he devoted himself more particularly to the affairs of Bencoolen, where he built himself a house twelve miles from the town, and introduced the cultivation of coffee and sugar. His collections, botanical, zoological, and anthropological, grew steadily, and portions of them were from time to time sent home to his friends, Sir Joseph Banks, W. Marsden, and others. He corresponded actively with various persons in England, and endeavoured by their means to persuade the home government and the East India Company to resist the Dutch by pushing the interests of English commerce, particularly at Singapore. In 1821, on his own authority, he brought the island of Pulo Nias under British authority in order to put an end to a slave trade which had flourished there. In September 1822 he was ordered to Singapore to place the island under a settled system of government. He found commerce flourishing and speculation busy, and set to work to make Singapore a free and safe port. He had the harbour and adjacent coasts correctly surveyed from Diamond Point to the Carimons; he allotted lands and laid out towns and roads, established a land registry and a local magistracy, and raised a sufficient revenue without taxing trade. Early in 1823 he established an institution for the study of Chinese and Malay literature, and endeavoured, but without success, to transfer to Singapore the Anglo-Chinese college at Malacca. A short code of laws was drawn up, and he himself sat in court to enforce it, and on being relieved of the charge of Singapore at the end of March 1823 he received the cordial approval of the governor-general. He quitted Singapore on 14 June, leaving it in the charge of his successor, Crawfurd, and spent the remainder of the year at Bencoolen. On 2 Feb. 1824 he at length embarked for home on board the Fame, but a few hours after sailing, the ship caught fire by the gross carelessness of the steward, and, though no lives were lost, there was barely time for those on board to escape before the ship's gunpowder exploded. The ship was destroyed; the boats were many hours before reaching shore; the fugitives had neither food, water, nor clothes. Raffles lost all his papers and drawings, two thousand in number, his notes and memoirs for a history of Sumatra and Borneo, the map of the island, which had occupied six months in preparation, and his huge collection of birds, beasts, fishes, and plants (see Gent. Mag. 1824, pt. ii. p. 169). The calamity was irreparable; he was entirely uninsured, and his money loss alone was 20,000l. to 30,000l. He sailed again on 8 April by the Mariner, a small Botany Bay ship, and landed at Plymouth in August 1824.
One of his first tasks was to draw up a statement—principally from memory—of his administration during the previous twelve years, and in November this appeared under the title of ‘A Statement of the Services of Sir Stamford Raffles.’ It did not, however, fully justify him in the eyes of the court of directors. They censured his emancipation of the company's slaves and his annexation of Pulo Nias, and, while generally approving his motives, plainly disapproved of his zeal. Settling at a house at Highwood, near Barnet, he occupied himself with the foundation of the Zoological Society, of which he was the first president, and with the promotion of missionary enterprise in the East. At the end of May 1826 he was attacked by apoplexy, and on 5 July 1826 he died suddenly, when only forty-five years old.
By his second wife, Sophia, daughter of J. Watson Hull of Baddow, Essex, whom he married in 1816, he had five children, of whom all but one died in the fatal climate of Sumatra. He was a LL.D., a F.R.S., and a member of many learned societies. In addition to the two above-mentioned works, he edited George Finlayson's ‘Mission to Siam,’ which appeared in 1826.
His statue, by Chantry, is in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey. The bust was engraved as the frontispiece to his wife's memoir of him. Another bust is in the Lion House at the Zoological Gardens. A portrait by George Joseph, painted in 1817, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
‘His slender frame and weakly constitution,’ says Crawfurd, one of his subordinates in Java and his successor at Singapore, ‘contrasted with the energy and activity of his mind.’ Activity, industry, imperturbable good temper, and political courage were the most remarkable endowments of his character. In the transaction of public business he was ready, rapid, and expert, partly the result of early training, but far more of innate energy and ability. He was not, perhaps, an original thinker, but readily adopted the notions of others, not always with adequate discrimination. Lord Minto's opinion of him, formed before the acquisition of Java, was that he was ‘a very clever, able, active, and judicious man, perfectly versed in the Malay language and manners.’ His genuine benevolence and sincere piety greatly commended him to the evangelical party and to the opponents of slavery, but his chief title to remembrance is that he secured to Great Britain the maritime supremacy of the eastern seas.