Erected by the European, Chinese and native inhabitants of Singapore to commemorate the visit in the month of February 1850 of the most noble
The Marquis of Dalhousie, Governor General of British India, on which occasion he emphatically recognized the wisdom of liberating commerce from all restraints. Under which enlightened policy this settlement has proudly attained its present rank among British possessions and with which future prospects must ever be identified.
The obelisk is the first public monument in Singapore, built in 1850. It is modelled after Cleopatra's Needle, an ancient Egyptian stone pillar that had been brought to London and erected on the banks of the River Thames.
It was built to commemorate the second visit to Singapore of the Governor-General of India, The Marquis of Dalhousie (from 1848 to 1856). The object of his visit was to consider the reduction of administrative expenditure.
The memorial was built to remind the Governor of the benefits of free trade, and as part of an agitation to convert Singapore from a possession of the East India Company into a proper Crown Colony, administered from London by the Colonial Office. (The Company was in severe financial difficulties, and kept wanting to raise local taxes, including trade duties, which the merchants resisted strongly.)
While Dalhousie's 1850 visit was received with much enthusiasm, and his response that he would "take the Straits Settlements under his wing", according to Mary Turnbull, his visit "produced no tangible change, and the sole result of his visit was the Dalhousie obelisk, erected by the Singapore merchants in his honour, a suitably graceful and useless reminder of this pleasant but unproductive interlude." (Turnbull, A History of Modern Singapore 1819-2005, Singapore: NUS Press, 2009). It took another 17 years before Singapore became a Crown Colony.
First sited at Dalhousie Pier, but in 1886 it was moved to another site on the same line but nearer the sea wall (where the Cenotaph stands now). In 1891 it was moved again, this time to its present site.