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1810. Dentrecasteaux – Voyage a la Recherche de la Perouse. 23

. . . .

The mention of this fact brings to our recollection a recent and extraordinary discovery, which affords an awful and instructive lesson by shewing how seldom criminals escape divine vengeance, however successful they may have been in flying form the punishment due to the offended laws of their country. It may also in its consequences be highly important to the natives of the numerous islands scattered over the Pacific ocean. The following relation was transmitted officially to the Admiralty from Rio de Janeiro by Sir Sidney Smith.

      'Captain Folger, of the American Ship Topaz of Boston, relates that, upon landing on Pitcairn’s island (Incarnation of Quiros) in lat. 25° 2' S. long. 130° 0' W. he found there an Englishman of the name of Alexander Smith, the only person remaining of nine that escaped in his Majesty’s late ship Bounty, Captain W. Bligh. Smith relates, that

24 Dentrecasteaux – Voyage a la Recherche de la Perouse. Feb.

after putting Captain Bligh in the boat, Christian the leader of the mutiny, took command of the ship and went to Otaheite, where great part of the crew left her, except Christian, Smith and seven others, who each took wives, and six Otaheitean men servants, and shortly after arrived at the said island, where they ran the ship onshore, and broke her up; this event took place in the year 1790.

      'About four years after their arrival (a great jealousy existing) the Otaheiteans secretly revolted and killed every Englishman except himself, whom they severely wounded in the neck with a pistol ball. The same night the widows of the deceased Englishmen arose and put to death the whole of the Otaheiteans, leaving Smith the only man alive upon the island, with eight or nine women and several small children. On his recovery he applied himself to tilling the ground, so that it now produces plenty of yams, cocoa nuts, bananas and plantains; hogs and poultry in abundance. There are now some grown up men and women, children of the mutineers, on the island, the whole population amounting to about thirty five, who acknowledge Smith as father and commander of them all; they all speak English, and have been educated by him, (Captain Folger represents) in a religious and moral way.

      'The second mate of the Topaz asserts that Christian the ringleader became insane shortly after their arrival on the island, and threw himself off the rocks into the sea; another died of fever before the massacre of the remaining six took place. The island is badly supplied with water, sufficient only for the present inhabitants, and no anchorage.

      'Smith gave to Captain Folger a chronometer made by Kendall, which was taken from him by the Governor of Juan Fernandez.'

      Extracted from the log book 29th Sept. 1808.

(Signed)            William Fitzmaurice, Lieut.

      If this interesting relation rested solely on the faith that is due to Americans, with whom, we say it with regret, truth is not always considered as a moral obligation, we should hesitate in giving it this publicity. The narrative, however, states two facts on which the credibility of the story must stand or fall – the name of the mutineer and the maker of the time-piece; we have taken the trouble to ascertain the truth of both of these facts. Alexander Smith appears on the books of the Bounty as follows: 'Entered 7th Sep. 1787 Ab. Born in London. Aged 20. Run 28th April 1789. One of the mutineers:' and it appears also that the Bounty was actually supplied with a time piece made by Kendall.

. . . .


      The source of this transcription is an unsigned review of de Dentrecasteaux's voyage by John Barrow in the Quarterly Review, Vol. 3, No. 5, February, 1810.

      The title of the review is: Art. II. Voyage de Dentrecasteaux, envoye a la Recherche de la Perouse, publie par Ordre de Sa Majeste l’Empereur et Roi, sous le Ministere de S. E. le Vice-Amiral Decres, Comte de l’ Empire. Redige par M. de Rossel, Ancien Capitaine de Vaisseau. 2 Tom. avec un Atlas. a Paris, 1808. It appears on pages 21 thru 43.

      The extract above is of pages 23 and 24.

      The review was reprinted in: Select Reviews, and Spirit of the Foreign Magazines (Philadelphia), Vol. 4, (Sept.) 1810, p.145-162.

Tom Tyler, Denver, November 29, 2016