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2-195 (Text)

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author,male,Gipps, George,47 addressee,male
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Ward, 1969
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Sir George Gipps to Lord Glenelg
Government House,
19 Decr. 1838.
In my Despatch of July 21 last, No. 115, I brought under your Lordship's notice a long list of atrocities, committed both by and on the Aborigines of this Country; and I then stated that I had despatched a party of Mounted Police in search of some white men, who were supposed to have put to death in cold blood not less than twenty-two helpless and unoffending Blacks; it is now my painful duty to inform your Lordship that seven of the perpetrators of this atrocious deed, having been convicted on the clearest evidence, suffered yesterday morning the extreme penalty which the law awards for the crime of murder.
The Act, for which these men have paid the forfeit of their lives, took place on the evening of Sunday, June 10 last, at or near a Cattle station, belonging to a person of the name of Henry Dangar, distant perhaps 350 miles from Sydney in a direction due North, on the banks of the Myall Creek. This Creek is a branch of the Big River, which is supposed to fall into the sea at Shoal Bay, in about Lat. 29 d. S.; but your Lordship is aware that this part of the Country is so little known, that it is impossible to fix the spot with any degree of precision. On the banks of the Big River, there are several Cattle stations besides that of Mr Dangar; and it appeared on the trial that, for some weeks previous to June 10, not less than fifty Blacks of all ages and sexes had been living at these different stations (but mostly at Mr Dangar's) in perfect tranquillity, neither molesting the Whites nor being themselves molested by them. In consequence of some old quarrels, however, or possibly from accounts having reached the place of occurrences in other quarters, a determination seems to have been formed by the white men to put the whole of the Blacks to death. On the afternoon of Sunday, June 10, a number of them suddenly surrounded the place, where more than thirty of the Blacks were assembled; they tied them all to a rope in the way the Convicts are sometimes tied, in order to be taken from place to place in the Colony, marched them to a convenient spot about a quarter mile off, and put them all, with the exception of one woman and four or five children, deliberately to death. The following day, Monday, June 11, the same white men scoured the Country on horseback, endeavouring to find ten or twelve of the Blacks, who, having left Dangar's station on the morning of the 10th. had escaped the massacre. These ten or twelve persons have never been seen or heard of since, and it is doubtful to this day whether they were not overtaken and murdered also.
The first account of these deeds of blood reached Sydney about the end of the month of June. I despatched, with as little delay as possible, a Stipendiary Magistrate (Mr Day), on whose activity and discretion I could rely, and a party of Mounted Police, in search of the Murderers; and Mr Day, after an absence of 53 days, reported to me in person that, having come unexpectedly to the Cattle station of Mr Dangar, he had succeeded in capturing no less than eleven out of the twelve persons, who were known to have taken part in the massacre.  When Mr Day arrived as the spot, some few scattered human bones only were visible, great pains having been taken to destroy the whole remains of the slaughtered Blacks by fire; but undeniable evidence was procured of more than twenty human heads having been counted on the spot within a few days after the day of the massacre; and the best accounts lead me to suppose that the number of persons murdered of all ages and both sexes was not less than 28.
The eleven persons apprehended by Mr Day, all arrived in this Country as Convicts, though, of some of them, the sentences have expired. The twelfth man or the one who has escaped is a free man, a native of the Colony, named John Fleming.
The eleven men were all brought to trial on November 15 on an information lodged against them by the Attorney General containing nine Counts. The first four County charged them in various ways with the murder of an Aboriginal Black named Daddy, the only adult male who could be identified as one of the murdered party; the five other Counts charged them (also in various ways) with the murder of an Aboriginal male Black, name unknown. The Jury on this occasion acquitted the whole of the Prisoners.
The Attorney General immediately applied to have them detained on the further charge of murdering the women and children, none of whom had been comprehended in the first Indictment; and, this being done, seven of these men on the 27th of the same month (November) were again brought before the Supreme Court on the charge of murdering a child.  On this occasion, the first five Counts charged them simply with the murder of an Aboriginal Black Child; other Counts described the Aboriginal Child by the name of, Charley. The Attorney General laid this information only against seven of the Prisoners, instead of the whole eleven, in order that they might have the opportunity of calling the other four, if they chose to do so, as witnesses in their favor, but which they did not do.  The seven men were on Novr. 29. put on their trial for the murder of the child, and found Guilty on the first five Counts, which described the Child merely as a Black Aboriginal; but were acquitted upon the Counts, which charged them with the murder of a Child named Charley, sufficient proof of the name of the child not being adduced.
The Report of the Judge (Mr Justice Burton), who presided at she trial, was received by myself and the Executive Council on Friday, the 7th instt, when, no mitigating circumstances appearing in favor of any of them, and nothing to shew that any one of them was less guilty than the rest, the Council unanimously advised that the sentence of the law should take effect on them; they were accordingly ordered by me for Execution, and suffered yesterday morning at 9 o'clock.
It will be satisfactory to your Lordship to hear, that the smallest doubt does not exist of the guilt of the men who have been executed, or of their all having been actively engaged in the massacre. The whole eleven would indeed, I have reason to believe, have pleaded guilty at the first trial, if not otherwise advised by their Counsel. After condemnation, none of the seven attempted to deny their crime, though they all stated that they thought it extremely hard that white men should be put to death for killing Blacks. Until after their first trial, they never, I believe, thought that their lives were even in jeopardy.