Mary's View of S'pore - Vol 7, History

Mary's View of S'pore - Vol 7, History

Sorry, I've got some catching up to do. Hope it's not too boring!

Lesson #5 William Farquhar (farcar) 1774-1839

William joined the English East India Co. (EIC) -more about this later - in 1791. He was originally stationed in Madras, India. He made his way up through the ranks and was eventually made the Commandant/Resident of Malacca, Malaya. He was in this position from 1803-1818.

During his time in Malacca he became fluent in Malay. HIs efforts at understanding and utilizing local talent were greatly appreciated. In fact, he was unofficially given the title - "King of Malacca". He has been described as being kindly, placid, and unassuming. He was beloved and universally respected because he treated rich and poor alike. It was in 1807 that William and Raffles first met.

Farquhar was on the boat with Raffles when they landed on the island of Singapore in 1819. They were in search of a new EIC settlement. Raffles left Farquhar in charge of the new settlement with detailed instructions of how to administer it. Raffles' city plan envisioned separate living areas for each of the ethnic groups. Little or no socializing was to go on between the groups - business only.

Farquhar was the realist and Raffles was the idealist. Controversy was bound to develop between the two. Farquhar continued to administer in the way in which was so successful in Malacca. He was flexible in meeting local conditions and practical in solving problems. Raffles city plan was soon ignored. Europeans were allowed to build on land that was set aside for government purposes. Revenue farming was instituted which involved gambling and cock fighting. Raffles was not pleased. Farquhar was eventually dismissed.

However, Farquhar's accomplished were considerable. He established a road system, built a small reservoir, set up a police department, constructed defense works, and utilized "kapitans" from each ethnic group to help set up and explain the laws. It is a testament to his personality and charisma that about 5000 people followed him to Singapore from Malacca.

Farquhar had a "companion" during his stay in Asia with whom he sired 7 off-spring. After being dismissed from Singapore he returned to Scotland, married a Scottish lass and sired 7 more children!!! He had quite a following.

Lesson #6 East India Co. (EIC)

The English East India Co. was begun in 1600 by London merchants. There was a need to try to lessen the impact the Dutch were having on the spice trade. The English concentrated on India - no Dutch there - but needed a base for the China trade.

When news of the "acquisition" of Singapore reached London in Aug. 1819, it was met with shock and dismay. It was feared that this would jeopardize the Anglo/Dutch negotiations and might possibly lead to a war in Europe. This was averted by the Treaty of London (1824). The treaty stipulated that: 1) Dutch would cede Malacca to Britain, 2) Dutch would withdraw objections to British occupation of Singapore, 3) Dutch would have no settlements on the Malay peninsula, 4) British would not interfere on any of the islands south of Singapore Straits.

The British cemented their trade route to China by establishing the Straits Settlement in 1826 which included Penang, Malacca, and Singapore. The rest is history.

Lesson #7 Chinese Merchants

One of the long lasting effects of Farquhar's residency was the group of people who followed him to Singapore from Malacca. This group of people had a real impact on the development of Singapore.

Tan Tock Seng was a real "rags to riches" story. He began his life in Singapore by selling fruit, vegetables, and fowl as a hawker. Eventually he set up a shop along the river and through hard work and frugality made a lot of money by land speculation. He never forgot his humble beginnings. When poor Chinese could not afford to be buried, he paid for it He donated $7,000 towards building a hospital. The hospital, which bears his name, still stands today. He was appointed the first Chinese Justice of the Peace.

Tan Kim Seng (no relation) took over as leader of the Chinese community when Tan Tock Seng died. He didn't quite have the same humble beginnings. However, he carried on the same philanthropic tradition. He opened the Chinese Free School and donated $13,000 towards and water works which was eventually completed in 1879. Previously, in times of drought, a bucket of water would cost five cents. This was an exorbitant price for the common laborer to pay.

Of course, Tan Kim Seng enjoyed the "good life" too. There is a delightful description of a gala event when he opened his new godown in 1851. There was dancing from 8:00 to midnight and which time they were seated for a banquet. Dancing resumed until the "small hours" of the morning. Twenty musicians came from Malacca for the event.