Social Commentator

The Dismissal of Frederick Walker from the Native Police.

The dismissal of Commandant Walker seems incongruous given the level of rapport he appeared to have had with Fitz Roy. However, the record revealed he had two groups of critics who were prepared to use their power to remove him from the command of the Native Police. In the following chapter, I attempt to assess the operational effectiveness of the Native Police and although conventional data on which to assess such an organisation was difficult to collect, my view is that by and large the Native Police under Walker was effective and efficient in protecting the frontier outside the settled districts. So why would groups seek to get rid of Walker? It seems to me that Walker had a makeup that brought him into conflict with his peers usually by his publicly criticising them. From this far out when assessing Walker, I submit it is reasonable to tender Walker’s letter of 1 March 1852 to the Colonial Secretary and his Circular to the Officers of the Native Police Corps dated 1 July 1854, which may be found at Chapter 11 as evidence of his willingness to provoke and antagonise those he worked with, such as colleagues and squatters. Both letters are rambling, self-serving diatribes against the squatters in the first instance and his officers in the second. Each letter received the approbation of Fitz Roy which to the aggrieved parties would have been unreasonable given Walker’s immensely narcissistic personality.
On Wednesday, 30 August 1854 the Legislative Council in dealing with Estimates went into a Committee of Supply. The Auditor General proposed the following for the Native Police force an increase of pay to 96 troopers, from 3d to 5d each per diem, £292 etc. Mr Flood thought this native police force should be placed under the superintendence of the Inspector General of Police. As long as this force was under the exclusive management of the commandant, there would be no certainty that the force received the pay and rations voted for them. As far as he could hear, the character of the present commandant was not such as would warrant the confidence reposed in him. It was the subject of frequent complaints that if this officer were ever found sober; it was from the very good reason that he could obtain no drink.
Dr Douglass protested against the practice of making attacks on the personal character of public officers in the House. If complaints were justified, they should be made to the Executive, and not in a way which prevented any individual attacked from saying anything in his own justification. With regard to the system of distributing the rations, if it was under the sole superintendence of the commandant, he thought that the system was wrong. There ought to be an appeal open to the men.
The Colonial Secretary defended the conduct of the commandant, declaring that he believed him to be the most efficient person for the office in the country.
The Attorney-General expressed his belief that, if the commandant were a habitual drunkard, he was unfit for his office, or any other office; but he thought no indecency of conduct could exceed that of any hon. member of that House indulging, under cover of the privileges he enjoyed, in attacks on the private and personal characters of persons not present to defend themselves. He had had much correspondence with this officer, and had always found him an able officer, he had also had many complaints made against him, but they were mainly of a personal nature, but certainly they did not involve the charge now made against him. If any such charge could be substantiated, on due representation to the Government, the proper steps would be taken.
Mr. Leslie defending the character of the commandant expressed his opinion that the discussion upon it was entirely irrelevant.
Mr. Morris defended in strong terms the zeal of the officer in question, and deprecated the discussion on his character which had taken place.
Dr. Lang had been lately in the Northern Districts, (laughter) and in the course of his peregrinations he had heard that the officer whose character had been called in question was heartily devoted to his duty, and the wonder was how he contrived to manage his troops so well, when he appeared generally half-seas-over. (Laughter) Considering that his services were deemed well performed, the House might be disposed to overlook his peccadilloes, yet he protested against any person being the recipient of the public money whose character as an officer was not unquestionable.
Mr. Suttor remarked that the Government time ought not to be taken up day after day in entertaining petty charges of such a nature. If any person had a complaint to make against a public officer, the Executive and not the House were bound to investigate it, unless the Executive refused to entertain the question, when it might be brought before the House; but there was no proof that such had been the case in the present instance.
Mr. Cowper differed from those honourable members who condemned the discussion relative to the character of the Commandant of Police, for so long as he had reason to believe that a public officer was a public delinquent, that officer should hear of it from him, and he would not vote money for such an officer. At any rate, in voting a sum of money they were bound to have regard to the trustworthiness of the individual to whom the money was entrusted, and he hoped after what had transpired that the Government would institute an inquiry into the charges preferred against their officer, and either clear up his character or dismiss him from the service.
Mr. Flood asserted that the recipient of public money for paying the aboriginal police ought not to be a reputed drunkard, and the question before the Committee was, whether, in the event of the allegation being true, the commandant was a fit person to be the recipient, and to have the appropriation of the public money. The vote was then carried.
