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Joseph Burn and Raffle's plan for a British Borneo.

Early in 1811, "J. Burn" sent lengthy letters from Pontianak to Thomas Stamford Raffles in Malacca that are preserved in the British Library, London, as part of the Raffles Collection. (1) Raffles was at that time stationed in Malacca as "Agent to the Governor-General with the Malay States," appointed by Lord Minto, Governor-General of India for the English East India Company, and his duties involved taking steps to help protect British shipping in the region and planning the forthcoming British invasion of Java. With Minto's support, Raffles developed a strong interest in the commercial possibilities of Borneo, an island whose inhabitants and resources were still largely unknown to Europeans.

The English had soon followed the Dutch to the East Indies and established "factories" or trading posts first at Sukadana early in 1613, at Sambas in 1614, and at Banjarmasin in 1615 and again in 1639, but these were all short-lived. Another abortive attempt was made to found a factory at Sukadana in 1693-1694. Banjarmasin received more determined attention in the first quarter of the 18th century and again from 1738-1749; these initiatives failed respectively because of the behavior of the factors (traders) and interference by the Dutch. The English East India Company's most ambitious venture, the settlement at the island of Balembangan off the northeast coast in 1773, was an ignominious failure. (2) As putative Lieutenant-Governor of Java, Raffles was intent on opening up the whole of Borneo to British trading interests now that Dutch power in the area had receded, but his first need was for reliable, first-hand information about commodities which might be profitably exploited. Borneo's reputed wealth in gold and diamonds, together with jungle produce such as camphor, meant that it was a high priority. At the same time, he was anxious for good intelligence about piratical marauders whose activities were increasingly placing passing British ships at risk now that the Dutch naval presence off Borneo had been withdrawn. Raffles was determined to bring some measure of control over Borneo's pirate-infested coasts--preferably through diplomacy with the various Malay rulers, but by means of the Company's men-of-war or the Royal Navy if need be. Regarding Pontianak, Banjarmasin and Brunei as the island's principal trading ports, he was concerned to reduce the power of Sambas where the Sultan's co-operation with piratical raiders had made it a threat to Pontianak, which he saw as the natural emporium for the Chinese goldminers of Monterado.

Captain Joseph Burn

Raffles's correspondent "J. Burn" was Captain Joseph Burn, a country trader who first visited Pontianak from Madras late in 1806 during a voyage of the General Wellesley that was to cause many civil actions in Penang. (3) He sold cargo (mainly textiles) to Sultan Abdul Rahman al-Kadri of Pontianak and then proceeded on his way to Sulu. Little cargo was sold there and the ship returned via Macassar to Pontianak. Before arriving there it ran aground on a shoal off the Karimata Islands, but was refloated with very little damage. (4) Burn left the ship at Pontianak to dispose of more cargo. However, the Sultan confiscated this and refused to pay. Burn apparently stayed there until about June 1808, apart from a trip back to Penang in mid-1807. He was certainly in Pontianak in February 1808 when--as stated in a letter to Raffles--Sultan Abdul Rahman on his deathbed asked him for forgiveness for cheating him of the cargo. Back in Penang in July 1808, Burn was sued for illegally disposing of part of the remaining cargo after the General Wellesley had returned to Penang in October 1806, commanded by Burns partner, Captain David Dalrymple. The latter was in fact the person responsible but was out of reach of the law, having left in the General Wellesley for the South Seas, where he later died. Burn was briefly jailed as a debtor but was released after handing over to his creditor bonds for personal cargo in Pontianak and, as security, one from the Sultan that related to cargo belonging to a major stake-holder in the voyage, Thomas Parry of Madras. It is reasonable to surmise that Burn soon returned to Pontianak to avoid possible entanglement in further civil actions. These duly eventuated when the General Wellesley finally returned to Penang from China in December 1809 and was sequestered. Vying for proceeds from its sale and other assets of Dalrymple's estate, the numerous mortgage-holders and creditors sued each other and John Hewitt, Penang Court Registrar and Administrator of the estate in numerous cases. Burn was both a defendant and plaintiff and unfortunately how the outcomes impinged on him is not known because available records are incomplete. (5) Nevertheless, there is no evidence that he appeared in Penang for the trials and there is some evidence to the contrary: the Prince of Wales Island Gazette, correcting an earlier report of Burn's death, noted on 30 June 1810 that he was "in perfect health" in Pontianak.

Although it has been suggested that Burn was sent to Pontianak by Raffles as his representative, (6) the (apparent) end of the court proceedings as given above is sufficiently close to the dates of Burn's letters to Raffles to suggest that he was already residing in Pontianak in a private capacity. Nor is there any evidence that his appointment was of an official nature, although Burn may well have styled himself "British Commercial Agent." The first pages of Burn's first letter of 12 February refer to receipt of a letter from Raffles, carried by Captain Lambert, another country trader, and are couched more in terms of a response to a personal request for information rather than a letter sent as an official communication to the East India Company. Perhaps Burn was associated with the merchant Alexander Hare, then based at Malacca, as suggested by Gibson-Hill. (7) Alternatively, perhaps he was employed by Sultan Kassim al-Kadri, Sultan Abdul Rahman's successor, who was later said by John Leyden to be Burn's "principal associate." In fact, it is not clear that Raffles, who was reporting directly to Lord Minto, could have appointed him to a position in Borneo prior to the invasion of Java, as any such appointment ought to have come under the authority of the Government in Penang.

As late as October 1812 the Penang Government wrote to Sultan Kassim in Pontianak on behalf of Thomas Parry in Madras. It said that Burn had disposed of Parry's cargo in 1807 with no cash return to Parry and that since then Burn had been living in Pontianak (i.e., there was no reference to the court case in 1808). It asked if Burn had received the proceeds. Also, what were the "circumstances that rendered it necessary" for him to live in Pontianak? The Sultan should be aware of "the impropriety of countenancing the residence" of Burn. (8) No reply has been found. Parry would probably have written to Penang in mid-1812 and this letter from Penang suggests that the Government officials there still considered Burn to be of bad character. Raffles apparently had a different opinion, though he would have been well aware of the court proceedings and had probably met Burn in Penang in 1808. Apart from supplying the information in the letters, Burn helped Raffles in April-May 1811 by assisting in a survey of the coast of West Borneo, the preferred route for the British invasion fleet. (9) By September 1812 he had moved on from Pontianak, and was commanding the Olivia, a brig owned by Alexander Hare and chartered as a supply vessel by the Government of Java. In this capacity he assisted in the aftermath of the plundering of the disabled Coromandel in the Karimata Islands by the piratical Pangeran Anom of Sambas and eventually moved on to Kupang, Timor, where he died as Resident in 1814 or 1815. This last appointment--presumably arranged by Raffles as Lieutenant-Governor in Java--shows that his earlier transgressions had been forgiven.

Burn's Letters: An Overview

Located as he was at Pontianak, the estuary of the mighty Amazon-like Kapuas which wound its way down westward more than a thousand kilometers from the interior of Borneo, Burn was well-placed to collect information about its population and resources. He was evidently on intimate terms with Sultan Kassim al-Kadri (for whom he may have acted as a kind of private secretary in order to provide some income) and was able to use this friendship to gain access to the many Pontianak-based traders who plied the vast waterway. Once Burn was aware of his project, Burn told Raffles in March 1811, the Sultan had "sent for every person he thinks can be of service and strictly lays them under strenuous injunctions to adhere strictly to the truth ..." Dismissing the Malays and Bugis as unreliable informants except for basic commodity prices and prone to repeat the tallest of tall stories ("their intelligence is rather circumscribed," he noted tartly), Burn focused on the Arab traders who had gathered around the sultanate since its establishment by the Arab adventurer, Syed Sharif Abdul Rahman al-Kadri, with Bugis and Dutch assistance in 1770. He had been impressed not only by their practical knowledge as commercial entrepreneurs but also by their intelligence. No doubt he saw them as most closely approximating to Europeans in their physical appearance and way of life as men of commerce. In some cases, he noted, they had actually recorded their observations in the interior. Indeed, they were "vain" to communicate what they knew, "as they imagine their name will be made conspicuous elsewhere." The Sultan himself kept a book in which he had recorded the dates of the earliest Portuguese and Dutch settlements in Borneo which he had evidently obtained in Batavia from Dutch records. The enterprise and tenacity of the Chinese obviously impressed Burn, but he had a poor opinion of their technological skills and regarded them as "of the worst class" and "a low thieving set."

