Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/201

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Chap. VII.
185
The Extincion of Races.

to 1858, the decrease was 19.42 per cent. Some of the tribes, thus carefully examined, lived above a hundred miles apart, some on the coast, some inland; and their means of subsistence and habits differed to a certain extent (p. 28). The total number in 1858 was believed to be 53,700, and in 1872, after a second interval of fourteen years, another census was taken, and the number is given as only 36,359, shewing a decrease of 32.29 per cent![1] Mr. Fenton, after shewing in detail the insufficiency of the various causes, usually assigned in explanation of this extraordinary decrease, such as new diseases, the profligacy of the women, drunkenness, wars, &c., concludes on weighty grounds that it depends chiefly on the unproductiveness of the women, and on the extraordinary mortality of the young children (pp. 31, 34). In proof of this he shews (p. 33) that in 1844 there was one non-adult for every 2.57 adults; whereas in 1858 there was only one non-adult for every 3.27 adults. The mortality of the adults is also great. He adduces as a further cause of the decrease the inequality of the sexes; for fewer females are born than males. To this latter point, depending perhaps on a widely distinct cause, I shall return in a future chapter. Mr. Fenton contrasts with astonishment the decrease in New Zealand with the increase in Ireland; countries not very dissimilar in climate, and where the inhabitants now follow nearly similar habits. The Maories themselves (p. 35) "attribute their decadence, in some measure, to the introduction of new food and clothing, and the attendant change of habits"; and it will be seen, when we consider the influence of changed conditions on fertility, that they are probably right. The diminution began between the years 1830 and 1840; and Mr. Fenton shews (p. 40) that about 1830, the art of manufacturing putrid corn (maize), by long steeping in water, was discovered and largely practised; and this proves that a change of habits was beginning amongst the natives, even when New Zealand was only thinly inhabited by Europeans. When I visited the Bay of Islands in 1835, the dress and food of the inhabitants had already been much modified: they raised potatoes, maize, and other agricultural produce, and exchanged them for English manufactured goods and tobacco.

It is evident from many statements in the life of Bishop Patteson,[2] that the Melanesians of the New Hebrides and neighbouring archipelagoes, suffered to an extraordinary degree in health, and perished in large numbers, when they were

  1. 'New Zealand,' by Alex. Kennedy, 1873, p. 47.
  2. 'Life of J. C. Patteson,' by C. M. Younge, 1874; see more especially vol. i., p. 530.