Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 4-286 (Original)

4-286 (Original)

Item metadata
addressee,male author,male,Paton, J.G.,un
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Private Written
Private Correspondence
Clark, 1975
Document metadata

4-286.txt — 3 KB

File contents

It is not generally known that the vessels engaged in this traffic are the property of the planters, who man each vessel, the- Government agent alone being paid by the State, Before sailing on a recruiting cruise, stores - food and clothing - for the round voyage, which must not exceed six months, are taken on board. These stores are carefully supervised by the Resident Polynesian Inspector at each port of embarkation. But the vessel carries a great deal more over which there is no supervision, nor in the loading of which is there let or hindrance. A cargo of miscellaneous wares - called "trade" - representing in value £500 or £600, forms the most important part of the equipment of every recruiting vessel and without which the business might be abandoned. These wares consist of knives, tobacco, pipes, tomahawks, needles, looking-glasses, long and short handled axes, Jew's harps, earthenware armlets and bracelets, felt hats, gaudy-coloured handkerchiefs, strings of bright hued beads, etc. Arrived at the island, the anchor is generally lowered when two or three miles from the coast. When the natives desire to recruit, or rather the "trade" boat to come ashore, they invariably show themselves on the beach or light a fire. The boatswain on the voyage to the islands becomes the "recruiter" when there, and he is the direct medium on behalf of the planters in securing "recruits." [214] Operations are commenced by lowering two boats - the recruiter's containing one white man and two Kanakas, the Government agent's manned by two white men and three Kanakas. Each man is armed with a Winchester or Snider, the agent and recruiter carrying a revolver, in the first - named boat is the "trade" chest, containing a variety of the articles mentioned. These are gifts from the planters to the friends of recruits, and at first sight this seems a considerate move to assuage their grief at parting. The friends may choose goods to the value of from £1 to £3. Giving presents in this way is "a standing rule of the trade," practised by the French, German, Fijian, etc.; all, except the British, including fire-arms and fire-water. As he nears the shore with the Government agent about four boat's lengths behind him, he (the recruiter) turns his boat stern on to the beach, but does not land. His oarsmen are ready to pull off at a moment's notice, and have their weapons ready in case of sudden attack from the natives. As the natives gather round, the recruiter asks them in pigeon-English if they wish to "volunteer" for Queensland. When one steps forward, he is immediately followed by his friends for their present. Now the "trade" chest comes into requisition. The scene is exciting as they are handling the different wares, but midst it all, if the presents do not satisfy them, they will not allow their boy to leave the island. What follows? Almost within grasp is the recruit to be lost for the sake of a few more sticks of tobacco, another tomahawk, or string of beads? No, says the planter, who has provided accordingly; and the beads, tomahawk, and tobacco are given; the friends are satisfied and consent; then, and not till then the "recruit" recruits. This is what the Government of Queensland and the planters uphold as honest recruiting! Physical kidnapping, strictly speaking, it is not? But certainly it partakes of barter, bribery, or decoying. It is the white man's wares versus the black man's body. The strange point is that no Queensland Act or regulation had been framed to deal with this feature of the traffic, and every vessel carries its supply of "trade" with as much regularity as it carries food and water. It is openly done, evidently with the support and protection of the law in the person of the agent, who would use his weapon if he saw interference with the recruiter.