The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido - For the Suppression of Piracy
by Henry Keppel
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"21st.—The morning quiet. After breakfast, under weigh; proceeded off the river Bankoka, where we found the Cruiser at anchor. As there was nothing to detain us, crossed over to the squadron—remained an hour aboard Agincourt; then rejoined Sir Thomas Cochrane aboard Vixen, and before dinner-time were at anchor in the northeast side of Balambangan. Our woman prisoner doing well, and pleased with the attention paid her.

"23d.—Southwestern harbor of Balambangan. Yesterday examined the N.E. harbor; a dreary-looking place, sandy and mangrovy, and the harbor itself filled with coral patches; here the remains of our former settlement were found: it is a melancholy and ineligible spot. The S.W. harbor is very narrow and cramped, with no fitting site for a town, on account of the rugged and unequal nature of the ground; and if the town were crammed in between two eminences, it would be deprived of all free circulation of air. Water is, I hear, in sufficient quantity, and good. On the whole, I am wretchedly disappointed with this island; it has one, and only one recommendation, viz., that it is well situated in the Straits for trading and political purposes; in every other requisite it is inferior to Labuan. Balambangan is commercially and politically well placed. Labuan, though inferior, is not greatly inferior in these points; the harbor, the aspect, the soil, are superior: it may probably be added, that the climate is superior likewise; and we must remember that those who had an opportunity of trying both places give the preference to Labuan.

"Then, on other points, Labuan has a clear advantage. It commands the coal; it is in the vicinity of a friendly people, and settlement may be formed with certainty and at a moderate expense, and with small establishments. Can this be done at Balambangan? I own I doubt it; the people in the vicinity we know nothing of, but we shall find them, in all probability, hostile. The Sooloos we are already too well acquainted with. The Illanuns are in the vicinity. In the case of Labuan, the details of the first establishment (no small step) can be clearly seen and arranged; but I do not see my way regarding Balambangan. The matter is of secondary importance, but a languishing settlement at first is to be dreaded; food will be scarce, and houses difficult to build; while at Labuan the population of Bruni are at our disposal, and the government our own. I leave others to judge whether a superior (but somewhat similar) position, commercially and politically, will outweigh the other disadvantages mentioned, and repay us for the extra expenses of the establishment; but, for myself, I can give a clear verdict in favor of Labuan.

"24th.—Buried poor Mr. East, of the Agincourt, on Balambangan. Gibbard, poor, gallant fellow, was consigned to the deep a day or two before.

"25th.—A day of disaster and parting: the morning blowy, with an unpleasant sea. Vestal ran ashore on a coral-patch, but soon swung off. I was very sorry to part with the Agincourt. Farewell, gallant Agincourts! farewell, kind admiral! farewell, the pride, pomp, and panoply of a flag-ship liner! My occupation's over for the present, and I retire with content to solitude and the jungle of Sarawak. I step down the huge side, wave a parting adieu, jump on the Cruiser's deck—the anchor is weighed, and away we fly.

"30th.—Coming down in her majesty's ship Cruiser, and now off Ujong Sapo. On our passage we had some good views of Kina Balow, and from various points; judging the distance by the chart, the angle of elevation gives the mountain not less than 12,000 feet and up to 14,000; the latter result agreeing with the computation of the master of the Daedalus.

"31st.—Started for Bruni, and half way met a boat with Pangeran Illudeen, bringing the news of the place. Two days after the admiral and his steamers left, Pangeran Usop seized the hill behind his late house with 300 Kadiens, and commenced an attack on the town. Pangeran Budrudeen on this mustered about the like number and mounted the hill, and by a fire of musketry dislodged the enemy, who retired, stood again, were again defeated, and finally dispersed. This victory raised the courage of the Brunions, and a counter-attack was planned, when the arrival of her majesty's ship Espiegle delayed them. As the officers of the Espiegle and the rajah could not speak a word of each other's language, the boat only stayed a few hours, and went away in ignorance of the condition of the town. After her departure, Budrudeen gathered about a thousand men of all arms, with some hundred muskets; and leaving Bruni at three o'clock in the morning, reached the landing-place at 6 A.M., and at eight marched for Barukas, where they arrived at one o'clock. On the way the Kadiens humbled themselves, and begged their houses might be spared, which were spared accordingly. On reaching Barukas, they found Pangeran Usop had been deserted by the Kadiens, and was in no way expecting their coming. The few persons who remained fled ignominiously, Pangeran Usop showing them the example; and his women, children, gold, and other property, fell into the hands of his victors. The same evening Budrudeen returned to the city in triumph; and there can be no doubt these vigorous measures have not only settled them in power, but have likewise raised the spirits of their adherents, and awed the few who remain adverse. 'Never,' the Brunions exclaim, 'was such a war in Bruni. Pangeran Budrudeen fights like a European; the very spirit of the Englishman is in him; he has learned this at Sarawak.' Fortune favored Usop's escape. He fled to the sea-shore near Pulo Badukan, and there met a boat of his entering from Kimanis: he took possession and put out to sea, and returned with her to that place.

"Budrudeen we found in active preparation for pursuit. A dozen war-prahus were nearly ready for sea, and this force starts directly we depart.

"Budrudeen's vigor has given a stimulus to this unwarlike people, and he has gained so great a character—victory sits so lightly on his plume—that his authority will now be obeyed; while Usop, in consequence of his cowardly flight (for so they deem it), from the want of energy he has displayed, has lost character as well as wealth, and would scarce find ten men in Bruni to follow him. Unluckily for himself, he was a great boaster in the days of his prosperity; and now the contrast of his past boasting with his present cowardice is drawn with a sneer. 'His mouth was brave,' they exclaim, 'but his heart timid.' 'He should have died as other great men have died, and not have received such shame; he should have amoked, [20] or else given himself up for execution.' This seems to be the general impression in the city.

"My mind is now at rest about the fate of my friends; but I still consider a man-of-war brig coming here every month or two as of great importance; for it will be necessary for the next six months to consolidate the power of Muda Hassim and Budrudeen; and if, with the new order of things, they constantly see white faces, and find that they are quiet and inoffensive, the ignorant terror which now prevails will abate. Besides this, we might find the opportunity a favorable one for becoming acquainted with the Kadiens and the Marats, and giving them just impressions of ourselves; for I have no doubt that on the late occasion the Kadiens were worked upon by all kinds of false reports of the pale faces taking their lands, burning their houses, &c., &c., &c. We only see the effects; we do not see (until we become very well acquainted with them) the strings which move the passions of these people. The Kadiens are, however, an unwarlike and gentle race, and have now given in their submission to Muda Hassim. I do not mention the sultan, because, as I before said, he is so imbecile that, as regards public affairs, he is a cipher: he will some day cease to be sultan, and give place to a better man.

"Our interview with the rajah, with Budrudeen, and all the other host of our acquaintance, was quite a triumph—they hot with their success, and we bringing the account of Malludu's sanguinary fight. Happy faces and wreathed smiles supplied the place of the anxious and doubtful expression which I had left them wearing. All vied in their attentions; fruit enough to fill a room: the luscious durian, the delicate mangosteen and lousch, the grateful rombusteen, the baluna, pitabu, mowha, plantain, &c., &c., were showered upon us from all quarters. The rajah daily sent a dinner; all was rejoicing, and few or no clouds lowered in the distance. I was proud and happy; for I felt and feel that much of this has been owing to my exertions. I will not stop to say how or why; but I first taught them to respect and to confide in Englishmen, and no one else has yet untaught them this lesson.

"September 3d.—After parting interviews we quitted the city at two, and arrived aboard her majesty's ship cruiser at eight P.M. To-morrow morning we sail for Sarawak, where, at any rate, I hope for rest for a month or two.

"19th.—Sarawak. Thus concludes a large volume. Captain Bethune and myself, with Commander Fanshawe and a party of Cruisers, returned from a five days' excursion among the Dyaks, having visited the Suntah, Stang, Sigo, and Sanpro tribes. It was a progress; at each tribe there was dancing, and a number of ceremonies. White fowls were waved as I have before described, slaughtered, and the blood mixed with kunyit, a yellow root, &c., &c., which delightful mixture was freely scattered over them and their goods by me, holding in my hand a dozen or two women's necklaces. Captain Bethune has seen and can appreciate the Dyaks: to-morrow he leaves me, and most sorry shall I be to lose him. A better man or a better public servant is not to be found.

