westward with a ship in most perfect order, all my plants in a most
flourishing condition, all my men and officers in good health, and in
short, everything to flatter and insure my most sanguine expectations.
On leaving the deck I gave directions for the course to be steered
during the night. The master had the first watch; the gunner, the middle
watch; and Mr. Christian, the morning watch. This was the turn of duty
for the night.
'Just before sun-rising on Tuesday the 28th, while I was yet asleep,
Mr. Christian, officer of the watch, Charles Churchill, ship's corporal,
John Mills, gunner's mate, and Thomas Burkitt, seaman, came into my
cabin, and seizing me, tied my hands with a cord behind my back,
threatening me with instant death if I spoke or made the least noise. I
called, however, as loud as I could in hopes of assistance; but they had
already secured the officers who were not of their party, by placing
sentinels at their doors. There were three men at my cabin door, besides
the four within; Christian had only a cutlass in his hand, the others
had muskets and bayonets. I was hauled out of bed, and forced on deck in
my shirt, suffering great pain from the tightness with which they had
tied my hands [behind my back, held by Fletcher Christian, and
Charles Churchill, with a bayonet at my breast, and two men, Alexander
Smith and Thomas Burkitt behind me, with loaded muskets cocked and
bayonets fixed]. I demanded the reason of such violence, but received no
other answer than abuse, for not holding my tongue. The master, the
gunner, Mr. Elphinstone, the master's mate, and Nelson, were kept
confined below; and the fore-hatchway was guarded by sentinels. The
boatswain and carpenter, and also Mr. Samuel the clerk, were allowed to
come upon deck, where they saw me standing abaft the mizen-mast, with my
hands tied behind my back, under a guard, with Christian at their head.
The boatswain was ordered to hoist the launch out, with a threat, if he
did not do it instantly, to take care of himself.
'When the boat was out, Mr. Hayward and Mr. Hallet, two of the
midshipmen, and Mr. Samuel, were ordered into it. I demanded what their
intention Was in giving this order, and endeavoured to persuade the
people near me not to persist in such acts of violence; but it was to no
effect - "Hold your tongue, Sir, or you are dead this instant," was
constantly repeated to me.
'The master by this time had sent to request that he might come on deck,
which was permitted; but he was soon ordered back again to his cabin.
'[When I exerted myself in speaking loud, to try if I could rally any
with a sense of duty in them, I was saluted with - "d - n his eyes,
the - - , blow his brains out"; while Christian was threatening me with
instant death, if I did not hold my tongue.]
'I continued my endeavours to turn the tide of affairs, when Christian
changed the cutlass which he had in his hand for a bayonet that was
brought to him, and holding me with a strong grip by the cord that tied
my hands, he threatened, with many oaths, to kill me immediately, if I
would not be quiet; the villains round me had their pieces cocked and
bayonets fixed. Particular persons were called on to go into the boat
and were hurried over the side; whence I concluded that with these
people I was to be set adrift. I therefore made another effort to bring
about a change, but with no other effect than to be threatened with
having my brains blown out.
The boatswain and seamen who were to go in the boat, were allowed to
collect twine, canvas, lines, sails, cordage, an eight-and-twenty gallon
cask of water; and Mr. Samuel got one hundred and fifty pounds of bread,
with a small quantity of rum and wine, also a quadrant and compass; but
he was forbidden, on pain of death, to touch either map, ephemeris, book
of astronomical observations, sextant, timekeeper, or any of my surveys
'The mutineers having forced those of the seamen whom they meant to get
rid of into the boat, Christian directed a dram to be served to each of
his own crew. I then unhappily saw that nothing could be done to effect
the recovery of the ship: there was no one to assist me, and every
endeavour on my part was answered with threats of death.
'The officers were next called upon deck, and forced over the side into
the boat, while I was kept apart from every one, abaft the mizen-mast;
Christian, armed with a bayonet, holding me by the bandage that secured
my hands. The guard round me had their pieces cocked, but on my daring
the ungrateful wretches to fire, they uncocked them.
'Isaac Martin, one of the guard over me, I saw had an inclination to
assist me, and as he fed me with shaddock (my lips being quite parched)
we explained our wishes to each other by our looks; but this being
observed, Martin was removed from me. He then attempted to leave the
ship, for which purpose he got into the boat; but with many threats they
obliged him to return.
'The armourer, Joseph Coleman, and two of the carpenters, M'Intosh and
Norman, were also kept, contrary to their inclination; and they begged
of me, after I was astern in the boat, to remember that they declared
they had no hand in the transaction. Michael Byrne, I am told, likewise
wanted to leave the ship.
'It is of no moment for me to recount my endeavours to bring back the
offenders to a sense of their duty; all I could do was by speaking to
them in general; but it was to no purpose, for I was kept securely
bound, and no one except the guard suffered to come near me.
'To Mr. Samuel (clerk) I am indebted for securing my journals and
commission, with some material ship papers. Without these I had nothing
to certify what I had done, and my honour and character might have been
suspected, without my possessing a proper document to have defended
them. All this he did with great resolution, though guarded and strictly
watched. He attempted to save the timekeeper, and a box with my surveys,
drawings, and remarks, for fifteen years past, which were numerous; when
he was hurried away with "D - n your eyes, you are well off to get what
It appeared to me that Christian was some time in doubt whether he
should keep the carpenter, or his mates; at length he determined on the
latter, and the carpenter was ordered into the boat. He was permitted,
but not without some opposition, to take his tool-chest.
'Much altercation took place among the mutinous crew during the whole
business: some swore "I'll be d - - d if he does not find his way home,
if he gets anything with him"; and when the carpenter's chest was
carrying away, "D - - n my eyes, he will have a vessel built in a
month"; while others laughed at the helpless situation of the boat,
being very deep, and so little room for those who were in her. As for
Christian, he seemed as if meditating destruction on himself and every
'I asked for arms, but they laughed at me, and said I was well
acquainted with the people among whom I was going, and therefore did not
want them; four cutlasses, however, were thrown into the boat, after we
were veered astern.
'The officers and men being in the boat, they only waited for me, of
which the master-at-arms informed Christian; who then said - "Come,
Captain Bligh, your officers and men are now in the boat, and you must
go with them; if you attempt to make the least resistance, you will
instantly be put to death"; and without further ceremony, with a tribe
of armed ruffians about me, I was forced over the side, when they untied
my hands. Being in the boat, we were veered astern by a rope, a few
pieces of pork were thrown to us, and some clothes, also the cutlasses I
have already mentioned; and it was then that the armourer and carpenters
called out to me to remember that they had no hand in the transaction.
After having undergone a great deal of ridicule, and been kept for some
time to make sport for these unfeeling wretches, we were at length cast
adrift in the open ocean.
'I had with me in the boat the following persons:
JOHN FRYER Master.
THOMAS LEDWAKD Acting Surgeon.
DAVID NELSON Botanist.
WILLIAM PECKOVER Gunner.
WILLIAM COLE Boatswain.
WILLIAM PURCELL Carpenter.
WILLIAM ELPHINSTONE Master's Mate.
THOMAS HAYWARD } Midshipman.
JOHN HALLET } do.
JOHN NORTON } Quarter-Master.
PETER LENKLETTER } do.
LAWRENCE LEBOGUE Sailmaker.
JOHN SMITH } Cook.
THOMAS HALL } do.
GEORGE SIMPSON Quarter-Master's Mate.
ROBERT TINKLER A boy.
ROBERT LAMB Butcher.
MR. SAMUEL Clerk.
In all eighteen.
'There remained in the _Bounty_:
FLETCHER CHRISTIAN Master's Mate.
PETER HEYWOOD } Midshipman.
EDWARD YOUNG } Midshipman.
GEORGE STEWART } Midshipman.
CHARLES CHURCHILL Master-at-Arms.
JOHN MILLS Gunner's Mate.
JAMES MORRISON Boatswain's Mate.
THOMAS BURKITT } Able Seaman.
