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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assisted by some of the ship's company had seized the captain
and put him in confinement; had taken the command of the ship
and meant to carry Bligh home a prisoner, in order to try him
by court-martial, for his long tyrannical and oppressive
conduct to his people. I was quite thunderstruck; and hurrying
into my berth again, told one of my messmates, whom I awakened
out of his sleep, what had happened. Then dressing myself, I
went up the fore-hatchway, and saw what he had told me was but
too true; and again, I asked some of the people, who were
under arms, what was going to be done with the captain, who
was then on the larboard side of the quarter-deck, with his
hands tied behind his back, and Mr. Christian alongside him
with a pistol and drawn bayonet. I now heard a very different
story, and that the captain was to be sent ashore to Tofoa in
the launch, and that those who would not join Mr. Christian
might either accompany the captain, or would be taken in irons
to Otaheite and left there. The relation of two stories so
different, left me unable to judge which could be the true
one; but seeing them hoisting the boats out, it seemed to
prove the latter.

'In this trying situation, young and inexperienced as I was,
and without an adviser (every person being as it were
infatuated, and not knowing what to do), I remained for awhile
a silent spectator of what was going on; and after revolving
the matter in my mind, I determined to choose what I thought
the lesser of two evils and stay by the ship; for I had no
doubt that those who went on shore, in the launch, would be
put to death by the savage natives, whereas the Otaheitans
being a humane and generous race, one might have a hope of
being kindly received, and remain there until the arrival of
some ship, which seemed, to silly me, the most consistent with
reason and rectitude.

'While this resolution possessed my mind, at the same time
lending my assistance to hoist out the boats, the hurry and
confusion affairs were in, and thinking my intention just, I
never thought of going to Mr. Bligh for advice; besides, what
confirmed me in it was, my seeing two experienced officers,
when ordered into the boat by Mr. Christian, desire his
permission to remain in the ship (one of whom, my own
messmate, Mr. Hayward), and I being assisting to clear the
launch of yams, he asked me what I intended to do? I told
him, to remain in the ship. Now this answer, I imagine, he has
told Mr, Bligh I made to him; from which, together with my not
speaking to him that morning, his suspicions of me have
arisen, construing my conduct into what is foreign to my

'Thus, my dearest mother, it was all owing to my youth and
unadvised inexperience, but has been interpreted into villany
and disregard of my country's laws, the ill effects of which I
at present, and still am to, labour under for some months
longer. And now, after what I have asserted, I may still once
more retrieve my injured reputation, be again reinstated in
the affection and favour of the most tender of mothers, and be
still considered as her ever dutiful son.

'I was not undeceived in my erroneous decision till too late,
which was after the captain was in the launch; for while I was
talking to the master-at-arms, one of the ringleaders in the
affair, my other messmate whom I had left in his hammock in
the berth (Mr. Stewart), came up to me, and asked me, if I was
not going in the launch? I replied, No - upon which he told me
not to think of such a thing as remaining behind, but take his
advice and go down below with him to get a few necessary
things, and make haste to go with him into the launch; adding
that, by remaining in the ship, I should incur an equal share
of guilt with the mutineers themselves. I reluctantly followed
his advice - I say _reluctantly_, because I knew no better, and
was foolish; and the boat swimming very deep in the
water - the land being far distant - the thoughts of being
sacrificed by the natives - and the self-consciousness of my
first intention being just - all these considerations almost
staggered my resolution; however, I preferred my companion's
judgement to my own, and we both jumped down the main-hatchway
to prepare ourselves for the boat - but, no sooner were we in
the berth, than the master-at-arms ordered the sentry to keep
us both in the berth till he should receive orders to release
us. We desired the master-at-arms to acquaint Mr. Bligh of our
intention, which we had reason to think he never did, nor were
we permitted to come on deck until the launch was a long way
astern. I now, when too late, saw my error.

'At the latter end of May, we got to an island to the
southward of Taheité, called Tooboui, where they intended to
make a settlement, but finding no stock there of any kind,
they agreed to go to Taheité, and, after procuring hogs and
fowls, to return to Tooboui and remain. So, on the 6th June,
we arrived at Taheité, where I was in hopes I might find an
opportunity of running away, and remaining on shore, but I
could not effect it, as there was always too good a look-out
kept to prevent any such steps being taken. And besides, they
had all sworn that should any one make his escape, they would
force the natives to restore him, and would then shoot him as
an example to the rest; well knowing, that any one by
remaining there might be the means (should a ship arrive) of
discovering their intended place of abode. Finding it
therefore impracticable, I saw no other alternative but to
rest as content as possible and return to Tooboui, and there
wait till the masts of the _Bounty_ should be taken out, and
then take the boat which might carry me to Taheité, and
disable those remaining from pursuit.[20] But Providence so
ordered it, that we had no occasion to try our fortune at such
a hazard, for, upon returning there and remaining till the
latter end of August, in which time a fort was almost built,
but nothing could be effected; and as the natives could not be
brought to friendly terms, and with whom we had many
skirmishes, and narrow escapes from being cut off by them,
and, what was still worse, internal broils and
discontent, - these things determined part of the people to
leave the island and go to Taheité, which was carried by a
majority of votes.

