Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/200

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184
Part I.
The Descent of Man.

As they continued rapidly to decrease, and as they themselves thought that they should not perish so quickly elsewhere, they were removed in 1847 to Oyster Cove in the southern part of Tasmania. They then consisted (Dec. 20th, 1847) of fourteen men, twenty-two women and ten children.[1] But the change of site did no good. Disease and death still pursued them, and in 1864 one man (who died in 1869), and three elderly women alone survived. The infertility of the women is even a more remarkable fact than the liability of all to ill-health and death. At the time when only nine women were left at Oyster Cove, they told Mr. Bonwick (p. 386), that only two had ever borne children: and these two had together produced only three children!

With respect to the cause of this extraordinary state of things, Dr. Story remarks that death followed the attempts to civilise the natives. "If left to themselves to roam as they were wont and undisturbed, they would have reared more children, and there would have been less mortality." Another careful observer of the natives, Mr. Davis, remarks, "The births have been few and the deaths numerous. This may have been in a great measure owing to their change of living and food; but more so to their banishment from the mainland of Van Diemen's Land, and consequent depression of spirits" (Bonwick, pp. 388, 390).

Similar facts have been observed in two widely different parts of Australia. The celebrated explorer, Mr. Gregory, told Mr. Bonwick, that in Queensland "the want of reproduction was being already felt with the blacks, even in the most recently settled parts, and that decay would set in." Of thirteen aborigines from Shark's Bay who visited Murchison River, twelve died of consumption within three months.[2]

The decrease of the Maories of New Zealand has been carefully investigated by Mr. Fenton, in an admirable report, from which all the following statements, with one exception, are taken.[3] The decrease in number since 1830 is admitted by every one, including the natives themselves, and is still steadily progressing. Although it has hitherto been found impossible to take an actual census of the natives, their numbers were carefully estimated by residents in many districts. The result seems trustworthy, and shows that during the fourteen years, previous

  1. This is the statement of the Governor of Tasmania, Sir W. Denison, 'Varieties of Vice-Regal Life,' 1870, vol. i., p. 67.
  2. For these cases, see Bonwick's 'Daily Life of the Tasmanians,' 1870, p. 90: and the 'Last of the Tasmanians,' 1870, p. 386.
  3. 'Observations on the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Zealand,' published by the Government, 1859.