The albumen paper photograph (image size 92 × 57 mm) is mounted on the card of 'B. Goode & Co., Photographic Artist, 59 Rundle Street, Adelaide' (102 × 64 mm).
At the time, William Bloomfield Douglas (1822-1906) was Government Resident of the Northern Territory; he had been appointed shortly after 'the return of Mr Goyder's surveying expedition to Adelaide in April, 1870' ('Australian Dictionary of Biography'). Form and context, as well as content, make this an unusual reference: 'These are to certify that James Burton served under my orders in the Northern Territory of South Australia as the coxswain for the boats from the 24th of June 1870 to the date hereof when he leaves at his own request to proceed to Port Adelaide in the Government Schooner "Gulnare". During the above period, James Burton conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. He exhibited great skill in the management of boats, and from his knowledge of the coast was most useful in navigating the inlets leading into the interior of the country....'. Burton arrived at Port Darwin on the 'Gulnare', under Captain Samuel Sweet, in March 1869; he departed in June 1871. He subsequently returned to Palmerston as part of the Overland Telegraph party under A.J. Mitchell, embarking from Adelaide on the 'Omeo' in December 1871. Presumably the reference, well-thumbed by the time Bernard Goode took its photograph, was of benefit to him. Douglas was not so fortunate. 'He governed like a white rajah but lacked the competence to introduce a suitable administration. He squandered money, ignored instructions and quarrelled with subordinates. He failed to control the gold rush which he encouraged and probably delayed the introduction of the 1872 mining regulations in order to protect his own investment. By early 1873 his ambitions were shattered and he had to be warned about his drinking. With a characteristic burst of energy he tried to put his administration in order but in June Thomas Reynolds, the commissioner of crown lands, visited Palmerston (Darwin) and Douglas had to resign. Douglas returned to Adelaide financially ruined. In April 1874 the government sent him to Singapore, on a mission he had proposed in 1871, to recruit Chinese miners for the Northern Territory. Almost 200 came to Australia in the first group but Douglas stayed in Singapore where in October he became acting police magistrate and in May 1875 second police magistrate. As British control extended in the Malay States he became acting assistant resident of Selangor in November and acting resident in April 1876. Selangor flourished in spite of Douglas's shortcomings. His incompetence was soon discovered' and history repeated itself (ADB).