The Last of the Tasmanians/Chapter 14
In taking up this painful subject—the Decline of the Tasmanians—it would be impossible to dissociate that fact from the advent of the Europeans. Though the Cacique spoke of his people as melting like snow before the sun, when the pale faces came; yet it was not in the gentle manner of the disappearance of the snow, which passes onward at the solar approach, but only to rise and greet him, to fold round his bright orb, and add increasing beauty to his beams. The Aborigines have not been suffered simply to pass off and onward before colonization, but have been hurried in their departure; and this, not by the gifts from Egyptian impatience, but by the poison of contact, and the sword of destruction.
It has been usual to associate the history of Indians and Spaniards with that of Tasmanians and Englishmen. But if there are some points of resemblance, there are, also, objects of contrast. With the one, the conquest of the Aborigines was necessary before the settlement of the country; with the other, the paucity and feebleness of the population presented no such barrier. Repeated efforts of an outraged but gentle race to extricate themselves from the grasp of those desecrators of their altars, violators of their homes, and murderers of their kindred, naturally led to their destruction. But the roamers of the gum forests were exterminated, not because of their political hostility, or for their insurrection against the Colonial Government, but when, chiefly embittered by the brutality of convict stock-keepers and shepherds, they drove off the flock to the scrub, they applied the lighted bark to the hut of the wilderness, and they hurled the spear at the solitary one.
A difference in the object should also be observed. In the establishment of Australian colonies, the motive was either the convenience of Government in ridding England of a social curse and incubus, or the cupidity of men of enterprise. The weal of the Native was not contemplated in the arrangements of the one, or the calculations of the other. With the organization of Spanish empires in America it was otherwise. The idea was not one of mere conquest and lust, but, strange to say, of assumed Christian feeling and benevolence. Alas! to carry out that principle, the steel armour accompanied the linen cassock; the clanking of swords mingled with the exhortation of preachers; the smoke of ruined cities rose with the perfume of the censer; and the shrieks of victims entered the portals of heaven, in company with hymns to the gentle Jesus.
The crowns of England and Spain recognised to a certain extent the rights of the Aborigines to protection. The last-named did more—the object of invasion was declared to be the conversion of the heathen. The expeditions departed with all the solemnities of religious worship, and the sanction and blessing of the Pope himself The hearts of the faithful were excited by pious enthusiasm, and tearful eyes indicated depth and purity of emotion. Pizarro was required to convey in each vessel of his warriors a certain number of ecclesiastics. That same man of blood, in his celebrated contract with Almagro and Father Lugue, was quite pathetic in his expression of the Virgin's love to Indian souls. Colonial functionaries had reiterated instructions that the conversion of the Natives was the primary object of the Home Government; though the American historian is forced to admit that unfortunately in this laudable purpose they were not often seconded by the colonists themselves."
Then, again, admitting, as we do with profound grief and strong indignation, all that has been narrated of the atrocities of the Spaniards, we have sets-off of a pleasing character, which shine not upon the page of Australian story. If there was a Cortez, there was a Las Casas. The evangelizing missionary issued from the bosom of the same nation as gave birth to the desolating conqueror. The garotte of Atahualpa, and the fiery bed of Montezuma, are revolting objects of contemplation. But who can imagine without satisfaction the Christian fane in the cactus wilds, the grouping of Indian worshippers, and the red-skin students of the schools? Even the eloquence of the Protestant Prescott is aroused at the thought of the self-denying Spanish Padre, whom that historian describes as "at all times ready to lift up his voice against the cruelty of the conqueror, and the no less wasting cupidity of the colonist; and when his remonstrances, as was too often the case, have proved unavailing, he has still followed to bind up the broken-hearted, to teach the poor Indian resignation under his lot, and light up his dark intellect with the revelation of a holier and happier existence."
Who ever heard of the English missionary to the poor Tasmanians? We threw him a crust, or sent him a bullet; we laughed at his corrobory, or carried off the wife of his home; but we never thought of his soul. It is true the church bells toned in his ear; but they pealed not for him. The robed teacher addressed the Deity; but the prayer was not for him. Men wept for the votaries of Boodh, and sighed for erring Israel; but no tear fell for him. Entrenched in the pride of their spiritual citadel, Christians had no sympathy for the dark, opossum-rug clad wanderer, over whose plains their flocks browsed, and in whose rich vales their corn waved.
We have not the miserable satisfaction of feeling, in the decline of the Tasmanians, that our motives in the occupation of their country, and the consequent exile of their race, were influenced by the elevating thoughts of the Spaniards of the sixteenth century. They dealt with millions, we with straggling hordes. Their desolations formed no part of their policy, but were none the less terrible for the race. Las Casas declares that from twelve to fifteen millions of American Aborigines disappeared before the Spaniards in forty years. Hayti had a million, but became extinct of aboriginal life in 1729. When men felt they were but the instruments of God, they knew no pity, they had no remorse.
But we need be as much ashamed of our own countrymen in the New World as of the Spaniards. Our colonists met with no vast numbers in the field, but warred with what there were. In the "History of Connecticut" it is said that 180,000 Indians perished there. The historian shows further that the Puritans, persecuted in England, forgot the instincts of mercy in their new home. They carried their Old Testament proclivities thither, and, regarding themselves as favoured Israelites in the Promised Land, proceeded to exterminate a people whose "iniquity was full," like so many Heaven-commissioned Joshuas. Even the pious Cotton Mather was so imbued with this fierce doctrine, and so full of complacent regard for the Lord's people, as to exult in a destructive sickness among the Indians, and could quietly write: "By this prodigious pestilence the woods were cleared of those pernicious creatures, to make room for a better growth."
Mr. Merivale, in his "Colonies and Colonization," lays down the principle that "Native races must in every instance either perish, or be amalgamated with the general population of their country."
The amalgamation with aboriginal people has never been a favourite theory with the colonists from the British Isles. In a certain circle, the presence of Indian blood, provided it be direct from Pocahontas, or other historical princess, would be a passport to respectability; otherwise, it need not be mentioned. With the Spaniards and Portuguese it is otherwise. Alliance with the coloured race, though not always a necessity, was unobjectionable to taste, and was sanctioned by religion. The spread of mixed populations over the Americas has preserved the Indian element, not only by direct amalgamation, but by the growth of sympathy with the dark man of the woods. The Romish Church was eager to facilitate such unions, as they extended its influence and secured its triumphs.
Though the gratification of mere lustful emotions brought the opposing races occasionally together in our southern settlements, it tended greatly to the further decline of the weaker people. Marriages were scorned, and lengthened associations were only maintained for the convenience of the stronger party, to be broken at his will, and annulled without remorse. Concubinage itself was abhorrent to many Bushmen, when with such a debased and inferior race as the Tasmanians, especially in the later times of their degradation and decay. But still, with the lighter coloured, higher developed, and even graceful inhabitants of New Zealand, the alliance could not reach beyond the temporary and the selfish. Some remarks from a recent number of the Taranaki Herald of New Zealand illustrate the difficulties in the way:—
"The great excess of males over females will of itself prevent in a great measure intermarriage between white men and native women. In addition to which it may be mentioned that, until lately at least, the missionaries encouraged marriages among the Natives at an injuriously premature age of the females, to prevent their being sold to white men for illicit purposes—a practice not suppressed by the tone of society which exists in the colony. Those early marriages have become habitual among the Natives, and it is painful to witness its result upon the diseased and feeble generation which is now growing up. An educated European who marries a native woman must give up all ideas of peace and comfort. A Maori will never marry a white woman, because he feels her superiority, and he cannot make a slave of her as a native woman. No white woman, not even the most degraded, could be induced to unite herself to a Maori—to herd, native-fashion, in a pa, amid dirt, vermin, and discomfort."
The Government of Van Diemen's Land was not indifferent to the amalgamation idea, as may be seen in this work. If not offering a bonus for such unions, several instances are recorded of grants of land to men who have been legally married to Tasmanian females, but which property could not be sold during the lifetime of the Native. Under the head of "Half-Castes," the subject receives further discussion.
Not able to amalgamate, the other unfortunate condition followed—they perished.
The Puritans were not alone in the belief that the Aborigines were a sort of Canaanitish people, who were doomed to be exterminated by the peculiar people. Even the missionary to the Blacks of New South Wales, Mr. Threlkeld, seems to find some comfort, in his natural astonishment at the rapid diminution of his charge, from feeling that it "is from the wrath of God, which is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." He utters this sentiment when standing in a colony constructed out of the refuse crime of Britain, and rapidly filling the land with their prosperous descendants! The Rev. Dr. Lang, of Sydney, more mildly observes: "It seems, indeed, to be a general appointment of Divine Providence that the Indian wigwam of North America and the miserable Aborigines of New Holland should be utterly swept away by the flood-tide of European colonization." This is the common idea of many good people, who call it "an inscrutable Providence." In olden times, all pestilences arising from the neglect of organic laws,—all famines proceeding from the cruelty or ignorance of society,—and all wars coming from the passions of men,—were esteemed "appointments of Divine Providence." Professor Waitz properly rebukes this impiety, or self-delusive blindness, in this manner: "According to the teaching of the American school, the higher races are destined to displace the lower. The extinction of the lower is predestined by Nature; and it would thus appear that we must not merely acknowledge the right of the white American to destroy the Red man, but perhaps praise him that he has constituted himself the instrument of Providence in carrying out and promoting this law of destruction."
Not a few put away the paltry religious pretence, and take up the broad doctrine of necessity. Mr. Squier, the distinguished American traveller and ethnologist, asserts, in his "Central America," that "short-sighted philanthropy may lament, and sympathy drop a tear, as it looks forward to the total disappearance of the lower forms of humanity, but the laws of nature are irreversible—it is the will of God." But Captain Burton, the enterprising explorer, takes up this bold ground: "Maugre some evidence to the contrary, I still believe that the North American Aborigine, like the Tasmanian and the Australian, is but a temporary denizen of the world, who falls in the first struggle with nature. He is like a wild animal, to be broken, but not to be tamed, as the wolf can be taught to refrain from worrying, but cannot be made to act as a dog. In his wild state, the Indian falls before the white man. Settled and civilized, he dies of acute disease."
That is, the Blacks go before the superior Caucasian race, as the old, gigantic Saurians before other types of beings, and we have but to shrug our shoulders, and cry, "Poor fellows!" As the Irish elk retired before the Celt, the reindeer before the hunters of Gaul, so the Tasmanian before the Saxon. But while the Native thus retires, the kangaroo does not, the opossum does not. These very ancient animals suffer no diminution, but are greater pests to the settlers than ever the Blacks were, destroying crops or monopolizing the choicest pastures. Battues of thousands fail sensibly to thin the kangaroo army. The Native dog, or dingo, is nearly poisoned off, and the emu is hunted from the plains; but the fleet kangaroo conceals himself in the scrub by day to feed on the squatter's grass by night, as if he believed that he had a right to the land from which his dark-skinned hunter had been driven.
The learned Bodichon expresses the sentiments of many political economists and jurists in these words:—"In the eyes of theology they are lost men; in the eyes of morality, vicious men; in the eyes of humanitary economy, they are non-producers. From their origin they had not recognised, and they still refuse to recognise, a supreme law imposed by the Almighty, viz. the obligation of labour." He advances, and develops the extreme views of the question in these words of ominous meaning to the few aboriginal races remaining:—"True philosophy should not tolerate the existence of a race whose nationality is opposed to progress, and who constantly struggle against the general rights and interests of humanity."
The author of the work on "The Universal Destruction of Aboriginal Nations," denies the position assumed by the Necessitarians. He who talks of a necessity," says he, "that uncivilized man must perish away before civilized, proud though he may be in his own fancied light, is, with respect to the nobler qualities of man, barbarous and uncivilized himself. That almost all historical experience is on the side of the exterminating politician we are compelled, alas! to admit, to the shame of our race and of our country; but, in the name of humanity, we indignantly deny that the circumstances which impel the civilized race to root out the uncivilized are inevitable."
The decline, however, has in some cases at least been observed to have commenced before the advent of Englishmen. As Rome had sensibly fallen before the walls were polluted by the tramp of the barbarian, had declined in vigour, had decreased in population, and was crumbling to decay by the operation of causes within, so were the Natives in some places deteriorating in numbers, and waning in social strength. Devastating pestilences had swept over the forests, intestine wars had thinned the tribes, and physical decadence of family had commenced. Mr. Wohlers, of New Zealand, has these remarkable observations upon the fall of the Maories, which may, perhaps, be applied with justice to other people:—
"Studying the old New Zealand mythology, and other information about the Aborigines in the South Seas, it is my individual opinion that, at one time, long ago, they had obtained a far higher degree of culture than they are in possession of at present, or of later years, and that at that time they were both healthy and flourishing; but that both their religious and civil institutions having been decayed, and, particularly in New Zealand, almost annihilated, they were sunken into a very feeble and degraded condition, and that that is the original cause of their decrease. If, therefore, Christianity and civilization had never been brought them by Europeans, they would gradually have vanished by themselves."
But there is no evidence to show that Australians and Tasmanians had a more consolidated and advanced state. The remark of Mr. Wohlers applies only to races having, like the Maories, a civilization of their own, and not to a migratory people. At the same time there is much force in what Mr. J. W. Jackson says, that "there is increasing evidence that these ruder types once occupied a much wider area in the world than they now do. It is also obvious that the day of their approaching extinction is measurable, if not by decades, at least by centuries. We are in many ways on the verge of an ethnic crisis.
Certainly, when we hear the cry of "America for the Americans," and "Italy for the Italians,"—when we observe the heaving of the various dislocated tribes offor union, and when we painfully witness the disappearance of races,—we are conscious of being on the verge of an ethnic crisis.
