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The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 17 October 1871,


We have received from the Rev. Dr. Macdonald a copy of the report of Dr. Geddie, of the New Hebrides Mission, which gives in leference to some of the recent doings at the New Hebrides, in connexion with the labour trade n version from the mission point of view which in some respects differs from accounts which have before appeared. The report displays the clerical liking for strong language, and the labour trade is generally spoken of as "slavery," and the vessels as "slavers," but some paragraphs are worth quoting.

Under the head of Futuna Island we read :
"The great obstacle to the progress of Christianity at present is the deportation of natives.

Many are already at work on the plantations in Queensland aud the Fiji Islands. The last party of natives was taken away only a few, weeks ago. A small schooner called at Tanna, and engaged thore, as interpreter, a native of Aneiteum, who was banished from his own island for the murder of his wifo, and other crimes. The vessel went to Futuna, and the interpreter engaged six natives to whale on the neighbouring island of Aneiteum for a few months. It is enough to say that the unsuspecting natives wero never brought to this island, but were carried off to the Fijis, and will be compelled, no doubt, by bribes or threats to sign agreements binding them to servitude for a term of years. The man who seduced them exhibits a gem to the Tañese, which he says was given to him as the reward of his services. The slaver had no name painted on her, but she is said to be the Maria Douglas. A few natives who have recently been brought home from Queensland are also doing much injury to the cause on Futuna. They are endeavouring to persuade their fellow-countrymen that missionaries have come to gain possession of their lands, and will in due time disinherit them."

In reference to Tanna it is stated-" A few days beforo our arrival at Tanna the Spunkey called to bury a man who had been mortally wounded by a poisoned- arrow on another island, and the captain of the same vessel was severely wounded on the head by a blow from a club. We met at this place also the Margaret Chessell, which lost her mate at Apeo during the previous voyage, being killed by the natives. Since these events happened the Donald M'Lean has buried a man likewise{ who died from the effects of a spear wound inflicted, it is said, by the natives of Mollicolo."

With respect to If ate it is stated " that during the present month Captain Welsh, of the Maria Douglas, died at Havanah Harbour of arrow wounds received at Banks' group ; Captain Robinson, of the Marion Rennie, died there also, of a Bpear wound íeceived at Santo ; and Captain Bradley, of tbe Swallow, died in his vessel at sea, of arrow wounds received at Lepers' Island."

In regard to Nguna the report states :
'. During our visit to Nguna, I investigated a story which a few months ago went the round of the Australian papers.

The Rev. Mr. Milne was charged by a man named William Irving, mate of the Jason, with instigating the natives to firo on him. To make the matter probable, it was confirmed by the solemnity of an oath. The whole statement, as far as Mr, Milne is concernod, is a pure fabrication. The first intimation that the missionary bad of the grave charge against bim was from Irving himself, four months after the event took place. It is true that two shots were fired at a boat in which Irving was, one of them by an enraged husband whose wife ho was carrying off to ship for Queensland, and the other no doubt for some similar reason. It is doubtful if Irving would have fared better in Australia under similar circumstances. White men can point to cases on these islands whero missionaries have interfered to protect them, but there is certainly no instance on record in which their influence has been employed to injure them. The avidity with which Irving's falsehood has been circulated, and the undignified and scurrilous remarks made on it, with a view to damage a Christian mission, is by no means creditable to some of the Australian periodicals. It is reported that the Queensland Government have taken up the matter in Irving's defence, and that a man of-war is to be sent to the islands. It is to be hoped that the zeal of the Government officiate .will not evaporate until they have given this matter the fullest investigation. It is high time that some check should be. placed on the falsehoods of the Queensland press against Christian missionaries.

"Since the above was written, we have received painful tidings from the island of Gnuna. A vessel called the Fanny was captured, and five men were killed. Mr. Milne was absent at the time attending a missionary meeting, but there were three Rarotongan teachers at the station.

The Fanny had brought home some natives from Fiji, intending to procure others. They failed, however, to bring back two women, one of thom the favourite wife of a chief, who had been taken away again by the consent of her husband. The tribe of the chief decided on revenge for that and other wrongs. ' They boarded the vessel, killed all except the captain and mate, who escaped to the cabin, and protected themselves there by weapons. Tho mate, however, was severely wounded, his chin being cut off. The natives in the meantime cut the cable of the vessel, which drifted on land. The captain and mate, und sr the cover of night, left the vessel, and went in search of the mission station, which they found at last. In the absence of the missionary, the teachers gave thom a welcome reception, but were obliged to conceal them.

Tbe captain was hid for seven dayB, most of the time in Mr. Milne's cellar, and the mate was concealed for six days in the bush. At the end of that time he became delirious, and exposed himself to the natives, who shot him. On the seventh day a vessel called at the place, and the teachers delivered the captain to those on board. The teachers saved him at the risk of their own lives ; and had they not afterwards suffered so much in connexion with this affair, the probability ia that they would havo been obliged to leave the island for safety. The person who rescued the captain was Mr. Thurston, formdrly English consul at the Fiji Islands, who has written a fair and impartial account of the tragedy, and appears to have done his dnty in a humane and prudent manner.

