Robert Fullerton



Robert Fullerton (Sir) (b. 1773d. 6 June 1831), a Scotsman, was governor of Penang. In 1826, he was appointed first governor of the Straits Settlements when Penang, Singapore and Malacca were grouped together to form the Presidency of the Straits Settlements. He filled this post from 1826 to 1830.1 

Governor of the Straits Settlements
During Fullerton’s tenure as governor, a major problem he had to contend with was generating enough revenue to make the Straits Settlements self-sufficient and less dependent on the Indian government. He formulated several policies to address the problem, including a retrenchment scheme, new taxes on land and houses, as well as new fines and fees in the law courts.2 However, the Straits merchants overturned Fullerton’s proposals in 1829 to impose export duties, stamp dues and a levy on the accumulated wealth of those returning to China and India, so as to preserve Singapore’s free port status.3

Fullerton’s inability to balance the budget eventually caused then governor-general of India, William Bentinck (Lord), to intervene. Bentinck arrived in 1829 with orders from the East India Company to reorganise and downsize the administration of the Straits Settlements.4 Fullerton returned to Europe in 1830 when the status of the Straits Settlements was reduced from a presidency  to a residency of the Presidency of Bengal.5 He was succeeded by Robert Ibbetson as governor of the Straits Settlements, and died a year later in London on 6 June 1831.6

Interest in the Malay states
Fullerton had proposed Malacca as the capital of the Straits Settlements.7 His reasoning was that it would be easier to maintain influence over all the Malay states, since Malacca was centrally situated between Singapore and Penang.8 Bentinck chose Singapore instead, due to its increasing importance and proximity to Java and the Malay Archipelago.9

Despite the East India Company’s non-intervention policy in the Malay states, the far-sighted Fullerton felt the need to check Siam’s aggression in the northern Malay states in order to protect British trade.10 Going against orders, he threatened Siam with war on a few occasions.11 He also guaranteed British support for Perak if their independence were threatened.12 It could be said that Fullerton had prevented Siam from extending its influence in the northern Malay states, especially in Perak and Selangor.13

Fort Fullerton
In 1829, Fullerton built a fort at the mouth of the Singapore River (current site of the Fullerton Hotel) to defend the town.14 The fort, which was named after Fullerton, was expanded by Captain Collyer in 1854, but demolished in 1873.15



Author
Sitragandi Arunasalam



References
1. Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 194. Retrieved from BookSG; Mills, L.A., Turnbull, C.M., & Bassett, D.K. (1960). British Malaya, 1824-1867. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society., 33(3): 42. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
2. Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805–1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 17. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

3. Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements, 1826–67: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, pp. 189–190, 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR -[HIS])
4. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 21–22. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
5. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 206. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805–1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 17. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
6. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 82. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE -[HIS]); Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 192. Retrieved from BookSG.
7. Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805–1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 18. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
8. Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805-1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 17. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 205. Retrieved from BookSG.
9. Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805–1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 18. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
10. Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805–1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 14. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

11. Turnbull, M. (c2001). Malaysia: The nineteenth century. In P. H. Kratoska (Ed.), South East Asia: Colonial history (Vol. II) (pp. 242–252). London; New York: Routledge, p. 243. (Call no.: RSING 959 SOU)
12. Barber, A. (2009). Penang under the East India Company 1786–1858. Malaysia: AB&A, p. 145. (Call no.: RSEA 959.51 BAR); Cowan, C. D. (1950, March). Early Penang & the rise of Singapore 1805–1832. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23(2), 2–210, p. 14. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
13. Turnbull, M. (c2001). Malaysia: The nineteenth century. In P. H. Kratoska (Ed.), South East Asia: Colonial history (Vol. II) (pp. 242–252). London; New York: Routledge, p. 243. (Call no.: RSING 959 SOU)
14. Doggett, M. (1985). Characters of light. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 125. (Call no.: RSING 722 4095957 DOG)
15. Doggett, M. (1985). Characters of light. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 125. (Call no.: RSING 725 4095957 DOG)



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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
Governors--Singapore--Biography
Fullerton, Robert, Sir, 1773-1831
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Colonial administrators
Law and government>>Public administration
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators