THE Telegram :: Genealogy
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THE Telegram

Journal by janilye

There's very little I can say about this shocking 1907 telegram which was sent by a Charles MORGAN from the Broome Station to Henry PRINCEP, who at the time was, Chief Protector of Aborigines for Western Australia, and based in Perth.

I do not know who Charles MORGAN was. I suppose I could find out, but then I don't really want to know.

Henry PRINCEP, recieved many such requests. What his replies were, I don't know. But he did file them away, perhaps for us to reflect and be ashamed.

For those who have trouble reading the telegram, it reads:-


20 JUL 07

TELEGRAM from Broome Station
Addressed to H. Princep Esq,
prot. of aborigines

Send cask arsenic exterminate aborigines letter will follow

Chas Morgan

letters of note
Aboriginals and Arsenic

Viewed: 2195 times
by janilye Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2011-03-12 17:28:13

janilye - 7th generation, Convict stock. Born in New South Wales now living in Victoria, carrying, with pride 'The Birthstain'.

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by janilye on 2011-03-12 18:30:13

Thank you. You are unique edmondsallan of the hundreds of people who have seen that telegram that's the first time I've heard the response 'Interesting'

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by janilye on 2011-03-13 00:03:46

Following the arrival of British settlers in the 18th century, Australia's indigenous population were slowly faced with disease, loss of land, stolen generations and general violence. Sadly, the introduction of arsenic to their water and flour supplies wasn't uncommon.

by andrewsm on 2011-03-18 04:22:13

omg that's horrendous.

by samjacobs on 2011-03-18 08:28:14

Wow Jan. That is just beyond words.

by Scott_J on 2011-03-18 08:47:32

That's just Incredible. Most shocking of all is that it happened only 100 years ago.

I guess we can only hope that Mr. Morgan and his counterparts somehow got their due.

I must admit total ignorance to the plights of the Aborigines. Jan, how long did this "extermination" activity persist? Was there some event that stopped this atrocious activity?

by janilye on 2011-03-18 19:31:46

Aboriginal Australians had to wait until as late as 1965 to be given the vote at both a federal and state level, and in 1967 a referendum was overwhelmingly passed supporting their inclusion in the census, ending years of discrimination in which they were classified under the Flora and Fauna other words not people.
As late as the 1970s the Western Australian premier was discussing with a mining magnate ways of putting something in the water to sterilise the aborigine.
Between 1879 and 1969 the government stole there half caste children
put them in homes and raised them as white. "The Stolen Generation"

Not until 2008 did our government say SORRY.

by 1bobbylee on 2011-03-20 17:51:35

I drop my head in grief and sadness when I think how terrible the Aboriginal Australians were treated. Their heart can break in sorrow, the pain of rejection. I pray that our world can move forward in respect and love for the less fortunate. Our Native Americans in the US experienced similar treatment. Men, women, and children, how could we stand up under the horrific mental pain of being cast aside? Instead of reaching down with a helping hand, these original settlers were treated as non humans. My great grandmother had native american blood in her. She looked and dressed native american. She was born around 1867. I shudder when I think how she may have been treated by society. My grandmother says she remembers her mother as loving, caring, and a wealth of knowledge about nature. She knew so many herbs, roots, leaves, tree barks that were used for medicinal purposes. How many of us can boast of such knowledge and experience. I know, I can't. The Bible says that GOD loved the "Whole" world. That takes in everything. Black, White, any color that you can come up with.

by lola126 on 2011-12-03 15:52:26

I can't see for what perpose this is on a genology site. Like a lot of your journals janilye it has nothing to do with finding relatives. I think it is offensive and you should take it off.

by Scott_J on 2011-12-03 16:07:28

Janilye, while lola126 is certainly entitled to her opinion, I sincerely hope you don't take her comment to heart.

by 1bobbylee on 2011-12-03 16:49:00

I too am entitled to my opinion. No matter how sad and tragic this article was (The telegram explicitely sending cask of arsenic "extermination" aboriginese) is proof in the pudding,so to speak. To me this was a truthful and extemely cruel act perpetrated on the original natives of Australia. To me, truthful and well documented historical journals is an asset to FTC. I have read historical stories abut a member's grandfather, father, mother, etc that can indirectly and directly provide light to a member's search for an ancestor. If members would look more carefully at Janilye's journals or her comments in helping so many people find their ancestors,they would see that she is a true professional. I have seen in her comments that she will thoroughly investigate an ancestor's name and family. She will take that family centuries into the past. She is one of the best! She is an intelligent and well educated historian and meticulous researcher. How many of us can say the same thing? I sure can't. Janilye, thank you for coming to me and helping me find my ancestors who lived in the 1740;s - 50's. I was hitting a brick wall and she came to my rescue. I'm sure she gets tired,but she will spend hours researching for a member. You're great Janilye! I'm sure there are many members out there who appreciates her. I'm sure I am not the only one. I am "cupping" my ears members.

by 1bobbylee on 2011-12-03 17:14:22

Janilye, Do not take this journal off. It is factual history. Everyone should have the freedom of reading it. How tragic it would be, and to come, if free human beings cannot express themselves. Propaganda we do not need. The truth, Yes!!

by janilye on 2011-12-03 20:20:03

Dear lola126, Thank you for your comment. I found not the article offensive but the act itself.
Offensive is a positive emotion but I expect readers to also feel regret, shame and even horror. As for it being published in here! Whether we like it or not it is part of our history. I know you want names and dates but without history you will never really know your ancestors.
If I recall correctly lola126, it was I who found your ancestors. The terms oppression, racism and bigotry if I recall are not foreign to you in your own ancestry and the article above no more shocking.
If you wish to discuss the article above further I welcome it. If you want to discuss my motives and to save you further embarrassment please email me.

by Tony58 on 2016-02-05 20:02:08

Poisoning Aborigines was legally murder in Western Australia. Men were hanged for killing Aborigines before and after 1907. Others got life sentences. Would you send a telegram which would be seen, at the very least, by the sending and receiving telegraph operators, in which you implicated yourself in planned murders? There is good reason to believe that the modern interpretation of that telegram is wrong.
If you look closely, the telegram does not read "Send cask arsenic, exterminate aborigines, letter will follow" or "Send cask arsenic, exterminate aborigines. Letter will follow" There is no punctuation in it except that it is in 2 lines. (New lines were designated by the telegraph operator sending “AA” to signify a line break. AA was not written on the telegram.)
The first word “Send” is capitalised however, as telegrams were sent in Morse code without distinguishing between upper or lower case letters, that is probably just habit on the part of the receiving operator. The telegram actually reads:

send cask arsenic exterminate

aborigines letter will follow

There is reason to believe that these 2 lines are in fact referring to 2 different subjects. Henry Prinsep was Chief Protector of Aborigines for Western Australia and would naturally make inquiries about the Aborigines. Prinsep was also, privately, a landlord and there is evidence that Charles Morgan had been his tenant. Broome was then plagued by termites. 2 government buildings, the Customs House and the Bond Store, had collapsed from termite damage in 1904. The public hospital was infested and severely damaged.
So the 1st line “send cask arsenic exterminate” may have been a brief (because you paid for each word) response to an letter from Prinsep asking whether Morgan needed Prinsep to supply something to exterminate termites (supplies of such chemicals rapidly sold out in Broome). Arsenic powder was commonly used for exterminating termites.
The 2nd line “aborigines letter will follow” may indicate that Prinsep had also asked Morgan to supply him with some information regarding Aborigines in the Broome area. Because Prinsep had known him for over 30 years, he may have asked Morgan in confidence: “Is the local Protector doing his job, distributing rations to starving Aborigines as needed and seeing that employers abide by the regulations governing the employment of Aborigines?" Morgan's response was to follow in a letter.

by rosross on 2018-01-30 01:37:16

How gullible are people, ready to believe the worst when common sense and logic indicate the telegram is not authentic.

In 1907 the punishment for murder was death. Those who killed would be charged, tried and hung.

Why would someone display clear evidence of guilt to numerous people through a telegraphic service and write down something which would see the noose tied around his neck? They would not.

And yet that is the premise of this telegram, purportedly authentic, purportedly representing an individual, asking a Government official for the means to kill Aborigines. The Government did not provide casks of arsenic. Indeed, it could be bought in the store along with the sugar and flour.

This alone raises the question of authenticity because it represents such an unlikely scenario that it brings the entire document into doubt.

In addition, apparently arsenic can take weeks to kill people. It seems a messy approach, which would attract attention quickly and have enough people left alive to provide information on the source.

There are two other factors which make the document nonsensical:

1. Arsenic was commonly used to kill rabbits, foxes, rats and was readily purchased locally. In the northern parts of Australia it was vital to kill termites who destroyed trees and buildings by the minute.

There was no need to order a ‘cask’ if indeed arsenic came in casks, from the Aboriginal Protector and thereby seal one’s guilt and fate. Particularly since it was so readily available from general stores.

2. The Aboriginal Protector, Harry Prinsep (in the document it is spelt Princep), was known for his defence and protection of Aborigines. He would be the last person to ask for a cask of arsenic to be used to exterminate them. You can read some of his evidence of appalling treatment in the Royal Commission into the conditions of the natives WA. 1905.

Quote: In 1898 control of native affairs became wholly the concern of the elected parliament, which sliced funding. Prinsep's concern for Aboriginal welfare was thwarted by lack of staff and by the Aborigines Act (1897) which left him powerless to alleviate their ill-treatment and neglect. He spent five years trying; the Act was amended in 1906 and then only because of support from the 1905 Roth royal commission on the condition of Aborigines.

So, for this document to be authentic we require the sender, Charles or Chas Morgan, from Broome Station, of which there seems to be little known, beyond the mention of a Charles Morgan, master pearler, in Broome death records, who was born in 1897, but, much too young to be sending telegrams in 1907.

So, we do not know who Charles Morgan was, but we do know, as anyone can discover, that the Aboriginal Protector in 1907 was Harry Prinsep. The ‘fly in the ointment’ or the ‘termite in the arsenic’ with this is that Prinsep was a known defender of Aborigines and worked hard to alleviate their ill-treatment and neglect.

He would be the last person to ask for poison. And there is no doubt, in the times, and given the challenges Europeans faced in the bush, everyone would be aware of ‘just what sort of man’ the Aboriginal Protector was.

Which brings us to a position where logic concludes that only an idiot would present the guilt which would hang him, and only a cretin, would send such a request to a man who would be horrified at the suggestion.

To examine the document, we see the following….

First line : Send cask arsenic and what looks like exterminate, dribbling off the page.

Second line: aborigines letter will follow

Beyond having a handwriting expert assess the word exterminate, which seems very messy and looks to be different writing, we also need to understand the telegram in light of the times.

Telegrams were expensive and they charged by the word. Because of this they were by necessity, cryptic.

Two words together did not necessarily a sentence make. And dropping a line indicates a different topic.

A telegram that would have passed through 4 relay stations and be seen by 4 different telegraph operators. You would be totally open to a murder charge and the telegram would be concrete evidence. No one is that stupid.

English law, in 1907, applied equally to all. From the time the British arrived in 1788 all those who lived in Australia, including Aborigines, were considered to be English subjects with the same rights in law.

In fact, a requirement of English law for any trial, was that the individual understood the charges and the trial process. It quickly became clear, not surprisingly, that Aborigines did not understand such things and, as a result, they were treated much more leniently, often not being charged or standing trial for crimes, and, if they were, given much lighter sentences.

And looking at the document, there is one edge dead straight, one edge torn, something is very wrong. And as it was against the law the kill aboriginal people I can't see anyone putting a request like that in writing.

The telegram draft would have been torn from a duplicate book, but its straight edge should be on the other side, ie. for right-handers. The paper trail would go from Broome Station, perhaps to Broome, to Perth GPO, to be transcribed, sent to the government offices, recorded in a Register of 'Correspondence IN', passed to Prinsep, answered and filed away. If it was genuine and Prinsep acceded to the request, he would have had to communicate with the Government Storekeeper to instruct him to send arsenic up to Broome Station, so there would be records of that - and records of whoever transported it, by sea most likely. Perhaps records of it arriving at Broome ? And being transported out to the station ? And then what happened ? i.e. in police records, local Mission records ? In other words, any genuine letter or telegram would have a long paper trail.

And to date, while this ‘telegram’ has appeared, there seems to be no other report, record, reply, response associated with it. Asking the Aboriginal Protector, if indeed the telegram was ever sent, to help you kill Aborigines, would have left evidence beyond the request.

