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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Douglas and others [1834] NSWSupC 81

Michael Anderson, James Bell, James Brady, John Butler, Henry Drummond, Lawrence Duggan,  John Geeson, Patrick Glenny, William Groves and Henry Knowles

Norfolk Island, conditions on - robbery - convict rebellion - principal and accessory - convict escape - conspiracy - treason - approver, evidence by - Bushranging Act

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Burton J., 10-11 July 1834

Source: Sydney Gazette, 13 September 1834[ 1]

JULY 10, 1834.

Judge Burton took his seat upon the Bench.  John Stephen Gerritey, Esq., was sworn as clerk of arraigns, and after the usual preliminaries were gone through, the precept appointing the military jury was read, when it appeared that Lieutenant Thomas was misnamed and could not sit upon the jury; Mr. Greetham, another juror named, was unable to attend from ill health; Captain Fyans begged to decline sitting on account of his having been the committing magistrate.  It therefore became necessary to put May or Anderson on the jury, who begged also to decline sitting as their presence would be required in the settlement during the hours of the sitting of the Court.

Mr. David Chambers, the Crown Solicitor presented an information in the name of the Attorney-General against Robert Douglas, charging that he, the said Robert Douglas, on the 15th day of January, 1834, made an assault on James Pearson, putting him in bodily fear and danger of his life, and one musket of the goods and chattels of our Sovereign Lord the King, from the person and against the will of the said James Pearson, feloniously and wilfully did steal, take, and carry away.  Henry Drummond, James Bell, John Butler, James Brady, and Patrick Glenny, were indicted for aiding and abetting Robert Douglas in committing the said felony, and Michael Anderson, Lawrence Duggan, William Groves, Henry Knowles, and John Geeson, as accessories before the fact.

Robert Douglas pleaded guilty, and although cautioned by the Judge persisted in that plea, which was recorded; the other prisoners pleaded not guilty.

Upon the jury being about to be sworn, one of the prisoners, John Butler, prayed for a postponement of the trial until the following morning, for the purpose of being able to communicate with their professional adviser, as they had only received one day's notice of trial.

The Crown Solicitor would not object to a postponement, though the prisoners had 24 hour's notice, which was quite sufficient in such a case, where, as all the witnesses they could require were within call in the settlement, and they could not say they were taken by surprise.  His Honor adjourned the Court till 9 o'clock next morning.


JULY 11.

The prisoners were placed at the bar, and the following jury sworn:-  Captain Lockart, Lieutenant Blackburne, 17th regiment, Lieutenant Clarke, Royal Marines, Lieutenant Owen, 17th regiment, Lieutenant Fortescue, Lieutenant Greetham, and Assistant Surgeon Holland, 4th regiment.

The Crown Solicitor stated the case for the prosecution. - He said the crime charged against the prisoners, was one amongst many committed by them in the prosecution of a most daring conspiracy which they with upwards of 100 other convicts had concerted for the purpose of subverting the Government of the Island - depriving the military of their arms - putting to death all opposers - violating females, and escaping from the Island.  To effect this object, which had been for some months in contemplation, various schemes had been devised, but it had been finally settled that the attempt should be made on the morning of the 15th January last.  It had been arranged that on that morning, about 30 men should fall out of the Camp and Longridge gangs on pretence of sickness, should go to the hospital, there secure all the inmates, and wait a certain signal to rush round the back of the gaol at the time the guard received the gaol-gangs in charge; that the party from the hospital should attack the gaol-gang-guard in the rear, while the gaol-gang, who were in front of the guard, should attack the front rank.  It was further arranged that about 60 men who were at the Longridge farm (about a mile from the settlement) should have scouts posted along the road to give the signal to the men at Longridge when the Hospital party had rushed from the hospital, and that the men at Longridge should thereupon rush the tool-house at Longridge, arm themselves with axes, pitchforks, and other weapons, and run down to the settlement to the assistance of the Hospital and gaol parties.  These infatuated men reckoned that they would overpower and disarm the gaol-gang-guard (12 men) without any difficulty, and having thus secured them, place them in front of the mutineers and march to the atttack [sic] of the settlement guard, who would not fire upon them whilst the soldiers were in their front.  They intended, if the settlement guard did not surrender, to throw oakum and pitch upon the roof of the guard-house, and then by setting it on fire, to burn the guard out; the mutineers were then to rush to the Government house, secure the Commandant, and proceed to attack the military in the garrison.  They expected thus to proceed step by step until they were in full possession of the Island; when having obtained from the Commandant the private signal for vessels arriving off the Island, they were to put him to death, together with Captain Fyans and all other persons who were obnoxious.  The females were to be distributed amongst those men who should behave best during the contest; and as soon as the mutineers were in full possession of the Island, they were to build upon the large launch, for the purpose of conveying away such men as could not be taken on board the first vessel that should arrive; for it was part of their plan, that when the first vessel arrived off the Island, a boat was to be sent off to her manned by some of the prisoners and with a coxswain in the usual manner, to see what military and prisoners were on board, then to return, and a party of prisoners dressed as soldiers were to be sent off in another boat on pretence of relieving guard, if any military were on board to be relieved; these mock soldiers were to rush upon and secure the military and sailors, take possession of the vessel, and escape in her to some of the Islands or to South America, leaving these remaining on the Island to escape in the large launch and boats.  This was the plan finally arranged to be carried into execution on the morning of the 15th January; accordingly, on that morning, about 30 men fell out of the different camp gangs and went to the Hospital, and scouts were placed between the settlement and Longridge to give the signal to the Longridge gang.  As soon as the hospital party entered the hospital, they secured all the inmates and confined them in a room which they barred outside; they then broke off their own irons, and just as the gaol-gang had been turned out of gaol to go to work, and were given in charge to the guard, the men from the Hospital (between 30 and 40) having received the signal from a person stationed outside for that purpose, rushed from the hospital behind the gaol and seized upon the rear rank of the gaol-gang-guard.  Fortunately in this very outset of their diabolical plans, the courage and bravery of these few men who composed the guard, defeated the whole scheme; for after a short struggle, in which two or three muskets were wrested from the soldiers, the soldiers, after killing and wounding give or six of the mutineers, succeeded in dispersing and finally in securing them.  About the same moment that the rush was made upon the gaol-gang-guard, the party of mutineers stationed at Longridge rushed the tool-house there, armed themselves with axes, pitchforks, and other weapons, and ran with all speed towards the settlement; before they reached the Glag-staff-hill, overlooking the settlement, several shots had been fired in the settlement, and Longridge mutineers having stopped on the hill to reconnoitre, seeing their companions in the settlement routed and taken prisoners, and a few shots having been fired at them upon the hill, the dispersed, some back to their camp at Longridge, and others to the bush, where they were finally secured.  Thus ended this diabolical conspiracy, and such must be the end of all conspiracies of a like nature in this Island, where the projectors are bad men combining together for a wicked purpose, and having opposed to them the brave men who compose the soldiery, and who fight in a good cause, with the heavy odds besides of arms and ammunition sufficient to keep in restraint ten times the number of convicts on the Island.  In the attack upon the gaol-gang-guard, the prisoner Douglas and those who were indicted as his aiders and abetters, bore very prominent parts; Douglas was one of the foremost in the attack, and after a violent struggle with the soldier Pearson, Douglas, with the assistance of several others, succeeded in forcing Pearson's musket from him: another soldier was also disarmed, and Douglas snapped the gun several times at one of the soldiers, and at an overseer twice or thrice.  It would be proved that the other prisoners who were indicted as accessories before the fact, if they were not present at the attack, were very chief conspirators, and His Honor would tell the jury that if a number of  persons conspire together for any illegal purpose, and in the prosecution of their common design one of them commits a murder or a robbery, all those who advised, planned, or counselled the general proceedings, would be guilty as accessories before the fact, although they took no actual part in the commission of the offence.  Mr. Chambers concluded by expressing his regret that he was under the necessity of supporting the case for the prosecution by testimony of the most objectionable character, namely, by that of persons who had been at least twice convicted and twice transported; he would not ask the jury to pronounce a verdict of guilty against any prisoner upon the naked evidence of any one such witness, but if upon the production of several witnesses, agreeing in certain facts and certain circumstances, a case was made out against any of the prisoners, they, the jury, were bound to select from such testimony, mixed as it probably would be with much untruth, those parts which appeared without doubt true, and give their verdict accordingly; and he besought them to discard from their minds the circumstances of the unfortunate prisoners at the bar, and to give their case as much attention and deal with it in all respects as they would the case of the most respectable individual in the land.

Jeremiah Leary was the first witness called, and after a very proper caution from the Judge, stated, I am a prisoner for 3 years on the Island; I know all the prisoners at the bar; I knew them before the 15th January last; on the 27th October last, I understood that 250 men were to take the Island; I did not hear any of the prisoners speak of it, I was asked by one Wilson to be in it, but I have him no answer as I was a short sentence man; I did not wish to be in it; I saw every man at the bar combining together; I saw them going together whispering together outside the camp as they were coming from their work at the gardens; I did not hear any thing that passed; Glennie told me they were going to fight for their liberty, about a week before the affray took place; I was at Longridge on the 15th January; Brady was there; I saw a body of men going to Longridge; I cannot say whether he was there or not on that morning; I spoke to Henry Drummond on the subject, sometime after November; he said he would not be long on the Island, he would fight for his liberty; none of the others spoke to me on the subject.

Cross-examined by Mr. Grace - I have been three years in the country, 2 years and 5 months on the Island; I was from 3 to 5 months in New South Wales; came out for robbery; came out for 7 years and was tried at Sydney for stealing flour; I gave information to Price, the policeman, on the 27th October; my only reason was to save lives; I saw the rush made at the Longridge stores; I stood by until I saw the rush made; I could not distinguish one from another as they went up, there were so many together; I never saw the men go up to Longridge so fast as on that morning; a rush was to have been made in November by the 250 men, when the slops were to be issued; these men only associated with one another; Geeson on one occasion objected to my following him; he wanted flasher men than me; on one occasion in January, I sat down behind a fence, a week before the mutiny took place, and heard Geeson ask Butler if he had the list; he said, no, Domnick McCoy had it; the list of the men's names; I can't say what list it was; I was always watching them, as I suspected they were on some bad intent, because I saw them always together; they did not work together; all the men are let together at meal times, and those who sleep in the same ward are together at night.

Cross-examined by Butler - I slept in No. 3 ward, the peelers ward; in November I saw Butler talking with Groves and Bell; Butler was always the chief man.

John Jackson examined by Mr. D. Chambers - This witness as well as every other produced on the trial, was solemnly cautioned by the learned Judge as to the consequences of his swearing falsely; I belonged to the gaol-gang from April till the 1st of October last; I heard a plan arranged by some of the prisoners in the gaol-gang in October last; previous to the 15th January, I heard a plan arranged by the whole of the prisoners at the bar except Drummond; it was about Christmas time; I was in the camp; Andersons' work was in the quarry, drawing stones where the gaol-gang worked; he had an opportunity of communicating with them; he, Anderson, addressed himself on the Sunday week before the mutiny, to Butler, Bell, Wright (who was since shot), Groves, Duggan, Geeson, and me; he said the gaol-gang wished to know whether the men intended to try any thing to get their liberties, that they had been long in the gaol-gang, and saw no hope of getting their liberty, and if the camp men did not join them, they must try some scheme of their own, and hoped the camp men would take it into consideration; after the prisoners had consulted together (all the prisoners except Glenny, Brady and Drummond), it was agreed that an answer should be returned on the following Monday; I was one who agreed to the answer, and all the prisoners I have mentioned, and 25 or 26 more who are not here, and who were in possession of it before it was distributed among the hands; the answer was, to tell the gaol-gang that a plan should be made out and sent to them on a sheet of paper, how the Island should be taken; afterwards, a plan was laid out and written by the prisoner Butler, in the camp, at Geeson's mess-table, with pen and ink; the plan was, that a party of men should go to the Hospital on pretence of being sick, about 30 men, and there to secure the inmates, bread their leg irons, seize all the sharp instruments, and every thing they could find to attack the soldiers with, and remain in the Hospital in readiness to attack the quarry-guard when they came to the gaol to receive the gaol-gang; the gaol is but a short distance from the Hospital; this was to take place on Monday the 13th of February; the respite-gangs were to delay behind the gaol greasing their carts till such time as the gaol-gang-guard came, so as to be in readiness to join the men from the Hospital the prisoner Bell was to take the overseer's hat and jacket at the Hospital and to lead the men from the Hospital, so as to deceive any one as to their intentions until they came to the place in rear of the guard; the hospital party and respite-gang were to get to the back of the gaol, and as soon as the gaol-gang-guard had fallen in to receive the gaol-gang, the men from the hospital and the respite-gang were to attack the guard behind, and the gaol-gang attack them in front, disarm them, and take from them all their pouches; they were then to put all the guard in ront [sic] of the party to attack the settlement guard; as soon as the two guards were taken, the boats were to be launched out, filled with stores from the Commissariat, and kept afloat by some of the men, so that if they could not take the Island, they might take the boats and escape from it; Butler and another man, not here, wrote down this plan; Geeson was present; the whole of the prisoners, except Brady, Drummond and Glennie, knew what was in the paper; it was read over to them, and they agreed to it; all their opinions were taken before it was written; nothing was said in the note about how the settlement guard were to be forced out, but it was agreed afterwards; Butler, Anderson, and several others, who are not here, agreed that they would apply to a man, named Toms, to get a pitch barrel and oakum, and throw upon the shingles and burn them out; he worked at the saw-pit, and was the likeliest man to get it; nothing was said about the Longridge party, except that they would be ready at the top of Flag-staff-hill; that was said in the note; about 40 men at Longridge were to join, and they were to be acquainted, when the rush should be made, by a man sent from the hospital to the top of the Flag-staff-hill, where some men were to be concealed among the mangrove trees on the way to Longridge; the paper was given to Anderson; I saw it and heard it read; it was given to him on the Tuesday week, before the 15th January; Anderson told me on Wednesday or Thursday evening, that he had delivered the letter to a man in the gaol-gang, named McGinniss; the letter had been at Longridge on the Monday; it was read there by Butler; it was taken for the purpose of being read to some people there, who had not an opportunity of seeing it at the camp; if the plan succeeded, the civil officers were all to be put in gaol, and all the military, not killed, were to be put in heavy irons, under the Commissariat stores; Colonel Morisset was to be brought down and put into one of the cells of the gaol, until he gave the private signal of the Island to vessels; he was then to be put to death for being a tyrant, and Captain Fyans, also, for a speech that he made a, the Church parade, on the Sunday before the 15th i.e. on the 12th; no quarters were to be given to any one who opposed us, either civil or military; the women were to be given to the men who behaved best in laying out the plan and fought best in taking the Island; no ill treatment was to be shewn them; it was agreed that after the Island was taken, the carpenters were to be employed in raising upon the large boat, for the purpose of conveying more men, as it was supposed the vessel that came down would not be large enough; they expected a vessel; when she arrived, a boat was to be sent off to her, manned by some of the prisoners, and with a coxswaine in the usual manner, to see what prisoners and military were on board, then to return, and prisoners dressed in soldier's clothes were to go off in the large launch on pretence of relieving guard if any military were on board, with as many hands as she could take; they were to alongside and make a rush on deck all at once, and secure the military and the vessel; then a party of men were to be put on board, the best seamen, and a man named - to command, and the military to be landed; the vessel was then to cruise off the Island until the men could be embarked; she was then to take what men she could, and to compel the captain to take her to South America; the others in the launch were to go to New Caledonia, or one of the Islands, and lie by for a vessel, and then to take her and make after the others; that was the whole of the plan that I recollect; it was not the mere suggestion of one or other of the prisoners, but agreed to by all who are here, except the three I have named, and others who are not here; it was expected that by the time the two guards were attacked that they would be 200 strong, as they were to come from all parts of the Island wherever they were employed; Robert Douglas was one of the party and agreed to the plan; on Monday the 13th of January, according to the arrangement, a party of men, about 26, fell into the sick gang and went to the hospital, I and about a dozen more concealed ourselves in the brush wood, on the Flag-staff hill; Bell was one of the hospital party on that morning; I saw him fall into the ranks for that purpose; Knowles, Duggan, and Anderson belonged to the respite-gang; on that day, Anderson told me that instead of securing the men in the hospital, they had agreed upon staying in the sick room; in consequence of a shower of rain on that morning, the gaol-gang guard were delayed for ten minutes or a ¼ of an hour, and the overseer of the respite-gang compelled them to move off, and the hospital party, seeing this, did not come down as they had agreed, but went into the Doctor on pretence of being sick, and no suspicion was excited, that we could observe; on that Monday evening, Anderson brought a message from the gaol-gang, which he told to me and some others in the ward, after lock up at night; Anderson, Douglas, Brady, and Glennie were in my ward; Drummond was there on the next evening, Tuesday, but not on the Monday; Anderson told me the gaol-gang wished to know the reason the men were not at their stations, as they had promised, and that he had told them it was in consequence of the gaol-gang guard not coming so soon as was oxpected [sic], they (the respite-gang) could not stay behind the gaol longer than they did; he said that the gaol-gang told him to tell the men at the camp, that if they did not settle it, one way or other, on Wednesday morning, they would have nothing to do with it at all; it was then agreed upon by the men at the camp that it should be settled on the Wednesday morning; all the following prisoners agreed, Knowles, Groves, Duggan, Anderson, Butler, Bell, Douglas and Geeson, all except Glennie, Brady, and Drummond they were Longridge men and did not come down till night; on Tuesday evening, Drummond was in my ward; I saw him in company with Glennie; I stood by whilst they conversed; Drummond said that the gaol-gang had sent word by him that they hoped the men would come up to the ``scratch," on the following morning, that they were all ready; 120 men slept in the ward that night, and during the night they were up and down the ward in fives and sixes together, discoursing who were the fittest men to send to the hospital, as they intended to send some of the best men there, as the respite-gang could not be behind the gaol greasing their carts on that morning, because they only grease twice a-week, Thursdays and Mondays; it was agreed that 30 men from the different gangs, should fall in and go to the hospital that morning, and that the Longridgers should go right up to the farm and not stop on their way; according to the first plan, a man was to be left on the Fag-staff hill, on the way to Longridge, to give the Longridge men notice when to ``rush the stores," where the tools are kept at Longridge, to arm themselves with pitchforks, axes, hoes, or any thing which could be found there, and to make down to the settlement as fast as they could to the asaistance [sic] of the men there; the whole of the prisoners agreed to that except Brady and Glennie, whom I did not converse with on the subject, but they were in conversation with several of the other men in the ward; I heard Brady converse with Douglas and Duggan and several others who are not here about what was to take place; Brady did not appear ignorant of the arrangement, he did not object to it; he was one who fell out next morning to go to the hospital; Douglas, Drummond, Bell, Butler, Brady, Anderson, Glennie, Duggan, Groves, and Knowles, agreed to go to the hospital, and I saw them fall into the sick gang on Wednesday morning for that purpose; there was also a man at the barrack-gate to watch the gaol-gang-guard going down, and to knock the lock off the confines room and let them out to the assistance of the rest of the men at the gaol; on Wednesday morning I was let out of my ward with the rest of the men at daylight, and proceeded to Longridge with about 100 men, 35 of whom were of our party; none of the prisoners went to Longridge; they all went to the hospital except Geeson, who went to his gang; I believe he is a gardener; he said if he heard a shot fired, he should be at the mark; I heard him say this a day or two before; I think it was on the Tuesday evening I was discoursing with him in the barrack-yard before I went into my ward; I was stationed on the Wednesday morning in Beaver's garden, at the Longridge farm, for the purpose of seeing the other signal man make the communication from Flag-staff-hill, that the hospital men had secured the inmates, I was then to give the alarm to the people at th[e] stores as soon as I should see him running from the Flag-staff-hill; before he gave the message to me I heard shots fired in the settlement, and I then waved my hand to the men at the stores; I was 300 yards off, and I heard them give a shout and rush to the stores; they came out armed, some with pitchforks, some with axes, some with hoes, and came down the road, I with them running and hollowing out ``death or liberty" all the way down; we came as far as the top of Flag-staff-hill; we started with about 40 men, but some sneaked back, and about 30 came to the top of the hill with me; we saw from the hill a party of soldiers stationed at the stockade below the hospital, and could see none of our men, from which we supposed they were confined; before we had stood there a minute there were some shots fired at us from the stockade guard; some of the men said, ``it's of no use going down, we shall all be shot, let us go back, the men are taken"; I could only see at the settlement an overseer or two looking at something on the ground at the gaol, which I thought was some one shot; I and five more then agreed to take the bush for fear of meeting the soldiers and being shot before we got back to Longridge; we were pursued, but I was not taken till five or six days after, and then by some police runners; I was put in gaol until next morning, in a solitary cell; there were others with me, but none of the prisoners at the bar.

Cross-examined by Mr. Grace - I came out to New South Wales for seven years, as a prisoner; about four years ago, was sent to Emu Plains, and was horse-breaker to the mounted police; I was sent here for a store robbery, at which time I was an overseer, and was sent here for 14 years; I shall have been two years here next October; I don't like this island at all, and I don't know any prisoner that does; I should never have taken the active part I did, if I had not been amongst such people; I seduced no one; I consider that I was myself seduced; I was willing to join them, and agreed to do so; I gave information as soon as I was apprehended, and heard the treachery which had been carried on; I would have stood my trial like the rest, if I had not been run by them with my neck into the halter, and then left in the lurch; I sent to Captain Fyans by Price, the police runner, on the day after I was taken, saying, that if he thought proper to take my depositions, I would put him in possession of every transaction that had happened before the mutiny, as I was in possession of the whole of it, and that there were many men outside who were laughing in their sleeves at me, and liable to escape justice, who had been the projectors of the whole affair, and if he refused I must take my trial like another; I was taken to the office about an hour after; Price captured me; I had run away in irons, which I took off in the bush and hid, and I went with Price to get them again, as I was threatened to be punished with 100 lashes if I did not find them; I had no terror of being punished afterwards; I asked no condition of Captain Fyans as to lightening my punishment; I told him I could give him information; he said it was of no use unless I could give him right information, as he had plenty already; I gave that evening, on oath, information of every transaction I had known that had been contrived and planned for weeks and months before this mutiny; I have seen on other occasions 16, 18, or 20 men go to the hospital, but I never saw so many go as on the Monday and Wednesday mornings; it was noticed by the overseers; there is nothing extraordinary in seeing 15 or 20 men go; some men went to the hospital that morning who knew nothing of the plan, who were really lame and sick, but the prisoners were none of those; I have no idea of going back to New South Wales, nor do I expect to get a free passage home for my information, and I did not promise and do not expect any thing; I have frequently conversed with Groves; he was in prison with me, having been apprehended for the mutiny that was to have taken place on the 1st November, slop-day; he was in heavy irons, upon information that 250 men were to take the Island on that day; we were set at liberty afterwards, nothing was done to us; I had as much conversation with Geeson as any one; he has been in the 39th regiment, and had a great voice in this conspiracy, in advising the best way in which it was to be done; I can tell 20 occasions; one on Sunday the 12th, when he, Butler, and I, conversed on the subject, and he said, that upon getting possession of the arms of the two guards, ``it will be better for us to give them light infantry for it;" what that means he knows best; I never said to any man, that if I hung five of these men I should be well rewarded; nothing of the sort; I have been confined with six others, approvers, since I gave this information, viz. Fitch, Toms, Somerville, Jeffries, &c.; we have been confined about 5 months; before I left the gaol-gang I was in possession of the November mutiny, and Bell was in it; the present affair was in agitation from about Christmas; I have had conversation with Bell and others; he was one of the persons who planed the affair of the 1st November; I have never been paraded ``arms upwards"; I confess Captain Fyans said if I did not find my irons he would flog me, and I went and found them; I was not on the chain afterwards; I did not expect to escape justice for my share in the mutiny; I had done enough to be tried for; Anderson, Butler, and Bell, agreed to set fire to the guard-house; it would take but little time to get pitch in the way it was to be got.

Cross-examined by Butler - I was 4 or 5 yards from Butler when he wrote the letter, not at the same table; I have reason to judge where he got pen, ink, and paper, but I cannot swear; Butler came in the Esther, 2 or 3 months before January 15th; it is a customary thing for a boat to be dispatched in the manner planned by the conspirators; I do not know whether it is usual for dispatches to be given to the coxswain without an officer; it may be they would not; I do not know.

Cross-examined by Anderson - I have received no indulgence; I am in irons; I was not sentenced to work in irons, but I have never been out of irons since I came; I was in cross-irons before, I have only a single iron on now; I was wrongfully charged with being in the poisoning mob; we were never brought to trial; I was punished for having my irons cut; we cut the irons on account of the rolling of the ship, for our own preservation; I should have given the information the evening before the mutiny, but I was interrupted by Mr. MacLeod's family coming up; Anderson, you know that there had been so many information given, and plots discovered, that you and others agreed, that if any one gave information either before or after the mutiny, he should be put on one side.

By the Crown Solicitor - I mean assassinated; some of the men were considered best informed men, and the plan was chiefly left to the, Bell, Butler, Douglas, Geeson and Groves; John George and Fuller slept on each side of me; neither of them was in the mutiny, because they were not thought fit to be trusted; it was only trusted to men who had never given informations.

Cross-examined by Mr. Grace - If I had given the information to Captain Fyans before the mutiny and prevented it, he could not have protected M'Kew [sic], unless he had taken me into the barracks; I was afraid of my life; there was no encouragement given to men for informations, and many were kept back from giving informations from that circumstance; Colonel Morisset has put men who have so done upon the working parties, and men have been murdered in their hammocks for giving information respecting offences committed in another place, and who have not offended any one on the island.

Richard Somerville, an approver, next examined.  Deposed to the conspiracy, as stated by Jackson, the last witness, and identified the prisoners Anderson, Butler and Glennie, who had all spoken to him concerning it a day or two before the 15th January; he stated that Anderson informed him that they intended to put to death all the men who had done wrong - those called ``peelers," i.e. those who have ever informed against or prosecuted any persons, or who bore a bad name amongst the prisoners.

On the cross-examination of this witness, he stated that though he had been guilty of the offence for which he was sent to New South Wales, he was not guilty of the offence for which he was sent from New New [sic] South Wales to Norfolk Island; that one of the prisoners at the bar, viz. Brady, was guilty of that offence; he was tried before Judge Dowling for a robbery of Mr. Miller, his master, at the White Rock.

Richard Wilks, another approver, examined - Deposed to the same effect as Jackson as to the nature of the conspiracy, and the prisoners being parties to it - as to the men falling out to go to the hospital, and witness going to Longridge, where the tool-house was rushed by his party as soon as the report of the gun was heard from the settlement.  This witness further stated that he had been imprisoned one night with several of the prisoners, and was put on the chain with them, viz, with Bell, Anderson, Glennie, Groves, Knowles and Geeson, and many others; that a soldier came to identify Groves, and said he thought Groves was the man who rushed him, which Groves denied; but the next day Groves told me that the soldier was right, and the way he deceived him was, that at the rush he had on a white frock, but since that he had been home and put on a Parramatta jacket, and he showed the witness his thigh, where a ball had gone through his trowsers and grazed it.  He stated that he heard Glennie tell another man on the chain that Drummond brought a case knife from the hospital for the purpose of outting [sic] off the soldiers' belts, and that they had a great deal of trouble about one soldier, whom they had got down; that if one of the other military had not come up when he did, Drmmoud [sic] would have cut his head off.

This witness was cross-ezamined [sic] by Mr. Grace as to his credit, and admitted having been twice convicted, and having been concerned in many robberies.  He was also cross-examined as to the facts, but nothing of importance was elicited.

After the examination of this witness, the Court adjourned at half-past five o'clock till nine next morning, with the consent of the Crown Solicitors and of the prisoners.

This ended the first day's proceedings.


Burton J., 12 July 1834

Source: Sydney Gazette, 20 September 1834


We continue, in our present extra Sydney Gazette, the trial of the men at Norfolk Island, before Mr. Justice Burton, as particularly detailed in one of our last Saturday's Supplements: viz., Robert Douglass, Henry Drummond, James Bell, John Butler, James Brady, Patrick Glenny, Michael Anderson, Lawrence Duggan, William Groves, Henry Knowles and John Geeson, as principals and accessaries in the conspiracy formed by the convicts there, for the capture of the Island and the murder of the officers and troops.


JULY 12.

The Court sat nine o'clock.

William Dinnuitt examined by the Crown Solicitor - I recollect the morning of the 15th January last; I was acting constable that morning; I was in front of the Commissariat stores about 100 yards in the rear of the jail; I heard a firing about six o'clock in the morning, which appeared to me to be about the jail; I saw a great number of men standing by the saw pits, who had no business there; they appeared unsettled and disturbed, as if something had happened; they were not at work, as they had been a few minutes before when I passed; the sawyers had then been at work and some others, but not such a number as were now there; I saw Butler that morning in the barrack-yard about 7 or 8 minutes after the firing; he was wounded in the side; I afterwards saw Drummond lying under the gallows in front of the gaol wounded.

Cross-examined by Mr. Grace - I think there was an order of Colonel Morrissett, that in case there was firing, the prisoners were all to repair to the barracks for protection; if the man who was shot had been on the same side of the gaol as I was, his direct way to the barracks would be past the gaol; if a man were so running on hearing the shots fired, the soldiers would not have shot him by mistake; they were more careful, else I and many others would have been shot and bayoneted; I only at first saw one soldier run up from the gaol-gang-guard without a musket; I afterwards saw other soldiers.

Cross-examined by Butler - I did not see Butler there; he might have been there; if he had been at the saw pits, and was proceeding to the barracks upon hearing the firing, hie [sic] direct road would be by the south-end of the gaol, and that would have brought him in front of the gaol; persons not in an office, are not allowed to wear hats; any one seeing a man with a hat, would take him to be an officer; running past the military, I should have been liable to be shot by mistake; a person running to the barracks might be so shot; many persons were so running; when I saw Butler wounded, he was supported by Bell and John Hall; Butler was afterwards taken to the hospital.

William Ramsay examined by the Crown Solicitor - I am a private in the 4th regiment; I was one of the gaol-gang-guard on the morning of the 15th January, the guard was composed of 12 privates and 2 corporals; we went to the gaol to receive the gang between 5 and 6 o'clock; and fell in a usual by the side of the gaol door, about three paces from it, on the south or sea side of the gaol door, facing the north side; the gaoler delivered the prisoners to the corporal of the guard, and the overseer counted them out, there were 30; corporal Davis ordered the gang to ``go on," and at the same time gave us the word ``quick march"; the men in the gang seemed to shuffle about and not to move on, and two others made a shuffling noise with their irons; we had not taken more than two short paces when the gaoler sung out ``look out boys"; and as soon as ever he spoke there was a body of men came round from the saw pits in our rear, shouting, and before we had time to turn round, they collared some of the guard, and took some of the firelocks from them; I was knocked down by some man at the same time, I do not know by whom; but whilst I was down two men were trying to force my firelock out of my hand; I know those two men; the prisoner Glennie is one of them, he said ``kill the b--r," the other said ``yes, he's a bloody dog over our gang"; I asked him to spare my life, the other man named Snell asked me for my firelock; I told him I would give it to him if he would let me get up; two of the guard at this time came to my assistance; I then went to the settlement guard-house and stopped there two or three minutes and from thence I went to Longridge; I think there were from 30 to 40 men who rushed upon the guard from the rear of the gaol; none of them appeared to support the military, they appeared to be acting in concert together; I can't say what part the gaol-gang took; I was down; the guard commenced firing while I was down; and the mob then all ran away in different directions; give were shot by the military; James Pearson was one of the guard that morning; he came to my assistance; he lost his musket in the affray.

Examined by Mr. Grace - There was great confusion, but the military were not confused; I could not tell whether the men came in front or rear of me; I could not see those that were behind me; I knew the direction they came from, but not from whence they came; I have already identified the prisoner Glennie; I never on any occasion said it was a a [sic] man named Ryan who had me down; I never said I did not know, nor that it was not Glennie; part of the gaol-gang were usually to go to the tool-house; four were ordered to fall out for that purpose on the morning in question, and a file of men went with them; I don't know the other men who went.

James Pearson - I am a private of the 4th regiment, was one of the gaol-gang guard on the morning of the 15th January last; we stood on the south side of the gaol door facing the north, the gaol gang were in front of us; Shields the gaoler gave us 30 or 40 men; he came to the Corporal and said ``Look out after Charters and his gang, I think there is something up;" we ordered the gaol-gang to march off and they did not move, and one of them who was in the rear of the gang turned round, pulled off his cap and gave a shout; I came down to the level to fire at the gaol-gang, when Robert Douglass and a party come upon us unawares from the rear; Douglass caught hold of my firelock just as I was going to cock it, and another man came up and took hold of the barrel further towards the muzzle; I do not know that man, the three of us were in a struggle when two men came up, and one struck me in the forehead, and the other two in the back of the neck with their fists; Douglass and the other man then rushed upon me with their main strength which threw me on the ground, and they wrenched the firelock away from me; one of them said ``Shoot the b--r, shoot him;" I recovered myself and took to my heels, and got round the corner of the gaol; I turned my eyes round and saw Douglass with the piece at the level presented at me, but whether he snapped it or not, I do not know; I made the best of my way round the corner and saw Private Ramsay lying flat on the ground and two men on him; I do not know the man, one of them said ``Kill him, he's a bloody dog to our gang;" I ran up to his assistance and kicked one in the face, and I knocked the other off with my fist, and lifted Ramsay up on his legs; I asked him to give me his firelock, he said ``no," and I told him to shoot one of those men; he snapped his piece at one of them, but it did not go off; the Corporal came to me and asked me where my firelock was; I went to the settlement guard and saw a number of men at and about the saw-pits; Serjeant Dunn at the settlement guard said ``fire at those men," two or three men fired and they all dispersed, some jumped into the saw-pits, and some made away; on looking round, we saw a large party of prisoners coming from Longridge with hoes and all sorts of instruments; the soldiers fired upon the and they retired; I am quite sure of Douglass by struggling with him; I knew his features but I knew none of the others; I saw him afterwards, after he was taken out of the bush, and pointed him out at 100 yards off to another of my comrades; the musket I had with me belonged to the King; my bayonet was on my firelock, and was taken with it.

Cross-examined by Mr. Grace - We do our duty and nothing more; I levelled my musket at the man who took off his cap, &c. which made me think there was something going on; he waved his cap to the men in the rear; I had full opportunity of seeing the men who were on Ramsay, but I cannot say I could identify them, or say whether there is one of them at the bar or not; it was not a usual thing for the men at Longridge to bring their tools down with them.

Examined by Butler - I ran towards the settlement guard and could see the persons at the saw pits, I do not know who they were; they might be sawyers; I saw some come there from round the corner; they were not in an attitude of fighting, they were all making away in the saw pits and other directions; had I been a prisoner at the sawpits, not wishing to be a mutineer, I should have made my way to the barracks, or to guard; a soldier would not fire on a person so doing; he would have gone to his camp and not to the barracks; he had nothing to do in front of the jail; the military fired by order of the serjeant upon the men at the saw pits; the orders in such cases were for every man to go to his barracks or to the nearest guard.

Thomas Price examined - I was water carrier at the hospital on the morning of the 15th of January last; there were 37 or 38 prisoners received into the hospital that morning as sick, for several mornings previous there had been as many, but it was not usual before; Taylor the overseer opened the door and let them in; they were put in the lock-up-room to wait for the doctor; when they were put in, I was called backward, and I was absent five minutes; when I came back I saw a great number of men in the yard, apparently the men who had been in the lock-up-room; I was seized by the collar by the prisoner Henry Drummond and a man named Wright, who was shot that morning; they put me in a room called the strong room and shut me up with eight more persons, the wardsman, the cook, a man named Smith, Hawley, Fowlkes, O'Neil, Higgins, Fitzpatrick and Murphy; the others were sick prisoners, except Fowlkes who came down from the farm with some prisoners, and Higgins came also with prisoners, the sick prisoners had come that morning; there were a great many other prisoners with Drummond and Wright; Bell, Anderson, Groves, Knowles, Glenny and Douglass, were amongst them; I also saw Laurence Duggan who was placed over the strong room door where the people were put in; he was acting as sentry; the door was fastened outside upon us, and I heard a noise in the yard of their knocking off their irons; I saw Bell with a blue jacket and straw hat on, and a stick in his hand; I believe the jacket and hat belonged to Taylor, the overseer of the hospital; I do not recollect seeing Bell in the yard until then; we heard the men go out in the yard; all of them appeared to go out and leave the hospital quiet; the next thing I observed was the firing of muskets not so long as five minutes after, during the time I was in the lock-up room; after the firing had ceased, at two minutes we were let out by Taylor, and the first thing I observed was the prisoner Butler in the hospital yard, shot; Bell was by his side, I did not see them come in; in a few minutes after I saw Anderson and Knowles there; they were not in the yard when I came out of the lock-up room, they were in the receiving room; Drummond came afterwards to the hospital shot; the strong room has two windows iron barred and a door between; I did not look out at the windows because I was afraid, as one man got up to look out, and the people in the yard ordered him down, and told him it would be worse for him if he looked out, and they closed the window shutters as close as they would shut, but they do not close within 6 or 7 inches.

Examined by Mr. Grace - I have seen upwards of 40 going to the hospital sick; not often; I was greatly confused on that morning, I heard a noise appearing to be that of knocking off irons; if I were out and heard a firing I should run to the barracks for protection.

Examined by Bell - When we were let out of the room I saw a great many irons in the yard.

Examined by Anderson - The windows have wooden shutters outside, the bars outside were very thick and did not allow the shutters to be quite closed, a person looking through might see men in the yard notwithstanding; I do not think I could see the overseer's door, I did not try.

Re-examined by Mr. D. Chambers - I did not see any one get up to the window after the shutters were closed; Thomas Smith did before.

Examined by Anderson - Smith did not stop up a minute or half a minute.

By Captain Lockhart, foreman - I cannot say whether Bell, Butler, &c. had their irons off when I came out of the lock-up room; I did not see Geeson at the hospital.

By Mr. Grace - I saw Knowles there after the affair was over, it was about half an hour after the firing that I saw him in the lock-up room.

John Taylor examined - I am dispenser of the civil hospital; I recollect the morning of the 15th of January; received 38 prisoners at the hospital on that morning; William Groves was one of them, Duggan, another Brady, Glennie, Anderson, Drummond Douglass and Knowles; I put them into a lock-up-room, leaving them in charge of an acting constable and one of the hospital attendants Thomas Price, the last witness, and went round to unlock the different wards; I then returned to the overseers room, one of the rooms in the yard, and had been in some few minutes, when Henry Drummond and William Groves came into the room, and Drummond told me to make no noise or it would be the worse for me; Groves said he must have my hat and jacket, which they took and went out and shut the door; In about five minutes I heard a great noise like the knocking off irons in the yard; I repeatedly tried to open the door but found it fastened on the outside, they continued breaking off the irons for about 20 minutes, there was then a silence and I attempted to open the door again, it was still fast; in about five minutes after the silence I heard the report of muskets, the door was still fast, and after the firing had ceased I tried the door again and found that it was unfastened; there was then no one in the yard; I was called to the opposite ward, the safe room, and found some persons there who were bolted in; I opened the door and released the men, Price and several others.  The hospital attendants &c. I sent to their duty, and locked the others up in the receiving room; I then went round the different rooms and the cook house, and missed two case knives and an iron poker; no one was in the yard when I came out but directly Butler was brought in by Bell wounded; in about an hour afterwards Drummond was brought in, and Dominic McCoy who died of his wounds and James Brady; when I got out of my room I found Anderson in the receiving room as a patient, and Knowles also, I discovered that my door had been held all the time I was in the room; I did not know whilst I was in it how it was fastened, there was no fastening outside; I had no means of seeing through the door; I did not see how it was held or by whom; Anderson and Knowles had their irons on; I did not hear any one moving from the door, they had safe irons on, and might walk through the yard with such irons without making much noise; there were no other persons about the hospital at large but those two men; I had left the receiving room bolted outside that morning; that bolt was not broken, it is about 12 yards from the room where I was.

Examined by Mr. Grace - It was not the first time I had received Knowles and Anderson at the hospital; the sick came before the doctor at about half past five in the morning; I have known 50 to attend the hospital; I have been dispenser and overseer for eight years; it would not be extraordinary to see 20 or 30 there; 38 was rather an unusual number; not so many lately; the doctor said sometimes that their complaints were trifling; those really sick were always detained in the exempt room; I tried to open the door during the time they were knocking off the irons, and a voice outside told me to stand back; I could not see what was going on in the yard; it was not two yards from my door where they were hammering.

By Anderson - The door was open when I found Anderson in the receiving room the second time; a person from inside may look out of the windows of the safe room as the shutters do not shut close; Anderson afterwards that morning went before the doctor and got some lineament to rub his back.

By Mr. Grace - Knowles was one of the exempted men that day; he remained there until the afternoon and was taken down to the jail by me by order of the superintendent.

Francis Murphy examined - Was wardsman of the hospital on the 15th of January; saw irons broke in the yard that morning; I saw men sitting on the ground and Anderson with an axe breaking their irons, and Knowles was holding their irons to be broken; I was licked up in the room with Price and others; I was the second man put into the room; Bell and Knowles put me in; I was in my ward with a sick man and came to the door and saw a number of men there; I stood up on a tressel inside the room where I was shut up and looked out, I saw Anderson with an axe across his arm walking backwards and forwards before the overseers door; I saw the overseer's door shut; no one was holding it.

Examined by Mr. Grace - I saw Groves and a man named Doran each with an axe in the yard; I did not take notice of the window shutter being closed; after the firing was over I heard Butler groaning outside, and the overseer came and unbolted the door and let us out; one man wanted to go to the window several times and I kept him back; there is a shutter but it has its hinges sideways; Isaac Drummond put Fitzpatrick into the room after Price; I never saw such a number at the hospital as on that morning; it was never the case before that the men went into the yard after being put into the receiving room; I don't think I ever saw 50 men visit the doctor in a morning; never saw axes in that yard in a prisoners hand before; there was an axe kept in the hospital for cutting wood; Edward Fowlkes was brought into the safe room with me and others; if the shutter had been closed I could not have looked out; I was not threatened by any person; when I looked out the shutter was not to; I will not take upon myself to say whether the shutters were all the time open or not.

Examined by Anderson - I will not take upon myself to say that a person could see out of the window if the shutters were to; I do not think the bars will allow them to shut close to.

This was the case for the prosecutor.

The prisoners were called on for their defence.

Drummond, Bell, Knowles, and Groves observed upon the character of the witnesses and submitted that such persons were unworthy of belief; several of them were approvers and the others were chiefly convicts like themselves; Butler stated that when he arrived in the Island, he was asked what trade he was, that he was no particular trade, hut was able to work as a sawyer; that he was put to work with the sawyers; that on the morning in question he was at work in the sawpits when the shots were fired, and that he endeavoured, according to the general orders to get to the barracks, and as he was running round the south side of the jail he was shot in the side and stabbed also; Anderson stated that he was only affected by two witnesses whom he would be able to contradict.

Geeson stated that he had been a soldier, was sent to Norfolk Island for his first offence, from Sydney; that the prisoners would not trust any one who had been a soldier; that he will prove he was never out of camp that morning; and he asked was it to be believed that he who had been a soldier should give his advice about the affair, and then leave others to bear the burthen while he staid in the camp.

James Carter first witness for the defence examined by Mr. Grace - I am an overseer of the gaol-gang; on the 15th of January I had a road party No. 1; an order had formerly been issued by Colonel Morrisset that in case of any firing, the prisoners not inclined that way should make their way to the barracks; that order was issued about 4 years ago; I have not heard of it lately; if I were on an out station and heard firing, I should repair with my men to the barracks according to the order; men have been brought before Captain Fyans and punished since the 15th of January for disobedience of orders; I know John Jackson, he was not present to my knowledge when any of the men were punished.

Examined by Bell - I was appointed over the prisoners by Captain Fyans, he called them his men.

Major Joshua Anderson, commandant of the Island, examined by Mr. Grace - I produce an order of Colonel Morrisset, that prisoners in case of alarm, should retreat to their barracks; it is still in force.

Examined by the Crown Solicitor - I know of no order that prisoners in the hospital should go to the barracks in case of alarm; on the contrary, I should consider that such men ought not to leave the hospital, and ought not to be permitted to leave it.

The order was here read, by which it was directed that in the vent of any riot occuring [sic] in the settlement, the prisoners should make the best of their way to the barracks, and should remain in the barrack yard in a peaceable and orderly manner; in the event of a riot at Longridge, the prisoners there should collect at the huts.

Dr. Gamack examined - I am a civil surgeon to the settlement, and it is my duty to attend the hospital daily, to receive patients; in my absence the superintendent's duty is to receive and lock them up until my arrival; I have known between 40 and 50 at one time, that is an unusual number, I have only seen it once or twice; frequently idlers come on pretence of sickness, and I sometimes complain of them to the Commandant; those unfit for labour are exempt and locked up in the hospital; I recollect the morning of the fifteenth of January; those that I saw did not amount or 21 or 22.

Examined by the crown solicitor - I did not go to the hospital until just after the firing; there are two at the bar whom I saw there on that day, Knowles and Anderson; I don't think any of the others; if the others had come there for the purpose of seeing me, they would have waited till I came, simple cases which the dispenser is competent to attend would not wait for me; in October, on a Monday, about 30 or 40 came to the hospital; I examined them on that day und [sic] found many of them with very little the matter with them.  I had to complain of them for scheming; I believe Robert Douglass was one; in October and November, once or twice, there were a great many at the hospital; I saw Butler at the hospital; He was wounded, and told me that hew had received his wound in running towards the barracks.

Mr. James Shields, gaoler of the Island examined - I recollect the affair of the 15 of January; I know the prisoner Patrick Glennie; I saw James Pearson at the jail for the purpose of identifying a prisoner; I do not recollect him or Ramsay saying that a man named Ryan had done it.

Cross-examined by the Crown Solicitor - I saw a part of the affray; I delivered over thirty men to the Corporal; I heard an unusual noise of running or noise with irons behind the gaol, and I called to the guard to ``look out;" I saw Henry Drummond afterwards wounded under the gallows; I took Brady about twenty minutes after the affray; he was walking or rather going quickly to the hospital or backhouse from the goal; I saw two soldiers on the ground during the affray, and some men stooping, as if laying hold on the men or their arms.

John Tool examined - I was in the hospital on the morning of the mutiny, and had been there for a fortnight before; I know Henry Knowles, and saw him in the hospital after, but not before the firing; he was there when the Doctor went his round; I was then very ill.

Cross-examined -- He might be there before or during the attack without my knowing of it, but I can't say that he was.

Michael Donohue - I recollect the morning of the mutiny; I saw Duggan at the hospital that morning; I can't say at what time; I got punished on the 14th, and I went to the Doctor on the 15th when I went in I saw Duggan in the hospital room; and I saw two men come in and say he was for life, and why would he not fight for his liberty the same as them; McCoy, who was shot was one of those men.

Examined by the Crown Solicitor - Duggan went out of the room; this took place in the exempt room; nine or ten persons present; I was in the hospital at the time of the firing in the exempted room; Tool stopped in and David Sandelands, and many others; I belong to the respite gang; my sentence is for seven years.

William Hanson - I am at work at the boat, am a wheelwright; I saw Duggan on the morning of the mutiny; he was in the wheelwrights' shop while the affray was going on; I was there also; he was not in there the whole time; shortly after the affray commenced, Duggan came into the shop and remained there till two of the military took us down to the barracks with other men who came to the shop; the shop is about fifty yards from where the affray took place.

Cross-examined by the Crown Solicitor - I don't know where Duggan came from; he said there was a row between the military and the gang, and run in for protection; several men who worked in the shop were there when Duggan came in, and two who worked at the sawpits; I never went out; I looked out at the door; I heard the first commencement; the report of a piece, several reports, a great many shots were fired after Duggan came in, the rest came in also at the commencement of the firing; my shop is about sixty or seventy yards from the hospital between the gaol and the settlement guard.

Charles Seward - I am a cooper; I recollect Duggan coming into the shop where I was on the morning of the mutiny, and he remained there until the soldiers came and took us to the barracks, that was after the affair was over; we were ordered to remain there by Mr. Fortescue; Duggan was in the shop during a part of the time; I heard shots fired whilst he was there; he came in whilst it was going on.

Cross-examined - I belonged to the coopers' gang before that day; I slept in the barracks, in the same ward with Douglass, Butler, Brady, Duggan, Drummond and Glenny; Douglass slept next me; I am never out of my hammock; I don't know who were; I saw none of them out; I did not speak a word to John Jackson in the ward; I never spoke to him in my life.

James Malony examined - I recollect the morning of the mutiny; I recollect seeing John Geeson going out of the camp that morning; you might go from there to where the military were attacked in less than a minute; I was there during the time the attack was going on; he was not with me, but I assisted the constables in putting the men into the rooms; I saw Geeson in the middle of the camp, and told him to go back; he made me no answer; after my telling him so two or three times, he came back; I put him into the mess-room and returned to my station.

Cross-examined - Geeson was going between the overseers and a temporary hut; I was stationed over the knives, and Geeson was looking towards the gaol; the affray was nearly over; I observed him near the end of it; the firing was for four or five minutes.

Re-examined by Mr. Grace - That was not breakfast hour, it was not 8 o'clock; I cannot say where Geeson was employed; it was customary for those who work in the bush to stay till after breakfast in the camp.

James Somers, examined - I saw John Geeson, on the morning of the mutiny, in the mess-room; I went in before the affray; I wanted a pot to drink out of; Geeson was then sitting at this table; sometimes after that, about 10 minutes, I heard the firing of muskets; I remained in camp until the firing was over; I left Geeson in the mess-room I cannot say whether he was in the camp, or not, during the whole time.

Cross-examined - Geeson did not appear to be in any sort of flurry; I don't know what he was waiting for; he was sitting about three tables from the door.

Cross-examined by Butler - I came here in the Governor Phillip, coming down something particular occurred; I was an evidence against the persons concerned; I have never heard any thing of government giving protection to persons giving evidence.

John Griffiths, examined - I am the prisoners barber; I saw John Geeson in the mess-room of the prisoners camp, on the morning of the mutiny; I can't say at what time; I was so much agitated, at the reports of the muskets, that I can't recollect whether I shaved him or not; I can't say whether, or not, he was in the mess-room during the firing; I was not in conversation with him; his mess-table was opposite; it was my duty to remain there from morning till night; Geeson came in to get his breakfast; I think he was assigned to the gardens; he was locked up in a room with me and others for a fortnight and some days, before he was put in gaol; we were paraded before the military, and witnesses to see if they could recognise any of any us.

Timothy Lang, examined - I recollect the morning of the mutiny; I was sitting, in my hut, in the camp; I know John Geeson; as soon as the firing commenced, I ran out of my hut into the camp and saw Geeson there; he said ``Tim, as long as you are here, there is no fear of you;" I did not remain with him; I went back into my hut and staid there, until I was taken to the barracks; Geeson went over to the barracks along with me; I did not see him go out of the camp, until he went to the barracks.

Cross-examined - I passed no remarks on what he said; he did not know what the firing was about, that I know of; all the men that were in the camp ran out of the huts, and the overseers sent them in again.

Thomas Carr, examined - I recollect seeing Geeson, on the morning of the mutiny, at the camp, where he then lived; as far as I recollect, I think he worked in the government gardens; I heard the shots, but I can't say where Geeson then was; give minutes before he was with me inside of the mess-room; he was not with me after the firing; I made no observations to him; to the best of my opinion, he was in the camp at the time of the firing.

Clement Doughty - I am an overseer; on the morning of the mutiny I was in the old camp; I know Geeson who was attached to my gang at that time; I received my gang at the barracks in the morning; about half an hour after going to the camp, I heard an alarm of the military firing; I can't say where Geeson was at the time; I heard the shots and saw people running; one of the overseers proposed to me that we should go to the spot, but we did not; we thought it best to secure the men and tools, and we got the men into the rooms as many as we could, and placed overseers at different stations to keep them in; I locked the tools in a hut; one man came running from the neighbourhood of the gaol into the camp with all the speed imaginable; others might have come in without my knowledge; Geeson did not give any assistance; after every thing was over we each received an order to get out our men, and then I saw Geeson come out of his hut, that was the first time I saw him after going to the camp in the morning; the nearest way from the hut where Geeson was to the gaol was about one hundred yards; it would take a man a minute or less to run across as fast as the man whom I saw running.

James Serjeant, 4th Regiment, examined - William Reed and Opinshaw were the men who went with the gang for the tools.

James Opinshaw, 4th Regiment, examined - I was one of the military who fell in on the morning of the mutiny, to go for the tools with four prisoners; Chartres and Snell were two of them; Ramsay was in the ranks when I went with the four men; I heard the shots firing when I had left the guard, just as I got to the north corner of the gaol; the four men were in front of me; I brought my firelock to the level against the four men; I did not notice my comrade; I was confused and did not notice him at the time; the four prisoners were in front of me; in the course of a little time they disappeared; Chartres [sic] fell down when I came to the ``ready" at him, and then all the four prisoners left me; they went round the corner of the Commissariat stockade, when they disappeared from me; I cannot say whether all together or not I turned about the moment my prisoners left; the Commissary's house is about twenty paces from the gaol all the four prisoners disappeared from me round that stockade; Snell was one of them; he could not have got to the place where the soldiers were engaged.

David Logan, examined by Butler - I am corporal in the 4th regiment; I have been about 16 months on the Island; I have been a corporal over the gaol-gang-guard at the quarry; my duty is to place sentries; communication might take place between the gaol-gang and persons coming into the quarry, with carts, without the sentries knowing it; I think there were three or four constables, also, to prevent such communication.

John McDermott, examined by Butler - There were two overseers over the gaol-gang; my ordere [sic] specify, that no person is to have communication with the prisoners; it might take place without being seen; a man might come at the back part of the quarry; I never knew that persons had communication with the prisoners.

Cross-examined by the Crown Solicitor - Anderson was a respite; he used to go with a cart to the quarry and, when it came, the overseer of the respite gang stands by it; the gaol-gang are put on one side while the carts are in the quarry; I saw the rush made on the military; I saw Douglass there coming from the gaol towards the hospital, that was just as the affray was over; he had a musket in his hand; the overseer Phips attempted to stop him; he presented the piece at him, snapped it and then made off; I stood by; I was with the gaol-gang, and had charge of it; I was counting the men when it first commenced; I saw a stone in the hand of one of the gaol-gang, Collins, he was shot.

George Wilson, examined by Butler - I am overseer of the respite gang; in January last, I received my daily provisions in the old camp; my mess-table was at the end of the long room; John Geeson was a messmate of mine; I attended there regularly during three meals a day; I recollect the Sunday week before the 15th January; observed nothing particular transpire; cannot say whether I saw Butler at that table; a great many had recourse to that table besides me; I am only one of six; I did not see Butler writing a letter; I was an acting overseer at that time; I used to sit at my mess-table on Sunday until called away; at 10 o'clock or half past 10, the bell rings for church; at that time the service and muster did not take half an hour from the commencement of service, until the prisoners got into their camp again; in January last, I belonged to the respite gang; I had not less than 16 men; I go to the quarry with them when they go; the gangs used to be separated; I am quite sure a loaf, or a piece of beef, could not be delivered to the gaol-gang without my seeing it; a small thing might be dropped; I have four carts to look after; parties might be behind and drop some small article without my noticing it; Anderson was in my gang before the 15th January; he fell out; he fell out to go to the hospital on the morning of the affray; I found Anderson and Knowles there, after the affray in the exempt rooms; I was sent a second time to search their irons and they were safe.

Cross-examined by the Crown Solicitor - The respite carts come up within three or four yards of the gaol-gang in the quarry; I am always so close upon the watch that a hand with a note could not be held out, it might be dropped and picked up after I went away; I had four carts and sometimes twenty-four men to look after; there were forty mess-tables in the long mess-room, and six at a table sometimes eight; I did not see persons assembling about the mess-tables, more particular on that day than any other; after my meals, I went in the rear of the huts, and stood about in the camp not always in the mess-room, chiefly only at meals; I am fond of reading, usually went outside; I don't believe I had a book on that day, if I had it was a prayer-book.

James Murray examined - I recollect the month of January last, the prisoners got their rations at their respective mess-tables; Geeson was at the same table as I, No. 18 in a corner; at times on a sunday, at other times not; I cannot take upon myself to say that I took my three meals at the mess-table on Sunday week before the 15th January; I took my breakfast there; I frequently go in and sit down at the table during the day to converse with the other people there; I never saw Butler write in my life; some have means of getting paper, others not; generally prisoners must apply to the commandant's office for paper; church begins at ten o'clock in the morning and two in the afternoon, church and muster; church, and going from and returning to the camp usually took about an hour; sometimes the chief constable mustered the men at the camp afterwards; Butler might have written a letter without my knowing it, for I was out the whole afternoon, mostly every Sunday.

Tom Carr examined - On Sunday week previous to the 14th January, I was wardsman in the mess-room; It was my duty to clean the mess-room, carry messes and fetch water, &c.; I attended at breakfast time ½ past 7, at dinner time 12 o'clock; I had to clear the tables and mess-room, and carry water; I cannot say whether Butler was at the mess-table that day; I don't know, I never saw him write a letter at my mess--table; Geeson is in my mess; I was carrying water, and going about my business and did not observe.

At the prisoners request, the Crown Solicitor permitted Mr. Grace to read the original depositions of Jackson and Wilks, and Mr. Grace having stated that he found no contradiction, the prisoners expressed themselves satisfied.

The prisoner's case closed.

By consent of the Crown Solicitor and the prisoners, the jury were permitted to separate to their quarters, and the Court adjourned until Monday morning at nine o'clock.

(To be Continued.)


Burton J., 14 July 1833

Source: Sydney Gazette, 27 September 1834


We again resume, in our present Extra Sydney Gazette, the trial of the prisoners at Norfolk Island before Mr. Justice Burton, as detailed in our two previous Saturdays numbers; viz.  Robert Douglas, Henry Drummond, James Bell, John Butler, James Brady, Patrick Glenny, Michael Anderson, Lawrence Duggan, William Groves, Henry Knowles and John Geeson, as principals and accessories in the conspiracy formed and partly executed by the convicts there for the capture of the island, and the murder of the officers and troops.

The charge of His Honor very powerfully illustrates the law as applicable to the case in question, and exhibits the whole affair in glowing characters.


The Court sat at nine o'clock.

By the Court - Taylor recalled - when I was let out of my room in the hospital, there were prisoners' irons in the yard, which appeared to have been taken off with an axe; I did not count them, there were part of 8 or 9 mens irons; I don't know whether any of those who were brought back had their irons on or not.

Dr. Gamack - I don't think Butler had his irons on, I usually order them off if they are on, and I don't recollect ordering his off; Brady was wounded in the hip.

Mr. Justice Burton in summing up, expressed his great satisfaction at the attention and patience shewn by the jury during two whole days to the evidence produced in this case.  It might be that from consideration towards the prisoners, a greater latitude had been allowed in their examinations than necessary; but he did not think it right to check their course of proceeding, even where he might himself think it to be immaterial to their defence, (for they might think it material,) but only where it became improper, lest by so doing the prisoners might be hindered in their defence; he trusted however that they had been allowed such liberty as would satisfy every mind that justice had been done them in this respect; he called to mind the place where the Court was holden, a penal settlement in a remote part of His Majesty's dominions, where there were few eyes upon them, and few of those circumstances which usually attend a court of justice; he and they should on that account become the more watchful over themselves, and they would bear with him, if in what he said, he should say only what of itself would occur to their own honourable minds, but he did so that those who stand by and the prisoners at the bar may know the principles upon which they act, and be satisfied that justice was done them, that if they had heard or known any thing of this case before they would cast it from their minds and remember that it is upon the evidence alone, sworn before them, they should arrive at their verdict; it mattered not the condition of life of the prisoners, what they had been, or what the crimes which sent them to this Island, they were to be regarded in the present case, as standing in the same light as any free subjects of His Majesty, and were to be presumed innocent of the offence then alleged against them until found to be guilty; their consideration should be exclusively directed to the question whether the evidence which had been adduced, brought home the offence charged against the prisoners.  The prisoner Douglass had been arraigned upon a charge of robbery, and had pleaded guilty.  The other prisoners were charged some as having been present aiding and abetting him in the commission of that offence, the others as having been accessaries before the fact.

In considering the case it would appear that the real offence of the prisoners, if the evidence respecting the existence of such a conspiracy as stated by Jackson be true, amounted in law to high treason, for to rise upon the King's troops in charge of the Island, to dispossess them of their arms, to take to themselves the government of the Island, and to obtain their own liberty and that of their fellow prisoners by such means, clearly amounted to that offence, and it was competent to His majesty's Attorney General to try the prisoners for it.  In cases of high treason, not only those who commit a particular act, but all who conspire together to commit or procure it to be committed, are equally guilty in law, and all those persons who were aiders and abettors and accessaries before the fact might have been so indicted.  But it was not for the Court to say how the Attorney General might carve out his information.  It was only for them to say whether he supports by evidence what he charges in his information; for thought liable to a charge of high treason, parties in the prosecution of that crime may make themselves guilty of another, as of robbery, or murder, and if they do, are equally chargeable with that.

The first point upon the present information for the jury to consider, was, whether the offence of robbery charged against Douglass has been committed, for unless that be proved, the rest of the prisoners must be acquitted, because they were charged some with aiding and abetting him in the commission of that felony, and others as accessories before the fact to that offence.

As tot he first consideration whether Douglass be or be not guilty; that prisoner had concluded himself by a plea of guilty; he had acknowledged his own guilt, but the other prisoners could not be prejudiced by his act, they clearly had a right to dispute his guilt; as a principle of law, accessaries may controvert the guilt of the principal, so that the jury would still really have to consider whether Douglass was guilty of the robbery or not.

As to the law of robbery, and he wished it to be impressed on the minds of the jury as one which would guide them on this and all other informations; a good information must contain all the facts necessary in law, to support the charge and should contain nothing more; after verdict it is presumed that the jury have found all the facts contained in the information, and it was for the Court to say whether upon those facts the information is good in law; occasionally terms of law are used, which when they occur, it becomes the duty of the Court explain.

Referring to the information before the Court, they would find the offence charged against Robert Douglass to be, that he feloniously made an assault upon James Pearson, and put him in bodily fear and danger of this life, and one musket of the goods and chattels of our Sovereign Lord the King, from the persona and against the will of the said James Pearson feloniously and violently did steal, take, and carry away, &c.

The offence of robbery is the offence of theft committed with violence or putting in bodily fear; as to the words ``putting in bodily fear," if the theft be committed with violence, that alone would be quite sufficient to constitute a good information; the presence of either of these facts is sufficient.  In many instances it may be improper to allow the question to be put as to bodily fear, and he had stopped such a question in the present case; when violence has been proved, that is sufficient; where violence is not proved, then something else as threats or the like, to cause bodily fear must.

The question then arises, was Douglass guilty of that crime? And he read upon that point the evidence of Pearson and MacDermott; if upon that evidence the jury should arrive at the conclusion that Douglass was guilty, they would then proceed to inquire whether the prisoners Drummond, Bell, Butler, Brady and Glenny, charged as being present aiding and abetting in the commission of it, or any of them, were guilty of so doing.

There again, following the words of the information as a guide, they must be proved to be present, aiding, abetting, helping, assisting, comforting, and maintaining him, which means not only those actually present so as to be eye and ear witnessess [sic] and rendering assistance, but also those who although not so present, are yet near enough for the purpose of rendering assistance and are rendering such, as their several parts in the same transaction made necessary, as some on the watch and others committing the particular act; as to such who are actually present assembled together for an unlawful purpose, where a criminal act is done by one of them in furtherance [sic] of that purpose, they are equally implicated.  It has been decided where seven coal heavers were indicted for maliciously shooting at a man and only four out of the number fired, yet all the others who were present, being found aiding and assisting, some by their voices inciting and encouraging the others, and all assembled for a common unlawful purpose, although three of them had no guns, yet the act of one was held to be the act of all, and they were all executed as principals; so that although Douglass should only have taken the gun, yet if that act were done by one of the party assembled together actually present fore the same common unlawful purpose, it was the act of all.

Respecting those who were not present when the criminal act was done, before they can be implicated in its consequence, it must be shewn to be one which was in the contemplation of the parties or an act done in furtherance of what was contemplated.

When persons combine together for an unlawful purpose, whether they are implicated in a crime or not, depends upon the question, was it committed in prosecution of the unlawful act, against all opposition, or by means of the commission of the particular crime, or of such acts as may lead to it, then it is committed in prosecution of their original purpose.

Was Douglass's crime (supposing the jury had made up their minds as to it) committed upon the spur of the occasion alone, or in prosecution of, or was it a probable consequence of prosecuting the offence contemplated; if the former, only those actually present at the perpetration were guilty as an active party and who were rendering assistance, though not so present as to be eye and ear witnesses, were guilty as aiders and abetters.

As to the nature of the conspiracy, what was contemplated, and was the act of Douglass in prosecution of it?

The Judge referred to the evidence of Leary, Jackson, Wilks and Somerville, first observing us to the credit to be given to those persons, that it was on this settlement to their great misfortune, that the witnesses in support of such a charge, should be persons of great moral turpitude, as to which no better proof could be shown than that, with the exception of Leary, they were all accomplices in the very transactions with the prisoners themselves; that they had not come forward before the event happened, but afterward, and after they had taken their shares in it, not from any moral feeling therefore, but after the conspiracy had failed, and to save themselves from the consequences of it by implicating others.  He referred to the debased feeling of Jackson, one of the witnesses, who after describing that wives were to be taken from their husbands and given to the embraces of their murderers, expressed himself in such words as these, ``no ill treatment was to be shewn to the women."

As to the witness Leary, who however speaks only to some loose expressions concerning one of the prisoners, and was one who was not trusted in the conspiracy; he had been twice transported, first, for robbery, and secondly, for theft; on the other hand, it was to his credit that he was a man not trusted by the conspirators, because he had given information respecting a former conspiracy, and was kept in a separate ward with such persons for his personal safety.

As to Jackson, he was an accomplice from the very beginning in the conspiracy; he had been twice transported, and Wilks was subject to the same observations.

The evidence of such persons in such a community must be taken; it could not be avoided, but it was evident, they had not witnesses to deal with, whose oath alone carries conviction of their truth: they must try the truth of their statement by some other test than that of their oath, and it appeared that such a mode of examination into the truth of their statements presents itself upon the evidence.

1st - Do they contradict themselves in any particular?

2nd - Do they contradict one another? Upon this point the Judge referred to the evidence of each of the witnesses upon the leading points of the alleged conspiracy.  Then 3rd. is the story they tell, probable, first, as to the mode of communicating, viz. - by letter with the gaol-gang; if the gaol-gang were to be communicated with then such mode as by letter was a probable one to be adopted.  The Judge here observed upon the evidence of Logan and MacDinuitt, who were called to shew that such a communication could not be made to the gaol-gang; that it was for the jury to say whether sentries and overseers were always so vigilant as to prevent it; remarking upon the cautions which were properly taken to prevent it, and the means which might still exist.  As to the mode of communication, he referred to the evidence of Wilson, Murray, and Carr, and left to the jury whether their evidence contradicted that of Jackson and Wilks.

But one criterion by which to judge would be, was the gaol-gang concerned or not? And upon this point he referred tot he evidence of Pearson, as to their shuffling, halting, and the cap of one of them being waved and then the attack made.

If they were communicated with, then, how?  Is there any contradiction as tot he statement of the witnesses, that it was by letter delivered at the quarry, by one of the respite gang?

4th.  Was there any corroboration by independent testimony not liable to the same objection as that of Jackson, Wilkes and Somerville to show that their story is true? upon the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice no jury ought to convict; it is better that a guilty man should escape justice, or thousands, if they were involved in the same principle, than that convictions should take place on such evidence; but in this case there were more than one accomplice where statements could be compared together, and there were independent facts by which their truth might be tried.

Was the plan stated by them the same as executed, and does that appear by independent testimony? accomplices might concert with themselves not to contradict one another, but if there be independent witnesses who state the facts as they really happened, and the plan and facts agree, they might have concerted with them also, else the story is true.

The Judge here mentioned the leading parts of the plan as stated by Jackson, Wilkes, &c.  First, in what manner the attack was to be made upon the guard, and referred to and read the evidence of Ramsay, Pearson and MacDermott, which showed how it was actually made, and as to the conduct of the gaol-gang on the occasion; next what was stated as agreed upon to take place at the hospital, and who were the persons to be there, and he referred to and read those parts of the evidence of Price, Taylor and Murphy, which shewed what did actually take place there, and who were the parties concerned, and observed upon the evidence of Price and Taylor as to the hat and jacket of the latter being taken, none but an overseer being permitted to wear those articles, and to the evidence of Dr. Gamack as to the fact of a number of men being at the hospital ``scheming," on the Monday before and that Douglass was one of them.  Next he stated what was the part, which according to Jackson and the others, the Longridge party were to take, and referred to Pearson's evidence as to their appearance on the hill with hoes and other implements after the affray at the jail.

If, upon these considerations, the Jury should arrive at the conclusion, that there was a conspiracy amongst the prisoners on the Island, to attack and dispossess the military of their charge of the prisoners, and that that was to be accomplished by a party of men who were to go to the hospital on pretence of being sick, and to attack the gaol-gang-guard in the manner stated by the witnesses for the prosecution; and that Douglass's offence was committed by him in the prosecution of that purpose.  The next and most important point as regarded the prisoners at the bar charged with being present, aiding and abetting Douglass in that act, was, whether they or any of them were guilty of so doing?

The Judge then went most carefully through the whole of the evidence as it affected each of the five prisoners, who were indicted for being present, aiding and abetting Douglass, making such observations thereon as seemed necessary, and noticing particularly every circumstance which could be taken favourably for the prisoners.  He commented upon the conduct of the party at the hospital - knocking off their irons - locking up the inmates - and leaving the hospital shortly before the firing commenced; remarked upon the short distance between the hospital and the gaol.  As to those who were proved to be their previously, for what purpose did they go?  If for the real purpose of seeing the surgeon, why leave it before that was done?  As to the defence of those who were wounded, grounded upon the government order, whether in fact they were making to the barracks in pursuance of it or not?  As to those who left the hospital and were afterwards wounded, would they leave a place of safety on such an occasion?  It was for the jury to judge upon all these points, and say by their verdict, whether the facts show that they were aiding and assisting Douglass at the commission of his offence or not?

With respect to the rest of the prisoners, Anderson, Duggan, Groves, Knowles, and Geeson, they are charged as accessories before the fact, that they, before the committing of the offence by Douglass and the others prisoners, did incite, move, procure, counsel, hire, and command them to commit the same.  The offence is in so far similar to that of the last five prisoners, that they are all accomplices, their guilt depends upon that of the principal offender, but in so far different, that accessories before the fact, must be proved to be absent at the time of the fact committed, for if proved to be present, they are then principals, and must be indicted as such.

Mere knowledge or even acquiescence in a felony about to be committed, is not sufficient to make a person an accessory.  There must be some incitement, procurement, encouragement, contriving, or advising it.

An accessory before the fact must be a party to the conspiracy, although he takes himself no active or distinct part.

Assuming the fact charged against Douglass and the other prisoners, to have been committed by them or some of them, the question as regards the rest of the prisoners, Anderson, Duggan, Groves, Knowles, and Geeson, will be - whether that act was one committed only upon the spur of the occasion, or was it done in pursuance and furtherance of a conspiracy, of which that was one of the acts contemplated, or the necessary, or probable consequence of those acts?  And were these prisoners or any of them, parties to that conspiracy before hand, inciting, instigating, or procuring it to be done, -- if so, they might be convicted upon this present charge, provided they do not appear upon the evidence to have been present, either actually, as eye and ear witnesses, or constructively as being near enough to render such assistance as was agreed upon, and rendering it.

If proved to be present according to this definition, they must be acquitted of the first charge, although they may be re-indicted upon another.

The principle of the offence is the same, and both are capital.  But it is of importance, that the finding of the jury should not be falsified by the evidence; for, if the evidence shows them to have been present, and the verdict is given upon a charge, upon which they must be proved to have been absent, the finding would be erroneous.

Bearing in mind these observations, those which had already been made respecting the guilt of Douglass, and the existence of a conspiracy as stated by Jackson and others, would equally apply to the case of the present prisoners, and the next important question as regards them would be whether they or any of them were parties to the conspiracy?  As to which, the Judge referred to the evidence of Jackson and Wilks respecting their share in it.

The Judge then went through the evidence of the several witnesses as it affected each of the five prisoners, who were indicted as accessories before the fact, commenting thereon where it bore against, or in favour of the prisoners.

As to Anderson, Duggin, Groves, Knowles and Geeson, the question was whether the facts proved against them, show that they concerted and conspired together with the others to commit the act in question; it was not necessary to prove that they were in the affray, or did any act in furtherance of it, but concert and advise it; if they were present at the affray, either actually or constructively giving their aid at the time, they must be acquitted of the charge of accessaries.

But whether they were aiding and abetting, or not, was a question for the jury; if so, they are not guilty of this charge; whether they counselled Douglass, or not, is likewise a question for the jury, and if their acts are consistent with the presumption that they did not, they must be acquitted.

The Judge concluded, leaving the evidence with the jury, telling them, if they, or any of them, entertained any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the prisoners, or any of them, they would give them the benefit of that doubt and acquit them; otherwise if they found the evidence to be such as they would take upon their consciences to say they believed, then they would find the prisoners guilty.

The jury retired for about ten minutes, and returned a verdict of guilty against Drummond, Bell, Butler, Brady, Glenny and Geeson, and acquitted Anderson, Duggan, Groves and Knowles, who were again indicted for being present aiding and abetting, and convicted.


Burton J., 22 July 1834

Source: Sydney Gazette, 27 September 1834



Robert Douglass, Henry Drummond, James Bell, John Butler, James Brady, Patrick Glenny and John Geeson were placed at the bar to receive the judgment of the Court.  Upon being asked what they had to say for themselves why sentence of death should not be passed upon them.

Robert Douglass stated that he had been tried in New South Wales before Judge Burton for cattle stealing, and upon false testimony had been found guilty and transported to Norfolk Island for life; that he was innocent of that crime and finding no hope of relief from his deplorable condition in the Island, he had been induced to concert measures which he thought would have obtained him his liberty; but he was deceived in such expectation, he certainly was guilty of the act for which he was now called upon to answer.  The soldiers, he said, had behaved well on the morning of the mutiny, their conduct to the prisoners on the Island was such as should induce every prisoner to lay their necks under the soldiers feet rather than harm a hair of their heads.  He spoke with great feeling upon the state of hopelessness and wretchedness of the prisoners, and said he was ready to suffer for his crime.

Drummond admitted his guilt, but he said that innocent persons had been convicted; that Snell was not one of the persons who attacked the guard.

Bell stated that he had been punished before for this offence; he spoke with great earnestness upon the hopeless condition of the prisoners on the Island, that no reasonable hope was held out that good conduct should even restore them to civilized society; that there was no conception of the dreadful extent to which crime had risen in the Island, it was dreadful to think of it; that shut out upon all hope and from the face of women, it was little wonder that crime should exist and that men so situated would use every means to escape from such a state of misery and wretchedness.  He said surely the object of punishment was reformation of the person punished; and without hope of profiting in this life by good conduct, such reformation was not likely to take place, it was more likely that the punished person would sink deeper in crime; and if a man does not reform within a reasonable time, there was no hope that he would ever reform; he therefore hoped his Honour the Judge would endeavour to obtain for the prisoners on the Island some change of system which would better their situation, and give them some hope of pardon if their conduct should deserve it.

Butler alluded to the character of the witnesses against him, particularly Jackson whose character was fully shewn in the subsequent trials, and stated that if he had not been amongst the first tried he would probably have been acquitted.

The Judge then proceeded to pass the sentence of the law upon the several prisoners.

Prisoners at the bar - After a long and patient investigation of the evidence, which was adduced on your trial, one and all of you have been found guilty of the offence charged against you, the punishment of which is capital.  I trust that you, unhappy men, who stand there to receive the sentence of the law, will at least have done the justice to him who conducted the prosecution, to acknowledge that he has acquitted himself towards you with fairness and candour.  To the Judge that he has held the balance fair.  To the Jury I must be permitted to give my tribute, and I doubt not you yourselves will join in acquitting them of evincing any thing like impatience and inattention.  After a long and patient investigation of the evidence, the result has been to find you severally guilty; some of you have made observations which have given me considerable pain.  You, Douglass state you were led into the commission of that crime, of which you acknowledge yourself guilty, because having been convicted before me of a crime of which you were innocent, and sentenced to transportation for life, you found your state one of utter hopelessness and despair, and in order to avoid it, committed that crime for which you are about to receive sentence.  I can only say in that case as in every other, I trust that I did my duty, and that the jury have only been satisfied of you guilt, upon the most clear and credible testimony.  I can have now no means of judging of the truth of that evidence, and can only place that act of my life to my own solemn account.  I trust however I may be enabled to acquit my own conscience of injustice, and could I but be sensible that I had acted unjustly in that, or this, or any other instance, it would be the happiest moment of my life, to have it in my power to repair that error before I depart this life, to meet you in another world.

You, Douglass, were convicted in the mother country of cattle stealing; -- you were found guilty of the same offence in New South Wales;-- the sentence of the law (and I had no power to alter it) was, that you should be sent to a penal settlement for life.  Others of you have urged, and with great effect, the hopelessness of your situation here, and the iniquity of the place whither you are banished; but you do not appear to recollect what brought you to it? it was the consequence of repeated convictions, and a continued career of crime, that the law of human society deemed it expedient that you should be sent hither.  There is but one man among you to whom this observation does not apply.

Butler brought to my mind, that since I have been on the bench at Sydney the sentence of death was passed on him, and that that sentence was afterwards commuted to his present situation.

There is but one of you, who has not been twice or oftener convicted, and that man is Geeson, who came here for life, under a commutation of sentence for murder.  This, then is the situation of the uphappy men before me.

As to the iniquity of the Island, whence does it arise, but from what has been revealed in the course of these trials?  Some there are among you of considerable talent and understanding, and who appear to have been educated in decent habits of life; had you applied that good understanding, and the talents which you have exhibited upon your trials, to a due consideration of your unfortunate situations, your own good sense would have pointed out to you a more safe and easy course to pursue, and indeed the only course by which you could expect to better your situation, and all this which has come to pass, would not have happened.

But there has been a system of evil among the prisoners of this Island; you have called good, evil, and evil, good.  Those whom you have called good men, are the worst and most depraved men in the world; and those whom you have called bad, such as have never given evidence against any prisoner on the Island.  Can it be wondered at, that among men of understanding and capacity, such as some of you have evinced on these trials, that under such a system, the Island must be a scene of hopelessness and despair, when they apply that capacity to the contemplation of bad purposes alone.  Recollect when you talk of what you call ``the hopelessness of your lot" here, that such as it is, it was the condition upon which the clemency of the crown was extended to you, affording you yet another opportunity to reform and become good members of society.  But some of you have risen against that clemency, which has been extended to you on such terms, and have said that death was preferable.  This is an ungrateful return for that life which was spared; surely life is of value even here, it is so in the sight of God, or it would not be preserved to you.  It is of value in the sight of your fellow men, else they would not feel such tenderness towards you; and it ought to be of value in your own sight, for as long as the vital spirit is in a man, there is hope between him and his God, that he may repent of his sins.  And what else was it, but humanity which suggested the affording to you another opportunity of redeeming yourselves from the dominion of sin.

But neither is the hopelessness of your situation, such as you say, when you complain of the hopelessness arising from the long periods of your commuted sentences, notwithstanding, you may have been transported here for life; yet a time would have arrived, when by good conduct, you might have climbed again to a respectable stand in society.  You could not be ignorant of the fact, that no man's case on the Island is so desperate, as that he is without hope, although transported for life: -- A prisoner, after a certain term of good conduct, longer certainly than would be required upon a first conviction; that it may be seen, that he is reforming, is removed into a class for fourteen years, instead of for life.  There is one step at least achieved, and thus if good conduct continues he is then put into anoher [sic] class for seven years, whence continued good conduct, after a little time longer wholly relieves him.  If a man behave well a limited time, in the first and second probation, he is entirely released.

Be assured (and I could wish that the whole of the prisoners on this Island heard me), it is only by good conduct that men can expect to be released from that situation which the law has placed them.  Unhappily for you, you have not put yourselves in that situatien [sic]; -- you have not pursued the only course for pardon; -- you have pursued the opposite course, and sought to release yourselves from that restraint, which the law imposed upon you by unlawful means.  The crime of which you have been convicted, is that of robbery.  Douglass remarked with feeling - would that that feeling had kept him out of his present unhappy situation.  Some of you conceived yourselves injured by his plea of guilty; there is no foundation for that, and it may be a satisfaction to him to state, that by so doing, he neither injured himself, nor any of you.  Standing in the sight of God, he felt himself to be guilty, and he thought it right to plead so.  But I so charged the jury, that his plea should not injure you.  If his innocence had appeared, you would all have been acquitted, but his guilt was abundantly proved by the evidence, and he did not place himself, nor any of you in a more unfavourable situation, than if he had pleaded not guilty with the rest.

It has been observed by one of you, ``Butler," that if the character of the approvers had been brought to light in the first instance, and the Court as much acquainted with them as now, the probability is, you have been acquitted; every trial that has taken place, has shewn how proper was the conviction of Butler; it was proved on the very next trial, how he was wounded, and that he was let into the hospital by Bell, after possession of it had been obtained by your party.

I assure you no circumstance, not even the bad character of some of the witnesses on the trials which have taken place (and bad enough they have appeared, as bad as any against whom they have given evidence), could possibly have altered the situation of any of you.  It is a satisfaction to us all, Judge and jury, and will be so during our lives, and when we meet in judgment hereafter, that no man has been convicted upon the uncorroborated testimony of those persons.  Some independent evidence and facts have shewn the parts you severally took.  You Butler was wounded, and I am satisfied the jury assigned to you the proper part of which you were found guilty.

The crime of which you have been convicted, as it stands recorded, is that of robbery; but is impossible to pass over the circumstances under which it was committed, and not to see that it was not the sole act in your contemplation; but only the first of a series of crimes which were to follow.  You have said that your intent was only to disarm the military, without harming their persons.  How fallacious to suppose that such a thing could be accomplished; but if it had been, was that to have been the extent of your acts?  Was that the only act to be committed?  No!  It was proved in evidence that it was only the first of a series, in which bloodshed and murder must have followed; your plans could not have been accomplished without, the military could not have been overcome; wives could not have been taken from their husbands without.  It is impossible not to see that the crime which stands recorded against you, was only the prelude to a series of outrages, which would have been perpetrated in the accomplishment of your design, of relieving yourselves and your fellow prisoners from the Island.

The plot in which you were participators, was not the hasty act of a few desperate men, but extended deeply.

There was a party to assemble at the hospital under pretence of sickness, and from thence to attack the first military guard.

There was a numerous party at Longridge who were upon a given signal to break open the tool-house, to arm themselves, and to go to the assistance of those at the hospital; signal men were stationed along the line of road; a man was placed in the barracks to knock off the lock of the room where condemned prisoners were confined, guard after guard was to be attacked; the person of the commandant to be seized.

Prisoners! it ought to be a consolation for you to reflect, that it pleased God of his merciful providence, to stop you in your mad career, that it pleased him to put into the heart and hands of those brave men, few in number as they were, the courage and strength to resist you as they did.  Had your first attempt been successful, there can be no doubt that a great deal of the murder which was contemplated, must have ensued.  It pleased God in his infinite wisdom to stop you then, and I wish I was speaking to all those deluded men who have been parties to your conspiracy, and to every prisoner on the Island, that they might learn from hence, they cannot do what they will; the designs of wicked hearts, wicked hands cannot perform.  It is not in their power to do what they would accomplish; he who is above will bring the deeds of the wicked to light, and will put it in the hearts of others to overpower and destroy them in their bad intentions; a wicked man may design, but God controuls, and so he has controuled you, and by his special providence rendered all your schemes abortive.  This ought to be a satisfaction to you, because there are fewer crimes on your consciences to answer for now, than if your plans had been permitted to have proceeded further.

It is also true that in some subsequent cases, the character of one of the witnesses (and none were so impeached but the accomplices), was as bad as any one he came against.

It must needs be, none but bad men are mixed up in the commission of crime, and are entrusted with the details of its plans.  But it has not been upon an accomplice's evidence, that the verdict has been passed against any of you.  It may be true, as one of you has said, that some of you know to be such, and who know themselves to be so, and whom the Court and Jury may have reason to suspect to be guilty men, may have at present escaped justice.  In humane and merciful consideration, the jury have rather allowed those to escape, against whom there was no corroborating evidence to that of the accomplices, rather than take upon their consciences the conviction of any man upon such testimony; but there has been no room for such an imputation against justice, as that as was said by one of you.  Innocent men have been found guilty.  God forbid!  I do not believe it.  The case of Snell was alluded to.  It is true, two persons upon their trials, gave one account, differing in one circumstance from the account given by another witnesses upon a subsequent trial, but that did not prove his innocence; all three concurred in giving one account, that he was one of the parties in the attack upon the military.

Three military men untainted by any crime, and having no reasonable motive to say that which was false, stated that when he ran away from the scene of action, he had a musket, which fact was contradicted by Phibbs, a witness upon a subsequent trial, who stated he did not see him with one, but that another person, who run away with him had the musket, but that he was one in the attack; yet this man, it would be said is innocent, when those witnesses all concur in identifying him as one who was upon a soldier on the ground.  It is an imputation upon justice, and the administration of it, that does not, I trust, apply to this case.

Prisoners!  the jury have upon the evidence found you guilty, and I have already told you, that the offence of which you have been found guilty is capital.

The law requires even upon the first conviction (and none of you stand in that situation), that you should suffer death.  A local law places me under a more painful situation than the general law of England.

By an act of the Governor in Council, wherein it is enacted that ``it is expedient that robbers and housebreakers should be tried and punished, as may be consistent with the ends of justice, it is enacted that all persons who shall be fully committed for the crime of robbery, or of entering and plundering any dwelling house with arms and violence, shall be brought to trial as soon as possible, and being lawfully convicted of any such crime, and sentenced to suffer death, shall be executed according to law, on the day next but two after sentence passed, unless the same shall happen to be Sunday, and in that case on Monday following; and such sentence shall be passed immediately after conviction of such offender, unless the Court or Judge shall see reasonable cause for postponing the same."

Respecting some of you, I must permit the law to take its course.  Respecting the others, it shall be respited until the pleasure of His Excellency the Governor shall be known.

I have not brought you up until extension of time as I could.  And now, as to whom shall be the parties who shall suffer immediate sentence?  The principle upon which I have acted in arriving at a determination of this point, is, that as to all who were principals in the conspiracy, taking the most active and prominent parts, the law must take its course; and how am I to ascertain this, but by looking at the parts the different individuals sustained, and the acts they performed, as they appear upon the evidence before me?  To that I can look and see if it supports the conviction, and into the book of the law.  I must judge upon fallible human testimony, which they who give it, must take upon their consciences.  I cannot look into your souls.

And now what remains for me, but that I perform the last and awful duty of my office, and pass upon you that sentence which the law awards to the offence, which you have been convicted.  It is that you, and each of you be taken hence, to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of public execution; and that there you, and each of you, be hung by the neck, until your bodies be dead.

As to you Robert Douglass, you Henry Drummond, you James Bell, you John Butler, and you Patrick Glenny, it appears to me upon the evidence, that you took a leading part in the conspiracy, therefore with you, the law must take its course.  With respect to you James Brady, and you William Geeson, I shall respite your sentence, until the pleasure of the Governor be made known.  But do not imagine from that circumstance that your lives will eventually be spared you.  I know not how that may be.  Doubtless some may be objects of the clemency of the Crown.  At all events, those who were principals and the seducers of others; those to whom mercy has been extended before, and who now have so much abused it, I shall dot [sic] recommend as objects for mercy.  But there may be some who were themselves not the seducers, but the seduced, upon whom the prerogative of mercy may be exercised.

I have endeavoured to do justice in mercy; I have taken upon myself the responsibility of respiting as many as to whom I cannot lay my finger upon evidence, which positively identifies such as principals, and leaders in the conspiracy.

Having now performed the awful duty of my office, and removed the symbol under which it has been performed, I take to myself the character which more becomes me and as your fellow man and fellow sinner - but a believer in Christ - I entreat, and exhort, one and all of you, now at least to lay aside all bitterness, and all mutual recriminations as to the conduct of others, and take your own awful situation to heart.  Forgive all men their trespasses, as you hope your trespasses shall be forgiven you.  Take advantage of all that charitable assistance, which pious and devout persons may tender you.

Apply yourselves to the book of life, and look up to the Lamb of God.  Those among you who were well educated in former life, and have used you talents to mislead those who are more ignorant, use now your influence to lead them back again.  Show by your penitence, a deep and contrite sense of your awful situation, return in your hearts to that state of childhood in which you had parents, or beloved relatives, who instructed you to the God whom they taught you to worship, and to the prayers they taught you.

May you all deeply repent you of this sin, and of all others committed by you in the course of your lives, and the Lord be merciful to your souls.



[ 1] Lots had been cast among the judges to decide who would sail to Norfolk Island to conduct the trials there, and Burton J. was chosen: Australian, 17 and 20 June 1834 (and see Chief Justice's Letter Book, 1824 - 1835, State Records of New South Wales, 4/6651, pp 378-379; Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. 17, p. 505 on the judges' reluctance to travel there).  Justice Burton apparently made excessive claims for expenses on this trip, which he was required to refund: Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. 18, pp 91-93.  The Crown refused to pay for his life insurance, wine and spirits.

Justice Burton left Sydney on 28 June 1834: Australian, 1 July 1834.  By the time he returned on the Alligator, he had sentenced 30 convicts to death: Australian, 22 August 1834.  Thirteen of them were chosen to be hanged, after two ministers travelled there to give the consolation of religion: Australian, 5 September 1834. The Sydney Herald and Australian gave no formal reports of these trials, although the Australian listed them on 22 August 1834.  The Sydney Herald reported the second to seventh trials on 27 September 1834.

Convicts so feared Norfolk Island at this time that one prisoner (Elliott) declared that he would rather hang than be sent there: R. v. Jones, Giles and Elliot: report of execution, Australian, 13 September 1833.  The same sentiment was expressed by John Groves, who was tried in the sixth mutiny case.  Before being sentenced, the Sydney Gazette, 27 September 1834 reported: ``Groves stated that he had been formerly sentenced to death in Sydney, and he was told not to entertain any hope of mercy; that he had then made his peace with God and was prepared to die, when on the day fixed for his execution he was respited, and his sentenced commuted to transportation for life to Norfolk Island; that there where crime stared every man in the face, all the good impressions made upon his mind before soon forgotten, and he again sunk into crime.  He said that he deeply regretted that he had not then been executed, and as death was far preferable to an existence on that island, he trusted that if sentence of death were passed upon him, it would not again be commuted but that he should be allowed a long day to prepare for his last."  He was then sentenced to death but respited until the Governor's pleasure was known.

The Australian attacked the severity of the punishment on the island: 22 August 1834, and see 7 April 1834.  This was not the first time a judge had gone there to try crimes committed on the island.  Justice Dowling went there in 1833, in order to get rid of the incentive to commit crimes to come to Sydney for trial: Australian, 23 August 1833, and see 30 August, 5 September 1833.

Governor Bourke reported the circumstances of this case to the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, Rice, on 15 January 1835: Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. 17, pp 638-639.  He said that 29 people were capitally convicted.  The Governor and Executive Council respited 22 of these, but 13 were hanged, on 22 and 23 September 1834, in the presence of other convicts.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University