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Johor Treaty is signed 10th Mar 1855

On 10 March 1855, William Butterworth, who was then the governor of the Straits Settlements, officiated at the signing of a treaty held in Singapore in which Tengku Ali ceded sovereignty over Johor (except Muar) to Temenggong Daing Ibrahim in return for a lump sum payment of 5,000 Spanish dollars, a fixed monthly allowance of 500 Spanish dollars and titular recognition as Sultan of Johor.[1]

Tengku Ali was the eldest son of Sultan Hussein Shah, who had a hand in the founding of modern Singapore when he, together with Temenggong Abdul Rahman, authorised the British East India Company to set up a trading post on the island through the 1819 treaty signed with Sir Stamford Raffles. When Sultan Hussein died in 1835, the British were against the formal recognition of Tengku Ali, then 11 years old, as heir in view of his youth and the fact that the late sultan held little political influence.[2] In 1840, the British colonial government issued a proclamation that pronounced Tengku Ali as successor, but this move merely entitled to him all the property belonging to his late father and did not amount to his inheritance of the sultanate.[3]

The British were wary of installing Tengku Ali as sultan in light of the superior influence of Temenggong Daing Ibrahim, the second son of Temenggong Abdul Rahman.[4] Daing Ibrahim was installed as Temenggong of Johor at New Harbour, Singapore, in the presence of George Bonham, who was then the governor of the Straits Settlements, and the Bendahara of Pahang, on 19 August 1841.[5] Daing Ibrahim’s appointment as Temenggong of Johor established  him as the chief of the Malay community in Singapore and affirmed  his de facto rule over mainland Johor.[6] In contrast to Tengku Ali, who was in heavy debt, the enterprising Daing Ibrahim derived considerable revenue from his monopoly on the gutta percha trade.[7]

The growing prosperity of Johor in the 1840s led Tengku Ali to demand a share of the state revenue in addition to his appeals for recognition as sultan.[8] The issue threatened the peace of the Malayan peninsula as the Sultan of Lingga, the Sultan of Terengganu and the young nobility of Johor backed Tengku Ali, while the Bendahara of Pahang allied himself with Daing Ibrahim.[9] Moreover, members of the mercantile community in Singapore, namely William Read, William Kerr, William Patterson and Henry Simmons, became embroiled in the situation. Read advised Tengku Ali on his claims, while the other three men supported Daing Ibrahim.[10]

In facilitating the Johor Treaty of 1855, the British colonial government not only sought to put the longstanding dispute to rest, but also to curb the meddling in native politics by commercial interests in Singapore.[11] More importantly, the British sought to forestall major hostility between the Malay states, which would not only disrupt trade and encourage piracy, but also affect the economic position of Singapore.[12]

1. Allen, J. de V., Stockwell, A. J., & Wright, L. R. (Eds.). (1981). A collection of treaties and other documents affecting the States of Malaysia, 1761–1963 (pp. 46–47). London: Oceana Publications. Call no.: RSEA 341.0264595 COL; Swettenham, F. (1975). British Malaya: An account of the origin and progress of British influence in Malaya (p. 100). New York: AMS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.5 SWE.
2. Winstedt, R. O. (1992). A history of Johore, 1365–1941. (p. 105). Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Call no.: RSING 959.511903 WIN.
3. Winstedt, 1992, p. 105.
4. Tarling, N. (1969). British policy in the Malay Peninsula and Archipelago, 1824–1871 (p. 57). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 327.420895 TAR.
5. Winstedt, 1992, p. 104.
6. Manogaran Suppiah. (2006). The temenggongs of Telok Blangah: The progenitor of modern Johor. In K. K. Khoo, Elinah Abdullah & M. H. Wan (Eds.), Malays/Muslims in Singapore: Selected readings in history, 1819–1965 (p. 49). Selangor: Pelanduk Publications in cooperation with Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs. Call no.: RSING 305.8992805958 MAL.
7. Winstedt, 1992, p. 105; Tarling, 1969, p. 57.
8. Tarling, 1969, p. 56.
9. Tarling, 1969, p. 58.
10. Tarling, 1969, pp. 58, 60.
11. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (p. 69). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR.
12. Tarling, 1969, p. 60.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 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.

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