Volume 83 1974 > Volume 83, No. 1 > A 40,000 dollar question, or some remarks on the veracity of certain ancient mariners, beachcombers and castaways, by Michael A. H. B. Walter, p 58-83
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News of a vast treasure trove was placed before readers of the Auckland Star, Tongan Chronicle, Pacific Islands Monthly and probably other papers and journals in the summer of 1969. The treasure lay in Tonga and was claimed by its New Zealand discoverers to originate from the privateer Port au Prince. This claim has been denied by various authorities within, Tonga, and certainly in William Mariner's account of the booty secured by the Port au Prince there is no mention of gold bars. Moreover, as no precious stones or metals have actually surfaced since the news became public, there has arisen a subsequent and understandable inclination to dismiss the whole affair as a spoof. While that debate is not my concern here, it can be demonstrated that gold bars there certainly were in Tonga at the beginning of the nineteenth century and probably, as the Tongan government itself suspects (see PIM September 1969 issue, page ii), there they still remain today. Whether this gold did originate from the Port au Prince has yet to be determined, but it should be noted that the first such claim was made by the captain of another schooner who brought some gold bars out of Tonga in 1809. It is evident, however, that the Port au Prince was not the only ship to be robbed of a haul of riches by unsophisticated Tongans, and it can be shown that the presence of this considerable treasure in Tonga began to exercise a corresponding drawing power over European seamen. The present paper has been prompted in part by the treasure-hunt news of 1969. While its focus is primarily upon Fijian treasure, whose impact on the course of Fijian history has been noted by several commentators, it is at the same time much concerned with the early nineteenth century Tongan scene, for I believe the major part of the Fijian treasure to have originated from there.

The coming of the white man was for the Fijian conspicuously and unmistakably augured: “It was the year in which the comet with the - 59 three tails appeared.” 1 Perhaps the more significant omen of the ensuing years was the lila balavu “the great wasting sickness” which followed shortly after the comet. This was introduced by the victims of the first known wreck of a European ship in Fijian waters, that of the Argo in 1800. But, for the historian, the comet and the pulmonary consumption belong more to the sphere of Fijian folk-lore. The documented story of the opening-up of the hitherto obscurely known islands to the west of Tonga began a few years later with the arrival at Port Jackson (on May 28, 1804) of one of the survivors of the Argo, an American seaman named Oliver Slater. The information which he had to offer, like the comet, was brightly and briefly to dazzle an attentive audience.

The Fiji islands, or at least one of them, according to Slater, contained large areas of the highly valuable sandalwood: 2 areas extensive enough to constitute a very worthwhile commercial proposition. The response to Slater's information was immediate, and within a few years there was a rapid development of a trade in the wood which could fetch £70 or more a ton on the Chinese market. “This equal-to-coining business” it was tagged, 3 and appropriately, too. Ex-Governor Bligh, forwarding an estimate to Secretary Castlereagh in London, showed that a return of more that 100 percent might be expected on a six-month investment. 4

It was this trade, assert Fiji's historians, that initiated the first shock of European contact that resulted some six or seven decades later in the cession of the whole group to Queen Victoria. Of the ships which became engaged in the trade, one in particular has been singled out and given prominent place in the shaping of the course of that event.

On April 22, 1808, 5 the American brig Eliza, under Captain Correy, put out from Port Jackson, Australia, and made sail for the Friendly islands (Tonga). Her eventual destination was to be Bua Bay on the south-western coast of the island of Vanua Levu in the Fiji group. Here she was to rendezvous with another Amercian ship, the Jenny, under Captain Dorr, both ships intending to join in the recently initiated and lucrative trade which had already earned that stretch of the coast 6 the sobriquet of Sandal Wood Bay. But though the trade was profitable, there were dangers involved. Little was known of the waters in which the Fiji group lay, beyond the certain fact that they were strewn with deceptively hidden reefs waiting to bite the life from a ship, and the sure knowledge that should a wrecked sailor escape this fate there awaited on the shore natives with as voracious an appetite as the reefs. It was for such reasons that the Eliza now sailed in the track of the Jenny (which had preceded her out of Port Jackson by a month) towards the group of islands so misnamed by Cook. The more familiar route was the safer, and this had - 60 become the naturally established path of the sandalwood traders; from the Friendly islands they then sailed north-west to strike Sandal Wood Bay, rather more by luck than by skilled navigational practices. The Eliza was possibly not new to the South-west Pacific, for there is evidence of an Eliza 7 that had made at least one whaling trip in the area in 1801, but without doubt this was her first voyage for sandalwood; indeed, she was one of the first dozen ships to be so engaged.

The first leg of the Eliza's voyage from Port Jackson was troublefree. The brig was reported in the Sydney Gazette as having touched at Norfolk island and as sailing thence for Tonga on May 19. 8 She must have reached Tongatapu, the furthermost south of the three small groups of islands comprising the Tongan archipelago, after another three weeks, for a further report in the Gazette states that she left there for the Fiji islands on June 14. 9 While her stay in Tongatapu was very short, it was considerably more eventful that the earlier part of the voyage. For this information we have an eyewitness account from one of the Eliza's crew, a Nantucket seaman named Samuel Patterson, who later published an account of his unsought-for adventures (and “sufferings”) in the South Pacific. 10

On arrival at Tongatapu, the Eliza began to take on supplies from the canoe-loads of natives who had immediately come off at the first sight of the brig. The Tongans were soon scheming to take her as they had with the Jenny a little while before, but like her the Eliza was able to make her escape through the timely warnings of some white castaways. In the Eliza's case, two of these men came aboard. They gave their names as Charlie Savage and John Husk, and informed Captain Correy that they were survivors of an English privateer, the Port au Prince, whose crew had been massacred when the ship had been taken at the Ha'apai islands (the Tongan group immediately to the north of Tongatapu). Having been promised passage by Captain Correy, they revealed the natives' plan to seize the ship, whereupon Correy alerted the crew, had the Tongans cleared from the decks, and at once raised anchor.

Patterson says nothing about bad weather on this second leg, and

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Fiji Islands
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apparently no trouble was encountered in navigating the Eliza through the southern part of the Lau group (see Fig. 1). Clearing the Lau group, she began crossing the Koro Sea—the Mediterranean of the Fiji islands. The course that had been set, however, took the brig too far south. At 2300 hours on June 20, 1808, she fetched up on the extensive reef surrounding the island of Nairai, some 80 miles south-west of her goal in Vanua Levu.

The plight of the Eliza's crew could have been much worse. The ship did not break up immediately, allowing the men time to free one of the ship's boats and to load some necessities, including “muskets, a cask of powder and balls” and, additionally, says Patterson, “the money . . . to the amount of 34,000 dollars.” 11

There was even time to rope together two of the canoes which had been traded for at Tongatapu to serve as a further lifeboat. But the latter effort came to nothing when the violence of the swell parted the line connecting the canoes to the longboat. The surf immediately swept away the canoes and the two men in them. One of the men was the same John Husk who had recently been picked up at Tongatapu He dived from the canoes and tried to swim to the wreck, but in the turmoil of the reef he was soon lost to sight. In the event, Husk turned out to be the only casualty, his companion on the canoes making landfall further along the coast some days later. Throughout the night, the rest of the crew with their captain remained in the longboat close to the Eliza. With daylight, Nairai island itself showed and the men pulled towards it. Soon they were able to observe quite clearly the gathering of natives accumulating on the beach ahead of them and the canoes being launched to reach the wreck before it broke up.

Patterson's apprehension was assuaged to the extent that the reception given the crew on the beach was not the bloody one they all feared. Though fierce and warlike enough, waving their clubs and spears, the natives did not attempt to make use of their weapons. Nevertheless, they eagerly and at once set upon their lawful prey, 12 and stripped them not only of everything they had rescued from the brig, but also of their clothes. Patterson vainly attempted to hang on to his seaman's papers and was considerably vexed to have them snatched from him and thrust as ornaments through Fijian ears, though some of his humour returned at the sight of a strapping savage trying to make of the captain's coat a pair of trousers. Thus, the crew of the Eliza survived their double misfortune and were led away by the Nairai natives to their village: a beginning, for some of the crew at any rate, of a new and very different life. And so, writes Derrick, summarising the fate of both brig and islands, “there was launched upon Fiji a triple disaster: Charlie Savage, the firearms and the dollars.” 13

The wrecking of the Eliza on Nairai reef has been seen as an event full of significance for Fiji: an event, writes Sir Basil Thomson, which “left - 63 an enduring mark on Fijian history.” 14 Traditionally, it has been regarded as the start of the intrusion of the white man and his musket (especially Charlie Savage's musket) on the affairs of Fiji. Elsewhere, Thomson puts it a little more romantically:

Therefore in time to come when some historian weary of seeking an untried field for his pen, turns to Fiji, he will, in valuing the political forces that have led to this end [viz. the cession to Britain], give a leading place to the deeds of Charles Savage, the first colonist. 15

But the focus has not been placed entirely on Savage and his musket. It was a “triple disaster”. “Almost as important as Savage”, affirms Maude, “there was at least 34,000 Spanish dollars on the Eliza.16 The emphasis on the dollars 17 derives from a considered importance of the part they played in the first decade of contact in enticing crews to desert their ships and turn beachcomber. “Reckless, cruel, profligate men”, comments Derrick, “drawn by tales of the lost dollars.” 18 Derrick tends to overstate the case. Fiji never became any kind of Pacific El Dorado. Yet one can well understand the promise of silver hoards enhancing the appeals of South Sea Islands life in the eyes of some of those enduring the privations of sailing before the mast. Certainly, rumours of the dollars remained current and enticing for some years after the Eliza's fatal encounter with the Nairai reef. Some 16 years later, William Cary, the victim of another Fijian shipwreck, encountered in a native canoe heading for the island of Bau the second mate of some trading vessel who expressed to Cary sanguine hopes of profitable bartering for the dollars supposedly there. 19

Sources of information about the origin of the dollars are of varying reliability. What information there exists on the voyage of the Eliza before her call at Port Jackson is included in an obscure little guide book on the Fiji islands published by Brett in Auckland in 1881. Here there is a chapter providing for its readers (presumably intending visitors to the islands) an account of Fiji's “romantic” past. Under the somewhat ambiguous heading of “Dredgings from the Pacific” there is a description of the early beachcombers. “And a nice sample they were”, relishes the writer, - 64 “quite fit to mate with the cannibals amongst whom they had cast their lot . . . They were simply demons in human form.” 20 The bridle of historical accuracy—perhaps understandably—is not much in evidence. Under the title “Wreck of a Buccaneer: A Strange Story” the fate of “an unknown vessel” is related. The vessel was, in fact, the Eliza and the details given of her wrecking are very much at odds with the eyewitness account provided by Samuel Patterson. The reader is told: “She was a buccaneer from the coast of North America bound for I do not know, perhaps Batavia or Singapore. However she was laden with plunder, and had plenty of arms and gunpowder aboard.” 21 A graphic description follows of the wrecking in which most of the crew were drowned and the rest, except Charlie Savage, clubbed by the natives. The story continues with the subsequent adventures of Charlie Savage, his hundred wives, and how “Charlie Savage used to tell long tales about plundering the Main and South America.” Fairly obviously the whole thing is straightforward gusto stuff for a late-Victorian public in which all the extant stories and folk-tales about the Eliza and Charlie Savage have been thrown together within a common frame of narration. Without quarrelling with Sir Henry Brett's attempts to enthral his public, it is necessary to recognise that some of this engaging fiction has been perpetuated in contexts of more serious intention by Basil Thomson in his volumes of 1894 and 1908. In the later work, for instance, Thomson refers to “the American brig, Eliza, with 40,000 dollars from the River Plate on board.” 22

If the brig was a buccaneer or privateer then she did not appear to be ideally built or equipped for the unpredictabilities of such an adventure-some career. The Historical Records of Australia give the date of her berthing at Port Jackson and provide her details:

When entered: 9th December 1807
Name of ship: Eliza
Master: E. Hill Correy
Build: American
  Tons - 135, Guns - 3, Men - 10
Where built: Providence
Registered: Providence
Name of the owners: Brown & Ives
From whence: Buenos Ayres
Cargo: 47 Barrells & 10 Kids of Beef, 1 Cask of Salt Fish, 13 Kegs of Tobacco, 10 Casks of Ale, 19 Coils of Cordage, 10 Casks Linseed Oil, 39 Quarter Casks of Sherry & Lisbon Wine, 7 Pipes of Teneriffe, & 7 Boxes of Claret, 14 Pipes of Spirits. 23

By way of comparison, the privateer Port au Prince, which sailed from London in 1805, was “of nearly 500 tons, 96 men, and mounting 24 long - 65 nine and twelve pounders, besides 8 twelve pound carronades on the quarter-deck.” 24 On this kind of scale, the Eliza scarcely qualified for entry within any nineteenth century version of Jane's Fighting Ships.

It would seem far more likely that the Eliza was a small trading-ship on a not-out-of-the-ordinary run to Australia, 25 carrying for the English settlers the kind of cargo one would expect to be carried. While it is true that she was out from Buenos Ayres, it should be noted that the British government's Orders-in-Council commanding the detention of all neutral ships trading with French and Spanish colonies were not promulgated until November 1807. At the time that the Eliza was en voyage there existed, therefore, no impediment to her trading between Spanish and British colonies. The wines which could be obtained from the former, together with spirits, would have represented to the Eliza's owners a sure cargo for Port Jackson and they could have had no idea at the time of Governor Bligh's concern to exert strict regulation of the entry of spirits into his colony.

Ultimately, it is the Eliza's longish wait in port—about five months—and the respectable pedigree which she offers that tend to confirm her in a more prosaic identity and to make the idea of her as a buccaneer so difficult to entertain. If she were of the latter class, then her master was possessed of a considerable sang froid 26 and, taking into account the size and armament of his vessel, an equal degree of optimism. Even a privateer status is difficult to ascribe. 27 America was far from being at war with either France or Spain (though relations with Britain were greatly strained) and the dollars were Spanish-American.

Patterson, unfortunately, only joined the Eliza's crew at Port Jackson, but it is worth noting that in his Narrative there is no allusion to the Eliza as a buccaneer nor does Patterson ever give hint to such suspicions. He writes: - 66

After a while I fell in with an American brig belonging to Providence, commanded by E. H. Correy. In this vessel was an Englishman that wanted to get into the English service, and with him I effected a change, and went on board the American brig. 28

This would suggest that Captain Correy felt no concern about losing a member of his original crew or about what the latter might say to others while in port, an attitude hardly characteristic, one would think, of a pirate captain.

