The Naval Pioneers of Australia
Louis Becke and Walter Jeffery

Part 3 out of 4

northward and thrown themselves upon His Majesty's mercy, but were
not able to get from this miserable island to the mainland. Mr.
Bass' boat was too small to accommodate them with a passage, and,
as his provision was nearly expended, he could only help them to
the mainland, where he furnished them with a musket and ammunition
and a pocket compass, with lines and fish-hooks. Two of the seven
were very ill, and those he took into his boat, and shared his
provisions with the other five, giving them the best directions in
his power how to proceed, the distance" (to Sydney) "being not
less than five hundred miles. He recommended them to keep along
the coast the better to enable them to get food. Indeed, the
difficulties of the country and the possibility of meeting hostile
natives are considerations which will occasion doubts of their
ever being able to reach us.

"When they parted with Mr. Bass and his crew, who gave them what
cloaths they could spare, some tears were shed on both sides. The
whale-boat arrived in this port after an absence of twelve weeks,
and Mr. Bass delivered to me his observations on this adventur'g
expedition. I find he made several excursions into the interior of
the country wherever he had an opportunity. It will be sufficient
to say that he found in general a barren, unpromising country,
with very few exceptions; and, were it even better, the want of
harbours would render it less valuable.

"Whilst this whale-boat was absent I had occasion to send the
colonial schooner to the southward to take on board the remaining
property saved from the wreck of the ship _Sydney Cove_, and to
take the crew from the island she had been cast upon. I sent in
the schooner Lieutenant Flinders, of the _Reliance_ (a young man
well qualified), in order to give him an opportunity of making
what observations he could amongst those islands; and the
discoverys which was made there by him and Mr. Hamilton, the
master of the wrecked ship, shall be annexed to those of Mr. Bass
in one chart and forwarded to your Grace herewith, by which I
presume it will appear that the land called Van Dieman's, and
generally supposed to be the southern promontory of this country,
is a group of islands separated from its southern coast by a
strait, which it is probable may not be of narrow limits, but may
perhaps be divided into two or more channels by the islands near
that on which the ship _Sydney Cove_ was wrecked."

The exploring cruise in a whale-boat had lasted from December 3rd, 1797,
to February 25th, 1798, and we have before us a log kept by Bass of the
voyage. Bass describes in detail all that Hunter tells in his despatch,
but the intrepid explorer scarcely mentions the hardships and dangers with
which he met. Incidentally he tells how the boat leaked, what heavy seas
were often successfully encountered, and how "we collected and salted for
food on our homeward voyage stormy petrels" and like luxuries.

Flinders meanwhile, as Hunter says in his despatch, had been sent in the
colonial schooner _Francis_ to bring back the castaways [Sidenote: 1799]
from the _Sydney Cove_, who remained anxiously waiting for succour on
Preservation Island. On the way down the young lieutenant discovered and
named many islands and headlands--the Kent group, the Furneaux group, and
Green Cape are only a few names, to wit--and he came back fully convinced
that the set of the tide west "indicated a deep inlet or passage through
the Indian Ocean." He had no time on this trip to make surveys, but on his
return to Sydney he found that George Bass had just come in in his
whale-boat with his report. Hunter and the two young men agreed that the
existence of the strait was certain, and that the next thing to do was to
sail through it.

The colonial sloop _Norfolk_, built at Norfolk Island, a few months
before, to carry despatches, was selected for the service. She was very
small, only 25 tons burden. Flinders was given the command, and Bass was
sent with him. The sloop was accompanied by a snow called the _Nautilus_,
which was bound to the Furneaux group on a sealing expedition. The voyage
lasted from October 7th, 1798, till January 12th, 1799, and in that period
the explorers circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land, making so many
discoveries and naming so many places, that a mere mention of them would
fill a chapter. At the end of his log, Flinders tells us that on arrival
at Port Jackson--

"to the strait which had now been the great object of research,
and whose discovery was now completed, Governor Hunter, at my
recommendation, gave the name of Bass' Straits. This was no more
than a just tribute to my worthy friend and companion for the
extensive dangers and fatigues he had undergone in first entering
it in the whale-boat, and to the correct judgment he had formed
from various indications of the existence of a wide opening
between Van Dieman's Land and New South Wales."

Six months later the _Norfolk_, with Flinders on board, sailed along the
north coast, making many discoveries, but missing the important rivers.
Then he returned to England in the _Reliance_. His tried comrade and
friend, Bass, had already left the colony when the _Norfolk_ entered
Sydney Heads, and _his_ after-adventures and still mysterious fate, so far
as can be conjectured, are told in what follows.

A company was floated in England to carry stores to Port Jackson on the
outward trip, and load for return at the islands in the Pacific or such
ports as could be entered on the South American coast. A ship called the
_Venus_ was purchased for the purpose, and Bass and his father-in-law (he
had just married) and their relations held the principal shares in her.
The ship was under the command of one Charles Bishop; but Bass sailed in
her as managing owner and supercargo.

The _Venus_ arrived safely at Sydney, and Bass made a contract with the
authorities to bring a cargo of pork from Tahiti. On his return from this
voyage another contract was concluded between him and Governor King to
continue in this trade. Meanwhile Bishop, the master of the vessel, had
fallen ill, and Bass took command; and the following letter, dated Sydney,
February 3rd, 1803, and written to Captain Waterhouse, his brother-in-law,
in England, was the last news his friends ever heard from Bass:--

"I have written to you thrice since my arrival from the South Sea
Islands. In a few hours I shall sail again on another pork voyage,
but it combines circumstances of a different nature also.

"From this place I go to New Zealand to pick up something more
from the wreck of the old _Endeavour_ in Dusky Bay, then visit
some of the islands lying south of it in search of seals and fish.
The former, should they be found, are intended to furnish a cargo
to England immediately on my return from this trip; the fish are
to answer a proposal I have made to Government to establish a
fishery, on condition of receiving an exclusive privilege of the
south part of New Zealand and of its neighbouring isles, which
privilege is at once to be granted to me. The fishery is not to be
set in motion till my return to old England, when I mean to seize
upon my dear Bess, bring her out here, and make a _poissarde_ of
her, where she cannot fail to find plenty of use for her tongue.

"We have, I assure you, great plans in our heads; but, like the
basket of eggs, all depends upon the success of the voyage I am
now upon.

"In the course of it I intend to visit the coast of Chili in
search of provisions for the use of His Brit. Majesty's colony;
and, that they may not in that part of the world mistake me for a
contrabandist, I go provided with a very diplomatic-looking
certificate from the governor here, stating the service upon which
I am employed, requesting aid and protection in obtaining the food
wanted. And God grant you may fully succeed, says your warm heart,
in so benevolent an object; and thus also say I. Amen, say many
others of my friends.... Speak not of So. America, where you may
hear I am digging gold, to anyone out of your family, for there is
treason in the very name.... Pleasing prospects surround us, which
time must give into our hands. There are apparent openings for
good doings, none of which are likely to be tried for till after
my return and dissolution of partnership with Bishop, a point
fully fixed upon. With kind love to Mrs. W. and all your family, I
am, even at this distance and at this length of time, and under
all my sad labours, as much as when I saw you."

At this time Bass was a young man of thirty-four, [Sidenote: 1817]
"six feet high, dark complexion, wears spectacles, very penetrating
countenance," says his father-in-law. Nothing more was heard of the
_Venus_ or her crew until there arose a rumour that the ship had been
taken by the Spaniards on the coast of Peru. A Captain Campbell, master of
the _Harrington_, is alleged to have made the statement that a Spanish
gentleman told him that Bass had been seized when landing from his boat
and carried to the mines, and that the ship was afterwards taken and the
crew sent to share the fate of their chief. The cause of this seizure was,
says one unauthenticated account, because Bass requested permission to
trade, was refused, and then threatened to bombard the town.

Lieutenant Fitzmaurice was at Valparaiso in 1803, and he states that all
British prisoners in Chili and Peru had been released, and that he had
heard of Mr. Bass being in Lima five or six years before. A letter in the
Record Office, London, dated Liverpool, New South Wales, December 15th,
1817, says:--

"I have just heard a report that Mr. Bass is alive yet in South
America. A capt'n of a vessel belonging to this port, trading
among the islands to the east, fell in with a whaler, and the
capt'n informed him he had seen such a person, and described the
person of Mr. Bass. The capt'n, knowing Mr. Bass well, is of a
belief that, [from] the description that the master of the whaler
gives of him, it's certainly Mr. Bass, being a doctor, too, which
is still a stronger reason.

I am, etc., THOS. MOORE."

And so in this sad fashion, his fate a mystery, perhaps the victim of
savages on some lonely Pacific island, perhaps dragging his life out a
broken-hearted prisoner in the mines of Peru, the gallant young explorer
passes out of history.

When Flinders returned to England he found an enthusiastic admirer and a
powerful friend in Sir Joseph Banks. The young lieutenant was getting
ready for publication a small book describing the circumnavigation of Van
Diemen's Land, and while he was doing this Banks induced the Admiralty to
prepare H.M.S. _Investigator_ for surveying service in Australian waters
and give Flinders charge of her, with the rank of commander. Banks had
everything to do with the arrangements for the expedition; and how much
was thought of his capacity for this work is shown by a memo from the
Secretary to the Admiralty in reply to a request [Sidenote: 1800]
from the naturalist:--

"Any proposal you may make will be approved; the whole is left
entirely to your decision."

The _Investigator_, formerly the _Xenophon_, was a sloop of war, and was
fitted out in a most elaborate fashion for the cruise, carrying with her
an artist (Westall), a botanist (Brown), an astronomer (Crossley), and
several other scientists.

Among her officers were Samuel Flinders, second lieutenant and brother of
Matthew, and a midshipman named John Franklin, afterwards Sir John
Franklin, the Arctic explorer and at one time governor of Tasmania. Her
total complement numbered 83 hands. The _Lady Nelson_, a colonial
government brig, was ordered, on the arrival of the _Investigator_ at Port
Jackson, to join the expedition and act as tender to the larger vessel,
and her history is scarcely less remarkable than that of the little vessel
_Norfolk_, Flinders' old command, which by this time had been run away
with by convicts, and "piled up" on a beach near Newcastle, New South

The _Investigator_ sailed, and Flinders made Cape Leeuwin on September
7th, 1801. He ran along the south and east coasts, met the Baudin
expedition in Encounter Bay, and entered Port Phillip on April 26th, 1802,
and found that the _Lady Nelson_ had preceded him in the February before.
Arriving in Sydney in May, he sailed again a couple of months later to the
northward, surveying the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Straits, the Gulf of
Carpentaria, and the coast of Arnhem's Land. By this time the ship was too
unseaworthy to prosecute further work, so Flinders sailed round the entire
continent by way of the Leeuwin, and finally arrived in Sydney harbour
again in June, 1803.

In these voyages he performed exploring work that is now a part of English
history, and his charts of the Australian coasts were the foundation of
all others that have since been made. He either first used the name of
Australia or adapted it to the great continent, and New Holland, after the
publication of his charts, began to be a name of the past.

Most of the remainder of this story can best be told in the words of
Flinders and from the narratives of his officers.

The long and rough voyage of the _Investigator_ had shaken her poor old
carcase terribly, as the following summary of [Sidenote: 1805]
an examination by the captains of the men-of-war then in Sydney Harbour
and others will show:--

"On the port side out of ninety-eight timbers, eleven were sound,
and sixty-three were uncertain if strained a little; on the
starboard five out of eighty-nine timbers were good, fifty-six
were uncertain, and twenty-eight rotten; the planking about the
bows and amidships was so soft that a stick could be poked through

Considering all these defects it was not worth while to keep her, so she
was converted into a hulk in Sydney Harbour. But later on it was found
that by cutting her down it might be possible to navigate her to England.
This was done, and the old ship sailed from Sydney on May 24th, 1805,
under the command of Captain Kent, who managed with the greatest
difficulty to reach Liverpool on the 14th of October following. In his
despatch announcing her arrival he says:--

"A more deplorable, crazy vessel than the _Investigator_ is,
perhaps, not to be seen. Her maintopmast is reefed a third down;
we have been long without topgallantmasts, being necessitated to
take the topgallant rigging for running gear."

