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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from a writer in a periodical journal,[17] which was hardly called for,
'When this boat,' says the writer, 'with a midshipman and several men
(four), had been inhumanly ordered from alongside, it was known that
there was nothing in her but one piece of salt-beef, compassionately
thrown in by a seaman; and horrid as must have been their fate, the
flippant surgeon, after detailing the disgraceful fact, adds - "that this
is the way the world was peopled" - or words to that effect, for we quote
only from memory.' The following is quoted from the book: -

'It may be difficult to surmise,' says the surgeon, 'what has been the
fate of those unfortunate men. They had a piece of salt-beef thrown into
the boat to them on leaving the ship; and it rained a good deal that
night and the following day, which might satiate their thirst. It is by
these accidents the Divine Ruler of the universe has peopled the
southern hemisphere.' This is no more than asserting an acknowledged
fact that can hardly admit of a dispute, and there appears nothing in
the paragraph which at all affects the character of Captain Edwards,
against whom it is levelled.

After a fruitless search of three months, the _Pandora_ arrived, on the
29th August, on the coast of New Holland, and close to that
extraordinary reef of coral rocks called the 'Barrier Reef,' which runs
along the greater part of the eastern coast, but at a considerable
distance from it. The boat had been sent out to look for an opening,
which was soon discovered, but in the course of the night the ship had
drifted past it. 'On getting soundings,' says Captain Edwards, in his
narrative laid before the court-martial, 'the topsails were filled; but
before the tacks were hauled on board and other sail made and trimmed,
the ship struck upon a reef; we had a quarter less two fathoms on the
larboard side, and three fathoms on the starboard side; the sails were
braced about different ways to endeavour to get her off, but to no
purpose; they were then clewed up and afterwards furled, the top-gallant
yards got down and the top-gallant masts struck. Boats were hoisted out
with a view to carry out an anchor, but before that could be effected
the ship struck so violently on the reef, that the carpenter reported
she made eighteen inches of water in five minutes; and in five minutes
after this, that there were four feet of water in the hold. Finding the
leak increasing so fast, it was thought necessary to turn the hands to
the pumps, and to bail at the different hatchways; but she still
continued to gain upon us so fast, that in little more than an hour and
a half after she struck, there were eight feet and a half of water in
the hold. About ten we perceived that the ship had beaten over the reef,
and was in ten fathoms water; we therefore let go the small bower
anchor, cleared away a cable, and let go the best bower anchor in
fifteen and a half fathoms water under foot, to steady the ship. Some
of her guns were thrown overboard, and the water gained upon us only in
a small degree, and we flattered ourselves that by the assistance of a
thrummed topsail, which we were preparing to haul under the ship's
bottom, we might be able to lessen the leak, and to free her of water:
but these flattering hopes did not continue long; for, as she settled in
the water, the leak increased again, and in so great a degree, that
there was reason to apprehend she would sink before daylight. During the
night two of the pumps were unfortunately for some time rendered
useless; one of them, however, was repaired, and we continued baling and
pumping the remainder of the night; and every effort that was thought of
was made to keep afloat and preserve the ship. Daylight fortunately
appeared, and gave us the opportunity of seeing our situation and the
surrounding danger, and it was evident the ship had been carried to the
northward by a tide or current.

'The officers, whom I had consulted on the subject of our situation,
gave it as their opinion that nothing more could be done for the
preservation of the ship; it then became necessary to endeavour to
provide and to find means for the preservation of the people. Our four
boats, which consisted of one launch, one eight-oared pinnace, and two
six-oared yawls, with careful hands in them, were kept astern of the
ship; a small quantity of bread, water, and other necessary articles,
were put into them; two canoes, which we had on board, were lashed
together and put into the water; rafts were made, and all floating
things upon deck were unlashed.

