I call that God to witness before whose awful Tribunal, I must one Day appear; — that I was entirely ignorant of the Mutiny, which happened on Board H: M: S: Bounty, previous to its perpetration on the morning of the 28th of April — or any Circumstance relative to it. —
On the preceeding Evening (Monday) at eight o Clock, P: M:— I went upon Deck, & kept the first Watch, with Mr. John Fryer, the Master, who ordered me to keep the Cook out upon the Forecastle, & remained there till past twelve o Clock, when I was relieved by Mr. Edward Young a Midshipman; upon which I went down below into my Birth, which was on the larboard side of the main Hatchway, & slept in my Hammoc, till about an Hour after Day-light, (perhaps it might be sooner, I cannot possitively tell); when I awoke, & laying my Cheek upon the side of my Hammoc, chanced to look into the main Hatchway, where I saw Mathew Thompson, Seaman, sitting upon an Arm Chest, which was there secured; with a drawn Cutlass in his Hand; — & as I knew him to be a man who had kept the middle Watch with Mr. William Peckover the Gunner, I was struck with surprize, at a sight so unusual; unable to conjecture the reason of his being there at so early an Hour — I immediately got out of Bed, went to the side of the Birth, & asked him what he was doing there? upon which he replied — "that Mr. Fletcher Christian, who had the Watch upon Deck, had taken the ship from the Cap'tn. whom he had confined upon Deck; & was going to carry him Home as a Prisoner, & that they shou'd have more Provisions, & better Usage than before" — Mr. Elphinstone, one of the Master's Mates, who was then lying awake in his Hammoc, which hung at the outside of the opposite Birth & likewise heard what this Man said to me.
I immediately dressed myself, & went up the fore Hatchway upon Deck, & having got upon the Booms on the larboard side, I went aft, as far as the Quarters of the Boats, & saw the Cap'tn. standing on the larboard of the Quarter Deck, a little before the Bittacle in his shirt, with his Hands tied behind his Back, & Mr. Christian standing on the right hand side of him with a drawn Bayonet in his Hand, & a small pocket Pistol in his Pocket; — he was giving Orders to Mr. Cole the Boatswain, (who was upon Deck) to hoist the large Cutter out, the small one having been got out some time before. — upon this I came a little farther forward, & went over to the other side, & saw Mr. Christian beckon to Mr. Thos. Hayward (who with Mr. Hallet was standing on the Quarter Deck, between the two four Pounders,) he said to him — "get yourself ready to go in the Boat Sir" — & Mr. Hayward made Answer — "why? Mr. Christian what Harm did I ever do you?, that you shou'd be so hard upon me, I hope you won't insist upon it" — but he again repeated the same Order to him, & to Mr. John Hallet, who seemed to be in Tears, & answered, — "I hope not Sir" — hearing this, & being afraid that if I was in his Sight, he might give me the same Orders, which I feared very much, because I had just before asked one of the Men whom I saw with a Musket in his Hand, why they were getting the Boats out? — he answered — "that the Cap'tn. with some Individuals, were to be sent on shore at Tofoa, in the Launch, & that he believed that all the rest who were not of Mr. Christians Party, might either accompany them in the Launch, or remain on board & be carried to 'Taheite & left on Shore there among the Natives, as they were going there with the ship to procure Provisions, Refreshments, & Stock, to take to some unknown Island, to make a settlement." — Hearing a Scheme of such preconserted Determination, of which I had not the least Conception, — I was so perplexed & astonished that I knew not what to do or think, but sat down on the gunnel of the ship, on the Starboard side, just under the fore Shrouds, & weighed the Difference of these two dreadful Alternatives in my Mind: — I considered that the Indians on shore at Tofoa (being the same stock as those at Anamoka) appeared to me to be a very savage sort of People when unawed by the sight of Fire Arms, & from whom nought but Death cou'd be expected in Order to facilitate their being in Possession of the Boat, & whatever she might contain of most value to them, & thinking that their natural Ferocity might be sharpened & increased to revenge, by the Treatment some of the Chiefs of Annamoka had recieved on Board the ship two Days before, when we left that Island, as they had been confined on board in Order to make them produce a Grapnel which had been stolen, the News of which I made no Doubt, had by this time reached the Island of Tofoa — & besides I considered that a small Boat, deeply laden, with a number of Men & Provisions for the Sustenance, wou'd be a very precarious and forlorn Hope to trust Life to, in sailing across so vast an expanse of Ocean as lay between this Island & the nearest civilized Port; that in pursuing this Plan, Death appeared to me to be inevitable in its most horrid, & dreadful Form of starving. — On the other Hand, I knew the Natives of 'Taheite (from the Experience I had, had of them during a stay of twenty two Weeks on Shore there) to be a remarkably friendly & hospitable People to Strangers, by whose kind Assistance and Benevolence, I had some Hopes, if I cou'd get there that my Life might be preserved, till a ship arrived from England, which I doubted not wou'd be the Case (as that Island is generally the rendezvous for a ship in the south Seas) if the Bounty's absence greatly exceeded the limited time for her return to England. — This was the only Means which appeared to me to render a possibility of ever returning to my Native Country, or even of preserving my Life. — Thus, self preservation, that first Law of Nature, was the only Motive that induced me to resolve upon the last Alternative.
