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Chapter VII.

A COROBBERY—“THE OLD BULL”—ABORIGINES—THEIR EXTERIOR—WOMEN—WEAPONS—FOOD—CANNIBALISM—LANGUAGE—MANORIAL RIGHTS—BLACK OUTRAGES AND WHITE REPRISALS—EVICTION AND DESTRUCTION OF ABORIGINES—POISON—MASSACRE—THE LAW'S VENGEANCE—“THE OLD BULL”'S DEATH—NATIVE LABOURERS AND POLICE—MISSIONS—JACKY-JACKY—DEATH OF KENNEDY.

AFTER dinner this evening our attentive host, Mr. Lawson, procured for our entertainment a Corobbery, or native dance. Proceeding to a short distance from the house, we found a level spot illuminated by a large blazing fire of logs and branches—for these aboriginal ballets always take place after dark. In the dusky distance sat a crowd of indistinct figures, while on one side of the fire squatted a party of “gins,”note who, after some preparations, commenced drumming upon a skin tightly stretched over their knees, assisting the dull cadence with a monotonous song, or rather scream. This had continued a few minutes, gradually increasing in loudness and energy, when the men, uttering a wild howl, sprung upon their feet and began the dance.




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They were all naked, or nearly so, and painted from top to toe in fantastic fashion—the pattern most in vogue being an imitation of a skeleton, contrived by chalking out the position of the spine and ribs with a white pigment. Their legs were uniformly striped downwards with broad white lines.

The first performance was a war-dance, wherein a variety of complicated evolutions and savage antics were gone through, accompanied by a brandishing of clubs, spears, boomerangs, and shields. Suddenly the crowd divided into two parties, and after a chorus of deafening yells and fierce exhortations, as if for the purpose of adding to their own and each other's excitement, they rushed together in close fight.

One division, shortly giving way, was driven from the field, and pursued into the dark void, where roars and groans, and the sound of blows, left but little to be imagined on the score of a bloody massacre. Presently the whole corps reappeared close to the fire, and, having deployed into two lines and “proved distance,” (as it is called in the sword exercise,) the time of the music was changed, and a slow measure was commenced by the dancers, every step being enforced by a heavy stamp and a noise like a paviour's grunt. As the drum waxed faster so did the dance, until at length the movements were as rapid as the human frame could possibly endure. At some passages they all sprung into the air a wonderful height, and, as their feet again touched the ground, with the legs wide astride, the muscles of the thighs were set a quivering in a singular manner, and the straight white lines on the limbs being thus put in


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oscillation, each stripe for the moment became a writhing serpent, while the air was filled with loud hissings. This particular tour de force, which had a singular effect in the fire-light, requires great practice. I remarked that the front-rank men only were adepts at it; and I was told that some could never acquire it—as sundry of my countrymen can never unravel with their clumsy feet the mysteries of the waltz and polka.

The most amusing part of the ceremony was the imitations of the dingo, kangaroo, and emu. When all were springing together in emulation of a scared troop of their own marsupial brutes, nothing could be more laughable, nor a more ingenious piece of mimicry. As usual in savage dances, the time was kept with an accuracy never at fault. The gentlemen of our party alone attended the Corobbery; for, whatever heraldry might do, decency could not have described any one of the performers as a “salvage man cincted, proper!” The men were tall and straight as their own spears, many of them nearly as thin, but all surprisingly active. Like most blacks they were well chested and shouldered, but disproportionately slight below the knee.

The chief of this tribe, and the only old man belonging to it, was of much superior stature than the others—full six feet two inches in height, and weighing fifteen stone. Although apparently approaching threescore years, and somewhat too far gone to flesh, the strength of “the Old Bull”—for that was his name—must still have been prodigious. His proportions were remarkably fine; the development of the pectoral muscles and the depth of chest were greater than I had ever seen in individuals


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of the many naked nations through which I have travelled. A spear laid across the top of his breast as he stood up, remained there as on a shelf. Although ugly, according to European appreciation, the countenance of the Australian is not always unpleasing. Some of the young men I thought rather well looking, having large and long eyes, with thick lashes and a pleasant frank smile. Their hair I take to be naturally fine and long, but from dirt, neglect, and grease, every man's head is like a huge black mop. Their beards are unusually black and bushy. I have since seen one or two domesticated Aborigines whose crops were remarkably beautiful, parted naturally at the top of the head, and hanging on the neck in shining curls. The skin, however, is so perfectly sable, the lips so thick, and the nose so flat, as to qualify the Australian black for the title of the Austral negro. The gait of the Australian is peculiarly manly and graceful; his head thrown back, his step firm; in form and carriage at least he looks creation's lord,

“——erect and tall, God-like erect, in native honour clad.”

If our first parent dwelt in Mesopotamia, and his colour accorded with the climate, his complexion must have more nearly resembled the Australian's than our own. In the action and “station” of the black there is none of the slouch, the stoop, the tottering shamble, incident all upon the straps, the braces, the high heels, and pinched toes of the patrician, and the clouted soles of the clodpole whiteman.

It is surprising that, naked as nature, the Aborigines


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can endure equally the hot winds of summer and the frosts of winter, a range of thermometer from 120° to 20°. All the men are disfigured by the absence of one of the front teeth, which is punched out with great ceremony on the attainment of the age of puberty. Another very unbecoming practice in both sexes consists in a rude species of tattooing, performed by a series of cuts on the flesh of the breast and shoulders, which, by some special treatment, are made to heal in high ridges, having precisely the appearance of a weal from the severe stroke of a whip. Nor is the white headband, which tightly compresses the forehead, any more ornamental than its use is comprehensible. According to the rules of what poor Theodore Hook called “Free knowledgy,” the Australian cranium is exceedingly ill shaped—the animal bumps largely preponderating over the intellectual.

