Trouble at the Settlement

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Arrived at the Settlement.

Matthews gave so bad an account of the conduct of the Fuegians that the Captain advised him to return to the ship.

From the moment of our leaving, a regular system of plunder commenced, in which not only Matthews, but York & Jemmy suffered. Matthews had nearly lost all his things; & the constant watching was most harassing & entirely prevented him from doing anything to obtain food &c. Night & day large parties of the natives surrounded his house. (they tried to tire him out by making incessant noises).

One day, having requested an old man to leave the place, he returned with a large stone in his hand: Another day, a whole party advanced with stones & stakes, & some of the younger men & Jemmys brother were crying.  Matthews thought it was only to rob him & he met them with presents. I cannot help thinking that more was meant. They showed by signs they would strip him & pluck all the hairs out of his face & body. I think we returned just in time to save his life.

The perfect equality of all the inhabitants will for many years prevent their civilization: even a shirt or other article of clothing is immediately torn into pieces. -- Until some chief rises, who by his power might be able to keep to himself such presents as animals &c &c, there must be an end to all hopes of bettering their condition.


It would not have been so bad if all the plunder had remained in one family or tribe.  But there was a constant succession of fresh canoes, & each one returned with something. Jemmy's own relations were absolutely so foolish & vain, as to show to strangers what they had stolen & the method of doing it.

It was quite melancholy leaving our Fuegians amongst their barbarous countrymen: there was one comfort; they appeared to have no personal fears. But, in contradiction of what has often been stated, 3 years has been sufficient to change savages, into, as far as habits go, complete & voluntary Europaeans.

York, who was a full grown man & with a strong violent mind, will I am certain in every respect live as far as his means go, like an Englishman. Poor Jemmy, looked rather disconsolate, & certainly would have liked to have returned with us; he said "they were all very bad men, no 'sabe' nothing". Jemmy's own brother had been stealing from him as Jemmy said, "what fashion do you call that".

I am afraid whatever other ends their excursion to England produces, it will not be conducive to their happiness. They have far too much sense not to see the vast superiority of civilized over uncivilized habits; & yet I am afraid to the latter they must return.

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This page contains a single entry by Charles Darwin published on February 6, 1833 2:49 PM.

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Fitzroy returns with encouraging news is the next entry in this blog.

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