'About half-past six in the morning of the 29th the hold was full, and
the water was between decks, and it also washed in at the upper deck
ports, and there were strong indications that the ship was on the very
point of sinking, and we began to leap overboard and take to the boats,
and before everybody could get out of her she actually sunk. The boats
continued astern of the ship in the direction of the drift of the tide
from her, and took up the people that had hold of rafts and other
floating things that had been cast loose, for the purpose of supporting
them on the water. The double canoe, that was able to support a
considerable number of men, broke adrift with only one man, and was
bulged upon a reef, and afforded us no assistance when she was so much
wanted on this trying and melancholy occasion. Two of the boats were
laden with men and sent to a small sandy island (or key) about four
miles from the wreck; and I remained near the ship for some time with
the other two boats, and picked up all the people that could be seen,
and then followed the two first boats to the key; and having landed the
men and cleared the boats, they were immediately despatched again to
look about the wreck and the adjoining reef for any that might be
missing, but they returned without having found a single person. On
mustering the people that were saved, it appeared that eighty-nine of
the ship's company, and ten of the mutineers that had been prisoners on
board, answered to their names; but thirty-one of the ship's company,
and four mutineers, were lost with the ship.'

It is remarkable enough that so little notice is taken of the mutineers
in this narrative of the captain; and as the following statement is
supposed to come from the late Lieutenant Corner, who was second
lieutenant of the _Pandora_, it is entitled to be considered as
authentic, and if so, Captain Edwards must have deserved the character,
ascribed to him, of being altogether destitute of the common feelings of

'Three of the _Bounty's_ people, Coleman, Norman, and M'Intosh, were now
let out of irons, and sent to work at the pumps. The others offered
their assistance, and begged to be allowed a chance of saving their
lives; instead of which, two additional sentinels were placed over them,
with orders to shoot any who should attempt to get rid of their fetters.
Seeing no prospect of escape, they betook themselves to prayer, and
prepared to meet their fate, every one expecting that the ship would
soon go to pieces, her rudder and part of the stern-post being already
beat away.'

When the ship was actually sinking, and every effort making for the
preservation of the crew, it is asserted that 'no notice was taken of
the prisoners, as is falsely stated by the author of the _Pandora's
Voyage_, although Captain Edwards was entreated by Mr. Heywood to have
mercy upon them, when he passed over their prison, to make his own
escape, the ship then lying on her broadside, with the larboard bow
completely under water. Fortunately the master-at-arms, either by
accident or design, when slipping from the roof of "_Pandora's_ Box"
into the sea, let the keys of the irons fall through the scuttle or
entrance, which he had just before opened, and thus enabled them to
commence their own liberation, in which they were generously assisted,
at the imminent risk of his own life, by William Moulter, a boatswain's
mate, who clung to the coamings, and pulled the long bars through the
shackles, saying he would set them free, or go to the bottom with them.

'Scarcely was this effected when the ship went down, leaving nothing
visible but the top-mast cross-trees. The master-at-arms and all the
sentinels sunk to rise no more. The cries of them and the other drowning
men were awful in the extreme; and more than half an hour had elapsed
before the survivors could be taken up by the boats. Among the former
were Mr. Stewart, John Sumner, Richard Skinner, and Henry Hillbrant, the
whole of whom perished with their hands still in manacles.

'On this melancholy occasion Mr. Heywood was the last person but three
who escaped from the prison, into which the water had already found its
way through the bulk-head scuttles. Jumping overboard, he seized a
plank, and was swimming towards a small sandy quay (key) about three
miles distant, when a boat picked him up, and conveyed him thither in a
state of nudity. It is worthy of remark, that James Morrison
endeavoured to follow his young companion's example, and, although
handcuffed, managed to keep afloat until a boat came to his assistance.'

This account would appear almost incredible. It is true men are
sometimes found to act the part of inhuman monsters, but then they are
generally actuated by some motive or extraordinary excitement; here,
however, there was neither; but on the contrary, the condition of the
poor prisoners appealed most forcibly to the mercy and humanity of their
jailor. The surgeon of the ship states, in his account of her loss, that
as soon as the spars, booms, hen-coops, and other buoyant articles were
cut loose, 'the prisoners were ordered to be let out of irons.' One
would imagine, indeed, that the officers on this dreadful emergency
would not be witness to such inhumanity, without remonstrating
effectually against keeping these unfortunate men confined a moment
beyond the period when it became evident that the ship must sink. It
will be seen, however, presently, from Mr. Heywood's own statement, that
they were so kept, and that the brutal and unfeeling conduct which has
been imputed to Captain Edwards is but too true.