The above outburst in the House put Frederick Walker smack dab in the middle of a controversy that would give his detractors the opportunity to belittle and ridicule him. Walker’s close friend, Augustus Morris, member of the Legislative Council and settler of Callandoon, wrote to Walker on 6 September 1854 from the Australian Club, Sydney:
My dear Walker, I have only a moment to write to you. All sorts of charges are being made against you and your police, as see Englishman of Saturday. The murder of the blacks there referred to was today brought before the Council by Cowper on a question to the Attorney-General who said he never before heard about the neglect but expressed his determination to leave no stone unturned to enquire into the matter. He has not written a letter to the Editor for his authority. The plot seems to thicken against you. That terrible failing, as I have warned you so often will I fear be the ruin of you. I intend to move Friday for a Select Committee to enquire into and report upon the general management of the Native Police. The Committee will be: Cowper-Leslie, Dobie-Mayne, Flood-Nichols, King-Russel & the Attorney-General. This the only course by which you can get justice and be brought face to face with your accusers. I will of course be the Chairman. I have just told the Colonial Secretary that I am writing to you to come. He will write by the steamer’s next mail. You must not delay a minute. Bring with you the means of defending yourself and bring everything, the excessive charges of the settlers for rations and things. In fervent haste, yours sincerely A Morris
The record also revealed a fragment of a further letter written by Morris to Walker on or about the same time as follows:
… you are charged with being unfit to be entrusted with the ration money of the Police. It is said it ought to be done by contract. I know this to be nonsense. I wish you would provide me with the means of defending you as I have undertaken to do, when your (situation) comes under consideration. I will fight for you to the last but you must reform you must purge officers et al, risk charges. I send you the Herald but the papers never reveal the discussions in committee at any length. A tremendous onslaught was made on you. Lose no time in writing to me. I will in case I do not hear from you in time … every assistance for the Colonial Secretary’s office. I wish you were here. Hoping that all these … matters may be of ulterior advantage to you. Believe me, yours sincerely A Morris
Then the following proceedings were reported in the debates of the Sydney Legislative Council, on the 7th September 1854, with reference to the Native Police. Mr. Morris (Liverpool Plains) moved:
1. That a select committee be appointed to inquire into, and report upon, the general management of the Native Police.
2. That such committee consist of the following members, viz. Mr. Cowper, Mr. Leslie, Mr. Dobie, Capt. Mayne, Mr. Flood, Mr. Nichols, Captain King, Mr. Russell, and the Attorney-General. Mr. Barker seconded the motion.
The Colonial Secretary did not think that the course proposed to be pursued by the hon. member for Liverpool Plains was the correct one. He had stated on a previous evening that the Government would inquire into the charges against the Commandant of the Native Police, and, in his opinion, charges of such a nature as had been made against the Native Police ought to be investigated by the Government. He did not make these observations in disparagement of the Select Committee of the House, the value of those services he appreciated and acknowledged, and he promised that if the hon. member would withdraw his motion; an investigation should be instituted by the Government.
Mr. Morris, in deference to the expressed wish of the House, would withdraw his motion although he had no confidence in Government inquiries. Leave having been granted, the motion was withdrawn.
The following opinion piece seemed to sum up the sorry state affairs by attempting to bring some common sense to the difficulties of maintaining a police presence on the frontier.

THE NATIVE POLICE.
WE have recently been afforded another instance in proof of the advantages that might accrue to the community by an enlightened and discriminating attention on the part of the Government to the suggestions of the public press. More than five years ago, a fierce contest raged in this journal, between the supporters and the opponents of the Native Police force under the command of Mr. Frederick Walker. Letter after letter, from correspondents of known respectability, denounced the conduct and impugned the motives of the Commandant; and on this side of the question it was made to appear that the force, instead of being a protection to the settlers, was a cause of provocation to the aboriginal tribes of the northern districts. On the other hand, it was as stoutly contended, by writers of equal experience and respectability, that the Native Police force had restored order and security to the districts in which they were stationed; that the Commandant evinced great zeal and devotion to the service; and that the attacks which were made by the opposite party arose entirely from private pique and personal dislike. There was nothing to guide an impartial mind at a distance, to a fair conclusion between these statements.
In this position of affairs, we suggested and repeatedly advocated the appointment of a local Commission of Inquiry, so that the truth might appear, and public confidence be restored or disabused, as the case might be. Things were permitted, however, to go on in the same doubtful and unsatisfactory manner as before; and it is only now, when the measure has been absolutely forced upon the Government, that a proper investigation is to take place.
A Commission of Inquiry is, we understand, appointed in Brisbane, and Mr. Walker is expected shortly to arrive in town, in order to be present at the investigation. Thus, the accused and the accusers will be brought face to face, and tardily enough, the public mind will have a chance of being satisfied, after two years of unnecessary delay. Without in the slightest degree intending the impertinence of offering any advice to the Commissioners, we may well make a few brief remarks upon the subject as it stands. In the first place, however desirable it may be to maintain strict discipline and order, by precept and example, in a force of military police, it must be manifest that there are many circumstances which take the present out of the ordinary range of cases. Hurrying from place to place with a body of semi-civilised aboriginals; encamping, without tents, in unhealthy swamps; in dense brushes, or on bleak mountains, the officers of the Native Police force, when on active service, lead a life very unfavourable to the development of what Carlyle might call “Petit-Maitreism.” And when to these duties is added that of occasionally seeking fresh levies for the force, and the equally important task of keeping the half savage men in a state of good humour and contentment, by a judicious system of personal intercourse and conversation, in camp and on the road, it must be acknowledged that the Commandant is somewhat differently situated from an officer of the Household Troops doing duty at Windsor, and it could scarcely be expected that he would display all the nice little proprieties of the tight-laced hussar who sips lemonade in the Duchess of Sutherland’s ball room. We have no desire to palliate any culpable neglect of duty or to encourage a bad example; but it is only fair, to the public as well as to the individual, that all the difficulties to contend with should be considered in connection with the manner of surmounting them.
As to the charges of wanton cruelty and barbarity, which have been brought against this force, we have a very strong opinion that they will not be sustained. It is very easy for those who form their opinion of police operations upon the movements of the Sydney constabulary, to prescribe the exact mode in which a force like the Native Police shall set about the apprehension of a wild murderer or marauder, amongst his native scrubs and mountains: but common sense sets aside all such rules, and teaches us that the manner of performing the duty must be adapted to the exigency of the case. If a hostile tribe offer an armed resistance to a force sent upon such a service as this, there can be no doubt whatever of the justice and propriety of opposing force to force, and cutting a lane to the culprit, if need be, through the bodies of his defenders. There is no way of establishing order amongst determinedly hostile savages, but by vigorous and decisive proofs of the supremacy and strength of the law.
However, this inquiry may end, we have no doubt but that it will be conducted in such a manner that the public interest and the cause of humanity will be duly respected, at the same time that the accused are allowed the full benefit of the peculiar circumstances of the case, and shielded from any unfair attacks of private and personal enemies.
On 19 September 1854, from The Australian Club, Morris wrote again:
My dear Walker, I had intended to have sent you an outline of my speech in moving for a committee on your case, but I have been so busy that I have been unable to carry out the intention.
The Government intend to order an inquiry on the spot into the management of your Force and I greatly fear that you will be sacrificed to the clamour against you. However well you may prove you have managed the Force, nevertheless your intemperance will be seized hold of as sufficient to dismiss you. I must say that I fear your Force is dreadfully disorganised, your officers and yourself do not stand to one another in the relation you ought. Now I have always warned you against intemperance, I always saw that the habit would be your stumbling block and the more merely that you had deceived yourself into a belief that you scarcely ever exceeded.
I hope you may re-establish your character and by the past correct the future. You will see by the papers what is said against you. There can be little doubt that your troop requires wholly to be reformed. From every side, they think there is discipline neither amongst officers nor men. I hope I shall hear from you before the General Estimates come in. Mark you thus, the Select Committee was refused for the reasons above mentioned, believe me. Yours sincerely A Morris.
On 21 September 1854, the Colonial Secretary wrote to Walker as follows:
Sir, In consequence of certain representations having been received from the officers under your command seriously affecting your character as an officer, His Excellency the Governor General has deemed it expedient to relieve you from duty until they can be duly investigated.
2. His Excellency directs me while communicating this information to instruct you to proceed to Brisbane where you will receive further instructions through the Government Resident there. I have etc. W. Elyard.
On the same date, the Colonial Secretary also wrote to Lieutenant RP Marshall as follows:
Sir, I do myself the honour to inform you that your letters tendering your own resignation and enclosing communications from the officers named in the margin (Lts Fulford, Murray, Irving, Nicol, R Walker & Sgt Dolan) containing statements against the Commandant of the Native Police and also tendering their resignations have been received and laid before the Governor General.
2. An investigation will be made into the circumstances referred to and the Commandant afforded an opportunity of furnishing such explanation as it may be in his power to do; but in the meantime, the resignation of yourself and the others of the corps cannot be accepted.
3. As the Commandant has been informed that he is to consider himself as relieved from duty during the investigation and that he is to proceed to Brisbane where he will receive further instructions through the Government Resident there. His Excellency requests that you as Senior Lieutenant will do what is necessary and may be in your power for keeping up the discipline of the native police force and that you will intimate to the several officers that they must be responsible for their own immediate commands so that the native troopers may not be let loose on the community pending His Excellency’s decision on the case of the Commandant.
4. You will be good enough to acknowledge the receipt of this letter and to report the steps that you may take in consequence thereof.
5. I am however to remark that although it is not to be wondered at that you addressed yourself direct to the Government instead of sending your letter through the Commandant yet you should have furnished that officer with a copy of it in order that he might have had the opportunity of defending himself if it was in his power to do so. I have etc. W. Elyard.
On 3 October 1854, Walker wrote a rather touching and prescient letter from Traylan to Sergeant Alexander Walker:
Sir, It is with much regret I have heard that two men have been killed on the Dawson notwithstanding the precautions I had taken.
2. I trust that upon the return of the men you tried all you could do to discover these murderers.
3. Whenever you go on duty yourself remember to give your orders in writing to whatever corporal you may leave behind.
4. I need not remind you to be cautious in carrying out the written instructions to sergeants.
5. I regret to state that it is probable I shall soon leave the force and most of the troopers resign with me. I will see that you are provided for. By next post you will receive your pay up to 30 September. I would send it over but not for Ferguson been absent.
6. Send me Dick and Jemmy with the light cart and my horses except Jundah which Orlando will keep. I remain etc. F Walker Cmdt NP
Edward will want you to write a letter to me for him, which please send by the next post. He must sign it as well as Tahiti and Larry.
On 14 October 1854, Walker, still at Traylan, replied to the Colonial Secretary:
Sir, I do myself the honour to state in reply to your letter of 21st September, No 312 that my horses as stated in my letter of 25th Sept No 54/23 are all knocked up but as I expected some here on the 21st I will then immediately start according to your instructions for Brisbane.
2. In the meanwhile, I am engaged with Mr Ferguson in making up the accounts. I have etc. F Walker Cmdt NP
On 31 October 1854, Fitz Roy noted on Walker’s above reply:
Read. Capt. Wickham may be informed in order that he may report if Mr Walker does not arrive into Brisbane in due time. CAF 31st. Capt. Wickham 2nd November 1854, 54/9848.
On 25 October 1854, JC Wickham Govt Resident, Brisbane advised the Colonial Secretary:
Sir, With reference to your letter of the 23rd ultimo, No 54. 8216 enclosing letters from the officers of the Native Police Corps preferring charges against the Commandant of that Force, I do myself the honour to inform you that Mr Walker has not yet reached Brisbane.
Fitz Roy observed:
I consider that Mr Walker had not had sufficient time to comply with his orders, when this was written?
When Walker had not arrived in Brisbane by 8 November 1854, Wickham again wrote to the Colonial Secretary and Fitz Roy commented as follows:
Had sufficient time elapsed for Mr Walker to proceed to Brisbane after his second order to do so?
Colonial Secretary replied:
Yes, the letter instructing him to proceed to Brisbane left the office on the 27th September last. But see 54/9447 enclosed.
Fitz Roy noted: Nothing further need be done at present.
When the House again went into debate about estimates for the Native Police on or about 16 November 1854, the Colonial Secretary stated that it was a matter of great regret with the Government, that a collision had taken place between the Commandant of the Native Police and his officers, and that in consequence, the whole of the latter had sent in their resignations, which might be considered a step which would involve the disbanding of the force. A commission had been appointed by the Government to inquire into the conduct of the Commandant; he had hoped that they should have been enabled to lay its report before the House; but he had not yet received any intelligence from the commission beyond the fact that Mr. Walker, the Commandant of the Native Police force, had not yet appeared before them. The Commandant of the Native Police had not as yet been actually suspended, but he had been directed to attend on the Board at Brisbane, and in the meantime the command of the force devolved on the senior lieutenant of the force.
