1838 - Beecham, J. Colonization, Being Remarks on Colonization in General... - Remarks on Colonization, etc. etc. p 3-23

E N Z B       
       Home   |  Browse  |  Search  |  Variant Spellings  |  Links  |  EPUB Downloads
Feedback  |  Conditions of Use      
  1838 - Beecham, J. Colonization, Being Remarks on Colonization in General... - Remarks on Colonization, etc. etc. p 3-23
Previous section | Next section      


[Image of page 3]


&c., &c.

THE proposal to found a new Colony cannot fail to awaken solicitude in the Christian philanthropist respecting its probable effect upon the Aboriginal people in whose country it is to be established. The afflictive results of past Colonization by European nations are too obvious to be denied. We may point to our Colonies, and descant upon the vast and growing extent of the British Empire:-- it may serve as an argument in favour of Colonization, that to it we principally owe our wealth and greatness as a manufacturing and commercial nation; but the question, "Where are the original possessors of those countries in which we have our most flourishing Colonies, -- Colonies themselves rising into mighty empires? at once elicits the affecting fact, that the success and prosperity of our Colonies have been fatal to the native tribes, who have either been entirely annihilated, or are seen retiring and melting away before the advancing white population.

I. To form a correct judgment on any new colonizing scheme, it is necessary previously to ascertain how it is that Colonization has hitherto proved so disastrous in its consequences.

The evils inflicted upon Aboriginal tribes and nations by our past Colonization are not to be regarded as accidental, but as naturally resulting from wrong principles, or radical defects inherent in the system which has been pursued.

[Image of page 4]

Our Colonies have been based upon a principle of unrighteousness. We have unjustly usurped the lands of the Aborigines, or have obtained possession of them without making adequate remuneration; and to this, as their primary cause, are to be traced all the injurious effects which the native population has experienced from our colonizing plans. The wrong which we inflict commences in our legislative acts. The "Parliamentary Select Committee on Aborigines" advert, in their Report, to the very latest Act that has been passed for founding a Colony, in which an immense tract of country is disposed of as "waste lands," on which a single habitation of man was not to be found, and whose soil was not imprinted with a human footstep; while the Company themselves, in whose favour the Act was framed, state that "great numbers of natives have been seen along that part of the coast" where they are commencing operations. Is this capable of vindication? or even of apology? What right have we to sit and coolly dispose of distant countries, inhabited by Aboriginal people, who have as valid a claim to the lands which they occupy, as we have to our native soil? What excuse can be offered for the insult which, in some cases, at least, we add to this wrong, by legislatively pronouncing those countries to be mere "waste lands,"--thus practically denying to the inhabitants their claims to humanity, and classing them with the wild beasts of the forest? Can this conduct be regarded otherwise than as a flagrant violation of the rules of essential and immutable justice, aggravated by our pretences to superior illumination? When a barbarous and uncivilized people are found invading the possessions of their neighbours, merely because they are the stronger party, and have power to enforce their aggressive claims, an excuse for their disregard of right is derived from that state of heathenish ignorance in which they are placed; but what can be offered as an apology for

[Image of page 5]

us, who, in the spirit of boasting, are so apt to place ourselves at the head of the most enlightened, and even philanthropic, nations of the earth?

From our national legislation, no other effects than those which have actually been produced could have been rationally anticipated. Were a person in circumstances to reason a priori upon the subject, the only fair and consistent conclusion to which he could possibly come would be, that the interests of the Colonists and the natives must necessarily clash, and that as the interest of the natives had been so utterly disregarded in our legislature, they would not be allowed to weigh against those of the Colonists when the actual collision should come; and a person whose judgment was not warped by interested motives must further inevitably conclude, that by the time the colonizing Company should take possession of all the lands secured to them by Act of Parliament, it would be found that the original owners of those lands had been either extirpated, or reduced to a state of dependence and servitude. Two parties cannot enjoy the absolute proprietorship of the same lands at one and the same time. They must belong to either the Colonists or the natives; and if the former should have obtained actual possession of the whole, the latter must necessarily be excluded.

Such are the conclusions to which all sound reasoning upon the subject must unquestionably lead. How these conclusions are sustained by matter of fact, the history of our past Colonization affectingly shows. The natives have had to surrender their lands without receiving for them any adequate remuneration. No painful collision has taken place, perhaps, in the first instance. The Colonists have needed only a portion of their territory on which to commence operations, and for this they have treated with the natives. The forms of a bargain have been gone through, and a price has been paid; but the moral wrong which was

[Image of page 6]

committed by us in legislating respecting the disposal of their lands--when they were not only not consenting parties, but, at the distance from us of perhaps half the circumference of the globe, were utterly ignorant of our proceedings and our plans, and perhaps nearly so of our very existence as a nation--has been aggravated by the fraud practised upon their ignorance in the price which has been given for the lands first ceded by them. A few beads, or other trinkets, or something equally worthless, have been the consideration paid down for lands and possessions of incalculable value.

But, however peacefully our Colonies may have been commenced, while the natives remained in ignorance of our designs and the extent of our plans, circumstances have ere long taken place which have awakened unfriendly feelings, and led to painful collision. The natives have soon discovered, that their means of subsistence have been diminished. It has not unfrequently been the case, that the tracts of country which they have transferred to the Colonists were best adapted for hunting or fishing: but the loss of the game upon the lands sold might not have been so severely felt, could they have preserved the game on the lands which they reserved for themselves. This, however, they have not been able to accomplish. Some of the more valuable animals, such as beavers and otters, on which the American Indians subsisted, are shy, and retire from the neighbourhood of a settled community, further into the depths of the forest; and the Colonists have helped to clear the immediate vicinities of their settlements of all kinds of game. The Chippeway Chief, Peter Jones, once stated to the writer, that, in Upper Canada, the game has so greatly decreased by the operation of such causes as are here enumerated, that he has known whole families of Indians perish through hunger. While the Aborigines have thus been made to feel the injurious consequences resulting from the settlement of the white strangers

[Image of page 7]

among them, they have also become partially enlightened as to the fraud which was practised upon them in the pretended purchase of their territory; and, goaded by hunger and stimulated by revenge, they have begun to trespass upon the lands of the Colonists, and commit depredations upon their property. Then the struggle has fairly commenced; and the Colonists have found themselves under the necessity of passively yielding up their property to the natives, or defending it by force. And when the circumstances of the Colonists are considered, is it to be wondered at that they should adopt the latter course? An important distinction is ever to be made between the founders of the Colony and the Colonists themselves. The main body of the Settlers have nothing to do with originating the plan of any Colony, or obtaining the Act of Parliament for its formation. They are generally persons who have not profoundly gone into the question of Colonization, with reference to the principles upon which it is based; but, captivated by the flattering offers and the glowing statements made by the authors of the scheme, they have been induced to go out as emigrants, and seek a new home in the distant land, which the pen of the eloquent writer and the pencil of the artist have been employed to deck with all the charms of "the land of promise." In some cases it would be a difficult question to settle, whether the natives, who have been induced by the founders of the Colony to surrender their lands, or the emigrants to whom those lands have been allotted, were the subjects of the greater deception and delusion. In such circumstances what else could have been reasonably expected, but that which has really happened, when the rights of the natives and the claims of the Colonists have begun seriously to clash? The Colonists, who have left their country and friends, and embarked their all in their new undertaking, on the success of which the hopes and welfare of their rising family entirely depend--who,

[Image of page 8]

instead of realizing the splendid prospects which they had contemplated in the vision that seduced them from the land of their fathers, find themselves involved in all the difficulties, and exposed to all the privations, which have to be encountered in a new country, where the edifice of society is to be built again from its very foundation; where all has to be commenced afresh; -- are not in a condition lightly to dispose them to wave their claims. What could be more plausible than for them to argue that their right to the lands which they have bought of the Directors of the Colony is well founded; and that, if the Directors have not sufficiently remunerated the natives for those lands, they (the Colonists) cannot be answerable for that, seeing they had scarcely ever heard of any claims of the natives, or, at least, had never heard any thing which excited suspicion in their minds that possibly those claims might clash with their own, until the collision actually took place? The colonizing process has thus only to be carefully traced, and it becomes apparent that the unjust usurpation of the lands of the natives has been the primary cause of the evils which Colonization has inflicted on the original proprietors of the soil.

Another fruitful source of those evils is the general policy in the treatment of the Aborigines, which has characterized Colonial administration. When the interests of the Colonists, and those of the native tribes whose lands they have obtained, have begun painfully to clash; and when misunderstandings have taken place between the Colonists and other independent tribes in their neighbourhood, and the Colonists have been made to suffer from the irritating and injurious depredations to which in such circumstances they became exposed: the two parties of Colonists and Aborigines were shortly seen arrayed against each other, as in Van Diemen's-Land, in a war of extermination, or, as in other instances, the Aborigines have been subjected to

[Image of page 9]

a course of treatment calculated to keep them in a degraded and defenceless state. As the injurious effects of Colonization have been experienced on the largest scale by the Aborigines of the New World, the policy pursued towards the Indians of Upper Canada may be specified, for the purpose of illustration. And the case of these interesting people is more especially selected, because it furnishes such irrefragable evidence of the spirit and tendency of our past Colonization. The "red men" of the Canadian province have not been forward to retaliate upon the Colonists. They have borne the injuries inflicted upon them without resentment. More than this; they have manifested an affectionate attachment to the English, and have cheerfully shed their blood in defence of British interests. But what is the state in which they have been left? Notwithstanding the exertions made in their behalf by the late Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Colborne, the lands which were reserved for their occupancy have not been permanently secured to them. The Christian natives who have applied themselves to the pursuits of civilized life, have cultivated their lands under the discouraging apprehension, that when they should have rendered themselves comfortable, some reason would be found for dispossessing them and sending them to another spot in the wilderness, where they would have all to begin anew. When the English first took possession of Upper Canada, they entered into treaty with the Indians as independent allies: but the policy was gradually introduced of dealing with the Indians as minors or children, who were unable to take care of themselves and their lands. To the present time, they have enjoyed no political rights in the Colony. Persons of colour from the United States are eligible to purchase lands in Upper Canada with a Government title, and are allowed the same civil privileges as the other Colonists; but the political existence of the Indians is not recognised

[Image of page 10]

in the Colony. They have not so much as a right to vote at a Town-Meeting, where questions are determined respecting the formation of roads, keeping fences in repair, and all such matters; and where officers are appointed to carry the plans agreed upon into effect. The Indians are obliged to submit to all the regulations thus made for the management of the townships in which they reside, but they cannot attend and vote at the Meetings. They are not eligible even to sit upon a Coroners inquest, held upon the body of one of their countrymen. A case in point occurred so late as last September, at the village of Christian Indians on the River Credit. An Indian died a few days after he had received some blows from a Frenchman, and the Coroner was in consequence sent for; but he was unable to allow any Indians to be put upon the Jury, which was composed of twelve white men. While the Indians are thus denied the exercise of political rights in the Colony, attempts continue to be made to obtain from them the colonial taxes, as though they were actually on a level with the Colonists. Such is the condition of the interesting Aborigines of Upper Canada, whose fathers were the lords and proprietors of that immense region.

