Sir John Barrow.

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

. (page 9 of 24)
Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 9 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

miraculous, that this voyage, itself a miracle, should have been
completed, not only without the loss of a man from sickness, but with so
little loss of health. 'With respect to the preservation of our health,'
says the commander, 'during the course of sixteen days of heavy and
almost continual rain, I would recommend to every one in a similar
situation, the method we practised of dipping their clothes in
salt-water, and to wring them out, as often as they become soaked with
rain; it was the only resource we had, and I believe was of the greatest
service to us, for it felt more like a change of dry clothes than could
well be imagined. We had occasion to do this so often, that at length
all our clothes were wrung to pieces.'

But the great art of all was to divert their attention from the almost
hopeless situation in which they were placed, and to prevent despondency
from taking possession of their minds; and in order to assist in
effecting this, some employment was devised for them; among other
things, a logline, an object of interest to all, was measured and
marked; and the men were practised in counting seconds correctly, that
the distance run on each day might be ascertained with a nearer
approach to accuracy than by mere guessing. These little operations
afforded them a temporary amusement; and the log being daily and hourly
hove gave them also some employment, and diverted their thoughts for the
moment from their melancholy situation. Then, every noon, when the sun
was out, or at other times before and after noon, and also at night when
the stars appeared, Lieutenant Bligh never neglected to take
observations for the latitude, and to work the day's work for
ascertaining the ship's place. The anxiety of the people to hear how
they had proceeded, what progress had been made, and whereabouts they
were on the wide ocean, also contributed for the time to drive away
gloomy thoughts that but too frequently would intrude themselves. These
observations were rigidly attended to, and sometimes made under the most
difficult circumstances, the sea breaking over the observer, and the
boat pitching and rolling so much, that he was obliged to be 'propped
up,' while taking them. In this way, with now and then a little
interrupted sleep, about a thousand long and anxious hours were consumed
in pain and peril, and a space of sea passed over equal to four thousand
five hundred miles, being at the rate of four and one-fifth miles an
hour, or one hundred miles a day.

Lieutenant Bligh has expressed his conviction, that the six days spent
among the coral islands, off the coast of New Holland, were the
salvation of the whole party, by the refreshing sleep they here
procured, by the exercise of walking about, and, above all, by the
nutriment derived from the oysters and clams, the beans and berries,
they procured while there; for that such, he says, was the exhausted
condition of all on their arrival at the 'barrier reef,' that a few days
more at sea must have terminated the existence of many of them. This
stoppage, however, had likewise been nearly productive of fatal
consequences to the whole party. In fact, another mutiny was within an
ace of breaking out, which, if not checked at the moment, could only, in
their desperate situation, have ended in irretrievable and total
destruction. Bligh mentions, in his printed narrative, the mutinous
conduct of a person to whom he gave a cutlass to defend himself. This
affair, as stated in his original manuscript journal, wears a far more
serious aspect.

'The carpenter (Purcell) began to be insolent to a high degree, and at
last told me, with a mutinous aspect, he was as good a man as I was. I
did not just now see where this was to end; I therefore determined to
strike a final blow at it, and either to preserve my command or die in
the attempt; and taking hold of a cutlass, I ordered the rascal to take
hold of another and defend himself, when he called out that I was going
to kill him, and began to make concessions. I was now only assisted by
Mr. Nelson; and the master (Fryer) very deliberately called out to the
boatswain, to put me under an arrest, and was stirring up a greater
disturbance, when I declared, if he interfered, when I was in the
execution of my duty to preserve order and regularity, and that in
consequence any tumult arose, I would certainly put him to death the
first person. This had a proper effect on this man, and he now assured
me that, on the contrary, I might rely on him to support my orders and
directions for the future. This is the outline of a tumult that lasted
about a quarter of hour'; and he adds, 'I was told that the master and
carpenter, at the last place, were endeavouring to produce altercations,
and were the principal cause of their murmuring there.' This carpenter
he brought to a court-martial on their arrival in England, on various
charges, of which he was found guilty in part, and reprimanded. Purcell
is said to be at this time in a mad-house.

On another occasion, when a stew of oysters was distributed among the
people, Lieutenant Bligh observes (in the MS. Journal), 'In the
distribution of it, the voraciousness of some and the moderation of
others were very discernible. The _master_ began to be dissatisfied the
first, because it was not made into a larger quantity by the addition of
water, and showed a turbulent disposition, until I laid my commands on
him to be silent.' Again, on his refusing bread to the men, because they
were collecting oysters, he says, 'this occasioned some murmuring with
the master and carpenter, the former of whom endeavoured to prove the
propriety of such an expenditure, and was troublesomely ignorant,
tending to create disorder among those, if any were weak enough to
listen to him.'

If what Bligh states with regard to the conduct of the master and the
carpenter be true, it was such, on several occasions, as to provoke a
man much less irritable than himself. He thus speaks of the latter, when
in the ship and in the midst of the mutiny. 'The boatswain and carpenter
were fully at liberty; the former was employed, on pain of death, to
hoist the boats out, but the latter I saw acting the part of an idler,
with an impudent and ill-looking countenance, which led me to believe he
was one of the mutineers, until he was among the rest ordered to leave
the ship, for it appeared to me to be a doubt with Christian, at first,
whether he should keep the carpenter or his mate (Norman), but knowing
the former to be a troublesome fellow, he determined on the latter.'

The following paragraph also appears in his original journal, on the day
of the mutiny, but is not alluded to in his printed narrative. 'The
master's cabin was opposite to mine; he saw them (the mutineers) in my
cabin, for our eyes met each other through his door-window. He had a
pair of ship's pistols loaded, and ammunition in his cabin - a firm
resolution might have made a good use of them. After he had sent twice
or thrice to Christian to be allowed to come on deck, he was at last
permitted, and his question then was, "Will you let me remain in the
ship?" - "No." "Have _you_ any objection, Captain Bligh?" I whispered to
him to knock him down - Martin is good (this is the man who gave the
shaddock), for this was just before Martin was removed from me.
Christian, however, pulled me back, and sent away the master, with
orders to go again to his cabin, and I saw no more of him, until he was
put into the boat. He afterwards told me that he could find nobody to
act with him; that by staying in the ship he hoped to have retaken her,
and that, as to the pistols, he was so flurried and surprised, that he
did not recollect he had them.' This master tells a very different story
respecting the pistols, in his evidence before the court-martial.

Whatever, therefore, on the whole, may have been the conduct of Bligh
towards his officers, that of some of the latter appears to have been on
several occasions provoking enough, and well calculated to stir up the
irascible temper of a man, active and zealous in the extreme, as Bligh
always was, in the execution of his duty. Some excuse may be found for
hasty expressions uttered in a moment of irritation, when passion gets
the better of reason; but no excuse can be found for one, who deeply and
unfeelingly, without provocation, and in cold blood, inflicts a wound on
the heart of a widowed mother, already torn with anguish and tortured
with suspense for a beloved son, whose life was in imminent jeopardy:
such a man was William Bligh. This charge is not loosely asserted; it is
founded on documentary evidence under his own hand. Since the death of
the late Captain Heywood, some papers have been brought to light, that
throw a still more unfavourable stigma on the character of the two
commanders, Bligh and Edwards, than any censure that has hitherto
appeared in print, though the conduct of neither of them has been
spared, whenever an occasion has presented itself for bringing their
names before the public.

