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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before his countrymen as his case would admit - but it is not strictly
true; for he was the third upon deck armed, and stood sentry over Bligh
with a loaded musket and fixed bayonet. The story he told to Beechey
respecting the advice stated to have been given by Mr. Stewart to
Christian, 'to take possession of the ship,' is, as has been shown,
wholly false; but here his memory may have failed him. If any such
advice was given, it is much more likely to have proceeded from Young.
He also told two different stories with regard to the conduct of
Christian. To Sir Thomas Staines and Captain Pipon, he represented this
ill-fated young man as never happy, after the rash and criminal step he
had taken, and that he was always sullen and morose, and committed so
many acts of cruelty, as to incur the hatred and detestation of his
associates in crime. Whereas he told Captain Beechey, that Christian was
always cheerful; that his example was of the greatest service in
exciting his companions to labour; that he was naturally of a happy,
ingenuous disposition, and won the good opinion and respect of all who
served under him: which cannot be better exemplified, he says, than by
his maintaining, under circumstances of great perplexity, the respect
and regard of all who were associated with him, up to the hour of his
death; and that, even at the present moment, Adams, in speaking of him,
never omits to say _Mr_. Christian. Why indeed should he? Christian was
a gentleman by birth, and an officer in his Majesty's service, and was
of course always so addressed. But why was he murdered within two years
(one account says nine months) after the party reached the island?
Captain Beechey has answered the question - for oppression and
ill-treatment of the Otaheitans.[39]

That Christian, so far from being cheerful, was, on the contrary,
always uneasy in his mind about his own safety, is proved by his having
selected a cave at the extremity of the high ridge of craggy hills that
runs across the island, as his intended place of refuge, in the event of
any ship of war discovering the retreat of the mutineers, in which cave
he resolved to sell his life as dearly as he could. In this recess he
always kept a store of provisions, and near it erected a small hut, well
concealed by trees, which served the purpose of a watch-house. 'So
difficult,' says Captain Beechey, 'was the approach to this cave, that
even if a party were successful in crossing the ridge, he might have bid
defiance, as long as his ammunition lasted, to any force.' The
reflection alone of his having sent adrift, to perish on the wide ocean,
for he could entertain no other idea, no less than nineteen persons, all
of whom, one only excepted, were innocent of any offence towards him,
must have constantly haunted his mind, and left him little disposed to
be happy and cheerful.

The truth is, as appears in Morrison's journal, that during the short
time they remained at Tabouai, and till the separation of the mutineers
at Otaheite, when sixteen forsook him, and eight only, of the very
worst, accompanied him in quest of some retreat, he acted the part of a
tyrant to a much greater extent than the man who, he says, drove him to
the act of mutiny. After giving an account of the manner of his death,
Captain Beechey says, 'Thus fell a man who, from being the reputed
ringleader of the mutiny, has obtained an unenviable celebrity, and
whose crime may perhaps be considered as in some degree palliated by the
tyranny which led to its commission.' It is to be hoped, such an act as
he was guilty of will never be so considered.

If mutiny could be supposed to admit of palliation, a fatal blow would
be struck not only at the discipline, but at the very existence, of the
navy; any relaxation in bringing to condign punishment persons guilty of
mutiny, would weaken and ultimately destroy the efficiency of this great
and powerful machine. Nor, indeed, is it at all necessary that the
punishment for mutiny should admit of any palliation. Whenever an act of
tyranny, or an unnecessary degree of severity, is exercised by a
commanding officer, let the fact only be proved, and he is certain to be
visited with all the rigour that the degree of his oppressive conduct
will warrant. Had Christian but waited patiently the arrival of the
_Bounty_ in England, and the alleged conduct of Bligh towards his
officers and crew had been proved, he would, unquestionably, have been
dismissed from his Majesty's service.

With regard to Adams, though his subsequent conduct was highly
meritorious, and to him alone it might be said is owing the present
happy state of the little community on Pitcairn's Island, his crime like
that of Christian's can never be considered as wiped away. Sir Thomas
Staines, the first British officer who called at the island, it may well
be supposed, had to struggle, on this trying occasion, between duty and
feeling. It was his imperative duty to have seized and brought him a
prisoner to England, where he must have been tried, and would no doubt
have been convicted of a crime for which several of his less active
accomplices had suffered the penalty of death; though he might, and
probably would, from length of time and circumstances in his favour,
have received the king's pardon. Perhaps, however, on the whole, it was
fortunate, that in balancing, as it is known this gallant officer did,
between the sense of duty and the sense of feeling, the latter
prevailed, and justice yielded to mercy. Had a Bligh or an Edwards been
placed in his situation it is to be feared that, judging from their
former conduct, passion in the one, and frigidity in the other, would
most likely have consigned the criminal to captivity in irons, and the
innocent and helpless family, solely dependent on him, to misery and
destruction - and yet, in so doing, they would not have deviated from
their strict line of duty, - _Dis aliter visum_.

The _Blossom_ was the first ship of war that John Adams had been on
board of since the mutiny; and, as Captain Beechey observes, his mind
would naturally revert to scenes that could not fail to produce a
temporary embarrassment, but no apprehension for his safety appeared to
form any part of his thoughts; and as every person endeavoured to set
his mind at rest, he soon found himself at ease and at home. It was
several hours before the ship approached the shore, and the boats put
off before she came to an anchor.

On account of the rocks and formidable breakers, the party who went on
shore were landed by the young men, two at a time, in their whale boat.
'The difficulty of landing,' says Captain Beechey, 'was more than repaid
by the friendly reception we met with on the beach from Hannah Young, a
very interesting young woman, the daughter of Adams. In her eagerness to
greet her father, she had outrun her female companions, for whose delay
she thought it necessary, in the first place, to apologize, by saying
they had all been over the hill in company with John Buffet to look at
the ship, and were not yet returned. It appeared that John Buffet, who
was a sea-faring man, had ascertained that the ship was a man of war,
and, without knowing exactly why, became so alarmed for the safety of
Adams, that he either could not or would not answer any of the
interrogatories which were put to him. This mysterious silence set all
the party in tears, as they feared he had discovered something adverse
to their patriarch. At length his obduracy yielded to their entreaties;
but before he explained the cause of his conduct, the boats were seen
to put off from the ship, and Hannah immediately hurried to the beach to
kiss the old man's cheek, which she did with a fervency demonstrative of
the warmest affection. Her apology for her companions was rendered
unnecessary by their appearance on the steep and circuitous path down
the mountain, who, as they arrived on the beach, successively welcomed
us to their island, with a simplicity and sincerity which left no doubt
of the truth of their professions.' The whole group simultaneously
expressed a wish that the visitors would stay with them several days;
and on their signifying a desire to get to the village before dark and
to pitch the observatory, every article and instrument found a bearer,
along a steep path which led to the village, concealed by groups of
cocoa-nut trees; the females bearing their burthens over the most
difficult parts without inconvenience. The village consisted of five
houses, on a cleared piece of ground sloping toward the sea. While the
men assisted in pitching the tent, the women employed themselves in
preparing the supper. The mode of cooking was precisely that of
Otaheite, by heated stones in a hole made in the ground. At young
Christian's, the table was spread with plates, knives and forks. John
Buffet said grace in an emphatic manner, and this is repeated every time
a fresh guest sits down while the meal is going on. So strict are they
in this respect, that it is not deemed proper to touch a bit of bread
without saying grace before and after it. 'On one occasion,' says
Captain Beechey, 'I had engaged Adams in conversation, and he
incautiously took the first mouthful without having said grace; but
before he had swallowed it, he recollected himself, and feeling as if he
had committed a crime, immediately put away what he had in his mouth,
and commenced his prayer.' Their rooms and table are lighted up by
torches made of _doodoe_ nuts _(Aleurites triloba_), strung upon the
fibres of a palm-leaf, which form a good substitute for candles.

