The Last of the Tasmanians/Chapter 3
CRUELTIES TO THE BLACKS.
Who could adequately picture the story of the wrongs of the Tasmanians? We are indignant at the destruction of the Guanches of the Canaries by the Spaniards; we are horrified at the exterminating policy of the Napoleon of the Zulus of Africa; we are awe-struck at the total disappearance of whole nations of antiquity; and should we have no feeling of regret at causes which led to the annihilation of the tribes of Tasmania? They melted not away as the snow of the Alps beneath the soft breath of the Fön from the South, but were stricken down in their might, as the dark firs of the forests by the ruthless avalanche. It was not a contest between rival nations of civilization. No senator uttered a "Carthage must be destroyed" to incite the weakened energies of a struggling people. No Thermopylæ, which witnessed the expiring effort of its sons of freedom, remains in Tasmania's mountain fastnesses. No Kenneth of the South turned, as a hunted beast at bay, and crushed a race that nigh had conquered him. No bard has chronicled the deeds of heroism, no Ossian told of chiefs and daughters fair. It is altogether a petty, an unromantic warfare on the part of the stronger English, with no recognition of either chivalry or sentiment in the weaker barbarians. A long series of cruelties and misfortunes gradually wrought the destruction of the primitive inhabitants.
They would not, could not, be reduced to slavery. They would not, could not, assimilate with the habits of the intruders upon their soil. As their own brilliant Waratah, when torn from the rocky crest of its mountain home, refuses to expand its crimson petals in the artificial bed, and pines to death for the loss of its free and bracing native airs, so could they never assume the rigid robe of civilization, nor forsake their wild, wooded Tiers for the tenements of town.
We came upon them as evil genii, and blasted them with the breath of our presence. We broke up their home circles. We arrested their laughing corrobory. We turned their song into weeping, and their mirth to sadness. Without being disciples of Rousseau, without the simple faith of the French voyager, who discovered a nymph of grace and beauty in the dark Ourâ Ourâ of the woods, and beheld primeval innocence in the gentle, patriarchal government of tribes, it may yet be believed that social virtues were developed beneath the gum-tree shade—that maternal joy sparkled in the eyes of the opossum-skin clad one, as she joined in the gambols of her picaninny boy—that honest friendship united hands and hearts of brother hunters—while soft glances, sweet smiles, and throbbing bosoms, told that love could dwell within clematis bowers, as well as in the woodbine shade.
The white man entered this peaceful scene. The hunter stayed his carolling among the hills, and stole stealthily upon his own green sod. The mother hushed the tongue of the prattling one, and checked within herself the bounding emotions, lest Echo tell the dreaded stranger. And silenced was the talk of love; for deeds of wrong to matron duty and to maiden troth had chilled the heart, and flashed the eye with hate and rage.
The story of their sufferings would be like that written by the benevolent padre, Las Casas, in his "Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies," which is thus described by the learned Prescott: "It is a tale of woe. Every line of the work may be said to be written in blood." And yet it may be truly declared that Government had cherished proper sentiments toward the poor Indians; even the historian observes: "The history of Spanish colonial legislation is the history of the impotent struggles of the Government in behalf of the Natives, against the avarice and cruelty of its subjects." In the case of our islanders, there was not the apology of avarice, as they had nothing to give; it was rather a demoniacal propensity to torture the defenceless, and an insatiable lust, that heeded not the most pitiable appeals, nor halted in the execution of the most diabolical acts of cruelty, to obtain its brutal gratification.
The writer has on several occasions heard men declare that they thought no more of shooting a Black than bringing down a bird. Indeed, in those distant times, it was common enough to hear men talk of the number of black crows they had destroyed. Well may Mr. Melville exclaim in his Van Diemen's Land Almanac: "If it were possible in a work like this to record but a tittle of the murders committed upon these poor harmless creatures, it would make the reader's blood run cold at the bare recital." As an evidence of the wantonness of the attacks, we have the assertion of Jorgenson, the Dane, who, when out in 1830, "saw traces in numerous places," where "many had been wantonly shot by spiteful and vindictive stock-keepers." In another part of his remarkable autobiography this passage occurs: "Ignorant and vindictive stock-keepers often wantonly fired at and killed many of them when there was no danger in the way."
The editor of a Wellington paper writes: "We have ourselves heard 'old hands' declare to the common practice of shooting them to supply food for dogs." He had heard of the employment of poisoned rum. Such conduct was manifested from the very settlement of the colony. One great source of mischief was the liberty given to the prisoners about 1806, &c. to disperse themselves in search of food, during a season of famine. Even the Government received kangaroo meat at the stores, and paid for the same at the rate of eighteen pence per pound. We can readily imagine the effect of letting loose in the Bush a number of reckless bad men, who had been previously subjected to the rigour of prison discipline, and who now with inflamed passions were undeterred in the commission of crime by the presence or knowledge of the authorities.
At first kindly treated by the dark men of the forest, they repaid their hospitality by frightful deeds of violence and wrong. Shrieks of terrified and outraged innocence rose with the groans of slaughtered guardians, in the hitherto peaceful vales of Tasmania. One wonders not at the quotation of the Rev. John West, from the Derwent Star newspaper of 1810: "The Natives, who have been rendered desperate by the cruelties they have experienced from our people, have now begun to distress us by attacking our cattle." One extract from the Star of the same year, 1810, painfully illustrates the subject: "The unfortunate man, Russell, is a striking instance of Divine agency, which has overtaken him at last, and punished him by the hands of those very people who have suffered so much from him; he being known to have exercised his barbarous disposition in murdering or torturing any who unfortunately came within his reach." The indignation of honest old Governor Davey was strongly excited, when in 1813 he penned these words: "That he could not have believed that British subjects would have so ignominiously stained the honour of their country and themselves, as to have acted in the manner they did toward the Aborigines."
In the year 1814 a number of them, who had been accustomed to pay visits to the Camp at Hobart Town, were regaled with ration flour. In the merriment and excitement of the feast, some white monsters decoyed away and stole several of the children. At the discovery of their loss, the parents sought by passionate entreaties to procure the restitution of their offspring, but were met with but brutal jests from the kidnappers. Returning in sorrow and rage to their hilly homes, no black was seen in the streets of the Christian savages for several years after.
The public sentiment appears to have been either one of indifference toward the Natives, or that of direct antipathy. Many sympathised too much in the feeling of the man who said, "I'd as leave shoot 'em as so many sparrows." Even Captain Stokes was forced to write: "Such is the perversion of feeling among the colonists, that they cannot conceive that any one can sympathise with the Black race as their fellow-men." In an early proclamation. Governor Sorell thus records his condemnation of such treatment: "Cruelties have been perpetrated upon the Aborigines repugnant to humanity, and disgraceful to the British character; whilst few attempts can be traced on the part of the colonist, to conciliate the Natives, or to make them sensible that peace and forbearance were the objects desired."
Governor Arthur was equally shocked at the barbarity of his people, and unable to prevent the evil. Immediately after his arrival in the colony, a tribe applied to him for protection, and it was readily granted. All that personal attention and kindness could do was done to retain them near Hobart Town, and to secure them from insult and injury. They settled at Kangaroo Point, a tongue of land separated from the town by the broad estuary of the Derwent. There they stayed quietly and happily for a couple of years, when a savage murder was committed by some of their white neighbours, and the camp broke up immediately for the haunts of wildness.
The infamous treatment of the poor females was the exciting cause of the bitter and revengeful spirit manifested by the Blacks toward our race. It was not alone that these unfortunates were the victims of their lust, but the objects of their barbarity. If perchance a woman was decoyed to the shepherd's hut, no gentleness of usage was employed to win her regard, and secure her stay; threatening language, the lash, and the chain were the harsher expedients of his savage love. A story is told by Dr. Ross, describing his journey up to the Shannon in 1823. "We met," said he, "one of Mr. Lord's men sitting on the stump of a tree, nearly starved to death. He told us that three days before, a black woman whom he had caught, and had chained to a log with a bullock-chain, and whom he had dressed with a fine linen shirt (the only one he had), in hopes, as he said, to tame her, had contrived somehow to slip the chain from her leg, and ran away, shirt and all" The doctor adds, "I fear his object in chaining the poor creature was not exactly pure and disinterested." The reader will not be surprised to hear that not long after this gentle lover was hanged for exercising his benevolence upon some of his own countrymen. We hear of another who, having caught an unhappy girl, sought to relieve her fears, or subdue her sulks, as it was termed, by first giving her a morning's flogging with a bullock-whip, and then fastening her to a tree near his hut until he returned in the evening. The same fellow was afterwards found speared to death at a water hole.
A settler of the Esk informed me that a neighbour of his, wanting a gin asked him to accompany him on his Sabine expedition. He had heard that a woman had been seen with a small party on an island in the river, and was then on his way thither to seize her. He pointed exultingly to a bullock-chain which he carried, as the means of capture. I was struck with the criticism of an "Old Hand," a rough carter, but one who carried a kind heart beneath a bear's skin. We were talking of the former times, and of the cruelty practised upon the Blacks, especially in the stealing of their women. With no particular admiration for the dark people, some of whom had tried their spears upon his body, he had a sense of manliness within him, and thus expressed his opinion: "If a man was to run away with my wife, don't you think if I could fall in with him that I wouldn't crack his head for him? I would so."
Old Tom Ward, who was transported in 1818, and who gave me some striking records of the past, said that when up the country in 1820, the stock-keepers of Mr. Stocker's, of Salt Pan Plains, were guilty of abominable conduct toward two Native women. These afterwards told their Coolies or husbands, and the tribe surrounded the hut, and killed two men out of the three. Instances are upon record of murders committed solely with the view of seizing upon the females of a Mob. A lady once told me of a man-servant of hers getting speared after offering some insult to a gin. He narrowly escaped with his life, being long confined to the hut. Repeated cases were known of brutal stock-keepers and shepherds emasculating the males. Horror-stricken by tales of men such as these, the benevolent Mr. Backhouse exclaimed, "They were of such a character, as to remove any wonder at the determination of these injured people to try to drive from their land a race of men, among whom were persons guilty of such deeds."
The Bushrangers of Van Diemen's Land were sore foes to the Aborigines, from a natural cruelty of disposition, and from a fancied fear of their divulging the site of their brigand retreat. Lemon and others, when in a merry mood, bound them to trees, and used them as targets for practice. It was an ex-Bushranger who confessed to me that he would "as leave shoot them as so many sparrows." Another worthy, who had left his country for his country's good, above fifty years ago, declared to me that he heard from a friend of Michael Howe, that that celebrated ruffian would lay down his musket to induce the Blacks to come toward him, but that on their approach he would fire at them from his retreat, pulling the trigger with his toes. The Bushranger Dunn carried off Native women to his lair, and cruelly abused them. So exasperated were the men against the Whites, on account of the cruelty of that wretched outlaw, that they murdered several of the neighbouring and inoffensive settlers. Mr. Melville, the present living father of the press of Tasmania, has the following story in his sketch of the country. "The Bushranger Carrots killed a black fellow, and seized his gin; then cutting off the man's head, the brute fastened it round the wife's neck, and drove the weeping victim to his den." The Bushranger Dunn was very cruel to the Natives. A letter, in 1815, blames the Bushrangers as the great cause of the Aborigines not mixing with the settlers.
A respectable colonist, lately deceased in Melbourne, naming many instances of cruelty to the Natives, assured me that he knew of two men who had boasted of killing thirty at one time. Mr. Backhouse relates that one party, out after the Blacks, killed thirty in capturing eleven. Quamby's Bluff, an eastern spur of the great central highlands of the island, curling up with its crest as if torn by violence from the Tier, was so called from a poor hunted creature there falling upon his knees, and shrieking out, "Quamby, Quamby—mercy, mercy." A gentleman, many years a magistrate in these colonies, mentioned to me the death of a shepherd of his near the Macquarie River. Soon after a company of soldiers went in pursuit of the supposed murderers. Falling in with a tribe around their night fires, in a gully at the back of the river, they shot indiscriminately at the group. Many were slain, but no Government inquiry was made into the well-known circumstance. An eye-witness of a similar night attack has this description: "One man was shot; he sprang up, turned round like a whipping top, and fell dead. The party then went up to the fires, found a great number of waddies and spears, and an infant sprawling on the ground, which one of the party pitched into the fire."
It was from no mere feeling of political partisanship that Mr. Melville penned this remarkable passage: "In this riot of wildness, favourable in its very existence to the display of our worst attributes, or to the concealment of our better ones; how have they been treated? Worse than dogs, or even beasts of prey; hunted from place to place; shot; their families torn from them. The mother snatched from her children, to become the victim of the lust and cruelty of their civilized Christian neighbours!"
No more illustrative proof of the manners of that dark era can be presented, than we find recorded in the history of Jorgenson, when out in 1826: "Two days after I saw Scott," says he, "a large tribe came down to Dr. Thomson's hut, which was occupied by three assigned servants. These men struck a bargain with some of the Blacks for some of their women, and in return to give them some blankets and sugar. However, no sooner were the females on their way to join their tribe, than the servants sallied out, and deprived them of their ill-gotten store. The Aborigines, nearly one hundred in number, now exceedingly exasperated, surrounded the hut, and had certainly effected their revenge, either by burning down the hut, or otherwise killing the aggressors, had not the Bushranger Dunn came to their timely assistance. Being so disappointed, the Blacks, in the heat of resentment, fell in with poor aged Scott, and murdered him in a most barbarous manner." This Scott had heretofore been on the most friendly terms with the Natives, and his dreadful end will furnish the key to many apparently inexplicable murders of innocent people, even women and children, by the Aborigines, when the two races were afterwards in frequent collision.
Cruelties to Native women, though never defended, have been in some way stripped of their hideousness, through not receiving apology, by a writer in the Hobart Town Press, in April 1831. Mr. Gilbert Robertson has been credited with the article.
"It would be unfair and unjust on our part, were we to withhold our knowledge of the atrocities which have certainly been perpetrated by several Whites toward the Aborigines. However, we know that the pollutions so committed, to the disgrace of the name of Englishmen, have not solely been confined to the black women, but have reached to such unfortunate white females as may have fallen into their hands; and we earnestly hope and trust, that the strong hand of the Government will be exercised, in order to bring speedy and signal vengeance down on those who may in truth be called monsters, and not men. But on due reflection, it will be observed, that the aboriginal men can have far less to complain of than would appear at first sight. Did the black women of this island possess, in the slightest degree, any portion of that delicacy of sentiment which ought to be the distinguishing ornament of the sex—did they know how to set a true value on chastity—and had the aboriginal men not shared in the wages of iniquity earned by their women, then indeed would they be entitled to our highest compassion, and our indignation would be roused at the bare relation of the atrocities which we know to have been committed against them; but the women have yielded willingly to the lawless desires of white men, the males have encouraged the nefarious traffic, and if, in such a commerce, quarrels have happened, and murders been perpetrated, we may trace these as much to the depraved taste of the aboriginal as to the moral turpitude of the Whites." His harsh estimate of their character is thus summed up: "Such a race merits little compassion, unless it should be said that the greatest degree of sin is entitled to the highest degree of compassion."
In treating of this subject, I feel with Dr. Coke, writer of the work on the West Indies, that "the author who records their miseries will be almost deemed an incredible writer; and while his narrative will be perused with astonishment, it will perhaps be associated with the marvellous, and consigned to the shelves of romance." The catalogue, though one of horrors, is too important to be altogether passed by. A few stories can be strung together without attention to order of time.
In July 1827, a man was killed by the Blacks up in the country, near the Western Tiers. He had been long familiar with the tribe, having lived among the Natives of New Holland for some years, but had incurred their displeasure at last. The neighbouring settlers gathered together for a chase after the criminals, and took revenge indeed for the death of one; for the Colonial Times declares: "They report that there must be about sixty of them killed and wounded."
A party of the Richmond police were passing through the Bush in 1827, when a tribe, seeing them, got up on a hill and threw stones upon them. The others fired in return, and then charged them with the bayonet. We have Mr. G. A. Robinson's authority for stating that "a party of military and constables got a number of Natives between two perpendicular rocks, on a sort of shelf, and killed seventy of them, dragging the women and children from the crevices of the rocks, and dashing out their brains."
A wretched man, named Ibbens, was accustomed to go persistently after the Eastern tribe with a double-barrelled gun, creeping among them at dusk, until he had killed the half of them. One man boasted that he had thrown an old woman upon the fire, and burnt her to death. The Colonial Times speaks on one occasion of a party of soldiers and others approaching within thirty yards of their night-fires, and killing "an immense quantity of the Blacks." Well might Dr. Marshall tell Lord Glenelg, "The murders which, at almost every page, have blotted with blood the history of the British Colonies, cry out against us unto the Most High God, with a voice that has not always been unanswered, for national calamity to succeed national wickedness."
Many years ago I fell in with one of the lowest order of convicts, who assured me that he liked to kill a black fellow better than smoke his pipe; adding, "and I am a rare one at that, too." He related the following adventure. Out one evening with some armed stock-keeping mates, he climbed Maloney's Sugar Loaf, and saw a tribe lighting their fires for the night. He returned with the news. Then, abstaining from noise and supper-fire themselves, they waited till just before dawn, advanced toward their unsuspicious victims in a crescent line, so as to cut off retreat, and fired close. He quietly remarked: "There wasn't many of them got off." I dissembled a little, and in an off-hand way inquired how many he had cleared off. He shook the stump of his amputated arm, smiled archly at me, and said, "No—no—that's not a fair question."
Dr. Nixon, Bishop of Tasmania, is forced to say of such scenes: "There are many such on record, which make us blush for humanity when we read them, and forbid us to wonder that the maddened savages' indiscriminate fury should not only have refused to recognise the distinction between friend and foe, but have taught him to regard each white man as an intruding enemy, who must be got rid of at any cost."
My worthy friend Mr. Shoobridge, a much respected Tasmanian colonist, is my authority for the story of a sad tragedy. Two men went out shooting birds. Some Natives, seeing them approach, hastily fled. A woman, far advanced in pregnancy, unable to run with the rest, climbed up a tree, and broke down the branches around her for concealment. But she had been observed by the sportsmen. One of these proposed to shoot her, but the other objected. The first, however, dropped behind, and fired at the unfortunate creature. A fearful scream was heard, and then a new-born infant fell out of the tree. That very day the wife and child of this monster were crossing the Derwent, when a sudden squall upset the boat, and both were drowned.
That gentleman also told me that, when young, a fellow gave him an account of some capital fun, as it was called. He and some others took advantage of a robbery at Hamilton, and charged it upon an inoffensive tribe in the neighbourhood. Without warning, an expedition was fitted out in the night, and a terrible slaughter took place. The miserable remnant were infuriated at the treachery and cruelty, and revenged themselves by years of outrage and murder. Mr. Shoobridge's father was dining with a country settler, when a man came in, and called out, "Well, Master! I've shot three more crows to-day,"—meaning, Blacks.
The Rev. Mr. West did not exaggerate when he wrote: "The wounded were brained; the infant cast into the flames; the musket was driven into the quivering flesh; and the social fire, around which the Natives gathered to slumber, became, before morning, their funeral pile." The Courier of June 11, 1836, admits that "thousands were hunted down like wild beasts, and actually destroyed." M. Domény de Rienzi, the historian of the Marion's visit to Van Diemen's Land, had the same opinion. "One cannot deny," he says, in 1837, "that these unfortunates have been often treated like wild beasts. Is it then astonishing that they should seek the means of avenging themselves on the strangers who have taken from them the island where they were born, the fruits which nourished them, and even the places where the bones of their fathers repose?"
The Launceston Advertiser, mourning over the oft-repeated tale of horrors, exclaims, "We have seen the Natives despoiled of their lands by a strange race of men, and we have seen them ill-treated by the invaders, their provisions destroyed, and their lives cruelly and wantonly taken by men whose nation proudly boasts of her inhabitants being the most civilized and most noble-souled creatures on the face of the globe." The learned Dr. Broca asserts that the English "have committed upon the Tasmanian race, and that in the nineteenth century, execrable atrocities a hundred times less excusable than the hitherto unrivalled crimes of which the Spaniards were guilty in the sixteenth century in the Antilles."
The public mind gets callous by the continuance of scenes of blood, as the history of the French Revolution testifies. For the character of our colonies, we could wish that such a paragraph as the following, in the year 1826, had never seen the light: "Let them have enough of Redcoats and bullet fare. For every man they murder, hunt them down, and drop ten of them. This is our specific—try it." The feeling is truly exhibited in the statement of the paper of Dec. 1, 1826, that "the settlers and stock-keepers are determined to annihilate every Black who may act hostilely." The cruelty took an indirect turn with some of these out-station people. Thus, Captain Holman talks about a fellow taking a pair of pistols, one only of which was loaded, and seeking to amuse a native by firing the harmless one at his own ear. Then, presenting the other weapon to the man, and inviting him to try the same funny performance on himself, he had the grim delight of seeing the black fellow's brains blown out.
Let us turn, for relief, to a pleasing story of 1822. A tribe had lighted their evening fires in the Bush not far from a field of corn ready to cut, and the flames were carried by a high wind toward the farm. The farmer writes: "We were doing our best to extinguish it by beating the flames out with green boughs, but our efforts would have been in vain had not the whole tribe of Blacks all at once come forward to assist me. Even some hours afterwards, when the flames again broke out in two or three places, they were on the alert in a moment to put them out. I mention this incident, as it was an act of friendship on their part, and shows that when they have not been insulted, or had cause of revenge, and are able to discriminate their friends from their foes, they are not wanting to reciprocate offices of friendship and humanity.
The Aborigines committee evidently saw another side to the worthy farmer's sketch, when they felt compelled to say, "Few attempts can be traced on the part of the colonists to conciliate the Natives, or to make them sensible that peace and forbearance are the objects desired. The impressions remaining from earlier injuries are kept up by the occasional outrages of miscreants, whose scene of crime is so remote as to render detection difficult, and who sometimes wantonly fire at and kill the men, and at others pursue the women, for the purpose of compelling them to abandon their children."
The Rev. Dr. Lang, in his indignant letter to Earl Durham, narrates a terrible scene. "A spot," said he, "was pointed out to me a few years ago in the interior of the island, where seventeen of these had been shot in cold blood. They had been bathing, in the heat of a summer's day, in the deep pool of a river, in a sequestered and romantic glen, when they were suddenly surprised by a party of armed colonists who had secured the passes, and I believe not one of them was left to tell the tale. Nay, a convict Bushranger in Van Diemen's Land, who was hanged a few years ago for crimes committed against the European inhabitants of the colony, confessed, when under sentence of death, that he had actually been in the habit of shooting the black Natives to feed his dogs."
Cruelties to the poor females have already been mentioned. Mrs. Guy, of New Norfolk, gave me a proof of attempted ruffianism in her day. Once when standing by her door she saw a native woman, pursued by three Englishmen, run to the high bank, leap into the Derwent, and swim across the broad stream. The benevolent lady hastened down to the poor creature, and found her much agitated with fear, and trembling violently. Taking her home, she gave her some warm tea, and bound a blanket around her. The husband came afterwards to thank the lady, and voluntarily cut up a lot of firewood in her yard as a return of gratitude. Capt. Stokes informs the readers of his valuable work of Australian Discovery, that a convict servant confessed this cruelty to a captured gin: "He kept the poor creature chained up like a wild beast, and, whenever he wanted her to do anything, applied a burning stick, a firebrand snatched from the hearth, to her skin."
It is a small satisfaction to be told that other nations have been as bad as ourselves: that a million of Caribs in Hispaniola were reduced by the Spaniards to sixty thousand in fifteen years; that, according to Las Casas, fifteen millions of Indians perished at their hands; or that, as Cotton Mather reports of the English American Colonies: "Among the early settlers, it was considered a religious act to kill Indians." Some Spaniards made a vow to God to burn or hang every morning, for a certain time, thirteen Indians; one was to be in compliment to the Saviour, and the others to the twelve Apostles. A Spanish priest, as Vega relates, seeing some Peruvians destroy themselves rather than work in the mines, thus addressed the others: "You wish to hang yourselves, my friends, rather than labour; seeing this, I shall hang myself first; but I must warn you of one thing, which is this, that there are mines in the other world as well as in this; and I give you my word that I will make you work throughout eternity." Upon this the Indians threw themselves at his feet, and begged him not to kill himself.
Colonists have a reputation for cruelty to the miserable aboriginal inhabitants. Raynal gave us a character, in thinking that a man changed his very nature in going to New Holland. There is a degree of simplicity of selfish injustice, in the following quotations from the diary of one of the early Dutch governors of the Cape Colony:—
"December 3, 1652.—To-day, the Hottentots came with thousands of cattle and sheep close to our fort. We feel vexed to see so many fine herd of cattle, and not be able to buy to any considerable extent. With 150 men, 10,000 head of black cattle could be obtained without the danger of losing one man, and many savages might be taken without resistance, in order to be sent as slaves to India, as they still always come to us unarmed."
Commandoes of Dutch Boers against the native races were common enough. Even as recently as 1832, Lord Somerset had great difficulty in arresting the march of a party that had started for the destruction of a settlement of 5,000 Christian Hottentots, on the Kat river. In 1774, a Government order was issued for the extirpation of the whole of the Bosjesmen. In 1795, Earl Macartney's Proclamation ordered the magistrates to take the field against the Bosjesmen, "whenever such an expedition shall appear requisite and proper." Mr. Magnier, the Landdrost of Graff Reynet, says: "I was made acquainted with the most horrible atrocities committed on these occasions, such as ordering the Hottentots to dash out against the rocks the brains of infants (too young to be carried off by the farmers for the purpose of using them as bondmen) in order to spare powder and shot." Colonel Collins, in 1809, knew a gentleman (an estimable character in other respects) who declared that, within six years, parties under his orders had killed or taken 3,200 of these unfortunate creatures.
But while the English Government in Van Diemen's Land issued paternal proclamations, and uttered sentiments of profound compassion for the Aborigines, little effectual energy was exerted to repress and punish crimes against them. The Hobart Town Times of April 1836 is harsh, but not unjust, in judgment in the following sentences:—
"They have been murdered in cold blood. They have been shot in the woods, and hunted down as beasts of prey. Their women have been contaminated, and then had their throats cut, or been shot, by the British residents, who would fain call themselves civilized people. The Government, too, by the common hangman, sacrificed the lives of such of the Aborigines as in retaliation destroyed their wholesale murderers, and the Government, to its shame be it recorded, in no one instance, on no single occasion, ever punished, or threatened to punish, the acknowledged murderers of the aboriginal inhabitants."