The Last of the Tasmanians/Chapter 7
GEORGE AUGUSTUS ROBINSON, THE CONCILIATOR.
Toward the close of 1841, I was introduced by the Aborigines' friend, Mr. George Washington Walker, Missionary of the Society of Friends, to the studio of the Hobart Town artist, Mr. Duterreau. There I was surrounded by figures of Tasmanian Natives. The venerable painter was enthusiastic in his story of the fate of those whose portraits he had taken. But the grand tableau upon which he was then engaged was the scene of Mr. Robinson's great moral conquest. The old gentleman pointed to the figure on the canvas, and exclaimed, "There is a real hero, though not one of your world's heroes."
The worthy artist then introduced me to the celebrated companions of the Conciliator—the members of his Mission. I saw the massive form of Wooreddy, the magnificent head of Manalagana, and the sparkling features of Truganina. I had the story of the black man's wrongs and sufferings fresh from the lips of an ardent sympathiser. But again and again would the enthusiast turn with glowing face toward the portrait of Robinson, and once more rehearse his noble deeds.
It was on that occasion I formed the secret resolution to gather up fragments of the sad story, and some day write of the "Black War," and the work of George Augustus Robinson.
Mr. Robinson's career had a humble commencement. He was employed as a bricklayer in Hobart Town. His education had been neglected in youth, and his official communications in after years needed the pruning hand of a scholarship better than his own. But though unpolished and rude, his intellect was vigorous and healthy, and his common sense and powers of observation placed him far above the average of working men.In his physique, he was about five feet seven inches in height, with a thick-set frame, and a florid complexion. His nose was
MR. ROBINSON ON HIS CONCILIATION MISSION
(From Mr. Duterreau's great picture.)
The condition of the poor Natives engaged his sympathies at a very early date. The working bricklayer sought out the dark wanderers straying about the settlement, and brought them to his house. There he gave them "plenty tucker," as they called it, and sought to bring light to their ignorance. He investigated their habits, and acquired their language. His influence over them was extraordinary. Such a man could not fail having a deep interest in the struggle then going on between his own people and the coloured race. He thoroughly believed in the wrong-doing of the settlers, and heartily denounced their injustice and cruelty. At an early period he was persuaded that it was his mission to rescue the unhappy creatures from destruction, and that he could get them in. Lieutenant Gunn, for many years the superintendent of the prisoners' barracks, Hobart Town, and now Police Magistrate of Launceston, told me that Mr. Robinson had several times laid his scheme before him, and that he felt confident of its success if tried. When, therefore, the first opportunity presented itself, by which his services for the unfortunates could be more extensively employed, he promptly availed himself of it.
The following advertisement appeared in the Gazette of March 1829:—
"In furtherance of the Lieutenant-Governor's anxious desire to ameliorate the condition of the aboriginal inhabitants of this territory, His Excellency will allow a salary of 50l. per annum, together with rations, to a steady man of good character, that can be well recommended, who will take an interest in effecting an intercourse with this unfortunate race, to reside on Bruni Island, taking charge of the provisions supplied for the use of the Natives at that place."
Here is the opportunity:—to be with the Blacks, to help them, to work for their good. But the prospect was not very favourable. It was no liberal offer. A pound a week, and a ration of food! He could make more than that at his trade. He did not seek great returns for his usefulness, but it was necessary that he should live decently. Besides, he was a married man. He had a wife to consider; his children must not be sacrificed to his public spirit. The man, in a subsequent review of this period, said: "There were many powerful reasons against my entering upon such an enterprise. I had a wife and several children dependent on me. But my mind was under an impression which I could not resist I reasoned the matter over with Mrs. Robinson, and with difficulty obtained her consent."
On the 16th of March, 1829, he penned the following application:—
"Feeling a strong desire to devote myself to the above cause, and believing the plan which your Excellency has devised to be the only one whereby this unfortunate race can be ameliorated; that as the Hottentot has been raised in the scale of Being, and the inhabitants of the Society Islands are made an industrious and intelligent race, so likewise, by the same exertions, may the inhabitants of this territory be instructed. With these impressions, I beg to offer myself for the situation. I would beg leave to submit to your Excellency that a salary of fifty pounds per annum is not sufficient for the support of my family—would therefore request that you would be pleased to make such additions to the salary as you may think meet. Should my offer be accepted, I do not wish the superfluities, I only desire to be able to procure the necessaries of life, I wish to devote myself to this people."
The letter was backed by good names and good words. He was successful. The salary was to be 100l., with rations for one person. The scheme was ridiculed, and the man was denounced as a mad enthusiast; but as he said himself once at a public meeting, "I would not give a fig for a man who enters upon any enterprise of moment, unless he possesses some enthusiasm." In very truth, he would want all his soon.
Bruni Island, so called from Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux, lies between the channel and Storm Bay, and extends to the south-westward for fifty miles. South Bruni, in which Cook's Adventure Bay is situated, is nearly separated from North Bruni: a low, narrow neck of land unites the two. South Bruni, at the time of our story, was uninhabited. Upon the northern portion were the salt works of Mr. Roberts, and a few farms. The land generally is unfit for cultivation, and the sparse vegetation affords little advantage to pastoral pursuits. Belonging to the carboniferous and silurian systems of the main opposite, the place bears the record of subsequent and long-continued igneous action. The rocky coast exposed to the southern ocean is much torn and battered by the ever-boiling billows, and is carefully shunned by the mariner. Even upon the inner side, the access is often difficult from the frequent and sudden storms which rush up the channel. A fantastic pile of lofty cliffs of basalt has been cut off from the island by the surging sea, and now stands, as the southern Bruni bulwarks, to receive the onset of the Antarctic currents, and break their crests. The whole island, from its deep indentations, exhibits the mark of such violent and long-sustained oceanic assaults, that it seems but to require a few charges more to destroy its unity of structure, and to reduce it to some straggling islets in a seething sea.
In a little cove, on the western and inner side of Bruni, and two miles from the northernmost point, called by the French Expedition Cap de la Sortie, the Black station had to be formed.
Thirty years of suffering had passed away when I last looked into that place of settlement. The avenger and his victim had alike disappeared. The neophyte of civilization and the red-handed savage slept beneath the fallen leaves of the forest. I turned my gaze from the bay to the opposite side of the channel. There, at Oyster Cove, at the distance of two or three miles from the scene of the first Black settlement, stood before me the rude homes of the last feeble few of the race! There is something of a peculiarly melancholy interest in the reflection, that the remnant of the Tasmanian tribes should expire within sight of the Bruni depôt of their day of strength and independence.
Rations of bread and potatoes were served out to any Natives who could be induced to reside at the Station. These rations were poor in quality and deficient in quantity. The biscuits were the refuse of supplies, and the few potatoes a day would be but a miserable substitute for the plentiful and varied meal which the forest and sea provided for free rangers. It was no wonder, then, that the Blacks induced to settle at Bruni, for protection and civilization, sickened of their asylum, and repeatedly escaped to the mainland. Sickness soon set in, and poor Robinson vainly attempted to afford relief. He shared his own personal rations with the poor creatures, urgently wrote for more support, and asked for a small amount of tobacco for those who had acquired the civilized art of smoking. Some tea and sugar were ordered, but the tobacco was prohibited as a luxury. The sickness increased. Wooreddy lost his first wife and child, another leading man and his two wives died, and a sad story is told of an infant being found suckling at the breasts of its dead mother. The cry was, "No good—this bad place—no egg—no kangaroo—no like—all die."
But a severe trial followed. The Blacks were to be civilized, and rendered fit instruments to benefit their wilder countrymen; yet they were placed on Bruni in close proximity to some of the worst characters of the colony. Mr. Robinson had repeated complaints from the women of cruel assaults by convict wood-cutters on the island, and he observed, with indignation, the effects of intercourse with the whalers. At that time the black whale came about the southern coast, and into the Storm Bay, and several permanent whaling establishments existed on Bruni and the mouth of the channel. A rough class of men, with full rations of beef, spirits, and tobacco, they found ready means of attracting the presence of the females of the Black settlement. The locality of the depôt did not furnish sufficient means for the isolation of his charge, and the Superintendent represented the necessity of removal to Barnes Bay, and, as he stated in his official letter, "care should be taken that they have no correspondence with the white heathen."
The evil continued. The gins left the depôt for the favourite company of the sailors, and introduced contention and disease into the camp. Mild expostulations and angry denunciations were alike of no service, and Robinson wrote almost despairingly about the moral pestilence. The Colonial Secretary (Mr. Burnett), in reply to a request that the Port-officer be ordered to keep off the whalers, emphatically wrote: "The Port-officer is quite satisfied that it is altogether impossible to prevent communication between the native women and the whalers, as they appear in all cases to prefer them to men of their own tribes, whom they usually treat with great contempt after they have been for a short time associated with the whalers." This, alas! was a sad truth, and similar results have elsewhere appeared with a so-called partial civilization. The worthy Governor took a desponding view, and declared, "It is lamentable that nothing can be done in this matter."
But the storm of war was rising. Outrages and cruelties increased. The Whites became more infuriated, and the Blacks more determined. The latter saw no hope, and resolved to die spear in hand. With another people, this would be heroic. We readily agree with Dr. Johnson, that a man's patriotism must be quickened at the sight of the plains of Marathon. We sympathised with Abd-el-Kader's struggles in Algeria, and Exeter Hall memorialised the French Government upon the treatment of the Tahitians. But when our own colonists are brought into collision with the races whose lands they have seized without compensation or inquiry, the feeling is otherwise; the heroism of the foe is lost in the mist of our own selfishness. Louis-Philippe, therefore, could not more effectually silence the clamour of England against his operations in the South Sea Island, than by his quiet reference to the operations of British forces at that very time against the Maories, quite as Christian and as noble as the Tahitians themselves. The resolution, therefore, of the Tasmanians to make no peace with the possessors of their hunting-grounds excited the indignant displeasure of the colony. It was then that Mr. Robinson, sick of his miserable failure on Bruni, and conscious of his power to do something more effective for the Natives, proposed going after the marauders of the wilds with a mission of mercy. The Aborigines' Protection Committee seconded his suggestions, and the Government sanctioned his object.
Jorgenson thus describes it: "He proposed nothing less than proceeding into the wilderness, with a few companions, all unarmed, endeavour to fall in with the aboriginal tribes, if possible, to bring about conciliation, and persuade them to surrender themselves peaceably. I must confess that, after all I had seen and experienced, I thought Mr. Robinson either a madman or an impostor." And so did many others. Only those who knew the indomitable courage of the man, and fully appreciated his enthusiasm, could have had any faith in the scheme. Thus was really inaugurated the celebrated Conciliatory Mission. The Hobart Town Courier of January 1830 thus semi-officially refers to it: "Mr. Robinson, the superintendent of the establishment for the civilization of the Aborigines at Bruni Island, is, we are happy to learn, about to proceed on an expedition towards Port Davey, and other parts of the interior, with the hope of forming some pacific arrangements with the several tribes, he having already acquired as much of the language as will enable him to make himself understood among them."
But let us hear an exposition of the system from the reflection of its author, when a septuagenarian. "I considered," he said, "that the Natives of Van Diemen's Land were rational; and although they might, in their savage notions, oppose violent measures for their subjugation, yet, if I could but get them to listen to reason, and persuade them that the Europeans wished only to better their condition, they might become civilized, and rendered useful members of society, instead of the bloodthirsty, ferocious beings they were represented to be. This was the principle upon which I formed my plan."Now for the coadjutors—the means of working out the project. A dozen Natives had been captured by Mr. Gilbert Robertson and others, and lodged for safety in the Richmond gaol. It was arranged to forward four of these to Robinson, though the latter relied more upon his Bruni friends. The following were at first appointed to act as interpreters of his party: Black Tom, Pegale, Joseph, Doctor, and Maclean, a white man. Eumarrah, with Manalagana and wife, were afterwards with him. But the
WOOREDDY, TRUGANINA'S HUSBAND.
(From Mr. Duterreau's portrait.)
She was a wife, though never a mother. Certainly, her older and more sober husband had no little anxiety with his fickle partner, and no small difficulty in restraining her erratic tendencies. We know not why she, who was ever so inconstant of purpose, should have so perseveringly followed the Mission, and why she, who was a woman of the forest, should have devoted years of her life in fatiguing and perilous journeys to entrap and secure her countrymen. Some have thought vanity was her leading passion, and that the desire of distinction among Whites and Blacks induced her to become the prominent guide and interpreter. Without doubt she was personally attached to Mr. Robinson, and strove earnestly to serve him. It was for this purpose that she studied to acquire other dialects, so as to hold intercourse with the wilder tribes of the interior. Although her husband, Wooreddy (or "the Doctor"), consented to be one of the Conciliator's party, there is a story told that shortly after the departure of the Mission, in January 1830, as Mr. Robinson was sleeping near a large cave, the excited husband arose in the night, took a weapon in his hand, and would have murdered our white friend, from jealousy of his influence over Truganina, had not his intention been discovered in time. And yet Wooreddy continued to accompany him. "He was present," says Mr. Duterreau, "at all Mr. Robinson's interviews with the Blacks. Through the intervention of this man, Mr. Robinson has been preserved from extreme danger when his life was about to be taken from him."
Manalagana and his wife performed a noble part in the transactions of this Mission. They are described by a Hobart Town paper of 1833 as "two most excellent, well-disposed people." Manalagana (or, as called sometimes, Limina Bungana), "as a warrior," said Mr. Duterreau, "stood unrivalled amongst the Aborigines, and was considered a sage by his tribe." The artist, who was a devoted friend to Mr. Robinson, goes on to observe: "Such was the commanding influence Mr. Robinson possessed over these singular people, that, at the first interview, Manalagana left his native wilds, and accompanied Mr. Robinson on all his missionary enterprises throughout the island, to whom he continued faithfully attached to the conclusion of his service in 1835." Manalagana then removed to Flinders Island, whither all the captured were taken, and died in March of the following year, 1836.
Of his wife Mr. Duterreau has these words of commendation: "This woman laboured incessantly to promote the objects of the Mission. Tanleboueyer and her sister were originally stolen from their country by the sealers, when children, and held in bondage until emancipated by Mr. Robinson (in 1830). She was superior to the other Natives both in person and intelligence, and possessed much dignity of manners, seldom participating in those frivolities the others indulged in. She was exceedingly attached to her husband. The feeling was mutual, for during the period of six years they were with Mr. Robinson they never quarrelled."The start was not an auspicious one. A boat had been provided for the passage to Port Davey, on the south-west; but it was wrecked, with the loss of nearly all the supplies. The determination of his character would permit of no delay, nor retrograde movement; so Mr. Robinson set off with his knapsack
(From Mr. Duterreau's Portrait.)
The country through which he was going was most inhospitable in character, being both wet and cold, with high ranges, deep gullies, extensive morasses, and dense scrub; having no civilized settlements, and furnishing little food even to the sons of the forest themselves. His hardships were severe, and knew no relief; but his ardour carried him onward, and his kindness and commanding mind secured the faithfulness of his barbarian followers. Yet his success was not commensurate with his enthusiasm, and months passed with little done. Even the Governor wearied of expectancy, and wrote home, on August 27th, 1830, saying, "All Mr. Robinson's efforts to hold a conference have hitherto failed." That gentleman himself acknowledged as much in his speech at a public meeting, in 1838, at Sydney; of which the reporter said: "He pursued his journey overland to Port Davey; fell in with a tribe of Blacks, and made an appointment to meet them on the following day. He repaired to the appointed spot, taking with him two out of the five of the Natives of Bruni Island who accompanied him. The tribe, he fell in with were very suspicious, having been fired at by the Europeans; and, although he carried no arms—nothing, in fact, but a knapsack of bread—and endeavoured to explain to them his pacific intentions, they left him on these occasions without any sign of desire to repose trust in him."
His mission had nearly terminated in his destruction in this first year of his course. Walloa, a female Aborigine, rose, like a Joan of Arc, amidst a nation of warriors, to deliver her people. She gathered a party by her eloquence, and urged a band to violence and war by her appeals, and by her courageous conduct in the field. Heading at last the Port Sorell tribe, she led them to the murder of Captain Thomas and others. Hearing that Mr. Robinson was in her neighbourhood, she immediately directed her force against him. Being warned of her approach, he fled in haste. For five days did the pursuit continue, when, just as all hope of escape was relinquished by the Mission, he was delivered from this tigress of the north by the unexpected arrival of M'Geary and his party. So strong a front of armed Europeans stayed the expected assault, and the dark Semiramis retired northward again.
But, though for the present all seemed dark and unsatisfactory to our leader, his heart did not yield its hopefulness, nor his energy relax in effort. It was during the last quarter of 1830 that the great campaign called "The Line" took place, which absorbed the attention of the colony, and exercised a powerful and happy influence upon the fortunes of the Conciliatory Mission. The whole strength of the island was collected to be hurled in anger against the dreaded Blacks. That manœuvre, though unsuccessful directly, was doubtless the means of completing the success of Mr. Robinson.
In his first year he had traversed the whole of the western and northern country. At Cape Grim, to the north-west, he had met with the distinguished Bendoadicka, his wife Narraga, and brother Peewee. Two went onward with him from the Mersey. While the Line was out he was in the Cape Portland District, north-east. It was there he heard of the splendid capture of thirteen at one time, and twelve at another, by the party of Messrs. M'Geary and M'Kay. Disappointed in his own plans, it was then that he executed the first part of his mission among the sealers. That formed the relief to his year of failures. Having authority from the Government, he visited some of the islands in the Straits, and rescued eighteen females from the sealers.In 1831 the Governor sought the trial of moral agency alone. Mr. Robinson had urged the withdrawal of the armed parties from the Bush. Some said this was to secure the whole management of the capture, and deprive the earlier leaders of the prize. Certain it is, however, that high rewards were offered to secure the aid of persons in this benevolent enterprise of unarmed intervention, without a single response. Mr. Robinson had, therefore, the problem to resolve alone. His salary was raised to 250l., and a strong force organized. There were many, of course, who saw no hope in such chivalrous ventures, and derided the sugar-plum speculation.
A story is told with much satisfaction by the anti-peace party. As soon as Mr. Robinson became the actual leader of the movement, he made a very judicious selection of officers; engaging such excellent Bushmen and successful captors as M'Kay, M'Geary, Surrage, Cottrell, &c., but strictly prohibiting even the carrying of fire-arms. It is said that the disobedience of this order saved the life of some Europeans, and proved a warning to the Blacks. M'Kay was on one occasion suddenly surrounded by some hostile Natives, who knocked him down, and would have murdered him had he not drawn forth pistols, hitherto concealed, and shot down four of the foremost. When Mr. Robinson reported the affair, he declared it "very imprudent and barbarous on the part of M'Kay." His subordinate, however, did not feel himself prepared for martyrdom, and was satisfied with his own forethought about the weapons.
Truth compels the historian to admit that Mr. Robinson, like many great and good men, had certain weaknesses of character, especially arising from his perfect satisfaction with himself. This made him at times rather pompous and overbearing in his manner towards the Europeans of his party, and he suffered himself to exhibit some annoyance and chagrin when captures were made in his absence from the camp.
As he had to forego the use of physical force, he had recourse to stratagem and bold deeds. His black female guides were decorated as decoys in gaudy ribbons, to attract the eye of the Bush wanderer. Trinkets were distributed, and marvellous toys provided. An ex-Bushranger assured me that he had found red feathers, red strings, and other pretty-looking objects hung in the trees of the far interior by the adventurous party. Gooseberry, Violet, Molly, Truganina, and others, looked well in their civilized adornments, and employed their arts and smiles to secure their simple countrymen. They were the light skirmishers of the force. But that upon which stronger reliance was placed was the power of sympathy. The gathering numbers added, like a rolling snowball, to the strength of the Mission. One had a sister or brother in a neighbouring tribe, and natural affection urged the search after the lost one, to save such from the danger of the war. Or, a wild son of the tribe had longings after a wife previously captured, and would enter the fold to find a mate. A father sought a son, or a child a parent; and many a joyous reunion was thus effected. Then, as the families formed, or sufficient numbers arrived, they were draughted off to join the free and happy neighbours already safe in the glorious new hunting-ground.
The first conquest of 1831 was the Stony Creek tribe. Its chief, Moultehalergunah, as Mr. Robinson spells his name, had been a great White-hunter. Twenty of these were secured by Mr. Robinson, with M'Geary, M'Lean, and Platt. Limina, or Manalagana, was of service near Cape Portland. It was affecting to hear the gathering tales of trouble. One asked for a son, another for a sister, a third for a wife. One was much interested in a sister. Black Jock, who had been stolen by the sealers, and entreated the Marmanuke, or Father, to go in search of her. Eumarra met Mr. Robinson in the forest, rushed towards him, and grasped his hand with warmth. He brought five men and a woman in with him. In June 1831, in his official report, Mr. Robinson was able to say that, through the efforts of himself and others, 123 had yielded, 236 had been communicated with, 110 had returned to their hunting-grounds, and 16 had escaped after capture. He himself had become acquainted with sixteen tribes of this people.
It was toward the end of 1831 that Mr. Robinson had such remarkable success. His faithful friend, Manalagana, was with him. This noble-minded savage is always presented to us in heroic attitude, and the enthusiastic painter, Mr. Duterreau, with other admirers, were justified in their estimation of the superior intellect, courage, and benevolence of this extraordinary man. His son had been murdered by a ruthless tribe, and yet, with all the natural feelings of a father, and the human passion for revenge, he appears to have acted the Christian part of not only restraining the impetuous vengeance of his sable friends, but of co-operating in good faith and principle with Mr. Robinson to bring in the offending tribe without bloodshed, so that they might be saved from destruction. It was as much as he, the chief, could do, on several occasions, to prevent the Mission of Conciliation becoming a March of Massacre.
The Mission arrived at Lake Echo on the 18th of November. It was a strong force, consisting of Mr. Robinson, his son, a Sandwich Islander, a messenger, and twelve friendly Aborigines. They had ascended from the valleys of Central Tasmania, and had reached the vast and irregular plateau, occupying a position somewhat similar to the Deccan of India. It was once the theatre of volcanic action. Like the turret-pointed hills of the kingdom of Hyder Ali, the land of the lakes of this southern island formerly heaved beneath the molten mass, and cooled in broad sheets, prismatic columns, and romantic peaks, of basalt This again appeared likely to become a battle-field.
The smoke of the fugitives was distinguished, rising into thin columns through the foliage, by the keen eyes of the Friendlies. A rush was made towards the camp fire. But it was too late. The hunted creatures, always on the watch, with true Indian sagacity had discovered their supposed enemies, and hastily retired before being observed. Robinson urged on the pursuit. One Native only, a female, knew the country; but, alarmed at the proximity of the much-dreaded tribe, she designedly led the party astray, and a whole month was lost. On the last day of the year they came in sight of the lost prey. Here Robinson practised his Bush-craft. Sending forward some Native decoys, he and the rest planted, or hid, themselves in a thick scrub, most anxiously awaiting the result of the negotiation. The rest may be better described in his own words:—
"In less than half an hour afterwards I heard their war-whoop, by which I knew that they were then advancing upon me. I also heard them rattle their spears as they drew nearer. At this moment Manalagana leaped on his feet in great alarm, saying the Natives were coming to spear us. He urged me to run away. Finding that I would not do so, he immediately took up his spears and kangaroo rug, and walked away. Some of the other Natives were about to follow his example, but I prevailed upon them to stop. From their advancing with the war-whoop, the Aborigines as well as ourselves considered that they were approaching us with hostile intentions, and that they had either killed the Natives who had been sent from us, or that those Natives had joined the hostile tribes. As they drew nigh, I did not observe my people amongst them. The hostile Natives being a large body, I was rather anxious as to the result. It was not until they approached very near that I saw my own people with them. They continued coming up in the same warlike attitude. I then went up to the chiefs and shook hands with them. Having explained to them in the aboriginal dialect the purport of my visit amongst them, I invited them to sit down, gave them some refreshment, and selected a few trinkets as presents, which they received with much delight. They evinced considerable astonishment at hearing me address them in their own tongue, and from henceforth placed themselves entirely under my control. The men were accompanied by the women; and, after taking their refreshment, I returned with them to their own encampment, where the evening was spent in mutual good humour, each party dancing alternately."
Thus terminated most satisfactorily this day of anxiety. The colonists, upon reading Mr. Robinson's announcement of victory, were disposed to make a little merry with the style of the narrative. The ego came forth, as usual, most prominently. The blast of the trumpet was unmistakeably clear. Though confessing to a little prudent concealment, he acknowledged no fear, though careful to speak of his friends' fright. He was simply "rather anxious as to the result." Then, too, he claims all credit for the negotiations. Giving no heed to the action of his own dark companions who had brought the warlike tribe in peace to his hiding-place, he asserts his own part as pacificator. As it was well known that the Natives of one tribe found much difficulty in understanding others, the colonists were amused at the assumed facility of Mr. Robinson's converse with these dreaded strangers, and professed to be as much astonished as the warriors themselves at this strange tongue development.
But in spite of the fun and criticism, the strong fact was apparent. The dangerous people were secured.
The capture of this Big River, or Ouse River tribe, was by far the grandest feature of the war, and the crowning glory of Mr. Robinson's efforts. Having learned the story from various sources, I would attempt a description of this bloodless victory.
The leader had ventured under the shadow of the Frenchman's Cap, whose grim cone rose five thousand feet in the uninhabited western interior. There, at last, appeared the tribe of which they were in search. It was a terrible hour,—one in which a man lives years in minutes. That tribe was the terror of the colony, the "Black Douglas" of Bush households. Confident in their strength, the Natives stayed for the approach of the strangers. Mr. Robinson was accompanied by his brave stripling of a son, by M'Geary, Stanfield, and a Hawaiian Islander. Manalagana and Truganina were there. The stout-looking but handsome Montpeliata, the chieftain, glared at them. He grasped a spear eighteen feet in length. Fifteen powerful men, with three spears and a waddy each, filled with all the hate and loathing for white men which such a war had excited, were ill restrained by the voice and gesture of their head. They rattled their spears, shouted their battle-cry, and menaced the Mission party. The women kept to the rear, each carrying on her back a fresh supply of weapons. One hundred and fifty dogs growled defiance at the intruders.
It was a moment of trial to the stoutest nerves. The Whites trembled. The friendly Blacks, half palsied with fear, would all have fled but for the self-possession of their commander. They were, as it were, beneath the dreaded eye of the storm, around whose treacherous calm the wild cyclone was dancing in fury. A word from that stern chief, and every man would be transfixed with spears. "I think we shall soon be in the resurrection," whispered M'Geary, a veteran in Native-hunting." I think we shall," rejoined Mr. Robinson.
They came into the presence of the tribe, and stood still. The chief advanced toward them, some sixty yards in front of his tribe. He saw the friendly Natives quivering with alarm, and the Europeans firmly standing, though apparently without arms. "Who are you?" shouted Montpeliata. "We are gentlemen," was the response. "Where are your guns?" was the next question. "We have none," said the leader. Still suspicious, though astonished, the dark warrior cried out, "Where your piccaninny?"—alluding to pistols, or little guns. "We have none," was again the reply.There was another pause. Their fate was not yet decided. The male guides were much alarmed. Bungena fairly ran over the hill. Then came the first gleam of hope. The chief called after him, and told him to come back, for he would not hurt him. Meanwhile, some of the courageous female guides had glided round, and were holding quiet, earnest converse with their wilder sisters. Another few minutes of irresolution, and then Montpeliata walked slowly to the rear to confer with the old women—the real arbiters of war. The men pointed their spears in watchful guard; but the yelping curs were called off. With admirable discipline, the brutes retired, and were instantly quiet.
As the fallen gladiator in the arena looks for the signal of life or death from the president of the amphitheatre, so waited our friends in anxious suspense while the conference continued. In a few minutes, before a word was uttered, the women of the tribes threw up their arms three times. This was the inviolable sign of peace. Down fell the spears. Forward, with a heavy sigh of relief, and upward glance of gratitude, came the friends of peace. The impulsive Natives rushed forth with tears and cries, as each saw in the other's rank a loved one of the past Eumarra recognised his two brothers in the tribe, and his wife embraced three other relatives. The chief of Bruni grasped the hand of his brother Montpeliata.
It was a jubilee of joy. A festival followed. And, while tears flowed at the recital of woe, a corrobory of pleasant laughter closed the eventful day.
When this desperate tribe was captured, there was much surprise and some chagrin to find that the 30,000l. had been spent, and the whole population of the colony placed under arms, in contention with an opposing force of sixteen men with wooden spears! Yet such was the fact. The celebrated Big River or Ouse Mob, that had been raised by European fears to a host, consisted of sixteen men, nine women and one child. With a knowledge of the mischief done by these few, their wonderful marches and their wide-spread aggressions, their enemies cannot deny to them the attributes of courage and military tact. A Wallace might harass a large army with a small and determined band; but the contending parties were at least equal in arms and civilization. The Caffres who fought us in Africa, the Maories in New Zealand, the Indians in America, were far better provided with weapons, more advanced in the science of war, and considerably more numerous, than the naked Tasmanians. Governor Arthur rightly termed them a noble race. Though they submitted to moral agencies, it was because they felt their work was done. They had fought for the soil, and were vanquished. They had lost fathers, brothers, sons, in war. Their mothers, wives, and daughters, harassed by continued alarms, worn by perpetual marches, enfeebled by want and disease, had sunk down one by one to die in the forest, leaving but a miserable remnant. Their children had been sacrificed to the cruel exactions of patriotism, and had perished of cold, hunger, and fatigue, or had been murdered by parental hands, as the Roman maiden of old, to prevent a supposed worse fate.
Dr. Story, in communicating with me, declares of the Line that it "struck them with such surprise, and displayed the powers that could be brought to bear against them, that G. A. Robinson had less difficulty in persuading them to accompany him where they would not be molested by the Whites, and have 'plenty damper, sugar, blanket.' When he landed on the north-east corner of the island, he with his tame Blacks followed the wild ones for some days before they would return with him to his boat. They had been terrified by the Line, saying it was 'pop, pop, pop, all pop.' 'If,' he said, 'you go there, you get killed. Come with me—you get plenty damper, I don't want you to come with me, but you get killed, if you go there.' And thus he worked upon them; some going with him, others following after a time."
The Hon. J. H. Wedge, when speaking of the Line, adds, "Notwithstanding the want of success attending the expedition, I am impressed with the belief that it had a considerable moral effect upon the minds of the Natives, and disposed them to lend a more willing ear to Mr. Robinson's propositions, when he succeeded in gaining an interview with them." Dr. Braim goes even further, and remarks of Mr. Robinson's success: "It was solely attributable to the formation of the Line; it showed the Aborigines our strength and our energy."
But however much credit we may give to the Line movement for the submission of this formidable tribe, no one will deny Mr. Robinson full credit for his final work. As Jorgenson observes: "They could form no notion that the Whites would be unable, for a great length of time, again to take the field; and thus they imagined that we should not cease till they were so harassed that either surrender or extermination must ensue, and they preferred the former, but not without great exertion and danger on the part of Mr. Robinson." Elsewhere he refers to him: "Nothing daunted this gentleman; conscious of his philanthropic views, conscious of the integrity of his intentions, he fearlessly advanced, extending his arms, and speedily convinced the Natives that they had nothing to fear from an unarmed party." Mr. Robinson's own way is curiously expressed in his letter of December 14th, 1830: "The grand object is in getting to them, for until this is accomplished, speaking to them is out of the question. There is not a nation or people with whom I have conferred, but what have fled at my approach, as clouds before the tempest, yet I have never left them, until I have eventually succeeded in effecting an intercourse with them." This letter is in his own handwriting; it has its own peculiar orthography and punctuation.
The tribe had yielded as friends, not prisoners. It is true that they laid down their spears, and brought forth from hidden places sixteen stand of arms, which they had taken in the war; but the captors had prudently as well as generously returned their spears, so needed for hunting purposes. At an easy rate the mixed parties proceeded toward the settlement of Bothwell, situated to the westward of the main line from Hobart Town to Launceston. They arrived there, to the great alarm of the inhabitants, on the 5th of January, Mr. Robinson guaranteeing the peaceable behaviour of his wild charge. When visiting the little township in 1842, I was shown the site of the encampment, and I heard the tale of unnecessary fears.
On the road thither the Conciliator conversed with his sable companions, and heard many sad stories of the sufferings of the tribes, and vehement denunciations of the cruelties of the Europeans. They showed him their wounds. They all, "men, women, and child," he said, "had dreadful scars." He went to the Bothwell Inn, and had the unwonted luxury of a bed, with no apprehension of the tribe leaving him in the night.
From Bothwell he addressed this letter to head-quarters, on January, 5th, 1832: "On the 31st ultimo, I succeeded in effecting a friendly communication with these sanguinary tribes. Their whole number was twenty-six, viz. sixteen men, nine women, and one child, including the celebrated chief Montpeilliatter of the Big River tribe. I fell in with these people thirty miles N.W. of the Peak of Teneriffe."
The forty miles to Hobart Town passed merrily enough. Arriving at Constitution Hill, nearly thirty miles north of the capital, the leader addressed another letter to the Colonial Secretary. It was written under difficulties, causing me some trouble to decipher. The information given is this: "I beg to inform you for the information of the Lieut.-Governor, that . . . arrived here last night accompanied by the whole of the Big River and Oyster Bay tribes of . . . and proceed immediately on my way to H. Town. I expect to reach H. Town either to-night or early tomorrow morning, and wish in the first instance to proceed direct to Government House with those people."
On they came in their confiding trust, though much to the terror as well as curiosity of the settlers. Mr. Robinson was greeted indeed with a triumphal entry. His own house was at the head of the town, and his wife and children were spectators of his glory. He came with prisoners, but no victims. He ended a war, and presented voluntary captives. The whole population assembled to witness the procession. First came the worthy victor, with his white companions. Then were seen his own fourteen faithful native followers, and the twenty-six wilder people of the woods, all with their spears in hand. Shouts of welcome greeted all. The estimable Governor was deeply moved, and waited at Government House to receive and entertain his guests. The tender eyes of women were swimming with tears as the dark race passed on, and kind looks and smiles fell gently upon the war-tossed ones. Presents came before the Governor's feast; lollies or sweetmeats, toys, pictures, dresses were showered upon them.
Two specimens of Colonial poetic fire appeared to commemorate so auspicious an event. One, by Hobartia, was published in the Hobart Town Magazine, for 1834. It commenced:—
"They came, sad remnant of a bygone race,
Surviving mourners of a nation dead;
Proscribed inheritors of rights which trace
Their claims coeval with the world! They tread
Upon their nation's tomb!
They came like straggling leaves together blown,
The last memorial of the foliage past;
The living bough upon the tree o'erthrown.
When branch and trunk lie dead."
The next is called "Lines written on the recent Visit of the Aborigines of Hobart Town:"—
"They are come in their pride, but no helmet is gleaming
On the dark-brow'd race of their native land;
No lances are glittering, nor bright banners streaming.
O'er the warriors brave of that gallant band.
"They are come in their pride, but no war-cry is sounding,
With its woe-fraught note, over hill and plain;
For the hearts of those dark ones with gladness are bounding;
And bright songs of peace breathe loud in their strain.
"They are come—they are come, and a boon they're imploring
Oh! turn not away from their soul-felt prayer,
But to high hopes of Heaven this lost nice restoring.
For yourselves gain mercy and pardon there."
Colonel Arthur pleased them with his courtesy. Anxious to afford them additional gratification, he ordered the band out. But the effect was different from that which he expected. The poor creatures screamed with terror, and crowded round Mr. Robinson with entreaties for protection. It was long before their fears subsided, when they would cautiously approach the drums and touch them, as if to test the power of the noisy animal.
Then a grand demonstration took place. During the festival their confidence increased, and they were induced to show forth their strength and skill, after being personally decorated with ribbons by the Governor. Ondia put a crayfish on a spear, and at a distance of sixty yards brought it down with another spear. Thus hours passed in the Governor's garden, which was thrown open to all comers on the occasion. That evening Mr. Robinson took them to his own home, and they camped about his premises.
It was on this occasion that portraits were taken of the Aborigines by Mr. Duterreau, and by my most esteemed friend, Mr. Thomas Napier, J.P., now of Essendon, Victoria, and copies of which paintings I have secured by the brush of Mr. Thomas Clark, the artist, of Melbourne.
A few days afterwards a vessel was prepared, and the Natives were induced to go on board to proceed to splendid hunting-grounds, where no soldiers and parties were to be found, and where they would never be molested. On their way to the Straits they suffered much from sea-sickness. The captain of the vessel assured me that it was pitiable to witness their distress. Their moaning was sad indeed. They appeared to feel themselves forsaken and helpless, and abandoned themselves to despair.
The children, with few exceptions, were not suffered to go to the prospective settlement, but were placed in what was known as the Orphan School, near Hobart Town. This establishment was for the care and education of neglected and orphan children of convicts. The building is of great extent, the grounds are spacious, and the arrangements generally are suitable for the object. Hundreds of children, from helpless infancy to the age of fourteen, are there provided with board and education. It is about eight-and-twenty years ago since I had the pleasure of seeing there the dark offspring of the warriors of the Black War. Most of them struck me as being sickly and depressed, and I wondered not at the terrible mortality that had thinned their numbers.
The greatest enthusiasm attended the reception of Mr. Robinson. The newspapers were loud in his praise, and the jealousy of his rivals yielded to admiration. Although his salary as Conciliator, or head of the Friendly Mission, had been previously raised to 250l., and a bonus of 100l. bestowed, some fresh demonstration of gratitude for his efforts was demanded. He himself wrote a letter, presenting his claims. The Committee for the Protection of the Aborigines were prepared to second his memorial. Some delay disheartened or displeased him, for we find him on the 3d of February saying, that the illness of his wife, the disorder of his affairs, and the hardships of the life had impressed him with the conviction that he had better leave others to complete the work. This decided the action of Government, as it was believed that nothing but the prestige of Mr. Robinson could succeed with the remaining Natives in the Bush. A grant of four hundred pounds was made on the 9th, and a promise of seven hundred more upon the completion of his wonderful mission.
Ever prompt in his decisions and movements, we find him off on the 11th of February for Great Island, afterwards Flinders Island, to report upon a suitable home for the captured ones. Then he struck off to the west once more, as the poor hunted creatures had by this time quite and for ever deserted the central and eastern portions of the island—the scene of the Line operations. At Port Davey twenty-six were saved. Several of these were found to be above six feet in height. One old man put the captor in mind of Abraham with his white beard. The tribe had never been active in the war.
I have been much struck with the barrenness of information about the habits of the Tasmanians, when perusing the letters of Mr. Robinson, at the Record Office of the Colonial Secretary. No one could have told us so much, and yet we hear so little from him. A few stray statements have appeared, bearing his authority; but all must regret that a man of such observation and opportunity, and who lived in ease upon the pension of the Colonial Government so many years, made known scarcely anything of these curious and interesting tribes.
More conquests of peace followed the capture at Port Davey. At Birch's Rock, sixteen were taken; at West Point, six; at Mount Cameron, five; at the Surrey Hills, four; and at Sandy Cape, thirty-seven. From the report of July 12th, 1832, we learn that thirty-two were gained in the neighbourhood of Macquarie Harbour. At one place on the west coast, where sixteen were collected, their appearance was so wretched as to resemble ourang-outangs rather than human beings. One poor old man had had his eyes shot out by some Christian pursuer. The benevolent heart of Mr. Robinson was much moved at this spectacle of misery.
A most formidable difficulty was experienced by Mr. Robinson on the Arthur River. This was in the inhospitable region to the north-west, even to this day unsettled by our countrymen. A strong band of Aborigines had been brought under his notice by the friendly Blacks, and a conference had been held one evening in September 1832. In spite of the appeals of the Nestor, Manalagana, and the lucid exposition of the situation by the leader in his best Tasmanian speech, the forest men distrusted the offered conditions, and sullenly declined the advances of the Whites. A night of dreadful suspense followed. After the conference, the strangers camped at a little distance, and kept up noisy talk and rattling of spears through the hours of darkness. Our leader, conscious of the necessity of reassuring his own party, put on a calm and confident appearance, threw off his clothes, rolled himself in his blanket before the fire, and watchfully waited for the morn. The subsequent adventures are thus told by himself:—"At the earliest dawn of day they made a large fire, around which the men assembled, and began preparing their weapons intended for my destruction. At this juncture, one of the wild Natives (a relative of one of my friendly Aborigines) commenced a vehement discussion, and argued against the injustice of killing me, and asked why they wanted to kill their friend and protector. I had by this time put on my raiment. My aboriginal companions were exceedingly alarmed, and, on looking for their spears, found that the wild Natives had taken them away during the night. Several of their blankets had also been stolen, and attempts had been made to tie up the dogs. In the midst of the discussion I rose up, and stood in the front of them with my arms folded, thinking to divert them from their savage purpose. I said if they were not willing to go with me, they could return again to their own country. Scarcely had I spoken ere they shouted their war-whoop, seized their spears, and proceeded at once to surround me. With their left hand they grasped a bundle of spears, whilst in their right they held one. My Aborigines shrieked and fled. The Natives had nearly encircled me. Their spears raised were poised in the air. The friendly Aborigines were gone. At this crisis, I made off. Although I saw not the slightest chance of escape, I pursued my way rapidly through some copse, winding round the acclivity of some low hills, and took a north-east direction toward an angle of the river; on approaching which I saw one of the friendly Natives who had escaped, who, with much trepidation, said that all the rest of the Natives were killed. At the same instant she descried the hostile Blacks approaching, and in much alarm begged of me to hide, while she swam the river and went to the encampment. To have attempted concealment at such a crisis would have been next to suicide. And looking up (for the river hath steep banks on either side), I saw one of the wild Natives looking for my footsteps. At this instant he turned, and I lost sight of him. I saw no chance of escape, except by crossing the river. The difficulty appeared insurmountable. I could not swim. The current was exceedingly rapid, and it required time to construct a machine. The Natives were in strict search after me, and I expected every moment to be overtaken. The raft on which I came over was nearly a mile lower down. I was persuaded the hostile Natives would be waiting to intercept me. I therefore abandoned all thoughts of crossing on this machine. I made an attempt to cross on a small spar of wood, and was precipitated into the river, and nearly carried away by the current. After repeated attempts, I succeeded, with the aid of the woman, in getting across. (My clothes were left behind.) I then proceeded to my encampment, where my son and some Natives were staying."
This celebrated official document is evidently not the production of the honest bricklayer, but that of some convict attendant, who had had more education than his worthy master. Somewhat stilted in style, the heroism is thoroughly well maintained throughout, and the narrative is deeply interesting. But the historian may be excused presenting some other versions of this curious adventure. Though the second tale was written thirty years after, and published in Mr. Lloyd's "Thirty Years in Tasmania and Victoria," it evidences a good memory, and is written in a simple, natural style, that commends it the more. He does more justice to our good friend Truganina. This was written in England, in 1861:—
"After I had effected the removal of these tribes, I started for the Arthur River, where it was reported that a tribe were out; and here I had another miraculous escape of being killed. It appeared that the Blacks had meditated my destruction, and laid their plans for preventing my escape, by placing sentinels all round me. I was with the tribe, when I observed an unusual excitement among them: they were much agitated, and employed in sharpening their spears and other instruments of war. I addressed them, stating that I could not, neither did I wish to, compel them to go with me against their will; and if they did not like to accompany me, they might remain where they were. They began to encircle and close on me; when, for the first time since I had undertaken this fearful mission, I fled from them. In my flight I overtook a black woman near to a wide and rapid river, which I was desirous of crossing from my pursuers; but as I could not swim, I hardly knew what to do. The woman advised me to hide myself in the bushes; but I knew too well the keenness with which the Blacks tracked the smallest object to trust to that; therefore, as my only hope, I launched a log of wood into the river, on which I leant, and the kind-hearted woman immediately jumped into the river, and swam across, drawing the log after her."
In the Sydney Press of 1838 one may read his statement at a public meeting in New South Wales, when he gave full credit to Truganina for saving his life.
It is pleasant to record this acknowledgment that he owed his life to his black guide and faithful companion. The real story is closely allied to the last account, saving that the man tried to get across the river by striding a log and paddling with his hands and arms, when, falling over into the water, he would have been certainly drowned, had not the courageous Native jumped into the water and rescued him. Some years ago I reminded her of the incident, when the little old woman clapped her hands, danced about, and laughed most merrily. She then gave me her version of the affair, adding most expressive and pantomimic performances to aid her in her narrative.
The sequel of this adventure was, that upon his arrival at his party's retreat, Mr. Robinson found several of his Natives missing. In the meantime, instead of rushing across the rapid stream, the wild Blacks were content with sitting on a hill on their side of the water, and indulging in bad language. They threatened that if they caught the chief of the Conciliatory Mission they would burn his body, and make charms of his ashes to wear round their necks. The Englishman sought to mollify their wrath, again and again urging his innocence of any evil design against them. His appeals had, at least, some effect, for the soft heart of a girl was moved at his eloquence, and Kyenrope, the daughter of the chief of the Pieman's River tribe, made her way over the river, and joined the Mission. Old Wyne, her father, witnessed her flight, and denounced her folly in choicest native Billingsgate.
Still, Mr. Robinson did not feel comfortable in the vicinity of such neighbours, and made use of a ruse to extricate himself from the dilemma. He caused his men to make a great fire of damp wood and leaves, so as to create a vast cloud of smoke, as if signalling for assistance from some countrymen near at hand. The alarmed Aborigines beat a precipitate retreat, and left the course open to the exultant beleaguered. Though now forty miles from Cape Grim, the nearest British settlement, he hastened off to that place of refuge.Notwithstanding Mr. Robinson was in this instance unsuccessful, we may credit him with having left some impression; for we read in Mr. Cottrell's letter to Mr. Robinson, on January 19th, 1833: "On the 10th, we fell in with the tribe that attacked you at the Arthur's River. Old Wyne and Edick were with them. They remained with us all night, and agreed to accompany us to Macquarie Harbour; but when we had marched about four miles, the following day, they disappeared amongst some scrub."
Well might the good man exclaim in after-times: "In all my difficulties, my sole dependence was on the Omnipotent Being; and I may truly say, I was led in the paths which I knew not, preserved in danger by His power alone. Frequently have I seen the sun go down without any expectation of beholding it again in the morning; and I have been surrounded by savage Blacks, with their spears presented at me, and have been spared when all hope had fled."
In all his laborious Bush enterprises, he so gained upon the affections of the Natives as to retain their confidence. The Rev. John West has an illustration of this in his work; "In the course of one of the expeditions, they ran short of provisions, and had but very scanty food for several days, and yet, though starved with hunger, these Blacks did not desert Mr. Robinson and his party, consisting of himself, with two white servants, and his aboriginal attendants." That successful Fijian Missionary, Mr. Hunt, told a meeting in Sydney: "It is very easy to sit down and write, 'I don't believe the Blacks to be men;' much easier than to go among them, as Mr. Robinson has done, and show that they were not the brutes they are represented to be, but were susceptible of moral improvement, and fully possessed the attributes of humanity."
The work went on. More came in 1833. In October of that year, Mr. Robinson returned to Hobart Town, with his son, bringing thirty Aborigines. These were taken to Government House, royally entertained, and subsequently forwarded to the island retreat in Bass's Straits. Their friend, in his official communication, wrote: "It cannot afterwards be said that these people were harshly treated, that they were torn from their country. No; their removal has been for their benefit, and in almost every instance of their own free will and consent."
In 1834, we find the indefatigable man at his post On February 28th he succeeded in capturing eight, and placing them, for temporary safety, on Hunter's Island, at the western entrance of the Strait, with the help of some sealers' boats. Three others followed on March 14th, and nine on April 12th. These twenty—seven men, five women, and eight younger persons—were then conveyed in the Emerald to Flinders. These were all obtained in the north-western corner of Van Diemen's Land, and were, singularly enough, the remnant of that tribe that attacked Mr. Robinson on the Arthur River, two years before. They confessed their intention was to have murdered him on that occasion. These were followed with much difficulty, as many outrages had been committed by them on the servants of the Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Company, whose settlements were in that quarter, and the Black guides positively refused to go after so dreaded a band.
Upon native information, Mr. Robinson wrote to the Governor that there were but two old men and their families left at large in the island. Colonel Arthur and the Colonial Secretary thought otherwise, and so it proved.
It was in relation to these that the following, the last. Gazette notice appeared:—
"April 23, 1834.
"Authentic information having reached the Government of the reappearance of a few Aborigines in the Settled Districts, the Lieutenant-Governor, at the same time that he is desirous to caution the Settlers against any hostile attacks, requests that they will enjoin their Servants to abstain from acts of aggression against the Natives, and desire that all arms may be removed from their Stock Runs.
" J. Burnett."
After a frightful journey by Cradle Mountain, and over the lofty plateau of Middlesex Plains, the travellers experienced unwonted misery, and the circumstances called forth the best qualities of the noble little band. Mr. Robinson wrote afterwards to Mr. Burnett some details of this passage of horrors. In that letter, of Oct. 2, 1834, he states that his Natives were very reluctant to go over the dreadful mountain passes; that "for seven successive days we continued travelling over one solid body of snow;" that "the snows were of incredible depth;" that "the Natives were frequently up to their middle in snow." But still the ill-clad, ill-fed, diseased, and wayworn men and women, including the merry little Truganina, were sustained by the cheerful voice of their unconquerable friend, and responded most nobly to his call; while their legs, as we are told, were cruelly lacerated in threading the thorny scrub, and clambering the sharp rocks.
But their labours were splendidly rewarded. The last party were caught. They were seen at the extreme Western Bluff, December 28th, 1834. There were four women, a man, three boys, with an attendance of thirty dogs. Long had they desired to come in, and join their relations taken before. They had even at times ventured within sight of an isolated hut; but the shot fired at them warned them rather to trust to the inhospitable winter western forest, than place themselves in the way of white men. Mr, Robinson thus graphically describes in his letter the scene of the meeting: "The moment these poor creatures saw our Natives advancing, they ran forward, and embraced them in a most affecting manner. To this truly affecting scene, a most interesting conversation followed." All honour to the man who had brought such peace to these wanderers!
On the 22d of January, 1835, the last party of eight Aborigines came into Hobart Town. The Mission was accomplished. Mr. Robinson had finished his work. In 1830 and 1831 he had brought in fifty-four; in 1832, sixty-three; in 1833, forty-two. The last two years of 1834 and 1835 saw the island swept of its original inhabitants.
Now came the question—what should be done to the man whom the nation delighted to honour? The promised cash from the Government came to hand, and a thousand acres of land fell also to his share. Public meetings were held to acknowledge his services, and raise funds for a testimonial Subscription lists lay at the banks, the offices of police magistrates, and other places. The Aborigines' Committee actively turned canvassers for the object. A good sum was presented. The Danish historian has this remark: "He had large grants of land bestowed on him, with additional sums in money, amounting altogether to about 8,000l." Whatever he obtained, he deserved. The envious might regret the extravagance of payment, but could not deny the labour done.
For a short time only, Mr. Robinson became Commandant of Flinders Island; but his administrative abilities were inferior to his Bush lore. For his life in the island, the reader is referred to the chapter on Flinders Island.A new sphere opened for him. Tasmanian settlers had crossed the Straits with their flocks, and the plains of Port Phillip were dotted with homesteads. The Native difficulty had arisen there. Cruelties on the one side, and outrages on the other, had indicated the beginning of another Black War. The Home Government, anxious to prevent a further depopulation of original inhabitants, sought by wise measures the conciliation of the dark tribes, and the safety of the colonists. Mr. Robinson received an offer of 500l. a year to be Protector of the Aborigines of Port Phillip. In 1838, he became a citizen of that colony. It is not within the scope of the present work to criticise the performance of his duties there. In 1853, he retired to enjoy his wealth in England. Advancing age subdued the fire of his character, and in peaceful quietude he spent his declining days. He died at Prahran, Bath, on the 18th of October, 1866.