Imagens das páginas

enactments of the Government, and still less the protectorate of the "Protectors," have effected any good.

might have been retarded and rendered less painful, had the Government taken the initiative in attempting their re-organisation and reform, instead of leaving them to private associations. The question of the management of the Australian native was not purely a religious or philanthropic question; it was also a political one, and ought to have been decided solely by the Government a principio.

To have proclaimed him conquered, which he understands, and which would have enlightened him as to his position relative to the whites, which he is now rather puzzled to define; to have preserved and encouraged the compact of the tribes, which possessed within itself all the elements requisite to the regulation of their internal relations; to have declared him "not of age" in all his remaining relations with the whites, until the characteristic instincts of his race could have been conquered by Christianity and civilisation; to have provided in part for his maintenance, by furnishing him with rations of bread and meat, simultaneously served out on a particular day of the week; — such is the treatment which would have satisfied all the exigences of his political and physical life, and would have opened an easy field for missionaries to do their part in the great work, and would also have prevented those sanguinary conflicts which an unwise policy alone provoked.

As it was, the holy doctrine which the missionaries preached to the aborigines sapped the foundations of their normal government, and its dissolution followed. The voice of Christianity, of disinterested, spiritual religious faith, was rendered ineffectual by civil disorganisation. Those intrusted with its interests, their own safety threatened, saw themselves compelled to resort to power. In some instances, that power easily fell into their own hands, as in the Sandwich, Friendly, Society, and Gambier Islands; in otherR, it was resisted, as in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Van Diemen's Land: in either case, the endeavour to obtain it by the missionaries was stigmatised in Europe as an usurpation, worthy of the Jesuits of old;—a reproach as unjust as it was bitter; and which, whether applied to Jesuits or modern missionaries, would more properly attach to those at home who began the work of the regeneration of the natives at the wrong end; for since the first dawn of human history, the civil organisation of society has preceded its religious and moral instruction.

In New South Wales, under the influence of mere civil exigencies, the Colonial Government at length saw itself compelled to legislate for the aborigines of the country; but, tardy And confused, that legislation has only farther disorganised the old bonds which regulated their conduct. The late Act, declaring them naturalised as British subjects, has only rendered them legally amenable to the English criminal law, and added one more anomaly to all the other enactments affecting them. This naturalisation excludes them from sitting on a jury or appearing as witnesses, and entails a most confused form of judicial proceedings; all which, taken together, has made of the aborigines of Australia a nondescript caste, who, to use their own phraseology, are " neiiher black nor white." — MS. Jout mil of the Author.

The attempts to civilise and christianise the aborigines, from which the preservation and elevation of their race was expected to result, have utterly failed, though it is consolatory, even while painful, to confess that neither the one nor the other attempt has been carried into execution with the spirit which accords with its principles. The whole eastern country, once thickly peopled, may now be said to be entirely abandoned to the whites, with the exception of some scattered families in one part, and of a few straggling individuals in another; and these, once so highspirited, so jealous of their independence and liberty, now treated with contempt and ridicule even by the lowest of the Europeans, — degraded, subdued, confused, awkward, and distrustful, — ill concealing emotions of anger, scorn and revenge, — emaciated and covered with filthy rags, — these native lords of the soil, more like spectres of the past than living men, are dragging on a melancholy existence to a yet more melancholy doom.

In Van Diemen's Land, the drama of the destruction of the aborigines took another turn. In the course of colonisation, the outcasts of society, occupying the more advanced or interior stations in the country, and accustomed to treat with contempt any rights which their brutal strength could bear down, invaded the natives' hunting-grounds, seized on their women, and gave rise to that frightful system of bloody attacks and reprisals which provoked a general rise on the side of both whites and blacks, and ended finally in the capture and transportation of the latter, in 1835, to Flinders Island (Bass's Straits); a measure severe and sanguinary*, but necessary, and incumbent upon the Government, in order to put an end to those solitary murders which began to belie the existence of civilisation in the country.


* "Buenos Ayres, August, 1836. — It was one of those delicious days of August, which, as some one hath said, 'fait aimer la vie,' — which, among fields, in the midst of solitude, on the bosom of friendship, tends only to inspire generous sentiments, soothing contemplations, and


grateful emotions, — one of those days in which the mind escapes from thoughts of the world, the tyranny and the revolutions of empires; but here, in Buenos Ayres, this vast sheepfold, where savage, bloodthirsty wolves are busied with incessant slaughter, the gifts of nature become so many fearful curses, and the loveliest day beams only on the deeds of the most barbarous of men.

"The scene I am about to describe was enacted in the square of the Retiro, which the Spanish Government had destined for a promenade and place of public amusement, but which Rosas, the present head of the republic, has made the spot for the carrying into execution of his sanguinary decrees. On the present occasion, it was not the blood of his fellow-citizens, but that of Indians, which he purposed shedding. The immense barracks which stand on one side of the square contained the victims of the day, who were brought out by tens at a time, and led to a corner formed by a wall which joined the barracks at right angles. There, seated in line on a wooden bench, they received the murderous volley ; but alas! it was not the boon of instant death: the soldiers, though close at hand, aimed badly, — they mutilated, but did not kill: their fire was only a signal to the executioners, who cast themselves on the fallen victims, and after despatching them with knives, dragged their bleeding corpses in a cart to the distance of about twenty paces from the place of execution.

"The death of the first ten was a horrible announcement, to those who followed, of the fate in store for them. When the first victims were brought out, the grass was green and fresh as the day, the benches were clean, the executioners were not stained with blood; in fact, the first ten advanced and confronted death with a stoicism, a disdain, which must have filled the heart of the tyrant who immolated them with rage; but when the second, the third, the fourth, fifth, sixth,seventh,eighth,ninth, tenth,and eleventh (for there were 110 victims at this sacrifice !) advanced in turn, — when they saw the turf, the benches, and the executioners reeking with the blood of their brethren, — when the barbarity of these executioners exhibited those already massacred before the eyes of those who were to follow, the Indian, with such a spectacle before him, must indeed have shuddered, — and he did shudder, with all the force of shocked and convulsed nature. The few words that he articulated, with rapid and broken energy, were perhaps an invocation of the vengeance of his race upon the white man; perhaps, in the rage of despair, he rejected the God of the Christians from ever being his God!"

Such was the conduct in August, 1836, of the White towards the Indian. Let us Bee what was the conduct of the Indian towards the city of Buenos Ayres in 1806, when this city was in the hands of the English, — when the ignorance of the people at that period tolerated the recommending from the pulpit of a general insurrection, against men who were designated as "declared enemies of the Roman Catholic

At the epoch of their deportation, in 1835, the number of the natives amounted to 210! Visited by

church and of peace,—as foe3 of the faith, of God, and of their fellow, beings." Let the document answer, which I have discovered in the archives of Buenos Ayres.


"At the unfortunate juncture when this city (Buenos Ayres) fell into the hands of the English, the Indians, to the number of twentyseven, were seen to quit it precipitately, in order to rejoin their own people. No sooner had they reached the camp than their brethren, informed of the tragical event, joined them in expressions of sincere regret on account of the loss we had sustained, and the lamentable consequences which the capture of the capital would have on their trade. As much for the sake of their own interests, as under the influence of the attachment they had for us, their warlike spirit became aroused in our favour. They called a meeting on the spot, proposed a general pacification of their various tribes, and departed in order to bring to amicable terms the Rongueles, Ancares, and Auracancs on one side, and the Pampas, Quehuelchuces, and Orices, on the other (tribes with whom they had been carrying on a war of extermination for the last three years), in order that by this peace they might—forgetting their own grievances — the better concert means for avenging King Charles IV., and for freeing his city from his red enemies, as they called the English.

"This friendly project, which is worthy of the highest praise, was crowned with complete success. The united Indians commenced their march, and presented themselves before us, to offer us 3000 of their bravest warriors, and 1000 horses, fresh and in the best condition.

"This warlike tribe was armed with the tatera (a species of casquet of triple leather), the peto (a leather Bhirt, doubled fourteen times, and which will turn a ball,) and with a lance eighteen feet long, large knives, poisoned arrows, and metal bolax. The tribe was commanded by the brave cacique Carraficlon, under whom the caciques Teralef, Millanau, Coranau, Curatipai, Kiatipi, Quidutef, Quintutepi, Coromil, Huachapan, Antenan, Raynam, Anteamea, Turanau, Nahuclpan, Okin, Lincon, Hurapuentu, Epumur, Baylahuan, Catrumilla, Huachecatamilla, Calfuquir, Calfuanti, the black cacique, and Luna, with several other captains and officers. The tribe offered us 12,000 men besides, if we should require them.

"To this generous proposal our illustrious municipality hastened to answer, that it deeply appreciated and acknowledged the act of friendship, but that, for the present, not requiring such aid, it begged them to return to the frontier, and to await there a new order. At the same time it recompensed the services of these savage people, who have been calumniously represented as our worst enemies, by liberally distributing among them those presents which best suited their tastes and wishes." —Extract from "Semanaris de Agriculture, Industria y Comercia del Miercnks, 22 de Octubre de 1806."

[ocr errors]

me in 1842, that is, after the interval of seven years, they mustered only fifty-four individuals! and while

Since this event, what crime have they committed, thus to draw down upon themselves the hatred and vengeance of the whites?

It is not in the annals of the Indians that such crimes will be found recorded. It is in those of the emigration of the Spaniards to the New World; it is in that cupidity, that insatiable avarice, which blots the pages of the history of almost all the civilised nations. The history of the settlement of Pennsylvania by William Penn, and of that of South America by the Jesuits, are the only exceptions; serving as it were to present a contrast between all that is most lovely in human nature, and all that is most hideous.

Wherever the European has placed his foot in the New World, — wherever he has found an obstacle to his aggression in the rights of the native, he has always stigmatised him as savage and irreclaimable, the enemy of Christ and of civilisation. Here, as elsewhere, the first steps of the Spaniard are marked by painful memories. The influence of the Jesuits was favourable to the Indian; but the Jesuits were expelled, and the Spaniards renewed their bloody spoliations.

Then came the emancipation of the colonies, when agricultural industry, aided by foreign commerce, realised such large profits as to revive a thirst for territory among the white population. Not content with the vast conquests which Spain bequeathed him, conquests which she could never render profitable, nor people with her own race, the white continues advancing towards the south; the Indian, already driven from the banks of La Plata, is gathering again beyond the Rio Colorado, where he still disputes these encroachments, ever accompanied by murder and by the loss of his women and children, who are retained in captivity or sold as slaves. The reprisals, he often resorts to, know no bounds. Less dependent than his enemy on the common wants of life, able to subsist for many days without water, upon the dried flesh of liors.s, he wa:ches and manoeuvres incessantly, and never risks a pitched battle, — not as is said, because he lacks courage to do so, but because such a mode of fighting does not accord with his tactics,—a kind of horse guerilla, to which the vast solitudes of the plains are peculiarly adapted. Thus, at the approach of the hostile army, he vanishes from his camp with the rapidity of the ea^le: suddenly and unexpectedly appears in the rear of the enemy, scours the pampas in every direction, cuts oft* the stragglers, waylays the travellers, attacks and plunders the farms, murders the labourers, ravishes the women; and then disappears again with the same rapidity, not because he is false and treacherous, as is pretended, but because the aim of his reprisals is accomplished.

It is then continual reprisals, provoked by continual aggressions, which constitute the unpardonable crime of the Indian in the eyes of the white man. The latter does not confine himself to reproaches. Unable to bring the enemy to a pitched battle, he also resorts to stratagem, and does not even hesitate to employ the basest treachery, in


« AnteriorContinuar »