AN UGLY WAR – BRITAIN VERSUS THE OTHER

‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Professor Bruce Kercher, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

2016 – September, Manly Beach: Fake news – ROAD RAGE –  STABBING violence broke out on both Harbour and Spit Bridges when cars were caught in giant grid-lock as crowds rushed to Manly where a whale – as big as a bus – was beached on the sand.

1790 – September, Manly Beach: Real news – excited Aborigines and Englishmen rushed to Manly to marvel at a large whale stranded on the sand. Described as a tremendous monster’ it proved a tipping point in the near annihilation of a free people, Australia’s First Peoples.

1790 – 7 September, Manly Beach: Governor Phillip, whose naval career began in the Arctic harpooning whales, now armed with a bottle or two of fine French reds and a dagger, he was rowed across to Manly for a viewing. See: Manly Location, Location, Location

‘[The governor] uncorked a bottle, and poured out a glass of it, which the other [Bennelong] drank off with his former marks of relish and good humour, giving for a toast, as he had been taught “the King”. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961 

A group of ‘the other’Aborigines – stood a little way off watching this strange pantomime.

Tench sets the scene; ‘A native [Wileemarin] ‘with a spear in his hand came forward. His excellency held out his hand…advancing towards him…the nearer, the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation of the Indian. 

To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk, he wore at this side…the other alarmed at the rattle of the dirk…and probably misconstruing the action, instantly fixed his lance, aimed [it] with such force and dexterity striking the governor’s right shoulder, just above the collar bone’. Tench. ibid. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In A Name

Wileemarin’s spear could not be extracted then and there. Phillip endured two (2) agonising hours as he was rowed across choppy seas to Sydney where surgeon Balmain removed the lance. A great loss of blood made for slow recovery.

Enter the lists Lieutenant John Macarthur of the New South Wales Corps whose first contingent had arrived in June 1790 with a second fleet ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’. See: A Tale of Two Fleets

THE BACK STORY

1790 – January 20, London: ‘I am commanded to signify to you the King’s pleasure that directions be immediately given for the embarkation of the corps raised for service in New South Wales and commanded by Major Grose’. Right Hon.W.W. Grenville, to the Secretary of War

Major Grose remained in London to recruit mainly ‘derelicts and delinquents’ from London’s Savoy military prison. Macarthur, a ruthless opportunist whose personal ambition knew no bounds, was quick to take advantage of Grose’s absence.

‘Macarthur’s haughty quarrelsome nature which manifested itself on the voyage was to provoke much more conflict after his arrival in New South Wales in June 1790’. Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Armada of 1790, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1993

Phillip knew in throwing ‘down the dirk’ he contributed to the attack and ordered there be no reprisals. But Macarthur and ‘certain Corps’ officers’ interpreted ‘no retaliation’ as weakness and honed in on the ailing Governor.

Phillip, known for his insight, could not have failed to recognise a dangerous enemy and assessed, an already palpable threat to his position as Supreme Commander, had escalated from ‘at risk’ to imminent.

‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Kercher. ibid.

The ‘defence of the colony’ applied when ever, from where ever, from whom ever such threat arose. See: John Macarthur The Great Pretender & Treasure Island

Phillip knew such a dynamic if not contained could destroy Britain’s strategic plan to ‘station a large body of troops in New South Wales…New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to military strength of India’. Historical Records of New South Wales. Anon

A proven strategist Phillip, intent on saving the Sydney settlement from insurrection and anarchy, moved to assert his authority. But with no naval support Governor Phillip Arthur had but one (1) arrow in his quiver – intelligence. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius, HMS Supply

Bennelong, captured in November 1789, spent six (6) months within British lines, dined often with the Governor and spoke of the local Aborigine’s hatred and contempt for convict John M’Entire.

Using that intelligence Phillip chose diversion – take off the heat – emphasise a common enemy – ‘the other’.

Since 1788 official hunting parties of; ‘the best marksmen of marines and convict’ had been essential to survival. On the 9 December 1790 such a party set off for Botany Bay to shoot kangaroo.

1790 – December 9, Botany Bay: ‘At dawn a serjeant of marines with three convicts, among them was M’Entire the governor’s game-keeper (the person of whom Bennalong had on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred) went out on a shooting party’.

1790 – December 10, Botany Bay: ‘About 1 am the serjeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes supposing it to proceed from a kangaroo…two natives with spears one [Pemulway] launched is spear at M’Entire and lodged it in his side’. ‘Tench. ibid.

1790 – December 11, Sydney: The hunters returned to Sydney with the mortally wounded game-keeper.

SNAP

1790 – December 12: ‘ I[Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately…his excellency informed me…that we were, to put to death ten [10] cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain, for which purpose hatchets and bags would be furnished. 

If practicable, to bring away two [2] natives as prisoners…’I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners in the most public and exemplary manner’. Tench. ibid.

See: Arthur’s Algorithm – ‘infuse universal terror…repeat it whenever any future breach of good conduct on their part shall render it necessary’.

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