Sir Robert Fullerton

Robert Fullerton, Sir (b.1773 - d. 6 June 1831), a Scotsman, the governor of Penang, was appointed the first Governor of the Straits Settlements in 1826 when Penang, Singapore and Malacca were grouped together to form the Straits Settlements. He filled this post from 1826 to 1830.

A major problem he had to struggle with during his tenure as Governor was raising revenue to make the Straits Settlements self-sufficient and less dependent on the Indian Government. He devised a few methods such as the retrenchment scheme, new taxes on land, new fines and fees in the Law Courts. However, the Straits merchants defeated Fullerton's proposals in 1829 to impose export duties and stamp dues so as to preserve Singapore's free port status.

Interest in the Malay States
Fullerton proposed that Malacca be chosen as the capital of the Straits Settlements. His reasoning was that Malacca was centrally situated between Singapore and Penang and thus it was easier to maintain influence over all the Malay States. However, in 1832, Singapore was chosen as the capital of the Straits Settlements instead.

Despite the East India Company's policy of non-intervention in the Malay States, Governor Fullerton with great foresight realised the necessity of checking the Siamese aggression in the Northern Malay States to protect British trade. Going against Supreme Government's orders, Fullerton threatened Siam with war on a few occasions and specially instructed Captain Henry Burney on his mission to Siam to concentrate on the issues relating to the Malay States. He supported Captain James Low in his negotiations with Perak and Selangor guaranteeing British support if their independence was threatened. It could be said that Governor Fullerton stopped Siam from extending their influence in the Northern Malay states especially in Perak and Selangor.

His intervention in the politics of the Malay States brought censure from the Supreme Government in India but Fullerton was able to defend himself and his officers from the reprimands of the Supreme Government

Fullerton returned to Europe in 1830 and died in London on 6 June 1831. He was succeeded by Mr. Ibbetson .

Fort Fullerton
Sir Robert Fullerton built
Fort Fullerton (now site of the Fullerton Hotel) to defend the town. In 1854, it was expanded by Captain Collyer but was demolished in 1873.


Sitragandi Arunasalam

Cowan, C. D. (1961). Nineteenth-century Malaya: The origins of British political control. London: Oxford University Press.
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Doggett, M. (1985). Characters of light (p. 125). Singapore: Times Books International.
Call no. : (RSING 722 4095957 DOG)

Empire-building during the nineteenth century. (2001). In  P. H. Kratoska (Ed.), South East Asia: Colonial history (Vol. 2). New York: Routledge.
Call no. : (RSING 959 SOU)

Winstedt, R. O. (1982). A history of Malaya. Kuala Lumpur: Marican & Sons.
Call no. : (RSING 959.5 WIN)

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The information in this article is valid as at 2002 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.

Fullerton, Robert, Sir, 1773-1831
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
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Colonial administrators
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