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Fate Of The Mutineers--colony Of Pitcairn's Island

The intelligence of the mutiny, and the sufferings of Bligh and his
companions, naturally excited a great sensation in England. Bligh was
immediately promoted to the rank of commander, and Captain Edwards was
despatched to Otaheite, in the _Pandora_ frigate, with instructions to
search for the _Bounty_ and her mutinous crew, and bring them to England.
The _Pandora_ reached Matavai Bay on the 23d of March, 1791; and even
before she had come to anchor, Joseph Coleman, formerly armorer of the
_Bounty_, pushed off from shore in a canoe, and came on board. In the
course of two days afterwards, the whole of the remainder of the
_Bounty's_ crew (in number sixteen) then on the island surrendered
themselves, with the exception of two, who fled to the mountains where,
as it afterwards appeared, they were murdered by the natives.

Nearly twenty years elapsed after the period of the above occurrences,
and all recollection of the _Bounty_ and her wrecked crew had passed
away, when an accidental discovery, as interesting as unexpected, once
more recalled public attention to that event. The captain of an American
schooner having, in 1808, accidentally touched at an island up to that
time supposed to be uninhabited, called Pitcairn's Island, found a
community speaking English, who represented themselves as the descendants
of the mutineers of the _Bounty_, of whom there was still one man, of the
name of Alexander Smith, alive amongst them. Intelligence of this
singular circumstance was sent by the American captain (Folger) to Sir
Sydney Smith at Valparaiso, and by him transmitted to the Lords of the
Admiralty. But the government was at that time perhaps too much engaged
in the events of the continental war to attend to the information, nor
was anything further heard of this interesting little society until 1814.
In that year two British men-of-war, cruising in the Pacific, made
Pitcairn's Island, and on nearing the shore, saw plantations regularly
and orderly laid out. Soon afterwards they observed a few natives coming
down a steep descent, with their canoes on their shoulders, and in a few
minutes perceived one of these little vessels darting through a heavy
surf, and paddling off towards the ships. But their astonishment may be
imagined when, on coming alongside, they were hailed in good English
with, "Wont you heave us a rope now?" This being done, a young man
sprang up the side with extraordinary activity, and stood on the deck
before them. In answer to the question "Who are you?" he replied that
his name was Thursday October Christian, son of the late Fletcher
Christian, by an Otaheitan mother; that he was the first born on the
island, and was so named because he was born on a Thursday in October.
All this sounded singular and incredible in the ears of the British
captains, Sir Thomas Staines and Mr. Pipon; but they were soon satisfied
of its truth. Young Christian was at this time about twenty-four years
old, a tall handsome youth, fully six feet high, with black hair, and an
open interesting English countenance. As he wore no clothes, except a
piece of cloth round his loins, and a straw-hat ornamented with black
cock's feathers, his fine figure and well-shaped muscular limbs were
displayed to great advantage, and attracted general admiration. His body
was much tanned by exposure to the weather; but although his complexion
was somewhat brown, it wanted that tinge of red peculiar to the natives
of the Pacific. He spoke English correctly both in grammar and
pronunciation; and his frank and ingenuous deportment excited in every
one the liveliest feelings of compassion and interest. His companion was
a fine handsome youth, of seventeen or eighteen years of age, named
George Young, son of one of the _Bounty's_ midshipmen.

The youths expressed great surprise at everything they saw, especially a
cow, which they supposed to be either a huge goat or a horned sow, having
never seen any other quadrupeds. When questioned concerning the
_Bounty_, they referred the captains to an old man on shore, the only
surviving Englishman, whose name, they said, was John Adams, but who
proved to be the identical Alexander Smith before-mentioned, having
changed his name from some caprice or other. The officers went ashore
with the youths, and were received by old Adams (as we shall now call
him), who conducted them to his house, and treated them to an elegant
repast of eggs, fowl, yams, plantains, bread-fruit, etc. They now
learned from him an account of the fate of his companions, who, with
himself, preferred accompanying Christian in the _Bounty_ to remaining at
Otaheite--which account agreed with that he afterwards gave at greater
length to Captain Beechey in 1828. Our limits will not permit us to
detail all the interesting particulars at length, as we could have
wished, but they are in substance as follows:--

It was Christian's object, in order to avoid the vengeance of the British
law, to proceed to some unknown and uninhabited island, and the Marquesas
Islands were first fixed upon. But Christian, on reading Captain
Cartaret's account of Pitcairn's Island, thought it better adapted for
the purpose, and shaped his course thither. Having landed and traversed
it, they found it every way suitable to their wishes, possessing water,
wood, a good soil, and some fruits. Having ascertained all this, they
returned on board, and having landed their hogs, goats, and poultry, and
gutted the ship of everything that could be useful to them, they set fire
to her, and destroyed every vestige that might lead to the discovery of
their retreat. This was on the 23d of January 1790. The island was then
divided into nine equal portions amongst them a suitable spot of neutral
ground being reserved for a village. The poor Otaheitans now found
themselves reduced to the condition of mere slaves; but they patiently
submitted, and everything went on peacefully for two years. About that
time Williams, one of the seamen, having the misfortune to lose his wife,
forcibly took the wife of one of the Otaheitans, which, together with
their continued ill-usage, so exasperated the latter that they formed a
plan for murdering the whole of their oppressors. The plot, however, was
discovered, and revealed by the Englishmen's wives, and two of the
Otaheitans were put to death. But the surviving natives soon afterwards
matured a more successful conspiracy, and in one day murdered five of the
Englishmen, including Christian. Adams and Young were spared at the
intercession of their wives, and the remaining two, M'Koy and Quintal
(two desperate ruffians), escaped to the mountains, whence, however, they
soon rejoined their companions. But the further career of these two
villains was short. M'Koy, having been bred up in a Scottish distillery,
succeeded in extracting a bottle of ardent spirits from the _tee root_;
from which time he and Quintal were never sober, until the former became
delirious, and committed suicide by jumping over a cliff. Quintal being
likewise almost insane with drinking, made repeated attempts to murder
Adams and Young, until they were absolutely compelled, for their own
safety, to put him to death, which they did by felling him with a hatchet.

