Chapter Twenty-Two


BY MID-1790, COLLINS would write that native women would barter sex with convicts for a loaf of bread, a blanket, or a shirt. “Several girls who were protected in the settlement had not any objection to passing the night on board of ships.” They would try to conceal the gifts given them by sailors, thus, said Collins, learning shame. Europeans seemed both attracted and repelled by the indigenous women—there were complaints about the odour of their flesh, anointed with fish oils to drive off insects. Yet even Arthur Phillip was not immune from their allure. One of the native women, noted Phillip, had “pleasing features … had she been in a European settlement, no one would have doubted her being a Mulatto Jewess.”

The natives shared with the British lower classes a full-blown willingness to beat their wives, although spirited women like Barangaroo hit back, giving Bennelong a severe gash on the forehead to go with his ritual wounds. Outside his hut at Tubowgulle, Bennelong would severely beat Barangaroo for breaking a fishing spear and a woomera, or throwing stick, and she needed to be taken to White's hospital across the stream for sutures.

Phillip observed a tender moment between Bennelong and Barangaroo when she complained of a pain in the belly. “I went to the fire and sat down with her husband who, notwithstanding his beating her occasionally, seemed to express great sorrow on seeing her ill, and after blowing on his hand, he warmed it, and then applied it to the part affected, beginning at the same time a song, which was probably calculated for the occasion.” A bystander offered him a piece of flannel he could use to make his hand warm. “He continued his song, always keeping his mouth very close to the part affected, and frequently stopping to blow on it, making a noise after blowing in imitation of the barking of a dog.” In the end they sent for the surgeon, who treated her with tincture of rhubarb, which worked to give her relief.

But the standing of Bennelong, at least in Captain Tench's view, suffered further damage from his behaviour towards his second and younger wife, Karubarabulu, the young woman from the north side of Botany Bay who, despite the earlier battles over her, had now come to live at Tubowgulle. One day in November, Bennelong came to the governor's residence and presented himself to Phillip. Holding a hatchet, and trying out the sharpness of it, he told Phillip that he intended to put Karubarabulu to death immediately. Bennelong believed Karubarabulu had committed adultery, which gave him the right to bludgeon her to death, and his visit to Government House beforehand was a warning to Phillip not to interfere in laws that were none of his business. But Phillip was alarmed enough to take his secretary, Captain Collins, and Sergeant Scott, the orderly, with him to observe proceedings. On the road from Government House down to Tubowgulle, Bennelong continued to speak wildly and incoherently and “manifested such extravagant marks of fury and revenge” that his hatchet was taken away from him, and a walking stick was given to him instead. After all, English males were themselves relatively comfortable with the idea of hitting errant women with walking sticks.

Karubarabulu was seated at the communal fire outside the hut with the other natives. Bennelong, snatching a sword from one of the soldiers, ran at her and gave her two severe wounds on the head, and one on the shoulder. The Europeans rushed in and grabbed him, but the other natives remained quiet witnesses, a sign that they considered Bennelong entitled to his vengeance. Phillip and the officers noticed that the more they restrained Bennelong, the more the other male Aborigines present began to arm themselves, as if to support Bennelong's right to what he was doing.

Fortunately the Supply was in the intimate cove—on Phillip's orders, it was immediately hailed and a boat with armed sailors was sent ashore, and Karubarabulu was hustled away across the cove to the hospital. A young native came up and begged to be taken into the boat also. He claimed to be her lawful husband, which she declared he was, and pleaded that he might be allowed to accompany her so that he also would be away from Bennelong's rage. “She is now my property,” Bennelong told Tench. “I have ravished her by force from her tribe: and I will part with her to no person whatever, until my vengeance shall be glutted.” He told the governor that he would follow her to the hospital and kill her. Phillip told him that if he did, he would be shot at once, but he treated this threat “with disdain.”

A number of natives visited the girl in hospital and “they all appeared very desirous that she might return to the house, though they must have known that she would be killed; and, what is not to be accounted for, the girl herself seemed desirous of going.” After an absence of two days, Bennelong came back to Phillip's house and told him he would not beat the girl any further. He himself had a new husbandly shoulder wound from an argument with Barangaroo. His wife and he should go to Surgeon White's hospital and have their wounds dressed, Phillip suggested. But Bennelong would not go because he believed Surgeon White would shoot him, and he refused to stay in the settlement in his house because he had come to believe White, outraged by the damage he had done to Karubarabulu, would assassinate him by night.

