William Bligh

This is an excerpt of this book

William Bligh's crime was not that he was too harsh, but that he was too lenient. The movie got things backwards. The reason his men mutinied on the high seas is because he'd let them roam free as birds on Tahiti for five months. After that, they just couldn't seem to settle down anymore. Admittedly, it was a stupid thing that Bligh did. He should have known better that to let his men get a taste of the good life. It's just plain not good for people.

The story that he was the meanest, orniest low-down sea dog in history was made up by the men who mutinied and got caught. It was given credence by the public, however, because at the men's trial the government never called Bligh in to contradict their accounts. And after the trial Fletcher Christian's family published a bogus transcript of the proceedings that led people to believe the claims against Bligh had been proven. Christian, the dashing young leader of the rebels, also made a more attractive hero than Bligh, though Bligh was the genuine article. After the mutiny, Bligh and his small boat of loyalists were cast adrift thousands of miles from the nearest shore. But Bligh miraculously sailed the boat to safety.

The complaint that he was a harsh disciplinarian is unfounded. He flogged only seven men the whole voyage, and they are said to have deserved it. One had tried to desert, and three had mistreated native women. The others had acted up. Bligh, in fact, was a considerate commander. In the rain, he'd give his private cabin for sailors who were wet. And so the men wouldn't get bored he brought a blind fiddler on the trip.

What became of Christian? Some say he and his men ended up on Pitcairn Island. Others insist they were shipwrecked. Still others say that Christian slipped back into England somehow and was protected by friends. And Bligh? He was made an admiral. Then the authorities put him in charge of Australia. And, unbelievably, people mutinied against him yet again.

I am reachable at rhay@tamos.net
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