Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/165

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the savages, the Government may expect that the law of nature will supersede the statute law; and if lives are sacrificed in the collision, we cannot see by what principle of justice the slayer of his assailant can be held accountable." It can readily be conceived that such sentiments as these, circulating throughout the country, and misconstrued, or imperfectly understood, by those who were ready to seize on the slightest pretext for committing violence, must have been productive of the worst consequences. Whatever of justice or reason, moreover, may appear at first sight to be contained in such doctrines, at once disappears when the other side of the question is glanced at. In an official report on the police of the colony, published also in December, 1839, a gentleman holding a high official appointment states, in evidence, that for a considerable time previously the blacks had been "hunted and fired at like native dogs" by the Europeans at the distant stations. The report further shows that not only were the aboriginal tribes reduced to extreme famine by the encroachments of the colonists on their hunting grounds, and by the extinction of those animals on which they had previously subsisted, but they were utterly debarred from the only other source of subsistence to which they could resort without infringing on the property of the whites—namely, the fish to be found in the rivers and lagoons. For it appears it had become a settled understanding that whenever the aboriginals appeared in the neighbourhood of a river or creek,