Sunday, 27 March 2016

Sunday, 13th August, 1837

Miss Gandy's suggestion regarding the giving of land to the natives has gone exactly where I suspected it would. Which is to say: "no-where". It seems that the idea of giving a large tract of land to the natives - and by "giving" you may be assured that I mean "not taking" - is not to the taste of the Council.

Instead they have decided to leave a few acres of land by the Torrens and designate it as "The Native Area". Here they may congregate and do what they please so long as they stay out of sight and out of mind. And you may be also assured that in choosing The Native Area the Council made damned sure that the land would be of no possible use to anyone else. Well, anyone on the Council at least.

I cannot help but feel that for the Natives, who have roamed these plains for longer than even they seem to know, setting fire to it willy nilly and hunting the wild beasts without encumbrance, to be suddenly told that, out of the goodness of our hearts and the generousity of our spirits, we have seen fit to set aside a patch of land the size of a cricket pitch that no-one else wants - unless of course someone forms a cricket club -and that they can have it for their very selves does not reflect well on us. 

Of course the Council has adopted as a motto in native affairs the maxim "Fair exchange is no robbery" and state that whilst the natives may have lost some land they will, in exchange, receive the benefits of British Culture and Law and, as a bonus, have their everlasting souls brought into the tender care of our English Church.

And not for the first time I look about the Council at the specimens of British Culture there assembled and feel that the Natives are getting the worst of it. And the thought of handing anyone into the soporific mercies of the Rev. Howard fills me with horror.

No, the natives are getting the rough end of the pine-apple and no mistake. And sad to say, even though I am charged by the King himself to do nothing that might affect the rights of the Natives to the actual occupation of any Lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such Natives, (you see, I have the words by heart) the sad fact is that the King is in London and the Council is in the room next door. And so I believe it will turn out that the natives will indeed get the rough end of the pine-apple and, what's more, be expected to smile, bend over and say "thank you" whilst it is being inserted.

The real difficulty lies in the mysteries of the ways of the natives. When Cook or Bligh (par exemplum) arrived in Tonga they found farms and villages and priests and Kings and even warships like their own. The place was like England with coconuts. As a result old Cook knew who to deal with, where to go and what to say.

But the natives we are dealing with are quite otherwise. They want nothing, since everything they need is all around in abundance, we have found no farms, no buildings, no priests, no... well, in truth... no anything! And I, apparently, am required to treat with them, deal fairly with them, compensate them and if anyone can tell me how the hell I am meant to do such then I will sit at their feet and partake of their wisdom.

Last week the weather was wet and cold and I saw a native woman dressed in a fur cloak that would, in the fashionable stores in London, sell for many pounds. When people such as these can be supplied by the countryside with items that would be the envy of the wealthiest in England how am I meant to deal with them? Offer them money? 

I have had that performing monkey Hack in here complaining of the natives. He had built a fence on his North Terrace house out of sticks and branches in rustic manner, when a group of native men who had speared a kangaroo came up from the river. Having no knowledge of what a fence might be they simply saw that someone had kindly collected some wood and used a portion of it to build a fire so that they might cook their dinner.

Hack of course is beside himself about the "wanton vandalism"  of the natives tearing down his fence. I pointed out that the natives did offer him a share of the kangaroo meat and that "Fair exchange is no robbery", but he seemed unconvinced. And besides, surely the one thing we have an abundance of in this colony and enough of to share around is sticks.

But there lies the problem. Since the natives have an abundance laying all around them then everything is free for everyone.And the Council is made up of men of business who can't look at a thing without asking the price.
A month or two ago I appointed poor, dear Walter Bromley as "Protector of Aborigines". As kind a man as ever trod the Earth, Bromley's health has meant that he has tendered his resignation from the position. But I have found a useful successor in William Wyatt, a ship's surgeon, a man of some good sense and a dab hand with a bone saw, it being said of him that he can have your leg off so fast you barely realise until you fall over.

I have written to him publicly with instructions, but have also had a private conversation with him in which I made it clear that the Aborigines only need protecting because we have arrived. In effect, he is being employed by us to protect them from us..As clear a sign as is possible that even we don't think we can be trusted.

I suffered an accident this week as a result of Mrs Hindmarsh's "dear little donkeys" - dear little donkeys that may well find themselves being served up as dog food before too long.

I was riding one through the town on Friday - and I am well aware that the sight of me bumping along on a donkey like a village yokel ill becomes the Vice Regal office - and had got up a  bit of speed, when suddenly the donkey saw a blade of grass or a twig that gave it offence and stopped dead in its tracks. I, naturally, did not stop and went arse over tit right over the beast's head, landing heavily on my left arm.

I do not know if I have jarred it or broken something or sprained something, but it is as sore as the devil and I have difficulty raising my arm to any degree.

Mrs Hindmarsh - perhaps out of guilt at the fact that it is her damned donkey that brought me to this pass - has shown great concern and has been trying to get me to see the Colonial Surgeon. But the thought of seeing Tom Cotter, who will, no doubt, try and treat my arm by giving me senna syrup and telling me to "Move your bowels" does not fill me with confidence. I think that I might just strap it and wait for time to heal all wounds.

With my bad eye and now my injured arm Mrs Hindmarsh has taken to calling me "her little Horatio Nelson". She shows signs of becoming flirty, which only adds to my distress.  

It has come to my attention that Robert Lee has established a "wine and coffee pavilion" in Currie Street. And although that may sound like the pleasure gardens of Vauxhall have come to the colony, in truth the "pavilion" is a wooden hut with a dirt floor, the wine tastes like vinegar and the coffee could double as tar. The place also offers breakfasts and dinners. I have not chanced my arm with these. Whilst they cannot possibly be worse than what I am served at home, I'm not certain that they will be much better.

Still, the place has become popular with the young and it seems that lolling about, sipping strong coffee and nibbling on biscuits whilst discussing politics and society is the thing to do. A passing fad I am sure.

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