It is an awful moment when a ship takes her last heel, just before going
down. When the _Pandora_ sunk, the surgeon says, 'the crew had just time
to leap overboard, accompanying it with a most dreadful yell. The cries
of the men drowning in the water was at first awful in the extreme; but
as they sunk and became faint, they died away by degrees.' How
accurately has Byron described the whole progress of a shipwreck to the
final catastrophe! He might have been a spectator of the _Pandora_, at
the moment of her foundering, when

She gave a heel, and then a lurch to port,
And, going down head foremost - sunk....

Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell -
Then shriek'd the timid and stood still the brave -
Then some leap'd overboard with dreadful yell,
As eager to anticipate their grave;
And the sea yawn'd around her like a hell,
And down she suck'd with her the whirling wave,
Like one who grapples with his enemy,
And strives to strangle him before he die.

And first one universal shriek there rush'd,
Louder than the loud ocean, like a crash
Of echoing thunder; and then all was hush'd,
Save the wild wind and the remorseless dash
Of billows; but at intervals there gush'd,
Accompanied with a convulsive splash,
A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.

On the sandy key which fortunately presented itself, the shipwrecked
seamen hauled up the boats, to repair those that were damaged, and to
stretch canvas round the gunwales, the better to keep out the sea from
breaking into them. The heat of the sun and the reflection from the sand
are described as excruciating, and the thirst of the men was rendered
intolerable, from their stomachs being filled with salt water in the
length of time they had to swim before being picked up. Mr. Hamilton
says they were greatly disturbed in the night, by the irregular
behaviour of one of the seamen, named Connell, which made them suspect
he had got drunk with some wine that had been saved; but it turned out
that the excruciating torture he suffered from thirst had induced him to
drink salt water; 'by which means he went mad, and died in the sequel of
the voyage.' It seems, a small keg of water, and some biscuits, had been
thrown into one of the boats, which they found, by calculation, would be
sufficient to last sixteen days, on an allowance of two wine-glasses of
water per day to each man, and a very small quantity of bread, the
weight of which was accurately ascertained by a musket-ball, and a pair
of wooden scales made for each boat.

The crew and the prisoners were now distributed among the four boats. At
Bligh's 'Mountainous Island,' they entered a bay where swarms of natives
came down and made signs for their landing; but this they declined to
do; on which an arrow was discharged and struck one of the boats; and as
the savages were seen to be collecting their bows and arrows, a volley
of muskets, a few of which happened to be in the boats, was discharged,
which put them to flight. While sailing among the islands and near the
shore, they now and then stopped to pick up a few oysters, and procure a
little fresh water. On the 2nd September, they passed the north-west
point of New Holland, and launched into the great Indian Ocean, having a
voyage of about a thousand miles still to perform.

It will be recollected that Captain Bligh's people received warmth and
comfort by wringing out their clothes in salt-water. The same practice
was adopted by the crews of the _Pandora's_ boats; but the doctor
observes, that 'this wetting their bodies with salt water is not
advisable, if protracted beyond three or four days, as, after that time,
the great absorption from the skin that takes place, taints the fluids
with the bitter part of salt water, so that the saliva becomes
intolerable in the mouth.' Their mouths, indeed, he says, became so
parched, that few attempted to eat the slender allowance of bread. He
also remarks, that as the sufferings of the people continued, their
temper became cross and savage. In the captain's boat, it is stated, one
of the mutineers took to praying; but that 'the captain, suspecting the
purity of his doctrines, and unwilling that he should have a monopoly of
the business, gave prayers himself.'

