Recounting the Memories of the Past

The Yankee Consul Affairs

In 1846, an American named Charles Lee Moses received appointment as the first US Consul General in Brunei. Sultan Abdul Momin was much impressed by the ambitious promises made by the US Consul General and agreed to build a consulate building for him. The Sultan believed that Moses would bring economic benefits and American protection to Brunei. Moses succeeded in convincing the Sultan to lease out for ten years almost the entire North Borneo, comprising 21 districts from the Sulaman to the Paitan rivers and territories from Paitan to Kimanis – including the Balabac and Palawan islands. In return, the Sultan was to recieve $4,500 in annual payments, while Pengiran Temenggong Pengiran Anak Hashim’s share was another $4000.

Map of Sarawak in 1860s and Islands close to North Borneo

For Moses, the concession was purely a profit-making venture. Unfortunately his drive to get more profit did not help him to become a popular person in Brunei as he failed to keep his promises to the Sultan. The Sultan’s many requests for the British help in recovering the money owed to him fell on deaf ears. Moses found himself unable to recover the dues so he set fire to the US Consulate building and tried to implicate the Sultan in order to demand compensation. An American Government inquiry exonerated the Sultan and dismissed Moses from its service.

Daughter of CL Moses

Torrey, an American businessman acquired the leasing rights from Moses when he went to Hong Kong and renegotiated the lease later on.

[Text taken from Brunei Revival of 1906 by B.A. Hussainmiya]


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