SIR THOMAS STAMFORD RAFFLES
SIR THOMAS STAMFORD RAFFLES
Thomas Stamford Raffles was born aboard ship near Jamaica in the West Indies on July 6, 1781. The ship was commanded by his father Benjamin Raffles, a captain in the East West Indies trade. He grew up in a poor English family and was forced to leave school at the age of 14 to work. He entered the service of the East India Company and advanced himself slowly by hard work, long hours, and persistent study. At 23 he was appointed assistant secretary to the colonial government at Penang in the Malay Archipelago. Prior to that he married a widow, Mrs Olivia Fancourt. In 1811, when the British navy invaded Java to clear it of Dutch and French traders, Raffles went along and was made lieutenant governor of this multi-island colony. In 1814 his wife pass away and ill health forced his return to London in 1816. There his studies of East Indian peoples won him election to the Royal Society and also a knighthood.
In 1817 he married Sophia Hull in London. By 1818 Raffles conceived a plan to found a fort east of the Strait of Malacca to safeguard British shipping to the China seas. On Jan. 29, 1819, he landed on the island at the southern tip of Malaya and established the fort of Singapore. After spending three years at his post in Sumatra, Raffles returned to Singapore and organized the administration of the colony. In 1824 the Dutch relinquished all claim to the island. In failing health he returned to London, where he was again proclaimed as the scholar of the Orient. He helped found the London Zoo and served as its first president. He died in Bavert, England of a brain tumor on July 5, 1826.
Raffles made three visits to Malacca, and stayed at a house in Banda Hilir. Due to overwork and recurrent fever led to a breakdown in health, and he was ordered to take a holiday. To avoid mental stagnation he chose Malacca with its historical associations and there, with his wife, he went at the end of 1807. His convalescent leave was, however, cut short by the Penang Council which could not deal with its correspondence, and at the earnest request of the Governor, Colonel Macaliater, he went back to Penang in 23 January, 1808. His second visit was at the end of July 1808 and went back to Penang on 29 October 1808. There he wrote his famous report to the Governor-General of India advising against the proposed abandonment of the Malacca Settlement. It is because of his intervention that until today remnance of the great fort "A Famosa" is still standing. Raffles made his third visit to Malacca in December, 1810, when as Lord Minto's agent with the Malay States he selected Malacca as his headquarters.
The following story is based on the book "Hikayat Abdullah" which tells about Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles visit to Malacca.
Sometime later a rumour was heard in Malacca that the English were going to attack Java. Two or three months after we first heard this news Mr. Raffles and his wife suddently came to Malacca, with an English copying clerk named Mr. Merlin and a Malay clerk named Ibrahim, a half Indian from Penang. Mr Raffles took a house in Bandar Hilir on an estate owned by the Chinese Kapitan's son whose name was Baba Cheng Lan. He brought with him many rare objects of European workmanship, things displayed in cabinets, pistols, costly satin materials and gold embroidered muslin, and a great many things I had never seen before; many broadeloths of great fineness, ornate clocks, and paper for writing letters to Malay rulers and princes with gold and silver headings, and many other objects intended as presents for Malay royalty.
One day Ibrahim the Malay writer came to my house and sat talking about how Mr. Raffles was looking for copyists whose handwriting was good, and how he wanted to buy old Malay letters and texts. He said that those who had any should take them to Mr. Raffles's house at Bandar Hilir. One of my uncles named Ismail Lebai had very good hand-writing, and he and his younger brother Mohammed were both taken on as copyists. The next day Ibrahim came again and asked for a specimen of my handwriting. Mter I had written one he took it to Mr. Raffles, and the same afternoon one of his attendants came to summon me. So I went along, and Mr. Raffles said to inc:
"Copy these letters into a book." Now working there was a Malacca born friend of mine named Tambi Ahmad bin Nina Merikan. There was all manner of work being done; some copied stories, some wrote letters, others wrote about the idioms of the Malay language, its poetry and so on. Each of us had his own task.
Now as to Mr. Raffles's physical features I noticed that he was of medium build, neither tall nor short, neither fat nor thin. He was broad of brow, a sign of his care and thoroughness; round-headed with a projecting forehead, showing his intelligence. He had light brown hair, indicative of bravery; large ears, the mark of a ready listener. He had thick eyebrows, his left eye watered slightly from a cast; his nose was straight and his cheeks slightly hollow. His lips were thin, denoting his skill in speech, his tongue gentle and his mouth wide; his neck tapering; his complexion not very clear; his chest was full and his waist slender. He walked with a slight stoop.
