Australia: An Appeal to the World on Behalf of the Younger Branch of the Family of Shem/An Appeal to the World
Often have I gazed on the face of the Australian, desirous if possible to ascertain his origin, as well as the time and the manner of his migration to a land utterly unknown to the rest of mankind; and as often as I surveyed the copper-colored countenance of this inhabitant of the woods and lawns of a country which has undergone no change since, fresh, interesting, and lovely from the fountain of creation, it floated at the command of the Supreme on the bosom of the Pacific, so often have I imagined that I could trace in his Malayan features some resemblance to the elder branch of the family of Shem—that family through whom came the Messiah, the joy of the redeemed and the hope of the world.
There have been occasional mixtures and admixtures of the human race to a limited extent, arising out of conquest, vicinity of abode, storms, and shipwreck; but the three great families from whom they all originally sprang, remain as distinct and distinguishable as they were immediately after the flood, when the pen of inspiration described them and the localities of their respective habitations.
While the posterity of Ham migrated to Africa, and that of Japheth to Scythia, Scandinavia, and Europe, the family of Shem, having the right of inheritance, took possession of Central, Southern, and Eastern Asia.
The Iapetus of the Greeks, is unquestionably the Japheth of scripture; and the Hellespont is but a corruption of Elis-pont; while this, as well as Elis in the Peloponnesus, bears too close a resemblance to Elisha, the name of the grandson of Japheth, to be mistaken for any other. Profane history confirms the sacred. Thessaly once bore the name of Eolia; and we learn from Herodotus that one of the one hundred and twenty provinces of Persia, as they stood in the rolls of the Persian empire, was called Alysionenses; that it comprehended Eolia, which lies between Ionia and Phrygia; and that Eolus—whence Eolia—is a mere corruption of Elisha.
Egypt, one of the principal entrances into the great peninsula, now called Africa, still bears in Hebrew the name of Ham's second son. And Africa itself, called in scripture the land of Ham, was by the Greeks, apparently guided both by observation and its Hebrew name Cush, designated Ethiopia; which means literally Face-burning, and may be rendered the face-burning country. So early did the influence of climate begin to operate a change on the human frame; and so simply and intelligibly did the ancients account for that variety of complexion in the human body which, to modern philosophers, appears such a mystery.
Moses expressly tells us that the East, which points to India and China, became the inheritance of the descendants of Shem. His silence respecting the younger children of the great antediluvian patriarch,—those born to him after the flood—indicates that they had lost their distinctive character; either by being placed, for the purpose of instruction in revelation and divine things, under the guardianship and protection of the elder brother, as senior and superintending patriarch on his father's death; or, by voluntarily taking up their abode in the East among his family, to whom belonged the birthright and the supremacy. Mingling with them, both seem to have blended together, assuming by degrees, with some slight variety, the same family-likeness, and passing under the same name. Hence it is, that receiving such an accession, the family of Shem became much more numerous, than that of either Ham or Japheth.
Writers on Zoology have attempted to divide the inhabitants of the earth into five classes, insinuating as many different origins; but the fancifulness of their distinctions is equalled only by the puerility of their arguments. Even if history were silent, the distinguishing characteristics of the three great families of mankind are not darkly visible, but clear and discernible, as any other object on which the light of heaven shines. The red, bronze, or yellow colour, prevalent in Palestine, Persia, India, China, Australasia, and America; the woolly hair, black figure, flat front, and elongated visage, prevalent in Africa; and the white skin, finely formed head, and Circassian beauty, prevalent to the north of the Mediterranean and Central Asia, point so directly to the three great post diluvian patriarchs, that no doubt can be entertained relative either to the order of classification or the common origin of our race. Variety is essential to recognition, and therefore common to every order of created beings. Without variety creation would be defective. Its worlds, its classes of matter, animate and inanimate, and the different orders of intelligent beings it contains, would be undistinguished and undistinguishable. Persons and things would be alike incapable of identification, and would present us with nothing but a mass of congregated confusion. Hence nature, in obedience to an admirable and universal law, and in a manner known to none but herself, displays her endless powers of variation by diversifying, not only the genus and the species, but the individuals of the same class or tribe, and even those sprung from the same matrimonial union. But how conclusive soever the argument thence derived, I pass over the peculiar features and striking characteristics by which the three great families of man may be recognized and distinguished one from another. A single sentence from the lips of Noah, decides the point at issue: "Ham shall be a servant of servants, and Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem." Were there no peculiarities in the personal formation of the negro, the doom of slavery, so remarkably verified as it has been by the event, would prove the inhabitants of Africa to be the posterity of Ham: while the dominion of the Greeks and Romans anciently in Asia; the conquest of Palestine, Persia, India, and China at a later period, by the Tartars; the occupation of South America by the Spaniards and Portuguese; and the empires established and establishing in North America, India, and Australasia by the British, traversing the ocean thousands of miles for this very purpose, bear out the prediction of 4000 years, and assure us that, when the earth was divided amongst the three great patriarchical families, the sons of Japheth took up their abode in the North, and that the inhabitants of Central Asia, India, China, America, and Australasia, are the descendants of Shem.
After consulting the sacred records, a glance at the map of the world will be sufficient to convince the candid and the intelligent. Should a lingering doubt remain, relative to the countries which lie beyond the Atlantic and the Indian, it will vanish on a moment's reflection. The geographical position of Japheth in Europe, Ham in Africa, and Shem in Asia, will lead to correct conclusions respecting the peopling of the continent discovered by Columbus in the West, and that found by Hartog in the South; while the vicinity of these continents to Asia, and their conquest and occupation by the descendants of Japheth, will leave no doubt in reflecting minds that the Aboriginal inhabitants of America and Australasia are also the descendants of Shem.
The traditional prophecy among the inhabitants of America, that a people were to come from a country beyond the ocean to assume the dominion, discloses to our view one of the most remarkable and extraordinary facts recorded in history. The existence of such a prophecy among such a people, is, without reference to Revelation, utterly inexplicable; and forces upon us the unavoidable conclusion that the patriarchical prediction, "Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem," had been delivered to them by their ancestors, and that it had passed down with fearful apprehensions of its accomplishment, from generation to generation. On the arrival of the Europeans, they were not only actually expecting its fulfilment, but appear, by pointing to "the rising sun," to have been aware of the very abode of the family of Japheth. This, without any other light, furnishes incontrovertible evidence of their descent from Shem.
The idols of Mexico and the temples of Peru, are evidently of Asiatic origin; and the argument drawn from family likeness, one of the surest guides on such a subject, is in itself conclusive. None of the Aboriginal Americans, except the Esquimaux and a tribe of negroes on the Amazon, have any resemblance in colour or personal appearance that would justify us in supposing them to have had either a European or an African origin. They are neither white nor black, but red, the prevailing Asiatic colour, common to the descendants of Shem.
Nor is history, even among the descendants of Japheth, entirely silent respecting the existence of the western continent. The garden of Hesperides, the Ultima Thule, and the Atlantis of the ancients, all point to America; for they are all placed, by the writers who profess to have any knowledge of them, in the West. The climate, the soil, and the capability of Central America for the production of all kinds of tropical fruits, justify the high character bestowed on the garden of Hesperides; which Hesiod expressly declares to be beyond the ocean, and others under the setting sun. The planet Venus received the name of Hesperus, simply from the circumstance of her appearing so frequently near this part of the world at the close of day. Nor are the northern and southern divisions less appropriately designated. In North America, a great part of which is everlastingly enveloped in ice and snow, we may at once recognize the Ultima Thule of remote ages, which has been so long vainly sought for in the North Sea and to the westward of the British isles. South America, lying opposite to Africa, was thence so appropriately named, and so exactly corresponds in position to the Atlantis of antiquity, that no doubt of their identity can be reasonably entertained. The existence of such a place was so decidedly affirmed by the ancients that the moderns, not being able to find it, have come to the sage conclusion that it must have long since submerged in the ocean!
The peopling of America is equally practicable from China, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, or the Levant; all of which lie in the very latitude where man must have first come into contact with the ocean. And when we reflect that navigation, like all the other arts, had its origin among the descendants of Shem, that they covered the waters adjacent to their respective habitations with commerce, not only before the descendants of Ham contrived a canoe, but long before those of Japheth launched the Argo in search of the golden fleece, or felled a pine in the forests of Thessaly, and that Asia had the command, not only of the Indian and the Chinese seas, but of the Mediterranean, which gave her easy access to the Atlantic, the argument assumes a character that dispels every doubt relative to its practicability. But the time and the manner in which this grand division of the globe was first inhabited, being greatly involved in obscurity, owing to the paucity of historical records in all ages among the descendants of Shem, demand one or two passing observations.
That America had been colonized from the shores of Eastern, Southern, and Western Asia, seems, on close examination, to be placed beyond dispute; and the numerous population found in occupation of her domains and forests, when re-discovered, proves that the first migrations had been early and considerable. But the state of things consequent on the Babylonian dispersion, shrouding the early movements of mankind, produced a cloud of obscurity, which, owing to her distance from the rest of the world, hung over the date of her first settlement, dense, thick, and almost impenetrable, till it merged in that non-intercourse which caused such a blank in her history. Her contiguity to China, however, afforded facilities which put an end to all surprise at the manner in which she was thence occupied; and the southern trade, wheeling round the continent of Africa during six months of the year, will as easily account for her colonization from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The objects of sacred reverence, the mode of worship, and the religious rites of many of her nations so strikingly resemble those of the ancient Persians that historians are confounded, and confess themselves utterly unable to account for the circumstance. The tradition among the Peruvians, too, that the royal family were the children of the Sun, strongly indicates an Eastern origin; and to no other part of the East but the Persian Gulf and the shores of the Levant can we trace those migrations which erected the temples and founded the dynasties of Central America. Add to this, that the long and narrow sea which, stretching westward from the Levant, separated the great peninsula from Europe, was, at a very early period, the scene of navigation and commerce; the conductors of which, passing the Pillars of Hercules, explored the Atlantic, and thus led the way to America long before Rome and Cartilage contended for empire. We must also recollect that between the three great patriarchal families there appears to have been always a broad and marked line of distinction. Hence the very circumstance of the western continent being peopled by the descendants of the elder family, would cause it to excite less interest among those of the two younger; which, together with the number of countries then open for settlement, the growing tendency to a secluded, savage, and hunting mode of life, the infancy of commerce, and the absence of historical records at that time among all nations, will account for the inability of the ancients to give more than the names of places beyond the Atlantic, to which they nevertheless knew that considerable migrations had proceeded. It is important to add, that the first attempt at empire was made by the family of Ham. Whether they were actuated merely by ambition, or a desire to avert the doom pronounced upon them by Noah, cannot be determined; but the fact is certain. Influenced probably by the troubles thence arising, a portion of the descendants of Shem, finding the principal entrances into Africa occupied by the aspiring family, the approaches to the North by that of Japheth, and the East crowded with their brethren, seem to have bonded their steps from Central Asia towards the shores of the Levant, to seek there or beyond the ocean a more peaceable and roomy abode. At a period, therefore, long antecedent to the existence of the annals of Greece and Rome, launching their slender barks, they unfurled the flowing canvas on the briny deep; and the trade wind, which, when they passed the straits of Gibraltar, wafted them rapidly to the land of their future home, would in general prove an insurmountable obstacle to their return. The invasion of Asia by the Greeks, and the contest which sprang up between Rome and Carthage, absorbing the attention of the belligerents, and virtually interdicting the Mediterranean to other nations, destroyed the spirit of Phœnician enterprise, and finality cut off all intercourse between the eastern and western divisions of the globe, till navigation received that improvement from modern science which, enabling the mariner to launch into the main ocean, at all seasons and against all winds, disclosed to the view of the astonished sons of Japheth a new continent, which had been for ages inhabited by the of Shem—but, they knew not their brethren!
A glance at the map of the Indian ocean, will show the track by which the Australian moved, island after island, from the Malayan peninsula to the southern continent; while the vicinity of Java, Timor, and New Guinea, and the discovery that the Malays have been for ages annually visiting its shores for the purpose of fishing and trading with China, are more than sufficient, were there no concurring evidences, to establish the conclusion that Australia was peopled from India.
The time when the Australian found his way across the Indian archipelago to the southern continent, is, and will perhaps be forever buried in that cloud of obscurity which hangs over his history; but there is reason to believe that his migration had a very early date. The absence of friendly recognition, and the non-intercourse which subsists between him and the Malays of the present day who visit the coast, each viewing the other in no other light than that of strangers and enemies, would lead us to adopt this view of the subject. But the argument rests on still stronger data. The island of Java possesses, in the ruins with which it abounds, evidence of two distinct invasions from India—that of the Hindoos prior to the Christian era, and that of the Mahomedans several centuries afterwards. But, since neither idols nor temples, neither literary nor architectural remains are to be found in any part of Australia, the conclusion is unavoidable, that the present are its Aboriginal inhabitants, and that their ancestors must have belonged to a migration which left India, not only before the imposture of Mahomet, but prior to the rise of the Hindoo superstition, even in its most ancient form, that of Budism. This migration, too, must have preceded all those to the several islands of the Pacific, where either idols or temples, literary or architectural remains are to be found, as well as all those to the American continent, thus distinguished from preceding migrations.
But though it cannot be determined when the Australian left India, whether before or after the Grecian era, no doubt can be entertained, that he is of the family of Shem; and therefore, according to the ties of consanguinity, related to the Redeemer of the world—an honour which those who treat him with scorn and contempt cannot claim. Away then with the doctrine, that he is incapable of that moral and intellectual improvement which the gospel effects in the character of man, wherever it is proclaimed, received, and cherished. He may be despised alike by the ignorant and the learned; he may be shut out of the pale of Christian charity by its lying professors; and he may be neglected as a worthless outcast by those who ought long since to have interested themselves in his character and history: but there is ONE who has bowels of compassion for him. The touching tenderness manifested by Jesus towards this his younger brother, according to the flesh, in the parable of the prodigal son, which, to the Australian, has a peculiar and striking application, proves, that though he has long wandered from the way of life, he has not been forgotten by Him who bled for the sins of the world. I never look on this houseless, homeless child of want and woe—I never contemplate his sad condition, whether despondingly wandering he knows not whither beneath a burning sun, or standing still and shivering in the pitiless storm, or uttering the famishing cry, "Bread—bread—give me bread—me very hungry" without being convinced that the Saviour specially alluded to him when he uttered that affecting parable. He is actually the "younger son," the junior brother to that very branch of the family of Shem, to whom our Lord, in the parable, addressed himself. And how literally, how strikingly, are his state and character therein delineated. He obtained "the portion of goods that fell to him, and took his journey into a far country"—a country so far removed from the arena of human affairs Judea, Greece, and Rome—that when, after thousands of years, it was discovered, it received the appellation of Terra incognita, a land unknown. Here, "having spent all his living," he has nothing either to cover his nakedness or to satisfy the cravings of hunger, unless he chance to kill a wild animal in the forest where he wanders. To him the joys of spring time and harvest are utterly unknown. He is now actually hiring himself to "the citizens of this far country,"—the invasion of which, filling to the brim the bitter cup put into his hand by misfortune, has completed his calamities—to hew wood, to draw water, or "to feed swine, and would fain fill his belly with the husks which the swine eat." The allusion to the necessity of "food and clothing" for him on his conversion, or "return to his father," filling up the parallel, completes the evidence, and enables us to identify the character spoken of in the parable, in the person of the Australian.
How has Christendom—how have the British conducted themselves towards this unhappy wanderer, whose misery is so touchingly portrayed by the Redeemer of men? The game of the forest, from which he derived a precarious subsistence, is fast disappearing from the haunts of his comfortless abode. The "famine" spoken of in the parable, has consequently begun sorely to press upon him; compelling him to deeds of horror in order to sustain life, thus remarkably verifying, the prediction of his sad fate, "and no man gave unto him." The time of his saying, "I will arise and go to my father," is, therefore, now come. Have the British, then, the only nation with whom in his exile he can communicate, attempted his conversion, or encouraged him to adopt the heavenly resolution of returning to his father? How have they conducted themselves towards him in Tasmania, and in Eastern, Western, Southern, and Northern Australia? I pause for a reply. Alas! all around me is silent. I can hear nothing but echo in the graves of the slain, repeating the ominous monosyllable, as if it came from the lips of the injured dead, "How" I need no other reply. Your deeds answer for you. Ye have proclaimed this younger branch of the family of Shem, to be exclusively under your protection.—Instead of alleviating the famine brought upon him by your avarice, ye have driven him to the dreadful alternative of eating his own young in sight of the very habitations ye have erected on the lands of which ye have dispossessed him—ye have forbidden other nations to hoist a flag on, or adjacent, to the continent of Australia, as if ye wished that the guilt of exterminating her inhabitants might rest entirely on your own heads—ye have poured the filth of your jails on her shores—ye have raised the "great whore of Babylon" from the dust—she that for ages "made the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication"—ye have decked her out afresh, and sent her to perpetuate the pollution of a virgin land—ye have imparted to the Australian your own vices in their worst forms—ye have compassed sea and land, not even to proselyte, but to render him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves, and then ye have slain him. "O ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell". Yet ye sing psalms and hymns, ye offer many prayers, ye build Christian temples, and ye dedicate them to the Most High; while, before your march into the interior of this interesting but yet unexplored country, which ye now encompass on all sides, instead of the voice of the missionary proclaiming the gospel of peace, nothing is to be heard but the sound of the musket in pursuit of the flying prodigal over whose forlorn condition the son of God wept. Well did the prophet describe you, when he uttered these words, and thoroughly have ye merited the tremendous rebuke pronounced against you in the records of Heaven: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices?—saith the Lord.—Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts, my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you:—when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
Gentle reader, restrain your indignation at the dishonour brought upon your country, till you have perused the following relation from the lips and the pen of Aristides.
