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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orderly manner prescribed by the twenty-first article of war, he called
the crew aft, told them that every thing relative to the provisions was
transacted by his orders; that it was therefore needless for them to
complain, as they would get no redress, he being the fittest judge of
what was right or wrong, and that he would flog the first man who should
dare attempt to make any complaint in future. To this imperious menace
they bowed in silence, and not another murmur was heard from them during
the remainder of the voyage to Otaheite, it being their determination to
seek legal redress on the _Bounty's_ return to England. Happy would it
have been had they kept their resolution. By so doing, if the story be
true, they would amply have been avenged, a vast number of human lives
spared, and a world of misery avoided.

According to this Journalist, 'the seeds of eternal discord were sown
between Lieutenant Bligh and some of his officers,' while in Adventure
Bay, Van Diemen's Land; and on arriving at Matavai Bay, in Otaheite, he
is accused of taking the officers' hogs and bread-fruit, and serving
them to the ship's company; and when the master remonstrated with him on
the subject, he replied that 'he would convince him that every thing
became _his_ as soon as it was brought on board; that he would take
nine-tenths of every man's property, and let him see who dared to say
anything to the contrary.' The sailors' pigs were seized without
ceremony, and it became a favour for a man to obtain an extra pound of
his own meat.

The writer then says, 'the object of our visit to the Society Islands
being at length accomplished, we weighed on the 4th April, 1789. Every
one seemed in high spirits, and began to talk of home, as though they
had just left Jamaica instead of Otaheite, so far onward did their
flattering fancies waft them. On the 23rd, we anchored off Anamooka, the
inhabitants of which island were very rude, and attempted to take the
casks and axes from the parties sent to fill water and cut wood. A
musket pointed at them produced no other effect than a return of the
compliment, by poising their clubs or spears with menacing looks; and,
as it was Lieutenant Bligh's orders, that no person should affront them
on any occasion, they were emboldened by meeting with no check to their
insolence. They at length became so troublesome, that Mr. Christian, who
commanded the watering party, found it difficult to carry on his duty;
but on acquainting Lieutenant Bligh with their behaviour, he received a
volley of abuse, was d - d as a cowardly rascal, and asked if he were
afraid of naked savages whilst he had weapons in his hand? To this he
replied in a respectful manner, "The arms are of no effect, Sir, while
your orders prohibit their use."'

This happened but three days before the mutiny, and the same
circumstance is noticed, but somewhat differently, in Bligh's MS.
Journal, where he says, 'the men cleared themselves, and they therefore
merit no punishment. As to the officers I have no resource, nor do I
ever feel myself safe in the few instances I trust to them.' A perusal
of all the documents certainly leads to the conclusion that all his
officers were of a very inferior description; they had no proper feeling
of their own situation; and this, together with the contempt in which
they were held by Bligh, and which he could not disguise, may account
for that perfect indifference, with regard both to the captain and the
ship, which was manifested on the day of the mutiny.

That sad catastrophe, if the writer of the Journal be correct, was
hastened, if not brought about by, the following circumstance, of which
Bligh takes no notice.

'In the afternoon of the 27th, Lieutenant Bligh came upon deck, and
missing some of the cocoa-nuts, which had been piled up between the
guns, said they had been stolen, and could not have been taken away
without the knowledge of the officers, all of whom were sent for and
questioned on the subject. On their declaring that they had not seen any
of the people touch them, he exclaimed, "Then you must have taken them
yourselves"; and proceeded to inquire of them separately, how many they
had purchased. On coming to Mr. Christian, that gentleman answered, "I
do not know, Sir, but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be
guilty of stealing yours." Mr. Bligh replied, "Yes, you d - - d hound, I
do - you must have stolen them from me, or you would be able to give a
better account of them;" then turning to the other officers, he said,
"God d - - n you, you scoundrels, you are all thieves alike, and combine
with the men to rob me: I suppose you will steal my yams next; but I'll
sweat you for it, you rascals - I'll make half of you jump overboard,
before you get through Endeavour Straits." This threat was followed by
an order to the clerk "to stop the villains' grog, and give them but
half a pound of yams to-morrow; if they steal them, I'll reduce them to
a quarter."'

It is difficult to believe that an officer in his Majesty's service
could condescend to make use of such language to the meanest of the
crew, much less to gentlemen: it is to be feared, however, that there is
sufficient ground for the truth of these statements: with regard to the
last, it is borne out by the evidence of Mr. Fryer, the master, on the
court-martial. This officer, being asked, 'what did you suppose to be
Mr. Christian's meaning, when he said he had been in hell for a
fortnight?' answered, 'From the frequent quarrels they had had, and the
abuse which he had received from Mr. Bligh.' - 'Had there been any very
recent quarrel?' - 'The day before Mr. Bligh challenged all the young
gentlemen and people with stealing his cocoa-nuts.' It was on the
evening of this day that Lieutenant Bligh, according to his printed
narrative, says Christian was to have supped with him; but excused
himself on account of being unwell; and that he was invited to dine with
him on the day of the mutiny.

Every one of these circumstances, and many others, which might be stated
from Mr. Morrison's Journal, are omitted in Bligh's published narrative;
but many of them are alluded to in his original Journal, and others that
prove distinctly the constant reproofs to which his officers were
subject, and the bad terms on which they stood with their commander. A
few extracts from this Journal will sufficiently establish this point.

In so early a part of the voyage as their arrival in Adventure Bay, he
found fault with his officers, and put the carpenter into confinement.
Again, at Matavai Bay, on the 5th December, Bligh says, 'I ordered the
carpenter to cut a large stone that was brought off by one of the
natives, requesting me to get it made fit for them to grind their
hatchets on, but to my astonishment he refused, in direct terms, to
comply, saying, "I will not cut the stone, for it will spoil my chisel;
and though there may be law to take away my clothes, there is none to
take away my tools." This man having before shown his mutinous and
insolent behaviour, I was under the necessity of confining him to his

On the 5th January three men deserted in the cutter, on which occasion
Bligh says, 'Had the mate of the watch been awake, no trouble of this
kind would have happened. I have therefore disrated and turned him
before the mast; such neglectful and worthless petty officers, I
believe, never were in a ship as are in this. No orders for a few hours
together are obeyed by them, and their conduct in general is so bad,
that no confidence or trust can be reposed in them; in short, they have
driven me to every thing but corporal punishment, and that must follow
if they do not improve.'

By Morrison's Journal it would appear that 'corporal punishment' was not
long delayed; for, on the very day, he says, the midshipman was put in
irons, and confined from the 5th January to the 23rd March - eleven

On the 17th January, orders being given to clear out the sail-room and
to air the sails, many of them were found very much mildewed and rotten
in many places, on which he observes, 'If I had any officers to
supersede the master and boatswain, or was capable of doing without
them, considering them as common seamen, they should no longer occupy
their respective stations; scarcely any neglect of duty can equal the
criminality of this.'

On the 24th January, the three deserters were brought back and flogged,
then put in irons for further punishment. 'As this affair,' he says,
'was solely caused by the neglect of the officers who had the watch, I
was induced to give them all a lecture on this occasion, and endeavour
to show them that, however exempt they were at present from the like
punishment, yet they were equally subject, by the articles of war, to a
condign one.' He then tells them, that it is only necessity that makes
him have recourse to reprimand, because there are no means of trying
them by court-martial; and adds a remark, not very intelligible, but
what he calls an unpleasant one, about _such_ offenders having no
feelings of honour or sense of shame.

On the 7th March, a native Otaheitan, whom Bligh had confined in irons,
contrived to break the lock of the bilboa-bolt and make his escape. 'I
had given,' says Bligh, 'a written order that the mate of the watch was
to be answerable for the prisoners, and to visit and see that they were
safe in his watch, but I have such a neglectful set about me, that I
believe nothing but condign punishment can alter their conduct. Verbal
orders, in the course of a month, were so forgotten, that they would
impudently assert no such thing or directions were given, and I have
been at last under the necessity to trouble myself with writing, what,
by decent young officers, would be complied with as the common rules of
the service. Sir. Stewart was the mate of the watch.'

These extracts show the terms on which Bligh was with his officers; and
these few instances, with others from Morrison's Journal, make it pretty
clear, that though Christian, as fiery and passionate a youth as his
commander could well be, and with feelings too acute to bear the foul
and opprobious language constantly addressed to him, was the sole
instigator of the mutiny; - the captain had no support to expect, and
certainly received none, from the rest of his officers. That Christian
was the sole author appears still more strongly from the following
passage in Morrison's Journal. 'When Mr. Bligh found he must go into the
boat, he begged of Mr. Christian to desist, saying "I'll pawn my honour,
I'll give my bond, Mr. Christian, never to think of this, if you'll
desist," and urged his wife and family; to which Mr. Christian replied,
"No, Captain Bligh, if you had any honour, things had not come to this;
and if you had any regard for your wife and family, you should have
thought on them before, and not behaved so much like a villain."
Lieutenant Bligh again attempted to speak, but was ordered to be silent.
The boatswain also tried to pacify Mr. Christian, to whom he replied,
"It is too late, I have been in hell for this fortnight past, and am
determined to bear it no longer; and you know, Mr. Cole, that I have
been used like a dog all the voyage."'

It is pretty evident, therefore, that the mutiny was not, as Bligh in
his narrative states it to have been, the result of a conspiracy. It
will be seen by the minutes of the court-martial, that the whole affair
was planned and executed between the hours of four and eight o'clock, on
the morning of the 28th April, when Christian had the watch upon deck;
that Christian, unable longer to bear the abusive and insulting
language, had meditated his own escape from the ship the day before,
choosing to trust himself to fate, rather than submit to the constant
upbraiding to which he had been subject; but the unfortunate business
of the cocoa-nuts drove him to the commission of the rash and felonious
act, which ended, as such criminal acts usually do, in his own
destruction, and that of a great number of others, many of whom were
wholly innocent.

Lieutenant Bligh, like most passionate men, whose unruly tempers get the
better of their reason, having vented his rage about the cocoa-nuts,
became immediately calm, and by inviting Christian to sup with him the
same evening, evidently wished to renew their friendly intercourse; and
happy would it have been for all parties had he accepted the invitation.
On the same night, towards ten o'clock, when the master had the watch,
Bligh came on deck, as was his custom, before retiring to sleep. It was
one of those calm and beautiful nights, so frequent in tropical regions,
whose soothing influence can be appreciated only by those who have felt
it, when, after a scorching day, the air breathes a most refreshing
coolness, - it was an evening of this sort, when Bligh for the last time
came upon deck, in the capacity of commander; a gentle breeze scarcely
rippled the water, and the moon, then in its first quarter, shed its
soft light along the surface of the sea. The short and quiet
conversation that took place between Bligh and the master on this
evening, after the irritation of the morning had subsided, only to burst
forth again in all the horrors of mutiny and piracy, recalls to one's
recollection that beautiful passage of Shakespeare, where, on the
evening of the murder, Duncan, on approaching the castle of Macbeth,
observes to Banquo -

- 'The air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses,' etc. -

a passage which Sir Joshua Reynolds considers as a striking instance of
what in painting is termed _repose_. 'The subject,' he says, 'of this
quiet and easy conversation, gives that repose so necessary to the mind,
after the tumultuous bustle of the preceding scenes, and beautifully
contrasts the scene of terror that immediately succeeds.' While, on this
lovely night, Bligh and his master were congratulating themselves on the
pleasing prospect of fine weather and a full moon, to light them through
Endeavour's dangerous straits, the unhappy and deluded Christian was, in
all probability, brooding over his wrongs, and meditating on the
criminal act he was to perpetrate the following morning; for he has
himself stated, that he had just fallen asleep about half after three in
the morning, and was much out of order.

The evidence on the court-martial is sufficiently explicit as to the
mode in which this act of piracy was committed. By the Journal of James
Morrison, the following is the account of the transaction, as given by
Christian himself to the two midshipmen, Heywood and Stewart (both of
whom had been kept below), the moment they were allowed to come upon
deck, after the boat, in which were Bligh and his companions, had been
turned adrift.

