History of West Australia/Chapter 10
NATIVE STRIFE AND PROGRESSIVE INCIDENTS.
CONFLICTING SENTIMENTS REGARDING NATIVES—POSITION A DIFFICULT ONE—YAGAN, THE "WALLACE" OF AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES—MEETING OF KING GEORGE'S SOUND AND SWAN RIVER NATIVES—GOOD ADVICE—FIRST TROUBLES—A SOLDIER SPEARED—YAGAN'S IRE ROUSED—NATIVE INCENDIARISM—LIST OF MAGISTRATES—CORROBOREE IN PERTH—A NATIVE FRAY—MR. LYON'S ADVOCACY—YAGAN COURTEOUS AND INSOLENT—WAR WITH SPEAR AND TORCH—EUROPEANS SHOOT TWO NATIVES—YAGAN, MIDGEGOOROO AND OTHERS RETALIATE—THE OUTLAWRY AND REWARDS—SEARCH PARTIES SCOUR COUNTRY—CAPTURE AND DEATH OF MIDGEGOOROO—YAGAN VISITS SETTLER'S HOUSES; HIS REMARKABLE CONFERENCE WITH G. F. MOORE—TWO BOYS SEEK FOR YAGAN AND TREACHEROUSLY SHOOT HIM—ONE OF THEM SPEARED IN RETALIATION—OPINION OF "PERTH GAZETTE" ON THEIR ACTION—MIDGEGOOROO'S SON AND WIDOWS—NATIVE NAMES OF GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES-CAPTAIN STIRLING STILL IN ENGLAND, WHITHER IRWIN ALSO GOES, AND CAPTAIN DANIEL BECOMES LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR—NEW LIBERAL PROPOSALS BY IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT—ARRIVAL OF VESSELS, POPULATION AND LAND SALES—CALCUTTA COLONISING COMPANY; THE PIONEER VESSEL IS LOST—SIR RICHARD SPENCER APPOINTED GOVERNMENT RESIDENT AT ALBANY AND THE CONDITION OF AFFAIRS THERE—ACREAGE UNDER CROP PRICES AND SALE OF ESTATES—ROADS, JETTIES, BUOYS, BEACONS AND MAILS—RULES OF A BARTER SOCIETY DRAWN UP—PARCELLING OUT LAND TO LABOURERS—DIFFICULTIES WITH SERVANTS—EMIGRATION—HABITS, LITIGATION—MORE OF THE LIFE OF A JUDGE—DUELLING—FIRES—SUPPOSED POISONOUS VEGETATION—PIONEER HORSE RACE MEETING—EXPLOIT OF TWO FISHERMEN.
A SERIOUS turn was given to the native troubles in 1833. The continued descent of blacks on the flocks and herds of settlers embittered the one race towards the other, and reprisals became more numerous. The furtive murders committed by either side caused each to be on the alert, but when violence was shown to a white woman some of her countrymen rose their wrath and said they would wage war against the old-time possessors of the soil. Sentiments of humanity had hitherto dominated the white population; they did not forget the splendid, though quiescent reception given them when they first sought to establish themselves in Western Australia. But now, many of the most earnest advocates for a peaceful and charitable treatment of the blacks experienced a revulsion of feeling, and announced that they would severely punish them. They could not long brook these grave attacks on their stock, nor could they calmly listen to the stories of murder which were intermittently noised abroad. The community was so small and so far removed from old associations that the death of any one of them occasioned profound gloom.
But the position was a difficult one. Men embued with English sentiments of fair play and respect for the persons of others could not coolly shoot down single blacks; to murder whole parties in blood was equally repulsive. The natives would not unite together and in open battle attack the invaders. All that their primitive natures would allow them to do was the covert stealing of stock by small bands or, upon the imagined demands of their laws, the murder of individuals so that their honour and superstition might be satisfied. The whites could not give full rein to their wishes, and the blacks were therefore permitted to openly roam the Swan River bush, and visit the homesteads of settlers and beg for food. So rapidly, it was said were their kangaroos and emus being exterminated that they must have recourse to settlers for the bare necessaries of life. During the scarcity of provisions among the white people in 1832 the usual allowances of flour, &c., were denied the natives, and hence the increased number of instances of thieving. The original fear of white weapons, too, had worn off, and having successfully murdered some men, they more readily murdered others. It was murder on both sides.
The inherent courage of certain native characters was brought out, and they in 1833 gave evidence of bravery and determination which would have done honour to the highest civilisation. No more conspicuous figure, probably, has ever risen among Australian natives than that of Yagan. The son of a chief, he was himself a man of strength and power; was the hope of his people, and inspired fear among the whites, who were wont to term him the "Wallace" of the Australian aborigines. Yagan was a unique specimen of native manhood, intelligence, sagacity, and bravery. He was over six feet high, and, one writer says, possessed a dignified bearing. He stood head and shoulders above his fellows, in mind as well as in body, and though a subject of terror to the white people, he yet commanded their admiration. He was the dominating spirit in the sanguinary native troubles of 1833.
The amicable relationship established with the aborigines at King George's Sound by Major Lockyer and Captain Barker still continued, and the blacks began to recognise the character and power of the Britishers, and to be affected by their civilisation. Mr. Dale, when returning to Perth in January 1835, took two King George's Sound natives with him, who were treated with some display of hospitality by the local whites and blacks. Yagan and others of the Swan River tribe expressed the desire to meet the visitors, named Gallypert and Maryat. On the 24th January Messrs. Dale and Smythe took the two men to what was known as Monger's Lake, where Yagan and ten of his tribe gave them an apparently cordial welcome. A conversation was initiated between them, but owing to a difference in language they had some difficulty in understanding each Other. But they were on mutual ground when some one proposed a trial of individual skill. Gallypert and Yagan took their spears, and one of the white men stuck his walking stick vertically in the ground. Both natives walked some twenty-five paces away, and placing their spears in their throwing-sticks hurled them at the object. The expert Yagan proved the better marksman, for at his first throw he struck down the walking stick. Gallypert was not so successful. Other trials of skill were made, and it was observed that the Swan River men had the advantage in appearance, strength, and aptness over their visitors. Gallypert advised the Swan River men to be peaceful towards the whites, and afterwards described his conversation to an interested listener as thus: "Me wonka (tell) black man—pear white man cow, white man yeep (sheep), white man kill black man; black man no pear (spear) cow, no pear yeep, white man give black man jacket, towlyer, york (shirt), and bikket (biscuit) plenty; black man wonka (say) no pear no more."
Then Yagan took up the thread of the discourse and recounted to his sable countrymen his experiences during his recent imprisonment at Carnac, and told them how he outwitted his guards. Finally he, as a distinctive act of courtesy and hospitality, seemingly adopted them into his tribe by an exchange of names.
