The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
In Victoria, 1835
In Victoria, 1835.
"Towards the close of the year 1835, I had occasion to visit Van Dieman's Land, now Tasmania, in the discharge of clerical duty in connection with the Presbyterian Church of that Colony. The people on both sides of the island were in a state of extraordinary excitement at the time. A few months before, certain adventurers from Van Dieman's Land had crossed over Bass's Straits, which separates that island from the mainland, and had discovered very extensive tracts of the finest land, whether for agriculture or for grazing, around Port Phillip on the opposite shore. Taking it for granted that this country was a terra incognita, belonging to nobody and open alike to all comers—being, as it was, five or six hundred miles from Sydney, and quite unknown to the people of New South Wales—the colonists of Tasmania were all at once seized with a regular mania for acquiring landed property on the largest scale in Port Phillip. Companies were accordingly formed, among whom the land was divided into portions like German Principalities; certain black natives, who were easily found for the emergency, were recognised for the time being as lords of the manor, and instructed to append their marks to documents drawn up with the strictest regard to English constitutional law—I need, not say also with the sharpest practice—thereby ratifying their own voluntary and entire alienation of their splendid domain torso many blankets, tomahawks, knives, &c.; and the same being signed, sealed, and delivered, before competent witnesses, certain lawyers of the highest standing in the insular Colony, who, it was well known, were themselves deeply concerned in the speculation, pronounced the deeds valid documents, and the whole transaction one in perfect accordance with the laws of the land. But the late Sir Richard Bourke, who was then Governor of New South Wales, and who, I believe, had reported the whole case to the Imperial Government and been duly authorized to pursue the course which he actually took in the matter, publicly declared the whole transaction unwarrantable and illegal, and the pretended deeds from the natives null and void."