An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 744 pages of information about An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1.
or but rarely, interrupted them in any of their designs, judging that by suffering them to live with us as they were accustomed to do before we came among them, we should sooner attain a knowledge of their manners and customs, than by waiting till we had acquired a competent skill in their language to converse with them.  On this principle, when they assembled to dance or to fight before our houses, we never dispersed, but freely attended their meetings.  To them this attention of ours appeared to be agreeable and useful; for those who happened to be wounded in their contests instantly looked out for one of our surgeons, and displayed entire confidence in his skill, and great bravery in the firmness with which they bore the knife and the probe.

By slow degrees we began mutually to be pleased with, and to understand each other.  Language, indeed, is out of the question; for at the time of writing this (September 1796) nothing but a barbarous mixture of English with the Port Jackson dialect is spoken by either party; and it must be added, that even in this the natives have the advantage, comprehending, with much greater aptness than we can pretend to, every thing they hear us say.  From a pretty close observation, however, assisted by the use of the barbarous dialect just mentioned, the following particulars respecting the natives of New South Wales have been collected.

APPENDIX 1—­GOVERNMENT AND RELIGION

GOVERNMENT

We found the natives about Botany Bay, Port Jackson, and Broken Bay, living in that state of nature which must have been common to all men previous to their uniting in society, and acknowledging but one authority.  These people are distributed into families, the head or senior of which exacts compliance from the rest.  In our early intercourse with them (and indeed at a much later period, on our meeting with families to whom we were unknown) we were always accosted by the person who appeared to be the eldest of the party, while the women, youths, and children, were kept at a distance.  The word which in their language signifies father was applied to their old men; and when, after some time, and by close observation, they perceived the authority with which Governor Phillip commanded, and the obedience which he exacted, they bestowed on him the distinguishing appellation of (Be-anna) or Father.  This title being conferred solely on him (although they perceived the authority of masters over their servants) places the true sense of the word beyond a doubt, and proves, that to those among them who enjoyed that distinction belonged the authority of a chief.

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An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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