SUGAR AND SLAVES IN EARLY GLOBALIZATION: “THE MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY” MOVIE

October 3, 2010 at 9:54 am | Posted in Earth, Economics, Film, Financial, Globalization, History, Military, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

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What we call globalization is partly ushered in by European transplanting of slaves, sugar and other botanical sources of wealth, around the globe, as shown by the various movies based on the “Mutiny on the Bounty” events. European imperial and business rivalries are themselves the backcloth to this global ‘rejiggering.”

The Mutiny on the Bounty: A Chronology

September 9, 1754 William Bligh is christened in Plymouth, England.

September 25, 1764
Fletcher Christian is born in Cumberland, England.

February 1775 The West India Committee, a group of merchants and property owners, proposes introducing breadfruit, first discovered in the South Pacific in 1748, to the West Indies.

1776 William Bligh serves as sailing master aboard the Resolution on Captain Cook’s final voyage to Tahiti, new Zealand, and other points in the Pacific.

February 14, 1779 William Bligh witnesses the murder of Captain Cook by natives on Hawaii.

1783 Fletcher Christian has his first sea experience as master’s mate on the Eurydice, a warship sailing to India.

February 1787 Prime Minister Pitt formally announces to the West India Committee that the British government will sponsor an expedition to the South Pacific to retrieve breadfruit for eventual transplanting in the West Indies.

June 1787 Secretary of State Sydney announces the purchase of a ship, to be called “the Bounty” and to be commanded by Lt. Bligh, which will voyage to the South Pacific.

August 16, 1787 William Bligh’s commission as commanding officer of the Bounty commences.

October 9, 1787 The Bounty is taken out of the River Thames by a pilot on the first leg of what will prove to be an historic journey.

Early November, 1787 Bligh arrives in Spithead, England to await sailing orders for the vessel Bounty.

November 28, 1787 Bligh takes the Bounty out to sea, but is forced to anchor on the Isle of Wight because of bad winds.

December 23, 1787 After weeks of delays, the Bounty finally departs England.

February 17, 1788 While in Tenerife (Canary Islands), Bligh sends a letter to Joseph Banks, the man most responsible for organizing and supporting the Bounty’s voyage.

May 24, 1788 After a futile attempt to round the stormy Cape of Good Hope, the Bounty arrives at Cape Horn, on the southern tip of Africa.

October 26, 1788 The Bounty arrives in Tahiti. Bligh soon sets about his mission of arranging for the gathering of breadfruit. Most of the men of the Bounty soon are taken into the homes of Tahitians and settle into routines.

January 5, 1789 Three crewmen of the Bounty desert. The three men are eventually rounded up and, upon Bligh’s orders, flogged on February 2.

April 5, 1789 The Bounty, under Bligh’s command and loaded with breadfruit plants, leaves Tahiti en route for England.

April 21, 1789 Bligh and Fletcher Christian exchange harsh words. Christian tells Bligh, “I have been in hell for weeks with you.”

April 27, 1789 Bligh confronts officers, who he blames for taking coconuts from the Bounty’s stash. Bligh, according to one eyewitness account, tells Fletcher Christian and other officers, “I’ll sweat it for you rascals. I’ll make half of you jump overboard before we get through Endeavor Straits.”

April 28, 1789 The mutiny on the Bounty: Around dawn, Bligh is seized while sleeping by a gang of mutineers. Bligh and other loyalists are set to sea in a 24-foot launch. For the next 48 days, Bligh and his men will battle hostile natives, ferocious storms, and dwindling provisions before arriving in Coupang, Dutch East Indies.

May 24, 1789 The Bounty anchors off Tubuai (350 miles south of Tahiti) with its crew intending to stay there, but sails again a week later for Tahiti, then returns again to Tubuai, where it remains for three months.

July 1789 Bounty mutineers fight with Tubuaians over women and property, leaving 66 Tubuaians dead.

August 20, 1789 Bligh and his entourage leave Coupang in a purchased schooner, the Resource, bound for Batavia in Java. After making their way to Batvia on October 1, Bligh and his entourage will, two weeks later, board the Dutch East Indiaman, the Vlijt, bound for the Cape of Good Hope and Holland.

September 21, 1789 The Bounty, under the command of Fletcher Christian, drops 16 shipmates at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, and then departs Tahiti for the last time.

January 15, 1790 The Bounty, with 9 mutineers and 11 Tahitian women, six Tahitian men, and one child arrive at Pitcairn Island. After possessions and goods are removed from the Bounty, it is set on fire.

March 13, 1790 William Bligh returns to England and word of the mutiny on the Bounty begins to spread around the nation.

Early November 1790 The ship Pandora, commissioned to journey to the South Pacific and retrieve as many of the Bounty mutineers as possible, departs England.

March 23, 1791 The Pandora arrives at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, where a large group of mutineers remain.

April 3, 1791 The last of fourteen fugitives in Tahiti are rounded up and broad on board the Pandora.

May 8, 1791 The Pandora leaves Tahiti with the Resolution, a schooner belonging to the mutineers, in tow. For the next three months, the Pandora travels around the South Pacific in a futile search for the other party of mutineers.

August 29, 1791 The Pandora, on its way back to England, hits ground and sinks on a reef between New Guinea and Australia. The surviving men take to lifeboats and begin sailing toward Coupang in the Dutch East Indies.

September 16, 1791 The survivors of the Pandora’s sinking, after drinking the blood of birds and their own urine, arrive in Coupang.

