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MUTINY OF THE BOUNTY.
"THE gentle Island, and the genial soil,
The bread-tree, which, without the ploughshare, yields
Without a furnace in unpurchas'd groves,
THE reign of George III. will be distinguished in history by the great extension and improvement which geographical knowledge received under the immediate auspices of this sovereign. At a very early period after his accession to the throne of these realms, expeditions of discovery were undertaken," not," as Dr. Hawkesworth observes, "with a view to the acquisition of treasure, or the extent of dominion, but for the improvement of commerce and the increase and diffusion of knowledge." This excellent monarch was himself no mean proficient in the science of geography; and it may be doubted if any one of his subjects, at the period alluded to,
was in possession of so extensive or so well-arranged a cabinet of maps and charts as his was, or who understood their merits or their defects so well as he did.
The first expeditions that were sent forth, after the conclusion of the war, were those of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret. In the instructions to the first of these commanders it is said, "there is reason to believe that lands and islands of great extent, hitherto unvisited by any European power, may be found in the Atlantic Ocean, between the Cape of Good Hope and the Magellanic Strait, within the latitudes convenient for navigation, and in climates adapted to the produce of commodities useful in commerce." It could not require much knowledge or consideration to be assured that between the Cape and the Strait climates producing commodities useful in commerce, with the exception of whales and seals, were likely to be found. The fact was, that among the real objects of this and other subsequent voyages, there was one which had engaged the attention of certain philosophers, from the time of the Spanish navigator Quiros: this able navigator had maintained that a Terra Australis incognita must necessarily exist, somewhere in the high latitudes of the southern hemisphere, to counterbalance the great masses of land in those of the northern one, and thus maintain a just equipoise of the globe.
While these expeditions were in progress, the Royal Society, in 1768, addressed an application to the king, praying him to appoint a ship of war to convey to the South Seas Mr. Alexander Dalrymple (who had adopted the opinion of Quiros), and certain others, for the main purpose, however, of observing the transit of Venus over the sun's disk, which was to happen in the year 1769. By the king's command, a bark of three hundred and seventy tons was taken up by the Admiralty to perform this service, but as Mr. Dalrymple was a civilian, he
could not be intrusted with the command of the ship, and on that account declined going in her.
The command was therefore conferred on Lieutenant James Cook, an officer of undoubted ability, and well versed in astronomy and the theory and practice of navigation, with whom the Royal Society associated Mr. Charles Green, who had long been assistant to Dr. Bradley, the astronomer royal, to aid him in the observation of the transit. Mr. Banks, a private gentleman of good fortune, who afterward became the valuable and distinguished President of the Royal Society, and Dr. Solander, a Swedish gentleman of great acquirements, particularly in natural history, accompanied Lieutenant Cook on this interesting voyage. The islands of Marquesas de Mendoza, or those of Rotterdam or Amsterdam, were proposed by the Royal Society as proper places for making the observation. While fitting out, however, Captain Wallis returned from his expedition, and strongly recommended, as most suitable for the purpose, Port Royal Harbour, on an island he had discovered, to which he had given the name of "King George's Island," and which has since been known by its native name, Otaheite or Tahite.*
This lovely island is most intimately connected with the mutiny which took place on board the Bounty, and with the fate of the mutineers and their innocent offspring. Its many seducing temptations have been urged as one, if not the main, cause of the mutiny, which was supposed, at least by the commander of that ship, to have been excited by
"Young hearts which languished for some sunny isle,
*The discovery of this island is owing to Fernandez de Quiros in 1606, which he named La Sagittaria. Some doubts were at first entertained of its identity with Otaheite, but the small difference of a few miles in latitude, and about two degrees of longitude, the description as to size, the low isthmus, the distance from it of any other island at all similar, and above all, the geographical position-all prove its identity→ although Quiros calls it, what it certainly is. not, a low island.
Men without country, who, too long estrange
Of some soft savage to the uncertain wave."
It may be proper, therefore, as introductory to the present narrative, to give a general description of the rich and spontaneous gifts which Nature has lavished on this once "happy island ;"-of the simple and ingenuous manners of its natives,—and of those allurements which were supposed, erroneously however, to have occasioned the unfortunate catastrophe alluded to;-to glance at
"The nymphs' seducements and the magic bower,"
as they existed at the period of the first intercourse between the Otaheitans and the crews of those ships which carried to their shores, in succession, Wallis, Bougainville, and Cook.
The first communication which Wallis had with these people was unfortunately of a hostile nature. Having approached with his ship close to the shore, the usual symbol of peace and friendship, a branch of the plantain-tree, was held up by a native in one of the numerous canoes that surrounded the ship. Great numbers, on being invited, crowded on board the stranger ship, but one of them, being butted on the haunches by a goat, and turning hastily round, perceived it rearing on its hind legs, ready to repeat the blow, was so terrified at the appearance of this strange animal, so different from any he had ever seen, that, in the moment of terror, he jumped overboard, and all the rest followed his example with the utmost precipitation.
This little incident, however, produced no mischief; but as the boats were sounding in the bay, and several canoes crowding round them, Wallis suspected the islanders had a design to attack them, and, on this mere suspicion, ordered the boats by signal to come on board," and at the same time," he
says, "to intimidate the Indians, I fired a ninepounder over their heads." This, as might have been imagined, startled the islanders, but did not prevent them from attempting immediately to cut off the cutter, as she was standing towards the ship. Several stones were thrown into this boat, on which the commanding officer fired a musket, loaded with buckshot, at the man who threw the first stone, and wounded him in the shoulder.
Finding no good anchorage at this place, the ship proceeded to another part of the island, where, on one of the boats being assailed by the Indians in two or three canoes, with their clubs and paddles in their hands, "Our people," says the commander, "being much pressed, were obliged to fire, by which one of the assailants was killed, and another much wounded.' This unlucky rencounter did not, however, prevent, as soon as the ship was moored, a great number of canoes from coming off the next morning, with hogs, fowls, and fruit. A brisk traffic soon commenced, our people exchanging knives, nails, and trinkets for more substantial articles of food, of which they were in want. Among the canoes that came out last were some double ones of very large size, with twelve or fifteen stout men in each, and it was observed that they had little on board except a quantity of round pebble stones. Other canoes came off along with them, having only women on board; and while these females were assiduously practising their allurements, by attitudes that could not be misunderstood, with the view, as it would seem, to distract the attention of the crew, the large double canoes closed round the ship; and as these advanced, some of the men began singing, some blowing conchs, and others playing on flutes. One of them, with a person sitting under a canopy, approached the ship so close, as to allow this person to hand up a bunch of red and yellow feathers, making signs it was for the captain. He then put off to a little dis