And Governor King, anxious to do Flinders justice, says:--"I hope no
carping cur will cast any reflection on him respecting the _Investigator_
... should it be so it will be an act of great injustice," and then he
alludes to the thoroughly rotten condition of the ship. He was quick, too,
to recognize the immense value of the work accomplished by Flinders, and
made him every offer of help that lay within his power to continue the

There were not more than half a dozen vessels in the colony, but Flinders
could have any one of them he liked, but they were all too small and unfit
for such a severe service. At last it was decided that he should return
home as a passenger in the _Porpoise_; some of his fellow-workers on the
_Investigator_ accompanied him, others went to the East Indies, and one or
two stayed behind. It was with a feeling of intense satisfaction that
Flinders took possession of his comfortable cabin on the _Porpoise_, for
he was looking forward to an agreeable rest after the hardships he had
undergone. The quarter-deck was taken up by a greenhouse protecting the
plants collected on the _Investigator's_ voyage, and designed for the
King's garden at Kew.

Early in August, accompanied by two returning transports, the _Cato_ and
_Bridgewater_, the _Porpoise_, under Lieutenant Fowler, sailed out of
Sydney Harbour, and steered a northerly course along the coast, closely
followed by the other two ships. With Flinders on board to consult, Fowler
had no fear of the dangers of the Barrier Reef, and with a lusty
south-east breeze, and a sky of cloudless blue, the three ships pressed
steadily northward. Four days later they arrived at a spot about 730 miles
north of Sydney, just abreast of what is now Port Bowen, on the Queensland

It was the second dog-watch, the evening was clear, and the three ships
were slipping slowly over the undulating Pacific swell. Flinders was below
chatting to his friends about old times, and the officers were having a
quiet smoke, when a cry of "Breakers ahead!" from both the quarterdeck and
forecastle rang out in the quiet night. The helm was put down, but the
vessel had not enough way on, and scarce brought up to the wind. Flinders,
for the moment thinking he was on board the old _Investigator_ again,
turned to the officer near him and said with a quiet smile: "At her old
tricks again; she wants as much tiller rope as a young wife."

A few minutes later he rose and went on deck to look around. The cry of
"Breakers ahead!" had nothing alarming in it to him, so he had not
hurried; but one quick glance showed him that the ship was doomed, for
the breakers were not a quarter of a cable's-length away, and the inset of
the swell was rapidly hurrying the ship to destruction. Two minutes later
a mountain sea lifted the _Porpoise_ high, and took her among the roaring
surf. In another moment she struck the coral reef with a thud that shook
her timbers from keel to bulwarks; then the ship fell over on her beam
ends in the savage turmoil, her deck facing inshore. So sudden was the
catastrophe that no one could fire a gun for help or for warning to the
other ships, which were following closely. As the ship rolled over on her
beam ends, huge, thundering seas leapt upon and smothered her, and the
darkness of the night was accentuated by the white foam and spume of the
leaping surf. In a few moments the foremast went, the bottom was stove in,
and all hope was abandoned; and then during a momentary lull in the
crashing breakers they saw the _Cato_ and _Bridgewater_ running directly
down upon the _Porpoise_. For some seconds a breathless, horror-struck
silence reigned; then a shout arose as the two transports shaved by the
stricken ship and were apparently saved.

But their rejoicing was premature, for a minute or two later the _Cato_
struck upon an outlying spur of the reef, not a cable-length away. Like
the _Porpoise_, she at once fell over on her side, but with her deck
facing the sweeping rollers, and each succeeding wave spun her round and
round like a top and swept her fore and aft. The _Bridgewater_ escaped,
and a light air enabled her to stand to the north out of danger.

Flinders at once took command on the _Porpoise_, a small gig was lowered
to leeward, and with half a dozen men, two odd, short oars, and shoes and
hats for balers, he set out to struggle through the breakers to a calm
ring of water beyond, where they might find a sandbank to land upon, or
get within hailing distance of the _Bridgewater_. Meanwhile Fowler was
thinking of lightening the _Porpoise_ and letting her drive further up on
the reef; but fear was expressed that she might be carried over its inside
edge, and founder in 17 fathoms of water. The two cutters were launched,
and stood by under the lee of the ship throughout the long, weary night in
case she broke up. At intervals of half an hour, blue lights flared over
the dismal scene, and lit up the strained, white faces of those watching
for the lights of the ship that was safe, and which, either not seeing or
not heeding their distress, had disappeared from view.

During the night the wind blew high and chill, the sea increased in fury,
and the ship groaned and shuddered at each fresh onslaught. Fowler,
however, was hard at work constructing a raft, ready for launching at
dawn, and his men, exhausted as they were, bore themselves as do most
British seamen in the hour of death and danger.

Flinders meanwhile had succeeded in reaching the lagoon within the reef,
and he and his men jumped out of the boat, and walked to and fro in the
shallow water to keep themselves warm and out of the wind; but they sought
in vain to discern the lights of the _Bridgewater_. But the _Bridgewater_
had sailed on to meet another fate. She reached India safely, then left
again for England, and was never afterwards heard of. It is difficult to
understand how her people could have avoided seeing the others' distress;
it is harder still to believe that, seeing their plight, the
_Bridgewater's_ company could have thus deserted the castaways. Of course,
this explanation would have been demanded, but the _Bridgewater_ was an
"overdue" ship long before the news of the disaster arrived in England.

As the sun rose, the scene looked less hopeless, and the men found that
they were near a small sandbank, on which were a quantity of seabirds'
eggs. Close by were the _Porpoise_ and _Cato_ still holding together on
the reef. Returning to the former ship, Flinders at once sent a boat to
rescue the exhausted crew of the _Cato_, who flung themselves into the
waves, and were picked up safely.

Then all hands from both wrecks--marvellous to say, only three men were
lost during the night--set to work under his directions, and collected all
the food and clothing they could possibly obtain. With the warmth of the
sun their spirits returned, and the brave fellows took matters merrily
enough, many of them decking themselves out in the officers' uniforms, for
their own clothing could not be reached. A landing was soon effected, and
a topsail yard was set up as a flagstaff, with the blue ensign upside
down, though but little hope was entertained of passing vessels in such a
place. In all there were 94 people under Flinders' care, and they made
themselves comfortable in sailcloth tents on the barren sand spit. Enough
food had been saved from the _Porpoise_ to last for three months; but to
Flinders' grief many of the papers, charts, and pictures dealing with his
explorations were sadly damaged. Among the articles saved was a picture of
Government House, Sydney, in 1802, and this and some others are now in the
possession of the Royal Colonial Institute, London.

The bank upon which the castaways lived was only 150 fathoms long by 50
broad, and about 3 feet above water. Whilst looking for firewood some of
Flinders' men found an old stern-post of a ship of about 400 tons, which
he imagined might have belonged to one of the ships of the La Perouse

Wearily enough the time passed, and then Flinders determined to attempt to
reach Sydney in one of the ship's boats. He chose a six-oared cutter, and
raised her sides with such odd timber as he could find. She was christened
_The Hope_, and on the 26th August he with the commander of the _Cato_, 12
seamen, and three weeks' provisions, bade farewell to their comrades, and
with a cheer, set out with bold hearts upon their voyage.

[Illustration: WRECK REEF. From an engraving by John Pye, after a drawing
by W. Westall, A.R.A. From Flinders' "Voyage to Terra Australia" [London,
1814]. _To face p. 192._]

_The Hope_ reached Sydney safely on the 8th September, and Flinders and
his companions went straight to Government House, where King was having
dinner. The Governor leapt from his chair with astonishment, almost taking
them for spectres, so half starved and distressing was their appearance.

"But," says Flinders, "as soon as he was convinced of the truth of the
vision, and learned the melancholy cause, a tear started from the eye of
friendship and compassion, and we were received in the most affectionate

Alas for poor Flinders! There were yet in store for him worse miseries,
and tears of sorrow from those nearer and dearer to him were yet to flow
in abundance in the many weary years of waiting yet to come.



In Governor King, Flinders had a firm friend, and one who sympathized
deeply with his misfortune, as was soon evinced. But the first thing to be
done was to rescue the castaways on Wreck Reef, as Flinders had named the
scene of the disaster, and the master of the ship _Rolla_, bound to China,
was engaged by King to call at the reef with provisions and convey to
Canton all those of the ships' companies who preferred going to that port;
and the _Francis_, a schooner of 40 tons, sent in frame from England in
1792, was to accompany the _Rolla_ and bring back those of the shipwrecked
men who chose to return to Port Jackson.

But for Flinders himself King did more: he offered him the use of a small
vessel to sail to England to convey home the charts and journals of the
_Investigator_ voyage. The vessel was named the _Cumberland_; she was only
29 tons, and had been built in Sydney, but Flinders was satisfied that
she was capable of performing the voyage; and both he and King, being men
of action, decided that she should sail, in company with the _Francis_ and
_Rolla_, to the scene of the wreck, where Flinders was to select officers
and men to man her for the voyage to England, a temporary crew being given
him for the run down to the reef. King told Flinders to choose his own
route for the voyage home, to sell the little vessel at the Cape or
elsewhere if he thought fit, and engage another to continue the voyage,
and, in fact, gave his friend a free hand.

The Australian press of the day consisted of the _Sydney Gazette_, then in
its first year of existence, and sometimes printed on odd scraps of
wrapping paper by reason of the shortness of other material, and this
paper, speaking of the _Cumberland_, says, "She is a very good sea-boat,
and in every way capable of carrying enough water and provisions for
Captain Flinders and the officers and nine men who are appointed to
navigate the first vessel built in the colony to England."

Nevertheless there were many naval men who thought the venture dangerous
in the extreme, and sought to dissuade Flinders from undertaking it. But
his was no timorous nature--"a small craft, 'tis true," he said
laughingly, "but mine own."

With all papers necessary to prove his identity and his dearly-loved
journals and charts on board, Flinders bade farewell to his trusty friend
King, and on September 21st, 1803, the three vessels, the lumbering
_Rolla_ and the two midgets of schooners, put to sea. Before midnight,
just after leaving Port Jackson, the three ships were flying before a
south-easterly gale, and the _Cumberland_ was reduced to a close-reefed
mainsail and jib, and she was so exceedingly crank that Flinders
considered it was not safe to run her even in a double-reefed topsail
breeze. Then, in spite of her recent repairs, she leaked like a basket,
and after an hour and a half's cessation from pumping the water was awash
on the cabin floor. But nevertheless she was more weatherly than either
the _Rolla_ or _Francis_, for in working to windward at night-time
Flinders would have to run down four miles or so in the morning to join
them, although they carried all the sail they possibly could.

A fortnight later they arrived at Wreck Reef, and when Flinders sent King
an account of the trip down, he gave the Governor some idea of the
discomforts experienced. He wrote in a humorous vein:--

"Of all the filthy little things I ever saw, this schooner, for
bugs, lice, fleas, weevils, mosquitos, cockroaches, large and
small, and mice, rises superior to them all.... I have never
stripped myself before the last two nights, but usually slept upon
the lee locker with my clothes on.... I believe that I, as well as
my clothes, must undergo a good boiling in the large kettle."

In the evening of the 7th October the three vessels anchored under the lee
of Wreck Island, to the great joy of its tenants, and as soon as Flinders
landed on the bank they gave him three cheers and fired a salute from the
carronades saved from the wreck. The _Porpoise_ still held together, and
the castaways had, during Flinders' absence, built a boat of 20 tons,
which they had rigged as a schooner and named the _Resource_, and on that
very day some of them were out sailing her on her trial trip. This little
vessel Flinders sent to King as some compensation for the _Cumberland_.

As soon as possible the shipwrecked men embarked, some on the _Rolla_ for
China, the rest on the _Francis_ and _Resource_ for Sydney; then Flinders
said good-bye and sailed northward for Timor, where he arrived thirty
days later. Here he wrote again to King; then came another letter dated
from the Mauritius, August 8th, 1804:--

"Thus far, my dear sir, I had written to you from Coupang, in case
of meeting a ship by which it might have been sent, little
expecting that I should have finished it here, and in a prison.

