Government having resolved to bring to punishment the mutineers of His Majesty's late ship Bounty, and to survey the Straits of Endeavour, to facilitate a passage to Botany Bay, on the 10th of August 1790, appointed Captain Edward Edwards to put in commission at Chatham, and take command of the Pandora Frigate of twenty-four guns, and a hundred and sixty men.
A great naval armament then equipping retarded our progress, and prevented that particular attention to the choice of men which their Lordships so much wished; as contagion here crept amongst us from infected clothing, the fatal effects of which we discovered, and severely experienced, in the commencement of the voyage.
Every thing necessary being completed, and an additional complement of naval stores, received for the refitment of the Bounty; dropped down to Sheerness, saluted Admiral Dalrymple, payed the same compliments to Sir Richard King, in passing the Downs, arrived at Portsmouth, and found there Lord Howe with the Union Flag at the main, and the proudest navy that ever graced the British seas under his command.
Here the officers and men received six months pay in advance, and after receiving their final orders, got the time-keeper on board, weighed anchor, and proceeded to sea.
As the white cliffs of Albion receded from our view alternate hopes and fears took possession of our minds, wafting the last kind adieu to our native soil.
We pursued our voyage with a favourable breeze; but Pandora now seemed inclined to shed her baneful influence among us, and a malignant fever threatened much havoc, as in a few days thirty-five men were confined to their beds, and unfortunately Mr. Innes, the Surgeon's only mate, was among the first taken ill; what rendered our situation still more distressing, was the crowded state of the ship being filled to the hatchways with stores and provisions, for, like weevils, we had to eat a hole in our bread, before we had a place to lay down in; every officer's cabin, the Captain's not excepted, being filled with provisions and stores. Our sufferings were much encreased, for want of room to accommodate our sick, notwithstanding every effort of the Captain that humanity could suggest.
In this sickly lumbered state, near the latitude of Madeira, we observed a sail bearing down upon us: from her appearance and manœuvres, we had every reason to believe she was a ship of war; and a rumour of a Spanish war prevailing when we left England, rendered it necessary to clear ship for action; as soon as our guns were run out, and all hands at quarters, got along side of her, when she proved His Majesty's Ship, Shark, sent out with orders of recall to Admiral Cornish, who had sailed for the West Indies a few days before we left Spithead.
This little disaster deranged us much, having at the same time bad weather, attended with heavy thunder squals. The Peek of Teneriff Map now began to shew his venerable crest, towering above the clouds; and in two days more came to an anchor in the road of Santa Cruz, but did not salute, as the Commandant had not authority to return it.
Immediately on our arrival we were boarded by the Port-master, by whom we learnt they had been in much apprehension of a disagreeable visit from the English, but were happy to hear that matters were amicably settled between the Courts of Madrid and St. James's.
With respect to site nothing can be more beautifully picturesque than the town of Santa Cruz. It stands in the centre of a spacious bay, on a gentle acclivity surrounded with retiring hills, and the noble promontory of the Peek rising majestically behind it, dignifies the scene beyond description, being continually diversified with every vicissitude of the surrounding atmosphere, emerging and retiring thro' the fleecy clouds, from the bottom of the mountain to its summit.
All the circumjacent hills on the margin of the beach are tufted with little forts, and barbett batteries, forming an Esplanade round the bay, affords a most agreeable landscape. The houses being all painted white, pretty regularly built, and standing on a rising ground, raises one street above another, and heightens the scene from the water; to which the Governor's garden contributes much to beautify the town.
In the centre of the principal square, is a well built fountain, continually playing, which, in a warm climate, has a desirable cooling effect. There is but one church, which contains a few indifferent paintings.
The inhabitants are civil, but reserved, and the inquisition being on the island, spreads a gloomy distrust on the countenance of the people.
The troops are miserably cloathed, and poverty and superstition lord it wide. The wines of this place, from a late improvement in the vines, are equal to the second kind of Madeira, and I cannot pass over this subject without making honourable mention of the candour of Mr. Rooney our wine merchant.
Here we completed our water from an acqueduct admirably constructed for the convenience of the shipping, and after receiving on board lemons, oranges, pomegranates, and bananas, with every variety of fruits and other refreshments with which this island most plentifully abounds, proceeded again on our voyage.
The fever that prevailed on our leaving England became now pretty general, and almost every man had it in turn, and as we approached the line many of the convalescents had a relapse, but the Lords of the Admiralty, previous to our sailing, had supplied us with such unbounded liberality in every thing necessary for the preservation of the seamens' health, that I may venture to say many lives were saved from their bounty, and I should be wanting in my duty to their Lordships, as well as the community, was I to pass over in silence the uncommon good effects we experienced from supplying the sick and convalescent with tea and sugar; this being the first time it has ever been introduced into his Majesty's service; but it is an article in life that has crept into such universal use, in all orders of society, that it needs no comment of mine to recommend it. It may, however, be easily conceived that it will be sought with more avidity by those whose aliment consists chiefly in animal food, and that always salt, and often of the worst kind. Their bread too is generally mixed with oatmeal, and of a hot drying nature. Scarcity of water is a calamity to which seafaring people are always subject; and it is an established fact, that a pint of tea will satiate thirst more than a quart of water. But when sickness takes place, a loathing of all animal food follows; then tea becomes their sole existence, and that which can be conveyed to them as natural food will be taken with pleasure, when any slip slop, given as drink, will be rejected with disgust. Suffice it to say, that Quarter-masters, and real good seamen have ever been observed to be regular in cooking their little pot of tea or coffee, and in America seamen going long voyages, always make it an article in their agreement to be supplied with tea and sugar.
