Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/58

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A Glance at the Manners and Language of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia—a paper which appeared in The Gazette of the colony in 1833.

The Aboriginal inhabitants of this country are a harmless, liberal, kind hearted race; remarkably simple in all their manners. On our first settling among them, they not only abstained from all acts of hostility, but showed us every kindness in their power. Though we were invaders of their country, and they had therefore a right to treat us as enemies, when any of us lost ourselves in the bush and were thus completely in their power, these noble minded people shared with us their scanty and precarious meal, suffered us to rest for the night in their camp, and in the morning directed us on our way. It is unnecessary to adduce instances in support of facts attested by many witnesses and well known to the community.

Such was the treatment we received from a people who, cradled in storms the moment they come into being, and secluded from other nations by an uninviting, unsheltered, and dangerous coast, seem for ages to have Had no intercourse with the rest of the world. In simplicity of manners, generousness of disposition, and firmness of character, they present us with a striking likeness to the picture drawn of the ancient Caledonians. Were the disbelievers in the authenticity of Ossian to become acquainted with them, they would be almost persuaded to adopt the opposite opinion; so greatly do these inhabitants of the Australian forests resemble the race whose deeds were sung by the bard of Morven.

The sable tribes of Derbal, it must be allowed, yield to the ancient clans of the north in point of cleanliness and ingenuity. But the former arises from the custom, perhaps the necessity, in the absence of clothing, of anointing themselves with oil—a practice by the by common to the most venerable nations of antiquity—and the latter from their mode of living, the climate, and the nature of the country. The powers of the human mind, so far as mechanical science is concerned, can be called forth only by agriculture and commerce. These, however, are neither a commercial, an agricultural, nor even a pastoral people. They live entirely by the chase; differing in this respect from all the nations of antiquity with whose history we are acquainted, and resembling the Americans only. The pastoral life was common, even when mankind were most