The Cape of Good Hope furnishes another instance of the kind of policy which has been adopted towards independent native tribes, in the vicinity of our Colonies. When that Colony became subject to the British Crown, the Dutch Colonists and the Kaffers, their neighbours upon the eastern frontier, were found in a state of painful collision with each other. The unwise and inequitable policy adopted in defence of the Colony against those warlike native people has been written in characters of blood. The Colonial Government recognised one of the Chiefs as Sovereign of all Kaffraria, and treated with him as such in matters which concerned other Chiefs as independent as himself. This excited their jealousy and anger.

[Image of page 11]

They combined against the new-made Sovereign. Then the Governor sent troops to support his ally, and the combination was broken up. In revenge, the defeated Chiefs invaded the Colony, and the distressing war of 1819 took place. At its close, by way of securing the Colony from future attacks, the Governor prevailed upon the Chief, whom he still recognised as Sovereign, to consent that a large tract of country should remain unoccupied between the Kaffers and the Colony, --a considerable portion of which tract that Chief had no right thus to dispose of, without the consent of the owners. Afterwards the Kaffers were allowed partially to re-occupy this territory, by sufferance. Before long, some of them were removed from it a second time; then allowed once more to return; and, finally, were excluded from it, only a short time before they commenced the late painful war against the Colony. A careful examination of the entire policy, including the method of recovering stolen cattle from the Kaffers, and the restrictions placed upon the intercourse of the Kaffers with the Colony, --which the Cape Government has deemed it necessary to adopt in the defence of the eastern frontier, -- places in a strong light the working of our past system of Colonization, which has had for its primary object our own gain and aggrandizement, and not the improvement of the Aborigines.

These two instances must suffice as illustrations of our general Colonial policy.

There is another radical defect in our Colonization-system, deserving of very especial notice. It is the want of a comprehensive and adequate provision for the religious instruction of the Aborigines. This is a subject which the mere politician may treat with indifference, but one which the Christian statesman--now that the evils invariably inflicted upon the Aborigines by the operation of our past system are so manifest and so

[Image of page 12]

great--is imperatively called upon to regard as a question of all but paramount importance. Of such moment is this subject, that a practical disregard of it would most certainly have led to the failure of any scheme of Colonization, however well-planned in other respects. Had our Colonization-system been constructed on such principles that no lands should have been obtained from the natives but by fair and equitable purchase; and had it effectually provided for the introduction of a just and humane policy, which, protecting the natives from oppression, should have proposed to secure to them all their rights and privileges; --had the system contemplated even all this, but stopped there, without affording religious instruction to the natives, it would not have prevented painful and injurious collisions between them and the Colonists.

The fact is, that barbarous nations require to be enlightened and elevated, before they can be brought to recognise and act according to the rules by which civilized communities are regulated. They have to acquire a taste for social order, and need to be instructed as to the benefits which result from it. It is necessary that they should be taught to respect, from principle, the rights of others; and to seek redress, when their own rights are invaded, from the operation of the laws, and not by resorting to violence and arms. It is requisite that they should learn something of the decencies and proprieties of civilized life, before they can be mixed up with well-regulated society. It must therefore be maintained, that, however just and proper may be the policy for regulating the intercourse of the Colonists and the Aborigines, the latter must be raised, in some good degree, from that state of ignorance, rudeness, and barbarity in which they are found, before they can be brought to enter into peaceful and decorous intercourse with the white strangers, and submit to the restrictions necessary for the maintenance of such intercourse. It is not true, as has been insinuated in

[Image of page 13]

certain quarters, that if we only do right to men existing in a heathen or natural state, they will be sure to do what is right on their part. The time was when persons deceived themselves with day-dreams respecting the moral virtues of those nations which existed in a state of nature. Travellers, on their return from distant regions, dwelt with rapture on the primitive simplicity and innocence of people whom they met with, who had not been contaminated by intercourse with Christians. But those days of delusion are past; and the truth of the doctrine of the Bible, respecting the degraded and demoralized condition of heathen nations, is established beyond all controversy, by unquestionable matter of fact. The volume recently published by that excellent Missionary of the London Society, the Rev. John Williams, throws a flood of light on this painfully interesting subject. His account of the cruelty which was exercised towards Europeans cast upon their shores, by the inhabitants of various islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the violence, too brutal to be described, which some of his own companions experienced in other instances, when they first came into contact with the natives, and before the natives began to listen to the Gospel which the Missionary and his assistants carried to them, very powerfully tends to confirm the conclusion, that it would not be enough to lay down a just and humane policy for regulating the intercourse between Colonists and natives; but that it is indispensably necessary to adopt means for enlightening and improving the character of the natives, in order that they may be taught properly to exercise their own rights, and duly to respect the rights of others.