The argument was sorted out, however, and soon he was over in the hospital to have a plaster applied to his shoulder. Once this was done he visited Karubarabulu, and to Barangaroo's outrage took Karubarabulu by the hand and spoke softly to her.

Thus Bennelong's ménage à trois remained turbulent. It is remarkable the way Phillip, across the barrier of racial incomprehension, entertained and tolerated it. Karubarabulu was at last taken to the governor's house so that she could be safe. From the Government House yard, Barangaroo stood hurling curses up at the girl's window, even grabbing some of Bennelong's spears to launch at the offender, and had to be disarmed of them by the marine guards at the gate. But in the evening, when Bennelong was leaving to go back to his hut, the girl Karubarabulu, on whom the governor had lavished such care, demanded that she go too, for a messenger had come saying that Barangaroo would not beat her anymore and was now “very good.” Phillip reluctantly let her go and looked down from his hill towards Tubowgulle, the headland where Bennelong's hut lay, outside which fires burned and from which cries and conversation and arguments could again be heard. All violent domestic quarrels have their aspects of dark comedy and excess, and to what extent this brawl was characteristic of native society is hard to fathom.

The behaviour of the governor's chief huntsman, John McEntire, had not been changed by Phillip's wounding, and so the long list of infringements of which he was guilty in Eora eyes, and in which he continued, had not been absolved. On one occasion, when he was hunting, the natives had set one of the indigenous dogs, a dingo, on him, and he had shot it.

Phillip would later observe an initiation ceremony during which native elders crawled on their hands and knees with a stick stuck through a waistband and lying across their backs like the tail of a native dog. When McEntire turned and shot the dingo dead, he was assuming the role of an initiated man, and another crime was added to the mortal list.

Preparations were made amongst the Eora for his punishment. For Phillip was amazed to observe that Bennelong entertained at his hut for some nights the man named Pemulwuy who he had previously told Phillip and others was his enemy. Near the shores of Botany Bay Bennelong had fought a ritual battle with the father of a desirable girl, and although he claimed to have won the contest, his passions ran high against Pemulwuy, the girl's kinsman, who must have taken some part that annoyed Bennelong. The woman was Karubarabulu—a Bediagal kins-woman of Pemulwuy—and Bennelong had desired to take her as a second wife.

Men like Pemulwuy became carradhys, or as one scholar puts it, “Aboriginal men of high degree,” by being selected in childhood for their piercing, flecked eyes and precocious air of authority. Throughout eastern Australia there are many initiations, processes and tests for the making of a carradhy. The candidate was often thrown on a fire while in a state of trance, or hurled into a sacred waterhole. Prayers were recited by the initiate and the elders to the most important cult heroes and sky beings, Gulambre or Daramulan, as the candidate was brought out of the water or fire. The elders woke the candidate from his trance by laying their hands on his shoulders, and he was given quartz crystals to swallow and an individual totem to help him cure people. In all this, as in Western rites of preparation for the priesthood, fasting and endurance and time spent alone before the candidate went through initiations were considered important.

carradhy always played a leading part in the rituals of the Dreamtime, for which he was painted with arm blood or red ochre sanctified by the chants that accompanied its application to the skin. All the crises of Aboriginal life were dealt with by magic, by rituals, by spells, and by the sacramental paraphernalia owned by the carradhys. The carradhys also interpreted dreams, which were taken very seriously by Aboriginals.

The powers exercised by carradhys were sometimes symbolised externally by the handling of bones or of crystals of quartz or other rare stones. It was believed carradhys were capable of eroding a human being while he slept by extracting fat from within his body without making a mark. But it was McEntire's lifeblood Pemulwuy would apply himself to.

On 9 December, a sergeant of marines took three convict huntsmen, including McEntire, down to the north arm of Botany Bay to shoot game. They settled down in a hide of boughs to wait for the kangaroos to emerge at dusk. At about one o'clock in the afternoon the party was awoken by a noise outside the hide, and saw five natives creeping towards them. The sergeant was alarmed but McEntire said, “Don't be afraid, I know them.”

Indeed, he knew Pemulwuy from earlier expeditions. The sergeant and the other convicts noticed that “he had been lately among us” as “was evidenced from his being newly shaved.” Pemulwuy had a deformed foot which enabled him to make confusing tracks, and the particular characteristics of the eyes, including a strange fleck in his left eye, which went with his office. As McEntire advanced to greet him, Pemulwuy retreated a little, jumped on a fallen log, and with great sudden energy hurled his spear into McEntire's side. McEntire declared, “I am a dead man.”