The death-struggle of ancient peoples is known on all sides of us. In some places they seem, as Humboldt so grandly describes, "the fading remnants of a society sinking amidst storms, overthrown and shattered by overwhelming catastrophes." At other times they appear, as Mr. Markham, the naturalist, speaks of the present Peruvian Indians, "marching slowly down the gloomy and dark road to extinction." A few illustrations from other lands will prepare for the story of the decline of the Tasmanians. Such will sadly demonstrate Mr. Darwin's philosophy that "the varieties of man seem to act upon each other in the same way as different species of animals; the stronger always extirpates the weaker." The coloured races are those which suffer, though there is evidently a vitality in negroes which, to a great extent, defies our power of destruction. Favoured with less sensibility, or endowed with stronger frame, they flourish where others fail, and they increase with Hebrew facility under worse than Egyptian bondage. The fact is recognised, though philosophy ventures upon no proper solution of the enigma. The negro dwells in pestilential swamps, in sultry valleys, on mountain tops, on arid plains, in damp, and in cold. His merry, careless laugh is heard in every clime. The language, therefore, of Poeppig, the student of natural history, will not apply to him; for, said he of the dark skin, "He cannot endure the spread of European civilization in his neighbourhood; but perishes in its atmosphere, without suffering from ardent spirits, epidemics, or wars, as if touched by a poisonous breath."
When the two ministers forming the deputation from the London Missionary Society came to King Pomare II. of Tahiti, he saluted them with these mournful words: "You have come to see me in a very bad time. Your ancestors came in the time of men, when Tahiti was inhabited; you are come to behold just the remnant of my people." A prophecy of Teearmoar, the high priest of Paree, is often repeated by the islanders:—
|"E tupu te fan,||The palm tree (fau) shall grow,|
|E torro te farero,||The coral (farero) shall spread,|
|E mou te taata."||But man (mou) shall cease.|
Captain Cook estimated the population of Tahiti in his day at 200,000. It is now but little more than one-tenth of it. Mr. Herman Melville describes some of the causes of that decrease: "To say nothing of the effects of drunkenness," said he, "the occasional inroads of the small-pox, and other things that might be mentioned, it is sufficient to allude to a virulent disease, which now taints the blood of at least two-thirds of the common people of the island; and, in some form or other, is transmitted from father to son. Their first horror and consternation at the earlier ravages of this scourge were pitiable in the extreme. The very name bestowed upon it is a combination of all that is horrid and unmentionable to a civilized being."
Hawaii is another frightful example of declension of numbers. In 1823 the population was 140,000, though the Natives declare it was once four times that amount. In 1838 it had fallen to 108,000; in 1849, to 80,000; in 1853, to 71,000; in 1860, to 67,000; in 1863, to 62,000. There were one-fifth more males than females—the effect of libertinism. Dr. Ruschenberger, U.S. Navy, found 8,679 in the district of Rohalo in one year, and but 6,175 four years after. In the district of Hanapepe there were eight deaths recorded to one birth. Of 1,154 men, selected from one portion of the island, twenty-five only had a family of three children. Out of 637 elsewhere, ten only had three. The official reports give an average of half a child to each married couple on the whole island; of eighty married women only thirty-nine ever had offspring. Well might Mr. Wylie of the Foreign Office exclaim, "It is my frank belief that unless Hawaiian females can be rendered more pure and chaste, it is impossible to preserve the Hawaiian people in being." And yet they are the most civilized of the Pacific Islanders.
The same melancholy record is given of the interesting Samoans and other civilized South Sea people. They are accepting our religion, wearing our clothes, conforming to our habits, and hastening to their extinction. In spite of their former infanticides, murders, wars, cannibalism, the Fijians were the most populous of the ocean races; now those crimes have nearly ceased, and yet they are going the way of death.
It is with the Tasmanian's eastern neighbour, the Maori, that the devastation is as disastrous. From the official statistics the following facts are gleaned:—Of 222 wives in one district, 75 are reported barren; of 440 wives in another, 155 were barren. There were only 24,000 females to 31,000 males in 1868. A comparison of the two races is thus made: with one death in 136 of the White population, it was one in 33 of the Maori; and with one birth in 25 of the White, it was one in 67 of the other. These two causes must bring on ultimate extinction. One-fifth of the population passed away during the fourteen years previous to the census of 1858. That twenty per cent, will be greatly increased during the next fourteen, as decrepitude induces greater rapidity of extinction. In the district of Ngatikarewa, the magistrate declared that among seventeen women there was but one female child. "The present generation," writes the Rev. Mr. Ellis, "deeply sensible of the depopulation that has taken place, even within the recollection of those most advanced in years, have felt acutely in prospect of the annihilation that appeared inevitable." The Maories themselves have a poetical and affecting way of picturing their future:—"As clover killed the fern, and the European dog the Maori dog—as the Maori rat was destroyed by the Pakeha rat—so our people, also, will be gradually supplanted and exterminated by the Europeans."
A Buffalo paper was some time ago exulting in the thought of the monopoly of the world by Americans, saying, "Sixty years ago there were only six millions in America (U.S.); now there are twenty-six millions. In another century they will be sixty millions, and they will spread over the earth until the globe be theirs!" It is this heartless egoism of our common race of Britain and America that so shocks the benevolent mind, and chills the aspiration for a better policy toward the native peoples. Major Warburton could tell the Buffalo editor that with his Indian of the prairies, "no soothing voice of affection fell upon his ear, no gentle kindness wooed him from his savage isolation. The hand of irresistible power was stretched out,—not to raise him from his low estate, and lead him into the brotherhood of civilized man,—but to thrust him away with cruel and unjust disdain." The Indian Bible which Elliott translated can now be read by no one. With such indifference and recklessness among the civilized, we are ready to believe what Dr. Wilson, in his "Prehistoric Man," asserts: "Whole tribes and nations have disappeared, without even a memorial mound, or pictured grave post, to tell when the last of the race is returning to the earth from whence he sprang." Dr. Gliddon gives utterance to the same thought: "Who can count how many races have already disappeared! What populations, of which we ignore the history, the very existence, have quitted the globe, without leaving on it their name, at least for a trace."
Strong drink has played an important part, as we have seen, in the decline of aboriginal races. Sir Francis Head, in a despatch to Lord Glenelg, said, "Wherever and whenever the two races come in contact, it is sure to prove fatal to the red man. If we stretch forth the hand of friendship, the liquid fire it offers him to drink proves still more destructive than our wrath." The King of Basutos, when converted to our faith, prohibited the introduction of alcoholic liquors into his dominions. Other chiefs of Native races have tried the same expedient, but while traders and missionaries themselves use the drink, it is in vain to maintain such prohibitory laws, especially as a declining race ever flee to it for solace in their sorrow. That true friend of the coloured races. Bishop Selwyn, now Bishop of Lichfield, is reported to have uttered these solemn words, at a missionary meeting in Manchester:—
"He had spoken of the seeming failure of the work in New Zealand. He had to tell them of one of its causes. The people of the New Zealand race stood out for many years against the temptation to intoxication, but if the native people of New Zealand had given way to the sin of intoxication, from whom would God require an account of their sin? It was not a sin of native growth; it was an imported, an exotic, sin. They stood against it for a time, but as their faith failed they gave way to the temptations forced upon them by their English brethren. They had heard it said, and they were fearful words, that it was the law of nature that the coloured races should melt away before the advance of civilization. He would tell them where that law was registered, and who were its agents. It was registered in hell, and its agents were those whom Satan made twofold more the children of hell than himself. He from the bottom of his heart urged them to do all they could to discountenance the use of spirituous liquors."
