Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/387

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346
THE LAST OF THE TASMANIANS.

for hardly ever was a child born, while the deaths were sad indeed.

Some complaint having been made in the colonies of native lads, brought up by the settlers, taking themselves off to the Bush, and delighting in the rude habits of the tribe, the editor of the Gazette in 1819 thus moralizes:—"In all this was nothing to be wondered at; that state among the white population that was assigned them was positively little better than the one they had forsaken; the meanest offices of drudgery, always reflecting on their minds a picture of debasement, a want of attention to their common wants, of which our very dogs and horses have not to complain. Such treatment could not be considered a fair trial of their capacities or fixed inclinations. Out of the woods the poor half-civilized Native has no chance of a mate; no chance of ever sharing in the tender feelings of a parent, which the very crocodile evinces."

The great obstacle to our civilizing exertions lies in the introduction of intoxicating liquors. Who can adequately describe the effects of strong drink upon aboriginal people? The prison, the asylum, the many spectre-haunted homes of civilization tell what it has done for us. Its history unfolds more horrors than pestilence, more miseries than famine, more destruction than war. But we have some resisting media to its attack; the remedies of medicine, counteracting stimuli, moral antagonisms, the forces of education, the voice of affectionate warning, the pleading example of self-denying ones. But what has the savage? It comes as a friend to relieve his ennui, and it supplies the lack of previously existing natural excitements. It represses energies, now no longer required, and it deadens sensibilities, now out of exercise. No shame stays its ravages, for the stranger has stolen native pride. No conscience struggles against its influence, for the canker of new vices has consumed his heart. He is too despised to hear the cautionary word of kindness, and the common moral fall of the tribe drags him quicker, deeper, down to ruin.

Alas! how many a tale could I tell of the ravages of this element of civilization! How full are the narratives of travellers of reference to its effects! How many a missionary enterprise has been arrested or overturned by its introduction! How happily did real civilization progress till the arrival of this