Straits Settlements - Encyclopedia

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STRAITS SETTLEMENTS, the collective name given to the crown colony formed by the British possessions on or adjacent to the mainland of the Malay Peninsula, as opposed to the Federated Malay States, the British protectorates in the same region. The Straits Settlements consist of the island of Singapore with about a score of islets of insignificant size lying in its immediate vicinity, of the town and territory of Malacca, the islands and territory of the Dindings, the island of Penang, sometimes officially called Prince of Wales Island, and Province Wellesley.

The colony of the Straits Settlements is administered by the governor with the aid of an executive council, composed wholly of official members, and there is a legislative council, composed partly of official and partly of nominated members, of which the former have a narrow permanent majority. The governor of the Straits Settlements is also high commissioner for the Federated Malay States of the peninsula, for British North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak in Borneo, and since the administration of the colony of Labuan, which for a period was vested in the British North Borneo Company, has been resumed by the British government he is also governor of Labuan. The Cocos Keeling Islands (which were settled and are still owned by a Scottish family named Ross) and Christmas Island were formerly attached to Ceylon, but in 1886 the care of these islands was transferred to the government of the Straits Settlements. Penang and Malacca are administered, under the governor, by resident councillors. British residents control the native states of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang, but since the 1st of July 1896, when the federation of these states was effected, a resident-general, responsible to the high commissioner, has been placed in supreme charge of all the protectorates in the peninsula. The work of administration, both in the colony and in the Federated Malay States, is carried on by means of a civil service whose members are recruited by competitive examination held annually in London.

Area in




tion in

Population in 1901.













Singapore ......



228 ,555







Penang, Province Wellesley and




2 6,8






8 2

9 ,4 4

106 000

8,0 1

3 5



Malacca. .. .. .










Total .



57 2, 2 49




21 5, 0 5 8

57, 1 5 0



The following are the area and population, with details of race distribution, of the colony of the Straits Settlements, the figures being those of the census of 1901: - The population, which was 306,775 in 1871 and 423,384 in 1881, had in 1901 reached a total of 572,249. As in former years, the increase is solely due to immigration, more especially of Chinese, though a considerable number of Tamils and other natives of India annually settle in the Straits Settlements. The total number of births registered in the colony during the year 1900 was 14,814, and the ratio per 1000 of the population during 1896, 1897 and 1898 respectively was 22.18, 20.82 and 21.57; while the number of registered deaths for the years1896-1900gave a ratio per 1000 of 42 -21, 3 6.9 0, 3 0.43, 31.66 and 36.25 respectively, the number of deaths registered during 1900 being 23,385. The cause to which the excess of deaths over births is to be attributed is to be found in the fact that the Chinese and Indian population, which numbers 339, 08 3, or over 59% of the whole, is composed of 261,412 males and only 77,671 females, and a comparatively small number of the latter are married women and mothers of families. The male Europeans also outnumber the females by about two to one; and among the Malays and Eurasians, who alone have a fair proportion of both sexes, the infant mortality is always excessive, this being due to early marriages and other well-known causes. The number of immigrants landing in the various settlements during 1906 was: Singapore 176,587 Chinese; Penang 56,333 Chinese and 52,041 natives of India; and Malacca 598 Chinese. The total number of immigrants for 1906 was therefore 285,560, as against 39,136 emigrants, mostly Chinese returning to China. In 1867, the date of the transfer of the colony from the East India Company to the Crown, the total population was estimated at 283,384.


The revenue of the colony in 1868 only amounted to $1,301,843. That for 1906 was $9,512,132, exclusive of $106,180 received on account of land sales. Of this sum $6,650,558 was derived from import duties on opium, wines and spirits, and licences to deal in these articles, $377,972 from land revenue, $592,962 from postal and telegraphic revenue, and $276,019 from port and harbour dues. The expenditure, which in 1868 amounted to $1,197,177, had risen in 1906 to $8,747,819. The total cost of the administrative establishments amounted to $4,450,791, of which $2,586,195 was on account of personal emoluments and $1,864,596 was on account of other charges. The military expenditure (the colony pays on this account 20% of its gross revenue to the Imperial government by way of military contribution) amounted in 1906 to $1,762,438. A sum of $578,025 was expended on upkeep and maintenance of existing public works, and $1,209,291 on new roads, streets, bridges and buildings.

The Dindings and Province Wellesley

The various settlements of which the colony of the Straits Settlements is composed, and the protectorates named in this article, are all dealt with separately, except the Dindings and Province Wellesley. The former, which consists of some islands near the mouth of the Perak River and a small piece of territory on the adjoining mainland, belonged originally to Perak, and was ceded to the British government under the treaty of Pangkor in 1874. Hopes were entertained that its excellent natural harbour would prove to be valuable, but these have been doomed to disappointment, and the islands, which are sparsely inhabited and altogether unimportant both politically and financially, are now administered by the government of Perak.

Province Wellesley, which is situated on the mainland opposite to the island of Penang, was ceded to Great Britain by the sultan of Kedah in 1798. It marches with Perak on the south, but on the north and east with Kedah. The boundary with Kedah was rectified by treaty with Siam in 1867. It is administered by a district officer, with some assistants, who is responsible to the resident councillor of Penang. The country consists, for the most part, of fertile plain, thickly populated by Malays, and occupied in some parts by sugar-planters and others engaged in similar agricultural industries and employing Chinese and Tamil labour. About a tenth of the whole area is covered by low hills with thick jungle. Large quantities of rice are grown by the Malay inhabitants, and between October and February there is excellent snipe-shooting to be had in the paddy-fields. A railway from Batu Kawan, opposite to Penang, runs through Province Wellesley into Perak, and thence via Selangor and the Negri Sembilan to Malacca. There is also an extension via Muar, which is under the rule of the sultan of Johor, and through the last-named state to Johor Bharu, opposite the island of Singapore.

See Straits Settlements Blue Book, r906 (Singapore, 1907); Straits Directory, 1908 (Singapore, 1908); Journal of the Straits branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (Singapore); Sir Frederick Weld and Sir William Maxwell, severally, on the Straits Settlements in the Jo"irnal of the Royal Colonial Institute (London, 1884 and 1892); Henry Norman, The Far East (London, 1894); Alleyne Ireland, The Far Eastern Tropics (London, 1904); Sir Frank Swettenham, British Malaya (London, 1906); The Life of Sir Stamford Raffles (London, 1856, 1898). (H. CL.)

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