One of these Arab traders was Sheikh Osman, who had resided in Borneo for more than twenty-five years and had actually settled not far from the town of Sanggau where the gold-rich Sekayam River flowed into the Kapuas. It was probably after the former's return to Pontianak in March 1811 that Burn was able to produce two essays entitled "The Foundation and Establishment of Pontiana" and "Anecdotes of Pontiana," together with a comprehensive and detailed account of the various upriver negeri which added substantially to the information he had provided Raffles in his initial letter of 12 February. From the information provided by Sheikh Osman and other informants, including a certain Syed Abdillah, it is clear that Burn pursued his questioning in systematic categories: geographical location, name of ruler, population size and ethnic breakdown, commercial production and potential together with tax income, and political relations with the now dominant state of Pontianak. At the same time, his interests were not exclusively economic. His careful descriptions of birds and animals reveal a man who was fascinated by the exotic diversity of the tropical environment in which he found himself. He also revealed a keen interest in anthropology, notably in the jungle-dwelling Punan whom he linked with the Batak people of Sumatra and those of the Andaman Islands. Whether he believed the popular stories about orang utan seizing and making off with native women is not absolutely clear but he seems to have been properly sceptical. On the other hand, it was with some satisfaction that he related his own pet orang utan's near-fatal revenge on its Chinese tormentor.

Burn's account is notable for being the first we have of the middle and upper Kapuas until the descriptions by officials of the Dutch colonial government. (10) Burn described the settlements from Tayan as far as Selimbau, above which he believed there were none "of any consequence." This omission of negeri further upriver was probably due their insignificance as trading centers and his informants' lack of knowledge. Consequently, he omitted Piasa and Jongkong (known as Ulak Lamau until 1868), and of course Bunut which was not founded until 1815. The principal ones he dealt with were Sanggau, where, significantly, Syed Abdul Rahman had originally intended to settle, and Sintang, which was "of much importance and is supposed to be a very old settlement." His final section dealt with Landak, an old-established state which was relatively close (six days' paddle) to Pontianak in the Kapuas delta and which the Sultan himself had visited on a number of occasions, despite the reputation of its people as great poisoners. Landak's proximity to the coast and its great wealth in gold and diamonds had meant that its Sultan had been able to exchange his subordination to the Sultan of Sukadana and Matan (the ancient kingdom destroyed by the Dutch with the assistance of Syed Abdul Rahman in 1786) for the suzerainty and protection of the Sultan of Bantam in Java. In 1811, the Dutch still had nominal political authority over Landak but had taken no steps to assert it.

Of all the Kapuas states, only gold-rich Sanggau had seriously challenged the new dominance of Pontianak but this had been answered in early 1778 when a force led by Syed Abdul Rahman's ally, Raja Ali Haji of Riau, destroyed the town and took away its guns (Matheson and Andaya 1982:155). The substantial gold and padi production of both Sanggau and Sintang meant that their rulers could exercise considerable political leverage and thus preserve some of their old autonomy by prohibiting the export of both commodities, but the fact that these were their own principal source of tax income meant that they could not exercise this power indefinitely without damaging their own interests. When it came to warfare, Burn noted that the Malays valued guns more for show than effect and were generally unskilled in their use. Nevertheless, he urged Europeans not to underestimate the courage and prowess of Malays and Bugis in their fighting prahu, even if they did "prefer treachery to an open attack when they can put it in practice."

An intriguing aspect of Burn's account of Sanggau is his reference to a square brick fort built there about 150 years earlier by the Portuguese, according to Malay records, but long since abandoned. There are no references to Sanggau in Portuguese accounts of their activity in Borneo. Portuguese interest would probably have been in gold and diamonds, and there would thus have been good reasons for trying to keep this secret from European competitors. It seems very unlikely that an incursion in the mid-1600s that was substantial enough for a fort to be built would have escaped the attention of the Dutch or English in the region, or writers such as the Dutch missionary Valentijn (1726). However, about 100 years earlier there had been a Portuguese expedition to the Kapuas, led by Dom Manuel de Lima. This was certainly suppressed from Portuguese histories of the period and is recorded only on maps (Smith 2001:40-43).

The general picture of the middle and upper Kapuas constructed by Burn from his local informants was of a vast and well-inhabited hinterland rich in gold, iron ore and jungle produce such as beeswax and tenkawang oil and with cultivated crops such as cotton and gambier, but also notable for its production of Dayak-cultivated padi which had enabled Pontianak to end its dependence on imports from Java. Arab, Chinese, and Bugis traders were evidently extremely active on the river and were able to supply the salt, cloth, and iron needed by the Dayaks. The political picture is of small Malay Muslim elites exercising dominance to a greater or lesser extent over populous tribes of Dayaks who in some cases (notably Sanggau) had married into the ruling dynasty and thereby (although Burn does not suggest this) given it greater legitimacy. At the same time, there was little evidence of Dayaks being converted to Islam and giving up their pork diet. The most important source of Malay dominance was the rulers' monopoly of the trade goods upon which the Dayaks depended, together with their control over Chinese goldminers by means of a royalty system. Burn noted with some emphasis the way in which the Malay rulers of Sambas had been overwhelmed by the Chinese after making too many concessions to them and how the Sultan of Landak was determined to avoid this fate.

Raffles had high hopes for Borneo as a bastion of British influence in the event of Java having to be returned to the Dutch at the end of the war in Europe. As the Dutch appeared to have abandoned their interest in Borneo before the British invaded Java, it had seemed to Raffles that it was in Britain's strategic interests to establish a strong presence there as quickly as possible. On the basis of the information supplied by Burn in various letters and accounts from Pontianak, he was able to tell his superior, Lord Minto, in mid-1811: "The immense island of Borneo, even the shores of which are imperfectly known, contains in its interior a more numerous agricultural population than has generally been supposed." (11) Outlining its various natural products, he went on to describe it as "not only one of the most fertile countries in the world, but the most productive in gold and diamonds." (12)

John Leyden, who aspired to be Raffles' secretary when the latter became Lieutenant-Governor of Java, also brought Burn's information into the public domain when he based his Sketch of Borneo largely upon it. This was written by Leyden between June and August 1811, during the voyage of the British invasion fleet from Malacca to Java. Leyden died very soon after arriving in Java and the Sketch was first published in Batavia by Raffles in 1814. It was reprinted by J.H. Moor in a collection of articles about the Indian Archipelago published in Singapore in 1837, together with John Hunt's somewhat less reliable "Sketch of Borneo, or Pulo Kalamantan," originally published by Raffles at Benkoolen in 1820, which also borrowed from Burn. Although Bastin (1961:121-22) credited Hunt with being Raffles's chief informant on Borneo, it is clear that Burn's earlier contributions of information were of crucial importance. It can be seen, then, that Burn was a vital player in Raffles's grand but ultimately thwarted scheme--one which James Brooke pledged himself to revive three decades later in the prospectus of his projected voyage to Borneo. (13)

Burn's Reports

We provide here substantial excerpts from Burn's reports to Raffles, retaining his original spelling, punctuation, use of capital letters, etc. Some words are not easy to read, and a few are illegible, as indicated. Place names that Burn mentions are identified and shown in Figure 1. In a few cases, the names have been read differently from the corresponding names as given by Smith (2004).


1. Burn to Raffles, 12 February 1811.

The first letter starts by acknowledging the receipt of a letter from Raffles, in which the latter asked for information about the fate of vessels captured by local pirates. Burn told Raffles that one of these, the Commerce, had been burned by "Pangeran Samewda" of Sarawak, a relative of the Sultan of Sambas. Burn also said that he had not received a "publication" that would have "greatly assisted" him. This may be a reference to the outcome of the legal proceedings in which he was involved. Extracts now follow, in the order in which they were written.

[Of the Dayaks] their manner when they come from the Interior of Pontiana appear to me the mildest of any species of people I ever saw. They look up to the Sultaun and Arabs here as a very superior order of beings. I have repeatedly seen the Sultan employ some hundreds of them, in daily cutting and dragging trees, collecting Rattans from the Woods and other kinds of hard labour, without any other reward than a daily ration of some Rice and Salt for a month or six weeks, after which period they generally left him, but if they remained for some Months he generally gave each of them a coarse handkerchief with a [illeg.] of Salt (which is of great value in the interior of Borneo) and the headmen had the honor of exhibiting their war dance before the Sultaun which they accompanyed with the [illeg.] hoop, a wild chilling and savage scream in concert and then departed. He often told me it was the only way he could obtain any service from them, that he frequently endeavoured to encourage by a daily small pay which always put an end to their exertion and had a bad effect, making them indolent.

