What I Know of the Labour Traffic
WHAT I KNOW
THE LABOUR TRAFFIC.
THE SCHOOL OF ARTS, MACKAY,
THE CAPITAL OF THE SUGAR INDUSTRY IN
NORTH QUEENSLAND, JUNE, 1884.
WITH A PREFACE.
A. J. DUFFIELD,
Attorney for the Queensland Government on Board the "Heath," Labour Vessel,
Licensed by the Premier to convey 156 Islanders from the South Sea Islands,
to the Homebush Plantation, the Property of the Colonial Sugar Company in
WATSON, FERGUSON, AND CO.,
TO ALL PATRIOTS, GOOD AND TRUE.
The best of us have sinned in the matter on which I presume to address you—namely, that labour traffic of which you seem to have heard so much, and yet know next to nothing. We are all guilty—from the dear bishop down to the humblest of his sheep; from the Premier up to the meanest sugar planter; and from the ablest editor down to his devil. We are all concerned in the stern injustice now rampant in North Queensland, which, if it be not uprooted, will spread to the South. It will spread like thistle seed, and breed like rabbits. That is to say, if the injustice which I propose to lay stark before you be not abolished now, it will become so strong that you will never be able to abolish it.
O! you who love Queensland for its summer sky and sweet air, and hate it for the evil conduct of its affairs and the ways of its public men who are rich and think themselves strong, let us strengthen our hearts by the resolve, that so far as it rests with us, neither bad men nor fools shall rule over us, and where we live injustice shall not reign.
I offer for your thoughtful consideration the revised text of a lecture which I delivered the other day in Mackay. But before turning to the lecture, let me fill your minds with a little colouring matter, so that you may see more vividly what I am driving at in that discourse.
The waters where certain fishers go to fish—not for cod, but for men—are called, in their precise language, "fishing grounds"—a picturesque term, and significant of a traffic which has taken twenty years to grow in Queensland, but has grown during the past five years to surprising dimensions. It has, in fact, grown with your growth, and been made an essential part of your national life. That is to say, if there had been no land handy and appropriate for growing sugar; if there were along the northern coast no organised provision trade; no traders in dry goods—rum, calicoes, tobacco, and many other useful, useless, as well as necessary things, there would not have been any trading in human kind. But it so happened, that some of the men who owned small vessels were able to make contracts with sugar planters to go and fetch and deliver a cargo of human beings on well understood terms; and there were also men, as it happened, who were oppressed at the time with much bad rice, and had on hand many things which they could not sell, and did not like to throw away: so it became convenient to send a ship to the South Sea Islands with a mixed cargo of rubbish, called "trade" and putrid provisions, in order to bring back by the license of the Premier as many Islanders as could be safely caught. By which means someone—it is not necessary to specify who—would be sure to make profit out of the sale of goods, even though he realised a loss in Kanakas. But if a ship went, say from Townsville to the Solomons or the New Hebrides, or Tombarra, Melapheelee and Miau, to fish for men, and returned, it may be, to Mackay within less than three months, bringing a hundred copies of the article in prime condition, then the fishers of men would clear at least £1,500; and if, having five ships of the same carrying capacity, making three voyages in the year with like success, then the fishers of men would make an absolutely clear gain of twenty-two thousand five-hundred pounds sterling. The temptation held out may be considered great, but the risks are great also. Kanakas as well as men die, or are wrecked, and the gilt on the gingerbread is easily rubbed off; and it has happened, that although these fishers did catch a thousand Islanders within twelve months, they for certain dark reasons, were only able to rejoice in that they had disposed of a lot of bad stuff—cleared out a heap of rubbish—suffered no loss in cash, and greatly extended their trade connections. So that, if a man did not keep a shop and deal in glass beads, gunpowder, flour, calico, twopenny-half-penny looking-glasses, rum, biscuits, tinned-jams, Jews' harps, fish hooks, and general Brummagen trumpery, and dealt only in Kanakas he might lose in going to fish for them; but, by combining Kanakas with dry goods, a very good thing may be made of it according to the current ethics of trade. It is absolutely true, that if there were no bargains to be made in glass beads, bad tobacco, prints that will not wash, pipes that do not draw, knives that will not cut, and tomahawks which can carry no abiding edge, the trade in Kanakas would have no personal attractions for those who have "developed the trade." There are honourable exceptions to these rapacious traders; there are merchants in the strict meaning of that term who enter into the business in a little different spirit, who pay their seamen the best wage, and give their captains every inducement to do well. But the same holds good of these as of the others—that but for the extent of their Ordinary trade relationships and the syndicates they can form, they would have nothing whatever to do with the traffic in human beings; and there can be little doubt, that in the course of time when Government is purged of political corruption, and its officers are appointed for their fitness, and not for the votes of their friends, the rapacious traffickers will be unequal to compete with the responsible merchant, and commerce in Islanders will be as well conducted as the immigration of Europeans in steamships by respectable companies who are interested in the price of Queensland stock, and the material progress of the colony. In the mean time, man does not live by commerce alone nor can commerce be said to be the narrow way which leads to everlasting bliss. I have lately talked with Kanaka dealers on the subject of their traffic, who, in a Christian, apologetic way, conveyed to me their convictions, that the trade was good for the Kanakas themselves; that these privileged summer children were carried away from a low animal existence, and brought in contact with a superior race; that they get improved in industrial art; are taught to wear clothing; eat superior food; learn the value of money; and moreover, they had a very good chance of getting their minds expanded.
I was not displeased with this argument. I only suggested that the catalogue of "goods" might have been enlarged; and that the immediate question for us to occupy ourselves with, lay in smaller compass, viz.:—
Is this thing just?
Whether it is pleasant and charitable for the Islander to give him a free passage to Queensland to enlarge his mind; clothe his nakedness; teach him to do systematic work; smoke pipes; earn wages; and become a superior being by learning the filthiness of the local tongues, and become the possessor of the infernal spirit of rum, to be ultimately "conveyed" back to the abject animal life from which he was beguiled, is not the question at issue—Is the thing just? Is it done in a just and righteous way? Because, if it is not just, you had much better leave the Islander where he is, and wait until he asks you to do for him that great and manifold service, instead of taking so much pains to press your benevolent designs upon his contracted mind.
"Granted," I continued to say to these Christian merchants, "that you have proved to your own satisfaction, that you have raised the Kanaka in the scale of humanity, will you submit to be examined on the question of how much you have, at the same time, improved your own account at the National Bank? When you have given us a faithful return of that improvement, we will then consider what your desire for the improvement of the Kanaka really amounts to."
"Another manifest form of injustice in this traffic is," I went on, "that the 'contract' entered into, is a one-sided contract. No Islander from New Ireland on his advent to Queensland, and very few of the other Islanders ever understood the nature of the 'contract' into which they were beguiled. I know that the Statute of 1880 expressly provides for this; but it is a farce that is played, not the Act which is carried out. No Islander is ever made aware of the value of his labour: he has no capacity for measuring time, whether you picture it in years, yams, or moons, and his motives for coming to Queensland, you will find, are intimately connected with a latent conviction, that he will have increased facilities for exercising his thieving propensities; and may, if he has any luck, return with his pockets full of gunpowder, and a musket on each shoulder; but be you quite sure of this, that the Kanaka does not come here to see you ride on horses; to hear your music in church; and much less to dig and dung regularly in your sugar garden for the sum of £6 a year and his keep."
All this, and much more did I pour into the patient ears of my Christian Kanaka dealers; and all that came of it, when I came to an end? was a joyous exclamation, accompanied with the jovial request, "Let's liquor."
Such lightness of heart speaks volumes; and it is not, perhaps, untrue to say that many, even of our Christian merchants, are more moved by the force of habit than the strength of argument.
Now having spent the best part of my life in the service of the people, and being filled with the spirit that cannot rest, the spirit that is ever on the watch to sing out "All's well," or "Take care," I lately went with a merry heart on a cruise in a "labour vessel" to the South Sea Islands, bent on seeing all that belongs to this traffic and in the interests of humanity and for the defence of the character of a British Colony, to report minutely on all through which I might pass. As the Government attorney appointed to that vessel I looked forward to an instructive and novel voyage.
About the middle of last January we entered the Coral Sea on our way to New Ireland. What winds we had were contrary. They would have carried us direct to the Solomon Islands, but the master of the vessel, a man of much seafaring experience, complained to me in tones of great bitterness that he was not supplied with "trade" appropriate for the Solomons.
"The Solomons," he said, "are too wise now to be caught with glass beads and fish hooks: you can only hook Solomons with muskets; had I been allowed to carry muskets and powder I could have run down to the Solomons, loaded up at once, and returned in five weeks. But the blasted Queensland Government have stopped all that." I defended the course taken by the Government—not because I consider it a course that would, or could, have any permanent practical good result, but for other reasons into which I did not enter with the skipper. His reply to me is worth giving. He said:
"To deprive the English merchant of the right to trade muskets for Kanakas is to handicap him too much. The Queensland proclamation which stopped trade in muskets to Queensland ships will give a monopoly to the French in the musket trade, as well as to all others who trade in copra. The Queensland Government has no control except over its own vessels; and all the vessels, and they are many, which trade with the Islanders of the South Pacific who carry muskets and powder, will cut the Queensland vessels out of the trade."
This I thought was a new and worthy argument to urge on that other argument ofwhich all men of and reflection see must soon prevail. Only the Imperial Government can stop this traffic in firearms with the Islanders, by showing a sympathy with all who seek to bring the South Sea Islanders into the British Kingdom; for until these beautiful Islands of the Coral Sea are annexed by Great Britain the more difficult will become the solution of some of the problems which belong to the connection of Queensland with Greater Britain.
Already may you scent a new game. No Master licensed to convey Islanders may now leave any Queensland port with muskets, or gunpowder on board, or be found by an English man-of-war with these things, without running the risk of having his ship seized—but, such is the quick intelligence which directs and presides over the Kanaka trade, that no difficulty need prevent the licensed dealer in Islanders from coming to some understanding with the dealers in copra. The copra dealer may carry muskets and gunpowder, the copra dealer, if he be a German, French, or North American, can get Islanders for muskets, and lodge the Islanders in some safe rendezvous to be agreed upon, and the master of the labour vessel will arrive on the scene at the appointed time, and the thing is done. The risk would be very great, but risk is one of the attractions to many persons engaged in fishing for men. The copra traffic is co-existent, and co-extensive with the labour traffic, it has been contaminated by it from the beginning—nearly all the early atrocities of the labour trade sprang from its relations with the mysterious copra, and may be said to have been the procuring cause of the Islanders' revenge which has overtaken not a few innocent and many misguided men.
And now contemplate the modern "fishers of men," and consider how an ancient and sacred title having lost all its divine meaning, should be revived in a Christian land to depict the practice of some modern Christians when committing acts which cannot be otherwise characterised than insulting to the name of Christ, because they outrage his humanity.
It is of course generally believed that the Government Agent attached to each of these labour vessels is an absolute security against the possibility of such an irregularity as that hinted at above being carried out. Alack! Government Agents are but men, and some are notorious for being as frail as—say woman—there are ways of manipulating a Government Agent, even as there are ways of lubricating the Government appointing him, and the Government Agent has been as big a sham as any other sham ever designed to quiet the mind of a sensitive public having votes. Indeed the traffic in Islanders is so full of mystery, and surrounded by so much weakness, and inexperience, to say nothing of imbecility and prejudice on the one hand, and brutal selfishness on the other, that much care is needed in handling it, lest for one thing we be found, in an excess of zeal to be uprooting wheat while we go spudding up the tares.
Let me help you to penetrate this mystery. Not only are owners of vessels and big grocers deeply interested in the Kanaka fishery, but hundreds of smaller fry are even much more eager for its continuance; the planter of course is anxious, but the little shop keepers of the Northern towns who sell things to Kanakas at a rate of profit ranging up to 265 per cent, are going mad, and mob the Premier and his private secretary with deputations and newsmongers, yelling at the top of their voices "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth, keep it up or you will go down," using much more forcible language than I can command. The Premier promises and is glad to get away. Then when the Premier is out of sight the small shop keepers begin like the priests of Baal, to cry aloud and to spare not saying that North Queensland is going to the devil—or it is going to separate—or that it is going to drop sugar, and then there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The explanation is this: Close to every large plantation, or cluster of plantations, the dealers in men have numerous smaller people who keep little stores for the sale of kickshaws, such as the Kanaka loves.
Every one thousand Kanakas will spend in three years at these little shops the sum of eighteen thousand pounds sterling, in glass beads, Brummagem trumpery and Sydney goods. This stuff which realises for the traders in human beings the sum of eighteen thousand pounds does not cost the fishers of Kanakas one thousand pounds!
Nor is this quite the whole of the beautiful story. The dealers in men and women are also agents for numerous trading concerns who carry on a varied commerce in the hateful trash which finds no market that is mentioned in any known Chamber of Commerce but is sold to low bred scoundrels who do peculiar business with the coloured children of men.
That is a dark saying. If you come to understand its full meaning you will be able to appreciate the trouble which I have taken in procuring other facts and details which you have yet to learn.
This is one feature of that injustice which I am laying stark before you; and now, if you please we will read over together the lecture which I delivered at Mackay:
Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen,—
What is known as the labour traffic is not to be considered merely as a local institution, but an integral part of that great industrial war, whose field is the world, whose soldiers are the people of all nations and languages, and whose generals and captains are the chief men of the best races of mankind. We have recently been told by a Regius Professor of History, that the object of all the principal bloody wars which immediately preceded the Napoleonic Wars, and ended at Waterloo, was the possession of the New World. Whatever may be thought of this theory, it certainly throws a new light on history, for it draws our attention from the petty ambitions of mere kings to the struggles and throes of humanity. We cease to care for the secrets of courts, and take no interest in the tricks of diplomacy, or the intrigues of politicians, but are brought face to face with man, as the agent who is responsible for the earth not being made a slaughter house, but a garden; not a chess board, on which two or three may plot and play a sanguinary game for their own amusement, but a free highway leading to a more perfect life in which man shall stand not only as the paragon of animals, but the Beauty of the World.
Whether we are satisfied or not with Professor Seeley's solution of his own problem, the New World is ours at this moment—not by bloody war and the conquest of the sword, but by means of gentle peace and the triumphs of industry and commerce. The English race is master of all that Columbus and his companions discovered. The Americas and the Australias have come under the sway of the Anglo-Saxon. The influence of the Latin race, like the influence of the Latin religion, has ceased to rule, much less to over-awe the mind of man. The religion of practical life has taken the place of technical religion; in other words, reality has come into collision with shams and unrealities to the everlasting damage of the shams. "The Bull Dog," "The Lion," "The Defence," The Dragon," and "The Swan," have met the "Immaculate Conception," the "Holy Ghost," the "Holy Cross," the "Virgin without Sin," the "Queen of Heaven," the "Mother of God," and the "Sacred Heart," and these sham things have been blown to the winds. Precisely what Drake, Howard, and Hawkins did for the Invincible Armada, Watt, Brindley, Smeaton, Rennie, Telford, Stephenson, Faraday, Brunei, and Brown, Jones, and Robinson have done for the monopolies which kept the world pinned to its mother's knee—which kept its commerce first in manacles and then in leading strings, and made its traffic to pass through gorgeous toll-bars kept by painted beadles in the pay, and for the profit of secular potentates and sacred popes.