He said, that, 'finding himself much hurt by the treatment he had
received from Lieutenant Bligh, he had determined to quit the ship the
preceding evening, and had informed the boatswain, carpenter, and two
midshipmen (Stewart and Hayward), of his intention to do so; that by
them he was supplied with part of a roasted pig, some nails, beads, and
other articles of trade, which he put into a bag that was given him by
the last-named gentleman; that he put this bag into the clue of Robert
Tinkler's hammock, where it was discovered by that young gentleman when
going to bed at night, but the business was smothered, and passed off
without any further notice. He said he had fastened some staves to a
stout plank, with which he intended to make his escape; but finding he
could not effect it during the first and middle watches, as the ship had
no way through the water, and the people were all moving about, he laid
down to rest about half-past three in the morning; that when Mr. Stewart
called him to relieve the deck at four o'clock, he had but just fallen
asleep, and was much out of order; upon observing which, Mr. Stewart
strenuously advised him to abandon his intention; that as soon as he had
taken charge of the deck, he saw Mr. Hayward, the mate of his watch, lie
down on the arm-chest to take a nap; and finding that Mr. Hallet, the
other midshipman, did not make his appearance, he suddenly formed the
resolution of seizing the ship. Disclosing his intention to Matthew
Quintal and Isaac Martin, both of whom had been flogged by Lieutenant
Bligh, they called up Charles Churchill, who had also tasted the cat,
and Matthew Thompson, both of whom readily joined in the plot. That
Alexander Smith (_alias_ John Adams), John Williams, and William M'Koy,
evinced equal willingness, and went with Churchill to the armourer, of
whom they obtained the keys of the arm-chest, under pretence of wanting
a musket to fire at a shark, then alongside; that finding Mr. Hallet
asleep on an arm-chest in the main-hatchway, they roused and sent him on
deck. Charles Norman, unconscious of their proceedings, had in the
meantime awaked Mr. Hayward, and directed his attention to the shark,
whose movements he was watching at the moment that Mr. Christian and his
confederates came up the fore-hatchway, after having placed arms in the
hands of several men who were not aware of their design. One man,
Matthew Thompson, was left in charge of the chest, and he served out
arms to Thomas Burkitt and Robert Lamb. Mr. Christian said he then
proceeded to secure Lieutenant Bligh, the master, gunner, and botanist.'

'When Mr. Christian,' observes Morrison in his Journal, 'related the
above circumstances, I recollected having seen him fasten some staves to
a plank lying on the larboard gangway, as also having heard the
boatswain say to the carpenter, "it will not do to-night." I likewise
remembered that; Mr. Christian had visited the fore-cockpit several
times that evening, although he had very seldom, if ever, frequented
the warrant-officers' cabins before.'

If this be a correct statement, and the greater part of it is borne out
by evidence on the court-martial, it removes every doubt of Christian
being the sole instigator of the mutiny, and that no conspiracy nor
pre-concerted measures had any existence, but that it was suddenly
conceived by a hot-headed young man, in a state of great excitement of
mind, amounting to a temporary aberration of intellect, caused by the
frequent abusive and insulting language of his commanding officer.
Waking out of a short half hour's disturbed sleep, to take the command
of the deck - finding the two mates of the watch, Hayward and Hallet,
asleep (for which they ought to have been dismissed the service instead
of being, as they were, promoted) - the opportunity tempting, and the
ship completely in his power, with a momentary impulse he darted down
the fore-hatchway, got possession of the keys of the arm-chest, and made
the hazardous experiment of arming such of the men as he thought he
could trust, and effected his purpose.