If the Eliza were indeed carrying an extremely large sum of Spanish silver dollars while at Port Jackson, it is odd that the fact raised no comment from those closely involved with her who have left records. William Lockerby, the first mate on the Jenny, makes no reference in his Journal 29 to the Eliza carrying such a treasure from Port Jackson, and the dollars get their first mention from him only upon the arrival of Captain Correy at the Jenny at Sandal Wood Bay with the news of his shipwreck. In Patterson's Narrative the reader gets to know about the dollars only when the Eliza is lying shattered on the Nairai reef.

That some of the dollars came aboard at Port Jackson is indisputable, as can be adduced from the Sydney Gazette. On the famous occasion of the seizure of the brig Harrington by convicts, fears were expressed in the Gazette that these desperate men might attempt to catch the Eliza, which had sailed a few weeks previously: “. . . as they might thereby supply their wants and at the same time make themselves masters of all the specie Capt. Correy took for his cargo at this port”. 30 But would “all the specie” amount to 30,000 or 40,000 silver dollar pieces? This would seem unlikely. During these early years of the new colony, specie of any kind was forever in short supply, and standard procedure at Port Jackson was to pay for cargo by bill.

There is, then, a strong possibility that the hoard of silver dollars on the Eliza had been substantially increased by supplies from another source after the brig had left Port Jackson; events attendant upon the rest of the Eliza's voyage and subsequent to the brig's fate certainly attest to it.

Without any doubt, the most likely source of treasure trove along the Eliza's route from Port Jackson to the reef at Nairai was the Friendly Islands.

It will be remembered that it was while at anchorage at Tongatapu that Captain Correy received two additions to his crew, Charles Savage and John Husk, of whom Samuel Patterson relates little more beyond the fact that the two men maintained they were survivors of the Port au Prince. It happens that the details of the Port au Prince's last voyage have been provided by someone who sailed in her and was an eye witness of the natives' assault. William Mariner, only just turned 13 years old when the Port au Prince worked her way down the Thames, acted as cabin boy and ship's clerk on the privateer and kept up a journal of the voyage, the - 67 substance of which was included in the more extensive account of his experiences living with the natives in Tonga. 31 In the latter work, there is set out a list of the survivors of the debâcle at Ha'apai. Since Mariner was taken off the Islands by the brig Favourite only in 1810 (about October and a good two years after the Eliza's call), one need consider only those crew-members who are represented by Mariner as making their departure before his own. They were:

WILLIAM FORD, Seaman.—Left Namooca in a small paddling canoe, and were never afterwards heard of: supposed to have been lost, as a paddle belonging to that canoe was found shortly afterwards, washed on shore at Namooka Igi.
JOHN SCOTLAND, Gunner; JACOB MYERS, Seaman; JOHN HEARSEY, Sail-maker.—Left the island of Tonga in an American vessel; but was accidentally drowned at the Fiji islands, as reported by some Englishmen at Fiji.
HUGH WILLIAMS, Seaman; JOHN PARISH, and JEREMIAH HIGGINS, Landsmen.—Escaped from Vavaoo in an American vessel, nearly two years before Mr Mariner left. The captain of this vessel, whose name is not recollected, refused to take Mr. Mariner on board, stating that he had hands enough. 32
WILLIAM TOWEL, Captain's steward; ROBERT FITZGERALD, a boy.—Left Vavaoo in a Botany Bay vessel, at a time when Mr. Mariner was at the Hapai islands. William Towel is now residing in Cross-street, Westmorland-place, City-road.
JOHN WATSON, Seaman.—Had gone to the Fiji islands with a Tongan chief, but Mr. Mariner did not hear anything of him there. 33

Unless this list is incomplete, it must be assumed that for one reason or another Charles Savage and John Husk either gave false names or were never, in fact, members of the crew of the Port au Prince.

Certainly, it is difficult to place any of the crew who answer to the known particulars of Charles Savage. The attenuated biography provided in Brett's Guide states he was a Swede; this is based on the few details of Savage offered by someone who had known him. 34 John Watson might fit the bill, for Charles Savage was certainly able to speak Fijian, an accomplishment Patterson comments upon at Nairai, and John Watson could have returned to Tonga without Mariner's knowledge before departing again. But this would seem to be stretching one fact a little too far. The identity of John Husk, on the other hand, is easier to determine. What is known of him from Patterson's Narrative neatly mirrors Mariner's description of John Hearsey. Yet, perhaps, too neatly. There is nothing to say that Mariner did not pick up this information in Fiji and subsequently chose to identify John Husk and John Hearsey as one and the - 68 same. I should say that Charles Savage undoubtedly was not of the crew of the Port au Prince; whether or not John Husk sailed with Mariner, the chances seem even.

Although Savage and Husk may not have been of the Port au Prince, there were most certainly other ships from which they could have come, as refugees from a wreck, or as deserters. Turnbull, for instance, gives an account which would confirm the presence of most of the Argo's crew on the Tongan islands, 35 while Vason's Narrative 36 indicates that whites were living there before the arrival of the missionary ship Duff in 1797. These whites, to whom Vason with good reason took an intense dislike, may well have belonged to a party landed on the island of 'Eua in March 1796 by the American vessel Otter under Capt. Ebenezer Dorr. Peron, who was first mate on the Otter, refers to the incident in his memoirs: “Leaving Port Jackson, Mr. Dorr had hidden on board a few convicts; five of them left us furtively to go and establish themselves at Ea-oo-Wee.” 37 Captain Seddons of the Sydney ship King George, 38 which touched at Tongatapu shortly after the Eliza had sailed, reported an invasion force there from the Ha'apai islands which included 20 Europeans. 39 This is probably a reference to the “War against Tonga” in which Mariner took part. 40 Mariner refers here to his “countrymen”, who were dispersed upon other islands”, without suggesting that these persons were all survivors of the Port au Prince. 41

It has been suggested that Charles Savage was, in fact, a member of the shipwrecked Argo's crew, 42 but this must be reviewed in the light of the account given by Amasa Delano 43 of the squabbles between American and Port Jackson sealing teams in Bass Strait. Delano mentions that a Charles Savage deserted from his own ship and took employment with the Sydney firm of Kable & Underwood. 44 This was in August 1804. It is evident that this Charles Savage shortly afterwards returned to Sydney - 69 and remained there for some time. 45 In March of the following year, a notice appeared in the Sydney Gazette that bills on a “Mr. Savage” should be presented for payment. 46 A further notice for the presentation of claims, this time on Charles Savage, was posted in April 47 and in August it was notified that “Charles Savage” had been “Given Governor's permission to depart the Colony.” 48 In December, the Gazette carried information that Charles Savage would be departing bu the brig Sophia 49—presumably as crew. The Sophia sailed for Hobart on January 9, 1806. A month later she was back in Port Jackson preparing for a sealing trip to Bass Strait. Savage may or may not have made the return trip in her, but certainly he was soon back in Port Jackson, for in August he had the Governor's permission to leave the colony for Norfolk island on the newly built Governor Hunter. 50 The schooner had returned by the end of November 51 and a month later the Gazette carried notice of Charles Savage's pending departure by the brig Elizabeth, which was headed for Tahiti. 52 Her sailing date was delayed by almost two months, however, so that she was unable to leave until February 28. 53 The appearance of an advertisement for “8 or 10 able seamen” for the Elizabeth indicates the likely cause of the delay. 54 When she did sail, she carried two “Otaheitans” and two “Friendly Islanders” in her complement. 55

During the Elizabeth's delay in port, three notices appeared in the Sydney Gazette giving name-lists of those persons who would be sailing in her. 56 The name of Charles Savage is on none of these lists. It seems likely, nevertheless, that—legally or otherwise—Savage did depart Port Jackson in the Elizabeth, for he is not mentioned again in the Gazette's columns as being resident, and the next news of him comes from Patterson's description of the Tongatapu scene the next year. Since the Friendly Islands were a regular port of call for provisions on the southern Pacific sailing routes to and from Port Jackson, Charles Savage's presence on Tongatapu, if he did indeed sail in the Elizabeth, is easily explained.

