Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/363
REPORT BY G. S. FORT.
lessly ignoring of tribal feuds and warfare, (b) Those who fell as victims to native superstitious ideas, and the demand for vengeance which the evils of the labour traffic had aroused, vide Frier and Miller’s case.
(2.) That in every case, therefore, there was either direct or indirect aggressive provocation on the part of the whites against the blacks.
(3.) That, in the majority of cases, there was reckless disregard on the part of the murdered of warnings given. Frier refused to believe the native boy who told him the natives had determined to kill him. Miller had been warned by Captain Bridge of H.M.S. "Espiègle," and by Mr. Chalmers, not to go to Normanby Island.
So many and so various are the difficulties connected with the question of punishment, that to administer justice according to European notions for these outrages is impossible. A murder is committed, and a man-of-war proceeds to the spot. She finds that every person in the village has left, taking everything with them; by waiting a day or so, some of the men will return. They will not, however, fight—at the first sign of hostility they flee into the jungle, where to pursue them would be fatal, as for every native caught, ten white men might be speared. Should, however, the natives remain and consent to give evidence, such evidence is wholly unreliable, partly from the difficulty of interpretation and explanation, and partly also from the readiness with which, when they do understand, they will endeavour to adapt their statements to the leading idea or apparent wish of the questioner. Then, again, the native custom with regard to payment for murder, and their low estimate of human life, forms another difficulty. In the case of Miller, one of the murderers came off to the ship voluntarily, bringing his payment or wergild for the murder he had committed. He was detained on board, but to have punished him with death, in the face of his having voluntarily paid what, according to his standard of justice, was a full penalty for his deed, would have been revenge and not justice.
As a result of the experience gained by Sir Peter Scratchley during these investigations, the following conclusions wore arrived at:—
(1.) That the Government cannot be responsible for the protection of irresponsible traders, who cruise from place to place in vessels insufficiently manned, whose defenceless position, and the possession of trade which they injudiciously expose, are almost invariably a source of incitement to the natives to attack them.
(2.) That men-of-war vessels are not suited for the purpose of administer-