Sir John Barrow.

The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences online

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[By Sir John Barrow]





The Editor of this little volume (for he presumes not to write _Author_)
has been induced to bring into one connected view what has hitherto
appeared only as detached fragments (and some of these not generally
accessible) - the historical narrative of an event which deeply
interested the public at the time of its occurrence, and from which the
naval service in particular, in all its ranks, may still draw
instructive and useful lessons.

The story in itself is replete with interest. We are taught by _The
Book_ of sacred history that the disobedience of our first parents
entailed on our globe of earth a sinful and a suffering race: in our
time there has sprung up from the most abandoned of this sinful
family - from pirates, mutineers, and murderers - a little society which,
under the precepts of that sacred volume, is characterized by religion,
morality, and innocence. The discovery of this happy people, as
unexpected as it was accidental, and all that regards their condition
and history, partake so much of the romantic as to render the story not
ill adapted for an epic poem. Lord Byron, indeed, has partially treated
the subject; but by blending two incongruous stories, and leaving both
of them imperfect, and by mixing up fact with fiction, has been less
felicitous than usual; for, beautiful as many passages in his _Island_
are, in a region where every tree, and flower, and fountain breathe
poetry, yet as a whole the poem is feeble and deficient in dramatic

There still remains to us at least one poet, who, if he could be
prevailed on to undertake it, would do justice to the story. To his
suggestion the publication of the present narrative owes its appearance.
But a higher object at present is engaging his attention, which, when
completed, judging from that portion already before the public, will
have raised a splendid and lasting monument to the name of William
Sotheby, in his translation of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_.

To the kindness of Mrs. Heywood, the relict of the late Captain Peter
Heywood, the Editor is indebted for those beautiful and affectionate
letters, written by a beloved sister to her unfortunate brother, while a
prisoner and under sentence of death; as well as for some occasional
poetry, which displays an intensity of feeling, a tenderness of
expression, and a high tone of sentiment that do honour to the head and
heart of this amiable and accomplished lady. Those letters also from the
brother to his deeply afflicted family will be read with peculiar



The gentle island, and the genial soil,
The friendly hearts, the feasts without a toil,
The courteous manners but from nature caught,
The wealth unhoarded, and the love unbougnt,

* * * * *

The bread-tree, which, without the ploughshare, yields
The unreap'd harvest of unfurrow'd fields,
And bakes its unadulterated loaves
Without a furnace in unpurchased groves,
And flings off famine from its fertile breast,
A priceless market for the gathering guest; -
These, etc. - BYRON.

The reign of George III will be distinguished in history by the great
extension and improvement which geographical knowledge received under
the immediate auspices of this sovereign. At a very early period, after
his accession to the throne of these realms, expeditions of discovery
were undertaken, 'not (as Dr. Hawkesworth observes) with a view to the
acquisition of treasure, or the extent of dominion, but for the
improvement of commerce, and the increase and diffusion of knowledge.'
This excellent monarch was himself no mean proficient in the science of
geography; and it may be doubted if any one of his subjects, at the
period alluded to, was in possession of so extensive or so well-arranged
a cabinet of maps and charts as his was, or who understood their merits
or their defects so well as he did.

The first expeditions that were sent forth, after the conclusion of the
war, were those of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret. In the instructions to
the first of these commanders it is said, 'there is reason to believe
that lands and islands of great extent, hitherto unvisited by any
European power, may be found in the Atlantic Ocean, between the Cape of
Good Hope and the Magellanic Strait, within the latitudes convenient for
navigation, and in climates adapted to the produce of commodities useful
in commerce.' It could not require much knowledge or consideration to be
assured that, between the Cape and the Strait, climates producing
commodities useful in commerce, with the exception of whales and seals,
were likely to be found. The fact was that, among the real objects of
this and other subsequent voyages, there was one which had engaged the
attention of certain philosophers, from the time of the Spanish
navigator, Quiros: this able navigator had maintained that a _Terra
Australis incognita_ must necessarily exist, somewhere in the high
latitudes of the southern hemisphere, to counterbalance the great
masses of land in those of the northern one, and thus maintain a just
equipoise of the globe.

While these expeditions were in progress, the Royal Society, in 1768,
addressed an application to the king, praying him to appoint a ship of
war to convey to the South Seas Mr. Alexander Dalrymple (who had adopted
the opinion of Quiros), and certain others, for the main purpose,
however, of observing the transit of Venus over the sun's disc, which
was to happen in the year 1769. By the king's command, a bark of three
hundred and seventy tons was taken up by the Admiralty to perform this
service, but, as Mr. Dalrymple was a civilian, he could not be entrusted
with the command of the ship, and on that account declined going in her.