On the 13th, they saw the island of Timor, and the next morning landed
and got some water, and a few small fish from the natives; and on the
night of the 15th, anchored opposite the fort of Coupang. Nothing could
exceed the kindness and hospitality of the governor and other Dutch
officers of this settlement, in affording every possible assistance and
relief in their distressed condition. Having remained here three weeks,
they embarked on the 6th October, on board the _Rembang_ Dutch Indiaman,
and on the 30th, anchored at Samarang, where they were agreeably
surprised to find their little Tender, which they had so long given up
for lost. On the 7th November they arrived at Batavia, where Captain
Edwards agreed with the Dutch East India Company, to divide the whole
of the ship's company and prisoners among four of their ships proceeding
to Europe. The latter the captain took with him in the _Vreedenburgh_;
but finding his Majesty's ship _Gorgon_ at the Cape, he transhipped
himself and prisoners, and proceeded in her to Spithead, where he
arrived on the 19th June, 1792.

Captain Edwards, in his meagre narrative, takes no more notice of his
prisoners with regard to the mode in which they were disposed of at
Coupang and Batavia, than he does when the _Pandora_ went down. In fact,
he suppresses all information respecting them, from the day in which
they were consigned to '_Pandora's_ Box.' From this total indifference
towards these unfortunate men, and their almost unparalleled sufferings,
Captain Edwards must be set down as a man, whose only feeling was to
stick to the letter of his instructions, and rigidly to adhere to what
he considered the strict line of his duty; that he was a man of a cold
phlegmatic disposition, whom no distress could move, and whose feelings
were not easily disturbed by the sufferings of his fellow-creatures. He
appears to have been one of those mortals, who might say, with Manfred -

My spirit walk'd not with the souls of men;

* * * * *

My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers,
Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh!

There seems to have been a general feeling at and before the
court-martial, that Captain Edwards had exercised a harsh, unnecessary,
and undue degree of severity on his prisoners. It is the custom,
sanctioned no doubt by long usage, to place in irons all such as may
have been guilty of mutiny in a ship of war, and the necessity of so
doing is obvious enough - to prevent, in the most effectual manner,
communication with the rest of the ship's company, who might be
contaminated by their intercourse with such mischievous and designing
men; men whose crime is of that dye, that, if found guilty, they have
little hope to escape the punishment of death, to which a mutineer must,
by the naval articles of war, be sentenced; no alternative being left to
a court-martial, in such a case, but to pronounce a sentence of
acquittal or of death.

In the present case, however, most of the prisoners had surrendered
themselves; many of them had taken no active part in the mutiny; and
others had been forcibly compelled to remain in the ship. It was not
likely, therefore, that any danger could arise from indulging them
occasionally, and in turns, with a few hours of fresh air on deck. As
little danger was there of their escaping; where indeed could they
escape to - especially when the ship was going down, at a great distance
from any shore, and the nearest one known to be inhabited by savages?
All or most of them were desirous of getting home, and throwing
themselves on God and their country. The captain, however, had no
'compunctious visitings of nature' to shake his purpose, which seems to
have been, to keep them strictly in irons during the whole passage, and
to deliver them over in that state on his arrival in England.

Perhaps the circumstance of the crime of piracy, being superadded to
that of mutiny, may have operated on his stern nature, and induced him
to inflict a greater severity of punishment than he might otherwise have
done, and which he certainly did far beyond the letter and spirit of his
instructions. He might have considered that, in all ages and among all
nations, with the exception of some of the Greek states,[18] piracy has
been held in the utmost abhorrence, and those guilty of it treated with
singular and barbarous severity; and that the most sanguinary laws were
established for the protection of person and property in maritime
adventure. The laws of Oleron, which were composed under the immediate
direction of our Richard I., and became the common usage among maritime
states, whose vessels passed through British seas, are conceived in a
spirit of the most barbarous cruelty.[19] Thus, if a poor pilot, through
ignorance, lost the vessel, he was either required to make full
satisfaction to the merchant for damages sustained, or to lose his head.
In the case of wrecks, where the lord of the coast (something like our
present vice-admiral) should be found to be in league with the pilots,
and run the ships on rocks, in order to get salvage, the said lord, the
salvers, and all concerned, are declared to be accursed and
excommunicated, and punished as thieves and robbers; and the pilot
condemned to be hanged upon a high gibbet, which is to abide and remain
to succeeding ages, on the place where erected, as a visible caution to
other ships sailing thereby. Nor was the fate of the lord of the coast
less severe, - his property was to be confiscated, and himself fastened
to a post in the midst of his own mansion, which being fired at the four
corners, were all to be burned together; the walls thereof demolished;
and the spot on which it stood be converted into a market-place, for the
sale only of hogs and swine, to all posterity.

