Page:Australian aborigines 1838.djvu/5

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Copies of Extracts of DESPATCHES relative to the massacre of various Aborigines in Australia, in the year 1838, and respecting the Trial of their Murderers.

No. 1.

—No. 1.—

(No. 353.)

Extract of a DESPATCH from Lord Glenelg to Governor Sir R. Bourke, dated Downing-street, 26th July 1837.

Lord Glenelg to Sir R. Bourke, 26 July 1837.It, is happily superfluous for me to impress upon you the general principles to be observed in your conduct towards the aborigines.

I shall soon be enabled to transmit to you the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on this subject, made before the close of the present Session; and I have reason to believe that you will there find the result of much diligent inquiry and reflection. For the present, therefore, I confine myself to remarks, which may perhaps appear to proceed on a less comprehensive view of the subject, than under other circumstances I should have thought it right at least to attempt.

Your commission as Governor of New South Wales asserts Her Majesty's sovereignty over every part of the continent of New Holland which is not embraced in the colonies of Western or Southern Australia. Hence I conceive it follows that all the natives inhabiting those territories must be considered as subjects of the Queen, and as within Her Majesty's allegiance. To regard them as aliens, with whom a war can exist, and against whom Her Majesty s troops may exercise belligerent rights, is to deny that protection to which they derive the highest possible claim from the sovereignty which has been assumed over the whole of their ancient Possessions.

I am well aware that in extreme exigencies, public officers are not to be governed altogether by ordinary rules: at the same time, it appears to me necessary that those rules should be steadily borne in mind in estimating the apology made for an occasional departure from them.

If the rights of the aborigines as British subjects be fully acknowledged, it will follow that when any of them comes to his death by the hands of the Queen's officers, or of persons acting under their command, an inquest should be held, to ascertain the causes which led to the death of the deceased. Such a proceeding is important, not only as a direct protection to society at large against lawless outrage, but as it impresses on the public a just estimate of the value of human life.