Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/49

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21
THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE.

Phillip indeed did his best to conciliate them; and though, until Macquarie came, his successors showed little interest in their condition, peaceful relations were customary. In law the native could claim equal protection with the white man, but this equality was difficult to enforce even in the Courts. Amongst the out-lying population, when a black man stole the corn or fruit of a settler, it was often impossible to prevent the injured party from wreaking summary vengeance upon a whole tribe, and that brought in its turn indiscriminate reprisals. The Governors attempted, with varying success, to put an end to all private punitive expeditions, and to secure that black and white should both be brought to justice. The worst offenders against the natives were the escaped convicts who sometimes led precarious lives in the forests.[1] On the whole the blacks suffered little. Missionary efforts were made to teach them Christianity, husbandry and the advantage of clothes and regular food. They learnt very little, and though some of them hung about the settlement, the greater number continued to wander through the forests where each tribe kept within its roughly marked boundaries, and where, save for occasional depredations on lonely farms, they interfered little with the colonists.

Such were the people and such their ways of living when Macquarie started on his difficult task of restoring peace and establishing good government after the long distractions which had led up to and followed the deposition of his predecessor, Captain William Bligh.

  1. See notes of a conversation with Rev. S. Marsden in a volume of Essays Geographical, Commercial and Philosophical, published anonymously in 1812. Royal Colonial Institute.