Having sat on the Gunnel till the large Cutter was over the side, I saw some of the People clearing the Launch of some Yams, which had been stowed in her, amongst whom was Mr. Thos. Hayward, I went into her to assist at the Desire of Mr. Wm. Cole the Boatswain, & after being there a short time Mr. Hayward asked me what I intended to do in the present situation of Affairs? — I answered — "to remain in the ship" — & said "do you imagine I woud voluntarily throw my Life away?" — upon which he replied, — " aye I wish I might have that Liberty granted me, but Christian has ordered me to get into the Boat" — I then told him my reasons for wishing to remain in the ship (which I have just now fully explained,) I likewise told the same to George Simpson Seaman, who was a Man that I regarded, as he had washed for me, & had taken great Pains to instruct me in several Parts of practical seamanship, he was present in the Launch at the same time when I was talking with Mr. Hayward, & must have heard all that passed betwixt us. — I then saw Mr. Jno. Fryer the Master, (who I understood had been confined in his Cabin till then, but was recently permitted to come on the Quarter Deck) step towards Mr. Christian on the larboard side, I was then sitting upon the fore Part of the Booms on the starboard side of no mans Land, & tho' I cou'd not hear what said to him upon his first coming up, yet a little while after, I cou'd distinctly hear him say these Words. — "Why Mr. Christian you had better let me stay in the ship, for you certainly will not know what to do with her" — I did not hear what Answer Christian made, but he was again forced down to his Cabin. — The Master being now the third, besides Mr. Samuel the Captains Clerk who had asked Permission to remain in the ship, or at least upon receiving Orders to go in the Boat, had shewed such reluctance, as made it appear they secretly wished to be otherwise; & knowing them all (except one) to have had long Experience in the Naval Service, I assured myself that their Desire to remain was not improper, & served to convince me, that in our present situation my Intentions therefore, to remain in the ship were not improper, & I was confirmed in this Opinion, by Mr. Bligh's telling several of the Men, (when he was in the Launch) who were endeavouring to get into the Boat — "For God's Sake my Lads don't any more of you come into the Boat, I'll do you Justice if I shou'd ever get Home" — thus! he prevented them, & they remained in the ship.
Perhaps it may be asked, why I did not go to Cap'n. Bligh, & tell him I intended to remain in the ship & my reasons for it? as some others did — to which with the utmost Integrity of Heart, the true Dictates of which I now express — I can answer — that being young, (not then more than sixteen years of Age) & sent out under the immediate Care & Protection of Cap'n. Bligh, it being my first Voyage to Sea; it occurred to me, he wou'd have thought me too inexperienced to judge for myself in an Affair of such Moment, & have ordered me to accompany him; which I certainly wou'd have done, if he had either spoke to me, or sent to me to do so, notwithstanding the Idea I was so strongly prepossessed with, that a miserable & untimely End wou'd have been the Consequence, which I firmly believed at that time must inevitably have been the Fate of all those who went in the Launch. — Therefore thus circumstanced, & being convinced that it was only compulsion which obliged some of the Officers to go in the Launch, & not any Wish of their own, that had influenced them, I thought it wou'd be a kind of an Act of suicide in me, to go in the Boat voluntarily & of my own Accord, by being in some Measure accessary & consenting to my own Death, which I supposed must have taken Place, if I had gone in the Boat, either from the savage Fury of the Natives on shore, or from the Dangers that must consequently await her in so long a Passage as she must have to run to arrive at the nearest civilized Settlement. — Though I did not request any of the Persons to whom I communicated my Intentions of remaining in the ship, to inform the Cap'n. of my Determination — yet it is natural to suppose, that some one or other of them, if asked by him concerning me, when in the Boat, wou'd have told him my reasons for remaining behind.
I do most solemnly declare, that during the whole Time I was upon Deck, I was in no wise accessary to, — or aiding or assisting in any respect whatsoever in the most trivial Act, tending to Mutiny, or mutinous Proceedings — either in Thought, Word, or Deed, nor in any shape advise, or encourage any other Person, whatsoever, so to do; — but on the Contrary, it was my most ardent Wish that some of those Officers who were upon Deck, wou'd make some Endeavour to retake the ship; which if any of them had attempted, I certainly wou'd with the greatest satisfaction, & all the Alacrity in my Power have followed their Example; yet, I must candidly confess, that as I saw persons so much older & more experienced than myself, quite backward in taking such Steps; it made me entertain too mean an Opinion of my own Abilities (as I was but a mere Boy in Comparison with them) to have had the Presumption to think that any step I cou'd possibly take, singly, young as I was, cou'd have had the least shadow of success; altho', at the same time, I cou'd hope, that my small Endeavours to assist, when added to their Knowledge & Experience, if put in force might have had some Effect — I therefore waited in hope & silent Expectation, that thro' their means the Face of Affairs might have taken a different turn, without shewing any outward appearance of what I so ardently wished; — but the Boat quitted the ship without any such Exertions taking place.
When nearly all the Officers & People who went in the Launch were got into it along-side, I was standing upon the starboard side on the Booms, abreast the main Hatchway, when Charles Churchill the Master at Arms came up to me, with a Bayonet & Cartouch Box buckled round his Waist & a small pocket Pistol (the same which I before saw sticking out of Christians Pocket) in his Hand; & said to me — "what are you going to do"? — I answered what I thought[?ened] to the side of rectitude & added — "I think I shall remain in the ship" — just then Mr. George Stewart came towards me & asking me the same question, I gave him a similar Answer. — but he said to me — "don't think of it, for if you stay you'll incur an equal Share of Guilt with the Mutineers, tho' you have had no Hand in the Mutiny" — & taking me by the Hand said — "come down in the Birth with me, & let us get two or three necessaries & go into the Launch with the Cap'n." Churchill then turned to him & said — "why Mr. Stewart I thought you had been a Man of more Spirit" — to whom he answered — "yes Churchill, but I won't bite off my Nose to be revenged upon my Face" — I knowing Mr. Stewart to be an experienced Naval Officer, was at once persuaded by him; yet I had some Doubts of his Knowledge when I called to Mind the Wishes of the other Officers, so similar to my own to remain in the ship, who ought likewise to know as well, so that I was in the most painful Dilemma. — however taking his Advice, I jumped down the Hatchway with him, & as soon as we were got into the Birth, Churchill called down to Mathew Thompson the Centinal over the Arm Chest saying — "don't let either of them come out of the Birth till I give you Orders" — Mr. Stewart having got his Pocket Book out of his Chest attempted to get out, but Thompson put a Pistol towards his Breast saying — "dont you hear the Orders I just received you had better stay where you are" — Mr. Stewart then called up to Churchill & said — "if you won't let us go, I desire you will inform the Cap'n. that we are detained by force". — to which Churchill answered — "aye I'll take care of that" — I remained in the Birth till Churchill told Thompson to let me come up but the Launch was far astern. —
Shortly after Cap'tn. Bligh, & the persons with him in the Boat, had got out of sight of the ship (whom I in the most painful Trouble & Anxiety of Mind, doomed to that most lamentable Fate of being starved to Death in the Boat, having then in my own Mind not the most distant gleam of Hope of the probability, or even a Possibility in their present state, they wou'd ever experience such miraculous Protection as ever to reach Land) she returned to 'Taheite where I remained eighteen Months, & wou'd not leave the Island, in hope of being relieved from the dreadful state I was in amongst savages, by the Arrival of some ship from Europe; & immediately on the Arrival of the Pandora, I was the second Person on board who voluntarily, & without any hesitation, chearfully resigned myself to Cap'n. Edwards, Aug 29, 1791 who confined me a Prisoner in Irons, untill the ship was lost in Endeavour Straights on the 29th of Aug'st. 1791 — where I had a very narrow Escape from the shocking Death of going down with her in Irons! — we were upwards of a Fortnight in the Boats before we reached Coupang, Oct 5, 1791 during which time we suffered very great Hunger & Thirst with innumerable Perils & Dangers. — we sailed from thence on the 5th of Octr & arrived at Batavia about a Month afterwards. — it is well known by what Means we arrived since in England.
I have now concluded my most melancholy Narrative, the Truth of which, I do most solemnly attest; & after learning the relation of the distressed situation I was in, & all the Motives which induced me to determine to remain in the ship, if a candid & impartial Hearer can distinguish the smallest Criminality — I can then advance nothing farther in my own Defence, but must, with the most profound Respect & Humility, throw myself upon the Mercy of the honorable Gentlemen of which this Tribunal of earthly Justice is composed; trusting, that in Pity & Commisseration to my Youth; — the short Period I have been in the Service, & the many Hardships & Dangers I have undergone, during a grievous Confinement of upwards of thirteen Months they will impute the Whole to my Ignorance and Inexperience, & will be inclined to shew an Instance of their merciful Clemency to their most submissive & truly unfortunate