Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

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 courtmartial. 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 cocoanuts.” 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 excuses himself on account of being unwell; and that he wirrited 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 cabin.”

On the 5th January three mendeserted 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 230 March -eleven weeks!

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, 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

66

66

was

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 wa 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. Mr. 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 opprobrious language con. stantly addressed to him, was the sole instigator of the mutiny ;-and that 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

[ocr errors]

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 cocoanuts 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 cocoanuts, 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 tropi-" cal 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 Shakspeare, 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,” &c.

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 congratu-, lating 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

« FöregåendeFortsätt »