If Morgan was responsible for something like native hospital or supply storage building and had a termite problem he would possibly get his insecticide supplies from the government. Although why he would write to the Protector and not whoever supplied the goods remains a question.

The other option is that the telegram is genuine but Morgan, who apparently didn't like aboriginals was being a smart arse because he would be fully aware of how disturbed Princeps was about the plight of the natives. And Morgan was being deliberately provocative.

But, all that aside, if this telegram is genuine the aboriginal legal service would have been on to it years ago, demanding reparation. It would be front pages, especially since it has been discussed on the internet in blogs for years.
The sensible conclusion is that the telegram could be fake as the supporting documents have never been found and provenance not authenticated. The reference does not appear to be listed in the index to the Chief Protector of Aborigines Files 1898 – 1908 in the WA State Records Office. (

And in looking at the history of telegrams, there is also the possibility that the word which looks like exterminate, is a code word, used to save words and convey more information.
In this age of the internet, few have any idea of the process involved in the telegraphic process of times past.

For example, some codes which would have been used:

Examples of telegraphic coded expressions, taken from The Adams Cable Codex, Tenth Edition, 1896 are:

Emolument – Think you had better not wait
Emotion – Think you had better wait until -
Emotional – Think you had better wait and sail -
Empaled – Think well of party mentioned
Empanel – This is a matter of great importance.
and from The A.B.C. Universal Commercial Electric Telegraphic Code

Nalezing – Do only what is absolutely necessary
Nalime – Will only do what is absolutely necessary
Nallary – It is not absolutely necessary, but it would be an advantage
Naloopen – It is not absolutely necessary, but well worth the outlay
Studying Telegram style can also provide insight.

And this telegram looks to be in excellent shape after 110 years. Here is a Telegram sent six years later, in 1913.

Aborigines Act 1905
• Pages 1-9 (PDF - 958 KB)
• Pages 10-18 (PDF - 912 KB)
Established the position of Chief Protector who was the legal guardian of 'every aboriginal and half-caste child' to the age of 16 years. Regional protectors to be appointed with power to grant permits for employment of Aboriginal males less than 14 years and Aboriginal females. No person to remove any 'aboriginal', any male 'half-caste' under 16, or any female 'half-caste' without the written authority of a protector. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may remove 'aboriginals' from one reserve or district to another reserve or district. The marriage of an 'aboriginal' woman and a non-Aboriginal man requires the permission of the Chief Protector. Minister may exempt 'aboriginals' from the Act but an exemption could be cancelled at any time. Regulations may be made for 'the care, custody and education of the children of aborigines and half-castes' and 'enabling any aboriginal or half-caste child to be sent to and detained in an aboriginal institution, industrial school or orphanage'. Repealed by Native Welfare Act 1963.

In conclusion, we are left with serious doubts as to the authenticity of this telegram, for the following reasons:

1. What fool would provide evidence of his guilt which would hang him?

2. What fool would reveal a plan to kill Aborigines to a man who was a staunch defender of them and their rights and who was there to protect them?

3. What fool would request poison to be used to murder from a Government official, using a process (he could have sent a private letter) where dozens of people would read of his plan, while the required poison was readily available in local stores?

4. Why has there been no investigation of this claim by the Aboriginal Legal Service, given that the ‘story’ has been doing the rounds of the internet for years.

5. Why is there no paper trail from the times associated with this highly controversial, ‘telegram,’ which, if it had been received by Prinsep and he had not taken action, could have made him an accessory to murder?

by rosross on 2018-01-30 01:41:44

In addition, to those who believe the fantasy that Aborigines did not get the vote, were not counted in the Census, were not citizens, and were under a Flora and Fauna Act until 1967, I suggest you do some research, beginning here:

The 67 Referendum was based on lies.

by rosross on 2018-01-30 01:46:43

What is most depressing is the general state of ignorance in regard to Australian history demonstrated by people on an ancestry research site. Facts matter.

No claim should be made unless it can be substantiated.

Aborigines were English subjects from 1788 and Australian citizens from 1949 when we all became citizens and were no longer English subjects.

by janilye on 2018-01-30 17:37:03

keep reading we love debates

A Dying Race
Treatment of Aborigines

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