"We found the upper works of the schooner constantly leaky, and
the pumps became so much worn by constant use as to be rendered
unserviceable, and made it absolutely necessary to put in at this
island to get the schooner caulked and the pumps refitted before
attempting the passage round the Cape of Good Hope. I also
considered that, in case of a new war, I had no passports from the
Dutch, as well as that by putting in here I should be able to
ascertain how far the French settlements in this neighbourhood
might answer your purpose of supplying Port Jackson with cattle.
Having no chart or instructions relating to Mauritius, I came
round the south end of the island, and followed a small vessel
that I wanted to speak into a little harbour there" (Baye du Cap),
"and, to my surprise, found that the French were again at war with
our nation. After being detained one day I got a pilot, and came
round to Port N.W." (Port Louis) "on December 16th last. I waited
upon the captain-general, and, after being kept two hours in the
street, had an audience, but it was to be told that I was an
imposter, the improbability of Captain Flinders coming in so small
a vessel being thought so great as to discredit my passport and
commission. Finally, Mr. Atkin, formerly master of the
_Investigator_, and me were brought ashore as prisoners at 2
o'clock in the morning, all my books and papers were taken away,
and a sentinel with fix't bayonet was placed in the room where we
lodged. After undergoing an examination next day, I thought
circumstances were going in my favour, but in three days an order
was issued to put my seamen on board the prison-ship, the vessel's
stores in the arsenal, and the schooner to be laid up. As for Mr.
Atkin and me, we continued in the house of our confinement, but
with this difference, that the sentinal was placed without side of
our room, and I was permitted to have my servant, and afterwards
obtained my printed books and some unfinished charts upon which to
employ myself.

[Illustration: GOVERNMENT HOUSE, PORT JACKSON. From a drawing by
W. Westall, A.R.A., in the possession of the Royal Colonial
Institute. Photographed by permission of the Council. _To face p.

"I expostulated with General de Caen upon this uncommon and very
harsh treatment, but could obtain no satisfaction or public
information than that I had deviated from the voyage for which the
passport had been granted by touching at the Isle of France, and
that my uncommon voyage from Port Jackson to this place was more
calculated for the particular interests of Great Britain than for
those of my voyage of discovery. In fine, I was considered and
treated as a spy, and given to understand that my letters gave
great offence.

"I became very ill in this confinement, the scurvy breaking out in
my legs and feet. A surgeon was sent to attend me, but altho' he
represented the necessity of taking exercise, yet was I not
permitted to take a walk outside in the air for near four months,
or was any person allowed to speak to me without the general's
permission. Through the intercession of the excellent Captain
Bergeret, of the French navy, I was removed to the house where
the English officers, prisoners of war, were confined. This house
is situated a little without the town, enjoys a pure air, and is
surrounded by a wall enclosing about two acres of ground. In this
place Mr. Atkin and me soon recovered our health, and here we have
remained to this day. Thro' my friend Bergeret, I have lately
obtained the greatest part of my books and charts, and therefore
am assiduously employed in repairing the ravages that were made
amongst them by the _Porpoise's_ shipwreck, and in making others
to complete the hydrographical account of my voyage. Admiral
Linois, as well as Bergeret and another naval captain, interested
themselves that I might be sent to France, but it was positively
refused, upon the principle that I must wait until orders were
received concerning me from the French Government; and an
application to be sent into the interior part of the island, where
we might enjoy good exercise and some society, was no more

"This account will not a little surprise you, my dear sir, who
have so lately shown every attention to the _Geographe_ and
_Naturaliste_; but a military tyrant knows no law or principle but
what appears to him for the immediate interest of his Government
or the gratification of his own private caprices. Passports,
reciprocal kindness, and national faith are baits to catch
children and fools with, and none but such consider the propriety
of the means by which the plans are to be put into execution. Men
of genius, heroes (that is, modern French generals), are above
those weaknesses. I can give you no further explanation of General
de Caen's conduct except that he sent me word I was not considered
to be a prisoner of war, and also that it was not any part of my
own conduct that had occasioned my confinement.

"What I am suffering in promotion, peace of mind, fortune, fame,
and everything that man holds dear, it is not my intention to
detail, or have I room; but when added to shipwreck and its
subsequent risks, they make no very common portion of suffering.
How much I deserve all this may be left to your friendly judgement
to decide. It is impossible for me to guess how long I am to be
kept here, since the French despatches, as well as the letters I
have been permitted to write, will probably be thrown overboard on
the ship meeting with our cruisers. However, I think my foe begins
to be touched with some remorse of conscience. We have accounts by
Admiral Linois of the China fleet having lately passed, and in it
my officers and people, who, I hope, are before this time in
England. Having a private opportunity of sending a letter to
India, I commit this to the care of Mr. Campbell for you; and may
you, my kind friend, and yours never feel to know the unlimited
power of a man before whom innocence and hardship are of no avail
to save from his severity."

In Flinders' book we are told that the explorer, when ordered by petty
officials to remain in Baye du Cap with the _Cumberland_ until General de
Caen's pleasure was known, said: "I will do nothing of the kind; I am
going to Port Louis overland, and I shall take my commission, passport,
and papers to General de Caen myself." The officers were a little
crestfallen, but the Englishman's short, precise, active manner left
nothing to be said, so he went on shore in his simple, severe, threadbare,
brine-stained coat, as though Matthew Flinders, of the _Cumberland_, 29
tons, His Majesty's exploring vessel, was fully the equal of any hectoring
French governor-general.

While waiting in an ante-room to see the governor, some French military
officers came in, and began to talk to the Englishman, asking him, among
other things, if he had ever come across "M. Flinedare, who was not
unknown to fame." It took him some time to find out that it was himself.
At last an interpreter took him into the governor's reception room, where,
without preface, de Caen brusquely said: "Where is your passport and your
commission; and why did you come without the _Investigator_?"

"She was so rotten fore and aft that she crumbled at a touch," was the

"Have you an order to come to this isle? Why did you come?"

"Necessity made me," answered Flinders calmly.

"You are imposing, sir," angrily replied de Caen; "you know it is not
possible that the governor of New South Wales would send you out in so
small a boat. Take him away, and treat him well," he added, turning to the
guard, and this was Flinders' last hour of freedom for years to come.

His quarters, shared with Atkin at first, were in a small house, part of a
cafe, "under the dark entry, and up the narrow stairs into a bedroom,
while the door was bolted, and the regular tramp, tramp, of the sentry
kept on hour after hour."

It was a meagre room, containing two truckle-beds, two rush-bottomed
chairs, a broken old gilt-bordered looking-glass, and evil smells. At 6
a.m. the sleeping men were wakened by the patrol of an armed grenadier in
the bedroom--a needless annoyance. The meals of fresh meat, bread, fruit,
and vegetables were a luxury.

Monistrol, the colonel commanding the garrison, a few days later took
Flinders to the home of General de Caen, whose secretary again asked why
his vessel was so small. Where were his scientific men, why did he go to
Port Northwest at all, and why did he chase a vessel? (This query referred
to his endeavour to overtake a pilot-boat.) He gave his reasons in full,
and expected to be allowed to go back to the _Cumberland_. Shortly
afterwards a message came from the governor asking him to dinner, but he
refused, saying, "Unless I am a free man, I will not come to the
governor's table."

On July 12th, 1804, he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks:--

"Since my imprisonment in this island I have written to you, Sir
Joseph, several letters, and by several conveyances. Some of them
must no doubt have been received. General de Caen still keeps me
closely confined, but he has lately given me the greater part of
my books and papers, and, therefore, I shall again be able to
proceed in preparing the accounts of our discoveries.

"I have now been kept in prison seven months. The time passes
drearily along, and I have yet to remain five months longer before
any orders are likely to be received concerning me from the French
Government; and then it is uncertain of what nature they may be,
since it is not known what statement the General has made of my
particular case; and probably the vessels carrying the despatches
will be taken, and the letters thrown overboard, in which case it
cannot be guessed how long I may be kept. My dependence,
therefore, is on the Admiralty demanding me to be given up, by
virtue of the French passport, in which, even here it is
acknowledged, there has been no infringement on my part further
than in intention, which intention has been misconstrued and
misunderstood by a man violent against the name of an Englishman,
and ignorant of what relates to voyages of discovery.

"This arbitrary man is now doing me the greatest injury without
even making a plea for it. His own subjects (for he is a most
despotic monarch), Frenchmen, who are acquainted with the
circumstances, condemn him for it; but the generality cannot
believe that the commander of a voyage of discovery, whose labour
is calculated for the good of all nations, should be kept a
prisoner without something greatly wrong on his part; and, since
no crime is charged against me, it is currently reported here that
I have not the requisite papers to prove my identity.

"I hope, Sir Joseph, that, even from the charts which I have sent
home, you will think we did as much as the lateness of the season
with which we first came upon the coast, and the early rottenness
of the _Investigator_ could well allow; and I think our labours
will not lose on a comparison with what was done by the
_Geographe_ and _Naturaliste_. No part of the unfortunate
circumstances that have since occurred can, I believe, be
attributed to my neglects or mistakes; and therefore I am not
without hope that, when the Admiralty know I am suffering an
unjust imprisonment, they will think me worthy to be put upon the
post-captains' list. My age now exceeds the time at which we judge
in the navy a man ought to have taken his station there who is to
arrive at anything eminent. It would soften the dark shade with
which my reflections in this confinement cannot but be overspread
to know that I was promoted to the list where my rank would be
progressive. It is to you only, Sir Joseph, that I can address
upon this subject. I have had ample testimonies of your power and
of the strength of your mind in resisting the malicious
insinuations of those who are pleased to be my enemies, nor do I
further doubt your willingness to give me assistance than that I
fear you do not yet think me worthy of it; but I will be. If I do
not prove myself worthy of your patronage, Sir Joseph, let me be
thrown out of the society of all good men. I have too much
ambition to rest in the unnoticed middle order of mankind. Since
neither birth nor fortune have favoured me, my actions shall speak
to the world. In the regular service of the navy there are too
many competitors for fame. I have therefore chosen a branch which,
though less rewarded by rank and fortune, is yet little less in
celebrity. In this the candidates are fewer, and in this, if
adverse fortune does not oppose me, I will succeed; and although I
cannot rival the immortalized name of Cook, yet if persevering
industry, joined to what ability I may possess, can accomplish it,
then will I secure the second place, if you, Sir Joseph, as my
guardian genius, will but conduct me into the place of probation.

"But this is visionary, for I am so fast in prison that I cannot
get forth. The thought is bitterness. When I recollect where and
what I am, and compare it with where and how I ought to be
employed, it is misery; but when to this the recollection of my
family and the present derangement of their affairs from my
absence are added, then it is that the bonds enter deep into my

While his money lasted, Flinders spent it in buying fruit and vegetables
for his imprisoned crew; when cash ran out, he drew a bill on the
Admiralty. The interpreter who undertook to get it cashed was nearly
killed by the soldiers for carrying, as they thought, a private letter.
Eventually the Danish consul cashed this bill for the Englishmen, and
gave them full value for it, which, considering the state of the times,
shows that he was a truly good man.

The _Cumberland_ was taken to the head of the harbour and converted into a
hulk, and a document was brought to Flinders to sign in which--in truly
French fashion--he was asked to accuse himself of being a spy. He promptly
refused the request, which was again and again made, and he always scorned
to comply. While his papers were being overhauled, Flinders managed to
secure some of them, and among other things the signal-book, which he

De Caen's report to his Government shows the view he took of these
proceedings. In it he says:--

"Commander Flinders, formerly captain of the corvette
_Investigator_, sent by the English Government for work of
discovery in the Pacific Ocean, has altered absolutely the mission
for which he had obtained from the French Government the passport
signed by the Minister for Marine. In such passport he is
certainly not authorized to land at the Isle of France to study
the prevailing winds, the port, or the state of the colony, and by
this conduct he has violated the neutrality under which he had
been permitted to land. It is necessary therefore to order M.
Monistrol, chief of the battalion, to board the schooner
_Cumberland_ in the presence of Captain Flinders, break the seals
put on his room, and gather certain papers which may be required
to complete proofs already in existence of the charge against him.
The room is then to be resealed, and Captain Flinders to be taken
back to the house where he has already been confined as prisoner.
The crew of the schooner are meanwhile to be kept prisoners on the

Flinders wrote repeatedly by every vessel into which he could smuggle a
letter, to Banks, to King, and to his superiors in England. Many of these
letters never arrived, but what letters did reach home aroused the
indignation of his friends; and Sir Joseph Banks in England, King in
Sydney, and many others worked hard to effect the release of the prisoner.

To de Caen Flinders wrote several letters, giving him some "straight
talk." Here are some extracts:--

"If you say it is a breach of neutrality to come here for the
reasons I did, how is it that when your discoverers put into Port
Jackson, etc., they were received well? In war-time Baudin and
Hamelin took notes, and were not interfered with.... I was chosen
by Sir Joseph Banks to complete Cook's work, and am not a spy. If
I had come as a spy, what have I done? Why not wait till the eve
of sailing to arrest me? I have been a prisoner since the first
hour I landed."

sculpt._ Taken from the brow of the hill leading to the Flagstaff. From
Collins' "An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales" [London,
1798]. _To face p._ 208.]

The governor's answer was-- [Sidenote: 1804]

"It is useless to get up a discussion, as you do not appreciate
the delicate motive of my silence. I say, until matters are
advanced more, say nothing, as you know so little of the rules of
good manners."

This rude letter maddened Flinders. He wrote another long epistle, setting
forth reasons for letting him go, even to France, promising to say not a
word of Mauritius and stating again the absolute simple necessity of his
visit. He could extract no answer.

The heat was fearful. All the respectable people in the place were gone to
the hills, and Flinders and his men nearly died of the horrible
confinement. His letters were opened, and very few reached England. At
home Sir Joseph Banks set to work, and did his best for the poor prisoner.
On August 29th, 1804, he (Banks) wrote to Governor King a long letter,
which is full of things he was disinterestedly doing for the colony, and
that letter says:--

"Poor Flinders, you know, I suppose, put into the Isle de France
for water, and was detained as a prisoner and treated as a spy.
Our Government have no communication with the French; but I have
some with their literary men, and have written, with the
permission of the Government, to solicit his release, and have
sent in my letter a copy of the very handsome one M. Baudin left
with you. If this should effect Flinders' liberation, which I
think it will, we shall both rejoice."

In June, 1805, Banks wrote to Flinders from London, detailing what had
been done:--

"From the moment that I heard of your detention, I have used every
effort in my power towards effecting your release. As the enmity
between the Governments of France and England is carried to such a
height that no exchange has on any pretence been effected, they
could do nothing for you. I therefore obtained permission in
August last to address the National Institute of France requesting
their interference to obtain your release as a literary man, a
mode by which I have obtained the release of five persons from the
gracious condescension of the Emperor, the only five, I believe,
that have been regularly discharged from their _parole_.

"My letters were unfortunately detained in Holland some months,
and, in fact, did not arrive at Paris till April. I received,
however, an immediate and favourable answer, which proves that the
literary men in Paris will do all in their power to obtain your
liberty; but, unfortunately, the Emperor of the French was in
Italy, where he still remains, when my letter arrived.

"I confess, however, I entertain sanguine hopes of a favourable
answer, when he shall return to Paris, from the marked and
laudable attention His Imperial Majesty has always shown to
scientific men. As far as I know, your friends here are well. Mrs.
Flinders I heard of very lately, as full of anxiety for your
return. I have heard many times from her on the subject, and
always done my utmost to quiet her mind and soothe her

"All your letters to me and to the Admiralty have, I believe, been
safely received. Your last, containing the last sheet of your
chart, I forwarded to the Hydrographical Office at the Admiralty,
as you desired.

"We have had a succession of First Lords of the Admiralty since
Lord Spencer, no one of them favourable to the pursuit of
discovery, and none less than the present Lord Barham, late Sir
Charles Middleton. As he, however, is eighty-four years old,
either his mind or his body must soon become incapable of any
exertion whatever. I have no news to tell you relative to
discovery. M. Baudin's voyage has not yet been published. I do not
hear that his countrymen are well satisfied with his proceedings.
Captain Bligh has lately been nominated governor of New South

Meanwhile prizes taken by the French were coming into the Mauritius, and
there were many English prisoners on the island. Their detention became a
little less wearisome with work, music, billiards, astronomy, and pleasant
companionship. It was a curious company. Prisoners who were gathered from
many parts of the world and grades of society strove only to make the time
pass easily, and succeeded until de Caen heard of this and ordered, in his
usual haughty style, that "spy-glasses and such things" should be taken
away, and if anything were concealed, then the prisoners were to be kept
in close confinement, and if they showed themselves outside of the house,
were to be shot. Their swords were demanded. Flinders refused to give his
up to the petty officer sent to receive it. "Very well," said the
inconsistent de Caen, "as he is not a prisoner, he may keep his."

In July, 1805, the captive wrote to Banks this letter:--

"My last letter to you was dated May 16th, and sent by Mr. Atkin,
the master of the _Investigator_, who, having obtained his leave
to depart, took his route by the way of America. He had not been
gone many days when an English squadron of four ships appeared off
this island, and they are now cruising round it; and about a
fortnight since two cartels arrived here with French prisoners
from Calcutta and Ceylon. In return for these, all the prisoners
of war in this island are to be sent back, and I only to be
excepted. It seems that, notwithstanding my imprisonment has
continued near nineteen months, the French governor has not
received orders from his Government as to the disposal of my
person and papers. They have told him he did right to detain and
secure me; but their final decision is deferred to their next
despatches. These are expected very soon, and then possibly I may
be either liberated, or sent to France to be tried as a spy.

"The French captain Bergeret, who arrived from Calcutta, professes
to be much interested for me; and, since he has influence with
General de Caen, it is possible that I may obtain some little
indulgence of liberty after my countrymen are gone. [Sidenote: 1805]
Both justice and humanity ought to have obtained this at least for
me before; but it seems to be only to private favour and party
interest that any concession is made by this arbitrary general.

"Upon the supposition that the first despatches from France will
occasion my removal, I expect to be in England or in France, upon
a reasonable computation, about February or March, 1806, at which
time I anxiously hope and pray that I may find you, my best and
most powerful friend, in the possession of health and happiness,
and my country enjoying the sweets that must arise from an
honourable peace.

"Had I been permitted to go to India with the other prisoners, it
was my intention to have applied to Sir Edward Pellew for a ship
to go upon the north-west coast of New Holland, to ascertain the
existence of an entrance into an inland sea, near the Rosemary
Isles of Dampier, previously to my return to Europe, for during
the continuance of such a war as the present, I can scarcely hope
to get a ship in England to complete the _Investigator's_ voyage.
This project, however, is now dissipated."

And again in November of the same year he wrote:--

"I have already informed you of a permission I received, after the
departure of all the prisoners of war, to leave my place of
confinement, and reside in the country on account of my health. I
have now for nearly three months resided in this district, almost
in the middle of the island, with a very agreeable and
respectable family, from whom I receive every kindness and
attention, and with the permission to extend my walks six miles

"Since my residence in this district I have not had the least
communication with General de Caen, but the liberty I now enjoy is
a sufficient proof that he has ceased to consider me as a spy; and
I firmly believe that, if he had not said to the French Government
during the time of his unjust suspicions of me that he should
detain me here until he received their orders, he would have
gladly suffered me to depart long since, for he has the character
of having a good heart, though too hasty and violent."

By this time all other prisoners had been exchanged, and Flinders alone,
with an old, lame seaman (his servant) were the only English remaining.

It was not altogether wonderful that the captive should be forgotten.
Trafalgar was fought while Flinders was a prisoner, and in Europe people
could hardly be expected to remember one solitary prisoner of the French
so far away.

What delay was in those days may be seen from the fact that a letter
arrived on July 18th, 1807, from Sir Edward Pellew, commanding the
_Duncan_, Madras Roads, June 21st, stating that papers had been really
sent for the captive's release. A private letter was enclosed inviting
Flinders to come and stop in India with Pellew. [Sidenote: 1807]
The copy of the letter Flinders received drove the resentment deeper into
his heart, for it stated that the Paris authorities approved of de Caen's
action, but granted Flinders liberty in pure generosity. In July, 1804,
this letter had been approved by the authorities; in March, 1806, it had
been signed by the Emperor; and in July, 1807, it had arrived in
Mauritius, and yet the copy that left London in December reached Mauritius
first. Flinders wrote again to de Caen, and was told to "wait a bit." Was
ever such an unfortunate man as Matthew Flinders?

In December, 1809, when Flinders had been prisoner in the island seven
years, the English blockaded the port, and the Englishmen were kept closer
than ever. Then arrived the _Harriet_ to exchange prisoners, and in March
of the following year Flinders was informed that he was to be one of the
men exchanged. But it was actually July, 1810, before the _Harriet_ got
away, for the English, not knowing that they were detaining their own
countrymen, kept such a close blockade that the ship could not get out to
sea; and when she did get outside, notwithstanding many attempts on the
part of the captain to communicate with an English ship and put Flinders
on board, he could not overtake one. It turned out afterwards that the
English fleet had heard of Flinders being on board the _Harriet_ and gave
her a wide berth, thinking that by this means the French would understand
that she was at liberty to pursue her way to Europe and land Flinders
without molestation from his countrymen.

Ultimately Flinders reached the Cape of Good Hope, and from thence
England. When he arrived he received a warm enough welcome from his
relatives and immediate friends, but the public had too many stirring
events to talk about to think of him, and so publicly his services were
practically forgotten. Among other indignities he suffered, he found that
the charts taken from him by de Caen had been appropriated to Baudin's
exploring expedition. The remainder of his life he devoted to writing his
book, _An Account of a Voyage to Terra Australia_, which was published on
the very day of his death (July 14th, 1814). Almost his last words were:--

"I know that in future days of exploration my spirit will rise from the
dead, and follow the exploring ships."

Flinders had married in 1801 Ann, daughter of Captain [Sidenote: 1814]
Chappell, and by her he had one daughter, Mrs. Annie Petril, who was in
1852 granted, by the joint Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, a
pension of L200 a year, which she enjoyed until her death in 1892.



Bligh arrived in New South Wales, and relieved King as governor, in
August, 1806. His two years' administration in the colony is noteworthy
for nothing but the remarkable manner of its termination. Just as Sir John
Franklin's name will live as an Arctic explorer and be forgotten as a
Tasmanian governor, so will the name of Bligh in England always recall to
mind the _Bounty_ mutiny and scarcely be remembered in connection with
Australian history.

Any number of books, and a dozen different versions, have been written of
the mutiny. There is Sir John Barrow's _Mutiny of the "Bounty,"_ which,
considering that the author was Secretary to the Admiralty, ought to be,
and is, regarded as an authority; there is Lady Belcher's _Mutineers of
the "Bounty,"_ by far the most interesting, and probably, notwithstanding
a strong anti-Bligh bias, an impartial account of [Sidenote: 1806]
facts. It is no wonder Lady Belcher was no admirer of Bligh. Heywood, the
midshipman who was tried for his life, was her step-father, and she had
very good reason to remember Bligh with no friendly feeling. There are
other books, some of them as dull as they are pious and inaccurate, others
containing no quality of accuracy or piety, and only dull; and there is
Bligh's own narrative of the affair, remarkable for its plain account of
the mutiny and the writer's boat voyage and the absence of a single word
that could throw a shadow of blame upon the memory of Captain Bligh.
Byron's poem of "The Island" is, of course, founded on the _Bounty_
mutiny, but the poet has used his licence to such an extent that the poem,
which, by the way, some of the poet's admirers say is one of his worst,
has no resemblance to the facts. In 1884 Judge McFarland, of the New South
Wales District Court, wrote a book on the mutiny, and this work, for the
reason that it was published in a remote part of the world, is little
known; yet it is probably the best book on the subject. The Judge marshals
his facts with judicial ability, and he sums up in such a manner the
causes leading to the mutiny, that if Bligh were on trial before him we
are afraid the jury would convict that officer without leaving the box.

A critic whose opinion is entitled to the greatest weight, having read the
manuscript of this and the next chapter before it went to press,
considered that, although we had written of Bligh's harshness to his men
as proved, we had not specifically alluded to the proof. For this reason,
and because the story of the _Bounty_ mutiny, like every event that
happened in the South Seas a hundred years ago, is interwoven with the
early history of Australia, we propose to retell the story shortly. And
since it seems that Bligh's tyrannical character is still a fact not taken
for granted by everyone, we will endeavour, not to justify the mutiny, but
to show that, by all the rules of evidence, Bligh's behaviour to his
ship's company is proved to have been of the aggravating character alleged
by his shipmates, and that the _Bounty_ was not, as Bligh represented her
to be, what is called by sailors "a happy ship."

Another reason for retelling the story is, that, notwithstanding that the
name of the _Bounty_ sounds most familiar in most people's ears, yet we
have some evidence that the present generation has [Sidenote: 1776]
almost forgotten nearly everything relating to it.

A few years ago one of the authors went to Norfolk Island, so remote a
spot that visits are counted not so many to the year, but so many years to
a visitor. It was thought that an account of the descendants of the
_Bounty_ mutineers would be of interest to English magazine-readers.
Everyone, it was supposed, knew all about the _Bounty_ mutiny, so half a
dozen lines were devoted to it, the rest of the space to the present state
of the old Pitcairn families. The article was hawked about to most of the
London magazine offices, and was invariably rejected, on the ground that
no one remembered the _Bounty_ mutiny, and that an account of the event
would be much more acceptable. It appears from many recently printed
allusions to the mutiny that the magazine editors rightly judged their

Bligh's first visit to the South Seas was when, under Cook, he sailed as
master of the _Resolution_ in 1776-9. A native of Plymouth, of obscure
parentage, he was then about twenty-three years old, and had entered the
service through the "hawse-pipe."

By Cook's influence, he was in 1781 promoted lieutenant, and later,
through the influence of Sir Joseph Banks, was given the command of the
_Bounty_, which sailed from Spithead on December 23rd, 1787, for Tahiti.

The _Bounty_ was an armed transport of 215 tons burden. Her mission was to
convey breadfruit to the West Indian islands, the planters having
represented to George III. that the introduction of the plant would be
very beneficial as an article of food. The ship was fitted up in a manner
peculiar, but adapted to the service she was upon. She was 90 feet long,
her greatest beam 24 feet, and her greatest depth of hold about 10 feet.
This limited space was divided in the following manner: 19 tons of iron
ballast and provisions and stores for the ship's total complement (46
persons) in the hold; in the cockpit cabins for some subordinate officers;
on the 'tween-decks a small room for Bligh to sleep in, another for a
dining and sitting-room, and a small cabin for the master. Then from right
aft to the after-hatchway a regular conservatory was rigged up. Rows and
rows of shelves, with garden-pots for the plants, ran all round; regular
gutters were made to carry off the drainage when the plants were watered,
and water being precious, the pots drained into tubs, so that the water
might be used again, while special large skylights admitted air and light.
On the foreside of this cabin lived the more subordinate officers, and
still further forward the crew.

The crew under Bligh consisted of a master (Fryer), a gunner, boatswain,
carpenter, surgeon, 2 master's mates, 2 midshipmen, 2 quarter-masters, a
quarter-master's mate, boatswain's mate, a carpenter's mate and a seaman
carpenter, a sail-maker, armourer, and a ship's corporal, 23 able seamen,
and a man who acted as clerk and ship's steward. Besides there were two
gardeners who had been selected by Sir Joseph Banks.

The _Bounty_, on her way to Tahiti, touched at Teneriffe, Simon's Bay, and
at Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land. On arrival at Tahiti, she spent
nearly five months in Matavai Bay loading the breadfruit plants. Now,
according to Bligh, up to this point all had gone well on the ship, and
everyone had seemed happy and contented; according to every other person
on board, whether friendly or inimical to Bligh, there was a good deal of
unpleasantness and discontent during the whole passage. According to
Bligh, the beauty of the Tahitian women, the delightful ease and charm of
island existence in contrast to the hardships of the sailor's life,
tempted certain of the men into what followed; according to all other
witnesses, it is admitted that the men were so tempted, that desertions
took place, and the deserters were taken and severely punished before the
ship left the island. But, say certain witnesses, when the mutiny broke
out the seductions of Tahiti were less the cause of the outbreak than the
tyrannical and coarse conduct of Bligh.

In due course the ship sailed in continuation of her voyage. Then on the
night of Monday, April 28th, 1789, the master, John Fryer, had the first
watch, the gunner, William Peckover, the middle watch, and Fletcher
Christian, the senior master's mate, the morning watch. Just as the day
was breaking, when the ship was a few miles to the southward of Tofoa, one
of the Friendly Island group, Bligh was rudely awakened by the entrance to
his cabin of Christian and three of the crew. He was told he would be
killed if he made the least noise, and Christian, armed with a cutlass,
the others with muskets and fixed bayonets, escorted him to the deck,
after first tying his hands behind him. The master, the gunner, the acting
surgeon, Ledward (the surgeon had died and was buried at Tahiti), the
second master's mate, and Nelson, one of the botanists, [Sidenote: 1789]
were at the same time secured below. The boatswain, carpenter, and clerk
were allowed to come on deck, and the boatswain, acting under threats from
the mutineers, hoisted out the launch.

Bligh used every endeavour, first by threats, and then by entreaties and
promises of forgiveness, to induce the crew to return to their duty, and
Fryer, the master, if he had received the least support, would also have
made an attempt to retake the ship. But the mutineers threatened instant
death to any who attempted resistance.

The boat being hoisted out, the names of certain of the officers and crew
were called, and these were ordered to enter her. Bligh was compelled to
follow, and she was then dropped astern. Christian handed Bligh a sextant
and a book of nautical tables, saying, as he did so, "This book is
sufficient for every purpose, and you know, sir, my sextant is a good
one." Four cutlasses, a 28-gallon cask of water, 150 pounds of bread, 6
quarts of rum, 6 bottles of wine, 32 pounds of pork, twine, canvas, sails,
some small empty water-casks, and most of the ship's papers were put in
the boat, and she was cast adrift.

At the last moment, according to Bligh, Christian, in reply to a question
as to what sort of treatment was this in return for all the commander's
kindness, said, "That, Captain Bligh, that is the thing: I am in hell";
according to the evidence at the court-martial, not of mutineers, but of
the master and other officers who were cast adrift from the _Bounty_, what
Christian did say was in reply to entreaties to reconsider what he was
doing, when his words were--"No, no. Captain Bligh has brought all this on
himself: it is too late; I have been in hell for weeks past."

With Bligh in the boat were eighteen persons, and twenty-five remained on
the _Bounty_. The boat was 23 feet in length, 6 feet 9 inches in breadth,
and 2 feet 9 inches in depth. When loaded with all these people and her
stores, she had not seven inches of freeboard.

From the morning when the boat was cast adrift till forty-two days later,
when her unhappy company were safely landed at Timor, Bligh's behaviour
and the behaviour of those under him is a noble example of courage,
endurance, and resourcefulness.

They first attempted to land at Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, but
were driven off by the natives, and one of the seamen was killed. Bligh,
therefore, resolved to land nowhere until he came to the coast of
Australia, or New Holland, as it was then called.

On the twenty-eighth day they made an island off the coast, to which they
gave the name Restoration. Up to this time, they had lived on such food as
they had, served out in a pair of cocoa-nut shell scales, the ration being
a pistol-ball's weight per man morning, noon, and night, a teaspoonful of
rum or wine, and a quarter of a pint of water. Their food was occasionally
varied when they were able to catch boobies. The birds were devoured raw,
and the blood drunk, each man receiving his portion with the utmost

Restoration Island is one of the many little islets that stud the
sea-coast from the Barrier Reef right through Torres Straits, and Bligh's
people found upon it and other similar spots welcome opportunity to
stretch their cramped limbs, besides obtaining fresh water, and plenty of
oysters. Then they continued their journey, making their way through
Torres Straits by a channel still known as Bligh's Passage, and taking a
week from the time of sighting the Australian coast to the time of leaving

A couple of incidents that happened at this time show how it was that
Bligh kept his men so well in hand. One man was sent out to look for
birds' eggs; the sailor, it was discovered, had concealed some of them.
Says Bligh, "I thereupon gave him a good beating. On another occasion one
of the men went so far as to tell me, with a mutinous look, that he was as
good a man as myself. It was not possible for me to judge where this would
end if not stopped in time; therefore, to prevent such disputes in future,
I determined either to preserve my command or die in the attempt, and
seizing a cutlass, I ordered him to take hold of another and defend
himself. On this he called out that I was going to kill him, and made
concessions. I did not allow this to interfere with the harmony of the
boat's crew, and everything soon became quiet."

On the evening of June 3rd, the twenty-third day from leaving Tofoa, they
left the coast of Australia on the north-western side, and stood away for
Timor, where they arrived nine days later, and were received with the
greatest kindness by the Dutch officials and merchants. Their journey of
about 3620 miles had taken forty-two days. One man had lost his life by
the attack of savages, and Nelson, the botanist, [Sidenote: 1790-1791]
Elphinstone, a master's mate, two seamen, and the acting surgeon, were
attacked by the Batavian fever and died. Bligh and the remainder of his
men secured passages home, and arrived in England in March, 1790.

In the summer of 1791 he was promoted commander, given the command of the
_Providence_, with an armed tender, the _Assistance_, and sent to carry
out the breadfruit transplantation idea, which he satisfactorily
accomplished. But the soil of the West Indian islands would not
successfully grow the fruit, and the people of the West Indies do not like

Meantime the _Pandora_ frigate, Captain Edwards, was sent out to search
for the mutineers. At Tahiti she found no _Bounty_, but two midshipmen,
Heywood and Stewart, and twelve petty officers and seamen of the ship.
These people gave themselves up as soon as the _Pandora_ entered Matavai
Bay, and they informed Captain Edwards that the _Bounty_ had sailed away
with the remainder of the people, no one knew whither. Two other seamen
had been left behind, but one of these had murdered his comrade and a
native man and child, and was himself killed by the natives for these

Stewart and Heywood, master's mate and midshipman, who were very
young--the latter was fifteen at the time of the mutiny--declared to the
captain of the _Pandora_ that they had been detained on the _Bounty_
against their wishes; but Captain Edwards believed nothing, listened to no
defence. He built a round-house on the quarter deck, and heavily ironing
his prisoners locked them up in this.

Stewart while on shore had contracted a native marriage, and after he had
left in the _Pandora_ his young wife died broken-hearted, leaving an
infant daughter, who was afterwards educated by the missionaries, and
lived until quite recent times.

In "Pandora's Box," as Captain Edwards' round-house came to be called, the
fourteen prisoners suffered cruel torture, and nothing can justify the
manner in which they were treated. The frigate sailed accompanied by a
cutter called the _Resolution_, which had been built by, and was taken
from, the _Bounty's_ people at Tahiti on May 19th, 1791, and spent till
the middle of August in a fruitless search among the islands for the
remainder of the mutineers. The _Pandora_ then stood away for Timor,
having lost sight of the _Resolution_, which Edwards did not see again
until he reached Timor.

On August 28th the ship struck a reef, now marked on the chart as
Pandora's Reef, and became a total wreck. All this time the prisoners had
been kept in irons in the round-house. The ship lasted until the following
morning, when the survivors--for thirty-five of the _Pandora's_ crew and
four of the prisoners (among them the unfortunate Stewart) were
drowned--got into the boats and began another remarkable boat voyage to
Timor. While the vessel was going down, instead of the prisoners being
released, by the express order of Captain Edwards eleven of them were
actually kept ironed, and if it had not been for the humanity of
boatswain's mate James Moulter, who burst open the prison, they would have
all been drowned like rats in a cage. This is not the one-sided version of
the prisoners only, but is so confirmed by the officers of the _Pandora_
that Sir John Barrow in his book says that the "statement of the brutal
and unfeeling behaviour of Edwards is but too true."

There were ninety-nine survivors, divided between four boats, and they had
1000 miles to voyage. They landed at Coupang on September 19th, after
undergoing the greatest suffering, aggravated in the case of the prisoners
by the most wanton cruelty on the part of Edwards. From here they were
sent to England for trial, arriving at Spithead on June 19th, 1792, four
years and four months after they had left in the _Bounty_, of which time
these poor prisoners had spent fifteen months in irons. In the following
September the accused were tried by court-martial at Portsmouth Harbour.
Bligh was away on his second breadfruit voyage, but he had left behind him
as much evidence as he could collect that would be likely to secure
conviction, and one of the officers so backed up his statements that young
Heywood, a boy of fifteen, be it remembered, came near to being hanged.
Bligh's suppression of facts which would have proved that the youngsters
Stewart and Heywood were mere spectators at the worst of the mutiny, Sir
John Barrow suggests, has "the appearance of a deliberate act of malice."

The result of the trial was the just acquittal of four of the petty
officers and seamen, the conviction of Heywood, of Morrison, boatswain's
mate (a man of education, who had kept a diary of the whole business), and
of four seamen. Three of these last, one of them seventeen years of age
at the time of the mutiny, were hanged in Portsmouth [Sidenote: 1807]
Harbour. Heywood, Morrison, and a seaman named Muspratt were pardoned. It
was plain that the authorities recognized the innocence of these men, for
Heywood made a fresh start in the service, and served with distinction,
dying a post-captain in 1831, and Morrison was drowned in the _Blenheim_,
of which ship he was gunner when she foundered off the island of Rodriguez
in 1807.

What had become of the _Bounty_? In March, 1809, there reached the
Admiralty an extract from the log of an American whaler, commanded by
Matthew Folger. This extract showed the Pitcairn Island, hitherto scarcely
known and supposed to be uninhabited, had been visited by the whaler,
which found thereon a white man and several half-caste families. The man
was the sole survivor of the _Bounty_ mutineers, and the half-caste
families were the descendants of the others by their Tahitian wives. In
proof of his statements, Folger brought away with him the chronometer and
azimuth compass of the _Bounty_. War was then going on, and England paid
little attention to the news, until in September, 1814, two frigates, the
_Briton_ and the _Tagus_, visited Pitcairn, when the end of the _Bounty_
story was told to the commander by the sole survivor.

When the _Bounty_ left Tahiti, Christian took with him Young, a
midshipman; Mills, gunner's mate; Brown, one of the two botanists; and
Martin, McCoy, Williams, Quintall, and Smith, seamen. These men were
accompanied by five male islanders from Tahiti and Tubuai (in which last
place they had attempted to form a settlement and failed), three Tahitian
women, wives of the Tahitians, and ten other Tahitian women and a child.

The _Bounty_ was beached and burnt, and from her remains and the island
timber the mutineers built themselves homes. Soon dissensions arose,
murder followed, and within a few years after landing every Englishman
save Smith was dead, nearly all of them dying violent deaths. Smith
changed his name to John Adams, took a Bible from the _Bounty's_ library
as his guide, and set to work to govern and to train his colony of
half-caste children.

From 1815 Pitcairn became a pet colony of the English people, and every
ship that visited it brought back stories of the piety and beautiful
character of its population. Smith or Adams died in 1829. He had long
before been pardoned by the English Government, and [Sidenote: 1829]
the good work he began was carried on by Mr. Nobbs, one of several persons
who from time to time, attracted by the story of life at Pitcairn, had
managed to make their way to the island.

In 1856 the greater portion of the Pitcairn families were removed to
Norfolk Island, which the English Government had abandoned as a penal
settlement, giving up to them all the prison buildings as a new home.

For years after, Norfolk Island, like Pitcairn, was known as the home of
the descendants of the _Bounty_ mutineers, and was talked of all over the
world in the same strain as that other ideal community at Pitcairn, but
civilization has now worked its evil ways. No longer is Norfolk Island
governed in patriarchal fashion. It has been handed over by the Imperial
Government for administration by the colony of New South Wales, and in a
few years longer all that will remain of its _Bounty_ story will be the
names of Christian, Young, McCoy, Quintall, and the rest of them--still
names which indicate the "best families" of the island.

To this day it is a mystery exactly how and when Christian met his death.
The sole survivor of the mutineers, Smith (_alias_ Adams), when
questioned, went into details regarding the desperate quarrels of his
comrades, and how they came by violent deaths; but whether his memory,
owing to old age, had failed him, or he had something to conceal, it is
impossible now to say. However, he gave versions of Christian's death
which differed materially. The generally accepted one is that he was shot
by one of the Tahitians while working in the garden, but the exact place
of his burial has never been revealed.

In this connection there is a curious story. An English paper called _The
True Briton_ of September 13th, 1796, contained the following paragraph:--


"This extraordinary nautical character has at length transmitted
to England an account of his conduct in his mutiny on board the
_Bounty_ and a detail also of his subsequent proceedings after he
obtained command of the ship, in which, after visiting Juan
Fernandez and various islands in South America, he was shipwrecked
in rescuing Don Henriques, major-general of the kingdom of Chili,
from a similar disaster, an event which, after many perilous
circumstances, led to his present lucrative establishment under
the Spanish Government in South America, for which [Sidenote: 1796]
he was about to sail when the last accounts were received from him.

"In his voyage, etc., which he has lately published at Cadiz, we
are candidly told by this enterprising mutineer that the revolt
which he headed on board His Majesty's ship _Bounty_ was not
ascribable to dislike of their commander, Captain Bligh, but to
the unconquerable passion which he and the major part of the
ship's crew entertained for the enjoyments which Otaheite still
held out to their voluptuous imaginations. 'It is but justice,'
says he, 'that I should acquit Captain Bligh, in the most
unequivocal manner, of having contributed in the smallest degree
to the promotion of our conspiracy by any harsh or ungentlemanlike
conduct on his part; so far from it, that few officers in the
service, I am persuaded, can in this respect be found superior to
him, or produce stronger claims upon the gratitude and attachment
of the men whom they are appointed to command. Our mutiny is
wholly to be ascribed to the strong predilection we had contracted
for living at Otaheite, where, exclusive of the happy disposition
of the inhabitants, the mildness of the climate, and the fertility
of the soil, we had formed certain connexions which banished the
remembrance of old England entirely from our breasts.'"

After describing the seizure and securing of Captain Bligh's person in his
cabin, Christian is made to thus conclude his account of the revolt:--

"During the whole of this transaction Captain Bligh exerted
himself to the utmost to reduce the people to a sense of their
duty by haranguing and expostulating with them, which caused me to
assume a degree of ferocity quite repugnant to my feelings, as I
dreaded the effect which his remonstrances might produce. Hence I
several times threatened him with instant death unless he
desisted; but my menaces were all in vain. He continued to
harangue us with so much manly eloquence, that I was fain to call
in the dram-bottle to my aid, which I directed to be served round
to my associates. Thus heartened and encouraged, we went through
the business, though, for my own part, I must acknowledge that I
suffered more than words can express from the conflict of
contending passions; but I had gone too far to recede; so, putting
the best face on the business, I ordered the boat to be cut
adrift, wore ship, and shaped our course back for Otaheite."

In each of the books by Sir John Barrow and Lady Belcher there is the
following paragraph, almost word for word:--

"About 1809 a report prevailed in Cumberland, in the neighbourhood
of his native place, and was current for several years, that
Fletcher Christian had returned home, made frequent visits to a
relative there, and that he was living in concealment in some part
of England--an assumption improbable, though not impossible. In
the same year, however, a singular incident occurred. Captain
Heywood, who was fitting out at Plymouth, happened one day to be
passing down Fore Street, when a man of unusual [Sidenote: 1809]
stature, very much muffled, and with his hat drawn close over his
eyes, emerged suddenly from a small side street, and walked
quickly past him. The height, athletic figure, and gait so
impressed Heywood as being those of Christian, that, quickening
his pace till he came up with the stranger, he said in a tone of
voice only loud enough to be heard by him, 'Fletcher Christian!'
The man turned quickly round, and faced his interrogator, but
little of his countenance was visible; and darting up one of the
small streets, he vanished from the other's sight. Captain Heywood
hesitated for a moment, but decided on giving up the pursuit, and
on not instituting any inquiries. Recognition would have been
painful as well as dangerous to Christian if this were he; and it
seemed scarcely within the bounds of probability that he should be
in England. Remarkable as was the occurrence, Captain Heywood
attached no importance to it, simply considering it a singular

It is of course extremely improbable that Christian managed to leave the
island before the arrival of the _Topaz_ (Folger's ship), and if Heywood's
impression that he had seen Christian had occurred to him anywhere near
the date of the _True Briton_ paragraph, one might easily account for it
on the ground that the _True Briton_ was a sensation-loving modern daily,
born before its time, and Heywood had read the paragraph. But between 1796
and 1809 was a long interval; no news had come to England of the
mutineers to revive memory of the event, and the curious ignorance of the
Pitcairners of the place of Christian's burial are all circumstances which
leave the manner of the mutineer officer's ending by no means settled.

The Rev. Mr. Nobbs, to whom the early Pitcairners are indebted for so
much, carried on the work of John Adams so well and so piously that he was
sent home to England, ordained a clergyman of the Established Church,
returned to Pitcairn, and then accompanied the emigrants to Norfolk
Island, where he died about ten years ago.

Mr. Nobbs had a very curious history, which we reprint from the Rev. T.B.
Murray's book on Pitcairn:--

"In 1811 he was entered on the books of H.M.S. _Roebuck_; and,
through means of Rear-Admiral Murray, he was, in 1813, placed on
board the _Indefatigable_, naval storeship, under Captain Bowles.
In this vessel the young sailor visited New South Wales and Van
Dieman's Land, whence he proceeded to Cape Horn and Cape of Good
Hope, and thence, after a short stay at St. Helena, he returned to
England. He then left the British Navy, but after remaining a
short time at home he received a letter from his old commander,
offering to procure him a berth on board a ship of 18 guns,
designed for the assistance of the patriots in South America. He
accepted this offer, and left England early in 1816 for
Valparaiso, but the Royalists having regained possession of that
place, he could not enter it until 1817. He afterwards held a
commission in the Chilian service, under Lord Cochrane, and was
made a lieutenant in it in consequence of his gallantry in the
cutting out of the Spanish frigate _Esmeralda_, of 40 guns, from
under the batteries of Callao, and during a severe conflict with a
Spanish gun brig near Arauco, a fortress in Chili. In the latter
encounter Mr. Nobbs was in command of a craft which sustained a
loss in killed and wounded of 48 men out of 64, and was taken
prisoner with the survivors by the troops of the adventurous
robber General Benevideis. The 16 captives were all shot with the
exception of Lieutenant Nobbs and three English seamen; these four
saw their fellow prisoners led out from time to time, and heard
the reports of the muskets that disposed of them. Ever afterwards
he retained a vivid memory of that dreadful fusillade. Having
remained for three weeks under sentence of death, he and his
countrymen were unexpectedly exchanged for four officers attached
to Benevideis' army. Mr. Nobbs then left the Chilian service, and
in 1822 went to Naples. In his passage from that city to Messina
in a Neapolitan ship, she foundered off the Lipari Islands; and,
with the loss of everything, he reached Messina in one of the
ship's boats. In May, 1823, he returned to London in the
_Crescent_; and in the same year he sailed to Sierra Leone as
chief mate of the _Gambia_, but of 19 persons who went out in that
vessel none but the captain, Mr. Nobbs, and two men of colour
lived to return. In June, 1824, he again went to Sierra Leone,
now as commander of the same craft, and was six weeks on shore ill
of fever, but it pleased God to restore him to health in time to
return with her; and he resigned command on his reaching England.
Meanwhile the captain of a vessel in which he had once sailed had
expatiated so frequently on the happiness of the people at
Pitcairn, where he had been, that Mr. Nobbs resolved to go thither
if his life should be spared; and, with this object in view, he
set out on the 12th of November, 1825, in the _Circassian_, bound
for Calcutta, but he was detained there until August, 1827; then,
after a narrow escape from shipwreck in the Strait of Sunda, he
crossed the Pacific in a New York ship called the _Oceani_, went
to Valparaiso, and thence to Callao, where he met a Mr. Bunker,
expended L150 in refitting a launch, and made the voyage to

Bligh, in his version of the _Bounty_ mutiny, says that there was
absolutely no cause of discontent on board the ship until the mutineers
became demoralized by their long stay at Tahiti, and that he was on the
best of terms with everyone on board. In proof of this, says Bligh,
Christian, when the boat was drifting astern, was asked by Bligh if this
treatment was a proper return for his commander's kindness, to which the
mutineer answered, "That, Captain Bligh, that is the thing. I am in hell;
I am in hell." Bligh on being asked by the friends of young Heywood if he
thought it possible that this boy of fifteen, who had been detained
against his will, could have a guilty knowledge of the mutiny, replied in
writing that the lad's "baseness was beyond all description. It would give
me great pleasure to hear that his friends can bear the loss of him
without much concern."