During the past fifty years railways have levelled the mountain, upraised the plain, spanned the river, changed the conditions of human life, and made the land increase the variety of its products, and to become a constant source of increasing and wholesome change. Railways have done much more; there are now more horses, drivers, saddle and harness makers, wheelwrights and coachbuilders than there were before railways, which it was thought would annihilate these. What before was stagnant and deadly, became quick with healthful motion.
What railways have done for the land, steamships have done for the great and wide ocean; and steamships have been the cause of more sailing vessels being employed than would have been employed but for them. By means of railways and steamships the face of the world, so to speak, has got a new expression; it has the graduated face of a clock—not to tell the time to this or that parish, this or that nation, but to universal man. The sun is not more fixed in the centre of the universe to keep the sidereal worlds in time than man is the master of the world to keep all things in time. Let me illustrate this by my own experience. Twenty-three years ago I went on board an English commercial steamer in the port of Cobija, in the Republic of Bolivia, as a passenger bound for Australia on January 6th, lat. S. 24 degrees. I steamed along the coast of Peru, Ecuador, and New Granada, calling at many ports. Arrived at Panama, I took a train to Colon and went on board another English commercial steamer, which carried me to Hayti, to Jamaica, St. Thomas, Barbados, and the Azores to England. Another English commercial steamer carried me to France; a railway built by English skill carried me from Havre to Paris and on to Marseilles, where another English commercial steamer carried me to Malta and Alexandria, where another English built railway carried me across the desert and the Nile to Suez; another English commercial steamer carried me down the Red Sea, hoary with the tales and woes, the triumphs and decay of fifty centuries, to Australia, just then beginning to open its eyes; to Melbourne, lat. S. 38 degrees, where L arrived by contract time on the 13th April, doing a distance of twenty-thousand miles in ninety-six days, with the regularity and punctuality of the best clock in the world.
What was then done in ninety-six days is now done in sixty days; what then cost £200 costs now £80. Every railway over which I travelled, and every steamship in which I was a passenger was built by British skill and the majority with British capital—excepting the Panama railway—the greatest feat in railway construction which, up to then, had been achieved, was built by the people of the United States, aided by coolies and free negroes.
There was not a port, town, city, island, river, or sea over and through which I passed, where you did not see the British flag and the Stars and Stripes giving colour to earth and sky; and varied as were the people and languages which came in my way, the variety of industries which had been called into existence by those agencies was far greater. It would take me all night to recite to you the new and varied industries which the power of steam had called into existence. The amount of labour required to be done far exceeded the number of available labourers. Peru was dependent upon the Chinese coolie for loading her guano and attending to her sugar garden. She had millions of negroes andin her territory, but an insane philanthropy, aided by a Government who was dependent on popular clamour for its power, changed those negroes and aboriginals from soldiers of labour into free assassins and emancipated burglars. You could, five years later, when these beings got their liberty to go idle and cut men's throats, no more get them into industrial harness than you could harness the mosquitoes. The amount of money which Peru paid for alien labour during the period of her Guano Age is simply incredible, Chili was dependent upon the Cornish miner for developing her exhaustless wealth of copper. Bolivia is still entirely dependent upon British industry and commerce for the of her civilisation. Ecuador the same; the rivers and mountains of New Granada are dependent upon British and American enterprise for opening up her treasures. If any of these countries are showing signs of decadence—as they are—you will find that the process of this decay is co-existent with the breaking off of commercial relations with Great Britain. Peru would long ago have gone to the dogs but for British ships and British capital. So with the islands of the Spanish Main, and everywhere on both sides of that track of twenty thousand miles which I traversed in ninety-six days, do you see British hands on the face of that mighty clock whose works are regulated by British men, whose pendulum is British capital, and whose mainspring is the British way of life.
The changes which have come over the face of England during the past fifty years of her industrial war are precisely the changes which have come or are coming over the face of the world. Those changes include a re-distribution of wealth. Capital has been made aware of its responsibilities. Labour has so far advanced in intellect as to perceive that without capital labor is denuded of its ample fruition, and cannot achieve its greatest good. The dominant religions which fostered monopolies, enmities and strife have been undermined by that modern spirit of cooperation, which shows the interdependence of human beings on each other, and that the result of this co-operation must be the good of mankind.
By co-operation I do not mean that clubbing together which saves us 30 per cent, in wine, 25 per cent, in boots, 150 per cent, in drugs, and something respectable in butcher's meat and baker's crumb, but that divine co-operation in which the feet cannot say to the head I have no need of you, but all are members one of another. Knowledge is no longer confined to a privileged sect. There is no royal way to anything, much less to learning. Science, the glory and solace of the greatest minds, is everywhere on the side of humanity.
If you would test for yourselves if there be such an element in our modern life as the enthusiasm of humanity, you must not look for it in parliaments or in the church, or in the army, or among lawyers, or in the wider fields of trade, where the vain make their riches and fools lay up their store; but you must look for it in that grand un sectarian commerce of the wide world with which science is intimately connected, and to which it owes its triumphs in the past and its larger hope of greater triumph in the future. In the laboratory of science you find the great men of our time plotting how to destroy space to kill pain, abolish disease, take contagion captive, and make the evil spirits of corruption and decay the servants and slaves of man.
What the grand army of commerce has done for the higher science, the smaller armies of trade have done for the skilled workman; these in their turn have conquered difficulties, which benumbed the larger number of unskilled labourers; and planting, sowing, hedging and ditching, and the mere drudgery of toil have become connected with a superior organisation and the labourers have thereby improved. In other words, what the head designed and the hands and feet carried out, has produced a result in favour of the body to which both belong. These are but a few of the changes which mark our own immediate time, which we must keep steadily in mind while we contemplate the labour traffic and seek to find for it a sure and rational footing.
Make an imaginary voyage in likeness to my real voyage, and sail from any port you like in the east to the west, from north to south, and box the entire compass, you will find a precisely similar state of things—islands linked to each other; and these to continents by a service which has grown into a necessity of Nature, demanding the exercise of the highest skill to maintain and direct, by means of which, things are brought into daily common use which, but a short while ago, were only known in the laboratories of scientific men, or were monopolies in the grip of the rich. So that you may safely say the high result which humanity has achieved in freedom, knowledge, prescience, skill, and courage, is the force which directs and rules the industrial war whose field is the world; for the benefit of the world, and not for the mere pleasure and advantage of a privileged few.
That which at present has not come under the supervision of the head of this army will, sooner or later, have to come under that supervision until the humblest member of the whole of the industrial force shares in the advancement of its veterans, and the beneficent result of the conquests which can never be reversed. It is one of the greatest encouragements we can carry in our hearts to know that at the head and front of this world's industrial war, the brightest and best intellect the world possesses, sits enthroned in absolute command. The genius of Watt, Stephenson, Brunel, Faraday and the rest, has become the inheritance of every British home, directing its rule, regulating its mental and moral force, dictating what shall be done with our boys; and this, which I have called an encouragement, is also a guarantee that the progress which has been made can never be arrested; the good which has been achieved shall grow, and the improvement in all that makes life worth living, has become as palpable as the means by which it was acquired. Cobb's coaches will never supersede railways. Water-wheels, even if driven by Niagara, will never displace steam; the wooden telegraph on a hill can never do the work of the sub-marine wire. There is no going back on Watt, Stephenson, Brunei, Faraday, and the rest, while the advance which has been sounded even within the past year, bids fair to carry us over a vaster surface than we have as yet surveyed; and I think you should bear in mind here, that this vast war—this industrial struggle, which has now been going on for fifty years, without any material interruption, owes nothing whatever to Government; on the contrary, it has gone on, conquering and to conquer, in spite of the obstruction of Government, insane legislative restrictions, and the mischievous regulations of Parliaments. That war for the acquisition of material wealth was begun and continued by private enterprise, and is being conducted solely by the free citizens of the best races of mankind for the good of mankind, and not for the aggrandisement of dynasties, the prestige of Governments, or the exclusive good of one race or people.
