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The history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) online

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retains to the present day. At the ceremony some five
thousand people assembled, and the day's proceedings
included a regatta, a novelty in the new settlement.

The apparently flourishing condition of the colony at
this time not only attracted a number of the free
population of the neighbouring convict settlements of
New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, but several
of the convicts also whose rendezvous was in that part


then known as the " Tiers " on the Mount Barker road,
where dense forest and almost inaccessible gullies
offered them a safe retreat. The unwelcome visitors
made a large increase in the crime of the infant settle-
ment, and kept the colonists, in some parts of the bush,
in a constant state of alarm. And not there only.
Mr. John Hutt, at that time Governor of Western
Australia, wrote to a gentleman in South Australia as
follows :

" Perth, Western Australia, July 17th, 1840.
" I say nothing of the overland expedition which you
vivacious folk are threatening us with; we propose
offering, I believe, to meet you with provisions at some
appointed place. Your stock will be very acceptable
to us, but not so your bushrangers, who, I see, have
begun their ravages near Adelaide. I wish to keep as
wide a gulf as possible between us and them. We
have nothing as yet much to tempt them, but this over-
land route would show them the way, and we have no
police or money to raise a corps. The sea is quite
sufficient, with common prudence in those who ship
stock, for all communication between us ; and although,
when Mr. Eyre related to me the horrible country he
passed over to and beyond Streaky Bay, I regretted to
find that my favourite colony's fertile boundaries were
so circumscribed, yet I could not help secretly rejoicing
that you had quite enough to keep you employed for
the present without looking further west, and that if
you did that you would find no encouragement from
Nature. I do not doubt that if this passage is to be
effected South Australian energy and determination and
eagerness will do it; but long may the south land
flourish and spread its branches and saplings far and
wide any way, save to the westward."

Of the state of crime in the colony at this period,
Mr. Alexander Tolmer, then sub-inspector of mounted
police, says, " No precautions had been adopted to pre-
vent the importation of escaped convicts or ticket-of-
leave men from the neighbouring penal settlements,

1840.] LAWLESSNESS. 127

and the consequence was that the colony was overrun
with such persons, and the police found constant
employment in hunting and apprehending them. That
such was the state of things by the unchecked importa-
tion of this class of bandits may be gathered from the
fact that, out of thirty prisoners tried at the gaol delivery
on the 3rd of March, 1840, there was only one convicted
who had come to the colony direct from England, and
among the twenty-five prisoners who were awaiting
their trial for different offences at the next sessions,
there were but five English emigrants, the remaining
twenty being either escaped convicts, ticket-of-leave
men, or emancipists from New South Wales or Van
Diemen's Land. There were no orders issued to the
port police with regard to the crews and passengers of
vessels arriving from the penal settlements, and not
the slightest attention was paid to the subject, either
at Glenelg or at the port, and a shipload of escaped
convicts could at any time be landed without remark
or remonstrance. Again, there was no check upon
overland parties arriving with stock, and it was
notorious that some of the worst desperadoes of New
South Wales found their way hither by that route,
and after squandering their money in drunkenness and
debauchery in town, would retire to the ' Tiers ' and
join others who had preceded them, living in log-huts
built in deep and almost inaccessible gullies and ravines,
densely timbered and overgrown with scrub and vegeta-
tion. Under cover of dark nights they would thence
sally forth, and commit daring black-faced robberies
and burglaries in the city, and again find shelter in
their fastnesses, and ' plant ' the plunder, or otherwise
be harboured by sympathizers and accomplices in town,
creatures of the same type as themselves, some of whom
were publicans."

Many thrilling stories of adventure and misadventure
have been told of this period of lawlessness, and many
more prosaic tales of loss, especially by owners of cattle.*.

* A notorious bushranger, Patrick Murphy, alias Blue Cap, was
believed to be in Adelaide, and the Government of New South


The South Australian Company were great losers in
this respect, and it was an additional mortification to
them to be aware that beasts innumerable belonging to
them were being shot, skinned, the brands destroyed,
and the meat salted and shipped to foreign markets.

Any number of picturesque and amusing stories
might be told of proceedings in the law courts and
courts of justice in the early days of the colony. Here
is one as a specimen. On the llth of November, 1840,
Joseph Stagg, charged with the wilful murder of a man
named John Gofton, an escaped prisoner, was brought
up for trial at the Supreme Court that is to say, at

Wales offered 100 for his capture. Mr. Alexander Tolmer was
soon on his track, and received information that a suspicious-look-
ing character had been seen on the way to the Tiers. How the cap-
ture was made may best be told in Mr. Tolmer's own words. The
story gives a glimpse into the state of the times, and at the iron-
nerved men who had to deal with the desperadoes of that day.
u On turning the corner where the Stag Inn is now," says Mr.
Tolmer, " I descried the individual some distance ahead on the
track across the park-lands leading to Gleeson's Hill. On hearing
me approach, he suddenly stopped and half turned, but, owing to
my horse being hard in the mouth and excitable, I passed him a few
paces. The glance I obtained of his face, however, satisfied me
that he was the identical man whose description had been received
from Sydney a few days before. The moment he stopped he
placed himself in a peculiar attitude, with both hands under the
lapels of his coat, and it struck me forcibly that he had a pistol in
each hand. However, without hesitation, I gently urged my horse
nearer the fellow and said, ' Why, I know you ; you are Patrick
Murphy!' to which he replied, 'Well, what do you want?'
By this time I had managed to approach near enough to his person,
and, quickly leaning forward, seized his collar, saying, ' You are my
prisoner,' which action caused my right spur to touch my horse's
side, when he made a sidelong plunge, and as the fellow threw
himself back at the same time, I was dragged off the saddle to the
ground, and in falling brought the prisoner down with me. We
then both sprung up together, I still retaining a firm grip of the
collar; he then struck me on the side of the head with his fist.
Being then satisfied he had no pistols, I at once loosened hold of
him and dealt him a heavy blow in the face, which knocked him
down. He nimbly got up again, however, when we had a regular
set-to, which lasted some minutes. He was no match for me,
however, which he soon admitted, and surrendered^ saying, ' Well,
now you've got your 100 !"

1840.] EPISODE AT A TRIAL. 129

the residence of his Honour Judge Cooper, in Whitmore
Square. "The room used as the court contained two
French windows, which opened into the garden, the
judge's elevated seat being between the two. On the
judge's left hand, along the side wall, were the jury ;
on his right, fronting the jury, was the prisoner in the
dock, with Mr. Ashton, the governor of the gaol, stand-
ing on the left side ; and opposite the witness-box imme-
diately under the bench, at a large table covered with
law books, briefs, etc., sat the sheriff, Mr. Newenham,
the officers of the court, the advocate-general, Mr.
Charles Mann, the counsel for the prisoner, Sir James
Fisher, Messrs. Poulden, Nicholls, and others ; and on
the floor, on the right of the bench, were chairs occupied
by ladies.

" Just as Mr. Tolmer of the police, the first witness in
the case, was giving evidence, a sudden sharp report
was heard, like that of a pistol or rifle, followed by
repeated cries, ' He's shot at ! ' In an instant Mr.
Tolmer drew his sword ; the foreman of the jury, followed
by the other eleven, dashed through one open window
into the garden ; judge, lawyers, and ladies rushed pell-
mell through the other ; the governor of the gaol locked
the prisoner's left arm within his, and with the other
held a pistol at his head, while Mr. Tolmer stayed
beside him with drawn sword."

The general idea was that, as Mr. Tolmer was the
principal witness, some confederate of the prisoner had
fired at him to prevent his giving further evidence, but
when the excitement and terror had subsided it was
found that a defective beam in the floor, which was
over the cellar, had snapped owing to the overcrowded
state of the room ! In a short time the break was
made safe by means of supports, and the trial proceeded,
ending in the death sentence on the unhappy man
Joseph Stagg.

A startling and terrible episode occurred in July of
this year. Tidings reached Adelaide that a vessel had
been wrecked on the Coorong beach, near where the
Fanny went ashore, and that ten white men, five

Vol.. 1. K


women, and seven children had been brutally massacred
by natives of the Melmenrura, or Big Murray, tribe.
Mr. Pullen (afterwards Admiral Pullen) was imme-
diately despatched in a whaleboat from Encounter Bay
to ascertain the truth or otherwise of the ghastly rumour.
He found the wrecked vessel was the Maria, which
had left Port Adelaide a few weeks previously with a
crew of nine persons and fifteen passengers. He found
also several bodies of murdered persons, and having
interred them he returned to report the case to the

The gallant Major T. S. O'Halloran, Commissioner of
Police a man whose career was as full of adventure
as that of a hero of romance and a party of mounted
police, accompanied by several colonists, at once set
forth to make further investigations. Considerable
difficulty was experienced in finding out the perpetrators
of the horrible deed, but at length two were given up
by the tribes as the actual murderers. It was
deemed expedient to resort at once to some exemplary
punishment in the immediate locality of the murders,
and the two natives were, after a deliberate investiga-
tion on the spot, executed a step that was severely
censured in many quarters. Eventually twenty-three
bodies in all were found of the twenty-four who had
embarked in the Maria.

Through the instrumentality of " Peter," a friendly
native, Dr. Penny, who visited the scene of the murders
some months after the first executions, succeeded in
obtaining from the aborigines eleven pounds in gold
and silver, and a coin valued at four shillings. In his
report to the Government he says, " I questioned the
party, who consisted of two of the Melmenrura tribe
and thirteen of the Tenkinyra and Toora tribes, through
my natives, as to the murders, which they confessed to
have perpetrated, but showed apparent regret for their
crime. I gathered from them that they had brought
the whole party up a long way, showed them water,
iished, and carried their children for them for a con-
siderable time. That when they came to this point,


they could not take them any further, as their country
ends there, and the ' Picannini Murray ' begins. They
then demanded some clothes and blankets for their
trouble, but the white people refused to give them, yet
said if they would take them to Adelaide they should
have plenty. This they could not do, so they began
to help themselves, and this being resisted, ended in
the murder of the whole. The white men fought for
some time, but the natives broke their arms with
waddies and then speared them. They were also
jealous of the next tribe, into whose territory they
would then have passed, and who, being in the habit
of visiting Adelaide, could have taken them up and
have obtained the reward promised to them."

This native account seemed plausible, but it did not
mitigate the regret felt for the unfortunate individuals,
who, having escaped the dangers of shipwreck, lost
their lives under such melancholy circumstances. It
was the greatest calamity that had taken place in the
colony, and it was long before the gloom was dissipated.

The punishment of the natives was considered by
many to be almost as terrible as the crime, and this
gave rise to much comment and censure in the colony
and in the newspaper press everywhere.

The " Xative Question " here, as in other colonies,
bristled with difficulties, and moreover was always
cropping up. This was not the first occasion when
drastic measures had to be taken to protect the lives
and property of the settlers. In the fourth report of
the Commissioners (1839) the first fatal collision of the
colonists with the natives was recorded. " The pro-
vince," so ran the report, " has been the theatre of one
of those appalling tragedies which, occasion ally occurring
in every region where man is found, bring home the
conviction of his imperfect nature," a statement which
could not lay claim to any marked originality. But
the report continued

" Three settlers have been murdered by the natives,
and two natives have been tried, convicted, and executed
for the crime. The perpetration of such crimes and


their expiation by capital punishment are events which
must, under any circumstances, be deeply deplored, and
which in the present instance cannot be contemplated
without exciting the most painful feelings. To subject
savage tribes to the penalties of laws with which they
are unacquainted, for offences which they may possibly
regard as acts of justifiable retaliation for invaded
rights, is a proceeding indefensible except under cir-
cumstances of urgent and extreme necessity. Such
circumstances had unhappily occurred in the case
under consideration. The authorities of South Australia
had no choice but to pursue a course of judicial pro-
ceedings according to English law. The murder of the
two settlers had excited amongst their brethren a violent
sentiment of fear, as well as of anger, towards the
aborigines. The prospect of further assassinations, in
consequence of no punishment being inflicted upon the
perpetrators of those which had taken place, would
have been intolerable. If the murderers had not been
tried, convicted, and legally punished, the settlers, un-
protected by the governing authorities, would have
been obliged to take the law into their own hands, and
in their fear and rage might have commenced an
exterminating warfare against the natives. The neces-
sities of the case left but a choice of evils, and the
authorities chose the least."

There was a great outcry in many quarters at the
severity of the punishment inflicted in both the cases
we have cited, and the Commissioners attempted to
vindicate the^ carrying out of the British law in these

" In establishing a new colony it is one of the first
and most sacred duties of the Government to protect
the native races, but to protect the natives against the
colonists without at the same time protecting the
colonists against the natives would be impracticable.
The aborigines cannot have the protection of British
law without being amenable to British law. To place
the European and native races under different codes
would be to place them in hostility to each other. If

1840] ABORIGINES. 133

it be necessary to inflict the punishment of death for
the murder of a native, it is equally necessary to
inflict that punishment for the murder of a settler by
a native."

Unhappily the poor savage, conscious of his inferiority
and his inability to bring those who offended against
him to punishment, often had to submit to unkind and
even brutal treatment, for which there was no redress,
and, writhing under the wrongs he endured, he would
entertain feelings of resentment, ending sometimes in
his taking summary revenge on supposed, as well as on
real, enemies.

" Can it be deemed surprising," asked Mr. Eyre, who
knew the native character as well as any one, " that a
rude, uncivilized being, driven from his home, deprived
of all his ordinary means of subsistence, and pressed
perhaps by a hostile tribe from behind, should occasion-
ally be guilty of aggressions or injuries towards his
oppressors ? The wonder rather is, not that these things
do sometimes occur, but that they occur so rarely. In
addition to the many other inconsistencies in our con-
duct towards the aborigines, not the least extraordinary
is that of placing them, on the plea of protection, under
the influence of our laws, and of making them British
subjects. Strange anomaly, which by the former makes
them amenable to penalties they are ignorant of, for
crimes which they do not consider as such, or which
they may even have been driven to commit by our own
injustice, and by the latter but mocks them with an
empty sound, since the very laws under which we
profess to place them, by their nature and constitution,
are inoperative in affording redress to the injured. . . ."

In addition to the official Protector of Aborigines in
the colony, the natives had the sympathy of an asso-
ciation in the mother country, established for the
express purpose of affording such protection to them *
it could. But seeing they were so far away, and had
to rely upon reports not always well authenticated,
they sometimes condemned actions taken on the spot,
and thus, instead of being of any assistance to the


aborigines, they unintentionally created a prejudice
against those whom they were endeavouring to serve.

But the natives had friends nearer at hand, who
were zealously labouring for their welfare. The first
direct missionary efforts on their behalf were made by
Messrs. C. G. Teichelmann and C. W. Schiirmann, who
were sent out by the Lutheran Missionary Society at
Dresden, under the auspices and mainly at the expense
of Mr. G. F. Angas, in 1838. They were followed in
1840 by two other missionaries from the same society,
Messrs. H. A. C. Meyer and F. Klose.

In 1839 Messrs. Teichelmann and Schurmann, in con-
junction with Mr. Moorhouse, Protector of Aborigines
in succession to Mr. Wyatt, commenced school opera-
tions, and soon acquired a sufficient knowledge of the
language to publish vocabularies. But although some
of the children learned to read and to write, and adults
came to listen to the gospel preached in their own
tongue, it was always discouraging work, as they were
constantly migrating from place to place.

In course of time it was found that teaching in the
native tongue was a mistake, and a complete change in
the plan of procedure was effected. The objections to
imparting instruction in the native tongue were set
forth by Mr. Eyre to this effect : 1. The length of
time and labour required for the instructor to master
the language. 2. The very few natives he could
instruct, almost every tribe speaking a different dialect.
3. The sudden stop that would be put to all instruction if
the preceptor became ill or died, as no one could supply
his place. 4. If the children could not speak in the
language ordinarily spoken by the colonists, they would
be debarred from the advantage of casual instruction or
information, arid also from entering upon duties or
relations with Europeans amongst whom they might be
living. 5. By adhering to the native language they
would become more deeply confirmed in their original
feelings and prejudices, and more thoroughly kept
under the influence and direction of their own people..

Schools were established in several places on this new


method, but no great success attended the efforts of the
teachers ; nevertheless, it is interesting to note that even
at this early period in the history of the colony, when
every nerve was being strained to increase commercial
prosperity, the colonists were disposed to give time
and attention to philanthropic subjects. The Governor
watched the progress of the German missionaries with
much interest, and wrote of them to Mr. Angas in July,
1840, thus:

" I have very great reason to believe them to be
sincere, intelligent, persevering Christian men, and it'
their efforts had not at all succeeded, they, I think,
would have been blameless. The change of the
aborigines, in any moderate time, even to mere civiliza-
tion, would be an especial effect of the power of God.
The deep-rooted prejudices of a very ancient people,
agreeing universally throughout the whole island in
the leading points of a very ancient system, are not to
be overcome in a few years. The Protector and mis-
sionaries have done much to shake it, but the progress
will be slow, and not very discernible to indifferent

The Governor was a religious man, and gladly sup-
ported all philanthropic workers, while, as a good Church-
man, he naturally took a strong interest in all Church
questions. It will be remembered that in the original
South Australian Act of 1834 there had crept in a clause
giving authority to create colonial chaplains, and the Eev.
C. B. Howard had been sent out with the first Governor
in this official capacity. But the friends of the volun-
tary system had from the first made it a sine qua non
that the new colony should be absolutely and entirely
free from any connection whatever between Church
and State, and they agitated with such effect that on
the 31st of July, 1838, an amended South Australian
Act passed the British Parliament, partly to set at rest
certain doubts as to the powers vested in the Commis-
sioners, but mainly to repeal that part of the previous
Act which related to the appointment by the Crown of
chaplains and clergymen. This was, of course, not


regarded with favour by the Church party, and it
became one of the burning questions of the day. The
Governor's views on the religious outlook are well given
in a letter he wrote to Mr. G. F. Angas :

" July 10th, 1840.

" Many circumstances have arisen to force very
strongly upon my attention the religious necessities of
the colony. . . . Our deficiencies in places of worship
and ministers of the gospel are very great ; they do not
keep pace with immigration. I lately made a careful
calculation, and from it believe that the utmost limit of
religious accommodation will not include the means of
attendance for more than eighteen hundred persons ;
from these must be deducted at least one-sixth for the
average of absentees, leaving an attendance of fifteen
hundred out of a population of nearly fifteen thousand.
Several of the buildings included in this calculation are
private houses, others are very temporary erections, and
some others are very much in debt. . . .

" The current voluntary system, I deliberately and
conscientiously believe, will not in any reasonable degree
supply the necessities of the population ; it has not
nearly done so as yet under most favourable circum-
stances. T see no probability that it can do so in the
future. "Without a colonial chaplain or chaplains there
would be to me the insuperable objection that the
fundamental doctrines of the gospel would not be
acknowledged by the Government. ... I do not wish
for any corrupt, secularly political connection between
the Church and State, but I cannot conceive that any
sincere Christian man can be satisfied at being at the
head of a Government which, as a Government, acknow-
ledges no God and no doctrine.

" I have arrived at a plan which, if it be supported
by the Government and Commissioners, will, I think,
be a solid basis for the best of blessings to the province.
It is in abstract this : 1. That the provision of the
original Act requiring the appointment of chaplains of
the Churches of England and Scotland should continue


to be carried out, but with great moderation, as an
acknowledgment on the part of the Government of the
fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith doctrines
common to all really Christian denominations. 2. That
for the maintenance of religion and the furtherance of

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 34)