As to his character, I noticed that he always looked thoughtful. He was very good at paying due respect to people in a friendly manner. He treated everyone with proper deference, giving to each his proper title when he spoke. Moreover, he was extremely tactful in ending a difficult conversation. He was solicitous of the feelings of others, and open-handed with the poor. He spoke in smiles. He took the most active interest in historical research. Whatever he found to do he adopted no half-measures, but saw it through to the finish. When he had no work to do other than reading and writing he liked to retire to a quiet place. When he was occupied in studies or conversation he was unwilling to meet anyone who came to the house until he had finished. I saw that he kept rigidly to his time-table of work, not mixing one thing with another. I noticed also a habit of his in the evening after he had taken tea with his friends. There was an inkstand and a place for pen and paper on his large writing-table, and two lighted candles. After he had walked to and fro for long enough he would lie on the table on his back staring upwards and close his
eyes as though asleep. Two or three times I thought he was actually asleep, but a moment later he would jump up quickly and start writing. Then he would again lie down. This was his behaviour every night up to eleven or twelve o'clock when he went to bed. Every day it was the same, except occasionally when his friends came in. When morning came he would rise and fetch what he had been writing the night before, and walk up and down reading it. Out of ten pages he would take perhaps three or four and give them to a writer to copy out. The rest he would tear up and throw away.
He employed four men to search for specimens of natural history. One he told to go into the jungle and look for various kinds of leaves, flowers, fungi, mosses, and so on. Another he told to find worms, grasshoppers, various kinds of butterflies, beetles, and other different insects, cicadas, centipedes, scorpions, and the like, and he gave him some needles and told him to set the specimens. Another man he despatched with a basket to get coral, various sorts of shells, molluscs, oysters and the like, and also fish. The fourth man went out catching wild animals like birds, jungle fowl, deer, and small quadrupeds. Mr. Raffles kept a large book having very thick pages in which he used to press leaves and flowers and the like. Anything which could not be inserted between the pages he gave to a certain Chinese from Macao who was every expert at drawing life-like pictures of fruits and flowers, telling him to copy them. He also had a large barrel full of some sort of spirit, possibly toddy or brandy, in which he put live animals such as snakes, centipedes, scorpions and the like. Two days later he would take them out and place them in bottles, where they looked just as if they were alive. People in Malacca were surprised to see such a thing, and many were able to earn good money searching for the creatures of the sky, the land and the sea; of the uplands, the lowlands and the forest; things which fly or crawl; things which grow and germinate in the soil; all these could be turned into ready cash. There were also people who brought Malay manuscripts and book˙s, I do not remember how many hundreds of these texts there were. Almost, it seemed, the whole of Malay literature of the ages, the property of our forefathers, was sold and taken away from all over the country. Because these things had money value they were sold and it did not occur to people at the time that this might be unwise, leaving them not a single book to read in their own language. This would not have mattered if the books had been printed, but these were all written in longhand and now copies of them are no longer available. There were some three hundred and sixty books in all, apart from Shaer and Pantun and other kinds of verses. Yet other books Mr. Raffles borrowed and had copied, keeping four or five copyists employed on this task alone.
Every day people brought different kinds of animals, such as worms the like of which I had never seen before. The Ruler of Sambas sent Mr. Raffles a present of two apes of the kind which the English call orang-utang; and other presents also came, a young tiger, a bear and other kinds of animals from every country. The orang-utang which came from Sambas was very tame and wore trousers, a coat, and a hat given him by Mr. Raffles. He looked like a small child as left to himself he walked about the place. I noticed that his behaviour was almost like that of a human˙˙ being, save only he lacked the power of speech. Whenever he wished to relieve himself he ran off to the right place. He used to come and stay quietly near the table where I was writing, not capable of mischief like other monkeys. He would pick up a pen slowly and look at it; then when I said, "Put it down at once," he would put it down in a flash. His belly was large and at times when he was sitting he would moan like a sick man. When I said "What is the matter?" he would hug his stomach just as if he understood our language, though that of course is impossible. There were actually a pair of orang-utangs, a male and a female, but after four or five months sojourn in Malacca the female died one night. From that time onwards, I noticed, the male behaved like a man stricken with grief. The food given to him he left where it was, not touching a morsel of it. After six or seven days thus he also died. My heart was touched to see such a thing. If animals can love one another as man and wife, how much more should we human beings do likewise, following their example. There were many other animals and birds in Mr. Raffles's house, each having its own cage or pen.
It was Mr. Raffles's nature to study with great enjoyment the history of countries and their ancient customs, and to make enquiries and and ask questions about unusual things. He studied the Malay language with keen attention, learning the proper style as used by Malays. From time to time he was fond of asking "How is this word used by Malays?" and when we had told him he would say "The English usage is different, it is so-and-so." Every day he ordered letters to be written for despatch to the Malay States, the contents merely searching for a way to establish friendly relations between their rulers and the English and trying to gain their support. Every letter sent out was accompanied by presents and expressions of kind feelings. Therefore they gained the sympathy of all the rulers, who replied with letters and presents, sending their compliments and thanks. And many Malay manuscripts came from different places.
It was Mr. Raffles's way to care little for money. If there was anything he wished to buy or any work he wanted undertaken, whatever the cost or fee might be he paid it as long as he obtained the thing he wanted or the work was done. His wishes therefore were quickly gratified for there were always people waiting at his house, ready to find or to buy anything he wanted or to do his bidding for the money it would bring them. I know not how much money was paid out daily from his safe to buy things or to pay those who worked for him. He often said in my hearing "I hate the behaviour of the Dutch who live in Malacca. They despise the Malays and will not treat them on equal terms." Mr. Raffles on the other hand liked to be on good terms with all Malays; even the poorest of the poor could speak with him. All the important people of Malacca, both white men and Malays, came to see him from day to day. Yet in spite of this nobody knew why he had come to Malacca, what he intended to do or what was his appointed task. But what I particularly noticed was that everything about him, his work, words, intelligence, deportment, and kindness unmistakeably denoted that here was a man of ability and great discretion.
One day while Mr. Raffles was in the middle of discussing with his Malay clerk the reply which he wished to be sent to the ruler of Sambas one of the Malays suddenly came in bearing six durians. Thinking that Mr. Raffles liked to buy durians he brought them into the house and stood waiting near the door. But as soon as Mr. Raffles caught the smell of the durian he held his nose and ran upstairs.
Every one was surprised to see him run like this for they did not realize that he could not stand the smell of a durian. A moment later he called the Sepoy guard and said, "Who brought those durian here?" When they pointed to the Malay he told him to leave quickly and ordered the guard "Never allow anyone to bring durians to the door again." From that day onwards no one dared to bring any more durians. It was then that I discovered the truth that Mr. Raffles did not know how to eat durian. So far from eating them he could not even bear to smell them. After a little while he came down again saying "The smell of those durians has given me a headache. That food is nauseating." Hearing he words we all smiled to think that his attitude should be so different from that of other people. Something that they liked he hated. After that if any one came carrying durians he was driven away by the guard.
One afternoon just as I was going home Mr. Raffles called me and said "Let us go for a ride together for I would like to see a Malay school." So together we mounted his palanquin and went off to Tranquerah. When we reached the house of Lebai Abdul Razak we went in together and saw three children undergoing punishment. One was chained round his waist, the chain being nailed to the end of a beam which he was forced to carry on his shoulder. Another was merely chained and was being ordered to recite the Koran. The third was tied to a post. Mr. Raffles said to me "Enche', why are the children chained up in this way? It is a wicked practice. Please ask the teacher." I enquired of the teacher who replied "This one, sir, ran away and now, after eight days, has just been brought back from a place called Kendur, a day's journey from here, by a man to whom his parents had to give one dollar. That is why I am punishing him in this manner. And this one ran away for two days and climbed trees in the jungle, so he is being punished. And this one has forgotten all his previous reading work and so I am making him do it now." Mr. Raffles said "If that is so, all right," and added "Why do you not teach the Malay language?" The teacher replied "The parents of these children require that they shall first learn the Koran. Once they have mastered it they can proceed with the Malay language. That has always been our practice, and it is not a custom in this country for people to have places where the Malay language can be learnt." Mr. Raffles said, "Very well, teacher, I only wanted to know. Do not be angry. Goodbye." And we both left. As he went out Mr. Raffles said to me "Is that really the Malay custom, Enche'?" I said "Yes, it is, sir." He smiled and said "Very well, Enche', if I live long enough I would like to found a place of learning the Malay language. I am very fond of it for it has a pleasant sound and is very useful." Then he climbed into his carriage and went home.