Adams and Young were at length the only surviving males who had landed on
the island, and being both of a serious turn of mind and having time for
reflection and repentance, they became extremely devout. Having saved a
Bible and prayer-book from the _Bounty_, they now performed family
worship morning and evening, and addressed themselves to training up
their own children and those of their unfortunate companions in piety and
virtue. Young, however, was soon carried off by an asthmatic complaint,
and Adams was thus left to continue his pious labors alone. At the time
Captains Staines and Pipon visited the island, this interesting little
colony consisted of about forty-six persons, mostly grown-up young
people, all living in harmony and happiness together; and not only
professing, but fully understanding and practicing, the precepts and
principles of the Christian religion. Adams had instituted the ceremony
of marriage, and he assured his visitors that not one instance of
debauchery and immoral conduct had occurred amongst them.

The visitors having supplied these interesting people with some tools,
kettles, and other articles, took their leave. The account which they
transmitted home of this newly-discovered colony was, strange to say, as
little attended to by government as that of Captain Folger, and nothing
more was heard of Adams and his family for nearly twelve years, when, in
1825, Captain Beechey, in the _Blossom_, bound on a voyage of discovery
to Behring Strait, touched at Pitcairn's Island. On the approach of the
_Blossom_, a boat came off under all sail towards the ship, containing
old Adams and ten of the young men of the island. After requesting and
obtaining leave to come on board, the young men sprung up the side, and
shook every officer cordially by the hand. Adams, who was grown very
corpulent, followed more leisurely. He was dressed in a sailor's shirt
and trousers, with a low-crowned hat, which he held in his hand in sailor
fashion, while he smoothed down his bald forehead when addressed by the
officers of the _Blossom_. The little colony had now increased to about
sixty-six, including an English sailor of the name of John Buffett, who,
at his own earnest desire, had been left by a whaler. In this man the
society luckily found an able and willing schoolmaster. He instructed
the children in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and devoutly
co-operated with old Adams in affording religious instruction to the
community. The officers of the _Blossom_ went ashore, and were
entertained with a sumptuous repast at young Christian's, the table being
spread with plates, knives and forks. Buffett said grace in an emphatic
manner; and so strict were they in this respect, that it was not deemed
proper to touch a morsel of bread without saying grace both before and
after it. The officers slept in the house all night, their bedclothing
and sheets consisting of the native cloth made of the native
mulberry-tree. The only interruption to their repose was the melody of
the evening hymn, which was chanted together by the whole family after
the lights were put out; and they were awakened at early dawn by the same
devotional ceremony. On Sabbath the utmost decorum was attended to, and
the day was passed in regular religious observances.

In consequence of a representation made by Captain Beechey, the British
government sent out Captain Waldegrave in 1830, in the _Seringapatam_,
with a supply of sailors' blue jackets and trousers, flannels, stockings
and shoes, women's dresses, spades, mattocks, shovels, pick-axes,
trowels, rakes, etc. He found their community increased to about
seventy-nine, all exhibiting the same unsophisticated and amiable
characteristics as we have before described. Other two Englishmen had
settled amongst them; one of them, called Nobbs, a low-bred, illiterate
man, a self-constituted missionary, who was endeavoring to supersede
Buffett in his office of religious instruction. The patriarch Adams, it
was found, had died in March, 1829, aged sixty-five. While on his
deathbed, he had called the heads of families together, and urged upon
them to elect a chief; which, however, they had not yet done; but the
greatest harmony still prevailed amongst them, notwithstanding Nobb's
exertions to form a party of his own. Captain Waldegrave thought that
the island, which is about four miles square, might be able to support a
thousand persons, upon reaching which number they would naturally
emigrate to other Islands.

Such is the account of this most singular colony, originating in crime
and bloodshed. Of all the repentant criminals on record, the most
interesting, perhaps, is John Adams; nor do we know where to find a more
beautiful example of the value of early instruction than in the history
of this man, who, having run the full career of nearly all kinds of vice,
was checked by an interval of leisurely reflection, and the sense of new
duties awakened by the power of natural affections.

another then points separately to the portions, at each of them asking
aloud, "Who shall have this?" to which the first answers by naming
somebody. This impartial method of division gives every man an equal
chance of the best share.

Next: The Wreck Of The _royal Caroline_

Previous: Fate Of The Castaways

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