The British flag was formally hoisted on Singapore in 1819 following the signing of a treaty between Sir Stamford Raffles, Sultan Hussain Shah of Johor and Temenggong Abdul Rahman on 6 February that allowed the British East India Company to set up a trading post on the island. When Raffles returned to Singapore in October 1822 he manipulated legislations and the terms of the 1819 treaty, which resulted in the rapid erosion of the Malay chiefs’ powers, territories and coffers. The pressure on the Malay chiefs to give up their territories continued under the second British resident John Crawfurd, who was empowered to take full control of the island from the Malay rulers.
However, the British presence in Singapore agitated the Dutch, who had since 1816, resumed their hegemony over the East Indies after the Napoleonic wars in Europe. To ease some of the tensions, the two European powers signed the Treaty of the 17th of March 1824 that clearly demarcated each country’s territorial interests in the waters around Singapore. According to the terms of the treaty, all British settlements on Sumatra, including Bencoolen, were to be handed over to the Dutch in return for Malacca. The Dutch also gave up their claim over Singapore in exchange for the British-controlled tin island of Biliton and other small islands located south of Singapore.
After securing Singapore in March 1824, the British pressured the Malay rulers to cede the island to the British. At the time, Singapore had risen to become a thriving settlement and in order to sustain its growth as an entrepôt, it was imperative that the island be retained and fully controlled by the British at the exclusion of the two Malay chiefs.
Crawfurd began negotiations for the cessation of Singapore from the Malay chiefs in May 1824. He applied pressure on the Sultan and the Temenggong by threatening to cease their stipend, a move that was aggravated by the chiefs’ mounting debts. To sweeten the deal, Crawfurd promised to cancel the chiefs’ debts, continue their allowance for life and pay them an additional lump sum of 20,000 Spanish dollars each upon acceptance of the treaty ceding Singapore to the British. The chiefs finally relented after resisting and forgoing their allowance for three months. They gave their assent to the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, which was signed on 2 August 1824, officially ceding Singapore and the adjacent islands and waters within 10 geographical miles (about 18.6 km) in perpetuity to the British East India Company.
1. Wake, C. H. (1975). Raffles and the rajas: The founding of Singapore in Malayan and British colonial history. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 48(1), 58–61. Retrieved from JSTOR.
2. Wake, 1975, p. 65–68.
3. Wake, 1975, p. 69.
4. de Jong, C. (2013, September 1). A footnote to the colonial history of the Dutch East Indies: The “Little East” in the first half of the nineteenth century (p. 11). (T. Daalder-Broekman, Trans.). Retrieved November 23, 2013, from: http://www.cgfdejong.nl/Daalder,%20BlankPage.pdf
5. Wake, 1975, p. 62.
6. Wake, 1975, pp. 63, 65–70.
7. Wake, 1975, p. 69.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 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.