In the latter end of 1832, I had occasion to visit the capital of the province of Western Australia. It was one of those lovely spring mornings, which in the southern hemisphere, shed an indescribably balmy influence on all around. The acacia was in full bloom, the birds were chanting the notes of their morning hymn, and every creature, excepting man, seemed to rejoice in conscious innocence, gratefully acknowledging the goodness of a beneficent creator. The contemplation of a scene so cheering, as I passed along, beguiled my weary steps in a rather fatiguing journey of several miles.
When I emerged from the forest, and cast my eyes on the embryo capital, I beheld men, women, and children, running from all points towards its centre. Inquiring into the cause of a commotion so great and universal, one of the women, running along with a babe in her arms, cried, "O that terrible man is taken." I soon learned that a powerful chief had just been insnared by stratagem, and made prisoner; a chief on whose head, for the display of a feeling similar to that which immortalized Tell of Switzerland and Wallace of Scotland, the government had set a price. Two others that accompanied him, were taken with him. By the offer of bread, and feigned signs of honourable intentions, they had been inveigled into a boat, which, for this very purpose, had put off from the town to the opposite side of the water, where a number of natives, thinking themselves there secure, the river being from one to three miles broad, were observed to be employed in fishing. So soon as the men in the boat got their unsuspecting victims into their power, they seized, bound, and carried them off, in view of their respective tribes, who stood amazed, and mad with indignation at the perfidy thus practised upon them.
When I came within a few hundred yards of the governor's residence, I found a crowd collecting in the open air, in front of he guards-house, with the lieutenant-governor and council in the midst, assembled apparently for deliberation, and the three captive chiefs bound hand and foot, and lying on the ground, in fearful expectation of the doom that awaited them. Not a word of their language was known; nor did they know a syllable of that of the people whose captives they were. The principal chief maintained a stern silence, viewing all around him with sullen disregard. The other two, displaying a presence of mind, courage, and fortitude, not always possessed by the warrior under similar circumstances, attempted to soothe and pacify their victors, by singing a few stanzas of poetry. This brought to my mind the case of the Athenians, many of whom saved their lives, after the terrible affair of the Asinarius, in the contest between them and the Lacedemonians for the ascendant in Sicily, by reciting some of the verses of Euripides; and also that of the Jewish captives who, when the Babylonians desired them to sing, hung their harps on the willows and made that affecting, reply: "How can we sing the songs of Zion in a strange land."
I saw, I felt, that a crisis had arrived, and that if the government carried into effect their intention of putting these men to death, it would lay the foundation of interminable hostilities. There was not a moment to be lost, I stepped up to the Honorable ——— ———, a member of Council, and said; "The putting of these chief's to death, will be attended with fearful consequences. Nor is there any thing to justify sanguinary proceedings. The necessity of hostilities might be altogether prevented, if we only knew the language of the Aboriginal inhabitants. Can I have access to the prisoners? What do intend to do with them prior to the doom that awaits them?" The answer was: "We intend to send them to jail." I said, "I will go to jail with them." He replied: "You may, if you can get a magistrate to commit you. Turning to the Honorable W. H. Mackie and Captain Irwin the Lieutenant-Governor, men of very different sentiments and feelings, I said: "Refrain from an act that is as impolitic as it is unjust and cruel. Give me the lives of these men—let mine answer for them—and let me have access to them, that I may acquire a knowledge of their language and prevent that frightful state of things in which the deliberate shedding of blood will involve the settlement." After talking for a moment together, Mr. Mackie turned to me and said: "Your request is granted. The prisoners will be sent to the island of Carnac. Thither you may accompany them; and there prosecute the object you have in view." The-Lieutenant Governor, then, to show the cordial manner in which they entered into my views, said: "Come and take tea with me to-morrow evening that we may have some conversation on the subject."
I arranged, or rather abandoned my own affairs to their fate, and in a few days gave notice that I was ready. Lieutenant Dale, the aid-de-camp, was ordered with a guard of soldiers to accompany me and the prisoners to Carnac, a barren rock, perhaps 600 yards long by 200 in width, between Garden Island and Rotnest, and about eight or ten miles from the main.
On a Monday morning about the beginning of October, we stepped into the revenue boat at Fremantle, amidst a crowd whom the novelty of the scene had attracted, and in a few hours reached our destination. As we neared the island, I desired the prisoners to be unbound, which produced on their countenances a gleam of joy; but it was transitory. For Several days there was a struggle in their minds between hope and despair. One moment they expected life, and another nothing but death. Nor would they be persuaded to the contrary, till gentle words and kind treatment at length convinced them that I had nothing in view but their welfare; for they now began to feel that they were in my hands.
On our landing, I learned that their names were Yagan, Doumera, and Ningina. Yagan had been the terror of the colony. He was tall, athletic, and muscular, with a strong dash of the savage in his countenance. When placid, animated in conversation, or even a little excited, no peer in the realm could excel him in dignity of demeanour or urbanity of manners. The passions of the savage, however, occasionally flitting across his brow and playing behind his bronze coloured countenance, kept confidence in check; and yet, when conciliating, he exhibited a disposition so candid, cordial, and generous, that the most timid could not but feel at perfect ease in his company, be it where it may, whether in the midst of the city or the solitary desert. He was altogether a noble, a princely character—one of nature's best productions. The characters of the others may be given in a few words. Doumera was mild, gentle, candid, and generous. He possessed one of the finest dispositions I ever knew; and, under the influence of divine grace, might have been taken for the brother of John the Evangelist. His countenance beamed with every thing that is excellent and amiable. How exceedingly repulsive it must have been, I often thought, to a mind like his, to handle a spear and mingle with barbarians in the strife of battle—but he was born in a land of darkness, and compelled by a mysterious but unerring Providence to lead the life of a savage. Ningina, on the contrary, was dark, reserved, timid, and cunning. He affected confidence, but was always distrustful.
On our landing, Mr. Dale, at my request, made them ascend the rock which was for a time to form their abode, in order to show them that they were surrounded by water. When we reached the summit, Yagan at once understood the object of our walk, concluded that his doom was sealed, and in an agony of mind threw himself on his knees in the attitude of prayer; but whether a feeling of devotion, or of grief and despair, laid him prostrate on the ground, could not then be determined.
After eating some salt pork and a little biscuit, the guard and the prisoners lay down by a fire which they had kindled on a mound under a pendant rock, adorned with a few of those stalactite formations which are not uncommon on the western coast. Mr. Dale and I stretched our limbs at a little distance close to the water, on some sharp fragments which the surge had washed from the precipice above. Though our bed was not made of down, it was clean; and thus we passed the first night on this rock in the ocean. When day dawned, and we had partaken of a similar repast, the aid-de-camp took his leave, and left me to form my own plans and manage as well as I could.
Surrounded by the sea, and nothing over our heads but the sky, it became necessary to contrive shade from the sun and shelter from the storm. I therefore sent to the adjacent island for spars, and planned a little encampment of huts—one for a place of worship, one for the prisoners, and one for myself—in a little valley in the centre of the rock, in which grew a few acacia shrubs. But a serious difficulty now presented itself. We could find no water; and without this element, so essential to the existence of animated nature, we could not live. I had therefore no alternative but to attempt a well; and, after boring about twenty feet through the rock, we found, to our great joy, an abundant supply. A garden, around the well in the little valley, to show the savages that, his mother-earth, notwithstanding the curse, is still capable of furnishing man with nourishing food, completed my contemplated arrangements.
We immediately commenced operations, by sloping the bank and forming a pathway from the valley to the beach. While thus occupied, Yagan became very melancholy, hung over his spade, and refused to work. Wishing to enforce obedience, so essential to discipline and good order, I spoke to him in rather a commanding tone; on which he turned on his heel and looked upon me with a scowl of ineffable contempt, while his eyes were red as lightning and flashed fire. I instantly perceived that he had fallen into an error, calculated to appal and unman the bravest, actually supposing that we were making preparations for his execution, and that here we intended to bury him. What fiends he must have imagined us to be, when he supposed that we were capable of such a refinement in cruelty as to make a captive assist in digging his own grave. I undeceived him as quickly as possible by walking up and down the bank, and thus showed him that it was not a grave but a road that we were making to and from the beach; after which he became tranquil and assisted in the work. On our making the holes for the corner posts of the first hut, however, the same dreadful impression seized him again; and when the third hole was dug, Ningina and Doumera also began to weep, believing that their deaths, as well as his, were now intended; and it required no little persuasion to convince them of the contrary.
We prosecuted the different undertakings we had in hand; and, in a few days, the natives became cheerful, pleasant, and happy. The day was spent in work, and the mornings and evenings in conversation around the fire in the open air, where we all mealed together. At night, they generally entertained us by singing or reciting a few stanzas of their poetry; and these occasions, as well as every interval from labour, I improved by endeavoring to gain a knowledge of the language.
Cleanliness being akin to godliness, I caused them to be shaved, washed, and clothed; and made them at length wash themselves and their own linen. To my surprise, when washed, they were not black but red or bronze coloured. When attending prayers on the Sabbath, they were quiet, attentive, and serious; and, but for their copper-coloured countenances, might have been taken for well-instructed British peasants. Our congregation was small; but I never saw one better behaved. Solemn and interesting were the reflections that crowded upon me on these occasions, and delighted were the sensations that pervaded my bosom. These rocks, uninhabited from creation, and on which the sound of prayer and praise had never been heard, now responded in echoing accents to the worship of Him that made them. The expanded ocean, lying to the westward, and reminding me of a country from which the light of the gospel was breaking forth to every land, but this; the extended continent lying to the eastward and stretching north and south, with a range of elevated mountains in the distance, bounding the horizon like a rainbow or ribbon of blue, and veiling the unexplored interior with its innumerable tribes on whom a Sabbath never smiled, presented scenes on which the imagination ruminated with intense interest. The happiness of being the first to announce the name of Jesus to those who, exiled from the rest of the world for thousands of years, were utter strangers to revelation, and who had never heard of the advent of a Saviour, made the rock on which I reclined softer than a bed of down, and the humble fare of a coarse biscuit and a glass of cold water, sweeter than the dainties of a royal table. The beginning indeed was small. I had just got a hold of the key that would unlock the native language; and was thus merely preparing the way for the missionary by opening for him a door to the preaching of the gospel. Still it was a beginning. It was not the first corruscation of the morning light; but it was the first twinkling of the morning star, struggling through the haze, while ascending the horizon to proclaim the approach of "the day spring from on high" to Australia. So, at least, I earnestly prayed and fondly hoped.
Among the spars for the erection of the huts, were several of the, of which the natives make their weapons of war. These immediately attracted their attention; and they solicited leave to make a few spears, taking care to explain that it was only for the purpose of fishing. Compliance with such a request in the circumstances in which we were placed, would appear to many a dangerous experiment. In my mind, it excited no apprehensions. Desirous to afford them every innocent gratification, and to banish that distrust which is injurious to social intercourse, I granted them permission. Nor was this or any other indulgence ever abused. The guard, not being under the command of an officer, and not choosing to be under my control, instead of keeping watch at night always slept. There was therefore nothing to prevent the prisoners from at any time taking the lives of all on the island. Yet such a friendly and mutual confidence prevailed, on their part and mine, that though the soldiers thus passed every night in bed in their tents, I slept by the side of these savages in the open air, as safe and as tranquil as if I had been guarded by a thousand.
Things went on in every way to my, and promised to realize my most sanguine expectations, till an incident occurred which interrupted the harmony that reigned in our little camp, and ultimately frustrated my grand design—their instruction in Christianity and its propagation, through their instrumentality, among their own and the adjacent tribes.
One morning the soldier—for there was only one on the island with me at the time—very injudiciously called Yagan to work before he had finished his breakfast. Yagan, still recollecting that he was a chief, did not choose to be so unceremoniously dealt with, and refused. The soldier threatened, till Yagan's temper began to rise, when the one ran for his musket and the other for his spear. I was at some distance, but providentially heard the noise; and, on looking towards the place whence it came, beheld the soldier with his firelock rushing to the combat and Yagan standing to receive him, with the passions of the savage in full play, and the spear quivering in his hand ready to heave. It was a critical moment. I ran to the spot and rushed in between them, not knowing but I might receive the bullet of the one and the spear of the other. But the moment I gained the dangerous position, Yagan, with a dignity and grace I shall never forget, surrendered, placing his spear, and with that his life, in my hands; upon which, at my desire, the soldier returned his musket to its place in his tent, and in a moment all was quiet; but, like the troubled state of the ocean in a calm after a storm, there was a feeling of distrust in the minds of both which made the prisoners ever after uneasy, and ultimately determined them upon planning their escape. Sensible that I had saved his life, Yagan threw his arms around me, and, unable for some time to express his feelings in words, gave vent to his gratitude in a flood of tears.
Convinced that I was their friend, but concluding that I was the only friend they had, as their attachment to me daily increased they became more and more distrustful of those around them, not considering their lives for a moment safe while the soldiers resided on the rock to which they were confined. Against the careless manner in which the island was guarded, I had repeatedly but in vain remonstrated. At length the very opportunity they wished for presented itself. The revenue boat anchored in the little bay, the crew passed the night on shore, and the guard as usual went to sleep. About one o'clock, the prisoners, having ascertained the preceding evening that the wind was fair, rose, unmoored the boat, and, utter strangers as they were to the art of the mariner, made their escape. They reached the main about two hours after daylight; and, by ten o'clock, having traversed the country for about twenty miles, crossing both the Canning and the Swan, they were in the camp of Yellowgongo, relating the adventures of their two months' captivity; about six weeks of which they had spent in the midst of the ocean, which neither they nor their fathers had ever navigated.
Though the grand object I had in view—that of making the Saviour's name known to the heathen on the western coast of Australia—had for the present failed, it was consoling to reflect, that a foundation was laid for it at some future period; and that the affair of Carnac was productive of many immediate benefits to the settlement. Instead of enmity and blood-shedding, the confidence, friendship, and good-will of the natives were gained; while their acquisition of English and the publication of a vocabulary of their language, led for a time to the most friendly intercourse between them and the settlers. This state of things would have been lasting, had it not been interrupted by one of those wanton acts of cruelty which are ever sure to involve a community in ruin or endless trouble. The settlers having taken possession of their fishing stations and hunting grounds, the fish and the game—the two great sources of their living—were gone. Starving for want of food, therefore, and unconscious of any moral wrong in helping themselves to the sustenance of human life, under such circumstances wherever they could find it, a number of them attempted one morning to take a little flour from a store in the town of Fremantle to satisfy the cravings of hunger. While in the act of doing so, two servants from a neighbouring house, without desiring them to desist, or giving them any warning, fired upon them and killed two, of whom the brother of Yagan was one—a most quiet inoffensive character, who occasionally put on clothing, worked for the settlers like a common labourer, and was much esteemed by all that knew him. The practice of taking life for life, is alluded to and sanctioned by the Mosaic law; and, modified in manner, the state becoming the executioner instead of the aggrieved party, is held sacred by modern nations. Yagan, in obedience to the immemorial usage of his country, felt that he was bound to avenge the death of his brother; and, joined by his father and the rest of the tribe, crossed the river for this purpose at Preston Point about nine o'clock, announcing his intention to the ferryman, but at the same time assuring him that he should not be touched. The whole of the natives had fallen into the error of supposing that the whites were, like themselves, divided into separate clans, and that the settlers on the Swan were a distinct tribe from those on the adjoining river. Remembering, therefore, after having fallen into the hands of the former, the kindness shown to him at Carnac, he determined to attack those on the Canning, whom he supposed to be a part of the tribe that had slain his brother, and from whom he had besides received many provocations. Such an exercise of discrimination and judgment in his revenge in the height of excitement, the most ignorant, unreflecting, and prejudiced, will, I apprehend, allow to be highly creditable to his understanding and his feelings. It exhibits a character very superior to that of the majority of his enemies, who, born and bred under similar circumstances, would not have scrupled for a moment to make the first that came in their way the victim of their vengeance. He soon fell in with two men driving a team; and, in their death, avenged that of those of his tribe who had been that morning slain at Fremantle.
This deed of blood, dreadful as it was, being perpetrated at noon-day, and almost in presence of the owner of the team, was only an act of retaliation; and bore no comparison to that of the murder of Major André by General Washington, merely because he was found within the republican lines—a murder which the British felt themselves bound in duty to avenge on the most distinguished of their American prisoners.
Such frightful occurrences, happening one after another on the same day, threw the settlement into a state of consternation, dismay, and terror. Those in the Council who advocated hostilities, now resumed their influence; a price was again set on the head of Yagan; his father Midjegoorong was taken and shot in the midst of the capital; and others were doomed by proclamation to a similar fate.
These sanguinary proceedings, however, though applauded by a certain class, were far from being universally approved. Many were silent; but some of the most respectable of the settlers, loudly expressed their disapprobation. Even the common people showed in their conduct towards Yagan, their sense of the wrongs inflicted upon the Aboriginal inhabitants. The following is far from being a solitary instance. Pursued by the police and the soldiers in his own district, he was compelled to take refuge on the Swan in the district of Weeup. On my saying to one of the servants in a farming establishment, with whom he had passed the preceding day, "Were you not tempted by the government reward of £30, to give information and have him apprehended," he replied: "No; nor would ten times the amount induce me to be accessory to his death."
About this time he paid a visit to a farm on the Swan for the purpose of ascertaining whether his father Midjegoorong was dead or alive. The Gazette thus relates the occurrence:—
"Midjegoorong's wives and children were marked in a peculiar manner about the face, in white and red streaks, 'the humble trappings of their woe;' for the absence or death of their father and chief. they were extremely inquisitive respecting his fate. Their apprehensions, however, were silenced by one of the servants leading them to understand that he was sent to Carnac, in a similar manner to that in which Yagan and other natives were confined a short time ago. They took their departure, visiting the other settlers and exhibiting the fullest confidence in them, in happy ignorance of the steps which had been taken. The blind, however, has since been removed from their eyes. Mr. Shaw of the Upper Swan having imprudently disclosed to Yagan himself on the following day that Midjegoorong had been shot at Perth. His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor, who happened casually to be near the residence of Mr. Shaw, hearing the fact, and sensible of the consequences of such a communication to Yagan, instantly proceeded to inquire into the truth of the report; and, finding it confirmed, hurried down to Perth, where immediate arrangements were made to increase the military force as far as practicable in that neighbourhood."
The following account of an interview with this distinguished chief, is from the pen of the Attorney-General, the Honourable G. F. Moore.
"In the present excitement of the public mind, perhaps the following sketch of a scene which has just occurred here, may not be uninteresting. A party of natives, under the conduct and authority of Weeup, have been in the habit for some time of visiting several settlements in this neighbourhood, and having conducted themselves in a peaceable and friendly manner, passing harmlessly among our flocks and herds, and cordially greeting our shepherds, whether man or boy, armed or unarmed, alone or in company, on all occasions, many of us thought it better to endeavour to establish this friendly intercourse, even at the expense of a gratuity which is sometimes burdensome—whether wisely or not is yet a moot question among us, and can only be decided by the event. On seeing a party approach the house, accompanied by my shepherd, I went towards them wholly unarmed as usual, supposing they were only my old familiar acquaintances. To my surprise, the first one I met was Migo, the intimate friend of Munday. On my looking a little round, I discovered Munday himself at my side. Suspicion once awakened, I examined the faces more attentively, and at last saw Yagan standing aloof, as it were, under the safe conduct of Weeup, and watching narrowly my movements and manner of receiving them. I had just been accusing Migo with having been present at the murder of the men on the Canning, when my eye fell upon Yagan. I said immediately, 'What man is that?' They all answered, 'Boolgat.' I said 'No! Yagan.' Seeing that he was known, he stepped forward, avowing himself, as if to challenge discussion. 'Yes, it is Yagan.'—Fremantle white men shot Domjun, Yagan's brother—they shot two black men; and therefore Yagan speared two white men.' I said, 'But Domjun stole; therefore white men shot him.' 'Yes,' said he, as if he laid little stress on the theft, 'Domjun stole—but, if white men shoot black men, black men will spear white men—white men shot Domjun, Yagan's brother—therefore Yagan speared white men, but far away.' I said, 'All white men are brethren.' 'No, no,' from all the natives. 'Yes! All white men are brethren: they are all one people. If black men spear one white man, all white men will be angry—all white men will make war and shoot.' 'If white men shoot,' said he, in a friendly tone' black men will spear.' Appealing to them all, I said, 'If black men will neither spear white men, nor their cattle, nor steal, white men will regard them as brethren. Black men, then, may often hold corroberies, and many white men will shake hands with them in token of friendship.' All immediately ran to seize my hands, save the moody chief himself. They had grouped around me, evidently attending to the argument, and glad of any thing like a friendly pause. Yagan stepped forward, and leaning with his left hand on my shoulder, while he gesticulated with the right, delivered a sort of recitation, looking earnestly in my face. I regret that I could not fully understand it. I thought, from the tone and manner that the purport of it was this:—'You came to our country—you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country, we are fired upon by the white men—why should the white men treat us so?' This song reminded me of a chorus in a Greek tragedy, and was commented upon and explained in this way by the other natives, who seemed all to act as subordinate characters to Yagan. After a short interlude, Yagan approached again; and fixing his eyes as if to read the countenance, said inquiringly, 'Is Midjegoorong shot? or, is he sent to Carnac?' I felt the question was full of hazard, and gave no reply. Weeup anxiously asked the same questions, putting his finger to my ear to know if I heard or understood him. I answered slowly: 'The white men are angry—the Governor is angry' My men, however, assured him that Mdjegoorong was sent to Carnac. Yagan continued to read my countenance; and when he could get no answer from me, said, with extraordinary vehemence of manner, distinctness of utterance, and emphasis of tone: 'If the white men shoot Midjegoorong Yagan will kill three,' holding up three fingers. I said, 'Were Yagan to kill all the white men, the soldiers would shoot Yagan.' He scowled a look of daring defiance, and turned on his heel with an air of ineffable disdain.
"He was accompanied by a select band from his own tribe, stood pre-eminent in height among those around him, and walked very erect. During the greater part of this conference he held a beautifully tapered and exquisitely pointed spear, grasped like a stiletto about fourteen inches from the point, while the shaft lay over his shoulder with a seeming carelessness. He evidently dreaded treachery; and was on his guard against it, taking care not to let the Europeans press on him too closely, and keeping generally some of the natives between him and them. Nothing short of an overpowering force, which I did not possess, or a cold-blooded deliberate treachery, of which I was not capable, would have sufficed to secure him as he then stood. I may be blamed by some for not having made an attempt; but, were he who finds fault placed in the same situation, he must be more or less than a man to act differently. "The doctrine of taking life for life, seems perfectly established; and they avow their determination to act upon it. Though I expressed strong dissent, they seemed thoroughly satisfied of its propriety.
"Every one should, therefore, now be on his guard. Yagan seems to possess the power of ubiquity. He has declared, and his are not idle threats, that he will take three lives for that of of Midjegoorong."
This bold, decided, and fearless patriot, the avenger of his country's wrongs, met with a fate not more unexpected than generally deplored. Thrown off his guard by his generous, confiding disposition, and the kindness shown to him at Carnac, he fell by the hands of a worthless workhouse boy. This personification of ignorance, laziness, and vice, one morning enticed him from those that accompanied him to the side of the river, under the pretence of assisting him to look for ducks; and, when the head of the chief was turned, bringing the muzzle of his gun, as with pretending carelessness it lay on his arm, round to the ear of his unsuspecting victim, pulled the trigger, and treacherously shot him The report of the musket being heard by Weeup and others of the Wurerup tribe, who happened to be close at hand, retribution quickly followed. Before five minutes had elapsed, the avenging spears of the natives, exacting the penalty in the death of the blood-stained youth, hurried his guilty spirit after that of his murdered victim into another world, there to answer for the crime he had just perpetrated. The Gazette shall tell the rest of the sad tale; and, it will be seen that, though bound to side with those who advocated sanguinary measures, it, on this occasion, quailed before public opinion.
"The affray which led to this horrid catastrophe, and terminated in the death of two natives and the youth Keates, took place on Thursday last. Keates had frequently expressed a determination to kill Yagan, although in opposition to his master's will, with a desire, it is presumed, to obtain the reward.
"The scene of the murder was a short distance from Mr. Bull's residence; and no gentleman, we believe, has been more anxious to prevent it, having given repeated and positive orders to his men not to shoot Yagan.****
"We look with some degree of curiosity for the result of the death of this chief, to ascertain whether he has left his sovereign influence to an equally daring successor. We are inclined to believe it will be the case; but if not, a favourable time has arrived for adopting some decisive and amicable system of proceeding. Unlike some of our neighbours, we are disposed to place a certain degree of reliance upon the word of a native: we should therefore be glad to hear Weeup's relation of the affray. We strongly suspect he will agree with us—that it was a wild and treacherous act; and not the heroic deed which some unthinkingly have designated it. The unfortunate youth has suffered for his temerity, and has entailed upon us a stigma which it will be the work of time to eradicate. The penalty of death, we have been led to understand, is attached to crime—for the effect of example as well as punishment. What a fearful lesson of instruction have we given to the savage! We have taught him by this act to exercise towards us deceit and treachery, which, in him, we have daily reproved, and led him to draw no very favourable conclusions of our moral and physical superiority. We do not remember to have heard one instance, in which the Aborigines of this country have abused our confidence when we have encountered them in the bush. We must, therefore, again deplore an act which, it appears to us, will annihilate the surest road to perfect amity—mutual confidence. We must remember Yagan was killed, after spending the morning in company with the youth who shot him, and when upon the point of partaking of his frugal repast, a portion of which he would not have withheld from the hand that slew him."
Thus fell the chief of Beeliar. It is impossible, in contemplating his melancholy fate, not to call to mind the lamentation of David over the grave of Abner, who was treacherously slain by Joab, under pretence of avenging the death of his brother Asahel, who had fallen before him in battle. "Died Abner as a fool dieth! Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put in fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men so fellest thou. And all the people wept again."
Suffice it to add that one scene of blood followed another, till Sir J——— S———, returning from from England, resumed the reins of government, and gave an impetus to the evil counsels which had for some time predominated. The fate of the tribe of Banyoula, on the Murray, cannot be related without exciting feelings of sorrow and indignation. In The Gazette of February 8, 1834, may be found the relations which they were anxious to form with the settlement. In the leading article, they and their country are thus mentioned:—
"An important discovery has been made within the last fortnight on the Murray, at the instance of the natives in that quarter. An intimation, it appears, was conveyed to Mr. Peel and Captain Byrne by the natives, that a considerable number of cattle had been seen on the banks of the Murray, which led to an inquiry and a determination on the part of those gentlemen to proceed to the spot which was pointed out; and, after continuing their journey for about sixteen miles, the reports were found to he perfectly accurate, several head of cattle being found feeding upon a pasturage abundantly luxuriant. The number, we are informed, was about eight or ten;—but a district was pointed out by the guides at a distance not far removed from the spot at which they had arrived, where a vast number had collected. The description we have from Captain Byrne of the country in which the cattle were seen, is highly flattering,—and the anxiety evinced by the natives that we should settle down with them on this desirable tract of country, may relieve the qualms of conscience which Mr———, evinces upon the subject of our taking possession of their lands. They have not confined their invitation to the settlers on the Murray, but have solicited that it may be extended to our more populous neighbours of Perth and Fremantle."
Does ancient or modern history furnish a single instance of such kindness, confidence, and generous feeling on the part of one nation towards another, as that exhibited on this occasion by these savages towards a people to whom they were utter strangers? Dreadfully was their liberality requited by the white savages with whom they had to deal. Can it be believed, that a few months after this spontaneous and friendly invitation, to share with them their patrimonial inheritance and all they possessed in the world, Sir J——— S———, accompanied by a strong detachment of soldiers and police, went for the express purpose of taking possession of the country; and, falling, without any provocation whatever, upon its peaceable and unoffending owners, while apparently employed in fishing, nearly exterminated the whole tribe. The interesting picture of the kindly disposition of these people just before given in The Gazette, now stared the perpetrators of this revolting massacre full in the face. In giving to the public the official details of the affair, it consequently became necessary that the organ of government should change its tone; and, in order to justify the foul deed, blacken their character as much as possible by enumerating the acts of retaliation to which some of them had formerly been driven, but carefully passing over the numerous provocations they had received in the wanton cruelties practised upon them.
Such was the fate of a people who, influenced by feelings of kindness and humanity, had often saved the lives of Mr. H—'s children in a lonely unprotected spot, fifty miles from the capital of the colony, by furnishing them with food in his absence, when they chanted to discover that they were famishing with hunger.
The contemplation of the scene of carnage—even as given in The Gazette, which told but half of the tragic story—nearly a whole tribe, slaughtered indiscriminately while calling for mercy; and when they could find none, plunging into the river, tying in vain to conceal themselves under its waters from the unremitting fire of the merciless foe that lined is banks—would be heart rending. Male and female, old and young, were left in gory masses on the ensanguined earth and in the flood. Not a man that fell into the hands of the murderers escaped. Deeply was the British flag stained; and long will the affair of Pinjara cause Derhal to mourn.
Of the common murders, retaliations, skirmishes, and more serious contests which took place, from the commencement of the settlement down to this the tenth year of it's history, I make no mention. But I trust I have said enough—enough to render further evidence of the injustice and barbarous cruelty with which the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia have been treated, unnecessary. Here therefore I drop the veil till the day of doom, when many will have a fearful account to render.
The following papers, which made their appearance amidst the scenes just described, will probably be perused with some interest. A wolf and a lamb, it is said, once happened to meet at a stream, where they both came to drink. The former accused the latter of muddying the water, and rendering it offensive to his taste. In vain did the innocent lamb point out the impossibility of sustaining the accusation, by remarking that the water did not flow from him to his accuser, but from his accuser to him. The wolf, determined upon a quarrel, was regardless of the truth or falsehood of the charge. The complaint was a mere pretence to palliate the determination of falling upon his victim. The simile is strikingly illustrative of the conduct of the British in Australia.
Punic faith was the proverb and the watchword of Rome, when she wished to crush her rival. But had the annals of Carthage—or that of those who shared her fate—escaped the storm which razed her walls and laid her prostrate in desolation, Roman perfidy would have been as proverbial as Punic faith. The history of exterminated nations may perish with their names. It matters not. A chronicle of the ills and wrongs inflicted upon the unfortunate, though lost on earth, will one day be found in the records of heaven.
It may be farther remarked, that when one state resolves on the conquest or destruction of another, the cry is raised: A breach of treaty, unreasonable demands, unprovoked aggression, or an insult offered to the national flag; and the affair is painted in the strongest colours in order to justify an appeal to arms. Nothing of this kind being chargeable on the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, who were not even aware of the existence of the British isles till British arms gleamed on their shores, those who advocated the adoption of an hostile position towards them, were driven to the alternative of inventing some view of the case that would justify such a line of conduct. The plan hit upon was to render them odious to the public at home, by representing them in the worst light. Nor were facilities wanting for misrepresentation. The main body of the settlers, located in the capital or at the port where they landed, and often afraid to go a mile from either, knew nothing whatever of the people whose country they came unceremoniously to occupy. Conscious that they were aggressors, their imaginations conjured up a thousand frightful ideas respecting the rightful owners of the soil, and what they had to expect at their hands. Taking advantage of this feeling, and alarmed at the appearance of a better one beginning to spring up, it was determined, by those who ought to have acted a different part, to embody all that could be said against them in an article which was published in The Gazette. So miserable, however, was this attempt, that the Editor himself candidly acknowledged that the writer by no means handled the subject with the ability which it required. They were described as being ferocious, cunning, cowardly, dishonest, contemptible, and destitute of every virtue, moral or military, that could command esteem. To these misrepresentations the following reply was sent; but the Editor refused to publish it, being, as is supposed, forbidden by authority.
Sir—Those who are inimical to the moral and religious improvement of the native tribes, have opened their first line of batteries upon me. Yet their fire is so feeble that it would not be worth returning, were it not for the consideration that the best of causes, undefended, may suffer in the minds of the ignorant and unreflecting. In the estimation of the multitude, silence is defeat.