... There is a place called Sango [Sanggau] a long way above Pontiana on the banks of the same river, but the exact distance I cannot determine as the Malays compute more by time than any other method. I think however it is about 230 or 250 miles above Pontiana. This place, Sango, is famous for producing the best Gold Dust in the Island of Borneo. At Sango there is a Tribe of Dyers [Dayaks] amounting to about 8,000 and there is still the remains of a small square built Fort of Brick, which the Malay records say was built by the Portuguese about 140 or 150 years ago, that the Portuguese had a settlement here for many years, but why they abandoned it they know not. The head of this Tribe styles himself a Raja[,] he is a Mahomedan of Malay origins, his name is Pangeran Paiko, his progenitors having intermarried with the head Family of this Dyer tribe. This Raja has a Court of his own, he has made himself independent of the Sultaun of Pontiana, but remains on terms of friendship with him. This Pangeran Paiko seems a man of considerable abilities. He has got about 500 Chinese settlers and about 1000 of the Malays but all his Dyers still remain Pagans, they however pay him Tribute--cultivate Paddy even for exportation in considerable quantities, which is now very cheap (both paddy and rice) collect Beeswax, rattans and Gold Dust and are faithful and obedient to him. He himself is educated as well as most of the Malay Rajas generally are but he considers it as policy to keep his Dyers in their primitive state of ignorance. The riches of this Raja are said to be considerable and when any dispute arises betwixt him and the Sultaun of Pontiana he generally lays an embargo on trade and the exportation of Gold Dust until he obtains his terms which are never unreasonable. There is also another tribe of Dyers near to Mompawa [Mempawah] but they have no chief of any consequence and look up to the Sultaun of Mompawa [Mompawa being subject to Pontiana) as their head. These two tribes are the only people of that description I have seen, though there is a great many of them particularly about Banjermassin where they are very numerous. There is also in the inland parts of Borneo another race of People who live in the hills, and said to have woolly heads and very dark skins something similar to the description of the Battas of Sumatra and also in their manners and customs are said to be connected but at present I am not sufficiently prepared to speak with correctness on that subject, as there is now absent from Pontiana two or three intelligent Merchants who are daily expected here, and whose absence I regret much, particularly one Arab named Shaik [sic] Osman, a most intelligent and well informed man who has been often farther into the interior of Borneo than any other man I ever met with. He has resided here about 25 Years and has acquired considerable property by trading in the Interior, and has formed a small kind of settlement of his own up the river near to Sango. Further communications on the Dyers and also the inland inhabitants of Borneo you may expect from me at some future period as well as the different Books which you mentioned as most of them are promised me [i.e., by the Sultan of Pontianak].

The Island of Borneo.

The principal Sultauns or Rajas on the island of Borneo are those of Borneo Proper [Brunei], Banjermassin and Succadana. All the others are of late origin and usurpers to that Title. The [illeg.] Raja of Succadana is of Malay origin, now removed to a place called Mattan, near to Succadana. Succadana was formerly a place of great trade but now gone to decay. Many ships formerly frequented that place but not for many years past. The Cause is chiefly owing to the oppression of the Rajas to the Buggis Merchants, and to others who resided and frequented the Part, but left it when they found each other more to their advantage and partly to their quarrels with the Dutch who at one time sent an expedition against Succadana, burned and destroyed it, and carried off whatever property they could, which was but little. The present Sultaun of Pontiana often told me of this expedition, he himself being present and aiding and assisting them the Dutch, though he is now friends with the Raja of Mattan. I saw the present Raja of Mattan on a Public visit to this place about three months ago, but though he remained here about 15 days, he only had two interviews with the Sultaun, and both these times he was intoxicated with Opium which he daily uses in immoderate quantities, and altogether seems to be sunk in debauchery and despised by every one, but he does not behave with cruelty to his Subjects....

[This account ends with a description and drawing of the famous huge "diamond" that was owned by the displaced Sultan [Burn: "Raja"] of Sukadana and which the Dutch had unsuccessfully sought to buy. It was later found to be rock crystal (Smith 2004).]

2. "The Settlements above Pontiana," enclosure in Burn to Raffles, 12 March 1812.


Tayan is about four days journey by water above Pontiana [where] there is a tribe of Dyers called the Tayan Dyers, their numbers do not exceed 8,000. The Raja of this place stiles [sic] himself Raja Palembahan [Penambahan], he is of Malay extraction and has about him 200 Malays and a few Chinese; this place produces some Gold but is famous for having plenty of Iron Ore, and Iron Stone, which is found in the rising of the hilly ground, and may be procured without much trouble of digging, as it generally lays about in large and small pieces, and may be had in any quantity. The Chinese obtain what they want of it, smelt it and form it into the thin potts [sic] and used by them as boilers, and also into a short kind of Gun only used by them in saluting on fasting days, but they have not yet acquired the Art of rendering it malleable and forming it into Bars, except in short pieces and all that I have seen of it is very brittle. They frequently inquired if I could teach them the art of forming it into Bars, of which they either are ignorant about the means, or merely [illeg.]. I imagine the whole of the Chinese who quit China to settle in Borneo, are of the very worst class, and consequently ignorant of the arts except in a very small degree, and when first they are landed here they are necessitated to indent themselves for a given time to defray the expense of their passage, after which they are free, and many of them acquire considerable property, some return to China, but very few, they generally settle here, procure wives and have familys, but they become much addicted to gambling and the use of Opium. They are in fact a low thievish set even to each other. Tin ore has lately been discovered at this place. I have seen some Specimens of it melted into Tin but they have not yet begun to manufacture it in any quantity for Sale; the Raja was here a few days ago (at Pontiana). He has concluded a written treaty with the Sultaun of Pontiana by which he has made over his district to him with all his Dyers for his assistance and support against another Raja more powerful than himself who has mollested [sic] him. The Sultaun tells me he is highly satisfied with his new acquisition and means to commence collecting Tin immediately. The Raja of Tayan however still reserves to himself the internal regulation of his district, and also sufficient for supplying his own consequences.

Mellyow [Meliau]

From Tayan to Mellyow the distance by water is about one days journey. The Chief of the place is a Malay, stiles [sic] himself Pangeran Mellyow. He has about 45 or 50 Malays but no Chinese. His tribe of Dyers amount to about 1,000 only, they are called the Mellyow Tribe. This place produces some Wax and a species of Gambier, but of a different kind from which is produced at Rhio. It is to be understood that all the places above Pontiana produce Rice not only for their own consumption, but also for exportation. Pontiana, however, is an exception to this Rule as it is mostly supplyed from the Interior, and at one time (not many years ago) was mostly supplyed from Java but now they have not the smallest occasion for Rice from Java or anywhere else but the Interior of Borneo which is daily improving not only in the cultivation of Rice but also in many other necessarys of life, for which they formerly depended upon Java. This is in consequence of the difficulty of keeping up a regular intercourse lately with Java on account of the war existing between the English and Dutch by which means they have been necessitated to cultivate a greater quantity of Land. The present Pangeran Mellyow is now on a visit to Pontiana. He is a very old man and possessed of but little property. His authority extends not beyond his own district, but he pays tribute to noone. He is considered not of sufficient consequence either to excite the envy or dislike of the other Rajas.