'This being carried into execution on the 22nd September, and
having anchored in Matavai bay, the next morning my messmate
(Mr. Stewart) and I went on shore, to the house of an old
landed proprietor, our former friend; and being now set free
from a lawless crew, determined to remain as much apart from
them as possible, and wait patiently for the arrival of a
ship. Fourteen more of the _Bounty's_ people came likewise on
shore, and Mr. Christian and eight men went away with the
ship, but God knows whither. Whilst we remained here, we were
treated by our kind and friendly natives with a generosity and
humanity almost unparalleled, and such as we could hardly have
expected from the most civilized people.

'To be brief - having remained here till the latter end of
March, 1791, on the 26th of that month, his Majesty's ship
_Pandora_ arrived, and had scarcely anchored, when my messmate
and I went on board and made ourselves known; and having
learnt from one of the natives who had been off in a canoe,
that our former messmate Mr. Hayward, now promoted to the rank
of lieutenant, was on board, we asked for him, supposing he
might prove the assertions of our innocence. But he (like all
worldlings when raised a little in life) received us very
coolly, and pretended ignorance of our affairs; yet formerly,
he and I were bound in brotherly love and friendship.
Appearances being so much against us, we were ordered to be
put in irons, and looked upon - oh, infernal words! - as
_piratical villains_. A rebuff so severe as this was, to a
person unused to troubles, would perhaps have been
insupportable, but to me, who had now been long inured to the
frowns of fortune, and feeling myself supported by an inward
consciousness of not deserving it, it was received with the
greatest composure, and a full determination to bear it with

'My sufferings, however, I have not power to describe; but
though they are great, yet I thank God for enabling me to bear
them without repining. I endeavour to qualify my affliction
with these three considerations, first, my innocence not
deserving them; secondly, that they cannot last long; and
thirdly, that the change may be for the better. The first
improves my hopes; the second, my patience; and the third, my
courage. I am young in years, but old in what the world calls
adversity; and it has had such an effect, as to make me
consider it the most beneficial incident that could have
occurred at my age. It has made me acquainted with three
things which are little known, and as little believed by any
but those who have felt their effects: first, the villany and
censoriousness of mankind; secondly, the futility of all human
hopes; and thirdly, the happiness of being content in whatever
station it may please Providence to place me. In short, it has
made me more of a philosopher, than many years of a life spent
in ease and pleasure would have done.

'As they will no doubt proceed to the greatest lengths against
me, I being the only surviving officer, and they most inclined
to believe a prior story, all that can be said to confute it
will probably be looked upon as mere falsity and invention.
Should that be my unhappy case, and they resolved upon my
destruction as an example to futurity, may God enable me to
bear my fate with the fortitude of a man, conscious that
misfortune, not any misconduct, is the cause, and that the
Almighty can attest my innocence. Yet why should I despond? I
have, I hope, still a friend in that Providence which hath
preserved me amidst many greater dangers, and upon whom alone
I now depend for safety. God will always protect those who
deserve it. These are the sole considerations which have
enabled me to make myself easy and content under my past

'Twelve more of the people who were at Otaheite having
delivered themselves up, there was a sort of prison built on
the after-part of the quarter-deck, into which we were all put
in close confinement with both legs and both hands in irons,
and were treated with great rigour, not being allowed ever to
get out of this den; and, being obliged to eat, drink, sleep,
and obey the calls of nature here, you may form some idea of
the disagreeable situation I must have been in, unable as I
was to help myself (being deprived of the use of both my legs
and hands), but by no means adequate to the reality.

'On the 9th May we left Otaheite, and proceeded to the
Friendly Islands, and about the beginning of August, got in
among the reefs of New Holland, to endeavour to discover a
passage through them; but it was not effected, for the
_Pandora_, ever unlucky, and as if devoted by heaven to
destruction, was driven by a current upon the patch of a reef,
and on which, there being a heavy surf, she was soon almost
bulged to pieces; but having thrown all the guns on one side
overboard, and the tide flowing at the same time, she beat
over the reef into a basin and brought up in fourteen or
fifteen fathoms; but she was so much damaged while on the
reef, that imagining she would go to pieces every moment, we
had contrived to wrench ourselves out of our irons, and
applied to the captain to have mercy on us, and suffer us to
take our chance for the preservation of our lives; but it was
all in vain - he was even so inhuman as to order us all to be
put in irons again, though the ship was expected to go down
every moment, being scarcely able to keep her under with all
the pumps at work.

