AARON GRAHAM ARGUES FOR PETER HEYWOOD'S PARDON
“Are you certain you want to proceed?” asked Pitt unused to showing his concern.
“Yes,” Graham had no choice. He must strike while he still was able—even if he failed. There would be no more chances and he felt in no mood to mince his words. He shrugged of his pain and eyed the tribunal first catching their attention individually, then as a group.
“My Lords,” he began, “the reason the public is so fascinated by this mutiny is in a word its 'mystery'. First there is the ‘mystery’ of the fate of HMS ‘Bounty’' and its mutinous crew, second there is the ‘mystery’ attraction of Tahitie, that magic isle of the South Seas. In addition to these two mysteries there is the third mystery of the missing motive for the mutiny itself. This is the one ‘mystery’ the public cannot fathom and the one I shall dwell upon today. The story Sir Joseph tells is an ancient one for mariners of all eras it goes something like this ...
‘Knowing of this island Odysseus stuffed the ears of his men but wished to hear the singing of the sirens himself and yet desired to escape with his life. He had himself bound to the mast and he ordered his men to row with great speed past the island where the wicked sisters sat on the green shores and sang. He knew that if he was lured to their land his bones would whiten in the grass at their feet. Yet such was the charm of their voices that when their clear toned song reached his ears he begged and commanded his men to lose him. But they, strictly obeying his first ordered , bound him yet more securely. And they never stopped rowing until that fatal shore was left behind.’
“Homer’s story is just that my Lords, a fairy story, a fantasy! Seriously gentlemen this is the exact fantasy Mr Bligh and Sir Joseph would have us believe caused the mutiny on HMS Bounty’ ... only in reverse with the only ears stuffed being Mr Blighs’ There are those idealists and romantics who would have you believe in sirens and their unrelenting pull on the heart-strings of sailors. But you my Lord Commissioners are practical men, as are we who have sailed the oceans, we know, as does the unrelenting common sense of the people ashore know, if not from experience but from instinct, there must have been an additional reason for this mutiny. So let us dismiss this Odysseus element, this romantic adventure story. The reality is of British Officers and men happily on their way home after sixteen months away in the South Seas suddenly, and in open waters, forming a mutiny is the true ‘mystery’. Mutiny is a very rare event and we know it requires quite special and very exceptional ingredients.”
Graham took a sip of water before turning back to the commissioners. “My Lords, at first I must admit to being puzzled. I looked in many directions for the causes; I looked for signs of madness in Bligh or Christian, I looked for signs of illness, I looked for signs of hidden villainy, for excessive punishments, for conspiracies and for all those other theories that presently occupy the broadsheets and Journals. And what did I find? I found evidence of nearly all of these but only as entrees for the main course. The main course and missing motive is something that lives in the hearts of all, sailors or landsmen, men or women; it is the hatred unleashed by betrayal and the attempt to re-establish self-esteem at any cost. It is also something Sir Joseph alluded to when attempting to prove other motives. Bligh's passion was his love of the young man called Fletcher Christian. It started in 1785 and ended four years later in Tahitie. Its consequence was the Bounty mutiny.”
Banks leapt to his feet. “This is outrageous!”
In obvious agony Graham slammed a hand down on his papers and snapped back, “I have evidence my Lords.”
“What evidence?” demanded Banks.
Pitt looked irritated. “Sir Joseph please be seated and allow Mr Graham to finish.” He peered at Graham and frowned. “And for your sake Mr Graham I sincerely hope you do have the evidence.”
Pasley and Ness leaned forward open-mouthed and wide-eyed and above all puzzled.
Graham knew he had opened a wound, he also knew a healed wound once opened bled powerfully. “Let me explain,” he continued. “From the very beginning Bligh did everything in his power to tie Christian to him. He favoured him in every way. Fletcher Christian in his naive, innocent and self-absorbed manner took little regard. Even as a boy Christian accepted the favours of others as his right and continued along in his own hedonistic way. Some say it was bound to catch up with him. Bligh was obsessed in his need for Christian to admire and regard him but Christian needed no heroes. Christian was handsome, fickle, self-obsessed, a lovable but spoilt young man.”
