Page:The Aborigines of Australia (1988).djvu/30

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any tribes could be found numbering altogether—men, women, and children—many more individuals than l,000, or about 200 full-grown men. It is probable, however, that in their wars and on particular occasions alliances and conjunctions may be formed, when very large numbers, equal to or exceeding the figures mentioned, are brought together, and for a limited time associate and act in concert.

Another question which has formed the subject of dissent and debate is the system of governance which prevails in the respective tribes, it being generally understood that authority or unity of no description whatever extends further. Not only, indeed, is the plan of government which obtains among the New Hollanders a subject of doubt, but it has been questioned whether any definite or fixed system of chiefship or government at all exists amongst them. This latter idea cannot, however, on any known analogy or principle be sustained. That they have no chiefs, such as the caciques of the American Indians, or the magnates of the South Sea Islands, New Zealand, &c.,whose sway is derived from ancestors, and handed down from father to son, and who are at once the objects of the veneration and respect of their lieges, we have reason to believe. The instances are, indeed, numerous of individuals among them, in the neighbourhood of European settlements, receiving the appellations of chiefs of their tribes. But those distinctions are as often, or more so, the result of some whim of the Europeans as any agreement or authority among