A CHAPTER ON SELANGOR
Selangor - Capabilities of Selangor - Natural Capabilities - Lawlessness in Selangor - British Interference in Selangor - A Hopeful Outlook
Selangor is a small State lying between 2 degrees 34', and 3 degrees 42' N. Its coast-line is about one hundred and twenty miles in length. Perak is its northern boundary, Sungei Ujong its southern, and some of the small States of the Negri Sembilan and unexplored jungle and mountains separate it from Pahang on the east. It is watered by the Selangor, Klang and Langat rivers, which rise in the hills of its eastern frontier. Its population is not accurately known, but the result of an attempt to estimate it, made by the Resident in 1876, is fifteen thousand Chinese and from two thousand to three thousand Malays. Mr. Douglas, the late Resident, puts the Malay population at a higher figure, and estimates the aboriginal population at one thousand, but this is probably largely in excess of their actual numbers.
[*In offering this very slight sketch of Selangor to my readers as prefatory to the letters which follow, I desire to express my acknowledgments specially to a valuable paper on "Surveys and Explorations of the Native States of the Malay Peninsula," by Mr. Daly, Superintendent of Public Works and Surveys, Selangor, read before the Royal Geographical Society on May 8, 1882. I have also made use of a brief account of the Native Malay States by Mr. Swettenham, Assistant Colonial Secretary to the Straits Settlements Government, published in the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and of "Our Malay Conquests" by Sir P. Benson Maxwell, late Chief Justice of the Straits Settlements.]
The wealth of Selangor lies in its apparently inexhaustible tin mines. The range of hills which forms the backbone of the Malay Peninsula rises in places to a height of seven thousand feet, and it is from this range that the alluvial detritus is washed down, beneath which is deposited the layer of ore or wash, which varies from four inches to ten feet in thickness. The supply of this ore is apparently inexhaustible, but no veins have as yet been found. The mine of Ampagnan only, near Kwala Lumpor, the capital, gives employment to over one thousand Chinamen, and each can extract in a year one thousand pounds weight of white smelted tin valued at 35 pounds sterling. This mineral wealth is the magnet which, according as the price of tin is higher or lower, attracts into Selangor more or fewer Chinamen. The chief source of the revenue of the State has been the export duty on tin.
The low lands on the coast are fringed with mangroves, which thrive in blue mud and heavy clays, and these lands, when drained, are well adapted for sugar. Wet rice grows well in the swampy valleys which separate the minor ranges, and dry rice on the rises; while tapioca, tobacco, pepper and gambier thrive on the medium heights. The sago palm flourishes on wet lands. The high hills are covered with primeval forests, and the Malays have neither settlements nor plantations upon them. It is believed that these hills, at a height of from two thousand five hundred to three thousand five hundred feet, are admirably adapted for the growth of Arabian coffee, cinchona and tea; and some Ceylon coffee planters are expecting an era of success in Selangor. At present, however, the necessary labor is not available. The soil in the interior on the mountain slopes consists of a light red and yellow clay, the product of a comparatively recent rock decomposition, covered with vegetable mould from eight to twelve inches thick. There are no droughts, and the rainfall, distributed pretty fairly over the year, averages about one hundred and thirty inches annually. The climate is remarkably healthy, and diseases of locality are unknown. Land can be purchased for eight shillings per acre on terms of deferred payments.
One curious feature of Selangor, as of Perak, is the occurrence of isolated hills of limestone varying from eighty to one thousand feet in height. At Batu there are magnificent limestone caves, richly adorned with stalactites and stalagmites. The dome of one cavern is three hundred and fifty-five feet from floor to roof. An important fact connected with these caverns is that they contain thousands of tons of bats' manure, which may be as valuable as guano to future planters. Between the heavy clays and blue mud of the mangrove swamps and the granite and sandstone of the mountain ranges, the undulating rises are mainly composed of red clay, sandstones, shales, and granitic and feldspathic rocks, with extensive deposits of laterite in red clays on the surface. In the valleys along the rivers the soil consists of rich alluvial deposits.
Undoubtedly Selangor has great capabilities, and if the difficulties of the labor question can be satisfactorily disposed of, it is likely that the new offer of leases for nine hundred and ninety-nine years, subject to improvement clauses, will attract a number of planters to its fertile soil and wholesome climate. Selangor includes three large districts, each on a considerable river of its own - Selangor, Klang, and Langat.
The Sultan was actually, as he is now nominally, supreme, but the story of disturbances under this government is a very old one, internal strife having been the normal condition of the State ever since Europeans have been acquainted with it. It seems to have been an undoubted fact that its rivers and island channels were the resort of pirates, and that its Rajahs devoted themselves with much success to harrying small vessels trading in the Straits of Malacca.