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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clergyman took his station between two beds, with a lamp burning close
behind him. In the bed on his right were three infants sound asleep; at
the foot of that on his left were three men sitting. On each side and in
front were the men, some wearing only the simple mara, displaying their
gigantic figures; others in jackets and trousers, their necks and feet
bare; behind stood the women, in their modest home-made cloth dresses,
which entirely covered the form, leaving only the head and feet bare.
The girls wore, in addition, a sheet knotted in the manner of a Roman
senator's _toga_, thrown over the right shoulder and under the left arm.
When the general confession commenced, they all knelt down facing the
clergyman, with their hands raised to the breast in the attitude of
prayer, slowly and distinctly repeating the confession after the
clergyman. They prayed for the King of England, whom they consider as
their sovereign. A sermon followed from a text which Captain Waldegrave
thinks was most happily chosen: 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your
Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' At the conclusion of
the service they requested permission to sing their parting hymn, when
the whole congregation, in good time, sang 'Depart in peace.'

Captain Waldegrave, like all former visitors, bears testimony to the
kind disposition and active benevolence of these simple islanders. The
children, he says, are fond and obedient, the parents affectionate and
kind towards their children. None of the party ever heard a harsh word
made use of by one towards another. They never slander or speak ill of
one another. If any question was asked as to the character or conduct of
a particular individual, the answer would probably be something of this
kind, 'If it could do any good, I would answer you; but as it cannot, it
would be wrong to tell tales'; or if the question applied to one who had
committed a fault, they would say, 'It would be wrong to tell my
neighbour's shame.' The kind and benevolent feeling of these amiable
people is extended to the surviving widows of the Otaheite men who were
slain on the island, and who would be left in a helpless and destitute
state, were it not for the humane consideration of the younger part of
the society, by whom they are supported and regarded with every mark of

The women are clothed in white cloth made from the paper mulberry, the
dress extending from the shoulders to the feet, in double folds, and so
loose as entirely to conceal the shape of the person. The mothers, while
nursing, carry the infant within their dress; as the child advances in
growth it sits across the hip of the parent with its little hands
clinging to the shoulder, while the mother's arm passing round it keeps
it in safety. The men and boys, except on Sunday, when they appear in
English dresses, generally wear only the _mara_, or waist-cloth, which,
passing over the hips, and between the legs, is knotted behind; the
climate is in fact too hot for cumbersome clothing. The women, when
working, use only a petticoat, with a jacket.

The men are stated to be from five feet eight inches to six feet high,
of great muscular strength and excellent figures. 'We did not see,' says
Captain Waldegrave, 'one cripple or defective person, except one boy,
whom, in the most good-humoured way, and laughing heartily, they brought
to me, observing, "You ought to be brothers, you have each lost the
right eye." I acknowledged the connexion, and no doubt for the future he
will be called the Captain.'

Captain Beechey has given a more detailed account of the physical
qualities of the Pitcairn Islanders. He says they are tall, robust, and
healthy; their average height five feet ten inches; the tallest man
measured six feet and one quarter of an inch, and the shortest of the
adults five feet nine inches and one-eighth; their limbs well
proportioned, round and straight; their feet turning a little inwards. A
boy of eight years measured four feet and one inch; another of nine
years, four feet three inches. Their simple food and early habits of
exercise give them a muscular power and activity not often surpassed. It
is recorded on the island that George Young and Edward Quintal have each
carried, at one time, a kedge anchor, two sledge hammers, and an
armourer's anvil, weighing together upwards of six hundred pounds; and
that Quintal once carried a boat twenty-eight feet in length. In the
water they are almost as much at home as on land, and can remain almost
a whole day in the sea. They frequently swim round their little island,
the circuit of which is at the least seven miles; and the women are
nearly as expert swimmers as the men.

