Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei were all once part of he powerful kingdom of Brunei. From the sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, developments in Borneo were generally separate from those on the peninsula of Malaysia, partly because of more limited European involvement in Borneo. The Dutch had a presence in southern Borneo but never established themselves on the north coast of Borneo.The eastern part of this region (now Sabah) was under the nominal control of the Sultan of Sulu, a vassal of the Spanish Philippines. The rest was the territory of the Sultanate of Brunei.

That situation changed in 1839 when James Brooke, an independently wealthy former British East India Company officer, arrived in Borneo. Brooke helped the sultan put down a tribal rebellion and emerge victorious in a power struggle with other Brunei elites. In return, the sultan allowed Brooke to govern a territory (called Sarawak) in exchange for small annual payments.

In 1841, Brooke received the title of raja and the right to govern the Sarawak River District. In 1846 his title was recognised as hereditary, and the "White Rajahs" began ruling Sarawak as a recognised independent state. Through good relations and payments to the Brunei sultan, Brooke and his descendants expanded Sarawak’s territory and governed it with substantial autonomy from Britain. The Brookes expanded Sarawak at the expense of Brunei. The ‘Rajah Brookes’ in Sarawak begged British authorities to take over the huge area of Sarawak from them for decades and were ignored.

Eventually, the British government became concerned that Sarawak’s growth could destabilize Brunei and render Borneo vulnerable to seizure by rival powers. In 1888 the British agreed to provide protection to Sarawak, Brunei, and the British North Borneo Company (which administered the territory of Sabah) in exchange for control over their foreign policy. This contributed to the consolidation of northern Borneo and its separation from the island’s southern areas, which were governed by the Dutch.

In 1881 the British North Borneo Company was granted control of the territory of British North Borneo, appointing a governor and legislature. It was ruled from the office in London. Its status was similar to that of a British Protectorate, and like Sarawak it expanded at the expense of Brunei. The Spanish Philippines never recognised this loss of the Sultan of Sulu’s territory, laying the basis of the subsequent Filipino claim to Sabah. In 1888 what was left of Brunei was made a British protectorate, and in 1891 another Anglo-Dutch treaty formalised the border between British and Dutch Borneo.

The Raja Brooke dynasty lasted 100 years. The British government eventually acquired Sarawak after WWII when the third Raja Brooke realised he couldn’t afford the area’s up-keep. In the early 20th century the British brought in Chinese and Indians, which radically changed the country’s racial make-up.

James Brooke on Borneo

James Brooke wrote in his journal in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: 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 4̊ n. to 7̊ s., and 108̊ to 119̊ 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 northeast 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 177, 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 harbour, and reached the island of Labuan, near the mouth of the Borneo river; whilst the booty obtained by the pirates was estimated at 375,000. From that time to this these atrocious pirates have never been punished, and still continue their depredations. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847), openlibrary.org, The Expedition to Borneo -]

“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.-

James Brooke on Sarawak

The province of Sarawak is situated at the southwest 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.-

James Brooke wrote in his journal in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: Sarawak “extends from Tanjong Datu to the entrance of the Samarahan river, a distance along the coast of about sixty miles in an e.southeast 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 there 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. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“Besides 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 twentyfive 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, besides 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 Fontiana, 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, whilst the rest is a rich mould; 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. Besides the above-men tioned 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 Banjarmasim, 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 upwards 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 popidation 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 Viti 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 besides 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.-

On British Development of Island Off of Borneo

James Brooke wrote in his journal in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: Labuan. An island of about fifty feet high; twenty-five miles in circumference; woody; timber good; water from wells and a few small streams, which, after a drought, are dry; natives say, water never fails. Anchorage good for the climate; well protected from the northeast; not extensive; situation of contemplated town low; climate healthy, i. e. the same as Borneo; soil, as far as seen, sandy or light sandy loam. Coal found near the extreme northeast point: by native reports it is likewise to be found in many other places; traces of coal are frequent in the sandstone strata. Anchorage not difficult of defence against an European enemy; entrance sufficiently broad and deep between two islands, with a shoal: vide chart. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“The island of Labuan, for the purposes of refuge for shipwrecked vessels, of a windward post relative to China, for the suppression of piracy, and the extension of our trade, is well suited; it is no paradise; and any other island, with good climate, wood, and water, would suit as well. Its powerful recommendation is its being in the neighbourhood of an unwarlike and friendly people. There is no other island on the n.w. coast; and the abandoned Balambangan, to the northward of Borneo, is the only other place which could by possibility answer. The comparison between Balambangan and Labuan may be stated as follows. Balambangan, as a windward post relative to China, is superior; and it commands in time of war the inner passage to Manilla, and the eastern passages to China by the Straits of Makassar. Of its capabilities of defence we know nothing. It was surprised by the Sooloos. Its climate was not well spoken of.

“On Proposed British settlement on the north-west coast of Borneo, and occupation of the island of Labuan. John Crawford, an early governor of Singapore wrote: " I am of opinion that a settlement on the north-west 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 harbour of refuge for ships disabled in the China Sea; and finally, as a commanding position during a naval war.-

"Labuan lies in about 6̊ of north latitude, and consequently the average heat will be about 83̊ 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 harbour, 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. 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 harbour. The name of the island itself, which means ' anchorage, I have no doubt is derived from the place affording shelter to native shipping.

Proposal for a Colony in Borneo

On the establishment of a colony on the island of Labuan. John Crawford, an early governor of Singapore wrote: "Labuan lies nearly in the direct track both of steam and sailing navigation from India to China, during the north-east, 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 harbour 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 an 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 harbour, 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 semibarbarous nations, or in danger of falling into the power of robbers and savages.-

“The position of Lahuan 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 north eastern 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 endeavours 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.-

“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. With out 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 any thing 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 every where skilful and industrious in taking them.-

"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.-

State of Sarawak in the Mid 1840s

James Brooke wrote in his journal in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: 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 civilisation 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 honourable 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. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“Among the numerous visions of this kind which open to our sense whilst 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 labours. 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 hot 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.-

Visiting the Rajah in James Brooke’s Sarawak

Henry Keppel wrote in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: May 16th. — We proceeded up the river twelve miles further into the interior of this interesting county and with my friend Mr. Brooke on board, approached Sarawak, his seat of government in the reach before you near which, and off the right bank of the river, is a long and dangerous shelf of rocks. The deep channel which lies between the bank and the rocks is not more than sixty or seventy feet wide, and required some little care in passing; but, with the exception of the flying jib- boom, which got nipped off in the branch of a magnificent overhanging tree, we anchored without accident in six fathoms water, and greatly astonished the natives with a royal salute in honour of Muda Hassim, the Rajah of Borneo. During the whole morning large boats, some carrying as many as two hundred people, had been coming down the river to hail Mr. Brooke's return; and one of the greatest gratifications I had was in witnessing the undisguised delight, mingled with gratitude and respect, with which each head man welcomed their newly-elected ruler back to his adopted country. Although many of the Malay chiefs had every reason to expect that in the Dido they saw the means by which their misdeeds were to be punished, they showed their confidence in Mr. Brooke by bringing their children with them — a sign peculiar to the Malay. The scene was both novel and exciting; presenting to us, just anchored in a large fresh-water river, and surrounded by a denselywooded jungle, the whole surface of the water covered with canoes and boats dressed out with their various-coloured silken flags, filled with natives beating their tom-toms, and playing on their wild and not unpleasant-sounding wind-instruments, with the occasional discharge of fire-arms. To them it must have been equally striking and extraordinary (as few of them had ever seen any larger vessel than their own war-boats, or a European, until Mr. Brooke's arrival,) to witness the Dido, anchored almost in the centre of their town. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“The next business was my visit of ceremony to the Rajah, which was great fun, though conducted in the most imposing manner. The band, and the marines, as a guard, having landed, we (the officers) all assembled at Mr. Brooke's house, where, having made ourselves as formidable as we could with swords and cocked hats, we marched in procession to the royal residence, his majesty having sent one of his brothers, who led me by the hand into his presence. The palace was a long low shed, built on piles, to which we ascended by a ladder. The audience-chamber was hung with fed and yellow silk curtains, and round the back and one side of the platform oc cupied by the Rajah were ranged his ministers, warriors, and men-at-arms, bearing spears, swords, shields, and other warlike weapons. Opposite to them were drawn up our royal marines; the contrast between the two body-guards being very amusing. Muda Hassim is a wretched-looking little man; still there was a courteous and gentle manner about him that prepossessed us in his favour, and made us feel that we were before an individual who had been accustomed to command. We took our seats in a semicircle, on chairs provided for the occasion, and smoked cigars and drank tea. His majesty chewed his sirih-leaf and betel-nut, seated with one leg crossed under him, and playing with his toes. Very little is ever said during these audiences; so we sat staring at one another for half an hour with mutual astonishment; and, after the usual compliments of wishing our friendship might last as long as the moon, and my having offered him the Dido and every thing else that did not belong to me in exchange for his house, we took our leave.-

“Rajah's visit to the Dido, about which he appeared very anxious, although he had seldom been known to go beyond his own threshold. For this ceremony all the boats, guns, tom-toms, flags, and population were put in requisition; and the procession to the ship was a very gorgeous and amusing spectacle. We received him on board with a royal salute. He brought in his train a whole tribe of natural brothers. His guards and followers were strange enough, and far too numerous to be ad-mitted on the Dido's deck...There was much distress depicted in the royal countenance during his visit, which I afterwards ascertained was owing to his having been informed that he must not spit in my cabin. On leaving the ship, whether the cherry-brandy he had taken made him forget the directions he had received, I do not know, hut he squirted a mouthful of red betel-nut juice over the white deck, and then had the temerity to hold out his hand to the first lieutenant, who hastily applied to him the style (not royal) of "a dirty beast," which not understanding, he smiled graciously, taking it as some compliment peculiar to the English.-

“This farce over, I had now some time to look about me, and to refit my ship in one of the prettiest spots on earth, and as unlike a dockyard as any thing could be. Mr. Brooke's then residence, although equally rude in structure with the abodes of the natives, was not without its English comforts of sofas, chairs, and bedsteads. It was larger than any of the others, but being, like them, built on piles, we had to mount a ladder to get into it. It was situated on the same side of the river (the right bank), next to, but rather in the rear of, the Rajah's palace, with a clear space of about 150 yards between the back and the edge of the jungle. It was surrounded by palisades and a ditch, forming a protection to sheep, goats, pigeons, cats, poultry, geese, monkeys, dogs, ducks, and occasionally bullocks. The house consisted of but one iioor. A large room in the centre, neatly ornamented with every description of fire-arms, in admirable order and ready for use, served as an audience and mess-room; and the various apartments round it as bed-rooms, most of them comfortably furnished with matted floors, easy chairs, pictures, and books, with much more taste and attention to comfort than bachelors usually display. In one corner of the square formed by the palisades were the kitchen and offices.