It is remarkable enough, that although the female part of the society is
highly respected, yet, in one instance, a distinction is kept up, which
in civilized countries would be deemed degrading. It is that which is
rigidly observed in all the South Sea Islands, and indeed throughout
almost the whole eastern world, that no woman shall eat in the presence
of her husband; and though this distinction between man and wife is not
carried quite so far in Pitcairn's Island, it is observed to the extent
of excluding all women from table, when there is a deficiency of seats.
It seems they defended the custom on the ground that man was made before
woman, and is entitled, therefore, to be first served - a conclusion,
observes Beechey, 'that deprived us of the company of the women at
table, during the whole of our stay at the island, Far, however, from
considering themselves neglected, they very good-naturedly chatted with
us behind our seats, and flapped away the flies, and by a gentle tap,
accidentally or playfully delivered, reminded us occasionally of the
honour that was done us.' The women, when the men had finished, sat down
to what remained.

The beds were next prepared. A mattress composed of palm-leaves was
covered with native cloth made of the paper mulberry-tree, in the same
manner as in Otaheite; the sheets were of the same material; and it
appeared, from their crackling, that they were quite new from the loom,
or rather the beater. The whole arrangement is stated to have been
comfortable, and inviting to repose; one interruption only disturbed
their first sleep; this was the melody of the evening hymn, which, after
the lights were put out, was chanted by the whole family in the middle
of the room. At early dawn they were also awaked by their morning hymn
and the family devotion; after which the islanders all set out to their
several occupations. Some of the women had taken the linen of their
visitors to wash; others were preparing for the next meal; and others
were employed in the manufacture of cloth.

The innocence and simplicity of these interesting young creatures are
strongly exemplified in the following description. 'By our bedside had
already been placed some ripe fruits; and our hats were crowned with
chaplets of the fresh blossom of the _nono_ or flower-tree (_Morinda
citrifolia_), which the women had gathered in the freshness of the
morning dew. On looking round the apartment, though it contained several
beds, we found no partition, curtain, or screens; they had not yet been
considered necessary. So far, indeed, from concealment being thought of,
when we were about to get up, the women, anxious to show their
attention, assembled to wish us good morning, and to inquire in what way
they could best contribute to our comforts, and to present us with some
little gift, which the produce of the island afforded. Many persons
would have felt awkward at rising and dressing before so many pretty
black-eyed damsels, assembled in the centre of a spacious room; but by a
little habit we overcame this embarrassment, and from the benefit of
their services in fetching water as we required it, and in substituting
clean linen for such as we pulled off.'

Their cottages are spacious, and strongly built of wood, in an oblong
form, and thatched with the leaves of the palm-tree bent round the stem
of a branch from the same, and laced horizontally to rafters, so placed
as to give a proper pitch to the roof. An upper story is appropriated to
sleeping, and has four beds, one in each angle of the room, and large
enough for three or four persons to sleep on. The lower is the eating
room, having a broad table with several stools placed round it. The
lower room communicates with the upper, by a stout ladder in the centre.
Immediately round the village are small enclosures for fattening pigs,
goats, and poultry; and beyond them are the cultivated grounds producing
the banana, plantain, melon, yam, taro, sweet potatoes, _tee_-tree,
cloth-plant, with other useful roots, fruits, and a variety of shrubs.
Every cottage has its out-house for making cloth, its baking-place, its
pig-sty, and its poultry-house.

During the stay of the strangers on the island, they dined sometimes
with one person, and sometimes with another, their meals being always
the same, and consisting of baked pig, yams, and taro, and sometimes
sweet potatoes. Goats are numerous on the island, but neither their
flesh nor their milk is relished by the natives. Yams constitute their
principal food, either boiled, baked, or mixed with cocoa-nut, made into
cakes, and eaten with molasses extracted from the tee-root. Taro-root is
no bad substitute for bread; and bananas, plantains, and _appoi_, are
wholesome and nutritive fruits. The common beverage is water, but they
make tea from the tee-plant, flavoured with ginger, and sweetened with
the juice of the sugar-cane. They but seldom kill a pig, living mostly
on fruit and vegetables. With this simple diet, early rising, and taking
a great deal of exercise, they are subject to few diseases; and Captain
Beechey says, 'they are certainly a finer and more athletic race than is
usually found among the families of mankind.'

