John Dunmore Lang.

Cooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... online

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field and the black; and when they came up to the others, he told
Braeefield that he had come to take him, for the purpose of get-
ting his own sentence mitigated, and insisted that he had, refu-
sing to believe Bracefield's asseverations to the contrary, until
Braeefield got into a passion at him, and sung a war-song to him.
With that he bolted off to our camp, our men being scarcely able
to keep pace with him. I shall never forget his appearance when
he arrived at our camp — a white man in a state of nudity, and
actually a wild man of the woods, his eyes wild and unable to
rest for a moment on any one object. He had quite the same
manners and gestures that the wildest blacks have got. He
could not speak his " mither's tongue," as he called it He could
not even pronounce English for some time, and when he did at-
tempt it, all he could say was a few words, and these often mis-
applied, breaking off abruptly, in the middle of a sentence, with
the black gibberish, which he spoke very fluently. During the
whole of our conversation his eyes and manner were completely
wild, looking at us as if he had never seen a white man before. In
fiict he told us he had nearly forgotten all about the society of
white men, and had forgotten all about his friends and relations
for four years past ; and had I, or some one else, not brought
him ft*om among these savages, he never would have left them.
One of the first questions he asked me was about the Settlement
at Moreton Bay, which I gave him to understand was now a free
Settlement, and a very different place altogether from what it
was when he left it fourteen years ago. I only guessed at the pe-



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2S4: COOKSLAND.

riod firom some of the prisoners mentioning abont the time he
absconded, as he had no idea of it himself, and could not tell
what time he had been in the bush. At the same time I assured
him that no punishment would be inflicted on him for abscond-
ing.

1 then told Davies it was my intention to proceed to Bahpal,
an adjoining mountain, but he strongly advised me not to attempt
this, ror if we divided our party, the men that we should leave at
the boat would be all murdered before we returned, as there were
some hundreds in the camp ; and he told us we would require
three or four men to keep watch during the night, for in all pro-
bability they would then attack us. At the same time he asked
if I would allow him to go back and remain with the blacks
during the night, as he would endeavour to make all right with
them, so as to prevent their attacking us during the night, pledg-
ing himself to return to us by daybreak. He mentioned to us
at the same time that the hlack$ were determined to attctck ««, as
they would h(we revenge for tk*. poisoning of their friends at some of
the stations to the South. Davies then bade us good night, and left
us. The greater number of our party, mostly all except myself,
never thought he would come back, or, if he did, they thought it
would be heading the blacks against us. This made our party
very timid, and I therefore thought it would be advisable to put
all our luggage into the boat and lie on board all night We
accordingly remained in the boat and kept a regular watch during
the night At daybreak I ordered three musket shots to be fired
at intervals, to let Davies know that we were still in the same
place, awaiting his coming. About sunrise he joined our party,
accompanied by a black, who had possession of a watch belong-
ing to a man of Mr. (now Sir Evan) M^Kenzie's, who was mur-
dered by the same tribe.

Bracefield and the black Ulappah had accompanied Davies to
the native encampment, and when they reached it, seeing our
black so plump and fat, the Wide Bay natives asked Bracefield
and Davies if the white men would take the part of the black and
attack them if they were to kill and eat him. They both gave
them to understand, in reply, that there were a great many white
men and arms at the boat, and that in that case they would come
and shoot them all. Bracefield on this occasion had stripped off
the clothes we had given him, and was immediately recognised
by a great many of them, who invited him to sup with them and
remain for the night Davies and he made them believe that they
would both return to them ; and before leaving the camp Davies
made them an oration, informing them that it was not to molest
them, but to explore the river and the country, and to search for
Davies, that the white men had come, and that they knew nothing
ofihs poisoning of their friends. They intended them no harm, if
they (the blacks) would not molest them ; but, if they did, they
would all be shot by the white men, as their spears were nothing



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THE SQUATTING SYSTEM. 285

to our guns. This had the desired effect, for in the morning, at
the first report of the musket we fired, not a murmur was heard,
the mothers making their young ones lie quiet lest we should
hear them ; at the second report the greater part of them took
to the scrub ; and on hearing the third report, they nearly all
fled in the greatest consternation. Thus terminated our man-
oeuvres with the natives.

lUh. — Descended the river about 20 miles. During our en-
campment we were all very much entertained with Davies' de-
scription of the manner of life and customs of the blacks, and
also with his exhibiting the process of catching the emu and
kangaroo. They make a play or game of this sport among
themselves. Happening in the course of the evening to ask him
if he could climb the trees with the wild vine, he started up in-
stantly, threw off his clothes, and, procuring a vine, was at the
top of one of the trees with it in a few minutes. His clothes
were a great annoyance to him for some days.

On arriving at Frazer's Island, I made Davies and Bracefield
inquire at the blacks where the white men's bones were lying
[those of Captain Frazer and his unfortunate shipmates.] They
said they would show us them. We went along with them, and,
on arriving at their camp, a black fellow brought out a large
dilly [native basket] full of the bones of black men. After
Davies had explained to them more minutely what we wanted,
they pointed to a place about ten miles' distance along the sea-
beach. We would have gone this far, but our time was up, and
we had to return. The blacks are very numerous on this idand :
there is a nut they find on it which they eat, and the fish are
very plentiful. The formation and productions of the island are
much the same as those of Moreton island ; the timber is a great
deal superior, and also the soil ; the cypress-pine upon Frazer's
Island being quite splendid. It is 60 miles long, by 10 or 12
wide.

The Wide Bay River is navigable for a vessel drawing nine
feet water for about 40 miles up. The country on its banks is a
good sheep country, and the farther you proceed to the westward
the better the land. The blacks informed me there is a river
about ten miles beyond the Wide Bay River, and another more
to the north-westward, and a third, larger than all the others,
still farther to the westward, and pointed a long way into the in-
terior to where the water came from. This last river we thought
must be the Boyne. They also informed us that there was a
beautiful country about forty miles from the Bahpal mountain,
extending quite to the ocean, and abounding in emus and kan-
garoos. According to their account, this country is thinly wood-
ed ; and as there is now (Dec. 1845) a party out exploring it, it
will shortly be occupied and stations formed in it.

I should not have occupied so much space in the

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



286 COOKSLAND.

discussion of the case of the poisoning of the black
natives — although IVIr. Petrie's journal is interesting
and merited insertion on other accounts — had there
not been an attempt made in England not only to ex-
plain away the whole affair, but to throw unmerited
odium on account of it on the German missionaries.
With this attempt an able and highly respectable writer
on the physical character and capabilities of the north-
em portion of the Colony of New South Wales, to the
southward of the 30th parallel of south latitude — I mean
Mr. Clement Hodgkinson, Government Surveyor in the
Macleay District — has identified himself, apparently
without knowing very well what he was doing. In a
work published during his recent visit to England, Mr.
Hodgkinson thus expresses himself: —

" Some German Missionaries have been for some time among
the blacks at Moreton Bay, and one of them has obtained con-
siderable notoriety from having deliberately accused the Squat-
ters in that District of having poisoned upwards of fifty of the
native blacks. The Squatters of Moreton Bay are almost all
gentlemen of education and good connexions, many of them being
retired officers, and the ridiculous improbability of the general
accusation brought against them by the Rev. Mr. Schmidt was
80 universally felt in the Colony, that little trouble was taken
to remove the aspersion cast upon them. On my arrival in
England, however, 1 found that this afiTair had been seriously taken
up by the Aborigines Protection Society, who threatened to have it
brought before Parliament. Much discussion on the subject has
also appeared in the columns of the Colonial Gazette. These
German Missionaries seem to be men of great disinterestedness,
and actuated by the most philanthropic motives in their endea-
vours to ameliorate the moral condition of the Australian Abori-
gines. They were probably misled by the natives, and thought-
lessly made a general accusation against the Squattera, without
sufficiently reflecting on the grave nature of the charge, and the
odium which would rebound on themselves if they failed in mak-
ing it good. According to the account of the Squatters, it would
appear that some sheep, diseased and scabby, had been dressed
as usual with arsenic, which, with corrosive sublimate, is the
ordinary remedy for scab. These sheep had been " rushed" by
the blacks, and a number of them carried off, and it is supposed
that the arsenic caused the death of some of the thieves."*

* Hodgkinson on the Macleay River and the Northern Settle-
ments of New South Wales, p. 1 14.



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THE SQUATTING SYSTEM. 287

Now it will be evident from the preceding narrative
that the German Missionaries, or rather Mr. Schmidt,
brought no " general accusation,'* such as Mr. Hodg-
kinson speaks of, against the Squatters. In fact, they
brought no accusation at all. Mr. S. merely inserted
in his journal the reason which the natives, who Were
along with him on his journey to the Bunya-Bunya
country, assigned for refusing to enter into the territo-
ries of the Bunya-Bunya tribe ; and but for myself, for
the reasons I have stated above, that journal would, in
all probability, never have seen the light. To tell the
plain truth, I am strongly of opinion that the German
Missionaries did not feel particularly obliged to me for
the publication of the journal : but conceiving that I
had a high duty to discharge to society in the case, I
did not feel myself called on to ask their opinion on
the subject beforehand. The German Missionaries
were peculiarly men of peace, and perhaps it was my
impression at the time that they would have done too
much in the case in question, in the way of keeping
silence in the cause of the blacks, for the maintenance
of peace with all white men.

But as to Mr. Hodgkinson's vindication of the Squat-
ters, in reply to the alleged accusation of them by Mr.
Schmidt, what does it amount to 1 Why, it is merely
a general certificate of previous good character and
reputation — the last refuge of the destitute in the case
of a specific criminal charge ! Such a charge can ad-
mit only of disproof or of denial, and is in noway affect-
ed by a certificate of previous good character in favour
of the accused. It is consistent with my personal
knowledge, that there were gentlemen both of educa-
tion and of highly respectable connexions at Moreton
Bay, who believed the charge brought by the blacks —
not by Mr. Schmidt — to be well founded; and who were
sincerely desirous for their own character and reputa-
tion, as well as for the ends of justice, that the truth
should be ascertained and disclosed, whoever might
suffer from its disclosure. The Local Government of
the period had it fully in its power, which no private



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288 COOKSLAND.

individual, especially residing in Sydney could possibly
have, to have ascertained the truUi in the matter, if it
had been ascertainable at all ; and why it did not at
least make the attempt to do so has yet to be explained.

But of what value is Mr. Hodgkinson's general de-
nial of what he calls Mr. Schmidt's " general accusa-
tion" of the Squatters ? It is evident from his own
book, that Mr. Hodgkinson was never within the ter-
ritory of Cooksland — was never to the northward of the
dOth parallel of South latitude on the east coast of
Australia; for although the book professes to give
some account of Moreton Bay, no man of discernment
could suppose for one moment — considering the powers
of description exhibited by Mr. H. in the account he
has given of the Macleay, the Nanbuckra, and the
Bellinger Rivers, which he had visited, and with which
he was comparatively well acquainted, and the very
meagre account he has given of the Clarence and the
Brisbane Rivers — that he could ever have visited the
two latter rivers at all. Mr. Hodgkinson's own district
— that of the Macleay River — ^is at least four degrees of
latitude to the southward of the locality to which the
charge of poisoning referred, and the intervening
country is an impracticable country for travelling
either north or south, towards the coast, across which
there was no communication whatever before Mr. H.
left the Colony for England.

Then, as to the explanation of the whole affair which
Mr. H. has volunteered for the Squatters, the quantity
of arsenic used in the solution for washing a scabby
sheep is so small, that if the whole of it were incorpo-
rated in the flesh of the animal, and eaten, it could not
possibly destroy life, even if the whole quantity used
in dressing a sheep were to be concentrated in the por-
tion of mutton which a single black fellow could be
supposed to eat.* Besides, as the natives uniformly



* This is the opinion of a Medical gentleman of deservedly
high standing in the Colony.



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THE SQUATTING SYSTEM. 280

roast the flesh they eat, and as arsenic is weU known
to be an exceedingly volatile substance, and easily sub-
limated by heat, the greater portion of it would be vo-
latilized and dissipated by the action of the fire before
the meat could be roasted. But the Aborigines are
neither so stupid nor so unreasonable as, in the event
supposed — that of any of their number dying from eat-
ing scabbed sheep, which they had themselves rushed
and stolen — to accuse the owner of the sheep of having
wilfully poisoned them. The fact is, the charge had
no reference to sheep whatever ; it was simply that the
arsenic or other white poison, of which, as they alleged,
at least thirty of their number had died, had been mix-
ed expressly for the purpose in a mess of hominy pre-
pared for them at the station of a Squatter in More-
ton Bay ; and a charge of this kind is not to be either
answered or set aside by such vague and irrelevant
generalities as those in which Mr. Hodgkinson has ra-
ther imprudently dealt in his work on the Macleay
River. The intelligent native, who acted as Mr.
Schmidt's guide to the Bunya-Bunya country, and
whose language Mr. S. perfectly understood, held up
his ten fingers three or four times in succession^ to inti-
mate that at least thirty or forty of his race had died
of the poison ! And the natives of the Ninge-Ninge
tribe, on the coast, to the northward of the Brisbane
River, had previously given precisely the same infor-
mation to Messrs. Niqu^ & Rode, of the German Mis-
sion, the latter of whom was the most fluent in the na-
tive language of all the Missionaries. In short, that
there had been a great, as well as a base and treach-
erous sacrifice of Aboriginal life on the occasion in
question, on the part of some Squatter or other in the
Moreton Bay District, there cannot be the shadow of
a doubt ; and participating, as every honest man must,
in the feeling of virtuous indignation at the foul dis-
honour that was thus brought upon the British name,
as well as in cordial though unavailing sympathy with
the hapless Aborigines, we may well ask with the
poet —

T



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290 . COOKSLAND.

Quis, talia fando,
Myrmidonum, Dolopumve, aut duri miles Ulixi,
Temperet a lachrymis 1 — Virg. ./Eneid, Lib. ii. *

The reader will doubtless perceive, fix)m the preced-
ing statements and remarks, that the extension of the
present Squatting system will, in all likelihood, involve
the speedy extinction of the Aboriginal race in Aus-
tralia, and also that this melancholy consummation
will be greatly accelerated by the general employment
of the class of persons who now constitute so large a
proportion of the shepherds and stockmen of that coun-
try — ^I mean the " old hands," or Expiree convicts of
New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land. Am I
then to be understood as recommending the discontin-
uance or prohibition of the Squatting system for
the preservation of the Aborigines? By no means.
" God," we are divinely assured, " made the earth to be
inhabited;" and no intelligent person can suppose for a
moment that this Divine constitution, in so far as the
vast continental island of Australia is concerned, can
possibly have been fulfilled or carried out by the Abo-
rigines of that country. It is also equally undeniable,
that as that extensive portion of the earth's sur&ce, in
so far as it can be rendered available for the purposes
of man, has evidently been created a pastoral country,
it must have been the Divine intention, in regard to it,
that it should ultimately be occupied by the Socks and
herds of civilized men. For, even if the Imperial Go-
vernment were mad enough to attempt to controvert
this Divine appointment, it would be utterly imprac-
ticable to prevent the gradual occupation of the avail-
able portions of Australia, for the purpose which the
country has thus been designed to serve. And as the
facts and circumstances I have detailed will show that
the protection and preservation of the Aborigines can

♦ It may perhaps be done into English, as follows : —

Who but a myrmidon of Sir George Gipps',
Could have so sad a story on his lips.
Nor shed a tear I



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THE SQUATTING SYSTEM. 291

scarcely be intrusted, with any degree of confidence,
either to the Local Executive or to the Squatters, it
remains to be inquired what measures are likely to
prove most effectual in ensuring to the utmost extent
possible this desirable result, or in lessening the pre-
sent deplorable evils of the Squatting system, while the
means of its unlimited extension are secured to the
Squatters.

Now I have no hesitation in stating my belief and
conviction, that no measure will be likely to prove so
effectual, for all these purposes combined, as the one I
have been recommending all along throughout this
volume — I mean the speedy and extensive settlement
of an industrious and virtuous agricultural population
from the mother-country throughout the territory of
Cooksland. Such a population would necessarily, at
least in the present state of society in the Australian
Colonies, call into existence an enlightened press, which
would be supported by a weight of public opinion that
would virtually compel the Local Government to in-
vestigate to the utmost any such case of blood and
murder as the one which the Government of Sir George
Gipps allowed to pass over unnoticed in the year 1842.
It would supply a superior class of persons, as shep-
herds and stockmen to the Squatters, and render colli-
sions with the black natives much less frequent than
they have hitherto been — depending exclusively for
this species of labour, as the Squatters have been for
some time past, on emancipated convicts from Van
Dieman's Land. It would also lead to the establish-
ment of friendly relations with the Aborigines, and
elevate the tone of feeling in regard to them through-
out the country generally. And to revert for one mo-
ment to the philosophic theory adverted to in the out-
set of this Chapter, this most desirable transition of
the country, from its secondary or pastoral into its ter-
tiary or agricultural state, will as little imply the trans-
formation of the Squatter into an agriculturist, as the
former transition, from the wild hunter to the pastoral
state, implied that of the wild native hunter into a



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292 COOKSLAND.

Squatter. The three races, so to speak, will keep very
much distinct from each other — I mean as to any in-
terchange of occupation ; and there must consequently
be an influx of agriculturists from the mother-country
to effect the second transition, just as an influx of
Squatters was absolutely necessary to effect the first.

The Australian Squatter is a being perfectly sui
generis : there is nothing like him in any other part of
the British Dominions ; there is nothing at all analo-
gous to him in the United States of America. In
the latter country the term implies some person of the
humbler walks of life, whose, only property is an axe,
with a few articles of household furniture and imple-
ments of agriculture, and who goes forth into the vast
forests of the frontier-settlements, clears, fences, and
cultivates a few acres of land, erecting upon it a log
house, the whole of which, designated in the language
of the country his betterments, together with his right of
pre-emption, which his adventurous labours as a Squat-
ter have secured, and which the National Government
very wisely respects, he probably sells to the first emi-
grant who heaves in sight, either from Europe or from
the Eastern States, looking out for a location, and then
moves off farther west, to repeat the same process
afresh, as the precursor and pioneer of civilization.
But the Australian Squatter, especially in the northern
and southern divisions of the great colony of New South
Wales, is, as Mr. Hodgkinson rightly observes, a man
of education and respectable connexions ; and if not a
gentleman bom and bred, as indeed is not unfrequently
the case, he has generally a quantity of stock that im-
plies a considerable amount of pastoral capital. The
proper names scattered over the map of Cooksland,
appended to this volume, are those of the proprietors
of the respective Squatting Stations into which the
country is divided among the actual Squatters ; ten
pounds being payable annually to the Government as
a license for the occupation of each station, the boun-
daries of which are defined by the resident Commis-
sioner of Crown Lands, in proportion to the amount of



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THE SQUATTING SYSTEM. 203

the Squatter's stock, allowing generally for four years'
increase. In the district of Moreton Bay the extent of
each Squatting station may be reckoned on an average
at from a hundred to a hundred and twenty square
miles. Owing to the great extent of land occupied by
each Squatting station, the country available for such
pursuits is soon taken up ; and as the pastoral country
is for the most part quite distinct from the agricultural —
the latter being generally alluvial land thickly wooded,
on the banks of rivers — the two pursuits are mutually
helpful to each other, and seldom interfere.

From the rapidity with which any new tract of coun-
try is taken up, as it is called, in consequence of the con-
tinual influx of fresh Squatters, and the natural increase
of sheep and cattle, it soon becomes difiicult to find a
new run or station at all ; and in many parts of the
Middle District, or New South Wales proper, the coun-
try is at least adequately if not more than sufficiently
stocked already. In Port Phillip or the Southern
District, there is doubtless room for a much larger in-
crease ; but this does not imply that the country is not
taken up, in the estimation of the actual Squatters : for
as it was the custom of the ancient kings of Persia to
surround their dominions with a tract of unoccupied
waste land, that they might have no intercourse with
their neighbours, so it is the delight of persons of this
anomalous class of colonists to surround their respec-



Online LibraryJohn Dunmore LangCooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... → online text (page 27 of 47)