British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

44
EAST INDIES: SIR STAMFORD RAFFLES: BRITISH INTERESTS IN THE EASTERN ARCHIPELAGO, 18171

... No provision was made in our agreements with the native princes for the contingency of the colonies reverting to Holland. The language which we held out to them was that of a Government competent to make agreements in perpetuity; without such a language we never could have done what we have done for the Eastern Islands. Our leading measures, of which the Dutch are now deriving all the benefit in the augmentation of commerce and revenue, could never have been effected except the natives had relied on our securing to them a perpetuity of those rights which we had recognized. . . .

Is a whole nation of between four and five millions, industrious, obedient and strongly attached to us, indebted to our Government for emancipation from feudal bondage and for the right of civil freedom and security; a people interesting for their simple manners, and amiable for their virtues, to be abandoned and cast aside without notice or remembrance?

The British Government considered the native princes as independent sovereigns and treated with them accordingly. The Dutch have refused to guarantee our treaties and appear to consider those faithful allies to the British nation as mere vassals who are now subjected to their vengeance and rapacity.

If this be unjust with respect to the Settlements actually subjected to European control, what must be thought of it with respect to those States which have risen into importance and maintained their independence by means of their connection with Britain in opposition to the restrictive policy of the Dutch? The Dutch aim at an absolute despotism over the whole Archipelago, with a view to exercise it oppressively. We have encouraged sentiments of freedom as far as was compatible with tranquillity, and have led the natives to rely upon us for the continued enjoyment of that portion of independence which we allowed them. They look upon that allowance as a grant and will certainly despise and upbraid us if we permit that grant to be revoked by the Dutch. . . .

Of little use, however, would be the recognition on the part of the Dutch of our engagements with the natives unless we were at hand to watch over the fulfilment of them. . . .

____________________
1
B.M. Add. MSS. 31,237, ff. 245-57 passim. A paper for Canning. Copy enclosed in Raffles to Vansittart, 23 October 1817. For Raffles's comments on commercial policy in this same memorandum, see the extracts printed pp. 68-71 above.

-156-

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