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.

Fate Of The Castaways Narrative Of The Mutiny Of The _bounty_ facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail