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Sir Stamford forced himself upon their attention by his singular fitness for the difficult business in which he was engaged. We shall not attempt to run a parallel between the characters and services of these admirable persons: the task would be far from easy, and it might, in some degree, appear invidious. We shall therefore resist the temptation, and proceed at once to take a brief review of the active and able career of which the volume before. us furnishes copious, yet scarcely sufficient details.
Thomas Stamford Raffles was born at sea, off the coast of Jamaica, July 5, 1781. He was the son of a captain in the West India trade; and at the early age of fourteen, was removed from the seminary where he had for two short years enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education, and placed as an extra clerk in the East India House. This was a contingency which he never ceased to lament; but he had the consolation of reflecting, amid his successful struggles with the deficiencies of his early training, that he had done all he could, and that he had nothing to reproach' himself with. It is, indeed, rare to find a mere lad employing the intervals of mercantile clerkship in hard study, and making fair progress both in language and literature,
• It will be seen from this sketch, that the early youth of Mr. Raffles was a period of obscurity and labour, without friends to aid him, as well as without the hope of promotion ; his family only searching for that mode of life in which he was most likely to acquire the greatest pecuniary success, without regard to the natural bias of his mind, or to the talents which he possessed. At fourteen, he was chained down to the duties of an office : at this early age, and a friends less boy, it is not likely that he would at first be entrusted with much that was interesting ; but his was a master mind, and soon burst its shackles, and manifested a high and noble resolve to devote itself to the good of others, and a yearning to obtain the station for which it felt itself best fitted.
· His attention to his dull routine of duty was unremitting; he worked early and late; he studied, as he himself says, in stolen moments. By his extra labour at his office, he obtained an addition to his salary, which was not devoted to any selfish purpose; but all his earnings were carried home to his parents, who were at this time in difficulties. His affection to his mother, was always one of the strongest feelings of his heart. At this time, with that self-denying devotion to the happiness of others, which was his distinguishing quality through life, he deprived himself of every indulgence, that he might devote to her his hard-earned pittance: and in after days of comparative affluence, he delighted in surrounding her with every comfort.
Such a sedentary life of labour was, however, ill adapted to the delicney of his frame; and it was feared that symptoms of consumption were becoming confirmed: he was ordered to relax his exertions, and to leave his office for a time; he obeyed, and obtained a fortnight's
leave of absence. The use which he made of this short period of recreation, is very characteristic: he seized on the moment to indulge that love of mountain scenery so strong in most youthful minds, so happily undying and unfading in its exciting, joyous feeling. He resolved to go into Wales; set off on foot, and walked at the rate of thirty and forty miles a day; accomplished his object, and returned to his desk with restored health. As a school-boy, his garden was his delight : to this was added a love of animals, which was perhaps unequalled. It has been observed, that it is one of the characteristic properties of a great mind, that it can contract as well as dilate itself; and the mind which cannot do both, is not great in its full extent. This was forcibly realised in him; he spent hours in fondling and domesticating these objects of his care and attention. He entered with the most child-like simplicity into occupations and pleasures which many would consider beneath their notice: a mountain scene would bring tears into his eyes; a flower would call forth a burst of favourite poetry. It was perhaps peculiar to himself, to be able to remark, on his last return to England, that he had never seen a horse-race, never fired a gun.'
His reading was, of course, desultory; but we are inclined to think, that it is comparatively of little consequence, intellectually considered, in what train the thoughts may marshal themselves, provided that the faculties be beneficially employed, and the memory kept in active exercise. The habit of study, once attained, and fairly fastened on the mind, will be at all times available, and applicable to every variety of research that may become either pleasant or profitable. This was remarkably the case with Mr. Raffles. Throughout his life, we always find him occupied; he was incessantly engaged, if not in official business, in scientific or beneficent pursuits : and so intense was this spirit of intellectual exertion, that sorrow could not quench it, nor pain do more than briefly interrupt it. Even the total loss of all that indefatigable diligence had collected in illustration of science, during a considerable term of years, produced no other effect than a prompt and energetic effort to supply the loss. A man of such a stamp as this, could hardly have been tranquil and acquiescent in the prospect of a life of mere routine, consumed in the details of the desk and the office; and we find him, as might have been expected, eager to åvail himself of the first fair occasion of escaping from these trammels into a freer sphere of action. Mr. Ramsay, secretary to the Board of Directors, had fixed a discriminating eye on young Raffles; and, though he expressed in strong terms, his sense of the valuable services he was rendering in his own department, embraced the first favourable opening that offered, for advancing him on the foreign service of the East India Company.
