John Crawfurd : biography
John Crawfurd (13 August 1783 – 11 May 1868) was a Scottish physician, colonial administrator and diplomat, and author. He is now best known for his work on Asian languages, his History of the Indian Archipelago, and his role in founding Singapore.
In the United Kingdom Crawfurd spent around 40 years in varied activities. He wrote as an orientalist, geographer and ethnologist. He tried parliamentary politics, without success; he agitated for free trade; and he was a publicist for and against colonisation schemes, in line with his views. He also represented the interests of British traders based in Singapore and Calcutta.
Radical parliamentary candidate
Crawfurd made several unsuccessful attempts to enter the British Parliament in the 1830s. His campaign literature featured universal suffrage and the secret ballot, free trade and opposition to monopolies, public education and reduction of military spending, and opposition to regressive taxation and the taxation of Dissenters for a state church, with nationalisation of Church of England properties.Ellingson, p. 264; . He joined the Parliamentary Candidate Society, founded by Thomas Erskine Perry (his brother-in-law), to promote "fit and proper" Members of Parliament.Papers relating to the Parliamentary Candidates Society, London Radicalism 1830-1843: A selection of the papers of Francis Place (1970), pp. 15-25. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=39481 Date accessed: 26 January 2012. He also joined the Radical Club, a breakaway from the National Political Union founded in 1833 by William Wallis.
Crawfurd unsuccessfully contested, as an advanced radical, Glasgow in 1832, Paisley in 1834, Stirling Burghs in 1835, and Preston in 1837.Dictionary of National Biography, Crawfurd, John (1783–1868), orientalist, by R. K. Douglas. Published 1888. At Glasgow he polled fourth (there were two MPs for the borough), with Sir Daniel Sandford third.The Royal kalendar and court and city register for England, Scotland, Ireland and the colonies: for the year 1833 (1833), p. 115; . In March 1834 it was Sandford who was elected at Paisley. Alexander's East India and Colonial Magazine struck a note of regret after his defeat at Stirling Burghs.Alexander's East India and Colonial Magazine, vol. 9 (1835), p. 426; .
On 31 January 1834 Crawfurd supported Thomas Perronet Thompson in a meeting agitating against the Corn Laws.Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, March 1834, vol. 1 p. 140; . Thomas Carlyle alluded, in notes on one of Jane Welsh Carlyle's letters, to Crawfurd speaking at a radical meeting at the London Tavern set up by Charles Buller on 21 November 1834; in which he showed much more originality than John Arthur Roebuck, but lost his thread..
In Preston in the 1837 general election Crawfurd had the Liberal nomination in a three-cornered fight for two seats, as Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood was regarded as a waverer by the Conservatives who ran Robert Townley Parker against him; but he polled third.Henry Wordsworth Clemesha, A History of Preston in Amounderness (1912), p. 265; . He also supported John Temple Leader's candidacy at Westminster against Sir Francis Burdett, being deputy chairman on his election committee (with Thomas Prout, chairman Sir Ronald Craufurd Ferguson).The Spectator, 6 May 1837, vol. 10, p. 429; . Crawfurd spoke with George Grote at a meeting for Leader at the Belgrave Hotel.The Spectator, 6 May 1837, vol. 10, p. 415; .
A lifelong advocate of free trade policies, in A View of the Present State and Future Prospects of the Free Trade and Colonization of India (1829), Crawfurd made an extended case against the East India Company's approach, in particular in excluding British entrepreneurs, and in failing to develop Indian cotton. He had had experience in Java of the export possibilities for cotton textiles.Giorgio Riello, Om Prakash, How India Clothed the World: the world of South Asian textiles, 1500-1850 (2009), pp. 42–6; . He then gave evidence in March 1830 to a parliamentary committee, on the East India Company's monopoly of trade with China.Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Affairs of the East India Company: China Trade (1830) p, 420; . Robert Montgomery Martin criticised Crawfurd, and the evidence of Robert Rickards, an ex-employee of the Company,. for exaggerating the financial burden of the monopoly on tea. Crawfurd put out a pamphlet, Chinese Monopoly Examined.Robert Montgomery Martin, British Relations with the Chinese Empire in 1832: comparative statement of the English and American trade with India and Canton (1832, p. 114; . Ross Donnelly Mangles defended the East India Company in 1830, in an answer addressed to Rickards and Crawfurd.Dictionary of National Biography, Mangles, Ross Donnelly (1801–1877), chairman of the East India Company, by E. I. Carlyle. Published 1901. When the Company's charter came up for renewal in 1833, the China trade monopoly was broken.Michael Greenberg, British Trade and the Opening of China 1800-1842 (1969), Ch. VII The Victory of the Free Traders; . Crawfurd's part as parliamentary agent for interests in Calcutta had been paid (at £1500 per year); his publicity work had included facts for an Edinburgh Review article written by another author.Greenberg, pp. 183–4; .
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