Mrs. Leake, the wife of a prominent settler, entertained the King George's Sound natives with music on a "grand" piano. They expressed themselves as pleased and grateful, and murmured, "Tank u mem, very pretty." Not only did they articulate their delight, but danced the kangaroo dance to the accompaniment of the piano. Then, we are told, they "seated themselves in armchairs with the greatest self-complacency, and drank tea." Shortly afterwards they were taken back to Albany.
The visit of these natives seemed at first to have had a good effect, and for some time numerous Swan River men were daily to be seen in Perth and Fremantle, where they expressed their desire to live on friendly terms and their determination to refrain from injuring settlers' cattle. Their friendliness was short-lived, and soon they gave vent to that baneful characteristic—the wanton destruction of property. In February colonists on the outskirts of the Swan River settlements suffered severely at their hands. Mr. J. H. Monger had many unfortunate experiences with them at Monger's Lake, and other persons had stock stolen or killed. On Monday, the 11th of February, the natives deported themselves in a threatening manner to the shepherd of Messrs. Trimmer and Bland, at York. They were spurred on by the vicious chants of a native woman, and the shepherd in self-protection shot the woman. In the same month Jenkins, a private of the 63rd Regiment, was speared by natives at Clarence, a settlement a few miles south of Fremantle. Jenkins was in the act of drawing water from the well near the military barracks in that district, when he heard the approach of many feet. Before he could discover whence the sounds came spears entered his back and shoulder, and two his side and arm. He recovered from his wounds. The motive of this attack probably lay in the fact that Jenkins was one of the guards to the natives who had been imprisoned at Carnac.
Mr. Norcott, a superintendent of the police corps, had a narrow escape in March. While eating biscuits in the presence of Yagan he offered the latter a share. Then, considering he had given the native too much, he endeavoured to take a part away. This roused Yagan's ire and immediately he pointed his spear at Mr. Norcott, and was only restrained from casting it by the colonists who had gathered round. So dauntless was this man that the Perth Gazette writes:—" The reckless daring of this desperado, who sets his life at a pin's fee, is being the subject of general observation, and we firmly believe for the most trivial offence, even with a loaded musket at his breast, he would take the life of any man who provoked him." He was very proud of his escape from Carnac Island, and chucklingly informed different white men how he managed it. On one occasion he even walked up to the door of the gaol at Fremantle, and after exchanging civilities with his late keeper marched off, pointing significantly at the gaol and then at Carnac, which rose plainly before the eye over the bay.
Several suspicious fires occurred in March, and on the third or fourth the house of Mr. Waylen was burnt to the ground. It was supposed that the natives set it alight. While the conflagration proceeded these men danced round it like demoniacs. Several cases of stealing and breaking of windows were announced about the same time. The white people were in a dilemma as to how to act, whether to severely punish the delinquents, or continue their efforts to civilise them and show them the enormity of their actions. The Government had from time to time sworn in magistrates who were required, perhaps more than anything else, to administer the law with regard to natives. The following is a list of these magistrates:—W. H. Mackie (chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions), George Leake, E. B. Lennard, John Morgan, John Bussell, Henry Bull, the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom, Thomas Peel, William Nairn, William Tanner, W. L. Brockman, T. T. Ellis, J. Molloy, Alexander Collie, F. H. Byrne, Peter Pegus, and Joshua Gregory.
The next appearance of the natives was in a calmer and more pleasant light. On Wednesday, 13th March, at the instigation of Yagan, a corroboree, or native festival, was held in the yard of a settler in Perth. The schooner Ellen had just arrived from King George's Sound with five more natives, who at their urgent request were conveyed to Swan River; Yagan wished that members of the two tribes should give a joint representation. About dusk they assembled, and, while chanting, chalked each other in strange devices. A crowd of white people, including Lieutenant-Governor Irwin, several ladies, and the fashion of Perth, soon congregated. Then with the utmost fidelity the natives represented the killing of the kangaroo, and gave the necromantic dances which embraced the knocking of noses together, dancing on the knees, and the pulling of each other's legs. Yagan was master of ceremonies, and acquitted himself, it is said, "with infinite dignity." At the conclusion of the representation the performers asked for, and were given, permission to sleep in the back yard that night.
Next day a native fray took place in Perth, caused apparently by jealousy. There was some disagreement as to the proprietorship of a native woman, and after bickerings and careful preparations a fight was held. A native named Munday and his wife and another woman were so severely wounded that they were conveyed to the Hospital for treatment. Such a splendid example of affection was shown by Munday to his suffering spouse, the Gazette writes, that "it was worthy of imitation."
Desultory small crimes were committed by the natives during the next few days, and on the 17th March some of them cruelly speared a horse owned by Mr. Tanner. The feelings of the people were rising, and it was only the humane determination of the Government and of several influential settlers which prevented them visiting their anger on the blacks, even to general slaying. Opinion was still divided, but the majority seemed to advise the sternest means to put down the trouble. Mr. Lyon remained one of the most earnest supporters of the natives, and in an article published under his name in the Perth Gazette of 23rd March, he voices the sentiments of the minority. He states, "The aboriginal inhabitants of this country are a harmless, liberal, kind-hearted race; remarkably simple in all their manners. They not only abstained from all acts of hostility when we took possession, but showed us every kindness in their power. Though we were invaders of their country, and they had therefore a right to treat us as enemies, when any of us lost ourselves in the bush and were thus completely in their power, these noble-minded people shared with us their scanty and precarious meal, suffered us to rest for a night in their camp, and in the morning directed us on our way to headquarters, or some other part of the settlement."
The many-sidedness of Yagan's character was being shown, and he seemed to blend boldness and revenge with courtesy and bush hospitality. He was constantly appearing in one or other light, so that even the people who directly and indirectly suffered at his hands could not deny him their respect. A fire took place and, unlike his fellows, Yagan rendered eager assistance in overcoming it. He was willing to show the whites any part of his and his father's domains and to share with them his meal. But on the other hand he was insolent and unforgiving. On the last day of March he entered the house of an absent settler, and finding the wife at home talked and acted in a violent manner. The woman escaped from the house and ran off towards some neighbours, at which Yagan, to pacify her, called after her, "White woman very good, good-bye." Then he hurried into the bush, but Captain Ellis, superintendent of native tribes, chased and caught him, and bringing him back, informed him that he would be severely punished if he repeated such actions. Yagan immediately rushed away among the trees and was vainly fired at by congregated soldiers. For some little time he remained in the bush, but soon he cast off fear and walked boldly into Perth.
The natives now carried on war in the settlements not only with the spear, but with the torch as well. They occasionally preyed upon settlers' stock and set fire to their grass and hay-ricks. Affairs were drawing to a crisis. Towards the end of April, two thoughtless and cruel murders by white people lighted the fire of revenge in the indomitable Yagan. A man from Van Diemen's Land, employed by Major Nairn, was escorting a cart to the house of Mr. Philipps, on the Canning, along the track which had been cut from Fremantle to the Canning River. He saw unoffending natives on the way, and turning to his companion (so writes Mr. Moore), said, "D—n the rascals, I'll show you how we treat them in Van Diemen's Land." Lifting his gun, he fired and shot one, and that without provocation. A few nights afterwards, a merchant in Fremantle heard suspicious noise in an adjoining store. Rising to discover the cause he observed three natives breaking into the building. The neighbours were aroused, and seizing arms fired upon the thieves, and one, Domjuim, fell, and died three days afterwards. The same stores had been robbed before. These two acts were the incentives which stimulated revenge in the heart of Yagan.
