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THE WOODLAKE ISLAND MASSACRE.
I ha\e read the Parliamentary Papers in refer- ence to the massacre of the crew and passenger _oL the "Gazelle, at Woodlark Island, with
mingled feelings of disappointment and humilia-
tion. Here we find that no fewer than fourteen
"""British subjects were treacherously muidered by
a parcel of crafty savages, and not a finger was held up to rescue or revenge them. I do not mean, of course, hythe use of the latter term, to imply that indisciiminate reprisals ough'c to have been exacted on the innocent or guilty as it might happen, but that ordinary energy ought to have been used to discover the instigators and perpetra- tors of the crime, and that an adequate punish- ment ought to have been inflicted on them if caught, or their property or residences destroyed or laid waste if they could not be laid hold of. Some retaliation of this kind would have taught them that British subjects cannot be butchered with impunity. But the murder of the. Gazelle's crew having past unquestioned, the effect will be to induce the savages to repeat the atrocity on the first party of white men that falls into their power. Our indifference and neglect may thus be the cause of future Voodshed and crime. The course that has been pursued will in all probability be disastrous to the savages themselves, for it may readily be supposed that roving parties of white men visiting the island, and armed with the power of punishing, will in their own wild way avenge a massacre which those whose duty it was to en- quire into it passed over in silence. '
The particulars of this melancholy affair ar<?, no doubt, fresh in the recollection of the public ; but I shall briefly recall them.
In the month of August, 1855, the Gazelle sailed from Sydney with supplies for the Roman Catholic mission at Woodl irk Island ; the cre-v in all consisted of fourteen or fifteen persons, be- sides a passenger, a clergyman proceeding to join the mission Subsequently to tho sailing of the Gazelle, the mission was broken up, and the members composing it returned to Sydney. Seven months passed away, and as no tidings were heard of the Gazelle, apprehensions began to be
entertained that those on boaid of that vessel had met with foul play at the hands of the na- tives of ¡¡¡Woodlark Island. In this belief the Government were importuned to send a ship of war, or some other vessel, to ascertain the fate of the Gazelle and her crew. This application, of course, gave lise to the usual tedious official correspondence, canied on as sedately and lei- surely a3 if the business it related to had not been one of life and death. The upshot was that the Government declined to interfere, but before, or just at the moment they had arrived at this conclusion, those who made the applica- tion and others raised funds, and chartered the schoonei Favorite to proceed in search of the missing vessel. When the Favoiite appeared
off the island the wreck of the Gazelle was perceived on a reef. According to the evidence of a native boy, who was subse- quently brough' to Sydney in the Favorite, it appeared that the Gazelle, while close to the shore, missed stays, was driven on the reef, and wrecked, and that whilst in thÎ3 helpless con- dition she was, by preconcerted arrangement, boarded by some chiefs and others, who, putting the captain and crew off their guard by proffers of friendship and assistance, watched their op- portunity and ruthlessly murdered all on board. There was no reason to dispute the accuracy of this narrative. The chief who was selected, from his strength and ferocity, to dispatch the master of the Gazelle,-a stout, powerful man, was named, and other details given connected with the horrid butchery, which rendered the boy's story consistent and truth-looking. It was further confirmed by the conduct of the natives, which was apprehensive and distrustful. They even attempted to entice the Favorite farther up the haibour, with tre view, as ,was ascertained, of íepeating the tiagedy they had so lately enacted on hoard the Gazelle But the master of the foimer was on 1rs guard. Having collected the a^ove facts, and be'ng too weak to make an effective demonstration, he íe turned to Sydney, bringing with him, as has already been ftated, the nathe boy. On these facts having been made known in Sydney, the Government was again impoituned to interfere in the matter, and the quest'on was at last remitted to the senior naval officer on the 6tition, who, before deciding, suggested that a legal opinion on cer- tain points should be obtained. In accordance with this recommendation the papers weie for- warded to the Crown law officers, who advised that the Supreme Court of the colony hid no jurisdiction in the case, and that it ought to be left to the navy as a question of national ven- geance, &c. Subsequently, although Captain Fremantle said that Woodlark Island was be-
yond the limits of the Australian station, that officer did not refuse hisinteifeience to a certain extent, and with various qualifications. But the final result was, as is well known, that nothing effectual was done. The relations of the crew and passengers of the Gazelle have the melan- choly reflection that their husbands, fathers, or brothers were but too probably massacred in cold blood, and not the slightest inquiry waa made by the Government into their fate. I almost omitted to notice ^ hat is not the least disgraceful feature in this disgraceful business. Our Government, whether with the object of shifting responsibility norn their own shoulders, I cannot say, recommended an application to the Consul of France, suggesting that he could probably get a French naval force despatched on this service. Who, of our countrymen, will not feel a sense of degradation at the attempt thus made to depute to a foreign power the redress of a na'ional wrong> The French Consul refused to interfere, as well he might, in a matter with which he had no concern, but the reason he assigned for his refusal was that the French naval force in the Pacific was too weak to admit of a vessel being despatched on this errand.
In serious matters of this kind the public are not to be cajoled by questions of legal casuistry. They do not accurately know, neither do they much care, where one jurisdiction begins or where it ends, but they know that by the Cons'itution a power exists somewhere to call those to account who murder and mutilate British subjects, and when occasion arises they desire t to see^ that power put in force, not to execute indiscriminate ven gianceTbut to "show that any violence offered to our countiymen will be folio-ved by prompt * ,enquiry, and by punishment on all whose guilt
can be fully proved. This courte is humane as well as just. Outidges-especially if per- petrated by savages on white men-when left unnoticed, only lead to furtr-er bloodshed, but if promptly redressed, those who might'be dis- posed to repeat tham are taught to stand in awe of a power whose action is found to be speedy,
certain, and irresistible