Page images
PDF
EPUB

is like a room, as no wind could affect them; so, account of the shelter, it was often run for, when they were at once seized on; for the pirates could see them, and lie at the same time, concealed. Thus were piracies easily committed. And about this time there were about forty young Malacca Malays of the Company Java, who were proceeding to Singapore in a boat, who were never heard of-all having been murdered-not even the breath of them, as they had all fought, and thus incurred the spite of the pirates.

Hundreds more found their way to Singapore, fleeing from the punishments in Malacca, and the want of employment, combined with the oppression of the Hollanders; some laboured at. wood-cutting, others at house-building, others shopped, each to their business. Yet they were in trouble as to whether Singapore would be a success or not. To live at that time also was a great difficulty, a fowl cost two rupees; a duck one dollar, and not to be got; an egg, a wang (12) cents or 6 d.), a Jambu, five doits (halfpenny). Money was easy, but food scarce, owing to the Hollanders forbidding the prows to come from Malacca. If one did manage to come, then the crew would conspire to set on prices at which no one could buy. Thus one pine-apple would cost seven wangs (3s. 9d.), one durian two rupees. I myself have bought durians which were not perfect. Furniture was also very dear.

To proceed. By the will of the Almighty the Dutch Governor of Malacca, Timmerman Tysen, died, when the punishments, seizures, and fines were lessened. The people of Malacca also ceased their cursing; they now had breathing time given them, as the regulations became less strict. But he died in bad odour, for there were many rich men of the place whom he had impoverished, by his borrowing money from them—he was

in debt all over the town-the Company's * interest (i.e. the Dutch Government) was much deteriorated and wasted. And after his death his effects were sold by public auction, with house and furniture, but they did not meet one-tenth of his debts.

The Malacca people were now as dry (impoverished) as fish after being baked in the sun, owing to the difficulty of finding a livelihood. No merchant prows came in, English ships did not call, and capitalists lived on their capital only. The people lost heart, as their houses, mothers, fathers, children, and wives were idle. If they had not had these, they would have flown from the place at once. Rice also rose in value, so that the people became much pinched. But they gave earnest love and praise to Him who is abundantly good to His slaves, for in their straits He had brought about an event, that is, in the English founding Singapore, by which the Malacca people obtained subsistence—the rich obtaining their riches there, while the poor got their little also, so that all breathed, all in their various degrees.

Even though they brought rubbish from Malacca to Singapore at that time, they could make money of it, but more especially with the better class of goods, as other countries had not heard of the settlement of Singapore. For this cause prows were not sent to it. But with this the piracies on fowls and ducks increased, unless they were carried in large prows well armed with brave crews. Nor were there many owners of prows in Malacca, as there are at present, such as of ketches, topes, schooners, and the like; indeed, at that time few had them, and freights were high,-the passage-money being three dollars a head, food not provided. Many also were of opinion that the affair of Singapore would be for the time only, and never to be established, for they were led * Company is by the natives confounded with Government.

by the Hollanders' assertions in Malacca that it could never rise."

The Malacca people had evidently not tasted of the oppressiveness of modern municipal corporations, and no doubt, under the English, they had Bengal convicts to clean their doors without expense to them; their position as citizens being thus a highly favoured one. No doubt citizens living under modern municipal corporations have this comfort, such as it is, viz. that while being squeezed they can say they themselves voted for their oppressors; but it was not so with the Malacca people, they had the oppressors (lenient ones, no doubt, if we may judge from our own experience) assigned to them by. an independent authority. This is where the shoe really pinched; and further, which aggravated the case, Mr. Town Major Sweep would have the credit, in native eyes, of putting all the fines into his own pocket, and not into the capacious chest of a corporation. Thus I have noticed that when a bully, a drunkard, an owner of a stray goat or a cow, the driver of a runaway horse, has had to pay down one to five pounds by way of fine and supplement to the Mayor's salary, they have shown no revengeful feeling; for was not that same exacting Mayor put in office by their and their fellow citizens' votes? but here in Malacca, the renowned city of the East, the citizens could not even take this salve to their wounded souls or pride, nor, as Abdulla expresses himself, had they the fortitude to turn on their oppressors.

Here, then, we have the relative advantages and disadvantages of autocratic and representative government clearly brought out. The former may be lenient, yet the people hate it; the latter may be oppressive, yet they love it. With autocratic governments, therefore, slow

burning discontent, well concealed, long smoulders till it bursts forth without warning as a volcano. Is not this a mimic illustration of the Sepoy rebellion in British India, though the causes are not so deep or so protracted?

Abdulla well describes the doubts of people in the success of a new colony, and the petty jealousy of small settlements. The dangers of the passage are not overstated, and the Strait of Cocob is depicted quite in accordance with its notoriety. I surveyed this passage in 1845, and no place could be more admirably fitted for piracy. The Island of Cocob is covered with mangrove bush, and shallow flats prevent any approach by large vessels; thus, to follow the pirates into the shallows or the thicknesses of the forest would be impossible; but since those days the introduction of steam has alleviated the troubles and disasters of the small traders greatly, though piracy can never be entirely eradicated.

It used to be a subject of great astonishment to us to see such men as Hume, Cobden, and Bright supporting the piratical interest against Sir James Brooke. No doubt they did this with the best intentions, though it is wonderful how minds become perverted by distance and want of practical knowledge.

Abdulla, in continuation of his narrative, details the negotiations between Sir Stamford Raffles, after his arrival at Singapore, and the native chiefs, for the final giving over of the territory, in which there cannot be much public interest.

XI.

THE SINGAPORE INSCRIPTION.

"Now Mr. Raffles and Colonel Farquhar consulted about extending the town of Singapore, when the latter thought that Campong Glam was the direction for the mercantile part and the bazaars; but Mr. Raffles opined that the other side of the river was the proper site. To this Colonel Farquhar objected, the place being nothing but swamp, with bad water; and, besides, the cost of raising the land would be great. To this Mr. Raffles replied, that if Campong Glam were made the place for merchants, the other side would be a mere waste for hundreds of years, and not even then improved. Thus they were full of thought, one saying this, the other that; each devising plans. So they thought over this for three days, when it struck Mr. Raffles that he might cut down the hill near the Point, and spread it on the marsh. So Chinese, Malay, and Kling coolies, to the number of two or three hundred, were set to dig and carry the earth; others were set to break the rocks, which were here very plentiful and large. So each set to their special work as if a battle were raging.

Now, at this time the price of labour was high, viz. one rupee a day. So at night a bag was required to carry the money for the payment of the labourers, and Mr. Raffles himself visited the works, to give directions

« PreviousContinue »