Audience with the Sultan of Brunei

James Brooke wrote in his journal in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: Borneo, or Bruni city. Left the Driver at 9 a.m. in the gun-boat, with the pinnace and cutter in company: a fine breeze carried us to Pulo Chermin, and nearly the whole way to Pulo Combong, where we met with the state-boat bearing the letter. We entered the town straggling, and the letter having been received with firing of guns, banners displayed, and all the respect due to a royal communication, we were dragged in haste to the audience; the Sultan on his throne, Muda Hassim, and every principal Pangeran waiting for us — Pangeran Usop to boot. The letter was read; twenty-one guns fired. I told tbem in all civility that I was deputed by her Majesty the Queen to express her feelings of good will, and to offer every assistance in repressing piracy in these seas. The Sultan stared. Muda Hassim said, "We are greatly indebted; it is good, very good." Then, heated, and sunburnt, and tired, we took our leave, and retired to the house prepared for us. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

"March 1st. — A long conference with Budrudeen, when, I believe, we exhausted all the important topics of Borneo politics: subsequently we visited Muda Hassim and the Sultan. The latter was profuse in his kind expressions, and inquired of the interpreter when the English would come to Labuan adding, " I want to have the Europeans near me," On this head, however, he gained no information. The presents were given to the Sultan and Rajah.-

"5th. — In the evening visited Muda Hassim, and heard news from Malludu, which, divested of exaggerations, amounted to this: that Seriff Houseman was ready to receive us; was fortified, and had collected a fleet of boats and that if the English did not come and attack him, he would come and attack Borneo, because they were in treaty with Europeans. After leaving Muda Hassim, paid the Sultan a visit.-

Sultan of Brunei in 1846

Captain Mundy visited the Sultan in state on the 19th of September, and thus describes the interview: "Early on that morning I despatched all the boats, armed, under Lieutenant Heath, taking with him the detachment of marines, and gave him orders to moor the force in line of battle in front of the Sultan's new palace, and land the marines on the platform commanding the entrance of the hall of audience, and there wait my arrival. I left the Iris at 7 h 30 m a.m., and pulling the seventeen miles in three hours and a half, found all ready for my reception. As I stepped on shore I was received under a salute of fifteen guns by Pangeran Mumim, and the Sultan met me at the threshold of the hall. Here the marines were drawn up, directly enfilading the divan; and as they presented arms, I observed the old monarch tremble in his slippers; for he evidently entertained some slight suspicion that, as he well merited punishment, I would act as his highness would certainly have done in my place — namely, kidnap him by treachery. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“The Sultan appeared about sixty years of age, his countenance denoting imbecility, not untinctured with hypocrisy. He has two thumbs on his right hand, is five feet five inches in height, thin, and meagre of limb. He was well dressed, and his manner and deportment thoroughbred; and he was treated with gre tt respect by the numerous princes and magnates who thronged the salle. After presenting my officers, I told him that I had words for his private ear, and must speak with him alone. He led me immediately to an antechamber commanding a view of the river. He then ordered a large wax taper to be lit and placed before us, explaining that this light was witness of the purity of his heart, and of the oath which he was ready to make of his good-will towards his sister the Queen of England. I then gave him, through my interpreter, the following information: that England would insist upon his ministers being good men, favourable to Europeans and to lawful commerce, exact in the observance of treaties, and active in discountenancing piracy; that a grave outrage had been committed by firing on the British flag, and that I could not say what redress would be considered sufficient. The Sultan assured me in reply, that he was ready to submit to any terms which the Admiral might dictate; that he would deliver up four of the princes who had been active in the late hostilities against us; and that for the future his government should be strictly just. I told him he was sure to receive justice from our government, and that all depended upon his own conduct; and I ended by remarking that it would be much more agreeable for me to protect his new palace and capital, than to receive orders to inflict upon it the same chastisement with which we had visited Tampassok, Pandassar, and Mamhacoot.-

“The Sultan again swore by the Prophet, in honour of whom he had just fasted thirty days, that his heart was in the right place; that he had never forgotten the kindness of the Admiral to him last year; and that he had given positive orders to Hadgi Samod, who commanded the forts, not to fire on us, but that that chieftain would not obey him.-

“After a few more words I took my leave, and re-embarked; and I will now only add, that it is my firm opinion that he will hereafter submit to any demands made by Mr. Brooke, who is, indeed, de facto, sultan of the whole territory from Point Api to Malludu, a coast of seven hundred miles. What an extraordinary position for an English gentleman to be placed in ! And how has he managed to receive the homage of so vast a population? By unremitting kindness and attention to the natives of every description, during a six years' residence. What could be more extraordinary than the gathering of the Kajahs off Kimanis, last month, just before we attacked Mambacoot? people who had never seen him, and who had only heard from others of his benevolence and good government at Sarawak. Then how romantic his march against the Sultan into the interior! — ending by the total submission of the most ancient Mahomedan sovereign of the East, who, I forgot to mention, told me that his family had supplied the last twentyfive reigning princes, of whom his highness was exceedingly proud, and which he hoped would be considered by our government as a reason for supporting him on the throne."

