Slaving in Australian courts: blackbirding cases, 1869-1871

Mortensen, Reid (2000) Slaving in Australian courts: blackbirding cases, 1869-1871. Journal of South Pacific Law , 4. pp. 7-37.

Text (Published Version)

Download (256Kb)


This article examines major prosecutions in New South Wales and Queensland for blackbirding practices in Melanesian waters, and early regulation under the Imperial Kidnapping Act that was meant to correct problems those prosecutions raised. It considers how legal argument and adjudication appropriated the political debate on the question whether the trade in Melanesian labour to Queensland and Fiji amounted to slaving, and whether references to slaving in Australian courts only compounded the difficulties of deterring recruiting abuses in Melanesia. It is suggested that, even though the Imperial Government conceived of the Kidnapping Act as a measure to deal with slaving, its success in Australian courts depended on its avoiding any reference to the idea of slavery in the legislation itself. This is developed in three parts. Part 1 provides the social context, introducing the trade in Melanesian labour for work in Queensland. Part 2 explores the prosecutions brought under the slave trade legislation and at common law against labour recruiters, especially those arising from incidents involving the Daphne and the Jason. It attempts to uncover the way that lawyers in these cases used arguments from the broader political debate as to whether the trade amounted to slaving. Part 3 concludes with an account of the relatively more effective regulation brought by the Kidnapping Act, with tentative suggestions as to how the arguments about slaving in Australian courts influenced the form that regulation under the Act had to take.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 5513
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © University of the South Pacific 2000. Author's version unavailable.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - Department of Law
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2009 06:52
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2013 02:03
Uncontrolled Keywords: blackbirding; slaving; Australian courts
Fields of Research : 18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180114 Human Rights Law
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160803 Race and Ethnic Relations
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180116 International Law (excl. International Trade Law)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only