Natives [Aborigines attack settlers, 21 April 1805]

[Editor: An account of some attacks by Aborigines upon settlers in New South Wales. Published in The Sydney Gazette, and New South Wales Advertiser, 21 April 1805.]


With inexpressible concern we have to recount a series of barbarities lately practised by a banditti of these people, inhabiting the out-skirts of Hawkesbury.

Last Wednesday se’nnight a fellow known by the name of Branch Jack went to the farm of John Llewellyn, one of the Military settlers, who was at dinner with his labouring servant in a field; he was invited to partake of the fare; and after sharing in the repast, found means to get the settler’s musket and powder horn in his possession, with which he made off with a loud yell, which was returned by about 20 others that had before concealed themselves, but now came forward, and discharged several spears at the unfortunate men, two of which entered the master’s breast, who fell immediately, two others passing between the servant’s legs. The latter requesting to know their motive for the barbarous assault, was answered by a flight of spears, one of which penetrated his shoulder, and another one of his groins. After he had fallen the natives closed upon him, and thrice struck him on the head with a tomahawk, each blow occasioning a dreadful wound. They then hurried the unfortunate object of their fury towards the bank of the river, and hurled him downwards; when he had lain for some time half immersed he heard the groans of his unhappy master, who was shortly after dispatched by some of the assailants who returned to all appearance purposely: and supposing the servant dead, left the scite of horror. In this deplorable condition the poor man lay for the space of two whole days; and when upon the very point of expiring, was snatched by the hand of Providence from immediate death, and taken to Hawkesbury in a boat accidently passing, where he gave the above detail to the Magistrate there resident.

On the same day another event of the same horrible kind took place at the branch, within three miles of the above. The farm house of T. Adlam was set on fire by a body of natives supposed to be the same; and after the alarm had been given, a search was made for the settler and his man, but they had shared a merciless fate, a part of their Relicks being found among the ashes, and the remainder scattered piecemeal, to become the prey of prowling animals and carnivorous birds; from which circumstance it is probably conjectured, that after the ill-fated people had been inhumanly murdered, their limbs were severed and wantonly scattered.

It since appears, that some of these pitiless barbarians had several weeks before intimated their detested purpose to several individuals, who treated it with levity, as nothing was visible in their deportment that could justify suspicion of a hostile change.

The above survivor, whose name is John Knight, gave the foregoing detail upon Friday evening; and armed boats were sent from the Green Hills, to prevent any further mischief about the Branches: and it is devoutly to be hoped that the measures adopted by order of His Excellency may bring the barbarities to a speedy crisis.

It is sometimes contended, that these outrages are only acts of retaliation for injuries received; but such a persuasion must be allowed to yield to observation and experience to the contrary.

Should it at any time appear that an individual amenable to the law abuses by maltreatment any of these people, the offence is immediately investigated, and the slightest act of injustice treated with even greater rigour than it would have been had the complaint proceeded from a European. The natives are themselves perfectly aware of the protection they owe to the Government and its Officers; and seldom suffer an occasion to escape of representing the slightest grievance.

During the last Twelvemonth no complaint has been set up by a native, except in one single instance of assault about four months since: and in consequence of which the aggressor, altho’ a freeman, was committed to the County Gaol from Hawkesbury; and still remains a labourer in the gaol gang.

Nor did the act of this delinquent extend further than a blow, as he himself declares in his own justification, to a native who designed to plunder him, so infrangible are the Regulations providing for their security by inflicting exemplary punishment upon any whose want of humanity might stimulate them to acts of wanton violence against this race of men.

The benefits they daily receive from the settlers and other inhabitants are on the other hand boundless, and should lay claim to every grateful return, which can extend no further than to a passive forbearance from rapacity; but no consideration whatever can bind them; nor even secure from assassination him that is in the very act of contributing to their relief from want. And nothing further need be said to refute a notion of their being actuated to enormity by a principle of resentment, than the bare recollection that those enormities are periodical in their commencement, at every season when they may despoil the settler of his crop, and reap by stealth and open violence the produce of a tract they are themselves too indolent to cultivate; and unless a provoked opposition to their doing which be deemed a provocation to the renewal of mischiefs, certain we are that no pretence at justification whatever can exist.

The Sydney Gazette, and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), 21 April 1805, p. 2

Editor’s notes:
accidently = an alternative spelling of “accidentally”

banditti = bandits, especially a marauding armed band or gang

infrangible = inviolable or unbreakable; not to be infringed or violated; impossible or near-impossible to break or separate into parts

rapacity = excessive covetousness, greediness, insatiableness, voraciousness; the condition of being rapacious: having or displaying a strong and excessive wish to take things for oneself, or to plunder, particularly the drive to acquire money or to possess things, especially using force, or using unfair, immoral, or predatory methods

relick = an archaic spelling of “relic”

scite = an archaic spelling of “site”

se’nnight = (sennight) a week; a period of seven days and seven nights (a contraction of “sevennight”, just as “fortnight” is a contraction of “fourteennight”)

[Editor: Corrected “appearence” to “appearance”; “carniverous” to “carnivorous”; “servants” to “servant’s”. Some text was inadvertently missing from the article; the original is “no pretence cation whatever”; Kathy Stavrou has interpreted this text as “no pretence (at justifi)cation whatever”, and that interpretation has been adopted here; see “Bloody invasion, Christianity, and the Vagrancy Act (1836)” (chapter 1 of “Caught in the Act”), Kathy Stavrou, 19 April 2006 (accessed 2 March 2015)]

Speak Your Mind