Your correspondent conceives that the way to obtain a correct view of the character of the Aboriginal inhabitants in private life, is, to pass by all that is to be admired in their disposition, all that's commendable in their conduct, and to fix our eyes upon their vices only. What would the colonists say—what would the world think—were he to refer us to the calendar of Newgate for the real character of the British people!
In public life, he severely censures their demonstrations of hostility. Would he then have us to take the character of the nations of Europe from the acts of an infuriated soldiery in the heat of a military contest? He forgets that we have provoked these people to hostilities. Taking possession of the country, and also destroying the fish and the game, we leave them no alternative but to resist or to perish.
But he complains of their mode of warfare. Did he never hear of the stratagems of war—a branch of military tactics justified by ancients and moderns, and practised by civilised as well as savage nations. Had he been a Dane, in days that are gone, he would have complained bitterly of the ferocity of the British when resisting Danish invasion; and Alfred, at one time hiding himself in a marsh, and at another entering the enemy's camp in disguise, would have been pronounced by the enemies of the Derbalese, a cunning and cowardly savage. Such, according to their mode of reasoning, would have been the character of a prince justly and universally admired—a pattern of every virtue, moral and military—an example to kings and a model to Christians.
Is it not amusing to hear the invaders of a country complaining of the manner in which the inhabitants attack their enemies and defend themselves? Thewar, in which Spain repelled the invader of her throne, was lauded from one extremity of Europe to another.
I allow, not however in the sense of your correspondent,that some of the natives may at times be guilty of theft. A people who know not what private property means, are in this respect, like children. Having neither barn house nor store, and living as the fowls of heaven do, to help themselves to food, wherever they find it, is to them as natural as to drink at the brook and to breathe the air; and to take their lives for so doing, without any attempt to instruct them in the moral impropriety of the act, is just about as rational as it would be to put children to death for fancying any thing they may chance to see in the house of a friend. But are civilized nations free from this vice? If so, what are we to understand by locks and keys, bolts and bars, watches and watch-dogs—so common in Christian countries—and the multitudes of police maintained at a vast expense throughout Europe? To look nearer home, what are we to understand by the jails of Perth and Fremantle? Were these erected for black or for white thieves?
Colonel Collins, in his account of the first settlement near Botany Bay, when describing the natives, says:—" Their spears, fiz–gigs, gum, and other articles, they were accustomed to leave under the rocks, or loose and scattered about the beach." A recent writer adds: "It would be well for the world, if a little of this savage honesty could be imported into even the most civilized society; and they who are accustomed to moralize on such matters, will regret that a people so perfectly unsuspicious, should, at their very first intercourse with civilized men, have "fallen among thieves?" And as deeply is it to be regretted that the natives of Swan River, equally undeserving of such a fate, should have fared no better.
A moment's reflection may satisfy the most prejudiced that covetousness, the root of this vice, thrives in civilized society, wherever the heart is not under the power of divine influence, even more than among the savages of the desert. But I trust the day is not far distant when Christianity will bear the same testimony to her converts in Australia that she once did to her converts from among the thieves of classical Greece: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed; but ye are sanctified."
Your correspondent is far from being happy in the choice of his figures for illustration on the subject of martial courage. Did he never see a coat-of-arms? If not, let him go to the Herald's office, and he will find that most of the representations of military virtue, there displayed by the great and the noble, are taken from the various orders of the brute creation—such as lions, tigers, bears, wolves, foxes, and dogs, to whom he likens the Aboriginal inhabitants. He could not, therefore, pay a higher compliment to the warriors of Derbal, than thus unwittingly to rank them with the nobility of his mother country.
Nor is he more fortunate in the selection of his facts. If a native had the boldness single-handed to make a stand against a whole party of British officers, it was no very contemptible exhibition of martial courage: and if, as is supposed, his family were in the valley behind him, the act displayed a concentration of virtues of no ordinary kind. It was the husband the father, the patriot—determined, unsupported, to sacrifice his life in defence of his wife, his children, and his country.
History contains few instances of courage more striking than that recently displayed by Yagan, when, presenting himself at head quarters, and brandishing his spear in the presence of numbers, he warned Mr. Watson of the consequences of again threatening to shoot him. This occurred in your own presence, Sir, in the street in front of The Gazette office, in the very midst of the capital of the settlement. Is conduct such as this "cowardly, cunning, and like that of the secret assassin?" Let assassinating Italy, the favourite resort of the fashionables of Europe, and which no doubt stands high in the estimation of your correspondent, blush at the recital.
I was one of the earliest arrivals in the settlement. Leaving my servants at the embouchure of the river, I set out almost immediately after landing, quite alone, and pushed into the forest. After penetrating along the right bank to the distance of about thirty miles, I lost my way. To add to the comfort of my reflections I was totally unarmed—arms I never carry—and wandered about till all at once I found myself on the verge of a native encampment and the chief of Mooro approaching me. His tribe stood behind him, his arm was raised, and the spear, poised and ready to heave, was quivering in his hand. There was only a moment between me and death. But the instant he recognised the symbol of peace, he dropped his spear, behaved with the greatest kindness, and conducted me out of the thicket in which I was bewildered. Had I fallen into the hands of white savages, under similar circumstances, my life, I am satisfied, would have been the forfeit of my temerity.
I once saw a party of these people throw down their spears, rush to the bank of the river, seize two men who had fallen into it, and haul them out, their countenances showing at first the deepest concern, and afterwards the liveliest joy, evincing the pleasure they felt in saving their lives. As your correspondent seems to be one of those ignorant sceptics who either affect incredulity, or whose narrow intellects will not allow them to believe any thing that occurs beyond the limited circle in which they move, he may see the two men, Henry Bourne and Richard Thacker, both of whom are now in Perth, and learn the tale from their own lips.
In humanity, their white brethren would do honor to themselves by following their example. At an interview held with them at Woburn Park, at which I was present, Mr. Bull was about to shoot a bird for them; but, notwithstanding their continual want of food, and the interest they take in witnessing the effect of fire-arms, they requested him in this instance to forbear pointing out that the bird he was about to kill had young ones.
Time would fail me to enumerate the many instances of disinterested benevolence shown by them to the invaders of their country. They repeatedly recovered strayed stock and brought them to the owners, carrying in their arms the kids and the lambs which they found, while they themselves were wandering through the forest in search of food and famishing with hunger. They treated the lost Wanderer with the kindest hospitality, dividing their humble repast with him, allowing him to rest for the night in their camp, and conducting him on his way in the morning. They held the house and the property of the lonely settler sacred, aiding him in his toils when present, and sharing their food with his children when absent. They rescued the fainting soldier and the emaciated explorer from the mazes of the forest; and, not only saved them from the horrors of famine, but restored them to their families, their friends, and the settlement. To examples of virtue so remarkable, and taking into account the relation in which we stand towards them, unparalleled in the history of nations, Captain Banister, Mr. Hall, Mr. J. Butler, and many others can bear testimony.
Nor are these splendid instances of a friendly, generous, and noble mind, peculiar to the tribes immediately around us. The subject of the following narrative presents us with a picture of moral excellence which will probably excite universal astonishment, and induce the question, Is there one of the countless multitudes of that charming sex who adorn the parks, grace the assemblies, and form the source of domestic happiness in Britain's favoured isle, that would, if born in a barbarous land and exposed to the degrading influence of savage life, exhibit a disposition so amiable, so interesting, and so worthy of admiration. The deist will probably point to the example with exultation. But Christianity triumphs over the system of the sceptic, not only in the heavenly influence which renders that which she finds good, better, but in the omnipotent power which, melting the heart of stone into tenderness, transforms a character the most depraved into one of angelic purity and loveliness. This—far beyond the limits of her art—the goddess of reason cannot accomplish. She may conceal the deformity of vice, but she can neither elevate the soul nor change the heart. Destitute of ability either to improve or convert, she leaves human nature just as she finds it, whether exhibiting some faint impression of the creator's workmanship, or thoroughly marred by sin and Satan. It receives no plastic touch from the stiff hand, no inspiring influence from the cold lips, no heavenly animation from the lifeless form of that phantom of the infidel's imagination, natural religion. The picture of an Australian savage, thus drawn by a traveller in New South Wales, I give in his own words.
"A female of one of the Aboriginal tribes in the Murrumbidgee country, formed an attachment to a convict, named Tallboy, who, becoming a bushranger, was for a long time sought after by the police for the many atrocities he had committed, but always eluded pursuit. This female concealed him with true native ingenuity, and battled his pursuers—she would fish and hunt for him, whilst he remained secluded in the retreat she chose. She often visited the stock-keeper's huts at the different stations, and whatever provision she received from them was immediately conveyed to the unworthy object of her devoted attachment. Although many knew that she was privy to his concealment, yet it was found impossible to elude her vigilance, by following her, and thus discover his retreat:—she evaded all attempts and seemed ever watchful for his safety knowing the fate that awaited him, if taken. Neither threats nor promises of rewards—enough to excite the cupidity of any individual, but one in whom a higher feeling was paramount,—could induce her even to acknowledge she was acquainted with the place of his concealment, much more betray it. Nay, it has occurred more than once, when there was a fear of discovery, that she has given voluntary information to the police of having seen him thirty or fifty miles distant, when, in fact, his place of concealment was in the immediate neighborhood. The brute, however, manifested no kindred affection, with this female, but would frequently beat and ill use her.
"Whilst she administered to him the refreshing cup of kindness, he bestowed on her misery in return. He had in one instance given way to his natural brutish disposition by ill treating the being who had done so much for him,—just as he was on the verge of discovery, indeed had himself given up all hopes of escape—when she again saved him, by engaging to point out to the police his place of retreat, and absolutely led them away under that pretence, in a contrary direction, affording her paramour both time and opportunity to seek out a safer asylum. When she arrived with the police at the spot she had informed them he last was, he was of course not there, and a strict search in the vicinity was equally unsuccessful. She then left them to continue their search after the criminal, pretending to know nothing further respecting his place of concealment. At last he was captured by venturing out too boldly during her absence, was tried, condemned, and expiated his offences on the scaffold at, Sydney.
"She wished to follow him, on hearing he was a prisoner, but that was impossible: so, reclaimed by her tribe, she was obliged to become an unwilling wife of one of the blacks. It is but too well known in what degradation the female sex are held among savage nations, so different from the deference and respect justly given to that portion of the creation in civilized life.
"This unfortunate female was ordered by her husband, whose word is law, to follow him, at a time when she was rendered incapable by illness:—on her hesitating he struck her with savage barbarity with his tomahawk so severely over the head and legs that she fainted from the loss of blood. She was found lying on the ground and taken to the house of a settler residing on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, and every kindness and attention shown her; but after lingering and suffering severe mental and bodily anguish, she expired."
Read this narrative again; and say, Is there to be found in the annals of Rome or Greece a character so transcendently excellent?
Away with dissimilation. If ye pretend to doubt the sunburnt skin of the Australians, apply the lance to their veins. Even this is needless. Ye have already gone to the fountain head and thrust the pointed steel into their hearts. Examine the crimson fluid, as it pours out—there can be no mistake here—and say, Is it not blood of your own? Yes. The bleeding victims of your avarice are your brethren! To slander an innocent race, in order to justify their extermination, is as cruel as it is cowardly and base. Glory in your apparent security; only flatter not yourselves that vengeance will allow the guilty to escape both in this world and the next. Even in life's short span, ye will have some cause to repent. Ye may disregard the sleeping tribunals of our country; but ye shall not escape the infamy which your deeds justly merit.
Farther evidence in favour of the disposition and conduct manifested by the Aboriginal inhabitants, under circumstances the most trying to human nature, I conceive to be unnecessary. A thousand instances might be added; but ten thousand could not be more decisive of the question. I have seen them in almost all the common walks of life—I have met them accidentally in the lonely desert—I may have met them by appointment—I have walked and conversed with them—I have eaten, I have drunk, I have slept with them.—I have performed the meanest offices for them when sick—I have taken the spear from them when quivering with rage—they have bathed my neck with tears of gratitude—and after all this, am I to be told that I have no premises on which to ground my conclusions and form an estimate of their character?
The enumeration of their vices I leave to their enemies. The reader may rest assured they will be duly announced from time to time, with all the misrepresentation that calumny dares to invent, by those who wish to possess their inheritance, even if drenched with the blood of its owners. When Ahab covets the vineyard of his neighbor, the Jezebel of power will soon find out a way of putting him into undisturbed possession. Subornation, to set Naboth on high, will be easy; false witnesses will not be wanting among the sons of Belial; and the multitude, ever governed by ignorance, prejudice, and interest, will readily pursue him to death. But will the ministers of the gospel—will Elijah be silent—surely there is one among them—and will the God of Elijah look on with indifference when a whole nation are defamed, disinherited, and slain?
Often have I wished that those who have heads to understand and hearts to feel, were but to see the children of these savages—these interesting little prattlers—when, hastening to meet me in the forest, they group around me, some laying hold of my hands, some hanging on the skirts of my coat, and others running before to announce my arrival in the camp. Who could avoid calling to mind the scene in Galilee; or resist the conviction that the Saviour of men had these also in his eye, when he said, "Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not."
I was annoyed at hearing it continually asserted that the language of this people is an unintelligible jargon. I have proved that it is not: and that to obtain a knowledge of it is far from impracticable. It is an interesting language—one that will richly repay the labour of acquisition both to the Christian and the man of letters.
My enemies may sneer, lampoon, and defame. I regard them not. My endeavours to prevent a war of extermination, and the difficulties I have had to contend with in paving the way for the heralds of salvation to these unfortunate savages, I leave to the missionary and the future historian. In their, hand I am not afraid of my reputation but honor and dishonor, evil report and good report, often fall to the lot of the Christian; and to him they are all alike.
The language of Derbal, difficult as it is, is, to a certain extent, laid open; the manners and moral condition of its inhabitants are unveiled; a foundation is laid for the propagation of Christianity on the Australian continent; and, whether I live to see it or not, the superstructure will rise; and I rejoice in the anticipation. Hell may stir itself and men may oppose; but neither the malice of the one nor the rage of the other, will prevent the happy consummation. The decree has passed the lips of the Most High Another continent will, ere long, be added to the empire of heaven—Christians will hail the intelligence with joy and angels will celebrate the event in hymns of triumph.April, 1883.
A Glance at the Manners and Language of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia—a paper which appeared in The Gazette of the colony in 1833.
The Aboriginal inhabitants of this country are a harmless, liberal, kind hearted race; remarkably simple in all their manners. On our first settling among them, they not only abstained from all acts of hostility, but showed us every kindness in their power. Though we were invaders of their country, and they had therefore a right to treat us as enemies, when any of us lost ourselves in the bush and were thus completely in their power, these noble minded people shared with us their scanty and precarious meal, suffered us to rest for the night in their camp, and in the morning directed us on our way. It is unnecessary to adduce instances in support of facts attested by many witnesses and well known to the community.
Such was the treatment we received from a people who, cradled in storms the moment they come into being, and secluded from other nations by an uninviting, unsheltered, and dangerous coast, seem for ages to have Had no intercourse with the rest of the world. In simplicity of manners, generousness of disposition, and firmness of character, they present us with a striking likeness to the picture drawn of the ancient Caledonians. Were the disbelievers in the authenticity of Ossian to become acquainted with them, they would be almost persuaded to adopt the opposite opinion; so greatly do these inhabitants of the Australian forests resemble the race whose deeds were sung by the bard of Morven.
The sable tribes of Derbal, it must be allowed, yield to the ancient clans of the north in point of cleanliness and ingenuity. But the former arises from the custom, perhaps the necessity, in the absence of clothing, of anointing themselves with oil—a practice by the by common to the most venerable nations of antiquity—and the latter from their mode of living, the climate, and the nature of the country. The powers of the human mind, so far as mechanical science is concerned, can be called forth only by agriculture and commerce. These, however, are neither a commercial, an agricultural, nor even a pastoral people. They live entirely by the chase; differing in this respect from all the nations of antiquity with whose history we are acquainted, and resembling the Americans only. The pastoral life was common, even when mankind were most remarkable for the simplicity of their manners, and in countries where agriculture was unknown. But these people, not having a single domesticated animal, are utter strangers to the concerns of civil life. They are, in fact, distinguished from brutes only by the erectness of their form, their reasoning powers, the gift of language, and that universal characteristic of the human race, dominion over the other creatures that inhabit the globe. The reasoning faculty, however, and the gift of language, are so allied to instinct and inarticulate sound that they can scarcely be said to be distinguishing characteristics, when not called into exercise by the attractive scenes of civilized life, or displayed in full operation on terrestrial and celestial objects. Man, therefore, the head of creation, made originally only a little lower than the angels, here retains no trace of his high origin, by which he may be singled out from the animals over whom it was decreed that he should exercise sovereign control, but that of his personal figure. If Ovid was a stranger to revelation, one would be tempted to think that a ray of light from heaven must have shot across his mind when he uttered these striking lines:
Pronaque cum spectent animalia cætera terram,
Os, homini sublime dedit; cœlumque tureri
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
Whilst other creatures towards the earth look down,
He gave to man a front sublime, and raised
His nobler view to ken the starry heaven.