These and many other barbarous usages were transferred into the
institutions of Wisbuy, which formed the _jus mercatorum_ for a long
period, and in which great care was taken for the security of ships
against their crews. Among other articles are the following. - Whoever
draws a sword upon the master of a vessel, or wilfully falsifies the
compass, shall have his right hand nailed to the mast. - Whoever behaves
riotously shall be punished by being keel-hauled. - Whoever is guilty of
rebellion (or mutiny) shall be thrown overboard.

For the suppression of piracy, the Portuguese, in their early
intercourse with India, had a summary punishment, and accompanied it
with a terrible example to deter others from the commission of the
crime. Whenever they took a pirate ship, they instantly hanged every
man, carried away the sails, rudder, and everything that was valuable in
the ship, and left her to be buffeted about by the winds and the waves,
with the carcasses of the criminals dangling from the yards, a horrid
object of terror to all who might chance to fall in with her. Even to
this day, a spice of the laws of Oleron still remains in the maritime
code of European nations, as far as regards mutiny and piracy; and a
feeling of this kind may have operated on the mind of Captain Edwards,
especially as a tendency even to mutiny, or mutinous expressions, are
considered, by the usage of the service, as justifying the commander of
a ship of war to put the offenders in irons. Besides, the treatment of
Bligh, whose admirable conduct under the unparalleled sufferings of
himself and all who accompanied him in the open boat, had roused the
people of England to the highest pitch of indignation against Christian
and his associates, in which Edwards no doubt participated.

The following letter of Mr. Peter Heywood to his mother removes all
doubt as to the character and conduct of this officer. It is an artless
and pathetic tale, and, as his amiable sister says, 'breathes not a
syllable inconsistent with truth and honour.'

'_Batavia, November 20th_, 1791.

'MY EVER-HONOURED AND DEAREST MOTHER, - At length the time has
arrived when you are once more to hear from your ill-fated
son, whose conduct at the capture of that ship, in which it
was my fortune to embark, has, I fear, from what has since
happened to me, been grossly misrepresented to you by
Lieutenant Bligh, who, by not knowing the real cause of my
remaining on board, naturally suspected me, unhappily for me,
to be a coadjutor in the mutiny; but I never, to my knowledge,
whilst under his command, behaved myself in a manner
unbecoming the station I occupied, nor so much as even
entertained a thought derogatory to his honour, so as to give
him the least grounds for entertaining an opinion of me so
ungenerous and undeserved; for I flatter myself he cannot give
a character of my conduct, whilst I was under his tuition,
that could merit the slightest scrutiny. Oh! my dearest
mother, I hope you have not so easily credited such an account
of me; do but let me vindicate my conduct, and declare to you
the true cause of my remaining in the ship, and you will then
see how little I deserve censure, and how I have been injured
by so gross an aspersion. I shall then give you a short and
cursory account of what has happened to me since; but I am
afraid to say a hundredth part of what I have got in store,
for I am not allowed the use of writing materials, if known,
so that this is done by stealth; but if it should ever come to
your hands, it will, I hope, have the desired effect of
removing your uneasiness on my account, when I assure you,
before the face of God, of my innocence of what is laid to my
charge. How I came to remain on board was thus: -

'The morning the ship was taken, it being my watch below,
happening to awake just after daylight, and looking out of my
hammock, I saw a man sitting upon the arm-chest in the main
hatchway, with a drawn cutlass in his hand, the reason of
which I could not divine; so I got out of bed and inquired of
him what was the cause of it. He told me that Mr. Christian,

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Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 11 of 24)