"Among my Dyak inquiries, I found out that the name of their god is Tuppa, and not Jovata, which they before gave me, and which they use, but do not acknowledge. Tuppa is the great god; eight other gods were in heaven; one fell or descended into Java—seven remained above; one of these is named Sakarra, who, with his companions and followers, is (or is in) the constellation of a cluster of stars, doubtless the Pleiades; and by the position of this constellation the Dyaks can judge good and bad fortune. If this cluster of stars be high in the heavens, success will attend the Dyak; when it sinks below the horizon, ill luck follows; fruit and crops will not ripen; war and famine are dreaded. Probably originally this was but a simple and natural division of the seasons, which has now become a gross superstition.

"The progress is ended; to-morrow I shall be left in the solitude and the quiet of the jungle: but, after witnessing the happiness, the plenty, the growing prosperity of the Dyak tribes, I can scarcely believe that I could devote my life to better purpose, and I dread that a removal might destroy what I have already done.

"We must now wait the decision of government with patience. Captain Bethune, in making his report, will have the advantage of real substantial personal knowledge. I esteem him highly, and regard him as a man of the most upright principles, who is not, and will not be swayed in his duty by any considerations whatever. I am glad we are to stand the ordeal of such a man's inquiry."


Borneo, its geographical bounds and leading divisions.—British settlements in 1775.—The province of Sarawak formally ceded by the sultan in perpetuity to Mr. Brooke its present ruler.—General view of the Dyaks, the aborigines of Borneo.—The Dyaks of Sarawak, and adjoining tribes; their past oppression and present position.

I will now endeavor to make the reader better acquainted with the nature of a country and people so imperfectly known, by offering that general view of its past events and present condition which will make the information respecting them more intelligible, as well as applicable to new circumstances and future measures.

By looking at the map, it will be seen that the island of Borneo extends over 11 degrees of latitude and as many of longitude, from 4 deg. N. to 7 deg. S., and 108 deg. to 119 deg. E. The N.W. coast is but thinly populated; and the natives who inhabit the banks of some of the beautiful rivers differ, as has been already stated, from each other in manners and customs, and have but little communication among themselves. The S., E., and N.E. coasts of Borneo are also but thinly inhabited, and very little known. There are various divisions of Malays, as well as different tribes of Dyaks, who live in an unsettled state, and occasionally make war on one another: their principal occupation, however, is piracy. The north part of the island was once in the possession of the East India Company, who had a settlement and factory on the island of Balambangan, which was attacked in 1775, when in a weak and unguarded state, by a powerful piratical tribe of Sooloos, who surprised the fort, put the sentries to death, and turned the guns on the troops, who were chiefly Buguese (or Bugis) Malays. Those who escaped got on board the vessels in the harbor, and reached the island of Labuan, near the mouth of the Borneo river; while the booty obtained by the pirates was estimated at 375,000l. From that time to this these atrocious pirates have never been punished, and still continue their depredations.

The remainder of the coast on the N.W. is now called Borneo Proper, to distinguish it from the name that custom has given to the whole island, the original name of which was Kalamantan, and Bruni that of the town now called Borneo. The latter was probably the first part of the coast ever visited by Europeans, who consequently extended the appellation to the island itself. The town of Borneo, situated on the river of that name, was, until the last few years, a port of some wealth, and carrying on an extensive trade, which has been ruined entirely by the rapacity of the Malay chiefs, who have now but little control over that part of Borneo Proper which lies to the northward of the river. The province of Sarawak is situated at the S.W. end of Borneo Proper, and was formally ceded in perpetuity by the sultan in 1843 to Mr. Brooke, who, indeed, had possessed the almost entire management of the district for the two previous years. "It extends from Tanjong Datu (I quote from Mr. Brooke's description of his territory) to the entrance of the Samarahan river, a distance along the coast of about sixty miles in an E.S.E. direction, with an average breadth of fifty miles. It is bounded to the westward by the Sambas territory, to the southward by a range of mountains which separate it from the Pontiana river, and to the eastward by the Borneon territory of Sadong. Within this space then are several rivers and islands, which it is needless here to describe at length, as the account of the river of Sarawak will answer alike for the rest. There are two navigable entrances to this river, and numerous smaller branches for boats, both to the westward and eastward; the two principal entrances combine at about twelve miles from the sea, and the river flows for twenty miles into the interior in a southerly and westerly direction, when it again forms two branches—one running to the right, the other to the left hand, as far as the mountain range. Beside these facilities for water-communication, there exist three other branches from the easternmost entrance, called Morotaba, one of which joins the Samarahan river, and the two others flow from different points of the mountain range already mentioned. The country is diversified by detached mountains, and the mountain range has an elevation of about three thousand feet. The aspect of the country may be generally described as low and woody at the entrance of the rivers, except a few high mountains; but in the interior undulating in parts, and part presenting fine level plains. The climate may be pronounced healthy and cool, though for the six months from September to March a great quantity of rain falls. During my three visits to this place, which have been prolonged to eight months, and since residing here, we have been clear of sickness, and during the entire period not one of three deaths could be attributed to the effects of climate. The more serious maladies of tropical climates are very infrequent; from fever and dysentery we have been quite free, and the only complaints have been rheumatism, colds, and ague; the latter, however, attacked us in the interior, and no one has yet had it at Sarawak, which is situated about twenty-five miles from the mouth of the river.

"The soil and productions of this country are of the richest description, and it is not too much to say, that, within the same given space, there are not to be found the same mineral and vegetable riches in any land in the world. I propose to give a brief detail of them, beginning with the soil of the plains, which is moist and rich, and calculated for the growth of rice, for which purpose it was formerly cleared and used, until the distractions of the country commenced. From the known industry of the Dyaks, and their partiality to rice-cultivation, there can be little doubt that it would become an article of extensive export, provided security were given to the cultivator and a proper remuneration for his produce. The lower grounds, beside rice, are well adapted for the growth of sago, and produce canes, rattans, and forest-timber of the finest description for ship-building and other useful purposes. The Chinese export considerable quantities of timber from Sambas and Pontiana, particularly of the kind called Balean by the natives, or the lion-wood of the Europeans; and at this place it is to be had in far greater quantity and nearer the place of sale. The undulating ground differs in soil, some portions of it being a yellowish clay, while the rest is a rich mold; these grounds, generally speaking, as well as the slopes of the higher mountains, are admirably calculated for the growth of nutmegs, coffee, pepper, or any of the more valuable vegetable productions of the tropics. Beside the above mentioned articles, there are birds'-nests, bees-wax, and several kinds of scented wood, in demand at Singapore, which are all collected by the Dyaks, and would be gathered in far greater quantity provided the Dyak was allowed to sell them.

"Turning from the vegetable to the mineral riches of the country, we have diamonds, gold, tin, iron, and antimony ore certain; I have lately sent what I believe to be a specimen of lead ore to Calcutta; and copper is reported. It must be remembered, in reading this list, that the country is as yet unexplored by a scientific person, and that the inquiries of a geologist and a mineralogist would throw further light on the minerals of the mountains, and the spots where they are to be found in the greatest plenty. The diamonds are stated to be found in considerable numbers, and of a good water; and I judge the statement to be correct from the fact that the diamond-workers from Sandak come here and work secretly, and the people from Banjamassim, who are likewise clever at this trade, are most desirous to be allowed to work for the precious stone. Gold of a good quality certainly is to be found in large quantities. The eagerness and perseverance of the Chinese to establish themselves is a convincing proof of the fact; and ten years since a body of about 3000 of them had great success in procuring gold by their ordinary mode of trenching the ground.

"The quantity of gold yearly procured at Sambas is moderately stated at 130,000 bunkals, which, reckoned at the low rate of 20 Spanish dollars a bunkal, gives 2,600,000 Spanish dollars, or upward of half a million sterling. The most intelligent Chinese are of opinion, that the quantity here exceeds that at Sambas; and there is no good reason to suppose it would fall short of it were once a sufficient Chinese population settled in the country.

"Antimony ore is a staple commodity, which is to be procured in any quantity. Tin is said to be plentiful, and the Chinese propose working it; but I have had no opportunity of visiting the spot where it is found. Copper, though reported, has not been brought; and the iron ore I have examined is of inferior quality. The specimen of what I supposed to be lead ore has been forwarded to Calcutta, and it remains to be seen what its value may be. And beside the above-mentioned minerals, there can be little doubt of many others being discovered, if the mountain range was properly explored by any man of science. Many other articles of minor importance might be mentioned; but it is needless to add to a list which contains articles of such value, and which would prove the country equal in vegetable and mineral productions to any in the world.

