Spotlight: The Bothwell Police (1841)

Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Tuesday 2 February 1841, page 2


The imbecility of the Bothwell Police has been made peculiarly apparent last week, which we think will quite satisfy His Excellency. (It is not with men, but measures, that we have to do.) A woman with whom one of the bushrangers cohabited, gave information at the Bothwell Police-office, that on the following Friday the house of a publican named Chivers, about six miles from the settlement would be visited by the bushrangers. One would have supposed that considerable attention and prudent arrangements would have taken place under such circumstances. What will our readers say, when they are informed that only three petty constables were directed to proceed to the place, and watch!

On the Saturday about dusk, two of them arrived, entered the house, called for a pot of porter, and sat down quietly to drink it, with their fire-arms between their knees, ready for use if required. The three official gentlemen shortly after entered the room, presented their guns, and demanded a surrender, under the pain of immediate destruction. The bushrangers did not like the terms, started to their feet, and threw up the muzzles of the official muskets, one of which flashed in the pan, one went off but missed its object, and the third either refused fire, being ill prepared, or was not loaded. In the midst of the confusion, the enemy coolly extinguished the light, and deliberately walked off! Could anything be more disgraceful? When will such another opportunity offer?

Were there no other consideration but human life, a proper force and proper leaders should have been sent on such important service. How different the conduct of the Green Ponds Police Magistrate the other day, when information was sent him, that two bushrangers were seen on Mr. Berthon’s estate, he immediately sent four constables, and four soldiers in plain clothes after them, and rode himself towards the place as fast as his horse could carry him! It is only by judicious activity and energy on the part of the head of the police, that success can be expected from the branches. It is by imitating Capt. Mackenzie in this Colony, and the Police Magistrate of Maitland, that this kind of duty can be properly effected. An indolent Police Magistrate might pass at Circular Head, where bushrangers are strangers, and cannot exist.

The Magistrates of Birmingham were dismissed, and with difficulty escaped being prosecuted for neglect of duty, but some of our favourite Police Magistrates may do as they please with impunity. What will Lord John Russell say to that? and that his Lordship will know it, is beyond all question. There is another proof of the judicious procedure of the Assistant Police Magistrate of Bothwell, although in one sense a trifling matter, yet under the circumstances has created great irritation. The Government willing to assist the harvesting as much as possible, sent twelve men to Bothwell to be disposed of as a matter of course, in proportion to the extent of crop to be cut by the respective parties in the district as the number was so small they might be changed from farm to farm alternately, until the whole was cut. This we conceive would be the arrangement which equity would dictate, and common sense pursue on such an occasion. But it would appear that equity and common sense has no official hold in that suffering district; the twelve men were disposed of immediately to three settlers, seven to one, four to another, and one to a third! We speak not invidiously of the gentlemen who were the favourites of the day. We speak of the gross injustice shewn even in this trifling matter so different to the open and impartial conduct which should be exhibited by the medium or middle man between the head of the Government and the people, besides which it is very much calculated to bring the character of the Government into disrepute, to give it the mildest term.

We really hope His Excellency will take a ride up himself and call all the parties before him, hear both sides, settle the matter, and put an end to the unhappy feeling that has existed in that [portion missing from transcript due to damage to original document.]

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