Singapore Table of Contents
Figure 4. Plan of the Town of Singapore by Lieutenant Phillip Jackson, 1828
Source: Based on information from J. Crawfurd, Journal of an Embassy from the Governor-General of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin China, London, 1828, 2, 383.
In the first half-century after its founding, Singapore grew from a precarious trading post of the British East India Company populated by a few thousand to a bustling, cosmopolitan seaport of 85,000 (see fig. 4). Although the general trend of Singapore's economic status was upward during this period, the settlement endured economic recessions as well as prosperity, fires and floods as well as building booms, and bureaucratic incompetence as well as able administration. In 1826 the British East India Company combined Singapore with Penang and Malacca to form the Presidency of the Straits Settlements, with its capital at Penang. The new bureaucratic apparatus proved to be expensive and cumbersome, however, and in 1830 the Straits Settlements were reduced to a residency, or subdivision, of the Presidency of Bengal. Although Singapore soon overshadowed the other settlements, Penang remained the capital until 1832 and the judicial headquarters until 1856. The overworked civil service that administered Singapore remained about the same size between 1830 and 1867, although the population quadrupled during that period. Saddled with the endless narrative and statistical reports required by Bengal, few civil servants had time to learn the languages or customs of the people they governed.
Although the European and Asian commercial community was reasonably satisfied with the administration of the settlement under Bengal, an economic depression in the 1840s caused some to consider the merits of Singapore being administered directly as a crown colony. The advent of the steamship had made Singapore less dependent on Calcutta and more closely tied to the London commercial and political scene. By mid-century, the parent firms of most of Singapore's British-owned merchant houses were located in London rather than Calcutta. In 1851, following a visit to Singapore, Lord Dalhousie, the governor general of India, separated the Straits Settlements from Bengal and placed them directly under his own charge. In the following sixteen years, a number of issues arose that caused increased agitation to remove the Straits Settlements completely from administration from India and place it directly under the British Colonial Office. Among these issues were the need for protection against piracy and Calcutta's continuing attempts to levy port duties on Singapore. Mostly as a result of the need for a place other than fever-ridden Hong Kong to station British troops in Asia, London designated the Straits Settlements a crown colony on April 1, 1867.
Data as of December 1989