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The possibility that Charles Savage and John Husk were hiding their true identities and/or origins takes us one step deeper into the general mystery surrounding the voyage of the Eliza. Why should these men lie? Events in Tonga before the arrival of the Eliza present an acceptable answer to the question.

Captain Cook's naming of the Friendly Islands was singularly inapt. His own party had barely, though unknowingly, escaped being massacred by its hosts. As maritime traffic in this part of the Pacific increased, so the “treachery” of these islanders became something of a byword at Port Jackson. Warnings in the Sydney Gazette, as exemplified by the following insertion in the account of another voyage of the brig Elizabeth, were frequent:

On the 12th April [1808] she arrived at Tongataboo, and communicated with the natives with every caution prudent to be observed towards an inhuman race of men beneath whose perfidies many unfortunate Europeans had perished. 57

And many shipmasters reported on their arrival at Port Jackson experiences similar to that of Captain Cambell of the Harrington, who “observed a strong inclination to attack from the natives” 58 and was compelled to sail to frustrate it. Yet while most of these masters who reached Tonga remained observant and fully on their guard, a few appeared indifferent to the dangers that threatened. In 1802, the Duke of Portland, under Captain Mellon, was cut out at Tongatapu. 59 Two years later, Captain Pendleton of the ship Union, together with six of his crew, was killed at the same place, the ship itself escaping only through the timely warning of a white woman, a survivor of the Duke of Portland. 60 In 1806, Mariner's ship, the privateer Port au Prince, was taken at the Ha'apai's where Captain Brown and nearly 50 of the crew were massacred. In reading the accounts of these attempts, successful or otherwise, by the Tongans on European vessels, it is clear that the established tactic of the natives was to make use of foreigners who could understand and speak English. Often these foreigners were whites—castaways, deserters, or survivors from previous ships—and at Port Jackson the reputation of such renegades was soon as infamous as that of their hosts.

There is no positive evidence to implicate either Savage or Husk in any of the above or other disasters. Yet their apparent attempt to dissemble does not reassure one of their innocence. Significantly, too, they boarded a ship which, after a smuggling fracas at Port Arthur, was unlikely to be intending an immediate return there after collecting its - 71 sandalwood cargo in Fiji (and presumably the Eliza was still carrying the spirits refused a landing by Bligh and Johnston). But I believe there remains a further and far more weighty clue to the mysteries surrounding the Eliza's voyage. There must surely have been lying around the Friendly Islands a substantial amount of “loot”.

It is somewhat remarkable and puzzling that although so much attention has been focused upon the “Fijian dollars”, no mention at all is made by historians of the similarly exotic treasure that could have been found in the much better known group of islands immediately to the east. And such treasure there undoubtedly was. The plunder carried by the Port au Prince was certainly no piggy-bank savings in the eye of the mariner of that day—silver plate, gold, and at least 12,000 Spanish silver dollars, probably more. 61 The Port au Prince is, admittedly, the only ship for which such abundance of detail is available, but from examining the background to Captain Lovat Mellon's purchase of and voyage in the Duke of Portland, it might easily be concluded that the latter was as rich in such specie as the privateer. Below are offered some “Interesting Particulars Relative to Captain Mellon of the ship Portland communicated by a Gentleman” taken from the Sydney Gazette of November 4, 1804 (II/88).

Captain Mellon sailed from Manilla about the latter end of April 1800, in a brig belonging to Mr. John Stewart Kerr, American Consul at Manilla; his instructions were to dispose of the cargo, and purchase in return such commodities as were adopted to the Manilla market, having a letter of credit to an amount of twenty thousand dollars, the better to enable him to load the vessel.
On his arrival at Batavia he sold the cargo, and contrary to his instructions, the brig also: by letter informing Mr. Kerr of the transaction; and of his having purchased a ship about 400 tons burthen called the Portland but requesting not to be expected at Manilla before he should actually return. The letter of credit he likewise made use of; and this was afterwards presented to, and necessarily taken up by, Mr. Kerr, a worthy and respectable gentleman. The Portland was taken up by the Dutch Company at Batavia, to proceed to Serra Bay for a cargo of rice. Captain Mellon proceeded there accordingly, and took in the freight; but, instead of returning to Batavia, went on to the Isle of France, and there disposed of the cargo. The next accounts received at Manilla concerning him, stated that he had been at the Cape of Good Hope, and had left the place clandestinely, with intention as was supposed, of proceeding to the North-West Coast of America—It would however appear, from the deposition of Elizabeth Morey 62 given in last week's publication, that his real intention was to go to Lima, in the way thither he touched for refreshments at the Island of Tongataboo, and there fell a victim with most of his crew, to the babarity of the natives, - 72 stimulated by the hope of plunder,—and perhaps by the council of the villain Doyle. 63

Such double-dealing appears not to have been uncommon. Fanning relates a rather similar occurrence in which the Sydney merchant Simeon Lord, partner to the ill-fated Captain Pendleton of the Union (see above) took advantage of the latter's misfortunes, and the ignorance of the owners concerning the Union's cargo of sealskins left at Port Jackson, to cash in and send the skins to the Canton market. 64 Fanning adds that Lord then “escaped” to Europe, though he seems to be in error here; 65 but Captain Lovat was patently making such tracks when he put in at Tongatapu.

There seems every reason to believe from the “Particulars” given above that Doyle's haul was a much more rewarding one than is suggested by the vague description of the cargo afforded by Elizabeth Morey's reference to “bales of calico and different pieces of goods.” 66 Morey, who was picked up by Captain Mellon at the Cape, may well, of course, have been party to the latter's schemings. This “unfortunate woman”, as the Sydney Gazette describes her, revealed a remarkable presence of mind and by a desperate ruse not only succeeded in saving the Union and the few remaining members of her crew, but also secured her own escape. Somehow, she and the others managed to bring the Union back to Port Jackson. Remarkably enough, it might first seem, they were all soon planning a return trip to Tongatapu! Whatever the attraction the island held for Elizabeth Morey, it must certainly have been powerful to bring her back so quickly after two years' enforced stay there as a concubine to a local chief and after a daring escape in which she had come very close indeed to losing her life to the spears of her irate, erstwhile captors. Her courage, if nothing else, made her deserving of a better fate than that of drowning when the Union foundered on its return trip to Tongatapu. But many of the Europeans who became involved with Tongan treasure and booty died suddenly and violently, thus restricting the spreading abroad of more accurate knowledge of these riches. All of those connected in one way or another with the Duke of Portland's incident, for example, died in such a way—“even the villain Doyle”. He was clubbed to death shortly after the Duke of Portland's cargo had been unloaded by the Tongans.

