Jonas Daniel Vaughan



Jonas Daniel Vaughan (b. 27 June 1825–d. 17 October 1891, at sea)1 was a sailor, public official and prominent lawyer in colonial Singapore. He contributed to many community organisations and activities, promoted scientific observation, wrote on local history and native culture, and edited The Singapore Free Press.

Professional life
Naval career
Vaughan was a shipman in the East India Company when he served in the 1842 China War and received the China Medal as commendation. He was also aboard the ship that brought news of the peace treaty to Singapore. In 1845, he was posted to the Straits Station, where he participated in the capture of Brunei and the destruction of pirate strongholds in northwest Borneo.2


Public service
After meeting Colonial William J. Butterworth, governor of Singapore, Vaughan remained in the Straits Settlements following his appointment as first officer of the steamer Hooghly. Soon after, in 1851, he was appointed superintendent of police for Penang.3 In 1854, his responsibility was widened to include Province Wellesley. He was also charged with implementing a system of arming citizens to help the overstretched police suppress rampant robber gangs.4 In 1856, Vaughan moved to Singapore as master attendant, and was police magistrate and assistant resident councillor in 1861.5 He was elected to a three-year term on the municipal council in 1864.6


Legal practice
Vaughan’s work in policing and justice awakened in him an interest in law, prompting him to study law in England. In 1869 he qualified for the bar at Middle Temple.7 That September, he was called to the bar of the Straits Settlements, the usual procedural requirements as a mark of esteem.8 After being passed over for the position of Straits police commissioner, he resigned as a magistrate and entered private practice.9


Vaughan’s policing background and knowledge of Malaya were considerable assets in his new career, and coupled with his naval experience, he was in demand for admiralty (or maritime) cases. He was also a favourite among the locals for his “long and intimate knowledge of local affairs”.10 Vaughan was involved in a high-profile case in 1876, where he was appointed to defend seven Malays accused of killing J. W. W. Birch, a British official in Perak. The eight-day trial was conducted before a tribunal of two Rajahs who delivered a guilty verdict. Vaughan also represented Abdullah, the ex-Sultan of Perak, who was exiled for his role in the killing.11

Vaughan was appointed temporary puisne judge in 1875, but resigned shortly in August to resume practice at the Bar.12 Later, in 1879, he declined to be the solicitor general of Penang, a position that had promised a monthly pay of $200.13

Community involvement
Masonry and other organisations
In addition to his varied professional life, Vaughan was active in the community. At just 21 years of age in early 1846, he was admitted to Singapore’s first Masonic lodge, Zetland in the East. He served as master of the lodge, district deputy grand master, secretary of the Dunlop Benevolent Society, as well as trustee and honorary treasurer.14 He took charge of the building fund that oversaw the construction of the Masonic Hall at Coleman Street in 1879, ensuring a high quality of work.15


In 1868 Vaughan joined the Singapore committee of the new Straits Settlements Association, which represented the colony’s business interests in London.16 He was the chief promoter of the Singapore Debating Society, and was also known as the “Father of the Debating Society”.17 He was the president of the Singapore Masters and Mates Association, which defended the interests of seamen.18

Scholarly and literary pursuits
Vaughan was interested in science, particularly astronomy, and published an interesting paper on the recording of temperature and rainfall measurements from 1862 to 1869.19 He was one of the founders, and later vice president, of the Straits Asiatic Society, also known as the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.20


Vaughan enjoyed a good relationship with the Asian communities and took an interest in their cultures. He studied the Malay language and was one of the most pro-Malay British officials.21 He found the task of compiling a supplement to the Malay-English dictionary to be too complex, but published a journal article on the Malays of Penang.22 Vaughan also authored The Manners and Customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements (1879), which was a valuable resource due to his keen observations. The book was reprinted over a century later.23

After living in the Straits Settlements for 45 years, Vaughan had accumulated a wealth of knowledge of Singapore’s history.24 He wrote for newspapers, occasionally volunteering as acting editor of the Singapore Free Press; he was serving in this capacity when the paper closed in 1869. After the Free Press was revived in 1884, he advised its new editor, Charles Burton Buckley, and contributed a series of recollections until his death.25

Cultural activities
Vaughan was a talented singer, musician and amateur actor, performing on the local cultural scene under stage names such as Mr Jingle. He was president and stage manager of the short-lived Savage Club (1862–63) before joining the Corps Dramatique. On one occasion, he produced and starred in a short play to raise funds for Tan Tock Seng Hospital with just 30 hours’ notice.26 His paintings were regularly included in Arts Club exhibitions and displayed in the Masonic Hall.27


Death
Vaughan disappeared at sea in October 1891, while travelling from Teluk Anson to Singapore after visiting his daughter. He was presumed to have fallen overboard.28 The tragic death of such a popular figure was considered a great loss to the community, as reported in the Singapore Free Press.29 Vaughan Road was named after him in 1934.30


Family
Vaughan married and had six children, four of whom predeceased him.31




Author

Duncan Sutherland




References
1. Vaughan, J. D. (1971). The manners and customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements. Singapore: Oxford University Press. (Call no.: RSING 390.0951 VAU-[CUS])
2. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 379, 555. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 223. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
3. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 555. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
4. Local district government. (1883, June 20). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 555. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Untitled. (1864, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. The late J. D. Vaughan. (1891, December 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2; Disappearance and supposed death of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 21). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. News of the fortnight. (1869, September 10). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 224. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Cheah, B. K. (1998, June). Malay politics and the murder of J. W. W. Birch, British resident in Perak in 1875. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 71(1), 103. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 JMBRAS); Thursday, 28th December. (1876, December 30). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Untitled. (1875, March 20). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 224. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
13. News of the week. (1879, February 1). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. The late J. D. Vaughan. (1891, December 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3; Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. The late J. D. Vaughan. (1891, December 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 298. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
17. The late J. D. Vaughan. (1891, December 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. A Straits marine association. (1891, November 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 736. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 479. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
20. Straits Asiatic Society. (1878, August 10). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 8; Wednesday 7th November. (1877, November 15). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. De Bernardi, J. (2009). Penang: Rites of belonging in a Malaysian Chinese community. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 45. (Call no.: RSEA 305.895105951 DEB); Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements, 1826–1867: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, p. 103. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
22. Straits Asiatic Society. (1878, December 12). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 736. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
23. Vaughan, J. D. (1971). The manners and customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements. Singapore: Oxford University Press. (Call no.: RSING 390.0951 VAU-[CUS])
24. Vaughan, J. D. (1971). The manners and customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements. Singapore: Oxford University Press. (Call no.: RSING 390.0951 VAU-[CUS])
25. Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2; The Singapore Free Press and the men who have made it. (1935, October 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 224. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]), Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 555–557, 746, 750–753. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
27. Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2; The late J. D. Vaughan. (1891, December 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Disappearance and supposed death of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 21). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. (2004). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 397. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
31. Mysterious disappearance of Mr J. D. Vaughan. (1891, October 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2007 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.

 

Subject
Vaughan, Jonas Daniel, 1825–1891
Law and government>>Public administration
Lawyers--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Writers
Community leaders
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators
Periodical editors--Singapore--Biography
Colonial administrators
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography