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 AS GOVERNOR
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.