Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/327

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and had done them the still deadlier wrong of familiarising them with the worst vices of civilisation. They were indiscriminately shot down on the slightest provocation, and often without any provocation at all. The loss of a white man's sheep or bullock was deemed sufficient justification for murdering in cold blood every black that could be found for miles around. Mr. Plunkett resolved on exercising his authority to check this wholesale destruction of human life, and, by a salutary lesson, to teach all inhuman white scoundrels that the blacks, equally with themselves, were under the protection of the law. An outrage of more than ordinary atrocity soon gave him the opportunity of enforcing this much-needed lesson. A party of ten Europeans, hearing that a number of aborigines were encamped in their neighbourhood, sallied forth with loaded guns to have what they called a "little sport." Stealing on the unsuspecting savages, they opened fire and shot down thirty of the hapless creatures, men, women, and children being included in this frightful and unprovoked massacre. The "sportsmen" returned to their homes well pleased with the success that had attended their shooting excursion. So blunted was their moral sense, that the thought that they had committed a great crime would probably be the last to enter their minds. Hundreds of blacks had been murdered in a similar manner, and the law had called no white man to account. So what reason had they to fear punishment for what they had done? But in this anticipation they were wofully mistaken. The ugly facts somehow leaked out and reached the ears of Mr. Plunkett, whose indignation was fired by the recital. He there and then determined that these horrible offenders should not go unpunished. Setting to work immediately, in spite of the formidable obstacles that were thrown in his