Narrative and Successful Result of a Voyage in the South Seas, Performed by the Government of British India, to Ascertain the Actual Fate of La Pérouse’s Expedition….

Volume I:

p. vii-viii: PREFACE–. Amid the numerous books of voyages and travels continually presented to the public, it may be thought difficult for a new work of this kind to obtain attention: But the reader is requested to observe, that this work has many claims to notice quite peculiar to itself._It is not an account of nations which resemble ourselves in manners and civilization, or of countries which had been a hundred times before visited and described; on the contrary, in this voyage the reader is conducted amid the savage tribes of the South Seas, through tracts never before fully explored, and made acquainted with human nature under a new aspect, described from the personal observation of a living witness, who has had ample opportunities of studying their characters both in peace and war, and who had nearly fallen a victim to their cannibal propensities.

This voyage also possesses a peculiar interest, from its having solved a question which divided the opinion of the scientific world for a period of forty years. And the discoverer of the ‘fate of La Pérouse, after having effected this discovery, considered that to lay a narrative of the voyage before the public, was a duty he owed to the French as Well as to the British nation, and more especially to the Government of British India, under whose auspices it was performed.

p. 66-67: About this time a paragraph appeared in the John Bull, a Calcutta newspaper, stating that the brig Margaret, belonging to Messrs. Montgomery and Co., and commanded by Captain Corbin, had sailed for the Mannicolo islands, to, render assistance to the unfortunate survivors of la Pérouse’s crew. The Doctor on reading over this paragraph became outrageous, and vehemently asserted that Messrs. Montgomery and Co. were interfering with the arrangements of Government, and ought to be sent out of the country; that it was shameful to attempt in this manner to deprive the person who made the discovery at the Mannicolo Islands of the reward to which he was justly entitled; though that such occurrences were not without a precedent, the great Columbus himself, the discoverer of America, was an instance. The Doctor then hurried from one end of Calcutta to the other, as if quite bereft of his senses, making inquiries about the mysterious voyage of the Margaret (which however all vanished in smoke). He concluded in his summary way by declaring that Montgomery and Co. ought to be transported for seven years to Botany Bay: so keenly was the Doctor alive to his own interest when the honour of the enterprize was threatened to be carried off by another party.

p. 84-86, re Dr. Tytler and free masonry: The Doctor said in an imperious tone of voice, “I wish to see those orders.” Though the demand was an impeachment of my veracity, I informed him he had already seen them; but, as a matter of courtesy, not as a matter of right, I would allow him to see them again. He started up in a violent rage, and said, he could not sit there and hear me make use of such ungentlemanly language, in presence of the second officer, as to tell him he had no right to see my letters; and that he would immediately protest against my conduct, and not proceed an inch with the ship until the business was settled. After this ebullition of violence he began to write a long despatch to the Marine Board, which when ended he read to me:—As nearly as I recollect, it stated that, “notwithstanding the orders of the Board regarding the keeping up of a good understanding between all parties on the expedition, I had refused to victual his dresser Helmick from the cabin table. I tried, in the most gentle manner, to dissuade him from troubling the Board on a subject they had already settled; and at the same time asked (knowing him to have been an enthusiastic admirer of masonry) whether this was proper conduct for a freemason to use towards a brother? In a loud voice he exclaimed, “what is freemasonry, sir? you are a public servant, and I am another: if you have any thing to communicate, write to me officially.” Finding that any further attempt at conciliation or concession on my part was useless, and that he was determined to raise a quarrel, as had been intimated to me by letter, I resolved to preserve my coolness, and disregard his insolence as long as possible. I found it necessary, however, to write a letter to the Board detailing the true state of the case, that they might see what the Doctor’s conduct had been when he was only seven hours on board the ship. I also requested the second officer to commit to paper what he recollected of the Doctor’s conversation with me, and, as it corroborated my statement, I sent a copy of it to the Marine Board with my own letter. What rendered the Doctor’s demand, with the insolence which accompanied it, more aggravating and unreasonable, was, that I had already out of kindness to him voluntarily undertaken to victual his son (before mentioned, p. 83) at my own table throughout the voyage, at my sole charge, free of any expense to his father: who now tried to thrust upon me another of his dependents; while there were many others in the vessel who had a much stronger claim on my consideration, as the New Zealand prince, and my faithful follower Martin Bushart, who looked up to me as a parent and protector.

