It is with no small degree of regret, that I find myself under the necessity of obtruding my private concerns on the Public. A pamphlet has appeared, under the title of "Minutes of the Proceedings on the Court-Martial, held at Portsmouth, August 12th, 1792, on Ten Persons charged with Mutiny on Board his Majesty's Ship the Bounty; with an Appendix, containing a full Account of the real Causes, &c. &c." This Appendix is the work of Mr. Edward Christian, the brother of Fletcher Christian, who headed the Mutineers of the Bounty; written apparently for the purpose of vindicating his brother's conduct, at my expense.
The respect I owe to that Public in whose service I have spent my life, as well as regard to my character, compel me to reply to such parts of Mr. Christian's Appendix, as might, if unnoticed, obtain credit to my prejudice.
Of the Minutes of the Court-Martial, thus published, it is necessary to observe, that they differ from the Minutes lodged in the Admiralty-office; and in some places materially. One instance of this will appear among the Proofs, which are here submitted to the Public. [No. 8, Ed.]
The information which furnished Mr. Edward Christian with materials for his Appendix, he states to "have been collected from many interviews and conversations, in the presence and hearing of several respectable gentlemen." He then mentions the names of all the persons with whom these conversations were held, without distingishing the particular information given by any individual.
The mixing together the names of men, whose assertions merit very different degrees of credit, and blending their evidence into one mass, is liable to two objections: 1st the impossibility of tracing the author of any particular assertion; and 2dly, the danger, which to a reader is unavoidable, of supposing, that the statements made by those who were actually accomplices in the Mutiny, came from men of respectable character, with whom he has thus associated them.
One of the hardest cases which can befall any man, is to be reduced to the necessity of defending his character by his own assertions only. As such, fortunately, is not my situation, I have rested my defence on the testimony of others; adding only, such of the written orders issued by me in the course of the voyage, as are connected with the matter in question; which orders being issued publicly in writing, may be offered as evidence of unquestionable credit.
These testimonials, without further remark from me, I trust, will be sufficient to do away any evil impression which the public may have imbibed, from reading Mr. Edward Christian's Defence of his brother.
1st. At the Society, or Friendly Islands, no person whatever is to intimate that Captain Cook was killed by Indians; or that he is dead.
2d. No person is ever to speak, or give the least hint, that we have come on purpose to get the bread-fruit plant, until I have made my plan known to the chiefs.
3d. Every person is to study to gain the good will and esteem of the natives; to treat them with all kindness; and not to take from them, by violent means, any thing that they may have stolen; and no one is ever to fire, but in defence of his life.
4th. Every person employed on service, is to take care that no arms, or implements of any kind under their charge, are stolen; the value of such thing, being lost, shall be charged against their wages.
5th. No man is to embezzle, or offer to sale, directly, or indirectly, any part of the King's stores, of what nature soever.
6th. A proper person or persons will be appointed to regulate trade, and barter with the natives; and no officer or seaman, or other person belonging to the ship, is to trade for any kind of provisions, or curiosities; but if such officer or seaman wishes to purchase any particular thing, he is to apply to the provider to do it for him. By this means a regular market will be carried on, and all disputes, which otherwise may happen with the natives will be avoided. All boats are to have every thing handed out of them at sun-set.
All prisoners are to be kept upon deck in fair weather; and the centinel to report their state in the night, every half hour.
The key of their irons is to be taken care of by the master.
The mate of the watch is to be answerable for the prisoners. When they are released for a while, out of necessity, he is to see them again securely confined.
No canoe is to come on board after eight o'clock at night, or any to go under the bows of the ship upon any pretence; but whatever is handed in or out of the ship is to be at the gangways.
All boats, when moored, to have every thing handed out of them at sun-set: and the centinel is to report the state of the prisoners every half hour, after the watch is set.
1 These three persons, who were afterwards Mutineers, had ran away with the large cutter, and a chest of fire-arms, and this is what Millward, on his trial by the Court-Martial, calls "the former foolish affair."
