A visit to Sarawak and N.W.Borneo in 1845

Captain McQuhae R.N. gives another view events in 1845
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  Bentley's miscellany, Volume 23 (1848)pp 65-72[also:The eclectic magazine of foreign literature, science, and art, Volume 13(March 1848)pp416-421 ]VISIT TO HIS HIGHNESS RAJAH BROOKE,AT SARAWAK 1 .BY PETER McQUHAE 2 ,CAPTAIN OF HER MAJESTY's SHIP Daedalus 3 WITH AN ENGRAVING OF THE BUNGALOW OF THE RAJAH 4 . On the 18th July, 1845, H.M. squadron, consisting of one line-of-battle ship, two frigates, three brigs, and one steamer, under the command of Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane 5 , got under weigh,formed order of sailing in two columns, and proceeded to beat down the Straits of Malacca. After several days' sailing, a fierce Sumatra squall was encountered, which brought the squadron in twocompact lines to an anchor off the Buffalo rocks in very deep water. Some cause prevented thecommander-in-chief from approaching nearer to the town of Singapore. Supplies of bread and water having been brought out by an iron steamer, the Pluto,—Mr. Brooke 6 ,Rajah of Sarawak, and Capt.Bethune 7 ,the commissioners for the affairs of Borneo, having embarked in the flag-ship, a brig of war detached to New Zealand —once more the order of sailing was formed, and the force proceeded down the straits of Singapore en route for Borneo.That immense, unexplored, and little-known island has, since the occupation of Singapore by theBritish, as a natural consequence become of daily increasing importance, and the settlement on thatfine and navigable river, the Sarawak, under the rajahship of Mr. Brooke, bids fair to produceresults, which, even in his most sanguine moments, he could scarcely have anticipated.It is hardly possible to speak of this gentleman in terms of sufficient force to convey an idea of what has already been accomplished by his talents, courage, perseverance, judgment, and integrity.It required moral courage of a high order, in the face of difficulties to the minds of most meninsurmountable, to bring the wild, piratical, and treacherous Malay 8 , and the still more savage race,the Dyak  9 tribes, not only to listen to the voice of reason, but to become amenable to its laws under his government. His perseverance was great under trials, disappointments, and provocations of anature to damp the energy of the most enthusiastic philanthropist that ever undertook to amelioratethe condition of his fellow man. His judgment has been rarely excelled in discovering the secretmotives of the different chiefs with whom his innumerable negotiations had to be conducted ; andin an extraordinary degree he possessed the power of discriminating between the wish to be honestand that to deceive, betray, and plunder. He evinced the most unimpeachable integrity, the mostrigid justice in protecting the poor man from the tyranny and exactions of the more powerful chief;and he showed his little kingdom that the administration of law was as inflexible in its operationtowards the great men of the country as towards the more humble of his subjects;—and all this hecarried into effect by mildness of manner and gentleness of rule.He has gained the love and affection of many; he has incurred the hatred of some, and is hourlyexposed to the sanguinary vengeance of the leaders, whose riches were gathered amidst murder and plunder from the unfortunate crew of some betrayed or shipwrecked vessel, and who have foresightsufficient to perceive that if settlements similar to that on the Sarawak should be extended along thenorthwest coast of the island, their bloody occupation is gone. They therefore endeavour to hinder,as far as in them lies, the good which is flowing from the noble and brilliant example of hishighness the rajah of Sarawak, of whom Great Britain has reason to be proud. It is for the Britishgovernment to afford that countenance and protection which shall be necessary to prevent theinterference of others, who from jealousy may wish by intrigues to interrupt, if not to destroy thegreat moral lesson now first exhibited amongst these wild people, and in regions hitherto shroudedin the darkest clouds of heathenism and barbarity, amongst a people by whom piracy, murder, and plunder are not considered as crimes, but as the common acts of a profession which their forefathers  followed, which they have been taught to look upon from their earliest days as the only trueoccupation, in which they may rise according to the number and atrocity of their cruelties. Not long since several wretches were convicted at Singapore, on the clearest evidence, andcondemned to death for deeds of the most revolting and sanguinary barbarity. At the foot of thegallows rather a fine-looking young man, a Malay, justified himself on the principles above stated,and died declaring himself an innocent and very ill-used man, since all he had done was in theregular way of his business. It is not to be wondered at then, that, entertaining such doctrines andsentiments, the whole Malay population of the great and numerous islands of the East, have beenregarded by the European commercial world and navigators in these seas as a race of treacherousand blood-thirsty miscreants. How admirable, then, in our countryman to have commenced thegood work of regeneration amongst many millions of such men, not by the power of the sword, but by demonstrating practically the eternal and immutable rules of equity and truth!On the arrival of the squadron off the Sarawak, a party accompanied the admiral in the Pluto tothe house and establishment of Mr. Brooke at Kutching 10 , about eighteen miles above the mouth of the river. The house, although not large, is airy and commodious for the climate, and stands on theleft bank of the river on undulating ground of the richest quality, capable of producing in abundanceevery article common to the tropics; clearance was progressing on both sides of the river, and willdoubtless rapidly increase when the perfect security of property which exists is more generallyunderstood and appreciated. Some years ago a small colony of industrious Chinese locatedthemselves on the banks of the river, under the protection of