p. 89-90: Shortly after noon I received a letter and book from Doctor Tytler, ruled to contain the ship’s latitude and longitude each day at noon. This book being made out in a different way to that in which I was directed to supply him with the ship’s situation each day, I declined making any entry in it. The letter contained a request, or, rather a demand, that I would allow my private servant, Martin Bushart, to undergo a private examination in the Doctor’s cabin. This I considered an extraordinary demand, as he was not on the sick list, and wrote the Doctor a letter to that effect.

p. 175-76, sailing from Hobart to New Zealand via Port Jackson in Australia: In this colony, where so many strange occurrences take place, I was however surprised to find that Mr. Scott, formerly, I am told a merchant in the Mediterranean, latterly secretary to the commissioner of inquiry sent from England, in which capacity I had seen him here in 1820, was now converted into a clergyman of the established church. This versatile genius, having laid aside the day-book and ledger for the Bible and prayer-book, by divine grace and ecclesiastical favour, now took precedence of his former master, and was even become the spiritual head of the reverend and venerable Samuel Marsden, who has here for many years laboured so zealously in the cause of Christianity as to be justly considered the apostle of the South Seas. As an individual, knowing the virtues of this truly pious and venerable man, I could not help feeling much for the cruel and unjust persecutions he has lately suffered.

Volume II:

p. 369-70, apropos the discovery of relics of the La Peruse expedition: 27th.-At 10 A.M. the man stationed at the mast head having espied a ship to the north-eastward, we bore way to speak her. At noon we found her to be the Nandey of Liverpool, Captain Ramsey, homeward-bound from Calcutta. I sent a boat on board to report my arrival in the Bay of Bengal. On the boat’s return I learnt that the late Governor-General of India, Lord Amherst, had sailed for England on the 11th instant from Saugor, on board the ship of war Herald. Captain Ramsey reported having met with a strong gale from the eastward a few days after leaving the pilot, by which the greater part of his live stock were killed, and a cask of lamp oil spilled. I sent him ten gallons of lamp oil, two pigs, and three geese. On the officer’s return, he informed me that one of the Nandeys passengers stated that the people in Calcutta doubted the safety of the Research, and that their fears were increased by the malicious reports of Dr. Tytler, who had arrived there from New South Wales in October last. Captain Ramsey sent me a Bengal newspaper, containing an account of the late glorious battle of Navarino. At 1 P.M. I pursued my course with all sail set to reach Calcutta as soon as possible, and dispel the erroneous conjectures of my friends.

p. 402-03: The above-mentioned arms are those of M. de Colignon, botanist on board la Boussole; and as the crew of the ship which went down in deep water all perished, we may conclude that every article also went down with her: we may also take it for proven, that it was the Boussole, commanded by M. la Perouse himself, which was thrown on the ridge, as M. Colignon was attached to that ship.

A very mutilated and misprinted statement having appeared in the newspapers and in some of our contemporaries, we made application to Sir W. Betham, who has supplied us with the foregoing corrected statement. But in order to put the point in a clear light, and shew that the fate of the intrepid and enterprizing la Perouse is at last, after the mystery and conjecture of forty years, no longer uncertain, we made a drawing of the arms, as described by Mr. Russell. On referring to a standard work of French heraldry[Mercure Armorial, folio, Paris, 17th century], we discovered that these were the arms of Colignon; and we also found, by consulting the published account of this unfortunate expedition, that Colignon was, as we have observed, the name of the naturalist in the Boussole. These facts afford conclusive evidence that the vessels whose wrecks have been traced could be no other than M. de la Pérouse’s ships; and the crescent or in the base of the shield, the sign of affiliation, indicates that M. Colignon was a second son or branch of the noble family of that name. Our contemporaries in Paris will, no doubt, make further inquiries into this matter, which has so long excited the curiosity, and engaged the sympathy of Europe.

p. 425, Appendix:

Remarks of the Editor of the New South Wales Monitor,

Jan . 21, 1828.

A late trial at Hobart Town, has not at all tended to correct our fears for the wisdom of Colonel Arthur [the Tasmanian Governour] and Judge Pedder’s administration of the sister isle. The Sydney Gazette of Wednesday last has published a report, copied from one of the Hobart Town newspapers, called The Tasmanian, (a journal edited by a loyal barrister of the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land), of a trial there, Rex (on the prosecution of R. Tytler, M.D.) versus Peter Dillon, Esq. commander of the Honourable East-India Company’s cruiser the Research. This last gentleman, the world has lately been informed, has been supplied by the princely Company in question, with a vessel, fitted out at an immense expense, to proceed upon an expedition, whose object warms the hearts of the brave, and fires the imagination of the romantic; we say, the enviable commander of this expedition, raised to his present post of honour by the force of his own talents and enterprise, for placing his surgeon in close arrest two hours, and in open arrest, or in confinement at large, for the rest of the voyage, had a sentence passed upon him by Judge Pedder, of two months’ confinement in the common gaol, besides being fined in the sum of £50.

The Sydney Gazette, our government official newspaper, has announced these facts to the public of New South Wales; where, thanks be to God, and honour be to Chief Justice Forbes, there is yet a free press to record the wisdom and the folly, the virtues and the vices, of our Australian and Tasmanian authorities respectively. By the report of the trial in question, the public are informed, that the surgeon of the Research, Dr. Tytler, was so forgetful of the discipline of a ship, of his duty as an officer, and of his own character as a gentleman of common prudence, feeling, and courtesy, as to tell Captain Dillon, at his own table, in the presence of his officers, where a man likes the least to be made to look little, that his vessel, the Research, had been pronounced by a naval gentleman in India, “fit only for a rice hulk; and that she would go down in a gale of wind, or be lost on the rocks of Tucopia.”

We do conceive, that to speak to a man at his own table, and in the presence of his officers, in such contemptuous terms of his vessel (a matter in which all commanders take a pride, from the Duke of Clarence down to the master of a humble schooner), is equally unwarranted, uncalled-ſor, impertinent, and in every respect, ungentlemanly. Captain Dillon, it seems (which we almost wonder at), did not strike Dr. Tytler for the language he used: he merely left the table under powerful feelings of indignation. The next day, Dr. Tytler took upon himself a new title, if not a new office; he now styled himself, at the foot of a certain document, which he had been in the habit of signing diurnally, “Recorder of Proceedings to the Supreme Government.” This act, to say the least, was very ill-timed. It of course put Captain Dillon into extreme rage. In the midst of his paroxysm, he called for his pistols, accused the Doctor of mutiny, and told him, if he ever dared to lower him in the eyes of his officers again, by speaking of “rice barges and Tucopia rocks," as he had done the preceding day, he would have him chastised.

This language cannot be defended. It was beyond Dr. Tytler’s insolence. Still however, considering the previous provocation, we do not think that it at all justified the letter which Dr. Tytler wrote the evening of the same day, and which the Doctor acknowledged on the trial. As Captain Dillon’s subsequent conduct clearly proved his anger and expressions were not, as Doctor Tytler insinuated in this letter, the effect of a diseased mind, but the mere temporary ebullitions of nervous irritability, we cannot consider the said letter in any other light than direct mutiny. In the first place, it was holding out a very powerful temptation to the officer, the artful knave would have rejoiced to slip into the enviable post filled by Captain Dillon; and if such an one’s villainy had been seconded with a sufficient degree of courage and address by the other officers, we have little doubt Captain Dillon would have died on board in confinement under the insult, (for a little would kill such a man as Captain Dillon in a hot climate), or have been landed in Van Diemen’s Land, a real lunatic; there to end his days, the victim of mischance and treachery.

Some time before the voyage was concluded, a quarrel occurring on board between the first-officer and Mr. Dudman, the latter informed Captain Dillon, there was a mutiny going on in the ship, fore and aft; and for proof appealed to the above letter: which being inquired for, was found to have been destroyed. Captain Dillon then observed to his officers, “I must put a stop to this;" and accordingly, putting his hand on the shoulder of Dr. Tytler, he ordered him into close arrest. At the end of two hours, however, Captain Dillon, on hearing that the danger of mutiny was not so great as Mr. Dudman had represented, sent word to Dr. Tytler he might walk the decks as usual; but was thereafter “to hold no conversation with the officers of the ship.”

Now, for our part, we do not see how Captain Dillon could have acted with more mildness. We heard Chief Justice Forbes say the other day, that if a commander really thought, and had fair occasion to think, a mutiny was on foot, he had a right to inflict punishment on his crew. Of course, we should imagine, arrest is the proper punishment of an officer, who gives like “fair occasion” to a sane commander to believe he, the mutineer, wishes to oust him of his command from malicious or other sinister motives, by pretending that he is a lunatic. Let every man put himself into Captain Dillon’s situation, and say how he would like to be divested of the command, and treated as a madman on board his own ship, merely because he had been angry; and when subsequent events proved he was just as, and perhaps in fact more sane, than his accuser.