This day the 13th October, 1789, came before Nicholas Van Bergen Van der Gryp, notary public of the Noble High Regency of Netherland India, residing in the town of Batavia. Present, the hereafter to be named witnesses: John Fryer, master; Thomas Denman Ledward, surgeon; William Cole, boatswain; William Peckover, gunner; William Elphinstone, master's mate; Thomas Hayward and John Hallet, midshipmen; John Samuel, secretary: and the sailors, Robert Tinkler, Peter Linkleter, Lawrence Lebogue, George Simpson, John Smith, and Robert Lamb; all here present declare, with previous knowledge of Mr. Nicholas Englehard, superior Marchand, and Sabandhaar, and License Master in this place; and by interpretation of Mr. Peter Aeneas Mackay, Sub Marchand, in the service of the Noble Company.—That the truth is, they have been together, serving on board his Britannic Majesty's ship the Bounty, commanded by the Requirant.
That on the 28th April, 1789, that the greatest number of the ship's company, consisting of twenty-five persons, by the break of day, were mutineers; and before any body had discovered or got notice of it, had already secured the requirant, binding his hands behind his back, and forcing him to come on deck in his shirt, where he was kept under a guard behind the mizen-mast. That the boatswain and the others were forced by the mutineers to assist in hoisting out the launch; which being done, they were forced to go into her, and the last of all the Requirant; after which they were veered astern of the ship by a rope, and soon after cast adrift in the wide ocean.
That they were in all nineteen souls in the launch, with a small quantity of bread and water, and no fire-arms.
That it had been impossible to foresee what has happened to them, as they had sailed homewards from the Friendly Islands, with a great cargo of plants, in the best order.
That there was no possibility to retake the ship, or do more for the welfare of the King's service, than what had been done by the Requirant, who had been tied and kept apart from the attestants until he was let down in the launch.
That there were heard at the time several expressions and huzzas in the ship, which makes them believe that the mutineers are returned to Otaheite.
That on the night of the 28th, they arrived at the island of Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, and remained there until the 2d of May, 1789, seeking provisions and water. That they were attacked that day by the natives, whereby one man, John Norton, was killed, and they narrowly escaped.
That they sailed from Coupang on the 20th August following in a schooner for that purpose purchased, and arrived here at Batavia the 1st of October, 1789, where that vessel has been sold on the 10th of that month; that likewise on the 10th October died in the hospital, Thomas Hall.
Alleging that all abovementioned to be the truth and verity, offering to confirm this given attestation with solemn oath.
The minute of this act is in form signed, and put on stamp paper of 12 styvers.
Oct 15, 1789 This day, the 15th October, 1789, are heard by us, Gose Theodore Vermeer, and Jacobus Martinus Balze, Members in the Honourable Court of Eschevans Commissaries, being qualified thereto by that court, assisted by the sworn clerk, Johannis Lohr, all the above attestants named in this act, and under translation of the sworn translator in the English language, Louis Wybrand Van Schellebeck, on the repetition of this their deposition, in which they declare to persist, with demand only, that for more elucidation, the following changes may be made in it.
That the affair has happened in the vicinity of the Friendly Islands, near the Island of Tofoa.
That the whole of the ship's company, at the time of the Mutiny, consisted of forty-four persons, of which twenty-five have mutinied.
On which, to prove the veracity of this their deposition, they give their oath, in the Protestant form.
Further is, by us Commissaries, in our qualifications, and on request of the Requirant, resolved of this act to give an account in forma dupla, of the same tenor and date, and both signed by the deposants, and authenticated by our common signature.
Note. By desire of the Court I was not present at these examination. The originals are lodged in the Admiralty-office.
Fletcher Christian, master's mate, aged 24 years, five feet nine inches high, blackish or very dark brown complexion dark brown hair, strong made; a star tatowed on his left breast, tatowed on his backside; his knees stand a little out, and he may be called rather bow legged. He is subject to violent perspirations, and particularly in his hands, so that he soils any thing he handles.
George Stewart, midshipman, aged 24 years, five feet seven inches high, good complexion, dark hair, slender made, narrow chested, and long neck, small face, and black eyes; tatowed on the left breast with a star, and on the left arm with a heart and darts, is also tatowed on the backside.
Peter Heywood, midshipman, aged 17 years, five feet seven inches high, fair complexion, light brown hair, well proportioned; very much tatowed; and on the right leg is tatowed the three legs of Man, as it is upon that coin. At this time he has not done growing and speaks with the Manks, or Isle of Man accent.
Edward Young, midshipman, aged 22 years, five feet eight inches high, dark complexion,m and rather a bad look; dark brown hair, strong made, has lost several of his fore teeth, and those that remain are all rotten; a small mole on the left side of the throat, and on the right arm is tatowed a heart and dart through it, with E. Y. underneath, and the date of the year 1788 or 1789.
Charles Churchill, ship's corporal, aged 30 years, five feet ten inches high, fair complexion, short light brown hair, top of the head bald, strong made; the fore-finger of his left hand crooked, and his hand shews the marks of a sever scald; tatowed in several places of his body, legs, and arms.
James Morrison, boatswain's mate, aged 28 years, five feet eight inches high, sallow complexion, long black hair, slender made; has lost the use of the upper joint of the fore-finger of the right hand; tatowed with a star under his left breast, and a garter round his left leg, with the motto of Honi soit qui mal y pense; and has been wounded in one of his arms with a musket ball.
John Millward, seaman, aged 22 years, five feet five inches high, brown complexion, dark hair, strong made; very much tatowed in different parts of the body, and under the pit of the stomach, with a taoomy of Otaheite.
Matthew Thompson, seaman, aged 40 years, five feet eight inches high, very dark complexion, short black hair, slender made, and has lost the joint of the great toe of his right foot; and is tatowed in several places on his body.
William Mickoy, seaman, aged 25 years, five feet six inches high, fair complexion, light brown hair, strong made; a scar where he has been stabbed in the belly, and a small scar under his chin; is tatowed in different parts of his body.
William Musprat, seaman, aged 30 years, five feet six inches high, dark complexion, brown hair, slender made, a very strong black beard, with scars under his chin; is tatowed in several places of his body.
Henry Hilbrant, seaman, aged 25 years, five feet seven inches high, fair complexion, sandy hair, strong made; his left arm shorter than the other, having been broke; is an Hanoverian born, and speaks bad English; tatowed in several places.
Alexander Smith, seaman, aged 22 years, five feet five inches high, brown complexion, brown hair, strong made; very much pitted with the small-pox, and very much tatowed on his body, legs, arms, and feet. He has a scar on his right foot, where it has been cut with a wood axe.
John Williams, seaman, aged 25 years, five feet five inches high, dark complexion, black hair, slender made; has a scar on the back part of his head; is tatowed, and a native of Guernsey; speaks French.
William Brown, assistant botanist, aged 27 years, five feet eight inches high, fair complexion, dark brown hair, slender made, a remarkable scar on one of his cheeks, which contracts the eye-lid, and runs down to his throat, occasioned by the king's evil; is tatowed.
Michael Byrne, seaman, aged 28 years, five feet six inches high, fair complexion, short fair hair, slender made: is almost blind, and has the mark of an issue on the back of his neck; play the violin.
Charles Norman, carpenter's mate, aged 26 years, five feet nine inches high, fair complexion, light brown hair, slender made, is pitted with the small-pox; and has a remarkable motion with his head and eyes.
The four last are deserving of mercy, being detained against their inclinations.
Note. This description was made out from the recollections of the persons with me, who were best acquainted with their private marks.
Oct 16, 1789 Whereas from a representation of the physician-general, it appears that my life is in great danger if I remain here until the fleet for Europe sails; and that only myself and two others can be taken in the packet, which departs on Friday the 16th instant;
I therefore impower you to take the command of the remaining officers and men, and order you to follow me to the Cape of Good Hope by the first ships his Excellency the Governor-general shall permit you to embark in; and as his Excellency has been pleased to order that the people may be taken care of at the convalescent hospital, about four miles from town, where is a good air and the best of treatment; you are hereby required to see that every one remains there.
You are not to permit any of those who remain in town, to be wandering about between the hours of nine in the morning and four in the afternoon.
You are, upon embarkation, or at a proper time, to get a knowledge of what charges are against his Majesty's subjects; and upon fairly and duly considering them, you are to draw bills for the amount on the Commissioners for victualling his Majesty's navy (if it cannot be done as hereafter expressed), giving them a letter of advice, at the same time, certifying that I sailed to the Cape of Good Hope before you, in a packet that could not take any more men; my health being so exceedingly impaired, as to render my existence very doubtful, and that the Governor-general could not give us all a passage in one ship.
I have agreed with the Sabandhaar, that all debts of the government account, incurred for victualling or passage money, shall be presented to him; that then on your certifying the justness of it, and another signing officer, such account shall stand over until presented to government in England—that of all such accounts you are to secure copies, and to send them, by different opportunities, to me in England, signed as beforementioned, to the care of Messrs. Marsh and Creed, agents, Norfolk-street, Strand. You are, for further security, to send one to your agent.
