Picture yourself sailing the seas and landing in a foreign land. Almost naked natives greet you. They have painted their bodies with crude paints and offer you trinkets as gifts. When you speak to them, they repeat your words with skillful clarity, even though they obviously do not know what the words mean. Since there is a language barrier, they attempt to communicate with you using hand signals and pantomime. What would you think of these people? How would you record this event in your journal?
Events like this, with all these details in common, did happen to two very different men at two very different times. They recorded their experiences in their journals.
The first man described the natives he encountered as handsome people, of good height, well-built and strong. He said, "They were so friendly to us, it was wonderful." When he heard them repeat his own words, he surmised that they must be very intelligent people indeed. By signs he inquired about wounds he saw on their bodies, and through sign language discerned that men from a nearby island sometimes came to take their people captive as servants. The man had no doubt that such strong and intelligent people would make good servants, but he had better hopes for them. He hoped to see them learn of the Lord.
The second man described the people he encountered as a "curious and interesting spectacle." He said they closely resembled devils seen on stage in plays. He noted their gestures, but apparently made no attempt to try to decipher them. He said, "I could not believe how wide was the difference between savage and civilized man; it is greater than the difference between a wild and a domesticated animal." Their language, he said, "scarcely deserves to be called articulate." "Certainly no European ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds." When the natives showed remarkable skill in mimicking their gestures and repeating their words, this man did not conclude they were intelligent, as our first man did. Rather, he equated it with a state of 'savagery.' After noting that no European would be able to repeat so many words so perfectly he said, "All savages appear to possess, to an uncommon degree, this power of mimicry...How can this facility be explained? Is it a consequence of the more practiced habits of perception and keener senses common to all men in a savage state, as compared with those long civilized?" When others suggested these men be taught English, and be taught the Christian faith, he considered the task futile because of their savagery.
The first encounter described above happened in 1492. The journal in which these events are recorded is that of Christopher Columbus. The second encounter happened in 1832. It is recorded in Voyage of the Beagle, and is written by Charles Darwin.
Update: I should give you the sources on this, in case you wish to read the accounts in context. Since many editions (and in the case of Columbus, translations) exist, and my page numbers would be useless to most of you, I think this is the best way to lead you to the passages: In any edition of Columbus' journal, find the entry for October 11, 1492. In Voyage of the Beagle, turn to Chapter X on Darwin's visit to Tierra del Fuego. If you read these works, you will find similar attitudes of delight and contempt, respectively, throughout. I used these examples because of the striking similarity in the particulars of the two incidents described.