"From the productions (continues Mr. Brooke) I turn to the inhabitants, and I feel sure that in describing their sufferings and miseries I shall command the interest and sympathy of every person of humanity, and that the claims of the virtuous and most unhappy Dyaks will meet with the same attention as those of the African. And these claims have the advantage, that much good may be done without the vast expenditure of lives and money which the exertions on the African coast yearly demand, and that the people would readily appreciate the good that was conferred upon them, and rapidly rise in the scale of civilization."

The inhabitants may be divided into three different classes, viz. the Malays, the Chinese, and the Dyaks; of the two former little need be said, as they are so well known.

The Dyaks (or more properly Dyak) of Borneo offer to our view a primitive state of society; and their near resemblance to the Tarajahs of Celebes, [21] to the inland people of Sumatra, and probably to the Arafuras of Papua, [22] in customs, manners, and language, affords reason for the conclusion that these are the aboriginal race of the Eastern Archipelago, nearly stationary in their original condition. While successive waves of civilization have swept onward the rest of the inhabitants, while tribes as wild have arisen to power, flourished, and decayed, the Dyak in his native jungles still retains the feelings of earlier times, and shows the features of society as it existed before the influx of foreign races either improved or corrupted the native character.

The name "Dyak" has been indiscriminately applied to all the wild people on the island of Borneo; but as the term is never so used by themselves, and as they differ greatly, not only in name, but in their customs and manners, we will briefly, in the first instance, mention the various distinct nations, the general locality of each, and some of their distinguishing peculiarities.

1st. The Dusun, or villagers of the northern extremity of the island, are a race of which Mr. Brooke knows nothing personally; but the name implies that they are an agricultural people: they are represented as not being tattooed, as using the sumpitan, and as having a peculiar dialect. [23]

2d. The Murut. They inhabit the interior of Borneo Proper. They are not tattooed, always use the sumpitan, and have a peculiar dialect. In the same locality, and resembling the Murut, are some tribes called the Basaya.

3d. The Kadians (or Idaans of voyagers) use the sumpitan, and have likewise a peculiar dialect; but in other respects they nowise differ from the Borneons, either in religion, dress, or mode of life. They are, however, an industrious, peaceful people, who cultivate the ground in the vicinity of Borneo Proper, and nearly as far as Tanjong Barram. The wretched capital is greatly dependent upon them, and, from their numbers and industry, they form a valuable population. In the interior, and on the Balyet river, which discharges itself near Tanjong Barram, is a race likewise called Kadian, not converted to Islam, and which still retains the practice of "taking heads."

4th. The Kayan. The Kayans are the most numerous, the most powerful, and the most warlike people in Borneo. They are an inland race, and their locality extends from about sixty miles up the country from Tanjong Barram to the same extent farther into the interior, in latitude 3 deg. 30' N., and thence across the island to probably a similar distance from the eastern shore. Their customs, manners, and dress are peculiar, and present most of the characteristic features of a wild and independent people. The Malays of the N.W. coast fear the Kayans, and rarely enter their country; but the Millanows are familiar with them, and there have thence been obtained many particulars respecting them. They are represented as extremely hospitable, generous, and kind to strangers, strictly faithful to their word, and honest in their dealings; but on the other hand, they are fierce and bloodthirsty, and when on an expedition, slaughter without sparing. The Kayans are partially tattooed, use the sumpitan, have many dialects, and are remarkable for the strange and apparently mutilating custom adopted by the males, and mentioned by Sir Stamford Raffles.

5th. To the southward and westward of Barram are the Millanows, [24] who inhabit the rivers not far from the sea. They are, generally speaking, an intelligent, industrious, and active race, the principal cultivators of sago, and gatherers of the famous camphor barus. Their locality extends from Tanjong Barram to Tanjong Sirak. In person they are stout and well-made, of middling height, round good-tempered countenances, and fairer than the Malays. They have several dialects among them, use the sumpitan, and are not tattooed. They retain the practice of taking heads, but they seldom seek them, and have little of the ferocity of the Kayan.

6th. In the vicinity of the Kayans and Millanows are some wild tribes, called the Tatows, Balanian, Kanowit, &c. They are probably only a branch of Kayans, though differing from them in being elaborately tattooed over the entire body. They have peculiar dialects, use the sumpitan, and are a wild and fierce people.

7th. The Dyak. They are divided into Dyak Darrat and Dyak Laut, or land and sea Dyaks. The Dyak Lauts, as their name implies, frequent the sea; and it is needless to say much of them, as their difference from the Dyak Darrat is a difference of circumstances only. The tribes of Sarebus and Sakarran, whose rivers are situated in the deep bay between Tanjong Sipang and Tanjong Sirak, are powerful communities, and dreadful pirates, who ravage the coast in large fleets, and murder and rob indiscriminately; but this is by no means to be esteemed a standard of Dyak character. In these expeditions the Malays often join them, and they are likewise made the instruments for oppressing the Laut tribes. The Sarebus and Sakarran are fine men, fairer than the Malays, with sharp keen eyes, thin lips, and handsome countenances, though frequently marked by an expression of cunning. The Balows and Sibnowans are amiable tribes, decidedly warlike, but not predatory; and the latter combines the virtues of the Dyak character with much of the civilization of the Malays. The Dyak Laut do not tattoo, nor do they use the sumpitan; their language assimilates closely to the Malay, and was doubtless originally identical with that of the inland tribes. The name of God among them is Battara (the Avatara of the Hindoos). They bury their dead, and in the graves deposit a large portion of the property of the deceased, often to a considerable value in gold ornaments, brass guns, jars, and arms. Their marriage ceremony consists in two fowls being killed, and the forehead and breast of the young couple being touched with the blood; after which the chief, or an old man, knocks their heads together several times, and the ceremony is completed with mirth and feasting. In these two instances they differ from the Dyak Darrat.

It must be observed that the Dyak also differs from the Kayan in not being tattooed; and from the Kayan Millanows, &c., in not using the national weapon—the sumpitan. The Kayan and the Dyak, as general distinctions, though they differ in dialect, in dress, in weapons, and probably in religion, agree in their belief of similar omens, and, above all, in their practice of taking the heads of their enemies; but with the Kayan this practice assumes the aspect of an indiscriminate desire of slaughter, while with the Dyak it is but the trophy acquired in legitimate warfare. The Kadians form the only exception to this rule, in consequence of their conversion to Islam; and it is but reasonable to suppose, that with a slight exertion in favor of Christianity, others might be induced to lay aside this barbarous custom.

With respect to the dialects, though the difference is considerable, they are evidently derived from a common source; but it is remarkable that some words in the Millanow and Kayan are similar to the Bugis and Badjow language. This intermixture of dialects, which can be linked together, appears to be more conclusive of the common origin of the wild tribes and civilized nations of the Archipelago than most other arguments; and if Marsden's position be correct (which there can be little or no reason to doubt), that the Polynesian is an original race with an original language, [25] it must likewise be conceded that the wild tribes represent the primitive state of society in these islands.

We know little of the wild tribes of Celebes beyond their general resemblance to the Kayans of the east coast of Borneo; and it is probable that the Kayans are the people of Celebes, who crossing the Strait of Makassar, have in time by their superior prowess possessed themselves of the country of the Dyaks. Mr. Brooke (from whom I am copying this sketch) is led to entertain this opinion from a slight resemblance in their dialects with those used in Celebes, from the difference in so many of their customs from those of the Dyaks, and from the Kayans of the northwest coast of Borneo having one custom in common with the wild tribe of Minkoka in the Bay of Boni. Both the Kayans and Minkokas on the death of a relative seek for a head; and on the death of their chief many human heads must be procured: which practice is unknown to the Dyak. It may further be remarked, that their probable immigration from Celebes is supported by the statement of the Millanows, that the Murut and Dyak give place to the Kayan whenever they come in contact, and that the latter people have depopulated large tracts in the interior, which were once occupied by the former.

Having thus briefly noticed the different wild people of the island, I proceed with the more particular task of describing the Dyak Darrats.

The locality of these Dyaks may be marked as follows:—The Pontiana river, from its mouth, is traced into the interior toward the northward and westward, until it approaches at the farthest within 100 miles of the northwest coast; a line drawn in latitude 3 deg. N. till it intersects the course of the Pontiana river will point out the limit of the country inhabited by the Dyak. Within this inconsiderable portion of the island, which includes Sambas, Landak, Pontiana, Sangow, Sarawak, &c., are numerous tribes, all of which agree in their leading customs, and make use of nearly the same dialect. Personally (writes our sole authority for any intelligence respecting them), I am acquainted only with the tribes of Sarawak and some tribes further in the interior beyond the government of the Malays, who inhabit the country between Sarawak and Landak; and the description of one tribe will serve as a description of all, so little do they vary.

Before, however, I say anything of the character of the Dyaks, or their temper, it will be necessary to describe briefly the government under which they live, and the influence it has upon them; and if afterward in the recital there appear some unamiable points in their character, an allowance will be made for their failings, which those who rule them would not deserve.

The Dyaks have from time immemorial been looked upon as the bondsmen of the Malays, and the rajahs consider them much in the same light as they would a drove of oxen—i. e. as personal and disposable property. They were governed in Sarawak by three local officers, called the Patingi, the Bandar, and the Tumangong. To the Patingi they paid a small yearly revenue of rice, but this deficiency of revenue was made up by sending them a quantity of goods—chiefly salt, Dyak cloths, and iron—and demanding a price for them six or eight times more than their value. The produce collected by the Dyaks was also monopolized, and the edible birds'-nests, bees-wax, &c. &c. were taken at a price fixed by the Patingi, who moreover claimed mats, fowls, fruits, and every other necessary at his pleasure, and could likewise make the Dyaks work for him for merely a nominal remuneration. This system, not badly devised, had it been limited within the bounds of moderation, would have left the Dyaks plenty for all their wants; or had the local officers known their own interest, they would have protected those upon whom they depended for revenue, and under the worst oppression of one man the Dyaks would have deemed themselves happy. Such unfortunately was not the case; for the love of immediate gain overcame every other consideration, and by degrees old-established customs were thrown aside, and new ones substituted in their place. When the Patingi had received all he thought proper to extort, his relatives first claimed the right of arbitrary trade, and gradually it was extended as the privilege of every respectable person in the country to serra [26] the Dyaks. The poor Dyak, thus at the mercy of half the Malay population, was never allowed to refuse compliance with these demands; he could plead neither poverty, inability, nor even hunger, as an excuse, for the answer was ever ready: "Give me your wife or one of your children;" and in case he could not supply what was required, the wife or the child was taken, and became a slave. Many modes of extortion were resorted to; a favorite one was convicting the Dyak of a fault and imposing a fine upon him. Some ingenuity and much trickery were shown in this game, and new offences were invented as soon as the old pleas would serve no longer; for instance, if a Malay met a Dyak in a boat which pleased him, he notched it, as a token that it was his property; in one day, if the boat was a new one, perhaps three or more would place their marks on it; and as only one could get it, the Dyak to whom the boat really belonged had to pay the others for his fault. This, however, was only "a fault;" whereas, for a Dyak to injure a Malay, directly or indirectly, purposely or otherwise, was a high offence, and punished by a proportionate fine. If a Dyak's house was in bad repair, and a Malay fell in consequence and was hurt, or pretended to be hurt, a fine was imposed; if a Malay in the jungle was wounded by the springs set for a wild boar, or by the wooden spikes which the Dyaks for protection put about their village, or scratched himself and said he was injured, the penalty was heavy; if the Malay was really hurt, ever so accidentally, it was the ruin of the Dyak. And these numerous and uninvited guests came and went at pleasure, lived in free quarters, made their requisitions, and then forced the Dyak to carry away for them the very property of which he had been robbed.

This is a fair picture of the governments under which the Dyaks live; and although they were often roused to resistance, it was always fruitless, and only involved them in deeper troubles; for the Malays could quickly gather a large force of sea Dyaks from Sakarran, who were readily attracted by hope of plunder, and who, supported by the fire-arms of their allies, were certain to overcome any single tribe that held out. The misfortunes of the Dyaks of Sarawak did not stop here. Antimony ore was discovered; the cupidity of the Borneons was roused; then Pangerans struggled for the prize; intrigues and dissensions ensued; and the inhabitants of Sarawak in turn felt the very evil they had inflicted on the Dyaks; while the Dyaks were compelled, amid their other wrongs, to labor at the ore without any recompense, and to the neglect of their rice-cultivation. Many died in consequence of this compulsory labor, so contrary to their habits and inclinations; and more would doubtless have fallen victims, had not civil war rescued them from this evil, to inflict upon them others a thousand times worse.

Extortion had before been carried on by individuals, but now it was systematized; and Pangerans of rank, for the sake of plunder, sent bodies of Malays and Sakarran Dyaks to attack the different tribes. The men were slaughtered, the women and children carried off into slavery, the villages burned, the fruit-trees cut down, [27] and all their property destroyed or seized.

The Dyaks could no longer live in tribes, but sought refuge in the mountains or the jungle, a few together; and as one of them pathetically described it—"We do not live," he said, "like men; we are like monkeys; we are hunted from place to place; we have no houses; and when we light a fire, we fear the smoke will draw our enemies upon us."

In the course of ten years, under the circumstances detailed—from enforced labor, from famine, from slavery, from sickness, from the sword—one half of the Dyak population [28] disappeared; and the work of extirpation would have gone on at an accelerated pace, had the remnant been left to the tender mercies of the Pangerans; but chance (we may much more truly say Providence) led our countryman Mr. Brooke to this scene of misery, and enabled him, by circumstances far removed beyond the grounds of calculation, to put a stop to the sufferings of an amiable people.

There are twenty tribes in Sarawak, on about fifty square miles of land. The appearance of the Dyaks is prepossessing: they have good-natured faces, with a mild and subdued expression; eyes set far apart, and features sometimes well formed. In person they are active, of middling height, and not distinguishable from the Malays in complexion. The women are neither so good-looking nor well-formed as the men, but they have the same expression, and are cheerful and kind-tempered. The dress of the men consists of a piece of cloth about fifteen feet long, passed between the legs and fastened round the loins, with the ends hanging before and behind; the head-dress is composed of bark-cloth, dyed bright yellow, and stuck up in front so as to resemble a tuft of feathers. The arms and legs are often ornamented with rings of silver, brass, or shell; and necklaces are worn, made of human teeth, or those of bears or dogs, or of white beads, in such numerous strings as to conceal the throat. A sword on one side, a knife and small betel-basket on the other, complete the ordinary equipment of the males; but when they travel they carry a basket slung from the forehead, on which is a palm-mat, to protect the owner and his property from the weather. The women wear a short and scanty petticoat, reaching from the loins to the knees, and a pair of black bamboo stays, which are never removed except the wearer be enceinte. They have rings of brass or red bamboo about the loins, and sometimes ornaments on the arms; the hair is worn long; the ears of both sexes are pierced, and earrings of brass inserted occasionally; the teeth of the young people are sometimes filed to a point and discolored, as they say that "Dogs have white teeth." They frequently dye their feet and hands of a bright red or yellow color; and the young people, like those of other countries, affect a degree of finery and foppishness, while the elders invariably lay aside all ornaments, as unfit for a wise person or one advanced in years.

In character the Dyak is mild and tractable, hospitable when he is well used, grateful for kindness, industrious, honest, and simple; neither treacherous nor cunning, and so truthful that the word of one of them might safely be taken before the oath of half-a-dozen Borneons. In their dealings they are very straightforward and correct, and so trustworthy that they rarely attempt, even after a lapse of years, to evade payment of a just debt. On the reverse of this picture there is little unfavorable to be said; and the wonder is, they have learned so little deceit or falsehood where the examples before them have been so rife. The temper of the Dyak inclines to be sullen; and they oppose a dogged and stupid obstinacy when set to a task which displeases them, and support with immovable apathy torrents of abuse or entreaty. They are likewise distrustful, fickle, apt to be led away, and evasive in concealing the amount of their property; but these are the vices rather of situation than of character, for they have been taught by bitter experience that their rulers set no limits to their exactions, and that hiding is their only chance of retaining a portion of the grain they have raised. They are, at the same time, fully aware of the customs by which their ancestors were governed, and are constantly appealing to them as a rule of right, and frequently arguing with the Malay on the subject. Upon these occasions they are silenced, but not convinced; and the Malay, while he evades or bullies when it is needful, is sure to appeal to these very much-abused customs whenever it serves his purpose. The manners of the Dyaks with strangers are reserved to an extent rarely seen among rude or half-civilized people; but on a better acquaintance (which is not readily acquired), they are open and talkative, and, when heated with their favorite beverage, lively, and evincing more shrewdness and observation than they have gained credit for possessing. Their ideas, as may well be supposed, are very limited; they reckon with their fingers and toes, and few are clever enough to count beyond twenty; but when they repeat the operation, they record each twenty by making a knot on a string.

Like other wild people, the slightest restraint is irksome, and no temptation will induce them to stay long from their favorite jungle. It is there they seek the excitement of war, the pleasures of the chase, the labors of the field, and the abundance of fruit in the rich produce which assists in supporting their families. The pathless jungle is endeared to them by every association which influences the human mind, and they languish when prevented from roaming there as inclination dictates.

With reference to the gradual advance of the Dyaks, Mr. Brooke observes in an early part of his journal:—"The peaceful and gentle aborigines—how can I speak too favorably of their improved condition? These people, who, a few years since, suffered every extreme of misery from war, slavery, and starvation, are now comfortably lodged, and comparatively rich. A stranger might now pass from village to village, and he would receive their hospitality, and see their padi stored in their houses. He would hear them proclaim their happiness, and praise the white man as their friend and protector. Since the death of Parembam, no Dyak of Sarawak lost his life by violence, until a month since, when two were cut off by the Sakarran Dyaks. None of the tribes have warred among themselves; and I believe their war excursions to a distance in the interior have been very few, and those undertaken by the Sarambos. What punishment is sufficient for the wretch who finds this state of things so baleful as to attempt to destroy it? Yet such a wretch is Seriff Sahib. In describing the condition of the Dyaks, I do not say that it is perfect, or that it may not be still further improved; but with people in their state of society innovations ought not rashly or hastily to be made; as the civilized being ought constantly to bear in mind, that what is clear to him is not clear to a savage; that intended benefits may be regarded as positive injuries; and that his motives are not, and scarcely can be, appreciated! The greatest evil, perhaps, from which the Dyaks suffer, is the influence of the Datus or chiefs; but this influence is never carried to oppression, and is only used to obtain the expensive luxury of 'birds'-nests' at a cheap rate. In short, the Dyaks are happy and content; and their gradual development must now be left to the work of time, aided by the gentlest persuasion, and advanced (if attainable) by the education of their children."

The latest accounts from Sarawak describe the increasing prosperity of that interesting settlement. Among other recent intelligence I have heard from Mr. Brooke that Seriff Sahib died of a broken heart, shortly after his arrival at the Pontiana river.


Proposed British settlement on the northwest coast of Borneo, and occupation of the island of Labuan.—Governor Crawfurd's opinions thereon.

The establishment of a British settlement on the northwest coast of Borneo, and the occupation of the island of Labuan, are measures that have for some time past been under consideration by her majesty's government; and I am courteously enabled to lay before my readers the valuable opinions of Mr. Crawfurd (late Governor of Singapore) on this subject:

"I am of opinion (Mr. Crawfurd writes) that a settlement on the northwest coast of Borneo—that is, at a convenient point on the southern shore of the China Sea—would be highly advantageous to this country, as a coal depot for steam navigation; as a means of suppressing Malayan piracy; as a harbor of refuge for ships disabled in the China Sea; and finally, as a commanding position during a naval war.

"The island of Labuan has been pointed out for this purpose; and as far as our present limited knowledge of it will allow me to judge, it appears to possess all the necessary qualities for such a settlement.

"The requisite properties are, salubrity of climate, a good harbor, a position in the track of steam-navigation, conveniency of position for ships disabled in typhoons, conveniency of position for our cruisers during war, and a locality strong and circumscribed by nature, so as to be readily capable of cheap defence.

"Labuan lies in about 6 deg. of north latitude, and consequently the average heat will be about 83 deg. of Fahrenheit; the utmost range of the thermometer will not exceed ten degrees. In short, the year is a perpetual hot summer. It is, at the same time, well ventilated by both monsoons; and being near twenty miles from the marshy shores of the Borneo river, there is little ground to apprehend that it will be found unhealthy, even if those shores themselves had been ascertained to be so, which, however, is not the case; for, in proof of their salubrity, it may be stated, that the town of Borneo is healthy, although it stands, and has stood for centuries, on the flooded banks of the river; the houses being built on posts, and chiefly accessible by boat.

"With respect to harbor, a most essential point, I do not perceive that the island is indented by any bay or inlet that would answer the purpose of one. [29] The channel, however, which lies between it and the mainland of Borneo is but seven miles broad, and will probably constitute a spacious and convenient harbor. The name of the island itself, which means anchorage, I have no doubt is derived from the place affording shelter to native shipping, and those probably, in most cases, fleets of pirate prahus. This channel is again further restricted by four islets, and these, with four more lying to the southwest, will afford shelter in the southwest or mild monsoon; protection is given in the northeast, the severest monsoon, by Labuan itself: and I may add, that the island is, by four degrees of latitude, beyond the extreme southern limit of the typhoons of the Chinese Sea.

"In the channel between Labuan and the main, or rather between Labuan and the islets already mentioned, the soundings on the Admiralty chart show that vessels drawing as much as eighteen feet water may anchor within a mile of the shore, and the largest vessels within a mile and a half; a convenience for shipping which greatly exceeds that of Singapore. One of the advantages of Labuan will be that it will prove a port of refuge for shipping disabled in the storms of the Chinese Seas. Many examples, indeed some of recent occurrence, might be adduced to show the need there is of such a port.

"Labuan lies nearly in the direct track both of steam and sailing navigation from India to China, during the northeast, the worst and severest of the two monsoons; and is as intermediate a position between Singapore and Hong Kong as can be found, being 700 miles from the former and 1000 from the latter.

"The insular character and narrow limits of Labuan will make it easily and cheaply defensible. The extreme length of the island appears to be about six miles, its greatest breadth about four and a half, and probably its whole area will not be found to exceed thirty square miles.

"From the rude tribes of the immediate vicinity no hostile attack is to be apprehended that would make the present erection of forts or batteries necessary. No Asiatic enemy is at any time to be feared that would make such defences requisite. In five-and-twenty years it has not been found imperative to have recourse to them at Singapore. It is only in case of war with a naval power that fortifications would be required; but I am not informed what local advantages Labuan possesses for their erection. A principal object of such fortifications would be the defence of the shipping in the harbor from the inroads of an enemy's cruisers. At one point the soundings, as given in the Admiralty chart, are stated nine fathoms, within three quarters of a mile of the shore; and I presume that batteries within this distance would afford protection to the largest class of merchantmen. In Singapore Roads no class of shipping above mere native craft can lie nearer than two miles of the shore; so that in a war with a European naval power, the merchant shipping there can only be defended by her majesty's navy.

"One of the most striking national advantages to be expected from the possession of Labuan would consist in its use in defending our own commerce, and attacking that of opponents, in the event of a naval war. Between the eastern extremity of the Straits of Malacca and Hong Kong, a distance of 1700 miles, there is no British harbor, and no safe and accessible port of refuge; Hong Kong is, indeed, the only spot within the wide limits of the Chinese Sea for such a purpose, although our legitimate commercial intercourse within it extends over a length of 2000 miles. Everywhere else, Manilla and the newly opened ports of China excepted, our crippled vessels or our merchantmen pursued by the enemy's cruisers, are met by the exclusion or extortion of semi-barbarous nations, or in danger of falling into the power of robbers and savages.

"Labuan fortified, and supposing the Borneon coal to be as productive and valuable in quality as it is represented, would give Great Britain in a naval war the entire command of the China Sea. This would be the result of our possessing or commanding the only available supply of coal, that of Bengal and Australia excepted, to be found in the wide limits which extend east of the continents of Europe and America.

"The position of Labuan will render it the most convenient possible for the suppressing of piracy. The most desperate and active pirates of the whole Indian Archipelago are the tribes of the Sooloo group of islands lying close to the north shore of Borneo, and the people of the north and northeastern coast of Borneo itself; these have of late years proved extremely troublesome both to the English and Dutch traders; both nations are bound by the Convention of 1824 to use their best endeavors for the suppression of piracy, and many efforts have certainly been made for this purpose, although as yet without material effect in diminishing the evil.

"From Labuan, these pirates might certainly be intercepted by armed steamers far more conveniently and cheaply than from any other position that could be easily pointed out: indeed, the very existence of a British settlement would tend to the suppression of piracy.

"As a commercial depot, Labuan would have considerable advantages by position; the native trade of the vicinity would of course resort to it, and so would that of the north coast of Borneo, of the Sooloo Islands, and of a considerable portion of the Spice Islands. Even for the trade of the Philippines and China, it would have the advantage over Singapore of a voyage by 700 miles shorter; a matter of most material consequence to native commerce.

"With all the countries of the neighborhood lying west of Labuan I presume that a communication across both monsoons might be maintained throughout the year. This would include a portion of the east coast of the Malay peninsula, Siam, and part of Cochin China.

"Labuan belongs to that portion of the coast of Borneo which is the rudest. The Borneons themselves are of the Malay nation, originally emigrants from Sumatra, and settled here for about six centuries. They are the most distant from their original seat of all the colonies which have sprung from this nation. The people from the interior differ from them in language, manners, and religion, and are divided into tribes as numerous and as rude as the Americans when first seen by Europeans.

"From such a people we are not to expect any valuable products of art or manufacture, for a British mercantile depot. Pepper is, however, produced in considerable quantity, and the products of the forests are very various, as bees-wax, gum-benjamin, fine camphor, camphor oil, esculent swallows' nests, canes and rattans, which used to form the staple articles of Borneon import into Singapore. The Borneon territory opposite to Labuan abounds also, I believe, in the palm which yields sago, and indeed the chief part of the manufactured article was thirty years ago brought from this country. The Chinese settlers would, no doubt, as in Singapore and Malacca, establish factories for its preparation according to the improved processes which they now practice at those places.

"There may be reason to expect, however, that the timber of the portion of Borneo referred to may be found of value for ship-building; for Mr. Dalrymple states that in his time, above seventy years ago, Chinese junks of 500 tons burden used to be built in the river of Borneo. As to timber well-suited for boats and house-building, it is hardly necessary to add that the northwest coast of Borneo, in common with almost every other part of the Archipelago, contains a supply amounting to superfluity.

"I may take this opportunity of stating, as evidence of the conveniency of this portion of Borneo for a commercial intercourse with China, that down to within the last half century a considerable number of Chinese junks were engaged in trading regularly with Borneo, and that trade ceased only when the native government became too bad and weak to afford it protection. Without the least doubt this trade would again spring up on the erection of the British flag at Labuan. Not a single Chinese junk had resorted to the Straits of Malacca before the establishment of Singapore, and their number is now, of one size or another, and exclusive of the junks of Siam and Cochin China, not less than 100.

"From the cultivation of the land I should not be disposed to expect anything beyond the production of fresh fruits and esculent vegetables, and when the land is cleared, of grass for pasture. The seas in this part of the world are prolific in fish of great variety and great excellence; and the Chinese settlers are found everywhere skillful and industrious in taking them.

"Some difficulty will, in the beginning, be experienced with respect to milk, butter, and fresh meat: this was the case at first in Singapore, but the difficulty has in a good measure been overcome. The countries of the Archipelago are generally not suited to pasture, and it is only in a few of them that the ox and buffalo are abundant. The sheep is so nowhere, and for the most part is wanting altogether; cattle, therefore, must be imported.

"As to corn, it will unquestionably be found far cheaper to import than to raise it. Rice will be the chief bread-corn, and will come in great abundance and cheapness from Siam and Cochin China. No country within 700 miles of Singapore is abundant in corn, and none is grown in the island: yet from the first establishment of the settlement to the present time, corn has been both cheap and abundant, there has been wonderfully little fluctuation, there are always stocks, and for many years a considerable exportation. A variety of pulses, vegetable oil, and culinary salt, will be derived from the same countries, as is now done in abundance by Singapore.

"The mines of antimony are 300 miles to the southwest of Labuan, and those of gold on the west and the south coasts; and I am not aware that any mineral wealth has been discovered in the portion of Borneo immediately connected with Labuan, except that of coal—far more important and valuable, indeed, than gold or antimony. The existence of a coal-field has been traced from Labuan to the islands of Kayn-arang—which words, in fact, mean coal island—to the island of Chermin, and from thence to the mainland over a distance of thirty miles. With respect to the coal of Labuan itself, I find no distinct statement beyond the simple fact of the existence of the mineral; but the coal of the two islands in the river, and of the main, is proved to be—from analysis and trial in steam-navigation—superior to nearly all the coal which India has hitherto yielded, and equal to some of our best English coals. This is the more remarkable, as it is known that most surface-minerals, and especially coals, are inferior to the portions of the same veins or beds more deep-seated.

"Nearly as early as the British flag is erected, and, at all events, as soon as it is permanently known to be so, there may be reckoned upon with certainty a large influx of settlers. The best and most numerous of these will be the Chinese. They were settled on the Borneo river when the Borneo government, never very good, or otherwise than comparatively violent and disorderly, was most endurable.

"Borneo is, of all the great islands of the western portion of the Archipelago, the nearest to China, and Labuan and its neighborhood the nearest point of this island. The distance of Hong Kong is about 1000 miles, and that of the island of Hainan, a great place for emigration, not above 800; distances which to the Chinese junks—fast sailers before the strong and favorable winds of the monsoons—do not make voyages exceeding four or five days. The coasts of the provinces of Canton and Fokien have hitherto been the great hives from which Chinese emigration has proceeded; and even Fokien is not above 1400 miles from Labuan, a voyage of seven or eight days. Chinese trade and immigration will come together. The northwest coast of Borneo produces an unusual supply of those raw articles for which there is always a demand in the markets of China; and Labuan, it may be reckoned upon with certainty, will soon become the seat of a larger trade with China than the river of Borneo ever possessed.

"I by no means anticipate the same amount of rapid advance in population, commerce, or financial resources for Labuan, that has distinguished the history of Singapore, a far more centrical position for general commerce; still I think its prospect of success undoubted; while it will have some advantages which Singapore cannot, from its nature, possess. Its coal-mines, and the command of the coal-fields on the river of Borneo, are the most remarkable of these; and its superiority as a post-office [30] station necessarily follows. Then it is far more convenient as a port of refuge; and, as far as our present knowledge will enable us to judge, infinitely more valuable for military purposes, more especially for affording protection to the commerce which passes through the Chinese Sea, amounting at present to probably not less than 300,000 tons of shipping, carrying cargoes certainly not under the value of 15,000,000l. sterling.

"Labuan ought, like Singapore, to be a free port; and assuredly will not prosper if it is not. Its revenue should not be derived from customs, but, as in that settlement, from excise duties: upon the nature of these, as it is well known, it is unnecessary to enlarge. They covered during my time, near twenty years ago, and within five years of the establishment of the settlement, the whole charges of a small but sufficient garrison (100 Sepoys), and a moderate but competent civil establishment.

"The military and civil establishments have been greatly increased of late years; but the revenue, still in its nature the same, has kept pace with them. During my administration of Singapore, the municipal charges fell on the general fund; but they are at present amply provided for from a distinct source, chiefly an assessment on house-property.

"If the military and civil charges of Labuan are kept within moderate bounds, I make no doubt but that a similar excise revenue will be adequate to cover the charges of both, and that in peace at least the state need not be called on to make any disbursement on its account; while during a naval war, if the state make any expenditure, it will be fully compensated by the additional security which the settlement will afford to British commerce, and the annoyance it will cause to the enemy.

"As to the disposal of the land, always a difficult question in a new and unoccupied colony, the result of my own inquiries and personal experience lead me to offer it as my decided conviction that the most expedient plan—that which is least troublesome to the government, most satisfactory to the settler, and ultimately most conducive to the public prosperity—is to dispose of it for a term of years, that is, on long leases of 1000 years, or virtually in perpetuity; the object in this case of adopting the leasehold tenure being, by making the land a chattel interest, to get rid of the difficulties in the matter of inheritance and transfer, which, under the administration of English law, and in reference more particularly to the Asiatic people who will be the principal landowners, are incident to real property. Town allotments might be sold subject to a considerable quit-rent, but allotments in the country for one entirely nominal. Those of the latter description should be small, proportionate with the extent of the island, and the time and difficulty required in such a climate to clear the land, now overgrown for the most part with a stupendous forest of evergreen trees, and the wood of which is too abundant to be of any value, certainly for the most part not worth the land-carriage of a couple of furlongs.

