1811- Abdulla bin Abdulkadar
Lord Minto’s Arrival
Now there was a pinnace of the East India Company, which was decorated with a flag on its prow, and its crew were all in red coats and trowsers. In this went Mr. Raffles, Colonel Farquhar, and other leading men, to pay their respects to Lord Minto. And in about an hour's time he descended; and at the time of his leaving his ship the cannon roared like thunder, without ceasing for near two or three hours. The sea became dark with smoke. In a short time the pinnace arrived at land, where all the officers with their regiments were waiting, and on his stepping ashore cannons were fired from the hill.
And when I had seen the appearance and circumstance of Lord Minto, I was much moved; for I guessed in my mind as to his appearance, position, and height, that these would be great, and his dress gorgeous. I then thought of the Malay proverb: 'If you want news as to form, bite your forefinger.' But his appearance was of one who was middle-aged, thin in body, of soft manners, and sweet countenance; and I felt that he could not carry twenty cutties (about thirty pounds), so slow were his motions. His coat was black cloth, trowsers the same, nor was there anything peculiar. And when the leading men desired to pay their respects they remained at a distance, none daring to grasp his hand; but they took off their hats and bent their bodies. And the officers called out to all their men to present arms, by way of honour. And when he landed he bowed to the right and the left, then slowly walked up the centre between the files, the cannon roaring all the time; nor did be cease bowing with his hands as related before. Now, he had not the remotest appearance of pomposity or lofty-headedness; but there was real modesty, with kindly expression. And all that were there paid their respects to him while he waited for a little, raising his hands and returning the compliment to the poor of the Malays, Chinese, Klings, and Portuguese; and this he did with many smiles. Then did the hearts of these slaves of God open, asking for many blessings on this good sight and the loved of the people. Then thought I of the truth of the Malay proverb, to the effect, if the snake skirts (a bamboo root), it does not lose its venom, but increases it. As the Chinese proverb says, 'Is the water at the top not heaved by the water in the middle of the barrel? It is that which moves it.' So especially are great men in this age like one who lays a table; he has no office, but his haughtiness is so great, that when a poor man bows to him, even for three or four times, he does not see him. And if he has a carriage to sit in, his pride is beyond all description, he has got a rise. As say the children, 'If a monkey get a flower, of what use is it but to be torn in pieces and thrown to the earth?' Say the Malays, 'High as the storks fly, they at last come to sit on a buffalo's back.' So it is the case with the greatest of men, his end is to go under ground. But I beg most humble pardon of those great people just mentioned, if gentlemen read this my autobiography during my lifetime, and to assure them that I do not for a moment entertain such thoughts from spitw or bad feeling, but only becausc it is our usage in our short days in this world to call that good which is good, and that bad which is bad; as tho Malays say, 'A dead tiger leaves its stripes, but a dead elephant leaves its bones.' Thus do men leave their names to those who come after them. So I return to the subject of Lord Minto.
Then after a short time, having returned the salutes of the people, he walked on slowly, bowing his head, till he had arrived at the Government House, and ascended. Then all the leading men of Malacca followed him, to wait on him; but of those Mr. Raffles was the only one who dare approach close to him; as for the others, they stood at some distance, and having presented themselves they retired, the regiments then fired three salutes and returned to their camp. Then, as the day advanced, Lord Minto first went to the debtors' prison, as well as to that of the malefactors. Some had been imprisoned for three years, others for six or seven months. And when he had arrived, and the doors had been opened, all the prisoners came forward, some prostrating themselves before his feet, others wceping, all malung their plaints. On this the jailer came to keep them back, but he was requested not to do so; for when his lordship had seen the condition of the suppliants his eyes were bathed in tears, and he spoke to them in Hindostanee, saying 'Don't be afraid; I will soon let you go.' On this they were delighted, and worshipped at his feet: they felt as they had now become princes. So he returned to the Government House.
Now Colonel Farquhar, with the jailer, soon after this arrived at the jail with the pings (?) and constables, carrying the keys to open the doors, when he cried out, saying, 'All of you come out, for Lord Minto has ordered it. ' So they wcere all astir, and poured out with expressions of thanks, and asking benedictions on him that the Almighty would give him long life and make him victorious over all his enemies; and as he has thus leniently dealt with us for our faults, so may God relieve him in the pains of hell.'
