Joseph Balestier


Joseph Balestier (b. circa 1788, France?–d. 1858, York, Pennsylvania, United States) was the first consul to Singapore for the United States of America serving from 1837 to 1852.1 His wife, Maria Revere Balestier, was the daughter of anti-British American patriot Paul Revere (b. 1735–d. 1818).2

Career
Although he was consul for the port of Riau, Balestier resided in Singapore.3 He was officially appointed consul for Singapore on 4 July 1836.4 The Court of Directors in London recognised his appointment later in November 1836 and he took up office in June 1937, when ships from America were permitted by the East India Company to trade in Singapore on an equal footing.5

In the mid-1830s, Joseph Balestier became one of the first to own a 1,000-acre sugarcane plantation, which was known as the Balestier Plantation.6 Balestier’s home on this plantation had five immense rooms.7 He was one of two entrepreneurs (the other being William Montgomerie) to have tried manufacturing sugar and his plant was run by a steam engine.8

Unfortunately, Singapore’s sugar produce were not given the same import privileges to the British market as that from Province Wellesley. This caused the decline of the sugar industry in Singapore.9 In 1848, Balestier left Singapore due to health reasons and that same year entrusted Joseph H. Weed to sell his plantation.10 Balestier Road runs alongside what used to be his sugar estate.11


His wife, Maria, was the daughter of Paul Revere, the famed midnight rider hero of the American Revolution.12 She donated a Revere bell to St Andrew’s Cathedral in 1843.13 An obituary in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertisernewspaper, dated Thursday, 26 August 1847, commended her for her invaluable contributions to the local community, her “untiring zeal in the service of the sick, the afflicted, and the needy – to obtain her good offices the only requisite was to need them” in the 13 years she was in Singapore with her husband. This newspaper tribute further added that “she treated her servants like sons; her friends and neighbours like brethren”.14

Several initiatives, such as the Balestier Series by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the Joseph Balestier Award by the Art Stage Singapore and the Embassy of the United States of America in Singapore, are named after Balestier.15

Family
Wife: Maria Revere Balestier (b. 4 July 1785–d. 22 August 1847, Singapore)16
Son: Joseph Warren Revere Balestier (b. circa 1820–d. 2 March 1844, Singapore)17



Author

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Ireland, G. (1948). The Balestiers of Beechwood. Washington, D. C.: Gordon Ireland, J.S.D., pp. 1, 49. Retrieved 2016, April 3 from Hathitrust Digital Library website: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005729570; Consulate of the United States. (1837, June 17). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Goss, E. H. (1891). The life of Colonel Paul Revere (Vol. 2). Boston: J. G. Cupples, p. 606. Retrieved 2016, April 3 from Hathitrust Digital Library website: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596955
3. Goss, E. H. (1891). The life of Colonel Paul Revere (Vol. 2). Boston: J. G. Cupples, p. 606. Retrieved 2016, April 3 from Hathitrust Digital Library website: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596955; Notice. (1834, May 29). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore(Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 504. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
4. Consulate of the United States. (1837, June 17). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Consulate of the United States. (1837, June 17). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 1; Saturday Evening, June 17th, 1837. (1837, June 17). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore(Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 504. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
6. A sugar plantation for sale. (1848, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 2; Extracts. (1841, November 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 469. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
8. Extracts. (1841, November 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore(Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
9. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore(Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
10. Sharom Ahmat. (1966, December). Joseph B. Balestier: The First American Consul in Singapore 1833–1852. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 39(2), 118. Retrieved from JSTOR; A sugar plantation for sale. (1848, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Hooi, C. (1976). The Revere Bell and the Balestiers. Singapore: National Museum, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 327.0924 HOO)
12. Goss, E. H. (1891). The life of Colonel Paul Revere (Vol. 2). Boston: J. G. Cupples, p. 606. Retrieved 2016, April 3 from Hathitrust Digital Library website: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596955
13. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 290. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
14. The Free Press. (1847, August 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. The American Chamber of Commerce In Singapore (AmCham). The Balestier Series. Retrieved 2016, March 15 from AmCham website: http://www.amcham.org.sg/balestier-series/; Art Stage Singapore. (2014, Decemeber 1). Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art Presented by Art Stage Singapore and the Embassy of the United States of America in Singapore [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, March 15 from Art Stage Singapore website: http://www.artstagesingapore.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/01-dec-2014.pdf
16. The Free Press. (1847, August 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Goss, E. H. (1891). The life of Colonel Paul Revere (Vol. 2). Boston: J. G. Cupples, p. 606. Retrieved 2016, April 3 from Hathitrust Digital Library website: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596955
17. Deaths. (1844, March 7). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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
Consuls--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises
Sugar--Manufacturer and refining--Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators

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