“Evidence?” Banks demanded shrewdly.
Graham ignored him directing his remarks at the very attentive tribunal. “Fletcher Christian was the most popular man on board all the ships he sailed including 'Bounty'. On the other hand Bligh was never popular, but with Christian by his side he was happy, and in some way he felt complete, it was as if the deficiencies of his own character were complimented by Christian’s—not that he would ever admit as much. Anyhow the more Bligh extended his hand the more committed he became and finally Bligh became very committed indeed. By the time ‘Bounty’' reached Tahitie Bligh was emotionally dependent on Fletcher Christian. Many others loved Christian deeply but Bligh had a passion, a passion as impossible to ignore as an abscessed tooth.”
“Are you saying Bligh and Christian were mollys, sodomites, devotees of the windward passage?” asked Spencer coarsely.
“I would prefer not to speculate as to the carnal side of the relationship my Lord. No doubt you are familiar with the term 'paederastia'. As you know it refers to the love of a man for a beardless boy. It can include both carnal and educational elements for the man is expected to set the boy an example in heroism and correct behaviour until he becomes adult. It does not preclude relationships with women nor does it always end in physical consummation.. I think in a way it typifies the type of relationship Bligh imagined he had with Christian.
Graham picked up a page and held it in his hand. “Where is my proof for this you may ask? Well gentlemen the proof positively jumps from the pages of Blighs own narrative, from his log and from his affidavits. More jumps from the testimony of crew members ... and from Sir Joseph’s own submissions. Apart from certain affidavits that I shall later present my evidence begins with special favours dispensed by Bligh on board the ‘Britannia’.”
Graham stooped as if to examine a document then placed a finger on the page. “Firstly when on board ‘Britannia’ Bligh gave Christian the key to his liquor chest so could help himself when he felt like a tot.” Graham straightened, “this to the same individual he would ultimately accuse of stealing his coconuts! And remember on ‘Britannia’ Christian had no status, he was not even a midshipman. As we all know this behaviour is highly irregular whether on a merchant or naval ship and was, at the time, viewed very dubiously by the other members of the crew. Would you have given an able seaman a key to your liquor cabinet while on the Endeavour Sir Joseph? No I think not, nor would Captain Cook.
“This favouritism continued when Bligh selected Christian over others, more experienced and more suitable, when forming his crew for the ‘Bounty’. No influence was needed as Fletcher Christian was Bligh’s first and personal selection. Next he quickly promoted him over Mr Fryer, his immediate superior, to became second in command of the 'Bounty.” Fourthly we note in Bligh’s original log a complete absence of any criticism of Christian before HMS ‘Bounty’' reached Tahitie. This in the light of the fact all other officers without exception were reprimanded or severely criticised. Finally there is evidence Bligh deliberately antagonised the Master Fryer and the surgeon Huggan in such a manner they refused to dine with him which left only Christian to share his table on a regular basis. Bligh as well as others noted this particularity. Gentlemen I could give you more instances but let us for now follow the sequence of events after they reach that fabled land, that magical place they call Tahitie.”
Graham glanced up the table at Banks. “Yes Sir Joseph, that isle of sirens, that source of all pleasure or all evil depending on whose view you accept.” He turned back to the commissioners, “My Lords, if we look at recorded events in view of what I have already said the obvious becomes even more obvious. We know Bligh was there before as a Lieutenant with Captain Cook and maintained knew the place well. What did he decide to do? He gave Christian the plumb job of overseeing the shore patrol and collecting bread fruit plants. At this time it seems he would give his protege anything. It is recorded that Christian, with another of Bligh's favourites Heywood, immediately succumbed to the charms of the native women with so much variety that within weeks, according to Sir Joseph’s evidence, they both had the pox. So gentlemen Bligh’s ideal of Christian’s affections was a long way distant from the brutal reality. Is that correct Sir Joseph? Was this not evidence of Christian’s betrayal?”
Banks looked away and said, “Without evidence I don’t necessarily accept the original premise.”
“And what gentlemen, does Lieutenant Bligh do when he finds out?” asked Graham. “What did he do when he confronted the physical evidence he had lost his influence over Christian? Did he recall him? Did he up anchor and sail away? According to evidence Bligh had already collected all his bread fruit plants. Did he find a woman for himself? No, he did nothing! He became sick, he took fifty one sightings of the island's position, he languished for three more months, discipline slipping, the ship running aground, men deserting, sails rotting, anchor ropes being cut, goods stolen, officers falling asleep on watch. Again I ask what did he do? The answer is he did nothing! Bligh was alone, paralysed, devastated; but ultimately, he was angry. For all his science Bligh was a man of hidden passions and from his log we can all read of his temper tantrums, his inconsistent punishments, his uncontrollable behaviour, all just practice until he could strike back. If it was Lieutenant Bligh who in Tahitie, was in hell then Christian's turn was still to come.
“From then on every tiny scrap of evidence against Fletcher Christian was collected and noted. Bligh had him implicated in the desertion of the three sailors, in conspiracy, he found him responsible for the death of some of the plants and the theft of some items at the camp. Sabotage? Then the cutting of the anchor rope? In his log Bligh said he suspected an unnamed high ranking officer - more sabotage? All now recorded by Bligh against a man with a previous unblemished record. Finally they left Tahitie and Bligh was back on board and in total control. Bligh now unleashed his revenge. For two weeks he applied the pressure. The three days prior to the mutiny being the most cruel to someone of Fletcher Christian's happy and guileless disposition. Bligh well knew Christian's weaknesses he had previously encouraged them. There was Christian's need to be loved, his capacity for enjoyment and his boyish charm. He turned these viciously against his first officer. First he sent him ashore to what he knew would be a hostile reception with orders to bear arms but not to discharge them at any cost. Then when he returned with the loss of some item he berated him, publicly, for his cowardice and stupidity. But the next day Bligh exceeded himself.”
Graham lifted up a Journal. “Yes, here we have it my Lords, the coconut incident. Bligh’s method of attack on this occasion was to assemble the audience, berate, threaten and belittle Christian and accuse him of theft. Then he stormed off below only to return a little later and repeated the performance. He most likely thought he had broken Christian, he saw the tears and witnessed the despair. This just the day before the mutiny. Remember what Christian said to Purcell, who swears his exact words were,
'I would have rather put my arms around Captain Bligh and jumped over the side to drown us both.'
Graham looked around the chamber his gaze finally resting on the three men opposite. “What a strange statement my Lords, what a curious solution, what an unusual way to end his torment—to kill his tormentor in such a fashion. Surely it tells us something else?” Graham smiled at Banks, “and it has nothing to do with a foul conspiracy or breaching a maiden’s virginity,” he mimicked Bank’s delivery.
“So we arrive at the climax of this tragedy; for tragedy it is. Bligh had tormented Christian until he had broken him. Now he thinks I will forgive Christian, reform him. Bligh invited Christian to dine with him in his cabin. Unfortunately it had the reverse effect, and it is here Bligh badly miscalculated. Christian pleaded illness and from what others said he probably believed that the torture was to continue. Christian, in despair decided to desert the ship on a raft.
“Gentlemen we all know of the friction that exists aboard a ship on a long voyage, the malcontents, the sea lawyers, the bullies that emerge among the men and now, on 'Bounty', we had half the crew wondering what on earth was happening as their Captain threatened to make half of them jump overboard. His watch, led by Ned Young, persuaded a distraught Christian that rather than cast himself adrift on a home made raft they should seize the ship—and not for the reason to return to Tahitie! They were afraid of Bligh’s state of mind, his judgement and his ability to function.
“The events of that day the 28th. of April 1789 are well know to your Lordship's and there is little dispute as to the facts apart from the pallid testimony of the midshipmen Hallet and Hayward. The mutiny succeeded but sometime during its progress Christian realised he had created a situation that had far reaching and tragic consequences. It became clear that at least half of the crew were determined to leave the ship with Mr Bligh. This was mutiny on an entirely different scale. It also became horribly clear he had seriously miscalculated the mood of the whole crew. But by then it was too late. He stood beside Bligh for nearly all the three hours of the mutiny where Mr Cole testified, ‘that his tortured mind was reflected so clearly on his dark face and even the most distressed and frightened men who saw him remembered it long after.’ It seemed, for Christian ‘every pulse and heart-beat was on fever strain and high heat.’ His own life he held of no account - with a passionate readiness to instantly sacrifice it. Bligh himself even concluded,
‘I considered Christian capable of taking his own life at any moment.’”
“When eventually Bligh was untied and led to the head of the gangway he stopped and turned to speak - but Christian spoke first, ‘Come Captain Bligh, your officers and men are in the boat, you must go with them.’”
“Indeed my Lords, considering their past relationship the words they now speak take on a new meaning.
‘Consider what you are about Mr Christian,’ Bligh pleaded. ‘For Gods sake drop it. I'll give my bond never to think of it again if you'll only desist.’
‘It's too late, I have been in hell’ replied Christian.
‘It is not too late!’
Christian's torment turned to exasperation, ‘No Captain Bligh, if you had any honour things would not have come to this!’
The tragedy is, Christian seemed unable to understand Bligh's motive and Bligh was genuinely ready to forgive Christian.
Bligh then asked, ‘Can there be no other method?’
Christian replied, ‘I have been in hell for a fortnight sir, it is too late ... I will suffer no longer.’
“This must be one of the strangest conversations ever reported between a Captain and his second in command. It gets even more curious as both men realised the dimensions of the tragedy they precipitated.
‘Do you consider,’ asked Bligh, ‘this treatment a proper return for all the friendship I gave you in the past?’
“Christian was visibly upset and uncertain how to answer, if answer there was. What was there to say to his past friend, his new implacable enemy? Their relationship once so deep and so passionate, was now a bleeding wound. Only God knows how and why. Everything was changed since those first slack, sensuous months at Tahitie and before. Now all was confusion, misery, pain and bitterness; their friendship was dead. Its terrible consequence being that none of their shipmates could escape its inevitable grasp. The price was as high as that. Soon half the crew would be placed in desperate hazard and the other half became desperate fugitives for the remainder of their lives. I believe,” said Graham, “if Christian could, he would have reversed the clock those three hours, but it was too late and his last words to Bligh are;
‘That Captain Bligh, that was the thing... I am in hell, I am, in hell.’
“These, my Lords, are not the words of a cocky confident mutineer, but of an actor in a play of despair, a classic tragedy. I would ask you, who really was to blame? Do we blame Romeo or Juliet? Anthony or Cleopatra? We cannot sarse the goose and not the gander”
Graham shrugged and stared into the slanting light of the window and spoke to no one in particular. “How does evil grow my Lords? What makes it appear in the human heart, growing like a weed among the blooms? I tell you. It is born from anger and injustice, from resentment and jealousy. You have all witnessed the smallest seed of it in Bligh’s expectation of Christian’s loyalty and gratitude. He was insulted and destroyed by what may or may not have been a sin, his lonely affection towards his junior officer. The insult simmered inside him and grew. By what right did Christian so callously discard his favours?
No gentlemen, evil is not an external force waiting to seize upon a wandering heart. It dwells within the heart, a cocooned maggot waiting for the moment to break out and feed, gorging itself on the darker forces of the human soul. Men, good men, don’t oppress the weak or use their power for selfish purpose. Like everyone else they are subject to the dark desires but they resist them. Bligh did not resist his need for vengeance and so the maggot grew and in the end consumed the innocent as well as the intended victim. That is how evil lives.
“Today we can stop that evil spreading.” He bent down slowly and removed the two extra affidavits from his brief. He looked up and walked slowly around to the center of the table and placed the documents in front of Pitt.. “My Lord here is the evidence.”
Pitt scanned the names on the affidavits and placed the flat of his hand over their contents, “Thank you Mr Graham,” he looked around the room, “I would ask you all to leave us now so we can consider what Mr Graham has presented.” Oh and Mr Graham we did know of the particular relationship between Bligh and Christian but to produce proof 'res in re' is a bold move sir - even for you.”