Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

but of the best; no one being allowed sheets, because they are said to be retentive of a certain contagious disease, of a most disagreeable though not very dangerous character: and as to the beds, they were, as one of my companions facetiously expressed it, like the continent of Asia, thickly peopled with black, brown, and white inhabitants. The origin and perpetuation of this nuisance may in part be ascribed to the uncleanly habits of some prior to enlistment."

So much has lately been said on flogging, that we shall pass over the many examples given of the detestable mode of brutalising the soldier ; nor need we, unfortunately, crave for examples of this special outrage to excite attention to the subject. The following sample of the conduct of the Non-commissioned Officers will give further insight to the morale of the Army.

“ There was also another cause tending to the same object, the harshness with which recruits were treated, in numberless instances, by noncommissioned officers, who tyrannised over them with the greatest impunity. These having sufficient art to veil their true character from their superiors, whose favour they propitiated by officiousness and servility, adopted out of very wantonness a system of domineering towards new-comers, sheltering themselves in the ignorance of tlie latter as to military laws and usages. I have frequently heard it stated since by every class of soldiers, and my own experience leads me to be of the same opinion, that the generality of the non-commissioned staff at Chatham are morally the lowest and most contemptible of their grade in the service. It is a fact, of the truth of which I have myself been often a witness, that some of them are perfect adepts in every species of fraud, and the larger part are of the most depraved habits otherwise--the necessary result of laxity of principle, and protracted stay in a vicious neighbourhood; for they would move heaven and earth were it possible, sooner than join their regiments (whose colours they had mostly never seen) on foreign stations.

“On my joining, I was made to pay for clothing, which I should have got gratis : at the time of my discharge I compelled the sergeant who paid the depôt then, and who is now pay and colour sergeant with the regiment, to refund the money he cheated me out of, by threatening to claim it before the board about to assemble for the purpose of recording my services, conduct, and cause of discharge. Others were treated in the same way who enlisted with me; but those died or volunteered in India, or were ignorant of what they were entitled to: at all events no claim but mine was ever made.

“It is indeed a curious circumstance, that, under the very eye of the home authorities, the young soldier is perhaps worse treated than in any other part of the British dominions, both as regards his clothing and his food: even his scanty surplus pay is frequently the object of the most scandalous peculation. Še being altogether ignorant of what he is entitled to, and therefore obnoxious to every extortion, is plundered by those military blacklegs—those Majors Monsoon of the present period—with the greatest ease, and the least possible compunction. Aware of what must be the answer, they listen with .indifference to the commandant, as he asks the recruit, when about to embark for India, whether he has any

complaints to make. The reply to this question has been almost invariably in the negative.

Indeed, few recruits, were they even aware of their being cheated, possess the ability and information requisite to make a report of a superior with any prospect of success; and otherwise, they become subject to trial by courtmartial for making frivolous complaints.”

But it were endless to quote the passages indirectly indicative of the extreme evil attending military life ; we shall conclude with the following :

“We got our batta the day before the anniversary of Ghuznee, and the canteen was then wisely tlirown open without any restrictions, the time affording a plausible pretext for giving the men every indulgence. Any one who wished, was allowed to bring liquor into the barracks, and for three days there was a scene of desperate drunkenness. The sergeant of the canteen assured me that during this period his receipts were upwards of 10,000 rupees (10007. sterling) for liquor. Yet notwithstanding the expenditure of this large sum, there was remitted to the agents in England shortly after, by the non-commissioned officers and privates of the corps, no less a sum than 15001. This proved that more of the batta was made a good than a bad use of, at least at that time; and had tliere been a savings bank in the regiment, I am certain that much more would have been laid by.”

Whether war and morality are compatible; whether the man can be elevated without destroying the soldier; whether the bloodhound can be tamed into the gentle poodle ; are problems which will be solved by the coming age. Whether war is a necessary evil ; whether a determination on the part of every country to defend its own frontier ; whether railroads and copyright acts, and the mutual intercourse of minds and persons, will not do away with war as a profession ; are questions it may now be thought very absurd to ask. But there can be little doubt, we think, that it will be said they can ; and even before the last hour has chimed of this the nineteenth century. There may remain untameable classes, and perhaps nations, who will be looked upon in the same manner as wild beasts are now on the borders of our remoter settlements; and if they cannot be tamed, they will exhaust themselves by their internal strife, or in being repelled from their attacks on their civilised brothers. That it ought to be the case no one reading this book can doubt, we think, if it were only to get rid of the banding together thousands of men by the mere aid of physical force, and thus planting in various neighbourhoods a moral contagion. Fraud, violence, servility, debauchery, being overlaid by glittering gauds and a superficial varnish which but ill conceal the coarseness and vileness of the original material. No one can doubt, from this book, that the basest mode of existence to which a man can be reduced is that of a common soldier.

Five YEARS' EXPERIENCE IN AUSTRALIA Felix : Comprising a Short Account

of its Early Settlement and its Present Position, with many Particulars interesting to Intending Emigrants. By G. H. Haydon. With Illustrations by HENRY HAINSSELin, from Sketches made on the Spot by the

Author. Royal 8vo. London : HAMILTON, ADAMS AND Co. This work, which is the product of one, who, by his long errata as well as numerous evidences in the body of the book, is evidently not either a scholar or a scientific man, has a charm and a utility that many travellers, being both, have failed to transmit to their pages. We can well forego the graces of the litterateur who would at least have swelled this volume into two, and are much better pleased to have this plain unadorned account of the author's experiences. He writes to convey information, and this he does in a methodical and clear mode. His conjectures of the ignorance of others are generally correct, and he concludes very properly that ihe majority of his readers are ignorant of even the locality of “ Australia Felix,” and therefore commences his book with the following sentence :

“ The province of Australia Felix, also known as Port Philip, is situated on the south-east coast of New South Wales, between the 141st and 146th degree of east longitude. It is bounded on the south by Bass's Straits, on the west by South Australia, the River Murray in the 36th degree of south latitude forms its northern límit, and the swampy river in the 141st degree of east longitude bounds it to the eastward. It occupies a space of thirty thousand square miles, or twenty millions of acres. The greatest extent from east to west, is two hundred and sixty miles ; from north to south, one hundred and sixty miles. It commands a navigable sea-coast of five hundred miles, and abounds with harbours and roadsteads."

It is not our purport to follow Mr. Haydon through every chapter of his interesting work; we can only take a few of the more important topics to introduce to the reader. The following picture is well worthy the contemplation of the philanthropic legislator, and no one can reflect upon it, and recur to our dense and in many places starving population, on whom chill penury sheds her debasing and benumbing influence, without building, not castles, but ships in the air, to convey them to this region, requiring and remunerating wholesome toil.

“As regards the capabilities of the land of Australia Felix and its natural fertility, I cannot do better than quote from the journal of its enterprising discoverer, Major Mitchell. Whilst passing over some of the back country of Australia Felix, Major M says, “ Every day we passed over land, which for natural fertility and beauty could scarcely be surpassed ; over streams of unfailing abundance, and plains covered with the richest pasturage; stately trees and majestic mountains adorned the ever-varying scenery of this region, the most austral of all Australia and the best.' And again, he says, The splendid and extensive scene was different from any thing I had ever before witnessed either in New South Wales or elsewhere, a land so inviting, and still without inhabitants. As I stood, the first intruder on the sublime solitudes of these verdant plains, as yet untouched by flocks and herds, I felt conscious of being the harbinger of mighty changes there, for

our steps would soon be followed by the men and the animals for which it seemed to have been prepared.'

“ Again, “ As we proceeded, we found the country had all the appearance of a well kept park, and the rich black earth produced grass in greater luxuriance than I had ever before seen in Australia.' - We had at length, he proceeds, discovered a country ready for the immediate reception of civilised man, and fit to become eventually one of the great nations of the earth. Unencumbered with too much wood, yet possessing enough for all purposes, with an exuberant soil, under a temperate climate, bounded by the sea coast and mighty rivers, and watered abundantly by streams from lofty mountains, this highly interesting region lay before me with all its features, new and untouched as they fell from the hands of the Creator.' Much of the country seen by Major Mitchell, and mentioned with so much delight, is now occupied by the flocks and herds of the settlers. Stations have been formed where smiling plenty and a hearty welcome greets the way-worn traveller. The whole face of nature is undergoing a steady, but a sure change, and judging from its progress and its natural advantages, there is little doubt but that the few enterprising Britons who first settled on its shores are really the germ from which, in the lapse of years, a wealthy and powerful people will arise.

“ The whole of the back country of Australia is denominated the bush. Beautiful plains with nothing on them but a luxuriant herbage, gentle rises with scarcely a tree, and all that park-like country met with in Australia Felix in such perfection, is included under the general designation of the Bush, and its white inhabitants as Bushmen.”

But the settlers must study the book for themselves, and we have never met one bearing on its face a greater appearance of being written with a genuine purpose : most Emigrants’ Guides being a prospectus in disguise. It is not, however, the emigrant that alone will find pleasure and profit in its perusal : the naturalist, both he who studies things on two legs as well as four, will find ample matter for consideration. The most curious and entertaining portion is that which treats of the Aborigines, where man is seen a poor forked animal indeed.” Without letters, without inventions of the commonest kind, he seems but one remove from the beasts, and so vegetates from age to age, a divine ray never having penetrated to his benumbed and narrow senses. The contemplation rouses a thousand important reflections, and makes us feel we are indeed but such things as dreams are made of, and a very rough and coarse dream is the life of a native Australian.

“ Almost every night a corobbery is held, which is a kind of dramatic dance. This strange wild dance of the aborigines of all parts of New Holland, as well as of Van Diemen's Land, is alike used on mystic, festive, and martial occasions. It is usually celebrated in the night, by the light of large fires, which produce a highly wild and picturesque effect.'

“ The general form of government appears to be that of chieftainship, obtained by individual bravery, but the chief is generally guided by the elder warriors. When a council is held, the warriors all seat themselves in a circle, and conduct the proceedings with attention and decorum. Some laws

[ocr errors]

exist for regulating the actions of younger men in their relation to the elders of the tribe, the flesh of the emu and kangaroo being prohibited to the former, and marriage interdicted until the performance of a certain ceremony which takes place about the age of thirteen. Their ideas of religion are very limiterl, and their belief of a future state is, that after death they will jump up white men. They believe in a 'great Father,' and in an evil spirit, the latter of which they fear exceedingly. The blacks have some crude notions of a judicial government, as their punishments for certain offences testify ; for if a man kill his wife, accidentally or otherwise, he exposed to the tortures of spearing, with only a small shield to ward off the blows inflicted in rotation by each member of his tribe ; if a person kill a dog, the owner of the animal is allowed to give him three blows on the lead with a waddy, at discretion either hard or soft, but should he kill the offender during the punishment, he would render himself amenable to the first mentioned law. The men puncture themselves at a certain age, and raise large lumps of flesh as long and large as a man's finger ; the women also tattoo themselves about the breast and arms. On particular occasions they paint, and adorn their head with emu or cockatoo feathers ; they have no instru: ment of music, the corobbery songs being accompanied by the beating of two sticks together, and by the women thumping their opossum rugs. Their only dress consists of rugs made either from the opossum or kangaroo skin, a small bandage round the head, and a quantity of string made from opossum hair twisted, which is wound around the neck in a great number of folds. The women wear a belt of emu feathers to hide the person, and the men a wallaby skin cut into a number of narrow slips for the same purpose. The Goulburn, and some other tribes, knock out the front teeth on attaining to a certain age, but this is not a universal custom, for neither the Bournarongs or Woeworongs are found to do this."

Of their Cannibalism the author has no doubt.

“It was for some time a matter of doubt whether these people were cannibals, but in consequence of a number of facts which have come under my observation, I am sorry to say, no doubt remains but that they are so. On several occasions I have seen human flesh in their possession, and have been told by them without much scruple that they always make a point of eating certain portions of their enemies killed in battle or by treachery, under feeling of revenge. When two tribes are about having a fair open fight, the head men of each challenge the others in nearly these words— Let us fight, we are not afraid, my warriors will kill you all, and eat you up.' The part of the human body valued by them most is the kidney fat, to which they attribute supernatural powers and think it acts as a chårm in many cases.

If any one is still attached to Rousseau's theory of the superiority of savage to civilised life, we think the following will destroy the illusion :

“ There is another instance of the ignominy their women are subject to, in the manner a young man procures a wife. When he has determined on taking this step, he usually visits a neighbouring tribe, and having seen a woman whose sable charms overcome him, he first asks her to run away with him ; if she refuse, when opportunity favours he inflicts a blow on her head with a heavy waddy or club which stuns her, and then carries her off

« AnteriorContinuar »