Sir John Barrow.

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

. (page 15 of 24)
Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 15 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

'Such, then, was exactly my situation on board the _Bounty_;
to be starved to death, or drowned, appeared to be inevitable
if I went in the boat; and surely it is not to be wondered at,
if, at the age of sixteen years, with no one to advise with,
and so ignorant of the discipline of the service (having never
been at sea before) as not to know or even suppose it was
possible that what I should determine upon might afterwards be
alleged against me as a crime - I say, under such
circumstances, in so trying a situation, can it be wondered
at, if I suffered the preservation of my life to be the first,
and to supersede every other, consideration.

'Besides, through the medium of the master, the captain had
directed the rest of the officers to remain on board, in hopes
of retaking the ship. Such is the master's assertion, and such
the report on board, and as it accorded with my own wishes for
the preservation of my life, I felt myself doubly justified in
staying on board, not only as it appeared to be safer than
going in the boat, but from a consideration also of being in
the way to be useful in assisting to accomplish so desirable a
wish of the captain.

'Let it not - for God's sake - let it not be argued that my
fears were groundless, and that the arrival of the boat at
Timor is a proof that my conduct was wrong. This would be
judging from the event, and I think I have plainly shown that,
but for the death of Norton at Tofoa, and the prudent order of
the captain not to overload the boat, neither himself nor any
of the people who were saved with him, would at this moment
have been alive to have preferred any charge against me, or
given evidence at this trial.

'If deliberate guilt be necessarily affixed to all who
continued on board the ship, and that in consequence they must
be numbered with Christian's party - in such a strict view of
matters it must irrevocably impeach the armourer and two
carpenter's mates, as well as Martin and Byrne, who certainly
wished to quit the ship. And if Christian's first intention of
sending away the captain, with a few persons only, in the
small cutter, had not been given up, or if even the large
cutter had not been exchanged for the launch, more than half
of those who did go with him would have been obliged to stay
with me. Forgetful for a moment of my own misfortunes, I
cannot help being agitated at the bare thought of their narrow

'Every body must, and I am sure that this Court will, allow
that my case is a peculiarly hard one, inasmuch as the running
away with the ship is a proof of the mutiny having been
committed. The innocent and the guilty are upon exactly the
same footing - had the former been confined by sickness,
without a leg to stand on, or an arm to assist them in
opposing the mutineers, they must have been put upon their
trial, and instead of the captain being obliged to prove their
guilt, it would have been incumbent upon them to have proved
themselves innocent. How can this be done but negatively? If
all who wished it could not accompany the captain, they were
necessarily compelled to stay with Christian; and being with
him, were dependent on him, subject to his orders, however
disinclined to obey them, for force in such a state is
paramount to every thing. But when, on the contrary, instead
of being in arms, or obeying any orders of the mutineers, I
did every thing in my power to assist the captain, and those
who went with him, and by all my actions (except in neglecting
to do what, if I had done, must have endangered the lives of
those who were so fortunate as to quit the ship) I showed
myself faithful to the last moment of the captain's stay, what
is there to leave a doubt in the minds of impartial and
dispassionate men of my being perfectly innocent? Happy indeed
should I have been if the master had stayed on board, which he
probably would have done, if his reasons for wishing to do so
had not been overheard by the man who was in the bread-room.

'Captain Bligh in his narrative acknowledges that he had left
some friends on board the _Bounty_, and no part of my conduct
could have induced him to believe that I ought not to be
reckoned of the number. Indeed from his attention to and very
kind treatment of me personally, I should have been a monster
of depravity to have betrayed him. The idea alone is
sufficient to disturb a mind where humanity and gratitude
have, I hope, ever been noticed as its characteristic
features; and yet Mr. Hallet has said that he saw me laugh at
a time when, Heaven knows, the conflict in my own mind,
independent of the captain's situation, rendered such a want
of decency impossible. The charge in its nature is dreadful,
but I boldly declare, notwithstanding an internal conviction
of my innocence has enabled me to endure my sufferings for the
last sixteen months, could I have laid to my heart so heavy
an accusation, I should not have lived to defend myself from
it. And this brings to my recollection another part of Captain
Bligh's narrative, in which he says, "I was kept apart from
every one, and all I could do was by speaking to them in
general, but my endeavours were of no avail, for I was kept
securely bound, and no one but the guard was suffered to come
near me."

