Pangkor Treaty of 1874
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The Pangkor Treaty of 1874 was a treaty signed between the British and the Sultan of Perak. Signed on 20 January 1874, on the HMS Pluto, anchored off the island of Pangkor (off the coast of Perak), the treaty is significant in the history of the Malay states as it legitimized British control of the Malay rulers and paved the way for British imperialism in Malaya.
Perak was a major tin producer throughout the nineteenth century, leading the United Kingdom, which had already colonized Penang, Malacca and Singapore, to consider Perak of significant importance. However, local strife, collectively known as the Larut War, between the local Malay elites and frequent clashes between Chinese secret societies disrupted the supply of tin from the mines of Perak.
In 1871, Sultan Ali of Perak died. Raja Abdullah, as Raja Muda or heir apparent, should have succeeded to the throne, but because he had not been present at the burial of the late Sultan Ali, Raja Bendahara, Sultan Ismail was proclaimed Sultan of Perak instead. At around the same time, two Chinese secret societies, known as Ghee Hin led by Chin Ah Yam and Hai San led by Chung Keng Quee, constantly waged battle against each other for control of the tin mines.
Raja Abdullah later asked the British for help in solving these two problems. In her book "The Golden Chersonese and The Way Thither" (Published 1892 G.P. Putnam's Sons) Victorian traveller and adventuress, Isabella Bird (1831–1904), describes how Raja Muda Abdullah as he then was turned to his friend in Singapore, Tan Kim Ching. Tan, together with an English merchant in Singapore drafted a letter to Governor Sir Andrew Clarke which Abdullah signed. The letter expressed Abdullah's desire to place Perak under British protection, and "to have a man of sufficient abilities to show (him) a good system of government." On 26 September 1872 Chung Keng Quee had already presented a petition, signed by himself and 44 other Chinese leaders, seeking British interference following the attack of 12,000 men of Chung Shan by 2,000 men of Sen Ning. (The Petition.) The British immediately saw this as a great opportunity to expand its influence in Southeast Asia and strengthened its monopoly on tin. As a result, the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 was signed.
Terms and conditions
The agreement dictated:
- Raja Abdullah was acknowledged as the legitimate Sultan to replace Sultan Ismail who would be given a title and a pension of 1000 Mexican pesos a month.
- The Sultan would receive a British Resident whose advice had to be sought and adhered to in all matters except those pertaining to the religion and customs of the Malays.
- All collections and control of taxes as well as the administration of the state would be done in the name of the Sultan, but the Sultan was to govern according to the advice and consent of the Resident.
- The Minister of Larut would continue to be in control but would no longer be recognized as a liberated leader. Instead, a British officer, who would have vast authority in administering the district, would be appointed in Larut.
- The Sultan, and not the British government, would pay the salary of the Resident.
- Perak ceded Dinding and Pangkor Island to the United Kingdom.
Raja Ismail did not attend the meeting arranged between Sir Andrew Clarke and Raja Abdullah. Raja Ismail obviously did not recognize the agreement but had no choice as he was faced with the alliance between Raja Abdullah and the British. As a result, Raja Abdullah was made Sultan, and Sir James W.W. Birch was appointed as Perak's first British Resident after the treaty came into force.
Following this precedent, the British actively became involved in three other Malay states: Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Pahang. These states, along with Perak, were later reorganized into the Federated Malay States.
- Swettenham, Frank (1941). Footprints in Malaya. London, New York, Melbourne: Hutchinson & Co. p. 33.