Sir James Brooke, rajah of Sarawak, born in Bengal, April 29, 1803, died in Devonshire, England, June 11, 1868. His father, having taken up his residence at Bath, England, procured for him a cadetship in the East India service. He received a severe gunshot wound in the chest at the storming of a stockade in the Burmese war, and was forced to return to England. He travelled on the continent, and found on his return to India in 1830 that he had exceeded his leave of absence and forfeited his appointment. On a voyage from Calcutta to China he conceived the idea of establishing a civilized power among the islands of the Indian archipelago. He returned to England, purchased a yacht out of the royal squadron, enjoying the same privileges as a man-of-war, and sailed for the East in October, 1838. On his arrival at Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, he found the country in a state of warfare, the Dyaks, its inhabitants, carrying on a losing contest. To secure his assistance, the rajah offered to make Brooke his successor, and give him the command of the army.
Established in authority over Sarawak, after defeating the hostile forces with great ease, he endeavored to accustom the inhabitants to a regular government, and to turn them from piracy and local war to agriculture and trade, in which he succeeded to an extraordinary degree. In conjunction with the English naval commanders he attacked, routed, and extirpated the Malay pirates of the archipelago. Though independent of the English, and holding the dignity of rajah by appointment from the sultan of Borneo, when his conduct was attacked in England, he visited that country in 1847 to vindicate himself. He was successful, was knighted, and received the title of governor of Labuan, a salary of £2,000, and a staff of subordinate officers under British pay. From this office, however, he was removed after a subsequent visit to England. His rule was greatly for the benefit of his people. He compiled a code of laws, opened trade, made roads, and provided for the security of property. Upon the breaking out of the war of England with China in 1857, his residence was suddenly attacked by a body of 4, 000 Chinese, and he escaped only by swimming the river. The Dyaks rallied to his support, and in a short time he fell upon the Chinese, and routed them with a loss of half their number.
The following year he returned to England and took up his residence in Devonshire. He suffered much from the attacks of his enemies in parliament. In 1861 he made two voyages to Borneo, to suppress an insurrection and settle the government, which he left in charge of his nephew, though he retained the title and authority of rajah until his death. Portions of his journals have been published, and the " Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K. C. B., from 1838 to the present Time " (3 vols., London, 1853).