Page:Australian aborigines 1838.djvu/10
in No. 2.
PAPERS RELATIVE TO THE
The work of Christian instruction and civilization, which has taken place under the auspices of the local government at this settlement, has succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectation, and has determined a question hitherto deemed impracticable.
If, as is made evident, so much has been effected for a people said to possess so little intellectual capacity, a people reputed to be but one remove from the brute creation, and of whom it was said they were but a link between the human and brute species; if so much has been done for such a people, how much more might be performed with those of a different character; and I do trust that the time is not far distant when the experiment will be tried among the numerous tribes inhabiting New Holland; for from the appalling accounts received, and from what I myself have witnessed, as well as from information heretofore communicated, there appears a prompt necessity that some efficient protection be extended to those ill-used and persecuted people. Humanity, religion, and justice require that every effort should be made on their behalf.
The primeval occupants of Van Diemen's Land are not deserving of the obloquy which has been heaped upon them. The hostile feeling evinced by them towards the whites, and their attacks upon the lonely settlement of the colony, are only considered as just retaliation for the wrongs done to them and to their progenitors. They are now well disposed and bear no ill-will or animosity to the white inhabitants. They have been grossly misrepresented; but in this respect they are not alone, but suffer in common with all their unfortunate race, who have in all ages been shamefully maligned and cruelly persecuted.
The aborigines of Van Diemen's Land have not only shown an aptitude to acquire knowledge, but have displayed a precocity of intellect, and have exhibited capabilities of no ordinary character, and which the papers (Appendix B.) annexed to this report will in part sufficiently establish, and at this settlement there are abundant proofs.
The effects that have been produced on the minds of these people will for ever put to silence the cavils of the most sceptical and prejudicially minded; and if (as I understand) in the sister colony the attempts hitherto brought into operation for the amelioration of the aborigines have failed, it can only be attributed to a defect in the system, and not to the people themselves.
I trust I shall be excused for thus digressing from the ordinary arrangements usual in such reports. The severe mortality which has taken place among those people since my communication in December last, wherein 17 deaths have occurred within that period, as per Medical Report, (Appendix C.) annexed to this communication, has induced me in this instance to swerve from the rules of propriety, solely with a view to bring the same more prominently under the notice of the local administration, and which the importance of the subject seemed to require.
Having in my previous reports amply detailed to the Government all the circumstances connected with the settlement, and with the race confided to my charge, as well as the measures put in force for their amelioration, it only remains for me now to advert to those circumstances which have taken place since that period, and to show how far those measures have answered the purposes for which they were originally designed; and in dilating thereupon, I have much satisfaction in stating, that the results as connected with their improvement are of a most gratifying description, and by far exceed my most sanguine expectation, and which proves to demonstration that the most abject of the human family are within the pale of civilization and Christian instruction, provided proper means are made use of for its attainment, since there never existed a race of their character so degraded as were the primeval occupants of Van Diemen's Land, and yet by the philanthropic intervention of the local administration their wretched condition has been ameliorated and improved, and exceeds by far the majority of the humbler grades of European inhabitants, and in their general conduct, I venture to affirm, are much superior.
I have much satisfaction in reporting that the aborigines are daily progressing in civilization. Their diurnal employments are now regularly and willingly performed, information is eagerly sought after, examples immediately followed, and industry among them is becoming habitual. They are variously employed, and the labour performed by them during the last six months is fully equal to the three years labour anterior thereto.
It has been charged upon those excellent institutions, the missionary societies, that whilst they have laboured to instruct the heathen in the knowledge of religion, they have at the same time passed by with cold and careless indifference the work of civilization. To obviate this charge, they have of late sent out missionary artisans as well as missionary preachers. For my own part, I never did consider the missionary societies at fault in this respect. The funds of those societies are raised by voluutary subscription, and for the avowed purpose of disseminating religion among the heathen, and hence they were undeserving of the censure passed upon them. In adverting to this subject, I do so merely to show that it has been thought desirable, and by general consent, that heathen nations should be civilized, and be induced to voluntary labour, but to achieve which has ever been found of difficult attainment. I am, however, happy to say at this settlement the object has been accomplished. I trust that the observations I am now making, or may hereafter make, will not be thought too highly coloured or egotistical. I advert and enlarge upon them solely as an act of common justice to those poor people, whose representative I am, and as of being highly creditable to the local government itself.
The rapid advances made by them in civilization, and which has so fully developed itself within the last six months, is solely to be attributed to the system to which I had the