Captain Smith, of the Albatross, who had seen the wreck of the Tonquin, in mentioning to us its sad fate, attributed the cause of the disaster to the rash conduct of a Captain Ayres, of Boston. That navigator had taken off, as I have mentioned already, ten or a dozen natives of New-itty, as hunters, with a promise of bringing them back to their country, which promise he inhumanly broke by leaving them on some desert islands in Sir Francis Drake’s Bay. The countrymen of these unfortunates, indignant at the conduct of the American captain, had sworn to avenge themselves on the first white men who appeared among them. Chance willed it that our vessel was the first to enter that bay, and the natives but too well executed on our people their project of vengeance.
Whatever may, have been the first and principal cause of this misfortune (for doubtless it is necessary to suppose more than one), seventeen white men and twelve Sandwich-Islanders, were massacred: not one escaped from the butchery, to bring us the news of it, but the Indian of Gray’s Harbor. The massacre of our people was avenged, it is true, by the destruction of ten times the number of their murderers; but this circumstance, which could perhaps gladden the heart of a savage, was a feeble consolation (if it was any) for civilized men. The death of Mr. Alexander M’Kay was an irreparable loss to the Company, which would probably have been dissolved by the remaining partners, but for the arrival of the energetic Mr. Hunt. Interesting as was the recital of the Indian of Gray’s Harbor throughout, when he came to the unhappy end of that estimable man, marks of regret were visibly painted on the countenances of all who listened.
At the beginning of September, Mr. M’Kenzie set off, with Messrs. Wallace and Seton, to carry a supply of goods to the gentlemen wintering in the interior, as well as to inform them of the arrangements concluded with Mr. Hunt, and to enjoin them to send down all their furs, and all the Sandwich-Islanders, that the former might be shipped for America, and the latter sent back to their country.
It will never be known how or by whom the Tonquin was blown up. Some pretend to say that it was the work of James Lewis, but that is impossible, for it appears from the narrative of the Indian that he was one of the first persons murdered. It will be recollected that five men got between decks from aloft, during the affray, and four only were seen to quit the ship afterward in the boat. The presumption was that the missing man must have done it, and in further conversation with the Gray’s Harbor Indian, he inclined to that opinion, and even affirmed that the individual was the ship’s armorer, Weeks. It might also have been accidental. There was a large quantity of powder in the run immediately under the cabin, and it is not impossible that while the Indians were intent on plunder, in opening some of the kegs they may have set fire to the contents. Or again, the men, before quitting the ship, may have lighted a slow train, which is the most likely supposition of all.