Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/199

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Chap. VII.
The Extinction of Races.

savages. It further appears, mysterious as is the fact, that the first meeting of distinct and separated people generates disease.[1] Mr. Sproat, who in Vancouver Island closely attended to the subject of extinction, believed that changed habits of life, consequent on the advent of Europeans, induces much ill health. He lays, also, great stress on the apparently trifling cause that the natives become "bewildered and dull by the new life around them; they lose the motives for exertion, and get no new ones in their place."[2]

The grade of their civilisation seems to be a most important element in the success of competing nations. A few centuries ago Europe feared the inroads of Eastern barbarians; now any such fear would be ridiculous. It is a more curious fact, as Mr. Bagehot has remarked, that savages did not formerly waste away before the classical nations, as they now do before modern civilised nations; had they done so, the old moralists would have mused over the event; but there is no lament in any writer of that period over the perishing barbarians.[3] The most potent of all the causes of extinction, appears in many cases to be lessened fertility and ill-health, especially amongst the children, arising from changed conditions of life, notwithstanding that the new conditions may not be injurious in themselves. I am much indebted to Mr. H. H. Howorth for having called my attention to this subject, and for having given me information respecting it. I have collected the following cases.

When Tasmania was first colonised the natives were roughly estimated by some at 7000 and by others at 20,000. Their number was soon greatly reduced, chiefly by fighting with the English and with each other. After the famous hunt by all the colonists, when the remaining natives delivered themselves up to the government, they consisted only of 120 individuals,[4] who were in 1832 transported to Flinders Island. This island, situated between Tasmania and Australia, is forty miles long, and from twelve to eighteen miles broad: it seems healthy, and the natives were well treated. Nevertheless, they suffered greatly in health. In 1834 they consisted (Bonwick, p. 250) of forty-seven adult males, forty-eight adult females, and sixteen children, or in all of 111 souls. In 1835 only one hundred were left.

  1. I have collected ('Journal of Researches, Voyage of the "Beagle,"' p. 435) a good many cases bearing on this subject: see also Gerland, ibid., s. 8. Poeppig speaks of the "breath of civilisation as poisonous to savages."
  2. Sproat, 'Scenes and Studies of Savage Life,' 1868, p. 284.
  3. Bagehot, 'Physics and Politics,' 'Fortnightly Review,' April 1, 1868, p. 455.
  4. All the statements here given are taken from 'The Last of the Tasmanians,' by J. Bonwick, 1870.