The female descendants of the Otaheite women are almost as muscular as
the males, and taller than the generality of the sex. Polly Young, who
is not the tallest on the island, measured five feet nine inches and a
half. The features of both men and women are regular and well-formed;
eyes bright and generally hazel, though in a few instances blue; the
eyebrows thin and rarely meeting; the nose a little flattened, and being
rather extended at the nostrils, partakes of the Otaheitan character, as
do the lips, which are broad and strongly sulcated; their ears
moderately large, and the lobes are invariably united with the cheek;
they are generally perforated, when young, for the reception of flowers,
a very common custom among the natives of the South Sea Islands; hair
black, sometimes curling, sometimes straight; teeth regular and white.
On the whole they are a well-looking people.

Captain Beechey says, the women have all learned the art of midwifery;
that parturition generally takes place during the night-time; that the
duration of labour is seldom longer than five hours, and has not yet in
any case proved fatal; but there is no instance of twins, nor of a
single miscarriage, except from accident. Infants are generally bathed
three times a day in cold water, and are sometimes not weaned for three
or four years; but when that does take place, they are fed upon 'popoe,'
made of ripe plantains and boiled taro-root rubbed into a paste. Mr.
Collie, the surgeon of the _Blossom_, remarks that nothing is more
extraordinary, in the history of the island, than the uniform good
health of the children; the teething is easily got over, they have no
bowel complaints, and are exempt from those contagious diseases which
affect children in large communities. He offered to vaccinate the
children as well as all the grown persons; but they deemed the risk of
infection of small-pox to be too small to render that operation

As a proof how very much simple diet and constant exercise tend to the
healthful state of the body, the skin of these people, though in such
robust health, compared with that of the Europeans, always felt cold,
and their pulses always considerably lower. The doctor examined several
of them: in the forenoon he found George Young's only sixty; three
others, in the afternoon, after dinner, were sixty-eight, seventy-two,
and seventy-six, while those of the officers who stood the heat of the
climate best were above eighty.

It is impossible not to feel a deep interest in the welfare of this
little society, and at the same time an apprehension that something may
happen to disturb that harmony and destroy that simplicity of manners
which have hitherto characterized it. It is to be feared, indeed, that
the seeds of discord are already sown. It appears from Captain
Waldegrave's statement, that no less than three Englishmen have found
their way into this happy society. One of them, John Buffet, mentioned
by Beechey, is a harmless man, and, as it has been stated, of great use
to the islanders in his capacity of clergyman and schoolmaster; he is
also a clever and useful mechanic, as a ship-wright and joiner, and is
much beloved by the community. Two others have since been left on the
island, one of them, by name John Evans, son of a coachmaker in the
employ of Long of St. Martin's Lane, who has married a daughter of John
Adams, through whom he possesses and cultivates a certain portion of
land; the third is George Hunn Nobbs, who calls himself pastor,
registrar, and schoolmaster, thus infringing on the privileges of John
Buffet; and being a person of superior talents, and of exceeding great
impudence, has deprived Buffet of a great number of his scholars; and
hence a sufficient cause exists of division and dissension among the
members of the little society, which were never known before. Buffet and
Evans support themselves by their industry, but this Nobbs not only
claims exemption from labour as being their pastor, but also as being
entitled to a maintenance at the expense of the community. He has
married a daughter of Charles, and grand-daughter to the late Fletcher
Christian, whose descendants, as captain of the gang, might be induced
to claim superiority, and which, probably, might be allowed by general
consent, had they but possessed a moderate share of talent; but it is
stated that Thursday October and Charles Christian, the sons of the
chief mutineer, are ignorant, uneducated men. The only chance for the
continuance of peace is the general dislike in which this Nobbs is held,
and the gradual intellectual improvement of the rising generation.[40]

It seems that Adams on his death-bed called all the heads of families
together, and urged them to appoint a chief; - this, however, they have
not done, which makes it the more to be apprehended that Nobbs, by his
superior talent or cunning, will force himself upon them into that
situation. Captain Waldegrave thinks, however, that Edward Quintal, who
possesses the best understanding of any on the island, will in time
arrive at that honour; his only book is the Bible, but it is quite
astonishing, he observes, what a fund of knowledge he has derived from
it. His wife, too, is stated to be a woman of excellent understanding;
and their eldest boy, William, has been so carefully educated, that he
excels greatly all the others. The descendants of Young are also said to
be persons generally of promising abilities.

How the patriarch Adams contrived to instil into the minds of these
people the true principles of religion and morality is quite surprising.
He was able to read, but only learnt to write in his latter days; and
having accomplished this point, he made a scheme of laws by which he
succeeded to govern his little community in the way we have seen. The
celebration of marriage and baptism were strictly observed, according to
the rites of the Church of England, but he never ventured on
confirmation and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. He taught the
children the Church catechism, the ten commandments, the Lord's prayer,
and the Creed, and he satisfied himself, that in these were comprised
all the Christian duties. By the instrumentality of these precepts,
drawn from the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible,[41] he was enabled,
after the slaughter of all his associates, to rear up all the children
in the principles and precepts of Christianity, in purity of morals, and
in a simplicity of manners, that have surprised and delighted every
stranger that has visited the island.

Captain Waldegrave says they are so strongly attached to those beautiful
prayers that are found in the liturgy of the Church of England, that
there is no danger of a dissenting minister being received among them.
It is to be hoped this may be the case; but it may be asked, will they
escape from the snares of George Hunn Nobbs? It would seem, indeed, that
this man has already thrust upon them what he calls a code of laws, in
which he enumerates crimes, such as murder and adultery, unknown and
unheard of among these simple people since the time that Adams was sole
legislator and patriarch. The punishment of adultery, to give a specimen
of Nobbs's legislation, is whipping for the first offence to both
parties, and marriage within three months; for the second, if the
parties refuse to marry, the penalties are, forfeiture of lands,
property, and banishment from the island. Offenders are to be tried
before three elders, who pronounce sentence. It is quite clear this
silly person does not understand what is meant by adultery. As to the
tenure of land, it is fortunately provided for previous to his arrival
on the island. The whole island, it seems, was partitioned out by Adams
among the families of the original settlers, so that a foreigner cannot
obtain any, except by purchase or marriage. Captain Waldegrave reckons,
that eleven-twelfths are uncultivated, and that population is increasing
so rapidly, that in the course of a century the island will be fully
peopled, and that the limit may be taken at one thousand souls.

The rate at which population is likely to increase may, perhaps, be
determined by political economists from the following data.

In 1790 the island was first settled by fifteen men and twelve women,
making a total of twenty-seven. Of these were remaining in 1800, one man
and five women, with nineteen children, the eldest nine years of age,
making in the whole twenty-five. In 1808, Mr. Folger makes the
population amount to thirty-five, being an increase of ten in eight
years. In 1814, six years afterwards, Sir Thomas Staines states the
_adult_ population at forty, which must be a mistake, as fourteen years
before, nineteen of the twenty-five then existing were children. In
1825, Captain Beechey states the whole population at sixty-six, of whom
thirty-six were males, and thirty females. And in 1830, Captain
Waldegrave makes it amount to seventy-nine; being an increase of
thirteen in five years, or twenty per cent, which is a less rapid
increase than might be expected; but there can be little doubt it will
go on with an accelerated ratio, provided the means of subsistence
should not fail them.

Captain Waldegrave's assumption, that this island is sufficiently large
for the maintenance of one thousand souls, is grounded on incorrect
data; it does not follow, that because one-twelfth of the island will
maintain eighty persons, the whole must support nine hundred and sixty
persons. The island is not more than four square miles, or two thousand
five hundred and sixty acres; and as a ridge of rocky hills runs from
north to south, having two peaks exceeding one thousand feet in height,
it is more than probable that not one half of it is capable of
cultivation. It would seem, indeed, from several ancient morais being
discovered among these hills; some stone axes or hatchets of compact
basaltic lava, very hard and capable of a fine polish; four stone
images, about six feet high, placed on a platform, not unlike those on
Easter Island, one of which has been preserved, and is the rude
representation of the human figure to the hips, hewn out of a piece of
red lava: - these remains would seem to indicate a former population,
that had found it expedient to abandon the island from its insufficiency
to support it. Captain Beechey observes, that 'from these images and the
large piles of stones, on heights to which they must have been dragged
with great labour, it may be concluded that the island was inhabited for
a considerable time; and from bones being found, always buried under
these piles, and never upon the surface, we may presume that those who
survived, quitted the island in their canoes to seek an asylum

It appears from Beechey, that Adams had contemplated the prospect of an
increasing population with the limited means of supporting it, and
requested that he would communicate with the British Government upon the
subject, which he says he did, and that, through the interference of the
Admiralty and Colonial Office, means have been taken for removing them
to any place they may choose for themselves. It is to be hoped, however,
that no such interference will take place; for half a century, at least,
there is no danger of any want of food. The attempt, however, was made
through the means of a Mr. Nott, a missionary of Otaheite, who, being on
a visit to this country, was authorized, on his return, to make
arrangements for their removal to Otaheite, if they wished it, and if
Pomarre, the king of the island, should not object to receive them; and
he carried a letter to this chief from Lord Bathurst, acquainting him
with the intention of the British Government, and expressing the hope
that he would be induced to receive under his protection a people whose
moral and religious character had created so lively an interest in their
favour; but it fortunately happened that this missionary passed the
island without stopping. A Mr. Joshua Hill subsequently proposed their
removal to New South Wales, but his vessel was considered too small for
the purpose.

Two years after this, as difficulties had occurred to prevent the
above-mentioned intentions from being carried into effect, Sir George
Murray deemed it desirable that no time should be lost in affording such
assistance to these islanders as might, at all events, render their
present abode as comfortable as circumstances would allow, _until_
arrangements could be made for their future disposal, either in one of
the Society Islands, as originally proposed, or at one of our
settlements on New Holland. The assistance here alluded to has been
afforded, as above mentioned, by his Majesty's ship _Seringapatam_.

It is sincerely to be hoped that such removal will be no longer thought
of. No complaint was made, no apprehension of want expressed to Captain
Waldegrave, who left them contented and happy; and Captain Beechey,
since his return, has received a letter from John Buffet, who informs
him of a notification made by Nott the missionary at Otaheite, that the
king was willing to receive them, and that measures would be taken for
their removal; but, he adds, the people are so much attached to, and
satisfied with, their native island, as not to have a wish to leave it.
The breaking up of this happy, innocent, and simple-minded little
society, by some summary process, and consigning them to those sinks of
infamy on New Holland or Van Diemen's Land, or to mix them up with the
dram-drinkers, the psalmsingers, and the languid and lazy Otaheitans,
would, in either case, be a subject of deep regret to all who take an
interest in their welfare; and to themselves would be the inevitable
loss of all those amiable qualities which have obtained for them the
kind and generous sympathy of their countrymen at home. We have a person
who acts as consul at Otaheite, and it is to be hoped he will receive
instructions, on no account to sanction, but on the contrary to
interdict, any measure that maybe attempted on the part of the
missionaries for their removal; - perhaps, however, as money would be
required for such a purpose, they may be considered safe from that

The time must come when they will emigrate on their own accord. When the
hive is full, they will send out their swarms. Captain Beechey tells us
that the reading of some books of voyages and travels, belonging to
Bligh and left in the _Bounty_, had created a desire in some of them to
leave it; but that family ties and an ardent affection for each other,
and for their native soil, had always interposed, on the few occasions
that offered, to prevent individuals going away singly. George Adams,
however, who had failed when the _Blossom_ was there to soften the heart
of Polly Young, and had no wife to detain him, was very anxious to
embark in that ship, that he might see something of the world beyond the
narrow limits of his own little island; and Beechey would have taken
him, had not his mother wept bitterly at the idea of parting from him,
and wished to impose terms touching his return to the island, that could
not be acceded to.

