Bligh or Christian

Who was to Blame Bligh or Christian?


  • Total voters
    41
May 2011
13,938
Navan, Ireland
#21
I didn't get the poll options. I think Bligh was in the right.
My poor typing skills ---- to be fair to either to all , if you read about even if you take the side of one or the other, neither comes out as a saint all have faults.

The debate of who is in the wrong was played out in the press in Britain etc for years

In my opinion while Bligh was not faultless (he sinned) his opponents and Christian (who had some cause for discontent)were the worse.

Hollywood has decided otherwise -- although the Hopkins-Gibson movie is quite good historically in my opinion.
 
Last edited:

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,677
Australia
#22
Is the popularity of the story an Australian import?

Bligh served as a very high royal civil administrator in Australia after his career as a Naval officer. It is easy to imagine Bligh as an unpopular civil servant. In response to the perception of him was the story romanticized in Australia?
In fact Bligh was a good and popular governor who was illegally deposed by a criminal cartel and is generally looked on favourably in Australia - at least by those who don't rely on Hollywood for their history.

At the time Bligh assumed the governorship, New South Wales was virtually ruled by a cabal of military officers of the NSW Corps and a few rich merchants who ran the place for their own benefit. A succession of governors had been unable to control the activities of these men, mainly because they controlled the military and/or had some influential friends in London.
They had a monopoly on trade, controlled the allocation of land grants and convict labour, controlled the legal system and destroyed the livelihoods of anyone who opposed them. The practice of paying for goods and services in rum (the import of which was controlled by the cabal) instead of coin ensured that there was no way an ordinary merchant, farmer or tradesman could prosper.

When Bligh arrived he determined to break the power of the NSW Corps, (or the Rum Corps as it was sneeringly known to the general population) he revoked land grants, reassigned convict labour, replaced magistrates and tried to stop the use of rum as payment. This made him very popular with the people, but not so with the Rum Corps and their cronies. The end result was the Rum Rebellion, where the military arrested Bligh and formed a junta to run the colony.
 
Last edited:
#23
the entire episode can be explained simply by the fact the bounty did not have a detachment of marines on board, otherwise the mutiny could never have taken place. Bligh explained this in a letter to his wife. Although I don't think Bligh was a particularly easy person to get along with
 
Last edited:

Von Ranke

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
6,377
Thistleland
#25
the entire episode can be explained simply by the fact the bounty did not have a detachment of marines on board, otherwise the mutiny could never have taken place. Bligh explained this in a letter to his wife. Although I don't think Bligh was a particularly easy person to get along with
I think this is right. A clash of personalities is never a happy situation and when you have two strong characters determined to crush the other in a confined space, like the officers quarters on the Bounty, the outcome is usually settled by who has access to military force. The irony is that Christian Fletcher who mutinied against Bligh was apparently mutinied against by his fellow mutineers on Pitcairn Island with fatal results. What goes around comes around springs to mind.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,586
#26
I sympathize more with Bligh, but I don't think he was entirely blameless. The coconut incident seems to hint at him being somewhat prone to pettiness, and that would be a fault in his leadership style. He also was apparently somewhat of a thin-skinned man who was prone to insults when angered, which probably didn't do much to encourage loyalty.

Still, it's one thing to have a 'boss' you don't like and another to mutiny and put him and 18 other men at serious risk of dying at sea.
 
Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#27
Christian seems to have had the best PR machine in history, without even trying. As stated there were no marines, but of course the ship was too small for that. Mutiny was very, very rare and there were much harsher officers than Bligh in charge of ships. Even if they turned out to be certifiably insane (which did happen) there were hardly any grounds for relieving of command.

I think Piggot's crew of the frigate Hermione killed him and defected to a French port - possibly he was certifiably mad. But didn't the RN cut out the frigate and track down the crew to the ends of the earth?
 
Oct 2009
3,558
San Diego
#28
The movie version with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins is probably the best historical telling of the story. It shows that Bligh… desperate to achieve a captaincy in a Navy that wasn't awarding many, drove his men harder than he perhaps ought to… but that the primary culprit was the easy life and free sex available on tahiti.

It shows, accurately, that Christian became dissipated by Tahitian life and that Bligh felt frustrated, slighted, and abandoned by Christian in trying to maintain some semblance of order while on tahiti. It rightly shows that Bligh's sense of abandonment was expressed on the return voyage thru Bligh's being extra harsh on Christian and the other Tahitian malingerers who Christian had formed close associations with during the tahitian layover.



Bligh was exonerated, and was certainly an able seaman…. however, his subsequent history shows a recurring pattern of alienating his subordinates and the consequent lackluster or embarrassing performance of his duties as a result of their lack of effort or support.

I think Hopkins portrayal of Bligh was spot on…. he captured perfectly his sense of desperation… not only to advance in his career, but his desperation in his relationships with the men he commanded… that he so desperately wanted to be thought well of… and yet could not help but act like a spurned lover when the men he commanded did not respond well to his attempts to woo them to rally around his command.


All in all, he was a deeply flawed and incapable commander, whose one shining moment of brilliance was in the most dire circumstances of being cast adrift in a small boat with just those men most loyal to him. Surrounded by those who felt loyalty… for whatever reasons, he excelled…. but where he fell short was in winning over the crewmen who did not take to him… or in being able to accept the fact that many would never like him no matter what he did, and yet not treat those men more harshly than those who were more loyal.

In being cast adrift… Bligh stepped aboard the cutter with JUST the men he already knew to be loyal and that set him in a new situation where he had no "enemies" aboard on whom to take out his frustrations and fears. In that more select situation, he did rather well as a commander.

But he was doomed, career wise, simply because that kind of hand selected group of co-workers and underlings is simply NOT a real world scenario for higher command.
His progress was stymied by the fact that he Never learned how to make peace with the reality of having to deal with people who ranged from being on your side, to total indifference, to being vehemently opposed.
 
Likes: Scaeva
Aug 2014
1,050
Canada
#29
In being cast adrift… Bligh stepped aboard the cutter with JUST the men he already knew to be loyal and that set him in a new situation where he had no "enemies" aboard on whom to take out his frustrations and fears. In that more select situation, he did rather well as a commander.

He had some troubles holding those men together, small wonder considering their trials, nearing the end even casting a cutlass down for an insubordinate to pick up. I think most loyalists got in the launch fearing the Admiralty more than the unknown, not so much out of personal loyalty. Still, you can't take away what he accomplished, against all odds.


[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgs_184VETc[/ame]
 
Aug 2014
1,050
Canada
#30
A beautiful print of the film is here:

[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vFg-uKvips[/ame]

For any who purport to love history, I dare you to watch the first 6 minutes.
 

Similar History Discussions