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Aborigines

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ABORIGINES, a term by which we denote the primitive inhabitants of a coun try. Thus, to take one of the most striking instances, when the continent and islands of America were discovered. they were found to be inhabited by various races of people, of whose immigration into those regions we have no historical accounts. All the tribes, then, of North America may, for the present, be considered as aborigines. We can, indeed, since the discovery of America, trace the move ments of various tribes from one part of the continent to another ; and, in this point of view, when we compare the tribes one with another, we cannot call a tribe which has changed its place of abode, abori ginal, with reference to the new country which it has occupied. The North American tribes that have moved from the east side of the Mississippi to the west of that river are not aborigines in their new territories. But the whole mass of American Indians must, for the present, be considered as aboriginal with respect to the rest of the world. The English, French, Germans, and others, who have settled in America, are, of course, not ab origines with reference to that continent, but settlers, or colonists.

If there is no reason to suppose that we can discover traces of any people who in habited England prior to and different from those whom Julius Ctesar found here, then the Britons of Ciesar's time are the aborigines of this island.

The term aborigines first occurs in the Greek and Roman writers who treated of the earlier periods of Roman history, and, though interpreted by Dionysius of Hali carnassus (who writes it, in common with other Greek authors, 'Afleopryiva, or 'Al3o riyives, or 'Aflomlyivoi) to mean ancestor,t4 it is more probable that it corresponds to the Greek word autochthones. This latter designation, indeed, expresses the most remote possible origin of a nation, for it signifies “ people coeval with the land which they inhabit." The word abori gines, though perhaps not derived, as some suppose, from the Latin words ab and origo, still has the appearance of being a general term analogous to autoch thones, and not the name of any people really known to history. The Aborigines of the ancient legends, interwoven with the history of Rome, were, according to Cato, the inhabitants of part of the coun try south of the Tiber, called by the Ro mans Latium, and now the Maremma of the Campagna di Roma. (Niebuhr, Ro man History.) The word aborigines has of late come into general use to express the natives of various parts of the world in which Eu ropeans have settled ; but it seems to be limited or to be nearly limited to such natives as are barbarous, and do not cul tivate the ground, and have no settled ha bitations. Some of the later Roman

writers, as Sallust, describe the Italian aborigines as a race of savages, not living in a regular society; a description which, as Niebuhr remarks, is probably nothing else than an ancient speculation about the progress of mankind from animal rude ness to civilization. Such a speculation was very much to Sallust's taste, and we find it also in Lucretius and Horace. Pro bably the modern sense of this word the sense in which Sallust uses it agree more nearly than appears at first. The aborigines of Australasia and Van Die men's Land (if there are any left in Van Diemen's Land) are so called as being savages, though the name may be applied with equal propriety to cultivators of the ground. Some benevolent people suppose that aborigines, who are not cultivators of the ground, may become civilized like Europeans. But it has not yet been proved satisfactorily that this change can be effected in any large numbers; and if it can be effected, it is an essential condi tion that the aborigines must give up their present mode of life and adopt that of the settlers. But such a change is not easy : even in the United States of North America it has been only partially effected. The wide expanse of country between the Mississippi and the Atlantic is now nearly cleared of the aborigines, and the white man, who covets the possession of land. will follow up his victory till he has oc cupied every portion of the continent which he finds suitable for cultivation. The red man must become a cultivator, or he must retire to places where the white man does not think it worth his while to follow him. The savage abori gines do not pass from what we call bar barism to what we call civilization with out being subjected to the force of external circumstances, that is, the presence among them of settlers or conquerors. There is no more reason for supposing that hunts men will change their mode of life, such as it is, without being compelled, than that agricultural people will change theirs. Aborigines, then, as we now understand them, will remain what they are until they are affected by foreign intercourse; and this intercourse will either destroy them in the end, a result which is con firmed by most of our experience, or it will change their habits to those of their conquerors or the settlers among them, and so preserve them, not as a distinct nation, for that is impossible, but by in corporating them among the foreigners. A nation of agriculturists, though con quered, may and does endure, and may preserve its distinctive character ; a na tion of savages can only endure as such by keeping free from all intercourse with an agricultural and commercial people.