On the morning of the 30th April, a few hours after Domjuim was shot, Yagan, with a party of natives, was seen at Preston Point, near Perth. Yagan appeared to be greatly excited, and "foamed at the mouth and raved like a madman." He burned under the insult done to his countrymen, and informed the servant of a settler that he was going to the Canning to spear a white man, and (vide Gazette), "fixing his spear in the throwing-stick, he rushed into the bush, followed by his infuriated tribe."
Three carts owned by Mr. Philipps, laden with provisions, were returning from Bull's Creek to Mr. Philipps' farm. Mr. Philipps, with four men, had charge of two of the carts, while the third cart, some distance away, was accompanied by Thomas and John Velvick. Just as Mr. Philipps was leaving Bull's Creek, about thirty natives appeared, led by the old chief, Midgegooroo, and Yagan, Migo, and Munday. They scrutinised the vehicles and seemed particularly curious concerning the third cart. Midgegeoroo asked how many men were attached to it, and on being told he and his party instantly disappeared in the bush. The Velvicks were in the very cart wherefrom the Tasmanian had incontinently shot at the native a few days before. Strange to say, also, at about the precise point on the road where he had committed this outrage, Yagan and Midgegooroo now surrounded the vehicle.
Mr. Philipps, while proceeding on his way, heard a noise, and hurriedly riding forward, saw Yagan plunging a spear into the body of one of the Velvicks. Both men were found dead; one had crawled about two hundred yards into the bush before he succumbed. The bodies were horribly mutilated. The natives had picked upon a most convenient site for executing their revenge. The dark forms of many black "boys" arose all round amid a thick bush, and when Mr. Philipps appeared the murderers easily decamped.
Lieutenant-Governor Irwin at once issued a proclamation offering a reward of £30 to any person who would "capture, or aid and assist in capturing, the body of Yagan, dead or alive." Rewards of £20 each were offered for the bodies, dead or alive, of Midgegooroo and Munday. All three natives were deprived of the protection of British laws.
And now the sentiment of revenge which had burned into Yagan was momentarily transferred to the settlers, and all were imbued with an intense desire to capture this man who treated them so superciliously. Almost every settler was at first willing to go out in search of the chief outlaw, and official and private parties were for some time daily organised to brush up the woods. The first to operate was Lieutenant Carew, who, in charge of a small detachment of the 63rd Regiment, took up a station on the river to intercept Yagan should he wish to join the women and children of his tribe, then on the Perth side of the river. Thenceforth for some months Yagan baffled his pursuers, though he was all the time in the Swan River country, and from his secret lairs watched the search parties which panted for his blood. On May 6 the Government equipped a volunteer party under Lieutenant Carew, accompanied by Captain Ellis, to search for the outlaws. They proceeded to Monger's Lake, about five miles from Perth, and observed the natives they watched in the bush. Then hiding themselves as much as possible behind the shrubbery they silently stole towards the band, but feathered sentinels of the Australian bush soon warned the blacks of danger. A flock of cockatoos rose with deafening cries and flew, screeching, into the distance. The natives hurried off, and the avengers, after vainly following them for some distance, were compelled to turn back.
Meanwhile, Yagan showed no outward signs of fear. He managed to elude the search parties, and while they scoured the country, he, with intrepid coolness, visited some of the houses of settlers. So well did he understand the character of the English people that he visited only those whom he knew would not molest him. He was one day ferried across the river by a settler, and with three other natives obtained palm nuts and potatoes somewhere on the other side, whereupon he returned to the banks and was ferried back. The four now entered the enclosure of Mr. Hardy, and a son of Mr. Drummond saw the unconcerned Yagan rushing horses to the fence to have the pleasure of seeing them bound over it. The news of his having been seen was soon announced throughout the settlement, and that particular part of the river country was most carefully searched, but no sign of Yagan was observed.
A party of four soldiers and three civilians, headed by Hunt, determined to search high and low for the outlaws, and give them no opportunity of escape. They made towards the Murray River, and soon came upon a native camp. The blacks had noted their approach and sought cover in the bush, where they separated into two parties. Hunt and his men followed one of these, but could not get close enough to shoot or take them prisoners. Each party of natives occasionally lit fires, apparently as signals denoting the course its members were taking. The Europeans followed them between two lakes, from which there was no visible outlet, but all the natives concealed themselves in the rushes and close jungle which completely hid the way. Only one was seen, and as he rose from his hiding posture he poised and hurled his spear, and was levelling another when Hunt raised his gun and brought him to the ground. Fearing an ambush in so suitable a place, Hunt retreated and returned to Perth. It was reported that he shot several other natives on this occasion, but the report was not confirmed.
Other parties went out and scoured the country in every direction, without avail. It was for Yagan that they made their most sedulous excursions, but at the same time they searched for old Midgegooroo and Munday. Eventually on Thursday, 16th May, Captain Ellis and Mr. Hardy, with a small party, went out towards the hills where some of the chief haunts of the natives were. They proceeded on their way in close file, and glanced searchingly through the woods on every side of them. When a few hours' journey from Perth they caught sight of a native in the bush. This fellow observed not their approach, and Captain Ellis ordered his men to encircle him. The circle was made and quickly contracted, and before the aboriginal knew of their presence, there was no outlet open for his escape. It was the outlaw Midgegooroo, amusing himself in play with his young son, five years old. The old man was apparently unaware that the whites were seeking his life, for he had been hitherto engaged in caring for the women and children of his tribe. As soon as he noticed his dangerous position he tried to break through the line, and wrestled with great vigour. He cried loudly in big desperation for the champion of his tribe, Yagan, but he cried in vain. His spears were soon snapped in twain and, with his little son was taken prisoner.
Midgegooroo had been associated with many depredations of whites and their stock, had been concerned in the murder of Entwistle, and had used violence on different persons. He was now given short shrift. On the 21st May a number of persons congregated in front of the gaol in Perth, and Mr. J. Morgan, a magistrate, read aloud a death warrant. The Lieutenant-Governor, attended by the Council, was present, but the young son had been removed to the Government schooner Ellen, then lying under Garden Island.
Mr. Morgan, a constable, and attendants, went into the gaol to bring out the prisoner, who, on seeing their preparations, yelled and struggled fiercely to escape. He was pinioned and blindfolded, and bound to the outer door of the gaol. A party of the 63rd Regiment volunteered to shoot the condemned man, and at a signal from the Leutenant-Governor advanced, halted six paces away from Midgegooroo, levelled their guns, and fired. The sable warrior fell dead.