October 6, 1791 Captain Edwards (formerly commander of the Pandora) and his crew and prisoners depart Coupang on a Dutch ship.

October 30, 1791 The ship carrying the captured Bounty mutineers arrives on the north coast of Java where, miraculously, the Resolution, the ship built by mutineers and which had been lost with a small crew four months earlier in stormy seas, is found.

December 25, 1791 The Dutch ship Vreendenburg leaves Batavia with 27 officers and men of the Pandora and ten surviving captured mutineers.

April 5, 1792 Captain Edwards, some of his crew, and the captured mutineers board the British man-of-war, the Gorgon, at the Cape of Good Hope for the final leg of the voyage back to England.

May 1, 1792 A prayer book (with “not a leaf of it defaced”) belonging to a convict is found in the belly of a shark caught off the side of the Gorgon. [Not critical to the chronology, but interesting, don’t you think?]

June 19, 1792 The Gorgon, carrying the ten men who will soon face charges of mutiny, anchors at Spithead, England.

September 12, 1792 The court-martial of ten Bounty mutineers begins on the Duke in Portsmouth, England.

September 18, 1792 Twelve post-captains return their verdicts in the Bounty court-martial. Six of the ten are convicted and sentenced to be “hanged by the neck.” Mercy is recommended for two (Peter Heywood and James Morrison). Four other defendants (Morman, Coleman, McIntosh, and Byrn) are acquitted.

October 26, 1792 Heywood and Morrison learn that they have received a full and unconditional pardon from the king.

October 29, 1792 Three convicted mutineers (John Millward, Thomas Ellison, and Thomas Burkett) are hanged on the Brunswick.

1793 According to one plausible account, Fletcher Christian is murdered by a Tahitian male while digging in his field on Pitcairn Island. (Other accounts place Christian’s murder somewhat later–as late as 1797.)

February 1808 An American sealer, the Topaz, lands on mischarted Pitcairn Island. A double canoe with three young English-speaking men come to greet the ship. Pitcairn Island is discovered to be home to a colony of 35 persons–the widows and offspring of Bounty mutineers and one surviving mutineer, Alexander Smith.

December 7, 1817 William Bligh dies at the age of 64.
1829 Mutineer John Adams dies at age 66 on Pitcairn Island.
1834 William Purcell, the last surviving officer of the Bounty, dies.

1841 Mauatua, the Tahitian wife of Fletcher Christian, dies on Pitcairn Island.

The Mutiny on the Bounty: A Chronology

Historical Context:

What we call globalization is partly ushered in by European transplanting of slaves, sugar and other botanical sources of wealth, around the globe. European imperial and business rivalries are themselves the backcloth to this global ‘rejiggering.”

In the 18th and early 19th centuries the British colonies in the Caribbean were of considerable value to Britain as a result of the wealth created from slavegrown sugar and other tropical produce, and from the profits of the ‘African trade’, which supplied the Caribbean plantations with their slaves.

This wealth made it possible for those with financial interests in the Caribbean colonies, either as owners of land and slaves (whether residents in the colonies or absentee owners living in Britain), or as merchants in Britain trading in colonial produce, to influence the political process in Britain in various ways. The effect of all this, and the individuals involved, were collectively referred to as the West India interest’.

From the late 17th century the various colonies in the Caribbean began to appoint what were called ‘colonial agents’ in Britain, a system that continued until the middle of the 19th century. The colonial agents were paid lobbyists acting on behalf of the local legislatures of their respective colonies, legislatures that largely consisted of, and represented the interests of, members of the plantationowning class. The agents’ function was to keep the British government, and people of influence in Britain, mindful of the importance of the sugar colonies, and to ensure that any British legislation that affected them did so in a manner that was as favourable to the plantation owners as possible.

The agents were often members of the British Parliament. This was made possible, as was the presence of significant numbers of other MPs at Westminster with Caribbean connections, by the structure of British politics in the 18th century.

While members of the House of Commons were in theory the elected representatives of the people, the right to vote was severely limited by property qualifications, and in most constituencies only a small proportion of adult males enjoyed the right to vote. For historical reasons, there were a number of constituencies with very few or even no voters at all, and these socalled ‘pocket boroughs’, or ‘rotten boroughs’, were effectively the property of the most influential local landowners (who were thus in a position to nominate the MPs), or could be bought and sold. Even in constituencies with a wider franchise, a sufficiently wealthy candidate could normally secure election by bribing the voters. Once in Parliament, the MP was in a position to trade his vote for influence on issues that interested him, or for the fruits of government patronage. It was a system that openly acknowledged the power of money to buy political influence, and in the 18th century some of the richest men in Britain (like William Beckford and his son) were ‘West Indians’, a term which in the period normally referred, not to the black slave, but to the white owner of slavecultivated plantations in Britain’s Caribbean colonies.

In 1764, at what was probably the high point of their influence, a contemporary (the agent for Massachusetts) estimated that there were between 50 and 60 West Indian members of the House of Commons, who were able to swing any vote whichever way they pleased. Their wealth, and the political power this gave them, allowed the West Indians to marry into the established British aristocracy, so that there also came to be members of the House of Lords who either owned Caribbean plantations themselves, or were closely related to those who did.

Read more: West India interest – A Brief History of the West India Committee – Caribbean, Colonies, British, Britain, Century, and Influence http://www.jrank.org/cultures/pages/729/West-India-interest.html#ixzz11GC9e8kO

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