But there exist other evidences of the rich pickings which were to be found in the Friendly Islands. One reference is provided by Lockerby. In May 1809, there arrived at Sandal Wood Bay Captain Siddons' schooner, Mercury, with one of the survivors from the Port au Prince on board. Lockerby spoke with this man, William Towel (see Mariner's crew list

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Two of the 40,000
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Dillon's Rock: Death of Charles Savage
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given above), 67 and mentions that he was later instrumental in helping him to recover some insurance for the widow of the privateer's captain. He also notes: “The master of the schooner had a quantity of gold bars, which he had purchased from the natives for pieces of iron. They had belonged to the Port au Prince.68 Now the only kind of gold Mariner alludes to in his description of the privateer's voyage is some gold ore obtained from the Spanish governor of Copiapo on the Peruvian coast. Since the Tongans were lacking in any smelting technique, this would signify that either Mariner had not provided a full account of the takings of the Port au Prince (certainly a possibility) or other vessels apart from the privateer had bestowed on the Tongans the puzzle of European riches.

And yet, if only from the proceeds of the two ships, the Port au Prince and the Duke of Portland, and ignoring what may have been salvaged from wrecks, there was a fair fortune available in the Tongan islands for those with the patience and determination to collect. The natives certainly had no use for something which to them possessed no conceivable function. As the “king”, Finau, remarked to his protégé, Mariner:

I had always thought that your ship belonged to some poor fellow, perhaps to King George's cook; for Captain Cook's ship, which belonged to the King, had plenty of beads, axes, and looking glasses on board, whilst yours had nothing but iron-hoops, oil, skins, and twelve thousand playing counters, as I thought them. 69

The Fijians had the same lack of regard for the “counters”. Lockerby was able to collect a considerable number of the Nairai dollars on the basis of “a small piece of iron for a hundred dollars” as rate of exchange.

It is difficult to believe that, once the immediate safety of life and limb were reasonably assured, the thoughts of the Tongan whites failed to turn to the silver and gold which they knew to lie around them, more so from the characterisation of the nineteenth century mariner which the noted drawing power of the Fijian dollars portrays. Furthermore, since the mortality rate of the white community in Tonga was quite high, this would presumably have facilitated the concentration of “loot” in fewer and fewer hands. The editor of the Sydney Gazette reported in 1808, before the arrival of the news of the wrecking of the Eliza:

It was confidently asserted by Elizabeth Morey, the unfortunate woman who after a captivity of several years escaped on board Captain Pendleton's ship the Union and by her timely information prevented the whole of the ship's company from being cut off, that a quantity of specie and other valuable property, the spoils of plundered vessel[s] was still in being; which might operate as a stimulus [to the whites] to the capture of their [the natives'] towns. 70

And note that Elizabeth Morey is referring to a time some years before the Port au Prince was taken, so unless she is making an oblique reference - 74 solely to specie which may have been carried by the Duke of Portland, then here is additional evidence that there were more than two contributors to the treasure hoard of the Friendly Islands.

The tactics employed by native chiefs in cutting out European ships have already been mentioned. Hence the very fact that the two white men while fully conversant with the Tongans' plan should have been permitted to go aboard the American brig would indicate that established practice was being put into action. And once the natives had been told (by Savage and Husk) of the value placed by the white man upon “counters” they would have understood that trading the latter would be the most effective way of detaining the Eliza and perhaps of putting her crew off guard. At one stage, affirms Patterson, “there came 140 canoes of savages along side and went to trading,” 71 and he adds that a “profitable trade” was carried on by the Eliza.

If the specie were indeed obtained at the Friendly Islands, why the reticence of Patterson, Correy and others upon the subject? As far as Patterson is concerned—and his is the only reputedly full account we have of the Eliza's voyage—it might, of course, be ascribed to a lack of narrative skill and accuracy on his part. But the dissembling characteristic of the other strands of the story so begs to be taken into account that one is inclined to search for another explanation. I suggest there probably exists some relevance in the mode of collection made by the Eliza, and, more likely, in some apprehension concerning the legal claims which might be laid upon the money.

After a week on Nairai, Captain Correy was able to regain possession of the Eliza's longboat and having collected 6,000 of the dollars from the natives and promised the rest of his crew that he would be back in a week or so to rescue them, he, his two mates and two others of the crew departed from the island. They depart also from Patterson's Narrative. Correy knew that the Jenny was at Bua Bay and so set their course. En route, however, he put in at the tiny island of Bau, which had already become or was about to become the new residence of Charlie Savage. 72 The longboat reached Dorr's ship on the third day—according to Lockerby on June 29 73—where they were well received and provided with clothes and other necessities. But the dollars in Correy's possession now numbered only 4,000. 74

The date given by Lockerby fits in well enough with the details supplied by Patterson: namely that the wreck occurred on June 20 and that Correy left “after about one week”. It also agrees with Correy's statement of a three-day haul from Nairai to the Jenny. Yet Correy informed Lockerby that the Eliza had been wrecked on May 23 and that he and his companions - 75 had remained amongst the natives for three weeks before receiving permission from the chief to go and look for the Jenny. 75 It is interesting to relate, too, that the Eliza's master was at some pains to sever any possible remaining links with the castaway whites at Tongatapu. During his time on the Jenny, Correy met Captain Stewart of the brig Elizabeth (mentioned above), which was also engaged in trading in the Bay at the time. Stewart, while at Tongatapu on his outward trip, had noticed among the canoes which had come alongside “a white man; who was anxiously desirous of getting on board the Elizabeth; but was prevented by his numerous guards.” 76 In his account to the Sydney Gazette, Stewart provides the following sequel:

Previous to his going to the Feejees, Captain Corri had also touched at Tongataboo; where he succeeded in getting onboard the unfortunate European mentioned in the foregoing part of this account:—he stated that he had belonged to the Port au Prince privateer, which vessel had been captured by the sanguinary inhabitants of Hapae, and every person murdered but himself. It was his fate unfortunately not long to enjoy his enlargement from so dreadful a captivity, for he was the only person drowned when the Eliza was wrecked. 77

It seems evident that Captain Correy wanted to hide the fact that two men were picked up at Tongatapu and that one, in fact, survived the wrecking of the Eliza; additionally, whether intentionally or not, Correy was instigating the idea that there were no survivors from the Port au Prince. 78

Once recovered from his experiences in an open boat, Correy immediately set about preparations for a return trip to Nairai island, though not, it would seem, with the fate of his crew primarily in mind. “On the 3rd. of July”, writes Lockerby, “we fitted out two boats for the purpose of recovering as much of the money as we could that was on board the Eliza when she was cast away; which amounted to thirty thousand dollars.” 79 This, incidentally, was Lockerby's first reference to the dollars. Captain Stewart's account disagrees with that of Lockerby. 80 He states - 76 that several attempts were made to get off boats to the wreck, but these failed because of the weather and they were finally successful only on July 9 “when a boat with Captain Corri on board and several of the Jenny's and Elizabeth's people arrived at the wreck which was distant 60 or 70 miles.” 81 On reaching the island, they first suffered some disappointment. “We arrived at the island on the 5th.”, continues Lockerby, “where Captn. Correy had landed, after the wreck of his vessel, and where he had left the remainder of his crew. On our landing we found they had left the island soon after the departure of the Captn., and gone to another, whither they had taken the greatest part of the money.” 82

In part, this was undeniably true. The crew had scattered. Patterson and his shipmate Steere, for example, had wandered away to the island of Batiki near by. What percentage of the money accompanied the crew is difficult to determine, though from subsequent events Lockerby appears to have had little grounds for being so pessimistic. But it would seem that Patterson, too, was exaggerating when he asserted that the collection of the money “was attended with considerable difficulty, for it was scattered extensively among the ignorant natives”, 83 since we know that this proved to be but a small obstacle for Lockerby and his party. Probably the crew managed to escape with a substantial number of the dollars, though certainly not “the greatest part”. This is borne out, I think, by what Patterson has to say subsequently and how he says it. We are never told how much Patterson and Steere appropriated as their share, as Patterson becomes coy about revealing the exact amount in their possession: “We took all the money we had collected and went”, he says. 84 And when some six months later Steere made a return trip to Nairai, Patterson notes only that “Steere succeeded in collecting a considerable sum of the money and returned on board the General Wellesley and joined Shaddock [a fellow survivor from the Eliza] and myself.” 85 But one thing is clear: Patterson, Savage and the remaining crew of the Eliza were far more interested in jingling their silver dollars than in any rescue by Captain Correy, despite the careful references on Patterson's part to “the money in my care.” 86 Patterson's excuse was that Correy, “did not return as soon as was expected”, 87 but since Correy, eager to renew acquaintance with the dollars even if he was not so interested in the fate of his crew, returned to Nairai within a matter of two weeks, this does not sound convincing.

On Nairai, the party from the Jenny and the Elizabeth “succeeded - 77 without any difficulty in obtaining the money that was still left 88 from the natives, by exchanging with them a small piece of iron for a hundred dollars. In this manner we recovered for Captn. Correy about nine thousand.” 89 A sudden attack by the natives, however, in which the Eliza's second mate was fatally injured, put an end to further collection. Having repulsed the attack, the Europeans made their return trip to Sandal Wood Bay, reaching there, according to Lockerby, on July 11.

Lockerby had not long been back at the Bay when he found himself marooned. He explains in his Journal that he had been stationed more or less permanently on shore to facilitate the gathering of the sandalwood from the natives. The morning after a full cargo had been loaded on to the Jenny, Lockerby awoke to find the ship had sailed, abandoning him and a few others of the crew together with the supercargo, a Mr. Franker (who had earlier accompanied Lockerby to Nairai), to the then rather un-predictable hospitality of Fijian hosts. Commented Lockerby:

Whether it was the intention of Captain Dorr, when the ship sailed for China, to leave Mr. Franker or myself, or perhaps both, I shall not say, because he has denied that he intended to leave either of us, and has excused himself by saying the ship was drove to sea, and, being under jury masts, was not able to get up again and was obliged to bear away for China. 90

That Lockerby was disinclined to believe Dorr is fairly clear, but he goes further than this. In one of the many postscripts he appends to his Journal, he gives an entirely different account of the affair. Dorr, contends Lockerby, had provoked a serious quarrel as an excuse to leave Lockerby behind and so prevent him from publicising and selling in America a chart he had made of the “Sandalwood Isle”. 91 The ostensible cause of this quarrel was the occasion of Dorr's refusal, against a former promise, to permit Lockerby his “privilege” of free freight for a few tons of sandalwood. 92 Dorr, becoming irate at a supposed presumption on Lockerby's part, challenged his mate to a duel. Lockerby writes:

At a more advanced period of life I might have acted with more providence and consideration. Without however reflecting on what might be the result, I loaded my pistols and went in a jolly-boat to the spot named, expecting the captain to follow in the pinnace. But this the dastardly coward did not do, his object being to get me out of the ship, and to have some pretence for saying I had left of my own accord. After consulting with Mr. Franker, with whom I had been on the most friendly terms throughout the voyage, I determined not to return again to the ship, but to take my chance among the Islanders until some other ship might arrive. Capt. D. took care to keep himself snug on board during his stay there, nor did I see the - 78 craven coward again until I met him in the Counting House of the Owners, Messrs Dorr & Co. at Boston. 93

When the two men confronted each other once more at Boston, Captain Dorr, brother to the owners, spoke commendably (according to Lockerby) of his former mate and Lockerby's grievances were settled by a “considerable award” in his favour. 94

The whole affair seems decidedly odd, with the conflicting statements made by Lockerby concerning the reason for his permanent station on shore providing a false ring which the romance of the second account hardly serves to dispel. Fairly obviously, someone was trying to hide something, but what and why? It is the dollars, again lying around in some quantity, which beckon our attention.

After Lockerby's mention of the 9,000 that were bartered for at Nairai, the dollars do not crop up again in his Journal; yet it does seem significant that the quarrel between Dorr and Lockerby should have occurred so soon after the dollars were recovered. Lockerby states that the Nairai party arrived back at the Jenny on July 11, that the quarrel took place on the 20th, and that the Jenny sailed on the 28th. Using Captain Stewart's dates (see above), the arrival of the dollars and the day of the quarrel are brought even closer together. Further, there is the interesting story related by Captain Richard Seddons, master of the schooner Mercury:

A ship called the Eliza, with several thousand dollars on board, was wrecked on a reef near one of these islands. The master of her put about four thousand of them in the jolly-boat, and made for the island which was most frequented, where he found a vessel from Port Jackson, and got on board her. The jolly-boat was left towing astern, and some hours had passed before the master of the shipwrecked vessel mentioned the dollars being left in the boat. It happened this was done in the presence of the mate [that is, Lockerby], who reported it to one of the sailors, and they removed them by stealth. Some of them they concealed in their cabins, and others the accomplice took on shore and buried. Some of the natives, however, saw him covering something up, and when he went away they dug up the dollars. On the following morning they were widely distributed among the natives, who parted with them for the merest trifle, such as nails, pins, or small pieces of iron. 95

The details given by Seddons in his reminiscences are not reliable enough for this unqualifiably to incriminate Lockerby; it does, however, add some body to the idea that the dollars were not merely locked away and forgotten, once recovered, as Lockerby would have his reader believe. On consideration, it is, perhaps, not so strange that Lockerby's Journal makes no mention of the dollars which were in the longboat of the Eliza when Captain Correy reached the Jenny's anchorage.

But, if Lockerby was concerned to conceal the course and the nature of - 79 the events in Fiji during that month of June, he certainly was not alone in the attempt.

To judge from the actions and statements of the Jenny's master after he had left Sandal Wood Bay, Lockerby had had good reason to suspect that his departure was not so fortuitous as it was later declared to be. Out of Guam and sailing for Canton, the Jenny fell in with the unwelcome company of a British frigate, HMS Dover. She was eventually brought to Calcutta where Dorr was charged with having traded in an enemy port, Guam, in contravention of the Orders in Council of November 11, 1807, which prohibited such trading by neutral vessels. Dorr's counsel protested that his client could not possibly have known of the Orders—which was probably true as they were not published in the Sydney Gazette until August 1808—and that anyway the Orders were repealed on July 8, before the Jenny had been detained. Despite this conclusive-sounding argument, the Jenny was nevertheless condemned as a prize to the Dover. 96 A statement made by Dorr was printed in the Calcutta Gazette and reproduced in the Sydney Gazette:

. . . Captain Corey, his two officers, two people, and a servant boy, came on board the Jenny, and brought with them about 4000 dollars. Captain Corey requested I would send my boats to the wreck to save what they could. I did so and they returned with about 4000 dollars more, making the whole sum received on the Jenny from the wreck of the Eliza 8000 and odd dollars with which, and the persons before mention belonging to the Eliza, except one of her officers who went to Port Jackson 97 I proceeded on my voyage to China. The Jenny lost her masts on the voyage to the Feejee Islands, and I was under the necessity of putting into the island of Guam to get others, at which place Captain Corey and two men belonging to the Eliza left my ship. Captain Corey took with him all the specie belonging to the Eliza, which was counted by the Governor of Guam, and for which there was a receipt granted. The other officer of the Eliza is now on board the Jenny. 98

8,000 dollars, asserts Captain Dorr quite firmly and the Governor of Guam's signature on it, yet Patterson states that Correy took with him in the first place 6,000 dollars and Lockerby adds that the second trip scooped 9,000. Coupled with this, at least so I suspect, is Dorr's rather unexpected omission of all reference to his precipitate departure from the Fiji islands and to the first officer he left behind which, one would imagine, could have strengthened his defence in the Vice-Admiralty Court at Calcutta. 99 It would appear that Dorr was as concerned as Lockerby to obscure what had happened at Sandal Wood Bay, and, again like Lockerby, was at - 80 pains to give the impression that every dollar on board the Jenny was accounted for and that anyway they were no concern of his. With a large sum of Spanish dollars to dispose of, Guam was certainly an appropriate enough port to put into, whether by happenstance or not, and it is perhaps significant that it was here that Correy left the Jenny and shortly afterwards became the master of a Spanish ship. Significant, too, was the cargo held by the Jenny when she was taken into escort by the Dover. 100 The items would suggest that Dorr had indeed possessed the wherewithal to do more than “barter” for masts and, as the charge against him had maintained, “the real purpose of the voyage to Guam, was to trade.” 101

The evidence available for this re-examination of the events and aftermath of the Eliza's last voyage does not, it is clear, provide for an unambiguous account of what actually happened. There is no possibility of presenting with it a consistent and lucid narrative with plot carefully categorised and heroes and villains as surely characterised. Reconstruction can take us only so far. Its limit lies in the contradictions and discrepancies in the statements of those concerned.

Having followed thus far the adventures of the dollars and the men involved with them, it seems appropriate to continue a little further and recount briefly their subsequent fate. Of the dollars, on whose drawing power the historian has laid such great stress, it is doubtful if many remained to mystify the natives of Nairai. Accounts vary considerably as to the exact number taken from the Eliza. The lowest estimation was 20,000 and the highest 40,000, but Patterson's figure appears the most reliable one if only because he was the only member of the Eliza's crew to have given one. Even here the reliability of the figure is in doubt as it is unlikely that the shipwrecked crew spent the night alongside the disintegrating Eliza counting their money. It we accept that 15,000 dollars were taken on the Jenny, and include the “considerable sum” brought back by Steere on his second trip, plus the dollars he and Patterson already had in their possession, then quite a substantial hole is made in the original amount. And the dollars taken by the rest of the Eliza's crew may well have been no small sum, even disallowing Lockerby's comment. Charlie Savage, who, according to Patterson, was able to speak Fijian quite well, probably found the task of collection relatively easy and popular tales have, indeed, credited him with having a large hoard at Bau, where he settled. 102

Lockerby also mentions that various of the Jenny's crew deserted 103 and one may suppose the dollars to have been the most likely incentive. Thus, while Basil Thomson might remark that an occasional dollar yet reveals itself on the beach at Nairai (he was writing at the end of the last - 81 century), 104 I feel that the eager deserters from the trading ships were on as near fruitless a quest as the mate of William Cary's chance encounter.

But what of those whom we know to have become involved with the dollars? William Mariner 105 after four years in the Friendly Islands, escaped back to England where he became something in the City and suffered from persistent ill-health, while William Lockerby, whose penchant for and success in accumulating funds became obvious in the last pages of his Journal, settled down in Liverpool as a prospering merchant. Samuel Patterson spent nearly six months altogether wandering his way between Nairai and Batiki, in fairly miserable condition, both in body and spirit: “I was an object of pity”, he laments in retrospect. Finally, he escaped to Sandal Wood Bay in a leaky canoe. He, his two companions from the Eliza, and all their dollars, were given passage out of the Fiji islands by a suspicious Captain Bromley of the American ship Tonquin. 106 When they arrived at Canton, the captain promptly handed them over, dollars and all, to the American Consul there. Patterson took some time convincing the latter that he was not an Englishman and leaves his reader in some doubt as to whether claims on the dollars had to be yielded in the course of doing so. Reaching his own land of “Freedonia” in June 1810, he eluded for a while the chronic ill-fortune which had shadowed him so relentlessly, for he writes of winning a lottery ticket. Yet the respite was brief, and the publication of his Narrative was seized upon as an opportunity to exhort the public for sympathy and funds. Captain Dorr, having lost the Jenny in the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Calcutta, returned to Boston where he faced once more his irate ex-first officer and the latter's demands for a financial redress of his grievances. 107 In 1812, Dorr made a further voyage to the Fiji Islands, but with little success: most of the wood had now been cut and the natives were markedly more hostile. Three years later, he died at Macao. Captain Correy's fate was as miserable and came more swiftly. Having gained command of a Spanish ship at Guam, he was, informs Patterson, “cast away and died.”

The most romantic figure of all those connected with the dollars, or perhaps merely the most romanticised, was Charles Savage, who made his way, with his dollars, to the island of Bau and there became a great Fijian chief and warrior, known far and wide simply as “Charlie”. 108 Brett's Guide, citing Savage's daughter, Maraia, as it's authority, tells us that Savage tied his dollars into strings and that they are now supposed - 82 to lie buries somewhere on the Viti Levu coastline opposite Bau. “Charlie” came to an unwholesome end when helping the Irishman Peter Dillon 109 to collect sandalwood at Bau Bay. Ambushed and holed up on a hill by a large number of justifiably angry Fijians, Savage endeavoured to pacify them but was suddenly seized and, with his head held in a pool of water, was suffocated. In full view of the horrified Dillon, the body was then baked and eaten, together with that of Luis, a Chinese, also of the Eliza. 110

Of the members of the Eliza's crew whom Savage had gathered around him at Bau, one, another Chinese, Saoo, certainly survived him since he is mentioned by Dillon, 111 but the others were probably among those whites clubbed by the Bauan chiefs whom they had insulted. 112 The silver dollars of the Eliza were, then, clearly no harbingers of luck and success. To those who quested and secured them, they spelled out a systematic misfortune and destruction in a manner evocative of the superstitions of old seamen.

