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Indonesia History - United Kingdom

In June 1602, the first English ships visited that Aceh in nothern Sumatra. These were the fleet under the command of Sir James Lancaster, who bore a letter from the queen of England, and was received by the sovereign of Atcheen with every mark of respect. On this occasion a regular commercial treaty between the two governments was drawn up and executed. The chief object of contemplated traffic was pepper, for which article Europe was princip'ally dependent at that time upon the Dutch.

Very little advantaire was taken of the treaty here mentioned until the year 1659, when the reigning queen of Atcheen, having granted some additional privileges to the English East India Company, a factory was established by that body in the capital of her dominions. The trade, however, was never very flourishing in this quarter, and may be said to have ceased upon the establishment of the Company's settlement at Bencoolen, on the south coast of Sumatra, from the neighbourhood of which place the pepper was principally collected.

In 1780 the Dutch States, by a majority of one, had decided to adopt the policy of "armed neutrality"; in other words, to side with France and Russia as against England. War broke out at once, although the Stadtholder and the Court were opposed to the popular party. Peace was concluded in 1783, but the Dutch were forced to admit the English to free trade throughout the Indies.

In 1795 the Stadtholder fled to England before the forces of the French Revolution, and the Batavian Republic came into being; to be followed, in 1806, by the Bonaparte monarchy. In 1810 the honest Louis, unable to protect his people against his brother, retired, and Holland became part of France.

Already England had absorbed many of the Dutch possessions in the East; but Java still remained in the grip of the terrible Daendels. In 1811, however, the French flag was run up at Batavia. In the same year the British flag replaced it, after a decisive battle at Weltevreden, delivered by Auchtermuty at the head of seven thousand troops. The remnant of the colonial army, led by the French General Jumelle, escaped to Samarang, where it capitulated on September 18th. Raffles was Lieutenant-Governor of the new British colony, being subject to Lord Minto, the Company's Governor in India.

Stamford Raffles was admitted to the India House, as an extra clerk, at the age of fourteen, and soon rose, thanks to his unremitting industry, his supple intelligence, and the friendship of the secretary to the Company. A man of supreme capacity and flexibility, who had never mingled in society, was untouched by convention or tradition, and was therefore able to reap the full advantage of his unusual good sense; was an ardent patriot, a keen man of business, and a far-seeing statesman; he must, under ordinary conditions, have eaten his heart out among dull and incompetent colleagues and lamentable seniors. The fact that Lord Minto was Governor General, while that erratic genius John Leyden held a post of influence, enabled him to do lasting and imperial work, though the tentacles of mediocrity dragged him down in the end.

Raffles always maintained that Java should be retained by England as a jewel in her crown of empire. It is enough to say that after doing most valuable work in spite of dull or timid superiors and disloyal colleagues, he was appointed by Lord Minto to be Agent with the Malay States and Lieutenant-Governor of Java.

Daendels, a pitiless Jacobin, sent out to Java to reorganise the colonial forces, had utterly exhausted the resources of the country. His legacy to England consisted of a military road built at the cost of countless lives, and a bankrupt and terrorised people.

Raffles was actuated by the feeling that it was the plain duty of England to give this people a just, humane, and suitable government; to restore it to wealth; and finally, to make it a source of imperial strength and profit. He considered that retirement on the part of his country would be a betrayal, a cruel desertion.

Raffles immediately gained the confidence and gratitude of the Dutch population. The Sultan and Susuhunan were restive, seeing an opportunity of revolt: Raffles handled them with consummate skill, promising both protection. Minto had already abolished torture: Raffles revolutionised the entire legal system. The original system of village or communal government was revived; the island was ruled through its natural hierarchy, the native aristocracy, advised by European colleagues. The country was redivided The old forced deliveries of crops, by which the Company had lived, were abolished.

A 'treaty of friendship and alliance' was concluded with the Sultan of Atcheen, in April, 1819, by Sir Stamford Raffles, acting on behalf of the government of the East India Company, whereby the right of trading freely to all the ports of that kingdom was assured to the British upon the payment of' fixed and declared rates of duty.' By this treaty His Highness likewise engaged ' not to grant to any person whatever a monopoly of the produr« of his states, and to exclude the subjects of every other European power, and likewise all Americans, from a fixed habitation or residence in his dominions.'

Soon it was decided that Java was to be returned to Holland. Raffles was appointed Resident in Bencoolen, Sumatra; but almost at the moment of his retirement a curious conspiracy was unmasked at the court of the Susuhunan. This monarch, at whose court was a guard of sepoys, had attended their Hindu services, and had given them, for purposes of worship, some antique Hindu idols preserved in the palace. The sepoys thereupon sought to persuade themselves and him that he was a descendent of Ra, destined by the gods to restore the Hindu empire. Had he declared himself his people would probably have followed, and a terrible upheaval might have convulsed the islands. Raffles quickly subdued the rising, without severity and without a display of force.

Java was actually taken over by the Government of Holland in 1818. The Dutch had the wisdom to recognise the excellence of Raffles' work, and continued to govern according to the system he had created.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2012 19:22:45 ZULU