THE LAST TASMANIANS
With the steady decrease in the number of Aborigines, white people began to take a bizarre interest in the Blacks, whom whites believed “to be a missing link between humans and apes.”
In 1859 Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, popularized the fantasy of biological (and therefore social) evolution, with whites at the top of the evolutionary scale and Blacks at the bottom, the Aborigines were portrayed as a group of people “doomed to die out according to a natural law, like the dodo, and the dinosaur.” This is during the same period in the United States that it was legally advocated that a Black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect.
William Lanney, facetiously known as King Billy, was the last full-blood male Tasmanian. He was born in 1835 and grew up on Flinders Island. At the age of 13, Lanney was removed with the remnant of his people to a concentration camp called Oyster Cove. Ultimately he became a sailor and some years he went whaling. As the last male Tasmanian, Lanney was regarded as a human relic. In January 1860 he was introduced to Prince Albert. He returned ill from a whaling voyage in February 1868, and on March 2, 1868, he died in his room at the Dog and Partridge public-house in Hobart, Tasmania.