the rajah of the day : their littlesettlement became flourishing and prosperous, and was rapidly increasing in wealth andimportance, when at one fell swoop the villanous Malays seized, plundered, and murdered them;and the more fortunate Chinese who escaped home spread the report of their treatment so widely,that it will take some time to remove the impression. But I feel convinced that emigration fromChina under British protection might be carried to any extent, and a race truly agricultural andindustrious introduced, to the great benefit of this rich but neglected portion of the world. It may bementioned as a singular fact, that on no part of this coast was the cocoa-nut, that invariable type of atropical region, found, having been gradually destroyed by pirates, until introduced by Mr. Brooke,who has used every exertion to extend the planting of trees, by having the seedlings brought in greatquantities from Singapore ; and by convincing his people that every tree, at the end of a few years,is worth a dollar from the oil it will produce, which meets a ready sale at all times, many thousandshave already been planted, and the number is increasing. It is by such small beginnings that theminds of these people must be distracted from the thoughts of robbery and plunder; and it is by practically shewing them that dollars are to be had without the shedding of blood, that the rajah of Sarawak is endeavouring to sow the seeds of industry and of civilization, and step by step to changetheir ideas, their habits, their hearts. That an all-wise Providence may prosper his undertaking, must be the prayer of those who may have visited his settlement, and who, like myself, have witnessedhis disinterested and unceasing thoughts for the peace, happiness, and comfort of the community of which he may truly be designated the father. The town of Kutching stands on both sides of the river, here about 200 yards across; the housesare of very slight construction, with open bamboo floors and mat partitions, best adapted for theclimate, although those occupied by the Europeans are of a better description, —still of the samematerial—all raised some feet from the ground to admit a free circulation of air from underneath.The night passed by the admiral and party was rendered very agreeable by cool refreshing breezes from some high, insulated, granitic 11 mountains at a distance in the interior; and even duringthe day the heat was not unbearable: thermometer Fahr. about 86°. The canoes on the river are of the slightest construction, and are apparently unsafe; yet the passengers crossing the creeks and theriver invariably stand up in them,—but woe to the unpractised or unsteady! Accidents, althoughrare, do sometimes occur, attended with loss of life.Mr. Brooke had been absent some six or seven weeks when the admiral accompanied him on his  return to the settlement. He was not expected, but the news of his arrival spread with wonderfulvelocity, and the various chiefs were speedily assembled to greet him with a cordial and heartywelcome. The reunion of the oldest of his swarthy counsellors, as well as of the youngest, whodropped in after dinner had been removed, and took their places on the benches by the sides of thewalls, according to their modes, customs, and privileges, together with the naval officers andEuropean civilians, with the rajah in his chair, and two of his most worthy native friends, entitled by birth to the distinction, seated beside him, presented a picture not destitute of interest, certainly of great variety ; for some of the Dyaks, with round heads, high cheek bones, and large jaws,remarkably differing from the Malay race, were there to complete the background. All were mostattentively listening to the conversation of the rajah with his Malay neighbours, enjoying a cherootoccasionally given to them by the visitors, and quietly making their own observations. Mr.Williamson, the interpreter, a native of Malacca, who speaks the language as a Malay, had another group around him, eagerly putting questions on the various little subjects interesting to themselves;and without the least approach to obtrusive familiarity, the evening was passed, I dare say, verymuch to the satisfaction of all parties.The principal exports, at this period, consist of antimony ore, of great richness, producing 75 per cent, of pure metal. It is found in great quantities, at a distance of ten miles up, in the river and byexcavations from the base of some hills, in the manner of washing the mines. It is brought down theriver by the natives, carried into a wharf, where it is accurately weighed, and then shipped for Singapore, by the rajah, who pays for the whole brought from the mines a stipulated price per  picue 12 to the chiefs, who pay the labourers, boatmen, and all other expenses. In former days, hishighness the rajah took the lion's share; but the arrangements of Mr. Brooke are on the most liberalscale, his first and only object being to encourage industry, and to shew how greatly the comfortand happiness of all are promoted by a rigid and just appreciation of the rights of property, and by afaithful and honourable adherence to every agreement and bargain. The result has been a vastincrease in the quantity of ore exported, and an extending desire to be interested in the business.A passing visit does not enable one to speak geologically of a country; and as there is agentleman of practical science at present making his observations 13 ,it would be presumptuous in meto offer a remark on the formations of this great country. But a single glance at the beautifullyundulating hills, at the gorgeous verdure, and growth of every branch of the vegetable kingdom, atonce points out the inexhaustible capabilities of the soil for the cultivation of sugar, coffee, spices,and every fruit of the tropics, many of which already flourish as specimens in the rajah's garden andgrounds, and invite the industrious to avail themselves of such a country and of such a river, and become proprietors on the banks of the Sarawak. British capital and protection and Chinese Coolies,would very soon change the north and north-west coast of Borneo into one of the richest countriesin the world.The admiral proceeded in the morning some short distance up the river to return the visit of thechiefs, and was every where received with the royal salute of three guns; the whole party,accompanied by the rajah and Mr. Williamson, the interpreter, at eleven A.M. re-embarked on board the Pluto, which had been in a very hazardous situation during the night, having unfortunatelygrounded on a ledge of rocks close to the bank  14 ,by which she sustained considerable damage; and proceeded down the river to regain the squadron at anchor off Tanjay Po, the western part of theMaratabes branch of the Sarawak; and here it was found that the steamer must be laid on the beach,as it was with difficulty the whole power of the engines applied to the pumps could keep her afloat;she was accordingly placed on the mud flat at the entrance of the river. A frigate and another steamer were left behind to assist in her refit, and the admiral moved onwards towards BorneoProper  15 , where, in the course of a few days, all were re-assembled, but in consequence of the flag-ship, by mistaking the channel, having struck the ground on the Moarno shore in going in, the shipswere moved outwards some considerable distance. Mr. Brooke, accompanied by an officer from theAgincourt, visited the sultan at the city of Bruni; and, on the following day, the sultan's nephew,heir-presumptive to the throne, with a suite of some twelve or fifteen Pangeran and chiefs of the   blood-royal, under the yellow canopy, came down to return the compliment, and to communicatewith the admiral on affairs of state; they were received with every mark of distinction and kindness by the commander-in-chief, and certainly there never was exhibited a more perfect sample of innatenobility and natural good manners, than was presented by Buddruden, to the observation of thosewho had the pleasure of witnessing his reception on the quarter deck of a British ship of the line bya crowd of officers, and amidst the noise and smoke of a salute; the whole of this party were theintimate friends of Mr. Brooke and firmly attached to British interests. Buddruden, in reply to somequestion to him as to his ever having seen so large a ship before, said that, although descended froma very ancient and long line of ancestors, he had the proud satisfaction of being the first who hadever embarked on board a vessel of such wonderful magnitude and power, and so much beyond anyidea he had formed of a ship of war. The most marked attention was paid by those whoaccompanied him to the privileges and etiquette of the country; none below a certain rank  presuming to sit down in his highness's presence; indeed, only those indisputably of the blood-royalwere admitted to that honour; every part of the ship was visited, and the prahu, with the yellowumbrella-shaped canopy, once more received her royal party, who proceeded to render an accountof their visit to the sultan in his regal palace at Bruni, accompanied by the Pluto steamer.On the following morning, the admiral hoisted his flag on board the Vixen, and, accompanied bythe Pluto and Nemesis, also steamers, and taking with him a considerable force of seamen andmarines, and an armed boat from each ship, proceeded up the river, with the intention of compellingPangeran Yussuff to return to his obedience and duty to the sultan, and to give an account of himself for being implicated in piratical transactions.On the arrival of the armament opposite the town, the sultan held a grand levee for the reception,and in honour of the admiral's visit, and the Pangeran was summoned to present himself insubmission to the mandate of the sultan. This he refused to do, and had even the hardihood toapproach the palace, and when at last threatened to have his house blown about his ears, coollyanswered, that the ships might begin to fire whenever they pleased, that he was ready for them; andsure enough, on the Vixen firing a sixty-eight pounder over his house to show the fellow howcompletely he was at the mercy of the squadron, he fired his guns in return. A few rounds from thesteamers drove him from his bamboo fortress. The marines took possession, and his magazine wasemptied of its contents of gunpowder, which was started into the river, and all his brass guns weredelivered over to the sultan, with the exception of two, which were retained, to be sold for the benefit of two Manilla Spaniards, who had been piratically seized as slaves, and who were nowtaken on board the squadron to be restored to their home. His house being thrown open to the tender mercies of his countrymen, was speedily gutted of all his ill-gotten wealth, and left in desolation.There were no killed or wounded. Pangeran Yussuff retreated to the interior, continued in rebellion,raised a force with which he attacked the town and Muda Hassim's party, but was defeated, pursued,and killed by Pangeran Buddruden.The squadron proceeded to Labooan 16 , cut wood with the thermometer at 92', for the steamers,filled them; and on the morning of the 15th of August, a new order of sailing and battle was givenout per buntin, and the novelty of two frigates towing two steamers, was exhibited to thewondering eyes of those present, called upon to keep their appointed station, work to windward,tack in succession, and perform every evolution with the neatest precision, in spite of light winds,heavy squalls, and most variable weather.The force intended to attack the stockade and fortified port of that arch-pirate Scherriff Posmanon the Malloodoo River, proceeded under the immediate command of the admiral, who took the brigs and steamers with him to the entrance of the river, and here it was found that the ironsteamers, which had caused such trouble, were not of the slightest use, there not being water sufficient even for them over the bar. The whole flotilla was placed under the command of CaptainTalbot, of the Vesta, the senior captain present, who, on the morning of the 19th of August, attackedwith great gallantry, and carried the very strong position of the pirates, with the loss of eight killedand thirteen wounded. The iron ordnance was broken, the fortification destroyed, and the town

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