Once again, the Moreton Bay Courier writing in January 1855 poured its heart and soul into the issue hoping that some good would come from the attempt to keep the Native Police Force:
THE inquiry into the charges against Commandant Walker of the Native Police, having been so far brought to a conclusion, it remains for the Executive Government to give an account thereof to the country at large, and to act upon the circumstances thus brought to light. What those may be cannot be at present made known. The investigation, according to the rule which appears to have been laid down in such cases, was held with closed doors; and it is scarcely probable that the evidence will be given to the public before the next meeting of the Legislative Council. It is pretty well understood, however, that sufficient cause has been shown for the inquiry, and that many irregularities have been brought to light. But, whatever abuses may have been shown to exist, it is our duty to hold out a caution against suffering these abuses to cause the disbandment of the corps. As a means of protection to the settlers and of civilization to the aboriginal natives, the organization of the Native Police force has been the best system yet adopted in the colony. The warlike nature of the employment, and the attractions of the uniform and appointments, have been peculiarly suited to the habits and dispositions of the natives; and the errors that may be shown to have accompanied this first experiment should be taken as a reason for reform, not as a proof of failure.
One of the radical defects of the present system appears to us to be the want of an Act of Council for its regulation. The very means necessarily used for the preservation of discipline must have been essentially despotic, and unwarranted by law. Beyond the authority of the Executive, the officers have had no warrant for recruiting the force, for the suppression of mutiny, or for the prevention or punishment of desertion. If in England it is not thought unconstitutional to have a law for the organization of a militia force from amongst the free born inhabitants of the soil, surely the most fantastic advocate of liberty, cannot object to a similar law for the regulation of this semi-military police. The powers and duties of the officers and troopers might thus be pretty accurately defined and the preservation of discipline, instead of being left to the orders of persons invested with no legal authority for the purpose, could be guaranteed by the consent of the Colonial Legislature. This is the very first step that should be taken, in order to place the Native Police force upon that footing of efficiency which it is capable of attaining.
Another error which strikes us, and which appears somewhat ludicrous in its character, is the vain desire to assimilate this body of irregular cavalry to the standard of a “crack” regiment of horse. Instead of selecting the subordinate officers from inexperienced young gentlemen, to whom the chief attraction is a showy uniform, and who have no relish whatever for the fatigues of a mountain or brush campaign, it is our belief that all officers subordinate to the Lieutenants should be chosen from steady and intelligent bushmen, not unaccustomed to control others, yet equally accustomed to submit to control, and to share in the hardships and perils of the bush. That sufficient men of this class could be found we are convinced, if a proper rate of pay were offered; and an increase in this respect could scarcely be grudged, when the object was to insure the efficiency of the force. It is true that the Sub-Lieutenants have occasionally done good service; for instance, we recently recorded the capture, by one of these officers of a runaway white man, whose presence and influence are supposed to have had a most injurious effect in stimulating the hostility of the northern aboriginals; but we have heard of examples to the contrary, and there is at least one European sergeant who is acknowledged to be as good an officer as any in the Native Police. These are the kind of men that are required under the Lieutenants; and indeed, the greatest care should be exercised in selecting all the officers, with a view to their efficiency alone, exclusively of every consideration of favour, family, or patronage.
Another matter that seems to call for reform is the mode of paying the accounts of the force. In some instances, it appears that so much difficulty has existed in this respect, that storekeepers and settlers have refused to furnish supplies, and recourse has been had to extraordinary means for the subsistence of the troopers. In the absence of the evidence, it is impossible for us to say who is blameable for this; but the fact is most discreditable, and must tend as much as anything else to bring the whole body into disrepute, and of course to mar its efficiency, The Commissariat arrangements of a force like this cannot be so complicated that any difficulty ought to exist in the matter, and should resolve themselves into a system almost as simple as that of a sheep station with several outposts. Due attention to this highly important part of the arrangement would be far preferable to any overstretched ideas of drill and parade. There seems also to have been a far too much “fuss,” to use a familiar expression, about the periodical distribution of clothing to the troopers; and this has frequently occasioned discontent in many quarters.
We feel convinced that by a careful and judicious reform of existing evils, and by a due regard for what experience has taught, the Native Police may yet be brought into a state of sufficient order and discipline for a force of that character; and that, while affording protection to life and property in the bush, it may secure the confidence of the settlers generally, and become a valuable auxiliary in the civilization of the aboriginal natives. It will be for the Executive and the Legislature to affect these reforms, and thus, out of the crude experiment which has been tried, to construct a system which shall give general satisfaction.
On 1st January 1854 from Brisbane, Frederick Walker wrote to the Colonial Secretary enclosing a medical certificate, as follows:
Sir, I do myself the honour to state that although no such intimation has been given to me, I am aware that the Board at this place has given a decision adverse to me and upon that I wish to make no remarks; but previously to this decision a circumstance took place of which I most grievously complain. Two troopers (Dick & Boonya James) of the No 4 Section had accompanied me as orderlies, my one orderly Considine doing duty in the place of me and my other being dead. On the day, previously to the meeting of the Board when (page missing) Considine the four horses in the margin chestnut-Pussy Cat, brown-Wallibin, brown-Camelaroy & grey-packhorse, my three police saddles and return to me the private property taken at Brisbane.
His Excellency would oblige me by allowing Paul or Orlando I do not care which to accompany Considine as he would not be able to manage such a journey by himself. Considine has never been in any section and is new on the Dawson. In the meanwhile, I remain on the Logan at the stations of different settlers from whom luckily, I have received much kindness during my sickness and who have expressed much indignation at such a gross act of violence.
I would feel obliged by your letting me know whether His Excellency accedes to my request in order that I may write to Considine relative to some articles I left on the Dawson. I have etc. F Walker
Enclosure to Walker’s letter:
North Brisbane
December 22nd, 1854
I hereby certify that Commandant Frederick Walker J.P. has been under medical treatment, for some day’s past, suffering from nervous debility.
I am not much acquainted with this gentleman, having attended him for the first time a few days since, but I can state that a person in this condition may, in both walking and speaking, very much resemble a person directly under the influence of liquor. H Bell MD.
The Colonial Secretary instructed on 19 January 1855 that a copy of Walker’s letter be sent to Lt Marshall, A/Commandant for any observations he may wish to make regards Walker’s comments. He also wrote to Frederick Walker on the same date as follows:
Sir, Referring to my letter of the 21st September last, informing you that in consequence of certain representations having been received from the officers under your command seriously affecting your character as an officer, his Excellency the Governor General had decided it expedient to relieve you from duty until they were duly investigated. I am mow instructed to inform you that a progress report has been received from a Board of Officers consisting of the Government Resident at Moreton Bay, the Crown Commissioner of that District and the Police Magistrate of Ipswich who had been appointed to enquire into the charges preferred against you.
2 The Board however found it expedient to discontinue the formal enquiry initiated before them for the reason alleged in their Report from which the following is an extract: In conformity with the instructions contained in your letter of the 23rd September last, we have the honour to inform you that the Board of Enquiry for investigating the charges preferred against the Commandant of the Native Police assembled at Brisbane on the 23rd November last for the purpose of making preliminary arrangements, the Commandant having already reported his arrival to Captain Wickham. Notice having been forwarded to the Acting Commandant Marshall to attend the Board with the necessary witnesses and their arrival being notified. The Board assembled again at 12 o’clock on the 19th instant to proceed with the inquiry when there (sic, they) were in attendance: Acting Commandant Marshall, Lieutenant Irving and Sub Lieutenants Nicol and Bligh. Commandant Walker failed to appear after waiting half an hour the Board proceeded with the examination of Marshall. Whilst so doing Mr Walker presented himself at the office (it being about one hour after the time appointed for the meeting) accompanied by some eight or nine of the Native Police, which he was most desirous to bring into the Court with him. This however being resisted they were left at the door, and Mr Walker took his seat evidently in a state of intoxication bordering on stupidity so at not even to recognise his first Lieutenant Mr. Marshall who was sitting at his side, seeing the disgraceful condition of the Commandant the Board requested him to retire, this however he declined to do and conducted himself in such a haughty and insulting manner to the Board that without removing him by force they had only one resource to adjourn the Court. This being done Mr Walker retired with the troopers and was proceeding with them across the river when Mr Marshall assisted by the officers in the presence of one of the Board prevented him, but the officers with the assistance of the Chief Constable secured their arms and accoutrements but not without some danger, as Mr Walker drew a sword and threatened Mr Irving. In the evening, the two troopers also returned bringing over their horses with them having left their drunken Commandant in disgust.
3 After examining the officers present as to the arrears of pay and rations alleged to be due to them, the Board postponed their further proceeding and reported as follows: (1) that Commandant Walker is in constant habits of intoxication, that render him totally unfit for any responsible post under government and particularly for that of commanding the Native Police. (2) that the accounts of the Native Police Corps are in such a state of confusion and the arrears due for pay and rations so heavy (as shown in an account for rations supplied by several persons for the use of the men marked a.) that in the opinion of the Board immediate steps should be taken to stop the appropriation of any further sums on Mr Walkers orders. (3) That Mr Walker is tampering with the police and endeavouring to render them disaffected to their officers and the Government, the Board have ample evidence under their own eyes, although they have no fear for the result.
4 Under the circumstances disclosed in this Report, His Excellency with the advice of the Executive Council has desired me to inform you that you are now dismissed from the office of Commandant of Native Police. I have etc. C D Riddell.
No 12561, 31
Colonial Secretary’s Office, Sydney
19th/31 January 1855
Mr Marshall
Lieutenant Native Police
Brisbane
Sir, Having laid before his Excellency the Governor General the report of the Board appointed to investigate the charges preferred against Mr. Walker the Commandant of Native Police by the officers of that corps, I am instructed to inform you that under the disgraceful circumstances disclosed in that report. His Excellency with the advice of the Executive Council has been pleased to dismiss Mr. Walker from the office of Commandant of Native Police.
2. His Excellency with the advice of the Council has also been pleased to direct that the position in a pecuniary point of view in which Mr. Walker stands to the government should be immediately inquired into and reported upon by the proper officer in order to determine what further steps it may be necessary to take with respect to him. With this view, His Excellency has desired me to request that you will immediately endeavour to call in all outstanding claims on the government by reason of liabilities incurred by Mr. Walker on account of the public service and in the meantime the officers of the corps will be paid the arrears which are apparently due to them. I have etc. Elyard
55/983, 44
Colonial Secretary’s Office, Sydney
9th/ 9 February 1855
R P Marshall Esq
Commandant of the Native Police
Sir, I do myself the honour to inform you that his Excellency the Governor General has been pleased to appoint you to be Commandant of the Native Police in the room of Frederick Walker Esq dismissed. I have etc. Elyard
In the end, the fall of Frederick Walker was a rather tawdry affair which reflected badly on the entire system. He was an ordinary man plucked from the backblocks of southern NSW, who seemed to possess remarkable skills as a bushman with a good deal of energy, and was asked to set up and run a law enforcement agency in a wilderness with little or no support from the community he was sent to protect against a formidable race of autochthons who would brook no interference with their way of life. What in the end was the cause of his downfall? Was his drunken appearance at the inquiry planned or psychotic? In other words, did Walker deliberately turn up drunk to sabotage the inquiry or was he non-compos mentis; or was a conspiracy hatched by the squatters to enlist RP Marshall to act against F Walker?
Does the following letter support any of the above propositions?
Callandoon
22 October 1854
Frederick Walker
Traylan, Burnett District
Sir, I would be much obliged if you could get a run as proposed by yourself. I will leave the road as soon as you can get a run. I think stock will be low at the sale of the year and will be a good time to purchase, if it should prove so.
I give you authority to use my signature in obtaining the licence for the run. I hope I am not taking too much liberty in writing these few lines.
If you should write please direct to B Gill, Ipswich, Your obdt servt Francis Lear
Conventional wisdom might suggest that the above letter was proof that Walker had seen the writing on the wall and viewed his dismissal as a fait accompli and consequently, had taken sober and mature steps to secure his future. However, it does not account for his outrageous behaviour at the Board of Inquiry. There is no doubt he had an alcohol problem because he lost his job as a result of being drunk and behaving in a gross and disrespectful manner but was there an underlying mental health issue? I don’t believe Walker was a psychopath. It seems Walker had an impressive manner with people, perhaps charismatic, who engendered loyalty in some and resentment in others but he appeared to have found the minutia, the bureaucratic routine of his command beyond his control for want of attention to detail. He could command in the field but couldn’t run a pie cart at home because he was delusional most of the time either from alcohol or quinine which exacerbated his work-related anxiety and stress.
My view is that the following from his mother’s letter of early 1854 suggests Walker was ill:
Indeed, I am grieved to death to think of your hard situation, and above all of your bad health and what would I give to be able to afford you any relief and comfort my dear son. Your fate presses, son, on my heart as you may believe. The only thing I can possibly think of to benefit you is for you to get leave of absence and come to England and live quietly with us for a year.
H Bell MD gave the following medical opinion:
suffering from nervous debility. … but I can state that a person in this condition may, in both walking and speaking, very much resemble a person directly under the influence of liquor.
However, RP Marshall A/Cmdt NP wrote back to the Colonial Secretary on 6 February 1855 as follows about Dr Bell’s certificate:
5. The medical certificate accompanying Mr Walker’s letter states that he was suffering from nervous debility, a fact self-evident to everyone who saw him and I am sorry that Mr Walker should have rendered it necessary for me to state that I saw him at Brisbane on five or six different days and that on such occasions he was much intoxicated. After having known Mr Walker for five years, I could not be mistaken as to the state he was in.
On the other hand, counsel would be entitled to put the following to Marshal, who said in evidence on 2 December 1856: …though I served for six years with Mr. Walker, I do not think I spent as many as six weeks with him. I may, perhaps, have seen him exceed at a private dinner table, but I did not consider it part of my duty to take any notice of the circumstance.
It is a matter for the jury to give what weight they will to Marshall’s evidence, if they believe him, of course. Although modern medicine treats malaria with quinine, in the nineteenth century quinine was a patent medicine freely available over the counter, marketed in the powdered form of sulphate of quinine, and sold by the ounce to medicate fevers and ague. The directions for use were a couple of grains dissolved in water. Walker purchased an ounce, among other substances from John Row, Chemist, Sydney on 7 February 1854. Quinine may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, deafness, blurred vision, dizziness, spinning sensation and disturbances in heart rhythms. This is what Walker had to say:
…it is no joke shivering and shaking three or five hours one day and riding 25 miles the next. The cure is almost as bad, for the quinine quiet stupefies me.
Based on perusing his hotel accounts, it seems Walker was a heavy drinker of brandy and a heavy smoker as well. Furthermore, the diet of the corps was poor which leads me to conclude Walker probably suffered from regular indigestion and possible gastric reflux as well as the side effects from the quinine which can be serious. The role of Commandant of the Native Police was not an easy one. The Native Police were not an independent police unit operating behind enemy lines; periodically, returning to headquarters to be rested, refitted and remounted. It was a fully-fledged police force with a chain of command, which meant it had a headquarters and was required to maintain full accountability to the government of the day. A bureaucracy came with that level of police organisation. The only attempt Walker made as Commandant to alleviate his nonoperational workload was to hire at his own expense, a private secretary to handle the paper work. After reading the correspondence of Walker and the public criticism of him, and the fact that Walker drank to excess, it would be reasonable to assume that he may have been experiencing mental fatigue and high levels of work related stress. Moreover, the fact that Marshall was able to recruit the white officers to act in unison against Walker, the Commandant, suggests that Walker was isolated and probably paranoid as well. Marshall’s letter of September 1854 setting out the complaints and allegations against Walker is unavailable; however, Marshall said at the 1857 Select Committee into the Native Police:
Complaints were made by the officers of his irregularities, drunkenness, and abuse to them, as well as his general irregularity in the management of the Force.
This potential act of mutiny can only have remained alive, if Marshall was given assurances that whatever the fallout might be, he would suffer no more than having to resign if Walker survived the investigations. Marshall also made the following comment at the 1857 Select Committee into the Native Police:
I would have complained to the Government before I did, but that I felt reluctant to do so individually. I did not feel confident in making any complaint against him, seeing the way in which he was supported. I know complaints have been made, and that his conduct was most glaring, although no notice was taken of it.
So, came to an end, a short but glorious career in the colonial service of New South Wales. The currency lad all too quickly revealed his lack of breeding and thus failed the test as an officer and a gentleman. The Bunyip aristocracy would not stand for some jumped-up, uncouth, roughneck, who, when offered the brandy decanter for a light refreshment, returned it empty and who had blackfellows for friends.

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