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Reaction

Reaction

The Glenelg and Wedge letters illuminate the thinking of John Batman and the Port Phillip Association. The first is from JH Wedge, at the Indented Head camp, to John Batman. The second is the formal letter the Association wrote to Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for the Colonies, asking for him to approve the deed. Great courtesy was essential.

Photo of a letter from Wedge to Batman
Letter from Wedge to Batman 1835. Photo: Dragi Markovic
Photo of a letter to Lord Glenelg
Letter to Lord Glenelg 1835. Photo: Dragi Markovic
Photograph of Governor Bourke's Proclamation revoking Batman's treaty with the Aboriginals.
Governor Bourke's Proclamation revoking Batman's treaty with the Aboriginals 1835. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, ML D356-1, No.7


Governor Bourke rejected the Deed. Amongst his concerns were the well-being of the Aboriginal people of Port Phillip. By May 1836 he was moved to issue a proclamation stating that any outrages would be punished accordingly. He feared a descent into violence.

On docking in Launceston, Batman went to see WL Goodwin of the Cornwall Chronicle to tell his tale. Then he went to a tavern. Exhausted and elated Batman went on a bender. In the night he was drunk and bragging. He later feared he had said too much. His terrible illness gnawed at him.

The report of the journey was directed to Governor Arthur in Hobart in the mistaken belief that his authority extended to Port Phillip.

pdf icon View an enlarged image of Governor Bourke's Proclamation (811kb PDF)

Illustration of JP Fawkner.
JP Fawkner.History of Victoria Illustrated, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN01/08/88/Supp/5


The earliest newspaper accounts were complimentary. Goodwin called him 'The Tasmanian Penn' yet soon after mocked him as the 'King of Batmania'. John Pascoe Fawkner, a jealous rival, was keen to cross Bass Strait in his own ship the Enterprize. He had been there before as a boy in 1803. He thought Batman a fraud.

Yet the game was afoot and the response from Sydney was keenly awaited. It came on 26 August 1835. Governor Bourke crushed their hopes. The Treaty was void. It has 'no effect against the rights of the Crown'. The Port Phillip Associates, and any others, were just trespassers. The scheme would not be countenanced. The strategy had failed.

Portrait of Governor Richard Bourke.
Governor Richard Bourke circa 1835.
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, ML 135

Food for thought

Why did the government react as it did?

What were the factors that Bourke took into account in making his decision?

Could the Port Phillip Association have succeeded with a different plan?

Points of view

John Helder Wedge - surveyor

Batman returned with a description of the country and of his encounter with the 'Dutigullar tribe'. Wedge's job as a surveyor, with the Hume and Hovell 1825 expedition map before him, was to sketch the route and give details of the topography. His map would give credence to the plan. The hopes of the Port Phillip Association rested on those documents that mingled a plea for permission with a statement of the seemingly inevitable. Would it work?

The government: Bourke and Glenelg

Governor Bourke had already been battling the emergent squatting interests around Sydney. The sudden arrival of the news of the Batman treaties did not divert him from his course. Neither squatting nor the Port Phillip adventure would be tolerated. Bourke accordingly wrote to Lord Glenelg, the Colonial Secretary in London, who agreed with him. While the colonists and their sheep could not be removed, the government would assert control over the unwelcome settlement on the Yarra.

The brothers Jagajaga

Did the Woi wurrung expect the meeting with strangers on that winter's day to presage a flood of sheep and people? Eleven men on foot soon turned into eleven hundred. The sheep came in the thousands and spread right across the country. By the summer the northern bank of the Yarra was teeming with people, building houses, making roads, shooting kangaroos, taking fish. The missionaries paid them a lot of attention – they created a Reserve.

Map of Part of New Holland
Map of Part of New Holland 1835. Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, DL Q83/71