Sango [Sanggau]

From Mellyow the distance is about 5 days by water. Though I have formerly said something about this place and the Raja, it may be well to keep on the regular detail. The Sango tribe of Dyers originally amounted to about 8,000 but since last I wrote you the Sultan has sent for a particular statement and account of the place, it is found that they are increased by others that have joined them, and they amount to upwards of thirty thousand (30,000). Their Chief is of Malay extraction, intermarried with the head Dyers family many years ago. He is called the Pangeran Paiko, but also assumes the title of Raja. He has about him 5 or 600 Chinese and about the same number of Malays. This place produces annually of Gold Dust about 2 Piculs, but frequently much more. The Sango Gold is of a very superior quality and bears a higher price than most of the other Gold hereabouts; a Picul of Gold Dust is in excess of 1,100 Bunkals, one Bunkal is the weight of two Spanish Dollars. The Sango Gold is worth 24 Span. Dollars per Bunkal, consequently the value of two Piculs amounts to 52,800 Sp. Dollars. A few diamonds are also found but they are very small, their weight not exceeding from 2 to 4 carats each. Sango produces Wax, but the yearly quantity is not easily ascertained, though I have known from two to three hundred piculs brought down here at one time by the Country Traders. It also produces abundance of Rice, great quantities being exported. Coffee thrives here well, but they do not cultivate much of it; the soil of Sango is dry and it is rather hilly country, but the Valleys are of a fine rich mould, quite the reverse of Pontiana which is low, soft and very marshy, and totally a Jungle except where it has been cleared by the Chinese. Sango produces nearly all the Fruits of India. Derians [sic] are to be found growing in the Wood spontaneously in the greatest abundance [and] many different kinds of Plantains are cultivated with Shaddocks [illeg.] or Tomatoes, Mangoes, Mangosteens, Pineapples in the greatest abundance. Guavas, in plenty, and fine Oranges with plenty of Limes, Lemons, Jacks, Cucumbers of various sorts and excellent Pumpkins, Yams, and great quantities of [illeg.], and as I said before, nearly all the fruits of India, together with many others introduced from China by the Chinese. [Garden?] herbs thrive well from China, and sweet Potatoes, but I have seen no Real Potatoes here, except which have been sent from Java, but I imagine they would thrive equally well here as on Java. There are many other Fruits and Roots which I imagine to be peculiar to Borneo as I do not recollect to have seen them anywhere else. Sugar Cane does not thrive well at Sango, though it succeeds remarkably well at some of the other settlements and at Pontiana. Rice is the only Grain they cultivate and that flourishes in the greatest luxuriance. Sango has also acquired from Java a breed of Cattle but except a few which they keep the others have become wild in the Woods, but not very numerous, as the Dyers frequently destroy them, but they have no Horses, neither Bullocks nor Horses being originally in any part of Borneo. There is at large plenty of Deer in the Woods but in a wild state, but very easily got at and killed. There is also numerous droves of wild Hogs, they are to be seen together in many hundreds at a time, and do great mischief to the Plantations and Paddy Fields. There is also Rhinoceros in the Jungle, but they are most frequently seen singly but very seldom two together. They describe this Animal to run very fast in a direct line but he turns himself with much difficulty, by which means they kill him without much danger. If he happens to kill any one he in a short time rasps him to pieces with his Tongue which is very rough, but he feeds on grass and vegetables; their flesh is by the inhabitants of Borneo held in the highest estimation as a Medicine and sovereign cure for most distempers, and bears a very high price even the smaller parts of him. There is also the small Tyger Cat, but no real Tygers or Elephants are to be found in all Borneo. There is the Musk, or Civet Cat, one of them I have now in my possession. They are very numerous. Bears are about Borneo and particularly about Sango but they are all of a remarkable small size. There are Musk rats and the common or Ship Rat, the Porcupine also. The quills of this Animal are about six inches long, when he is full grown. I have been advised that they will shoot or throw their quills to the distance of 20 feet, but the wounds they inflict are not dangerous. I never saw this myself but on the contrary one of these Animals have got into the habit of coming frequently into my Room at night in search of Fruit and pestered me much. I more than once got between him and the door, shout at him, and endeavoured to kill him as he was very mischievous, but I never saw him throw his quills. At last my Servant killed him and though this Animal was very large he did not shoot his quills. The species of Apes and Monkeys are various and numerous, some of them I have seen very large indeed. They have also the famous Orang Otang [sic] said to be found nowhere else but in Borneo. I have at different times got them as presents from the Sultaun and others, but these were generally small and puny, the full grown ones being too strong and vicious to be caught alive. Strange things are related of them by the Malays. The Sultaun has assured me that they frequently carry off the Female Slaves, which indeed is known to be a fact. There is now at Mompawa one of the Sultan's female slaves who was carried off by the Animal about 14 Months, but at last made her escape from him. The Sultaun has often related to me the circumstances with all the particulars belonging to it, and never failed to conclude without the following observation: 'I imagine the Europeans will not believe this, it is a fact however, and very true, and if you wish it I will send down to Mompawa for this Woman that you may see and examine her'. I always told him that his Authority was sufficient, and that I did believe him. Many very respectable people have assured me that it is a very frequent thing in the Interior. I could say much on this subject, and relate a great many particulars relative to this extraordinary Animal when it is in its wild state, by information obtained from various quarters, and which all agree, but I rather decline it, having so much the appearance of Fiction. I had one of them in my possession for a long time. The capacity of that Animal seemed indeed far beyond that of what I saw of any other Animal taken from a wild place. Though I gave him very little attention he soon got attached to me. He was frequently set at liberty but always returned in a short time and seemed to be perfectly sensible when he had done any sort of mischief which frequently was the case, but then generally it was in his own defence, the Malay boys often mollesting him. He would defend himself with a short stick when he was provoked. This stick I permitted him to keep for his amusement until one day when he was irritated and provoked by a Chinaman who have frequently done so before, he by some means struck the Chinaman so severely on the Head as to cut him to the Scull, indeed at first I did imagine he had fractured him, but to me and those he knew were as gentle and obedient as a Spaniel but remarkably shy to strangers. The different species of birds are few at Sango and indeed all over Borneo, but they have plenty of Ducks and Teals domesticated, the wild kind of hawks, and the White headed Kite, which Kite is the Deity of all the Dyer tribes, and universally worshipped by all of them. Also a bird about the size of starling, its colour is varigated [sic] alternately black and white. This bird has loud, short and very shrill note, when it begins to chant at break of day the note is very sweet. The bird is consulted by the Dyers, when they are about to undertake a dangerous expedition, their leader attending to its whistling by which he pretends to prognosticate whether they ought to proceed or not, that is on their expedition. There is also a species of starling, Paddy Birds, Snipes in great plenty, some Curlews, Land Larks, Wood Pigeons, very large, the Turtle Dove, and a few others in the Woods, one of the resembling a small Pheasant, and another called by the Malays the Ingam. The Ingam is about the size of a large Raven, and black except under the throat and belly when it is white. It makes a most remarkable loud hollow short noise, or in short notes, but resembling the blowing of a Conch Shell, and hears at a very great distance. When they pair, the Female builds her nest in the cavity of some tree, and then lays two Eggs, and begins to sit. The Male then continues to build the nest in a very strong and neat manner which is finished by covering in the Female, except a small opening for her Head. During the term of incubation the Male attends and feeds the Female. This bird although a very remarkable one is not held in any kind of estimation by the Dyers, all of them worshipping the white headed Kite which appears to me to be the same as the white headed Braminy Kite which I have frequently seen at Madras. There are also various kinds of Parroquets, and a species of Jungle Fowl much resembling the Domestic Fowl, but much smaller. All the Males are of a reddish colour but some of them approaching to Blue and the Female Grey. These are all that I have seen or have any account of except the King Fisher, and some Swallows and some smaller Birds. There are also Bats, but not numerous. There is no account of either Crow or Sparrow, nor do I believe they are in Borneo, indeed the different Species of Birds and Animals in Borneo are but few indeed, and it appears to me very singular that there should be no Elephants, and yet the small Island of Sooloo which is at not great distance from Borneo has plenty of them in a wild state. Snakes are common, some of them remarkable large and some of the small kind are venomous. The large kinds are not so, but I never have seen the Cobra.

The Woods are stocked with wild Boar, but they are much smaller than our domestic one, and was it not on account of the extreme indolence of the Malays enormous quantities of Wax might be collected. This account of the Animal productions of Sango will nearly serve for all the island of Borneo, except Banjermassin and some other places, particularly about the Straits of Macassar such as Pasier [Pasir] and Kootee [Kutei] where Birds Nests are produced. The Swallow which I have seen here is not of that species.

The Raja of Sango exacts a duty of 6 Reals or 12 Rupees for every Bunkal of Gold Dust that is collected at his district, but it is so unattended to, and they can make payment of his dutys so rarely, that he does not upon an average one year with another receive more than two or three thousand Dollars yearly for Gold Dutys, though at the abovementioned rate he ought to get at least 13,000 Dollars. The Dutys on Rice and the other produce he collects with greater care, though it is impossible to say what it is, but as he is himself a great Trader, he gets much money that way. They have the Smallpox at Large generally once in 6 or 7 years, though great precautions are taken to prevent it, it generally carries off 20 in the hundred. They have no kind of knowledge of using either the Vaccine or the common mode of Inoculation. The dialect of the Sango Dyers is different from the other Tribes. I have at the moment 5 or 6 of these people squatted round me and two of the Leaddo [Ledo] tribe also, but they both declare that they cannot understand each other except in the Malay tongue, and yet these two Tribes are only situated a short distance from each other, when at their respective districts. Sango was many years ago destroyed by the father of the present Sultan of Pontiana. He burned the Chief Town, destroyed its Fort and carried off the Guns, but afterwards granted them a peace, the Rajah having escaped into the Woods. The Raja of Sango has since again put his place in order, built a Fort in the Malay style, and has a number of very fine brass Guns mounted, besides Transomes. The Malays are however in the use and practice of Great Guns wonderfully ignorant when compared with the Europeans. They always prefer the largest of the longest Guns they can procure, though at the same time they have only occasion to fire across a narrow river, never considering these things. Indeed their Guns serve more for Show than any real defence they could make with them and of this they themselves are very sensible, particularly against Europeans.

It must be confessed however that the Malays and the Buggiss are very expert and experienced at making not only a defence in their armed Proas and Fighting Boats, but also display a great deal of Courage and fight most desperately against each other with Spears and Crisses, more so indeed than Europeans think they are capable of, but they always prefer treachery to an open attack when they can put it in practice.

Scadoo [Sekadau]

From Sango to Scadoo the distance by water is only about three days journey. The River is still broad and deep, generally from 8 to 20 fathoms. The Chief there is called the Pangeran Scadoo, and is of Malay origin. The Scadoo tribe of Dyers do not exceed 10,000. The place produces some Gold and Rattans with Rice and Wax etc etc but the place is itself of little importance. The Soil is also very indifferent, and in the estimation of the Malays the District is considered inferior to others.

Spaw [Sepauk]

From Scadoo to Spaw the distance is two days by water. The chief is a Malay stiled Pangeran Spaw. His tribe of Dyers amount to about 1,000, Malays about 50, Chinese 100. This place produces annually [sic] about 50 Bunkals of Gold Dust, value about 1,200 Dollars, and some wax. The place also produces some cotton. The cotton shrub or tree was first imported into Borneo from Java. The Soil of the place is generally marshy, and the place altogether of very little importance.

Billiton [Belitang]

From Spaw to Billiton it is only one days journey by water. The chief here is called Pangeran Billiton. He is a Malay. The tribe of Billiton Dyers are about 6,000. Malays about 100, but no Chinese. This place produces some Gold and abundance of Rice, some Cotton, wax and kind of oil called by the Malays Tenkawan. This oil is obtained from the Trunk of a tall tree which is extracted by expression. The Oil thus obtained is run into Bamboos, and it then becomes hard as tallow and of a greenish colour but has little smell. Great quantities of this oil is brought to Pontiana from the Interior as well as this place. It makes candles with a small mixture of wax but they do not bum clear, but I think it would answer many uses for which Tallow is used, for even in this hot climate it retains it hardness, and the Malays always use it in the bottom of their Proas, in preference to any other. From this place Billiton by water, but through the windings of branch of the River about one Month's journey but by land from Billiton only 7 days, commences the high and hilly country which is inhabited by that singular race called the Poonans, and are supposed by many to resemble the Battas of Sumatra, but I have never perfectly ascertained that they have the smallest resemblance to them, or indeed to any Tribe I ever heard of; and are no doubt the Aborigines of Borneo, if the Dyers are not, though I rather should imagine that both of them are, original inhabitants of Borneo. I have seen several Arab traders who at different times have seen some of these people, and they all declare (although I have examined them specially on this subject without their knowing, my intention was so) the same in their accounts of this Tribe. An Arab trader called Syed Abdiila told me that he purchased a Female from some Dyers of this race of People. The Dyers had caught her by accident, but she could understand nothing of the Dyers language or any other but her own, which is perfectly different from any language known in Borneo. Her manners were perfectly wild and savage, as they all are, very much resembling the natives of the Andemans when they are first caught by the Europeans, and indeed these people are caught much in the same way as the Andemans are, by accident. These Poonans go perfectly naked as the natives of New Holland do, but they are not cannibals, as it is believed by some people they are. They cultivate no Rice, but have plenty of Sago. They are particularly cautious and timid in their intercourse with the other Tribes of the Dyers, and the up country traders which is carried on in the following manner and has been described to me by some of the Arab Traders. The Poonans require nothing but Salt, boiling potts, and iron Parangs, or large knives used by the Dyers, whoever wishes to dispose of these articles, but particularly Salt, which is in great request by the Poonans, the seller of the salt deposits his salt on the ground near to the [illeg.] and haunts of the Poonans, he then beats with a stick for a considerable time on a tree or [illeg.] which is preferable and then departs to a considerable distance. The Poonans if they are feeling satisfyd all is safe will in the course of a day or more come and take away the salt and what is very singular never fail to leave in its place some Gold Dust which is very rare but also valuable contained in short pieces of Bamboo. They all agree that the Poonans are faithful in making the Deposit for what they take. The seller generally obtains at the rate of 75 to 80 dollars for his Salt per picul by this Singular trade but it is attended with an immense trouble and also very great danger and risk, the Dyers in the neighbourhood often attacking the traders when off their Guard, but they never do [illeg.]. Who these people are they cannot be accounted for, unless it is the Dyers being in the habit of carrying them off or what is more probable putting them to death in order to produce their heads, according to the custom of the Dyers, for these Poonans are almost defenceless, being perfectly naked, and also ignorant of the use of the blowstick or Soompet [sumpit], which is very formidable in the hands of the Dyers for I have seen them repeatedly strike down even small birds from the trees with the blowstick or Soompet, though they only used for this purpose small balls of stiff clay not even hardened, but firming them at the time they use them, but with the small poisoned Arrows they must be almost infallible against the Poonans. The number of this Race of People cannot be known. I have made every possible inquiry but cannot attain any other information than this, that they are imagined to be very numerous. These Poonans are as fair and even fairer than some of the Dyers and Malays, which is very different from what I have heard of the Battas of Sumatra. It may be necessary perhaps for me to remark that I have always found that the Arabs the best informed and the most intelligent people of any that I have conversed with. Some of them have even provided to me their written remarks and observations taken when they were in the Interior, and they are generally not only willing but vain of communicating what they know and the intelligence they obtain from others, as they imagine their name will be made conspicuous elsewhere. As for the Malays, and also the Buggiss, their intelligence is rather circumscribed and very defective. They can understand what one article can be purchased for, and what they can obtain for another, at the different parts they frequent in the Interior, but when the questions are extended any further beyond these subjects it frequently excites their laughter and always their surprise, but if I endeavour to obtain any intelligence from them of History relative to the different Countrys where they might be acquainted with it, I have found them relate the most ridiculous Fictions which they themselves have heard and implicitly credit, and are very superstitious. The Sultaun has given me every assistance; he is a well informed man himself and possessed of most retentive memory. He has sent for every person he thinks can be of service and strictly lays them under the most strenuous injunctions to adhere strictly to the truth, but the most difficult things to obtain is the dates of what happened long ago, as the Malay records are very defective in the respect, however he has lately (a few days ago) produced a book of his own writing, and in this book he has the dates of all the Portuguese settlements and also the Dutch when they were on Borneo which he tells me he obtained from the records of the Dutch East India Company when he was at Batavia many years ago, by which it appears that the Portuguese settled on this side of Borneo I imagine about the same time they had settlements in Java.


