On 28 January 1819, a small British landing party led by then Lieutenant Governor of Bencoolen, Sir Stamford Raffles, and Major William Farquhar made landfall near the mouth of the Singapore River. The landing was the result of Raffles’s mission to establish a new British settlement south of Malacca in order to protect the British trade route to the East and to thwart the growing Dutch influence in the region. During the search for the new settlement, Raffles and Farquhar, while on board the Indiana and Ganges respectively, had considered the Karimun islands of Indonesia. However, they found the islands rocky and inhospitable after they arrived there on 26 January 1819. Daniel Ross, who was then the commander of the accompanying survey ships, suggested a site that he had recently observed in passing at the mouth of the Singapore River as another possibility.
Raffles’s fleet then set off for Singapore and arrived in its waters on the afternoon of 28 January. While anchored off St. John’s Island, the locals who were called on board informed Raffles that there was no Dutch settlement in Singapore and that Temenggong Abdul Rahman was the chief of the island. Raffles and Farquhar proceeded ashore to pay the Temenggong a visit.
Following two days of discussions, Raffles and the Temenggong signed a preliminary agreement on 30 January 1819 under which the British were permitted to establish a trading post in Singapore. The agreement was later ratified by Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor on 6 February the following month. Raffles departed Singapore the next day, leaving Farquhar as Resident and Commandant of Singapore under the authority of Raffles as Lieutenant Governor of Bencoolen. By then, Raffles and his party had concluded in a survey that Singapore was an ideal location. Not only did it have abundant drinking water and a natural sheltered harbour formed by the mouth of the Singapore River, the island was also strategically placed along the British trade route leading to the Straits of China.
1.Bastin, J. S. (2012). The founding of Singapore 1819 (p. 40). Singapore: National Library Board. Call No.: RSING 959.5703 BAS.
2. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (pp. 26–28). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR; Raffles, S. (1835). Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, particularly in the government of Java, 1811–1816, and of Bencoolen and its dependencies, 1817-1824 (p. 375) [Microfilm: NL 3280]. London: John Murray. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from BookSG.
3. Bastin, p. 38.
4. Bastin, pp. 39–40.
5. Bastin, p. 40.
6. Bastin, p. 40.
7. Turnbull, pp. 28–29.
8. Turnbull, p. 29.
9. Antiques of the Orient. (1993). Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days (p. 68). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient. Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.