If, then, the Aborigines require to be elevated, in order to ensure the success of the best possible system of Colonization, it must be further argued that the Gospel is the only means for accomplishing this import-

[Image of page 14]

ant object. The voice of universal experience testifies, that nothing else has efficacy to raise heathen and barbarous people. Begin by telling them of the benefits conferred by civilized life, and they will not listen to you. The charms of such a life are too tame and insipid for them. They vastly prefer the excitement and licentious freedom of the state to which they have been accustomed. Their superstitions also come in to bind them to the usages and modes of life adopted by their ancestors; and it is not until they feel the influence of the ennobling doctrines of Christianity, that they dare to break through those superstitions. The attempts which were humanely made on an extensive scale in America to improve the Indians, without the means of direct religious instruction, so completely failed, that many derived from it an argument in justification of the removal of the Indians further back into the interior. They argued, that repeated and long-tried experiments proved that the Indians were not capable of being reclaimed and elevated, so as to hold intercourse with civilized society; and that therefore nothing remained but to send them away into the wilderness, that they might dwell alone as a separate people, far from the habitations of civilized men. The logic was bad; but the facts from which they thus reasoned are conclusive evidence, that, without the Gospel, barbarous nations cannot be raised from their degraded condition, and be brought harmoniously and beneficially to blend with well-ordered communities.

That which universal experience shows cannot be accomplished independently of Christian instruction, is, however, as clearly proved, by the same witness, to be attainable by means of it. The Gospel has reclaimed some of the very barbarous people on whom the mere civilizing process had previously been tried altogether in vain; and the various Missionary Societies furnish abundant proof, in all parts of the world, that the Gospel invariably humanizes the Heathen whom it Christianizes. The Gospel contains the germs of true civili-

[Image of page 15]

zation; and wherever it takes effect, those germs expand, and a beautiful exhibition of civilized life is the certain result. The writer, when on his examination before the "Parliamentary Select Committee on Aborigines," argued in the following manner respecting the necessary connexion between Christianity and civilization:--

"The circumstance of our always finding civilization following in the train of the Gospel, is of itself a presumption that Christianity has something to do with originating it: but I think, on examining the subject, I can perceive something between the two like the relation of cause and effect. No sooner does the Gospel begin to operate upon the mind of the Heathen, than it leads to the first step in civilization. It is shortly seen to be indecorous and improper for persons to meet together in a state of filthiness and comparative nudity, in the public worship of Almighty God. The people themselves are soon made to feel, under the teaching of the Missionaries, that a more decent exterior is necessary; and thus the first step is taken in civilization, and clothing is introduced. As the next step, the Gospel induces a settled course of life, and tends to promote industry. The people, having become desirous to hear the Gospel preached, find it necessary to renounce their wandering life, and to have a settled abode, in order that they may enjoy the regular ordinances of religion. That follows as a necessary consequence. They cannot attend the ministry of the Gospel, the influence of which they are beginning to feel, and the ministry of which they are desirous to enjoy, without changing their mode of life. Having changed their mode of life so far as to take up a settled abode, labour becomes necessary that they may maintain themselves; they are no longer dependent upon the chase; and industrious habits are consequently formed. Education, which is another step in the process of civilization, seems naturally to follow. The Missionary, in preaching to the Heathen, does not deliver his own

[Image of page 16]

opinions, he does not speak on his own independent authority; but he tells the people whom he addresses, that the doctrines he delivers are all found in a book, which he holds in his hand, which he calls 'the word of God,' and which he tells them it is important that they should be able to consult. This creates in their minds a desire for school-instruction, and many are soon found in the character of pupils, anxiously endeavouring to learn to read the word of that God who has been so lately made known to them. Then follows another stage in the civilizing process: the Gospel originates the moral virtues, --truth, honesty, fidelity, chastity; and, denouncing polygamy, a fruitful source of evil among savage people, it maintains the sanctity of the marriage-vow: and thus does it produce, as its direct and proper effect, the virtues which constitute, to so great an extent, the bond of civilized life. In intimate connexion with the moral virtues, the Gospel brings in the humanities of life. While it enforces that the husband shall be faithful to his one wife, it enjoins also that he love her as his own flesh and thus it raises woman from that state to which Heathenism invariably depresses her. The Gospel teaches parents to love their offspring, and to regard them as immortal spirits confided to their care, and which they are under obligation to train for eternity; and the minds of the Heathen being brought under the influence of this teaching, infanticide is at once abolished. The Gospel imposes on children a corresponding obligation to love and reverence their parents; and no sooner is this obligation felt by the Heathen, than they are seen comforting and supporting their aged parents, instead of leaving them to perish in the jungle, or to be devoured by wild beasts. Then, again, the Gospel enjoins on all to be merciful and forgiving one to another, as they hope to be forgiven of God; and this is no sooner admitted, than an end is put to violence and deeds of blood. It is in this way I trace the neces-

[Image of page 17]

sary connexion between Christianity and civilization, and perceive how the former originates the latter. It is by such an investigation I reach the conclusion, that wherever the Gospel exerts its full and legitimate influence, true civilization must follow, as a natural and necessary consequence." 1

If the views here developed are just; if all this reasoning be correct; if, while the doctrine is repudiated, (and let it for ever perish!) that men are to be oppressed and defrauded because of their ignorance, we are, notwithstanding, compelled to admit, that barbarous Aboriginal people require to be enlightened and elevated, before they can properly use their own rights with due regard to the rights of others; and if it be now clearly demonstrated, that the Gospel is the only effectual means for raising them to a state of civilization, and preparing them for holding beneficial intercourse with other civilized communities, or becoming one people with them; --then is it most obvious that the absence of an adequate provision for imparting religious instruction to the Aborigines, has been a fatal defect in our past system of Colonization. Had this provision only been made, it would have done much to correct some of the other evils which have been pointed out. If, for instance, when, after the Kaffer war of 1819, the Government resolved upon the formation of a British Settlement in the eastern district of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, for the purpose of raising up a living barrier against the incursions of the Kaffers, it had furnished the means for placing all the frontier Kaffers under Christian instruction, would the late afflictive war have taken place? The negative may be

[Image of page 18]

fairly presumed, from the success attending the unaided and very limited exertions of the Missionary Societies. A comparison of the conduct of the Kaffers, in the prosecution of the late war, with the barbarities practised by them on former occasions, sufficiently shows that their character had been considerably softened and improved; and the case of the Congo or Amagonaquabie tribe most convincingly indicates what might have been effected with all the frontier Kaffers, had adequate means only been provided for bringing them under the full influence of Christian instruction. The powerful tribe now particularly referred to was found by the Rev. William Shaw, when he first went among them, greatly exasperated against the English. Their Chief, old Congo, had been killed in war with the Colony; and they were smarting under the loss of a considerable portion of their territory, which, without their own consent, had been ceded to the Governor by the Chief, whom he was pleased to regard and treat with as Sovereign of all Kaffraria. But such was the beneficial influence exerted over this tribe by Mr. Shaw, and other Wesleyan Missionaries, that, as their conduct proved at the breaking out of the late war, their enmity against the English was changed into friendship. When invited by the hostile Chiefs to join them in invading the Colony, they refused to do so, on the ground that they now regarded the English as their friends, not having had a commando sent against them out of the Colony for ten years past. Captain Stockenstrom, since appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the eastern division of the Cape Colony, when in this country, declared before the "Parliamentary Select Committee on Aborigines," and elsewhere, that it was his decided conviction, that the influence of the Missionary Shaw was the cause which prevented this powerful frontier tribe from joining their countrymen in the recent war against the Colony. It may, then, be fairly argued, that what was thus done on a limited scale might have

[Image of page 19]

been accomplished on a large one, had sufficient means been supplied; and supposing that the frontier policy of the Colonial Government had remained unchanged, the alleged reasons for maintaining the irritating and injurious commando or patrol system, might have been removed with respect to all the frontier Kaffers, as had been the case for ten years previously in regard to the Congo or Amagonaquabie tribe. It may be further remarked, that the absence of all public provision for communicating religious instruction to the Kaffers furnishes just ground for apprehension, that the otherwise improved frontier system, which Lieutenant-Governor Stockenstrom has introduced, will not work so beneficially as could be desired. Excellent as is his new system in many respects, yet the friends of humanity have just cause to lament that it docs not embrace any comprehensive plan for supporting Christian teachers among the Kaffers, but that the Missionary Societies are still left to their own unassisted and inadequate exertions, and involved moreover in embarrassing pecuniary difficulties arising out of the war. And it is an additional cause of regret and apprehension, that the provision of the means of Christian instruction is neglected, at the very juncture when the soothing influence of religious teaching is especially needed, to calm the excitement which the war has occasioned among the Kaffers.

But to proceed:-- Not only would religious instruction have checked the pernicious tendency of our Colonial policy, it would also have counteracted the evils inflicted upon the Aborigines by the vicious example of some of the Colonists and traders. Our neglecting to communicate Christian teaching to the natives has not merely left them in their heathen and barbarous state; but it has exposed them to that kind of influence which has increased their depravity and wretchedness. They have been left to learn new vices, and to experience the suffering resulting from the introduction of new diseases. Instead of seeking to raise the natives, we have thus

[Image of page 20]

abandoned them to be plunged deeper than ever in vice and misery. Let Australia, and Upper Canada, especially, bear witness to the evils resulting to the Aborigines from the introduction among them of European vices and maladies. But the vicious example of white men would never have effected so great an amount of mischief, had adequate religious instruction been provided for the natives. This would have fortified their minds against the bad white man's arts, and would have saved them from those diseases which are the consequences of sinful gratification. It can be triumphantly shown, that when the natives have been brought under the influence of Christian truth, communicated to them by Missionaries, they have then firmly resisted the solicitations to evil which formerly overcame them, and have become patterns of good conduct to the white men who previously had seduced them into sin.

While it is thus maintained that the strongest presumption exists that had a competent provision been made in all our Colonies for communicating religious instruction to the Aborigines, the evils which have resulted from our Colonial policy, as well as the bad example of vicious Colonists, would have been greatly mitigated; and that, in fact, our Colonial policy itself would have assumed a different character from that which too generally it has actually exhibited; it is moreover apparent that the impartation of the blessings of Christianity and civilization would have been some compensation for the original wrong done to the natives, by depriving them of their lands. The limits of a pamphlet will not admit that the inquiry be prosecuted at length, whether it is possible to construct a system of Colonization which shall properly respect the rights of the Aborigines, and effectually promote their interests, as well as those of the Colonists themselves. The formidable difficulty which lies at the very threshold of all such attempts, is that which arises out of the question respecting the transfer of lands.

[Image of page 21]

How ignorant and barbarous people can be supposed to have knowledge and understanding sufficient to bargain for the sale of their lands, on something like equal terms with the Colonists; or how the Colonists are to raise funds ample enough to enable them to pay what will be the actual value of those lands to the natives themselves, when they begin to understand the uses to which they may be applied, --is one of the questions of most difficult solution with which the subject of Colonization is clogged. One conclusion, however, may be regarded as certain, that had an adequate provision been made for imparting religious instruction to the Aborigines of our Colonies, when the injurious effects inflicted upon them by our colonizing system had become notorious, this would have been the best means of which the case would admit, to induce their acquiescence in the loss of their lands. Had this been done--had they been raised by this means to a Christian and civilized state--then would they have peacefully and comfortably lived upon their remaining lands; which might have proved sufficient for them, when they should have abandoned the chase, and placed their dependence for support on the cultivation of the ground and the prosecution of the arts of civilized life.

Limited and imperfect as is the preceding investigation, it may perhaps prove sufficient to satisfy honest and unbiassed minds of the correctness of the principle on which we set out; namely, that the evils inflicted upon Aboriginal tribes and nations by our past colonization are not accidental, but that they naturally result from wrong principles or radical defects inherent in the system itself. What other results could have been rationally anticipated from such a system? A considerable number of the emigrants who have gone out to our Colonies were, no doubt, persons whose principles were not sufficiently correct to enable them to resist any very strong temptation to oppress and injure the natives, when circumstances afforded them

[Image of page 22]

the opportunity to advance their own interests, or gratify their evil propensities, by pursuing such a line of conduct; but after their full share of blame has been awarded to the Colonists, it must appear obvious to those who are capable of taking a comprehensive view of the subject, that had our Colonists generally been the most perfect of men, our system of Colonization has been so constructed, that nothing else but results disastrous and injurious to the natives could have possibly taken place. And in like manner, our animadversions upon Colonial Governments must, in truth and justice, be qualified by the admission, that, founded as our Colonies have been upon the principles of gain and comparative indifference to the welfare of the natives, the Colonial Governments have had the hopeless task assigned to them of harmonizing the assumed rights of the Colonists with the original rights of the natives, which have so palpably and painfully clashed, that the policy of the most enlightened and humane Governors may be justly regarded only as a set of varying expedients successively adopted to meet the emergencies which have occurred. But with whom rests the awful responsibility; to whom attaches the guilt of placing the Colonists and Colonial Governments in such circumstances, that if they only barely work out the principles on which our Colonies have been founded, ruin to the natives must be the inevitable result? The answer must not, cannot be evaded. The parent state is the arch-offender. However weighty the charge of injuring the Aborigines, which may justly be preferred against the Colonists, that charge recoils upon ourselves with fearfully-accumulated force. Our Colonies and Colonial Governments have acted only a subordinate part. We have been the principals in the sad business. We have legislated in our national councils, and decreed the formation of Colonies; and the nation has more than passively acquiesced in such proceedings. Britain has cheerfully

[Image of page 23]

sent forth her sons by thousands, and myriads, to carry into execution Acts, which if only worked out according to their letter and spirit, without going a hair's-breadth beyond their plain and obvious design, could not fail to involve the Aborigines in ruin. Would that a voice of thunder might awaken the national conscience, and call forth one loud responsive burst of penitential sorrow, followed by earnest and persevering endeavours to make restitution for the wrongs which we have inflicted, and by an utter abandonment of a system of Colonization which, so long as it is acted upon, cannot fail to visit with calamity and suffering the Aborigines of every country to which its influence may be permitted to extend!

1   See "Report--Aborigines Settlements. Ordered, by the House of Commons to be printed, 5 August, 1836." Page 538: and page 167 of the volume entitled, Christianity the Means of Civilization; published by Seeleys and Mason; consisting chiefly of Extracts from the Evidence given before the Parliamentary Committee, by Dandeson Coates, Esq., the Rev. John Beecham, and the Rev. W. Ellis, Secretaries of the Church, Wesleyan, and London Missionary Societies. (1837.)

Previous section | Next section