22 November 2017
MISSION TO THE ABORIGINES,
Ebenezer, Lake Macquarie,
New South Wales,
December 31, 1838
TO THE HONORABLE THE COLONIAL SECRETARY,
E. DEAS THOMSON, Esquire,
&c. &c. &c.
During the present year I have attempted to carry into effect the plan contemplated in my last year's Report, of endeavouring to meet the Aborigines in the neighbouring districts; but the numbers are now so very much reduced, that it is almost impossible to form any settled plan to assemble them at any given time or place. Sometimes two or three are seen, at most, half a dozen, excepting cases of General Assembly, to wage battle, a circumstance they usually carefully conceal my knowledge until the business is over. Unfortunately, in the majority of instances in which I have seen the few Aborigines at different places, they have been intoxicated, so as to render any attempt to hold conversation with them nugatory. It is hoped that the well intended Act of Council, coming into operation January 1st, 1839, to prevent the supplying the Aborigines with spiritous liquors, &c., may prove beneficial.
From conversation with the Aborigines, it appears, that the Christian knowledge which has been communicated to M’Gill and other Aborigines, has been the subject of discussion amongst the remnant of the tribes forty miles distant.
In two or three instances, when communicating what was supposed to be subjects perfectly new to them, they replied with perfect coolness, “We know it, M’Gill has told us.” But whilst the mere knowledge of our Father in heaven – his Son our Lord – future punishment, &c. &c. has extended in a very small degree, no moral influence on their habits of life has been as yet discovered. The still small voice of God speaking to their consciences, must effect this desirable change, that they may be born of God.
The mere mechanical external operation of human instruction, is too transitory in its effects to calculate upon, as was clearly exemplified in the Aborigines confined at Goat Island, who whilst under coercive instruction, rapidly advanced in their respective attainments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, repeating prayers, singing hymns, and the art of cutting stone, in which they exhibited much skill; but when removed from under restraint, proved to Man, that coercive religious instruction is of no moral avail, however much we may deceive ourselves with specious appearances of success during compulsatory education; nor do Christian principles authorise such means. We (says the inspired apostle Paul) persuade men.” On requesting some of them when at liberty, to perform a work of stone-cutting, for which they should be paid, “No,” was the reply, ‘that was our punishment; we cannot engage in such work now.” This created no surprise, it being contrary to human nature for any man to love his punishment.
His Excellency suggested in a conversation respecting the Aborigines, the trial of paying them in money for labor, which hitherto has been avoided, lest they should instantly repair to town and spend it in spirits. On my return to the Lake, the subject was mentioned to M’Gill, the Aborigine, who communicated with his tribe, and engaged take a job of burning off for a neighbouring gentleman, resident at the Lake. This they completed, and received payment according to previous agreement; but the employing of them is more an act of benevolence than beneficial to the person who engages them, there being so many idlers attached, who expect supplies, and who if not connived at, draw away the whole party long ere the task is completed. Another serious drawback is, that time cannot be calculated on, in the completion of the work.
The Tribe engaged in a similar employment for myself; but the task they have not finished – affairs of honor drew away the party, the ignorant Blacks not having as yet attained to that high  sense of moral courage, as to refuse to do evil at the expense of ridicule; for, in common with those barbarians of another color, who practise manslaying, these lawless savages would also be considered highly dishonorable characters, and cowards too, if they declined a meeting.
The Aborigines have so far advanced in scale of civilisation, as to choose employments most congenial to their own habits and tastes, in order to supply their scanty wants. In town they readily engage in fishing, shooting, boating, carrying wood and water, acting as messengers or guides, in which services, their numbers being so few, they find full and constant employ; so much so, that now the difficulty is to find a Black when required.
The survivors of the tribe at the Lake have taken up their abode for the present at Newcastle, leaving at this place not a single resident tribe; and we are only now occasionally visited by the small remnants of the inhabitants of the Lake.
In a very few years the race of the Aborigines within the limits of this Colony, will be seen only in the same proportion, or less than the Gipsey race in Great Britain, abating therefrom the women and children!
Of those in the interior it is difficult to form a judgement, but it may fairly be presumed that the numbers are considerably overrated, because, whenever the Blacks assemble in order to retaliate for some injury, real or supposed, which they conceive that they have received from Europeans, their numbers seldom are rated more than a hundred or two, or four or five hundred at most; when it is certain that all their forces are accumulated. It occupies days and weeks to to convey intelligence to, and collect the scattered people by their messengers, and when they are assembled, their means of subsistence (hunting) compels them speedily to separate, unless they supply themselves, from the flocks and herds in the vicinity, with animal food.
The decided steps taken by Her Majesty's Government to afford mutual protection, and to prevent the complete extirpation of the Blacks, in punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent, whether Aborigines or Europeans, may check for a season their extinction, and prevent the continuance of the bloody warfare; but there is much to do, and much to suffer on both sides, long before peace can be permanently established. Nor is it possible for savages to know by intuition, the good intentions of Great Britain towards them, unless there be Institutions established, into which the Blacks may be invited, where occular demonstration will manifest in the treatment used towards them, that when they ask for bread, they will not receive poison; or for their own women, and the answered with a musket ball.
The present state of excited feeding on the part of those individuals who have suffered in their sheep and cattle, attended with the loss of human life, in the attempt to extirpate the Aborigines from their sheep and cattle runs, in the interior, is principally confined to one class of the Colonists, graziers, who suffer the most in consequence of our National measures; nor can the Aborigines be absolutely condemned for their resistance, they being placed by Britons precisely in a similar position as Ancient Britons were, who acted upon the same principles of resistance to all-conquering Rome, whose claim to the British Isles, was as just and right in principle is that of Great Britain is to New South Wales .
But heathen Rome had her laws of war and peace, and would have blushed at the cold hearted, bloody massacres of the Aborigines in this Colony by men called Christians, and that those who could boast of their exploits in “popping off a Black the moment he appeared,” without regard to his innocence or guilt.
The indiscriminate slaughter, which has blotted the Colony with the foul stain of innocent blood, has been committed in open defiance of the Laws of Nations, or of the more high authority, the law of God; and the gallantry displayed in the engagement with rude barbarians had better been displayed in the field of honor, with more equal enemies, and in a much more noble and righteous cause.
On reference to the Minutes of Evidence laid before the Committee of the Legislative Council, on the Aboriginal question, at page 44, the list given in consists of fifteen Europeans killed by the Aborigines from 1832 to the present year, 1838; a period of six years, making an average of not three persons a year, who have unfortunately been deprived of their lives, whilst a secret hostile process has been encouraged and carried on against the Blacks by a party of lawless Europeans, until it gained confidence, and unblushing and openly appeared, to the loss of upwards of five hundred Aborigines within the last two years!! including the numerous massacres of men, women and children, and the two or three hundred, said to be slaughtered in the engagement which it is reported took place betwixt the Horse police, commanded by Major Nunn, and the Aborigines in the interior.
If enquiry be instituted concerning the occasion of those fifteen murders, certain causes would no doubt be found, to shew they were not or occasioned by mere wanton attacks of the Aborigines, which in that case deserve severe punishment, according to their own principles and practice, but arose from circumstances which would account, in some measure, for such lamentable transactions. For instance, it is reported, that at one of the places mentioned, a Black was taken as a guide, it being a new station about to be formed, the Black was ordered to do something which he did not seem  inclined instantly to perform, when one of the party took a fowling piece, and discharged the contents (shot) into the posteriors of the Black, who ran away, joined the strange tribe, and the consequence was, that they came upon two men splitting timber, killed and drove the party away from the intended station. At all times danger is attached to first interviews with savages, of which the above was one; but, if men will not exercise common prudence in their conduct towards them, when it is in their interest to conciliate, they may expect to reap the fruits of their own temerity.
The two shepherds of Mr. Cobb, who were unfortunately murdered by the Blacks, suffered it is said, in consequence of the atrocities being then committed against the Blacks by the stockmen at another part of the country, which drove them towards Mr Cobb’s station, where they met the two shepherds and wreaked their vengeance, in retaliation, on the unhappy sufferers: so I am informed by one who was there about the time of the catastrophe. Their fellow servants armed themselves, overtook or came upon the tribe, found some with the clothes of the murdered shepherds on their backs, whom they hewed to pieces with their hatchets, and killed others. Subsequently to this, Major Nunn came and retributed on the tribes to the amount before stated. An official inquiry into all the cases would, no doubt, elicit many other facts in explanation.
It is astonishing that more murders have not been committed on Europeans by the Aborigines, considering the deadly extirpating warfare which has so long been carried on against them, and the perfect recklessness with which the life of a Black – man, woman, or child, has been regarded. For instance, – a party of stockmen went out to punish the Blacks: they provide themselves with knives, and cut the throats of many Aborigines, leaving them for dead. It so occurred, that some months afterwards, one of the stockmen met a Black alone in the Bush, whose throat had formerly been cut, but not effectually, and is had healed! Alarmed at the circumstance, the stockman passed on, but received no injury from the wounded Aborigine. Now, had the European been killed in retaliation for his former share in the cut-throat work, and the occasion thereof had not been known, it would naturally have been considered as a wanton act of barbarian cruelty, by a “Black Brute,” on an unprotected and innocent European! In another instance, two Europeans were pitching their tent for the night at the bank of a creek, near the Gwyder, when a party of armed Blacks came to them; one was known, and entered into conversation. They were asked their business, and whither they were going, &c. to which they vaguely replied, and departed. There was a stock station not far distant – In a short time the tribe returned, and acknowledged that they had been to take away a Black Woman from the stockman whom he had detained, but that there were too many people at the hut that night. On further inquiry, the Black said that the Aboriginal woman was from Wellington Valley; that she had been brought to thither by two bushrangers from that place; that on her journey they sent her down a deep gully to get water; that when she went down she found two Blacks, who seized her; that she then told them that there were two white persons with her who had plenty of property, and urged them to go up the hill and see them; they went up, and the moment the bushrangers saw them, they levelled their pieces and shot the two Blacks dead! They then travelled on to this station, and gave the woman to the stockman. One of the present Blacks had been to the hut prior to their meeting, to bring away the woman, on which the stockman took down his gun, and threatened to shoot in if he did not instantly depart from the door; the Blacks therefore now came in a strong party to bring away the female Aborigine by force; but were intimidated at the number of persons who accidentally lodged at the hut that night.
There are also White Gentleman whose taste, when in the Bush, needs them to keep Black Concubines: – no wonder that the unhappy convict, whose state of bondage generally precludes marriage, should readily follow the example of their betters, for whose conduct no such plea exists.
It is not to be presumed that the guilty can approve of the measures adopted by Government, to prevent a continuation of, and to punish crime, or that any who are grieved that the welfare of the Aboriginal Children of Australia should be sought, can desire that protection should be afforded to those beings, from whom section by section of land is sold, till there be no place for the Aborigines – that the European may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! But, nevertheless, it is a mercy, to all parties, that Protectors are appointed, who, as Magistrates, are bound to afford equal protection, and equally to punish evil doers, whether Blacks or Whites; although for a season, until the nature of the office be mutually understood, and more generally known, the name will be misrepresented by designing persons, and the system itself be imperfect in its operations. Perhaps much embarrassment and delay in this department might be avoided, if, instead of the routine of a separate Establishment, each Protector communicated direct with Government. The scattered position of the Protectors in this vast country, requires despatch and promptness in the measures taken for mutual protection, to ensure success, which a direct correspondence will greatly facilitate. Europeans and Aborigines will no longer dare to set at defiance the law, when it is surely found that a just and certain punishment swiftly follows crime.
The past years of this Colony have been fearfully tinged with the shedding of innocent blood; and it is to be feared, that much blood yet will be spilled, ere peace is established in the interior. But,  England has been aroused from her lethargy; she awoke as a giant refreshed with wine; she has acknowledged her supineness, and confessed her guilt before God. May her future works towards the Aborigines of her Colonies praise her when she speaks with her enemies in the gate.
Retaliation on the part of the Aborigines must be expected, and consequently guarded against. The slaughter of their hundreds of fellow countrymen, the inhuman massacre of their relatives, their wives and children, cannot but fill the minds of human beings with desire to revenge their loss; and the strongest proof of their being but mere brutes, the which some assert, would consist in their resting contentedly under their deprivations and sufferings, without an attempt to take vengeance.
The spirit which is the subject of the Aborigines has been publicly agitated, by a portion of the Colonial Press, and the indecorous language which has been used in the declamation, may tend to mislead the judgement of the inconsiderate, and encourage the guilty to persist in their crimes; but, divested of all such party feeling, the question of the Aborigines resolves itself into one of a very simple nature. – We are a Christian nation, commanded two “love thy neighbour as thyself;” and directed that “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” And until these precepts be recognised as the governing principle of our laws, and acted upon by nations, churches, families, and individuals, there will be “envying, strife, confusion, and every evil work.” As a nation we have placed ourselves in the position that has compelled the Aborigines to become our neighbours, and we have worked ill towards our neighbours, because we, the many, dispossess the few Blacks of their rights of birth, which convey to them a certain district, in which they seek and obtain their means of subsistence. Our might deprives them of this right, without remuneration; and Immigration, so beneficial to us as a Colony, in increasing our population, decreases in an incalculable ratio, our neighbours as a people, by taking away the common hereditary privileges which they have possessed from time immemorial. The place of their birth is sold to the highest bidder; but the Aborigines are not included in the purchase; this would be slavery! They are excluded from the soil, being found generally prejudicial to the pecuniary interests of the purchaser, and that exclusion works their death!
If sophistry and worldly philosophy could but succeed in the persuasion, that the Black inhabitants of the Colonies are merely Brutes, without reasoning faculties, and incapable of instruction, the natural consequence would be that to shoot them dead would be no more a moral evil, than the destroying of rats by poison, or of the Ourang Outang by the fusee!
The fallacies of the present day respecting the Aboriginal is unnecessary to notice, in order to arrive at a sound conclusion respecting our treatment toward them. It has been affirmed that the Blacks are “the harmless sons of nature,” consequently innocent, which, if followed out, leads to the conclusion, that they require not the Gospel of Christ to reform their hearts, and transform them into children of light; whereas, they are, as described in the Gospel, “All gone out of the way.” “Their feet swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways,” and their “Places are full of the habitations of cruelty,” both one towards another, until they are nearly extinct, and to others also, when the power is in their hand, and inclination excites them. Nor can these barbarians long exist as a people, unless that Gospel which is sent to perishing sinners, that they may become saints in Christ Jesus, can be fairly and fully presented to them. A difficulty of considerable magnitude, yet to be surmounted: Nevertheless, “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” At present they are warlike in their habits according to the rude means they possess. They no doubt consider us as a powerful, hostile, encroaching people, and many an innocent person will yet suffer for the alleged public aggressions on either side.
It is asserted that the sites of Missionary Stations have been ineligible, owing to their contiguity to towns and civilised society, which accounts for the hitherto apparent want of success amongst the Aborigines: but the Gospel of Christ authorises no such conclusion; otherwise nunneries for their women, and monasteries for their men would have been divinely commanded to seclude from a sinful world the followers of the Lamb – “Go” says the Divine Legislature of the new Covenant, “into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” – I pray not, says the only Mediator, “that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” – And the Apostle of the Gentiles commands that “We should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world,” that though we are not to keep company with fornicators, yet not altogether with fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or with extortioners, or with idolators, for then must ye needs go out of the world. It is a perfect fallacy unsupported by Christian authority to suppose that intercourse with the civilised world, however irreligious is a cause of the want of success. The want of subjects is rather one cause in this Colony, it is difficult to ascertain their numbers; such exaggerated accounts of the Aborigines being from various motives so generally given. Besides which there has lacked opportunity of making known the Gospel, but to a very few of those with whom communication could be obtained.
At this Lake when the Mission was first established, the numbers were exceedingly overrated, and were considered much larger than after experience justified. The hundreds of the Blacks were soon found to diminish into tens, and the many thousands which were often reported as coming down from the mountains to destroy us, and which caused many an anxious watchful night,  degenerated into a few score! No Mission in the annals of modern missionary history, ever has a more pleasing prospect of success than this had for the first two years, in which many of the Blacks were employed at labor, sometimes to the amount of sixty daily; several lads when learning to read and write, in their own language, but the expenses necessary for their employment and the supporting of so large an establishment was considered by the London Missionary Society as encroaching on the claims of other heathens, much more numerous than these, together with the disappointment of pecuniary aid at the commencement of the Mission by the Local government of this Colony, led to an alteration, under false principles of Economy, which could never be overcome, and death in various shapes carried off the tribes, until there is barely the name of a few tribes left in existence in these parts: thus rendering the present mission the most unpromising of any in the whole world.
A few individuals may yet be benefited, and an important use might be made of this isolated situation remote from stock-stations, namely, by procuring some few couple of young Blacks from the interior, in the hostile parts, protecting and supporting them at this place, communicating to them religious and civil instruction; and whenever they express a wish to return, permit them, that they may communicate their new ideas to their own people, and thus they would become mediums of intercourse for the Protectors and others with the tribes in the interior, in the same manner as M’Gill and other Blacks are to me in these districts.
The Aborigines should visit Sydney, in charge of a person, to explain the nature of our customs, laws in our courts, our modes of punishment in our jails, which might all be made subservient to teaching them the important doctrine of future judgement, and of divine punishment for sin.
In these latter days, as in the times of the Apostles, God manifests in divers manners his sovereign power which he has not delegated to other hands “shewing mercy upon whom he will shew mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion.” – “So that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Even the Apostles were forbidden to preach the word in Asia, and they assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not. Whilst “a vision appeared to Paul saying come over unto Macedonia and help us.” But, to us, God only manifests his will by his providence, and by the secret operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those to whom the word is sent. When I resided at Raiatea in the South Seas, Island after Island renounced their Idols, and worshipped Jesus. In this Colony, at this place, the same means were used, but all was frustrated, difficulty after difficulty, disappointment after disappointment, trial after trial arose, and yet no apparent success. So also at the Marquesan Islands, where attempt after attempt has hitherto failed. Many a Mission has been abandoned by various Missionary societies, shewing that “Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.”
The conversion of the South Sea Islanders can be alluded to in corroboration of this fact, where the Islanders were far sunk beneath these Aborigines in superstition, bestiality, lust, and cruelty, yet a handful of what the world calls ignorant men, patiently abode its sneers, the scoff of infidels, the disdain of the philosopher, as wild enthusiasts, for nearly twenty years. Once was the Mission all but abandoned by its friends, and war, and fearful rights were depopulating the Islands, to an alarming extent, when God arose, operated on their hearts by his Holy Spirit, and the Natives became faithful saints in Christ Jesus; and are living witnesses to this day, that “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds:” thus clearly manifesting, that, “It is not by might, nor yet by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” – “For his holy arm has gotten him the victory.”
The providence of God is being manifested towards the Aborigines of this land, and will, humanly speaking, end, either in their total extinction, or, a very small remnant will be called to the acknowledgement of the truth as it is in Jesus: in the which case, “a little one may become thousand and a small one a strong nation.” Our religious precepts would lead them to congregate themselves together, they would acquire industrious habits, upon such principles which Hell itself, cannot finally overthrow.
The fashionable philosophy of the day, speculating on the intellectual powers of the Aborigines, as manifested in the Bumps of the Brain, is a splendid specious fallacy leading away the mind from the hope of the influence of God's holy spirit regenerating the heart, opening the eyes of their understanding, and turning them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God: and instead of depending as christians, on the promised divine secret influence of the Holy Spirit, this specious science, contemplates only the quantity of accumulation of matter in the formation of the brain, the depositions of bone in the various corresponding concavities and convexities of the skull, sets aside a positive declaration, to assume an hypothesis, amusing in theory, but dangerous in practice.
The miserable attempt to deduce from such a science, falsely so-called, that these Black human beings, “have an innate deficiency of intellect rendering them incapable of instruction,” would arrive at the natural conclusion that it would be useless to attempt it, and consequently the Blacks being but a part and parcel of the brute creation, being deficient of intellect, there can be no responsibility attached to their destruction, more than there is to the extirpation of any other animal whose presence is obnoxious to the processor of the soil! 
It is to be lamented that such sentiments have most likely had their influence on men of corrupt minds, who gladly avail themselves of any specious argument to enable them to gratify their love of cruelty, which has ended in blood, and the consequent forfeiture of life to Justice, in the recent execution of the wanton murderers of the Aborigines. Nor, have some, it is to be feared, who are termed well educated minds, escaped the contagion of the mental poison, which insidiously perverts the judgement, and has led to the adoption of means and arguments alike discreditable to Christian honor: thus involving themselves until they become “Partakers of other men's sins.” But the public promulgation of such false principles, which tend to encourage our fellow creatures to acts of violence, renders the Agent, however much disguised, or though hand joins in hand, responsible to a higher tribunal than that of man's judgement, even at the Judgement seat of Christ, where no disguise can conceal, no sheltering patronage can screen, no multitude of persons can intimidate, no beggarly elements of this world will justify the individual in the sacred Court of Holy Equity, in which every one of us shall give account of himself to God: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
On the Economy of the Missionary enterprises it is necessary to remark, that only is true economy, which allows a sufficiency of means to accomplish the desired end. Every deviation from this principle is injurious to the cause of Missions and disheartening to the agents employed in Missionary Establishments, whatsoever may be their designation, or wheresoever they may be placed in the whole world.
Apart from Christian influence, much benefit may be observed to have arisen to the remnant of the Aborigines in their intercourse with Europeans. All the visit the towns, obtain without the least difficulty their means of subsistence: many there are perform little acts of labor for the Colonists, for which the [sic] receive small gratuities: Others there are who become good seamen, horsemen, as stockmen, and shepherds. I am just now informed by one of the Agricultural Company's Gentlemen, that they have in their employ several Blacks, as shepherds, stockmen, and servants in different capacities, many of them equal in their respective engagements to Europeans. It is a pity that an equal share of pains has not been taken to induce the Aborigines to accept employment by those whose local situations presented the opportunity, as they have been at pains to destroy them. But the facility with which convict labor could hitherto be obtained caused a recklessness of human life towards those who were not cared for as servants, and consequently being unemployed, were found to be, too often a cumbrance at the station, and a scare-crow to the cattle! At the present moment the Blacks on the Gwydir will grind wheat for the sake of the bran, which they eat dry as a remuneration for their work.
The transportation system has operated powerfully the against the amelioration and civilisation of the Blacks, arising in part from the Convicts monopolising the female Aborigines: nor has the moral influence of that system which because A robs B, C shall have A's work without wages, tended to inculcate in the minds of the Colonists the equitable divine principle, that “The Workman is worthy of his hire.” Many who have attempted to employ the Blacks have expected the severest labor to be performed for a mere trifle, else their services would exceed in expense conflict labor; and because the Aborigines loved not our hard labor for labor's sake, they had been reputed lazy and disinclined to work! Thus whilst the mind has become accustomed to exercise sternness, without which it is impossible to obtain convict labor, under the convict system, the finer feelings of humanity are lost in that of self interest, and the once kind, generous, English Character, sinks into that of the merciless slaveholder whose principles are boldly espoused, and expends that All, Blacks or Whites, will submit without a murmur to its domineering power.
The several Aborigines now usefully employed in various occupations, although so scattered throughout the Colony, as hardly to be observed, are found equally trustworthy as Europeans, and shew that their intellectual capacities are equal to our own, when in an uncultivated state. Classical Rome, in her zenith of civilisation and plentitude of military glory, when she reigned Mistress of the World, looked down with similar contempt on the poor disarmed, dispirited, miserable, Brutes, the White Aborigines of Albion's shore, whilst she claimed the British Isles for her possession, and destroyed the Aborigines as savage barbarians, who in cruel rites burned alive their victims to Demons, and were so void of intellectual powers as to be unfit for slaves! “The eloquent Cicero in one of his epistles to his friend Atticus, recommended him not to obtain his slaves from Britain, because they are so stupid and utterly incapable of being taught, that they are unfit to form a part of the household of Atticus!”
Such was the character of our forefathers, the White Aborigines, given by her darker colored conquerors, and invaders of her soil: recorded, lest we should forget our state, and thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, cease to remember when God beheld our nation cast out, polluted in our blood!
But how hath the little one become a thousand, and a small one strong Nation! England! Where are thy frail wicker Coracles of Skin? – All forgotten in the splendid iron Vessel thundering forth her mighty powerful steam! The rude rough ponderous wooden car, slowly creeping on its solid wheels, o’er ruts and rugged ways; all now transformed and swifter than the wind, the locomotive  carriage glides smoothly on the even iron way! The stupid vanquished White Aborigine, “Unfit to be a slave, and incapable of being taught! How sits she now? – A Glorious Queen, amongst the nations of the earth, nor plunders humbler Queens to enforce reception for Priests of Blood! The pale faced Haggard, the brutal Savage, who revelled in delight whilst tortured human victims were writhing in the flames, and without female modesty danced naked at the midnight fires! What delights thee now? Promulgating from Pole to Pole “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth Peace, good will toward men,” “Liberty to the Captive,” the Sons of Africa are free! And whilst exulting in her Christian peaceful triumphs over Pagan bloody rights, she diffuses widely heavenly knowledge to the uttermost parts of the Sea! But, O! thou anointed Cherub, set upon the mountain of God, in the midst of the Seas! “Look to the Rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged,” and in these Aborigines, of another color, view thy former savage image. In prostrate, proud, imperial Rome, humbled to the very dust, behold a warning, and avert by Righteousness that Fate!
It may not be improper to state for the information of His Excellency the Governor in this early stage of His Excellency's administration the various employments which have occupied fourteen years of missionary service in this Colony at Lake Macquarie on behalf of the Aborigines.
During my residence in New South Wales, I have sustained a threefold office arising out of my employment as a Missionary, in which I have endeavoured “to exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men,” whether my own Countrymen, or the Aborigines, whenever duty has called for an interference on my part.
1st. As PROTECTOR, – To which circumstances called me, ever since 1825.
2nd. As INTERPRETER.– In many cases which unhappily occurred at the Supreme Court, when several were transported and others hanged.
3rd. As EVANGELIST.– In making known the Gospel to the Aborigines in their own language, &c.
Under this branch it may be observed, that knowledge is increasing, though slowly and almost imperceptibly, amongst them. The answers given by M’Gill, the Aborigine, to His Honor Judge Burton on the Bench, in an examination on the nature of an Oath, Truth, God, and Divine Punishment, &c. which led to the inquiry if I had baptised him, evince that his thoughts had been employed on the subjects, and that he was not answering as a mere parrot. His general conduct is to be deplored with regard to drunkenness, and his consciousness of it as an evil, led him to acknowledge to a lady that he feared he should go to hell when he died, in consequence of his habitual intemperance. Thus manifesting with many Europeans the necessity of receiving the Gospel in the truth and love thereof, conforming thereto in order that they may become “Temperate in all things,” that they may be enabled “To use this world as not abusing it,” “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
The following subjects have also occupied my attention in the Aboriginal Language: –
1. Specimens of the language Printed. Copies expended.
2. An Australian grammar Printed. Copies expended.
3. The Gospel of Luke In Manuscript.
4. The Gospel of Mark In Manuscript.
5. The Gospel of Matthew to the fifth chapter In Manuscript.
6. Selection of prayers In Manuscript.
7. A selection of reading lessons from the Old Testament In Manuscript.
8. An Australian Spelling Book In Print.
Besides laboring with my hands for and with the natives in various occupations for their benefit, whenever necessity required.
Unexpected occurrences, including sickness and death, have impeded my itinerating operations this year. It is hoped that the ensuing one will afford more favourable opportunities of extending them to Port Stevens, such being the only available means of communication with the Aborigines in these districts.
Many circumstances have arisen in the past twelve months connected with the Aborigines, which have in various modes been brought officially before His Excellency, superceding the necessity of introducing them in this report.
Suffocating the Divine favour on our most gracious Majesty the Queen, and on who are in authority in this and every other part of Her Majesty's Dominions, and that His Excellency the Governor may be guided and directed by heavenly wisdom so to govern, “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all Godliness and Honesty.”
I have the honor to remain,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
LANCELOT EDWARD THRELKELD.
Wednesday 22 November 2017
30 June 2016
Body parts are the best documented category of words for many Aboriginal languages because they were the most immediate and most unambiguous items to enquire about, when investigating a new language without shared vocabulary between the investigator and the informant.
The earliest records of the Sydney language were made at Botany Bay by three members of Captain James Cook’s party in 1770, two of whom noted the word for ‘hand’:
Table 1 Cook’s party’s records of ‘hand’
However, some linguists doubt the authenticity of the lists attributed to William Monkhouse, Isaac Smith and Zacchary Hicks, but they seem realistic to your researcher.
William Dawes, the most reliable recorder of the Sydney Language, confirmed damara as the word for ‘hand’:
Table 2 Dawes’s damara record
More precisely, he noted damara as ‘To wipe the hands’, but at the stage when he did so he was still a beginner in learning the language.
Collins, King, Blackburn
Other First Fleeters, notably David Collins and Phillip Gidley King ...
Table 3 Other First Fleet ‘hand’ records
... recorded much the same damara form. It is tempting to suppose that these additional records were independently arrived at. However, it is likely that often in those early days, when the senior figures in the Settlement were so few in number, and when all knew one another and knew each other’s affairs, word lists were shared around and copies made. Thus, for example, nearly every one of David Blackburn’s 136 words has a precise match in the Dawes notebooks — including the ‘To wipe the hands’ entry in Table 2.
It was much the same with the King entry. King had been on Norfolk Island. He returned to Sydney at the expiration of his leadership there, on 3 April 1790, on the Supply. This was the moment when the Settlement learnt of the wrecking of its greatest asset, the Sirius. King was to leave the colony for England a fortnight later, on 17 April, again on the Supply. Its destination was Batavia, from where King was to make his own way to England. In his short time in Sydney King was able to include in his journal a word list of over 280 entries. Of this he wrote: “I shall now add a vocabulary of the language, which I procured from Mr. Collins and Governor Phillip, both of whom had been very assiduous in procuring words to compose it; ...*. And there is an added footnote in the 1793 edition: * This Vocabulary was much enlarged by Captain Hunter.
[Hunter, John. An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island: Including the Journals of Governors Phillip and King, since the Publication of Phillip's Voyage: With an Abridged Account of the New Discoveries in the South Seas / by John Hunter. To Which Is Prefixed a Life of the Author and Illustrated with a Map of the Country by Lieut. Dawes and Other Embellishments. London: Printed for John Stockdale, 1793.]
It is not important whether it was Dawes or Collins who made the first record of damara for ‘hand’. They might even have both done it virtually simultaneously, given the similarity in the records, from the same interview with an Aboriginal person.
There is another record, made by freeman Daniel Paine on the voyage to Sydney, from February to September 1795, on the Reliance. This ship was carrying the new governor, John Hunter, and also Bennelong, returning from England. Paine developed a list of about 80 words, obviously from Bennelong, including:
Paine’s original record
Table 4 Paine’s damara record
Hale, Lang and Mathews
Three entries nearly half a century later are of interest. Whether the first two (Hale) were genuinely made from personal experience by the American linguist Horatio Hale when in Sydney in 1839, or whether he too copied them from earlier lists, it is impossible to say.
The third entry in Table 5 occurs in an 11-page vocabulary in the papers of the Rev. J.D. Lang. This list is undated but might be around 1840. It shows evidence of a professional linguistics background, being set out in columns for English, Chinese and Aboriginal, together with references to Polynesian and Malaysian languages. Perhaps it was also prepared by the linguist, Hale, given that he was in Sydney around this time.
Table 5 damara record from around 1840
Much later evidence from around 1900 was provided by the surveyor-linguist R.H. Mathews. This too supports the existence of the damara form:
Table 6 Mathews’s dama record of around 1900
Records for mara
There are, however, several Sydney Languages entries of mara for ‘hand’, the earliest of these having been provided, mistakenly, by Dawes:
Table 7 Dawes’s mara record
Here Dawes was seeking to ask his young informant, Patyegarang, how her finger was, which she had somehow hurt. He composed his enquiry using words he had heard, but clearly had not properly understood. He thought he was asking about her ‘finger’, and whether it was ‘better’. Her reply clarifies the matter, but still Dawes, at this early stage just learning the language, again got it wrong:
Table 8 Response to Dawes’s mara record
Dawes thought he was asking ‘Is your finger better?’ In fact the question was: ‘Does your hand hurt’, which elicited the reply, ‘No, it’s my fingernail (that hurts)’. Dawes erroneously formed the impression that garangan meant ‘worse’. Be that as it may, Dawes recorded the word for ‘hand’ as mara and not damara.
mara: Mahroot, Fulton, Brown, Bowman
Others to record ‘hand’ as mara were: the Aboriginal Mahroot the Elder in 1798; the Rev. Henry Fulton in about 1801; the botanist Robert Brown in 1803; and a record here attributed to James Bowman, in around 1835. All attest to the existence of the mara form of the word.
Table 9 Various other mara records
The Fulton’s ‘murrat’ record for ‘hand’ [row 2 in Table 9]
The Fulton ‘Marrah’ record for ‘hand’. This entry, along will all other vocabulary items, were crossed out of the notebook in which they were written, which was then used as a register of births, deaths and marriages by Fulton in his role as minister of religion.
The Bowman’s ‘murrat’ record for ‘hand’ [row 4 in Table 9]
damara or mara?
The Sydney records lean more heavily towards damara rather than mara as the form for ‘hand’. However, when other languages around the country are considered, the argument lurches decisively the other way. Of ‘hand’, Dixon* writes: “One form is found right across the non-prefixing languages – mara”, and he specifies the areas in which it occurs as follows:
* Dixon, R.M.W. Australian Languages, Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002—p.106.
In fact this comprehensive list is basically the whole of the continent apart from the north-west corner where the ‘prefixing’ languages are located. Interestingly, Dixon’s list does not include ‘O: SYDNEY SUBGROUP’, in which the Sydney Language is placed.
Digression on demonstratives
da, or something like it, is occasionally seen possibly as a demonstrative, ‘that’. Similarly, di for ‘this’:
Table 10 Demonstrative forms: da and di
The records for such da/di forms are not plentiful, and are often open to interpretation. Nevertheless they may be sufficient to indicate the existence of a demonstrative function representing ‘that’/‘this’.
There is another form of the demonstrative as well, based on na, as attested by the following sample records:
Table 11 Demonstrative forms: na—in Dharawal, Darkinyung, Gundungurra and Sydney languages
Réné Primavera Lesson’s records
Lesson was a French medical officer, who served on the La Coquille, which visited Sydney in 1824. Several of the records he made, possibly after an interview with the Aboriginal Sydney identity Bungaree, might have included a demonstrative. These were not recognised as such at the time:
Table 12 Possible demonstratives in the Lesson examples
• In row 1, ‘Date’ could be either the English ‘that’, or the demonstrative da.
• In row 2, the difficulty Aboriginal speakers had with the consonant /s/ (which does not occur in most Aboriginal languages) is evident. Lesson might have been pointing to a scar, on Bungaree’s head.
In rows 3 and 4, row 4 is the correct transcription, as can be seen from the original record reproduced below.
Lesson’s original record
It is possible this was a transcription of du buli (rather than dubul, as shown in the table), conceivably intended to be ‘da BELLY’, or ‘that (is my) belly’, for which Lesson then recorded ‘ventre’ (belly) as the translation. An alternative possibility, there is a single record for bul (actually bul bul), which might allow the possibility of ‘belly’ as a meaning:
Table 13 bul bul = ‘kidney’, or possibly ‘heart’ (by the sound it its beating); and hence possibly ‘belly’.
But this is irrelevant: the point is that the record du bul might have included a demonstrative, ‘that’.
• Finally, row 5, might reflect the use of the demonstrative form na (nan).
Demonstratives beginning da, di and na have been presented in Tables 10 and 11.
Could it be that damara is actually a sentence:
That (is my) hand
It is not hard to envisage a situation where a European is asking for vocabulary from an Aboriginal informant, pointing to one part of the body after another. In due course the hand is singled out. ‘da mara’, says the informant: ‘That (is my) hand’.
This does seem plausible, but is it right? The following questions arise:
—Can all the damara situations in Tables 1–6 have arisen from ‘this is my hand’ replies? —Even if there were copying, could all of the damara examples provided here be copies? From 1770 through to Mathews in about 1900?
—And what about other body parts? If Aboriginal informants said ‘this is my hand’ so often, then why not ‘this is my eye / leg / tongue’ etc. Other than for Lesson in Table 11, there seem to be no such instances.
Once again there is no real conclusion. The existence of both damara and mara in the Sydney records is just another of the many mysteries that cannot be resolved now owing to the lack of data. It would certainly be much neater if the word for ‘hand’ were really mara, consistent with so much of the rest of the country. But the numerous damara entries cannot be denied. In short ... inconclusive.
Thursday 30 June 2016