Another scheme was to drive the natives into a corner of the island and fence them in by a cordon of men placed in line across the country; but the natives managed to slip through, constantly, and continue their murders and arsons.

The governor warned these unlettered savages by printed proclamation that they must stay in the desolate region officially appointed for them! The proclamation was a dead letter; the savages could not read it. Afterward a picture-proclamation was issued. It was painted up on boards, and these were nailed to trees in the forest. Herewith is a photographic reproduction of this fashion-plate. Substantially it means:

1. The Governor wishes the Whites and the Blacks to love each other;

2. He loves his black subjects;

3. Blacks who kill Whites will be hanged;

4. Whites who kill Blacks will be hanged.

Upon its several schemes the Government spent L30,000 and employed the labors and ingenuities of several thousand Whites for a long time with failure as a result. Then, at last, a quarter of a century after the beginning of the troubles between the two races, the right man was found. No, he found himself. This was George Augustus Robinson, called in history "The Conciliator." He was not educated, and not conspicuous in any way. He was a working bricklayer, in Hobart Town. But he must have been an amazing personality; a man worth traveling far to see. It may be his counterpart appears in history, but I do not know where to look for it.

He set himself this incredible task: to go out into the wilderness, the jungle, and the mountain-retreats where the hunted and implacable savages were hidden, and appear among them unarmed, speak the language of love and of kindness to them, and persuade them to forsake their homes and the wild free life that was so dear to them, and go with him and surrender to the hated Whites and live under their watch and ward, and upon their charity the rest of their lives! On its face it was the dream of a madman.

In the beginning, his moral-suasion project was sarcastically dubbed the sugar plum speculation. If the scheme was striking, and new to the world's experience, the situation was not less so. It was this. The White population numbered 40,000 in 1831; the Black population numbered three hundred. Not 300 warriors, but 300 men, women, and children. The Whites were armed with guns, the Blacks with clubs and spears. The Whites had fought the Blacks for a quarter of a century, and had tried every thinkable way to capture, kill, or subdue them; and could not do it. If white men of any race could have done it, these would have accomplished it. But every scheme had failed, the splendid 300, the matchless 300 were unconquered, and manifestly unconquerable. They would not yield, they would listen to no terms, they would fight to the bitter end. Yet they had no poet to keep up their heart, and sing the marvel of their magnificent patriotism.

At the end of five-and-twenty years of hard fighting, the surviving 300 naked patriots were still defiant, still persistent, still efficacious with their rude weapons, and the Governor and the 40,000 knew not which way to turn, nor what to do.

Then the Bricklayer--that wonderful man--proposed to go out into the wilderness, with no weapon but his tongue, and no protection but his honest eye and his humane heart; and track those embittered savages to their lairs in the gloomy forests and among the mountain snows. Naturally, he was considered a crank. But he was not quite that. In fact, he was a good way short of that. He was building upon his long and intimate knowledge of the native character. The deriders of his project were right--from their standpoint--for they believed the natives to be mere wild beasts; and Robinson was right, from his standpoint--for he believed the natives to be human beings. The truth did really lie between the two. The event proved that Robinson's judgment was soundest; but about once a month for four years the event came near to giving the verdict to the deriders, for about that frequently Robinson barely escaped falling under the native spears.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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