A few days after Mr. Thurston loft there were three slavers in Havannah harbour, viz., Daphne), Marion Rennie. . and Lismore The crews of those vessels formed an expedition to revenge the Gnuna massacre. They set out on a Sabbath morning, but instead of going to the guilty district, they went to the mission premises. The teachers were conducting worship with some natives at the time of their arrivaL The meeting was broken up, all the teachers wero put in irons, and one young man was shot dead at the door , of the teachers' house. The paity then culled for fire to burn the missionary's house, but providentially none could be procured, and they contented themselves with breaking a new cooking-stove, which they saw in tuecook house. The teachers and the wives wero taken in irons to Havannah Harbour, and kept prisoners in tho slavers. Loaded guns und knives were held to their breasts, and they were threatened with death if they did not confess that the crew of the Fanny were massacred by, Mr, Milne's orders, but all efforts to extort such a confession were vain.

Mr. Milne returned homo to a desolate stalion, but found the teachers at Havanna Harbour, much dispirited after the infamous 'treatment they had received.

See also:
  • The Slave Trade
  • Douglas ships and shipping
  • Comment:

    The stealing of young Melanesians to work in the cane fields of Australia and Fiji was called "Blackbirding." Europeans in big ships with muskets, axes and mattocks would seduce naive islanders on board to look at other treasures. Sometimes they were offered a pleasure cruise that never came back. One account tells how recruiters in the bay of a missioned island stood on deck with hymnbooks, singing, until the islanders paddled out for a look. They were told falsely that a Bishop was on board; they clambered up and were promptly thrown in the hold. It is quite interesting reading. Her website goes into great detail about the Wild Borneo Man, Malaysia, and other parts of the Oceanic Islands.


    Pacific Islands Appeal to UK for 'Slave Voyages'

    Pacific islands appeal to UK for 'slave voyages' compensation: Cheap labour from Vanuatu laid basis of sugar fortunes, by David Fickling in Sydney for The Guardian, 13 April 2004.

    The government of the Pacific country of Vanuatu is to appeal to Britain and France for compensation for 19th century "slave voyages" which saw 62,000 Melanesians uprooted to work in the sugarcane fields of Queensland and Fiji.

    Thousands of Pacific islanders were kidnapped or tricked by European and South American traders and taken away for manual labour in Pacific colonies in the late 19th century.

    Labourers were sold to plantation owners for £6 to £9 a head and were typically paid £6 a year to work six days a week in cane plantations, where at times the death rate was as high as one in 10.

    Traders got round anti-slavery laws by forcing or coercing Pacific islanders to sign contracts guaranteeing a limited term of indentured labour.

    Vanuatu's foreign minister, Moana Carcasses, told the Guardian that he was in contact with local groups demanding compensation, and planned to raise the issue with the British and French governments later this year.

    "The group who are speaking to me had about 1,000 families. It's quite big numbers who are claiming, and of course there are others who are claiming whom I have not spoken with," he said.

    An appeal to the Australian government has been rebuffed: "They said that's a long time ago, why should they be responsible? I respect that way of seeing things, but it won't stop me knocking on the door."

    The move follows a billion-dollar claim launched in New York last month against the shipping insurer Lloyd's of London and two American companies accused of profiting from the transatlantic slave trade.

    A class action is also being prepared in Australia after it was revealed in February that the New South Wales government had taken an estimated £30m in "stolen wages" held in trust funds and never distributed to the Aborigines who earned it.

    More than 30,000 people were taken from Vanuatu to work in Queensland, New Caledonia and Fiji in the late 19th century, and 870 labour trade voyages between 1863 and 1904 provided the bulk of the workforce on which Queensland's cane industry was built.

    The trade was stopped in 1906 when the newly independent Australian government deported thousands of Melanesians from tropical Queensland because of fears that they might swamp the country's white population.

    Among the most notorious of the so-called "blackbirders" was Ross Lewin, who often adopted the guise of an Anglican bishop to entice islanders on to his ship. Others ambushed villages or took people from beaches by force.

    James Murray, an infamous blackbirder of the early 1870s, encouraged villagers to paddle their canoes out to his schooner with promises of trade in beads, paint, pipes and tobacco, before holing their boats with pig-iron weights and throwing the "rescued" survivors in the hold.

    Clive Moore, an associate professor at the University of Queensland and an expert on the trade, said that Vanuatu was right to pursue the claims, but could run into difficulties proving how much of the trade was forced.

    "There's force and there's deception, and some very cruel things happened," he said. "Europeans were using these people as cheap labour, but it's insulting to the intelligence of Melanesians to believe that they stood on their beaches for decade after decade allowing themselves to be captured.

    "In the first 10 years or so that labour was taken from any island, it was largely by kidnapping or deception. But then what occurs is [the people originally kidnapped] come back again and explain to the ones about to leave what it involves. So physical kidnapping stops, but it's still a type of cultural kidnapping."

    Mr Carcasses said many of the families who had contacted him were prepared to take legal action if negotiations failed. But he admitted that Vanuatu, an aid-dependent archipelago of about 80 islands with a population of 200,000 and a gross domestic product of £300m, had slender means to pursue such an action.

    "I've said to the people here that I will try my best, of course if that fails the families have the right to use legal means," he said. "What I say to them is, don't take your expectation too high. Don't expect you're going to receive billions of dollars. Maybe the English government will say sorry. Maybe they'll give you a hospital and that's it."


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