An Address to the Settlers in Western Australia, delivered at Guildford, June 7, 1833, at a meeting of the Magistrates, Gentlemen, and Yeomen of the Colony, convened on an occasion of great excitement, when the Aboriginal inhabitants were threatened with a war of extermination.
Gentlemen,—Again the war shout echoes from hill to hill—again our ears are assailed by the din of hostile movements throughout the settlement; while the blood of the natives wantonly shed, rouses them to vengeance dire and implacable.
Many of you have hitherto acted with a forbearance which, though politic in itself, was not the less honorable to your own feelings. I quite agree with you too upon another point, that half, or rather opposite measures, such as he Government have hitherto pursued, are to be deprecated. A wavering, uncertain policy is the worst that can be adopted towards a strange people, whether savage or civilized. But before ye suffer yourselves to be hurried away by the fury which seems now to possess the minds of so many, permit me for a moment, as the friend of this unfortunate race, to remonstrate with you.
Are the Aboriginal inhabitants British subjects, or are they not? I pass by the awkward question, whether ye have any right to treat them as such, without their own consent—if they are, they are entitled to the protection of the British Government; and consequently when accused of wrong, have a right to be tried by the laws of the country which has proclaimed them members of its commonwealth. If they cannot avail themselves of the privileges thus conferred on them, because they know not the language of their dictators, the fault is yours. Can they acquire the language of a strange people intuitively? And if they cannot, are they to be shot, merely because they cannot speak English? If ye usurp the dominion over them and deprive them of their independence, it is but a small part of your duty to inform them of the reverse of fortune which has befallen them, and the laws by which they are henceforth to be governed. Ye have taken possession of their lands; and, having thus robbed them of their patrimonial inheritance, ye mock them with the title of British subjects; but unless ye also possess yourselves of their language, the proper and only rational medium of communicating with any people, ye may as well call the kangaroos of the forest British subjects, as the native tribes. Without a knowledge of their language, it will be as easily to govern the one as the other.