The command was therefore conferred on Lieutenant James Cook, an officer
of undoubted ability, and well versed in astronomy and the theory and
practice of navigation, with whom the Royal Society associated Mr.
Charles Green, who had long been assistant to Dr. Bradley, the
astronomer royal, to aid him in the observation of the transit. Mr.
Banks, a private gentleman of good fortune, who afterwards became the
valuable and distinguished President of the Royal Society, and Dr.
Solander, a Swedish gentleman of great acquirements, particularly in
natural history, accompanied Lieutenant Cook on this interesting voyage.
The islands of Marquesas de Mendoza, or those of Rotterdam or Amsterdam,
were proposed by the Royal Society as proper places for making the
observation. While fitting out, however, Captain Wallis returned from
his expedition, and strongly recommended as most suitable for the
purpose, Port Royal Harbour, on an island he had discovered, to which he
had given the name of 'King George's Island,' and which has since been
known by its native name, _Otaheite_ or _Tahite_.[1]

This lovely island is most intimately connected with the mutiny which
took place on board the _Bounty_, and with the fate of the mutineers and
their innocent offspring. Its many seducing temptations have been urged
as one, if not the main, cause of the mutiny, which was supposed, at
least by the commander of that ship, to have been excited by -

Young hearts which languish'd for some sunny isle,
Where summer years, and summer women smile,
Men without country, who, too long estranged,
Had found no native home, or found it changed,
And, half uncivilized, preferr'd the cave
Of some soft savage to the uncertain wave.

It may be proper, therefore, as introductory to the present narrative,
to give a general description of the rich and spontaneous gifts which
Nature has lavished on this once 'happy island;' - of the simple and
ingenuous manners of its natives, - and of those allurements which were
supposed, erroneously however, to have occasioned the unfortunate
catastrophe alluded to; - to glance at

The nymphs' seducements and the magic bower,

as they existed at the period of the first intercourse between the
Otaheitans and the crews of those ships, which carried to their shores,
in succession, Wallis, Bougainville, and Cook.

The first communication which Wallis had with these people was
unfortunately of a hostile nature. Having approached with his ship close
to the shore, the usual symbol of peace and friendship, a branch of the
plantain tree, was held up by a native in one of the numerous canoes
that surrounded the ship. Great numbers, on being invited, crowded on
board the stranger ship, but one of them, being butted on the haunches
by a goat, and turning hastily round, perceived it rearing on its hind
legs, ready to repeat the blow, was so terrified at the appearance of
this strange animal, so different from any he had ever seen, that, in
the moment of terror, he jumped overboard, and all the rest followed his
example with the utmost precipitation.

This little incident, however, produced no mischief; but as the boats
were sounding in the bay, and several canoes crowding round them, Wallis
suspected the islanders had a design to attack them, and, on this mere
suspicion, ordered the boats by signal to come on board, 'and at the
same time,' he says, 'to intimidate the Indians, I fired a nine-pounder
over their heads.' This, as might have been imagined, startled the
islanders, but did not prevent them from attempting immediately to cut
off the cutter, as she was standing towards the ship. Several stones
were thrown into this boat, on which the commanding officer fired a
musket, loaded with buck-shot, at the man who threw the first stone, and
wounded him in the shoulder.

Finding no good anchorage at this place, the ship proceeded to another
part of the island, where, on one of the boats being assailed by the
Indians in two or three canoes, with their clubs and paddles in their
hands, 'Our people,' says the commander, 'being much pressed, were
obliged to fire, by which one of the assailants was killed, and another
much wounded.' This unlucky rencontre did not, however, prevent, as soon
as the ship was moored, a great number of canoes from coming off the
next morning, with hogs, fowls, and fruit. A brisk traffic soon
commenced, our people exchanging knives, nails, and trinkets, for more
substantial articles of food, of which they were in want. Among the
canoes that came out last were some double ones of very large size, with
twelve or fifteen stout men in each, and it was observed that they had
little on board except a quantity of round pebble stones. Other canoes
came off along with them, having only women on board; and while these
females were assiduously practising their allurements, by attitudes that
could not be misunderstood, with the view, as it would seem, to distract
the attention of the crew, the large double canoes closed round the
ship; and as these advanced, some of the men began singing, some blowing
conchs, and others playing on flutes. One of them, with a person sitting
under a canopy, approached the ship so close, as to allow this person to
hand up a bunch of red and yellow feathers, making signs it was for the
captain. He then put off to a little distance, and, on holding up the
branch of a cocoa-nut tree, there was an universal shout from all the
canoes, which at the same moment moved towards the ship, and a shower of
stones was poured into her on every side. The guard was now ordered to
fire, and two of the quarter-deck guns, loaded with small shot, were
fired among them at the same time, which created great terror and
confusion, and caused them to retreat to a short distance. In a few
minutes, however, they renewed the attack. The great guns were now
ordered to be discharged among them, and also into a mass of canoes that
were putting off from the shore. It is stated that, at this time, there
could not be less than three hundred canoes about the ship, having on
board at least two thousand men. Again they dispersed, but having soon
collected into something like order, they hoisted white streamers, and
pulled towards the ship's stern, when they again began to throw stones
with great force and dexterity, by the help of slings, each of the
stones weighing about two pounds, and many of them wounded the people on
board. At length a shot hit the canoe that apparently had the chief on
board, and cut it asunder. This was no sooner observed by the rest, than
they all dispersed in such haste, that in half an hour there was not a
single canoe to be seen; and all the people who had crowded the shore
fled over the hills with the utmost precipitation. What was to happen on
the following day was matter of conjecture, but this point was soon

