I am of the opinion that these General Orders130 expelling Aboriginal people from the farms were possibly more significant in breaking Aboriginal resistance than the related military operations. It is my contention that by 1805 killings, disease and the taking, destabilisation and transformation of traditional food sources had resulted in the increasing dependence of Aboriginal people upon the farms for their survival. Consideration has to be given to the possibility that it was the killing of two of Macarthur’s stockmen that may have precipitated the General Orders, dated 28th April, 1805:-
Whereas the Natives in different parts of the Out-Settlements have in an unprovoked and inexcusable manner lately committed the most brutal Murder on some defenceless Settlers whose hospitality appears to have drawn upon them the most barbarous treatment, and there being but little hopes of the Murderers being given up to Justice, the Governor has judged it necessary, for the preservation of the lives and properties of the Out-Settlers and Stockmen, to distribute Detachments from the New South Wales Corps among the Out-Settlements for their protection against those uncivilised Insurgents, but , as those measures alone will only be a present check, it is hereby required and ordered that no Natives be suffered to approach the Grounds or Dwellings of any Settler until the Murderers are given up; and that this Order may be carried into full effect, the Settlers are required to assist each other in repelling those Visits; and if any Settler, contrary to the purport and intent of this Order, harbours any Natives, he will be prosecuted for the breach of a Public Order intended for the Security of the Settlers.
By Command of His Excellency,
G. Blaxcell, Acting Sec.
Government House, Sydney.
April 27, 1805’131
Sunday, 28th April, 1805
The following account, while principally about an attack upon one of Macarthur’s farms between Prospect Hill and the Cowpastures, is important because it strongly points to an alliance that stretched from Pitt Water to the Burragorang Valley. The fact that many of the warriors spoke English suggests that some at least of the warriors from the mountains came from the Hawkesbury where Aboriginal people were in frequent contact with settlers.
The account is also significant in that it contradicts Tench’s opinion that Aboriginal people were unfamiliar with irregular warfare.
The use of terms such as “assassination”, “sanguinary” and “diabolical” indicates that the author had lost none of his skill in typecasting Aboriginal people. The introduction of “diabolical” reflects the increasing evangelical tone of the times.
‘In addition to the inhumanities mentioned last week to have been wantonly practised by the natives, we have unfortunately to add the assassination of two stockmen on Captain M'Arthur's farm between Prospect Hill and the cow-pasture Plains, on Wednesday last. They are supposed to be recruited since by a number that have joined from the interior of the mountains, as many strangers are seen among them, whose number, in addition to their own, is estimated at between three and four hundred. They were traced during the late heavy weather by a small party of settlers, armed, some of whom had been recently plundered; and were come up with, but on opposite sides of the creek,132 the increased rapidity of the current preventing any nearer approach. Not designing any personal violence to the aggressors, detestible as the outrages committed by some of them had been, the settlers commenced a parley, in which many of the natives who spoke English tolerably, readily engaged; and when their object for the renewal of excesses was demanded, they avowed, in general, a determination to take advantage of every opportunity to execute their sanguinary purposes, but without assigning: any motive whatsoever. It can be no longer necessary to point out the impropriety of encouraging any of these people about the out farms at the present crisis, as the experience of former years has too well convinced us of their perfidy, as well as of their being with little exception actuated by the same diabolical spirit, which in a single instance no sooner manifests itself, than spreading like wildfire, their operations are somewhat systematic, and assume the appearance of a pre-concerted plan. Notwithstanding all that has been done, however, we are confidently assured that the measures adopted against them have as yet had no other object than to repel them by intimidation; but in this particular the bare appearance of fire arms has lost much of its .efficacy; so that it is to be apprehended, that before the flame can be extinguished, severity will he found necessary, though reluctantly resorted to. We are happy to relate, that the two men employed as salt boilers by Mr. A. Thompson at Broken Bay were not, as conjectured, so unfortunate as to become the victims of native barbarity, though they narrowly escaped their fury. These men were conducted in from Pittwater by two friendly natives, joined in their route by four others, who appeared equally anxious in. their preservation. They had been attacked by a body, one of whom, a very old man, had discharged a spear but was afterwards induced to desist from an unprovoked assassination by humiliating intreaty, and a willingness to acquiesce in whatever mould be insisted on: their cloathing and provision fortunately purchased their respite from a fate that appeared inevitable; and naked being permitted to depart they knew not whither, were soon precipitated by extreme terror into an unknown and trackless part of a wood in which they wandered hopeless for the term of fifteen days, miserably sustaining nature with such precarious fare as their misfortune reduced them to the necessity of subsisting on, so that when they came in their ghastly appearance and painful debility must be submitted to the reader's own imagination, as language is inadequate to the distressing picture. The poor fellows, in return for the kind services of their guides, who would have parted company before they entered town, prevailed on them to continue their friendship, and in turn led them to the house of Mr. M. Kearn's, in Pitt's Row, who testified his satisfaction at the event by an abundant supply of food, with which they retired amply satisfied for their salutary labour and humane assistance to the otherwise devoted objects in whose preservation it had been the will of' Providence to render them immediately instrumental.133 The following are, we understand, the circumstances that attended the barbarous murder of the two stock-keepers on Wednesday last near Prospect;- when one of the poor men was employed in a small hut at some distance from his, companion grinding a part of their provision, the wretches rushed in upon him, and clove his head open with a tomahawk; and after taking such trifles as were in the place, awaited the arrival of the other, whom they perceived moving towards the hut; upon his entering into which he unhappily shared the fate of his murdered fellow servant.
A report was yesterday current that a passenger had been murdered by the natives in the road between Sydney and Parramatta; but this appears to be unfounded; as the party made choice of as the subject of the rumour we know to be at the present moment in the land of the living.
The natives seem inclined to try their dexterity in piratical achievements now that they are assured we are tolerably upon our guard against their atrocities by land, which we hope a strict adherence to His Excellency's Order of the present date will bring to a speedy crisis. The exploit we now have to allude to was audacious and outré, and might possibly have been fatally successful had not vigilant resolution been opposed to it. While the William & Mary, Miller, lay at Pittwater, about 8 days since, the small boat was dispatched for a supply of water and fuel; and although the natives were numerous, yet they did not appear to have any evil design in contemplation until the boat was about to put off again; when several running towards her, one of them made good his grappling, in order to board on the bow, but receiving a smart earnest across the knuckles from one of the boatmen, was induced to relinquish his claim. Irritated at the disappointment, and considering resistance a sufficient provocation for all that was to follow, in a few moments a squadron of five vessels was equipped and sent out, under command of the commodore whose knuckles had already tingled: but sheering along side, he in plain English commanded the William 'to strike', though he had reason to be satisfied that he had already had striking enough in conscience. Miller replied to the summons of this sooty son of Erebus & Nox134 by pointing his musket constantly at him only, and declaring his determination to kill the first that should dare to venture nearer: and none choosing to put his veracity to the test, they all turned tail; contenting themselves with threats and imprecations.’135