From Billiton to Sintang the distance by water is about 6 days journey. (14) This is a place of much importance and supposed to be a very old settlement. The chief here is called the Sultaun of Sintang his tribe of Dyers are very numerous and exceed 60,000. The Sultaun is of Malay extraction, be has about him upwards of 1,000 Malays, and about 700 Chinese. This tribe of Dyers is called the Sintang Tribe. They are esteemed the finest Tribe of Dyers on the whole Island of Borneo, though they are far superior in numbers to some of the others particularly the Banjermassin tribe which is very numerous. They are not only fairer in their complexion, but their noses are not so broad and flat as the others, but their noses are described to me more pronounced than any of the others, and not so much of the Malay features. The Sintang Tribe also speaks a Dialect which is but little understood by their neighbours. They are also free from the scaley scurf on the skin which many among the other Tribes have, and has a very disgusting appearance. They are also less savage in their manner, but take them in general their chief customs and Religion is the same. The Female Slaves of this Tribe are highly prized by the different Malay Rajas but it is difficult to obtain them. I never saw any of this Tribe at Pontiana, they all pay tribute to their Sultaun and are much attached to him. Sintang produces annually Gold Dust about 4 Piculs, but often much more, and is of an excellent quality, 4 Piculs being worth about 100,000 Dollars, upwards. It also produces Cotton. Many of these Dyers have learned to fabricate a very coarse kind of cloth from this Cotton which is worn by the men in lieu of the coarse fringed stuff used by the other Tribes and by the Women in the Fashion of a short petticoat which however does not reach to the knee, but no other covering do they use. Many of them have also learned to Trade and they endeavour to imitate the Malays and the Arabs in some of their Customs, but the Malays, Arabs and Chinese always engross the whole Trade to themselves where they can. Salt has a very high price and indeed all over the Interior of Borneo. The salt is all imported from Java and other places, and the Rajas constantly make a monopoly of it, well knowing that it is one of the necessaries of life which cannot easily be dispensed with as the Opium can and often has been when attempted to be raised in the same manner. Salt here is often up to the price of 200 Dollars per Coyan, and the Sintang Coyan is only 30 Picuis. Sintang produces great quantities of rattans, and Rice is in the greatest abundance. The price of Rice does not exceed from 15 to 20 Reals per Coyan. The Soil is very dry in some places and very rich. They have got a breed of Bullocks and also of Buffaloes, which are numerous and still increasing, but they have not any horses. From Sintang to the River of Banjermassin, they have an inland communication, and Trade to that place. They also do the same with Borneo Proper, partly by means of the different branches of the river and partly by an inland communication which the Malays are always associate. The Animal and Vegetable productions are nearly the same as Sango, but from every information which I have yet obtained and particularly from an Arab Syed who resided many years at Sintang, it appears to me to be a very superior place to any of the others on this River and abounds with all the Borneo productions, Diamonds and Birds Nests excepted. The Sultaun of Sintang and the Sultaun of Pontiana seem to take little notice of each others transactions, but they are not on bad terms, being perfectly independent of each other.

About ten days journey inland from Sintang is a Tribe of Dyers called the Mintoaree Tribe, but they are tributary to and acknowledge the Sultaun of Sintang. These people have the Lobes of their Ears perforate when young, and extended to an unusual size by some instrument of wood they keep in them with a spring which extends them. They are all universally Tattooed all over their body. They amount to about 10,000 but their manners differ little in other respects from the Sintang Dyers. They cultivate Rice and collect some Gold. There is immense quantities of Rattans in the Woods but they do not collect them. Their dialect is very easily understood by the Sintang Tribe. This Tribe of Mintoaree Dyers have lately been attacked and dispersed by the Banjermassin Dyers, called the Beeajoo [sic] Tribe. (15) This quarrel took place on account of their waylaying each other and cutting off each other heads according to their Customs. They have left their District and joined themselves to another Tribe called the Amballoo [Ambalu or Embaluh? (16)] Dyers, which took place very lately.

About 12 days journey in another direction from Sintang by land is a large Lake about 120 Miles across but in which direction I cannot exactly discover, as the main River has acquired many serpentine windings both below and above Sintang. Around this Lake is a Tribe called the Amballoo Dyers. They are and acknowledge themselves to be tributary to the Sultaun of Sintang. Their number amounts about 12,000. They are also industrious, cultivate Rice and collect some Gold. This Lake has a communication with the Main River, and has immense quantities of fish of various kinds and excellent of their kind. This tribe is also Tattooed, and their Dialect differs but little from Sintang Dialect. The other Tribe called the Mintoaree Dyers are now settled amongst them since they have been dispersed by the Banj ermassin Dyers called the Beeajoo Dyers. (17)

Seelat [Silat]

From Sintang to Seelat the distance by water is three days journey. The Chief of this place is called Palambahan Seelat. He is of Malay extraction. His tribe of Dyers are only about 2,000. He has about him about 350 Malays and 50 Chinese. This small Tribe are nearly the same as the Sintang Tribe, and speak their Language. The place produces little Gold, some Wax, and Rattans. The place has a fine dry Soil. The Chief Palambahan bears a very high character. His place of residence is up into a branch of the Main River. The People of Seelat are famous for building most excellent Proas and boats which they sell for the purpose of carrying inland Trade. Some of the Proas will carry 10 Coyans of Rice. Rattans grow here in the Woods in the greatest plenty but they do not collect them.

Seyat [Suhaid? (18)]

From Seelat to Seyat is one days journey. The Chief here is called Kiau Toa, which is an inferior kind of Title. He is of Malay extraction. His Tribe of Dyers consist of about three thousand, and a few Malays, but no Chinese. These Dyers are nearly the same as the Seelat Dyers. This place produces a little Gold and Wax, but the place altogether is of but little consequence.

Seelimboo [Selimbau]

From Seyat to Seelimboo the distance is two days by water. The Chief is a Malay and has the title of Kiau Seelimboo. He has about 50 Malays, but no Chinese and his Dyers are not above 1,000. The place produces little Gold but there is the greatest plenty of Wax if it was collected. However about 1,000 Piculs of it yearly comes to Pontiana.

At Seelimboo the River has very much the appearance of large Lake, the land not being in sight from one side to the other, and the motion or Current of the River is barely perceptible. It is only one fathom deep in some places, but 4 to 5 fathoms in others. The River or Lake here abounds with immense quantities of excellent Fish. About 100 Piculs of Cotton is also produced, which is all manufactured at the different places on this River. The River above Seelimboo has no Settlement of any consequence, but many small Tribes of Dyers who are but little known. The River which is known by the name of the Pontiana River, takes its rise from a range of very high Mountains, that are not inhabited. These Mountains are a considerable way above Seelimbo. On the other side of these mountains another River takes its rise which falls into the Sea at Pasier [Pasir] in the Straits of Macassar, and is also inhabited about its Banks by different Tribes of Dyers, mostly of the same description of those on the Pontiana River.

From Seelimboo to the River which falls into the Sea at Banjermassin the distance by land is only about Seven days to the Tribe of Dyers which is distinguished there by the name of the Beeajoo Dyers, who are said to extend all the way down to Banjermassin. This Tribe called the Beeajoo Tribe are known to be the most numerous and warlike Tribe in all the Island of Borneo. They also have much more of the Malay features than the Sintang Dyers, and some of [the] other Tribes. They were for long time under the Raja of Banjermassin, but they have lately begun to rebell [sic], but many of them are still obedient to the Raja. Their obedience is in consequence of the Raja of Banjermassin having seized and forcibly sent over 500 of these People to Java for the purpose of converting them into Seapoys, in obedience to an order from Marshal Dandaels. They are now become very troublesome, even attacking and taking many of the Trading Proas, sallying out suddenly from the small creeks that are about that River as they pass up and down and murder the Crews as they take them. According to the Custom of the Dyer Tribes, these Banjermassin Dyers are armed with the Parang and the Soompet with the poisoned arrows which are most formidable weapons in the hands of these people.

The Settlement of Landaw [Landak]

Landaw is about 6 days journey from Pontiana by river. This place is situated up a branch of the River which joins at Pontiana, but it runs up from Pontiana in nearly a NE direction. This is a very ancient settlement but its original settlers cannot be traced. The Chief is called the Pangeran Landaw. He is a Malay and related to the Sultaun of Pontiana by the mothers side. He at present has under him about 200 Malays, 40 or 50 Buggiss, 100 Chinese and about 300 Natives of Bantam. His tribe of Dyers amount to about 5 or 6,000, but there is [sic] many other Tribes around him of which he takes little notice, not wishing to subject them to him. Landaw is a remarkably sickly place but particularly so to strangers as they at first are generally attacked with the Jungle Fever. The place produces annually Gold Dust to the value of about 11 to 12,000 Dollars, with some Rice, and the Fruits are nearly on a par with the other settlements. It has been repeatedly and [illeg.] ascertained that the Earth could produce more Gold than any other place in Borneo yet known if it is allowed to be collected, but the Raja will not permit it, except in a very small degree. The Chinese have made many attempts to get permission hut without success, and they have even attempted repeatedly to force themselves into the place, and have lost many of their people in these attempts. Though the Rajah had but a small number of subjects at this present time to what he has many years ago, he still by some means or other sets them all at defiance. This aversion on his part arises from his jealousy of the Chinese, well knowing that his own force is but small, and having seen what the Chinese did at a place called Montrado and Slackau [Selakau], which is at a short distance to the north of Mompawa. This place Montrado which is now incorporated with Slackau was formerly under the Raja of Sambas, who at first permitted the Chinese to settle and collect Gold there; they for [a] long time [were] paying him Regular dutys, but when they increased to the number of thirty thousand, they finding Sambas declining from the Raja's own bad conduct in cutting off the Country ship commanded by Captain Drysdale many years ago, and the subsequent attack made on him by the Honourable Company Cruiser, and the Chastisement he received from him at that time which he so deserved for his treachery in cutting off Capt. Drysdale, the Chinese at Montrado and Slackau rebelled, being at the same time partly assisted and instigated by emissaries from Pontiana, and gave the Raja of Sambas battle repeatedly in their own way, so that they are now nearly independent, only sending the Raja of Sambas occasionally a trifling sum not exceeding 1500 Dollars in the course of 12 Months and some years nothing. The Rajah of Landaw having seen all this makes him particularly averse to the Chinese, and he never will allow more than a small number to remain at Landaw.

