First War with China, and efforts to suppress the Slave-Trade - A.D. 1840.
For many years the pirates of the Eastern Archipelago and China seas had committed depredations on the commerce of the more peaceably-disposed people of that part of the world, and had frequently attacked merchant-vessels belonging to the English, as well as those of other nations, generally treating the prisoners they captured with the greatest barbarity. So audacious had they become that in 1836 the Governor-General of India determined to put an end to their proceedings, and Captain Chads, of the Andromache frigate, was sent into those seas to destroy as many piratical fleets and strongholds as he could fall in with. The pirate proas are vessels of considerable size, upwards of 60 feet in length and 12 in beam; though, as they draw scarcely four feet of water, they can run up into shallow rivers and escape. Each proa carried about 80 men, with a 12-pounder in the bows, 3 or 4 smaller pivot-guns, besides jingalls, stink-pots, spears, and the murderous kris which each man wore at his side. The crew in action were protected by a bulwark four or five feet high, thick enough to withstand musket-balls and grape-shot. They sailed in fleets of twenty or thirty vessels together, and were thus more than a match for any British merchantman, even though well-armed, they were likely to fall in with. The boats of the frigate, however, pursued them into their strongholds, and piracy in the neighbourhood of the Malay peninsula was for a time put a stop to. It existed, however, to a far greater degree in other parts of the Eastern seas, and it was not till 1843, that Rajah Brooke had established himself at Sarawak, on the western side of Borneo, that far more strenuous efforts than heretofore were employed against those pests of commerce. Several of the ships of war which had been engaged in the operations against China, on the conclusion of peace, were despatched to the assistance of Rajah Brooke in his noble and philanthropic object. Among the officers employed in the service were the Honourable Captain Keppel, of the Dido frigate, Sir Edward Belcher, of the Samarang, Captain Nicholas Vansittart, of theMagician, Captain Edward Vansittart, of the Bittern, Commander Fellowes, of the Rattler, Captain Mundy, of the Iris, besides many others. TheNemesis and Phlegethon, which had been so actively engaged in China, were sent with other steamers belonging to the East India Company. Sir Thomas Cochrane, commander-in-chief on the Indian station, also visited Borneo in his flag-ship the Agincourt, to superintend the operations which were now energetically pursued for the destruction of the pirates. There is no space to give more than an example of the sort of service in which the smaller vessels and the boats of the squadron were chiefly engaged against the common enemy.