On the morrow Lord Minto next went to see the dark dungeon, and when he arrived he viewed the various instruments for torturing people, also the site of the scaffold, the stocks, the site for the gallows, and the several implemcnts left here since the time of the Dutch. And when he had done looking at all these, he gloomed heavily, and spitting, said to the keeper, 'Take them below and burn the whole of them; let not one rcmain.' Then in a jiffy the convicts of the East India Company were brought in to remove the implements, when they were placed near the foot of the hill and burnt.
After this Lord Minto went to see the dark prison, and there he found three men confined, who had committed grave crimes - these even he let out, ordering at the same time that the dark cells should be demolished, and that a better gaol, such as stands at present, should be built; and as to the comparison betwecen them, it is as earth and sky, for the old jail had no openings, nor even a place to sit down on, or to sleep upon, but only the bare earth. Day and night were all the same, and it was a great receptacle for filth, and those who were put in it were put into such a place as hell is. But the present one has twenties of windows and lattices, securcd by iron-work, and the insides of the floors are made of flat tiles, divided into apartments, as in other houses; there are also sleeping places, with numbers of lamps kept lighted, the only annoyance being that the prisoners cannot go out when they wish; and their wives and children can come to see them there. On this account most people say that the jail is a beautiful one, for men like to be put in it, and have no fear of it, as this is no punishment. But my notion is this: that such sayings are by people who have not thought the subject out, for, to their idea, can people be afraid of punishment? It appears to me that this is the instinct and disposition of those who have no heart for their fellow-creatures. Now do not punish, for the incarceration is sufficient. Is it not notorious that a jail is a place of infamy? and this incarceration in itself is a punishment on the slaves of God; and if, in addition, one feels that they were wrong, it is equal to death itself.
And on a certain evening Lord Minto took a walk as far as the residence of Mr. Raffles, to see the garden. And immediately he arrived, Mr. Raffles descended to welcome him ; and when they came into the room wbhere we were all employed writing, we rose to pay our respects, and as he was passing near my desk I retired, as I was the smallest there, to wit the youngest. On this he took me by the hand, saying in the language of Hindostan, 'Are you well?' and I felt his hand that it was as soft as a child of one year old. He then inspected my writing, the nature of the letters, and in a little be ordered me to write; and tapping my arm, he asked, with a smile, how I could write so quickly, because of the writing being from right to left; further, he added, 'It would be well if you were to learn Englisbh.' To which I replied, 'I would be delighted to learn Englisb, sir.' After this he ascended the house and was introduced to Mrs. Raffles, on which be returned. But Mr. Raffles went daily to see him at the Government House. Now, as long as Lord Minto remained in Malacca be took a round in his carriage every evening, one day visiting the mosque, another the Chinese Joss-house, another the Dutch and Portuguese churches; and thus he went over the whole town, and wherever be was met, by rich, poor, or low, they stopped to make their bow, which in every case be returned, and on account of the frequency of his doing so, be kept his band continuously to his bat, he could not put it on. He held it in his hand, owing to these constant greetings, with good humour and courtesy, without the slightest shade of pomposity either in his manner or dress. His attendants were dressed as gentlemen, with silk umbrellas, watches, and ordinary clothes; but many of them were very troublesome and oppressive in the markets, and the dealers were afraid of them as being dependants of a mighty person. In dealing with the people they followed the custom of the dependants of Malay princes, who do as they like with the inhabitants, and where in case of any one being killed, seven are devoted to death by way of reparation. These do not know the excellence of English customs. Don't mention great princes, for they will not do what is improper; for if they kill a man (improperly), so do they kill their own laws; for on no account can they allow by custom a single person to do injury to another one, whether great or small, whether prince or subject - all are equal in the sight of the law. "Yet it is bounden in us to do honour to the great: this for his office only, and not because he is oppressive, or covetous, or a maladministrator.
Translations from the
Hakayit Abdulla bin Abdulkadar, Munshi
With Comments by J.T. Thomson