Sir John Barrow.

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

. (page 19 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 19 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

kindness and consideration shown to them.'

They now learned from Adams that Fletcher Christian, on finding no good
anchorage close to the island, and the _Bounty_ being too weakly manned
again to entrust themselves in her at sea, determined to run her into a
small creek against the cliff, in order the more conveniently to get out
of her such articles as might be of use, or necessary, for forming an
establishment on the island, and to land the hogs, goats, and poultry,
which they had brought from Otaheite; and having accomplished this point
he ordered her to be set on fire, with the view, probably, of preventing
any escape from the island, and also to remove an object that, if seen,
might excite the curiosity of some passing vessel, and thus be the means
of discovering his retreat. His plan succeeded, and by Adams's account,
everything went on smoothly for a short time; but it was clear enough
that this misguided and ill-fated young man was never happy after the
rash and criminal step he had taken; that he was always sullen and
morose; and committed so many acts of wanton oppression, as very soon
incurred the hatred and detestation of his companions in crime, over
whom he practised that same overbearing conduct, of which he accused
his commander Bligh. The object he had in view when he last left
Otaheite had now been accomplished; he had discovered an uninhabited
island out of the common track of ships, and established himself and his
associates; so far there was a chance that he had escaped all pursuit;
but there was no escaping from

Those rods of scorpions and those whips of steel
Which conscience shakes.

The fate of this misguided young man, brought on by his ill-treatment
both of his associates and the Indians he had carried off with him, was
such as might be expected - he was shot by an Otaheitan while digging in
his field, about eleven months after they had settled on the island, and
his death was only the commencement of feuds and assassinations, which
ended in the total destruction of the whole party, except Adams and
Young. By the account of the former, the settlers from this time became
divided into two parties, and their grievances and quarrels proceeded to
such a height, that each took every opportunity of putting the other to
death. Old John Adams was himself shot through the neck, but the ball
having entered the fleshy part only, he was enabled to make his escape,
and avoid the fury of his assailants. The immediate cause of Christian's
murder was his having forcibly seized on the wife of one of the Otaheite
men, which so exasperated the rest, that they not only sought the life
of the offender, but of others also, who might, as they thought, be
disposed to pursue the same course.

This interesting little colony was now found to contain about forty-six
persons, mostly grown-up young people, with a few infants. The young men
all born on the island were finely formed, athletic and handsome - their
countenances open and pleasing, indicating much benevolence and goodness
of heart, but the young women particularly were objects of attraction,
being tall, robust, and beautifully formed, their faces beaming with
smiles, and indicating unruffled good humour; while their manners and
demeanour exhibited a degree of modesty and bashfulness, that would have
done honour to the most virtuous and enlightened people on earth. Their
teeth are described as beautifully white, like the finest ivory, and
perfectly regular, without a single exception; and all of them, both
male and female, had the marked expression of English features, though
not exactly the clear red and white, that distinguish English skins,
theirs being the colour of what we call brunette. Captain Pipon thinks
that from such a race of people, consisting of fine young men and
handsome well-formed women, there may be expected to arise hereafter, in
this little colony, a race of people possessing in a high degree the
physical qualifications of great strength, united with symmetry of form
and regularity of feature.

But their personal qualifications, attractive as they were, excited less
admiration than the account which Adams gave of their virtuous conduct.
He assured his visitors that not one instance of debauchery or immoral
conduct had occurred among these young people, since their settlement on
the island; nor did he ever hear, or believe, that any one instance had
occurred of a young woman having suffered indecent liberties to be taken
with her. Their native modesty, assisted by the precepts of religion and
morality, instilled into their young minds by John Adams, had hitherto
preserved these interesting people from every kind of debauchery. The
young women told Captain Pipon, with great simplicity, that they were
not married, and that their father, as they called Adams, had told them
it was right they should wait with patience till they had acquired
sufficient property to bring up a young family, before they thought of
marrying; and that they always followed his advice because they knew it
to be good.

It appeared that, from the time when Adams was left alone on the island,
the sole survivor of all the males that had landed from the _Bounty_,
European and Otaheitan, the greatest harmony had prevailed in their
little society; they all declared that no serious quarrels ever occurred
among them, though a few hasty words might now and then be uttered, but,
to make use of their own expression, they were only quarrels of the
mouth. Adams assured his visitors that they were all strictly honest in
all their dealings, lending or exchanging their various articles of
live-stock or produce with each other, in the most friendly manner; and
if any little dispute occurred, he never found any difficulty to
rectify the mistake or misunderstanding that might have caused it, to
the satisfaction of both parties. In their general intercourse they
speak the English language commonly; and even the old Otaheitan women
have picked up a good deal of this language. The young people, both male
and female, speak it with a pleasing accent, and their voices are
extremely harmonious.

The little village of Pitcairn is described as forming a pretty square;
the house of John Adams, with its out-houses, occupying the upper
corner, near a large banyan tree, and that of Thursday October Christian
the lower corner opposite to it. The centre space is a fine open lawn,
where the poultry wander, and is fenced round so as to prevent the
intrusion of the hogs and goats. It was obviously visible, from the
manner in which the grounds were laid out, and the plantations formed
that, in this little establishment, the labour and ingenuity of European
hands had been employed. In their houses they have a good deal of decent
furniture, consisting of beds and bedsteads, with coverings. They have
also tables and large chests for their clothing; and their linen is made
from the bark of a certain tree, and the manufacture of it is the
employment of the elderly portion of the women. The bark is first
soaked, then beaten with square pieces of wood, of the breadth of one's
hand, hollowed out into grooves, and the labour is continued until it is
brought to the breadth required, in the same manner as the process is
conducted in Otaheite.

The younger part of the females are obliged to attend, with old Adams
and their brothers, to the culture of the land, and Captain Pipon thinks
this may be one reason why this old director of the work does not
countenance too early marriages, for, as he very properly observed, when
once they become mothers, they are less capable of hard labour, being
obliged to attend to their children; and, judging from appearance, 'one
may conclude,' says the Captain, 'they would be prolific'; that 'he did
not see how it could be otherwise, considering the regularity of their
lives, their simple and excellent though abstemious mode of living,
their meals consisting chiefly of a vegetable diet, with now and then
good pork and occasionally fish.'

The young girls, although they have only the example of the Otaheitan
mothers to follow in their dress, are modestly clothed, having generally
a piece of cloth of their own manufacture, reaching from the waist to
the knees, and a mantle, or something of that nature, thrown loosely
over the shoulders, and hanging sometimes as low as the ankles: this
mantle, however, is frequently thrown aside, being used rather as a
shelter for their bodies from the heat of the sun, or the severity of
the weather, than for the sake of attaching any idea of modesty to the
upper part of the person being uncovered; and it is not possible, he
says, to behold finer forms than are exhibited by this partial exposure.
Captain Pipon observes, 'it was pleasing to see the good taste and
quickness with which they form little shades or parasols of green
leaves, to place over the head, or bonnets, to keep the sun from their
eyes. A young girl made one of these in my presence, with such neatness
and alacrity, as to satisfy me that a fashionable dressmaker of London
would be delighted with the simplicity and elegant taste of these
untaught females.' The same young girl, he says, accompanied them to the
boat, carrying on her shoulders, as a present, a large basket of yams,
'over such roads and down such precipices, as were scarcely passable by
any creatures except goats, and over which we could scarcely scramble
with the help of our hands. Yet with this load on her shoulders, she
skipped from rock to rock like a young roe.'

'But,' says Captain Pipon, 'what delighted us most, was the conviction
which John Adams had impressed on the minds of these young people, of
the propriety and necessity of returning thanks to the Almighty for the
many blessings they enjoy. They never omit saying grace before and after
meals, and never think of touching food without asking a blessing from
Him who gave it. The Lord's Prayer and the Creed they repeat morning and

Captain Pipon imagines the island to be about six miles long, and
perhaps three or four miles broad, covered with wood; the soil
apparently very rich, and the variety of products great and valuable,
but much labour would seem to be required to clear away the woods. The
dimensions here given, however, are much greater than they have
subsequently been found to be.

