Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was the founder of Singapore. Raffles big dream was for Singapore to be a great free port in South East Asia, ruled by free institutions but under very austere moral principles and values.
Singapore under Raffles establishment grew rapidly and exponentially in a short period of time. Raffles administration was liberal moralistic. Raffles was great defender of free trade, private enterprise, protection of property rights of all the people, included the natives, tolerance in religion and against any kind of discrimination in color, race, and tribe.
Raffles built an institutional strong framework on this political and economic ground that characterizes Singapore from the beginning in 1819 to our modern times and makes Singapore to be the contemporary prototype multicultural city in economic growth, political order and social harmony.
Raffles from the beginning abolished the slavery, replaced the forced agricultural work with the system of tenancy contract, prohibited gambling and imposed heavy taxation to alcohol and smoke. In few words I can say, Free Market under the restriction of High Ethical Values that do not permit the emergence of Social Evils.
Thanks to this very strong and very long historical institutional tradition that was Raffles vision, policy, and practice, today Singapore is not only a powerful and flourishing city but also one of the safest and the most secure place in the world with negligible crime and impossible outrageous social behavior.
Raffles was not only an excellent political governor and military official, counting many great victories against Dutch, French and local Sultans and Kings but also a deeply cultivated personality and actually a scholar man!
Raffles wrote the very important book “The History of Java” from its very ancient times, he restored the historical name of Singapore, which means the Lion City in Sanskrit language, and many historical places, tombs, monuments, palaces and courts in Java, Sumatra, and Malaysian Peninsula.
Raffles studied and wrote about the phenomenon of cannibalism, the methods and the consumption of human flesh of the Bataks in Tapanuli. His contribution was originally ethnological earlier than any other else. Beyond his strong interest and so important contribution in the ancient history of South East Asia, Raffles explored systematically the botany and zoology of his territories. For Raffles the new territories were a miracle for the science and the humanity, firstly for conservation and secondly for medicine and health care treatments. He transported many new, undiscovered until his times, species to the London Zoo and Raffles elected the first president of the Zoological Society of London.
Raffles was so great not only because he achieved so many things in his life but also because his life was very short. Raffles actually was a very tragic personality. He died just at the age of 45 years old. Even at this so early age Raffles had already suffered with the losses of his first wife and his three children buried in overseas. Also his last child, his youngest daughter Ella with his second wife Sophia Hull, died 19 years old.
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was a protagonist and hero of the new territories of the British Empire in Southeast Asia. Despite of his family tragedy and his very bad health, Raffles was insisting for completing his work and his life in Singapore. It was his own aegis in the Modern History of the South East Asia. Singapore honors his Memory almost in every important place in the contemporary city.
But finally Raffles died in London in 1826, the man who was born on the ship “Ann” off the coast of Port Morant in Jamaica in 1781 while the captain of the ship was his father Benjamin Raffles who was trading not so successfully in Americas.
I close this short comment on Raffles with a paragraph of his letter to Duchess of Somerset that I copied from his Archives in Singapore.
“Since I last wrote to your Grace about a month ago, I have had another very severe attack in my head, while nearly proved fatal, and the Doctors were for hurrying me on board ship for Europe, without much ceremony. However, as I could not reconcile myself to becoming food for the fishes, I preferred ascending the hill of Singapore, where if my bones must remain in the East, they would have the honour of mixing with the ashes of the Malayan Kings; and the result has been that, instead of dying, I have almost entirely recovered.”
Dr Panagiotis Evangelopoulos
Department of Economics
University of Peloponnese
Proin 4o Pedio Volis