Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

made, for it was in truth the result of a very few moments’ delibe: ration, although Bligh imputed it to an organized plan, adopted for the purpose of enabling the men to return to Otaheite, where they had formed so many tender friendships with the fair sex, and desired, as he thought, to spend the remainder of their lives. But such was not the fact, although it is natural enough to suppose, that in the minds of some of the men, that idea might have been predominant. ‘Thirteen of the party, who were with me,’ says Bligh, in his account of the mutiny, “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 villainy, 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 occasions, the possibility of such a conspiracy being ever the farthest 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 preceeding 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.’—pp. 71, 72.

This view of the case has, in fact, for a long time been received as the true one; but it appears from a manuscript journal which was kept by Morrison, the boatswain's mate, and a man of good education, and very considerable talent, who was afterwards tried for participating in the mutiny, condemned, and pardoned, that the seeds of discord had been sown in the Bounty from a very early period of the voyage. Amongst other things he mentions that Bligh, on approaching the equator, ordered some decayed pumpkins to be issued to the crew, at the rate of one pound of the fruit for two of biscuit. . To this the men made some objection, when “he flew upon deck in a violent rage, turned the hands up, and ordered the first man on the list of each mess to be called by name; at the same time saying, “I’ll see who will dare to refuse the pumpkin, or anything else I may order to be served out,” to which he added, “you d d infernal scoundrels, I'll make you eat grass, or anything you can catch, before I have done with you.” This speech had the desired effect, every one receiving the pumpkins, even the officers.' Morrison mentions several other circumstances, which tended to alienate from Bligh the respect of his officers and men; but the following was the incident which, in the journalist's opinion, led immediately to the mutiny.

“In the afternoon of the 27th (April), Lieutenant Bligh came upon deck, and missing some of the cocoa-nuts, which had been piled up between the

guns, said they had been stolen, and could not have been taken away without the knowledge of the officers, all of whom were sent for and questioned on the subject. On their declaring that they had not seen any of the people touch them, he exclaimed, “Then you must have taken them yourselves;” and proceeded to inquire of them separately, how many they had purchased. On coming to Mr. Christian, that gentleman answered, “I do not know, Sir, but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be guilty of stealing yours.” Mr. Bligh replied, “Yes, you d-d hound, I do—you must have stolen them from me, or you would be able to give a better account of them ;” then turning to the other officers, he said, “God d-m you, you scoundrels, you are all thieves alike, and combine with the men to rob me: I suppose you will steal my yams next; but I'll sweat you for it, you rascals—I’ll make half of you jump overboard, before you get through Endeavour Straits.” This threat was followed by an order to the clerk “to stop the villains' grog, and give them but half-a-pound of yams to-morrow; if they steal them, I'll reduce them to a quarter.” —pp. 79,80.

From such language and conduct upon the part of the commander, we must conclude that his officers were, for the most part, persons of a very inferior description, and that was, to a certain extent, the fact. The statement of Morrison is here fully borne out by the evidence of Fryer, the master, on the court-martial, who, on being asked “what did you suppose to be Mr. Christian's meaning, when he said he had been in hell 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 cocoa-nuts.” This, and several of the other circumstances alluded to by Morrison, are omitted in Bligh's printed narrative, but many of them are slightly glanced at in his original journal, which contains sufficient proof of the truth of Morrison's testimony. It further appears from Morrison's journal, that Christian, a fiery and passionate youth, was the sole instigator of the mutiny. “When Mr. Bligh,” writes Morrison, “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 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.” In fact it appears from the minutes of the court-martial, that the whole affair was planned on the morning of its execution, between VOL. III. NO. III. E E

the hours of four and eight o'clock, when Christian had the watch. This statement fully agrees with the account which Christian himself gave of the transaction to Morrison, who thus records it in his manuscript journal. " . . . .

‘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 gentleman 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 flogged 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 Mo 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-hatchway, 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 fore-hatchway, 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 recollected 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. Christian had visited the fore cock-pit several times that evening, although he had very seldom, if ever, frequented the warrant officers' cabins before.”’—pp, 86–88.

Upon this statement Mr. Barrow remarks—
“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 or preconcerted measures had any existence, but that it was suddenly conceived by a hot-headed young man, in a state of great excitement of mind, amounting to a temporary aberration of intellect, 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 arming such of the men as he thought he could trust, and effected his purpose.”—p. 88.