The visitors having supplied these poor people with some tools,
kettles, and other articles, such as the high surf would allow them,
with the assistance of the natives, to land, but to no great extent, the
two officers again passed through the surf, with the same assistance,
and took leave of these interesting people - satisfied that the island is
so well fortified by nature, as to oppose an invincible barrier to an
invading enemy; that there was no spot apparently where a boat could
land with safety, and perhaps not more than one where it could land at
all; an everlasting swell of the ocean, rolling in on every side, is
dashed into foam against its rocky and iron-bound shores.

Such were the first details that were received respecting this young
settlement. It may here be remarked that, at the time when Folger
visited the island, Alexander Smith went by his proper name, and that he
had changed it to John Adams in the intermediate time between his visit
and that of Sir Thomas Staines; but it does not appear, in any of the
accounts which have been given of this interesting little colony, when
or for what reason he assumed the latter name. It could not be with any
view to concealment, for he freely communicated his history to Folger,
and equally so to every subsequent visitor.

The interesting account of Captains Sir Thomas Stairies and Pipon, in
1814, produced as little effect on the government as that of Folger; and
nothing more was heard of Adams and his family for twelve years nearly,
when, in 1825, Captain Beechey, in the _Blossom_, bound on a voyage of
discovery, paid a visit to Pitcairn's Island. Some whale-fishing ship,
however, had touched there in the intermediate time, and left on the
island a person of the name of John Buffet. 'In this man,' says Captain
Beechey, 'they have very fortunately found an able and willing
schoolmaster; he had belonged to a ship which visited the island, and
was so infatuated with the behaviour of the people, being himself
naturally of a devout and serious turn of mind, that he resolved to
remain among them; and, in addition to the instruction of the children,
has taken upon himself the duty of clergyman, and is the oracle of the

On the approach of the _Blossom_ towards the island, a boat was
observed, under all sail, hastening towards the ship, which they
considered to be the boat of some whaler, but were soon agreeably
undeceived by the singular appearance of her crew, which consisted of
old Adams and many of the young men belonging to the island. They did
not venture at once to lay hold of the ship till they had first inquired
if they might come on board; and on permission being granted, they
sprang up the side and shook every officer by the hand with undisguised
feelings of gratification.

The activity of the young men, ten in number, outstripped that of old
Adams, who was in his sixty-fifth year, and somewhat corpulent. He was
dressed in a sailor's shirt and trousers, and a low-crowned hat, which
he held in his hand until desired to put it on. He still retained his
sailor's manners, doffing his hat and smoothing down his bald forehead
whenever he was addressed by the officers of the _Blossom_.

The young men were tall, robust, and healthy, with good-natured
countenances, and a simplicity of manner, and a fear of doing something
that might be wrong, which at once prevented the possibility of giving
offence. Their dresses were whimsical enough; some had long coats
without trousers, and others trousers without coats, and others again
waistcoats without either. None of them had either shoes or stockings,
and there were only two hats among them, 'neither of which,' Captain
Beechey says, 'seemed likely to hang long together.'

Captain Beechey procured from Adams a narrative of the whole transaction
of the mutiny, which however is incorrect in many parts; and also a
history of the broils and disputes which led to the violent death of all
these misguided men (with the exception of Young and Adams), who
accompanied Christian in the _Bounty_ to Pitcairn's Island.

It may be recollected that the _Bounty_ was carried away from Otaheite
by nine of the mutineers. Their names were: -

1. FLETCHER CHRISTIAN, Acting Lieutenant.
2. EDWARD YOUNG, Midshipman.
3. ALEXANDER SMITH (_alias_ JOHN ADAMS), Seaman.
4. WILLIAM M'KOY, Seaman.
7. ISAAC MARTIN, Seaman.
8. JOHN MILLS, Gunner's Mate.
9. WILLIAM BROWN, Botanist's Assistant.

