|1790 A.D.: Mutiny On the Bounty: Pitcairn Island|
|Written by Dan Curry|
|Thursday, 19 August 2010|
What God Did With the Mutineers From the Bounty
It was quite a thing to commit mutiny aboard a British Naval Vessal in the 1790 A.D. time frame. The discipline enforced upon the crews by British Naval Officers was quite strict, and if the Captain was inclined towards severity in his personality, it could be especially bad. On a ship at sea, the Captain was King back then. And it was a death sentence to rebel against him, if he chose to push for such a sentence. A full scale mutiny was almost certain to result in the trial and execution of everyone who took part, if the British Navy could catch them. It was fear of death that kept men in line under the often harsh conditions faced at sea - or so the Naval Officers assured the world.
So when Fletcher Christian, an officer aboard the British ship Bounty, led a revolt against the infamous captain Bligh, he and the others were facing a death sentence. In the eyes of the British Admiralty there simply was no excuse for a mutiny...no such thing as the Captain being such a cruel and sadistic man that you had no choice but to mutiny. You had become a dangerous criminal, plain and simple - a danger to the order and discipline of the British Royal Navy that was the backbone of their world empire. Britain would hunt you down, try you, and hang you if they could. And for the most part...they could!
Fletcher, who had led the mutiny, was a well formed, well spoken, well educated British Officer. He was a Manxman (a man from the Isle of Man). His family line had been royalty there. He led the group of Bounty mutineers from the first, though he asserted that the idea to take the ship had come upon him just before he did it - it was a desperate compulsion he was seized by, due to his inability to further tolerate Bligh.
It happened a couple of days after leaving Tahiti with their cargo hold full of Tahitian breadfruit trees. Bligh, trying to get the crew re-acclimated to sea life after a long, pleasant and lazy stay over in Tahiti, had been extremely strict about many things on their first couple of days back out. Some of the sailors already were missing Taheitian women that they had fallen in love with, and were in no mood for Bligh's personality. And Bligh had given Christian a loud public scolding about missing coconuts, actually suggesting that Fletcher Christian might not be above stealing them personally. For Christian, an honest man, honorable and a gentleman, it was the last straw. He had walked away, burning deeply from indignation. It was not his first public scolding from Bligh, but it was his worst.
They took control of the ship during the night. Some wanted to kill the Captain - the infamous Captain Bligh - but Christian contained them...barely. They put Bligh into the ship's best small boat, loading man after man into it until it had only 7" or 8" of freeboard near the center. They gave them some food and water, a few cutlasses for personal protection should they make it to an island, and a few other supplies, like some simple navigational equipment. That was it. It was only a small and overloaded boat in a great big sea. They didn't expect it to get far. In fact, they would have been smarter to kill them all, and they knew it - no potential witnesses against them. But they had all spent a lot of time together, and many of the men that the mutineers looked down upon in the small boat were friends of theirs, when it came down to it. Friends who also didn't like Bligh, but were not willing to mutiny against him, not willing to become despised criminals back in their homeland when this act became known.
Some loyal to Bligh had to remain aboard the Bounty. The small ship's launch had about 20 men and just couldn't hold any more.
The Bounty sailed away, back towards Tahiti, and as they sailed, they threw the breadfruit trees overboard. The men left behind in the small launch in the midst of the great ocean had little hope of living, the odds would have said. But under the leadership of the harsh but relentlessly determined Bligh, they asked God for help and began the business of trying to survive and reach a European settlement.
The Bounty was first sailed to the island of Otaheite, where the men talked to their Tahitian girls, asking them to sail away with them to some safe, remote island, where they could build a life. A good number of the girls came. Also a number of Tahitian men came along, interested in the adventure of it. The mutineers knew Britain would come to Tahiti first, to search for them. They couldn't stay there. They needed a remote - perhaps totally unknown - island.
For a couple of months Christian and the others - there was about 20 of them - searched one island group after another- Tonga, the Cooks, Fiji - never finding one that seemed to have the three things they needed: uninhabited, habitable, and unlikely to be found by the searching British Navy. Their patience was worn very thin by the time they spotted a tall, remote island called Pictairn Island, named after a British Midshipman on the very few charts that showed it at all. It looked just right. It was January in 1790.
Though the mutineers did not know this, they had found a good home. By an interesting quirk of fate (or God's engineering) this island had been discovered by Europeans, accidentally, but the man who placed it on the nautical charts - an explorer named Carteret in 1767 - had made a mistake. He had miscalculated the longitude and latitude, and so had placed it on the map about 200 miles from where it actually was. So even if a searching ship wished to go find Pictairn Island, they would sail to it's charted location and find only empty ocean.
Christian sent men ashore to search out the green rich top of the steep walled island. They came back with a glowing report: coconuts, taro, yams, and a number of foods grew there. There were some animals. It had once had settlers - they saw evidence of former farms and religious sites - but these people seem to have left long ago. It was just right!
They eagerly moved back onto land, struggling to take their heavier posessions and belongings up the steep hill to the top. Once there, they began to build dwellings, and plant crops, and make fences for the chickens and pigs. It seemed ideal. To ensure that the British never found them, they decided to sink the Bounty. They argued over this, but while discussing it one man, named Quintal, simply went down and set it on fire. It burned to the water level and sank beneath the sea, there in the harbor.
They now had their paradise, but unfortunately, they had brought their personal baggage. Before long, problems began to crop up. The Europeans began to treat the Tahetian men who had come with them as if they were field hands, or slaves. This caused resentment, and then eventually conflict. And then killings. Tahitian men killed Europeans, and European men killed Tahitians.
The men began to have children with their Tahitian wives. Thursday October Fletcher was the first, born to Christian Fletcher and his Tahitian bride.
One of the men learned how to distill alcohol from a root that grew on the island. Big problems came from this. Feuds arose, tempers flared, etc. Some of these men were very course, uneducated men with deep personal problems. Drinking was not good for them. More killings occurred. The man named Quintal - a Cornishman - was so violent and dangerous when he drank that two of the others (Young and Adams) got him drunk and killed him, just to be safe. They felt that if they didn't kill him now, he would eventually kill them later in one of his drunken rages!
In the end, there were only 3 mutineers left. But McCoy, the alcohol distiller drowned. Then one named Young died of asthema. So, all of a sudden the island had only one adult man left from among the 9 mutineers that originally landed! But there were ten women still alive, and their children. The man was named John Adams, though he had used the name Alexander Smith while on the Bounty. He was hiding from some people when he signed aboard as a sailor.
John Adams looked around at what had become of their island home, and felt terrible. He saw the women, with no husbands because of the drinking, and the violence, and the sin. He saw the children with no fathers. It apparently affected him very deeply, and he mourned in his spirit for what had become of the Bounty mutineers.
Though no scholar, and in fact a man who could read only with difficulty, he determined that he would use a couple of religious books that had been salvaged and brought ashore from the Bounty by the relatively non-religious mutineers, and try to begin living in a way that would please God, and promote a decent and loving society - a society where there was not so much wrongness.
As the only man left on the island, the women and the children were willing to accept him as their leader. So he began to organize their island colony into a Christian society. They built a place to worship, Adams began to train the children regularly in knowledge of God. They prayed thanks before their meals, and they prayed thanks after their meals. They sang and sang, praised and praised on Sundays from church songs they had in a book, and church itself was no brief affair. The whole day was devoted mainly to God.
Children were made to work - all people worked, and they shared what they had among them, though each family had houses of their own. Their little town was said to be basically European in it's layout, but with many Tahitian touches.
When young people grew up enough to want to be married, they first had to have a little farm set up so that they could take care of themselves before they were allowed to marry and have children. That was to promote good families.
The alcohol problem was removed as well. No alcohol!
For about 18 years this colony went undiscovered, growing as a big self-invented Christian family under the leadership of John Adams, who was under the leadership of Jesus.
There came a day in 1808, finally, when an American whaling ship happened upon their island. Some of it's men climbed the steep island walls and found them. But they discovered a pleasant, happy, and very Christian people, and so they took on some supplies and left, eventually telling the world that they had found the Bounty mutineers. Their where abouts had long been a mystery, and a subject for speculation. But many years had passed, and it was a fair amount of time before a British ship came to investigate, because of European wars then going on.
But when two British ships did finally come to Pictairn Island, they were quite amazed by what they found. A small but entire society that was, in their estimation, as Christian and wholesome in it's character as any society then existing on Earth. They were very pleased to find church services attended by all on Sunday, but they had to actually complain about their length; to them it seemed that the joyous singing and prayer and learning of the word might go on all day long. They knew of no sevices so long anywhere. And they found the entire island a delight of good behavior, polite and well mannered children and adults, generous and loving and giving.
Of John Adams, they found him a very humble, mild, and good spirited man, Christian to the core in all respects, and a leader followed willingly by all on the island because of his excellent example. As the only elder, he was called Papa by all. They reported that whatever he once may have been, he was now the most excellent of men, and it would be a shame and a tragedy if a man who had created so beautiful and God fearing of a society were to be tried for an old mutiny charge and hung.
When the reports of Pictairn Island made their way back to Britain, it excited a great deal of interest and discussion, and many sermons were given about the remarkable thing God had done with the last surviving mutineer and his partly Tahitian, partly European family and friends on that small island, there at the end of the Earth. It glorified God's restorative powers in many places.
An official pardon was eventually granted to John Adams by the British Crown. Once they had wanted him badly, but it was apparently clear to most that God had found him first.
As with all good things, the island eventually changed. Visitors came, introducing their ways to this innocent colony. They often supplied passing British vessals once their islands were correctly placed on the charts. John Adams died in his early sixties. The colony grew so large that they decided to move to another island, and that island was peopled by Taheitian people that welcomed them, yet introduced them to new and worldly ways. There were social diseases then from European sailors, and other unhappinesses. Realizing what they had lost, a number of them asked to be taken back to Pictairn, and they arrived just in time to prevent it from being claimed by the French as an abandoned island!
Most Pictairn residents became 7th Day Adventists as a result of missionaries that visited them from that denomination, and if you go to Pictairn island today, most residents are still descendents of the mutineers, and now Christians of the 7th Day Adventist Church. They have a beautiful history in many ways, and like all of us, they must fight to hold on to their heritage and their salvation. But they have been a great inspiration to the world at certain times, and deserve thanks for showing what can be done with so beaten and failed a group of humans as their ancestors once were for a time. God and Jesus can do so much with willing hearts, once people turn from the ways that harm them so badly and follow Jesus's good teachings.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 May 2013 )|
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