John Crawfurd (1783 - 1868)
Listed are English translations for:
Pali (the sacred language of Theravāda Buddhism)
Chong (endangered language spoken in southeastern Thailand and formerly in Cambodia)
Anam (Former French protectorate in Vietnam)
John Crawfurd (1783 – 1868)
Scottish physician and Orientalist who made a diplomatic mission to Siam (Thailand) and Cochin China prior to the British formally seeking to enter into treaties with these countries.
As a linguist he provided a unique understanding and observations of the culture prior to the opening of trade with the west. Crawfurd was sent in 1808 to Penang, where he applied himself to the study of the Malay language and culture. In Penang he met Stamford Raffles for the first time. In 1821, the then Governor-General of India, Lord Hastings, sent Crawford to the courts of Siam (now Thailand) and Cochinchina (now Vietnam.) Lord Hastings was especially interested in learning more about Siamese policy with regard to the northern Malay states, and Cochinchine’s policy with regard to French efforts to establish a presence in Asia.
Crawfurd travelled with notes from Horace Hayman Wilson on Buddhism, as it was understood at the time. Indian army Captain Dangerfield, a skilful astronomer, surveyor and geologist, served as assistant Lieutenant Rutherford commanded thirty Sepoys noted naturalist George Finlayson served as medical officer. On 21 November 1821, the mission embarked on the John Adam for the complicated and difficult navigation of the Hoogly river, taking seven days to sail the 140 miles (225 km.) from Calcutta to open water. Crawfurd writes that, with the assistance of a steam-boat, ships might be towed down in two days without difficulty then adds in a footnote: “The first steam-vessel used in India, was built about three years after this passage was written….”.
The John Adam proceeded on what would be the first official visit to Siam since the Siam–England war of 1687 and the resurgence of Siam following the Burmese–Siamese War of 1765. Crawfurd soon found the court of King Rama II still embroiled in the aftermath of the Burmese–Siamese War of 1809. On 8 December 1821, near Papra Strait (modern Pak Prah Strait north of Thalang District) Crawfurd finds fishermen “in a state of perpetual distrust and insecurity” due to territorial disputes between hostile Burmans and Siamese. 11 December, after entering the Straits of Malacca and arrival at Penang Island, he finds the settlements of Penang and Queda (modern Kedah Sultanate, founded in 1136, but then a tributary state of Siam) in a state of alarm. Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II, the Rajah of Quedah had fled the Rajah of Ligor (modern Nakhon Si Thammarat) to claim right of asylum at Prince of Wales’s Island (modern Penang.) British claim to the island was based upon payment of a quit-rent accordant with European feudal law, which Crawfurd feared the Siamese would challenge. Crawfurd’s journal entry for 1 April 1822, notes that the Siamese, for their part, were especially interested in the acquisition of arms. Pointedly questioned in this regard in a urgent private meeting with the Prah-klang (future Rama III), the reply was, “that if the Siamese were at peace with the friends and neighbours of the British nation, they would certainly be permitted to purchase fire-arms and ammunition at our ports, but not otherwise.“
On 19 May, a Chief of Lao (Chao Anu, a king in what is now Laos and soon-to-be rebel) met with Crawfurd, a first diplomatic contact for the UK. This visit was despite the isolation into which the mission had fallen. A Vietnamese embassy had arrived not long before, and tensions were high. Since Crawford’s brief opposed the interests of court figures including the Raja of Ligor and Nangklao, there was little prospect of success. By October relations were at a low ebb. Crawfurd moved on to Saigon, but Minh refused to see him.
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