I marked the enthusiasm which Mr. Raffles showed in studying the affairs of the Malay States, their laws, their constitutions and their systems of government. He wanted to find out what were the amusements of the Malays, their customs, the names of the hills and places round Malacca, the local industries, the goods which were exported and whether the people of Malacca preferred the rule of the English to that of the Dutch. About all these matters he made thorough enquiries.
I noticed that the character of Mr. Raffles's wife was unlike that of ordinary women. She shared her husband's charm, the modesty and prudence in everything that she did. She spoke in a friendly and courteous manner alike to the rich and the poor. She enjoyed making a thorough study of Malay, and used to ask how the Malays say this and that. All the points that she noted she wrote down on paper. And I observed too that whenever Mr. Raffles wanted to do something, for instance to make a purchase, he always asked his wife first and if she agreed he acted. It was her nature, I noticed, to do all her work with the greatest alacrity, never wasting a moment in idleness, but forever working away at one thing or another.7
In their attitude towards work there was, I found, a very great difference between Malay women and white women. For it is the custom of Malay women, when they have become the wives of important people, to grow more conceited and lazy, becoming haughtier and haughtier in manner and magnifying their own importance in every word they utter. They consider manual labour or any prolonged effort causing fatigue to be beneath their dignity. They just lie down and doze, then dress and arrange their coiffure, or sit and order their slaves about. They know that rice is served to them right into their laps. They rise at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning and take ~ little refreshment, then sit about for a while before retiring again until the afternoon, when they toy with a little betel nut. That is the lot of the fortunate woman who is married to a man of high standing. But I noticed that Mrs. Raffles was as active as the cockroach which has no tail, doing one thing after another; after tidying the house she would sew and after sewing she would write letters. May I be blinded if my eyes ever saw her retire or compose herself for rest in the middle of the day. She was up and about all the time. Allah alone knows. Unless I have misunderstood what I saw, this is a sign that she was wise and capable of doing important things. As I saw it, it was her character and industry that fitted her to do her husband's work and to be his helper. For Allah had joined together the pair of them making them of one mind, like a ruler and his minister, like a ring and the jewel set in it, like sugar in milk. Let this be an example to follow for generations that are to come. To illustrate such harmony of character and temperament I have composed this pantun:
With goldfish let them be compared
Swimming in a bowl perchance;
In every thought and deed are shared
Such grace and seemly elegance.
The goldfish in the bowl swims by,
Heeds not the Laksamana's tread.
Their daily lives personify
Serenity to wisdom wed.
On the other hand I have noticed the behaviour of many other married people. If the husband wants to go this way, the wife wants to go the other: if the husband says one thing the wife says the opposite. So they have daily quarrels, smacking and kicking each other like cats and dogs. Moreover there are women who because they are beautiful tread their husbands down under foot. May Allah discountenance the behaviour of such women. So far from making good wives they are not even fitting companions. They cause mischief, break men's hearts and increase discord, and in the end they may bring disaster upon their own souls. Here is a pantun which I have composed about it:
Of what avail a coloured dress
If the pattern's ill designed?
What use a woman's fond caress,
If she be not good and kind.
If the pattern's ill designed
Vain are the costliest silks she wears
If she be not good and kind,
Save and preserve me from her cares.
After Mr. Raffles had been living for three or four months in Malacca he had sent out letters with presents to the rulers of all the Malay States to the west and to the east. A month or two later the Ruler of Siak, whose title was Tengku Penglima Besar and whose name was Sayid Zin, came to see him. The circumstances of his coming to Malacca I do not know, whether invited by Mr. Raffles or of his own accord to meet Mr. Raffles. But come to Malaeca he did, accompanied by his two sons. On his arrival he was received by Mr. Raffles with great deference and given a house and garden at Bandar Hilir to live in. He was provided with a caretaker and given a handsome allowance for expenses. Every day he travelled in a horse-drawn carriage. I never saw him going about on foot. Day and night he used the carriage. Every day or two he held conversations with Mr. Raffles and then returned home.
Many English ships went to and fro patrolling the coast of Java and any boat, ketch or ship flying the Dutch flag was captured and brought to Malacca. For the first time the Malacca folk realized that the English were enemies of the Dutch and so intended to make war on them. One or two English ships arrived in Malacca carrying munitions of war, hundreds of tents, wagons, pieces of artillery, guns, ammunition and the like. ………………