Looking for Pirates Off of Borneo

Henry Keppel wrote in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: I had long felt a desire to explore the Island of Borneo, which the few travellers who have called there describe as not only one of the largest and most fertile in the world, but one of the most productive in gold and diamonds, and other rich minerals and ores; one from which the finest camphor known is brought into merchandise, and which is undoubtedly capable of supplying every kind of valuable spice, and articles of universal traffic and consumption. Yet, with all these capabilities and inducements to tempt the energetic spirit of trade, the internal condition of the country, and the dangers which beset its coasts, have hitherto prevented the interior from being explored by Europeans; and to prove how little we are acquainted even with its shores, I actually sailed by the best Admiralty chart eighty miles inland, and over the tops of mountains!” [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“May 4tth 9 1843. — Passed through the Tambelans, a beautiful group of between 100 and 150 small islands. They are very extensive, and but thinly inhabited. There is good anchorage near some of them; but we had nothing less than twenty fathoms. They are placed so close together that, after passing the first, we were to all appearance completely land-locked in a magnificent and capacious harbour. The following morning we anchored off the mouth of the Sambas river, and sent the boats away to examine the creeks, islands, and rivers along the coast for traces of pirates — which were discovered by the remains of their fires on different parts, although no clue could be obtained as to the direction in which they had gone.-

“On the morning of the 8th I again sent the pinnace and two cutters, Mr. Partridge, Messrs. D'Aeth and Jenkins, with a week's provisions, the whole under the command of Lieutenant Wilmot Horton, Mr. Brooke kindly offering his assistance, which, from his knowledge of the Malay language, as well as of the kind of vessels used by the pirates, was thankfully accepted. I directed them to proceed to the island of Marundum, and, after visiting the South Natunas, to rejoin the Dido at Sarawak. In the mean time I proceeded leisurely along the coast, anchoring where convenient, and finding regular soundings all the way in from four to ten fathoms — weather remarkably fine, and water smooth. On the morning of the 9th, on rounding Tanjong Datu, we opened suddenly on a suspicious-looking boat, which, on making us out, ran for a small deep bay formed by Gape Datu and the next point to the eastward. Standing a little farther on, we discovered a second large boat in the offing, which likewise stood in shore; and afterwards a third at the bottom of the bay. From the description I had received, I easily made these out to be Illanuns, an enterprising tribe of pirates, of whose daring adventures I had heard much. They inhabit a small cluster of islands off the northeast coast of Borneo, and go out in large fleets every year to look for prahus bound to Singapore or the Straits; and, after capturing the vessels, re duce their crews to slavery. It is of a cruel nature.-

Mr. Brooke observes: "Nor is the slavery of that mild description which is often attributed to the Asiatics; for these victims are bound for months, and crowded in the bottom of the pirate-vessels, where they suffer all the miseries which could be inflicted on board an African slaver." Having fairly pinned these worthies into a corner, and knowing that the only two small boats I had left on board would stand no chance with them in pulling, to make sure of my prizes I loaded the two foremost guns on each side, and, having no proper chart of the coast, proceeded under easy sail, feeling my way into the bay with the lead. When just within musket-range, I let go the anchor, which was no sooner done than the three boats commenced making a move. I thought at first they were coming alongside to sue for pardon and peace: and my astonishment was great when I discovered that nothing was farther from their intention. One pulled away, close in shore, to the eastward, and the other two to the westward. They were rowed by about forty oars each, and appeared from their swiftness to be flying, and that too from under my very nose; and what rendered it still more ridiculous and disagreeable, owing to a strong ebb-tide, the ship remained exactly in a position that no gun could be brought to bear on either side. The dingy and jolly-boat gave chase; but the pirates had the start, and it was useless; for although a few men were seen to drop from their oars in consequence of our fire of musketry from the forecastle, still their pace never slackened; and when they did come within the bearing of our guns, which they were obliged to do for a minute or two while rounding the points that formed the bay, though our thirty-two pound shot fell thickly about their heads, frequently dashing the spray all over them, not a man flinched from his oar.-

“ We could not help admiring their plan of escape, and the gallant manner in which it was effected. I saw that it would be quite unavailing to attempt to catch the boats that had pulled to windward; but we lost no time in slipping our cable and making all sail in chase of the one that had gone to leeward. But the " artful dodger" was still too fast for us; we lost sight of him at dusk close off the mouth of a river, up which, however, I do not think he went; for our two boats were there very shortly after him; and although they searched all night and next morning, they could discover no traces of the fugitive. Besides, these pirates have no friends among the inhabitants of the province of Sarawak who would have screened them from us; on the contrary, they would have put them to death if once in their power.

