It would be trespassing on the reader’s indulgence were I to impose on him an account of any civil regulations, or ordinances, which may possibly exist among this people. I declare to him, that I know not of any, and that excepting a little tributary respect which the younger part appear to pay those more advanced in years, I never could observe any degrees of subordination among them. To their religious rites and opinions I am equally a stranger. Had an opportunity offered of seeing the ceremonies observed at disposing of the dead, perhaps, some insight might have been gained; but all that we at present know with certainty is, that they burn the corpse, and afterwards heap up the earth around it, somewhat in the manner of the small tumuli, found in many counties of England.
I have already hinted, that the country is more populous than it was generally believed to be in Europe at the time of our sailing. But this remark is not meant to be extended to the interior parts of the continent, which there is every reason to conclude from our researches, as well as from the manner of living practised by the natives, to be uninhabited. It appears as if some of the Indian families confine their society and connections within their own pale: but that this cannot always be the case we know; for on the north-west arm of Botany Bay stands a village, which contains more than a dozen houses, and perhaps five times that number of people; being the most considerable establishment that we are acquainted with in the country. As a striking proof, besides, of the numerousness of the natives, I beg leave to state, that Governor Phillip, when on an excursion between the head of this harbour and that of Botany Bay, once fell in with a party which consisted of more than three hundred persons, two hundred and twelve of whom were men: this happened only on the day following the murder of the two convict rush cutters, before noticed, and his Excellency was at the very time in search of the murderers, on whom, could they have been found, he intended to inflict a memorable and exemplary punishment. The meeting was unexpected to both parties, and considering the critical situation of affairs, perhaps not very pleasing to our side, which consisted but of twelve persons, until the peaceable disposition of the Indians was manifest. After the strictest search the Governor was obliged to return without having gained any information. The laudable perseverance of his Excellency to throw every light on this unhappy and mysterious business did not, however stop here, for he instituted the most rigorous inquiry to find out, if possible, whether the convicts had at any time ill treated or killed any of the natives; and farther, issued a proclamation, offering the most tempting of all rewards, a state of freedom, to him who should point out the murderer, in case such an one existed.