The air now becoming intolerably hot, and to evacuate the foul air from below where the people slept, had recourse to Mr. White's new ventilator, but found little benefit from it; not from any fault in the machine, but from the crowded state of the ship, it was impossible to throw a current of air into those places where it was most wanted, but by the addition of a flexible leather tube, like a water engine, it might be rendered of the utmost importance to the service, as in tenders' press-holds, and in line-of-battle ships at sea, when the lower deck ports cannot be opened; where often the jail fever, and all the calamities that attend human nature in crowded situations, are engendered, that might be entirely obviated by Mr. White's ingenious machine. I should beg to recommend wheels to be substituted for legs to it, for its easier conveyance from one part of the ship to the other, and that he would sacrifice beauty to strength, as a slight mahogany jim crack is not well calculated to the severity of heat we are exposed to, in climates where it is most wanted.
There were now many water spouts about the ship, at which we fired several guns: the thermometer fluctuated between seventy-nine and eighty, and without any thing worthy of remark, in the common occurrence of things at sea, on the twenty-eight of December saw the land of the Brazils, and in two days saluted the fort at Rio Janiero with fifteen guns, which was immediately returned. Map
On our coming to anchor, an officer came to acquaint the Captain, that a party of soldiers should be sent on board of us, agreeable to their custom, which was most peremptorily denied as inadmissable with the dignity of the British flag, nor would Captain Edwards go on shore to pay his respects to the Vice Roy, till that etiquete was settled, that his boat should not be boarded.
After the usual compliments were paid the Vice Roy, his suit of carriages were ordered to attend the British officers, and Monsieur le Font, the Surgeon-General, who spoke English with ease and fluency, shewed us every mark of politeness and attention on the occasion, in carrying us through the principal streets, then visited the public gardens, built by the late Vice Roy, and laid out with much taste and expence. All the extremity of the garden is a fine terrace which commands a view of the water, and is frequented by people of fashion, as their Grand Mall: at each end of the terrace there is an octagonal built room, superbly furnished, where merendas are sometimes given. On the pannels are painted the various productions and commerce of South America, representing the diamond fishery, the process of the indigo trade. The rice grounds and harvest, sugar plantation, South Sea whale fishery, &c. these were interspersed with views of the country, and the quadrupedes that inhabit those parts. The ceilings contained all the variety, the one of the fish, the other of the fowl of that continent. The copartments of the ceiling of the one room was enriched in shell work, with all the variegated shells of that country, and in the copartments are delineated all the variety of fish that the coast of South America produces. The other copartment is enriched with feathers and so inimitably blended as to produce the happiest effect. In this ceiling is painted all the birds and fowls of the country, in all their splendid elegance of plumage. The sofas and furniture are rich in the extreme: and in this elegant recess, an idle traveller may have an agreeable lounge, and at one view comprehend the whole natural history of this vast continent. In the centre of the terrace there is a Jet d'eau, in form of a large palm-tree, made of copper, which at pleasure may be made to spout water from the extremity of all the leaves. This tree stands on a well disposed grotto, which rises from the gravel walk below to the level of the terrace, and terminates the view of the principal walk. Near the foot of the grotto two large aligators, made of copper, are continually discharging water into a handsome bason of white marble, filled with gold and silver fishes.
There are fine orangeries, and lofty covered arbours in different parts of the garden, capable of containing a thousand people. Here the cyprian nymphs hold their nocturnal revels; but intrigue is attended with great danger, as the stilletto is in general use, and assassination frequent, the men being of a jealous sanguinary turn, and the women fond of gallantry, who never appear in public unveiled. When Bougainville, the French circumnavigator called here, his chaplain was assassinated in an affray of that kind; but since that accident, orders were given that a commissioned officer should attend all foreign officers, and a soldier the privates; and all strangers, on landing, are conducted to the main guard for their escort. This answers a double purpose, as they are much afraid of strangers smuggling or carrying money out of the country, under the mask of personal protection, every motion is watched and scrutinized, nor can you purchase any thing of a merchant, till he has settled with the officer of the police how much he shall exact for his goods; so you have always the satisfaction of being rob'd as the act directs.
The trade of this country is much cramped by the improper policy of the mother country; for although it abounds with every thing that the earth produces, wealth is far from being diffusive, and a spirit for revolt seems to prevail amongst them; but they were rather premature in business, a conspiracy being detected whilst we were there, many of the first people in the country thrown into dungeons, a strong guard put over them, and all intercourse denied them. But in order to check that spirit of rebellion among the colonists, a regiment of black slaves is now embodied, who will be very ready to bear arms against their oppressive masters; but should a revolution in South America take place, which sooner or later must eventually happen, some of our South Sea discoveries would then prove an advantageous situation for a little British colony.
All public works are done here by slaves in chains, who perform a kind of plaintive melancholy dirge in recitative, to sooth their unavailing toil, which, with the accompanyment of the clanking of their irons, is the real voice of wo, and attunes the soul to sympathy and compassion, more than the most elaborate piece of music.
The troops are remarkably well cloathed, and in fine order, both infantry and cavalry; the horses are small, but spirited, and tournaments frequently performed as the favourite amusement of the inhabitants, at which the cavaliers display a wonderful share of address.
The town is large, built of stone, and the streets very regular; there are several handsome churches, monasteries, and nunneries, and contains about forty thousand inhabitants; but, like the old town of Edinburgh, each floor contains a distinct family, and of course liable to the same inconveniencies, cleanliness being none of its most shining virtues.
The officers of the army shewed us uncommon kindness, and made us some presents of red bird skins for the savages we were going amongst.
I cannot, in words, bestow sufficient panegyric on the laudable exertions of my worthy messmates, Lieutenants Corner and Hayward, for their unremitting zeal in procuring and nursing such plants as might be useful at Otaheitee or the islands we might discover.
We now took leave of our friends here, and it was with some regret, as it was bidding adieu to civilized life, for a very undetermined space of time. Lieutenant Hayward having finished his astronomical observations on shore, came on board with the time-keeper and instruments, and again proceeded on our voyage, on the morning of January 8, 1791. In running down the coast of the Brazils, saw several spermaceti whales, and vessels employed on that fishery. Could it have been accomplished in the month of January, it was intended to take in a supply of water at New-Year's harbour, but the season was too far advanced. The weather now became cold, and the health of the people mended apace: passed by the straits of Magellan, and on the 31st of January saw Cape St. Juan, Staten Island, and New-Year's Island. The thermometer was at 48 degrees. We were fortunate enough to weather the tempestuous regions of Cape Horn, without any thing remarkable happening, although late in the season.
The weather, as we advanced, became now exceedingly pleasant, and the many good things with which we were supplied, began to have a wonderful good effect on the strength of our convalescents. I here beg the reader's indulgence for a small digression on the health of the seamen, as it is a subject of much national importance, and those voyages the only test of what is found to succeed best, my duty leads me to the attempt, however unequal to the task:
It may be remarked, the sour Crout kept during the voyage, in the highest perfection, and was often eat as a sallad with vinegar, in preference to recent, cut vegetables from the shore. A cask of this grand antiscorbutic was kept open for the crew to eat as much of as they pleased; and I will venture to affirm, that it will answer every purpose that can be expected from the vegetable kingdom.
The Essence of Malt afforded a most delightful beverage, and, with the addition of a little hops, in the warmest climates, made as good strong beer as we could in England. We were likewise supplied with malt in grain, but should prefer the essence, as it is less liable to decay, and stows in much less room, which is a very valuable consideration in long voyages.
Cocoa we found great benefit from; it is much relished by the men, stows in little room, and affords great nourishment. At the close of the war in 1783, in the West Indies, men that had been the whole war on salt provisions, from a liberal use of the cocoa, got fat and strong, and in the Agamemnon we had five hundred men who had served most of the war on salt provisions; but after the cocoa was introduced, we had not a sick man on board till the day she was paid off. Indeed it is the only article of nourishment in sea victualling; for what can in reason be expected from beef or pork after it has been salted a year or two?
Wheat we found answer extremely well, rough ground in a mill occasionally as we wanted it, and with the addition of a little brown sugar, it made a pleasant nourishing diet, of which the men were extremely fond. Another great advantage attending it, that it does not require half the quantity of water that pease do.
Soft bread was found extremely beneficial to the sick and convalescent, and we availed ourselves of every opportunity of baking for half the complement at a time. As the flour keeps so much longer sound than biscuit, it may be needless to remark its superior advantages; besides, it is not liable to be damaged by water or otherwise, so much as bread, as a crust forms outside, which protects the rest. In point of stowage it likewise is preferable.
As the fate of every expedition of this kind depends much on the exertion of the subordinate departments of office, the thanks of every individual in the Pandora is due to Mr. Cherry, for his uncommon attention to the victualling.
The dividing the people into three watches had a double good effect as it gave them longer time to sleep, and dry themselves before they turned in; and as most of our crew consisted of landsmen, the fewer people being on deck at a time, rendered it necessary to exert themselves more in learning their duty.
The air became now temperate, mild, and agreeable; but unfortunately we sprung a leak in the after part of the ship, which reached the bread room, and damaged much of it, as one thousand five hundred and fifteen pounds were thrown over-board, and a great deal much injured, that we kept for feeding the cattle. Many blue Peterals were seen flying about, and on the 4th of March saw Easter Island. We now set the forge to work, and the armourers were busily employed in making knives and iron work to trade with the savages. On the 16th we discovered a Lagoon Island of about three or four miles extent; it was well wooded, but had no inhabitants, and was named Ducie's Island, in honour of Lord Ducie. Map
On the 19th we discovered an Island of the same description as the former, which was named Carrisfort [Carysfort] Island, in honour of Lord Carrisfort [Carysfort]. Map
On the 22nd passed Maitea, Map and on the morning of the 23rd of March anchored in Matavy bay, in the Island of Otaheite. Map In the dawn of the morning, a native immediately on seeing us, paddled off in his canoe, and came on board, who shewed expressions of joy to a degree of madness, on embracing and saluting us, by whom we learnt that several of the mutineers were on the island; but that Mr. Christian and nine men had left Otaheitee long since in the Bounty, and amused the natives, by telling them Captain Bligh had gone to settle at Whytutakee, and that Captain Cook was living there. Language cannot express his surprise on Lieutenant Hayward's being introduced to him, who had been purposely concealed.