That before the departure of the people, you are to allow each seaman one month's pay to buy warm clothing to pass the Cape of Good Hope with, and you may also give the officers one month's pay for the same use, except yourself and Doctor.
I shall leave with you the money I received on the sale of the schooner—177 ducatoons, or 295 rix dollars, for the expenditure of which you must produce regular vouchers; but you are to pay no account without consulting the Sabandhaar, that such account is at a moderate price.
The board and lodging for yourself and Doctor, you may consider to be paid at one rix dollar per day; and for the boatswain, gunner, Mr. Elphinstone, Mr. Hayward, and Mr. Hallet, one rupee per day; and the charges for the seamen in the hospital, from the 13th October, you must pay as demanded, allowing for your brother, Robert Tinkler, at the same rate, to be put into the general account.
Should it be demanded of you to pay the passage money for every individual before you sail, you are to draw bills on the Treasurer of his Majesty's navy for the amount.
Before the ships are ready for sea, you are from time to time to apply to the Sabandhaar, Mr. Englehard, who will assist you for the good of his Majesty's service; and through him, or as circumstances may point out, you are to make all necessary application to the Governor-general.
The remaining men and officers you are to take according to the ships they are put into, not separating Mr. Hayward and Mr. Hallet. The carpenter you must apply for to come with you, and is to be considered a prisoner at large in the ship.
On embarkation, you are to see that both officers and men conduct themselves with propriety and regularity.
On your arrival at the Cape of Good Hope, you are forthwith to join me; but should I not be there before the ship you sail in departs for Europe, you are to make the best of your way, in the same ship, and give an account of your transactions to the Admiralty.
While you remain here, you are to examine into the situation of the people in the hospital twice a week; and if they are not properly treated, you must represent the same to the Sabandhaar.
The carpenter having applied to me for clothes, you are to supply him with a month's pay to purchase the necessary articles he is in want of, and to see he is not ill-treated.
I have one request to ask of you, Madam, which is, that you will be so obliging as to inquire whether Mrs. Duncan, in Little Hermitage-street, hath in her possession the clothes (which, if you remember) I left with her in 1787, and gave you an order, by which you might at any time get them from her: so that if they are still there, you will be so good as to send them down here, directing them (for me, on board his Majesty's ship Hector, to the care of Serjeant William Clayfield, marines, Portsmouth, or elsewhere): but if you can hear not tidings of them or her, you will honour with a few lines your much obliged,
"Captain Bligh, in his Narrative, acknowledges, that he had left some friends on board the Bounty; and no part of my conduct could have induced him to believe that I ought not to be reckoned of the number. Indeed, from his attention to, and very kind treatment of me personally, I should have been a monster of depravity to have betrayed him. The idea alone is sufficient to disturb a mind, where humanity and gratitude have, I hope, ever been noticed as its characteristic features."
We have the following important Information from the most
The late most interesting trial at Portsmouth, of the unfortunate Mutineers of the Bounty, will be shortly published by a gentleman of respectability, who was employed before the Court-Martial. That publication will astonish the world; and the public will then correct the erroneous opinions, which, from certain false narratives, they have long entertained; and will be enabled to distinguish between the audacious and hardened depravity of the heart, which no suffering can soften, and the desperation of an ingenuous mind, torn and agonized by unprovoked and incessant abuse and disgrace.
Though there may be certain actions, which even the torture and extremity of provocation cannot justify, yet a sudden act of frenzy, so circumstanced, is far removed, in reason and mercy, from the foul, deliberate contempt of every religious and virtuous sentiment and obligation, excited by selfish and base gratifications.1
For the honour of this country, we are happy to assure our readers, That one of its natives, FLETCHER CHRISTIAN, is not that detestable and horrid monster of wickedness, which with extreme, and perhaps unexampled, injustice and barbarity to him and his relations, he has long been represented: but a character for whom every feeling heart must now sincerely grieve and lament.
Excuse my freedom, Sir:—If it would not be disagreeable to you, I will do myself the pleasure of waiting upon you, and endeavour to prove, that your brother was not that vile wretch, void of all gratitude, which the world had the unkindness to think him: but, on the contrary, a most worthy character; ruined only by having the misfortune, if it can be so called, of being a young man of strict honour, and adorned with every virtue; and beloved by all (except one, whose ill report is his greatest praise) who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.