MATTHEW QUINTAL } do.
JOHN SUMNER } do.
JOHN MILLWARD } do.
WILLIAM M'KOY } do.
HENRY HILLBRANT } do.
MICHAEL BYRNE } do.
WILLIAM MUSPRATT } do.
ALEXANDER SMITH } do.
JOHN WILLIAMS } do.
THOMAS ELLISON } do.
ISAAC MARTIN } do.
RICHARD SKINNER } do.
MATTHEW THOMPSON } do.
WILLIAM BROWN Gardener.
JOSEPH COLEMAN Armourer.
CHARLES NORMAN Carpenter's Mate.
THOMAS M'INTOSH Carpenter's Crew.
In all twenty-five - and the most able of the ship's company.
'Christian, the chief of the mutineers, is of a respectable family in
the North of England. This was the third voyage he had made with me; and
as I found it necessary to keep my ship's company at three watches, I
had given him an order to take charge of the third, his abilities being
thoroughly equal to the task; and by this means the master and gunner
were not at watch and watch.
'Heywood is also of a respectable family in the North of England, and
a young man of abilities as well as Christian. These two had been
objects of my particular regard and attention, and I had taken great
pains to instruct them, having entertained hopes that, as professional
men, they would have become a credit to their country.
'Young was well recommended, and had the look of an able, stout seaman;
he, however, fell short of what his appearance promised. [In the account
sent home he is thus described: Edward Young, midshipman, aged
twenty-two years. Dark complexion and rather a bad look - strong
made - has lost several of his fore teeth, and those that remain are all
'Stewart was a young man of creditable parents in the Orkneys; at which
place, on the return of the _Resolution_ from the South Seas, in 1780,
we received so many civilities that, on that account only, I should
gladly have taken him with me: but, independent of this recommendation,
he was a seaman, and had always borne a good character.
'Notwithstanding the roughness with which I was treated, the remembrance
of past kindnesses produced some signs of remorse in Christian. When
they were forcing me out of the ship, I asked him if this treatment was
a proper return for the many instances he had received of my friendship?
he appeared disturbed at my question, and answered with much emotion,
"That, - Captain Bligh, - that is the thing; - I am in hell, - I am in
'As soon as I had time to reflect, I felt an inward satisfaction, which
prevented any depression of my spirits: conscious of my integrity, and
anxious solicitude for the good of the service in which I had been
engaged, I found my mind wonderfully supported, and I began to conceive
hopes, notwithstanding so heavy a calamity, that I should one day be
able to account to my king and country for the misfortune. A few hours
before my situation had been peculiarly flattering. I had a ship in the
most perfect order, and well stored with every necessary both for
service and health; by early attention to those particulars I had, as
much as lay in my power, provided against any accident in case I could
not get through Endeavour Straits, as well as against what might befall
me in them; add to this, the plants had been successfully preserved in
the most flourishing state: so that, upon the whole, the voyage was
two-thirds completed, and the remaining part, to all appearance, in a
very promising way; every person on board being in perfect health, to
establish which was ever amongst the principal objects of my attention.
'It will very naturally be asked, what could be the reason for such a
revolt? In answer to which I can only conjecture that the mutineers had
flattered themselves with the hopes of a more happy life among the
Otaheitans than they could possibly enjoy in England; and this, joined
to some female connexions, most probably occasioned the whole
transaction. The ship, indeed, while within our sight, steered to the
W.N.W., but I considered this only as a feint; for when we were sent
away, - "Huzza for Otaheite!" - was frequently heard among the mutineers.
'The women of Otaheite are handsome, mild, and cheerful in their manners
and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient
delicacy to make them admired and beloved. The chiefs were so much
attached to our people, that they rather encouraged their stay among
them than otherwise, and even made them promises of large possessions.
