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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 nis 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 Shaks. peare, 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 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 gen. tleman 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 fogged 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-hatch way, they roused and sent him on deck. Charles Norman, unconscious of their proceedings, had in the mean time 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 forehatchway, 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 recol lected 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. Chris. tian 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 preconcerted measures had any exist.. ence, but that it was suddenly conceived by a hotheaded young man, in a state of great excitement of mind, amourting to a temporary aberration of intel.. lect, 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 arm ing 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's Ísland, which, if correct, would cast a stain on the memory of the unfortunate Stewart, he 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 after. ward 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 extra. ordinary 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 Heywood.