The Perth Gazette was pronounced in its remarks on the conduct of some of the people who assembled to witness this death. The editor writes:"The feeling which was generally expressed was that of satisfaction at what had taken place, and in some instances of loud and vehement exultation, which the solemnity of the scene—a fellow being, although a native, launched into eternity—ought to have suppressed."
It is reported that numbers of natives were shot down about this period by the irritated whites. The more charitable people recognised the sequence of events which led up to these murders by Yagan and Midgegooroo. Advocates for their merciful treatment were not wanting, who pointed out that by taking these lives the aboriginals were merely obeying their law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The Government decided that in justice they must protect the lives of natives, and therefore issued a proclamation stating that they were subjects of His Majesty, and received the protection of his laws in Western Australia. The following passage was included in this proclamation, "And whereas the protection of law doth of right belong to all people whatsoever who may come or be found in the territory aforesaid, I do hereby give notice that any person or persons shall be convicted of behaving in a fraudulent, cruel, or felonious manner towards the aboriginal race of inhabitants of this country, such person or persons will be liable to be prosecuted and tried for the offence, as if the same had been committed against any other of His Majesty's subjects."
Another murder by natives of a white man took place, and another native, a relative of Midgegooroo, was shot. Then Yagan again appears on the scene. While Mr. G. F. Moore was engaged on his farm on the Swan, near Guildford, he observed a party of northern natives approaching him. He saw among them some friends of his, and, unarmed, at once went forth to meet them. When he had got among the blacks he was surprised to recognise Migo as one of them, and upon scanning the face of the man at his side saw that it was Munday. Looking still closer at the others he was more surprised to behold the outlaw Yagan standing aloof, keenly scrutinising his countenance, and observing his manner of receiving them. Yagan stood some distance from the rest, leaning on his spear in a sullen and morose humour. Moore, pointing to Yagan, asked a native by his side, "What name?" They all replied, "Boogat," to which Moore answered, "No, Yagan." The warrior, seeing that he was known, now stepped forward, as if to challenge discussion, and, according to Mr. Moore, said, "Yes, Yagan,—Fremantle white man shoot Domjuim, Yagan brother: shoot black man cutyell (two). Me, Yagan, gyidyill (spear) white man cutyell."
This was Yagan's explanation of the crime, and his pleading, according to his law, of its justice. Moore took up the conversation and said, "But Domjuim quiple (steal), white man shoot." Yagan replied, "Yes, Domjuim quiple, white man shoot black man, black man 'pear white man."
Mr. Moore said, "But Domjuim quiple. White man quiple, white man shoot white man. Black man quiple, white man shoot black man."
Yagan reiterated, "White man shoot Domjuim, Yagan brother; Yagan 'pear white man far away."
Mr. Moore pointed out that all white men were brothers, upon which a chorus of blacks cried, "No, no!" He then declared, "Yes, all white men brothers, all same. Black man 'pear white man, all white man angry, all white man shoot."
In a more friendly tone, but determined spirit, Yagan asserted, "White man shoot, black man 'pear."
Moore now addressed them all and said, "Black man no 'pear white man; black no quiple; black no 'pear horse, cow, sheep, pig: white man all same brother; black man plenty corroboree, plenty shake hands."
Here he advanced with open hands at which all the natives, except the moody outlaw himself, rushed forward and seized them. It was a long argument, and Moore confessed that Yagan was as successful in it as he was. The natives had grouped themselves around the contending parties, and were apparently closely attending to the conference between these representatives of the conflicting races. Then, writes Moore, "Yagan stepped forward, and leaning his left hand on my shoulder, while he gesticulated with the right, delivered a sort of recitative, looking earnestly at my face: I regret that I could not understand it; I thought from the tone and manner that the purport was this:—'You came to our country; you have driven us from our haunts and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country we are fired upon by the white men. Why should the white men treat us so?'"
The manner of delivering this statement reminded Moore of a chorus in a Greek tragedy, the other men seemed to be acting in a subordinate character to Yagan. One and all desired eagerly to know the fate of Midgegooroo. Yagan approached and seemingly sought to read Moore's countenance, and confirmed to searchingly scan it. The question was full of danger to the white man, unprotected as he was, and he gave no direct reply to it. At last Yagan said with extraordinary vehemence of manner, distinctness of utterance, and emphasis of tone, "White man shoot Midgegooroo, Yagan kill three (holding up three fingers)." Moore replied that if Yagan killed a white man, every white man would shoot Yagan." The warrior "scowled a look of daring defiance, and turned on his heel with an air of ineffable disdain." He had held, during the greater part of this conference, "a beautifully tapered and exquisitely pointed spear, grasped like a stiletto about fourteen inches from the point, while the shaft lay over his shoulder with a seeming carelessness." He evidently dreaded treachery, and was on his guard
against it; taking care not to let the Europeans press on him too closely, and keeping some of the natives between him and them.
Moore seems to have considered that he would be blamed for not trying to take Yagan prisoner, and he explained that nothing short of an overpowering force, or the perpetration of a cold-blooded, deliberate treachery would have sufficed to take the dangerous outlaw. He published his interview in the Perth Gazette, and expressed his conviction that the natives were determined to act upon the doctrine of taking life for life. They seemed thoroughly satisfied of its propriety, and after the blow of retaliation was struck desired to be as friendly as before. Moore concludes his descriptive article with the caution, "Every one should now be upon his guard. Yagan seems to possess the power of ubiquity. He has declared, and his are not idle threats, that he will take three lives for that of Midgegooroo."
The wives and children of Midgegooroo now wandered through the bush in all their pageantry of mourning. About their faces they were marked in white and red streaks—the humble trappings of their woe—in honour of the presumed death of their chief. They asked many questions as to his fate, and were generally told that he and his son were in the prison at Carnac Island, but it seemed to be generally understood what had become of him, and it was even said that Yagan was near Perth when the death sentence was carried out. On the 27th May, Yagan was unwisely informed by a settler of Midgegooroo's death. When Lieutenant-Governor Irwin heard of this, he immediately strengthened the military throughout the district. The daring native with his primitive weapons caused fear to spread throughout the settlement.
During the second week in June, Yagan, and Weeip, "the chief of the mountain tribe," visited the farm of a settler who had treated them with kindness. Yagan told the lady of the house the names of those who were present at the death of Midgegooroo. She and her attendants became alarmed, but Yagan quickly assured that they need not be concerned, for he would 'pear "soldier man."'
With unflagging spirit parties continued to go out in quest of the outlaw, and all eagerly watched for the appearance of any bulletins concerning their welfare. Slight depredations were still being made. The accused natives had more than once been seen near Perth, yet so carefully and secretly did they pick their way through the bush, the banksia and blackboys, that none could see them. It is said that Weeip offered to guide some of the avengers to the haunts of Yagan; at any rate he boldly stalked through the streets of Perth, and even joined a search party under Captain Ellis. On another occasion two natives met a young man walking alone along a bush road. They freely informed him that they intended to spear Yagan, and offered, there and then, to lead him to the hiding place of the outlaw. The man was at first delighted, for like many others he was anxious to receive the £30 reward. But when the natives proceeded to a thicket, and apparently wished to draw him into it, he became afraid and went back. The blacks now tried to get away from him, and Weeip, who was one of them, cunningly contrived to get beyond the range of his gun. He then made off. The other native watched an opportunity, and threw his spear at the man, which grazed his breast. Raising his gun, the young fellow aimed at the native, but the weapon missed fire. The native got away, and the white man hurried into Perth and told his story. It was afterwards currently reported that this native was no other than Yagan himself, and some of the aborigines gave credence to the statement. Weeip, who was afterwards questioned as to the young man's allegation, contradicted its salient points, and asserted that the white was the aggressor, and fired his gun before the native used his spear. To clinch his statement Weeip produced a spear, which bore gun-shot wounds, and then he emphatically declared that had he been near enough he would have speared the fellow. The public appeared as willing to believe Weeip as the white man. His mental capacity and condition were spoken highly of, and in this connection the Perth Gazette of July 6th publishes a plain-spoken eulogism of Weeip's countrymen. It says, "Those who have not had an opportunity of witnessing the sagacity and acuteness of the aborigines of this country can form no idea of the natural extent of their minds—they are by no means the base, degraded, sanguinary wretches they have ignorantly been designated—they have their many virtues which their roving habits will render it difficult to bring into exercise."
And now came the circumstances which led to the death of Yagan—the prop of the aborigines. Early in July he was seen at a farm on the Swan, and upon being spoken to ridiculed the idea of being captured. He evidently merely watched and waited his opportunity for retaliation. Two lads named William Keats and James Keats were the instruments of Yagan's destruction. William was eighteen years old, and James was but thirteen. William had frequently expressed the determination to kill Yagan, apparently for the reward. Others had been afraid to commit this deed, nor would they be guilty of treachery, but William was bold and unaffected by sentiments of honour. His master, Lieutenant Bull, a settler on the Swan, had often advised him to put away the thought. Lieutenant Bull was friendly with the natives, and felt strong sympathy for them. Some little time previously he had taken Weeip and three other natives to Fremantle to see Midgegooroo's son. The interview was a pathetic one.
Under careful tuition the boy had become cold towards his people, and when Weeip spoke to him he disclaimed all knowledge of the chief, and seemed indifferent as to the fate of his relatives. At this Weeip burst into tears, whereupon the lad, whistling, turned away to play with a companion. This scene caused the Gazette to remark that "savages are not to be won by austerity or severe discipline."
On Thursday morning the brothers Keats were minding cattle near the house of Mr. Bull. While thus engaged they observed natives going to the house for flour. Yagan was one of them, and the boys induced him to turn aside, and he remained with them nearly all the morning. Both boys carried guns, and William, watching his chance, once endeavoured to shoot the outlaw in cold blood, but his gun stopped at half-cock. Yagan did not observe this act, but after some time, becoming suspicious, he threw down his firebrand and digging stick, and threatened them, but used no violence, and went his way and joined the other natives, who were cooking damper near the river. Some say that the boys were invited to partake of the simple meal.
William cocked his gun and laid it over his arm in an unconcerned manner. With his brother he went among the natives, who were about to make their repast, and pointed the muzzle of the weapon towards Yagan's head. Almost immediately he pulled the trigger and the "Australian Wallace" fell and died. The natives were thrown into momentary consternation at this deed, but soon they began to fix their spears in the throwing-sticks. James saw one called Heegan in the act of throwing. James shot, and Heegan fell. Then looking round he saw Weeip about to throw, and fired at him but missed. The foolish lads now ran away, James dropping his gun. They took different directions; the natives followed William. He was caught on the river's bank, and as James was wading the stream he looked back and saw Weeip and three other natives around William driving their spears into his body. The horrified boy of thirteen years old rushed away to obtain assistance, and the natives, fearing immediate punishment, disappeared in the bush. A party of whites was soon on the scene, and found the hacked corpse of William Keats. About three hundred yards away lay the bodies of Yagan and Heegan. The latter was still alive, but moaning pitifully. There was a gaping wound in his head, from which the brains oozed; one of the party "put him out of his misery." A white settler took the head of Yagan, and flayed that part of his body hearing the wales and scars of his tribe. They were dried and kept for many years as memorials to one of the bravest and most intelligent members of a rapidly disappearing race. Thus ended the story of Yagan. The outlawry of Munday was withdrawn by Government proclamation, and James Keats received the reward, but through the influence of others left the colony in fear of retaliation.
The Gazette of 20th July expressed the opinion that the death of Yagan was caused by "a wild and treacherous act, not the heroic and courageous which some unthinkingly have designated it. The unfortunate youth has suffered for his temerity, and has entailed upon us a stigma which it will be the work of time to eradicate. . . . What a fearful lesson of instruction have we given to the savage! We have taught him by this act to exercise towards us deceit and treachery, which, in him, we have daily reproved; and led him to draw no very favourable conclusions of our moral and physical superiority. We do not remember to have heard of one instance in which the aborigines of this country have abused our confidence when we have encountered them in the bush; we must therefore again deplore an act which it appears to us will annihilate the surest road to perfect amity—mutual confidence. We must remember Yagan was killed after spending the morning in company with the youth who shot him, and when upon the point of taking his frugal repast, a portion of which he would not have withdrawn from the hand that slew him. We are not vindicating the outlaw, but, we maintain, it is revolting to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed. It was a rash and unadvised adventure of youth, which we should regret to see held up by children of larger growth as a laudable example of courage to our rising generation."
The deed became known in the other colonies and in Great Britain, and some hard and unfair things were said of West Australians, which were in no wise true. The Government had acted in a fair and impartial spirit towards the aborigines, and were not to blame for the objectionable method adopted of obtaining their reward. As the result of Midgegooroo's death, two natives, Yellowgonga and Dommero, in August fought a duel for the possession of one of his wives, while Munday took the other. On September, the son, young Midgegooroo, was by the order of the Lieutenant-Governor delivered up to his mother. She received him with the warmest affection, and the whole of the tribe, women and children included, gathered together and "shed tears of joy." There were few depredations for the remainder of 1835. The natives feared the whites for a time, and wanted the vitality of the bold and determined Yagan.