"A charter for the administration of justice should be as nearly as possible contemporaneous with the cession. Great inconvenience has resulted in all our Eastern settlements of the same nature with that speculated on at Labuan, from the want of all legal provision for the administration of justice; and remembering this, it ought to be guarded against in the case of Labuan.

"Whether in preparing for the establishment of a British settlement on the coast of Borneo, or in actually making one, her majesty's ministers, I am satisfied, will advert to the merits and peculiar qualifications of Mr. Brooke. That gentleman is unknown to me, except by his acts and writings; but, judging by these, I consider him as possessing all the qualities which have distinguished the successful founders of new colonies; intrepidity, firmness, and enthusiasm, with the art of governing and leading the masses. He possesses some, moreover, which have not always belonged to such men, however otherwise distinguished; a knowledge of the language, manners, customs, and institutions of the natives by whom the colony is to be surrounded; with benevolence and an independent fortune, things still more unusual with the projectors of colonies. Toward the formation of a new colony, indeed, the available services of such a man, presuming they are available, may be considered a piece of good fortune."


[First Edition.]

The recent proceedings of Government in following up the impression made upon Malay piracy, as related in these pages; the appointment of Mr. Brooke as British Agent in Borneo, armed with the moral and physical power of his country; the cession of the island of Labuan to the British crown; and the great advance already made by the English ruler of Sarawak, in laying broad foundations for native prosperity, while extending general security and commerce; all combine to add an interest to the early individual steps which have led to measures of so much national consequence.

Deeply as I felt the influence of that individual on the condition of Borneo, and the Malayan Archipelago generally, while employed there, and much as I anticipated from his energetic character, extraordinary exertions, and enlarged views for the future, I confess that my expectations have been greatly increased by the progress of events since that period. It needed nothing to confirm my faith in the results that were sure to follow from his enlightened acts—from his prudence and humanity in the treatment of his Dyak subjects, and the neighboring and interior independent tribes—from his firm resistance to the Malay tyranny exercised upon the aborigines, and his punishment of Malay aggression, wherever perpetrated. But when I see these elements of good wisely seconded by the highest authorities of England, I cannot but look for the consummation of every benefit desired, much more rapidly and effectively than if left to the efforts of a private person, even though that person were a Brooke! If the appearance of H.M.S. Dido on the coast and at Sarawak produced a salutary effect upon all our relations with the inhabitants, it may well be presumed that the mission of Captain Bethune, and the expedition under Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, must have greatly improved and extended that wholesome state of affairs. Indeed, it is evident, by the complete success which attended Mr. Brooke's official visit to Borneo Proper in H.M.S. Driver, after receiving dispatches from Lord Aberdeen appointing him British agent in the island, carried out by Captain Bethune in November, 1844, that the presence of a British force in those seas was alone necessary to enable him to suppress piracy, and perfect his plans for the establishment of a native government which should not oppress the country, and which should cultivate the most friendly intercourse with us. Thus we find the piratical Pangeran Usop put down, and Muda Hassim exercising the sovereign power in the name of his imbecile nephew, who still retains the title of sultan. The principal chiefs, and men distinguished by talent and some acquaintance with foreign affairs, are now on our side; and it only requires to support them in order that civilization may rapidly spread over the land, and Borneo become again, as it was one or two centuries ago, the abode of an industrious, rich, pacific, and mercantile people, interchanging products with all the trading nations of the world, and conferring and reaping those blessings which follow in the train of just and honorable trade wheresoever its enterprising spirit leads in the pursuit of honest gain. As the vain search for the philosopher's stone conducted to many a useful and valuable discovery, so may we be assured that the real seeking for gold through the profitable medium of commerce has been, is, and will be the grand source of filling the earth with comfort and happiness.

Among the numerous visions of this kind which open to our sense while reflecting on the new prospects of this vast island—so little known, yet known to possess almost unbounded means to invite and return commercial activity—is the contemplation of the field it presents to missionary labors. When we read Mr. Brooke's description of the aboriginal Dyak, and observe what he has himself done in one locality within the space of four or five short years, what may we not expect to be accomplished by the zeal of Christian missions judiciously directed to reclaim such a people from utter barbarism, and induce them to become true members of a faith which teaches forbearance and charity between man and man, and inculcates, with the love and hope of heaven, an abhorrence of despotism and blood, and a disposition to live in good-will and peace with all our fellow-creatures? There are here no prejudices of caste, as in India, to impede the missionaries' progress. Mr. Brooke has pointed out what may be effected in this way, and we have only to say amen to his prayer, with an earnest aspiration that it may be speedily fulfilled.

Having enjoyed the pleasure of communicating to the public this satisfactory description of the status quo in Borneo to the latest period (September, 1845), I venture to congratulate them upon it. Thus far all is well and as it should be, and promising the happiest issue; but I hope I may not be charged with presumption in offering an opinion from my experience in this quarter, and respectfully suggesting that, in addition to a permanent British settlement at Labuan, it will be absolutely necessary to proceed with the suppression of Malay piracy, by steadily acting against every pirate-hold. Without a continued and determined series of operations of this sort, it is my conviction that even the most sanguinary and fatal onslaughts will achieve nothing beyond a present and temporary good. The impression on the native mind is not sufficiently lasting: their old impulses and habits return with fresh force; they forget their heavy retribution; and in two or three years the memory of them is almost entirely effaced. Till piracy be completely suppressed there must be no relaxation; and well worth the perseverance is the end in view, the welfare of one of the richest and most improvable portions of the globe, and the incalculable extension of the blessings of Britain's prosperous commerce and humanizing dominion.

In looking forward to the certain realization of these prospects, I may mention the important circumstance of the discovery of coal in abundance for the purposes of steam navigation. The surveys already made afford assurances of this fact, and the requisite arrangements are in progress for opening and working the mines. It is generally known that the Dutch assert very wide pretensions to colonies and monopolies in those seas. A treaty has been concluded between the Netherlands government and England; and although that important document contains no reference whatever to Borneo, it is most desirable for the general extension of commerce that no national jealousies, no ideas of conflicting interests, no encroaching and ambitious projects, may be allowed to interfere with or prevent the beneficial progress of this important region. With such a man as Mr. Brooke to advise the course most becoming, disinterested, and humane for the British empire to pursue, it is not too much to say that, if the well-being of these races of our fellow-creatures is defeated or postponed, the crime will not lie at our door. The sacrifices we have made to extinguish slavery throughout the world are a sure and unquestionable pledge that we will do our utmost to extirpate the horrid traffic in those parts, and to uproot the system of piracy that feeds it. It is the bounden duty of both Holland and Great Britain to unite cordially in this righteous cause. The cry of nature is addressed to them; and if rejected, as surely as there is justice and mercy in the Providence which overrules the fate of nations, no blessing will prosper them, but wealth, and dominion, and happiness will pass away from them forever. Mr. Brooke invokes their cooeperation, and his noble appeal cannot be withstood.

The central position of Labuan is truly remarkable. That island is distant from

Hong Kong 1009 miles. Singapore 707 " Siam 984 " Manilla 650 "

On the other hand, Mr. Brooke's territory of Sarawak is distant from

Singapore 427 miles. Labuan 304 " Hong Kong 1199 "

How direct and central are these valuable possessions for the universal trade of the East!


June 6th, 1846.

In the foregoing remarks with which I closed the first edition of this book, I ventured to congratulate the public on the cheerful aspect of affairs in Borneo at the latest period of which accounts had then reached me. I could then say, with a joyful heart, "Thus far all is well and as it should be, and promising the happiest issue." But now I must write in a different strain. The mischiefs I pointed out above as likely to ensue from a desultory and intermittent mode of dealing with Malay piracy have revealed themselves even sooner and in a more formidable manner than I had anticipated. The weak and covetous sultan of Borneo has, with more than the usual fickleness of Asiatics, already forgotten the lessons we gave him and the engagements he solemnly and voluntarily contracted with us. Mr. Brooke's faithful friends, Muda Hassim and the Pangeran Budrudeen, with numbers of their families and retainers, have been basely murdered by their treacherous kinsman, because of their attachment to the English and their unswerving determination to put down piracy; and what is worst of all, Mr. Brooke's arch-enemy, the subtle and indefatigable villain Macota, the man whose accursed head was thrice saved by my too-generous friend, has now returned triumphantly to the scene of his former crimes, and is commissioned by the sultan to take Mr. Brooke's life by poison, or by any other of those treacherous arts in which there is no more consummate adept than Macota. I could trust securely to Mr. Brooke's gallantry and skill for the protection of his life against the attacks of open foes; and my only fears arise when I reflect on his utter insensibility to danger, and think how the admirable qualities of his own guileless, confiding nature may facilitate the designs of his enemies.

