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Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797-1840

Document 74

Original Document 74

Threlkeld to Burton, 1838 



To His Honor Judge Burton                                                                      July 20 th 1838


My Dear Sir,

I am proceeding with memoranda for you; But have been hindered the last fortnight in travelling nearly 200 miles on account of the enquiry initiated by His Excellency the Governor respecting the three black women, two are traced alive, one we cannot account for; the whole of the depositions &c are forwarded by me to the Colonial Secretary this post.   There will always be a difficulty in such enquiries, which can be perceived, I think, on a perusal of the documents, and which struck my mind most forcibly in relation to some other circumstances with which I was accidentally made acquainted with [strike with] on my journey. X It so happened that a Gentleman resident of Patricks Plains attended the court that day I was there, and he overtook me on the road on the following day.   Entering into conversation he informed me that he knew much of Liverpool Plains, and that most foul practices were common there.   Two circumstances he mentioned, besides the abominable Sly - grog - shop - system, which is tolerated he says by that Constables, for the purpose of entrapping Bushrangers, who when they have committed depredations resort to such places to spend their booty. _   One of the circumstances mentioned was the practice of Stockmen combining together and going out to punish the Blacks in cases of depredation, which excites a continued state of warfare. In one instance a Stockman

boasted to his master, that a bullock   was speared, and that he went after the Blacks with the party, but outriding them, he overtook the blacks and killed six with his own hand! Instead of receiving the reward he expected from his Master for the exploit, his Master very properly discharged him.   The other instance [503]mentioned was this: Some cattle had been speared, the stockmen assembled, they went in search of the Blacks, found one; they knew not who he was, or whether guilty or not they took him prisoner, tied his hands behind him, and fastened him to the stirrup of one of the horsemen, and proceeded homewards. When they arrived near the huts the party separated, leaving the man to whom the black was fastened to take him home to the hut.   When the black found himself alone with the stockman he hung back, on which the stockman took out his pocket clasp knife, stuck the Black through the throat, as he would a sheep, the Black fell down, the stockman rode away.   It so happened that the Black had strengthened enough to crawl to Mr __ a Gentleman leading at the Plains not far distant.   The Black told him his tail and then expired.  

An enquiry was talked of, but the long journey to Sydney and consequent trouble and expense of attending court, where the inadequacy of the usual allowances to cover the actual costs is a serious drawback to the ends of justice, the loss of the services to the stockman, together with the want of legal evidence of the fact, operated, it is said, to prevent the gentleman prosecuting.

            Having thus been informed of such atrocities, I do not wish by concealment to become "a Partaker of other Men's sins", and yet I apprehend there is no utility in requesting investigation, there being no witnesses of the transactions, therefore I have   [n]ot officially acquainted the Governor; but such things ought to be made known [to] his Excellency that he may be enabled to judge betwixt man and man in the [u]nequal warfare with the Blacks, and I could not rest satisfied to let the squatters [?]   [r]est until my annual report to the Governor at the end of the year, tranquillity [?] being yet attained. Were I in Sydney I should have no hesitation to communicate [p]ersonally to His Excellency these things. Perhaps it would be inconvenient for you to intimate the matter to Sir George Gipps; but of course I only state that case as re - [504] ported to me.   Being in the bush and having no one with whom I can advise will excuse me I trust, if out of order, in this addressing you

                                                                        I am My Dear Sir

                                                                                    Yours Very Sincerely

                                                                                    L.E. Threlkeld

P. S. If a strong Horse Policeforce, the officer acting as a visiting Magistrate, was established, beyond the Plains amongst the extreme out Stations, where mutual murders most exist, at such places as to command telegraphic stations, much bloodshed might be prevented on all sides, Bushrangers would not be able to remain at large in the manner they now do at their places, nor would there be a need of doing a positive evil, and tolerating the grog-ships, that a previous good may come in out- trapping depredations therein.   The excellent plan of His Excellency's proclaimed [?] for protection on the route to Port Philip would only have to be extended with the addition of Signal posts at the respective Police stations in that part of the Colony.


[1] This reproduces only the first half of this document. The rest is in the very difficult scribble of Burton. We would be very grateful if any readers volunteered to attempt to transcribe the rest of this document, which is online in its original form.

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