Before passing from the subject of natives, it may be interesting to mention the names awarded by them to different main features of the country then settled by the English in Western Australia. Mr. R. M. Lyon compiled the list and published it in the Perth Gazette in 1833. We first give the English designation:—Fremantle, Walyalup; Point Preston, Niergarup; Point Walter, Dyoondalup; Point Heathcote, Gooleegatup; the eastern shore of Melville Water, Beenabup; flats of the Canning, Wadjup; Kelmscott, Goolamrup; gorge of the Canning, Gargangara; Rocky Bay, Garungup; Black Wall Beach, Jenalup; Fresh Water Bay, Minderup; the rock at the entrance of Fresh Water Bay, Mandyooranup; Point Pelican, Boorianup; Eliza Bay, Godroo; Mount Eliza, Gargatup; Perth, Boorlo; bay opposite Perth, Goboodjoolup; point opposite Mount Eliza, Gareenup; the angle between the two main branches of the river, Boornoolup; Belmont, Goorgyp; the flats, Matta Gerup; Guildford, Mandoon; gorge of the Swan, Wurerup; Monger's Lake, Galup; two hills north of the Sailor's Winding Sheet, Ngangurgup; lake beyond Monger's, Ngoogenboro; Mount Brown, Booyeeanup; Rottnest, Wadjemup; Carnac, Ngoolormayup; Garden Island, Meeandip; St. Ann's Hill, Ngowerup; Mount William, Weebip; Blue Mountains, Moorda; the whole of the country from the Murray to the Gyngoorda, Derbal; the country to the north of Gyngoorda, Knoobar; King George's Sound, Monkbeelven; the Swan River, Derbal Yaragan; Melville Water, Dootanboro; Perth Water, Booneenboro; the north branch of the Swan, Warndoolier; the Helena, Mandoon; Ellen Brook, Gynning; Canning, Dyarlgarro; southern branch of Canning, Booragoon; Murray, Meeton; estuary of Murray, Gilba; King River, Kalgan; the Avon, Gogulger; Lennard's Brook, Boora; Bannister's River, Gyngoorda; a lake to the north, and not far from Gyngoorda, Bookal.
Captain Stirling remained in England throughout 1833, and judging from letters to local people hoped much from his advocacy of their claims at the seat of government, Captain Irwin occupied the position of Lieutenant-Governor until September, when he left for England, and Captain Richard Daniel was sworn into the office in the same month. The people of Western Australia were eagerly looking forward to the return of Stirling, and watched for any news which bore on the results of his embassy. From his letters it was gleaned that His Majesty's Government, although they had established the colony in deference to the wishes of several individuals, were not indisposed to afford it a reasonable and proper degree of protection and countenance. They seemed determined to make the civil establishment more efficient, and to double the military, but not to render them more costly. The burden of supporting these institutions would still be borne by the Crown, but when the growing means of the settlement were sufficient, colonists would be expected to bear the whole charge. It was proposed to found a colonial fund which should meet all expenditure unprovided for by vote of Parliament. The first charge on this fund should be the equipment of mounted police corps for protecting, and at the same time controlling, the aborigines. The membership of the Legislative Council was proposed to be increased by the addition of two or more settlers, and the Emigration Committee promised to lend its assistance to Western Australia when the necessary security was given it. The colony would be periodically visited by the King's ships from India, and by colonial vessels, so that food supplies might be more evenly regulated. The land laws would also be liberalised. Stirling concludes his sketch with the following:—"In making these several concessions, the Government considers it will have accomplished all that the settlers ought to expect. In the advancement of their particular pursuits, in the cultivation of the soil, and in the conversion of its natural resources into a productive state, the colonists could not derive any solid or permanent benefit from the assistance of Government, and in all such matters they must therefore rely upon their own means and industry. They will be protected by a local Government; they will enjoy the benefit of English laws; their interests will be superintended by a legislature composed in part of persons taken from their own body, and with these advantages, if private capital and enterprise cannot accomplish all that remains to be done to render the settlement prosperous, it will not owe its failure to any want of attention to its interests on the part of Government."
The people were greatly pleased with the possibilities thus opened up to them, and important development work was done in consequence. New institutions were inaugurated, more stock was introduced, and an increased area of land was brought into use both for agriculture and stock. Over twenty vessels arrived at the colony in 1833, landing under a hundred persons, and cargo valued at nearly fifty thousand pounds. The population of the colony at the beginning of the year was estimated to be 1,511, exclusive of the military. The first sales of Crown lands took place in 1835, but as the community and outside persons evidently expected that radical alterations would be made in the government of the settlement, they seem to have preferred to wait before making extensive purchases. No sales took place at Perth, but at King George's Sound settlers paid £166 13s. for land, from which they obtained a remission of £40 as provided for under the new regulations.
The interest taken in the Swan River Settlement by Anglo-Indians was practically demonstrated in 1833. Colonel Hanson had been much pleased with his visit to Perth and to King George's Sound, and he proved a very zealous and influential advocate of the suitability of the place as a field for emigration. In 1833 a company was formed at Calcutta to initiate trade relations with Western Australia, and to take up land for settlement purposes. King George's Sound was designed to be the chief centre of the enterprise. The principal promoters of the company were Mr. J. Pattle, of the Civil Service, and Colonel Becher. The barque Mercury was procured to convey the first lead of passengers and stock, and prepared for the pioneer voyage. Among her passengers were Captain C. Cowles, H.C.M., J. Calder (late of the firm of Macintosh and Co.), W. Raynoe, G. Pattle, S. Beadle, jun., T. Nisbitt, S. Austen, and two European officers, one carpenter, and seventy natives of India. These gentlemen were preceding others interested in the adventure, to prepare the way and choose eligible sites for future operations. There were ten overseers and five mechanics connected with each, who, it is said, were sailing under engagement for five years, for the purpose of erecting buildings on the allotments of members of the company. While these improvements were being made, the vessel was to return to India for the families of the settlers. The families intended to permanently reside in the colony, but the gentlemen were to remain during the summer months only. It appears to have been the intention of the company to engage two or three vessels in the trade, so as to have regular communication, and also a vessel for whaling operations.
The Mercury left India in October, and was never again heard of, and as she was an old vessel she was supposed to have foundered at sea. Messrs. J. Pattle and Becher petitioned Sir John Gore, the Admiral of the Indian naval station, for a vessel to search for the Mercury, explaining that she was "provided with an extensive establishment of men and means for the purpose of obtaining land, and of ultimately effecting colonisation at that interesting settlement." They feared that she had been wrecked on the Keeling or Cocos Islands. The Admiral despatched H.M.S. Hyacinth in 1834, but she found no trace of the missing vessel. This loss was a blow to Western Australia, for at that period the presence of so well organised a company would have proved valuable. Subsequent efforts were made by Messrs. Pattle, Becher, and others to establish trade relations between India and Western Australia, and also to form a colonising settlement.
The Legislative Council, during its brief history, had been exceedingly busy, and by this time about a score of Acts were placed on the Statute Book, which generally received the ready assent of His Majesty's Government. They mostly provided for the appointment of officers, or were small measures suitable to the special emergencies of the settlement. Thus every person desiring to leave the colony was required to make application to the Colonial Secretary for permission to do so. This application was then published in the newspaper. The end sought to be obtained was to prevent fraudulent surprises upon creditors, and to enable masters of vessels to know whom they would be safe in receiving. Among the measures placed on the Statute Book in 1833 was a Quarantine Act, and an Act for the Regulation of Weights and Measures.
