Illustration: Australian Settlers Dragging Aborigines to a Place of Slaughter
The atrocious cold-blooded massacre of which these persons were guilty is scarcely equalled by any event of a similar character. The scene of the murder was the colony of New South Wales,-- the victims were the unoffending aboriginal natives of the country,-- the miscreants by whom the savage scene was enacted were Englishmen, who, however, from their sanguinary disposition, do not deserve that they should receive such an appellation. Fortunately for the vindication of humanity, the unparalleled barbarities of which they were guilty were discovered, and their perpetrators brought to justice.
The names of these monsters in human shape were Charles Kinnaister, William Hawkins, James Perry, Edward Foley, James Gates, John Russell, and John Johnson. It would seem that all of these were convicts, and had been transported from this country. They had been assigned as stockmen or shepherds to some of the settlers in the interior of the colony. In the month of June 1838, these ruffians, influenced or induced by what motive has not been discovered, beyond a determination to extirpate the unhappy natives, set out on horseback in pursuit of their helpless victims. They were traced in their progress inquiring after blacks, and at last arrived at a hut near the big river, beyond Liverpool plains, occupied by the first-named prisoner, Kinnaister. Here they discovered that a little tribe of about thirty natives, men, women, and children, including babes at their mothers' breasts, were congregated in the bush, unsuspicious of danger and unconscious of offence. This was on Sunday the 10th of June. They immediately approached their victims, who, terrified at their manner, ran into Kinnaister's hut for protection, crying for mercy; but they appealed to hearts of stone, who having thus caught them, as it were, in a trap, dismounted, followed them into the hut, and, despite of their entreaties, tied them together with a rope, with the exception of one woman. This was done without a word being uttered, and with a cool and bloody determination. When all were thus secured, one end of the rope was tied round the body of the foremost of the murderers, who, having mounted his horse, led the way, dragging the terrified group after him, while his infamous companions guarded them on all sides. Groans and tears burst from the wretched being's, whose worst fears were excited. In vain, however, did the aged and youthful of both sexes appeal for compassion. Their doom was cast. Onward they were dragged till a fitting place in the bush was reached, and then the work of slaughter commenced, and, unresisting, were these hapless wretches, one after the other, brutally butchered. Fathers, mothers, and children, fell before the previously sharpened swords of these self-appointed executioners, till all lay a lifeless mass, in death clinging to each other with the throes of natural affection. But one shot was fired, so that it was presumed one only perished by fire-arms. The precise number thus immolated has not been accurately ascertained, but it is computed that not less than thirty lay stretched on the ensanguined earth. The demon butchers then placed the bodies in a heap, kindled an immense fire over them, and thus endeavoured to destroy the evidence of their unheard-of brutality. Fragments of the unconsumed bones, however, still remained; but even these were collected, and attempted to be hidden from human eye. But the vengeance of Providence was not to be thus thwarted; and although for a time these miscreants imagined they had effectually disguised their horrible work, circumstances led to their detection and apprehension. Birds of prey were seen hovering about the spot where the unconsumed remains yet existed, and stock-men in search of their strayed cattle were thus attracted to the locality, supposing they should find their carcasses. In this way it was that the ribs, jaw-bones, half-burnt skulls, and other portions of human skeletons were found -- while symptoms of the conflagration in the vicinity were likewise detected. This led to inquiry, and ultimately to discovery of the horrible truth. The place was fifty miles from the nearest police-station, but the whole of the villains were apprehended, and their own admissions and conduct previous and subsequent to the bloody work, added to a chain of circumstantial evidence, left no doubt of their guilt. It chanced, too, that on the night previous to the murders, a heavy rain had fallen -- and traces were thus discovered of horses' hoofs, as well as of the naked feet of the wretched natives, on the way to the field of death.
On the 15th of November, the prisoners were put upon their trial before the Chief Justice, Sir James Dowling, charged with the murder of a black, named Daddy, the remains of whose gigantic frame had been observed and distinguished among the discovered ashes. Every possible means had been adopted to secure the acquittal of these atrocious malefactors by an association, which had been formed with the ostensible object of preserving the property of the settlers from the incursions of the blacks. The pretence for the diabolical murders which were committed was the supposed aggressions of the natives in killing and spearing cattle; and every instance of violence of this description was carefully brought forward to secure the liberation of the prisoners, by a verdict of acquittal. The strong prejudice which was excited against the aborigines was not without its effect, and in spite of the evidence which was adduced, the jury found the prisoners "Not Guilty."
There were still other indictments against them, however, which remained to be tried, and in the month of December they were again arraigned. Upon this occasion they were not quite so fortunate, and the men above-named were declared to be "Guilty," and sentence of death was instantly passed upon them. Renewed efforts were now made in their favour; but their horrid guilt being proved beyond a doubt, Sir George Gipps, the governor, determined that the law should take its course, and on the 15th of December, 1838, the convicts underwent the execution of their sentence.