Now, co-existent with the casting of that net of railways over the world, and the beginning of our modern industrial war, whose field is the world, was the discovery of Australian gold—a discovery which liberated two-hundred and fifty millions of sovereigns from central gloom in thirty years, and allowed them to go where they would. Had that discovery been made three thousand years ago, a golden calf would been set up, and all nations compelled to come and bow down and worship. Had that discovery been made by Alexander the Great, Mount Olympus had been changed into a shrine, and all the world gone mad on art. Had the discovery been made by Charles V., or his melancholy, bloody-minded son, Philip II., the church would have become a military power vaster and more detestable than that of Islam, and all the world been alternately paralysed with the fear of an illimitable and everlasting stink pot, and buoyed up with the hope of a heaven made of lawn clouds in which the matins should go on till vespers, and a never changing eternity be passed in saying prayers in the Spanish or Latin tongues.
Had the discovery of Australian gold been made by George III., North America would still be the unhappy hunting ground of the savage, and German States and German kings and German queens and highwould now be as abundant as German silver, and the great world had gone idly-strutting about with nothing but bands of music for its leaders. Had the discovery been made by Napoleon the First, the world would have been made into a barracks, and we should all have been colonels or corporals, except the women, who would never have been anything save mere mothers and cooks.
But the discovery was not made in the interest of hoary superstition or classical art, and beautiful mythology, or Christian fanaticism, or vulgar family pride, or military genius, but by a happy necessity, in the interests of humanity. That long hidden gold gave commerce wings, under whose shadow the world might not only find rest from tyranny and Governmental interference, but an ever growing freedom in which every individual unit of the world, while rejoicing in a sweet perennial liberty, might yet find a freedom greater still by being bound to the world's increasing work.
You do not need any other illustration of that being true than the result of George III.'s madness, by which England lost her great North American colony, in order that the British race might find a wider expanse of freedom, and the river of English liberty should seek and find the ocean of manful independence, and humanity assume a dignity which it had never known till then. Suffer one word more of exodium. Not only are we compelled to acknowledge the sway of intellect and the influence of science over a world awakened to a new sense of what the world is, but we see, as plainly as we see the Southern Cross, amid a galaxy of stars in the sky, that the growth of individual character and the development of purely local institutions, all in sympathy with the general advancement, have gone on so steadily increasing, that if we did not find that individual character and those local institutions when we sought for them, we should be as disappointed as if we found at the time of figs that our fig tree had no figs on it. Every town in every English colony is the fruit and outcome of that new individuality. Every new institution which new conditions of life call into being is a similar fruit and outcome—a fruit and outcome in which human nature has become, or has given signs or becoming, so moulded into fitness for the social state, that it will tolerate no interference save that interference which maintains the equal freedom of all.
And now, to leave the contemplation of these elevating generalities, let us come to something which is as simple and unrelenting as the multiplication table, something which deeply concerns ourselves as colonists, which involves our fame, the purity of our morals, and the quality of our humanity.
Why is it, that a very large number of highly respectable religious and educated people at home give such a ready ear and willing credence to murders and outrages which have been done on labour vessels and in sugar fields belonging to Queensland? How is it, that men in high command and office have wont only misrepresented this colony in the matter of the labour traffic? How came it to pass, that when the annexation of New Guinea by Great Britain came to be regarded by Queensland as a political and social necessity, the Imperial Government resented the action of Queensland as an impertinence, and went the length of saying, that if New Guinea were annexed, Queensland should have no control in administering its affairs?
If we can satisfy ourselves in the answer to these questions, we shall have made a discovery before which the discovery of gold will pale before it as so much ineffectual fire. Prove to yourselves that you have made this spiritual and moral discovery, and that the discovery gives you a passionate delight and satisfaction; you will have brought in a new industrial era, you will have solved the mystery of social life and give an absolutely intelligible reason for the continuity of human endeavour.
Now, the reason, I think, why the Imperial Government has been so ready to flout and lecture Queensland on its labour traffic, is simply because it obeys in this matter the behests of the highly respectable religious educated people in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow, and the agricultural districts, whose personal interest it is to keep up an intermittent racket on slavery and the labour traffic. The reason why high officials have written so wantonly against Queensland sugar planters is, that those officials found a vast number of highly respectable religious educated people ready to believe all that may be said of murders, outrages, and slavery, as they have been said to obtain in Queensland. The reason why highly respectable religious educated people in England keep up a constant, or intermittent row, as it suits them, on these matters of slavery and outrages on humanity, is a twofold reason.
1. They are slave-drivers of a deepdye, and commit outrages on humanity that are systematic, which yield the highest pecuniary profit and procure the greatest national disgrace.
2. They go to the enormous expense of indulging in the luxury of maintaining two religions, each of which contradicts the other. For six days in the week they do nothing but take thought for the morrow, buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest, fare sumptuously every day, pick quarrels and jealousies, and foster competition with neighbours; make the longest, heaviest, and most precise weapons of war; gender, mistrust, spread calumnies, and indulge in revenge; and keep up an army and navy on the blood and sweat of peaceable people—a people whose life is robbed of all joy and passionate delight in that which most distinguishes man—a people whose unremitting toil is unrelieved by any hope—to whom freedom, therefore, has no meaning, and "carefulness has been discouraged by continually showing to the careful that those who are careless did as well as themselves—sometimes better." Nay, a people who have paid penalties for carefulness. Labourers working hard and paying their way, have constantly found themselves called on to help in supporting the idle, the dissolute, and depraved; have had their tables, chairs, beds, fire-irons, clocks, and family Bibles seized under distress warrants, that able-bodied paupers might be fed, and eventually have found themselves and their children reduced to the deep damnation of pauperism. "Well-conducted poor women, supporting themselves without aid or encouragement, have seen the ill-conducted receiving parish pay for their illegitimate offspring. Nay, to such extremes has the process gone, that women with many illegitimate children, getting from the rates a weekly sum for each, have been chosen as wives by men who wanted the sums thus derived." In short, you shall put one leg of a pair of compasses in the heart of England, and with the other describe a circle of thirty miles in which you shall find eighty thousand English men, women, and children idle, and regularly, every day, are washed, dressed, combed, fed, and lodged at the expense to the industrial community of one million seven-hundred and sixty-thousand pounds sterling a year; and what is true of this particular Midland county is typical of all the other counties, and this pauperism—this degradation of humanity—this debased national life—this national disgrace—is the outcome of the two contradictory religions which our beloved mother goes to the expense of keeping up. This six days' secular slavery, revenge, money-making, and all the rest of it, is the outcome of the inhuman religion and disnatured selfishness which preside over and dictate the six days' secular work. The religion of the seventh day inculcates that you shall take no thought for the morrow; that you shall do unto others as you would that they should do unto you; that God may forgive you your trespasses as you forgive them that trespass against you; that if your enemy smite you on the left cheek you shall turn to him the other that he may also smite that; that if your enemy hunger you shall feed him; if he thirst you shall give him drink; that you are to be happy if men speak evil of you and revile you; that you shall sell all you have, and give to the poor; and the whole of this sublime seventh-day religion is summed-up in the one word—self-sacrifice. This is but a mild representation of the second of the two religions which our mother professes, for one day in seven. She never carries out this religion—never; nay, she does not believe it. On the contrary, for six days out of the seven she is occupied in disobeying it, and proving that it cannot be true. She judges herself by the standard of the six days' religion, and everybody else by the religion of the seventh day. When any special tidings reach her from Queensland she puts on her Sunday religion and judges by that; when any tidings reach her from the United States, she forgets all about the charity which beareth all things; hopeth all things; thinketh no evil, and is not easily provoked, which is part of the Sunday music she has piped to her; and instantly assumes an attitude of questioning or doubting, or of freezing unsympathy. Why?
How is it that England, the head quarters of the great industrial war, whose field is the world, treats with marked coldness, indifference, and disdain, not only the United States, but every one of her great colonies as well? How does it come, that in the Cabinet of the Imperial Government nearly always the stupid man of his party is selected to be Secretary of State for the Colonies? How is it that men were, for many years, sent to be Governors of colonies who never achieved the height of average intelligence, and never showed the least strain of greatness; but were at the best, men trained to the mere routine of office, and were not even excellent clerks, nor possessed of any distinguishing gifts or accomplishments?
There are happy exceptions to this bad rule, and the different and differing Governors selected now is proof sufficient of the truth of the change which is involved in my question.
The answer is, that the religion of common sense, and common humanity which is the adopted religion of these new communities, is a reproach to the transparent hypocrises, the gorgeous impostures, and splendid shams which prevail in the old country; and the old country hates the new religion, and would, if possible, suppress it. The religion which is fast laying hold of the minds of men, is one in which Nature is reasserting her position as high priest. There is more Nature in the colonies than there is at home; and, therefore, more independence and a sweeter freedom.
Nature teaches us, and so, for that matter, does St. Paul, that if a man does not work, he shall not eat; if he does not obey the laws of his being he must perish; if he does not dress and keep the garden in which he is placed, if he does not compel the earth to yield her increase, he shall be turned out of the garden, and a flaming sword which turns every way, shall be kept going to keep him out of it. If any community, or any unit of which the community is composed, persistently and of set purpose, sets itself to oppose, thwart, obstruct, or in any waythe march of improvement, or does not keep in sympathy with the head of all things, even though he or it may only belong to the lowly feet, the consequences, however disastrous, must be borne.
In our great industrial war, there is absolutely no titles to sell or give away; no pensions are possible to imbecility; and profit or reward must be the natural fruition of effort in subordination to rational rule. The determination to apply this law in all its rigour has, for the moment, given an appearance of ferocity to colonial public life, which, however much it is to be regretted, could not well be helped. In this war self-sacrifice shall be prohibited as irrational, but so also shall brutal selfishness. Although, if any rich planter, smitten with remorse for the way he has increased his substance, thinks fit to endow a college for teaching the English tongue to Islanders, and the Polynesian tongues to doctors, overseers, Government agents and others, we will not hinder him in carrying out his merciful intent, while he and his class shall be allowed the full benefit which may result from such an institution being founded. We will not allow the morrow to take thought for itself, but take care that what we do to-day shall lead to something better next morning. If a man smites us on the right cheek we will take care that he does not do it again. If our enemy hungers we will find him a job; if he thirsts he shall have the chance of earning an honest penny.
If our neighbour becomes unfriendly; takes to making guns or dynamite, and shows an unmistakeable hankering to come and spoil our garden, or take it from us, we will not spend our money in setting up rival manufactories of destructive diabolical explosives, but we will make that garden so sweet to live in, so sacred to possess, so holy and beautiful to behold, and so glorious to defend, that none shall dare to make us afraid, and those who do not love us, shall be made to tremble and fear—not for the vengeance we shall inflict, but for the impregnable defence which it would be death to try to destroy.
This, if it be not the actual national life of Australia, is the spirit of it; this is the tendency which unconsciously it is assuming. The hope we are cheered by is the hope which we of to-day look to see realised; that in this new land Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, and Irishmen may be born again; born into the liberty which is not a dream, or a mere Sabbathday hypocrisy, or a Sunday sham, but a continual and ever-increasing passionate joy. This it is which is at the bottom of Imperial unsympathy, induced by the unsympathy of the influential rich, religious highly educated people, who live on the blood and sweat of English people, to whom liberty has ceased to have a meaning, and life has lost its English charm.
A sailor does not hate lawyers; the carnal man does not hate the spiritual man; the imposter does not hate the man of truth and honesty so much as the highly respectable, rich religious people at home hate Australians who secure their independence by working for their living.
What has all this to do with the labour traffic as it is being conducted in Queensland?
The Mackay district is adapted to the growth of sugar; if you cultivate sugar you make the garden yield its natural increase. This natural increase is shared by the community to which Mackay belongs. Every ton of sugar which you get out of your garden represents an increase in other gardens. The industries which are called into existence by sugar are as varied as human life. Science and scientific men have thriven more on sugar than on guns and gunpowder. Sugar cannot possibly dispense with science. The machinist and practical engineer, the carpenter, blacksmith, saddler, horsemonger, timber-getter, builder, agriculturist, and other captains and leaders of labour find their highest work when sugar is made most of; the shipper and skipper, the careful banker and the anxious grocer buzz about sugar as bees buzz about flowers; and, like them, make much honey from the cane. If you do not continue to make the most of sugar, you will, in the language of Touchstone, be damned. One of the principal items in making sugar, is labour. The chief labour needed is the labor of the hands and feet. In plain English, the most unlessioned, political power and remain there except by the brute force of selfish and ignorant operative class. The employment of the Indian Coolie in North Queensland is the only solution of the difficulties which beset you; and until that solution is applied, this colony will steadily continue to decrease in everything which could insure its permanent progress.of labour, is the labour most suitable for tending the sugar garden. The heat and burden of the day are the hardest to bear of the work required to be done; and those accustomed to bear the sun's heat must do it; the wages must correspond to the value of the labourers' time; and because we do not chop blocks with razors, or sharpen slate pencils with lancets, so we do not employ Scotchmen to dig and dung the sugar garden. As sensible men engaged in the industrial war of the world, you recruit the soldier which is most adapted to your ranks; as loyal officers of the army, you seek to prepare the soldier for the fight in the best way to insure success. In plain English, you believe that the labourer especially adapted for your garden, has been proved to be the Islander of the Islands of the Coral Sea; or better still, the Indian Coolie. In short, any of those races of mankind who can suffer the burden of the solar ray. The reasons why these "aliens" are needed for such work, are so obvious, that I will not insult your understandings by repeating them; while the objections which have been raised against the employment of Indian Coolie labour, are the objections of timid men, ignorant operatives, and politicians for the most part, who could not climb into
At first sight sight you would say, and I think, say well, that the fittest labourer, and the one most adapted to the soil, is the aboriginal of the soil. The Australian Caliban ought to be kept at Australian work. But the fact is, the Australian Prospero has not proved himself equal to the task of taming the Australian Caliban. The Australian Caliban has been allowed to ally himself with the Australian Stephano and Trinculo; that is, to political conspiracy and drunkenness. His hateful nature has been allowed to gratify its lust on the Australasian Miranda. Neither the Australian Prospero nor the Australian Ariel have any power over the Australian Caliban He will do anything but work, he will not even carry logs. If Prospero pinches Caliban or makes him feel his power, the highly respectable rich religious people at home cry out, "you shall not do that;" and in fact, the Australian Prospero has never shown any gifts, supernatural or scientific, for keeping Caliban in his place.
That I think is deeply to be regretted. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts has, I am told, been very successful in its century of operations. The Church Missionary Society has probably converted India to Christ. It may be so. I do not know. What I do know is, that the Australian aboriginal is, at this hour, a more debased creature than he was before he was taught to hide his shame in a regulation blanket. The last time I was at the neighbouring port of Bowen three or four cockle shell canoes paddled in the early morning up to the starboard side of the English commercial steamer on which I was a passenger. Each canoe contained what appeared to be several bundles of rags. Presently the rags fell from half-a-dozen full grown naked women, who proceeded to cover themselves with the waters of the transparent sea. Some ardent youths, my companions in travel, began to waste their substance in riotously throwing half-crowns, shillings, florins, and silver sixpences into the great laughing water. Down went the bronze mermaids head first into the deep, out of sight, bringing up the shining coin which they had caught, and showing it in gleeful triumph. This submarine exhibition of Australian art was open for more than an hour, and those Australian mermaids paddled to their camp each with sixteen shillings in her mouth, which would be spent in rum and tobacco.
