Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/24

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CHAPTER II.

CAUSES WHICH LED TO THEIR DISPERSION—CAUSES OF DEGENERACY—SUPERIORITY OF NORTHERN ABORIGINES—NUMERICAL FORCE OF TRIBES— SYSTEM OF CHIEFSHIP—CUSTOMS.

Taking it for granted, which we may readily do, from the most superficial acquaintance with the aborigines, as well as from the testimony of those who have had the most ample opportunity of discovering and delineating their characteristics, that the evidences of a very high order of humanity very often and very strikingly become manifest in their composition and character, the question suggests itself how they have, generally speaking, fallen so low as they are now found. Holding by the theory of their Malayan origin, this degeneracy appears the more striking when we consider that in their voyage to the shores of their future home they encountered none of those hardships and excessive privations which their more adventurous brethren endured in their long and perilous voyages westward—privations and hardships which, according to some speculations, first gave rise to the practice of cannibalism. That they could have encountered none of these dispiriting and inhumanizing hardships, almost inseparable from a protracted