Under these and many other attendant circumstances, equally desirable,
it is now perhaps not so much to be wondered at, though scarcely
possible to have been foreseen, that a set of sailors, most of them void
of connexions, should be led away; especially when, in addition to such
powerful inducements, they imagined it in their power to fix themselves
in the midst of plenty, on one of the finest islands in the world, where
they need hot labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are
beyond anything that can be conceived. The utmost, however, that any
commander could have supposed to have happened is, that some of the
people would have been tempted to desert. But if it should be asserted
that a commander is to guard against an act of mutiny and piracy in his
own ship, more than by the common rules of service, it is as much as to
say that he must sleep locked up, and when awake, be girded with
'Desertions have happened, more or less, from most of the ships that
have been at the Society Islands; but it has always been in the
commander's power to make the chiefs return their people; the
knowledge, therefore, that it was unsafe to desert, perhaps first led
mine to consider with what ease so small a ship might be surprised, and
that so favourable an opportunity would never offer to them again.
'The secrecy of this mutiny is beyond all conception. Thirteen of the
party, who were with me, had always lived forward among the seamen; yet
neither they, nor the messmates of Christian, Stewart, Heywood, and
Young, had ever observed any circumstance that made them in the least
suspect what was going on. To such a close-planned act of villainy, my
mind being entirely free from any suspicion, it is not wonderful that I
fell a sacrifice. Perhaps, if there had been marines on board, a
sentinel at my cabin-door might have prevented it; for I slept with the
door always open, that the officer of the watch might have access to me
on all occasions, the possibility of such a conspiracy being ever the
farthest from my thoughts. Had their mutiny been occasioned by any
grievances, either real or imaginary, I must have discovered symptoms of
their discontent, which would have put me on my guard; but the ease was
far otherwise. Christian, in particular, I was on the most friendly
terms with: that very day he was engaged to have dined with me; and the
preceding night he excused himself from supping with me, on pretence of
being unwell; for which I felt concerned, having no suspicions of his
integrity and honour.'
Such is the story published by Lieutenant Bligh immediately on his
return to England, after one of the most distressing and perilous
passages over nearly four thousand miles of the wide ocean, with
eighteen persons, in an open boat. The story obtained implicit credit;
and though Lieutenant Bligh's character never stood high in the navy for
suavity of manners or mildness of temper, he was always considered as an
excellent seaman, and his veracity stood unimpeached. But in this age of
refined liberality, when the most atrocious criminals find their
apologists, it is not surprising it should now be discovered, when all
are dead that could either prove or disprove it, that it was the tyranny
of the commander alone, and not the wickedness of the ringleader of the
mutineers of the _Bounty_, that caused that event. 'We all know,' it is
said, 'that mutiny can arise but from one of these two sources,
excessive folly or excessive tyranny; therefore' - the logic is
admirable - 'as it is admitted that Bligh was no idiot, the inference is
obvious.' If this be so, it may be asked to which of the two causes
must be ascribed the mutiny at the Nore, etc.? The true answer will be,
to neither. 'Not only,' continues the writer, 'was the _narrative_ which
he published proved to be false in many material bearings, by evidence
before a court-martial, but every act of his public life after this
event, from his successive command of the _Director_, the _Glatton_, and
the _Warrior_, to his disgraceful expulsion from New South Wales, - was
stamped with an insolence, an inhumanity, and coarseness, which fully
developed his character.'
There is no intention, in narrating this eventful history, to accuse or
defend either the character or the conduct of the late Admiral Bligh; it
is well known his temper was irritable in the extreme; but the
circumstance of his having been the friend of Captain Cook, with whom he
sailed as his master, - of his ever afterwards being patronized by Sir
Joseph Banks, - of the Admiralty promoting him to the rank of commander,
appointing him immediately to the _Providence_, to proceed on the same
expedition to Otaheite, - and of his returning in a very short time to
England with complete success, and recommending all his officers for
promotion on account of their exemplary conduct; - of his holding several
subsequent employments in the service, - of his having commanded ships of
the line in the battles of Copenhagen and Camperdown, - and risen to the
rank of a flag-officer, - these may perhaps be considered to speak
something in his favour, and be allowed to stand as some proof that,
with all his failings, he had his merits. That he was a man of coarse
habits, and entertained very mistaken notions with regard to discipline,
is quite true: yet he had many redeeming qualities. The accusation, by
the writer in question, of Bligh having falsified his 'narrative,' is a
very heavy charge, and, it is to be feared, is not wholly without
foundation; though it would perhaps be more correct to say, that in the
printed narrative of his voyage, and the narrative on which the
mutineers were tried, there are many important omissions from his
original manuscript journal, some of which it will be necessary to
The same writer further says, 'We know that the officers fared in every
way worse than the men, and that even young Heywood was kept at the mast
head no less than eight hours at one spell, in the worst weather which
they encountered off Cape Horn.'