I had seen men and boys diving for silver sixpences on heathen coasts, but it was reserved for me to see full grown women do the like within sound of the English Church bell. Each of those women had a little baby, and I think it is right to ask if those babies are to be allowed to grow up as irresponsible as kangaroos, and to have free warren over the Australian vineyard without being compelled to take their share in dressing and keeping it?
However, the Australian Caliban is not available for the Australian sugar garden. He will steal as much sugar as he can; but I think he should have a fair share of the educating cane.
The Islanders of the Islands of the Coral Sea are superior beings to the Australian Caliban. Many have a strong strain of European blood, with an occasional Oriental and Anglo-Indian outline of face. They speak a language which is at once musical and familiar, in which you find a fair sprinkling of Spanish and Arabic names and words. Palacios Papà, Gomes, Baul, Rodrigues, Pasián, and Fandango were among some of the names I took down from Islanders' lips. They resemble the people with whom I have lived in the Gulf of Paria, in the Valley of the Cauca, on the mountain plateaus of Cundinamarca, and on the borders of the Gran Chaco. They go stark naked, and are all the shades you can make out of black and white. They are a highly moral people, [I am not surprised at the laugh which greets this remark, because I know that when we are brought in close contact with a stranger and more brutal nature than our own, we succumb at once, and probably with pleasure.] They are possessed in a large degree of the industrial and fine arts. They are hard-working, ingenious, imitative, docile, cleanly—if you don't make them wear clothing; fond of music and dancing, laughter, making love, intriguing and . The women are singularly affectionate, grateful, humourous and vain. The married women appear to be absolutely loyal, and certainly I never saw or heard a married woman sneer at her husband or speak ill of him except behind his back. Some are very beautiful, others are merely pretty, a few are as plump as partridges, and because they are natural, I did not see a single ugly woman amongst them.
I have now on two different occasions in twenty years, made two different journeys from England to Australia in ships carrying on each several hundred immigrants, such as serving maids from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England; tradesmen, deluded clerks, agricultural labourers, drapers' assistants, grocers, lawyers, and other useless and mischievous people with their wives and daughters; and I have now just returned from a voyage of 138 days in a vessel of 170 tons carrying eighty-nine naked men and women; and I beg to say, that in sobriety and cleanliness, the ability to amuse themselves in industry and cheerful content and gratitude, in sweetness and human dignity, the unchristian heathen of the Coral Sea, to use a phrase, licked the baptised Britishers hollow.
They cultivated in their own beautiful islands sugar cane, tobacco, yams, cocoanuts, bananas, nutmegs, arrowroot, harricot beans, bread fruit, the sweet potato or caucán, and many other fruits, and flowers and precious things. We came on illimitable beds of delicious oysters, and large virgin reefs within which you find the beche-de-mer in strange and marvellous abundance.
The Islands themselves on which these people dwell are of singular and fantastic beauty. They are all volcanic, and spring from platforms of coral rock a thousand fathoms deep, and rise to the sky in outlines like unto stratified music. When the sea which surrounds them is like liquid opal and the sun tips their peaks with gold, or bathes their valleys in purple, or paints their slopes in emerald green, you need the best words of the best poet to describe them.
The first island at which we called was New Ireland. It extends from Cape Santa Maria to Byron's Straits, 180 miles, and from Cape Santa Maria to Cape St. George, 60 miles. It rises to heights varying from 600 feet to 3000 feet in a series of bold ranges, whose summits and valleys are densely clothed with luxuriant vegetation. As many as 200 natives visited the ship in their frail canoes, bringing all kinds of delicious fruits and vegetables for barter. We bought a cart load of yams, cocoanuts, vegetable marrows, sugar cane, arrowroot, bananas, almonds, Chili peppers, and sweet lemons for what in money value would amount to about fifteen-pence. The canoes had no sails, but were well ornamented. The men belonged to a mixed race of feeble but graceful physique; they were below the average middle height, but a few measured 5ft. 10in. The chest of the biggest which I measured was only 32 inches round. At the invitation of the captain of the ship some thirty of the natives came on board, went over the ship, sat on the deck and had a smoke. Some of these we dressed up in red calico, painted their faces with oil colors showed them various things, and otherwise interested them and gained their good will. One of the more demonstrative wished to kiss the Government Agent, but that gentleman had presence of mind to evade the attention by giving the native his cigar.
Now, had the Government Agent been drunk in his bunk, botanising on shore, or otherwise willingly keeping his eyes shut, or had the captain been an unscrupulous scoundrel, those thirty natives could have been placed under hatches, conveyed to Mackay, and the ship have made an absolute profit of £765 by the transaction, and nobody been any the wiser.
Such things have happened.
The temptation is sufficiently great to men who have no character to lose—over whom it is next to impossible to exert control—and therefore the Government interfered, as it was bound to interfere. But it was one of the worst things that could have happened. When a Government does not make the administration of justice its one and only business, but is compelled to mix itself up with the people's business and issue regulations about how the people shall do their business, and when they shall do it and dictate what the people shall work at, the number of hands and feet they shall employ in their garden, and whether they shall be white or black and the wage that shall be given, chaos will have come into the industrial army, and the industrial army and the industrial war cannot go on.
The reason why the Government was bound to interfere, even at the awful cost of forsaking its legitimate functions, was that murder was being done under the guise of trade, and man-stealing was being carried on in the name of commerce.
Oh, the pity of it!
There was not the slightest necessity for these disgusting and disgraceful irregularities. But there is for sinful man some diabolical fascination in man-hunting that exceeds fox hunting, fishing or shooting birds as much as real war exceeds a sham fight. It has always been so under all the dynasties of recorded time. Man hunting, in all probability, achieved the acme of its infamy under Charles V., and was carried on by all the Christian monarchies until a very recent date. How, with what and blood it was abolished in the United States we all know full well. How the Southern States are at the present moment yielding a fuller and nobler increase under their changed conditions than they yielded under the reign of the slavemonger has been made obvious to the meanest capacity. But that we, at this hour and period of the great industrial war, should, on our seeking to found an English colony within the tropics, have got hampered and embarrased on the question of labor, is one of those accidents in your history that cannot possibly assume a permanent influence in any shape or form.
Here have forced upon us two questions which cannot, and ought not to be shirked.
1. What measure of blame is due to you?
2. Was the interference of Government effective?
1 That you have been blameworthy to a large extent is too amply proved by the amount of blame which is due to you still. The death rate among South Sea Islanders on some of your estates has reached theheight of sixty per cent. These deaths all arose from preventible causes. You have shown no ability in acclimatising the Islanders whom you bought, and when through purely climatic effects men and women dropt down dead, and continued to die like rotten sheep, you were supine in the application of remedial measures. It is notoriously true that the Islanders on your plantations have not been properly or appropriately fed. Many have been allowed to die of ulcers, , fever, wounds, paralysis, delirium, dropsy, opthalmia, , and from fear. The number of the "missing" and the "found dead" has not yet been reckoned up; that number you know to be very great. How many have gone mad, you do not know, or care to know. How many have died while watching on your own solitary shores for the ship to come which had been promised to carry them home, you cannot accurately declare; nor are you yet quite sure that you have found out the right way of sustaining, lodging, and clothing these labourers. This is a very serious indictment. But more remains. When on a recent occasion 224 of these people died in a brief space out of some 580, then down with suffering and sorrow, who was present when these Islanders passed away? When anyone was present in those last moments he was generally some brutal person, who could not speak a word of the dying man's tongue, some wretch who was probably not quite sober, or some prentice butcher placed there to do the mere mechanical part of shovelling the remains into a hole.