The white man landed; - need the rest be told?
The new world stretch'd its dusk hand to the old.

Lieutenant Furneaux, on the next morning, landed, without opposition,
close to a fine river that fell into the bay - stuck up a staff on which
was hoisted a pendant, - turned a turf, - and by this process took
possession of the island in the name of his Majesty, and called it _King
George the Third's Island_. Just as he was embarking, an old man, to
whom the Lieutenant had given a few trifles, brought some green boughs,
which he threw down at the foot of the staff, then retiring, brought
about a dozen of his countrymen, who approached the staff in a
supplicating posture, then retired and brought two live hogs, which they
laid down at the foot of the staff, and then began to dance. After this
ceremony the hogs were put into a canoe and the old man carried them on
board, handing up several green plantain leaves, and uttering a sentence
on the delivery of each. Some presents were offered him in return, but
he would accept of none.

Concluding that peace was now established, and that no further attack
would be made, the boats were sent on shore the following day to get
water. While the casks were filling, several natives were perceived
coming from behind the hills and through the woods, and at the same time
a multitude of canoes from behind a projecting point of the bay. As
these were discovered to be laden with stones, and were making towards
the ship, it was concluded their intention was to try their fortune in a
second grand attack. 'As to shorten the contest would certainly lessen
the mischief, I determined,' says Captain Wallis, 'to make this action
decisive, and put an end to hostilities at once.' Accordingly a
tremendous fire was opened at once on all the groups of canoes, which
had the effect of immediately dispersing them. The fire was then
directed into the wood, to drive out the islanders, who had assembled in
large numbers, on which they all fled to the hill, where the women and
children had seated themselves. Here they collected to the amount of
several thousands, imagining themselves at that distance to be perfectly
safe. The captain, however, ordered four shot to be fired over them, but
two of the balls, having fallen close to a tree where a number of them
were sitting, they were so struck with terror and consternation, that,
in less than two minutes, not a creature was to be seen. The coast being
cleared, the boats were manned and armed, and all the carpenters with
their axes were sent on shore, with directions to destroy every canoe
they could find; and we are told this service was effectually performed,
and that more than fifty canoes, many of which were sixty feet long, and
three broad, and lashed together, were cut to pieces.

This act of severity must have been cruelly felt by these poor people,
who, without iron or any kind of tools, but such as stones, shells,
teeth, and bones supplied them with, must have spent months and probably
years in the construction of one of these extraordinary double boats.

Such was the inauspicious commencement of our acquaintance with the
natives of Otaheite. Their determined hostility and perseverance in an
unequal combat could only have arisen from one of two motives - either
from an opinion that a ship of such magnitude, as they had never before
beheld, could only be come to their coast to take their country from
them; or an irresistible temptation to endeavour, at all hazards, to
possess themselves of so valuable a prize. Be that as it may, the dread
inspired by the effects of the cannon, and perhaps a conviction of the
truth of what had been explained to them, that the 'strangers wanted
only provisions and water,' had the effect of allaying all jealousy; for
from the day of the last action, the most friendly and uninterrupted
intercourse was established, and continued to the day of the _Dolphin's_
departure; and provisions of all kinds, hogs, dogs, fruit, and
vegetables, were supplied in the greatest abundance, in exchange for
pieces of iron, nails, and trinkets.

As a proof of the readiness of these simple people to forgive injuries,
a poor woman, accompanied by a young man bearing a branch of the
plantain tree, and another man with two hogs, approached the gunner,
whom Captain Wallis had appointed to regulate the market, and looking
round on the strangers with great attention, fixing her eyes sometimes
on one and sometimes on another, at length burst into tears. It appeared
that her husband and three of her sons had been killed in the attack on
the ship. While this was under explanation, the poor creature was so
affected as to require the support of the two young men, who from their
weeping were probably two more of her sons. When somewhat composed, she
ordered the two hogs to be delivered to the gunner, and gave him her
hand in token of friendship, but would accept nothing in return.

Captain Wallis was now so well satisfied that there was nothing further
to apprehend from the hostility of the natives, that he sent a party up
the country to cut wood, who were treated with great kindness and
hospitality by all they met, and the ship was visited by persons of both
sexes, who by their dress and behaviour appeared to be of a superior
rank. Among others was a tall lady about five and forty years of age, of
a pleasing countenance and majestic deportment. She was under no
restraint, either from diffidence or fear, and conducted herself with
that easy freedom which generally distinguishes conscious superiority
and habitual command. She accepted some small present which the captain
gave her, with a good grace and much pleasure; and having observed that
he was weak and suffering from ill health, she pointed to the shore,
which he understood to be an invitation, and made signs that he would go
thither the next morning. His visit to this lady displays so much
character and good feeling, that it will best be described in the
captain's own words.

'The next morning I went on shore for the first time, and my princess or
rather queen, for such by her authority she appeared to be, soon after
came to me, followed by many of her attendants. As she perceived that my
disorder had left me very weak, she ordered her people to take me in
their arms, and carry me not only over the river, but all the way to her
house; and observing that some of the people who were with me,
particularly the first lieutenant and purser, had also been sick, she
caused them also to be carried in the same manner, and a guard, which I
had ordered out upon the occasion, followed. In our way, a vast
multitude crowded about us, but upon her waving her hand, without
speaking a word, they withdrew, and left us a free passage. When we
approached near her house, a great number of both sexes came out to meet
her; these she presented to me, after having intimated by signs that
they were her relations, and taking hold of my hand she made them kiss

'We then entered the house, which covered a piece of ground three
hundred and twenty-seven feet long, and forty-two feet broad. It
consisted of a roof thatched with palm leaves, and raised upon
thirty-nine pillars on each side, and fourteen in the middle. The ridge
of the thatch, on the inside, was thirty feet high, and the sides of the
house, to the edge of the roof, were twelve feet high; all below the
roof being open. As soon as we entered the house, she made us sit down,
and then calling four young girls, she assisted them to take off my
shoes, draw down my stockings, and pull off my coat, and then directed
them to smooth down the skin, and gently chafe it with their hands. The
same operation was also performed on the first lieutenant and the
purser, but upon none of those who appeared to be in health. While this
was doing, our surgeon, who had walked till he was very warm, took off
his wig to cool and refresh himself: a sudden exclamation of one of the
Indians, who saw it, drew the attention of the rest, and in a moment
every eye was fixed upon the prodigy, and every operation was suspended.
The whole assembly stood some time motionless, in silent astonishment,
which could not have been more strongly expressed, if they had
discovered that our friend's limbs had been screwed on to the trunk. In
a short time, however, the young women who were chafing us, resumed
their employment, and having continued for about half an hour, they
dressed us again, but in this they were, as may easily be imagined, very
awkward; I found great benefit, however, from the chafing, and so did
the lieutenant and the purser.

'After a little time our generous benefactress ordered some bales of
Indian cloth to be brought out, with which she clothed me, and all that
were with me, according to the fashion of the country. At first I
declined the acceptance of this favour, but being unwilling not to seem
pleased with what was intended to please me, I acquiesced. When we went
away, she ordered a very large sow, big with young, to be taken down to
the boat, and accompanied us thither herself. She had given directions
to her people to carry me, as they had done when I came, but as I chose
rather to walk, she took me by the arm, and whenever we came to a plash
of water or dirt, she lifted me over with as little trouble as it would
have cost me to have lifted over a child, if I had been well.'

The following morning Captain Wallis sent her a present by the gunner,
who found her in the midst of an entertainment given to at least a
thousand people. The messes were put into shells of cocoa-nuts, and the
shells into wooden trays, like those used by our butchers, and she
distributed them with her own hands to the guests, who were seated in
rows in the open air, round the great house. When this was done, she sat
down herself upon a place somewhat elevated above the rest, and two
women, placing themselves, one on each side of her, fed her, she opening
her mouth as they brought their hands up with the food. From this time,
provisions were sent to market in the greatest abundance. The queen
frequently visited the captain on board, and always with a present, but
she never condescended to barter, nor would she accept of any return.

One day, after visiting her at her house, the captain at parting made
her comprehend by signs, that he intended to quit the island in seven
days: she immediately understood his meaning, and by similar signs,
expressed her wish that he should stay twenty days; that he should go
with her a couple of days' journey into the country, stay there a few
days, return with plenty of hogs and poultry, and then go away; but on
persisting in his first intention, she burst into tears, and it was not
without great difficulty that she could be pacified. The next time that
she went on board, Captain Wallis ordered a good dinner for her
entertainment and those chiefs who were of her party; but the queen
would neither eat nor drink. As she was going over the ship's side, she
asked, by signs, whether he still persisted in leaving the island at the
time he had fixed, and on receiving an answer in the affirmative, she
expressed her regret by a flood of tears; and as soon as her passion

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 1 of 24)