Perhaps Heywood may himself be brought forward as authority, if not to
disprove, at least to render highly improbable, his experiencing any
such treatment on the part of his captain. This young officer, in his
defence, says, '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.' Bligh, too, has declared in a letter to Heywood's uncle,
Holwell, after accusing him of ingratitude, that 'he never once had an
angry word from me during the whole course of the voyage, as his conduct
always gave me much pleasure and satisfaction.'
In looking over a manuscript journal, kept by Morrison, the boatswain's
mate, who was tried and convicted as one of the mutineers, but received
the king's pardon, the conduct of Bligh appears in a very unfavourable
point of view. This Morrison was a person, from talent and education,
far above the situation he held in the _Bounty_; he had previously
served in the navy as midshipman, and, after his pardon, was appointed
gunner of the _Blenheim_, in which he perished with Sir Thomas
Troubridge. In comparing this journal with other documents, the dates
and transactions appear to be correctly stated, though the latter may
occasionally be somewhat too highly coloured. How he contrived to
preserve this journal, in the wreck of the _Pandora_, does not appear;
but there can be no doubt of its authenticity, having been kept among
the late Captain Heywood's papers; various passages in it have been
corrected either by this officer or some other person, but without
altering their sense.
It would appear from this important document that the seeds of discord,
in the unfortunate ship _Bounty_, were sown at a very early period of
the voyage. It happened, as was the case in all small vessels, that the
duties of commander and purser were united in the person of Lieutenant
Bligh; and it would seem that this proved the cause of very serious
discontent among the officers and crew; of the mischief arising out of
this union, the following statement of Mr. Morrison may serve as a
specimen. At Teneriffe, Lieutenant Bligh ordered the cheese to be
hoisted up and exposed to the air; which was no sooner done, than he
pretended to miss a certain quantity, and declared that it had been
stolen. The cooper, Henry Hillbrant, informed him that the cask in
question had been opened by the orders of Mr. Samuel, his clerk, who
acted also as steward, and the cheese sent on shore to his own house,
previous to the _Bounty_ leaving the river on her way to Portsmouth.
Lieutenant Bligh, without making any further inquiry, immediately
ordered the allowance of that article to be stopped, both from
_officers_ and _men_, until the deficiency should be made good, and told
the cooper he would give him a d - d good flogging if he said another
word on the subject. It can hardly be supposed that a man of Bligh's
shrewdness, if disposed to play the rogue, would have placed himself so
completely in the hands of the cooper, in a transaction which, if
revealed, must have cost him his commission.
Again, on approaching the equator, some decayed pumpkins, purchased at
Teneriffe, were ordered to be issued to the crew, at the rate of _one_
pound of pumpkin for _two_ pounds of biscuit. The reluctance of the men
to accept this proposed substitute, _on such terms_, being reported to
Lieutenant Bligh, he flew upon deck in a violent rage, turned the hands
up, and ordered the first man on the list of each mess to be called by
name; at the same time saying, 'I'll see who will dare to refuse the
pumpkin, or any thing else I may order to be served out;' to which he
added, 'You d - d infernal scoundrels, I'll make you eat grass, or any
thing you can catch, before I have done with you.' This speech had the
desired effect, every one receiving the pumpkins, even the _officers_.
Next comes a complaint respecting the mode of issuing beef and pork: but
when a representation was made to Lieutenant Bligh in the quiet and