The women are mere drudges and sumpter-animals, preparing the food in camp and on journeys carrying the baggage as well as the infants, while the men stalk in front bearing their weapons alone. Wooed, as it is said, by dint of blows, they are ever after ruled by club law; and there is for them no reservation as to the thickness of the corrective stick! At meals they sit apart from the males, and their food is thrown to them as to the dogs. Polygamy, infanticide, and forcible abduction of females, are also some of the rumpled rose-leaves of Australian domestic life.

The chief native weapons are as follows:—The spear, nine or ten feet long, rather thicker than one's finger, tapered to a point hardened in the fire, and sometimes


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jagged. The wammera, or throwing stick, shows considerable ingenuity of invention. About two and a half feet long, it has a hook at one end which fits a notch on the heel of the spear, in whose projection it acts very much like a third joint to the arm, adding very greatly to the force. A lance is thrown with ease and accuracy sixty, eighty, and an hundred yards. The waddy is a heavy, knobbed club, about two feet long, and is used for active service, foreign or domestic. It brains the enemy in the battle, or strikes senseless the poor “gin” in cases of disobedience or neglect. In the latter instance a broken arm is considered a mild marital reproof. “La femme est sacrée—la femme qu'on aime est sainte,” gallantly writes a native of the most civilized of nations. “A woman is a slave—a wife an anvil!” would be the Australian free translation of the French dictum.

The stone tomahawk is employed in cutting opossums out of their holes in trees, as well as to make notches in the bark, by inserting a toe into which the black can ascend the highest and largest gums in the bush. One can hardly travel a mile in New South Wales without seeing these marks, old or new. The quick eye of the native is guided to the retreat of the opossum by the slight scratches of its claws on the stem of the tree. The boomerang, the most curious and original of Australian war-implements, is, or was, familiar in England as a toy. I believe its law of projection is not well understood. It is a paradox in missile power. There are two kinds of boomerang—that which is thrown to a distance straight ahead; and that which returns on


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its own axis to the thrower. I saw, on a subsequent occasion, a native of slight frame throw one of the former two hundred and ten yards, and much further when a ricochet was permitted. With the latter he made several casts truly surprising to witness. The weapon, after skimming breast high nearly out of sight, suddenly rose high into the air, and returning with amazing velocity towards its owner, buried itself six inches deep in the turf, within a few yards of his feet. It is a dangerous game for an inattentive spectator. An enemy, or a quarry, ensconced behind a tree or bank, safe from spear or even bullet, may be taken in the rear and severely hurt or killed by the recoil of the boomerang. The emu and kangaroo are stunned and disabled, not knowing how to avoid its eccentric gyrations. Amongst a flight of wild-ducks just rising from the water, or a flock of pigeons on the ground, this weapon commits great havoc. At close quarters in fight the boomerang, being made of very hard wood, with a sharp edge, becomes no bad substitute for a cutlass.

Sir Thomas Mitchell, “on observing the motion of the boomerang in the air, whirling round a hollow centre, and leaving a vacant centre of gravity,” was struck with the idea of adopting its principle to the propulsion of ships; and, if I mistake not, he received in 1848 a patent for the invention. I have not heard whether the idea has been made practical.

The hieleman, or shield, is a piece of wood, about two and a half feet long, tapering to the ends, with a bevilled face not more than four inches wide at the broadest part, behind which the left hand, passing through a hole, is


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perfectly guarded. With this narrow buckler the native will parry any missile less swift than the bullet.

In one of my visits to Mr. Suttor, the black, “Fishhook,” permitted me—no contemptible “shy” either—to pelt him with stones as rapidly as I could throw them at twenty paces, invariably turning aside those aimed at his head or body, and jumping over those directed at his legs. I thought the boomerang would have puzzled him, but did not propose a trial.

In throwing the spear, after affixing the wammera, the owner poises it, and gently shakes the weapon so as to give it a quivering motion, which it retains during its flight. Within fifty or sixty paces the kangaroo must, I should conceive, have a poor chance for his life.

The natives are not always in the humour either for performing the Corobbery with spirit or for exercising their weapons with skill, merely for the amusement of strangers. At Wellington, a noted good spearsman having missed three or four times the piece of bark I had set up for him, I put a sixpence on the top, and taking a policeman's carbine, made the black fellow understand, that if I knocked the coin down before him, I would re-pocket it. Whilst pretending to take aim, I saw the savage brace up his muscular little figure, fix his fierce emu-like eye on the target, and in an instant he had transfixed its centre at sixty yards. Having put the “white money” into his mouth, he had to exert all his strength, with his foot on the sheet of bark, to withdraw the weapon.

The spear is immeasurably the most dangerous arm of the Australian savage. Many a white man has owed


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his death to the spear; many thousands of sheep, cattle, and horses have fallen by it. Several distinguished. Englishmen have been severely wounded by spear-casts; among whom I may name Captain Bligh, the first Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Grey and Captain Fitzgerald, the present Governors of New Zealand and Western Australia, and Captain Stokes, R. N., long employed on the survey of the Australian coasts. The attack by the blacks upon the Lieut.-Governor of Swan River occurred so lately as December 1848. In self-defence, he was compelled to shoot his ferocious assailant, just too late to save himself being seriously hurt by a spear passing through his thigh.

It appears singular that that simple but formidable arm, the bow and arrow, is unknown in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, although used by the natives of many of the smaller South Sea islands. The Englishman has a natural respect for the six-foot bow and clothyard shaft which his ancestors wielded with so much prowess; and he shows it by keeping up the practice of them as a pastime. I never heard of an archery meeting among the white votaries of fashion in New South Wales—an out-door amusement so popular at home, and, as Mrs. Gore somewhere says, so well adapted “to promote the consumption of young ladies, ham, chicken, and champagne,”—not to mention that of Time, the old enemy of people who have nothing to do. But I forget; there are no idlers in New South Wales among the men, and the ladies cannot afford to expose their complexions to a semi-tropical sun.




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If the bill of fare of the Aborigine be not tempting, it has at least the charm of variety. Besides the kangaroo, which is his venison, the emu his pheasant, he has fish and wild-fowl, both of which he catches with nets neatly constructed by the women. Then he delights in such small game as snakes, guanas, grubs, and the larvæ of white ants. The gum of the acacia, which resembles gum-arabic, but is sweeter, and the pulp of a bulrush ground into flour, are among his most innocent articles of food. Honey is no less so; and the black deserves to enjoy this luxury for the dexterity with which he sometimes discovers its whereabout. Catching a stray bee, he sticks upon its little busy body with gum an atom of white down from the owl or swan, and, releasing the scared insect, follows it by eye and foot to the hole in the hollow tree where the comb is concealed, and whence it is quickly cut out, after the hive has been well smoked. Pity that all his gastronomic tastes are not quite so innocent! but I fear—despite the resistance of this creed by some experienced colonists and travellers—that the New Holland savage is a most atrocious cannibal. If he be not so, for what purpose have long flakes of flesh been cut from the bodies of murdered men, white and black, and hung up to dry in the sun? And what peculiar virtue is there in human kidney-fat, which is undoubtedly accounted an article of value by the Australian tribes? I fear—very much fear, that the former is but the pemican, the latter the rognon, of the savage cuisine. The brawny chieftain, “the Old Bull,” is suspected of having in his earlier days treated one or more Englishmen—not to mention black-game—precisely


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as an Englishman would have treated a wood-cock; i.e. brought him down in good style, given him a turn or two before the fire, and discussed him with zest and appetite. The jaws and teeth of this huge savage certainly promised unequalled powers of mastication.

Well-authenticated instances of this terrible practice are to be found in the works of various authors; but one, related in a parliamentary Blue Book of 1844, exhibits, as Sir George Gipps remarks, “perhaps one of the most ferocious acts of cannibalism on record.” It is too long and too horrible to find admission here; but those who do not shrink from revolting details may find the incident alluded to at page 241 of the collection of Parliamentary papers on this colony, 9th August, 1844. Instances of parents killing and devouring their children, if uncommon, are not unknown. One of the Protectors of the Natives of the Port Phillip District has recorded a case in which an infant was butchered and eaten by its mother and brethren. “Paidophagy” in a mother may be considered as marsupial instinct pushed to the utmost extremity!

The language appeared to me soft and full of vowels and liquids; and is spoken with extreme volubility, especially by the women. Some of the native names of places are grandly sonorous and polysyllabic. It is well when they are retained by the English possessors of the lands, instead of substituting vulgar and unmeaning European titles. Here are a string of names—taken at hazard (that sort of hazard that suits a purpose)—almost as round-sounding as old Homer's muster roll of heroes, and not unmusical in the shape of hexameters,—




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Wollondilly, Gĕlong, Bendendera, Coolapatamba, Tangabalanga, Pĕjar, Paramatta, Rhyana, Menangle, Gobberalong, Nandowra, Memendere, Ponkeparinga, Yass, Candalga, Mŏlong, Karajong, Naradandara, Bongbong!

The mutual political relation of the White race and the Australian blacks, with reference to the possession of the country by the former, is peculiar to itself. We hold it neither by inheritance, by purchase, nor by conquest, but by a sort of gradual eviction. As our flocks and herds and population increase, and corresponding increase of space is required, the natural owners of the soil are thrust back without treaty, bargain or apology. A tract of rich and virgin pasture is heard of through a surveyor or through some adventurous settler or stockman riding in search of fresh “runs;” and in an incredibly short time it is overrun with livestock. Heedless of the heritage of the savage, the vigilant squatter hurries to be the first white occupant. Depasturing licences are procured from Government, stations are built, the natives and the game on which they feed are driven back—the latter chased and killed by the Englishman's greyhounds; the graves of their fathers are trodden under foot by the stranger;—and yet, wandering and irregular as are the habits of these nomadic tribes, they are as staunch in their local attachments as other men. In proof of their sense of proprietary right, Mitchell relates that the natives of the Darling River country, on seeing his men drawing water from the stream, desired them to pour it out from their buckets, as if it belonged to them—digging a hole to receive it when it was poured out.




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“I have more than once,” says this enterprising explorer and pleasant writer, “seen a river-chief, on receiving a tomahawk, point to the stream, and signify that we were then at liberty to take water from it.”

If Mephistophiles could read the New South Wales police reports, how would he grin on finding that “certain Aboriginal blacks had been apprehended and punished for stealing dead timber, the property of Mr. Whiteman,” for fire-wood! The said Mr. Whiteman had purchased the land, on which the timber grew, from the Government, or had received it in free grant from the same source. What did the Government give for these “waste lands of the Crown?”—nothing! The grandfather of the prisoner probably hunted over this very ground—the culprit himself was perhaps born under the very gum-tree whose fallen boughs he had been “stealing!” The native lords of the soil have, I conceive, infinitely greater cause for displeasure, when they see the white usurper hunting down for mere pastime the kangaroo and bustard of their rightful demesne, or pulling out of their scanty rivers the magnificent cod-perch, than has the English lord of the manor and country justice of the peace when he finds his coverts have been thinned “of a shiny night,” of a few pheasants, or his stews swept of a sack-full of carp and tench. Yet many a magisterial double chin has quivered with angry emotion whilst its owner held forth on the heinousness of poaching; and, for aught I know, many a scape-grace bumpkin has found his way to this very country of the blacks for a crime no heavier than the wiring of a few hares or the netting of a few “birds.”


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A Christmas battue is spoilt, perhaps, in one case—a sad pity, I admit. But a tribe is starved to death, in the other!

What wonder that the native retaliates upon the sheep and cattle of the pale-faced trespasser on his land and food! He thinks, perhaps, in his primeval simplicity, that he has as good right to beef and mutton as John Bull-calf, the Anglo-Australian, has to kangaroo tail soup. Can one reasonably expect that any man, whatsoever his complexion, possessing a vigorous appetite and no moral code, will dine off grubs and lizards when a sirloin or a saddle is to be had for the cast of a spear? If a savage have any political creed he must be a leveller, a communist; and his resolution to share the white man's food is probably whetted by his knowledge, that the countless flocks that cover hill and plain, are the property of one person—and that person, perhaps, living at Sydney, hundreds of miles away.

It were well if the matter ended with the reciprocal destruction of property; but the past history of the colony and the occurrences of every month prove the contrary. The aggressions of the savage are followed by acts of reprisal on the part of the white man. The overseer, the stockman, and the shepherd of the distant pasturing station may be a hireling convict—emancipist, expiree, or ticket-of-leaver—not a model of virtue and forbearance. His sheep are “rushed” from the folds at night, his cattle driven off, speared, hamstrung or otherwise mutilated. He passes three or four days in the bush, hunting them up; and perhaps only recovers in order to have them again dispersed. His


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master visits the station, blames his carelessness, perhaps doubts his honesty. The owner goes away. The shepherd and his neighbours arm themselves, mount their stock-horses, proceed in chase of the marauders, and gain at least a temporary freedom from black forays by shooting half a tribe and scattering the survivors.

Some poor solitary shepherd or hut-keeper, perhaps utterly unconnected with this retaliatory expedition, repays with his life the unnecessary severity of the white party. His hut is robbed, his brains dashed out with a club. Three or four high-bred horses are speared, an imported Durham bull, value 200 guineas, or a Saxon ram, value 50, is hamstrung, and the rage of the proprietor himself is now aroused. Reprisals are undertaken on a large scale—a scale that either never reaches the ears of the Government, which is bound to protect alike the white and the black subject; or, if it reach them at all, finds them conveniently deaf. Is it not enough to irritate even the Executive, when they learn that a policeman's horse has been stolen, killed, and eaten!

The squatters or their representatives at the stations combine, arm themselves and their followers, and proceed on the tracks of the black-mail barbarians, guided probably by a domesticated native, and, easily overtaking them on horseback, extermination is the word! Men, women and children are butchered without distinction or stint. Superiority of weapon makes it a bloodless victory on the side of the Englishmen; but there is a species of excitement in it, and—children of


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wrath, as we are—it becomes by practice a pleasurable excitement.

Dreadful tales of cold-blooded carnage have found their way into print, or are whispered about in the provinces; and although there be Crown land commissioners, police magistrates, and settlers of mark, who deny, qualify, or ignore these wholesale massacres of the black population, there can be no real doubt their extirpation from the land is rapidly going on.

The savage is treacherous, blood-thirsty, cruel, ungrateful—often requiting the kindness and generosity of the Christian who is really friendly to him, by burning his huts and crops; or even barbarously murdering his benefactors. The civilized man is inordinately greedy of gain, and regards the black as a being scarcely above the beasts that perish. The result of this combination is the certain annihilation of the savage race.

One of the great squatters—the pastoral Nabobs—of the north-west country, told me at my own table in Sydney, that, just before he came down, he “had had a brush with the black fellows.” It seems that three or four hundred sheep had been driven off by night; upon hearing of which this gentleman (and I believe him to be at least as moderate and humane as the majority of his fellows) with a friend and his stockman, well-armed and mounted, went in pursuit. They shortly found that all the stock had been retrieved by the shepherds with the exception of ten wethers, which the natives had carried off into a dense scrub, where the smoke of their fires strongly betokened roast mutton. The Englishmen,


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fully resolved on beating up the quarters of the sable foragers, fastened their horses at the edge of the thicket, and, entering it on foot and following their noses, soon came upon the skins and remains of the lost sheep. Whilst examining the black camp, now vacant, they were suddenly saluted with a volley of spears discharged by a peculiar knack, so as to fall almost perpendicularly upon their heads through the tops of the tea-scrub, which was so thick as to be impervious to a point blank cast. Finding that a strong body of natives were silently closing upon and trying to surround them, they retreated to the open forest, and, each selecting a large tree, stood on the defensive. The blacks, rushing after them to the margin of the bush, let fly a shower of spears and boomerangs, which they avoided with no little difficulty. Thus beleaguered, the three Englishmen opened a rapid fire of bullets and slugs, which in a short time silenced and dispersed the enemy. On subsequently inspecting the scene of action, the bodies of eleven natives and half-a-dozen of their dogs were found—as great a loss of life as has occurred in many a well-fought frigate action. Twice as many must have been wounded. This affair was duly reported by the gentleman most concerned to the Commissioner of Crownlands, an officer representing the Government in the trans-frontier districts; and I fancy it must have been considered a case of justifiable negrocide, for I never heard any more about it.

In the same year a friend of mine connected with the colony, who had recently returned from a trip to the farwest for the purpose of catching up and driving in for


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sale at Sydney a lot of horses, informed me that, while sojourning among the border settlers, he heard plans for the destruction of the Aborigines constantly and openly discussed. It was common, after an inroad of the blacks upon the sheep or cattle, for the men of two or three adjoining stations to assemble for a regular and indiscriminate slaughter, in which old and young were shot down, as he said, like wolves; pregnant women being especial objects of destruction, as the polecat or weasel heavy with young is a rich prize for the English gamekeeper.

Occasionally bush-gossip let out that the “black fellows were going to get a dose:” and indeed, in more than one notorious instance, damper, well “hocussed” with arsenic or strychnine, was laid in the way of the savages, whereby many were killed. Some attempts were made to bring to justice the perpetrators of this cowardly as well as barbarous act; but, in the bush, justice is too often deaf, dumb and lame, as well as blind. The damper indeed was analysed, and poison detected therein; but of course no White evidence could be obtained; Aboriginal testimony is by the law of the land inadmissible; the bodies of the poisoned were too far decomposed for a lucid diagnosis; and, in short, these deliberate murderers escaped the cord. Others, however, have been less lucky.

About nine years ago a party of stockmen on Liverpool Plains, having had their herds much molested by the natives, determined on signal vengeance, and resolved to wreak it on the first blacks they met. Having fallen in with the remnants of a tribe, which having been


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partially domesticated with Europeans made no attempt at escape, they captured the whole of them, with the exception of a child or two; and having bound them together with thongs, fired into the mass until the entire tribe, twenty-seven in number, were killed or mortally wounded. The white savages then chopped in pieces their victims, and threw them, some yet living, on a large fire; a detachment of the stockmen remaining for several days on the spot to complete the destruction of the bodies.

In this case the law was sternly vindicated; for the murderers having been arrested and brought to trial, seven of them in one day expiated their offences on the scaffold. This wholesale execution of white men for the murder of blacks, at a time when hanging had become an unfrequent event, caused a great commotion among the white population, high and low—“judicial murder” being one of the mildest terms applied to the transaction. There certainly may be two opinions upon it, and therefore, as Lord Norbury remarked whilst adjudicating a similar case, “I think we had better drop the subject!”

In England we are unaccustomed of late to see or hear of our fellow-countrymen being hung up by half dozens; but in New South Wales, some such in terrorem exhibition of the law's extreme power may be occasionally necessary, or rather may have been so when two-thirds of the population were convicted felons, and one-half of the other third unscrupulous adventurers.

It is quite true that the residents of the cities and


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settled districts are not in a situation to judge fairly of the amount of provocation endured by those living in constant juxtaposition with fierce and treacherous barbarians. It is our next-door neighbour, the figurative paries proximus of the Latin poet, with whom we are always at such desperate loggerheads. But gentlemen of condition and education, such as many of the stock proprietors, while repelling with sufficient determination aboriginal aggression, might exert themselves more than is done to prevent sweeping and indiscriminate retaliation by their subalterns and servants. More than once I was no less shocked than surprised at hearing men of station and cultivation advocating a precisely opposite course; and, on one occasion, when a fiery young gentleman of the interior boasted before me that he would shoot a black fellow wherever he met him as he would a mad dog, I thought it a very ordinary Christian duty to inform the head of the Executive of the existence of a professor of such uncompromising tenets.

In the distant provinces of the colony collisions between the races have always been of frequent occurrence—were so up to the day on which I left it; and doubtless will prevail whenever a new tract is entered upon by the settlers, and wild tribes are encountered. Naturam expellas furcâ—you may drive back the native with the bayonet, but the savage, degraded as he may be, will fight for his hunting-grounds; and the Anglo-Saxon in his destined progress to possess the land, to have the heathen for his inheritance, will march over his body or make him his bondsman. The best we can


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hope for the poor blackeys is, that in time they may become voluntary labourers for hire, and thus gradually be brought to prefer some steady calling to their old, comfortless, and wandering habits. But it is not to be expected that they will abandon their free, though precarious mode of life, for one of hard and earnest toil unless for a tolerable equivalent.

I have found colonists condemning the race as hopeless in the way of labour, because some of them had deserted in the midst of the harvest after a few days' work. On inquiry, however, I heard that a meagre meal of broken victuals, or some article of cast off clothing, was the highest amount of remuneration bestowed on a stout and active black, while the white prisoner by his side in the hay-field was receiving a guinea a-week and regular rations. Some instances there have been of the successful employment of the natives, especially in pastoral pursuits, and they are fast increasing in number. If the haughty Red-man can bend to work for wages alongside the negro in the cotton-field—and such I believe has happened—the simple though wild Australian may surely be induced to labour with the European.

In the Port Phillip district, for the last four or five years, they have been thus employed to a considerable extent. A correspondent of the Sydney “Morning Herald,” in November 1850, mentions that, in a district where the blacks have always hitherto been most troublesome, “the once dreaded Macintyre country,” where scores of Englishmen have been murdered, and where stock has been destroyed or harried to such an extent, “that


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not only most of the first proprietors, but many of the second and third owners were ruined,” the blacks are now admitted into all the stations, acting generally throughout the district as stockmen, and supplying all the extra hands at lambing and sheep-washing times. At one station they have charge of 6,000 sheep.

Two or three days after the Corobbery before described, I saw the tribe, with their lubras and children, taking their way to some distant camping-place. The old chief collected his people by a loud “cooee”—the well-known peculiar cry of the race; and, tossing his huge arm to me by way of adieu, strode down the hill, followed by the rest in Indian file, a “formation” well adapted for threading the bush. The men erect, bearing only their weapons, the women cowering under heavy loads, they entered the scrub and were soon out of sight. In less than a month later we heard with regret that the stout old leader and six of his band had been killed in a treacherous attack by a hostile tribe, the latter having the advantage of fire-arms, shamefully supplied to them, as was reported, by white people, for the bloody and express purpose.

The experiment of enrolling as a border force a native mounted police, with British officers, has perfectly succeeded. In 1850, the division stationed on the Macintyre river consisted of forty-four men, with a commandant, two subalterns, and a sergeant-major. The pay of the privates is 3d. a-day; their uniform, a light dragoon undress. They are all quite young men, averaging five feet nine inches in height, light but strong and very quick at drill, the use of arms, and horsemanship.


  ― 237 ―
In the Port Phillip district a similar force has been raised. There is no want of recruits, nor need of “bounty.” The only difficulty is to choose among the herd of long-legged, shock-headed, grinning fellows, offering themselves “to plenty fight” for 3d. per diem! They have no qualms about acting with the utmost rigour against their brother black-fellows. Such is the terror of their name, that wheresoever a section of the force shows itself the evil-minded tribes instantly disappear.

Nor are rangers of the bush, fairer in skin but equally dark in deeds, less afraid of these active, vigilant, and dashing black Hulans. Shepherds and stockmen no longer fear to quit their huts, and gentlemen graziers may now ride from station to station without arming themselves like an ambulant arsenal. For bush duties, especially against their own countrymen, the native police is infinitely more effective than the English police. Indeed, with the latter force there are always a few blacks employed as “trackers.”

“Tame” blacks have been known, even when unconnected with the constabulary, to capture, single-handed, English bush-rangers, for the sake of the reward. However superior in bodily strength, however desperate his courage, the robber has no chance against the black scout unless possessed of fire-arms. The latter attacks him with a running fire of stones, thrown with such vigour and accuracy, that a few minutes would suffice to cut to pieces or disable the former. The superior agility of the savage effectually prevents close quarters; and, as for resisting with the same weapons, the poor


  ― 238 ―
clumsy Saxon might as well pelt a shadow. An instance was related to me of a native following for days, unsuspectedly, the steps of a runaway prisoner armed with a musket. Having exhausted the little food he had brought with him, the white man was at length compelled by hunger to fire at a bird, and, ere he could re-load, he was felled by a stone, followed by a sustained volley—something like that of Perkins's steam-gun—which soon placed both man and musket in the power of the wily savage.

In his purely natural state the New Hollander is little better than a wild beast. Indeed, he may be said to be the beast of prey of his native land. Strong, agile, fierce, voracious, crafty, his eye and hand are always ready for a victim. His reason, such as it is, serves the purpose of the tiger's instinct, and has scarcely a higher office to fulfil. Compared, moreover, with the innocent denizens of the Australian bush, he possesses the superior bodily strength of that tyrant of the Indian jungle. Yet, low in the scale of humanity as is the grade of the savage, I agree with those who believe the assumption unfair that he is incapable of attaining the same standard of intelligence as the European. No really effectual and properly sustained plan for his amelioration has as yet been extended to him. Efforts, prodigal indeed in zeal and money, have been made to civilize and Christianise him, but they have hitherto met with signal failure.

We are, in the prosecution of our present tour, to pass one, the greatest of all the Mission stations on this continent, that of Wellington Valley, where we are


  ― 239 ―
taught to expect a heap of ruins as the sole result or much earnest legislation, much labour and self-sacrifice on the part of the Churchmen engaged in it, and many thousands of pounds expenditure. These means, we are bound to believe, have unfortunately been ill directed towards the end desired, or not directed with sufficient patience and constancy.

The New Zealand native teacher reads and expounds the Scriptures. The Haytian and Haiwaiian Governments are distinct and distantly apart proofs of mental capacity in the darker races. The freed African slave is as quick in wit, as keen in business, as the white man. Nay, “if we go into the great cities of the United States, New York and Philadelphia, a comparison between the free negro population and the quarters occupied by the Irish emigrants would, we venture to say, be decidedly to the advantage of the former.”note The promptitude with which the Australian blacks enrolled in the police have acquired a proficiency not only in the manual parts of their duties, but in discipline, abstinence from drink, obedience to orders, &c., affords satisfactory testimony of their aptitude for better things.

Nor is there, I think, anything very extravagant in the assumption, that the creature who has sufficient skill and energy to construct the spear and the boomerang, to transfix the kangaroo at sixty paces, strike down the bird on the wing, ensnare the river fish with his nets, and pierce the sea-fish with his harpoon, who can manufacture his canoe and its implements, is capable, also,


  ― 240 ―
of learning more useful, though in fact less ingenious, arts and sciences.

It is never very difficult to make what may be vulgarly styled “blanket and soup” proselytes among a starving people; and accordingly the worthy and simple ministers of the Apsley Missionnote had at first a tolerable attendance at their schoolroom and refectory. In 1838 there were from fifty to eighty natives resident and supported at the mission. Many took kindly to the various departments of labour—tending cattle, thrashing corn, carrying wood and water, gardening, &c. The children were docile and promising; and sanguine hopes of eventual success in the good work were entertained. But the Principle of Evil sat not idly by. A hundred stumbling-blocks arose in the path upon which these poor people had but entered. Police, convict, and other government and private establishments grew up around the Mission-house. Attracted by the rich soil of the Wellington Valley, settlers, with troops of prisoner-servants, located themselves in the vicinity. It soon became anything but a quiet retreat for the Christians elect. Drunkenness was introduced by sly-grog-sellers; the females were seduced away by the Europeans, and were ashamed to return; the black scholars were encouraged to deride their teachers and the things taught. Many learned merely by rote, but all enjoyed the good feeding; the words Missionary and Commissary were synonymous terms with them; and however much the lecture-room declined in favour, the refectory was always well attended.




  ― 241 ―

Just when these zealous pastors had begun to congratulate themselves that they had subdued to the fold a remnant of these lost black sheep, a body of wild natives would arrive and camp beside the walls, and next day both the newly arrived and a batch of half-converts had disappeared together. I can picture to myself the mortification of the good teachers, as the wild Coo-ee of the savages, reclaiming their kindred, rang through the forest, and, obedient to the call, the half-tamed pupils, with flashing eyes and answering cry, tore off their garments—symbols of incipient civilization—and, once more naked, rushed into their native wilds.

“Give me again my hollow tree, My kangaroo and liberty!”

was their exclamation, as these children of the bush, tired of boiled mutton, turnips, potatoes, and tea, and the twaddle (as they thought it) of their teachers, relapsed into their natural state of savagehood.

Dissensions arose at length among the Missionaries themselves. One departed in disgust from the establishment. So disheartened was the other by the small progress attending his labours, that in 1842, nine years and upwards after the first institution of the Mission, he opened his Annual Report as follows:—“If the work of civilizing and Christianising a savage race was dependant merely on human efforts .… then I candidly confess that I should be ready to despair of the Aboriginal inhabitants of the country ever being raised from their degraded condition, since so little success has hitherto attended this Mission, as well as other similar


  ― 242 ―
attempts in other parts of the country .… Amongst all those young men who for years past have been more or less attached to the Mission, there is only one who affords some satisfaction and encouragement.”

In December, 1849, the Bishop of Sydney visited the private establishment of the Rev. Mr. Watson—the seceded minister from the Wellington Mission—on the banks of the Macquarie River, “where,” as his Lordship writes, “the work of the Evangelists is supported by himself and Mrs. Watson, without the aid of any other person, and at an expense which, without extreme economy and careful management, it would not be in their power to maintain.” On the occasion of this visit the good prelate admitted to confirmation one adult individual of “this painfully neglected and forsaken race,” as he too truly designates them.

At the Moreton Bay Missionary Establishment the station was plundered by the blacks whom it was intended to benefit, and the ungrateful barbarians were proceeding to fire the buildings, when the much-enduring Missionaries had recourse to the secular arm, giving their riotous acolytes a hearty peppering with small shot,—a fulmination of the Church intelligible to the meanest and most savage capacity, and well worth all the anathemas in the catalogue.

Past endeavours to better the condition of the Australian native have, then, it appears, been abortive or nearly so. But fresh and more vigorous efforts are to arise out of the Meeting and Conference of the Metropolitan and Suffragan Bishops of Australasia, which took place at Sydney in October, 1850, when a plan for


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a Board of Missions was matured, having for its objects,—“First, the conversion and civilization of the Australian blacks; second, the conversion and civilization of the heathen races in all the Islands of the Western Pacific.”

So eloquently and so forcibly did these right reverend prelates plead the cause of “the benighted” in the pulpits and public meetings of Sydney, and other places, that very considerable sums were collected on the spot, and many leading gentlemen enlisted themselves heartily in the good cause. A voluntary subscription, too, was entered upon, to purchase and equip a vessel for the Bishop of New Zealand, larger and safer than the little 20-ton cockle-shell in which this well-styled “Apostle of the Pacific” has been hitherto accustomed to traverse the 30 or 40 degrees of ocean comprised within his wild diocese. In his next visit to the savage islanders, Dr. Selwyn is to be accompanied by his old college friend, Bishop Tyrrell of Newcastle. The godly enterprise, resumed under such auspices, will not again falter.