It had been determined to form an establishment at Penang:
and on the recommendation of Mr. Ramsay, Mr. Raffles received the appointment of Assistant Secretary to the Governor and Council. He reached the place in September 1805, and entered on the duties of his post with a spirit and facility to which his acquisition of the Malay tongue during the voyage, must have greatly conduced. This auspicious commencement was well sustained ; for, though the illness of the chief secretary threw all the labour on the junior, he still found time to prosecute his studies in the oriental languages. It was, however, impossible that this could last; fatigue and the climate wrought their inevitable effect; and a severe illness having threatened his life, in 1808, he was recommended to visit Malacca for the re-establishment of his health. His sojourn here was turned to good account, for it was at this time that he laid the foundation of that unrivalled knowledge of the history, inhabitants, productions, and local peculiarities of the Indian Archipelago, by which he afterwards became so eminently distinguished. As if there were some mysterious ordination, that the presence of Raffles should always promote, not only the interests of his employers and the advancement of knowledge, but some object of beneficence, his residence at Malacca proved the occasion of an interference which prevented the execution of an intended measure, fraught with injustice and impolicy. Orders had been actually issued for the demolition of the fortifications, and the transfer of the population to Penang, in the hope that the prosperity of that favoured settlement might be insured by this wholesale consignment of people, property, and commerce.
Mr. Raffles made so forcible a representation of the iniquity and absurdity of this arrangement, that it was given up:
At this time, he was in correspondence with Dr. Leyden, then at Calcutta, under the patronage of Lord Minto, the Governor General; and several of his communications came under his Lordship’s inspection, much to the advantage of the Writer, whose character and abilities were thus made known in the most immediately influential quarter. The effect of this favourable introduction was soon experienced. In 1809, Mr. Raffles, having occasion to visit Calcutta, became personally known to his Lordship; and he appears, if not to have first suggested the expediency of expelling the Dutch from their settlements in the island of Java, to have given shape and determination to the half-formed project in the Governor-general's mind. Of the consequent expedition, he was the very actuating principle. He procured the information by which the arrangements were guided; and a mass of intelligence more extensive and complete, as well as more ably brought to bear on the practical part of the undertaking, cannot be imagined. The
difficulties of the navigation were cleared up by his able investigations; and a long and hazardous passage round Borneo, north about, was avoided by adopting the southern route, recommended by him, and previously deemed impracticable.
The military details connected with the expulsion of the Dutch from Java, have been long before the public, through the common sources of intelligence; and it would be altogether inexpedient to repeat them here; but the particulars of a war subsequently undertaken against the Sultan of Palembang, may be partially referred to, on account of their uncommon interest, as stated by Mr. Raffles, who was appointed by Lord Minto, * Lieutenant-Governor of Java and its dependencies. The chieftain just mentioned had, at the instigation of his eldest son, been guilty of innumerable atrocities, among which the treacherous murder of the Dutch garrison, was distinguished by its circumstantial horrors. He set the English at defiance, and, by provocations of various kinds, rendered it necessary, in the judgement of the Lieutenant-Governor, that steps should be forthwith taken for his subjugation. Colonel Gillespie was placed at the head of the armed force that was despatched for that purpose. When the expedition reached the Palembang river, it was found that formidable preparations had been made for defence; and in addition to these, every artifice was employed by the Sultan to delay and defeat the menaced attack. The Colonel, however, pushed on, passed the flotilla and batteries without opposition, and made for the town, whence the dastardly monarch instantly fled. On receiving intelligence from an Arab chief, that the fort, palace, and city were in a state of the greatest confusion, that the adherents of the Sultan were plundering and assassinating in all directions, and that it was intended to murder the Chinese settlers, with all the wealthier class of inhabitants, Gillespie determined on hastening forward, without waiting for re-inforcements; and the following extract will give the particulars of this daring and romantic enterprise.