Mission Against Pirates in Borneo in 1846

According to an additional chapter in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: On the 4th of July, the Admiral, accompanied by Mr. Brooke, arrived off Mooarro island, at the entrance of the Bruni River, where they learned several particulars respecting the recent murders, and found that rumour, instead of exaggerating the reality, had fallen far short of it. The Bajah Muda Hassim, one of his sons, Pkngeran Budrudeen, seven brothers, one sister, other relations, and about a similar number of other persons, had perished simultaneously. Two of the remaining princes were subsequently put to death upon its being discovered that Si Japper had fled to Mr, Brooke with information of what had occurred; and of the whole family there remained in existence only two brothers, and the son and heir of the Rajah. These three owed their safety to the protection of the most powerful remaining Pangeran, named Mumim, who, although son-in-law of the Sultan, disapproved of the deed, but confined his interference to the protection of those parties. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“In one of his despatches to the Admiralty, Sir Thomas Cochrane says: " The cause of this sudden change of conduct on the part of the Sultan (who, their Lordships are already aware, is a very weak as well as illconditioned character) was the fate that had attended Pangeran Usop, whom, their Lordships will remember, I, at the Sultan's request, last year attacked and drove from the city, and who was subsequently taken and put to death by Budrudeen, in consequence of an attack he made upon it after my departure. It would appear that the Sultan's reputed son, a man of worthless character, Pangeran Hassim, had married Usop's daughter; and, partaking of his father-in-law's hostility to the English, and disposition to piracy, as well as deeply resenting his fall, and exercising the very great influence he had over the mind of the Sultan, he, in conjunction with a very clever and artful man, named Hadgi Samod, at last brought his Highness to consent to this deed of revenge.-

"Our informants further stated, that so soon as this crime had been perpetrated, the Sultan began to place the river and city in a state of defence; and Commander Egerton, of the Hazard, corroborated the statement that a trap had been laid for him to get him to the city, and, as alleged by the informants, with the view of putting him to death. "Under all the foregoing circumstances, and those considerations alluded to in my letter, No. 95, before referred to, there did not appear to me the shadow of a doubt as to my right, with reference to those principles which govern European states under similar circumstances, to proceed with an armed force, and demand an explanation of these hostile deeds."

“When off the island of Chermin, at the mouth of Bruni River, the Admiral received a sort of apologetic letter from the Sultan, offering a vague explanation of the treatment complained of by Commander Egerton, of the Hazard, and requesting in general terms that "his friend should not believe any thing Si Japper might have stated." The letter contained no more explicit allusion to the recent transactions, nor did it prohibit an approach by an armed force, or threaten resistance.-

Fighting with Borneo Pirates in 1846

According to an additional chapter in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: “On the 8th of July the fleet passed the bar and ascended the river, the Phlegethon leading the way, and sounding. On approaching Pulo Bangore, five forts opened to view, admirably placed for denying a passage beyond them. A gun was fired from one of the forts, and the largest of them hoisted a flag, which Mr. Brooke recognised as that of his murdered friend, Muda Hassim. For a while some doubt was felt on board the flag-ship as to whether this was not intended as an intimation that the English should be received as friends. But they were not long left in suspense upon the subject, as the moment the Fhlegethon had passed the narrows, the battery commenced a spirited fire, which was promptly returned. The five forts were stormed, the guns destroyed, and the magazine blown up. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“Higher up the river there was a heavy battery, afleur (Feau, consisting of eight brass and two iron guns, from 68 to 9 pounders, supported by five other heavy works on hills not far in the rear. The main battery pointed directly down to a bend of the river, from which it was distant about 800 yards, and round which the fleet had to turn. As soon as the ships appeared in sight, all these batteries commenced a sharp and extremely well-directed fire upon them, seconded by a play of musketry from the woods on the right, to which the Spiteful, the flag-ship, was obliged to submit without retaliation. Her position was for a while very critical, with the beach but a few yards beyond her paddle-boxes, the Royalist in tow, and the boats filled with the whole of the landing force. The utmost silence and attention were required to prevent the whole being thrown on shore. But the Phlegethon soon put an end to the crisis. The fire from her ship -guns, from the battery of field -pieces placed round her bows, and from the brigade of rockets planted upon her bridge, together with the now rapid progress of the whole force directly up the river, so astonished and dismayed the enemy that they fled before the steamers could reach their works, or the storming party carry out the service intended for it. The marines under Captain Hawkins immediately took possession of the heights that command the town. These operations were not accomplished without loss; two men having been killed, and seven wounded.-

“The city was found entirely deserted by the inhabitants, and the Sultan had fled into the interior. A force of nearly 500 men, under Capt. Mundy, was sent in pursuit of him on the 10th. Mr. Brooke accompanied the expedition, which was directed against Damuan, a village SO miles from Bruni, where the Sultan was supposed to have determined on making a stand. On their way they arrived at the village of Kabran, where they found a large house deserted by its owners, but full of valuable property secured in massive chests; also arms, ammunition, &c. both for great guns and small arms, and several tin cases of fine English powder, all of which belonged to Hadgi Hassim. The magazines, ammunition, and property were destroyed, and six Spanish brass guns of considerable size and great beauty, which we found on an adjacent eminence, were carried off.-