'If the captain, whose narrative we may suppose to have been a
detail of every thing which happened, could only recollect
that he had spoken generally to the people, I trust it will
hardly be believed that Mr. Hallet, without notes, at so
distant a period as this, should be capable of recollecting
that he heard him speak to any one in particular; and here it
may not be improper to observe that, at the time to which I
allude, Mr. Hallet (if I am rightly informed) could not have
been more than fifteen years of age. I mean not to impeach his
courage, but I think if circumstances be considered, and an
adequate idea of the confused state of the ship can be formed
by this Court, it will not appear probable that this young
gentleman should have been so perfectly unembarrassed as to
have been able to particularize the muscles of a man's
countenance, even at a considerable distance from him; and
what is still more extraordinary is, that he heard the captain
call to me from abaft the mizen to the platform where I was
standing, which required an exertion of voice, and must have
been heard and noticed by all who were present, as the captain
and Christian were at that awful moment the objects of every
one's peculiar attention; yet he who was standing between us,
and noticing the transactions of us both, could not hear what
was said.

'To me it has ever occurred that diffidence is very becoming,
and of all human attainments a knowledge of ourselves is the
most difficult; and if, in the ordinary course of life, it is
not an easy matter precisely to account for our own actions,
how much more difficult and hazardous must it be, in new and
momentous scenes, when the mind is hurried and distressed by
conflicting passions, to judge of another's conduct; and yet
here are two young men, who, after a lapse of near four years
(in which period one of them, like myself, has grown from a
boy to be a man), without hesitation, in a matter on which my
life is depending, undertake to account for some of my
actions, at a time, too, when some of the most experienced
officers in the ship are not ashamed to acknowledge they were
overcome by the confusion which the mutiny occasioned, and are
incapable of recollecting a number of their own transactions
on that day.

'I can only oppose to such open boldness the calm suggestions
of reason, and would willingly be persuaded that the
impression under which this evidence has been given is not in
any degree open to suspicion. I would be understood, at the
same time, not to mean anything injurious to the character of
Mr. Hallet, and for Mr. Hayward, I ever loved him, and must do
him the justice to declare, that whatever cause I may have to
deplore the effect of his evidence, or rather his opinion, for
he has deposed no fact against me, yet I am convinced it was
given conscientiously, and with a tenderness and feeling
becoming a man of honour.

'But may they not both be mistaken? Let it be remembered that
their long intimacy with Captain Bligh, in whose distresses
they were partakers, and whose sufferings were severely felt
by them, naturally begot an abhorrence towards those whom they
thought the authors of their misery, - might they not forget
that the story had been told to them, and by first of all
believing, then constantly thinking of it, be persuaded at
last it was a fact within the compass of their own knowledge.

'It is the more natural to believe it is so, from Mr. Hallet's
forgetting what the captain said upon the occasion, which, had
he been so collected as he pretends to have been, he certainly
must have heard. Mr. Hayward, also, it is evident, has made a
mistake in point of time as to the seeing me with Morrison and
Millward upon the booms; for the boatswain and carpenter in
their evidence have said, and the concurring testimony of
every one supports the fact, that the mutiny had taken place,
and the captain was on deck, before they came up, and it was
not till after that time that the boatswain called Morrison
and Millward out of their hammocks; therefore to have seen me
at all upon the booms with those two men, it must have been
long after the time that Mr. Hayward has said it was. Again,
Mr. Hayward has said that he could not recollect the day nor
even the month when the _Pandora_ arrived at Otaheite. Neither
did Captain Edwards recollect when, on his return, he wrote to
the Admiralty, that Michael Byrne had surrendered himself as
one of the _Bounty's_ people, but in that letter he reported
him as having been apprehended, which plainly shows that the
memory is fallible to a very great degree; and it is a fair
conclusion to draw that, if when the mind is at rest, which
must have been the case with Mr. Hayward in the _Pandora_, and
things of a few months' date are difficult to be remembered,
it is next to impossible, in the state which every body was on
board the _Bounty_, to remember their particular actions at
the distance of three years and a half after they were

'As to the advice he says he gave me, to go into the boat, I
can only say, I have a faint recollection of a short
conversation with somebody - I thought it was Mr. Stewart - but
be that as it may, I think I may take upon me to say it was on
deck and not below, for on hearing it suggested that I should
be deemed guilty if I stayed in the ship, I went down
directly, and in passing Mr. Cole, told him, in a low tone of
voice, that I would fetch a few necessaries in a bag and
follow him into the boat, which at that time I meant to do,
but was afterwards prevented.

'Surely I shall not be deemed criminal that I hesitated at
getting into a boat whose gunnel, when she left the ship, was
not quite eight inches above the surface of the water. And
if, in the moment of unexpected trial, fear and confusion
assailed my untaught judgement, and that by remaining in the
ship I appeared to deny my commander, it was in appearance
only - it was the sin of my head - for I solemnly assure you
before God, that it was not the vileness of my heart.

'I was surprised into my error by a mixture of ignorance,
apprehension, and the prevalence of example; and, alarmed as I
was from my sleep, there was little opportunity and less time
for better recollection. The captain, I am persuaded, did not
see me during the mutiny, for I retired, as it were, in
sorrowful suspense, alternately agitated between hope and
fear, not knowing what to do. The dread of being asked by him,
or of being ordered by Christian to go into the boat, - or,
which appeared to me worse than either, of being desired by
the latter to join his party, induced me to keep out of the
sight of both, until I was a second time confined in my berth
by Thompson, when the determination I had made was too late to
be useful.

'One instance of my conduct I had nearly forgot, which, with
much anxiety and great astonishment, I have heard observed
upon and considered as a fault, though I had imagined it
blameless, if not laudable - I mean the assistance I gave in
hoisting out the launch, which, by a mode of expression of the
boatswain's, who says I did it voluntarily (meaning that I did
not refuse my assistance when he asked me to give it), the
Court, I am afraid, has considered it as giving assistance to
the mutineers, and not done with a view to help the captain;
of which, however, I have no doubt of being able to give a
satisfactory explanation in evidence.

'Observations on matters of opinion I will endeavour to
forbear where they appear to have been formed from the impulse
of the moment; but I shall be pardoned for remembering Mr.
Hayward's (given I will allow with great deliberation, and
after long weighing the question which called for it), which
cannot be reckoned of that description, for although he says
he rather considered me as a friend to Christian's party, he
states that his last words to me were, "Peter, go into the
boat," which words could not have been addressed to one who
was of the party of the mutineers. And I am sure, if the
countenance is at all an index to the heart, mine must have
betrayed the sorrow and distress he has so accurately

'It were trespassing unnecessarily upon the patience of the
Court, to be giving a tedious history of what happened in
consequence of the mutiny, and how, through one very imprudent
step, I was unavoidably led into others.

'But, amidst all this pilgrimage of distress, I had a
conscience, thank heaven, which lulled away the pain of
personal difficulties, dangers, and distress. It was this
conscious principle which determined me not to hide myself as
if guilty. No - I welcomed the arrival of the _Pandora_ at
Otaheite, and embraced the earliest opportunity of freely
surrendering myself to the captain of that ship.

'By his order I was chained and punished with incredible
severity, though the ship was threatened with instant
destruction: when fear and trembling came on every man on
board, in vain, for a long time, were my earnest repeated
cries, that the galling irons might not, in that moment of
affrighting consternation, prevent my hands from being lifted
up to heaven for mercy.

'But though it cannot fail deeply to interest the humanity of
this Court, and kindle in the breast of every member of it
compassion for my sufferings, yet as it is not relative to the
point, and as I cannot for a moment believe that it proceeded
from any improper motive on the part of Captain Edwards, whose
character in the navy stands high in estimation both as an
officer and a man of humanity, but rather that he was actuated
in his conduct towards me by the imperious dictates of the
laws of the service, I shall, therefore, waive it, and say no
more upon the subject.

'Believe me, again I entreat you will believe me, when, in the
name of the tremendous judge of heaven and earth (before whose
vindictive Majesty I may be destined soon to appear), I now
assert my innocence of plotting, abetting, or assisting,
either by word or deed, the mutiny for which I am tried - for,
young as I am, I am still younger in the school of art and
such matured infamy.

'My parents (but I have only one left, a solitary and mournful
mother, who is at home weeping and trembling for the event of
this day), thanks to their fostering care, taught me betimes
to reverence God, to honour the king, and be obedient to his
laws; and at no one time have I resolutely or designedly been
an apostate to either.

'To this honourable Court, then, I now commit myself.

'My character and my life are at your disposal; and as the
former is as sacred to me as the latter is precious, the
consolation or settled misery of a dear mother and two
sisters, who mingle their tears together, and are all but
frantic for my situation - pause for your verdict.

'If I am found worthy of life, it shall be improved by past
experience, and especially taught from the serious lesson of
what has lately happened; but if nothing but death itself can
atone for my pitiable indiscretion, I bow with submission and
all due respect to your impartial decision.

'Not with sullen indifference shall I then meditate on my doom
as not deserving it - no, such behaviour would be an insult to
God and an affront to man, and the attentive and candid
deportment of my judges in this place requires more becoming
manners in me.

'Yet, if I am found guilty this day, they will not construe
it, I trust, as the least disrespect offered to their
discernment and opinion, if I solemnly declare that my heart
will rely with confidence in its own innocence, until that
awful period when my spirit shall be about to be separated
from my body to take its everlasting flight, and be ushered
into the presence of that unerring Judge, before whom all
hearts are open and from whom no secrets are hid.


His witnesses fully established the facts which he assumed in this
defence. He then delivered to the president a paper, of which the
following is a copy: -

'My Lord, - the Court having heard the witnesses I have been
enabled to call, it will be unnecessary to add anything to
their testimony in point of fact, or to observe upon it by way
of illustration. It is, I trust, sufficient to do away any
suspicion which may have fallen upon me, and to remove every
implication of guilt which, while unexplained, might by
possibility have attached to me. It is true I have, by the
absence of Captain Bligh, Simpson, and Tinkler, been deprived
of the opportunity of laying before the Court much that would
at least have been grateful to my feelings, though I hope not
necessary to my defence; as the former must have exculpated me
from the least disrespect, and the two last would have proved
past all contradiction that I was unjustly accused. I might
regret that in their absence I have been arraigned, but, thank
heaven, I have been enabled, by the very witnesses who were
called to criminate me, to oppose facts to opinions, and give
explanation to circumstances of suspicion.

'It has been proved that I was asleep at the time of the
mutiny, and waked only to confusion and dismay. It has been
proved, it is true, that I continued on board the ship, but it
has been also proved I was detained by force; and to this I
must add, I left the society of those with whom I was for a
time obliged to associate, as soon as possible, and with
unbounded satisfaction resigned myself to the Captain of the
_Pandora_, to whom I gave myself up, to whom I also delivered
my journal[25] (faithfully brought up to the preceding day),
and to whom I also gave every information in my power. I could
do no more; for at the first time we were at Otaheite it was
impossible for me, watched and suspected as I was, to separate
from the ship. My information to Captain Edwards was open,
sincere, and unqualified, and I had many opportunities given
me at different times of repeating it. Had a track been open
to my native country, I should have followed it; had a vessel
arrived earlier, I should earlier with the same eagerness have
embraced the opportunity, for I dreaded not an inquiry in
which I foresaw no discredit. But Providence ordained it
otherwise. I have been the victim of suspicion, and had nearly
fallen a sacrifice to misapprehension. I have, however,
hitherto surmounted it, and it only remains with this Court to
say, if my sufferings have not been equal to my indiscretion.

'The decision will be the voice of honour, and to that I must
implicitly resign myself.


_Mr. Morrison's Defence_

Sets out by stating that he was waked at daylight by Mr. Cole the
boatswain, who told him that the ship was taken by Christian; that he
assisted in clearing out the boat at Mr. Cole's desire, and says, 'While
I was thus employed Mr. Fryer came to me and asked if I had any hand in
the mutiny; I told him No. He then desired me to see who I could find to
assist me, and try to rescue the ship; I told him I feared it was then
too late, but would do my endeavour; when John Millward, who stood by
me, and heard what Mr. Fryer said, swore he would stand by me if an
opportunity offered. Mr. Fryer was about to speak again, but was
prevented by Matthew Quintal, who, with a pistol in one hand, collared
him with the other, saying, "Come, Mr. Fryer, you must go down into your
cabin"; and hauled him away. Churchill then came, and shaking his
cutlass at me, demanded what Mr. Fryer said. I told him that he only
asked me if they were going to have the long-boat, upon which Alexander
Smith (Adams), who stood on the opposite side of the boat, said, "It's a
d - d lie, Charley, for I saw him and Millward shake hands when the
master spoke to them." Churchill then said to me, "I would have you mind
how you come on, for I have an eye upon you." Smith at the same time
called out, "Stand to your arms, for they intend to make a rush." This,
as it was intended, put the mutineers on their guard, and I found it
necessary to be very cautious how I acted; and I heard Captain Bligh
say to Smith, "I did not expect you would be against me, Smith"; but I
could not hear what answer he made.'

He says that, while clearing the boat, he heard Christian order
Churchill to see that no arms were put into her; to keep Norman,
M'Intosh, and Coleman in the ship, and get the officers into the boat as
fast as possible; that Mr. Fryer begged permission to stay, but to no
purpose. On seeing Mr. Fryer and most of the officers going into the
boat, without the least appearance of an effort to rescue the ship, I
began to reflect on my own situation; and seeing the situation of the
boat, and considering that she was at least a thousand leagues from any
friendly settlement, and judging, from what I had seen of the Friendly
Islanders but a few days before, that nothing could be expected from
them but to be plundered or killed, and seeing no choice but of one
evil, I chose, as I thought the least, to stay in the ship, especially
as I considered it as obeying Captain Bligh's orders, and depending on
his promise to do justice to those who remained. I informed Mr. Cole of
my intention, who made me the like promise, taking me by the hand and
saying, "God bless you, my boy; I will do you justice if ever I reach

'I also informed Mr. Hayward of my intention; and on his dropping a hint
to me that he intended to knock Churchill down, I told him I would
second him, pointing to some of the Friendly Island clubs which were
sticking in the booms, and saying, "There were tools enough": but (he
adds) 'I was suddenly damped to find that he went into the boat without
making the attempt he had proposed.'

He then appeals to the members of the Court, as to the alternative they

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 15 of 24)