Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/67

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

wanderers of Australia, over a wide continent, and the barbarizing influence of dispersion will soon be apparent. The expiration of a single generation will unhinge the intellectual powers and bury the arts and the sciences in oblivion.

To the circumstances therefore in which they are placed, and not to any mental inferiority, are we to attribute the present condition of the native tribes. It is impossible to become acquainted with these children of nature without feeling the most sincere esteem for them and a deep interest in their impending fate. The very virtue which we admire among ourselves, and one for which they are distinguished, that of a retiring and unobtrusive disposition, is spoken of with scorn and contempt as indicating in them a deficiency of intellect—a charge which, originating as it does in gross ignorance, reflects not a little upon the intellect of those by whom it is uttered. In no point of view are they inferior, and in many respects they are superior, to those of the same grade with themselves in civilized life. The only thing that would in the least justify the epithet of "savage," so liberally bestowed upon them in its worst sense by those who are entirely ignorant of their manners and disposition, is the charge brought against them on some occasions, of repeatedly thrusting their spears into the body of the slain. But their character will not suffer in the estimation of impartial judges even on this point, if compared with that of the far famed warriors of Greece at the siege of Troy. The testimony of Homer is decisive of the question:—

                 Οὐδ' ἄρα οἵ τις ἁνουτητί γε παρέστη.
Ὥδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν, ἰδὼν ἐς πλησίον ἄλλον
  Ὥ πόποι, ἤ μάλα δὴ μαλακώτερος ἀμφαφάασθαι
Ἕκτωρ, ἤ ὅτε νῆασ ἐνέπρησεν πυρὶ κηλέῳ.
  Ὤς ἄρα τις εἴπεσκε, καὶ ουτῆσασκε πᾶρασάς.

Nor fail'd
One Grecian of them all to pierce the slain;
And to his fellow thus the soldier spake:
  "Ye Gods! how much more patient, of the touch
Is Hector now, than when he fired the fleet!"
  Thus they would speak, then give him each a stab.

This however I believe is never practised by the Australians excepting after great provocation. Even then it is merely the consequence of momentary excitement, when, taking life for life, they intend not to wound but to kill an enemy; and such conduct is certainly not more savage than that of the British—I will not say in the use of the bayonet in the field, but—in hanging their prisoners, or coolly and deliberately tying them to an iron bolt and riddling them with bullets—the certain doom of every Aborigine who dares to resist the invasion of his country.