This is a contemporary copy of Raffles’ Regulations, which were issued in 1823. These regulations represent the earliest attempt by the British to introduce a legal code for Singapore. The British assumed that no law prevailed on the island of Singapore when it was acquired.
Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, an officer of the British East India Company in an attempt to counter Dutch domination of trade in the East. Permission to set up a “factory” on the island was obtained from the Sultan of Johor in 1819. Outright cession of Singapore took place in 1824.
Raffles passed a series of administrative regulations in an attempted to put the ‘rough-and-ready’ system of justice on a more formal basis. The regulation provided for the setting up of a legal administration. Magistrates were appointed and “Native chiefs” were permitted to settle disputes amongst their own people, subject to the control of the Magistracy. Raffles stipulated that the general law of Singapore would be English law, but modified for the ‘usage and habits of the people.’
The legality of the regulation is in doubt as the treaty of 1819 only gave the right to establish a trading port in Singapore. It was not until the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 that Singapore and Malacca were finally put under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Calcutta.
While in Singapore, Raffles established schools and churches. He allowed missionaries and local businesses to flourish. A European town was built to segregate the population, separated by a river. He oversaw the building of roads and a military garrison constructed for the soldiers. He oversaw the development of a thriving commercial port for the British.
- Title: Raffles’ Regulations
- Authorised by: Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles
- Date: 1823
- Material: Paper
- Museum: National Gallery Singapore
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“A given excuse that was not asked for, implies guilt.”
– Singaporean / Malay Proverb
Photo Credit: JOM