There is a passage in Captain Beechey's account of Pitcairn Island,
which, if correct, would cast a stain on the memory of the unfortunate
Stewart - who, if there was one innocent man in the ship, was that man.
Captain Beechey says (speaking of Christian), 'His plan, strange as it
must appear for a young officer to adopt, who was fairly advanced in an
honourable profession, was to set himself adrift upon a raft, and make
his way to the island (Tofoa) then in sight. As quick in the execution
as in the design, the raft was soon constructed, various useful articles
were got together, and he was on the point of launching it, when a young
officer, _who afterwards perished in the Pandora_, to whom Christian
communicated his intention, recommended him, rather than risk his life
on so hazardous an expedition, _to endeavour to take possession of the
ship_, which he thought would not be very difficult, as many of the
ship's company were not well disposed towards the commander, and would
all be very glad to return to Otaheite, and reside among their friends
in that island. This daring proposition is even more extraordinary than
the premeditated scheme of his companion, and, if true, certainly
relieves Christian from part of the odium which has hitherto attached to
him as the sole instigator of the mutiny.' Relieve him? - not a jot - but
on the best authority it may boldly be stated, that it is _not_
true - the authority of Stewart's friend and messmate, the late Captain

Captain Beechey, desirous of being correct in his statement, very
properly sent his chapter on Pitcairn's Island for any observations
Captain Heywood might have to make on what was said therein regarding
the mutiny; observing in his note which accompanied it, that this
account, received from Adams, differed materially from a footnote in
Marshall's _Naval Biography_; to which Captain Heywood returned the
following reply.

'_5th April_, 1830.

'DEAR SIR, - I have perused the account you received from Adams
of the mutiny in the _Bounty_, which does indeed differ very
materially from a footnote in Marshall's _Naval Biography_, by
the editor, to whom I verbally detailed the facts, which are
strictly true.

'That Christian informed the boatswain and the carpenter,
Messrs. Hayward and Stewart, of his determination to leave the
ship upon a raft, on the night preceding the mutiny, is
certain; but that any one of them (Stewart in particular)
should have "recommended, rather than risk his life on so
hazardous an expedition, that he should try the expedient of
taking the ship from the captain, etc.," is entirely at
variance with the whole character and conduct of the latter,
both before and after the mutiny; as well as with the
assurance of Christian himself, the very night he quitted
Taheité, that the idea of attempting to take the ship had
never entered his distracted mind, until the moment he
relieved the deck, and found his mate and midshipman

'At that last interview with Christian he also communicated to
me, for the satisfaction of his relations, other circumstances
connected with that unfortunate disaster, which, after their
deaths, may or may not be laid before the public. And although
they can implicate none but himself, either living or dead,
they may extenuate but will contain not a word of his in
defence of the crime he committed against the laws of his
country. - I am, etc.,


Captain Beechey stated only what he had heard from old Adams, who was
not always correct in the information he gave to the visitors of his
island; but this part of his statement gave great pain to Heywood, who
adverted to it on his death-bed, wishing, out of regard for Stewart's
memory and his surviving friends, that it should be publicly
contradicted; and with this view the above reply of Captain Heywood is
here inserted.

The temptations, therefore, which it was supposed Otaheite held out to
the deluded men of the _Bounty_, had no more share in the transaction
than the supposed conspiracy; it does not appear, indeed, that the cry
of 'Huzza for Otaheite!' was ever uttered; if this island had been the
object of either Christian or the crew, they would not have left it
three hundred miles behind them, before they perpetrated the act of
piracy; but after the deed had been committed, it would be natural
enough that they should turn their minds to the lovely island and its
fascinating inhabitants, which they had but just quitted, and that in
the moment of excitement some of them should have so called out; but
Bligh is the only person who has said they did so.

If, however, the recollection of the 'sunny isle' and its 'smiling
women' had really tempted the men to mutiny, Bligh would himself not be
free from blame, for having allowed them to indulge for six whole
months among this voluptuous and fascinating people; for though he was
one of the most active and anxious commanders of his time, 'the
service,' as is observed by a naval officer, 'was carried on in those
days in a very different spirit from that which regulates its movements
now, otherwise the _Bounty_ would never have passed six whole months at
one island "stowing away the fruit," during which time the officers and
seamen had free access to the shore. Under similar circumstances
nowadays, if the fruit happened not to be ready, the ship would have
been off, after ten days' relaxation, to survey other islands, or
speculate on coral reefs, or make astronomical observations; in short,
to do something or other to keep the devil out of the heads of the
crew.'[8] Bligh would appear to have been sensible of this on his next

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 6 of 24)