Since the Aborigines of this country neither sow nor reap, they have no need of agricultural implements. Strangers from infancy to the luxuries of civil life, the fineness of the climate renders them equally indifferent to houses and clothing. Even in fishing, they use neither seine nor rod; and in hunting they require neither horses nor fire arms. A spear, eight feet long and little more than an inch in diameter, furnishes them with food, and forms the whole of their materiel for war. Every plain, as well as every sheet of water, supplies their commissariat. Their rivers abound with fish and their forests with game. Their time is therefore spent in moving from place to place as inclination may prompt, or hunting and fishing require, and in paying or receiving visits from the neighboring tribes. The kangaroo, the opossum, the emu, the swan, the pelican, the bustard, the duck, the pigeon, the quail, the frog, the grub, the dyergee the yandyeedee, the boorn, and the beanbooraberang, each furnishes its number of repasts at the proper season.
Many of my readers, I may venture to say, would not fancy some things in such a bill of fare, if presented to them even in the bush. Whether the mind be endowed with a faculty of taste, and whether that faculty exclusively governs us in the articles of food, clothing, furniture, architecture, painting, and other things, are questions that have never yet been satisfactorily determined. Taste seems to nanifest itself in a preference or selection of what is agreeable to the ear, the eye, the touch, the smell, and the palate, and consequently does not exercise any influence over us in the common wants of life. In these, necessity prompts and then avails itself of the first suitable thing that comes to hand. So far discrimination is all that is necessary. It is only when there is a variety, and therefore room for selection, that the province of taste begins. Since all minds, however, are not finely attuned or properly constituted, what appears the most agreeable is not always the most excellent. Hence reason, and reason only can ultimately decide; and, in order to a just determination, nature the never-failing and only safe guide in all cases must be consulted. No decision that clashes with her laws can be correct. Taste then appears to be the power of selecting what is agreeable, subject to reason under the guidance of nature. But taste is seldom consulted in any of the affairs of life. Her place is generally usurped by custom, which rules according to the tyrannical dictates of usage. The repetition of melted butter with almost every dish at an English table, is as offensive to a Frenchman as the never ending use of oil at a French table is to an Englishman. In each country the stomach is generally loaded with what is customarily eaten, heedless of the constitution and without any reference whatever to propriety or to health. Sailors inform us, that no pancakes can equal those done on the surface of a potful of boiling train oil from whale blubber. The savage, whose only concern is, not to pamper his appetite, but to supply the wants of nature, will not scruple to eat a piece of a whale, if it chance to come in his way when he is hungry; and were he to see an Englishman eating fat pork, he would probably attribute his predilection for the one and his dislike to the other as much to habit as to taste. That which nourishes without injuring the digestive powers, may be pronounced the most wholesome food; and, therefore, whether fine or coarse in its appearance, will be invariably selected by good taste. If the simple and limited supply of his food, leaves the savage without any room for the exercise of this faculty, subject to reason, he has the consolation of knowing that he acts under the guidance of nature, the parent of taste, and that she will not permit him to eat any thing pernicious—an exemption which those that imagine they fare better amidst an endless variety and profusion, cannot boast. The personal appearance of the Aboriginal inhabitants furnishes conclusive evidence that, though a precarious supply of food may at times be accompanied with inconvenience, occasional inanition is far less injurious to health than the constant repletion of a richly furnished table, which never fails to draw after it in its train of consequences the attendance Of the physician and the apothecary. So equally does the Deity, holding human contrivances in derision, distribute human happiness to civilized and to savage.
It is not a little surprising that a people so unceremonious in the articles of their food, should have a greater horror of the dog fish than that entertained even by Europeans. Such a coincidence in the antipathies of nations so wide apart and in other respects so dissimilar, is remarkable; and, in whatever it may have originated, proves that the aversion is ancient and universal,
The rivers of Derbal are, in many places, easily forded; and, abounding with large andestuaries, in which the finny tribes of the deep sport in myriads, are admirably adapted to spear fishing. Hence, there being few islands on the Coast, the Derbalese have not the least inducement to attempt navigation. Even swimming is unknown among them. They have been seen to paddle themselves across deep water with their hands, where the distance from bank to bank was short; but of the art of swimming they are entirely ignorant.
It is therefore not to be wondered at if a people, whose mode of life is so simple, and whose wants are so few and so easily supplied, should be found destitute of mechanical knowledge. Where one accustomed to the luxuries of life, could not contrive to live a day, nature, at the mandate of Him whose providence watches over every branch of the human family, brings forth annually for these inhabitants of the woods an abundant supply. Never Were the words of the poet more strikingly exemplified:
Man wants but little here below;
Nor wants that little long.
The apparent absence of ingenuity in these people, is therefore evidently occasioned by the nature of the country, the climate, and their mode of living; and is not to be attributed to any defect, physical, mental, or moral, in their constitution. But if we do not find in Derbal the halls of the Celtic and Gothic nations, in which the shell of joy circulated, or the high mounted car in which they rushed to battle, in other respects they greatly resemble those nations, particularly the ancient Caledonians. Like them, they are formed into distinct tribes who have their particular districts and whose chiefs have but a limited authority, excepting in war or affairs of immemorial usage. Like them, they fight with the spear, are often found in the chase, and are fond of music and poetry. They resemble them, too, in their religious notions; for, though they seem to have some idea of the existence of a supreme being, it is accompanied with so much scepticism that they have neither priest nor altar, neither temple nor worship.
They are all perfectly naked. But the chiefs and the more elderly of the men carry a kangaroo skin thrown over their shoulders, to spread on the ground under them at night in cold damp weather; and the married women have one each, made into a convenient form to carry their infants on their backs. They are not remarkable for stature; and instances of corpulency are rare. The tribes in this part of the settlement, are well limbed and finer made than those to the south. But the women are utterly destitute of beauty of countenance and symmetry of person. I have seen but one that could be called a handsome woman.
There are instances of bigamy among them; and I believe polygamy is not uncommon. Consequently jealousy, the invariable attendant on such manners, frequently burns like fire in the breasts of the men; and, as they have no seraglio to guard the chastity of their wives, the life of the frail and unfortunate fair one, I fear, too often falls a sacrifice to her imprudence. The practice of spearing their females whenever they offend them, is cruel. How much is woman, in every part of the world where it prevails, indebted to the benign influence of Christianity.
The fingers, not enabling them to go farther than a single decimal in the process of arithmetic, their ideas of figures are limited to ten. For any number, definite or indefinite, beyond that, they hold up both hands.
The manner in which they count time, is worthy of observation. They do not, like European nations, compute by days but by nights. The distance from one place to another, is not with them a journey of so many days but of so many nights or sleeps, making the interval, or rather the act of repose the term of enumeration, and evidently reckoning the day not from sunrise to sunrise, but from sunset to sunset. This is perhaps one of the most remarkable instances of ancient manners now any where to be found; and exactly agrees with the account where the scriptures give us of the computation of time when it first began. It is not said "And the morning and the evening were the first day;" but, "And the evening and the morning were the first day."
The practice of polygamy, the custom of avenging every visit which the king of terrors pays them on a neighboring tribe, thus causing a double mortality, together with the endless and sanguinary contests to which it gives rise, will account for their limited numbers compared with the extent of the country they occupy.
Greatly do philosophers err, when they eulogize the life led by a barbarian in a state of nature, as the perfection of human happiness. The uncontrolled freedom of the savage is embittered by the dangers, as well as the privations, to which he is ever exposed. The gleam of pleasure that occasionally breaks upon his countenance only resembles, in its momentary stay, the forked lightning which, darting from the cloud of darkness and of death in which he is enveloped, continually plays around him, as if sporting with his unhappy situation.
The profession of surgeon or physician is unknown among them. When they are sick, they sometimes resort to charms, rubbing the part afflicted, drawing the hand away, and snapping the finger and thumb. Their practical operations are confined to pressure and bleeding. If it be a pain in the head or bowels, the patient, lying down on his back, desires some one to stand on his forehead or belly, and press with so much weight as he is able to bear. They never open the veins; but topical bleeding, performed with a sharp stone, is common among them. There are few without scars from spear wounds, a proof of the frequency of their wars. Their flesh, however, heals rapidly; which may be attributed to the absence of spirituous liquors and their temperate mode of living.
I have already observed that they are formed into distinct tribes; and that the whole country is divided into districts. But, though they have places to which they are accustomed to resort for encampment,they have no fixed habitation, and therefore move about from place to place, generally in large bodies.
The only shelter they ever contrive from the weather in the most inclement season, consists of a few sticks thrust into the ground to windward of the fire-place, in the form of a semi-circle, gathered at the top like a bee-hive, and covered with green boughs or pieces of bark.
Private property seems to be utterly unknown among them. The game and the fish of the district are considered the common property of all its inhabitants; and, as every dispute between the different tribes relative to their respective boundaries or encroachments thereon, is decided by the spear, they are utter strangers to the quirks and quibbles of the law.
Their love of the desert and their unwillingness to adopt the habits of civil society, surprise many, and are sometimes urged as proofs of inferiority of species. Those who thus reason forget that the upper classes in civilized life are involved in the stigma. Whence that universal and ardent pursuit after riches which characterizes all nations? Does it not originate in a desire of freedom, independence, and idleness? The charms of travelling, sporting, fox hunting, and gambling, are so irresistible as to become objects of the highest ambition to men, even under the blaze of Revelation; and yet we affect to wonder at the attachment of the unenlightened savage to a hunting mode of life, which, by a less circuitous and more certain route, puts him at once in possession of that exemption from servitude and control which is so eagerly coveted by all mankind. The amusements, pleasures, and advantages of the chase, immediately supplying his indispensable wants, renders it to the savage, a gentleman's life, and induces him to despise the ignoble crowd in civilized society who aim at the same things through the drudgery of fatiguing occupations. Tell the world that the doom which obliged man to earn his bread by manual toil, is not, as many suppose, a curse but a blessing; that the sweat of his brow, expelling, without the pernicious aid of medicine, the peccant humors generated in the human body by the sentence of death, is a preservative of health; that such a dispensation is a merciful though only a temporary remedy for the evils consequent on exclusion from the tree of life; that constant and rational employment, is a rampart against temptation to vice and folly with their train of soul-destroying influences; and that all this, devised by infinite wisdom, is sanctioned by the mandates of Revelation; and yet, how few will be reconciled to working pursuits, or persuaded voluntarily to relinquish the fond desire for a state of independence, freedom, and idleness—a convincing proof that aversion to labor is as prevalent in civilized as in savage life. In the pauper, having no other means of support, it is criminal. In the gentleman, because he is independent of laborious occupations, it is honorable. Why should it be counted dishonorable in the savage who is equally independent; and who moreover has the merit of being neither unwilling nor ashamed to work when his personal wants, and the calamities or even the necessities of his enemies, demand exertion.
When Mrs. Birket's house was enveloped in flames, the most active extinguishers of the fire were the Aboriginal inhabitants. Mr. Hall's child, who had Wandered many miles into the bush, was, by their persevering exertions, rescued from an untimely grave, after Mr. Norcott, tired even upon horseback, was on the point of giving up the search in despair. The whole of the timber, about 8000 feet, for the erection of the Bush Inn, was carried by them from the forest to the site at Fresh Water Bay. They carried, on one occasion, 1000 feet in one day. Persuade an English fop, with his curled hair and twirling cane, to submit his naked shoulders to a task like this, to serve his enemies—if you can work a miracle. Yet this idle, brainless ass, a burden perhaps to himself and his family, must be called a gentleman, while the Australian, who will fly to save his very murderers from destruction, is designated a savage. There is not perhaps a more dangerous occupation—one that requires more dexterity, quickness, and presence of mind—than whaling. The world will not produce a band of men, who, without instruction and practice, would venture to approach one of these monsters of the deep. What then will be the surprise of my readers when informed that a whale boat belonging to the Imlays of Twofold Bay, entirely manned by the Aboriginal inhabitants, recently killed and brought in a whale, without the aid of a single European—a striking instance of their powers when called into action by kindness and proper treatment.
An attempt was recently made at Hobart to determine by experiment whether savage life contributed more than civilized to strengthen and invigorate the human body; and, as usual, savages were, even in this respect, pronounced inferior to their proud and ignorant compeers. That a civilized mode of living has a thousand advantages for which there is no equivalent in savage life, no one will deny; yet the decision in this case must, to every reflecting mind, appear strange. But our surprise will subside when informed that the attempt was made by the French—a people who, even in experimental philosophy, merely skim the surface, and seldom take the trouble to examine a subject in all its bearings. The strength of the human body, exerted on any given object, is more the result of practice than that of any particular kind of food. A mason will lift a larger stone, a miller will carry a heavier burden, than any other man; and a woodsman will fell a large tree with more ease than a man not accustomed to wield an axe, though living upon a diet very superior to that of the former. It is therefore not to be wondered at if, in the employments of civilized life, civilized men should excel savages who are utter strangers to such labors. Vigor, as well as health, depends not upon delicate living, but upon plain wholesome food combined with exercise. Delicacies, instead of strengthening, enervate the body. No fact in natural history is more certain; and hence the stern opposition made by the ancients to the introduction of luxury, which gradually undermined and ultimately destroyed the dominion of both the Greeks and the Romans. Let the personal prowess of the natives of Australia be tested by the fatigue of the march or endurance of privation, and they will be found to excel those in civilized life who live better and fare more sumptuously.
They have been also greatly misrepresented in matters of much higher importance. If we are to be guided in the formation of our judgment by that conduct and those qualities of mind which are really commendable, a slight knowledge of this despised race will convince the candid that, far from being the lowest of the human family, they are entitled to a very high rank in our estimation. No people are perhaps less known. It has been their misfortune, too, to come partially under our observation through the worst medium, our criminals and the random accounts of persons who had no better source of information. Our very mode of reasoning on this subject is false. No nation can boast the creation of its own intelligence, which in every instance springs from circumstances and discoveries beyond the reach of human control. This gift of Heaven is he communication of Him whose ways are past finding out, by whom it is issued without measure to one generation after another, according to the dictates of that unerring wisdom by which he governs the world. Men, so far from even assisting to carry into effect the plans of Heaven for their happiness, are, maniac like, continually employed in thwarting the benevolent designs of the Deity towards them, or abusing his gifts when imparted in spite of their waywardness. Hence, even in densely populated states, there are few that excel in intelligence. When we read or hear of great men, the imagination instantly invests the multitude with all their light, knowledge, talents, and intelligence. Nothing can be more erroneous. The millions, in the most enlightened age and country, are naturally as stupid as the lowest of their fellows in uncivilized life. Instead of taking the trouble to collect information and to think originally and correctly for themselves, they invariably follow those who take the lead in the community; and, whether right or wrong, adopt such of their opinions as they find subservient to their own prejudices, passions, and interests. Man, it should never be forgotten, is the creature of circumstances. He owes whatever is excellent in mundane concerns to social intercourse, and that elevation of mind which distinguishes him from his fellow man, to the combined influence of letters and Revelation. The former, by collision of intellect and mutual communication of ideas, leads to improvements in art and discoveries in science; and the latter, purifying the hearts of a few and operating by their example on the many, either regenerates the soul or subjects the passions to the government of reason. Take these away from the most polished nation and they will be like their forefathers. Yet we expect to find in the inhabitants of the desert, without social intercourse, letters, or Revelation, all the intelligence of minds possessed of these advantages, and, if we do not, immediately pronounce them an inferior race of beings. Let the most enlightened people be scattered like the wanderers of Australia, over a wide continent, and the barbarizing influence of dispersion will soon be apparent. The expiration of a single generation will unhinge the intellectual powers and bury the arts and the sciences in oblivion.
To the circumstances therefore in which they are placed, and not to any mental inferiority, are we to attribute the present condition of the native tribes. It is impossible to become acquainted with these children of nature without feeling the most sincere esteem for them and a deep interest in their impending fate. The very virtue which we admire among ourselves, and one for which they are distinguished, that of a retiring and unobtrusive disposition, is spoken of with scorn and contempt as indicating in them a deficiency of intellect—a charge which, originating as it does in gross ignorance, reflects not a little upon the intellect of those by whom it is uttered. In no point of view are they inferior, and in many respects they are superior, to those of the same grade with themselves in civilized life. The only thing that would in the least justify the epithet of "savage," so liberally bestowed upon them in its worst sense by those who are entirely ignorant of their manners and disposition, is the charge brought against them on some occasions, of repeatedly thrusting their spears into the body of the slain. But their character will not suffer in the estimation of impartial judges even on this point, if compared with that of the far famed warriors of Greece at the siege of Troy. The testimony of Homer is decisive of the question:—
Οὐδ' ἄρα οἵ τις ἁνουτητί γε παρέστη.
Ὥδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν, ἰδὼν ἐς πλησίον ἄλλον
Ὥ πόποι, ἤ μάλα δὴ μαλακώτερος ἀμφαφάασθαι
Ἕκτωρ, ἤ ὅτε νῆασ ἐνέπρησεν πυρὶ κηλέῳ.
Ὤς ἄρα τις εἴπεσκε, καὶ ουτῆσασκε πᾶρασάς.
One Grecian of them all to pierce the slain;
And to his fellow thus the soldier spake:
"Ye Gods! how much more patient, of the touch
Is Hector now, than when he fired the fleet!"
Thus they would speak, then give him each a stab.
This however I believe is never practised by the Australians excepting after great provocation. Even then it is merely the consequence of momentary excitement, when, taking life for life, they intend not to wound but to kill an enemy; and such conduct is certainly not more savage than that of the British—I will not say in the use of the bayonet in the field, but—in hanging their prisoners, or coolly and deliberately tying them to an iron bolt and riddling them with bullets—the certain doom of every Aborigine who dares to resist the invasion of his country.
The wonder is, not that those Who wander from the scenes of Revelation should sink so low, but that they have not sunk lower. Hence, the many instances of fine feeling and generous, disinterested conduct, met with among them and related by travellers, are, even to those who admire them, unaccountable. The philosophers of the French school and their worthy English coadjutors, who endeavour to poison the sources of literature with infidelity, being ever ready to pervert, what they cannot explain, have not been backward to avail themselves of this, in order to elevate, the the phantom of natural religion and depreciate the value of a written communication from Heaven. The fact is, that the barbarizing influence of the desert is not so injurious to moral character as the demonizing influence of large towns, which, in spite of, art, science and social organization, converts men into fiends and emboldens them to trample on Revelation itself. Civilization changes the manners and provides for bodily comfort, but leaves the depravity of the heart untouched. Nothing can cleanse the soul from inbred pollution and transform the moral character but the atonement of the cross, embraced by a living faith as described and enjoined in the divine oracles. The Deity did not intend by the Babylonian dispersion to drive men into savage but into rural life; and had those who took up their abode in the desert, taken Revelation along with them and devoted their attention to the care of flocks and herds and the cultivation of the earth, which includes all that is essential to terrestrial happiness, they would have ranked far higher in every estimable feeling than those who, in opposition to the divine will, still pursue the Babylonian scheme of herding together in large towns, for the sake of indulging in a vicious course of life or accumulating wealth which they will never require. Little do those who spend their lives either in town or country in heaping up large fortunes for their children imagine, for they never take time, to reflect, that they are only preparing fuel for their destruction in this world and in the next. To say nothing of a thousand temptations which are peculiar, to a crowded state of society in civil life, the, envy, bitterness, and contention attendant on the never ceasing struggle for the attainment of riches, and the idleness, folly, and dissipation, generated by their possession, harden the heart, destroy the moral character, and imbue the mind with vices to which the scattered and savage inhabitants of the desert, are utter strangers. This will account for those instances of moral excellence among the native tribes which put multitudes to shame, and which prove that they only require the enlightening and saving influence of the gospel to render them exemplary in every virtue.
They have no knowledge of letters; and yet I have in my possession an attempt at writing by one of them. He solicited pen, ink, and paper, which then lay before me, for the purpose of answering my questions in this way more satisfactorily. He did not take a moment to think. The writing is hieroglyphic. It consists mostly of men, animals, birds, and trees, and is traced in circles round the central character with which he began. What surprised me not a little, was, his giving a character for an abstract term. This he did in more than one instance. The specimen would be considered as man's rudest attempt at letters, by those who do not believe writing to have been coeval with language.
It is generally allowed that the natives of Australia have some resemblance to the Malays. The first word in my vocabulary, the generic term for river, and the word used in salutation at meeting by some of the tribes, are all pure Hebrew. These coincidences in likeness and language, afford conclusive evidence of their connexion with the old world at some period, and that they are of Asiatic origin. But how thoroughly does this upset the theory of infidel writers, that man from the rank of a brute or savage raised himself by degrees to all the polish, intelligence, and refinement of civil life. Here the descendants of those who built the tower of Babel, and founded the capital of one of the most renowned empires of antiquity, are without a single vestige of architectural knowledge; and though their ancestors must bare crossed the line from the northern to the southern hemisphere in a bark of some sort, they know not how to make a canoe, or even—that rudest of all attempts at navigation—a katamaran. Instead of rising in the scale of being, it is manifest beyond dispute that man, unaided by the cheering light and elevating influence of revelation, degenerates. To the truth of this important fact, so subversive of the great leading principle of infidelity, the condition of this branch of the human family affords abundant evidence. They have lost every trace of civilized life, and retain only those characteristics of man which it is impossible for him to lose under any circumstances; namely, the erectness of his form, the faculty of reason, the gift of language, and dominion over the lower orders of creation. Here we find, after the lapse of thousands of years, not an ascent from rude barbarity to the elegance, refinement, and intelligence of polished society, but a descent from a state scarcely inferior to that of angels to the condition of a savage—a condition in which, though still distinguishable by the erectness of his form, he is, as to his mode of living, on a perfect level with the beasts that dispute his dominion and range the forest along with him. This is not a fine-spun theory, written to amuse and decoy the reader into the adoption of principles destructive of human happiness. It is the relation of a matter of fact, attested by ocular demonstration. It is truth, the handmaid of revelation, disclosing herself to view in the attractive singleness of unsophisticated nature. Few things, therefore, are more interesting than an examination of the tongues of different nations. The cognate character of languages goes far to prove the common origin of the human family, and establishes the great truth that "God made of one blood all nations of men."
Almost every tribe has a different dialect. The difference, in some eases, is merely provincial; but in others, it is so great as to require interpretation. Still, like the languages of India and those of Europe, it seems to have a common origin.
The following is a list of words that are precisely the same at Swan River and at King George's Sound, districts far asunder, and that have no communication one with another.
|THE DERBALESE OR SWAN RIVER DIALECT.||THE MONKBEELVEN OR KING GEORGE'S SOUND DIALECT.|
|Maar, the firmament.||Maar, the firmament.|
|Dtowel, the thigh.||Dtowel, the thigh.|
|Moorn, black.||Moorn, black.|
|Goolang, a youth.||Goolang, a youth.|
|In the following list there is a provincial difference.|
|Meega, the moon.||Meeak, the moon,|
|Dunga, the ears.||Twank, the ears.|
|Katta, hair.||Kaat, hair.|
|Mingat, eye-brows.||Mingart, eye-brows.|
|Dya, the lips.||Ta, the lips.|
|Wardo, the neck.||Waart, the neck.|
|Yaba, the temples.||Yama, the temples.|
|Kaburla, the belly.||Korpul, the belly.|
|In the following list, the difference is so great that the speakers must be unintelligible one to another.|
|Nangar, the stars.||Kindy, the stars.|
|Mamerup, a man.||Nyoonger, a man.|
|Karup, the nostrils.||Dyogolet, the nostrils.|
|Moko, water.||Kyp, water.|
|Gidye, a spear.||Kyk, a spear.|
There is reason to believe, however, that much more is practicable. The generic term for river is every where the same, even in districts the most remote from one another. Meeal the eye, is called mil in Eastern Australia, exhibiting, at a distance of nearly 2000 miles, merely a difference in pronunciation. These discoveries I made by chance. A regular investigation would probably bring to light a multitude of coincidences. I am strongly inclined to think that one third of the language is the same all over the continent, that one third differs merely in pronunciation, and that one third only will be found to present a dialectical variety. To combine the dialects of Australia into one tongue, cannot be more difficult than it was to unite those of ancient Greece. True, the literature, the commerce, and the politics of Greece, bringing the different states into contact with each other, aided the combination; and their absence in the case under consideration, present obstacles to its accomplishment. These however are not insurmountable. Greece, in her infancy, before the arrival of Cecrops and Cadmus, had neither literature, commerce, nor politics. Greece—a country that, on receiving letters from a foreign nation, burst the chain of ignorance, soared to a height of perfection in the sciences that excited the admiration of the world, and left a name, the glory of which became the envy of almost all nations—was once as rude, wild, and savage as the sable, wandering children of the forests around us. Let the dormant intellect of Australia be only awakened—let her energies be combined in the prosecution of industrious pursuits; let her mental powers be concentrated on objects of art and science; and, above all, let her views be directed to the contemplation of things beyond the skies—the heart-stirring and interesting scenes of a life to come—and, with a living original evidently common to all within the extent of her shores, there will be no occasion to despair of the assimilation of her different dialects. The very preservation of a language so ancient and primitive, would be worth any expense. But to communicate to her innumerable tribes a knowledge of Revelation—to raise them in the scale of being, to rescue them from endless woe, to impart to them immortal hopes and prospects, and to make them partakers of the high-born destinies, assured to the sons of God—would be attended with results gratifying to angels. On the other hand, we must recollect that the neglect of the language, the cultivation of which is essential to their civilization, is sure to effect the oppression and gradual extinction of the Aboriginal inhabitants—dreadful price, not to give, but to exact in order to obtain a country for our criminals, room for colonization, and an outlet to our manufactures. Legislators may pun and lawyers may quibble; but neither puns nor quibbles can extricate us from the dilemma, or justify our conduct. We are committed in a fearful career. And unless we change the wanton and wicked policy hitherto pursued, awful will be our meeting in another world with a people we have so deeply wronged.
Whether the language of Australia has any affinity to the modern languages of the East, cannot at present be determined. Be the source, however, whence it springs what it may, it is original, euphonious, and significant, combining great power with inimitable simplicity. It would be difficult to find in an language a word more elegant or expressive, than the term for a cloud, gabby maar, the well of the sky, or the fountain of the firmament. Terms corresponding to those in the modern tongues of the northern hemisphere, in the language of a people who have had no communication with the rest of the world for thousands of years, are remarkable. Moorangween to weep, is the same in import, and differs very little in pronunciation from the word mourning. Bibee, the term for breast, is evidently cognate to the word babe. Kai, dropping the , is precisely the same in sound and signification with the old affirmative aye. The word bed is simply a contraction of the first syllable of beed-jar, the term for sleep. The first syllable in goo-nyan, the term for palate, is pronounced like the French word goût, signifying taste. Dāk, the generic term for flowers, evidences, both in sound and sense, its relationship to the word deck, to adorn. Little did our lexicographers imagine, when they fancied its derivation from the Dutch, decken, that the word itself was in Derbalese, the language of a people whose abode and existence were alike unknown to men of letters and to fame. But one of the most extraordinary of this kind, is to be found in the name given to the ocean, which they call gabby-Wodin—the well of Wodin—a term which, both in meaning and pronunciation, exactly corresponds to that by which the Scandinavian deity is designated. Striking as the similarity of names is, the import of the term is still more remarkable. If we reflect that the Creator, through the combined influence of the sun's rays and the atmospheric air, has constructed an apparatus by which he is continually drawing water from the fountain of the great deep, as from a well, to water and irrigate the earth, in order that it may bring forth food for man and beast, it will be impossible to conceive any thing more appropriate, or more beautifully illustrative, than the Derbalese designation. Dyaat, the sun, is perhaps not less interesting, since, from its resemblance to Titan, the name by which that luminary was anciently known among the Greeks, it establishes the antiquity of the language and the remoteness of the date of their migration from the Asiatic continent.
The number of letters necessary to form the alphabet, a point not less difficult than important in the literary formation of a language, I have fixed at twenty-two. This is precisely the number of characters which compose the Hebrew alphabet. The Ong of the Hebrew, the pronunciation of which has been so long a desideratum to the philologists of Europe, is of frequent occurrence, and easily expressed by these people. Strange as it may seem, however, after contemplating these and other coincidences, they have neither the Zain, the Samech, nor the Shin of the Hebrews. The letter s, they are incapable of pronouncing. While, therefore, I have made a selection from the English alphabet in forming that for the language of Derbal —there being no reason for inventing, or selecting a foreign one—I have been obliged to throw out every character in the least allied to the letter s. Should the same characteristic in pronunciation prevail throughout the continent, and should the same number of letters, and precisely the same characters, be necessary to form the alphabet, it will dispel every doubt relative to the existence of a common original, and prove that the language of all the tribes of Australia was once the same,—and that they were originally one people.
Here opens an interesting view of the subject. The adoption of the English character and the use of a common alphabet, will not only afford a facility of communication between those who engage in the great work of evangelizing the Aboriginal inhabitants, but will tend ultimately to assimilate the different dialects, and thus obviate the difficulty of the provincialisms which time, circumstances, and locality of habitation have gendered; so that all the tribes of the Australian continent may again communicate with one another in their own tongue, and sing the praises of the Redeemer of men in the same language.
But, if ever the scriptures are to be translated into Derbalese or any other of the leading dialects—if ever the British government or the British people intend—and both are in duty bound—to civilize the Aboriginal inhabitants, and communicate to them a knowledge of the Christian religion, the language must be thoroughly and accurately acquired, and committed to writing grammatically; and this can be accomplished only by persons at leisure to devote themselves exclusively to the object—persons who are more or less imbued with a missionary feeling, who have a predilection for a literary mode of life, and who, at the same time, will not be afraid to take their lives in their hands and plunge into the forests of the interior. When or where such men, or the means of supporting them, are to be found, time only can tell.
The whole of each tribe seem to be bards; and their evenings are generally spent around their fires, singing, or rather chanting, their poetical compositions, in which all join from the oldest to the youngest.
The circumstance frequently excited my curiosity to ascertain the origin of a custom so unusual with Europeans, excepting in places of worship. Among the Greeks the word νομος signified either a law, a song, or a piece of music. "To sing the Orthian song, διεξελθειν νομον τον ορθιον," is an expression of Herodotus; and Xenophon employs the same word when he speaks of "singing a particular tune, νομῳ τινι αδοντες." Hence Aristotle asked: "Why is νομοι used for laws and songs? Is it because men, before they discovered the art of writing, sang their laws, that they might not forget them?" Had he stood at the foot of Sinai, he would have seen abundant cause for so doing.
This leads to the conclusion that music and song had their origin in the practice of reciting laws, to impress them on the mind and preserve them from oblivion; and hence the custom of rehearsal by old and young. Whatever repugnance the Muse may feel at the bare idea of associating her name with the dry, unmetrical, harsh, rugged, verbose, incomprehensible, and blundering enactments which occupy the statute books of modern legislators, she had none to the laws of the ancients—which were expressed in a simple, elegant, intelligible style—for she lent the harmonious accents of her voice to their recitation before she sang either in comedy or tragedy. Such seems to have been her employment, till, on the commencement of war, conquest, and empire, the events with which human life began to teem, courted her services, engrossed her powers, and finally made her a slave to the passions.
Grecian fiction claims the honor of her birth; but she gave forth her melodious sounds to charm the ear and purify the heart—the legitimate object of her appearance on earth—long before Hellas or Latium had a name or an existence. We find her in the wilderness, chanting the mandates of revelation as they were uttered by the Most High; who commanded Moses to teach the children of Israel a song, to deter them from iniquity, to prompt them to righteousness, and to be a witness against them—prophetic and admonitory—till the end of time. About 1500 years afterwards, she presents herself to our view in the interesting capacity of an attendant on the Redeemer of the world, in the great tragic scene of the New Testament.
Fair offspring of the skies, the Muse of Israel, ordained to be the companion of prophets and preachers, bore in her countenance and character evidence of an origin divine. Emanating from the smile of Deity and blooming with celestial grace, She abhorred carnal pleasure and its soul-destroying abominations. No low desires, no vile affections found a place in her bosom. Clothed with majesty and glowing with inspiration, her thoughts were chaste, her aspirations were hallowing, and her words, sparkling like the dew drops of the morning with the loveliness of virtue in ten thousand forms, inspired heavenly sentiments and formed the soul for the life and the felicity of angels. Her brow, cheering as the day spring, was adorned with the diadem of truth, and her countenance, roseate in smiles like the blushing morn, was resplendent with illumination, as when, putting the clarion to her lips to lead the way on the burst of the celestial choir, she sent forth echoing and re-echoing throughout new made worlds the first electrifying note on the vast and silent expanse of ethereal, illimitable space, and sang with the morning stars of creation, amidst the joyful shouts of seraphic hosts, the wonders of Almighty power. Regardless of earth and its low-born gratifications, she had no affection for any thing beneath the skies, excepting so far as it led to scenes and joys beyond. No subject could interest her but that of the divine glory and man's salvation, which, inseparably connected by the decree of Him whose goings forth were from eternity, never ceased to be her theme, whether rejoicing at the formation of a new world in Eden, or weeping over a fallen one in Gethsemane. Her steps were radiant with light, darkness fled at her approach, her eyes beamed with tenderness on the penitent, the sound of her voice made the guilty tremble, and the tempter stood abashed before her or slinked away from her presence. She never stooped to folly; she never smiled on sin. Her doctrines were pure as the stream from the crystal fount, and salutary as the balm of Gilead. Nothing that dropped from her lips could defile; and the happiness she imparted was life-giving, unalloyed, and lasting as immortality. Deeply is it to be lamented that of all her daughters among the heathen, not one escaped the contamination of a fallen world but that of Ossian, the despised and neglected Muse of Caledonia. It would therefore be interesting to know whether the Muse found in Australia, among a people so primitive in their manners and so entirely unconnected with the rest of mankind from the earliest ages, be free from the puerilities, falsehoods, and obscenities with which, both in their lyric and epic effusions, her prostituted sisters of Greece and Rome abound—the pride of our universities and the models of taste, even in a refined and an enlightened age!