It was determined by the Government to appoint over each settlement a Government resident, who should supervise the ramifications of his particular district, and act in the capacity of magistrate. On 19th March, 1833, a distinguished officer, in the person of Sir Richard Spencer, R.N., was appointed by the Under Secretary of State, Mr. Hay, Government Resident at King George's Sound, at a salary of £100 per annum. Sir Richard had quite a notable naval career, and being on the retired list was desirous of emigrating with his family to Australia. Trustworthy sources state that as early as 1829 he went to London to purchase a small vessel to convey his family, settlers, and stock to Australia, but a serious illness changed his plans.
On the 13th September, 1833, he landed at Albany from the Buffalo, storeship, to take up his duties, and to branch out in productive efforts. He brought with him some fine merino sheep from the flock of Lord Western, one bull and two heifers of the South Devon breed, one Guernsey cow, two polled Suffolk cows, and one polled Cumberland cow, one horse, several mules and asses, a variety of choice fruit trees, pigs, poultry, and other colonists' complements. His family and those who accompanied him numbered twenty-one persons. Mr. Hillman, the surveyor, Mr. Morley, the Government Storekeeper, and Lieutenant Macleod were the chief officials at Albany at this time. Sir Richard has written that on his arrival at Albany there were only three houses standing besides those in occupation by the military and civil authorities. One house was occupied by Mr. George Cheyne, another by Mr. J. Geake, and the other was tenantless. The population, exclusive of the military, is variously given as seventeen persons and six respectively. One acre of land was under cultivation, and the only stock represented were three horses, three cows, and a few poultry. Sir Richard Spencer is looked upon as the founder of Albany; he took up his residence in the old house on Strawberry Hill, where he soon instituted several improvements, and which he made a centre of attraction for many years. So badly was Albany supplied with provisions that the people often went for months without fresh meat, and the food supplies were even more limited than they had been at Swan River in 1832. Spirits were exceedingly cheap, but famines occurred in food stuffs at Albany for some years. Immediately on his arrival Sir Richard wrote to the Colonial Office on the state of destitution in which he found Albany, but the reply he received was short and unsatisfactory. Sir Richard proceeded to apply his energies not only to improve the condition of those under him, but to lay the foundations of a new system of cultivation. Whalers continued to make spasmodic visits to the Sound. The road from Albany towards Perth was cut for several more miles during this year; the only other item of interest was a visit, on the schooner Ellen, of Lientenant-Governor Irwin and Mr. G. F. Moore. On the 15th February these gentlemen and others proceeded on a tour of inspection to Augusta and King George's Sound. They took with them the natives Maryat and Gallypert, and on the 20th put into King George's Sound. Business matters in connection with the settlement were arranged by the two gentlemen, short excursions were made into the country, and much intercourse was had with the natives. Augusta was visited on the return journey.
About 600 acres were placed under crop in Western Australia in 1838. The return was as promising as could have been desired. The preceding harvest had given what was estimated as six months' consumption, and before this was absorbed several vessels had landed ample provisions both of wheat and salted meat. Governor Arthur, in the middle of the year, sent from Hobart to the colony, 2,000 bushels of wheat per the vessel Jane. This consignment arrived in September, and was returned as not required. The stores at Fremantle and Perth, Governor Arthur was informed, held equal to five months' consumption of wheat, independent of what was in the Government stores, and the approaching harvest was expected to bring in nine months' supplies, if not more. The motive inspiring Governor Arthur was considered a benevolent one, but the local Government believed it would be an injustice to the local farmer did they accept the consignment. Butter decreased in price to 2s. 6d. per lb.; a fore-quarter of mutton was 1s. 6d., a hind-quarter 2s. 6d.; wheat 15s. per bushel, and a 4 lb. loaf of bread 1s. 10d. and 2s.
Several estates were put up for auction early in the year, notably the Cheltenham, comprising 5,300 acres. Of this, fourteen acres were prepared for crops, and twenty acres were cleared of wood. Needless to say this estate was sold at a great loss, as were all the others which were placed on the market about the same time.
The more material progression in 1833 was evidenced in the connecting links which were being established between settlements and the practical educating and contributing influences to production with which the people were surrounding themselves. Roads were being cut between the farms and centres in the Swan River country, and though hardly attractive, they were picturesque, when the isolated settlers' homesteads and their modest evidences of cultivation amid the uncleared appearance of the bush were taken into consideration. The settlers were cutting tracks from their homes into the chief portions of their selections, and also to connect with tracks made by their neighbours. A road had been cut from Fremantle to the Canning, and it was in this year that the first road was made by public subscription to Mount Eliza, upon the banks of the river. Channels were begun over the flats above Perth. It was also deemed advisable by the Government to improve the modest jetty which had been laid down at Fremantle. This jetty, which was situated near the beginning of the present site, was very difficult of access. Boatmen plied from it to the ships, often carried passengers to shore on their backs, and sometimes waded through thirty or forty yards of mud. The Government were considering means by which the structure could be improved. At that time the sea encroached upon large parts of the present location of Fremantle. Buoys and beacons were placed in the Bay, particularly on the Challenger Rock.
Mails were carried between Fremantle and Perth by boats, but in 1833 a runner was engaged, who was expected to carry them from one place to another. Post offices were generally conducted by merchants in their stores. Indignation was freely expressed at the refusal of certain captains of vessels to bring mails to and convey them from the colony. Captain Pratt, of the Eagle, was the worst offender. When, on July 6th, the ship Cape Breton arrived from Cape Town without mails, colonists showed their resentment at the want of consideration evidenced by the shipmasters.
The first printing press was landed in Western Australia late in 1832, and on the 5th January the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Mail saw the light. It was edited and printed by Charles Macfaull, and thenceforth for many years was the all-important medium for the circulation of information. The Government used it as their Gazette, and the matter published was generally well written. A charge of one shilling was made for each number.
There was still considerable discussion as to the establishment of a Bank, and the Gazette was an earnest advocate of it. An excerpt taken from its number of March 23, where it describes the condition of affairs in 1839, and the necessity existing for the formation of such an institution, states that "owing to the absence of a loan bank or some available medium of accommodation, our progress as a community has of late been considerably retarded, and the consequences are now felt by every branch of our commercial as well as agricultural community....... It is a grievous hardship that a person possessed of property, far beyond the amount of any outstanding claims, and with good efficient bills in his box, cannot obtain a discount of £500. The capital of the agriculturalist is locked up, in most instances, in his farm and stock, which are daily increasing in value, but from a want of the assistance we have alluded to, he is precluded from extending his exertions, and compelled to resort to the market with one portion of his rapidly accumulating stock in order to procure the means of supporting the other. This we fear is too generally the case. We therefore strongly press the subject on the attention of our readers, in order that we may not, from supineness or neglect, submit to a difficulty from which we should find it would require greater ingenuity to extricate ourselves than to devise an antidote. The mortgage system, at the colonial rate of 20 to 25 per cent., carries inevitable ruin with it......"