One of the party broke off the shaft of the spear and the other two took up their guns and futilely chased the natives. Then they carried McEntire back to Sydney Cove and got him to the hospital early the next morning. The governor was away at Parramatta at the time, but was shocked by the news on his return. One of Phillip's characteristics was sometimes to invest affection and unremitting loyalty in people of flawed character who were effective in a limited range of skills: Harry Brewer, for example, and McEntire. Phillip detailed a sentry to wake Captain Watkin Tench, and as Tench walked up the hill in the still, pre-dawn cool of a summer's night, he may have had a sense that for the first time in his Sydney experience, battle was close.

He met a grimly and uncharacteristically enraged Phillip, who instructed Watkin to lead a punitive party of armed marines. Excited by the accounts of the two convicts and sergeant who had been with McEntire, the governor at first envisaged that Tench's party would track down a group of natives, put two of them instantly to death, and bring in ten hostages for execution in town. None of these were to be women or children, and though all weapons that were encountered were to be destroyed, no other property was to be touched. After prisoners had been taken, all communication, even with those natives “with whom we were in habits of intercourse, was to be avoided.”

Tench was horrified to hear that his party was required to cut off and bring in the heads of the two slain—hatchets and bags would be supplied for the purpose. But teased and annoyed by the ambiguity of native manners, Phillip argued that no signal “of amity or invitation” should be made to the natives, and if made by any native was to be ignored.

In explaining his tough policy, Phillip told Tench that since the British had arrived seventeen people had been killed or wounded by the natives, and he looked upon the Bediagal clan, who lived on the north side of Botany Bay, as the principal aggressors. Phillip was convinced the natives did not fear death individually, but what they particularly dreaded was to lose numbers relative to the other native groups. He had delayed using violent measures because of his belief that “in every former instance of hostility, they had acted either from having received injury, or from misapprehension. ‘The latter of these causes,’ he added, ‘I attribute my own wound; but in this business of McEntire, I am fully persuaded that they were unprovoked, and the barbarity of their conduct admits of no extenuation.’” He complained that Bennelong and Colby had promised to bring in Pemulwuy, but they had failed to do so and were now engaged on other tasks. Bennelong, “instead of directing his steps to Botany Bay, crossed the harbour in his canoe, in order to draw the fore-teeth of some of the young men.”

Indeed, for the sometimes hated Cameraigal, Bennelong was now acting the part of distinguished visitor for an initiation ceremony. As for Colby, he had gone off in his canoe and was “loitering about the look-out house” on South Head. “I am resolved to execute the prisoners who may be brought in,” said Phillip, “in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected, after having explained the cause of such punishment, and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary.”

The governor at this point asked Watkin for his opinion, and the young officer suggested the capture of six might do just as well, and out of this number, a group should be set aside for retaliation if any further outrage occur, and only a portion executed immediately. The governor decided that should Watkin find it possible to take six prisoners, “I will hang two, and send the rest to Norfolk Island for a certain period, which will cause their countrymen to believe that we have dispatched them secretly.”

McEntire was not dead, indeed he seemed to be recovering at the hospital, but Phillip believed the lesson still had to be taught. The expedition was to set out at 4 a.m. on the humid morning of 14 December. Tench included the New South Wales Corps's urbane Captain Hill in the group. He had also chosen Lieutenants Pouldon of the marines and Dawes, the astronomer.

Lieutenant Dawes was conscience-stricken about the objectives of the expedition and spoke with the Reverend Johnson about its morality. Even though in Chesapeake Bay he had been wounded by the French in alliance with the revolutionary Americans, Dawes saw himself above all as a student of people, a surveyor of surfaces and skies, not as a combat soldier. He had spent a great deal of time putting together his dictionary of the Eora, who liked him greatly. Above all, he admired Patyegarang, an Aboriginal girl of about fifteen named for pattagorang, the large grey kangaroo, who was one of his sources for his language collection. She became his familiar and stayed in his hut as his chief language teacher, servant, and perhaps lover. The language of Patyegarang recorded by Dawes might indicate that he was either a very affectionate mentor or something more. Nangagolang, time for rest, Patyegarang said when the tap-to, military lights-out, was beaten from the barracks square near the head of the cove. And Matigarabangun naigaba, we shall sleep separate. Nyimang candle, Mr. D. Put out the candle, Mr. Dawes.

It was Patyegarang who interpreted the motives of her people to Dawes. A white man had been wounded some days before in one of the areas down-harbour to Warrane, Sydney Cove, and Dawes asked her why. Gulara, said Patyegarang. Angry. Minyin gulara Eora? asked Dawes. Why are the black men angry? Inyan ngalwi. Because the white men settled here. And then, further, said Patyegarang, Gunin, the guns.

These exchanges must have played a large part in Dawes's refusal to hunt the natives. On the day the expedition was ordered, he wrote a letter to his superior officer, Captain James Campbell, in which he refused to take part in the expedition. Dawes was an officer who had corresponded with William Wilberforce, renowned leader of the campaign against slavery, and the objectives of this mission were abhorrent to him. Campbell could not persuade Dawes to change his mind and the two of them brought the letter to Phillip, who “took pains to point out the consequences of his being put under arrest.” Phillip told Dawes he was guilty of “unofficerlike behaviour” and threatened him with a court-martial. Though he ultimately agreed to go, he would later publicly declare he was “sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order.” And though this would further outrage Phillip's feelings, Dawes refused to retract his statement.

Three sergeants and forty privates made up the rank and file of this expeditionary force, and some of the low soldiery carried the hatchets and bags for the collection of two heads. The force tramped south on a familiar track between bushy slopes and paperbark lagoons, sighting the Pacific to their left through the contours of the land. They reached the peninsula at the northern arm of Botany Bay at nine o'clock in the morning. They searched in various directions without seeing a single native, so that at four o'clock they halted for their evening camp. At daylight they marched fruitlessly in an easterly direction, then southwards, and then northwards, often beset by insects in marshy country. Back near the north head of Botany Bay they saw “five Indians” on the beach, whom Tench attempted to surround, but the five vanished. “A contest between heavy-armed Europeans,” said one commentator, “and naked unencumbered Indians, was too unequal to last long.”

Phillip took comfort from the fact that some local natives at the hospital already knew the name of the killer, Pemulwuy, and were upset to see McEntire in this condition. Phillip read their sympathy as unconditional, whereas they might have felt awed to find themselves in the presence of a walking dead man.

After Tench's military expedition set out, the governor had tried to stop Colby going to Botany Bay, offering him a blanket, a hatchet, a jacket to distract him. On top of that, he was diverted by food—the officers tried to eat him down. “It was hoped that he would feed so voraciously, as to render him incapable of executing his intention.” He was given a huge meal of “a light horseman” (a New South Wales fish) and 5 pounds of beef and bread. But then “he set out on his journey with such lightness and gaiety, as plainly showed him to be a stranger to the horrors of indigestion.”

He told the gentlemen he had to go south not to thwart any military expedition but to see a kinswoman, Doringa, who was about to give birth. But his chief purpose was probably to warn people, especially Pemulwuy and his own damelian—his namesake—the Botany Bay native who shared the name Colby.

Meanwhile, the British military force under Tench moved towards “a little village (if five huts deserved the name),” but no one was there. In the native gunyas or huts, they found nothing except fishing spears, fizgigs, which they left untouched. Some canoes were seen and possibly fired on, because we know that Botany Bay Colby was wounded.

Returning to their baggage, which they had left under the care of a small guard of soldiers, the party saw a native fishing in shallow water about 300 yards from land. Since it was not practicable at that distance to shoot him or seize him, Tench decided to ignore him. But the native himself did not ignore the party. He started calling various of them by name, and “in spite of our formidable array, drew nearer with unbounded confidence.” It was Colby from Sydney. Tench was under orders to ignore old native friends, but how could he shoot Colby down? Single-handedly, Colby psychologically disarmed the group “with his wanted familiarity and unconcern.” In theory, his head should have gone into one of their bags. Instead, he recounted how the day before he had been at the hospital for the amputation of a woman's leg by Surgeon White, and he reenacted for them the agony and cries of the woman. In fact, he was having exactly the blunting effect on the expedition he probably wanted to have. The longer he talked and used his dramatic tricks, the harder it became for them to consider killing him.

Overnight he vanished. The next day the British party resumed their dispirited march and camped at three in the afternoon by a freshwater swamp: “after a day of severe fatigue, to pass a nice night of restless inquietude, when weariness is denied repose by swarms of mosquitoes and sandflies.” Fortunately for Tench and the other soldiers, the mosquitoes of New South Wales carried neither malaria nor yellow fever. But the next day, “after wading breast-high through two arms of the sea, as broad as the Thames at Westminster,” they were glad to find themselves at Sydney between one and two o'clock in the afternoon. Private Easty, who had served in the expeditionary ranks, called the return to Sydney “a most tedious march as ever men went in the time.”

Phillip at once ordered a second expedition—his orders for the first had not been a matter of passion but the establishment of principle, and he did not seem to have blamed Tench for failure, since, wrote Watkin, “the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me.” This time the party pretended they were setting off for Broken Bay to punish Willemering. Since the moon was full, they would move by night, to avoid the heat of the day. Crossing the broad estuaries of Cook's River and the swamps behind the beaches of Botany Bay, the soldiers carried their firelocks above their heads and their cartouche boxes were tied fast to the top of their hats. Pushing towards the village they had visited the first time, they met a creek which, when they tried to cross, sucked them down waist-deep into its mud.

There is a perhaps unconscious comedy in Tench's description. “At length, a sergeant of grenadiers stuck fast, and declared himself incapable of moving either forward or backwards; and just after, Ensign Prentice and I felt ourselves in a similar predicament close together. ‘I find it impossible to move; I am sinking,’ resounded on every side.” At length the soldiers not yet embarked on the creek cut boughs of trees and threw them to the men that were stuck, but it took half an hour to drag some out. The rope intended to go round the wrists of captured natives had to be used to drag the sergeant of grenadiers free.

With their mud-smirched uniforms, the military pressed round the head of the creek and on to the village. Tench, dividing his party into three so that they could attack from all sides, sent the troops rushing amongst the huts, to find them absolutely empty. And now, unless the marines set out for camp at once, the river estuaries they had crossed since the point where they left their supplies and bags would be cut off till night. The struggle back exhausted many soldiers, their physical condition undermined by dietary deficiencies. They made another attack on the village in the following small hours, with the same results, and so marched back to Sydney, relieved at their own failure.

Meanwhile, the wounded Irish gamekeeper was still well enough to walk around the hospital. Though many had spoken to McEntire about the appropriateness of openly confessing any injuries he had done the natives, just in case he needed soon to face God, “he steadily denied … having ever fired at them but once, and then only in defence of his own life, which he thought in danger.” And yet those Eora who watched from the fringes of bush or were permitted in the town despite the edict against it knew that he was a walking dead man. He died quite suddenly on 20 January. The surgeons did an autopsy and found pieces of stone and shells inside the left lobe of the lung. Along with the magic which had been sung into them, they had contributed to the lung's collapse.

After missing all the drama of the two expeditions, Bennelong had by now returned to Sydney with Barangaroo from Cameraigal country across the harbour. He had been asked to officiate at certain ceremonies there—knocking out the front teeth of initiates and raising various scars on the skin of the young men. Phillip saw that Barangaroo's body was exceptionally painted to mark the ritual importance of herself and her husband, red ochre colouring her cheeks, nose, upper lip, and small of the back, while dots of white clay spotted the skin under her eyes. Bennelong and Barangaroo proudly wore crowns of rushes and reed bands around their arms. Barangaroo was after all a Cameraigal woman, and had returned to her people with her distinguished husband to be made a fuss of. Bennelong showed Phillip a throwing stick which had been specially designed to remove the teeth of the initiates. Two friends of Governor Phillip were amongst their number: the youth named Yemmerrawanne and another youth who had lived at Governor Phillip's house, probably Ballooderry (whose name meant “leather-jacket,” a type of fish). Each had had a snake-like black streak painted on his chest, and his front tooth knocked out. In fact, Yemmerrawanne had lost a piece of his jawbone along with his incisor.

The removal of a tooth, the upper incisor, was a rite which ancient skulls recovered throughout Australia would prove to be millennia-old. In Collin's journal, the preparations for the knocking out of a tooth are both illustrated and graphically described. The elders danced until one of them fell suddenly to the ground, seemingly in a state of agony. The other elders continued dancing, singing loudly while one or more beat the fallen one on the back until a bone was produced from his mouth and he was free of his pain. This bone chisel would be used on one of the initiates, who thus believed it to have come from the elder's body. Then one by one the other senior men threw themselves on the ground in this manner, and in each case a bone to be used the following day to remove an initiate's tooth was produced.

For the ceremony, the young initiate, surrounded by spear- and shield-carrying elders, was seated on a kneeling relative's shoulders and the tooth was extracted by a man holding a chisel of bone in his left hand and a striking stone in his right. Collins acquired the name for this tooth-excising ceremony—erah-ba-diang, jaw-hurting. Amongst all the names initiated men carried, some too secret to be uttered to the Europeans, there was added after this ceremony the title kebarrah, a man whose teeth had been knocked out by a rock. The associated words, gibber or kibber,meaning a stone, had already been picked up by the English speakers of New South Wales. Another word which would long survive in Australian English was corroboree, which came from the Eora carabbara or carribere, the ritual involving singing and dancing.

“Full of seeming confusion, yet regular and systematic,” Watkin Tench wrote of corroboree, “their wild gesticulations, and frantic distortions of body, are calculated rather to terrify, than delight, a spectator. These dances consist of short parts, or acts, accompanied with frequent vociferations, and a kind of hissing or whizzing noise; they commonly end with a loud rapid shout, and after a short respite, are renewed.” Bodies were decorated with white for the dance, and there were waving lines from head to foot, crossbars, spirals, or zebra-type stripes. The eyes were often surrounded by large white circles. There were occasional dances of romance as well—Nanbaree and Abaroo performed one for Phillip and the officers.

Corroboree was an exultant experience and Bennelong returned to Sydney full of the exhilaration of the recent Cameraigal ceremonies. He cheerily told Governor Phillip that he had met Willemering there. In Bennelong's mind this was no more remarkable than it would be to a European to mention that he had met a given judge socially. But to Phillip it seemed another instance of unreliability in Bennelong.

When Bennelong said good-bye and moved down the slope with Barangaroo and some of his clansmen to his hut at Tubowgulle, his younger wife, Karubarabulu, again left the shelter of Government house, stripping off her European gown, keeping only her nightcap because her head had been shaven, to take residence at Bennelong's house.

An incident was about to occur which came close to convincing Bennelong to sever his association with Phillip, his name-swapper. Though there were no more Botany Bay military expeditions, after Christmas a raid was made by some natives who dug and stole potatoes—the natives called them tarra, teeth—near Lieutenant Dawes's hut. One of the Eora threw his fishing spear at a convict trying to scare the marauders away and wounded him. Led by Phillip, a small party went chasing the potato thieves, and two of them were found sitting with women by a fire. One threw a club, which the marines thought a spear, and three muskets opened fire. Both men fled, and the two women were brought in, slept the night at Government House, and left well fed the following morning.

One of the two natives fired at was wounded. A surgical party led by White and accompanied by some Sydney Cove natives went looking for him and found him lying dead next to a fire. Bark had been placed around his neck, a screen of grass and ferns covered his face, and a tree branch stripped of bark formed an arch over his body. He was covered in green boughs except for one leg. The musket ball had gone through his shoulder and cut the sub-clavian artery. He had bled to death. None of the Eora who went with the surgeon to look for him would go near him, for fear that the mawm spirit in him, the spirit of shock or mortal envy, would overtake them.

Bennelong was angry that death had been the punishment for the minor crime of stealing potatoes. At Government House he was plied with food, but refused to touch anything. Besides, the fruits of the earth were communally owned by his people, and here were the interlopers making a sop or a bribe out of them.

Later, Bennelong appeared at the head of a group of several warriors in a cove where one of the fishing boats was working, and took the fish while threatening the unarmed convicts and soldiers that if they resisted he would spear them. When he next saw Phillip, the governor asked an armed guard into the room during a session in which Bennelong passionately argued the case for taking the fish. Bennelong saw as justice what Phillip saw as robbery. When confronted with two of the whites who had seen him in the boats, Bennelong launched into a rambling, insolent protest, “burst into fury, and demanded who had killed Bangai [the dead Aborigine].” Then Bennelong walked out on Phillip, and as he passed the wheelwright shop in the yard, he picked up an iron hatchet and disappeared with it.

Amongst the population of Sydney Cove was an anonymous painter who produced a striking watercolour portrait of Bennelong wearing white paint while angry and mourning the news of Bangai. Both Phillip and Bennelong had now become exceptionally enraged over their dead. Phillip gave further orders that no boat should leave Sydney Cove unless it carried arms, and forbade the natives to go to the western point of the cove, where the crime of potato-stealing had occurred.

But even this breakdown of their relationship did not prevent the amiable Bennelong from stopping fishing boats to ask them how Phillip was, and to find out if the governor still intended to shoot him. On a personal level, Phillip refused Bennelong entry to Government House and placed him on the same level as the other natives.

Captain Collins had a clear grasp of the policy of “sanguinary punishments” by the natives, for “we had not yet been able to reconcile the natives to the deprivation of those parts of this harbour which we occupied. While they entertained the idea of our having dispossessed them of their residences, they must always consider us as enemies; and upon this principle, they made a point of attacking the white people whenever opportunity and safety concurred.”

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!