Following the Equator - Chapter XXVII
Text and images from The Oxford Mark Twain and The Gutenberg Project.
Locations and dates for the most part are from Mark Twain Day By Day, a massive work by David Fears
(See notes marked MTDBD).
Twain spends much of Chapter 27 discussing the harshness of the environment, particularly in terms of convicts trying to escape a penal colony at Macquarrie Harbor and the efforts of George Augustus Robinson in bringing in the last of the native Tasmanians to “civilization”. Twain thinks very highly of Robinson's efforts but also seems to realize that his efforts were in vain and in fact brought about the destruction of these people.
“In four years, without the spilling of a drop of blood, Robinson brought them all in, willing captives, and delivered them to the white governor, and ended the war which powder and bullets, and thousands of men to use them, had prosecuted without result since 1804.”
“They were gathered together in little settlements on neighboring islands, and paternally cared for by the Government, and instructed in religion, and deprived of tobacco, because the superintendent of the Sunday-school was not a smoker, and so considered smoking immoral. The Natives were not used to clothes, and houses, and regular hours, and church, and school, and Sunday-school, and work, and the other misplaced persecutions of civilization, and they pined for their lost home and their wild free life. Too late they repented that they had traded that heaven for this hell. They sat homesick on their alien crags, and day by day gazed out through their tears over the sea with unappeasable longing toward the hazy bulk which was the specter of what had been their paradise; one by one their hearts broke and they died. In a very few years nothing but a scant remnant remained alive. A handful lingered along into age. In 1864 the last man died, in 1876 the last woman died, and the Spartans of Australasia were extinct.”
Robinson is not considered heroic but is instead thought of as a “Victorian do-gooder”
“The Wybalenna settlement [on Flinders Island] became more akin to a prison as the camp conditions deteriorated and many of the residents died of ill health and homesickness. Because of this, Robinson's place in history is generally viewed as negative, especially within the current Aboriginal community. Some historians agree that his initial intentions were genuine, but his abandonment of the community is viewed as a turning point for the worse for the Tasmanian Aboriginals. Moreover, his promises of providing a place where Aborigines could practice their cultural traditions and ceremonies never came to fruition.”