Landaw is also famous for producing Diamonds but these in a great measure are restricted from the same causes. He will only allow permit a few people on who he thinks he can rely to search for them, and that only in particular places where they are known to be less plentiful than others. The value of the Diamonds however that are yearly found within these restrictions amounts to about 50,000 Dollars. About 25,000 Dollars are annually sent to Java for same but of late years they have brought a very low price from what they did formerly. The other half are generally kept by the Finders or dispensed with at some other market, but they generally keep many as family property.

The Raja has the sole right of claiming all Diamonds found above the weight of 4 carats, but if they do not exceed that weight they exclusively belong to the finder but then the Raja pays to the Finder part of their value. Thus, if the Diamond found is the weight of 5 carats, the Raja pays the Finder 20 Reals per ct, or 40 Reals, though he will again get for it 100 Reals or 200 Rupees. If it is 10 carats, he pays the Finder 200 reals or 400 Rupees but he may again get for it 1,000 Reals. If the Diamond is 16 carats he pays 500 Reals but may get 2,000 Reals for it. The value of the Diamonds increasing very fast as they get heavier that is if they are of a good water, but many are found there of Reddish and Yellowish tint, and these are of but little value. All those under the weight of 5 Carats though their water may be very good are of low value, and exclusively belong to the Finder. If the Diamond is 2 carat weight it is worth 16 Reals, and if 3 Carat weight no more than 30 Reals, if 4 carat weight value about 50 Reals. Few of the Diamonds here exceed the weight of 16 Carats and seldom 30 carats. At this place however was found the large one which is now in the possession of the Raja of Mattan the weight of which is 367 Carats, and allowed to be of the first water. I formerly sent you a detailed account in my first Letter by Captain Tait.

Above Landaw this branch of the River gets very small. There is one Settlement above it, but it is inhabited by Dyers who communicate and mix with those of Mompawa, and even all the way down to the north east as far as Sambas, being all nearly connected to each other, but still divided into various and distinct Tribes, but they are not numerous. The different Rajas claim no kind of Tribute from them though they will often come and assist the Rajas by what work they are capable of and on these occasions their rewards are but trifling indeed. The People of Landaw are notorious for taking off people by poison, but particularly strangers who attempt to settle amongst them, or whoever they are jealous of. The present Sultaun of Pontiana has told me, that whilst the Dutch resided at Pontiana he frequently went to Landaw with someone or another about their dutys and other transactions, that he took wonderful precautions to guard against this perfidy, would not eat or drink from those of whatever they sent him, described the various ways in which they apply their poison and said he constantly lost some of his people by this. Every time he went there, many of his own Relatives had been poisoned by them and when these people visit Pontiana they are watched and observed with particular care. The Suitaun lately lost one of his sisters that way, the Landaw people being always bribed for such purposes, and it only required a few Dollars to purchase such a Service from a native of Landaw.

The Raja of Landaw was formerly under and tributary to the Sultaun of Succadana and Mattan but being either oppressed or imagining himself to be so by the Mattan People they rebelled; at that Period Landaw was much more powerful place than at present. The war was supported for a long time with great animosity and mutual retaliations of cruelty by both partys. At last the Raja of Landaw finding he could not hold out against the Force from Mattan sent against him, made application to the Sultaun of Bantam imploring his assistance and protection offering him any terms he might require for such assistance as would effectually avert the revenge of the Mattan people, who he knew would grant him no Mercy. The Sultan of Bantam demanded the sole right of purchasing all the Diamonds to be found in his District at a stated low price and some other stipulations, to all of which the Raja of Mattan was excluded, and the Raja of Landaw agreed to; the Sultaun of Bantam then sent a fleet of War Proas to Landaw with (it is supposed) about 2,000 men, and soon compelled the Raja of Mattan to withdraw his Force and grant them a Peace and Independence. The Sultan of Bantam, however thus became Master of the place, kept possession of it and compelled the Raja of Landaw to acknowledge him as his Superior and the District to belong to the Sultan of Bantam. He also left a Force at Landaw to secure his new acquisition. When the settlement of Pontiana was first founded by the father of the present Sultaun, which was in the Year of the Hegira 1185 or in the way of the Christian era 1770 the Landaw people again applied to the Sultaun of Bantam, imagining and probably with good reason that they must soon be subject to Pontiana. The Sultaun of Bantam imagining that he could not defend the place against the rising power of Pontiana which was much dreaded from the formidable character the new Sultaun then bore, made over the settlement of Landaw to the Dutch East India Company for the sum of thirty thousand Sp. Dollars (over 30,000) since which period Landaw has belonged to the Dutch. The Dutch Government in the Year of the Hegira 1191 answering to the Christian Era 1776 sent a Force to Pontiana, established a Resident there, afterwards assisted the Sultaun of Pontiana in destroying the famous settlement of Succadana and also in consequence Mompawa and subjecting it to Pontiana. The Dutch established a Resident at Mompawa and for the space of 14 years did they continue to collect and impose dutys on Pontiana, Mompawa and Landaw, until they finally withdrew. But still the Settlement of Landaw belongs to the Dutch never having given up their Right of it to the Raja of Landaw though they had made no demands on any of these places for many years.

The present Marshal Daendels still corresponds and exchanges mutual presents with the Sultaun of Pontiana. The Sultaun has given me a sight of his presents and also read the Marshall's letters to me. The present Sultaun is a man of much knowledge of the World in comparison to some of the Malay Rajas. He at one time during his fathers lifetime went on a visit to the Governor General of Batavia and visited the different Malay Rajas on Java and also went to Banjermassin and other places, being absent for three years. His visit to Batavia he told me was to lay open to the Governor and Council of Batavia the impositions and the peculations of the Dutch at Pontiana and at Mompawa, and in consequence of his representations he got the Resident recalled and another put in his situation, but he says they still continued the same practices, cheating both the Company and the Malays. He has often detailed to me the methods by which the Dutch Residents enriched themselves at the expense of the Company, and the various modes by which they oppressed the Malays, taxing every single item of consumption even to the Fisherman and the Fish when landed for sale in the Bazar [sic], and at last insisted when extracting a duty of 5 dollars annually [sic] for every Slave in the place. It appeared however that this Tax on Slaves was by order of the Governor General, but when the Sultaun went to Batavia he got it withdrawn. The Dutch had been in the habit of sending large Sums of Span. Dollars to Pontiana for purchasing Gold Dust in the Interior. With these Dollars the Resident would purchase it for 12,16 and 17 Doll per Bunkal, Dollars always being in demand in Borneo, but charged it to the Company at 22 per Bunkal. Gold Dust always bears a high price in Java, from 27 to 28 and 30 Dollars per Bunkal. This is in consequence of the natives of Java using such quantities worked up into ornaments for their Wives and Female Slaves. The Dutch also following this example in that respect and in much the same fashion, and also the Chinese on Java who are people possessed of great property and influence in consequence of it.

J. Burn


Anonymous 1856 Journal of a Tour on the Kapuas. Journal of the Indian Archipelago and East Indies (New Series) 1:84-126.

Bastin, J. 1961 Raffles and a British Indonesia. In: J. Bastin, Essays On Indonesian and Malaysian History. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press,. Pp. 115-42.

Brooke, James 1838 Proposed Exploring Expedition to the Asiatic Archipelago, By James Brooke, Esq. In: H. Keppel, (1846), The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido ... 2 Vols, London: Chapman & Hall. Appendix I, pp. i-xv.