This question was discussed privately, and at the meetings of the Agricultural Society it was determined, if possible, to form an institution which was designed to supply some portion of the benefits of a bank, while not offering relief in the way of money. In September, the rules and regulations of the Swan River Barter Society were drawn up, by which each member agreed to take the notes of any other member in lieu of cash, provided they were presented according to forms which were supplied. The form of note to be used by the agriculturist was:
I promise to pay the bearer on demand on the first Friday in March, June, September, or January, the sum of One Pound Sterling in cash (colonial produce or stock), at 5% below the then market prices.
The form for merchants was:
I promise to pay the bearer on the first Friday in March, June, September, or January, the sum of One Pound Sterling in cash or in stores at 5% below the then market rates.
The person tendering the note for payment to any agriculturalist was to have the right of property of the kinds mentioned which the drawer might have to dispose of, but he was not obliged to take hay, raw, or green crops, excepting potatoes, and on the other hand the agriculturist was not to be compelled to take from the merchant any articles but those in general consumption. Members of this society living upon the Avon would have to deliver their produce at Guildford. At each meeting of the society a committee was to be elected to take cognisance of any breach of the rules, with the power to strike the name of any offender off the list of the members of the society. The institution was to be related to the Agricultural Society, and any dispute arising as to prices was to be referred to that body. The number of notes issued by each member was to be limited to fifty, and a defaulter would immediately be excluded from the privileges of the society.
This project, although not fully realised, initiated the system of barter, which became so general throughout Western Australia in after years. Exchange or barter was carried on to the mutual satisfaction of private individuals. Vegetables were exchanged for stock or clothes according to the special conditions of the persons interested. The Barter Society was warranted to afford some relief in the internal trade of Western Australia, but could not claim nor seek to alleviate the great difficulties which confronted settlers in their want of capital to purchase stock, &c. Some encouragement was given to the proposed institution by leading people, although its rules and regulations were so awkward as not to be easily applied. It was esteemed difficult to ascertain the actual circumstances of any man, and the necessity of making distinctions between men of real property and those of straw was calculated to encourage jealousies and mortifications.
In 1833 the system of parcelling out allotments of land to labourers was initiated. A settler on the Swan, near Guildford, subdivided some of his grant to labourers in lots amounting to from 20 to 100 acres. The labourer thus had his plot of ground which he could till or use for gardening purposes; in the slack months he could go out to work for others. It was an excellent departure, but not a great success. Not only was a district expected to be supplied with a fairly regular labour market, but it was warranted to give the poorer people an opportunity to lay the foundations of a certain livelihood. There was still much ill-feeling between the servants and their masters. Many of the employers were hardly suitable for their position, and could not command a number of men with any degree of dignity. A proportion of the servants had become unconscionably precise in their appetites, and objected to food and drinks when they were not justified in doing so. They demanded to be supplied with rations which they could never expect in the old country, and when tea was at a high price, and the employer desired to give them cocoa in lieu of their allowance of the general beverage, they murmured and clamoured so loudly that tea had to be brought at enormous prices to satisfy them, even when the master could not afford it for himself. Their propensities for strong drink in no way diminished. There was much talk at this time on the question of emigration, for the settlers needed reliable servants and increased power to develop their holdings. But through the misrepresentations which had been going on for years, the colony was viewed askance by people in Great Britain who were in a position to migrate, and they believed that other colonies offered better inducements to them.
It would be thought that the peculiarities of life in a new country would have dispersed many of the traditions of character which clung to the mother-land. But in one regard at least settlers, according to an early writer, retained up till now all their old manners, habits, and prejudices. As instances of the popularity of litigation, Mr. Moore had on 5th February no fewer than fifty cases before him; on the 13th March, forty-two; and in the first week of May, forty-nine. The unsatisfactory condition of the community probably precipitated litigation, and caused an irritability of nature which led towards the same end. Moore sat in the Civil Court twice a week, and his cases sometimes lasted the week through. All day long his mind was concentrated on the fine legal points which were laid before him, and we learn that at night, so rough was his life, he slept on a brick floor with a carpet bag for a pillow. The judge was not surrounded with that opulence which is usually associated with the position, and when the court rose he went home and worked on his farm cutting wood, sinking wells, digging potatoes, minding his stock, or carrying produce to market. He did this not for relaxation, but in obedience to the necessities of an enterprising agriculturist. One feature, however, showed that there were difference already apparent in the character of the colonists, for it was a considerable period before any person could be got to act as a sheriff.
Even the insensate practice of duelling was brought to Australia, and there was more than one instance of duelling in the colony in the early days. One of these took place between two men of some importance at Fremantle. As no harm was done it caused only amusement.
There were numerous distressing cases of fire in 1833. One in February presented to the settlers at Swan River a magnificent scene. It was started by the carelessness of natives while cooking their food. The flames seized upon the dry vegetation round their camp, and rushed over surrounding country, particularly around the banks of Melville Water. Some damage was suffered by neighbouring settlers, and herbage was destroyed. In March fires destroyed hay near Perth, and a bungalow was razed to the ground, causing a loss of about £700. People turned out in large numbers to help to extinguish the conflagration. They were warned by the loud sounding of a bugle throughout the streets of Perth. Other fires took place in different parts of the settlement.
Pastoralists near the Darling Ranges and those beyond them on the Avon suffered the loss of numerous sheep in this year. A strange fatality seemed to have found its way into the flocks, and none could divine the explanation. There was consternation among the settlers. Some considered that the herbage contained a poisonous plant, while others scouted the idea. Mr. J. Harris, who possessed some experience of sheep, was asked by the Government to compile a report on the matter. He did so, and his conclusions were published in the Perth Gazette on the 1st December. In the light of subsequent developments his report has some interest. "What I say," he writes, "I hope will remove the serious apprehension entertained that the natural grasses of this country contain some herb or shrub obnoxious to animal life. . . . I have come to the conclusion that the animals did not die of poison, there being no indications of the kind." He considered the disease was that which Clayter called "zesh," or blood striking—a malady well known and successfully treated in Europe—and occasioned by the animals eating large quantities of young grass. He advised blood-letting and saline purgating with stimulants, as the cure, but, though settlers followed his advice, it did not afford relief, and fatal trips continued to be announced till the end of the year.
The pioneer horse race meeting was held in the colony on the 2nd October. The captain of a trading vessel imported several Timor ponies, and he, with Messrs. J. Gaevell and C. Smith, was the moving spirit in arranging for the gathering. The race took place near the beach at Fremantle, and was attended by numbers of enthusiastic sportsmen, who were pleased at the planting on Australian shores of the fine old English sport.
The exploit of two fishermen caused some excitement in August, and led the minds of Swan River people to dwell upon the subject of forming a whaling company. These men, Messrs. Keats and Cockroll, while between Carnac and Garden Islands observed three whales a short distance from them. Although totally unprepared, they had the temerity to venture in pursuit, in the face of a strong southwest gale, and succeeded in capturing a five weeks' old calf.