Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/41

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sustenance of human life, under such circumstances wherever they could find it, a number of them attempted one morning to take a little flour from a store in the town of Fremantle to satisfy the cravings of hunger. While in the act of doing so, two servants from a neighbouring house, without desiring them to desist, or giving them any warning, fired upon them and killed two, of whom the brother of Yagan was one—a most quiet inoffensive character, who occasionally put on clothing, worked for the settlers like a common labourer, and was much esteemed by all that knew him. The practice of taking life for life, is alluded to and sanctioned by the Mosaic law; and, modified in manner, the state becoming the executioner instead of the aggrieved party, is held sacred by modern nations. Yagan, in obedience to the immemorial usage of his country, felt that he was bound to avenge the death of his brother; and, joined by his father and the rest of the tribe, crossed the river for this purpose at Preston Point about nine o'clock, announcing his intention to the ferryman, but at the same time assuring him that he should not be touched. The whole of the natives had fallen into the error of supposing that the whites were, like themselves, divided into separate clans, and that the settlers on the Swan were a distinct tribe from those on the adjoining river. Remembering, therefore, after having fallen into the hands of the former, the kindness shown to him at Carnac, he determined to attack those on the Canning, whom he supposed to be a part of the tribe that had slain his brother, and from whom he had besides received many provocations. Such an exercise of discrimination and judgment in his revenge in the height of excitement, the most ignorant, unreflecting, and prejudiced, will, I apprehend, allow to be highly creditable to his understanding and his feelings. It exhibits a character very superior to that of the majority of his enemies, who, born and bred under similar circumstances, would not have scrupled for a moment to make the first that came in their way the victim of their vengeance. He soon fell in with two men driving a team; and, in their death, avenged that of those of his tribe who had been that morning slain at Fremantle.

This deed of blood, dreadful as it was, being perpetrated at noon-day, and almost in presence of the owner of the team, was only an act of retaliation; and bore no comparison to that of the murder of Major André by General Washington, merely because he was found within the republican lines—a murder which the British felt themselves bound in duty to avenge on the most distinguished of their American prisoners.

Such frightful occurrences, happening one after another on the same day, threw the settlement into a state of consternation,