Let me ask you, not how many hours did you keep these people at work, but, did you ever give them any play? These Islanders are passionately fond of music and dancing; in their own homes or on their own yellow sands, they are nearly always getting up a song, and having a dance. How have you knocked the song out of them, and crippled them for the dance? Had you known how to keep their hearts merry, their limbs had not lost their motion, they had not died. Some of you, to your honour, would never have taken these Islanders under your care or into your service, if you had not known how to handle them; and those very plantations where the right methods of treatment have prevailed, are proofs sufficient that the dire mortality which has occurred, was needless. Lastly, have you always been just in your dealing's with these children of the Coral Sea? It is astonishing, and to some, a thing unknown, that injustice kills. To many human beings injustice is more deadly than rats' bane or arsenic. The cause of much of the injustice which planters have meted out to their Islanders, is that in an insolent sense of their own religious as well as racial superiority, they have regarded the Islanders as heathen, and therefore, out of the pale of justice! This thrice-accursed conviction is strong in the minds of all professing Christians, especially those who place a higher value on pious beliefs than on human feelings; and it will become the bounden duty of all citizens of Queensland to ascertain whether this thrice-accursed conviction is wide-spread and abiding; because, if it be, then the trade in Kanakas must cease; not only in the interests of the Islanders, but in your own interests and the interest of humanity.
Heathen! I would infinitely rather live the rest of my days on one of the Islands of the Coral Sea among these "Gentiles of the Isles" than among a people whose god is a trinity of lust, avarice, and greed!
This brings me to our second question. Was the interference of Government in regulating, rectifying, or conducting the labour traffic, effective?
If I have in much sorrow, accused you of blame, it is with much more indignation that I accuse the Government of Queensland of interfering in the labour traffic in such a manner as to foster abuses, breed scandals, and induce the grossest outrages ever committed on human beings.
We have agreed, that Government was compelled to interfere, because murder was being done in the name of trade, and man-stealing in the name of commerce. But the interference ought to have been effective. It was the most defective interference ever made by Government. It was a disgraceful mockery—a shameful delusion, and an effectual snare.
Under the organised interference of Government, Islanders have been brought from their homes who never understood the nature of the "contract" into which they were beguiled.
Under the organised interference of Government, labour vessels have been made into dens of infamy where the grossest sensuality, and obscene living have been rampant, in which some representatives of Government took part, and were as conspicuous for their treachery to the Executive, as for their loathsome immoralities.
Under the organised interference of Government, labour vessels have been fraudulently measured, whereby the responsible Minister has licensed a ship to carry more Islanders than the Statute allowed.
Under the same organised interference, many thousands of Islanders have, by a legal figment, been enthralled in Queensland after having been illegally beguiled from their homes by the very men whom Government had selected to represent it; and whose duty it was to hinder the doing of these things.
Under the organised interference of Government, the Government submitted complacently to insult and outrage in the persons of some of its representatives, which only a Government conscious of its own corruption, could have so submitted itself
Under the organised interference of Government, other things have been done, which I will, for the present, refrain from revealing; but if need be, I will make known with sufficient clearness of speech in my own time. Lest, however, it should be supposed by some, that this is mere rhetorical nourish, 1 will ask you to try to imagine how much infanticide has been committed in these Islands since Government began its ineffectual interference?
You will never guess.
I think that another thing for which Government is specifically responsible ought not to be passed over. I allude to the pernicious evil of deluding- the public by means of the non-effective interference of Government. The people have been deluded by the way the Government have carried out its none effective interference. This is what I have called an effectual snare. Had the interference of Government been real, earnest, or what it pretended to be, instead of being an organised, the people would not have been deceived, the traffic might have been loyally conducted, and unreported outrages, and outrages, that have been too much reported, would not have been begun and systematically continued.
But now let us get into the fresh air and resume our experience at the Islands.
We brought no natives from New Ireland because we had no attractions to offer them. They wanted rifles, if you please, and gunpowder, and we had nothing but prints that would not wash, pipes that would not draw, knives and tomahawks too soft to sharpen, looking glasses, mouth organs, fish hooks, jews harps and small glass beads.
An incident occurred at New Ireland which is worth telling: The captain who had given up all hope of seducing New Irelanders to sell themselves made all sail for Cape St. Mary. We had not been two hours before the wind when we came on a large fleet of canoes, containing not less than three hundred islanders, They carried no arms, they brought no provisions to market; thereupon the master reversed sails and came to a stand, for surely here were people anxious for a free passage to Queensland, to enlist in the industrial army. The canoes came close to the ship, but there was no sign that a single soul meant to sell himself. The captain then opened up his cheap jackery, he filled both hands with gauds—the mate and recruiter held up knives and tomahawks. "All this" shouted the skipper, "for one boy!" Then on the instant came from the canoes one unanimous cry of "gammon!" I was never more surprised in my life, and diligently enquired of the captain afterwards as to what he thought of this use of the English slang word, and whether the natives could know its real meaning. On which he said that he supposed "some adjective missionary fellow had been among them!" If that be so it is the most valuable missionary intelligence I have ever received. Then did the captain, because he would not be baulked, begin to play on a jews harp. No doubt he had been accustomed thus to play the syren, but to my infinite amazement, some of the natives began to make much more accordant music in response on their own Panpipes! If "gammon" was scathing, scornful, satire, the pandean pipe playing was sweetest humour. The captain seeing that nothing could be done, observed a squall coming on, so he gave the word "bout ship," and we continued our course, and the natives paddled home, no doubt to thread small beads, tell tales, and go to sleep before a fire under the cocoa palms.
This matter of the small colored glass bead remained a mystery to me for a long time. Here were full grown men willing to sell themselves for a thimble full of glass beads! What could it mean? Here were women parting with all control over their own souls and bodies for as many glass beads as you could hold between thumb and fingers; you could buy a splendid ammón or canoe capable of holding 20 men for six penn'orth of glass beads; you could get 10,000 cocoa nuts f.o.b. for eighteen pence in the form of glass beads.
What could be the meaning of folly so obvious to the commercial mind? I will answer that question.
One day when the weather was unpropitious, the heat excessive, and life very dull and heavy on board ship, and hardly worth living, the captain gave our women a present of those beautiful glass beads, 10,000 of which you can buy for 2s. 8d. Instantly the face of all creation was changed; joy took the place of deadly dullness, every woman was happy; and when women are glad, men cannot be sorrowful. On another occasion we took on board a youthful naked woman, without the least speck of ornament or cicatrisation or tattooing, and she was so melancholy for the first day or two that I began to suspect that she had been carried away against her will. I made strictest enquiry, and found that she had come for love; she had climbed out of the sea into the boat of her own free accord and would not be turned out of it. What, therefore, was the matter? She found herself miserable, poor and naked amongst some of her own sisters whose necks and arms and loins were covered with the precious glass bead, and she was shy, demure, lonely, and full of woe. She was very pretty, and the captain, who was not insensible to the charms of female beauty, gave her a small match box full of beads. As if by magic she was a changed being; it was soon found that she had a peculiarly sweet voice, and five minutes later she was leaning against this one, then against that, giving opinions, and in the most interest in your welfare and criticising everything and everybody all round. Moreover, she was married a few days after she had come into her kingdom of glass beads.way taking an
The explanation of this mystery is as follows:—The natives of those Islands are great artists in shells. They make lovely bracelets out of shells, which they call "altiltol ambulot." Earrings, nose, and finder rings, all out of shells, which they call kabón. Kabón is a generic word for wealth. The man or woman with the longest string of kabón, is the most important person in the village; it is equivalent to the family diamonds of our own aristocracy. An ample necklace of real kabón takes a life-time to make, and these children of the Coral Sea regard our Brummagem moulded glass beads (coloured), as of equal value. This is the solution of the small bead mystery, which, in all probability, will be a mystery for some time yet, but may not last quite so long as some mysteries of less importance to the families of men, which hold them in as deep a spell and give as deep a tone, and tint to their lives.
