They carried, on one occasion, 1000 feet in one day. Persuade an English fop, with his curled hair and twirling cane, to submit his naked shoulders to a task like this, to serve his enemies—if you can work a miracle. Yet this idle, brainless ass, a burden perhaps to himself and his family, must be called a gentleman, while the Australian, who will fly to save his very murderers from destruction, is designated a savage. There is not perhaps a more dangerous occupation—one that requires more dexterity, quickness, and presence of mind—than whaling. The world will not produce a band of men, who, without instruction and practice, would venture to approach one of these monsters of the deep. What then will be the surprise of my readers when informed that a whale boat belonging to the Imlays of Twofold Bay, entirely manned by the Aboriginal inhabitants, recently killed and brought in a whale, without the aid of a single European—a striking instance of their powers when called into action by kindness and proper treatment.
An attempt was recently made at Hobart to determine by experiment whether savage life contributed more than civilized to strengthen and invigorate the human body; and, as usual, savages were, even in this respect, pronounced inferior to their proud and ignorant compeers. That a civilized mode of living has a thousand advantages for which there is no equivalent in savage life, no one will deny; yet the decision in this case must, to every reflecting mind, appear strange. But our surprise will subside when informed that the attempt was made by the French—a people who, even in experimental philosophy, merely skim the surface, and seldom take the trouble to examine a subject in all its bearings. The strength of the human body, exerted on any given object, is more the result of practice than that of any particular kind of food. A mason will lift a larger stone, a miller will carry a heavier burden, than any other man; and a woodsman will fell a large tree with more ease than a man not accustomed to wield an axe, though living upon a diet very superior to that of the former. It is therefore not to be wondered at if, in the employments of civilized life, civilized men should excel savages who are utter strangers to such labors. Vigor, as well as health, depends not upon delicate living, but upon plain wholesome food combined with exercise. Delicacies, instead of strengthening, enervate the body. No fact in natural history is more certain; and hence the stern opposition made by the ancients to the introduction of luxury, which gradually undermined and ultimately destroyed the dominion of both the Greeks and the Romans. Let the personal prowess of the natives of Australia be tested by the fatigue of the march or endurance of privation, and they will be found to excel those in civilized life who live better and fare more sumptuously.
They have been also greatly misrepresented in matters of much higher importance. If we are to be guided in