Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/52

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

planters and the British Government in view of existing relations with the United States—it was also believed that it would "lessen the dependence of the sugar islands on North America for food and necessaries."[1]

The planters petitioned the Government to fit out an expedition to transplant trees from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Sir Joseph Banks strongly supported them, and Lord Hood, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was sympathetic. In August, 1787, Lieutenant Bligh was appointed to the command of the Bounty, was directed to sail to the Society Islands, to take on board "as many trees and plants as may be thought necessary," and to transplant them to British possessions in the West Indies.

The vessel sailed, with two skilled gardeners on board to superintend the selection and treatment of the plants. Tahiti was duly reached, and the business of the expedition was taken in hand. One thousand and fifteen fine trees were chosen and carefully stowed. But the comfortable indolence, the luxuriant abundance, the genial climate, the happy hospitality of the handsome islanders, and their easy freedom from compunction in reference to restraints imposed by law and custom in Europe, had a demoralising effect upon the crew of the Bounty. A stay of twenty-three weeks at the island sufficed to subvert discipline and to persuade some of Bligh's sailors that life in Tahiti was far preferable to service in the King's Navy under the rule of a severe and exacting commander.

When the Bounty left Tahiti on April 14, 1787, reluctance plucked at the heart of many of the crew. The morning light lay tenderly upon the plumes of the palms, and a light wind filled the sails of the ship as she glided out of harbour. As the lazy lapping

  1. Bryan Edwards History of the British West Indies (1819) 1. xl.