Raffles’s landing in Singapore
Sir Stamford Raffles’s landing in Singapore is dated 28 January 1819. Travelling on the Indiana with a squadron that included the schooner Enterprise, he anchored off at St John’s Island at 4:00 pm. The landing site of Raffles is today marked with the statue of Raffles, located by the Singapore River, behind Parliament House.
Raffles remained on board the Indiana whilst locals from Singapore island called aboard. Raffles consulted them, asking if the Dutch had authority over the main island and noted that only the Temenggong held fort there. The next day, Raffles and William Farquhar visited the Temenggong, landing at a local river (there is a dispute as to whether they first landed at Singapore River or Rochor River further east). Raffles named his landing location South Point.
The Temenggong, a vassal of Sultan Hussein, was consulted and a provisional treaty was agreed upon. Thereafter, the British flag was planted upon Singapore shores, troops dispatched and instructions left for a fort to be built at what is now known as Fort Canning Hill. Tungku Long arrived on 1 February, whereupon they agreed on a treaty on 6 February before Raffles departed on 7 February leaving Farquhar in charge of the infant settlement.
19 Jan 1819: Raffles leaves Penang aboard the Indiana, under the command of Captain James Pearl, to establish a new settlement south of Malacca.
27 Jan 1819: The Indiana rendezvous with the Discover and the Investigator with Farquhar onboard, surveying the possibility of the Karimun islands as a new British site. After discussion, they decide against it and head towards Singapore.
28 Jan 1819: The Indiana and Enterprise anchor at St John’s island, meeting with locals in the evening.
29 Jan 1819: Raffles and Farquhar land by a river in Singapore and meet the Temenggong.
30 Jan 1819: A draft agreement is penned between the Temenggong and the British and the Union Jack is raised with little ceremony.
1 Feb 1819: Sultan Hussein (Tungku Long) arrives from Riau.
6 Feb 1819: The Singapore Treaty is signed between Raffles, Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong with commanders from the accompanying seven ships witnessing the event. Farquhar is appointed Resident and Commandant under the authority of Raffles as Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen. The Union Jack is officially raised. This date is recognised as the official founding of Singapore.
Controversy has arisen from Raffles’s own mistake in recording the date of the first landing as 29 February 1819 in his “Statement of the Services of Sir Stamford Raffles”, a date that does not exist because 1819 was not a leap year.
Wah Hakim’s interpretation
Wah Hakim, a 15-year-old eyewitness to the events testified that Raffles arrived in the company of William Farquhar who wore a helmet, and a Sepoy who carried a musket. They were entertained with fruits including rambutans at the Temenggong’s home until they left at about 4:00 pm that afternoon. The British then left, returning 12 days later but they remained by the shore, living in makeshift attap huts. Tengku (Tunku) Long was found fishing in the Straits of Rhio and was called down by two princes, Raja Ombong, a kinsman of Tengku Long and Enche Wan Abdullah who were both paid 500 pounds for their effort. Tengku Long made negotiations with Raffles at the Temenggong’s residence first and later at Raffles’s, which was located in Padang Senar.
The Temenggong’s letters, however, testified that there were at least nine vessels that brought the British: seven ships, one kura-kura and one ketch, although Munshi Abdullah highlights in the Hikayat that there were four ships instead. The Temenggong and Munshi Abdullah also differ as to who did the negotiations. The Temenggong notes that Farquhar left for Malacca soon after, leaving Raffles to do the negotiations.
Munshi Abdullah’s interpretation
Munshi Abdullah records that it was only Farquhar who first landed on 29 January 1819 and excludes the presence of Raffles. The controversy is discussed by C. A. Gibson-Hill in the article “The Date of Munshi Abdullah’s First Visit to Singapore”. Gibson-Hill concurs that Raffles may have remained on board the Indiana, sleeping, during that first visit to Singapore.
Captain Crawford’s interpretation
Captain J. G. F. Crawford, commanded the Investigator, the H. C. surveying vessel that surveyed Singapore waters upon the initial landing of Raffles and Farquhar.
Cho clan archives
Records highlight that Raffles had the ship’s carpenter, Chow Ah Chi, set up the East India Company flag on Singapore. The Toisan Cantonese from Penang reportedly landed on the banks of the Rochor River, and Raffles would consequently have followed his vanguard’s route and probably landed at the Kallang Basin rather than the shores of the Singapore River.
Bastin, J. S. (2012). The founding of Singapore 1819 (p. 40). Singapore: National Library Board.
(Call No.: RSING 959.5703 BAS)
Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: From the foundation of the settlement ... on February 6th, 1819 to the transfer to the Colonial Office ... on April 1st, 1867 (p. 28). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)
Hon, J. (1990). Tidal fortunes: A story of change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin (p. 7). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 HON)
Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1, p. 32). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
Raffles, T. S. (1978). Statement of the services of Sir Stamford Raffles (p. 53). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 325.3410959 RAF)
Singapore 150 years (pp. 74-116). (1982). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days (pp. 66-71). (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR)
Wurtzburg, C. E. (1984). Raffles of the Eastern Isles (pp. 483-501). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.570210924 RAF)
Abdullah Abdul Kadir. (1970). The Hikayat Abdullah. Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: SING 959.5 ABD)
The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we can 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.