The young children are punctual in their attendance at school, and are
instructed by John Buffet in reading, writing, and arithmetic; to which
are added, precepts of religion and morality, drawn chiefly from the
Bible and Prayer Book; than which, fortunately, they possess no others
that might mystify and perplex their understandings on religious
subjects. They seldom indulge in jokes or other kinds of levity; and
Beechey says, they are so accustomed to take what is said in its literal
meaning, that irony was always considered a falsehood in spite of
explanation; and that they could not see the propriety of uttering what
was not strictly true, for any purpose whatever. The Sabbath is wholly
devoted to the church service, to prayer, reading, and serious
meditation; no work of any kind is done on that day, not even cooking,
which is prepared on the preceding evening.

'I attended,' says Beechey, 'their church on this day, and found the
service well conducted; the prayers were read by Adams, and the lessons
by Buffet, the service being preceded by hymns. The greatest devotion
was apparent in every individual; and in the children there was a
seriousness unknown in the younger part of our communities at home. In
the course of the Litany, they prayed for their sovereign and all the
royal family, with much apparent loyalty and sincerity. Some family
prayers, which were thought appropriate to their own particular case,
were added to the usual service; and Adams, fearful of leaving out any
essential part, read in addition all those prayers which are intended
only as substitutes for others. A sermon followed, which was very well
delivered by Buffet; and lest any part of it should be forgotten or
escape attention, it was read three times. The whole concluded with
hymns, which were first sung by the grown people, and afterwards by the
children. The service thus performed was very long; but the neat and
cleanly appearance of the congregation, the devotion that animated
every countenance, and the innocence and simplicity of the little
children, prevented the attendance from becoming wearisome. In about
half an hour afterwards we again assembled to prayers, and at sunset
service was repeated; so that, with their morning and evening prayers,
they may be said to have church five times on a Sunday.'

Perhaps it will be thought by some that they carry their seriousness too
far, and that the younger people are not allowed a sufficient quantity
of recreation. The exercise and amusement of dancing, once so much
resorted to in most of the islands of the Pacific, is here almost
excluded. With great difficulty and much entreaty, the visitors
prevailed on three grown-up ladies to stand up to perform the Otaheitan
dance, which they consented to with a reluctance that showed it was done
only to oblige them. It was little more than a shuffling of the feet,
sliding past each other, and snapping their fingers. They did not long
continue this diversion, considering it as too great a levity, and only
the three beforementioned ladies could be prevailed on to exhibit their
skill. They appeared to have little taste for music either instrumental
or vocal. Adams, when on board the _Blossom_ for two or three days, made
no difficulty of joining in the dance and was remarkably cheerful, but
on no occasion neglected his usual devotions. Captain Beechey has no
doubt of the sincerity of his piety. He slept in the same cabin, but
would never get into his cot until the captain was in bed, and supposed
to be asleep, when, in a retired corner of the cabin, he fell on his
knees and performed his devotions; and he was always up first in the
morning for the same purpose.

This good old man told Beechey one day, that it would add much to his
happiness if he would read the marriage ceremony to him and his wife, as
he could not bear the idea of living with her without its being done,
when a proper opportunity should offer, as was now the case. Though
Adams was aged, and the old woman had been blind and bedridden for
several years, Beechey says he made such a point of it, that it would
have been cruel to refuse him. They were accordingly, the following day,
duly united, and the event noted in a register by John Buffet. The
marriages that take place among the young people are, however, performed
by Adams, who makes use of a ring for such occasions, which has united
every couple on the island since its first settlement; the regulated age
under which no man is allowed to marry is twenty, and that of the woman
eighteen. The restrictions with regard to relationship are the same as
with us, and are strictly put in force when parties are about to marry.
Adams also officiates at christenings.

Captain Beechey observes, that these amiable people rigidly adhere to
their word and promise, even in cases where the most scrupulous among
Europeans might think themselves justified in some relaxation of them.
Thus, George Adams, in his early days, had fallen in love with Polly
Young, a girl somewhat older than himself; but Polly, for some reason
or other, had incautiously declared, she _never would_ give her hand to
George Adams; who, however, still hoped she would one day relent, and of
course was unremitting in his endeavours to please her; nor was he
mistaken; his constancy and his handsome form, which George took every
opportunity of displaying before her, softened Polly's heart, and she
would willingly have given him her hand. But the vow of her youth was
not to be got over, and the lovesick couple languished on from day to
day, victims to the folly of early resolutions. This weighty case was
referred to the British officers, who decided that it would be much
better to marry than to continue unhappy in consequence of a hasty
resolution made before the judgement was matured; but Polly's scruples
still remained, and those who gave their decision left them unmarried.
Captain Beechey, however, has recently received a letter, stating that
George Adams and Polly Young had joined hands and were happy; but the
same letter announced the death of John Adams, which took place in March

The demise of this old patriarch is the most serious loss that could
have befallen this infant colony. The perfect harmony and contentment in
which they appear to live together, the innocence and simplicity of
their manners, their conjugal and parental affection, their moral,
religious, and virtuous conduct, and their exemption from any serious
vice, are all to be ascribed to the exemplary conduct and instructions
of old John Adams; and it is gratifying to know, that five years after
the visit of the _Blossom_, and one year subsequent to Adams's death,
the little colony continued to enjoy the same uninterrupted state of
harmony and contentment as before.

In consequence of a representation, made by Captain Beechey when there,
of the distressed state of this little society, with regard to the want
of certain necessary articles, his Majesty's government sent out to
Valparaiso, to be conveyed from thence for their use, a proportion for
sixty persons of the following articles: sailors' blue jackets and
trousers, flannel waistcoats, pairs of stockings and shoes, women's
dresses, spades, mattocks, shovels, pickaxes, trowels, rakes; all of
which were taken in his Majesty's ship _Seringapatam,_ commanded by
Captain the Hon. William Waldegrave, who arrived there in March 1830.

The ship had scarcely anchored when George Young was alongside in his
canoe, which he guided by a paddle; and soon after Thursday October
Christian, in a jolly-boat, with several others, who, having come on
board, were invited to breakfast, and one of them said grace as usual
both before and after it. The captain, the chaplain, and some other
officers accompanied these natives on shore, and having reached the
summit of the first level or plain, which is surrounded by a grove or
screen of cocoa-nut trees, they found the wives and mothers assembled to
receive them. 'I have brought you a clergyman,' says the captain. 'God
bless you,' issued from every mouth; 'but is he come to stay with
us?' - 'No.' 'You bad man, why not?' - 'I cannot spare him, he is the
chaplain of my ship; but I have brought you clothes and other articles,
which King George has sent you.' 'But,' says Kitty Quintal, 'we want
food for our souls.'

'Our reception,' says Captain Waldegrave, 'was most cordial,
particularly that of Mr. Watson, the chaplain; and the meeting of the
wives and husbands most affecting, exchanging expressions of joy that
could not have been exceeded had they just returned from a long absence.
The men sprang up to the trees, throwing down cocoa-nuts, the husks of
which were torn off by others with their teeth, and offering us the
milk. As soon as we had rested ourselves, they took us to their
cottages, where we dined and slept.'

Captain Waldegrave says it was highly gratifying to observe their native
simplicity of manners, apparently without guile: their hospitality was
unbounded, their cottages being open to all, and all were welcome to
such food as they possessed; pigs and fowls were immediately killed and
dressed, and when the guests were seated, one of the islanders, in the
attitude of prayer, and his eyes raised towards heaven, repeated a
simple grace for the present food they were about to partake of,
beseeching, at the same time, spiritual nourishment; at the end of which
each responded _amen_. On the arrival of any one during the repast, they
all paused until the new guest had said grace.

At night they all assembled in one of the cottages to hear the afternoon
church service performed by Mr. Watson, and Captain Waldegrave
describes it as a most striking scene. The place chosen was the bedroom
of one of the double cottages, or one with an upper story. The ascent
was by a broad ladder from the lower room through a trap-door. The

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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 20 of 24)