William Farquhar



Major-General William Farquhar (b. 26 February 1774, Newhall, Kincardineshire, Scotland–d. 11 May 1839, Perth, Scotland) was the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore from 1819 to 1823.1 In January 1819, Farquhar accompanied Sir Stamford Raffles on a mission which led to the establishment of a British trading post in Singapore. Raffles left Singapore shortly after and the new trading post was placed under the charge of Farquhar.2 Although in the ensuing years, Farquhar and Raffles disagreed over the administration of the settlement and Farquhar was dismissed in 1823, he made many important contributions to Singapore’s early growth and development.3 

Early life
Born in 1774, Farquhar entered the service of the East India Company (EIC) in 1791 at the age of 17 as a cadet in the Madras military establishment. He arrived in Madras on 19 June 1791, became an ensign in the Corps of Madras Engineers on 22 July, and was promoted to lieutenant two years later on 16 August 1793.4


Activities in Malacca
Farquhar was appointed engineer-in-charge of a party of Madras Pioneers in the expeditionary force that captured Melaka from the Dutch on 18 August 1795.5 On 1 January 1803, he was promoted to the rank of captain, and on 12 July the same year, he was appointed commandant of Melaka. He was made a major-in-corps on 26 September 1811. In December 1813, in recognition of his dual duties as the civilian and military authority in Melaka, his designation was revised to Resident and Commandant of Melaka, a position he held for several years until the return of the Dutch in September 1818.6 During his tenure, he assisted in missions in the region, including the British invasion of Java led by Governor-General Lord Minto and Sir Stamford Raffles in August 1811.7


While in Melaka, and later Singapore, Farquhar lived with a woman of French-Malay descent named Nonio (believed to be a corruption of “Nonya”) Clement or Clemaine, and had six children with her.8 He spoke Malay, and was popularly referred to as the “Rajah of Melaka”.9 He had a strong interest in natural history, and while in Melaka kept a private collection of animals such as a leopard, porcupine, cassowary and a variety of monkeys.10

During his term, Farquhar also commissioned 477 natural history illustrations that were believed to have been completed by Chinese artists in Melaka. In 1827, he donated the collection of drawings to the Royal Asiatic Society in London, where it resided until Singapore stock-broker Goh Geok Khim bought the collection and donated it to the Singapore History Museum (now National Museum of Singapore) in 1996. A book about the Farquhar Collection was published in 1999.11

Resident of Singapore
With his long Malayan experience and an intimate knowledge of Riau-Lingga politics, Farquhar was given the task of helping Raffles found a settlement on the island of Singapore.12 On 28 January 1819, Raffles and Farquhar landed on Singapore and met the Temenggong of Johor, Abdul Rahman. Two days later, Raffles and the temenggong signed a preliminary agreement which allowed the EIC to establish a factory in Singapore. Raffles then dispatched Farquhar to Riau to seek approval from the Bugis ruler for the establishment of a British settlement in Singapore. Failing to obtain the Bugis ruler’s approval, Farquhar returned to Singapore on 3 February. Three days later, on 6 February 1819, Farquhar participated in a ceremony in which Raffles signed a formal treaty with the Temenggong and the newly-recognised Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah of Johor, which granted the EIC the right to establish a trading post in Singapore. On the same day, Farquhar was appointed Resident and Commandant of Singapore. Raffles left Singapore the next day, leaving Farquhar a set of instructions on the administration of the new settlement.13


Word of the new trading post soon spread and Singapore became a thriving cosmopolitan town. Farquhar set about clearing the plain on the northeast bank of the Singapore River. He managed to attract traders, settlers and supplies to Singapore, and administered the settlement on a shoestring budget. To raise revenue for the settlement, he took pragmatic measures such as allowing gambling dens and auctioning monopoly rights to sell opium and spirits.14

During Farquhar’s tenure, communications with Raffles in Bencoolen and the EIC in Calcutta were so poor that for more than three years, Farquhar in effect led the development of Singapore independently.15 While Raffles is often credited with the founding of Singapore, some historians note that he was present on the island on only three occasions over five years, from January to February 1819, May to June 1819, and October 1822 to June 1823 – altogether for a total of less than 10 months. By comparison, as Resident, Farquhar played a significant role in the daily administration of the settlement in its critical early years.16

On 9 May 1821, Farquhar was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, seemingly a sign that he was performing well.17 However, despite his many positive achievements in the formative period of Singapore’s development, he had adopted administrative measures that conflicted with Raffles’s instructions. The instructions concerned land management in the settlement, notably permissions for the building of houses and go-downs on the Padang and the nearby banks of the Singapore River, an area which Raffles had wanted to reserve for government use. Farquhar also allowed slave trade and other vices such as gaming, which Raffles wanted to prohibit. Farquhar’s justification was that these measures were necessary to ensure the survival of the newly established trading post. He also explained that although he permitted the construction of buildings on land reserved for government use, he had made it clear to the merchants and individuals who chose to build on this land, that the land could be reclaimed by the government in future. The conflict with Raffles came to a head during Raffles’s final stay in Singapore from 1822 to 1823, and led to Farquhar’s dismissal on 1 May 1823. Farquhar was succeeded as Resident by John Crawfurd (Dr).18