At eleven in the forenoon the Launch and Pinnance was dispatched with Lieutenants Corner and Hayward and twenty-six men, to the north west part of the island, in quest of mutineers. Immediately on our arrival, Joseph Coleman, the armourer of the Bounty, came on board, and a little after the two midshipmen belonging to the Bounty; at three Richard Skinner came off, and on the 25th the boats returned, after chasing the mutineers on shore, and taking possession of their boat. As they had taken to the heights, and claimed the protection of Tamarrah, a great chief in Papara, who was the proper king of Otaheitee, the present family of Ottoo being usurpers, and who intended, had we not arrived with the assistance of the Bounty's people, to have disputed the point with Ottoo.
On the twenty-seventh we sent the Pinnace with a present of a bottle of rum to king Ottoo, who was with his two queens at Tiaraboo, requesting the honour of his company, but the bottle of rum removed all scruples, and next day the royal family paid us a visit, and in his suit came Oedidy, a chief particularly noticed by Captain Cook.
On the first visit they make it a point of honour of accepting of no present; but they make sufficient amends for that, by introducing a numerous train of dependents afterwards, to obtain presents.
The King is a tall handsome looking man, about six feet three inches high, good natured, and affable in his manners. His principal queen, Edea, is a robust looking, course woman, about thirty, and was extremely solicitous in learning and adopting our customs, and on hearing our English ladies drank tea, became very fond of it. The other queen, or concubine, named Aeredy, is a pretty young creature, about sixteen years of age: they all three sleep together, and live in the most perfect harmony.
A detachment of men were immediately ordered, under the command of Lieutenant Corner, to march across the country, and if possible to get between the mountains and the mutineers; this gentleman was extremely well calculated for an expedition of this kind, having, in the early part of his life, bore a commission in the land service, and next morning they landed on Point Venus, attended by the principal chiefs as conductors, and a number of the common people to assist in carrying the ammunition over the heights: what rendered their assistance more necessary, was their having to cross a rapid cataract, or river, which came down from the mountains, and formed so many curves. They had to ford it sixteen times in the course of their journey, which gave evident proofs of the superior strength of the natives over the English seamen. The former went over with ease, where the sailors could not stem the rapidity of the torrent without their help. They were, however, forced to send to the ship for ropes and tackles to gain some heights which were otherwise inaccessible.
On the party coming to a rest, the Lieutenant expressed a wish to one of the natives for something to eat, who told him he might be supplied with plenty of victuals ready dressed; he immediately ran to a temple, or place of worship, where meat was regularly served to their god, and came running with a roasted pig, that had been presented that day. This striking instance of impiety rather startled the Lieutenant, which the other easily got over, by saying there was more left than the god could eat.
It was with much difficulty they could restrain the natives from committing depredations on the Cava grounds of the upper districts, as they were on the eve of a war with them respecting the hereditary right of the crown.
The party now arrived at the residence of a great chief, who received them with much hospitality and kindness; and after refreshing them with plenty of meat and drink, carried the officer to visit the Morai of the dead chief, his father. Mr. Corner judging it necessary, by every mark of attention, to gain the good graces of this great man, ordered his party to draw up, and fire three vollies over the deceased, who was brought out in his best new cloaths, on the occasion; but the burning cartridge from one of the muskets, unfortunately set fire to the paper cloaths of the dead chief. This unlucky disaster threw the son into the greatest perplexity, as agreeable to their laws, should the corpse of his father be stolen away, or otherwise destroyed, he forfeits his title and estate, and it descends to the next heir.
There was at the same time a party embarked by water, under the command of Lieutenant Hayward, who took with him some of the principal chiefs, amongst whom was Oedidy, before mentioned by Captain Cook, who went a voyage with him, but fell into disrepute amongst them, from affirming he had seen water in a solid form; alluding to the ice. He also took with him one Brown, an Englishman, that had been left on shore by an American vessel* that had called there, for being troublesome on board: but otherwise a keen, penetrating, active fellow, who rendered many eminent services, both in this expedition and the subsequent part of the voyage. He had lived upwards of twelve months amongst the natives, adopted perfectly their manners and customs, even to the eating of raw fish, and dipping his roast pork into a cocoa nut shell of salt water, according to their manner, as substitute for salt. He likewise avoided all intercourse and communication with the Bounty's people, by which means necessity forced him to gain a pretty competent knowledge of their language; and from natural complexion was much darker than any of the natives.
*[British, not American. If you follow the link, use your browser's 'Find on this page,' and search for 'Mercury,' the name of the vessel. Also, the story of Brown's being left ashore is told here.]
Captain Edwards had taken every possible means of gaining the friendship of Tamarrah, the great prince of the upper district, by sending him very liberal presents, which effectually brought him over to our interest. The mutineers were now cut off from every hope of resource; the natives were harrassing them behind, and Mr. Hayward and his party advancing in front; under cover of night they had taken shelter in a hut in the woods, but were discovered by Brown, who creeping up to the place where they were asleep, distinguished them from the natives by feeling their toes; as people unaccustomed to wear shoes are easily discovered from the spread of their toes. Next day Mr. Hayward attacked them, but they grounded their arms without opposition; their hands were bound behind their back and sent down to the boat under a strong guard.
During the whole business there was only two natives killed; one was shot in the dusk of the evening, two nights before the people surrendered, by one of the centinels, who had his musket twice beat out of his hand from the natives pelting our party with large stones; but the instant he was shot, some of his friends rushed in and carried off the corpse.
The other native was shot by the mutineers; when attacked by the natives they took to a river; a stone being thrown by one of the natives at the wife, or woman, of one of the mutineers, enraged him so much, that he immediately shot the offender.
A prison was built for their accommodation on the quarter deck, that they might be secure, and apart from our ship's company; and that it might have every advantage of a free circulation of air, which rendered it the most desirable place in the ship. Orders were likewise given that they should be victualled, in every respect in the same as the ship's company, both in meat, liquor, and all the extra indulgencies with which we were so liberally supplied, notwithstanding the established laws of the service, which restricts prisoners to two-thirds allowance: but Captain Edwards very humanely commiserated with their unhappy and inevitable length of confinement. Oripai, the king's brother, a discerning, sensible, and intelligent chief, discovered a conspiracy amongst the natives on shore to cut our cables should it come to blow hard from the sea. This was more to be dreaded, as many of the prisoners were married to the most respectable chiefs' daughters in the district opposite to where we lay at anchor; in particular one, who took the name of Stewart, a man of great possession in landed property, near Matavy Bay: a gentleman of that name belonging to the Bounty having married his daughter, and he, as his friend and father-in law, agreeable to their custom, took his name.
Ottoo the king, his two brothers, and all the principal chiefs, appeared extremely anxious for our safety; and after the prisoners were on board, kept watch during the night; were always keeping a sharp look out upon our cables, and continually spurring the centinels to be careful in their duty. The prisoners' wives visited the ship daily and brought their children, who were permitted to be carried to their unhappy fathers. To see the poor captives in irons, weeping over their tender offspring, was too moving a scene for any feeling heart. Their wives brought them ample supplies of every delicacy that the country afforded while we lay there, and behaved with the greatest fidelity and affection to them.
Next day the king, his two queens, and retinue, came on board to pay us a formal visit, preceded by a band of music. The ladies had about sixty or seventy yards of Otaheitee cloth wrapt round them, and were so bulky and unwieldy with it, they were obliged to be hoisted on board like horn cattle: hogs, cocoa-nuts, bananas, a rich sort of peach, and a variety of ready dressed puddings and victuals, composed their present to the Captain.
As soon as they were on board, the Captain debarassoit the ladies, by rolling their linen round his middle; an indispensable ceremony here in receiving a present of cloth: and Medua, wife to Oripai, the king's brother, took a great liking to the Captain's laced coat, which he immediately put on her with much gallantry; and that beautiful princess seemed much elated with her new finery. I cannot ommit a circumstance of this lady's attachment to dress. There was a custom which had prevailed for a long time, to present the god with all red feathers that could be procured; but thinking she would become red feathers full as well as his godship, immediately employed all her domestics making them up into fly flaps, and other personal ornaments, to prevent the altar making a monopoly of all the good things, in this, as well as in other countries.
A grand Heiva was next day ordered for our entertainment ashore, on Point Venus, and on our landing we were preceded by a band of music, and led to where the king and his levee were in waiting to receive us. The course was soon cleared by the chiefs, and the entertainment began by two men, who vied with each other in filthy lascivious attitudes, and frightful distortions of their mouths. These having performed their part, two ladies, pretty fancifully dressed, as described in Captain Cook's Voyages, were introduced after a little ceremony. Something resembling a turkey-cock's tail, and stuck on their rumps in a fan kind of fashion, about five feet in diameter, had a very good effect while the ladies kept their faces to us; but when in a bending attitude, they presented their rumps, to shew the wonderful agility of their loins; the effect is better conceived than described. After half an hour's hard exercise, the dear creatures had remüé themselves into a perfect fureur, and the piece concluded by the ladies exposing that which is better felt than seen; and, in that state of nature, walked from the bottom of the theatre to the top where we were sitting on the grass, till they approached just by us, and then we complimented them in bowing, with all the honours of war.
These accomplishments are so much prized amongst them that girls come from the interior parts of the country to the court residence, for improvement in the Heiva, just as country gentlemen send their daughters to London boarding-schools.
This may well be called the Cytheria of the southern hemisphere, not only from the beauty and elegance of the women, but their being so deeply versed in, and so passionately fond of the Eleusinian mysteries; and what poetic fiction has painted of Eden, or Arcadia, is here realized, where the earth without tillage produces both food and cloathing, the trees loaded with the richest of fruit, the carpet of nature spread with the most odoriferous flowers, and the fair ones ever willing to fill your arms with love.
It affords a happy instance of contradicting an opinion propagated by philosophers of a less bountiful soil, who maintain that every virtuous or charitable act a man commits, is from selfish and interrested views. Here human nature appears in more amiable colours, and the soul of man, free from the gripping hand of want, acts with a liberality and bounty that does honour to his God.
A native of this country divides every thing in common with his friend, and the extent of the word friend, by them, is only bounded by the universe, and was he reduced to his last morsel of bread, he cheerfully halves it with him; the next that comes has the same claim, if he wants it, and so in succession to the last mouthful he has. Rank makes no distinction in hospitality; for the king and beggar relieve each other in common.
The English are allowed by the rest of the world, and I believe with some degree of justice, to be a generous, charitable people; but the Otaheiteans could not help bestowing the most contemptuous word in their language upon us, which is, Peery Peery, or Stingy.
In becoming the Tyo, or friend of a man, it is expected you pay him a compliment, by cherishing his wife; but, being ignorant of that ceremony, I very innocently gave high offence to Matuara, the king of York Island, to whom I was introduced as his friend: a shyness took place on the side of his Majesty, from my neglect to his wife; but, through the medium of Brown the interpreter, he put me in mind of my duty, and on my promising my endeavours, matters were for that time made up. It was to me, however, a very serious inauguration: I was, in the first place, not a young man, and had been on shore a whole week; the lady was a woman of rank, being sister to Ottoo, the king of Otaheitee, and had in her youth been beautiful, and named Peggy Ottoo. She is the right hand dancing figure so elegantly delineated in Cook's Voyages. But Peggy had seen much service, and bore away many honourable scars in the fields of Venus. However, his Majesty's service must be done, and Matuara and I were again friends. He was a domesticated man, and passionately fond of his wife and children; but now became pensive and melancholy, dreading the child should be Piebald; though the lady was six months advanced in her pregnancy before we came to the island.
The force of friendship amongst those good creatures, will be more fully understood from the following circumstance: Churchhill, the principal ringleader of the mutineers, on his landing, became the Tyo, or friend, of a great chief in the upper districts. Some time after the chief happening to die without issue, his title and estate, agreeable to their law from Tyoship, devolved on Churchhill, who having some dispute with one Thomson of the Bounty, was shot by him. The natives immediately rose, and revenged the death of Churchhill their chief, by killing Thomson, whose skull was afterwards shown to us, which bore evident marks of fracture.
Oedidy, although perfectly devoted to our interest, on being appointed one of the guides in the expedition against the mutineers, expressed great horror at the act he was going to commit, in betraying his friend, being Tyo to one of them.
They are much less addicted to thieving than when Capt. Cook visited them; and when things were stolen, by applying to the magistrate of the district, the goods were immediately returned; for, like every other well regulated police, the thief and justice were of one gang.
Sometimes we slightly punished the offenders, by cutting off their hair. A beautiful young creature, who lived at the Observatory with one of our young gentlemen, slipped out of bed from him in the night, and stole all his linen. She was punished for the theft, by shaving one of her eye-brows, and half of the hair off her head. She immediately run into the woods, and used to come once or twice a day to the tent, to request looking at herself in the glass; but the grotesque figure she cut, with one side entirely bald, made her shriek out, and run into the woods to shun society.
With respect to agriculture, in a soil where nature has done so much, little is left to human industry; but had there been occasion for it, abilities would not be wanting. It is much to be lamented, that the endeavours of the philanthropic Sir Joseph Banks were frustrated, by their razing of every thing which he took so much pains to rear amongst them, a few shaddocks excepted. Tobacco and cotton have escaped their ravage; and they are much mortified that they cannot eradicate it from their grounds: but were a handloom on a simple construction, as used by the natives of Java, introduced amongst them, they could soon turn their cotton to good account. An instance of their ingenuity and imitative powers in matting, was a thing perfectly unknown amongst them till Captain Cook introduced it from Anamooka, one of the Friendly Isles: but in that branch of manufacture they now far surpass their original. They have likewise abundance of fine sugarcanes, growing spontaneously all over the island, from which rum and sugar might be extracted. Indeed an attempt was made by Coleman, the armourer of the Bounty, who made a still, and succeeded; but, dreading the effects of intoxication, both amongst themselves and the natives, very wisely put an end to his labours by breaking the still.
Captain Bligh has likewise planted Indian corn, from which much may be expected. On our landing, as soon as public business of more importance would permit, our gentlemen were indefatigable in laying out a piece of garden ground, and ditching it round. Lemons, oranges, limes, pine-apples, plants of the coffee tree, with all the lesser class of things, as onions, lettuces, peas, cabbages, and every thing necessary for culinary purposes, were planted.
In order that they might not meet the same fate of the things planted by Sir Joseph Banks, Captain Edwards made use of every stratagem to make the chiefs fond of the oranges and limes, by dipping them in sugar, to cover the acid before it be presented to them to eat. Messrs. Corner and Hayward were equally zealous in using the most persuasive arguments with the chiefs to take care of our garden, and rear and propagate the plants when we were gone; to all which they lent a deaf ear, and treated the subject with much levity, saying, they might be very good to us, but that they were already plentifully supplied with every thing they wished or wanted, and had not occasion for more. But on the Lieutenant's representing, that if, on our return, they could supply us with plenty of such articles as we left with them, they in exchange would receive hatchets, knives, and red cloth, they seemed more favourably inclined to our project; and I have no doubt but that some after navigators will reap the benefit of their industry.
The Bread-fruit, although the most delicate and nourishing food upon earth, is, with people like them, liable to inconveniencies; for in such a group or Archipelago of islands, whose inhabitants are in such various gradations of refinement, from the gentle and polished Otaheitean, to the savage and cannibal Feegee, a war amongst them is often attended with devastation as well as famine. By cutting round the bark of the Bread-fruit tree, a whole country may be laid waste for four or five years, young trees not bearing in less time. Crops, such as Indian corn, English wheat and peas, that have been left amongst them, can in time of war be stored in granaries on the top of their almost inaccessible mountains.
While speaking of the Bread-fruit tree, I can exemplify my subject from what happened to an island contiguous to Otaheite, whose coast abounded with fine fish; and the Otaheitans, being themselves too lazy to catch them, destroyed all the Bread-fruit trees on this little island; by which act of policy, they are obliged to send over boats with fish regularly to market, to be supplied with bread in barter from Otaheite. To this island they likewise send their wives, thinking they become fair by living on fish, and low diet. They also send boys for the same reason, whom they keep for abominable purposes.
As to the religion of this country, it is difficult for me to define it. Their tenets, although equally ignorant of heathen mythology or theological intricacies, seem to partake of both; and, like other nations in the early ages of society, are rendered subservient to political purposes, as by the machinery of deification the person of the king is sacred and inviolable. Notwithstanding the king be a broad shouldered strapping fellow, three sturdy stallions of cecisbeos, or lords in waiting, are kept for the particular amusement of the queen, when his majesty is in his cups. Yet the royal issue is always declared to be sprung from the immortal Gods; and the heir-apparent, during his minority, is put under the tuition of the high priest. Their God is supposed to be omnipresent, and is worshipped in spirit, idolatry not being known amongst them. The sacred mysteries are only known to the priests or augurs, the king, princes, and great chiefs, the common people only serving as victims, or to fill up the pageantry of a religious procession. One of our gentlemen expressing a wish to the high priest, of carrying from amongst them that God whose altars craved so much human blood, he, like a true priest, had his subterfuge ready, by saying, there were more of the same family in the other islands, from whence they could easily be supplied. On all great occasions, each district sends a male victim; and the island containing forty districts, it may be presumed the mortality is great. Between the sacrifices and the ravages of war, a preponderating number of females must have taken place; to counteract which, a law passed, that every other female child should be put to death at birth; and the husband always officiating as acoucheur to his wife, the child is destroyed as soon as the sex is discovered.
The absurdity of this inhuman law is now pretty evident. Women are become more scarce, and set a higher value on their charms, which occasions many desperate battles amongst them. Some with fractured skulls were sent on board of us, which had been got in amorous affrays of that kind.
It may naturally be supposed, that people of such gentle natures make no conspicuous figure in the theatre of war.
Their war-canoes are very large, on which a platform is placed, capable of containing from a hundred and fifty to two hundred men. But their taste in decorating the prow of their men of war, plainly indicates they are more versed in the fields of Venus than Mars, every man of war having a figure head of the god Priapus, with a preposterous insignia of his order; the sight of which never fails to excite great glee and good humour amongst the ladies.
It is customary with those nations at war, that the treaty of peace be confirmed by the conquerors sending a certain number of their women to cohabit with the nation that is vanquished, in order to conciliate their affection by a bond more lasting than wax and parchment. It was the unhappy lot of Otaheite to be overcome by a nation whose women were too masculine for them; they being accustomed to the amorous dalliance of their own beautiful females, were averse to familiar intercourse with strangers. The ladies returned with all the rage of disappointed women, and the war was renewed with all its horrors.
They are well acquainted with the bow and arrow, but use it as an amusement. The only missive weapons they use are the sling and spear. They have now amongst them about twenty stand of arms, and two hundred rounds of powder and ball. They can take a musket to pieces, and put it up again; are good marksmen, take proper care of their arms and ammunition; and are highly sensible of the superior advantage it gives them over the neighbouring nations.
In the preparing and printing their cloth, the women display a great share of ingenuity and good taste. Many of their figures were exactly the patterns which prevailed, as fashionable, when we left England, both striped and figured. They print their figured cloth by dipping the leaves in dye-stuffs of different colours, placing them as their fancy directs. Their cloth is of different texture of fineness, from a stuff of the same nature in quality as the slightest India paper, to a kind as durable as some of our cottons; but they will not bear water, and of course become troublesome and expensive. They are generally made up in bales, running about two yards broad, and twenty or thirty yards long. We had some thousands of yards of it sent on board as presents.
Their sumptuary laws, at first sight, may appear severe towards the fair sex, who are not permitted to eat butchermeat, nor to eat at all, in the presence of their husbands. It certainly does not convey the most delicate ideas, to a mind impressed with much sensibility, to see a fine woman devouring a piece of beef; and those voluptuaries, who may be said to exist only by their women, would naturally endeavour to remove the possibility of presupposing a disgusting idea in that object in which all their happiness centres.
Every woman, the queen and royal family excepted, on the approach of the king, is denuded down to the waist, and continues so whilst his majesty is in sight. Should the king enter a woman's house, it is immediately pulled down. The king is never permitted to help himself with meat or drink, which makes him a very troublesome visitor, as he is never quiet whilst a bottle is in sight till he has had the last drop of it.
Their houses are well adapted to the temperate climate they inhabit, and generally consist of three chambers, the interior one of which the chief retires to, after he has drank his cava. A profound silence is observed during his repose; for should they be suddenly awaked, it produces violent vomiting, and a train of uneasy sensations; but, otherwise, if undisturbed, it proves a safe anodyne, creates amorous dreams, and a powerful excitement to venery. In the adjoining chamber, his fair spouse waits, with eager expectation, to avail herself of the happy moment when her lord should awake, which is by slow degrees; and he is roused from Elysium, by her gentle offices, in tenderly embracing every part of his body, until his ideal scenes of bliss are realised; and when fully sated with the luscious banquet, they retire to the bath, to gather fresh vigour for a renewal of similar joys. In this mazy round of chaste dissipation, the hours glide gently on, and the evening is spent in dancing to the music of Pan's pipes, the flute, and heiva drum. They then go to the bath again, and the festivity of the evening is concluded with a repast of fruit, and young cocoanut milk. The whole village indiscriminately join the feast; and the demon of rank and precedence, with their appendages malevolence and envy, has never yet disturbed their happy board.
Happy would it have been for those people had they never been visited by Europeans; for, to our shame be it spoken, disease and gunpowder is all the benefit they have ever received from us, in return for their hospitality and kindness. The ravages of the venereal disease is evident, from the mutilated objects so frequent amongst them, where death has not thrown a charitable veil over their misery, by putting a period to their existence.
A disease of the consumptive kind has of late made great havoc amongst them; this they call the British disease, as they have only had it since their intercourse with the English.
In this complaint they are avoided by society, from a supposition of its being contagious; and in every old out-house, you will find miserable objects, for want of medical assistance, abandoned to their wretched fate. From what we could learn, it generally terminates fatally in ten or twelve months; but I am led to believe, that in many cases it originates from the venereal disease.
The voice of humanity honour, and justice, calls upon us as a nation to remedy those evils, by sending some intelligent surgeon to live amongst them. They at present pant for the pruning-hand of civilization and the arts; love and adore us as beings of a superior nature, but gently upbraid us with having left them in the same abject state they were at first discovered.
We had buoyed many of them up with the hopes of carrying them to England with us, in order to secure their fidelity and honesty, especially those who were most useful in our domestic concerns; but on explaining to them that even bread was not to be obtained in England without labour, they lost hopes of their favourite voyage.
Large presents were now brought us for our sea-store; and notwithstanding Mr. Bentham our purser having most liberally supplied the ship with four pounds of fresh pork per man each day, it made no apparent scarcity; beside salting some thousand weight, and a prodigious number of goats, fowls, and other things. Could we have made it convenient to have staid another week, some cows were promised to have been sent us from a neighbouring island. Capt. Cook had left with them a horse and mare, a cow with calf, and a bull; but, from some mistake, they killed a horse instead of one of the cows, and found it very tough, disagreeable eating, by which means they were disgusted with all the horned cattle, and drew an unfavourable conclusion that their meat was all of the same texture. Had some pains been taken with them, to get the better of a dislike they have to milk, and explained to them how variously it might be employed as food, I have no doubt but they would have paid more attention to the horned cattle. They used to persist in saying that milk was urine; but on pointing to a woman that was suckling her child, and pushing their own argument, they seemed convinced of their error. We have left them a goose and a gander, which they take a great delight in.
A painting of Capt. Cook, done in oil by Webber, which had been delivered to Capt. Edwards on his first landing, was now returned to them. It is held by them in the greatest veneration; and I should not be surprised if, one day or other, divine honours should be paid to it. They still believe Capt. Cook is living; and their seeing Mr. Bentham our purser, whom they perfectly recollected as having been the voyage with him, and spoke their language, will confirm them in that opinion.
Our officers here, as at Rio Janeiro, showed the most manly and philanthropic disposition, by giving up their cabins, and sacrificing every comfort and convenience for the good of mankind, in accommodating boxes with plants of the Bread-fruit tree, that the laudable intentions of government might not be frustrated from the loss of his majesty's ship Bounty.
We had now completed our water from an excellent spring, out of a rock close to the water's edge, at Offaree.
King Ottoo, and his queen Edea, came on board, and were very importunate in their solicitations to Capt. Edwards, requesting him to take them to England with him. Aeredy, the concubine, likewise requested the same favour; but she more generously begged they might all three go together. But Oripai, and the other chiefs, remonstrated against his going, as they were on the eve of a war.
We were now perfectly ready for sea; and as Capt. Cook's picture is presented to all strangers, it is customary for navigators to write their observations on the back of it; so our arrival and departure was notified upon it.
The ship was filled with cocoa-nuts and fruit, as many pigs, goats, and fowls, as the decks and boats would hold. The dismal day of our departure now arrived. This I believe was the first time that an Englishman got up his anchor, at the remotest part of the globe, with a heavy heart, to go home to his own country. Every canoe almost in the island was hovering round the ship; and they began to mourn, as is customary for the death of a near relation. They bared their bodies, cut their heads with shells, and smeared their breasts and shoulders with the warm blood, as it streamed down; and as the blood ceased flowing, they renewed the wounds in their head, attended with a dismal yell.
Ottoo now took leave of us; and, with the tears trickling down his cheeks, begged to be remembered to King George. The tender was put in commission, and the command of her given to Mr. Oliver the master's mate, Mr. Renouard a midshipman, James Dodds a quartermaster; and six privates were put on board of her. She was decked, beautifully built, and the size of a Gravesend boat.