About the middle of the month our good friends the French departed from Botany Bay, in prosecution of their voyage. During their stay in that port, the officers of the two nations had frequent opportunities of testifying their mutual regard by visits, and every interchange of friendship and esteem. These ships sailed from France, by order of the King, on the 1st of August, 1785, under the command of Monsieur De Perrouse, an officer whose eminent qualifications, we had reason to think, entitle him to fill the highest stations. In England, particularly, he ought long to be remembered with admiration and gratitude, for the humanity which marked his conduct, when ordered to destroy our settlement at Hudson’s Bay, in the last war. His second in command was the Chevalier Clonard, an officer also of distinguished merit.
In the course of the voyage these ships had been so unfortunate as to lose a boat, with many men and officers in her, off the west of California; and afterwards met with an accident still more to be regretted, at an island in the Pacific Ocean, discovered by Monsieur Bougainville, in the latitude of 14 deg 19 min south, longitude 173 deg 3 min 20 sec east of Paris. Here they had the misfortune to have no less than thirteen of their crews, among whom was the officer at that time second in command, cut off by the natives, and many more desperately wounded. To what cause this cruel event was to be attributed, they knew not, as they were about to quit the island after having lived with the Indians in the greatest harmony for several weeks; and exchanged, during the time, their European commodities for the produce of the place, which they describe as filled with a race of people remarkable for beauty and comeliness; and abounding in refreshments of all kinds.
It was no less gratifying to an English ear, than honourable to Monsieur De Perrouse, to witness the feeling manner in which he always mentioned the name and talents of Captain Cook. That illustrious circumnavigator had, he said, left nothing to those who might follow in his track to describe, or fill up. As I found, in the course of conversation, that the French ships had touched at the Sandwich Islands, I asked M. De Perrouse what reception he had met with there. His answer deserves to be known: “During the whole of our voyage in the South Seas, the people of the Sandwich Islands were the only Indians who never gave us cause of complaint. They furnished us liberally with provisions, and administered cheerfully to all our wants.” It may not be improper to remark, that Owhyee was not one of the islands visited by this gentleman.
In the short stay made by these ships at Botany Bay, an Abbe, one of the naturalists on board, died, and was buried on the north shore. The French had hardly departed, when the natives pulled down a small board, which had been placed over the spot where the corpse was interred, and defaced everything around. On being informed of it, the Governor sent a party over with orders to affix a plate of copper on a tree near the place, with the following inscription on it, which is a copy of what was written on the board: