Some tribes had a vague idea of the white mn being spirits or re-appearances of dead persons, and were restrained by awe alone from attacking them. This dread of strangers seems to be the natural result of ignorance, and reminds us of the restrictive policy, until lately, of the Japanese, and of the religious prejudices of the Hindoos and strict Mahommedans.
In the south-eastern portion of Australia, the old men used to say that the forms or spirits of the dead went to the westward, towards the setting sun; and the natives of Western Australia had the same belief. When, therefore, they saw white men coming over the sea from that quarter, they at once took them to be their deceased relatives re-incarnated, and called them Djenga, or ghosts, as distinguished from Yuruj-ar, or persons.
In almost all cases where there has been an opportunity of coming to an understanding, and a desire on the part of the Europeans to conciliate the Aborigines, they have evinced a friendly disposition. It has, however, often happened that the earliest interviews left anything but favorable impressions on their minds.
In the year 1699, William Dampier, an Englishman, lauded on the north-west coast, and soon fell in with some natives, who ran away from him and his men. Soon after, nine of them were seen approaching with angry gestures and making a great noise, but taking a sudden panic, they fled away as fast as they could. Dampier then formed an ambuscade, and tried to seize some of them; but failing, one of his men was wounded by a spear; he then fired on the blacks with ball, and one, at least, of them fell, and was carried off by his comrades.
This occurrence may be taken as a fair example of the misunderstandings and collisions which from time to time have disgraced the history of Australia.
The dominant and arrogant race, despising the ignorant barbarian, has paid but little respect either to his rights or person, and has too often treated him as though he were a wild beast; while the savage, in accordance with the instincts of his nature, has resented the aggression; and thus some fearful outrages have occasionally, even to the present time, been perpetrated by both parties;—the white man, with his boasted civilization, being the more accountable of the two.
The landing of Capt. Cook at Botany Bay was disputed by the natives, but he found those at Moreton Bay better disposed.
The murder by the blacks of Mr. Kennedy, the explorer, with whom I was personally acquainted, near Cape York, in 1848, was in all probability committed for the purpose of retaliating aggressive action on the part of a ship's crew.
Capt. Pasco, R.N., formerly of H.M.S. Beagle, when she was engaged in the survey of Torres Straits, has informed me that, on the 24th June 1841, they called in at what was termed "the post office" on the uninhabited "Booby Island," and examined a book which was kept there in order that masters of ships might record any circumstance of interest during the run through Torres Straits, and found an entry by one Greyburne, master of The Brothers, in which he recorded the fact that "he had killed only one native." It is there-