Departure
At a farewell dinner with the principal merchants and British inhabitants of the settlement on 27 December 1823, Farquhar was presented with a plate valued at 3,000 rupees as a farewell gift. Shortly after, he departed from Singapore for Melaka, Penang and Calcutta enroute to England. In his autobiography, Hikayat Abdullah, Munshi Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir attested to Farquhar’s popularity with the Asian and European communities with his account of Farquhar’s departure from Singapore at the end of December 1823.19 The event was confirmed by a report in a Calcutta newspaper that described how, on the day of his departure, Farquhar was accompanied to the beach by most of the European inhabitants of the settlement as well as by a large following of Asians. As a compliment to him, the troops formed a guard-of-honour from his house to the departure point, and he embarked with the customary salute to his rank. Many Asian boats accompanied him to his ship, the Alexander, and as they sailed, some of the Siamese vessels fired salutes to him. He received similar welcomes and tributes in Melaka and Penang.20


After his departure, the Chinese community of the settlement gifted Farquhar with an ornate silver epergne (a type of table centrepiece with candlestick holders) bearing crests, a Latin inscription, and the hallmark “1825”.21 In 1993, the National Museum of Singapore acquired the epergne from a descendent of Farquhar – Captain David John Farquhar Atkins – for S$52,000.22

Retirement
After his arrival in London in 1824, Farquhar wrote to the Court of Directors of the EIC requesting for the reinstatement of his command of Singapore, asserting that it was he who had suggested the establishment of a settlement on the island and challenging the view of Raffles as the founder of the settlement. His request was rejected and his assertion refuted by Raffles in 1825.23


Farquhar eventually settled at Early Bank Villa in Perth, Scotland in late 1826. He married Margaret Loban on 7 April 1828 and had six children with her. Farquhar was promoted to the rank of colonel in 1829 and to major-general in 1837. He died on 11 May 1839 at the age of 66. The inscription on his memorial at Greyfriars burial ground in Perth, Scotland states that he “served as Resident in Melaka and afterwards at Singapore which later settlement he founded”.24

Farquhar Street, the only road in Singapore named after him, was expunged in 1994 due to street alignment and site development work, and no longer exists. It was originally located in the Kampong Glam area between Beach Road and North Bridge Road.25



Authors

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama & Joanna HS Tan




References
1. Bastin, J. S. (1993). The Farquhar silver epergne presented by the Chinese inhabitants of Singapore, 1824. Singapore: National Museum. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5702 BAS); Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, pp. 10, 24. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
2. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 27–29. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
3. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
4. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
5. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
6. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, pp. 10, 13. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT); Solomon, E. (1996). William Farquhar’s life in the Far East. Singapore: Singapore Resource Library: National Library Board, pp. 1–10. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 SOL)
7. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
8. Bastin, J. S. (1993). The Farquhar silver epergne presented by the Chinese inhabitants of Singapore, 1824. Singapore: National Museum. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5702 BAS)
9. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
10. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
11. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, pp. 7, 10. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT); Farquhar, W. (1999). The William Farquhar collection of natural history drawings. Singapore: Goh Geok Khim. (Call no.: RSING q759.959 WIL); Koh, B. P. (1996, May 4). Farquhar Collection donated to museum. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
13. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 28–29. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, pp. 15–17. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
14. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 31–35. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
15. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
16. Chew, E. C. T., & Lee, E. (Eds.). (1991). A history of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 HIS-[HIS])
17. Solomon, E. (1996). William Farquhar’s life in the Far East. Singapore: Singapore Resource Library: National Library Board, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 SOL)
18. Bastin, J. S. (1993). The Farquhar silver epergne presented by the Chinese inhabitants of Singapore, 1824. Singapore: National Museum. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5702 BAS); Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, pp. 19–20. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT); National Archives of Singapore. (2016). William Farquhar’s Pragmatism: Another perspective on Raffles’ vision for Singapore. Retrieved 2016, July 26 from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Solomon, E. (1996). William Farquhar’s life in the Far East. Singapore: Singapore Resource Library: National Library Board, pp. 36, 49. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 SOL)
19. Bastin, J. S. (1993). The Farquhar silver epergne presented by the Chinese inhabitants of Singapore, 1824. Singapore: National Museum. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5702 BAS)
20. Bastin, J. S. (1993). The Farquhar silver epergne presented by the Chinese inhabitants of Singapore, 1824. Singapore: National Museum. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5702 BAS)
21. Bastin, J. S. (1993). The Farquhar silver epergne presented by the Chinese inhabitants of Singapore, 1824. Singapore: National Museum. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5702 BAS)
22. Tuminah Sapawi. (1993, November 27). A national treasure comes home. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT); Boulger, D. C. (1999). The life of Sir Stamford Raffles. Amsterdam: Pepin Press, pp. 351–362. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57021092 BOU-[HIS])
24. Bastin, J., et al. (2010). Natural history drawings: The complete William Farquhar collection: Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet: National Museum of Singapore, pp. 23–24. (Call no.: RSING 759.959 NAT)
25. National Archives of Singapore. (2016). William Farquhar’s Pragmatism: Another perspective on Raffles’ vision for Singapore. Retrieved 2016, July 26 from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/




Further resources

Abdullah Abdul Kadir. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854 (A. H. Hill, Trans.). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 135–148.

(Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD)

Bogaars, G. (1956). The Tanjong Pagar Dock Company 1864–1905. Singapore: G. P. O., pp. 7, 76–77.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 BOG)

Farquhar, W. (1831, March 10). The establishment of Singapore. Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Kang, J. (1999, December 31). I founded Singapore, says Farquhar. The Straits Times, p. 41. 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, pp. 8–10, 53, 58, 77–78.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
 
Ong, S. F. (1996, September 29). His great-great grandpa was part of S’pore’s past. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements, 1826–67: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, pp. 39, 200, 224.

(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

Subject
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators
Colonial administrators
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies>>Pioneers
Singapore History 1819-1867
Pioneers
Farquhar, William, 1774-1839
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography