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Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797-1840

Document 25

Original Document 25

R Scott. Esq. to Col Sec - natives troublesome. Girl stolen by Bit of Bread. Native evidence: 17 May 1827


Sydney 17th May 1827

[in Margin " To A Macleay Esq

17 May 1827

Black Natives troublesome No 25]


I had the honor some time ago to address a letter to you, expressing an apprehension that the Aborigines in the Districts of St Patrick's Plains were shewing symptoms of a hostile feeling towards the Europeans - I still entertain the same opinion, & feel myself, as a Magistrate, placed in a difficult situation, & therefore beg leave to state a few facts for H. Excellency's information & to pray for instruction.

The concurrent testimony of a great many Black Natives prove that a black man by the name of Bit of Bread stole the infant child of John   & Catherine Hunt. This evidence is not admissible in a Court of Justice, and although there is sufficient admissible circumstantial evidence to prove that he must have been present at the stealing of the child, still the fact cannot be established - it would therefore be worse than useless to bring this man before a Court of law altho there cannot be any doubt of his guilt. And at the risk of incurring the threatened vengeance of the neighbouring tribes for they have openly declared, that should Bit of Bread be taken they will not leave a white man alive on the River - and there can be but little doubt they would put their [91] threat into execution to the utmost of their power & then indiscriminate vengeance would certainly fall upon the innocent & unprotected people at the different Stock Stations.

The same reasoning will apply to the Murderers of Dr Bowman & Capt Lethbridges men - that they cannot be taken without Bloodshed in the first instance & open warfare & retaliation afterwards in pretty evident. And as they never appear near the Settlements except in number it will require a considerable force to overpower them - In these last mentioned cases, however, many, if not all the offenders can be identified.

I feel satisfied that these men, viz Bit of Bread Jackass one of the natives also the murders of Dr Bowmans Sheppherd Servant, and also those who killed Capt Lethbridges men & also Bit of Bread might be taken - but certainly not without bloodshed & an open an immediate war in my part of the Country with the natives. From which it will be inferred that it would not be prudent to interfere with these felons, before measures are adopted to protect the defenceless out Stations, by a vigilant & strong armed power.

On one hand there appears to be an absolute necessity to bring these wrongdoers to Justice, & of the regaining the child[,] & on the other almost a certainty of further violence ensuing should it be attempted. Thus then of one hand The evil itself & the serious consequence of likely to succeed the removal of that evil, make me equally unwilling to delay or to proceed until [sic] I shall have the honor to receive instructions from H. E. for my guidance.

Published by the Centre for Comparative Law History and Governance of Macquarie University, and State Records NSW