From New Ireland we made a rapid run to Melapheelee, Melaleff, and Maleur, known on the charts as the Khaan Group. From these Islands we obtained, on two visits, forty-five men and women. We could easily have doubled the number but that women were refused. There was no difficulty whatever in obtaining the men brought away. Some sold themselves, and gave the proceeds to their kingsfolk and acquaintance. In other cases the "king" got a portion of the barter gauds for himself. The "king" on more than one island was not at all a bad looking scoundrel. He seemed to have absolute command over the lives of the natives; he orders this man to go, and he goes: this other to stay, and he remains; otherwise they pay their king no respect; he paddles his own canoe, catches his own fish, and takes his place like the rest in a canoe of twenty, and works as a common man when any common work is done
Limited as the authority of the king or chief is, it has a marked effect on the life and conduct of the natives, for they learn obedience, and readily fall into any rule or regulation under which they may come on board ship, or on a plantation.
I am morally persuaded that the great attraction which brings the Islanders to Queensland is, that they may carry back muskets and gunpowder. They come, as I have said, with readiness, and are contented to come, but they have no idea of the duration of time; they cannot realise the meaning of three years or three yams, as applied to a space of time; they have no memory, not even so much as the domestic dog, and you can only impress their minds by the same or similar means. As for understanding, a "contract" printed on paper, the thing is simply a solemn farce.
On our way from New Ireland to Melapheelee, we spoke an American whaler, and made a very near acquaintance with a sperm whale, whose leviathian-bevelled sides were sixty feet in length; and I could not help feeling jealous for Queensland, that a traffic so essentially English as that of whaling, should not he pursued in waters so convenient to Queensland ports. From the Khaan Group we went to Gerrit Denys, another much larger group of much larger Islands. The natives speak the same language, but with a pronunciation so different, as to make it seem, on first hearing, to be a different idiom; they are of the same mixed breeds; carry on the same commerce and cultivation; have among them no lawyers or tailors, or shoemakers, or doctors or priests; and the only ambition they have, is to possess a long string of glass beads and a gun.
Here I went through the terrible experience of knowing how more vessels are lost in calms than in storms. Our ship was lying close to San Antonio, with nothing but light airs playing with the sails. All day a heavy sea swell had rolled in from the north-east About half-past ten at night there came a dead calm, the swell heaving us stealthily on to the reef which ran out from San Antonio. The night up to eleven o'clock was clear, when there came down not showers, but waves of rain hiding stars and sky from sight. The thunder was simply maddening, but there was a candour about the lightning which robbed it of any malignant partiality; by its occasional flashes we were kept advised of the silver waves which shivered on the coral reef immediately under our port bow. The captain behaved with promptness and skill, helped by a crew who manned the boats and pulled the nose of the ship into a safe position; a breeze sprang up which favoured us, and after a night of grave anxiety we got under sail for the Solomons, glad to get out of the way of skulking reefs into the free and open sea.
Man has made nothing so beautiful as a ship, but it is also the most helpless of things; a ship without wind is a body without a soul, and the time will come when, if these visits to the islands of the Coral Sea are to be continued, they will be made not in three-masted barquentines, but in vessels, to whom a breeze is no favour and a dead calm a great boon.
The time occupied in the voyage was, as I have said, one hundred and thirty-three days; had the ship been provided with an auxiliary screw, the voyage, including the clays occupied in recruiting, could have been done in less than twenty-five days.
The method of recruiting is exactly like the old method of the recruiting sergeant in country towns at home. All the lies that can be conveyed to an Islander's fancy are palmed off on him, and no mortal mixture of earth's mould, is so easily deceived as he; he is an adapt in deceiving himself, and he indulges in it as some lower natures indulge in ardent spirits; but when he is helpt in his self deception by one who is an artist in lying, then the Islander falls easily into the snare which is laid before his open eyes. Nothing has astonished me so much as the little that is known of the natural history of these people, and apparently no one cares to know anything about them.
Let me remind you, that these Islanders have never been conquered by a superior race. They have never come under the discipline of even when these are given by a man in a language they do not know, and thinks he will be understood if he speaks sufficiently loud. They have not been trained to continuous effort, they have never felt the insolence or the graciousness of correction—save the little moral influence which may be said to be induced in them by being ruled in a limited degree by their kings or head men, they know little or nothing of restraint. The physic of the doctor, the rod of the schoolmaster, or the rousing voice of the gangman are all odious to them. They die as willingly under the influence of a little authority as they do on a meat diet or a reduction of the temperature. They would give the world to know English, or that the English knew New Irish. Having the frailty of all human beings they are fond of sympathy and an exchange of ideas; nothing is so sweet to them as beads and a clear understanding of what is wanted from them; what they want themselves and what they are going to receive for what they are willing to part with. But from this they are at present debarred, and in a manner that is absolutely appalling to behold; men get angry if these summer children do not apprehend the meaning of an inarticulate thundering noise or some unhuman pantomime. Up to the present your South Sea Islander has been an expensive failure, and I cannot help saying it, you who have suffered most are most to blame.rule; have never known what it is to obey orders,
What remedy you will provide for this state of things, circumstances, an increase of accurate knowledge, combined with the best experience and your common sense, will dictate. You may, perhaps, until an able and enlightened Government shall open up India to your choice, come to the conclusion, that to have training depots at the Islands to prepare and discipline recruits for your garden will be better, more worthy of you in every way, and would certainly be cheaper than to keep expensive and sometimes excellent and adequate hospitals on your own estates. Take, for instance, Bouka, the northernmost point of the Solomons, and always within a day of the ever constant south-east monsoon. There you could acquire suitable land, set up copra works, collect the grotesque but profitable bêche-de-mer, plant sugar, and have a model plantation from whence you could obtain well-drilled recruits for your own service. By this means, or something after this way, you would get better men; you would secure a fair proportion of the hill tribes who are more adapted for acclimatisation; you would obviate the risk, danger, and cost of long voyages. Governmental regulations, if these must continue, could then be rationally carried out without the slightest need of running counter to regulations which have a precedence over all colonial regulations or Government resolutions, or Government Agents. I allude, of course, to the regulations of the Mercantile Shipping Act and the exactions of Insurance Companies. At any rate we all know that the labour traffic is a traffic which need never have brought us trouble. We know that for it to be continued it must be found to be fit and appropriate, and continued in sympathy with the great Head of the Department. The best men, the best appliances, the most experienced intelligences combined with a passion for justice, and an unswerving allegiance to that which is excellent and right must mark your conduct. Then instead of your Islander costing you large sums of money and a world of care to recruit and make fit for your service he shall not cost you the fourth even in money value of what he costs you now.
And for our dear mother who lectures us, we will never cease to say—
"O England! model to thy inward greatness,
Like little body with a mighty heart,
What mightst thou do that honour would thee do
Were all thy children kind and natural."
POLE, OUTRIDGE & CO., PRINTERS, WICKHAM STREET, BRISBANE.
- The names of some of the Spanish ships which formed part of the Armada, and were destroyed or taken by Drake, Howard, and Hawkins.
- By this figure of speech I did not mean as I have been maliciously represented to mean the Premier of Queensland, but One, who although He goes by many names is quite unknown to the vast majority of men, both in this colony and out of it.