Bligh, it may be recollected, mentions young Heywood only as one of
those left in the ship; he does not charge him with taking any active
part in the mutiny; there is every reason, indeed, to believe that Bligh
did not, and indeed could not, see him on the deck on that occasion: in
point of fact, he never was within thirty feet of Captain Bligh, and the
booms were between them. About the end of March, 1790, two months
subsequent to the death of a most beloved and lamented husband, Mrs.
Heywood received the afflicting information, but by report only, of a
mutiny having taken place on board the _Bounty_. In that ship Mrs.
Heywood's son had been serving as midshipman, who, when he left his
home, in August, 1787, was under fifteen years of age, a boy deservedly
admired and beloved by all who knew him, and, to his own family, almost
an object of adoration, for his superior understanding and the amiable
qualities of his disposition. In a state of mind little short of
distraction, on hearing this fatal intelligence, which was at the same
time aggravated by every circumstance of guilt that calumny or malice
could invent with respect to this unfortunate youth, who was said to be
one of the ringleaders, and to have gone armed into the captain's
cabin, his mother addressed a letter to Captain Bligh, dictated by a
mother's tenderness, and strongly expressive of the misery she must
necessarily feel on such an occasion. The following is Bligh's reply: -

'_London, April 2nd_, 1790.

'MADAM, - I received your letter this day, and feel for you
very much, being perfectly sensible of the extreme distress
you must suffer from the conduct of your son Peter. _His
baseness is beyond all description_, but I hope you will
endeavour to prevent the loss of him, heavy as the misfortune
is, from afflicting you too severely. I imagine he is, with
the rest of the mutineers, returned to Otaheite. - - I am,

(Signed) 'WM. BLIGH.'

Colonel Holwell, the uncle of young Heywood, had previously addressed
Bligh on the same melancholy subject, to whom he returned the following
answer: -

'_26th March_, 1790.

'SIR, - I have just this instant received your letter. With
much concern I inform you that your nephew, Peter Hey wood, is
among the mutineers. _His ingratitude to me is of the blackest
dye_, for I was a father to him in every respect, and he never
once had an angry word from me through the whole course of the
voyage, as his conduct always gave me much pleasure and
satisfaction. I very much regret _that so much baseness formed
the character_ _of a young man_ I had a real regard for, and
it will give me much pleasure to hear that his friends _can
bear the loss of him without much concern_. - I am, Sir, etc.

(Signed) 'WM. BLIGH.'

The only way of accounting for this ferocity of sentiment towards a
youth, who had in point of fact no concern in the mutiny, is by a
reference to certain points of evidence given by Hayward, Hallet, and
Purcell on the court-martial, each point wholly unsupported. Those in
the boat would no doubt, during their long passage, often discuss the
conduct of their messmates left in the _Bounty_, and the unsupported
evidence given by these three was well calculated to create in Bligh's
mind a prejudice against young Heywood; yet, if so, it affords but a
poor excuse for harrowing up the feelings of near and dear relatives.

As a contrast to these ungracious letters, it is a great relief to
peruse the correspondence that took place, on this melancholy occasion,
between this unfortunate young officer and his amiable but dreadfully
afflicted family. The letters of his sister, Nessy Heywood (of which a
few will be inserted in the course of this narrative), exhibit so lively
and ardent an affection for her beloved brother, are couched in so high
a tone of feeling for his honour, and confidence in his innocence, and
are so nobly answered by the suffering youth, that no apology seems to
be required for their introduction, more especially as their contents
are strictly connected with the story of the ill-fated crew of the
_Bounty_. After a state of long suspense, this amiable and accomplished
young lady thus addresses her brother: -

'_Isle of Man, 2nd June_, 1792.

'In a situation of mind only rendered supportable by the long
and painful state of misery and suspense we have suffered on
his account, how shall I address my dear, my fondly beloved
brother! - how describe the anguish we have felt at the idea of
this long and painful separation, rendered still more
distressing by the terrible circumstances attending it! Oh! my
ever dearest boy, when I look back to that dreadful moment
which brought us the fatal intelligence that you had remained
in the _Bounty_ after Mr. Bligh had quitted her, and were
looked upon by him as a _mutineer_! - when I contrast that day
of horror with my present hopes of again beholding you, such
as my most sanguine wishes could expect, I know not which is
the most predominant sensation, - pity, compassion, and terror
for your sufferings, or joy and satisfaction at the prospect
of their being near a termination, and of once more embracing
the dearest object of our affections.

'I will not ask you, my beloved brother, whether you are
innocent of the dreadful crime of mutiny; if the transactions
of that day were as Mr. Bligh has represented them, such is my
conviction of your worth and honour, that I will, without
hesitation, stake my life on your innocence. If, on the
contrary, you were concerned in such a conspiracy against
your commander, I shall be as firmly persuaded _his_ conduct
was the occasion of it; but, alas! could any occasion justify
so atrocious an attempt to destroy a number of our
fellow-creatures? No, my ever dearest brother, nothing but
conviction from your own mouth can possibly persuade me, that
you would commit an action in the smallest degree inconsistent
with honour and duty; and the circumstance of your having swam
off to the _Pandora_ on her arrival at Otaheite (which filled
us with joy to which no words can do justice), is sufficient
to convince all who know you, that you certainly staid behind
either by force or from views of preservation.

'How strange does it seem to me that I am now engaged in the
delightful task of writing to you. Alas! my beloved brother,
two years ago I never expected again to enjoy such a felicity,
and even yet I am in the most painful uncertainty whether you
are alive. Gracious God, grant that we may be at length
blessed by your return I but, alas! the _Pandora's_ people
have been long expected, and are not even yet arrived. Should
any accident have happened, after all the miseries you have
already suffered, the poor gleam of hope with which we have
been lately indulged, will render our situation ten thousand
times more insupportable than if time had inured us to your
loss. I send this to the care of Mr. Hayward, of Hackney,
father to the young gentleman you so often mention in your
letters while you were on board the _Bounty_, and who went out
as third lieutenant of the _Pandora_ - a circumstance which
gave us infinite satisfaction, as you would, on entering the
_Pandora_, meet your old friend. On discovering old Mr.
Hayward's residence, I wrote to him, as I hoped he could give
me some information respecting the time of your arrival, and
in return he sent me a most friendly letter, and has promised
this shall be given to you when you reach England, as I well
know how great must be your anxiety to hear of us, and how
much satisfaction it will give you to have a letter
immediately on your return. Let me conjure you, my dearest
Peter, to write to us the very first moment - do not lose a
post - 'tis of no consequence how short your letter may be, if
it only informs us you are well. I need not tell you that you
are the first and dearest object of our affections. Think,
then, my adored boy, of the anxiety we must feel on your
account; for my own part, I can know no real joy or happiness
independent of you, and if any misfortune should now deprive
us of you, my hopes of felicity are fled for ever.

'We are at present making all possible interest with every
friend and connexion we have, to ensure you a sufficient
support and protection at your approaching trial; for a trial
you must unavoidably undergo, in order to convince the world
of that innocence, which those who know you will not for a
moment doubt; but, alas! while circumstances are against you,
the generality of mankind will judge severely. Bligh's
representations to the Admiralty are, I am told, very
unfavourable, and hitherto the tide of public opinion has been
greatly in his favour. My mamma is at present well,
considering the distress she has suffered since you left us;
for, my dearest brother, we have experienced a complicated
scene of misery from a variety of causes, which, however, when
compared with the sorrow we felt on your account, was trifling
and insignificant; _that_ misfortune made all others light,
and to see you once more returned, and safely restored to us,
will be the summit of all earthly happiness.

'Farewell, my most beloved brother! God grant this may soon be
put into your hands I Perhaps at this moment you are arrived
in England, and I may soon have the dear delight of again
beholding you. My mamma, brothers, and sisters, join with me
in every sentiment of love and tenderness. Write to us
immediately, my ever-loved Peter, and may the Almighty
preserve you until you bless with your presence your fondly
affectionate family, and particularly your unalterably
faithful friend and sister,

(Signed) 'NESSY HEYWOOD.'[12]

The gleam of joy which this unhappy family derived from the
circumstance, which had been related to them, of young Heywood's
swimming off to the _Pandora_, was dissipated by a letter from himself
to his mother, soon after his arrival in England, in which he
says: - 'The question, my dear mother, in one of your letters,
concerning my swimming off to the _Pandora_, is one falsity among the
too many, in which I have often thought of undeceiving you, and as
frequently forgot. The story was this: - On the morning she arrived,
accompanied by two of my friends (natives), I was going up the
mountains, and having got about a hundred yards from my own house,
another of my friends (for I was an universal favourite among those
Indians, and perfectly conversant in their language) came running after
me, and informed me there was a ship coming. I immediately ascended a
rising ground, and saw, with indescribable joy, a ship laying-to off
Hapiano; it was just after daylight, and thinking Coleman might not be
awake, and therefore ignorant of this pleasing news, I sent one of my
servants to inform him of it, upon which he immediately went off in a
single canoe. There was a fresh breeze, and the ship working into the
bay; he no sooner got alongside than the rippling capsized the canoe,
and he being obliged to let go the tow-rope to get her righted, went
astern, and was picked up the next tack and taken on board the
_Pandora_, he being the first person. I, along with my messmate Stewart,
was then standing upon the beach with a double canoe, manned with twelve
paddles ready for launching; and just as she made her last tack into her
berth (for we did not think it requisite to go off sooner), we put off
and got alongside just as they streamed the buoy; and being dressed in
the country manner, tanned as brown as themselves, and I _tattooed_ like
them in the most curious manner, I do not in the least wonder at their
taking us for natives. I was tattooed, not to gratify my own desire, but
theirs; for it was my constant endeavour to acquiesce in any little
custom which I thought would be agreeable to them, though painful in the
process, provided I gained by it their friendship and esteem, which you
may suppose is no inconsiderable object in an island where the natives
are so numerous. The more a man or woman there is tattooed, the more
they are respected; and a person having none of these marks is looked
upon as bearing an unworthy badge of disgrace, and considered as a mere
outcast of society.'

Among the many anxious friends and family connexions of the Heywoods,
was Commodore Pasley, to whom this affectionate young lady addressed
herself on the melancholy occasion; and the following is the reply she
received from this officer.

'_Sheerness, June 8th_, 1792.

'Would to God, my dearest Nessy, that I could rejoice with you
on the early prospect of your brother's arrival in England.
One division of the _Pandora's_ people has arrived, and now on
board the _Vengeance_ (my ship). Captain Edwards with the
remainder, and all the prisoners late of the _Bounty_, in
number ten (four having been drowned on the loss of that
ship), are daily expected. They have been most rigorously and
closely confined since taken, and will continue so, no doubt,
till Bligh's arrival. You have no chance of seeing him, for
no bail can be offered. Your intelligence of his swimming off
on the _Pandoras_ arrival is not founded; a man of the name of
Coleman swam off ere she anchored - your brother and Mr.
Stewart the next day; this last youth, when the _Pandora_ was
lost, refused to allow his irons to be taken off to save his

'I cannot conceal it from you, my dearest Nessy, neither is it
proper I should - your brother appears, by all accounts, to be
the greatest culprit of all, Christian alone excepted. Every
exertion, you may rest assured, I shall use to save his life,
but on trial I have no hope of his not being condemned. Three
of the ten who are expected are mentioned, in Bligh's
narrative, as men detained against their inclination. Would to
God your brother had been one of that number! I will not
distress you more by enlarging on this subject; as
intelligence arises on their arrival, you shall be made
acquainted. Adieu! my dearest Nessy - present my affectionate
remembrances to your mother and sisters, and believe me
always, with the warmest affection, - Your uncle,


How unlike is this from the letter of Bligh! while it frankly apprises
this amiable lady of the real truth of the case, without disguise, as it
was then understood to be from Mr. Bligh's representations, it assures
her of his best exertions to save her brother's life. Every reader of
sensibility will sympathise in the feeling displayed in her reply.

'_Isle of Man, 22nd June_, 1792.

'Harassed by the most torturing suspense, and miserably
wretched as I have been, my dearest uncle, since the receipt
of your last, conceive, if it is possible, the heartfelt joy
and satisfaction we experienced yesterday morning, when, on
the arrival of the packet, the dear delightful letter from our
beloved Peter (a copy of which I send you enclosed) was
brought to us. Surely, my excellent friend, you will agree

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 9 of 24)