The Minerva, having touched at Rio de Janeiro, had brought many articles for sale, as well from that Port as from England, most of which were much wanted by the inhabitants; but the prices required for them were such as to drain the colony of every shilling that could be got together.
With the Minerva arrived the Fhynne, a small snow from Bengal, under Danish colours, which had been chartered by the officers of the colony civil and military, through the means of an agent whom they had sent thither for that purpose. She was freighted on their account with many articles of which they were much in want; and as more labour could be obtained for spirits than for any other mode of payment, an article so essential to the cultivation of their estates was not forgotten.
On the evening of the 18th (which had been observed as the birthday of her Majesty) a convict, in attempting to go alongside the Minerva, although repeatedly told to keep off, was shot by the sentinel, who was afterwards tried, and acquitted, having only executed his orders.
The decision of this affair was prompt, and unattended with any doubt or difficulty; but not so was another business that had engaged the attention of the criminal court. The natives having murdered two men who possessed farms at the Hawkesbury, some of the settlers in that district determined to revenge their death. There were at this time three native boys living with one Powell, a settler, and two others, his neighbours. These unoffending lads they selected as the objects of their revenge. Having informed them, that they thought they could find the guns belonging to the white men, they were dispatched for that purpose, and in a short time brought them in. Powell and his associates now began their work of vengeance. They drove the boys into a barn, where, after tying their hands behind their backs, these cowardly miscreants repeatedly stabbed them, until two of them fell and died beneath their hands. The third, making his escape, jumped into the river, and, although in swimming he could only make use of his feet, yet under this disadvantage, and with the savage murderers of his companions firing at him repeatedly, he actually reached the opposite bank alive, and soon joined his own people.
The governor, on being made acquainted with this circumstance, immediately sent to the place, where, buried in a garden, the bodies of these unfortunate boys were found, stabbed in several places, and with their hands tied as has been described. Powell and his companions in this horrid act were taken into custody, and, a court being convened, they were tried for the wilful murder of two natives.
The evidence that was brought before the court clearly established that the deceased had come to their death by the means of the prisoners; and the members of it were unanimously of opinion that they were guilty of killing two natives; but, instead of their receiving a sentence of death, a special reference was made to his Majesty’s minister, and the prisoners were admitted to bail by the court.