Burn, J[oseph] 1811 Mr Burn's Account of Pontianak, 12 February and 12 March 1811 (Manuscript). India Office Records, Private Papers, Raffles Collection XI, MSS Eur El09, London: British Library. Pp. 1-151.

Edgell, T. C. P. 1935 English Trade and Policy in Borneo and the Adjacent Islands, 1667-1786. M.A. Thesis, University of London.

Enthoven, J. K. K. 1903 Bijdragen tot de Geographic van Borneo's Wester-afdeeling. 2 Vols. Leiden: Brill.

Gibson-Hill, C. A. 1952 Documents Relating to John Clunies Ross, Alexander Hare and the Early History of the Settlement on the Cocos-Keeling Islands. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 25/4 (1952):7-300.

Hunt, J. 1820 Sketch of Borneo or Pulo Kalamantan, by J. Hunt, Communicated by J. Hunt Esq. in 1812 to the Honourable Sir T. S. Raffles, Late Lieut. Governor of Java; published in Malayan Miscellanies, 1/7 (1820): 1-67; also published in J. H. Moor, ed. Notices of the Indian Archipelago and Adjacent Countries, Singapore, 1837, Appendix, pp. 12-30 (reprinted by Frank Cass & Co. Ltd, London 1968).

Irwin, G. 1955 Nineteenth Century Borneo: A Study in Diplomatic Rivalry. Singapore: Donald Moore Books.

Leyden, John 1814 Sketch of Borneo, published in Transactions of the Batavia Society of Arts and Sciences (Verhandelingen van het Bataaviasch Genootschap voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen), 7/2:27-64; also published in J.H. Moor, Singapore, 1837, ed., Notices of the Indian Archipelago and Adjacent Countries, Appendix, pp. 93-109 (reprinted by Frank Cass & Co. Ltd, London 1968).

Matheson, V. and B. Andaya, eds. and trans. 1982 The Precious Gift = Tuhfat al-nafis / Raja All Haft ibn Abroad. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Pfeiffer, Ida 1856 A Lady's Second Journey Round the World. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Posewitz, Th. 1892 Borneo: Its Geology and Mineral Resources. London: Edward Stanford.

Raffles, Lady Sophia 1830 Memoir of the Life and Public Services of the Late Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, F.R.S., etc. 2 Vols. London: John Murray.

Runciman, S. 1961 The White Rajahs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, F. Andrew 2001 Borneo Mysteries: Dom Manuel de Lima and the Disappearance of Lawei. Mercator's World 6/3:40-43.

2004 Captain Bum and Associates: British Intelligence-Gathering, Trade, and Litigation in Borneo and Beyond During the Early Nineteenth Century. Borneo Research Bulletin 35:48-69.

Straits Settlements Factory Records

1810 List of Causes on the Plea, Equity and Ecclesiastical Sides Commenced and Disposed of in the 2nd Term of the Year 1810 (Manuscript). IOR/G/34/197/ff. 182-83. London: British Library.

1812 Miscellaneous Letters out: letter to Sultan of Pontianak, 12 October 1812. In: Straits Settlements Records 1800-1867. Reproduction of manuscripts held in the Public Record Office, London, microfilm I.ll, Library of the National University of Singapore.

Veth, P. J. 1854-56 Borneo's Westerafdeeling. Two Vols. Zaltbommel: J. Noman en zoon.

Von Gaffron, H. 1856 [1857] Algemeen Verslag, Afdeeling Sintang, 28 February 1857: West Borneo Inventory No. 45/Doc. No 17, Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, Jakarta.

Wadley, Reed L. 2006 Abang in the Middle and Upper Kapuas: Additional Evidence. Borneo Research Bulletin, this volume.

Willi of Gais, Johannes 1922 Early Relations of England with Borneo to 1805. Langensalza: Beyer & Sohne (Beyer & Mann).

Bob Reece

Division of Arts, Murdoch University, Western Australia


F. Andrew Smith

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Waite Campus, The University of Adelaide, South Australia


(1) Mr. Burn's Account of Pontianak, 12 February and 12 March 1811, British Library, India Office Records, Private Papers, Raffles Collection, MSS Eur 109, pp. 1-151. The extracts reproduced here are by kind courtesy of the British Library.

(2) For Sukadana at the end of the seventeenth century, see Edgell (1935). A comprehensive account of most of these trading ventures can be found in Willi of Gais (1922).

(3) Smith (2004) has given an account of Burn's career from 1803 to his death in 1814 or 1815, although gaps still remain.

(4) Smith (2004) was wrong in saying that the grounding occurred on the outward voyage.

(5) Smith (2004) provides by no means a full account. For a list of cases unresolved by August 1810, see "List of Causes on the Plea, Equity and Ecclesiastical Sides commenced and disposed of in the 2nd Term of the year 1810," Straits Settlements Factory Records, British Library. The whereabouts of the early Penang Court records, if indeed they still exist, are not known to the present authors.

(6) G. Irwin, Nineteenth Century Borneo: A Study in Diplomatic Rivalry, Singapore: Donald Moore, 1955, p. 65.

(7) C. Gibson Hill, "Documents relating to John Clunies Ross, Alexander Hare and the early history of the settlement on the Cocos-Keeling Islands," Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 25/4 (1952), pp. 7-300. Lack of shipping records for Malacca, unlike Penang, is a problem in sorting out this possible connection.

(8) Straits Settlements Records 1800-1867, Public Record Office, London.

(9) Lady Sophia Raffles (1830, I:40-41); see also, Smith (2004).

(10) Tobias, Hartmann, van den Dungen Gronovius and Muller traveled to the upper Kapuas region in the early 1820s. They were followed in the 1830s by Henrici, and in the 1840s by von Gaffron. The latter returned in the 1850s, and was Assistant-Resident at Sintang from 1854 to 1856 (see von Gaffron 1856). Material from their reports was used by Veth (1854-1856), Posewitz (1892), and Enthoven (1903), but much is still unpublished. Enthoven himself had traveled extensively in the region between 1886 and 1895. For a discussion of von Gaffron's and Enthoven's accounts, see Reed L. Wadley, "Abang in the Middle and Upper Kapuas: Additional Evidence," Borneo Research Bulletin, 2006. Two American missionaries, Nevius and Youngblood, toured the Kapuas in the later 1830s (Anon. 1856). The journey down the Kapuas in 1852 by the intrepid Ida Pfeiffer also deserves a mention (Pfeiffer 1856).

(11) S. Runciman, The Three White Rajahs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961: 31, citing Lady Sophia Raffles's Memoir.

(12) Ibid.

(13) "Proposed Exploring Expedition to the Asiatic Archipelago, by James Brooke, Esq.," Appendix I, in H. Keppel, The Expedition to Borneo of H.MS. Dido ... 2 Vols, London: Chapman & Hall, 1846, I, Appendix I: i-xv.

(14) This seems a long time for quite a short distance by water (see Figure 1). In general, however, times given by Burn are self-consistent.

(15) Smith (2004) suggested that "Mintooree" (here "Mintoaree") refers to the Mendawai River in what is now Central Kalimantan. Its source is in the Schwaner Range.

(16) For this place Smith (2004) suggested "Embalah," meaning Embaluh (sometimes called "Embaloh"). The river enters the upper Kapuas about 30 km. west of Putussibau. Given the preceding passage, another possibility is Ambalu, a district centered on the upper Melawi River. The Ambalu River has a source in the Schwaner Range not far from the Mendawai over the watershed.

(17) The lake is obviously Danau Sentamm and associated seasonal lakes and swamps. Smith (2004) read this "Amballoo" as "Ascarbaloo" but did not suggest a location; the difference is again a reflection of Bum's handwriting. Assuming that "Amballoo" is more accurate, this time Embaluh, to the east of the lake, is appropriate. It is confusing that Bum apparently mentioned locations in two different directions from Sintang as the places where the "Amballoo" Dayaks lived and the "Mintoaree" Dayaks settled.

(18) "Seyat" was read as "Sogat" by Smith (2004). Suhaid was suggested as the location. There seems no alternative, especially as Bum did not otherwise mention Suhaid, an old established settlement ruled by Malays. However, Suhaid is much closer to Selimbau than to Silat (Figure 1), so the travel times given by Burn's informants do not fit well.
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH NOTES
Author:Smith, F. Andrew
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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