Bligh's story is contradicted by all of the mutineers--that, of course,
goes without saying--but here is the point: the evidence of the mutineers
is practically confirmed in every particular, and Bligh's version is
contradicted by the people who were with him in the boat, and these
people, Bligh himself says, were loyal. One man only, Hallett, had
anything to say in confirmation of Bligh's allegations regarding Heywood,
and Hallett afterwards recanted and expressed his sorrow at what he had
alleged against Heywood--his statements, he admitted, were made when he
was not fully responsible for what he said.

Labillardiere, in his _Voyage in Search of La Perouse_, says that one of
the officers of the _Pandora_ assured some of the people of the La Perouse
expedition, whom they had met at the Cape, that Bligh's ill-treatment of
the _Bounty's_ people was the cause of the mutiny. Fryer, the master of
the _Bounty_, who, it was shown during the court-martial, had more than
anyone else supported Bligh, confirmed the statement that what Christian
did say when the boat was cut adrift was, in answer to the boatswain, "No.
It is too late, Mr. Cole; I have been in hell this fortnight, and will
bear it no longer. You know that during the whole voyage I have been
treated like a dog." Further than this, the evidence given by the
mutineers, and supported in all essentials by the people cut adrift in the
boat, was to the effect that there had been repeated floggings; that Bligh
had continually used violent and abusive language to officers and men;
that he was a petty tyrant and was guilty of all sorts of mean forms of
aggravation. Here is one instance: he accused officers and men, from the
senior officer under him downwards, of being thieves, alleging publicly on
the quarter-deck that they stole his coconuts.

Against these allegations we have nothing but Bligh's narrative and the
assertions, perfectly true, that he was a brave officer, who afterwards
conducted a remarkable boat voyage and served with distinction under
Nelson,[G] and that such a man could not be guilty of [Sidenote: 1830]
tyranny. We are here discussing the mutiny of the _Bounty_, and not the
revolt in New South Wales, else against this we might remark that he was
the victim of two mutinies against his rule. Bligh was not the only
coarse, petty tyrant who could fight a ship well; Edwards made a boat
voyage scarcely less remarkable than Bligh's, and Edwards unquestionably
was a vindictive brute. However, Sir John Barrow, who, from his position
as Secretary of the Admiralty, was hardly likely to make rash assertions,
in his book, published about 1830, says very plainly that Bligh, upon the
evidence at the court-martial, was responsible for what happened. The
mutiny being admitted, the members of the court-martial had no alternative
but to convict those who were not with Bligh in the boat, but those who
were not proved to have taken actual part in it, who were not seen with
arms in their possession, were pardoned and ultimately promoted.

[Footnote G: After the battle of Copenhagen, Bligh, who commanded the
_Glatton_, was thanked by Nelson in these words: 'Bligh, I sent for you to
thank you; you have supported me nobly.']

There are a dozen other equally important and quite as strong facts as
these to justify the view of Bligh's character taken by us; but, unless
something better than Bligh's narrative and his subsequent service is
quoted in reply to this side of the case, we think that a jury of Bligh's
countrymen would find that if the mutineers were seduced by thoughts of
Tahiti to take the ship from him three weeks after they had left the
island, and were 1500 miles from it, none the less were they driven into
that act by their commander's treatment of them. But, nevertheless, the
memory of Bligh's heroic courage and forethought in his wonderful boat
voyage from the Friendly Islands to Timor--a distance of 3618 miles--is
for ever emblazoned upon the naval annals of our country, and the wrong he
did in connection with the tragedy of the _Bounty_ cannot dim his lustre
as a seaman and a navigator.



Bligh, at the time of his appointment to New South Wales, was in command
of the _Warrior_, and in the interval between his second breadfruit voyage
and the date of his governor's commission had been behaving in a manner
worthy of one of Nelson's captains. In 1794 he commanded the _Alexander_
(74), which, with the _Canada_, was attacked off the Scilly Isles in
November by a French squadron of five seventy-fours. The _Alexander_ was
cut off from her consort by three Frenchmen, when Bligh sustained their
attack for three hours, and was then compelled to strike his flag, having
lost only 36 men killed and wounded, while the enemy's loss was 450.

Other splendid service of Bligh is related in the following letter, which
was printed in the _Daily Graphic_ under date London, October 28th, 1897.
The letter was signed "Mary Nutting (_nee_ Bligh), widow of the late
rector of Chastleton, Oxon., Beausale House, Warwick," and as it is a
spirited defence of a naval officer whose personal character has been
impugned by these present writers as well as many others, we reprint the
letter in full:--

"Sir,--There are special circumstances relating to the event of
the battle of Camperdown, the centenary of which was recently
commemorated, which have never been made public. One is the duel
fought between the _Director_ and the _Vryheid_, in which the
Dutch ship was dismasted and destroyed--a naval duel at which no
other ship on either side was present, or within reach or sight.
On the previous day (October 11th, 1797) the English and Dutch
fleets had met, fought, and the Dutch ships were dispersed, or, as
you stated, 'their line was broken.' The Dutch admiral and his
ship, however, escaped, and, no doubt, would have again been seen
at sea had it not been that on October 12th, 1797, the _Director_
came up with the _Vryheid_, and having, after a severe struggle,
first silenced and then boarded her, the Dutch admiral went on
board the English ship, and gave up his sword to the captain. The
captain was Captain (afterwards Admiral) W. Bligh. Strange to say,
in the despatches sent home by Admiral Duncan Captain Bligh was
not mentioned. I have three large water-colour pictures taken from
sketches done by an artist on board the _Director_ at the time of
the battle, showing the _Director_ coming up and attacking the
_Vryheid_, the engagement at its height, and, finally, the
_Vryheid_ dismasted and a wreck. Bligh was a man whose service was
great, and, although in due course he became an admiral, he
received no special reward from his country. In his earlier years,
at the age of nineteen, he was selected by Sir Joseph Banks, his
friend through life, to serve with Captain Cook as master on board
the _Resolution_, in the year 1774, and sailed for four years on
three voyages with him. After Captain Cook's death the navigation
of the ship devolved on Bligh, who brought her home. After this,
for four years, as commander, he traversed unknown seas. He fought
under Admiral Parker at the Doggerbank, and under Lord Howe at
Gibraltar. After the battle of Copenhagen, where Bligh commanded
the _Glatton_, he was sent for by Lord Nelson to receive his
thanks publicly on his quarter-deck, and the words of the great
hero were--'Bligh, I thank you; you have supported me nobly.' In
the time of the mutiny at the Nore, he rendered great services by
his courage and energetic efforts, recalling many of the
rebellious sailors to their duty and allegiance.

"After the mutiny of the _Bounty_, Bligh, with wonderful skill and
courage, brought the 18 men of his crew, who had been forced with
him into the _Bounty's_ launch, 23 feet long by 6 feet 9 inches
wide--a distance of 6318 miles[H]--safely to Timoa. No words can
say too much of the care he took of them and the devotion shown in
the effort to save them. On his return to England, he was at once
made post-captain as a sign of favour, and he was given two ships,
the _Providence_ and another, to be fitted out at his discretion,
in which to accomplish the objects for which the _Bounty_ was
sent. This he did with perfect success. (In his absence the trial
of the mutineers of the _Bounty_ took place.) As to his
governorship of New South Wales, let anyone read the fourth
chapter of Dr. Lang's history of the colony--Lang was no partisan
or connection of Bligh--which shows beyond dispute that Bligh
acted, as he always did, with the most scrupulous regard to his
duty and instructions, and received from time to time the written
approval of the King, through Lord Castlereagh, then Secretary of

[Footnote H: Mrs. Nutting has here made a mistake in the distance
traversed. Timoa is, of course, meant for Timor. (See page 246.)]

"It has been the pleasure of this generation to malign and
misrepresent this good man and brave, not once, but continually.
It originated in false statements made in the defence of two of
the mutineers, Christian and Heywood, representing Bligh's
severity and cruelty as being the cause of the mutiny. Yet it can
be proved from the minutes of the court-martial that Heywood on
his trial defended himself by swearing that he was kept on board
the _Bounty_ by force, and that it was 'impossible he could ever
willingly have done anything to injure Captain Bligh, who had
always been a father to him.' As to Christian, it can be shown
that this was the third voyage he had sailed with Captain Bligh.
Would a man go three times with a commander such as Bligh has been
described by his enemies?

"I have no object in writing this account but love for the memory
of a man who was my mother's father, and so beloved of her and his
other daughters (for he had no son), that the same love and
feeling were instilled into the minds of her children. It was
quite recently asserted in a newspaper that 'Bligh was dismissed
his ship for ill-conduct after the mutiny of the _Bounty_,' and
these attacks and false statements are frequent. I know that I am
asking what you may deem unusual and inconvenient, and yet I have
faith in your love of justice, and desire to clear the memory of
one who served his king and country as Bligh did."

Some years ago, an accomplished young lady, well known and much respected
in Norfolk Island, and one of the (two or three generations removed)
descendants by one side of her family from the mutineers, visited England.
An anecdote of this visit was told by the lady herself to one of these
authors. This lady's husband, proud of his wife, took her to England and
to his home in a certain English county, where, in her honour, her
husband's relatives had invited many friends, among them a dear old lady
who they knew was a descendant of Bligh. "What an interesting meeting this
will be!" thought they, not taking into account all the circumstances. The
old lady and the young lady were duly introduced. "Dear me!" said the
young lady, "and so you are the----" (mentioning the relationship) "of the
tyrant Bligh!" "How dare you, the----" (again emphasising the
relationship) "descendant of a base mutineer, thus speak of a
distinguished officer," indignantly exclaimed the old lady. Which little
anecdote shows how very emphatically there are two sides to this story.

Bligh owed his appointment as governor to Sir Joseph Banks, and a letter
from Banks, dated April 19th, 1805, says that he was empowered by Lord
Camden to offer the government of the colony to Bligh at a salary of L2000
a year. Bligh's "Instructions" from the Crown contained a clause which has
an important bearing on his administration. It was as follows:--

"And whereas it has been represented to us that great evils have
arisen from the unrestrained importation of spirits into our said
settlement from vessels touching there, whereby both the settlers
and convicts have been induced to barter and exchange their live
stock and other necessary articles for the said spirits, to their
particular loss and detriment, as well as to that of our said
settlement at large, we do, therefore, strictly enjoin you, on
pain of our utmost displeasure, to order and direct that no
spirits shall be landed from any vessel coming to our said
settlement without your consent or that of our governor-in-chief
for the time being previously obtained for that purpose, which
orders and directions you are to signify to all captains or
masters of ships immediately on their arrival at our said
settlement, and you are, at the same time, to take the most
effective measures that the said orders and directions shall be
strictly obey'd and complied with."

Why Bligh should have been selected to govern the colony at this
particular period it is difficult to understand, unless it was that, as
appears from official correspondence, Sir Joseph Banks pretty well
controlled the making of Australian history at this [Sidenote: 1807]
time--nearly always, if not invariably, to the advantage of Australia.

The condition of affairs ought to have been well understood at home.
Hunter and King had both harped upon it in their despatches, and lamented
their inability to remedy the abuses that had grown up. They had made it
no less plain that the New South Wales Regiment, so far from being a force
with which to back authority, was one of the most dangerous elements in
the rum-trading community of the settlement.

Letters from the Home Office indicate that this was in a measure
understood, but the tenor of the despatches also shows that it was thought
the evils arose less from viciousness of the governed than from want of
backbone in the governors.

Bligh's character for courage and resolution may have led to his selection
as a proper person to lick things into shape. It never seems to have
occurred to his superiors that a man whose ship was taken from him by a
dozen mutinous British seamen, if he were more forceful, resolute,
tyrannical, what you will, than diplomatic in his methods, might lose a
colony in which the colonists were not British sailors, but criminals and
mutinous soldiers.

When Bligh landed, the principal agricultural settlements were on the
banks of the rivers Hawkesbury and Nepean, and the settlers were just
suffering from one of the most disastrous floods that have occurred in a
country where floods are more severe than in most others. There was very
little money in the colony, and the settlers carried on a legitimate
system of barter by which they exchanged with each other their grain and
herds. But the floods, of course, threw this system somewhat out of gear,
and he who after the floods had escaped without much damage to his
property had a pretty good pull upon his neighbour whose worldly
belongings had been carried away by the swollen waters.

Bligh, there is no doubt, did the right thing at this time. He slaughtered
a number of the Government cattle, dividing them among the more distressed
colonists; and, to encourage them to go cheerfully to work to cultivate
their land again and to become independent of their fellow-settlers, he
promised to buy for the King's stores all the wheat they could dispose of
after the next harvest, and to pay for it at a reasonable price.

Dr. Lang, in his _History of New South Wales_, published [Sidenote: 1834]
about 1834, relates how an old settler said to him, "Them were the days,
sir, for the poor settler; he had only to tell the governor what he
wanted, and he was sure to get it from the stores, whatever it was, from a
needle to an anchor, from a penn'orth o' pack-thread to a ship's cable."

This arrangement was not conducive to the interests of the rum traders,
who had been in the habit of purchasing grain and compelling the growers
to accept spirits in payment for it. It operated still further against
them when Bligh made a tour of the colony, took a note of each settler's
requirements and of what the settler was likely to be able to produce from
his land; then, according to what the governor thought the farmer was
likely to be able to supply, Bligh gave an order for what was most needed
by the man from the King's stores.

Of course this was taking a heavy responsibility upon himself. Even
colonial governments nowadays, elected by "one-man-one-vote," scarcely go
so far, but the state of the settlement must be remembered. There were no
shops then, and the general public of the colony, with very few
exceptions, was made up of Government officials and prisoners of the
Crown. But the step was a serious interference with trade--that is, the
rum trade; in consequence those in "the ring" were exasperated, and its
members only wanted Bligh to give them an opportunity to retaliate upon
and ruin him.

MacArthur, now a landed proprietor and merchant, soon after Bligh landed,
paid him a visit, and reminded the new governor of an instruction sent to
King that he (MacArthur) was to be given every encouragement in his
endeavour to develop the pastoral resources of the colony. "Would Governor
Bligh visit his estate on the Cowpasture river" (now Camden), "and see
what had been done in this direction?" to which Governor Bligh, according
to the report of Major Johnston's trial, replied, and with oaths: "What
have I to do with your sheep and cattle? You have such flocks and herds as
no man ever had before, and 10,000 acres of the best land in the country;
but you shall not keep it." Here then was a declaration of war--MacArthur,
too much of a trader to be a soldier, and politician enough to have
enlisted on his side the English Government--which had announced its will
that he should be encouraged as a valuable pioneer colonist--_versus_
Bligh, so much of a warrior as to have fought beside Nelson with honour
and so impolitic as to have lost his ship to a body of [Sidenote: 1807]
mutineers, some of them officers, of whose discontent, according to his
own showing, he was unaware until the moment of the outbreak.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN BLIGH. From an engraving after J. Russell, R.A.,
in Hugh's "Voyage to the South Sea" [London, 1792]. _To face p. 256._]

The fight began in this fashion. MacArthur had taken a promissory note
from a man named Thompson. When the note became due, a fixed quantity of
wheat was to be paid for its redemption; but, subsequent to the drawing of
the note, came the great flood before mentioned; wheat went to ten times
its former value, and MacArthur demanded payment on the higher scale.
Thompson refused payment at the current rate, alleging that he was only
bound to pay for grain at the rate he received it, although his crops had
not suffered by the floods. The matter came before Bligh to decide, and he
gave judgment against MacArthur, who forthwith ceased to visit Government
House. Then MacArthur was taken ill, Bligh called upon him, and a peaceful
aspect of affairs came over the land, which lasted until early in 1807.

Bligh, in accordance with his special instructions, had issued an order by
which the distillation of spirits was prohibited, and the seizure of any
apparatus employed in such process enjoined. Just about this time Captain
Abbott, of the New South Wales Corps, had sent orders to his London agent
to send him a still. MacArthur happened to employ the same agent, who
thought it a good idea to also send his other patron a still.

In due time the two stills arrived, and were shown in the manifest of the
ship that brought them. Bligh instructed the naval officer of the port to
lodge them in the King's store, and send them back to England by the first
returning ship. The still boilers were, however, packed full of medicine,
and the naval officer, thinking no harm would come of it, allowed the
boilers to go to MacArthur's house, lodging only the worms in the store.
This happened in March. In the following October a ship was sailing for
England, and the proper official set about putting the distilling
apparatus on board of her, when he discovered that the coppers were still
in the possession of MacArthur, who was asked to give them up. MacArthur
replied that, with regard to one boiler, that was Captain Abbott's, who
could do as he liked about it; but, with regard to the other, he
(MacArthur) intended to send the apparatus to India or China, where it
could be disposed of. However, if the governor thought proper, the
governor could keep the worm and head of the still, and the copper he
(MacArthur) intended to apply to domestic purposes. The [Sidenote: 1808]
governor thereupon, after the exchange of numerous letters between
MacArthur and himself, caused the stills complete to be seized; and then
MacArthur brought an action for an alleged illegal seizure of his

MacArthur was right enough on one detail of this dispute. Bligh had
demanded that he should accept from an official a receipt for "two stills
with worms and heads complete." As MacArthur had never had in his
possession anything but two copper boilers, he naturally refused to commit
himself in this fashion, and would only accept a receipt for the coppers.
The naval officer accordingly took the coppers, and MacArthur took no
receipt for them.

Then happened a more serious affair. MacArthur partly owned a schooner
which was employed trading to Tahiti; in this vessel a convict had stowed
away, and the master of the vessel had left him at the island. The
missionaries wrote to Bligh complaining of this, and proceedings were
begun against MacArthur by the Government to recover the penalty incurred
under the settlement regulations for carrying away a prisoner of the
Crown, and a bond of L900, which had been given by the owners of the
vessel, was declared forfeit.

MacArthur appealed from the court to Bligh, and Bligh upheld the court's
decision. MacArthur and his partners still refused to pay, and the court
officials seized the vessel. MacArthur promptly announced that her owners
had abandoned her, and the crew, having no masters, walked ashore. For
sailors to remain ashore in a penal settlement was another breach of
regulations, chargeable against the owners of the ship from which the
sailors landed, provided the sailors had left the ship with the consent of
the owners; and the sailors declared that the owners had ordered them to
leave the schooner.

MacArthur was summoned to attend the Judge-Advocate's office to "show
cause." He refused to come, on the ground that the vessel was not his
property, but now belonged to the Government. One Francis Oakes, an
ex-Tahitian missionary, who, having disagreed with his colleagues in the
islands, had turned constable, was then given a warrant to bring MacArthur
from his house at Parramatta to Sydney. Oakes came back and reported that
MacArthur refused to submit, and had threatened that if he (Oakes) came a
second time he had better come well armed; and much more to the same
purpose. Accordingly certain well-armed civil officials [Sidenote: 1808]
went back and executed the warrant, and MacArthur was brought before a
bench of magistrates, over whom Atkins, the Judge-Advocate, presided, and
was committed for trial.

Atkins did not know anything of law, but he had as legal adviser an
attorney who had been transported, and whose character, Bligh himself
said, was that of an untrustworthy, ignorant drunkard.

The court opened on January 25th, 1808. It was formed from six officers of
the New South Wales Corps, presided over by the Judge-Advocate, and the
court-house was crowded with soldiers of the regiment, wearing their side
arms. The indictment charged MacArthur with the contravention of the
governor's express orders in detaining two stills; with the offence of
inducing the crew of his vessel to leave her and come on shore, in direct
violation of the regulations; and with seditious words and an intent to
raise dissatisfaction and discontent in the colony by his speeches to the
Crown officials and by a speech he had made in the court of inquiry over
the seizure of the stills. The speech complained of was to the following

"It would therefore appear that a British subject in a British
settlement, in which the British laws are established by the royal
patent, has had his property wrested from him by a non-accredited
individual, without any authority being produced or any other
reason being assigned than that it was the governor's order; it is
therefore for you, gentlemen, to determine whether this be the
tenure by which Englishmen hold their property in New South

MacArthur objected in a letter to Bligh, written before the trial, to the
Judge-Advocate presiding, on the ground that this official was really a
prosecutor, and had animus against him. Bligh overruled the objection, on
the ground that the Criminal Court of the colony, by the terms of the
King's patent, could not be constituted without the Judge-Advocate.
MacArthur renewed his objection when the court met; Captain Kemp, one of
the officers sitting as a member of the court, supported MacArthur's view;
and the Judge-Advocate was compelled to leave his seat as president.

MacArthur then made a speech, in which he denounced the Judge-Advocate in
very strong language, and that official called out from the back of the
court that he would commit MacArthur for his conduct. Then Captain Kemp
told the Judge-Advocate to be silent, and threatened [Sidenote: 1808]
to send him to gaol, whereupon Atkins ordered that the court should
adjourn, but Kemp ordered it to continue sitting. The Judge-Advocate then
left the court, and MacArthur called out: "Am I to be cast forth to the
mercy of these ruffians?"--meaning the civil police--and added that he had
received private information from his friends that he was to be attacked
and ill-treated by the civilians; whereupon the military officers
undertook his protection and told the soldiers in the court to escort him
to the guard-room.

Then the Provost-Marshal said this was an attempt to rescue his prisoner,
went at once and swore an affidavit to this effect before Judge-Advocate
Atkins and three other justices of the peace, and procured their warrant
for the arrest of MacArthur. This was shown to the military officers; they
surrendered MacArthur, who was lodged in the gaol. The court broke up, and
the officers then wrote to Bligh, accusing the Provost-Marshal of perjury
in stating that they contemplated a rescue.

This business had lasted from the opening of the court in the morning
until two o'clock in the afternoon.

Bligh, in accordance with his legal right, had all along refused to
interfere with the constitution of the court. At the same time, there was
no doubt that MacArthur could not have a fair trial if Judge-Advocate
Atkins was to try him, for it was notorious that the two men had been at
enmity for several years. Bligh demanded all the papers in the case from
the officers, who, in his opinion, had illegally formed themselves into a
court. They refused to give them up unless the governor appointed a new
Judge-Advocate, and Bligh replied with a final demand that they should
obey or refuse in writing. Then he wrote to Major Johnston, who commanded
the regiment, and who lived some distance from Sydney, to come into town
at once, as he wanted to see him over the "peculiar circumstances."
Johnston sent a verbal message to the effect that he was too ill to come,
or even to write. This was mere trickery.

The next morning, January 26th (the anniversary of the founding of the
colony), the officers assembled in the court-room, and as no prisoner was
forthcoming for them to try, they wrote a protest to the governor, in
which they set forth that, having been sworn in to try MacArthur, they
conceived they could not break up the court until he was tried; that the
accused had been arrested and removed from the court; [Sidenote: 1808]
and that, in effect, the sooner the governor appointed a new
Judge-Advocate the better for all parties.

No notice was taken of this letter, but Bligh issued a summons to the
officers to appear before him at Government House to answer for their
conduct, and at the same time he wrote a second letter to Johnston, asking
him to come to town, and got a second reply from that officer, to the
effect that he was still too ill. But he was well enough to continue
plotting against Bligh.

Soon after sending this second letter Johnston rode into town, arriving at


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