H.M.S. Hazard, from Hong Kong, having touched at Bruni about the end of March last, was boarded by a native, who gave the captain such information as induced him to sail with all speed for Sarawak; and there this man made the following deposition:—

Japper, a native of Bruni, deposes that he was sent aboard H.M.S. Hazard by the Pangeran Muda Mahomed, to warn the captain against treachery, and to communicate the following details to Mr. Brooke at Sarawak.

The Rajah Muda Hassim was raised by the sultan to the title of Sultan Muda (or young sultan), and, together with his brothers and followers, was living in security, when he was attacked by orders of the sultan at night, and together with thirteen of his family, killed in different places. Four brothers, viz. Pangeran Muda Mahomed, Pangeran Abdul Kader, Pangeran Abdulraman, and Pangeran Mesahat, together with several young children of the Rajah Muda Hassim, alone survive. The deponent Japper was in attendance on his lord, the Pangeran Budrudeen, at the time of the attack. The Pangeran, though surprised by his enemies, fought for some time, and when desperately wounded, retired outside his house with his sister and another woman named Koor Salem. The deponent was there and was wounded, as were both the women. The Pangeran Budrudeen ordered deponent to open a keg or cask of gunpowder, which he did; and the last thing his lord did was to take his ring from his finger and desire the deponent to carry it to Mr. Brooke; to bid Mr. Brooke not to forget him, and not to forget to lay his case before the Queen of England. The deponent then quitted his lord, who was with the two women, and immediately after his lord fired the powder, and the three were blown up. The deponent escaped with difficulty; and a few days afterward, the ring intrusted to his charge, was taken from him by the sultan. The sultan, and those with him, killed the Rajah Muda Hassim and his family, because he was the friend of the English and wanted to suppress piracy. The sultan has now built forts and defied the English. He talked openly of cutting out any vessel that arrived; and two Pangerans went down, bearing the flag of the Rajah Muda Hassim, to look at the vessel, and to kill the captain if they could get him ashore. The deponent had great difficulty in getting to the ship; and should his flight be discovered, he considers the lives of the surviving portion of the Rajah Muda Hassim's family will be in danger. The deponent did what he was ordered, and what his late lord, the Pangeran Budrudeen, desired him to do. The sultan had a man ready to send, named Nakoda Kolala, to Kaluka, to request that Pangeran Macota would kill Mr. Brooke by treachery or poison.

(Signed) J. Brooke.

Having put Mr. Brooke on his guard, the Hazard proceeded to Singapore, whence the H.E.I.C. war-steamer Phlegethon would be immediately dispatched to Sarawak.

H h

Suggestions for Accelerating the Communication Between Great Britain and China.

- - - - - - - Average Interval Interval Rate under at Total Proposed Route from per Weigh. Anchor. Interval. Hong Kong to London, Distance, Hour, and vice versa. Course. Miles. Miles. D h D h D h Duties at Anchor. - - - + - + Hong Kong to Pulo Labuan S. 2 deg.18'E. 1009 7 6 1 12 7 12 To receive Coal.[A] Pulo Labuan to Singapore S. 69 23 W. 707 4 6 12 4 18 {To receive Coal, land and {receive Mails. Singapore to Malacca {S. 64 48 W. 19} 122 18 6 1 To land and receive Mails. {N. 51 41 W. 103} Malacca to Pinang N. 30 37 W. 222 1 8 16 2 (To receive Coal, land and receive Mails. Pinang to Ceylon [B] {N. 82 24 W. 303} 1219 7 6 2 12 8 18 Ditto Ditto {S. 80 45 W. 916) - - - - Ceylon to Aden { As now performed by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam } 11 { Navigation Co., detention of 2 days included } Aden to Suez Ditto Ditto 8 Suez to Alexandria Ditto all stoppages included 3 Alexandria to Malta Ditto Ditto 4 Malta to Marseilles As now performed by H.M. Post-Office Packets, ditto 4 Marseilles to London Ditto by regular course of Post ditto 5 Total Interval from Hong Kong to London, and vice versa, by the proposed Route. Days 59 Average interval of transmission of China Correspondance, via Calcutta and } Bombay, during the last Twenty Overland Mails, viz. from 10th October, 1841, } to 6th May, 1843 } 89 Difference of time in favor of proposed Route Days 30 -

KEY: D - Days. h - Hours.

Mem.—I have adopted an average rate of seven miles per hour as a fair estimate of the speed well-appointed Steam Vessels, of moderate size and power, will be enabled to accomplish and maintain, throughout the proposed Route, at all seasons of the year; for, during the whole distance from Pinang to Aden, and vice versa, neither monsoon, from the course steered, becomes at any period a directly adverse wind, an advantage which the route hitherto observed does not possess. Assuming that the Hon. East India Company continue the management of the Bombay line, and that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are encouraged to render their operations more comprehensive, by the establishment of branch steamers between Ceylon and Singapore, to which latter port her majesty's steam vessels on the China station could convey the mails from Hong Kong, this all-important object might, without difficulty, be attained. The advantages to the Straits settlements, consequent on the adoption of improved arrangements, require no comment; and the practicability of effecting a very considerable acceleration of the communication with China is evident from the simple fact that the average interval which has occurred in the transmission of letters from China, by the last twenty Overland Mails (irrespective of the unfortunate July mail from Bombay), exceeds the period occasionally occupied by fast-sailing ships, in accomplishing the voyage via the Cape of Good Hope.

London, 14th Sept. 1843. [33] HENRY WISE,

13, Austin Friars.

P.S.—Oct. 9th. The arrival at Suez on the 16th ult. of the H.C.S. Akbar, in forty-six days from Hong Kong, after accomplishing the passage down the China seas, against the S.W. monsoon—unassisted also by any previously arranged facilities for coaling, exchange of steamers at Aden, and other manifest advantages requisite for the proper execution of this important service, confirms the correctness of my estimate for performing the voyage from Hong Kong to Suez, or vice versa, viz. forty-three days, including stoppages.


No. I.


Mr. Brooke's Report on the Mias. (From the Transactions of the Zoological Society.)


My dear Sir:—Singapore, 25th March, 1841.

I am happy to announce the departure of five live ourang-outangs by the ship Martin Luther, Captain Swan; and I trust they will reach you alive. In case they die, I have directed Captain Swan to put them into spirits, that you may still have an opportunity of seeing them. The whole of the five are from Borneo: one large female adult from Sambas; two, with slight cheek-callosities, from Pontiana; a small male, without any sign of callosities, from Pontiana likewise; and the smallest of all, a very young male with callosities, from Sadung. I will shortly forward a fine collection of skulls and skeletons from the northwest coast of Borneo, either shot by myself or brought by the natives; and I beg you will do me the favor to present the live ourangs and this collection to the Zoological Society. I have made many inquiries and gained some information regarding these animals, and I can, beyond a doubt, prove the existence of two, if not three, distinct species in Borneo.

First, I will re-state the native account: secondly, give you my own observations; and thirdly, enter into a brief detail of the specimens hereafter to be forwarded.

1st. The natives of the northwest coast of Borneo are all positive as to the existence of two distinct species, which I formerly gave you by the names of the Mias pappan and Mias rombi; but I have since received information from a few natives of intelligence that there are three sorts, and what is vulgarly called the Mias rombi is in reality the Mias kassar, the rombi being a distinct and third species. The Mias pappan is the Simia Wurmbii of Mr. Owen, having callosities on the sides of the face: the natives treat with derision the idea of the Mias kassar, or Simia morio, being the female of the Mias pappan or Simia Wurmbii; and I consider the fact can be established so clearly that I will not trouble you with their statements: both Malays and Dyaks are positive that the female of the Mias pappan has cheek-callosities the same as the male; and if on inquiry it prove to be so, the existence of three distinct species in Borneo will be established. The existence of the Mias rombi is vouched by a few natives only, but they were men of intelligence, and well acquainted with the animals in the wild state. They represent the Mias rombi to be as tall as the pappan, or even taller, but not so stout, with longer hair, a smaller face, and no callosities either on the male or female; and they always insisted that it was not the female of the pappan.

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