They have no knowledge of letters; and yet I have in my possession an attempt at writing by one of them. He solicited pen, ink, and paper, which then lay before me, for the purpose of answering my questions in this way more satisfactorily. He did not take a moment to think. The writing is hieroglyphic. It consists mostly of men, animals, birds, and trees, and is traced in circles round the central character with which he began. What surprised me not a little, was, his giving a character for an abstract term. This he did in more than one instance. The specimen would be considered as man's rudest attempt at letters, by those who do not believe writing to have been coeval with language.
It is generally allowed that the natives of Australia have some resemblance to the Malays. The first word in my vocabulary, the generic term for river, and the word used in salutation at meeting by some of the tribes, are all pure Hebrew. These coincidences in likeness and language, afford conclusive evidence of their connexion with the old world at some period, and that they are of Asiatic origin. But how thoroughly does this upset the theory of infidel writers, that man from the rank of a brute or savage raised himself by degrees to all the polish, intelligence, and refinement of civil life. Here the descendants of those who built the tower of Babel, and founded the capital of one of the most renowned empires of antiquity, are without a single vestige of architectural knowledge; and though their ancestors must bare crossed the line from the northern to the southern hemisphere in a bark of some sort, they know not how to make a canoe, or even—that rudest of all attempts at navigation—a katamaran. Instead of rising in the scale of being, it is manifest beyond dispute that man, unaided by the cheering light and elevating influence of revelation, degenerates. To the truth of this important fact, so subversive of the great leading principle of infidelity, the condition of this branch of the human family affords abundant evidence. They have lost every trace of civilized life, and retain only those characteristics of man which it is impossible for him to lose under any circumstances; namely, the erectness of his form, the faculty of reason, the gift of language, and dominion over the lower orders of creation. Here we find, after the lapse of thousands of years, not an ascent from rude barbarity to the elegance, refinement, and intelligence of polished society,
- Prima navis fuit cavata arbos. The Romans were in error; and, in this betrayed their ignorance no less than in their attempt at satire in the expression, Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillma cygno. A hollowed tree was not the first, but the third invention in the art of navigation; and seems to have succeeded the more frail, but less laborious and more simple contrivance, of a bark canoe.