore was grouped together with Penang and Malacca into a single administrative unit, the Straits Settlements, under the British East India Company.


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