“After two ineffectual attempts to continue its march to Damuan, under heavy rain and through a deeply flooded country, the expedition returned to Bruni; whence it started again to take a new route on the morning of the 13th. This time it succeeded in reaching Damuan; but too late to capture the Sultan, who had already fled further inland. The destruction of some household furniture belonging to the Sultan, magazines of powder, ammunition for guns of different calibre, and a considerable quantity of cartridges, admirably made, for musketry, was all that could be effected.-

“At Bruni the Admiral managed, through Tapper, to open a communication with those of the dispersed inhabitants who were friendly to the British; and on the day following the occupation of the city, he was visited by Pangerans Mumim, Buher, and Muda Mohammed. As the Sultan had fled, and they were, in fact, without a government, the Admiral " invited them to come to some determination as to the course they would pursue for the well-being of their country;" but they appeared to be entirely paralysed. " Pangeran Mumim," the Admiral observes " although condemning the Sultan's proceedings, and himself very respectable in character, yet was most timid, and seemed to have an aversion to setting the Sultan aside; and the others, although very violent against him, had neither talent nor weight to undertake the formation of a new government."

Appreciation of the English After the Fight with Borneo Pirates in 1846

According to an additional chapter in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: " Mr. Brooke landed on the following day, and at Mumim's house had a meeting on an enlarged scale, and stated to it my readiness to assist them in any measure that would have the effect of putting an end to the existing anarchy, or that might give permanent security to life and property. But on this and subsequent occasions he found the same timidity and irresolution to prevail as at their conference with me. In point of fact, the massacre had been of that sweeping character, as to cut off every man of weight or intelligence, and leave the survivors in an irrecoverable state of helplessness and dismay. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“In the mean time, the common people had recovered from their panic, and commenced returning to the town; and by the fourth or fifth day nearly every house was inhabited, and the same busy scene presented itself as on ordinary occasions, the boats flocking round the ships to sell or exchange their produce, with as much confidence as in any English port; and I am persuaded nothing would have been more gratifying to them than to have learned from me that I was authorised to establish an Englishman (such a one, for instance, as Mr. Brooke) as their governor and chief, under whom they would have felt confident of the undis turbed enjoyment of the produce of their industry, and of protection from uncertain and despotic exactions."

“Having remained eleven days at the city without any prospect of securing a definite and satisfactory arrangement, the Admiral, with Mr. Brooke's concurrence, addressed a proclamation to the chief person actually in the place, to be given to the Sultan on his return, detailing the whole of the proceedings between him and the British authorities during the past twelve months; pointing out the unprincipled conduct of the Sultan; shewing how entirely he and his subjects were at the Admiral's mercy, and threatening him with the most vigorous retaliation should he ever again evince hostility towards Great Britain. The document was read to the assembled authorities, merchants, &c, who seemed perfectly pleased with its contents, and no less so with the intimation that a ship of war was to be left with them until Mr. Brooke's return. The meeting having broken up, the Admiral sailed northward, taking Mr. Brooke with him.-

Mission Against Pirates in Northern Borneo in 1846

According to an additional chapter in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: The Admiral's next visit was to the Ulanun pirates, on whom he inflicted severe punishment, including the destruction of their strongholds on the rivers Tampassok and Fandassar. He then left Capt. Mundy of the Iris to finish the work so well begun, by settling accounts with some of the pirates who had not yet been made to feel our force; and who, under the directions of Hadgi Samod, the Sultan's general, were still carrying on hostilities against the native tribes that were friendly to the English. Nothing could exceed the glee with which our sailors engaged in this service. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“A very animated description of the operations is given by Capt. Mundy in a letter dated August 28, 1846, from which the following is an extract: " On the 7th instant, I parted company with the Commander-in-Chief; and no sooner was the squadron out of sight than I sent Lieut. Little away with my boats and five days' provisions, with orders to cruise that time along the coast and join me 100 miles to the southward. The Admiral's orders to me were to carry on the war against the Illanun rascals by sea and land, according to my discretion, and to look after the Sultan's first chieftain, Hadgi Samod, who had been the principal adviser of the Sultan in the hostile measures against us; and who, it was now reported, had sought refuge somewhere amongst the piratical tribes.-

“On the 12th I anchored at Amhong, and Lieut. Little joined me. He had captured and destroyed one piratical prahu, and had burnt a large Illanun village, after sustaining an attack from a large body of pirates, who threw spears from the banks at the boats, but were eventually driven off with the loss of several killed and wounded. No one was injured on our side, though the spears stuck into the sides of our boats — these fellows rushing down within ten yards of the pinnace, hurling their darts, and holding up their large wooden shields to protect them from musketry.-

“On the 14th we anchored off Kimanis, where Mr. Brooke received information that Hadgi Samod had fortified himself in the Mambacoot river, distant only six miles; and that nine gun-boats, which had been sent from Borneo to attack him, had found his position too strong, and had therefore decided to remain off Kimanis till the arrival of the frigate. I gave directions therefore to Mr. Little to be ready with all the boats of the Iris at daylight the. following morning, assisted by the Phlegethon cutters, and to proceed to attack this noted chief wherever he might be found. Mr. Brooke and I commenced business by sending a messenger to the Dyak chief, desiring him to give up Hadgi Samod, and enter into friendly communication with us. The return message was an insolent bit of bravado, desiring us to come and take him, and that they were not afraid of our shot, which they would catch in their hands and throw back at our boats.-

