JOHN M’ENTIRE – DEATH OF A SURE THING

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

1790 – December, Sydney: By December 1790 Governor Captain Arthur Phillip RN knew ‘certain officers’ of the newly arrived New South Wales Corps (June 1790) – led by Lieutenant John Macarthur an ambitious junior officer – were circling the tents.

In Phillip’s judgement the Pitt Administration in far off England was in danger of losing New South Wales ( Australia) gateway to India,  Asia and Spanish South American treasure colonies.

The threat however did not come from the First Nations’ People. The previous year 1789, 50% of local Eora Aborigines had contracted smallpox and were dead. The survivors were struggling to regroup. See: A Lethal Weapon Smallpox – Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789

Governor Phillip knew a serious threat to King and Country came from within the ranks of the military. But isolated in the midst of a hostile soldiery without naval support he had but one option in his armoury – diversion, and one (1) sure arrow, the ‘hated’ convict John M’Entire.  Missing in Action HMS Sirius & HMS Supply .

1790 – 9 December, Botany Bay: ‘On the 9th of the month, a serjeant of marines, with three convicts, among whom was M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the person of whom Bannelon had, on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred) went out on a [kangaroo] shooting party’. Marine Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Governor Phillip was on his own with his back to wall. HMS Sirius had been wrecked off Norfolk Island in March 1790 and her crew one hundred and sixty (160) were now stranded on the island

A month later April 1790, to save the starving settlement, HMS Supply sailed to Batavia, present-day Jakarta. Her captain Lieutenant Henry Ball RN was to buy urgently needed food and medicines and charter a Dutch ship to bring them to Sydney

Phillip, from intelligence gathered from Bennalong during his five (5) months held captive within British lines, hatched a plot he believed had every chance of success of changing the existing dangerous dynamic. See: Kidnapped – Manly – What’s in a Name

A practised strategist, but ailing following his own spearing in September 1790, Phillip had to box clever. He knew local Aborigines viewed John McIntyre, his personal game-keeper, with ‘hated and dread’. See: Manly Location, Location, Location

McIntyre with few friends in the white camp could be eliminated with little fear of back-lash from that quarter. An excellent ‘marksman’ he was the perfect patsy. See: April Fool’s Day – The Hulks Act 1776

What enabled Governor Phillip take such drastic action?  Legislation, the Hulks Act of 1776, deemed convicted criminals reprieved death on condition of ‘transportation out of the realm…their service is for the state’.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the convicts except in respect of alcoholic liquors …the standard adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1990

All First Fleet males – marines and convicts ‘fed as troops serving…in the West Indies’ were combatants; their service was for the state.

Phillip’s disavowal; ‘in this business of M’Entire I am fully persuaded that they [Aborigines] were unprovoked’ does not hold water. McIntyre as both convict and combatant was over qualified and Bennalong’s ‘dread and hatred’ is strong evidence McIntyre’s inclusion in the ‘shooting party’ was designed to provoke.

Watkin Tench’s ‘First Four Years’ informs this narrative unless attributed otherwise.

1790 – 9 December, Sydney:  McIntyre with two (2) other armed convicts, accompanied by a senior NCO, set off from Sydney at dawn on the 9th of December to walk a well-trodden path to Botany Bay. They intended to sleep overnight in a recently ‘erected small hut formed of boughs’.

1790 – 10 December, Botany Bay: ‘About one o’clock, the sergeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes…Indians…one [Pemulway]…launched his spear at M’Entire, and lodged it in his left side…the wounded man immediately drew back and joining his party, cried, ‘I am a dead man’.

1790 – 11 December, Sydney: The wounded convict ‘expressed a longing desire not to be left to expire in the woods’ and the group carried him back to Sydney.

1790 – 12 December, Sydney: ‘To gain knowledge of their [Aborigines’] treatment of similar wounds, one of the surgeons made signs of extracting the spear; but this they violently opposed, and said, if it were done, death would instantly follow’.

William Balmain the fleet’s senior surgeon rejected their advise; ‘the extraction was…judged practicable and was accordingly performed’.  Its removal however did McIntyre no favours. Death did not come quickly he died on 21 January 1791.

1790 – 13 December, Sydney Headquarters: ‘The governor was at Rose Hill when this accident happened. On the day after he returned to Sydney… I [Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately.

His Excellency pitched upon me ready to march tomorrow morning at daylight to execute the command…put ten [10] to death…bring in the heads of the slain…bring away two [2] prisoners…I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners…in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’.

 COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT

Pemulway’s assault on McIntyre was a targeted attack by a known assailant – ‘put ten to death’ – indiscriminate retribution – punished both innocent and guilty.

