Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Sunday, 17th September, 1837

After last week I was very worried to hear that Fisher has declared that he has found the solution to what he says is "the greatest problem that the colony faces at present".

Since it is pretty clear that Fisher thinks the greatest problem faced by the colony is me it is understandable that I was, to say the least of it, concerned at what he meant.

But it seems that Fisher actually means that the great problem faced by the colony is the lack of horses. Naturally this comes as a relief to me and he does have a point. My arm is still sore after I fell off that damned donkey and a few more decent horses about the place would be most welcome. And anyone who has pushed a handcart up from Holdfast Bay would hardly argue that more horses is a bad idea.

But of course FIsher cannot allow himself to do something without doing it to excess (For proof try and count the number of his children) and plans to solve the issue in one fell swoop by chartering a ship from McLaren and the Company and have it sail to Timor where he will fill it with as many Timor Ponies as he can cram on board and bring them back to the colony.

A Timor Pony

It seems to me to be one of those plans that appears well on paper, but is attended by such a multitude of impracticalities that in reality it cannot succeed. To begin with, it is all very well saying with insouciance "I'll charter a ship from the company", but the company is not so flush with ships that it can afford to lose one for six months or so while Mr Fisher uses it to go shopping. And where is the money for all this coming from? And how is he planning to ensure the safe and healthy passage of dozens of ponies? 

No, the whole thing seems like a joke to me, but Fisher will not be told.

Surely there are horses to be had more easily in Van Dieman's Land? Why not bring in a few mares and a stud horse and breed ourselves some horses. It might be a slower process than playing Noah's Ark in Timor, but given Fisher's green thumb when it comes to breeding (Once again, for proof try and count the number of his children. If not his thumb then some part of him is green.) we would have horses enough in a few years. 

But not content with being half man half rabbit, Fisher now seems to have notions of being a sort of Easter Hare and appear with gifts for all.

I am delighted to say that Brown has been removed from his office as Emmigration Agent and good riddance to him. Bingham Hutchinson, the alpine explorer, has accepted my suggestion that he take up the position, so I believe that I can rule a line under that trying episode in Council.

Jeffcott has headed over to Hobart Town to sort out some private affairs, leaving the various magistrates to deal with any legal matters in his absence. Since most of the magistrates have less legal knowledge than Widow Harvey's backside they are ill equipped to deal with the case that will soon come before them.

It is alleged that at Encounter Bay a Native, known to the locals as "Black Alick" (though his real name seems to be something like "Repping Jerry") has killed one of the whalers at the station there.

The Whaling Station

Now I have met a few whalers in my time and "scum of the earth" does not begin to describe them. Indeed, I believe that the scum of the earth have let it be known that they wish to disassociate themselves from whalers for fear of the damage such association might make to the scum of the earth's reputation.

So by causing the world to have one less whaler in it, Black Alick could be said to have done a public service. Certainly I do not doubt that if he killed the man then it was not without provocation and the whaler was as much to blame as the native. 

Since the natives seem to make a practice of swift and certain retribution amongst their own when a life has been taken, I suspect that if the dead whaler's companions had biffed Black Alick on the noggin with an axe handle on discovering his guilt then his relatives would have considered it quite in the way of business and thought no more of it. 

But oh no! For once in their lawless lives they decided to "do the right thing", lay charges and have him arrested. 

God damn them and their rum pickled, pox ridden souls! From whence comes this mania for doing the right thing amongst men who wouldn't know a moral scruple if it bit them on the arse?

Where the hell do you keep a prisoner at Encounter Bay? The answer, of course, is "nowhere" and so the man was put on board ship and taken to Kingscote. God knows what the poor chap felt - having probably never been further than a few miles from where he was born and having done nothing wrong, at least, nothing wrong by his native ways - to be bound hand and foot and hauled off by strangers to Heaven only knows where.

In fact, he made his feelings pretty clear by breaking his bonds three times and trying to escape at every opportunity.

Of course there is nowhere to keep a prisoner - particularly one who does not want to be kept - at Kingscote either, so McLaren declared that he would be kept on board ship.   But even here he remained difficult and tried to escape several times.

McLaren devised a scheme for keeping Black Alick restrained. He found a large barrel, placed the native inside, put on the lid and kept him in there, passing food in through the bung hole.

I doubt that I am alone in finding this a less than completely humane solution to the problem that Black Alick presented. Add to that the bill McLaren has presented to the Council for 20 shillings a week for the care he is providing to the prisoner and I find it all more than a little over the fence.

But these are just minor problems compared to the legal challenges that the native presents. We have declared that the natives are British Citizens and are entitled to the protection of British Justice. I stood under a gum tree nine months ago and proclaimed just that to all and sundry. So, since he was arrested, Black Alick is entitled to a fair British trial. And there is the problem.

If we're going to try him the he needs to swear the Oath "so help me God".  How do we get him to do that when we aren't even sure if the natives have a God of their own, let alone know about the Saviour. Only the other week old Charlie Howard was happily preaching (at length) to us that the natives live in the darkness of ignorance about God and his scriptures. So do we seriously expect Black Alick to put his hand on the Bible he knows nothing about and swear an oath to a God he is ignorant of that he will tell the truth? It is not going to stand in a court of law I fear.

Even greater is the problem that the fair British trial Alick is entitled to requires him to say his evidence and then be questioned on it and defend himself.

Need I add that since Black Alick understands not a word of English this sems impossible to achieve? 

And a fair British trial requires the evidence of sworn witnesses. When I say that the only two witnesses to the alleged murder are two native women who also speak no English then the problems of giving our barrel dwelling native the fair British trial he is entitled to seem insurmountable.

Let us hope that Jeffcott has some ideas when he returns or else Black Alick may be spending much time in his barrel.

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