This character, every officer and seaman, except one, on board the Bounty, who has yet arrived in England, now unites in bestowing upon him. The mystery of this transaction will soon be unravelled, and then the shame and infamy of it will be distributed, in the just proportions in which they are, and have been, deserved.
TO THE CONDUCTOR OF THE TIMES.
A publication has lately made it appearance, intitled, "Minutes of the proceedings of the Court-Martial, held at Portsmouth August 12, 1792, on Ten Persons charged with Mutiny on Board his Majesty's Ship Bounty; with an appendix, containing a full Account of the real Causes and Circumstances of that unhappy Transaction, the most material of which have hitherto been withheld from the Public; written by Edward Christian." The obvious tendency of which is to palliate the conduct of Fletcher Christian, his brother, and ultimately to asperse the character of Captain Bligh. As if any thing could be advanced in extenuation of a crime, at the bare recital of which humanity shudders; a crime, marked by such circumstances as to be unexampled in the annals of nautical history. This publication, Mr. Editor, is disgraced by gross misrepresentations, and low malevolence, of which innumerable instances could be adduced, were long details admissible in a newspaper. The shafts of envy are ever levelled against conspicuous merit, but they recoil with redoubled force on the impotent adversary. Captain Bligh's general conduct during the late expedition, which was crowned with the most ample success, his affability to his officers, and humane attention to his men, gained him their high esteem and admiration, and must eventually dissipate any unfavourable opinion, hastily adopted in his absence. I trust that this imbecile and highly illiberal attack, directed by the brother of the Arch-mutineer, will be received by the world with that indignation and contempt it so justly deserves.
I told him, that after the ship was taken, I heard the Mutineers say, he swore and damned them; but not that I heard him do it myself. I said, I could never agree with the Mutineers.
I do not remember any thing about the heap of cocoa-nuts being taken away, but by hearsay from the Mutineers, after the ship was taken, and we came home.
I never told, or heard, of Captain Bligh telling the chiefs at Otaheite, that Christian was a towtow (or servant).
I remember that Musprat, Churchill, and Millward, deserted with the cutter and arms, while at Otaheite, and that they said many others intended to remain among the islands.
I know the Captain never suffered any man to hurt the Indians, or insult them.
I know we were at short allowance of bread, and that we were at two-thirds allowance of that article; but I remember, that by the consent of every one, we had only grog every other day while at Otaheite, and that was, that we might not be in want in case we cold not get through Endeavour Straits, and we did not want it so much at Otaheite, because we had plenty of cocoa-nut milk.
I John Smith late belonging to his Majesty's armed vessel the Bounty, William Bligh, Esq. Commander, maketh oath, that Mr. Edward Christian sent for me, and asked me how his brother (who was the Mutineer in the Bounty) had behaved in the ship.
I said his brother was well liked in the ship, as far as I knew, by the people.
On the day before the mutiny happened, I was sent by the Captain to ask Christian to dine with him; but he said, I am so ill I cannot wait on the Captain: and I was sent again in the evening to ask Christian to supper, and he said he was so ill that he could not come.
When in working the ship, and things had been neglected to have been done at other times that the Captain had ordered, I have known the Captain to be angry and damn the people, as is common; but the Captain immediately afterwards always behaved to the people as if nothing had happened.
I never heard the Captain damn the officers, and call them names, and threaten to make them jump over board, kill half of them, and make them eat grass like cows. I never heard any such a thing.
I did not hear Christian say to the Captain, I am in hell I am in hell, because I was below; but I never understood but that he did say so. The Captain said so in the boat, and had it in his Narrative, which I never heard any one deny.
I never told Mr. Edward Christian any thing about the cocoa-nuts, or did I know any thing about it, any more than that the Captain found fault at a heap of cocoa-nuts being taken away; and I never knew or heard that such a thing could be the cause of the Mutiny.
I never knew or heard of any words that the Captain had with Christian at the Cape of Good Hope; but I always understood he was on good terms with the Captain, and remember he used to dine with him every third day, and did so until the day of the Mutiny, and frequently supped with the Captain besides.
I never heard, or told Mr. Edward Christian, that Captain Bligh told the people of Otaheite, that his brother was a towtow (or servant), or ever heard of such a thing.
I never said to Mr. Edward Christian any thing about his brother's abilities, or any thing respecting his qualifications, or the praises which he, in his Appendix, says were repeated by one and the other.
I remember that Christian always had leave to have grog out of Captain Bligh's case whenever he wanted it; and I always gave it him, and Mr. Nelson the gardener, when they chose to ask for it.
I know that we were never at short allowance of provisions except bread, and that was one-third short; but I remember that at Otaheite, all hands, by their own consent, had their grog but every other day, on account of the danger of going through Endeavour Straits, where we might lose our passage; and the want of grog at Otaheite we did not mind, because we had plenty of fine cocoa-nut milk, and the finest fresh pork, bread-fruit, and other things of the country.
I know the Captain was always very kind to the Indians, and would not suffer any man to hurt or insult them.
This is all that I said to Mr. Christian, the brother of Christian the Mutineer on board the Bounty; and Mr. Christian had no right to make use of my name in the manner he has done in his 1st publication.
I know that three of the Mutineers, Musprat, Churchill, and Millward, while at Otaheite, run away with the cutter and arms.
That I was sent for by Mr. Edward Christian to a public-house, and asked whether Captain Bligh did flog his people, and why he kept them at short allowance; but the most of his questions were about Captain Bligh's behaviour to the officers of the Providence, and how he behaved to them, and if I thought they liked him.
I told him that Captain Bligh made no distinction, every officer was obliged to do his duty, and he showed no more favour to one man than another. I was sure every person in the Providence would speak well of Captain Bligh—he was a father to every person.
I said I knew Captain Bligh was a very great friend to Christian the Mutineer; he was always permitted to use the Captain's cabin, where I have seen the Captain teaching him navigation and drawing. He was permitted to use the Captain's liquor when he wanted it, and I have many times gone down at night to get him grog out of the Captain's case.
I have heard the Captain damn the people, like many other captains; but he was never angry with a man the next minute; and I never heard of their disliking him.
I said, Captain Bligh was not a person fond of flogging his men; and some of them deserved hanging, who had only a dozen.
I said we were never at short allowance but in bread, and that we were at two-thirds, because we did not know how long it would be before we got a supply, as we had to go through a terrible passage near new Guinea. And for fear of being in want of spirits, the ship's company had agreed, while at Otaheite, to have their grog but every other day, because they had plenty of fine cocoa-nut milk, and all they cared about.
I remember that a heap of cocoa-nuts, which the Captain had ordered to be saved as a rarity until we got to sea, for a day or two, when we should enjoy them, was taken away; and that the Captain told the officers they had neglected their duty, and disobeyed his orders; and that all the cocoa-nuts, on that account, were brought upon deck; and the matter ended with their being divided.
I remember very well, that the Captain came on deck one night and found fault with Christian, because in a squall he had not taken care of the sails. It was after we left Whytootackee.1
I never heard any thing at Otaheite that Captain Bligh had told the chiefs, Christian was a towtow; I know the chiefs did not think so of any of the officers.
I was the only person mentioned, who sailed with Captain Bligh to the West Indies, and to the South Sea, as Christian did; and I never told Mr. Edward Christian that his brother could not have borne Captain Bligh's conduct to him much longer, because I knew Captain Bligh was always a friend to Christian, when he sailed with him to the West Indies, as well as afterwards.
I know that three of the Mutineers deserted with one of the boats and an arm chest with arms at Otaheite, because they wished to stay among the islands. Musprat, Churchill, and Millward were the three, and they said many others intended to do it.
I remember one of our cables being almost cut through in a dark stormy night, which we thought was to let the ship go on shore; and that after that, the Captain ordered a centinel on the bowsprit. This was at Otaheite.
Mr. Christian asked me if I thought Captain Bligh could hurt his brother, if he ever came home. I said Captain Bligh had such a forgiving temper, that I did not think he would, unless the law of his country would hurt him. I said Captain Bligh was the best friend Christian ever had.
I remember that Christian was drinking with the carpenter, William Purcell, at 12 o'clock at night, although Christian was to be up at four o'clock in the morning to keep his watch, and that when the Mutiny broke out that morning, I saw a musket at Purcell, the carpenter's cabin door.