Collective punishment: Governor Phillip’s savage General Orders put no limit on brutality and stunned Tench; ‘here the governor stopped and address[ed] himself to me’. See: The Switch – 1790 – CONTEXT – War With France 1793-1815

 ‘I begged to offer for consideration...instead of destroying ten [10] persons the capture of six [6] a part might be set aside for retaliation; and the rest, at a proper time, liberated, after having seen the fate of their comrades…this scheme his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding “if six [6] cannot be taken let this number be shot”. See: Terror – Arthur’s Algorithm – ‘instil universal terror’Open Sesame

CATCH – KILL – BEHEAD

‘The bloody raw power of decapitation…the eternal tension between drama and control…lies at the heart of the death penalty’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta Books, London 2015

Tench assembled a detachment of fifty (50) troops; ‘consisting of two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers, from the garrison’.

1790 – 14 December, Sydney: At four o’clock on the morning of the 14th...led by myself [Tench] we marched…by nine o’clock this terrific procession reached the peninsula, at the the head of Botany Bay’.

For Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples the make-up of this detachment is of utmost importance.

‘The Marines, members of the Royal Navy …prey to starvation, lethargy and despair remained in New South Wales only as long as they had to and from 1790 Australia was to be garrisoned by the army’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia, 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1986

Dr Stanley’s picture of starving lethargic despairing marines, England’s Robinson Cruscos marooned and left to starve, align with Tench’s assessment of his marines; ‘the misery and horror of our situation cannot be imparted even by those who have suffered under it’.

See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove – January 1788 to June 1790

‘The insufficiency of our ration soon diminished our execution of labour. Both soldiers and convicts pleaded such loss of strength, as to find themselves unable to perform their accustomed tasks’.

It is safe therefore to assert the bulk of ‘forty privates’ in this ‘terrific procession’ were infantry-men of the New South Wales Corps recently arrived (June 1790) with a second fleet ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’. See: Dancing with Slavers – Britain’s Grim Armada- The Dead and the Living Dead

1790 – 14 December, Botany Bay: Soldiers heavily laden; ‘with three days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners…hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’ thrashed about, sweating and swearing as magpies swooped and black cockatoos screeched overhead.

‘After having walked in various directions until four o’clock, without seeing a native, we halted for the night’.

1790 – 15 December, Botany : At first light next morning they spotted their quarry; ‘five Indians on the beach…before we came near enough to effect our purpose [they] ran off’.

But sloppy map-reading had led the detachment astray; ‘instead of finding ourselves on the south-west arm, we came suddenly upon the sea shore, at the head of the peninsula, about midway between the two arms’.

Another stifling frustrating day spent in a muddy quagmire was followed by a; ‘night of restless inquietude, where weariness is denied repose by swarms of musquitoes and sand-flies, which bite and sting the traveller, without measure or intermission’.

1790 – 16 December, Sydney: Tench with provisions low and his troops exhausted abandoned the mission.

‘We bent our steps homeward, and after wading breast-high through two arms of the sea [Cook’s River] as broad as the Thames at Westminster, were glad to find ourselves at Sydney between one and two o’clock in the afternoon’.

1790 – 17 December, Sydney: The detachment straggled into camp hot thirsty, stinking uniforms stiff with salt and mud, only to find everything had changed.

At first light that very morning Waaksamheyd the 300 ton Dutch brig Lieutenant Ball of HMS Supply had chartered at Jakarta in July 1790  arrived from Batavia crammed with tons of food and medicines.

Tench reported to Governor Phillip; ‘Our expedition [had] totally failed’ there were no ‘heads in bags’ no ‘prisoners to execute in the most public and exemplary manner’.

Surely a win-win for Governor Phillip, he had asserted his authority at no cost; that should have been the end of it – but no.

‘Our first expedition having so totally failed, the governor resolved to try the fate of a second; and the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me’.

Despite Waakssamheyd with her bounty, more probably because of her presence, Phillip ordered a second assault on the Bidjigal of Botany Bay.

Waaksamheyd was received with rapture but wily Governor Phillip smelt danger. Waaksamheyd was ripe for seizure and might facilitate a military insurrection. Even more than food she brought hope; of seizure and escape. Indeed for some escape and freedom was realised. See: The Great Escape – The Botany Bay Escapees

Deter Smidt, Waaksamheyd’s Dutch master assisted eleven (11) to escape – nine (9) convicts, Emanuel a baby and three (3) year old Charlotte, escaped in Governor Phillip’s own cutter and, in an epic sea-saga, rowed to Coupang, West Timor.  See: Pandora’s Box – The Bounty Mutineers and the Botany Bay Escapees 

The surviving ‘Botany Bay escapees’, as they became known in a high-profile court case, ended up in the Old Bailey where, years earlier their story had begun. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees

1790 – 21 December, Botany Bay: Meantime Phillip had ordered a a second raid; ‘the orders which I [Tench] was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last.

If six [6] cannot be taken let this number be shot…bring away two [2] prisoners…I [Phillip] am resolved to execute…in the most public and exemplary manner’.

1790 – 22 December, Sydney: ‘A little before sun-set on the evening of the 22d, we marched. Lieutenant Abbot, and ensign Prentice of the New South Wales corps, three [3] serjeants, three [3] corporals, and thirty [30] privates completed the detachment [with] ropes, hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’.

This time Tench went about the ‘business’ very differently. The second raid was a night raid.

‘In order to deceive the natives, and prevent them from again frustrating our design……it was now also determined, being full moon, that our operations should be carried on in the night, both for the sake of secrecy, and for avoiding the extreme heat of the day’.

1790 – 23 December, Botany Bay: The search to catch, kill and behead Aborigines began at dawn. Now as before seasonal king ‘Christmas’ tides surged in turning firm ground into muddy swampland.

Some soldiers weighed down by their heavy scarlet woollen uniforms nearly drowned when sucked into what Tench described ‘a rotten spongy…Serbian bog’.

Guns jammed with mud, their once sodden clothes now dry and stiff, the troops passed yet another night of ‘restless inquietude’.

1790 –  Christmas Eve, Sydney: ‘Our final effort was made at half past one o’clock  next morning…ending in disappointment and vexation. At nine o’clock we returned to Sydney to report our fruitless peregrination‘.

‘Disappointment’ yes ‘fruitless’ no.

Again it is Tench, caught in the eye of the storm, who tells us so.

1790 – 28 December, Sydney: ‘But if we could not retaliate on the murderer of M’Entire, we found no difficulty in punishing offences committed within our own observation.

Two natives robbing the potatoe [sic] garden…a party of soldiers dispatched…the[ir] ardour transported them so far, that, instead of capturing the offenders, they fired in among them…[one] Ba-g-ai…was dead’.

EPILOGUE

‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries…These raids had commenced by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

2019: The First Nations’ Peoples with laser accuracy can pinpoint their near annihilation to Governor Phillip’s absolute loyalty to King and Country.

In December 1790 there was one (1) player, Marine Lieutenant William Dawes who saw clearly the inevitable ‘future’ consequences of Governor Phillip’s General Orders.

Dawes initially refused to go on the raid of the 14th of December but, after consulting Reverend Richard Johnson the ‘First Fleet’ Chaplain, complied.

On returning to Sydney on the 17th Dawes addressed his objections, via Adjutant Lowe, to Governor Phillip in writing. He expressed regret for obeying in the first instance and stated he would not in future comply if given a similar order. See: Lieutenant William Dawes – ‘The Eternal Flame’& ‘Universal Terror’

Dawes, an officer with combat experience in the American War of Independence (1775-1783) did not consider either raid a ‘charade’ nor would he have put his life on the life for; ‘a melodramatic show of strength’.

Yet currently Governor Phillip’s General Orders of December 1790 have been written off as ‘charade – a melodramatic show of force’. While a recent high-profile publication omits all mention of a second raid.

ADDENDUM

1816 – April, Appin: Australia’s first officially designated ‘massacre’ met the criteria – fourteen (14) or more dead Aborigines in one (1) action – occurred in Sydney’s near south-west, Broughton Gorge at Appin, in April 1816.

There can be no  doubt Tench’s treacherous ‘night raid’ – 22nd December 1790 – set the precedent for ‘future’ confrontations between the invaders and the invaded.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s orders issued 10 April 1816 echo almost precisely Governor Phillip’s orders.

In daylight a number of Dharawal men were shot. ‘To instil terror’ as ordered their bodies were strung up in the trees. Two (2) named warriors were beheaded.

During the night of the 15th April 1816 Captain Wallis moved his troops onto the home camp at; ‘1 am [16th] my men held a child cry’. Some women were shot dead on the spot. While others, elders and mothers with their children were rounded up and driven to their death over Broughton Gorge.  See: Dark Matter, Lieutenant Mc Mafia Macarthur, The New South Wales Corps &  Governor Phillip, Major Grose, Captain Paterson, Governors Hunter, King, Bligh, Macquarie 

The heads of the Dharawal men from the initial raid were taken to Sydney and boiled down. The skulls were sent to the Anatomy Department at Edinburgh University from where they have recently been repatriated.

 

 

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