Squatters ask for a Police Magistrate

The Sydney Herald

21 April 1841

Wednesday. April 21, 1811. The Murrumbidgee.

We give below a Memorial from the Squatters of the Murrumbidgee, together with the Reply of the Governor.

The prayer of the memorial is, that a Police Magistrate may be appointed for the district; the Commissioner, Mr. Bingham, who nominally presides, residing at such a distance and in such a situation, that so far as a great portion of the Squatters are concerned he might as well be at Yass or Melbourne.

There are upwards of one hundred and fifty stations at the Murrumbidgee, at which there are 6,600horses, 65,000 head of cattle, and 200,000 sheep, so that by the assessment under the Squatting Act, the government receive near 2,500 in direct taxes from the occupiers of stations, and they therefore have a claim upon the government for support and protection in a greater degree than they appear to receive it.

The public house nuisance which the memorialists complain of, is a very serious one, but we think that His Excellency's reply clears the government from any blame.

We understand that at these re- mote houses there is nothing to be procured but spirits, the object for which they were established, the accommodation of travellers, being entirely forgotten.

Perhaps it would be a good plan to issue no spirit license to a house that is more than five miles from a Police Office.

Travellers will he very well satisfied with wine and beer, and the neighbourhood will be much quieter if there are no spirits to be obtained.

Letter To His Excellency Sir George Gipps, Knight, Governor-In-Chief Of' New South Wales, &e., &c., &c.

May It Please Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned Stockholders of the Murrumbidgee district, beg respectfully to submit the following statements to Your Excellency's consideration : -

1. Your Excellency is aware that this district is the great thoroughfare to South Australia, Portland Bay, and Port Phillip.

Thousands of sheep and cattle are frequently travelling these roads, driven in many instances by some of the worst of characters, in the capacity of shepherds, stock-keepers, and bullock-drivers, who have no intention of returning to the Colony if they can effect their escape.

These persons, from the facility afforded by the numerous public-houses lately established on the road, are induced to become intoxicated; and hence the highway in the vicinity of such houses often presents the most appalling scenes of infamy and disorder, even on the Sabbath day.

2. From the almost continued passage of such persons through the district, the respectable graziers have much difficulty in preventing the scattering, and occasionally indeed the absolutely driving altogether away of portions of their stocks; in their attempts to preserve their property they, are often personally insulted; and breaches of the peace are not uncommon occurrences.

3. Sheep affected with scab and catarrh are frequently driven either on the public roads or directly through our sheep runs, at the caprice of such parties, and we are reduced to the necessity of witnessing disease of every kind recklessly introduced among our flocks; as it is at present almost impossible to bring these persons to justice.

The guilty parties know well that before a warrant of search or apprehension could be procured from Yass, the nearest Police station (the distance thence and back being about 200 miles), they, with their flocks, would be far beyond our reach.

4. Servants, free and bond, are under little or no restraint, because the numerous public houses are under no control.

5. Our great distance from a Police station renders it extremely difficult to apprehend the stealers of stock, of which class the district contains many - especially horse-stealers.

For these reasons we would respectfully solicit that your Excellency will be pleased to appoint a Police Magistrate with three or four constables, to reside near the line of road in the Murrumbidgee district, to maintain order, to suppress crime, and to afford that protection which we require, and were naturally led to expect when the 2 Victoria, No. 27. came into operation.

For, although other districts may not enjoy that privilege, yet neither is their need of it so urgent.

Besides, the Border Police force here (four in number) are barely sufficient to serve the assessment notices, without affording any protection.

The very secluded corner (Tumut River) that the Commissioner has chosen for his residence, is at a distance from the road; there is an uncertainty of finding that officer there at any time, and he can be of little or no service except to a few in the immediate neighbourhood of his quarters, when he is there.

The inhabitants of the Murrumbidgee district therefore feel the want of a resident Police Magistrate; and as the tax directly received from licenses and assessments in this district is, we presume, more than sufficient to defray the expense of maintaining the Commissioner and Border Police, we trust your Excellency will be pleased to apply the surplus amount, or as much of it as may be necessary, to carry out this desirable end.

We have the honour to be, &c.

Letter of Reply.

Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney, March 27, 1841.


I am directed by the Governor to ac- knowledge the receipt of the memorial for- warded in your letter of the 16thb instant, from (missing line of text) presenting the want of a resident Police Magistrate, and a few constables in that district, and to inform you in reply, that His Excellency regrets very much he cannot, in the present state of the colony, increase the expenses of the police by forming new establishments.

He will, however, give directions for the Border Police under Mr. Bingham, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, to be kept in as efficient a state, as circumstances will permit.

With respect to Public Houses, represented to be numerous and lately established, I am instructed by His Excellency to remark, that he has not given permission for the establishment of any, but where they have been recommended to him by the magistrates, and asked for by the inhabitants of the district.

I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,

E. Deas Thomson.