20000 Free eBooks
Library for Free Download eBooks and Read Online

Your last book:

You dont read books at this site.

Total books at library:
about 20000

You can read online and download ebooks for free!

Ebooks by authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
Wilson, T / Peter Parley's Tales About America and Australia
The vanilla, the anana
or pine apple, and many other delicious fruits.

The cacao, though generally pronounced cocoa, must not be confounded
with the Cocoa Palm which produces that largest of all nuts, the

These trees and plants which I have mentioned, and many more equally
beautiful, are all natives of the American woods.

But the European settlers, when they came, brought over to Europe many
valuable kinds of fruit and plants, which they did not find here; and I
never was more delighted than once on passing through Virginia, to
observe the dwellings of the settlers shaded by orange, lemon, and
pomegranate trees, that fill the air with the perfume of their flowers,
while their branches are loaded with fruit.

Strawberries of native growth, of the richest flavour, spring up beneath
your feet; and when these are passed away, every grove and field looks
like a cherry orchard. Then follow the peaches, every hedge-row is
planted with them. But it is the flowers and the flowering shrubs, that,
beyond all else, render these regions so beautiful. No description can
give an idea of the variety, the profusion, and the luxuriance of them.

The Dog-wood, whose lateral fan-like branches are dotted all over with
star-like blossoms of splendid white, as large as those of the

The straight silvery column of the Papan fig, crowned with a canopy of
large indented leaves; and the wild orange tree, mixed with the
odoriferous and common laurel, form striking ornaments of this
enchanting scene, with many other lovely flowers too numerous to

There is another charm that enchants the wanderer in the American woods.
In a bright day in the summer months you walk through an atmosphere of
butterflies, so gaudy in hue, and so varied in form, that I often
thought they looked like flowers on the wing.

Some of them are large, measuring three or four inches across the wing,
but many, and those of the most beautiful, are small. Some have wings
the most dainty lavender, and bodies of black; others are fawn and rose
colour, and others are orange and bright blue: but pretty as they are,
it is their numbers more than their beauty; and their gay, and
noiseless movement through the air, crossing each other in chequered
maze, that so delights the eye.


That beautiful production, the humming bird, is also the sportive
inhabitant of these warm climates, and I think they surpass all the
works of nature in singularity of form, splendour of colour, and variety
of species.

They are found in all the West India islands and in most parts of the
American continent: the smallest species does not exceed the size of
some of the bees.


There are so many different kinds, and each so beautiful, that it is
impossible to describe them. They are constantly on the wing, collecting
insects from the blossoms of the tamarind, the orange, or any other tree
that happens to be in flower: and the humming noise proceeds from the
surprising velocity with which they move their wings.



In the beginning of the reign of James the First, who you know succeeded
Elizabeth, the first successful attempt was made by the English to found
a colony in America.

Three small vessels, of which the largest did not exceed one hundred
tons burden, under the command of Captain Newport, formed the first
squadron that was to execute what had been so long, and so vainly
attempted; and sailed with a hundred and five men destined to remain in

Several of these emigrants were members of distinguished
families--particularly George Percy, a brother of the Earl of
Northumberland; and several were officers of reputation, of whom we may
notice Bartholomew Gosnald, the navigator, and Captain John Smith, one
of the most distinguished ornaments of an age that abounded with
memorable men.

Thus, after the lapse of a hundred and ten years from the discovery of
the continent by Cabot, and twenty-two years after its first occupation
by Raleigh, was the number of the English colonists limited to a hundred
and five; and this handful of men undertook the arduous task of peopling
a remote and uncultivated land, covered with woods and marshes, and
inhabited only by savages and beasts of prey.

Newport and his squadron did not accomplish their voyage in less than
four months; but its termination was rendered particularly fortunate by
the effect of a storm, which defeated their purpose of landing and
settling at Roanoak, and carried them into the bay of Chesapeak; and
coasting along its southern shore, they entered a river which the
natives called Powhatan, and explored its banks for more than forty
miles from its mouth.

The adventurers, impressed with the superior advantages of the coast and
region to which they had been thus happily conducted, determined to make
this the place of their abode.

They gave to their infant settlement, as well as to the neighbouring
river, the name of their king; and James Town retains the distinction of
being the oldest of existing habitations of the English in America.

Newport having landed the colonists, with what supplies of provisions
were destined for their support, set sail with his ships to return to
England, in the month of June, 1607.

The colonists soon found themselves limited to a scanty supply of
unwholesome provisions; and the heat and moisture of the climate
combining with the effect of their diet, brought on diseases that raged
with fatal violence.

Before the month of September, one half of their number had miserably
perished, and among these victims was Bartholomew Gosnald, who had
planned the expedition, and greatly contributed to its success.

This scene of suffering was embittered by dissensions among themselves.
At length, in the extremity of their distress, when ruin seemed to
threaten them, as well from famine as the fury of the savages, the
colonists obtained a complete and unexpected deliverance, which the
piety of Smith ascribed to the influence of God in their behalf.

The savages, actuated by a sudden change of feeling, not only refrained
from molesting them, but brought them, without being asked, a supply of
provisions so liberal, as at once to remove their apprehensions of
famine and hostility.

The colonists were now instructed by their misfortunes, and the sense of
urgent danger, led them to submit to the advice of the man, whose
talents were most likely to extricate them from the difficulties with
which they were surrounded.

Every eye was now turned on Captain Smith, whose superior talents and
experience, had so far excited the envy and jealousy of his colleagues,
that he had been excluded from a seat in the council.

Under Captain Smith's directions, James Town was fortified, so as to
repel the attacks of the savages, and its inhabitants were provided with
dwellings that afforded shelter from the weather, and contributed to
restore and preserve their health.

Finding the supplies of the savages discontinued, he took with him some
of his people and penetrated into the interior of the country, where by
courtesy and kindness to the tribes whom he found well disposed, he
succeeded in procuring a plentiful supply of provisions. In the midst of
his successes he was surprised during an expedition by a hostile body of
savages, who having made him prisoner, after a gallant and nearly
successful defence, prepared to inflict on him the usual fate of their

His genius and presence of mind did not desert him on this trying
occasion. He desired to speak with the sachem or chief of the tribe to
which he was a prisoner, and, presenting him with a mariner's compass,
expatiated on the wonderful discoveries to which this little instrument
had led, described the shape of the earth, the vastness of its land and
oceans, the course of the sun and the varieties of nations, wisely
forbearing to express any solicitude for his life.

The savages listened to him with amazement and admiration. They handled
the compass, viewing with surprise the play of the needle, which they
plainly saw, but were unable to touch; and he appeared to have gained
some ascendancy over their minds.

For an hour afterwards they seemed undecided; but their habitual
disposition returning, they bound him to a tree, and were preparing to
despatch him with their arrows.

But a deeper impression had been made by his harangue on the mind of
their chief, who, holding up the compass in his hand, gave the signal of
reprieve, and Smith, though still guarded as a prisoner, was conducted
to a dwelling, where he was kindly treated and plentifully entertained.


But after vainly attempting to prevail on their captive to betray the
English colony into their hands, the Indian referred his fate to
Powhatan, the king or principal sachem of the country, to whose presence
they conducted him in pompous and triumphant procession.

This prince received him with much ceremony, ordered a rich repast to be
set before him, and then adjudged him to suffer death by having his head
laid on a stone and beaten to pieces with clubs.


At the place appointed for his execution, Smith was again rescued from
impending destruction by Pocahontas, the favourite daughter of the
chief, who, finding her first entreaties disregarded, threw her arms
round the prisoner, and declared her determination to save him or die
with him.

Her generous compassion prevailed over the cruelty of her tribe, and the
king not only gave Smith his life, but soon after sent him back to James
Town, where the benificence of Pocahontas continued to follow him with
supplies of provisions that delivered the colony from famine.

This eminent commander continued for some time to govern the colony with
the greatest wisdom and prudence, when he received a dangerous wound
from the accidental explosion of some gunpowder. Completely disabled by
this misfortune, and destitute of surgical aid in the colony, he was
compelled to resign his command, and take his departure for England. He
never returned to Virginia again.



I recollect when I was staying in America, an old Delaware Indian came
to Boston to sell some skins and furs, and he called at the house where
I was stopping. He had once been a chief among the Indians, but was now

I went to this Indian's home, which was a little hut near Mount Holyoke.
We found his wife and his three children; two boys and a girl. They came
out to meet us, and were very glad to see their father and me.

I was very hungry and tired when I arrived. The Indian's wife roasted
some bear's flesh, and gave us some bread made of pounded corn, for our

I then went to bed on some bear skins, and slept very well. Early in the
morning I was called to go hunting with the Indian and his two sons. It
was a fine bright morning in October. The sun was shining on the tops of
the mountains; we climbed Mount Holyoke, through the woods, and ascended
a high rock, from which we could see a beautiful valley far below us, in
the centre of which was the little town of Northampton, much smaller
than it is now.


"Do you see those houses?" said the Indian to me, "When my grandfather
was a boy, there was not a house where you see so many: that valley
which now belongs to white men, belonged to red men."

"Then the red men were rich and happy; now they are poor and wretched.
Then that beautiful river which you see running through the valley, and
which is called the Connecticut, was theirs. They owned these fine
mountains too, they hunted in these woods, and fished in that river, and
were numerous and powerful,--now they are few and weak."

"But how has this change happened?" said I, "who has taken your lands
from you, and made you so miserable?"

"I will tell you all about that to-night," said he, "when we return

We proceeded cautiously through the woods, and had not gone far when the
Indian beckoned us all to stop. "Look yonder," said he to me, "on that
high rock above us!" I did so, but could see nothing. "Look again," said
he; I did, and saw a young hind standing upon the point of a rock which
hung over the valley; she was a beautiful little animal, full of spirit,
with large black eyes, slender legs and of a reddish brown colour.

He now selected a choice arrow, placed it on the bow, and sent it
whizzing through the air. It struck directly through the heart. The
little animal sprang violently forward, over the rock, and fell dead
many feet below, where Whampum's sons soon found it; we now returned to
the wigwam, carrying the fawn with us.


In the evening I reminded him of his promise to tell me how the Indians
had been robbed of their lands and reduced to poverty. He accordingly
began as follows:--

"A great many years ago," said he, "when men with white skins had never
been seen in this land, some Indians who were out fishing at a place
where the sea widens, espied at a great distance something very large,
floating on the water, and such as they had never seen before.

"These Indians immediately returning to the shore, apprized their
countrymen of what they had observed, and pressed them to go out with
them and discover what it might be. They hurried out together, and saw
with astonishment what the others had described, but could not agree
upon what it was; some believed it to be an uncommonly large fish or
animal, whilst others were of opinion that it must be a very large house
floating on the sea.

"They sent off messengers to carry the news to their scattered chiefs
and warriors that they should come together immediately.

"The chiefs were soon assembled and deliberating as to the manner in
which they should receive the Manitou or Supreme Being on his arrival.
Every measure was taken to be well provided with plenty of meat for a
sacrifice, the women were desired to prepare the best victuals, all the
idols were examined and put in order, and a grand dance was supposed not
only to be agreeable to the Great Being, but it was believed that it
might tend to appease him if he was angry with them.

"Distracted between hope and fear, they were at a loss what to do; a
dance, however, commenced in great confusion; fresh runners arrive,
declaring it to be a large house, of various colours, and crowded with
living creatures.

"Many are for running off into the woods, but are pressed by others to
stay, in order not to give offence to their visitors, who might find
them out and destroy them. The house at last stops, and a canoe of small
size comes on shore, with a man clothed in red, and some others in it;
some stay with his canoe to guard it. The chiefs and wise men assembled
in council, form themselves into a large circle, towards which the man
in red approaches, with two others; he salutes them with a friendly
countenance, and they return the salute in the same manner; they are
lost in admiration, the dress, the manner, the whole appearance of the
unknown strangers is to them a subject of wonder; but they are
particularly struck with him who wore the red coat, all glittering with
gold, which they could in no manner account for.

"He surely must be the great Manitou; but why should he have a white
skin? Meanwhile a large Hack-hack is brought by one of his servants,
from which an unknown liquid is poured out into a small cup, and handed
to the supposed Manitou; he drinks,--has the cup filled again, and hands
it to the chief standing next to him; the chief receives it, but only
smells the contents and passes it on to the next chief, who does the

"The glass or cup thus passes through the circle without the liquor
being tasted by any one, and is upon the point of being returned to the
red-clothed Manitou, when one of the Indians, a brave man and a great
warrior, suddenly jumps up and harangues the assembly, on the
impropriety of returning the cup with its content: It was handed to
them, said he, by the Manitou, that they should drink out of it as he
had done: to follow his example would be pleasing to him, but to return
what he had given to them, might provoke his wrath, and bring
destruction on them; and since the orator believed it for the good of
the nation, that the contents should be drunk, and as no one else would
do it, he would drink it himself, let the consequences be what they
might: it was better for one man to die, than that a whole nation should
be destroyed.

"He then took the cup, and bidding the assembly a solemn farewell, at
once drank up its whole contents. Every eye was fixed on the resolute
chief, to see what effect the unknown liquor would produce.

"He soon began to stagger, and at last fell prostrate on the ground;
his companions now bemoan his fate, he falls into a sound sleep, and
they think he is dead: he wakes again:--he asks for more, his wish is
granted; the whole assembly then imitate him, and all become


"After this general intoxication had ceased, the man with the red
clothes, who had remained in his great canoe while it lasted, returned
again and distributed presents among them, consisting of beads, axes,
shoes and stockings, such as white people wear.

"They soon became familiar with each other, and began to converse by
signs; the strangers made them understand that they would not stay here,
that they would return home again, but would pay them another visit next
year, when they would bring them more presents and stay with them

"They went away, as they had said, and returned in the following season,
when both parties were much rejoiced to see each other; but the white
men laughed at the Indians, for they had the axes and hoes, which they
had given them the year before, hanging to their breasts, as ornaments,
and the stockings were made use of as tobacco pouches. The whites now
put handles to the axes for them, and cut down trees before their eyes,
hoed up the ground, and put the stockings on their legs: here, they say,
a general laughter ensued among the Indians, that they had remained
ignorant of the use of such valuable tools, and had borne the weight of
them hanging to their necks for such a length of time. They took every
white man they saw for an inferior attendant on the supreme Manitou in
the red laced clothes.


"As they became daily more familiar with the Indians, the white men
proposed to stay with us, and we readily consented.

"It was we who so kindly received them in our country, we took them by
the hand and bade them welcome to sit down by our side and live with us
as brothers; but how did they requite our kindness? They first asked
only for a little land, on which to raise bread for themselves and their
families, and pasture for their cattle, which we freely gave them; they
soon wanted more, which we also gave them; they saw the game in the
woods, which the Great Spirit had given us for our subsistence, and they
wanted that too; they penetrated into the woods in quest of game; they
discovered spots of land which pleased them, that land they also wanted;
and because we were loath to part with it, as we saw they had already
more than they had need of, they took it from us by force, and drove us
to a great distance from our ancient homes; they looked everywhere for
good spots of land, and when they found one, they immediately, and
without ceremony, possessed themselves of it; but when at last they came
to our favourite spots, those which lay most convenient to our
fisheries, then bloody wars ensued. We would have been contented that
the white people and we should have lived quietly beside each other,
but these white men encroached so fast upon us, that we saw at once we
should lose all if we did not resist them. The wars that we carried on
against each other were long and cruel,--we were enraged when we saw the
white people put our friends and relatives, whom they had taken
prisoners, on board their ships, whether to drown or sell them as slaves
in the country from which they came, we know not; but certain it is,
that none of them have ever returned, or even been heard of.

"At last they got possession of the whole country, which the Great
Spirit had given us; one of our tribes was forced to wander far to the
north, others dispersed in small bodies, and sought refuge where they

"How long we shall be permitted to remain in this asylum, the Great
Spirit only knows. The whites will not rest contented till they shall
have destroyed the last of us, and made us disappear entirely from the
face of the earth."

The old Indian said no more: he looked sad, and his two sons looked sad
also; and I shall never forget the impression his story made upon my

Thus, these good Indians, with a kind of melancholy pleasure, recite the
long history of their sufferings; and often have I listened to their
painful details, until I have felt ashamed of being a white man.

A few days after this we set out upon another hunting excursion, and
again climbed the mountains. We had proceeded some distance when we
heard the report of a gun, and coming round the point of a rock which
lay just before us, we saw a Delaware Indian hunter, who had just
discharged his carabine at a huge bear, and broken its backbone; the
animal fell, and set up a most plaintive cry; something like that of the
panther when he is hungry.

The Indian includes all savage beasts in the number of his enemies, and
when he has conquered one, he taunts him before he kills him, in the
same strain as he would a conquered enemy of a hostile tribe.

Instead of giving the bear another shot, the hunter stood close to him,
and addressed him in these words:--


"Hark ye! bear; you are a coward, and no warrior, as you pretend to be.
Were you a warrior, you would show it by your firmness, and would not
cry and whimper, like an old woman. You know, bear, that our tribes are
at war with each other, and that yours were the aggressors." As you may
suppose, I was not a little surprised at the delivery of this curious



The English settlements in America grew very rapidly into power and
importance. The French settlements also increased in extent and
influence, and a rivalry between the French and English, fostered and
nourished by the "_natural enmity_" which was said to subsist between
the Gauls and the Britons, broke out at last in terrible warfare. War is
very frightful under any circumstances. It looks very much like murder;
and, even at the best of times, a battle-field reminds us of Cain and
Abel. Brother slaughters brother, and the conqueror rejoices and
describes his sanguinary work as "a glorious victory." In the war
between the English and French settlers in America, a new and atrocious
feature was introduced. The Indians were engaged, for pay and powder,
on either side, to commit the most hideous cruelties; and things were
done which must not be told here, but the very thought of which should
make us shudder and turn pale.

The English got the better of the French, and they took Quebec, a strong
city in Canada. General Wolfe, a young man and an excellent soldier,
captured the city; but it cost him his life. During the heat of the
engagement, Wolfe was shot. "Support me," said he to an officer near
him; "do not let my brave fellows see my face!" He was removed to the
rear, and water was brought to quench his thirst. Just then a cry was
heard, "They run! they run!" "Who runs?" exclaimed Wolfe, faintly
raising himself. "The enemy!" was the reply. "Then," said he, "I die
content," and expired.

The result of the war in which General Wolfe perished, left a vast
amount of debt as a heavy weight upon the country. The English settlers
had fought very bravely all through the war, and they thought that the
English at home ought to pay the debt, and not tax them for its payment.
But the king and the parliament thought differently. They taxed the
American settlers very heavily; they would listen to no remonstrance;
and, when some signs were given of resistance, they were threatened with
punishment, like so many unruly schoolboys. Certain privileges which had
been granted them were taken away, and troops sent out to enforce
obedience. One very objectionable tax to the Americans was a stamp duty
on newspapers. Another was a tax on tea. They urged that it was unfair
for the British government to tax them without they were allowed to send
members to Parliament to look after their interests; but remonstrance
only tended to make the British government more determined; and so at
last they came to what somebody has called gunpowder law, that is to
say, fighting.

I need not enter on the events of the war. It ended in the triumph of
the American settlers, and in the declaration of American independence
and the formation of the United States. The foremost man, both as a
statesman and a soldier, in the conduct of the war, on the part of the
Americans, was George Washington. He was elected three times to the
presidency, and no name is more revered than his by the Americans.

Since the separation of America from England, more than one quarrel has
occurred between them. That which most vitally touches the future
prosperity of the states is the warfare which now rages between the
northern and southern sections of the republic. Most of you are aware
that slavery prevails to a great extent in America. The negroes or
blacks (the word _negro_ means _black_) are more particularly found in
the southern states. The northern states do not _hold_ slaves, but they
have so far _held_ with slavery as to give up runaways, and tolerate the
laws which make a man--because he was black--a mere beast of burden. A
quarrel, however, on this question, and others of minor importance, has
at last broken out between the north and south. The southerners have
separated from the northerners, and established a new republic of their
own. Their _right_ to do this has been denied by the north, and a civil
war has commenced in consequence. What may be the final result it is
impossible for any one to predict. The quarrel threatened at one time to
involve a war with England; but this is no longer apprehended. It seems
a very sad thing that a people so clever, so enterprising, so prosperous
as the Americans, should, by a quarrel and separation among themselves,
endanger--if they do not entirely overthrow--one of the most important
states in the world. We cannot forget what it is that lies at the bottom
of the mischief--SLAVERY.

"O execrable crime! so to aspire
Above our brethren, to ourselves assuming
Authority usurped from God, not given.
He gave us only over beast, fish, fowl,
Dominion absolute; that right we hold
By his donation: but man over man
He made not lord--such title to himself
Reserving, human left from human free."

I may now tell you something about some of the chief cities in the
United States.

New York is the principal seaport and commercial metropolis of the
States. It is situated at the southern extremity of an island called
Manhattan Island, near the mouth of the Hudson river. Its progress has
been very rapid, and its population is more than double that of any
other city in the new world. The approach to the city is very fine--the
shores of the bay being wooded down to the water's edge, and thickly
studded with farms, villages, and country seats. New York measures about
ten miles round. It is triangular in form. The principal street is
Broadway, a spacious thoroughfare extending in a straight line through
the centre of the city. The houses have a clean, fresh, cheerful
appearance; many of the stores or shops are highly decorated; the public
buildings, including the churches, while they can make no pretension to
grandeur, are good of their kind; the university is probably the finest
building in the city. The hotels in New York are far more extensive
than anything of the kind in Europe, and they are fitted up and
conducted on a scale of princely grandeur. The city of New York was
founded by the Dutch in 1621, and called New Amsterdam; but it was given
to the Duke of York (afterwards James II.) in 1604, and was henceforth
called by his name. The first congress of the United States was held
there in 1789.

Washington is the government capital of the States, and is so called in
honour of the distinguished man--the father of the Republic--to whom I
have already alluded. The entrance to the city by the Pennsylvanian
avenue is 100 feet wide, and planted with some of the trees. The
president's residence is called the "White House." The chief public
offices and halls for the assembly of congress are contained in one
building known as the Capitol. It stands on a hill, and is said to be
the finest building in the Union. It is surrounded by ornamental
grounds, and overlooks the river Potomac.

BOSTON is a maritime city, and a great place of trade; it is
situated on an extensive bay, and is connected with the interior of the
country by canals, railways, and river navigation. It is the great seat
of the American ice trade. In the history of the war of independence it
occupies a conspicuous place, as the Bostonians displayed great energy
in asserting popular rights. At Boston, when the "taxed tea" was sent
over by the British government, a number of the citizens disguised
themselves as Mohawk Indians, boarded the ships in which it had been
brought over, seized upon and staved the chests, and threw their
contents into the sea. This affair was known as the Boston tea party.
Boston is the birth-place of Dr. Benjamin Franklin--the "Poor Richard"
of whom I have no doubt you have often heard, and whose excellent advice
cannot be too well remembered nor too carefully applied.

CHARLESTON is another of the principal sea-ports of the States.
It is the largest town in South Carolina, and is situated at a low point
of land at the confluence of two rivers. It is the stronghold of
slavery. One of the most recent events connected with it is that of the
Northerners blocking up the harbour by sinking several ships, laden with
stones, at the entrance. This is a very barbarous act, as it
closes--perhaps for ever--one of the first ports in America.

PHILADELPHIA is the last city I shall mention. It is the great
Quaker city; its streets are remarkable for their regularity, and the
houses and stores for the peculiar air of cleanness which they exhibit.
The public buildings are nearly all of white marble. It is distinguished
for its vast number of charitable institutions and religious edifices,
and it is a thriving place of business. The city was founded by William
Penn in 1682. There is a monument marking the site of the signing of
Penn's famous treaty with the Indians. With some little account of this
treaty I shall conclude my notice of America.

King Charles II. made a grant of land to Penn, but this good man would
not enter upon its possession until after he had arranged a treaty with
those to whom he justly thought it more fairly belonged than to the
King of England--namely, with the Indians. He consequently convened a
meeting--under the wide spreading branches of an elm tree, the Indian
chiefs assembled. They were unarmed; the old men sat in a half-moon upon
the ground, the middle aged in the same figure, at a little distance
from them; the younger men formed a third semicircle in the rear. Before
them stood William Penn,--a light blue sash, the only mark which
distinguished him from his friends, bound round his waist.

