John Crawfurd



John Crawfurd (b. 1783, Scotland–d. 1868, England) was the second British Resident of Singapore, holding office from 9 June 1823 to 14 August 1826.1 He was instrumental in implementing some of the key elements of Stamford Raffles’s vision for Singapore, and for laying the foundation for the economic growth of Singapore.2 Crawford Street, Crawford Lane, Crawford Bridge and Crawford Park are named after him, though the spelling differs.3

Early life
Although Crawfurd was a qualified medical doctor, he was interested in languages, history and political administration. He joined the medical service of the East India Company (EIC) in 1803 at the age of 20, and served in Penang and Java under Raffles.4 In 1821, he was sent as an envoy to Siam (present-day Thailand) and Cochinchina in an effort to open these areas to British trade, albeit not very successfully.5 He was appointed Resident of Singapore in June 1823 after the departures of Raffles and William Farquhar.6


Key accomplishments
The period under Crawfurd’s administration was marked by a vigorous increase in population, trade and revenue. A shrewd and practical Scotsman, Crawfurd focused on increasing government revenue and promoting free trade. He legalised and regulated gambling through highly profitable gambling houses. He also introduced licences for pawnbrokers and for the manufacture and sale of gunpowder. As a vigorous proponent of free trade, Crawfurd abolished anchorage and other port fees, making Singapore unique as a port that was free from tariffs and port charges.7

Crawfurd’s residency also saw much progress in the planning and physical development of Singapore town. Using convict labour, roads were widened and levelled, and a proper bridge was built across the river. English street signs and street lighting were introduced. Troops were moved from the town centre to a new encampment in the northwest, and land was allotted to religious buildings.8

Crawfurd was instrumental in bringing about the 1824 Treaty of Friendship and Alliance between the EIC, Sultan Hussein Shah and the temenggong on 2 August 1824.9 The treaty ceded to the EIC all rights to Singapore and the islands within 10 miles of its shores.10 In return, the chiefs were given land in Singapore, and would receive substantial monetary compensation should they decide to leave Singapore permanently.11 The treaty effectively ended any native control of Singapore, and, together with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of London of 1824, in which the Dutch agreed to surrender all claims on Singapore, it entrenched the British firmly as the government of Singapore.12

However, Crawfurd was also described by writer Munshi Abdullah to be “tight-fisted” and “fond of material wealth”. He was said to be cold and ruthless, and was unpopular with both the European and Asian communities.13 Nevertheless, he was an efficient and conscientious administrator.14

Crawfurd left Singapore in 1826 and eventually returned to England, where he remained involved in politics and continued to advance the cause of the merchant community in Singapore. In 1868, the last year of his life, he became the first president of the Straits Settlements Association in London, which was formed to protect the interests of the region.15

Timeline
1803: Joins the EIC medical service.
1821: Leads a mission to Siam and Cochinchina to open these areas to British trade.
1823: Appointed Resident of Singapore.16
1824: Negotiates Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with the sultan and temenggong, who surrender all rights to Singapore to the British.17
1826: Leaves Singapore.
1868: Becomes the first president of the Straits Settlements Association in London.18



Author

Michele Wee



References
1. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1967. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
2. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
3. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 259. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). About Crawford Bridge. Retrieved 2016, September 28 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=CRB
4. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
5. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1967. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 140. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 45–46. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
8. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir. (2009). The Hikayat Abdullah: An annotated translation (A. H. Hill, Trans.). Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 223. (Call no.: RSEA 959.5 ABD)
9. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
10. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1967. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 40, 168. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
11. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1967. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 168. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
12. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 48–49. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
13. Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir. (2009). The Hikayat Abdullah: An annotated translation (A. H. Hill, Trans.). Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 223. (Call no.: RSEA 959.5 ABD)
14. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
15. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
16. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
17. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1967. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 40, 168. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
18. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2002 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
Colonial administrators
Law and government>>Public administration
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
Law and government>>National development>>City planning
Crawfurd, John, 1783-1868
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators