To the Editors of the Sydney Herald.
In reading the report of the Governor's An- nual Conference with the Natives, in the Ga- zette of the 12th instant, a stranger would be led to attach an importance, in these periodical meetings, which they unfortunately do not de- serve, or at least have not hitherto merited by producing any efficient measures for improve- ment, either in the moral or physical condition of these people ; and although there are, perhaps, few subjects of enquiry, connected with the Co- lony, so interesting to the philanthropist as the state of the black natives, yet it is one on which there prevails a wonderful and deplorable de- gree of apathy and ignorance.
It is to be hoped, however, nay, I would say, it is expected, from the liberal feeling, intelli- gence, and sound judgment of our present Ruler, that this subject will not be overlooked, but that some measures will be adopted by the Govern- ment likely to produce permanent good, by being founded upon rational principles, and keeping in view the circumstances which render the under- taking so essentially different here from similar attempts in other countries.
Few of the inhabitants of Sydney know, or care, any thing about their sable fellow-creatures ; nor is this surprising, for of those miserable beings whom we see patrolling the streets, the appear- ance and manners are not likely to raise any feel-
ing but that of disgust, in minds so occupied with , interested pursuits as to give little scope to feel- ings purely philanthropic. But those who live in the country, who are necessarily brought into daily contact with the blacks, and who have had frequent opportunities of seeing them in their natural character, less degraded by the vices of the whites, than where facility of indulgence increase their depravity, know, that there are many redeeming qualities in these neglected beings, which, if judiciously cultivated, would certainly produce effects highly conducive to their improvement, and creditable to our huma-
It is not, however, by the mistaken charity of bestowing unearned rewards, nor still less by the misdirected zeal of inculcating incomprehen- sible precepts, that man can be led from so bar- barous and independent a state to one where the intricacy of social dependence excites to, and rewards the exercise of the moral and political virtues. Who does not know that the savage is dependent on himself alone for the production of every thing he requires, and the supply of all his wants, and that, consequently, these wants are limited to the very lowest possible number? And who is ignorant that, in civilized society, it requires the combined exertions of some hundreds of our fellow-creatures to produce almost every article of use, ornament, or convenience ? And although it is equally the whole business of life to supply the wants of the individual, in either state, yet, in the number of those want.s, and fa- cility of supplying them, and the consequent in- crease of enjoyment and excitement to fresh exertion, the two states bear no comparison. lu this subdivision of labour, and mutual depen- dence, exists the tie which binds society toge- ther ; and until this begins to take place, there is not, nor can be, any improvement in the moral or physical condition of u nation or people.
Whatever, then, tends to produce this state of mutual dependence, is a step towards civilization ; and in enquiring the probable menus of inducing this state, in any particular people, it is necessary to bear in mind those circumstances, in their present condition, which would retard or assist
the effect of any proposed measures.
To apply these remarks to the native of this tonn try, I would observe, that the facility of ob- taining his food hy the invigorating and gratify- ing exertions of hunting and fishing-his inde- pendence of clothing, from the mildness of the climate-his innate indolence-aud his ignorance of, and contempt for, almost every comfort and convenience-present the greatest obstacles to his civilization. It is not, therefore, surprising that the first indications of impiovcmcnt should be seen in those parts of the country, where the congregation of white inhabitants has visibly de- creased the means of independent subsistence to the blacks, by substituting corn fields, and herds of cattle, for forests abounding in kangaroo; and where the exciting a desire for clothing and other luxuries, has produced new wants, which can only be gratified by fresh exertions. There you will find many of the blacks, who gain their sub- sistence, for several weeks together, by their la- bour in the field and in the house ; and although this number is comparatively small, and the habit intermittent, yet a half-domesticated attachment is formed to the spot, and to the person who em- ploys them—they return again and again to their labour, and eagerly bargain for its price. Thus the first principles of moral obligations begin to bo taught, and the first dawnings of social virtues break upon their minda.
It is much to be regretted that more attention is not paid by settlers, in general, to give em- ployment to the natives whenever they feel dis- posed to work for hire ; for, although their ser- vice is but small and precarious, yet it is often to be commanded at a time when it is useful, and almost necessary. I have seen an instance, on a farm where the blacks are encouraged in this manner, of a field of corn, of 40 acres, harvested entirely by the blacks, with only one white su- perintendent, at an expence of about one-half what it would have cost by white labour, and at a time when labourers were so scarce that great loss would have otherwise occurred. Nor is this a solitary instance : on the contrary, I have ob- served, that wherever the blacks are treated with kindness, and arc certaiu of their stipulated hire,
they willingly assist in light labour.
It would appear, therefore, to follow, that a judicious encouragement on the part of the settlers, to induce the blacks to work occasion- ally, and at their own pleasure, for stipulated returns of food, clothing, &c. would be one effec- tive means of breaking in upon their wandering habits, care being taken never to give what had not been earned by an attempt at service, nor ever refusing to fulfil promises made to them ; for it is on the good faith only of the master that they depend, and nothing disgusts them more at working for the settlers than the too frequent practice of " gammoning" them. The same principle might be applied to the annual distri- bution of slops, &c. made by the Government. Could these be procured hy the blacks, only on certificate from Magistrates or settlers of a cer- tain quantity of work having been performed, or a certain term of service accomplished either at one time or at several intervals, I have no doubt that the applicants would be very numerous, and the result highly satisfactory; for to me, the first, easiest, and most certain means of introducing domestication among them, appears to be a knowledge, on their part, that these additions to their comfort (the desire for which daily in- creases) can certainly he gained by devoting a portion of their time to the service of others, and cannot otherwise be piocured. A recommenda- tion from the Government to settlers, and inha bitants in general, to afford the natives every possible opportunity of rendering their voluntary services, would no doubt have a good effect.
The present time, indeed, is favourable for commencing any system which shall have the effect of placing within reach of the natives, better aud more plentiful food ihau they can
otherwise procure, together with clothing and other desired luxuries, in exchange for their vo- luntary labour. The spreading of the white po- pulation over the country is decreasing their for-
mer means of subsistence to such an extent, even
at the extreme points of location, that instances have lately occurred of their being compelled, by hunger, to forego their usual habits of forbear- ance, and kill the sheep of the settlers to satisfy their wants. How far this spirit may be carried, it is not easy to foretel-but wc have a warning example in our neighbours to the Southward, that mutual aggression and retaliation may lead to the sacrifice of many lives, which a timely re- sort to conciliatory measures might have pre- served ; and it should not be forgotten that the first aggression is already on our part, if we do not afford to the natives other means of subsist- ence, in lieu of those of which they are deprived by our occupation of their land.
Much has been said and written upon the uti- lity of affording religious instruction to the blacks. But to teach a people, allowed by all to be the very lowest in the scale of human be- ings-whose intellects arc hardly above the in- stinct of their dogs-and whose ideas scarcely extend beyond satisfying the immediate cravings of nature ;-to teach such a people the precepts of a religion calculated for the direction and go- vernance of the spiritual, moral, and political feel- ings arising out of an advanced state of intelli-
gence, as a means of reclaiming them from their. degraded state, and elevating them to that of domestic comfort, appears to me as unprofitable an attempt as it would be to engraft a crab-tree with a piece of gold, in the hope of a golden harvest. Let the history of every nation speak for the fact, that it is only when a certain degree of civilization lins been attained, and a certain necessity for the preservation of social and moral obligations begins to be felt and acted upon, in daily intercourse, that the precepts of the Chris- tian religion can be appreciated, or will be lis- tened to. There must be some previously con- ceived notions, ideas, and sentiments, in the mind of the person to be acted upon, which ac- cord with the lesson-else it is like speaking Greek to an illiterate peasant, to talk to a savage of moral obligations and religious feelings ; and still more chimerical is it, to expect from such a course, the reformation which has not even been commenced by working upon his natural wants
Every praise is due to the zeal, assiduity, and single-heartedness of those who have so long been perscveriiigly engaged in this undertaking, under great personal privation and unmerited discouragement ; but it seems a fair subject of regret, that the same ability and exertion had not been directed to the more promising attempt of reclaiming these savages by an appeal to wants which they do feel, rather than to those of which
they are, and must necessarily long remain, ig-
I cannot close this letter without recommend- ing to those, who feel an interest in the subject, to rc-peruse the letters which appeared in the Gazettes of February and March, 1830 ; and also the book written by Mr. Dawson, late agent to the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens-a work into which, although some- times led astray by an overkind heart and san- guine temperament, he has condensed much valuable and accurate information upon the private feelings and character of the aborigines,
I am, Gentlemen,
your most obedient Servant,