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Historical Records of New Zealand

Lieutenant Bligh to Sir Joseph Banks. (Banks Papers.)*

Lieutenant Bligh to Sir Joseph Banks. (Banks Papers.)*

Batavia, October 13, 1789.

Dear Sir,—

I am now so ill that it is with the utmost difficulty I can write to you; but as I hope to be in England before you can receive it, the necessary information which perhaps may be omitted in this letter will be of no consequence.

I have, however, for your satisfaction, enclosed to you a short account of my voyage. It is nearly a copy of what I have given to the Governor of Coupang and the Governor-General here, because my weak habit of body at present will not allow me to do more.

You will now, sir, with all your generous endeavors for the publick good, see an unfortunate end to the undertaking; and I feel very sensibly how you will receive the news of the failure of an expedition that promised so much. The anxious and miserable hours I have past is beyond my description; but while I have health the strange vissicitude of human affairs can never affect me. Unhappily, I have lost it at present, for on my arrival page 93 here I was seized with a fever, which, fixing in my head, it made me almost distracted; but I am now better, and am to sail in the packet on Thursd. next, which will save my life.

You will find that the ship was taken from me in the most extraordinary manner, and I presume to say it could not have been done in any other way. I can, however, sir, promise to you that my honor and character is without a blemish, and I shall appear as soon as I possibly can before the Admiralty that my conduct may be enquired into, and where I shall convince the world I stand as an officer despising mercy and foregiveness if my conduct is at all blameable.

Had I been accidentally appointed to the command the loss of the ship would give me no material concern; but when I reflect that it was through you, sir, who undertook to assert I was fully capable, and the eyes of every one regarding the progress of the voyage, and perhaps more with envy than with delight, I cannot say but it affects me considerably. To those, however, who may be disposed to blame, let them see I had in fact completed my undertaking. What man’s situation could be so peculiarly flattering as mine 12 hours before the loss of the ship? Everything was in the most perfect order, and we were well stored with every necessary both for service and health. By early attention to those particulars I acted against the power of chance in case I could not get through Endeavour Straights, as well as against any accident that might befall me in them; and to add to this, I had most successfully got my plants in a most flourishing and fine order, so that upon the whole the voyage was 3/4 over, and the remaining part no way doubtfull. Every person was in the most perfect health, to establish which I had taken the greatest pains, and bore a most anxious care through the whole course of the voyage.

I even rejected carrying stock for my own use, and throwing away the hencoops and every convenience, I roofed a place over the quarter-deck and filled it with plants, which I looked at with delight every day of my life.

I can only conjecture that the pirates (among whom is poor Nelson’s assistant) have ideally assured themselves of a more happy life among the Otaheiteans than they could possibly have in England, which, joined to some female connections, has most likely been the leading cause of the whole busyness.

If I had been equipped with more officers and marines the piracy could never have happened.

I arrived here on the 1st instant, and sollicited the Governor-General to be allowed a passage in the first ship that sailed for Europe, but he has told me that he could not possibly send us page 94 all in one ship, and has consented, as granting me a favor, to be allowed to go in the packet, for the physician-general has represented my life in danger if I remained here.

I am, &c.,

Wm. Bligh.

* After the seizure of the Bounty by mutineers, Bligh, with the master, surgeon, two quarter-masters, two midshipmen, the botanist, the clerk, and ten of the crew, were placed on board one of the ship’s boats, which arrived at Koepang, a Dutch settlement on Timor Island, after a perilous voyage of 3,600 miles, on the 15th June, 1789. From Koepang, Bligh found his way to Batavia, and afterwards to England, via the Cape of Good Hope.

Post, pp. 94–104.

Now spelt Koepang or Kupang.