"'Thou'lt find,' said the quaker, 'in me and mine,
But friends and brothers to thee and thine,
Who above no power, admit no line,
Twixt the red man and the white.'

And bright was the spot where the quaker came,
To leave his hat, his drab, and his name,
That will sweetly sound from the trumpet of fame,
Till its final blast shall die."

It is to be regretted that the speeches of the Indians on this memorable
day have not come down to us. It is only known that they solemnly
pledged themselves to live with William Penn and his people in peace and
amity so long as the sun and moon should endure. This was the only
treaty, it has been said, between these people and the Christians that
was _not_ ratified by an oath, and that was _never_ broken.




At the termination of the American war, of which I have just given you a
short account, the United States of America, which had been called by
England her American Colonies, ceased to be any longer subject to Great

The province of Virginia, in America, had for a long time been the only
authorized outlet for those criminals in Great Britain and Ireland, who
had been sentenced to transportation.

It now became necessary for the English government to fix upon some
other country, to which those of her subjects might be transported,
who were condemned to banishment for their crimes.


After much deliberation in the British Parliament, it was determined to
form a penal settlement in New South Wales.

If you will look at a globe, or, if you have not a globe, at a map of
the world, turning the South Pole from you, or uppermost, and, supposing
yourself to be in a ship, sail across the Atlantic Ocean till you come
to the Equator, which is an imaginary line that divides the northern
half of the globe from the southern; then "cross the line," as it is
called, and sail along the South Atlantic, in the direction of the coast
of South America, till you arrive at its southern extremity, which you
will see is called Cape Horn; then sailing round Cape Horn, (which is
called doubling Cape Horn), and directing your course westward, right
across the Great Pacific Ocean. After having sailed across these three
great oceans, you will find yourself, if you have a prosperous voyage,
exactly on the opposite side of the globe, and before you, an extensive
chain of large islands, lying off the South-eastern extremity of the
continent of Asia.

This group of islands has been named Australasia, which means Southern
Asia, and the largest of these, which is the largest island in the whole
world, has been called Australia, or New Holland.

This is so large an island, that if you were to divide the whole of
Europe into ten parts, New Holland is as large as nine of them: and
hence, from its great extent, some geographers have dignified it with
the title of a continent.

The northern and western coasts of this vast island were discovered by a
succession of Dutch navigators, who gave them the name of New Holland.

The eastern coast, which has been explored, and taken possession of by
the English, was discovered by Capt. Cook, who gave it the name of New
South Wales.

At the southern extremity of Australia or New Holland, you will see
VAN DIEMEN'S LAND, which was discovered by Tasman, one of the
Dutch navigators, who was sent from Batavia by Anthony Van Diemen, the
Dutch governor-general of the Indies, to survey the coast of New

In this voyage Tasman discovered an extensive country lying to the south
of New Holland; in giving a name to which, he immortalized his patron,
by calling it "Van Diemen's Land," having no suspicion at the time that
it was an island.

It was not till the year 1798 that it was discovered to be such; as in
all the old maps and charts it is represented as part of the main land
of New Holland.

This important discovery was effected in an open boat, by Mr. Bass, a
surgeon in the royal navy, who found it to be separated from Australia
by a broad strait, which has ever since borne the name of its
discoverer, "BASS' STRAITS."

A fleet of eleven sail was assembled at Portsmouth in March, 1783, for
the formation of the proposed settlement on the coast of New Holland.

On board of these vessels were embarked 600 male, and 250 female
convicts, with a guard consisting of about 200 soldiers, with their
proper officers. Forty women, wives of the marines, were also permitted
to accompany their husbands, together with their children.

Captain Arthur Phillip, an officer highly qualified in every respect for
the arduous undertaking, was appointed governor of the proposed colony.

The little fleet which was thus placed under the command of Captain
Phillip, and which has ever since been designated by the colonists "_the
first fleet_," set sail from Portsmouth on the 13th of May 1787, and
arrived at Botany Bay, in New South Wales, in January 1788, after a
long, but comparatively prosperous voyage of eight months and upwards.

Captain Phillip soon found, to his disappointment, that Botany Bay was
by no means an eligible harbour; nor was it, in other respects, suitable
for the establishment of a colony, and he determined, even before any
number of the convicts had been permitted to land, to search for a more
eligible site.

In Captain Cook's chart of the coast, another opening had been laid
down, a few miles to the northward of Botany Bay, on the authority of a
seaman of the name of Jackson, who had seen it from the
foretop-mast-head; and Captain Cook, conceiving it to be nothing more
than a harbour for boats, which it was not worth his while to examine,
called it Port Jackson.

It is no wonder that Captain Cook came to this conclusion; for no
opening of any kind can be perceived till you come close in with the

This opening Captain Phillip examined, and the result of that
examination was the splendid discovery of Port Jackson,--one of the
finest harbours, whether for extent or security, in the world.

To this harbour the fleet was immediately removed, and the settlement
was ultimately formed at the head of Sydney Cove, one of the numerous
and romantic inlets of Port Jackson.

The labour and patience required, and the difficulties which the first
settlers must have had to encounter, are incalculable; but their
success has been complete.

The forest has been cleared away, the corn-field and the orchard have
supplanted the wild grass and the bush, and towns and villages have
arisen as if by magic. You may hear the lowing of herds where, a few
years before, you would have trembled at the wild whoop of the savage,
and the stillness of that once solitary shore is broken by the sound of
wheels and the busy hum of commerce.




The natives of this part of Australia are, beyond comparison, the most
barbarous on the surface of the globe.

They are hideously ugly, with flat noses, wide nostrils, eyes sunk in
the head, and overshadowed with thick eyebrows. The mouth very wide,
lips thick and prominent, hair black, but not woolly; the colour of the
skin varies from dark bronze to jet black. Their stature is below the
middle size, and they are remarkably thin and ill-made.

To add to their natural deformity, they thrust a bone through the
cartilage of the nose, and stick with gum to their hair matted moss, the
teeth of men, sharks, and kangaroos, the tails of dogs, and jaw-bones
of fish.

On particular occasions they ornament themselves with red and white
clay, using the former when preparing to fight, and the latter for the
more peaceful amusement of dancing. The fashion of these ornaments was
left to each person's taste, and some, when decorated in their best
manner, looked perfectly horrible: nothing could appear more terrible
than a black and dismal face, with a large white circle drawn round each


They scarify the skin in every part with sharp shells.

The women and female children are generally found to want the first two
joints of the little finger of the left hand, which are taken off while
they are infants, and the reason they assign is, that they would be in
the way in winding the fish-lines over the hand.

The men all want one of their front teeth, which is knocked out when
they arrive at the age of fifteen or sixteen, with many ridiculous
ceremonies; but the boys are not allowed to consider themselves as men
before they have undergone that operation.

They live chiefly on fish, which they sometimes spear and sometimes net;
the women, on the parts of the coast, aiding to catch them with the hook
and line.

"The facility," (observes Captain Sturt), "with which they procured fish
was really surprising.

"They would slip, feet foremost, into the water, as they walked along
the bank of the river, as if they had accidentally done so; but, in
reality, to avoid the splash they would have made if they had plunged in
head foremost.

"As surely as a native disappeared under the surface of the water, so
surely would he re-appear, with a fish writhing upon the point of his
short spear.

"The very otter scarcely exceeds them in power over the finny race, and
so true is the aim of these savages, even under the water, that all the
fish we procured from them were pierced either close behind the lateral
fin or in the very centre of the head."


If a dead whale happens to be cast on the shore, numbers flock to it,
from every part of the coast, and they feast sumptuously while any part

Those in the interior are stated to live on grubs, insects, ants and
their eggs, kangaroos, when they can catch them, fern roots, various
kinds of berries, and honey; caterpillars and worms also form part of
their food.

Captain Phillip took every possible pains to reclaim these ignorant
savages, and he once nearly lost his life in endeavouring to conciliate
a party of them, having ventured amongst them unarmed for that purpose;
one of the savages threw a spear which pierced the upper part of his
shoulder and came out at his back.

But all the efforts of the governor to effect the permanent civilization
of these miserable people proved utterly abortive.

They possess the faculty of mimickry or imitation to a very considerable

Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | Next |

Library mainpage -> Wilson, T -> Peter Parley's Tales About America and Australia