« FöregåendeFortsätt »
“ 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 madehas lost several of his fore teeth, and those that remain are all rotten.]
“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 hell!"
“As soon as I had time to reflect, I felt an in. ward 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
* He was born in the Isle of Man, his father being deemster of Man, and seneschal 10 tb, Duke of Athol.
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 among 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 attende
ant circumstances, equally desirable, it is now per haps 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 not labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are beyond any thing 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 pistols.
“ 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 commanders' 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 villany, 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 occa
sions, the possibility of such a conspiracy being ever the furthest 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 case 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, &c. ? The true answer will be, to neither. “ Not only," continues the writer," was the narrative which he published
* United Service Journal for April, 1831.