The mutiny having been thus far successful, and the launch, with Bligh and his unhappy companions—those we presume in whom Christian conceived that he could place no confidence--having been turned adrift in the open ocean, their first object was to examine the state of their resources, when they found that they possessed altogether, one hundred and fifty pounds of bread, sixteen pieces of pork, each weighing two pounds, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine, twenty-eight gallons of water, and four empty barricoes, or small casks. These scanty stores they increased a little at the island of Tafoa, at which they touched, but from which they were speedily driven by the hostility of the natives, “and now,” says Bligh, “every countenance appeared to have a degree of cheerfulness, and all the men seemed determined to do their best.” They requested him to take them towards home; and as they could hope for no accesion to their supplies until they reached Timor, from which they were then at a distance of full twelve hundred leagues, they agreed to be content with an allowance not exceeding one ounce of bread and a quarter of a pint of water per day. “We then bore away,” says Bligh, “across a sea where the navigation is but little known, in a small (open) boat, twenty-three feet long from stem to stern, deeply laden with eighteen men.” On the morning of the 3rd of May, they had to encounter a violent storm ; the sea ran so high that the same sail was becalmed between the mountain waves, which they found too much to have set when they rode on the top of the billow. Nor could they venture to take it in, as the sea was curling over the stem of the boat, and obliged them to bale with all their activity and strength. One may imagine the terrible distress which they were thus compelled to endure. The men were almost constantly wet, and the only mode they had of obtaining a change of clothes was to immerse them in the sea, and after substituting the moisture of that element for that of the rain-water, to wring them and put them on, a process which they found comparatively comfortable ! The rum was occasionally served out to them in a tea-spoonful at a time, and the bread was divided amongst them in morsels equal to the twenty-fifth part of a pound for each

They sometimes increased their stock of water from the heavy rains which fell, and they considered it a feast when they obtained an ounce of pork for dinner. Though they passed in sight of several islands, yet they were afraid to approach them, fearing the hostility of the natives, if their defenceless condition should be discovered; and thus they had the additional vexation of starving, apparently within view of plenty. Storms and rain accompanied them, with few intervals, almost the whole way. On the 22nd of May it blew so hard, that the sea flew over them with great force, and kept them constantly baling with the utmost horror and anxiety. Some birds which they caught at this time would appear to have been sent providentially to their assistance, as besides the flesh and blood and entrails of the bird, they frequently found in its stomach flying fish and small cuttle fish, which were carefully preserved and divided. At length, after suffering the most dreadful dangers, their strength being almost wholly exhausted, and their clothes so threadbare from constant wringing that they could neither keep out moisture nor cold, they reached the “barrier reef.” of New Holland, in which they discovered a break. Through this the boat rapidly passed with a strong stream running to the westward, and came immediately into smooth water, and all their past hardships seemed at once to have been forgotten. In the evening they landed upon an island, in the neighbourhood of which they discovered a great quantity of oystesr, on which they lived most sumptuously. Having been thus considerably refreshed, they proceeded with renewed spirit on their voyage to Timor, which they fortunately reached on the morning of the 11th of June. “It is not possible for me,” says Bligh, whom this voyage alone would prove to have been a most able as well as a most intrepid navigator, “to describe the pleasure which the blessing of the sight of this land diffused among us. It appeared scarcely credible to ourselves that, in an open boat, and so poorly provided, we should have been able to reach the coast of Timor in forty-one days after leaving Tofa, having in that time run, by our log, a distance of three thousand six hundred and eighteen nautical miles; and that, notwithstanding our extreme distress, no one should have perished in the voyage.” '—p. 118. Bligh and his surviving companions subsequently proceeded to Batavia road, whence they procured passages to England; five died at Coupang, one was left behind, and not afterwards heard of, and one had been murdered at Tafoa. Upon his arrival at home, Bligh was promoted to the rank of commander, and was speedily sent out a second time for the purpose of transporting the bread fruit to the West Indies—a service which he successfully performed, though unfortunately the plant by no means turned out so well as had been expected. In fact it has never thrived there, owing either to the difference of latitude, or to the nature of the soil. The government having properly resolved on the apprehension and punishment of the mutineers, the Pandora frigate, of twenty

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »