British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

30 1
LORD GODERICH TO GOVERNOR RICHARD BOURKE, 14 June 1832

SIR,

This despatch will be delivered to you by Mr. James Busby, who is proceeding to New South Wales, thence to take his departure for New Zealand, at which place he will have authority to act as His Majesty's Resident, in pursuance of the arrangement communicated to you in my despatch No. 75 of the 5th of March last. This appointment has been made, partly with a view of protecting British commerce in the islands of New Zealand and in the adjacent islands in the South Sea, and partly in order to repress the outrages, which unhappily British subjects are found so often to perpetrate against the persons and property of the natives and the peace of society in those regions.

I am, indeed, well aware that the law is at present very inadequate to give full effect to such a mission. The power of bringing to trial within the Australian colonies persons committing crimes in the adjacent islands appears, from the single experiment which has come under my observation, to be almost nugatory. Nor indeed, would it be reasonable to anticipate a different result. There is not, within any of those countries in which the offence may be committed, any authority competent to seize or to detain offenders. There is no power of compelling either the criminals or the witnesses to resort to New South Wales; and, in the case of minor offences, the impossibility of inflicting any punishment on the spot affords a virtual and complete impunity. Nor can it be forgotten that, in the peculiar circumstances which society exhibits in the South Sea Islands, many actions either impracticable or venial in Europe may deserve severe punishment. Thus, for example, the fomenting of wars between barbarous tribes for selfish purposes, though a crime of the deepest malignity, is of course prohibited by no European code; and the extraordinary traffic in human heads, which prevailed between New Zealand and New South Wales, is an instance of a transaction, which derives its danger and criminality almost exclusively from circumstances and considerations applicable to no other country than that in which it occurred. The duty of rescuing uncivilized nations from the fearful calamities so often produced by the vicinity of European settlers and navigators may be collected from almost every page of the history of that intercourse; and, in order to render such protection effectual, it may be necessary not only to provide for the enforcement of the Criminal Law as it exists amongst ourselves, but for the adaptation of that Law to new and peculiar exigencies.

____________________
1
H.R.A., Series I, vol. xvi ( 1923), pp. 662-4.

-522-

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