'In this miserable situation, with an expected death before
our eyes, without the least hope of relief, and in the most
trying state of suspense, we spent the night, the ship being
by the hand of Providence kept up till the morning. The boats
by this time had all been prepared; and as the captain and
officers were coming upon the poop or roof of our prison, to
abandon the ship, the water being then up to the coamings of
the hatchways, we again implored his mercy; upon which he sent
the corporal and an armourer down to let some of us out of
irons, but three only were suffered to go up, and the scuttle
being then clapped on, and the master-at-arms upon it, the
armourer had only time to let two persons out of irons, the
rest, except three, letting themselves out; two of these three
went down with them on their hands, and the third was picked
up. She now began to heel over to port so very much, that the
master-at-arms, sliding overboard, and leaving the scuttle
vacant, we all tried to get up, and I was the last out but
three. The water was then pouring in at the bulk-head
scuttles, yet I succeeded in getting out, and was scarcely in
the sea when I could see nothing above it but the cross-trees,
and nothing around me but a scene of the greatest distress. I
took a plank (being stark-naked) and swam towards an island
about three miles off, but was picked up on my passage by one
of the boats. When we got ashore to the small sandy key, we
found there were thirty-four men drowned, four of whom were
prisoners, and among these was my unfortunate messmate (Mr.
Stewart); ten of us, and eighty-nine of the _Pandora's_ crew,
were saved.

'When a survey was made of what provisions had been saved,
they were found to consist of two or three bags of bread, two
or three breakers of water, and a little wine; so we subsisted
three days upon two wine-glasses of water, and two ounces of
bread per day. On the 1st September we left the island, and on
the 16th, arrived at Coupang in the island of Timor, having
been on short allowance eighteen days. We were put in
confinement in the castle, where we remained till October, and
on the 5th of that month were sent on board a Dutch ship bound
for Batavia.

'Though I have been eight months in close confinement in a hot
climate, I have kept my health in a most surprising manner,
without the least indisposition, and am still perfectly well
in every respect, in mind as well as body; but without a
friend, and only a shirt and pair of trousers to put on, and
carry me home. Yet with all this I have a contented mind,
entirely resigned to the will of Providence, which conduct
alone enables me to soar above the reach of unhappiness.'

In a subsequent letter to his sister he says,
'I send you two little sketches of the manner in which his Majesty's
ship _Pandora_ went down on the 29th August, and of the appearance
which we who survived made on the small sandy key within the reef,
about ninety yards long and sixty broad, in all ninety-nine souls;
here we remained three days, subsisting on a single wine-glass of
wine or water, and two ounces of bread a day, with no shelter from
the meridian and then vertical sun. Captain Edwards had tents
erected for himself and his people, and we prisoners petitioned him
for an old sail which was lying useless, part of the wreck, but he
refused it; and the only shelter we had was to bury ourselves up to
the neck in the burning sand, which scorched the skin entirely off
our bodies, for we were quite naked, and we appeared as if dipped
in large tubs of boiling water. We were nineteen days in the same
miserable situation before we landed at Coupang. I was in the ship,
in irons, hands and feet, much longer than till the position you
now see her in, the poop alone being above water (and that knee
deep), when a kind Providence assisted me to get out of irons and
escape from her.'

The treatment of these unhappy men was almost as bad at Batavia as in
the _Pandora_, being closely confined in irons in the castle, and fed on
very bad provisions; and the hardships they endured on their passage to
England, in Dutch ships, were very severe, having, as he says, slept on
nothing but hard boards on wet canvas, without any bed, for seventeen
months, always subsisting on short allowance of execrable provisions,
and without any clothes for some time, except such as the charity of two
young men in the ship supplied him with. He had during his confinement
at Batavia learned to make straw hats, and finished several with both
his hands in fetters, which he sold for half-a-crown a-piece; and with
the produce of these he procured a suit of coarse clothes, in which,
with a cheerful and light heart, notwithstanding all his sufferings, he
arrived at Portsmouth. How he preserved his health under the dreadful
sufferings he endured, and in eight months' close confinement in a hot
climate, is quite wonderful.

On the second day after the arrival of the _Gorgon_ at Spithead the
prisoners were transferred to the _Hector_, commanded by Captain (the
late Admiral Sir George) Montague, where they were treated with the
greatest humanity, and every indulgence allowed that could with
propriety be extended to men in their unhappy situation, until the
period when they were to be arraigned before the competent authority,
and put on their trials for mutiny and piracy, which did not take place
until the month of September.

In this period of anxious and awful suspense, a most interesting
correspondence was carried on between this unfortunate youth and his
numerous friends, which exhibits the character of himself and the whole
family in the most amiable and affectionate colours, and in a more
particular manner, of that adorable creature, his sister Nessy, who, in
one of her letters, accounts for the peculiar warmth of her attachment
and expressions by their being nearly of the same age, and engaged in
the same pursuits, whether of study or amusement in their juvenile
years. The poor mother, on hearing of his arrival, thus addresses her
unfortunate son: -

'_Isle of Man, June 29th,_ 1792.

'Oh! my ever dearly-beloved and long-lost son, with what
anxiety have I waited for this period! I have counted the
days, hours, and even minutes, since I first heard of the
horrid and unfortunate mutiny which has so long deprived me of
my dearest boy: but now the happy time is come when, though I
cannot have the unspeakable pleasure of seeing and embracing
you, yet I hope we may be allowed to correspond; surely there
can be nothing improper in a liberty of this sort between an
affectionate mother and her dutiful and beloved son, who, I am
perfectly convinced, was never guilty of the crime he has been
suspected of by those who did not know his worth and truth. I
have not the least doubt but that the all-gracious God, who of
his good providence has protected you so long, and brought you
safe through so many dangers and difficulties, will still
protect you, and at your trial make your innocence appear as
clear as the light. All your letters have come safe to me, and
to my very dear good Nessy. Ah! Peter, with what real joy did
we all receive them, and how happy are we that you are now
safe in England! I will endeavour, my dearest lad, to make
your present situation as comfortable as possible, for so
affectionate and good a son deserves my utmost attention.
Nessy has written to our faithful and kind friend, Mr.
Heywood, of Plymouth, for his advice, whether it would be
proper for her to come up to you; if he consents to her so
doing, not a moment shall be lost, and how happy shall I be
when she is with you! Such a sister as she is! Oh! Peter, she
is a most valuable girl,' etc.

On the same day this 'most valuable girl' thus writes: - [21]

Providence which has so miraculously preserved you, your fond,
anxious, and, till now, miserable Nessy, is at last permitted
to address the object of her tenderest affection in England!
Oh! my admirable, my heroic boy, what have we felt on your
account! yet how small, how infinitely trifling was the misery
of our situation when compared with the horror of yours! Let
me now, however, with confidence hope that the God of all
mercies has not so long protected you in vain, but will at
length crown your fortitude and pious resignation to His will
with that peace and happiness you so richly merit. How blest
did your delightful and yet dreadful letter from Batavia make
us all! Surely, my beloved boy, you could not for a moment
imagine we ever supposed you guilty of the crime of mutiny.
No, no; believe me, no earthly power could have persuaded us
that it was possible for you to do anything inconsistent with
strict honour and duty. So well did we know your amiable,
steady principles, that we were assured your reasons for
staying behind would turn out such as you represent them; and
I firmly trust that Providence will at length restore you to
those dear and affectionate friends, who can know no happiness
until they are blest with your loved society. Take care of
your precious health, my angelic boy. I shall soon be with
you; I have written to Mr. Heywood (your and our excellent
friend and protector) for his permission to go to you
immediately, which my uncle Heywood, without first obtaining
it, would not allow, fearing lest any precipitate step might
injure you at present; and I only wait the arrival of his next
letter to fly into your arms. Oh! my best beloved Peter, how I
anticipate the rapture of that moment! - for alas! I have no
joy, no happiness, but in your beloved society, and no hopes,
no fears, no wishes, but for you.'

Mr. Heywood's sisters all address their unfortunate brother in
the same affectionate, but less impassioned strain; and a
little trait of good feeling is mentioned, on the part of an
old female servant, that shows what a happy and attached
family the Heywoods were, previous to the melancholy affair in
which their boy became entangled. Mrs. Heywood says, 'my good
honest Birket is very well, and says your safe return has made
her more happy than she has been for these two and forty years
she has been in our family.' And Miss Nessy tells him, 'Poor
Birket, the most faithful and worthiest of servants, desires
me to tell you that she almost dies with joy at the thought of
your safe arrival in England. What agony, my dear boy, has she
felt on your account! her affection for you knows no bounds,
and her misery has indeed been extreme; but she still lives to
bless your virtues.'

The poor prisoner thus replies, from his Majesty's ship _Hector_, to his
'beloved sisters all': -

'This day I had the supreme happiness of your long-expected
letters, and I am not able to express the pleasure and joy
they afforded me; at the sight of them my spirits, low and
dejected, were at once exhilarated; my heart had long and
greatly suffered from my impatience to hear of those most dear
to me, and was tossed and tormented by the storms of fearful
conjecture - but they are now subsided, and my bosom has at
length attained that long-lost serenity and calmness it once

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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 12 of 24)