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See him from nature rising slow to Art!
Pope (Essay on Man).
WE shall use the term Oceanica in the sense in which it is applied by many writers on Ethnography, as describing all the land comprised between the coasts of Asia and America, including the East Indian Archipelago, the many smaller clusters of the Pacific, and the continent of New Holland.
The whole subject of the distinctions in race among the wild inhabitants who have settled on these countless islands—the "nomads of the sea," as Professor Muller calls them—is even more intricate and involved than the differences among the nomads of the land. The languages of many of the tribes have never even been compared, and some of them are scarcely known at all; so that all conclusions must necessarily, as yet, be very doubtful, and liable to much change hereafter.
There are at least two very different schools on this subject, each represented by high authority. One led by the celebrated William von Humboldt, assigns but two, or at most three, races of men to this immense range of inhabitable land—namely, the Malay, the Polynesian, and a race of Oriental negroes.
The other, represented by a scholar of great ability, Mr. J. Crawford, divides the inhabitants of Oceanica into five brown races, with lank hair, distinguished by varieties of language, and eight races of Oriental negroes. The tendency, however, of all late investigation, is toward the unity of these varieties, and modern conclusions approach those of Humboldt much more than those of Crawford.
Oceanica may be divided into five great divisions: Malaisia, or the East Indian Islands, together with the peninsula of Mallacca, inhabited by the Malay race. Of these islands, the most prominent are Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Celebes, Mollucca, Sooloo, and the Phillippines.
Melanasia are the islands inhabited by a dark race with woolly or frizzled hair, comprising New Guinea, Aroo, Mysol and others, together with New Britain, New Ireland, the Solomon Isles, and New Hebrides.
Australia, or New Holland, a vast island, sparsely peopled by a black race with straight, smooth hair.
Micronesia, a long range of little groups of islands and strips of coral rock in the North Pacific, east of the Philippines, including the Pelew, Caroline, Ladrone, Bonabe, and numerous other islands, from 132 deg. east longitude to 178 deg. west, and from 21 deg. north latitude to 5 deg. south.
Polynesia, or the islands in the East Pacific, occupied by a race kindred to the Malay, of which the best known are the Navigators, the Friendly, Society and Sandwich Islands, together with New Zealand.
The great natural peculiarities of this quarter of the globe, which have determined the divisions of race and family, have been its insular character, the periodicity of its winds, and the malarious climate of some of the islands; while the existence of a people on its western border, with a highly flexible and euphonious language, and gifted with much enterprise (the Malay race), has affected the ruling stock through all this wide region. These nomads of the sea, whenever desiring adventure or seeking commerce or plunder, or driven forth by defeat or hunger, had only to put themselves and wives, with their few utensils, into their light canoes, and trust themselves to the prevailing trade winds, and they were certain finally to land on some new island, where they co.uld either intermingle with the old inhabitants or form a new community. It is thus that the almost countless islands, from the Phillippines to Easter Island, through eight thousand miles of ocean, were peopled by a similar race.
There were certain of the islands which only admitted of the habitation of the black tribes, owing to the highly malarious character of the climate, and upon them especially these tribes are found
The climate has probably protected them against the assaults of the more organized nations. Whether they were the original settlers is impossible to determine. Their usual position, on the mountains in the interior of an island, would indicate an earlier habitation. Possibly, as some ethnologists have supposed, their appearance here may date back to an immense antiquity—before all the islands were separated one from another or from the Asiatic continent;* while their color and power of resisting malarious influences may be due to the gradual .accumulation and transmission of advantageous changes, adapting them to their circumstances through vastly extended periods of time.
Judging from the gradual change in language and customs, as well as from other indications, the great movement of the Oceanican people must have been from the west to the east—against the prevailing trade wind; and no investigations show that even now, at peculiar seasons of the year, there are regular winds blowing from the west which drift the natives hundreds and thousands of miles.
One great link has perhaps been discovered by Professor Muller and others, showing the connection between the nomads of the sea and the nomads of the land, in their investigations into the Tai and Malay languages. * * * These generic exponents or numerical affixes are entirely peculiar to those languages. Many other evidences are adduced of the relation between the languages of the islands and the Asiatic continent; so that, if this vast connection be fairly established, the language of a vast portion of Oceanica may be included in the great Turanian family.
*Both Dana and Hale notice evidence of a gradual subsidence of the land, even in the historic period; the ruins of temples on BonaW, for instance, being found partly submerged by the sea.