They brought with them six men and twelve women, natives of Tabouai and
Otaheite. The first step after their arrival was to divide the whole
island into nine equal portions, to the exclusion of those poor people
whom they had seduced to accompany them, and some of whom are stated to
have been carried off against their inclination. At first they were
considered as the friends of the white men, but very soon became their
slaves. They assisted in the cultivation of the soil, in building
houses, and in fetching wood and water, without murmuring or
complaining; and things went on peaceably and prosperously for about two
years, when Williams, who had lost his wife about a month after their
arrival, by a fall from a rock while collecting bird's eggs, became
dissatisfied, and insisted on having another wife, or threatened to
leave the island in one of the _Bounty's_ boats. Being useful as an
armourer, the Europeans were unwilling to part with him, and he, still
persisting in his unreasonable demand, had the injustice to compel one
of the Otaheitans to give up his wife to him.

By this act of flagrant oppression his countrymen made common cause with
their injured companion, and laid a plan for the extermination of the
Europeans; but the women gave a hint of what was going forward in a
song, the burden of which was, 'Why does black man sharpen axe? - to kill
white man.' The plot being thus discovered, the husband who had his wife
taken from him, another whom Christian had shot at (though, it is
stated, with powder only), fled into the woods, and were treacherously
murdered by their countrymen, on the promise of pardon for the
perpetration of this foul deed.

Tranquillity being thus restored, matters went on tolerably well for a
year or two longer; but the oppression and ill-treatment which the
Otaheitans received, more particularly from Quintal and M'Koy, the most
active and determined of the mutineers, drove them to the formation of
another plot for the destruction of their oppressors, which but too
successfully succeeded. A day was fixed for attacking and putting to
death all the Englishmen while at work in their respective plantations.
Williams was the first man that was shot. They next proceeded to
Christian, who was working at his yam-plot, and shot him. Mills,
confiding in the fidelity of his Otaheitan friend, stood his ground, and
was murdered by him and another. Martin and Brown were separately
attacked and slain, one with a maul, the other with a musket. Adams was
wounded in the shoulder, but succeeded in making terms with the
Otaheitans; and was conducted by them to Christian's house, where he was
kindly treated. Young, who was a great favourite of the women, was
secreted by them during the attack, and afterwards carried to
Christian's house. M'Koy and Quintal, the worst of the gang, escaped to
the mountains. 'Here,' says Captain Beechey, 'this day of bloodshed
ended, leaving only four Englishmen alive out of nine. It was a day of
emancipation to the blacks, who were now masters of the island, and of
humiliation and retribution to the whites.'

The men of colour now began to quarrel about choosing the women whose
European husbands had been murdered; the result of which was the
destruction of the whole of the former, some falling by the hands of the
women, and one of them by Young, who it would seem coolly and
deliberately shot him. Adams now proceeded into the mountains to
communicate the fatal intelligence to the two Europeans, M'Koy and
Quintal, and to solicit their return to the village. All these events
are stated to have happened so early as October, 1793.

From this time to 1798, the remnant of the colonists would appear to
have gone on quietly with the exception of some quarrels these four men
had with the women, and the latter among themselves; ten of them were
still remaining, who lived promiscuously with the men, frequently
changing their abode from one house to another. Young, being a man of
some education, kept a kind of journal, but it is a document of very
little interest, containing scarcely anything more than the ordinary
occupations of the settlers, the loan or exchange of provisions, the
dates when the sows farrowed, the number of fish caught, etc., and it
begins only at the time when Adams and he were sole masters of the
island; and the truth, therefore, of all that has been told rests solely
on the degree of credit that is due to Adams.

M'Koy, it appears, had formerly been employed in a Scotch distillery,
and being much addicted to ardent spirits, set about making experiments
on the _tee-root_ (_Dracæna terminalis_), and at length unfortunately
succeeded in producing an intoxicating liquor. This success induced his
companion Quintal to turn his kettle into a still. The consequence was,
that these two men were in a constant state of drunkenness, particularly
M'Koy, on whom, it seems, it had the effect of producing fits of
delirium; and in one of these he threw himself from a cliff and was
killed on the spot. Captain Beechey says, 'the melancholy fate of this
man created so forcible an impression on the remaining few, that they
resolved never again to touch spirits; and Adams has, I believe, to this
day kept his vow.'

Some time in the following year, that is, about 1799, 'we learned from
Adams,' says Captain Beechey, 'that Quintal lost his wife by a fall from
the cliff, while in search of birds' eggs; that he grew discontented,
and, though there were several disposable women on the island, and he
had already experienced the fatal effects of a similar demand, nothing
would satisfy him but the wife of one of his companions. Of course
neither of them felt inclined to accede to this unreasonable demand; and
he sought an opportunity of putting them both to death. He was
fortunately foiled in his first attempt, but swore openly he would
speedily repeat it. Adams and Young having no doubt he would follow up
his intention, and fearing he might be more successful in the next
attempt, came to the resolution that, as their own lives were not safe
while he was in existence, they were justified in putting him to death,
which they did by felling him, as they would an ox, with a hatchet.

'Such was the melancholy fate of seven of the leading mutineers, who
escaped from justice only to add murder to their former crimes'; and
such, it may be added, was the polluted source, thus stained with the
guilt of mutiny, piracy, and murder, from which the present simple and
innocent race of islanders has proceeded; and what is most of all
extraordinary, the very man, from whom they have received their moral
and religious instruction, is one who was among the first and foremost
in the mutiny, and deeply implicated in all the deplorable consequences
that were the results of it. This man and Young were now the sole
survivors out of the fifteen males that had landed upon the island.
Young, as has been stated, was a man of some education, and of a serious
turn of mind, and, as Beechey says, it would have been wonderful, after
the many dreadful scenes at which they had assisted, if the solitude and
tranquillity that ensued had not disposed them to repentance. They had a
Bible and a Prayer Book, which were found in the _Bounty_, and they read
the Church Service regularly every Sunday. They now resolved to have
morning and evening family prayers, and to instruct the children, who
amounted to nineteen, many of them between the ages of seven and nine
years. Young, however, was not long suffered to survive his repentance.
An asthmatic complaint terminated his existence about a year after the
death of Quintal; and Adams was now left the sole survivor of the guilty
and misguided mutineers of the _Bounty_. It is remarkable that the name
of Young should never once occur in any shape as connected with the
mutiny, except in the evidence of Lieutenant Hayward, who includes his
name in a mass of others. He neither appears among the armed nor the
unarmed; he is not stated to be among those who were on deck, and was
probably therefore one of those who were confined below. Bligh,
nevertheless, has not omitted to give him a character. 'Young was an
able and stout seaman; he, however, always proved a worthless wretch.'

If the sincere repentance of Adams, and the most successful exertions to
train up the rising generation in piety and virtue, can be considered as
expiating in some degree his former offences, this survivor is fully
entitled to every indulgence that frail humanity so often requires, and
which indeed has been extended to him, by all the officers of the navy
who have visited the island, and witnessed the simple manners, and the
settled habits of morality and piety which prevail in this happy and
well-regulated society. They have all strongly felt that the merits and
redeeming qualities of the latter years of his life have so far atoned
for his former guilt, that he ought not to be molested, but rather
encouraged, in his meritorious efforts, if not for his own sake, at
least for that of the innocent young people dependent on him.

Still it ought never to be forgotten that he was one of the first and
most daring in the atrocious act of mutiny and piracy, and that, had he
remained in Otaheite, and been taken home in the _Pandora_, nothing
could have saved him from an ignominious death. His pretending to say
that he was in his cot, and that he was forced to take arms, may perhaps
be palliated under his peculiar circumstances, wishing to stand as fair

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 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 19 of 24)