It is perhaps important to state, that, when meeting them in the bush, alone or in company, to hold up the hands, is a' token of peaceable intentions; and should therefore never be omitted.
The custom of exchanging names with a stranger, so indicative of ancient manners, and so illustrative of some remarkable expressions in our Lord's address to the churches in Pergamos and Philadelphia, is a pledge of protection and a token of inviolable friendship.
The manner in which they answer questions, relative to the botany and zoology of their country, giving first the name of the genus and then that of the particular species which forms the subject of inquiry, discovers great intelligence. No clown —none but a person of education—could reply with so much propriety.
The invention of the Koilee—a piece of wood, shaped like the segment of a circle, for killing birds on the wing—and the precision with which it is thrown, at any angle from ten to ninety degrees, causing it to return from a given point in the atmosphere to the feet of the thrower, forms an exhibition of mechanical and mathematical science that would excite the wonder and command the admiration of the most skilled in Europe; and proves how greatly they err who imagine them to be deficient in mental power.
They are far from being insensible to the attractions of a civilized state of society. But, not knowing that our fathers were rude as they are, and that we attained our superiority gradually, they can see nothing between our condition an theirs but an impassable gulf. They also labour under the extraordinary impression that the advantages of civil life are the result, not of mental improvement and Christianizing influence, but a resurrection from the dead. This is the grand secret of that apparent indifference they so frequently manifest on subjects which, otherwise, would be to them deeply interesting. Considering the attainment of any thing beyond savage life at resent utterly hopeless, they cling to its fascinations and reconcile themselves to its ills under the firm persuasion that such is their doom till death release them from it and allow them to visit the moon; after which they expect to come to life again, endowed with all the wealth, power, and privileges, now enjoyed by the whites. Desire for improvement, however, is by no means a stranger to their bosoms. Once, during one of those rambles which I sometimes took with them in the bush, a few of them accompanied me to the top of Mount Eliza, to give me the names of some places adjacent to the confluence of the Swan and the Canning. From this commanding position these rivers open into full view, as they enter the capacious and forest-encircled basin of Melville water; which, washing the southern base of the Mount., conveys their united streams to the ocean at Fremantle, about ten miles distant. 'While thus employed, Doumera, looking down upon Perth, which, stretching from the foot of the Mount along the right bank of the Swan to the eastward, now began to present an opening to the sky, and appeared as if springing from the bosom of the dense wood with which it was still surrounded on all sides excepting that fronting the river, broke into a strain of touching reflection on the contrast between the comforts of civilized and the privations of savage life. As he gazed on the rising capital of the colony, contemplating the streets, houses, and gardens, together with a moving scene on land and water, of people, vehicles, and boats, he exclaimed,—"O Midjar!"pointing as he spoke—"mya, mya, mya,—" then pausing, he added, with a sad look and a mournful accent, "White man's way of living, very good. Poor black man! no house, no home, and soon, no country!" The site of the town, abounding with springs, game, and fish, and recently shaded from the sun and sheltered from the storm by an abundance of timber, had been the favorite encampment of his tribe, the recollection of which rendered the sight he then beheld doubly affecting to him.
The law of inheritance among them is inexplicable. On the death of Midiegoorong and Yagan, the district of Beeliar on the south side of Melville water, instead of finding an heir in its own tribe, became the property of Doumera and Ningina, who with their families had hitherto lived with and formed part of the tribe of Yellowgongo in the district of Mooro, on the north bank of the river.
In martial courage they are perhaps not excelled by any people in the world. The savages of America, when an army is thrown into confusion, will scalp them by thousands, but can never be brought to face their enemies in the heat of the contest. Not so with the tribes of Derhal. Though fire arms be perfectly new to them, no men stand their ground better. The of Homer, whose courage depended upon augurs and omens, were brave only when assisted by the gods; but the Derbalese are brave without augurs, omens, or gods. The martial character they display will appear the more remarkable when it becomes known that, both in their first onset and in their succeeding conflicts with the whites, they imagined themselves in with beings from another world, and that they were actually contending with the heros of the dead. Few of the renowned warriors of ancient or modern times, would, I presume, have nerve enough to maintain their ground, if they beheld the hosts of antiquity coming shouting from the skies in battle array, and, with thundering artillery, burnished chariots, galloping steeds, clanging armor, and terrifying aspects, rushing upon them with the fury of the tempest, when, from the bursting heavens, the deadly lightning shoots in all directions and mingles with the roar of the warring elements. So terrific to the Derbalese was the appearance of the whites, when, with arms such as they had never seen, and apparently descending from the clouds, they came flying over the ocean, and, in forests which had never echoed to the sound of a gun, poured among them, pregnant with havoc and death, bullets enveloped in smoke and winged with fire. None but spirits the most daring and heroic would stand their ground and heave the spear amidst scene so unearthly and appaling. Whoever reflects upon this, will feel no hesitation in awarding the palm of valor to the aboriginal Australians, who, perfectly naked, and without breastplate or shield, or any other weapon than a slender spear, have the boldness to take the field against the very hosts of heaven. Instruction, union, and discipline, would, I am persuaded, render them invincible.
In that combination of virtues which constitutes greatness of character, they excel. Yagan, allowed by every one to be of savages the most savage, wept with gratitude when I saved his life, and expressed his sense of the kindness shown to him in the strongest terms. Yet this is the man who, in the midst of his guards on a rock surrounded by the ocean, where his life must have been the forfeit, could seize his spear and, erect in all the pride of independence, determine to die spear in hand, and, in his fall, exact the penalty in the death of his enemies, rather than submit even to an insult.
Nor is courage the only quality of the warrior they possess. They are admirable marksmen; and will make sure at a hundred yards distance. The war shout and the googoomittle, make the stoutest quail. If, in addition to their knowledge of the country, they had fire arms and a little practice, the rifle brigade would scarcely be a match for them. They would put an end to the settlement in less than a month.
The ancient custom of interring the remains of the dead, with the face towards the East, and that of depositing the arms of the warrior in or beside the gave, are prevalent.
The belief universally entertained that the whites are their ancestors come to life again, proves that, notwithstanding their migrations and wanderings, and their final settlement in a country so distant from the scenes of Revelation, they still retain the doctrines of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. In speaking of death, they use the very figure adopted for illustration by the apostle, calling it a sleep.
There can be no doubt, barbarian though they be, that they possess all the tender feelings which belong to human nature. I have seen them weep at the sight of each other's woe, whilst the tears poured unaffectedly down their sable cheeks, indicating at once their relationship to the human family and their forlorn condition; for they sorrow as them that have no hope.
Ever exposed to danger by war or treachery, their lives are never secure. Hence, the eye is continually on the watch and the hand on the spear. The very rustling of a leaf will make them spring upon their legs, armed and ready for action; never expecting any thing in the sound of a strange foot but an enemy. The unchangeable and never ceasing law of retaliation, invariably requiring blood for blood, and the wars which, thence arising, are continually raging among them, confirm the scriptural testimony, that "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." Death reigns in this part of the territories of Shem. He perambulates the rest of the world, occasionally shooting in the private chamber, dredging in the dungeon, hunting in the solitude of life, angling in the streams of business, sporting amidst the reserves of treasure, tilting in the scenes of gaiety and pleasure, or mowing in the battle field; but here, encircled by the ocean and shrouded in darkness, he sits enthroned upon a vast mound—a continent—of graves, amidst the bones of the dead, the groans of the dying, and the carnage of the living. When will thee day-spring from on high visit Australia! When will the sun of righteousness arise and dispel the perpetual night in which the southern hemisphere is enveloped!
Can I obtain the ear of the Christian world for a moment How long will Australia be neglected? Here is a people free from idolatry, prejudice, and the contamination of European vices, and so far prepared for the reception of the gospel—a people whose very designation—moorn, darkness, mourning— supplicates compassion—a people, some of whom have already heard a Saviour's name, wondered at the strange but heavenly sound, bowed the knee with those that worshipped him in their own wild forests, and wait till the great mystery o Christianity, God manifest ni the flesh, be unveiled to them—a people, on whose unnumbered generations not a ray of Revelation ever shone, and many of whom, if ye delay, will drop into an awful, an unchangeable eternity, utterly ignorant of that Redeemer in whom centre all your hopes of happiness in this world and in that which is to come.
- January, 1833.
An Address to the Settlers in Western Australia, delivered at Guildford, June 7, 1833, at a meeting of the Magistrates, Gentlemen, and Yeomen of the Colony, convened on an occasion of great excitement, when the Aboriginal inhabitants were threatened with a war of extermination.
Gentlemen,—Again the war shout echoes from hill to hill—again our ears are assailed by the din of hostile movements throughout the settlement; while the blood of the natives wantonly shed, rouses them to vengeance dire and implacable.
Many of you have hitherto acted with a forbearance which, though politic in itself, was not the less honorable to your own feelings. I quite agree with you too upon another point, that half, or rather opposite measures, such as he Government have hitherto pursued, are to be deprecated. A wavering, uncertain policy is the worst that can be adopted towards a strange people, whether savage or civilized. But before ye suffer yourselves to be hurried away by the fury which seems now to possess the minds of so many, permit me for a moment, as the friend of this unfortunate race, to remonstrate with you.
Are the Aboriginal inhabitants British subjects, or are they not? I pass by the awkward question, whether ye have any right to treat them as such, without their own consent—if they are, they are entitled to the protection of the British Government; and consequently when accused of wrong, have a right to be tried by the laws of the country which has proclaimed them members of its commonwealth. If they cannot avail themselves of the privileges thus conferred on them, because they know not the language of their dictators, the fault is yours. Can they acquire the language of a strange people intuitively? And if they cannot, are they to be shot, merely because they cannot speak English? If ye usurp the dominion over them and deprive them of their independence, it is but a small part of your duty to inform them of the reverse of fortune which has befallen them, and the laws by which they are henceforth to be governed. Ye have taken possession of their lands; and, having thus robbed them of their patrimonial inheritance, ye mock them with the title of British subjects; but unless ye also possess yourselves of their language, the proper and only rational medium of communicating with any people, ye may as well call the kangaroos of the forest British subjects, as the native tribes. Without a knowledge of their language, it will be as easily to govern the one as the other.
To your own people, when charged with the commission of crime, ye allow the benefit of Trial by Jury. They have thousand times more reason to claim the privilege, since they are utterly ignorant of the moral character of the act of which they are accused, or the guilt attached to it in your estimation. And if they are to have what the privilege implies, trial by their peers, the Jury should be selected from their own countrymen. If ye would allow them any show of justice, one half, at least, ought to be Derbalese. When ye are asked by whom ye will be tried, ye reply: By God and my country. Alas for the Derbalese! they are tried by neither. They are left to the mercy of any ruffian who chooses to level his gun at them. What is this? It is murder. To kill British subjects, without trial by either Judge or Jury, can be designated by no other term.
But if ye have taken their country from them, and they refuse to acknowledge your title to it, ye are at war with them; and, having never allowed your right to call them British subjects, they are justified by the usages of war in taking your property wherever they find it, and in killing you whenever they have an opportunity. Ye are the aggressors. The law of nations will bear them out in repelling force by force, They did not go to the British isles to make war upon you; but ye came from the British isles to make war upon them. Ye are the invaders of their country—ye are the plunderers of their wealth—ye destroy the natural productions of the soil on which they live—ye devour their fish and their game—and ye drive them from the abodes of their ancestors.
Tell me not of the absence of local attachment in the hearts of roving savages. Where is the record from which ye learn that nature was ever unfaithful to the law of her creation, and forgot to impress her offspring with regard for the spot where they first inhaled the breath of life? The monster that disregarded the land of his nativity never yet beheld the light. The very bird loves the nest in which it was hatched. In man, whether civilized or savage, the inborn passion is still stronger. The lawns and the woods, the hills and the dales, even the rocks and the deserts, attach the soul to the place of her birth like the enchantments of Elysium. Nor do they quit their hold on her affections with increase of years. On the contrary, the natal fire burns brighter as the shades of evening advance; and old age, rolling on with its grey hairs, feeds the flame and makes her cling closer to objects consecrated by time and endeared by a thousand recollections. Ye may vent your fury upon her till she become broken hearted, but ye cannot turn the current of her feelings—she cannot turn them herself. Nothing can either force or allure her from the scenes of her childhood—nothing can dissolve her attachment to her natal soil, but death. It came from the dust with her; and she can resign it only when her earthly tabernacle dissolves, and again mingles with its original element. Nor is it the character of the place that forms this inextinguishable regard. Like every other part of our constitution it derives its origin, not from locality of situation, but from the author of our being. It is a fire kindled within us by the breath of nature, the moment the soul springs into existence; the place of our birth forming, not the source, but the object of attachment. It is nourished by association, it grows with our growth, it ripens with our age, and becomes stronger and stronger, the more it converses with surrounding objects. The Highland cottager sees as many charms in the barren heath, the silent pine, the solitary glen, the wild crag, and the stupendous rock, as the royal tenant beholds in the peopled terrace, the galaxy of beauty, the monuments of art, and the towers of Windsor. Were it possible for them to change places in the womb, they would reciprocally exchange their predilections. The descendant of a royal line would discover an attachment to the lonely cottage, and would as enthusiastically admire the bleak uncultivated taste around; while the Highlander, English born, would chill at the sight of the north, and kindle into rapture amidst the gorgeous scenery of the royal residence.—It is kindly ordered. In the love of country, we may still trace, amidst the ruins of our fallen nature, and in characters sufficiently legible, the impress of divine wisdom and benevolence in our creation. The soul is so formed as to love above all others, whatsoever may be their character, those objects on which she opens her eyes on coming into life; and is thus constitutionally prepared for the enjoyment of an allotted portion of happiness, wheresoever in the unerring arrangements of divine providence she may first behold the light, whether amidst the cheerless snows of the polar regions, or the perennial bloom of the tropical.
Think not, then, that the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, offspring of the same great parent with yourselves, and partakers of all the kindred feelings of a common humanity, can resign the mountains and seas, the rivers and lakes, the plains and the wilds of their uncradled infancy, and the habitation of their fathers for generations immemorial, to a foreign foe, without the bitterness of grief. What, though the grass be their couch and the tree of the forest their only shelter, their blue mountains, and the country where they first beheld the sun, the moon, and the starry heavens, are as dear to them as your native land with all its natural and artificial beauties, its gilded spires and magnificent palaces, is to you.
If ye are determined to disregard every principle of justice, and have resolved to consider the Kings proclamation a sufficient title to their lands, I beseech you to bear in mind that ye are forbidden alike by the maxims of Christianity and the law of nations to slay them, unless it be in self defence in the field; the guilt of which will still fall on your heads as the aggressors. And even in the field—for they will have recourse to arms in their own defence—and what nation would not?-ye are still bound by the usages of war, by every principle of honor and humanity, to spare their lives when they surrender and call for mercy. In short, whether ye reckon them enemies or British subjects, ye have no right to hunt them down and kill them, as if they were so many wild beasts. This is contrary to all law human and divine.
Reflect that ye have to do with a people who are not less the antipodes of the inhabitants of the British isles in their manners, laws, and polity, than in geographical position. The laws and polity of Britain contemplate all property as private property, and protect it in this character, restricting each individual to the enjoyment of his own particular portion. The laws and polity of New Holland are just the reverse. They contemplate all property as public property and guard it as such, allowing the free unrestricted use of the whole to every person in the community. Ngyronon of Monkbeelven will tell you that he has killed a man for no other reason than that of attempting to introduce the law of private property; namely, appropriating a kangaroo to himself and refusing to share it with his fellows.