Having been long confined by a severe illness, and having consequently not mixed with the world since my arrival, in February last, from Jamaica; it was but lately that the Minutes of the Court-Martial, held in 1792, on Ten Persons charged with Mutiny on board the Bounty; together with an Appendix to those Minutes, published by Mr. Edward Christian, reached my hands. As I was on board the Bounty at the time of the Mutiny, and as my name is not wholly unimplicated in the Appendix, I cannot but consider myself bound, in justice to my own character, as well as to that of Captain Bligh, to advance my mite towards the confutation of the very malevolent assertions and insinuations conveyed to the public through the medium of that Appendix. I will by no means affirm, that I never heard Captain Bligh express himself in warm or hasty language, when the conduct of his officers or people has displeased him; but every seafaring gentleman must be convinced, that situations frequently occur in a ship when the most mild officer will be driven, by the circumstances of the moment, to utter expressions which the strict standard of politeness will not warrant: and I can safely assert, that I never remember to have heard Captain Bligh make use of such illiberal epithets and menaces as the Appendix attributes to him. I must likewise declare, that I always considered Captain Bligh as being a friend to Christian; and I have frequently heard Fletcher Christian assert that he had conducted himself as such. I remember a complaint of some cocoa-nuts having been stolen, but I did not hear that Captain Bligh accused any individual of the theft.
As to the insinuation of the people being at short allowance of provisions, I remember being at two-thirds allowance of bread; but at and from Otaheite, there was full allowance, and fresh pork was thrown over board, because it could not be eaten while it was good; and during our stay there, we were at half allowance of grog. Whether the Mutiny was preconcerted or not, is a question which can be solved only by those who were concerned in it; because any officer or man apprized of the circumstances, and not being a party in it, must have been compelled, if not by his duty, at least by the desire of self-preservation, to have counteracted the plot by his information and exertions.
Much stress is laid on the most part having gone voluntarily into the boat; in answer to which, I would only ask any person, endued with a proper sense of honour, if he would not rather commit himself to the evident danger of the boat, than incur the risk of an ignominious death, or the stigma of being arraigned as a pirate?
The Appendix charges Mr. Hayward and myself with the imputation of being asleep in our watch. With regard to myself, I deny the accusation; and with regard to Mr. Hayward (who is now absent on service), I have reason to believe it is equally false, as I had conversed with him a few minutes before. Besides what immediately belonged to Captain Bligh, every person in the boat had some useful articles; and many general necessaries were included.
I am likewise accused of uttering some dissatisfaction to Captain Bligh in the boat, to which Mr. Edward Christian seems desirous of attaching much criminality. I can only say, that I do not remember to have used such words imputed to me; and even if I had uttered them, they are such as would bear an interpretation diametrically opposite to that put upon them. And it is worthy of observation, that by the kind addition of a note, my whole offence is concentered in the innocent word resource.
As to Mr. Christian's ability as an artist, or a seaman, I never considered them to bear any competition with those of Captain Bligh: and he certainly could not be called a fine scholar; as he did not appear to have received any portion of classical education, and was ignorant of all but his native language.
My situation in the Bounty, together with a proper regard to truth, and the introduction of my name in the Appendix, has compelled me to advance so much, uninfluenced by any personal animosity to Mr. Fletcher Christian, whose memory I wish had been quietly committed to oblivion; as I am convinced that the stain will be deeper impressed on his name, by the endeavours which his friends have exerted in vindication of his character.
ST. GEORGE'S PLACE, ST. GEORGE'S IN THE EAST, OCT. 28,
When we got to sea, and I saw your partiality for the young man, I gave him every advice and information in my power, though he went about every point of duty with a degree of indifference, that to me was truly unpleasant; but you were blind to his faults, and had him to dine and sup every other day in the cabin, and treated him like a brother, in giving him every information. In the Appendix it is said, that Mr. Fletcher Christian had no attachment amongst the women at Otaheite; if that was the case, he must have been much altered since he was with you in the Britannia; he was then one of the most foolish young men I ever knew in regard to the sex. You will excuse the liberty I have taken in addressing you upon so unpleasant a subject; but I could not pass over many assertions in the Appendix, without feeling for a man, whose kind and uniform behaviour to me, through the whole voyage to Jamaica, was such as to lay me under an everlasting obligation; and I shall still think myself fortunate in having engaged with such an attentive officer, and able navigator as yourself.
I have no pique at Mr. Fletcher Christian; but finding Captain Bligh's character suffering in the opinion of the public, I think it my duty to offer my services in the vindication of it, so far as comes within my knowledge; therefore, can I render him any service, he may command me.
I submit these evidences to the judgment of the Public, without offering any comment. My only intention in this publication, is to clear my character from the effect of censures which I am conscious I have not merited: I have therefore avoided troubling the Public with more than what is necessary to that end; and have refrained from remark, lest I might have been led beyond my purpose, which I have wished to limit solely to defence.