Statement by James Morrison (9/17/1792)

JAMES MORRISON being called on for his Defence, he delivered a  Paper Writing to the Court containing his Defence, which was read by the Judge Advocate and is hereto annexed.

Consious of my own Innocence of Evry Article of the Charge Exhibited against me, and fully saitisfied of my Zeal for His Majesty's service, I offer the following Narration, in Vindication of my Conduct on the 28th day of April 1789.

I was Boatswain's Mate of His Majesty's Ship "Bounty," and had the Watch on deck from eight till twelve on the Night of the 28th. of April, 1789. When I came on deck, Mr. Fryer, who was an Officer of the Watch, ordered me aft to the Conn, as Peter Linkletter, the Quarter Master, complaind that he could not keep his Watch. There was little wind all the Watch, and we were then Near the Island of Tofoa ; I suppose about 8 or Nine Leagues off.

I staid at the Conn till 12 O'Clock; when I was releiv'd by John Norton, Quarter Master, and went to my hammock; and slept till daylight; when Mr. Cole the Boatswain waked me, and told me the Ship was taken, and that Mr. Christian had made the Captain prisoner; and then said, "I hope. Morrison, you have no intention to join Christian's party?

I answerd him, "No, Sir, you may depend upon it, that I will not; it is far from my intentions.” He then left me, and I hurried on my Cloaths, went up the fore scuttle, and into the Head to look round about me, when I soon found the truth of what Mr. Cole had said, and saw Jn. Williams on the Fore Castel with a Musquet and fix”d Bayonet, Wm. M’Coy and Robt. Lamb at the fore hatchway, Isaac Martin and Wm. Brown on the after part of the Booms, and Henry.  Heildbrant on the Quarter deck, all Arm’d in the same manner; Captain Bligh was on the labored Side of the quarter deck between the Guns, with his hands tied behind him and Mr. Christian standing by him with a bayonet in one hand and the other on Captain Bligh’s Shoulder.  The small boat was then Out and some hands were Clearing the large Cutter, and Chas. Churchill on the booms giving directions with a drawn cutlass in his hand.

I staid but a few Minutes in the head, when I came Aft and met Mr. Cole at the forehatchway and asked him,” “What was to be done?”  he told me he did  not know, but desired me to assist in Clearing the Cutter; Jn. Smith as the same time came forward with a bottle of Rum and a Blas; of which he gave me a glass saying, “you may as well have a drop, Morrison, Tho’ I am ordered to serve none but the Centinels.”  I took the rum and went about Clearing the Cutter and got her out, when Chas. Norman, who was then in the small Cutter complaining that he could not keep her free.  She was got in, and in the Meantime Mr. Christian Ordered Chas. Churchill to see Mr. Hayward, Mr. Halley, Mr. Fryer, and Mr. Samuel, into the boat, telling them himself at the same time to get ready to go on shore with the Captain.  Mr. Cole, Mr. Purcell, some others then went to Mr. Christian and beg’d for the Long boat, which after some hesitation was granted and Orders given for getting her out. I went about Clearing her, and while I was thus Emply’d Mr. Fryer came to me and asked me if I had any hand in the Mutiny.  I told him No!  He then desired Me to see Who I could find to Assist me and try to rescue the Ship. I told him I fear’d it was then too late, but would do my endeavour, when Jn. Millward, who stood by Me, and heard what Mr. Fryer said, swore he would stand by Me if an Opportunity Offered.  Mr. Fryer was about to Speak again, but was prevented by Mathw. Quintell, who, with a pistol in one hand, Collar’d him with the Other saying, “Come, Mr. Fryer, you Must go down into your Cabbin,” and hauled him away.  Churchill then Came, and shaking his Cutlass at Me, demanded what Mr. Fryer said.  I told him that he Only aske’d me if they were going to have the Long-boat; upon Which Alexdr. Smith, who stood on the Opposite side of the boat, said “It’s a dam’d lye Charley, for I saw him and Millward shake hands when the Master spoke to them.”  Churchill then said to me, “ I would have you mind how you Come on, for I have my Eye upon you.”  Smith at the same time Calld out, "Stand to your arms, for they intend to' make a Rush."

This, as it was intended, put the Mutineers on their Guard, and I found it Necessary to' be very Cautious how I Acted, and I heard Captain Bligh say to Smith, "I did not expect you would be against me, Smith "-but I could not hear what answer he made.

However, I proceeded in Clearing the boat, and when she was hoisted out I heard Mr. Christian order Churchill to see that no Arms were put into her, to keep Norman, McIntosh and Coleman in the Ship, and get the Officers into the boat as fast as possible while Churchill was putting his Orders into execution I was employ'd in getting a Towline and Grapnell and sundry other articles into the boat, but she in the meantime was got so full and so deep that those who were in her began to Cry out that she would sink alongside if any more came into her; upon which Captain Bligh said, "you can't all go in the Boat, my lads; don't overload her, some of you must stay in the Ship." Captain Bligh then ask'd Mr. Christian to let the Master and same of the Men remain in the Ship, to which he replied, " The Men may stay, but the Master must go with you," and Ordered Mr. Fryer to go into the Boat Imediately.

Mr. Fryer beg'd permission to stay, but to no purpose, and he was forced to go into the Boat; an seeing Mr. Fryer and Mast of the Officers go into the boat without the least Appearance of an effort to rescue the Ship I began to' reflect on my own Situation and seeing the situation of the boat, and Considering that she was at least 1000 leagues from any friendly Settlement and Judging by what I had seen of the Friendly Islanders but a few days before, that nothing Could be expected from them but to' be plunder'd, or killd, and seeing no Choice but of one evil, I chose, as I thought, the least, to' stay in the Ship, especially as I Considered it as Obeying Captain Bligh's Orders, and depending on his promise to do Justice to those who remaind, I informed Mr. Cole of my Intention, who made me the like promise, taking me by the hand and saying, " God bless you, my boy, I will do you Justice if ever I reach England."

I also inform'd Mr. Thos. Hayward of My intention, and on his droping a hint to me that he intended to knock Chas. Churchill down I told him I would second him, pointing at some of the Friendly Island Clubbs which were sticking in the Booms and telling him there were tools enough!

I was heartily rejoiced to think that any Officer intended to make an Attempt, but was as suddenly damp'd to find that he went into the Boat without making the Attempt he had proposed, and now gave over all hopes, and resolved to bear my fate with as much fortitude as I was Able.

As Soon as Captain Bligh was in the Boat she was wore Astern. I went aft and on heading Captain Bligh request some provisions I got all the pork which was in the harness Casks, twenty five or six pieces, and handed into the boat.  I also got two large Gourds of Water out of my Own birth which contain'd from 3 to 4, Gallons each; these I also handed in, and on Captain Bligh's desiring me to get him a Musquet or two I went to Christian and beg'd him to let me give one into the Boat, but was refused; when on making further intersession he Ordered four Cutlasses, two of which I handed in my self and Churchill brought the other two and said, " There, Captain Bligh! you don't stand in Need of fire arms as you are Going among your friends."

There being little wind, Christian said, " They will make better at their Oars than wait to be tow'd." Notice of this being given to those in the Boat, Mr. Cole asked for some­ thing to sling the Masts over the side that they might be the better able to work at their Oars; on hearing this I procured a Ball of Spun yarn and gave into the Boat.

She was now Cast off and Christian call' d me to hoist in the Cutter. I heard Captain Bligh desire to speak to Mr. Christian, but he gave Orders that no person should answer.

With respect to the Evidence given against me, it has been said that from my alacrity in assisting to Clear the Boats, and get them out, it would appear, as if I rather favoured those in Arms; But! it has been fully proved to this Honorable Court that the Boats were only granted after Much solicitation by the Officers who intended quitting the Ship; and if the Launch had not been prepared with the utmost expedition the Chief of the Mutineers might have recall'd his grant.

I acted in this, by order of Mr. Cole, the Boatswain, nor can more Guilt (if it can be deem'd such be imputed to me in this particular than to Himself, Who hoisted them out, or to the Carpenter and his Crew who were also active in pre­-paring them

My Countenance has also been compared with that of another employ'd on the same business. This Honorable Court knows that all Men do not bear misfortunes with the same fortitude or equanimity of Mind, and that the face is too often a bad index to the Heart.

If there were No sorrow mark'd in my Countenance, it was to deceive those whose Act I abhorred, that I might be at liberty to seize the first Opportunity that might appear favourable, to the retaking of the Ship.

The Evidence who drew this Comparison has Owned that it did not then appear to him I was Concerned in the Mutiny, and that it was only an opinion formed, from not finding me in the Boat.

An Opinion so founded will, I trust, have no Weight with this Honorable Court, having no foundation whereupon it may rest.

So uncertain is the Judging of Countenances, that Captain Bligh declares in his letter, from the Carpenter's sullen and ferocious aspect, he took him to be one of the Chief Mutineers; which unfavourable Opinion was entirely overthrown by his bearing him Company in the Boat; but, had he chosen to remain in the Ship, to an Uncertain (and Judging by Appearances) inevitable fate in the Boat, such Conjecture would have been thought well grounded on him, though his innocence would have been equally strong, to a being who Could have discerned his Inward Soul.

It has been fully proved and Owned that I was not the only person who bore no active part in the Mutiny that wish'd to remain in the Ship, had they been permitted; and I Humbly conceive it is impossible to say who might have staid had permission been granted.

Let the Members of this Honorable Court Suppose them­-selves in my then unfortunate situation, and it will appear doubtful even to them, Which alternative they would have taken.

A Boat alongside already crowded, those who were in her Crying Out she would sink, and Captain Bligh desiring no more might go in, with a slender stock of Provisions; what hope could there be to reach any Friendly Shore, or with­-stand the boisterous attacks of Hostile Elements?  The Perils those underwent who reached the Island of Timor, and whom Nothing but the Apparent Interference of Divine Providence could have saved, fully justify my fears, and prove beyond a Doubt, that they rested on a solid foundation; for by stay­ing in the Ship an opportunity might offer of escaping, but by going in the Boat nothing but Death appeared, either from the lingering torments of Thirst and Hunger, or from the Murderous Weapons of Cruel Savages, or being Swallowed up by the Deep.

Mr. Hayward in Saying there were other Boats, which those who had chosen might have got into, tacitly acknow­ledges that the Launch was then as deep as she could swim, and which also fully appears from Mr. Fryer and the Car­penter's Evidence to have been the Case.

As to the suggestion of having another Boat, This Honor­able Court is well informed that the small Cutter, by reason of her defective Bottom, would not swim; is it therefore in the least probable that Christian would have granted me the large Cutter, the only Boat then remaining; and the only one fit for Service? Or even should I go so far as to allow she would have been granted, it would have been Madness in me to have got into a heavy Boat by myself without Water or provision, for, after having with much assiduity and Intreaty, only procured so Small a quantity for the Number Crowded into the Launch, Could I have expected anything for myself? And Might I not have Perished with Hunger, thirst, and fatigue, without getting one Mile nearer the Land, or if I had reached it, from the reception those met with in the Launch would not a cruel death have been my portion: for such a disposition I conceived the Natives to be of.

It has also been said that when the Boat veerd astern, I appeared by the Taffarel under Arms. Amidst such a Crowd, Tumult, and Confusion Might not the Arms in the hands of another wedged by my side easily be thought to be in my possession? And might not the Voice of another easily have been taken for mime? To what purpose should I have Armed myself when all Apprehensions of an Attempt to retake the Ship must have been over?

Had I approved of the Mutiny and wish'd to Arm my­self to Assist in putting it into Execution, I surely would not have defered till the Officers and the Men who accompanied them were placed in a helpless situation, where they Could have no recourse to Arms and could make no Effectual attack on those who had assumed the Command.

Had I approved of the violence carried into execution, would I have been so active in procuring subsistance for those whom by so doing I gave perhaps the Only Chance they could have of reaching an European Settlement, and appearing against me at a Bar of Justice?

I have endeavoured to recall to Mr. Hayward's remembrance a proposal he at one time made by Words; of attacking the Mutineers, and of my encouraging him to the Attempt, promising to back Him with all the Efforts I was capable of making-He says he has but a feint recollection of the business, so feint indeed, that he cannot recall to his Memory the particulars: but owns there was something pass'd to that purpose.

Feint as the Remembrance is (which for me is the more unfortunate) ought it not to do away with all doubt with respect to the Motives by which I was then Influenced?

If I Offered to second the Only Attempt that was pro­posed for the recovery of the Ship, and which to me appear'd practicable if put in Execution, Could My Heart be on the side of the Mutineers?  No! If I had wish'd them to succeed would I not Immediately have left him and put them on their Guard?  Besides, it fully proves by Mr. Hayward's disclosing his Mind to me, that he had unlimited Confidence in my Attachment to Him, or he would not have expressed himself to one of who's intentions he was doubtful, in that Manner.

After the Members of this Honorable Court have Maturely weigh'd in their Minds, these Circumstances which to me are of the Utmost Importance, if any doubts remain in their Minds with respect to my Innocence on that fatal Day; it has always been Accounted the Glory of Justice in a doubtful Case to throw Mercy into the Ballance, when, I doubt not, I shall be acquitted of so black a Crime.

Resting with entire confidence on the Humanity and Integrity of this Honorable Court, I humbly wait its Awful decision.

I beg leave most humbly to remind the Members of this Honorable Court that I did freely and of my Own Accord deliver myself up to Lieutenant Robt. Cornor, of His Majesty's Ship" Pandora," on the first Certain Notice of Her Arrival.


[With his defence Morrison handed in the following evi­dence as to character.

I do certify that Mr. James Morrison served as a Mid­shipman on board His Majesty's Sloop" Termagant" under my command during the year 1782, and I perfectly recollect his conduct met with my entire approbation, not only for sobriety and attention to his duty, but I have ever found he paid due respect to his superiors, and that he was always
obedient to command. 

London, September 3rd, 1792,

Captain Stirling encloses Mr. Morrison a certificate of good behaviour whilst serving under his command on board the" Termagant"; and he most earnestly hopes that as Mr. M. at that time behaved… well he will now be able to vindicate his character from the charge exhibited against him.

Bryanston Street,
Sept. 3rd. 1792.