“Neither Mr. Brooke nor myself had intended to take any active part in the expedition; but the unlooked-for, and, I may add, extraordinary circumstance of the sudden arrival of thirty war prahus, carrying twenty guns and about four hundred men, under their chiefs, inhabiting districts for twenty miles round, for the purpose of paying their respects to the English Eajah, and to assure him of their anxiety for legitimate commerce, and their wish to be friends of England, entirely altered the position of affairs. Mr. Brooke, with his accustomed decision, after a lengthened discussion with their chieftains, declared it to be his bfelief that they were honest men, and that it would be very impolitic on our part to refuse the offer of their aid, and that he should wish to accompany them. Of course I acquiesced immediately, and it was arranged that we should go together in the gig, thus putting implicit confidence in their faith, whilst Lieutenant Little could always keep his force compactly together, ready to act on the first semblance of treachery.-

Fighting Against Pirates in Northern Borneo in 1846

Capt. Mundy wrote in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: " At five a.m. on the 18th, the boats were in movement. At eight I crossed the bar in a beautiful new gig the Admiral gave me, the principal Pangeran of our new allies shewing the channel. Lieutenant Little's force came next, and about a quarter of a mile in the rear the large fleet of prahus. It was a picturesque scene; boat after boat dashing through the surf with their gaudy flags and long streamers, and then shooting into the unruffled stream beyond, and taking up their assigned positions, which were well under command of my guns and rockets.Our force now commenced pulling up against a strong ebb; and, after three good hours at the oars, the first attempt to oppose our progress appeared in large rafts floating down, and soon afterwards the report of guns in the distance was heard. On pulling swiftly round a point to clear one of the rafts, the gig being then about fifty yards ahead of the main division, we came suddenly upon a long line of thick bamboo stakes fixed across the stream, with an immense boom attached to them, but which, owing to the freshes, had swung athwart. Facing these defences, only eighty yards distant, a fort had been erected, which, as soon as our boats came into view, opened fire. Before the enemy could reload, I fell back upon the gun-boats, and ordered Mr. Little to give way and 'at them.' He was soon followed by the barge and cutter, and the action became general — shot, rockets, and 'musketry; but, owing to the strength of the tide, it was ten minutes before my first lieutenant could get over the short distance; and when he finally captured the fort, he found it had been armed with small swivel-guns only, which the defenders had managed to carry into the jungle. One of our native allies recognised Hadgi Samod and his Bornean subofficers in the battery. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

"Having demolished the fort and destroyed the magazines, ammunition, &c, we pushed on without losing time; and observing, as we passed a narrow creek, a prahu endeavouring to escape, we dashed at her and captured her; the crew, who escaped, leaving behind their spears, krises, and sumpitans, i. e. quivers of poisoned arrows. The country was' now extremely beautiful. The interior of the houses was extremely neat — mats, threshing and knitting machines, ordinary implements, and other furniture, in capital order; and had it not been for the numerous human skulls suspended from the ceiling in regular festoons, with the thigh and arm bones occupying the intervening spaces, and other ornaments peculiar to the wildest class of Dyaks, I should have fancied myself in a civilised land.-

“At three p.m., on coming to a turn of the river, a magnificent mansion presented itself to our view, the verandah of which gave a frontage of 200 feet by 20 in breadth. It was close to the river, and partially concealed by cocoanut-trees. One of these had been cut down, and of it a kind of abatis was made, from behind which, as our boats advanced, a masked battery was opened. These guns were quickly silenced, and I was not long in jumping on terra Jirma, rifle in hand. The enemy were driven into the interior, carrying off their killed and wounded. The house was soon in flames; and amongst the internal decorations consumed were fifty human skulls, and as many packages of human bones — many of them evidently the. latest gifts of the Dyak gentlemen to their lady-loves; for you must know that no aristocratic youth dare venture to pay his addresses to the fair one unless he throws at the blushing maidens feet a net full of skulls at the same time that he offers his hand and heart.-

"At four p.m. we bivouacked for the night; and early in the morning of the 17th a deserter from Hadgi Samod swam across the river to our camp, and informed us that his chief had retreated in despair to the houses at the head of the river. At early dawn, therefore, we were on his track, and in half an hour a cheer from the headmost boats signalised that the last refuge of the enemy was in sight. A few strokes more and our guns and rockets were in play; and after a vain endeavour of the resolute chief by musketry and sumpets to oppose our steady advance, he was compelled to abandon his fortress and retreat into the wilderness. Having burnt all the buildings of those inhabitants who had taken an active part against us, we returned down the river, and were on board the ship by sunset. Our loss was one seaman of the Iris killed, and four wounded; two of the Phlegethon's, and eight of our native allies wounded.-

“The native chiefs rendezvoused at the Phlegethon, where we entertained them till a late hour, each of them swearing to protect the persons and property of all shipwrecked or distressed Europeans who might be driven upon their iron-bound coast; and I really hope we have made a commencement in the good work of rendering these seas secure for the peaceful trader. The wonderful effect of our Congreve rockets gave them an idea of our power; whilst our uniform kindness to all the unpiratical tribes plainly bespoke our anxiety to be friendly with the good."

British Raise Their Flag in Borneo

According to an additional chapter in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: “ “After the termination of the proceedings against the Illanuns, Mr. Brooke returned to Bruni to complete the task of re-establishing order there, which the Admiral had confided to his experienced judgment. Then, having made a short stay in the city, he returned to Sarawak, taking with him the remains of Muda Hassim's family, among the rest his young son, the heir presumptive to the throne of Borneo. Let us hope that the boy, thus early removed from contaminating associations, and trained up under so kind and judicious a guardian, will one day prove a compensation to his country for the disastrous loss it sustained in the premature death of his brave, upright, intelligent, and docile uncle, Budrudeen. [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“The ceremony of taking possession of the island and its dependencies was performed on the 24th of Decemher last hy Captain Mundy. The Iris and Wolf, which had heen despatched on this service, dressed ship; royal salutes were fired; marines and. small-armed men landed; and Pangeran Mumim, the prime minister of Borneo, with many chiefs, and a multitude of Malays and Dyaks, attended on shore. Their picturesque prahus, anchored close to the beach, with flags and banners, had a beautiful effect. Captain Mundy had on the 18th concluded a treaty with the Sultan, by which the island was ceded for ever to her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, and stipulations were made for the suppression of piracy all along the coast. These matters were explained to the assembled natives in a short speech, delivered by Captain Mundy, and put into Malay by Lieutenant Heath. The prospect of protection and peaceful trade delighted the Borneans; and the only drawback to the satisfaction universally expressed by them was, that they could not at once settle on the island. Numbers of persons had repaired thither with that intention, and were with difficulty restrained from so doing by the authority of the Admiral, until further instructions should have been received from this country. A colony will of course be founded in Labuan, nor can its existence be long held in abeyance; but it is right that the basis should be laid without precipitation.-

“In order, therefore, to avoid the mischiefs incident to crude and hasty measures of colonisation, Captain Mundy was directed by his instructions to raise no fortifications, form no establishments on shore, and allow no settlers. Labuan is for the present a naval station, and no more; but the time is at hand when it will become a second Singapore. Several merchants on the latter island have signified their intention to remove their establishments to Labuan, whenever the place shall be ready for their reception.-

British Borneo and the Dutch East Indies

According to an additional chapter in in “Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy”: The memorialists pointedly complain of the obstacles that have hitherto prevented the extension and security of their trade in the Asiatic Archipelago, making it always a precarious source of gain, and often an occasion of heavy losses. Its uncertainty and irregularity, they say, have been " greatly aggravated by the total absence of British influence throughout the whole of the islands stretching from the Straits of Malacca almost to our Australian possessions. Although the British Government has not yet thought fit to create an influence in this important quarter, yet has the Dutch Government been constantly and wisely vigilant in spreading its power there; and it is a source of regret to your memorialists that a field for enterprise so useful and so improvable should be abandoned to the grasp of a power of whose interpretation of treaties (as in the case of Java), British merchants have so much cause to complain, and whose general policy in those distant regions is marked by exclusiveness and rapacity.’ [Source: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847)-]

“These very significant hints have not been disregarded by the present Administration. It seems bent on emulating the better part of the Dutch policy in the East, as the Dutch on their part have begun to relax the restrictive rigour of their commercial system in imitation of our example. They have seen in the prosperity of Singapore the advantages which a total absence of commercial restrictions can confer on a small island, destitute of internal resources adequate for the support of its inhabitants, and situated at the embouchure of straits difficult of navigation. Profiting by the lesson, they have declared Macassar a free port from the first day of this year. In all sincerity we congratulate them on this wise beginning of reformation. If they will fairly follow out the same principle to all its consequences, they will find in the long-run that the commercial rivalry which they seem to dread so intensely at our hands, is really the most fortunate thing that could befall them. Already they partially discern the erroneous nature of the theories which have hitherto presided over their system in the East; and the more they divest themselves of their narrow jealousies, the better will it be for themselves, as well as for us and others. There is no grosser fallacy than the old trading maxim, that what one gains another loses; on the contrary, in proportion as traffic is freed from the factitious impediments with which ignorance and wilfulness have hitherto sur rounded it, the comfortable truth will become apparent, that the gain of one is the gain of all. The Dutch may be assured that there is room enough for them and us in the vast regions which they have hitherto monopolised with such inadequate result. It is manifest that they need our co-operation; for alone they have been unable to clear the waters round their colonies of pirates, or to develope the great natural resources of the countless shores over which they affect to claim suzerainty. We will help them to do the work which has proved too much for their unaided strength, and will seek no more than our fair share in the profits of the enterprise. We will respect their rights of possession wherever they can reasonably substantiate them, but elsewhere we will not suffer them any longer to play the dog in the manger. Let them pay us the moderate compliment to suppose that we too, like themselves, have grown wiser by experience; and while they laugh at our expense over the egregious folly of a colonial minister, who made them a present of Java, the most precious of all their possessions, let them reflect that a new generation has arisen, which may not be quite so gullible as their fathers, or so magnanimously indifferent to their own interests.-

Image Sources:

Text Sources: “The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido For the Suppression of Piracy” by Henry Keppel and James Brooke (1847), openlibrary.org, The Expedition to Borneo -; New York Times, Washington Post, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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