In another work I have portrayed some mournful illustrations of the effect of drink on the Aborigines of New Holland, particularly on women. By it the latter were seduced into abhorrent vices, by it they contracted a horrible disease, by it they raised the anger and murderous blow of husbands and brothers, by it they degrade and kill the tribe.
The Corio tribe, living in the Geelong neighbourhood, were, at the time of my going to the south, a powerful body. A recent number of the Geelong Register has this paragraph, which tells of drink and decline: "The Corio tribe is nearly extinct, as King Jerry and one male companion are all that are now known to reside in the district. The last-named is far from well, and both are evidently shortening their existence by their habits of living." The physical and moral declension of the Aborigines by drink has tended to disgust the decent colonist, who wishes them out of his presence. The Adelaide Observer, like almost all the Australian papers, has uniformly taken the side of virtue, and maintained humane and generous principles, but could not forbear giving up all hope from the increasing drunkenness of the Natives, and added, "The miserable races composing the Native tribes of this continent will soon melt away."
The Tasmanians suffered less from strong drink than the Australians have done, because they were less social with the Whites, and preferred dwelling apart in the independence of the wilderness. But every case I have examined into of, so-called, partial civilization has been one of misery from that cause. Whalers, stock-keepers, and sealers employed that agency for the accomplishment of their purpose with the Black women. The "Tame Mob" that hung about Hobart Town in early times, were dissolute and drunken. The unhappy remnant at Oyster Cove deplored their exposure to that curse; and, while declaring their passion for the excitement, spoke feelingly of the cruelty of subjecting them to its temptation.
No story can be sadder, as illustrating both civilization and decline, than that told me at Oyster Cove by the Superintendent concerning a beautiful Tasmanian girl, who had been adopted by Lady Franklin, and afterwards thrown into the herd of degraded savages. She had dwelt in the Colonial palace, had been taught, petted, and trained to higher hopes. She was then left to grope her way to the grave along with the untutored of her own race, the ignorant and vicious of ours. But a friend has sent me his own sketch of the girl. It appeared in the Hobart Town Mercury last June. He describes a visit of Lady Franklin's to the Blacks' temporary station, where was a pretty baby.
"As there were no picaninnies," says he, "at Government House at that time, it was in some way arranged that an addition should be made to the family at home; and so it was ordered that the little wild girl should take her place as one of the family. The king's daughter carried no dowry with her, save, indeed, a single kangaroo-skin, a rush basket, a shell necklace or two, a pet opossum, and her name—that was Mathinna. This pretty sound means in the language of her fathers 'Beautiful Valley.' She grew to be a tall, graceful girl—and here I am at a loss to describe perhaps one of the grandest specimens of our kind that ever nature smiled upon. She stood, when I saw her last, about five feet eight inches high, was very erect, with a quick, thoughtless, or perhaps thinking, if you please, toss about her head now and then. Her hair still curled short as before, but seemed to struggle into length, and was blacker than black, bright, glossy, and oh! so beautiful! Her features were well chiselled, and singularly regular, while her voice was light, quick, yet sighed like, and somewhat plaintive."
He goes on with his sad narrative. "When Sir John Franklin was ordered home, the Tasmanian beauty did not go with her ladyship. The medical men thought her unfit for the rough English climate. She was left behind. But, strangely enough, instead of her being placed with a household of respectability and virtue, where at least her happiness would have been consulted, she was thrust into the Convict Orphan School, where some black children had been sent to be educated or to suffer and to die."
"Poor Mathinna," adds my friend, "was transferred sobbing and broken-hearted, from the tender care of one who had always proved far more than a mother to her, and the luxury and grandeur of Government House, to a cold stretcher in the dormitory of the Queen's Asylum. She soon fell sick, and took to her bed in the hospital. Poor girl! she had no friends then, save one, who sleeps with her now. All those fawners about Government House who used to say kind things, and pretend to be proud to take her hand in the ball-room because it pleased Lady Franklin, had all disappeared; and, as her wan fingers beat upon the wall, she sighed and thought of days gone by, and of that flock of summer friends who revelled in the sunshine of the hour, but vanished with its splendour."
When the Flinders Island establishment was removed to Oyster Cove, she was ordered thither. The sequel is well told in my friend's sad tale:—
"Too soon, alas! she fell into the habits of the rest; and, as they were permitted to wander about in the Bush in all directions, amongst sawyers, splitters, and characters of the deepest depravity, the reader may guess for himself what my pen refuses to write. One night, however, Mathinna was missing; and, although cooey after cooey resounded from mountain to mountain, and from gully to gully, no tidings were heard of the lost girl. In the morning the search was continued, till at length the wanderer was found. The little wild girl with the shell necklace, and the pet opossum—the scarlet-coated, bare-headed beauty in the carriage—the protégé of the noblewoman—the reclaimed daughter of the native chief, had died, abandoned by every virtue, and—drunk—in the river!"
The decline has been attributed by many to the "breeding in and in" practice, as the Tasmanians had been isolated for many generations from contact with any other people. This doctrine has been presented forcibly by Mr. George Combe in his "Constitution of Man," and has been acted upon by the regulations of savage tribes, as well as by the exhortations and enactments of churches and states. The "degrees" have been insisted upon. From not "marrying a grandmother," down to the Chinese regulation of not marrying out of his own clan, the man has been hedged in with his natural proclivities. The decay of nations, the diseases of families, the imbecility and unproductiveness of certain royal houses, have been ascribed to this cousinly practice of close breeding. But of late, the argument for the other side has been taken up. Instances,—like that given by Quatrefages of the fishing village of western France, where a couple of thousand healthy, good-looking, and intelligent people are found having no connexion out of their borders—or like the brawny "Caller Herring" women of the Forth—have been adduced to prove the contrary. Several French and English physiologists have lately been opening up the question, and have brought forward statistical evidence to prove the contrary of what has generally been assumed as the evil consequences of "cousin unions."
Mr. Fenton is of the old belief, and writes: "One other cause of depopulation suggests itself to the mind of the writer—the constant intermixture of blood during the twenty generations that the Maories have occupied this country." But, according to the Maori traditions, the settlement was made those twenty generations ago by a few canoe-loads only. When first known to Captain Cook, the islands were thronged with people. The "intermixture" must have been closer at the formation of the colony by the Maories. Mr. Heaphy, another New Zealand authority, attempts similarly to account for the "run out" of the race. "Has isolation been the cause?" says he. "I am not aware that the fact of New Zealand being the populated island most remote in the world from any other populated country has attracted the attention of naturalists. May an infusion of fresh blood not be necessary to restore prolificacy? Amog the islands of Melanesia, where communication from group to group is easy, the villages teem with children, and young mothers with several young children hanging about them are met continually, notwithstanding the effect of disease and the insecurity of perpetual warfare."
But had not New Zealand declined most rapidly after their bloody intestine wars had ceased, after cannibalism and infanticide had disappeared, after the filth of pas had been removed, after chastity and temperance had succeeded impurity and drunkenness, after Christianity had supplanted heathenism? Intercourse with other tribes has, in fact, been promoted by commerce, been cemented by missions.
The cases of Melanesia and New Zealand, or, more aptly, the Papuans of Melanesia and the Papuans of Tasmania, are not parallel. The islanders of those equatorial regions have not been, except at rare intervals, even visited by Europeans. Although communication be easy, it is not expedient, for each island is a nation in itself, having its independent language, and only coming in contact with others on terms of destructive warfare. The "new blood" has more force when applied to Tasmania.
The importation of diseases has, doubtless, accelerated the departure of Natives. Hearne ventures so far as to affirm that nine-tenths of the North American Indians perished from smallpox. Scrofula is regarded as a most subtle and destructive cause. Syphilis has been a fearful scourge, though something of that character, perhaps, existed in the South Seas before the visit of our navigators. Dr. Broca does not esteem it the principal agent in their decline, remarking that it has never been so horrible in modern times among savages as it was in Europe three or four hundred years ago. Dr. Bourgard examined a number of dead bodies at Tahiti, and found tubercles in all, or nearly all. He thinks that we have imparted consumption, which has raged as an epidemic among them. "It has thus," he says, "destroyed the families without noise, and as if by stealth." He concludes by asking, "Is it become an epidemic, while preserving its character of hereditary, and does it thus constitute the most complete scourge that medicine can inscribe upon its nosological list?"
Dr. Jeanneret thus refers to the decline on Flinders Island: "This was, perhaps, unavoidable under so sudden a change, from a life of hazard to one of comparative indolence, without precautions which experience alone could indicate. Many of them were aged. Several still suffered from the effects of their wounds, and few were prepared to adopt the means of graduating their exchanged position. The temporary necessity of resorting to a diet of salt provisions might also possibly operate prejudicially." He speaks of a pseudo-civilization "increasing an inherent tendency to pulmonary and inflammatory affections; and several were victims of intermutual violence and revenge." He told me that some had confessed to him that men had received blows in the loins, which would, in their decaying condition, produce the manifestations of consumption.
One prominent exponent of the Tasmanian decline, as with that of others, was the absence of children. Mr. A. C. Gregory, the celebrated explorer of Northern Australia, told me that in Queensland the want of reproduction was being already felt with the Blacks, even in the most recently settled parts, and that decay would set in. Though, without doubt, many Tasmanian aboriginal children disappeared during the hardships and harassment of the "Black War," yet the absence of births even more than the frequency of deaths completed the destruction of the people. From inquiry of the nine women at Oyster Cove, I learned that only two of them had ever had a child. One of the two had one child, and the other two children; all had died many years ago. Upon my expressing my surprise, one said, with a burst of laughter, "What good hab him piccaninny?" Another, with better taste, remarked, "What por? blackfellow, him all die."
But some, struck with the non-fertility of Australian and Tasmanian women, have supposed that some mysterious effect was produced by their intercourse with white men. Count Strzelecki advanced this theory respecting the dark-skinned female:
"She loses the powers of conception, on a renewal of intercourse with a male of her own race, retaining only that of procreating with the white man." Again, "Hundreds of instances of this extraordinary fact are recorded in the writer's memoranda, all occurring invariably under the same circumstances among the Hurons, Seminoles, Red Indians, Yakies, Mendoza Indians, Auracos, South Sea Islanders, and Natives of New Zealand, New South Wales, and Van Diemen's Land; and all tending to prove that the sterility of the female is not accidental, but follows laws as cogent, though as mysterious, as the rest of those connected with generation."
The common opinion among colonists is that such sterility is in consequence of their mode of life, as with the prostitutes of Europe; and that, though very occasionally a half-caste has appeared, the females became so rapidly diseased, or internally enfeebled, as to be unable to produce. This is especially seen in the Australian races, and those of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Whatever the exceptions, births with Blacks, after intercourse with Whites, were, as a rule, unknown. While travelling through the volcanic country of Mount Gambier, I heard of an instance of a woman bearing a child to a young Black, after she had been delivered of two half-castes. Other examples have been mentioned to me. Addressing the Rev. Mr. Ridley upon the question, as he had had great experience among the Natives of New South Wales, he answers, "In all parts I have heard it said that black children are never born of mothers who have given birth to half-castes. I never heard of one instance in which this occurred." Mr. A. Oldfield, of Western Australia, says, "During twenty years' observation I have ever found the Count's statement to be correct."
On the other hand, the German Gipps Land Missionary, Mr. Hagenauer, writes thus to me: "This is not true, for every woman (at his mission) who had a half-caste child has had black children afterwards, and is still getting them." The Rev. George Taplin of Queensland Missions has this observation: "I have known many instances of women bearing black children after half-castes." Many are ready to declare the same of negro nations. Though six Tahitians were with nine seamen of the Bounty in association with thirteen Tahitian females, the children were all half-castes.
As to our Tasmanians, Dr. Milligan has at least one exception. Writing in 1851, he says: "There is now living at the Tasmanian Aborigines' Establishment, at Oyster Cove, a native black woman of Tasmania, who, when young, bore black children to her native husband—then several half-castes, of whom two grown-up women are now alive—and, finally, two or three black children (one of whom is now a fine boy about nine years old) by a black countryman, to whom she was united upon being removed from her European protector." Dr. Jeanneret of Flinders declares: "I do not think Strzelecki was right in his estimate of their fertility."
To my interrogative of "Why did they cease having children?" I received the following reply from Dr. Story, a benevolent member of the Society of Friends, who has lived at Swanport, in Tasmania, for between forty and fifty years:—"I think it a physiological question, that from want of sufficient data could not be answered. I do not know if the medical men who have attended the Natives ever ventilated the question. The deaths at Flinders Island, and the attempts at civilizing the Natives, were consequent on each other. If left to themselves, to roam as they were wont, and undisturbed, they would have reared more children, and there would have been less mortality. The change to Flinders induced or developed an apathic condition of the constitution, rendering them more susceptible of the heats and chills attendant on their corrobories, inducing a peculiar disease in the thoracic viscera." Elsewhere he writes: "After 1823 the women along with the tribe seemed to have had no children; but why I do not know. Their being at war with the Whites may have caused the mothers to neglect their infants, or frights caused continual abortions, until the uterine system was habituated to it."
Among the opinions collected upon the theory of non-fertility, a letter was sent me from Mr. Surveyor-General Calder, of Hobart Town. "I believe," wrote he, "there is mighty humbug in Count Strzelecki's theory, that where a savage woman has had sexual intercourse with a white man, she is for ever after incapable of having children by a man of her own race. What can colour signify? I should almost as soon think of asserting that a black mare could not have a foal by a black horse after having had one by a white one." But he was good enough to enclose me a note from Mr. Solly, Assistant Colonial Secretary of Tasmania; and to whom I take this opportunity of acknowledging my gratitude for past literary assistance. Mr. Solly says: "When I was a resident in South Australia, I knew a woman, an aboriginal Native, the mother (at least I have no doubt she was the mother) of a half-caste child, who had subsequently another child as dark as herself, and without question the child of a black man." He then proceeds to philosophize upon the subject, saying, "Many of these poor black women used to prostitute themselves for clothes, tobacco, or 'white money,' and, in such cases, I question whether they would bear children any more than white prostitutes."
There is another side of this question. The female is not alone in defective virility. A New Zealand writer says that a "full quiver is the ordinary result of mixed marriages." There never was a difficulty about children with Whites, even when black children in Tasmania were almost unknown. A case in Victoria may bear upon the subject. Seventeen years ago I knew a native who was knocking about the settled districts, having a wife, but being childless. Then he was often intoxicated. About a year since I saw him healthy and happy. He was under good influence, had kept away from town life, and was then working quietly upon his little bit of ground. He had regained his vigour, and with great glee held up a fine black child, that he took from its black mother, and claimed for his own.
Although the destruction in Tasmania was not so awful in magnitude as on the continent, where the Rev. L. E. Threlkeld says, "Of one large tribe in the interior four years since there were 164 persons, now there are only three individuals alive,"—yet the account of Flinders Island experience is a sad one of decline. Surgeon Allen in 1837 wrote from Flinders: "It is almost certain that these people will become extinct in a few years." It is sickening to read such extracts as these from the medical reports:—
"20 Feb. 1837.—Died this day of chronic visceral inflammation, the native man Algernon.—J. Allen, Surgeon.
"22 Feb. 1837.—Died this evening of acute visceral inflammation, the native man Omega.—J. Allen, Surgeon.
"25 Feb. 1837.—Died this evening of chronic visceral inflammation, the native man Matthew.—J. Allen, Surgeon.
"29 Feb. 1837.—Died this day of visceral chronic inflammation, the native woman Tinedeburrie.—J. Allen, Surgeon."
The decline of our Aborigines would be explained by Mr. Brace, in his ethnological work, as proceeding "from the wear and contact with a different and grasping race." He explains farther:—"This must not be understood to be a poetic or sentimental statement. It is a scientific consideration now, in explaining the diminution of any barbarous or inferior race in presence of a more powerful one—the effect on the spirits or temperament which the contrast of a different and more fortunate people causes." This is especially the truth in relation to the Tasmanians. The iron entered into the souls of these sensitive men. They sank under the burden of the thought.
Our Tasmanians suffered from heart sickness and home sickness. Mr. R H. Davis, in his interesting notice, refers to their residence on Flinders, "where," says he, "they have been treated with uniform kindness; nevertheless, the births have been few, and the deaths numerous. This may have been in a great measure owing to their change of living and food; but more so to their banishment from the mainland of Van Diemen's Land, which is visible from Flinders Island; and the Natives have often pointed it out to me with expressions of the deepest sorrow depicted on their countenances." Dr. Barnes was conscious of the same antagonism to his medical treatment, saying, "They pine away, not from any positive disease, but from a disease they call 'home sickness.' They die from a disease of the stomach, which comes on entirely from a desire to return to their own countRy." The Ranz des Vaches appeals to the imagination, and excites romantic impulses, though proceeding from the lips of voluntary exiles from their Swiss mountain-home. Can it be less affecting to witness the tear-dimmed glance of the Tasmanian at the hills from which he was stolen, or listen to the deep sigh of the dark captive as he dwells upon the forest haunts of his youth, and the loved ones of his days there? When the poor gin, with eager look and pointing finger, asked a gentleman if he saw the white, snowy crest of the towering Ben Lomond, then just looming in the distance, the tears rolled down her swarthy cheeks, as she exclaimed, "That-me-country." Perhaps Governor Bourke was justified in declaring, "They conceive that the God of the English is removing the aboriginal inhabitants to make room for them."
It was not to be expected that so mournful a fate could be a matter of indifference to statesmen, and we hear again and again expressions of sympathy from our British rulers. When Governor Arthur wrote home about the terrible decline of the Tasmanians, even before the great conflict of the line, and subsequent battle strife, Sir George Murray thus replied in a despatch, dated Nov. 5, 1830:—
"The great decrease which has of late years taken place in the amount of the aboriginal population, renders it not unreasonable to apprehend that the whole race of these people may, at no distant period, become extinct. But with whatever feelings such an event may be looked forward to by those of the settlers who have been sufferers by the collisions which have taken place, it is impossible not to contemplate such a result of our occupation of the island, as one very difficult to be reconciled with feelings of humanity, or even with feelings of justice and sound policy; and the adoption of any line of conduct, having for its avowed or secret object the extinction of the native race, could not fail to leave an indelible stain upon the British Government."
It was too late to attend to the benevolent cry of Lord Glenelg, "Rescue the remnant!" It is noticed in the glens of Tasmania that the beautiful Exocarpus, or native cherry-tree, flourishes best beneath the shade of other forest forms. When the axe lowers its tall and graceful companions, it begins to sicken, as though bemoaning the loss of sympathy, and gradually decays. Thus was it with the Natives. The departure of some let the sun in too rudely upon the others, and they shrank in their sensitive natures, hastening to the shade of the tomb.
When I was at Oyster Cove I could not avoid, when rambling through the Bush with King Walter George Arthur, asking a question bearing upon the departure of his people. I repented of my curiosity. His face became suddenly clouded, his eyes lost their lustre, his mouth twitched nervously at the side, he sighed deeply, and his very body seemed to bend forward. He slowly turned himself round, but said nothing. He looked like one oppressed with secret and consuming grief—as one without hope. He had no child. All his dark friends were childless, and were silently leaving him on the strand alone.
Notice after notice appears in the Hobart Town papers of the departure of the few I saw at Oyster Cove. Poor Patty died early in 1867. Wabberty was then dying, leaving but two others of the sisterhood alive. The last of the Straits Aborigines, known as Mrs. Julia Mansell, died in July 1867, on Sea Lion Island. She was sixty years of age. Her large family of half-castes were scattered through the group of islands. Her sealer husband, now sixty-four, survives his aboriginal partner. Walter has gone, and Maryann, his intelligent wife, has gone also. Particulars of them may be gathered from the chapter on "Oyster Cove."
One man remained, William Lanné. In October 1864, the Hobart Town Mercury has this paragraph:—
"At the last ball at Government House, Hobart Town, there appeared the last male aboriginal inhabitant of Tasmania. We had read much before of the Last Man, and heard much of the last man of his race, but had never expected to have been favoured with the sight of such a person. In this case, however, the person in question was accompanied by three aboriginal females, the sole living representatives of the race beside himself, but not of such an age, or such an appearance, as to justify the expectation of any future addition to their numbers."
This is the account given by the press of the Last of the Botany Bay tribe. The poor fellow tells a gentleman his sad tale. "Well, Mitter, all black fellow gone! All this my country! Pretty place, Botany! Little piccaninny, I run about here. Plenty black fellow then. Corrobory great fight. All canoe about. Only me left now, Mitter. Poor Mini tumble down (die). All gone! Bury her like a lady, Mitter. All put in coffin—like English. I feel lump in throat when I talk about her; but I bury her all very genteel, Mitter." The Rev. Mr. Threlkeld wrote in 1855: "I saw last month the last man of the last tribe of these districts" (near Sydney).
How expressive, as applied to such a man, is the language of the talented and estimable Mr. Westgarth:—"Behold him a wandering outcast; existing, apparently, without motives and without object; a burden to himself, a useless encumberer of the ground! Does he not seem pre-eminently a special mystery in the designs of Providence, an excrescence, as it were, upon the smooth face of nature, which is excused and abated only by the resistless haste with which he disappears from the land of his forefathers? Barbarous, unreflecting, and superstitious, how strangely contrasted is an object so obnoxious
|WILLIAM LANÉ, THE LAST MAN||WILLIAM LANÉ, THE LAST MAN|
|(Photographed by Mr. C. A. Woolley, 1866)||(Photographed by Mr. C. A. Woolley, 1866)|
When I went over to Hobart Town a couple of years ago, William Lanney had just returned from a whaling voyage. Truganina had mentioned his being a sailor, when talking to me about "him such a fine young man." I, therefore, sought him. Once I caught sight of him at a distance, but he was too drunk to talk with. My young friend Mr. Woolley gave me one of his excellent photographs of the poor fellow, a copy of which the reader is enabled to inspect. As he was going to see the Queen, as he said, I went several times to the ship in the hope of catching him sober, and having a chat with him, but was obliged to terminate my visit to the charming island unsuccessful in that object.
William Lanney, Lanny, or Lanné alias King Billy, the last man of the Tasmanian Aborigines, was, singularly enough, the last child of the last family brought from the island. The story of their capture, near Cape Grim, is given elsewhere in the work. Dr. Jeanneret is my authority for stating, that when the family arrived at Flinders Island, they were unable to consort with other Natives from their ignorance of language, and their own speech being unknown to the rest. They were much attached to each other. The mother, from privation and anxiety, wore the aspect of extreme age and feebleness. The father was singularly gentle in his manners. The children exhibited an affectionate interest in each other, and were very fond of their little "Billy" brother. But having just received further particulars from Dr. Milligan, the last Protector, concerning the last man, I would give an extract from his interesting communication:—
"Near the close of 1842," writes that gentleman, "being at that time in charge of the then new Convict Department, I took Launceston in the course of a tour of inspection of the convict establishments in the colony. There I found placed for safe custody, until transport to the aboriginal establishment at Flinders Island could be provided, the family of Aborigines afterwards known by the name of Lannie—consisting of a father and mother, with a son and daughter, fourteen to eighteen years of age, and two or three younger children, one of whom was afterwards named 'Billy,' and who, from his being the last male survivor of his race, together with the untoward circumstances supervening on his decease, has acquired a posthumous notoriety, which no condition of his life, or characteristics of his own, ever entitled him to. As a boy and youth he was very docile, and rather (as was very naturally to be expected) stupid and dull of apprehension. He never attended any public school, but an attempt was made by the catechist to teach him with the other children, an attempt which proved him a signal failure. Lanny or Lannie is, you will find, an aboriginal verb of the western tribe of Tasmania, signifying to fight or strike. How it came to be applied to the family I know not; it is certain they showed no fight when cleverly captured in the act of robbing in a shepherd's hut on the Cape Grim property of the Van Diemen's Land Company, shortly before the date at which I first saw them in H.M. gaol at Launceston. They were taken, I believe, between Mount Cameron and the Arthur River, on the west coast. . . . The aboriginal race of Tasmania possessed, in common with wild natives of other regions, great acuteness of vision at long distances; and to this faculty, rather than to any general fitness as a sailor, must be attributed the employment of Billy, and of many Polynesians of equally low development, on board whaling ships, where a keen eye at the mast-head is often worth a mint of money."
William Lanné afterwards sojourned with his own people at Oyster Cove. He then contracted an acquaintance with boat-men and sailors. Ultimately he became a whaler, and for years sailed from Hobart Town in the Aladdin, Jolly in habits as well as in appearance, he was always a favourite with his fellow-seamen, and was received with enthusiasm by the old ladies of the settlement whenever he paid them a visit As the youngest and handsomest of their tribes, they were loud in their praises of him to me. Consorting with the Europeans, and having no mate among his colour, it is not remarkable that he should have found fault with the excellent photograph copied in this work, and told Mr. Woolley, the artist, that it was "too black" for him.
Lanné continued cruising about for years. I never heard that her Gracious Majesty invited him to dine with her, although he had supposed, should he ever visit England, that compliment might have been paid to him as the last sovereign of his ancient race. It was some consolation to receive her smiles indirectly, being warmly greeted by her son, the Duke of Edinburgh, in January 1868. Clad in a blue suit, with a gold-lace band round his cap, he walked proudly with the Prince on the Hobart Town regatta ground, conscious that they alone were in possession of royal blood.
A couple of months after Lanné went whaling again. He returned in the Runnymede in February of the present year, bloated and unhealthy. For several days he complained of sickness. On the Friday he was suddenly seized with choleraic diarrhœa, and his system was unable to bear up against the attack. The following day he attempted to dress himself, with a view of proceeding to the hospital for treatment, but the exertion overcame him, and he fell dead on the bed. The Hobart Town Mercury of March 5th, 1869, has this melancholy record:—
"He had an unfortunate propensity for beer and rum, and was seldom sober when on shore. He was paid off on Saturday last, when he received a balance of wages and lay amounting to 12l. 13s. 5d. He took up his residence at the 'Dog and Partridge' public-house, at the corner of Goulburn and Barrack streets, and died from a severe attack of English cholera, as described by us yesterday. His body was removed to the Colonial Hospital on Wednesday night, March 3d, where it awaits burial, and to-morrow the grave will close over the last male aboriginal of Tasmania."
The circumstances attending this funeral were very remarkable. From my friend Mr. J. W. Graves, barrister in Hobart Town, I received letters relative to this extraordinary affair. A true friend of the Tasmanians, he endeavoured to make the occasion of national significance, and wished to see the Governor with other officials pay the last mark of respect to the Last Man of the Aborigines. But the Hobart Town Mercury, of March 8th, gives the following particulars:—
The Burial of William Lanné
|countryman to his grave. Their names were, John Silvester, John Timms, James Davis, and George Attwell. The pall was borne by Captain Hill, of the Runnymede, himself a native of Tasmania, and by three coloured seamen, John Bull, a native of the Sandwich Islands, Henry Whalley, a half-caste native of Kangaroo Island, S.A., and Alexander Davidson, an American. The chief mourners were Captain McArthur, of the whaling barque Aladdin, and Captain Bayley, owner of the whaling barque Runnymede. Among the mourners were nearly all the masters of vessels in port, and many gentlemen connected with the whaling trade. There was also a large muster of old colonists and native-born Tasmanians. As the procession moved along Liverpool and Murray streets to St David's Church it gathered strength, and was followed by a large concourse of spectators. The Rev. F. H. Cox read the service, and preceded the body to the grave, clothed in his surplice. On leaving the church the procession numbered from a hundred to a hundred and twenty mourners, and the event recalled to the minds of the old colonists present many an interesting episode of the early days of the colony, and of that race the last male representative of which was about to be consigned to his tomb. At the cemetery the Rev. Mr. Cox read the second portion of the impressive Burial Service of the English Church, and the grave closed over "King Billy," the breast-plate on whose coffin bore the simple inscription, "William Lanné, died March 3d, 1869. Aged 34 years."
Mutilation of the body.
Notwithstanding the precautions above referred to, the body of poor "King Billy" has not been respected, nor does the grave around which so many persons gathered on Saturday, contain a vestige of Tasmania's "last man." It is a somewhat singular circumstance that, although it has been known for years that the race was becoming extinct, no steps have ever been taken in the interests of science to secure a perfect skeleton of a male Tasmanian aboriginal. A female skeleton is now in the Museum, but there is no male, consequently the death of "Billy Lanné" put our surgeons on the alert. The Royal Society, anxious to obtain the skeleton for the Museum, wrote specially to the Government upon the subject, setting forth at length the reasons why, if possible, the skeleton should be secured to them. The Government at once admitted their right to it, in preference to any other institution, and the Council expressed their willingness at any time to furnish casts, photographs, and all other particulars to any scientific society requiring them. Government, however, declined to sanction any interference with the body, giving positive orders that it should be decently buried; nor did they feel at liberty to give their sanction to any future action which might be taken; although it is needless to say that so valuable a skeleton would not have been permitted to remain in the grave, and possibly no opposition would have been made to its removal, had it been taken by those best entitled to hold it in the interests of the public and of science, and without any violation of decency. Besides the Royal Society, it seems that there were others who desired to secure "Billy Lanné's" skeleton, and who were determined to have it in spite of the positive orders of the Colonial Secretary. The dead-house at the hospital was entered on Friday night, the head was skinned and the skull carried away, and with a view to conceal this proceeding, the head of a patient who had died in the hospital on the same day, or the day previously, was similarly tampered with, and the skull placed inside the scalp of the unfortunate native, the face being drawn over so as to have the appearance of completeness. On this mutilation being discovered, the members of the Council of the Royal Society were greatly annoyed, and feeling assured that the object of the party who had taken the skull was afterwards to take the body from the grave, and so possess himself of the perfect skeleton, it was resolved to take off the feet and hands and to lodge them in the Museum, an operation which was carefully done. The funeral then took place as above described. On the mutilation of the bodies in the dead-house becoming known, a letter was addressed by the Colonial Secretary to Dr. Stokell, requiring a report upon the case, and we have it upon the very highest authority that Dr. Stokell reported the circumstances much as they are described above, informing the Colonial Secretary that the only persons who had been present in the dead-house during Friday night were a surgeon, who is one of the honorary medical officers, his son, who is a student, and the barber of the institution, and neither of those persons were seen to remove anything from the hospital. It is believed, however, that the skull was thrown over the wall at the back of the dead-house with a string attached to it, and that it was secured by a confederate stationed in the creek on the other side. These reports occasioned a very painful impression among those present at the funeral, and a deputation consisting of Messrs. Colvin, McArthur, and Bayley, waited upon Sir Richard Dry in the evening, and requested that steps should be taken to have the grave watched during the night Sir Richard at once acquiesced in the proposal, and instructions were given to the police, but in some way they miscarried, possibly owing to the fact that they were not communicated through his Worship the Mayor, and the consequence was that the grave was found disturbed yesterday morning, when Constable Mahony reported that the earth had been removed, that a skull had been found lying on the surface, that a part of the coffin was visible, and that the ground surrounding the grave was saturated with blood. During the morning this report spread through the city,
|LALLA ROOKH, OR TRUGANINA, THE LAST WOMAN.||LALLA ROOKH, THE ONLY WOMAN ALIVE.|
|(Photographed by Mr. C. A. Woolley, 1866)||(Photographed by Mr. C. A. Woolley, 1866)|
and several hundreds of persons visited the cemetery in the afternoon. On the facts being communicated to Sir Richard Dry, he, in company with the Hon. Attorney-General, visited the grave, where they were met by Mr. J. W. Graves. The skull found on the surface was buried in their presence, and a general examination of the ground was made. Whether any other step will be taken respecting the violation of the grave we are unable to say. The visit of ministers to the grave was, we understand, consequent upon a report that the coffin had been removed, and had this been the case a search warrant would have been issued at their instance, as executors of "Billy Lanné," with instructions, in the event of any portions of the body being found in the course of its execution, that they should be taken possession of. Sir Richard and Mr. Dobson satisfied themselves, however, of the presence of the coffin, and therefore no step was taken, as it is doubtful whether any legal property in the body exists. Many rumours are afloat as to what has become of the body, and the men employed in the cemetery state that blood was traced from the grave to the gate opposite the stores of the Anglo-Australian Guano Company in Salamanca Place, but that there the traces were lost. There can be little doubt that the body has been secured by the individual who made off with the head, and possibly the fact that it is minus feet and hands may yet lead to the restoration of that important portion, as the skeleton will be comparatively valueless unless perfect We have been informed by the Hon. Sir Richard Dry that Dr. Crowther waited upon him on Saturday morning prior to the mutilation being reported, and made a request that the body should be granted to him, in order that he might secure the skeleton for the Royal College of Surgeons, England Sir Richard Dry informed the Doctor of the prior claim of the Royal Society, and expressed his opinion that if the skeleton was to be preserved at all, it should be in the Hobart Town Museum, where all scientific inquiries respecting the aboriginal race would most probably be made.
It is sufficient to add that Dr. Crowther was suspended as honorary surgeon of the hospital, that the skeleton was in possession of the Royal Society of Tasmania, and that, according to the Launceston Examiner, "it is expected that one of the first orders on the assembling of Parliament will be a 'return of King Billy's head!'"
The "Last Man" has gone. The Last Woman is no less a person than the historical Truganina, or Lalla Rookh!
The woolly-haired Tasmanian no longer sings blithely on the Stringy-bark Tiers, or twines the snowy clematis blossom for his bride's garland. The concern awakened for his condition comes too late. The bell but tolls his knell, and the Æolian music of the she-oak is his hymn and requiem. We cover our faces while the deep and solemn voice of our common Father echoes through the soul, "Where is thy brother?"
Oh! if he were here, how kindly would we speak to him! Would we not smile upon that dark sister of the forest, and joy in the prattle of that piccaninny boy? And would not the Christian cheek, once pale with reproaches and tearful with penitence, glow with delight to tell of a found Saviour to the lost savage? But now the burthen of each saddened spirit is.
Would I had loved him more!
LONDON: R. CLAY SONS, AND TAYLOR, PRINTERS.