• The Colonel proceeded instantly with the Arab chief in his canoe, accompanied by Captain Meares and Mr. Villneruhy, a Spanish gentleman, who acted as Malay interpreters. In that and another small canoe which accompanied them, were distributed seven grenadiers of the 59th regiment; and these were followed by Captain Bowen of the Royal Navy, Major Butler, Deputy Adjutant-general, and Major Thorn, Deputy Quarter-master-general, in the gig belonging to the Phænix, and ten more grenadiers of the same regiment, in the barge of the same ship, with Lieutenant Monday, R. N., and Lieutenant Forrest, of the 59th ; the remaining troops, under Lieutenant-Colonel M+Leod, having orders to follow with all possible speed. The distance was twenty miles, so that it was dark when the party arrived at Old
Palembang. The canoes, in one of which thé Colonel was, had gained much on the other two boats, and were now completely out of sight, when the report of a signal gun, fired by the enemy, not a little alarmed them, and increased the anxiety for the rest of the party; the more so, as every thing around tended to excite suspicion of some treacherous design being in agitation. A dreadful yell and shrieking in all directions, was next heard, and lights and conflagrations were seen throughout the whole extent of this large tract of population, which stretched along both banks of the river for upwards of seven miles. By the redoubled exertions of the crews, the boats in the rear were soon brought up to the support of the little band, and thus happily formed in time an important junction.
* To paint the horrors of the scene that presented itself, in their true colours, or to attempt an expression of the sensations it was calculated to excite, would be a difficult task ; and the undaunted act which gained the possession of the fort, the palace, and its batteries, may be credited when the name of the leader is recollected. Undismayed in the face of numerous bodies of armed men, Colonel Gillespie boldly stepped on shore, at eight o'clock at night; and with those who had accompanied him in the canoe, and the seven grenadiers, he marched, with a firm step, through a multitude of Arabs and treacherous Malays, whose missile weapons, steeped in poison, glimmered by the light of torches.
Huge battlements, with immense gates, leading from one area to another, presented the frightful spectacle of human blood still reek. ing and flowing on the pavement. The massive gates closed upon the rear, and the blood-stained court-yards through which the party were conducted, appeared as if they were the passage to a slaughter-house.
"A Malay, who had pressed through the crowd, approached the Colonel, and was walking by his side, when a large double-edged knife was secretly put into his hands by one of his countrymen. It was a dark, stormy night; and a ray of lightning, at the very
instant the man was pushing the knife up his long, loose sleeve to conceal it, discovered the weapon. The Colonel's eye caught the object, and instantly turning round, he had the fellow seized, totally regardless of the crowd; thus fortunately frustrating, by his firmness, the murderous design. The weapon was found as described, but the man contrived to steal away in the crowd, and escaped.
• The palace exhibited a melancholy picture of devastation and cruelty. Murder had been succeeded by rapine, and while the place was completely ransacked, the pavement and floors were clotted with blood. In every direction, spectacles of woe caught the sight, and were rendered peculiarly awful by the glare of the surrounding conflagration, accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning, and loud peals of thunder.
• The flames, which continued to spread destruction, notwithstanding the rain that poured down in torrents, had reached the outer buildings of the palace, and threatened the part where the Colonel, with his party, had taken up their temporary abode. The crackling of bamboos, resembling the discharge of musketry; the tumbling-in of burning roofs, with a tremendous crash ; the near approach of the