Pitcairn Island lies at the south-eastern extremity of a chain of
islands, which, including the Society and Friendly Islands, exceed a
hundred in number, many of them wholly uninhabited, and the rest but
thinly peopled, all speaking the same or nearly the same language, which
is also spoken by the natives of Pitcairn Island; and all of the two
groups are richly clothed with the spontaneous products of nature fit
for the use of man. To all these they will have, when necessity prompts
them, easy means of access. No large vessels are required for an
emigration of this kind; the frailest barks and single canoes have been
driven hundreds of miles over the Pacific. The Pitcairners have already
proceeded from the simple canoe to row-boats, and the progress from this
to small decked vessels is simple and natural. They may thus at some
future period, which is not at all improbable, be the means of spreading
Christianity and consequently civilization throughout the numerous
groups of islands in the Southern Pacific; whereas to remove them, as
has been imprudently suggested, would be to devote them at once to
misery and destruction.

That there is no deficiency in the number and variety of plants,
producing food and clothing for the use of man, will appear from the
following list, which is far from being complete:


_Cocos nucifera_ Cocoa-nut.
_Musa Paradisiaca_ Plantains.
_Musa sapientum_ Bananas.
_Dioscorea sativum_ Yams.
_Convolvulus batatas_ Sweet potatoes.
_Arum, esculentum_ Taro Root.
_Arum costatum_ Yappa.
_Broussonetia papyrifera_ Cloth-tree.
_Dracæna terminalis_ _Tee_-plant.
_Aleurites triloba_ Doodoe.
_Morinda citrifolia_ Nono.
- - Toonena, a large timber tree.
_Ficus indica_ Banyan-tree.
_Morus chinensis_ Mulberry.
_Pandanus odoratissimus_ (?)

And a great number of other indigenous plants, some of which are useful
and others ornamental.


_Artocarpus incisa_ Bread-fruit.
_Cucurbita citrullus_ Water-melons
_Cucurbita pepo_ Pumpkins.
_Solanum esculenlum_ Potatoes.
_Nicotiana tabaccum_ Tobacco.
_Citrus lemoneum_ Lemon.
- - _aurantium_ Orange.

Besides these they have European peas, beans, and onions; sugar-canes,
ginger, pepper, and turmeric. In fact, situated as the island is, in a
temperate climate just without the tropic, and enjoying abundance of
rain, there is scarcely any vegetable, with the exception of a few of
the equinoxial plants, that may not be cultivated here. The zea maize,
or Indian corn, would be infinitely useful both for themselves, their
poultry, and their pigs.

As a great part of the island is at present covered with trees, which
would necessarily give way to an extended cultivation, and as trees
attract rain, Captain Waldegrave seems to think that when these are
removed showers will be less frequent; but there is little fear of this
being the case; the central ridge, with points that exceed eleven
hundred feet in height, will more effectually attract and condense the
clouds than any quantity of trees growing at a less elevation; and there
can be little doubt that plenty of water will be found by digging at the
foot of the hills or close to the sea-coast.

The climate appears to be unexceptionable. During the sixteen days of
December (the height of summer) that the _Blossom_ remained there, the
range of the thermometer on the island, from nine in the morning till
three in the afternoon, was from 76° to 80°; on board ship from 74° to
76°; from whence Captain Beechey places the mean temperature during that
time at 76-1/2°. In winter he says the southwesterly winds blow very
cold, and even snow has been known to fall.

Not one visitor to this happy island has taken leave of its amiable
inhabitants without a feeling of regret. Captain Beechey says, 'When we
were about to take leave, our friends assembled to express their regret
at our departure. All brought some little present for our acceptance,
which they wished us to keep in remembrance of them; after which they
accompanied us to the beach, where we took our leave of the female part
of the inhabitants. Adams and the young men pushed off in their own boat
to the ship, determined to accompany us to sea, as far as they could
with safety. They continued on board, unwilling to leave us, until we
were a considerable distance from land, when they shook each of us
feelingly by the hand, and, amidst expressions of the deepest concern
at our departure, wished us a prosperous voyage, and hoped that we might
one day meet again. As soon as they were clear of the ship, they all

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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 21 of 24)