John Brown Gribble to Frederick Chesson, 28 May 1886, C137/19

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Gribble, John Brown








Western Australia

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C137-19


Perth, W.A.
May 28th 1886

My Dear Mr Chesson,

As I am sending you a copy of legal opinion as well as copies of letters to H.E. the Governor of this Colony you will shortly learn the present position of affairs with reference to myself. The whole case has been referred home, for the consideration of the Secretary of State for the Colony. I can get no justice here either for the natives or myself. I can fully believe all the shocking things which Carly has reported. His Honour the Chief Justice (…) the Hon A.P. [Heuman?] x and other men of true principle are standing by me. The administration here is a mild …, and the great object sought is to prevent exposure of crimes especially in relation to the native.

I am sorry to have to say that those of my ecclesiastical superiors who represent the Bishop during his Lordship’s absence in England, being the mere creatures of circumstances, and the satellites of a Vice Regal patronage, are but feebly supporting me. They dare not go against the men of money, and political influence, and such men as a rule are dead set against all missionary effort to alter the condition of the natives. I am about publishing a pamphlet entitled Dark Deeds in a Sunny Land or Blacks and Whites in North West Australia. As soon as published I will send you a copy.

My wife and sons are still ‘holding the fort’ at the Galilee Mission Station Port Gaseyou which is 600 miles north of Perth.

I am far from well, and work and worry telling on me again.

I trust you will bring the facts recorded in the legal statement under the notice of the proper authorities at once. Of course you have already received my former communication during my last inland journey of 400 miles in company with my eldest son and one mission native. When about 130 miles from the coast, we were unexpectedly fired at, by a party of white men no less than four bells passed us very closely and we had to run for our lives. A Martini Henri Rifle was the weapon used.

On our return journey to the coast when only 22 miles from the Galilee Mission, a white man informed me that only a week before, a young native girl had been dragged by the neck along the ground for a considerable distance a rope having been tied round her neck, and then fastened to a horse and after being nearly dragged to death she was released and flogged. This outrage was committed by a native lad at the instance of a white man who, as the girl having declined required her for carnal purposes. The girl was questioned by me upon the matter and her story corresponded with what the white man had told me and a Malay who witnessed the outrage substantiated the girl’s statements. I have fully reported the case to the police. But up to the present nothing has come out of it. The land is one of slavery and is stained with the blood of unoffending natives. God the righteous judge will certainly punish this guilty land.

I remain
Yours faithfully
John B. Gribble

F.W. Chesson Esq
Secretary Aborigines Protection Society of Great Britain

Copy to H.E. the Governor of W.A.
May 12th 1886

Your Excellency,

In humble compliance with your request I now send you in writing my complaint, trusting that you will give the same your immediate attention and secure to me that justice which, as a British subject, is my birthright and privilege.

On the 6th of February last, I was assaulted by a number of North West settlers who were my fellow passengers on board the S.S. Natal.

On reaching Perth I reported the case to my Bishop, who at once convened a meeting of the Mission Committee, of which I am the missionary agent in the Gascoyne District.

That committee strongly advised me to take legal steps in order that the offenders might be brought to justice. Such steps I took, but was thwarted at the very beginning of the proceedings, inasmuch as the legal gentleman recommended by my committee refused to take up the case and then, when I tried to obtain summonses for the Natal officials whom I required to detain as witnesses I could not find the Clerk of the Court at Freemantle, although my efforts to find him were made within prescribed office house.

And then, after the Natal sailed I sought to obtain summonses from the Court at Freemantle, but the Police Magistrate would not receive my injunctions saying that he would have to consult the Attorney General before he could receive such injunctions.

Subsequently I attended at the court at Freemantle and before a local Justice of the Peace over the injunctions against my assailants.

But even then several weeks elapsed before anything was done in the matter, during which period I visited Your Excellency at Rottnest, and your Excellency then assured me that the law should take its course without any further delay.

Soon after my Rottnest visit I returned to the scene of my labours on the Gascoyne, being given plainly to understand by my solicitor that the summonses were about to be served through the defendants’ solicitors, the said summonses to be returnable on or about the 17th May. With such an understanding I made a long and toilsome journey of 400 miles after reaching Port Gascoyne, and hurried back to the coast in order that I might catch the steamer to Freemantle there to appear at the hearing of the case.

But on reaching Perth to my surprise I was informed by my solicitor that the case had been postponed till the 5th of July and that he did not know of such postponement till the 5th May inst, too late to prevent my sailing from the Gascoyne

He further informed me that the clerk of the court at Freemantle had informed him that he would have to communicate with the Acting Colonial Secretary with reference to the issue of the summonses and that he did so on the 20th of April last, but had received no reply.

Therefore, I require to know:
A. The reasons for such strange and unconstitutional proceedings.
B. Why is justice practically denied me?
C. Why was not the case dealt with, in the first instance in the usual way?
D. Why has the case been put off from time to time for six months?
E. What am I now to do in relation to the matter? If I remain here till the 5th of July, my family will be neglected, my important enterprise of organizing a mission settlement 200 miles from the North West coast will be most seriously hindered. While if I return by the next steamer I shall not be able to appear on the 5th of July to prosecute the accused, and so the ends of justice will be defeated and the majesty of the law degraded.

But I wish Your Excellency to understand that if I am obliged through force of circumstance to abandon this case, I shall most certainly lay the blame at the door of the Government of this Colony. And I shall be prepared to act accordingly.

I shall not keep anything back from the sister colonies, nor from the authorities civil and ecclesiastical in England. I shall make it my mission to reveal to the Christian world the wrongs, the injustices, and the cruelty, obtaining under the British flag in the colony of Western Australia.

In conclusion I desire to know from Your Excellency whether in view of the loss of time and money to which I have been subjected in consequence of the unwarrantable neglect and bungling of Government official I am to be compensated by Government.

I am Your Excellency’s etc.
John B. Gribble

Sir F. Napier Broome K.C.M.G.

Perth W.A.
May 27th 1886

Your Excellency,

I herewith forward in triplicate my complaint to the Secretary of State for the Colonies together with my solicitor’s legal opinion also in triplicate and would most respectfully ask Your Excellency to get them despatches in the usual manner, by the next mail steamer to England.

With reference to Your Excellency’s reply to my letter bearing date 15th inst I have to say, and that most respectfully, that I am surprised at the false construction put upon certain statements made therein. And I most emphatically repudiate the imputation of sinister motives, which Your Excellency has thought fit to employ to my further damage as well as to shield yourself from that blame, which in the clear light of matter of fact, attaches to Your Excellency.

And I would furthermore signify my feeling of abhorrence at the course of procedure which has been resorted to by Your Excellency in referring to my ecclesiastical superiors a simple case of injustice, which they had no right to decide, but which according to a long standing promise Your Excellency should have decided long since.

Having referred the whole case home for the consideration of the Secretary of State for the Colonies I shall decline to discuss the subject any further with Your Excellency here.

I remain etc.
John B. Gribble
Sir F. Napier Broome, K.C.M.G.