History has no precedent of sudden civilization. When Britain was known only as the Tin Islands, the Phœnicians, trading with them for that metal, probably considered the wild inhabitants as incurably barbarous,—only fit to “stump up the tin” in exchange for such gewgaws as the savage loveth. At the time of Cæsar's invasion, the great Roman found us far from a gentlemanly, well-dressed,—nay more, a thoroughly bad style of people, by no means unlike the present New Holland savages; divided into numerous and lawless tribes; clad


  ― 244 ―
in skins; painted and tattoed; great hunters (we are so still); unskilled in agriculture, (we don't “protect” it now!) socialists in regard of women (is there not an Agapemone existing in 1851?); idolators; perhaps cannibals! Yet our Christianism is nearly as old as the Era, and, as to our civilization, perhaps our Gallic neighbours will cede us the second place among nations. Certainly we have, more liberally than they, disseminated our share of that acquisition among other races.

The great body of the colonists of New South Wales have so long sat down under the convenient creed that the conversion of the blacks is past hope, that they appeared absolutely astonished, and not a little moved, by the sanguine anticipations indulged in by the several bishops, but especially by Dr. Selwyn. I was amongst the hearers of a sermon from the lips of that earnest and highly eloquent man, which at once filled the hearts of his audience with confidence, their eyes with tears, and emptied their pockets of their contents. As for the ladies, sweet souls, they are always somewhat epicures in preachers! People talk of “forty-parson power;” and it will readily be believed that the simultaneous action upon their sympathies by six bishops, all ardent in the cause, left them but little pin-money for the ensuing Christmas.

Among the various arguments adduced on this occasion by churchmen and laymen, there was none that struck me more forcibly than the following remark by the Speaker of the legislative council, at one of the Missionary meetings:—




  ― 245 ―

“Having possessed the lands, having taken from the original occupants the hunting-grounds which once belonged to them, we have made these ignorant savages amenable to our laws. Only a few days ago one of these unhappy beings was called upon to pay the penalty of his life for the infringement of those laws.note I must confess it is an occurrence exciting in me feelings of the deepest commiseration, self-reproach and humiliation—a sense of reproach which must be shared by all who see these benighted creatures, and remember how little has been done to bring them to a true sense of the duties expected from them. If these tribes are to be made amenable to the Christian code, let them at least be made aware of the duties for which they are responsible. Whatever difficulties may interfere, it is therefore our duty to persevere in constant endeavours to enlighten and convert this people.”

Here is a self-evident truism; but, like all truths, it remained at the bottom of the well until dragged into light by some one more addicted to ponder questions of moral polity than is common in a society involved in more substantial matters.

There are light and shade in every picture; and I do not know that anything could more forcibly portray the extremes of character in the Australian black than the incidents accompanying the death of the lamented Mr. Kennedy in the year 1848. I allude, on the one hand, to the cruel, treacherous, yet patient ferocity with which the savage tribes dogged the steps of


  ― 246 ―
this enterprising and unfortunate young gentleman, finally butchering him in cold blood when rendered by famine no longer capable of resistance;—and, on the other hand, to the heroic endurance, the unshaken fidelity, and the devoted courage displayed by his native follower, “Jacky-Jacky,” who, although himself wounded, defended his master to the last, gave his body decent burial, and, after unheard-of sufferings, succeeded in saving the lives of the two European survivors of this ill-fated expedition.

Although very unwilling to admit unoriginal matter into these pages, I cannot resist laying, in the form of a note, before such of my readers as may not have met with it, the touching statements of the faithful “Jacky,” or rather part of it, as elicited from him by a subsequent judicial investigation, and as published in the narrative of Mr. Carron, the botanist and one of the survivors of the expedition.

It may be only necessary for me to premise, that Mr. Assistant-Surveyor Kennedy started from Sydney on the 28th April, 1848, for the exploration of the country lying between Rockingham Bay and Cape York, the N. E. extremity of New Holland. He was accompanied by eleven white persons and Jacky the black. His stock consisted of one hundred sheep, twenty-eight horses, and three dogs. Obstructed by impassable scrubs and swamps, by disease, famine, and hostile savages, on the 10th of November Mr. Kennedy, with three of the strongest Englishmen and the black, formed an advance party, in order to attempt by forced marches to reach Cape York, where he expected to


  ― 247 ―
find H.M. Schooner Bramble;—leaving the remaining eight persons of his party under Carron, encamped within view of Weymouth Bay.note




  ― 248 ―

Jacky's statement furnishes the conclusion of the sad tale, as far as poor Kennedy and himself are concerned.

Mr. Carron and a man named Goddard were within an hour or two of inevitable death, when the master of a small vessel despatched by Government with


  ― 249 ―
provisions for the exploring party, guided by the trusty black, discovered the encampment, and carried them off just as the cowardly and brutal savages, who had surrounded the wretched but still well-armed men, were mustering courage for a general attack.




  ― 250 ―

Mr. Kennedy had previously been engaged in several arduous and hazardous services, and the year before his death he had accompanied Sir Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor-General, on a lengthened expedition into the interior. A few days before he started on his last and fatal journey, I saw him at a ball at Government


  ― 251 ―
House, dancing joyously—the handsomest young man among the crowd of guests. Struck by his appearance, I asked his name of an old colonist standing near. On giving me the required information, my neighbour made the prophetic observation, “He is a fine fellow, he will either accomplish his object, or leave his bones in the bush!” His bones do rest there! The party employed to search for his remains and his papers were, although directed by Jacky, unsuccessful in discovering the grave, which


  ― 252 ―
had probably been obliterated by subsequent heavy rains. Some charts and note-books were found where the black had deposited them.

Jacky-Jacky became quite a “lion” in Sydney; and when I last saw him I feared he was in a fair way of being spoiled, if not utterly ruined, by the dangers attendant on notoriety.

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