In a country where the law of private property is unknown, there can be no thieves. Of the meaning of the word theft, in the sense in which ye use the term, these people have not the least conception. How can they? Theft can be practised only among a people who are possessed of private property. The commission of it in a country where every thing is held in common, is morally impossible. The spear of the warrior is perhaps the only exception. Other private property they certainly have none. And the possession of this, is an object only when actually engaged in battle. On all other occasions it is carried about as the common property of the tribe.
The word quipple means properly to pillage, or to spoil an enemy—a practise as common to the nations of Europe as to the savages of Australia. But to quipple from a brother, or one of the same tribe, to all of whom they extend the appellation, would excite their astonishment. What may come to pass, should they ever be introduced to a state of society in which the law of private property prevails, and be initiated into the art of stealing by your own thieves, I am not prepared to say. But at present, the vice of thieving is certainly unknown among them; though, like the Christian tribes of another hemisphere, they considered it lawful to spoil an enemy.
I am aware of the objection that when they quipple or pillage they use a great deal of cunning. So does the sportsman in pursuit of his game; and so does a general at the head of an army; but in neither instance is their any sense of guilt, or of moral delinquency. Just so with these people. They may fear the defeat of their purpose, or the consequences of being surprised in the act, but they have no apprehension that they are doing wrong. How can they, till ye instruct them in your manners, laws, and customs? They have actually pointed out to you where their kangaroos are to be found, when ye wish to kill. Is it to be wondered at, if, with equal simplicity, they should help themselves to one of yours, when they find them grazing on their own domains?
It is not my intention, nor can it be necessary in an assembly who have been not only eye witnesses but more or less actors in the tragic scene from its commencement, to enter into a history of all the evils which our invasion of the country has inflicted upon them; but I will mention a circumstance which is not generally known. Soon after the formation of the settlement, some of the servants in a farming establishment on the Swan, finding that they were fond of anointing themselves with oil, poured on the back of one of these unfortunate beings a whole potful of boiling slush. This was more than a personal injury. It was a national insult. And the cruel deed, independently of all the other wrongs, many and grievous which they have suffered at our hands, was enough to rouse any people and render them implacable.
But what shall we say to the barbarous practice of firing upon them wherever they are seen—a practice, unconfined to the lower orders, and common to some from whom better things might be expected! Apart from the fiend-like wickedness of thus wantonly destroying human life, what will such a course of proceeding profit you in the end? They have tendered their services to you as hewers of wood and drawers of water; could the most despotic conqueror—the most iron-hearted tyrant require more? The very powder and ball ye expend in shooting them would purchase their lands.
It was the policy of the late ruler of France to make every war in which he engaged maintain itself; which, laying the foundation of future wars, answered the double purpose of saving him expense and gratifying his ambition; for the quarrels thus produced and the feelings engendered, could issue only in thirst for revenge. Ye have not merely followed his example. In wanton cruelty ye have gone beyond him. Ye have hitherto lived in a great measure upon the fish and the game of the country, while the Aboriginal inhabitants are fired at if they dare to approach either, though famishing with hunger. But, as I have already remarked, I conceive it unnecessary to reckon in detail the numberless provocations they have received at your hands. They are numerous and well-known. I would merely ask, what did ye when ye arrived on these shores? Ye seized their fishing stations; ye took possession of their hunting grounds; ye drove them from the scenes of their childhood, and ploughed up the graves of their fathers. Yet all these ills they bore with a patience unparalleled in the history of nations. In not a single instance, did they throw a spear, or attempt to shed blood, till they began to fall under the fire of the merciless invader. Even in the affair of Bull's Creek, which has kindled such a flame, they were not the aggressors; they were only exercising the law of retaliation—a law as ancient as the records of history, and sanctioned by divine authority. The brother of Yagan and the son of Midjeegoorong, the principals in this affair, had been killed that very morning at Fremantle. What brother is there among you, if required by the laws of his country, that would not avenge the death of a brother. What father that would not revenge the death of a son.
Ye were born under a meridian where a benign religion enjoins the exercise of mercy even to the criminal. Shall the avenger of his country's wrongs, the high minded patriot, whose character forms a theme of admiration among all nations whether friends or foes, in every age and in every country, find none at your hands? Ye sustain in society the various connexions of sons, brothers, husbands, or fathers—a name to which ye are indebted for the privilege of beholding the light, and all the sweet enjoyments of domestic and social intercourse. Ye have sisters, daughters, wives, or mothers who watched over you during the years of helpless infancy and wept over your departure to a foreign land. Will ye, then, disregarding alike the feebleness of old age, the fond expectation of youth, and all the tender feelings of consanguinity which bind man to man and constitute the mainsprings of human happiness, send the hope of the country ye have invaded to a premature grave, and cause the survivors to mourn, in the loss of these endearing relationships, all that can render life desirable? Shall the defenceless Australians, who never wronged either you or yours, find in you no compassion, no trait of a kindred humanity, nothing but tigers, bears, wolves, and beasts of prey? By laying the foundation of the colony in blood, ye will not only treasure up wrath to yourselves against the day of wrath, but invoke a storm of vengeance on the heads of your children, which a just and retributive Providence may one day cause to burst in full measure for the iniquity of their fathers in rendering Australia childless. Rest assured, if ye refuse to be admonished, the usual lot of the wicked at the last day will not be yours. When dragged before the tribunal of Heaven, unable to lift your guilty eyes to behold the great original parents of your race, abhorred too by every tribe and every nation of the human family, the just decision of Him who will render to every man according to his works, will not allow you to mingle with the common damned, but will assign to the murderers of their species a place of torment far apart by itself in the shades of darkness.
Man, in a state of nature, may be ignorant of the manners of civil life, but he has as keen a sense of right and wrong as the most polished of his kind. Talk to the savages of Australia about the jurisprudence of civilized nations, and legal means for the redress of wrongs and injuries!—about laying their complaints before a magistrate of whose language they are ignorant, whose authority they do not acknowledge, and whose residence they dare not approach! What do they know about Courts of Justice, or your laws for the punishment of crime? Among them, as in the patriarchal state, every man is the judge and the avenger of his own wrongs. Nor do they deem it presumptuous to carry the principle still higher, and consider themselves in their collective capacity, as competent as you to judge and avenge their national wrongs.
How hard is the fate of this people! They may stand to be slaughtered; but they must not throw a spear in their own defence, or attempt to bring their enemies to a sense of justice by the only means in their power,—that of returning like for like. If they do—if they dare to be guilty of an act which in other nations would be eulogized as the noblest of a patriot's deeds they are outlawed; a reward is set upon their heads; and they are ordered to be shot, as if they were so many mad dogs! Thus, in the most barbarous manner, ye practice what in them ye condemn, the law of retaliation.
Let it be borne in mind that these people have never had any intercourse with the rest of mankind. While Ninus founded the Assyrian empire, and Cyrus gained that of Babylon; while Asia poured her overwhelming millions on Europe, and the valor of Sparta bled at Thermoylæ; while Philip of Macedon strove for the ascendant at Olynthus, and the glowing eloquence of Demosthenes, poured upon the ear of listening assemblies, kindled the beacon fire at Athens; while Alexander pushed his conquests towards the rising, and Cæsar towards the setting sun; while Macedonia trampled on the gorgeous East, and the legions of Italy contended with the phalanxes of Greece for the empire of the globe; while Scythia, Sarmatic, and Scandinavia, rising in the pride of their strength, sprang on the Latin Eagle, and the dominion of Rome yielded to the fury of the North; while thrones were erected and overthrown in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, and America, the tribes of Australia, unconscious of the existence of any other continent, were chasing the kangaroo, chanting their poetical compositions by their fires in the forest, and moving as distinctly in a world of their own, as if they had been the inhabitants of another planet Up to this moment, they imagine you to be a swarm of emigrants from the Moon.
If therefore ye act upon the maxims and customs which guided you in your intercourse with civilized nations, ye will miss your aim at every step, in your policy towards this people. Their government is patriarchal, and their manners are antediluvian. Of conquest they know nothing; because they are strangers to riches and luxury, the great incitements to conquest and empire. But the law of retaliation, blood for blood, is established by the sanction of ages, is familiar to them from infancy, and prevails from one extremity of New Holland to another. It is their mode of punishing offences, whether personal or national; and if it be criminal in them to practise this law, it must be equally criminal in you to follow their example.
But this is not all. By retaliating ye yourselves become savages; ye perpetuate the law of retaliation, and entail upon your offspring all the evils consequent upon a system of endless bloodshed. Who, in this case, is to set the example of a nobler conduct? These untutored savages, or a people who consider themselves the most humane and polished of the nations of Europe? Strangers as ye are become, gentlemen, to the sound of the church-going bell by your residence in these woods, I am not afraid to trust the appeal to your consciences. If the religion of the land of your fathers yet retains any influence over you, it will require but little reflection in the presence of Him "who divided to the nations their inheritance," to decide you in favour of a better policy, and induce you to set the example of peace and of good will to a people to whom ye are indebted for your adopted country—a country which ye intend to make your domicile and the inheritance of your children.
Are ye aware that the whole country is divided into districts; and that no tribe can occupy that of another? Consider for a moment, the sad condition in which, your invasion has placed the tribes of Derbal. Before them is the British banner, frowning destruction, and behind them the spear of the neighboring tribes, threatening them with a contest the most sanguinary. Which are they to choose? A glorious death by rushing on the sword of the invading foe? or a cruel and unnatural war with their own countrymen?
Remember, too, that ye have never attempted to make peace with them. Every cessation of arms has been only a tacit truce—a calm that preceded a storm. And while ye act upon a wavering uncertain policy, the war will assume a more sanguinary character on every recurrence of hostilities, till it become interminable; and, staining your title deeds with blood, involve the destruction of one of the most interesting races of Aboriginal inhabitants now to be found on the face of the globe.
There are still two courses open for you to pursue—either a decidedly pacific one, or a decidedly hostile. To the adoption of the former, I know of no obstacle that may not yet be easily surmounted. They have all along shown themselves ready to be reconciled, desirous to, live in peace and amity with you, and even willing to be taught your manners, laws, and polity. It remains for you to consider the consequences of adopting hostile measures. A bad name to the colony, a stop to emigration, and a depreciated property, are but minor evils. An exterminating war, the flames of which, spreading with increasing fury among the surrounding tribes as the settlement extends itself, must be the consequence. An exterminating war over a continent as large as Europe, and abounding with tribes unknown and innumerable! The very thought is appalling. The awful drama, the tragic scenes of which opening and closing successively amidst the cries of the dying and the tears of widows and orphans, and extending its desolations to generations yet unborn, will be without a parallel in the history of the world! Who will take upon himself the responsibility of giving such counsel? Who among you will answer for the frightful consequences to God, to his country, and to the myriads of the slain, whose blood will clamor through the skies for vengeance in both worlds, upon the guilty head of him that advised and of him that lighted up the inextinguishable fire?
Taking advantage of your distance from the mother-country, ye may flatter yourselves with the idea that it is possible either to commit the infamous deed of extermination clandestinely, or that ye can persuade the world that ye were not the aggressors. Vain thought! These game plundered and falling forests, which have so often filled their mouths with food and their hearts with gladness; that Moon, to whose mild beams they have so often danced in wild and grotesque but innocent mirth, uncontaminated with the Bacchanalian fume or the lascivious waltz; those stars, which have so often guided them in their trackless path through the lonely desert; yon Sun, who has so often called them from the unfurnished bower, where, mantled by the shades of night, they enjoyed a healthful repose, to the ramble and the chase; the sea, whose roaring billows, revelling from age to age in solitary grandeur, have poured shoals of provision into their rivers; the lakes whose shaded shores have bred, and whose placid bosoms have borne for them myriads of gamboling fowl; the hills that have echoed to their song, the valleys that have sheltered them from the howling tempest, the plains over which they have attempted to flee, and on which they have fallen under the fire of the pursuing foe,—all nature, Rachel-like weeping for her children, will at the last day proclaim your guilt amidst assembled worlds. But dream not of concealment till then. The fate of Cain will be yours, Ye may enjoy the blood-stained spoils of an innocent, unoffending people; but ye cannot bury the crime ye perpetrate in the graves of your victims, nor escape the eyes of Him who has drawn the lines of demarkation around the inheritance of every nation. Your fallen countenances will betray you. The voice of your brother's blood will cry from the ground where it is shed. The land of your fathers will abhor you; and the page of history will brand you to the latest posterity with the guilt of the unparalleled deed.
Choose for yourselves. If ye determine upon a war of extermination, civilized nations will be mute with astonishment at the madness of a policy so uncalled for, so demoniacal. Spain, throughout the wide desolations of her American empire, will groan forth a warning note; even the merciless Turk will point the finger of scorn at you; and Greece and Rome will rise from the tomb to sit in judgment upon you. When your doom is passed, your own children, for whose sakes ye have invaded the country, will join with the disinherited offspring of those ye have slain to pour a flood of curses on your memory.
If ye have any feelings of compunction, before the die be cast, let the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia live. Ye have taken from them all they had on earth. Be content with this, and do not add to the crime of plundering them that of taking their lives. Let them live that they may be put in possession of a title to a better country—a country where the invading foe dare not enter.
But if ye have steeled your hearts against remonstrance—if, in contempt of the most touching reflections and reckless of consequences, ye have determined to put on the savage, and to act the part of barbarians, by imbruing your hands in the blood of a people whom ye have spoiled of their country—the patrimonial inheritance of their fathers—repudiate the faith into which ye were baptized, and renounce the Christian name—the name from which your native land borrows all her glory—that Christianity may not blush at your deeds, while she weeps over the miseries ye inflict upon a hapless race.
- The sacred records, among the elder or Hebrew branch of the family, are an exception; but these are of divine origin, and relate to concerns of higher importance.
- See instances of this deed of horror in Bennett, Bamber and other writers on Eastern Australia.
"I heard of a child being eaten by the parents; the reason given was, that they were very hungry."—Bennett.
- Now Major.
- Condensed from the broken monosyllabic, yet not less energetic English and Derbalese in which it was spoken but which to many would be unintelligible.
- The difficulties of both land and water carriage in a new colony, will often prevent an anxious parent from returning with a supply of provisions to his family for days—sometimes weeks—together.
- Walking from Perth to Fremantle once, on descending an elevation into an open valley near the sea-beech, I beheld two lawyers apparently wrestling with a grass tree. My surprise was excited. As I approached, I perceived that they were trying to uproot and throw it down. This not being an action of trover but one of assault, and seeing the harmless tree exposed to the vengeance of the law, I was induced to inquire what offence it had committed? They informed me that, mistaking it for a native, it had more than once dreadfully frightened them, and that they were determined it should, never do so again. These redoubted champions of the oppressed and the oppressor, so bold amidst courts and clients, were terrified at the very idea of meeting an Aborigine.
The following account, so illustrative of the feeling which pervaded the settlement from its commencement, is from the journal of the leader of a party upon an exploring tour in his own words.
"At midnight we were aroused by the most alarming cries —'The natives, the natives are among us!' I started up, and saw a dark shadow passing swiftly near me. All were now awake, and running against each other, scarcely comprehending the cause of the alarm or the extent of the danger; but adding their shouts to the general uproar. A voice, low cried, 'I have him: I've got him fast.' Where? where? Blood an' oons, where?' cried another close beside me, on his knees, with his gun pointed from his shoulder,—we had overturned each other. The intimation of a capture implying the certainty of an enemy in the camp, added to our confusion; figures were seen running to and fro—who could know in the dark where to retreat? or whether the spear would strike in front or in rear?—'twas dreadful! Pinjara and blood-thirsty retaliation, were in our minds. The fire at length brightened a little, and showed the position of the party—some were on the ground, dead or dying, perhaps—one was roaring dreadfully. To our inexpressible delight, we got together unhurt, and no strangers were seen. 'But where is the captured native!' we all cried. It proved to be only a grass tree, closely hugged by one of the party. A dream had caused the whole alarm; and the sharp shrubs around accounted for the fancied pricking of the spears."
- Picture of Australia.
- 1. Cor. vi. 9—11.
- The native name of the country.
- See the second Psalm.
- Zamia spiralis.
- Prima navis fuit cavata arbos. The Romans were in error; and, in this betrayed their ignorance no less than in their attempt at satire in the expression, Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillma cygno. A hollowed tree was not the first, but the third invention in the art of navigation; and seems to have succeeded the more frail, but less laborious and more simple contrivance, of a bark canoe.
- Matthew, xxvi. 30; Mark, xiv. 26.
- Rev. ii. 17, and iii. 12.
- O Mr. ——, houses, houses, houses springing up in all directions!
- The terrific movement made in the act of throwing the spear. The word is untranslatable there being no corresponding term for it in our language.
- European stock of all descriptions, they call kangaroos, having never before seen sheep, cattle, or horses.