  • Abbreviations: HRA—Historical Records of Australia
  • HRNSW—Historical Records of New South Wales
  • PIM—Pacific Islands Monthly
  • PWIG—Prince of Wales Island Gazette
  • SG—Sydney Gazette
  • CARY, WILL. S., 1928. Wrecked in the Feejees: Experiences of a Nantucket man, Sole Survivor of the Crew of Whaleship “Oeno”, who Lived 9 years—1825-34, among Cannibals of the South Pacific. Nantucket, Massachusetts, Inquirer and Mirror Press.
  • COMPTON, H. (ed.), 1891. A Master Mariner: Being the Life and Adventures of Capt. Robert William Eastwick. London, Unwin.
  • CUMPSTON, J. S., 1964. Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Sydney 1788-1825. Part III: Index to Names of Persons. Canberra, published by the author.
  • DELANO, A., 1817. A Narrative of Voyages and Travels in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Boston, printed for the author by E. G. House.
  • DERRICK, R. A., 1946. A History of Fiji. Volume 1. Suva, Printing and Stationery Dept.
  • DILLON, PETER, 1830. Voyage aux îles de la mer du Sud en 1827 et 1828, et relation de la dêcouverte du sort de La Pêrouse . . . 2 vols. Paris, Pillet aîne. [This is the French translation of the 1829 English edition.]
  • DUNBABIN, T., 1949. “First Salem Vessel in Sydney and Fiji, Eliza's Rum Made a Merry Christmas.” Essex Institute Historical Collections, vol. 85:no. 4.
  • FANNING, E., 1924. Voyages and Discoveries in the South Seas, 1792-1832. Salem, Massachusetts, Marine Research Society.
  • Fiji Times, The. Suva, Fiji.
- 83
  • Historial Records of Australia. Series 1, Volume vi: Governor's Despatches to and from England, 1916. Australia, Parliament Library Committee.
  • Historical Records of New South Wales. Volume v (1803, 1804, 1805) and Volume vi (1806, 1807, 1808), 1898. Sydney, Government Printer.
  • IM THURN, SIR EVERARD F. and LEONARD C. WHARTON (eds.), 1925. The Journal of William Lockerby, Sandalwood Trader in the Fijian Islands during the Years 1808-1809; with an Introduction and Other Papers Connected with the Earliest European Visitors to the Islands. London, Haklyut Society.
  • J. A. [Dr Joseph ARNOLD], 1925. “Captain Richard Siddons' experience in Fiji.” Contained in Sir Everard Im Thurn and Leonard C. Wharton, eds., The Journal of William Lockerby . . . London, for the Haklyut Society.
  • LAWRY, W., 1850. Friendly and Feejee islands, a Missionary Visit. London, Mason, 2nd edition.
  • MARTIN, John (ed.), 1817. An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands . . . Arranged from Extensive Communications of Mr. William Mariner . . . 2 volumes. London, Murray.
  • —— 1827. 3rd edition of above, published at Edinburgh by Constable.
  • MAUDE, H. E., 1964. “Beachcombers and Castaways.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 73:254-93.
  • MCNAB, Robert (ed.), 1908. Historical Records of New Zealand, Volume 1. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • MORRISON, S. E., 1941. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston, Mifflin.
  • ORANGE, James (ed.), 1840. Narrative of the Late George Vason of Nottingham One of the Troop of Missionaries First Sent to the South Sea Islands . . . London, Snow.
  • PATTERSON, Samuel, 1817. Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of Samuel Patterson Experienced in the Pacific Ocean and Many Other Parts of the World, with an Account of the Feejee and Sandwich islands. Massachusetts, from the Press in Palmer. Also contained in part in Im Thurn and Wharton (eds.), 1925 (q.v.).
  • PERON, François, 1824. Mêmoires du Capitaine Peron sur les voyages . . . 2 volumes. Paris, Brissot-Thivars. [Translation of volume 1, pages 259-82, by John Earnshaw.]
  • Pacific Islands Monthly. Sydney.
  • PUTMAN, G. G., 1930. Salem Vessels and Their Voyages. Series IV. A History of the European, African, Australian and South Pacific Islands Trade as Carried on by Salem Merchants, Particularly from the Firm of N. L. Rogers and Brothers. Salem, Massachusetts, Essex Institute.
  • Prince of Wales Island Gazette. Georgetown [Penang].
  • Sydney Gazette, The, and New South Wales Advertiser. Sydney.
  • THOMSON, Sir Basil Home, 1894. South Sea Yarns. London, Blackwood.
  • —— 1908. The Fijians: a Study in the Decay of Custom. London, Heinemann.
  • THURSTON, H. C. (ed.), 1881. Brett's Guide to Fiji. Auckland, Brett.
  • TURNBULL, John (ed.), 1813. A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804 . . . 3 volumes. London, Maxwell. 2nd edition.
  • WATERHOUSE, John, 1866. The King and People of Fiji: Containing a Life of Cakabau, with Notice of the Fijians, Their Manners, Customs and Superstitions, Previous to the Great Religious Reformation in 1854. London, Wesleyan Conference Office.
1   See references in Im Thurn 1925:xliv-xlvi.
2   A scented wood much favoured by the Chinese. Fanning (1924:332-5) gives a description of the necessary processing involved.
3   Im Thurn 1925:82-3.
4   HRA. 1916(VI):683. Bligh was attempting to justify the duty he had placed on sandalwood when he had been in office.
5   This is the date given in the Sydney Gazette (VI/229 May 28, 1808). Patterson, however, gives the Eliza's sailing date as May 1.
6   Where Slater was picked up by the El Plumier, 20 months after being cast away.
7   McNab 1908(I):224. On the other hand, it was not an unpopular name with American shipowners: in December 1805, the Sydney Gazette was welcoming the arrival at Port Jackson of an American Eliza with a cargo of spirits that was seasonally appropriate (SG.III/148 December 29, 1805). See also Dunbabin's paper (1949) sub-titled: “Eliza's Rum made a Merry Christmas”.
8   SG.VI/232 June 12, 1808. Norfolk Island is equidistant between Sydney and Tongatapu.
9   SG.VI/238 July 24, 1808. The information was supplied by the captain of another European ship in the group at the time.
10   Patterson 1817; also contained in part in Im Thurn 1925:87-115. Patterson is not always a very reliable narrator. For instance, he writes: “On the 1st of May 1808 we sailed from Port Jackson and after a passage of twelve days arrived at Tonga-taboo” (Im Thurn 1925:94-5). But Tongatapu is a distance of some 2,500 miles from Sydney, which would put a passage of 12 days completely out of the question for a ship such as the Eliza. Patterson goes on to say that the Eliza's left Tongatapu on May 16. The time-gap between this date and that of the Eliza's shipwreck (June 20) is accounted for in the one sentence: “We touched at a number of islands, and on the 20th June were nigh the place to which we were bound [i.e. Sandalwood Bay]” (Im Thurn 1925:96). Patterson's captain, Correy, was similarly deceptive about the dating of the different events of this voyage.
11   Patterson 1817:82.
12   Customarily, persons “with seawater in their eyes”, i.e. who had been shipwrecked, were at the mercy of whoever received them on shore, generally to be clubbed.
13   Derrick 1950:44.
14   Thomson 1908:27.
15   Thomson 1894:326. Though I have already stated my intention of not becoming involved with the issue, I should like, nevertheless, to put forward en passant my own view that the effects of the white man and his musket on Fijian affairs have probably been much exaggerated. Derrick (1945), for example, seems to rely too much on the statements and opinions of the Methodist missionaries, who only arrived in Lau in 1835 and in Rewa (south-east Viti Levu) in 1838—thus the comment of the Rev. Walter Lawry, visiting the islands in 1847: “What our Christian natives say of the time when their wars and cannibalism received a new impulse, and raged with a new vigour, a vigour unknown to the former generations, and startling even to themselves, exactly corresponds to the period of their [the Fijians] becoming known in Christendom” (1850:44). (my italics.) This point of view was echoed by the Rev. Joseph Waterhouse, who took up residence in Fiji only in 1849: “The white man and the musket soon raised Bau to the rule and the fear of a large part of Fiji” (1865:27). The missionaries, needless to say, were concerned to portray the white “beachcomber” type in as evil a light as possible.
16   Maude 1964:261.
17   SG. II/87 October 28, 1804, gives an exchange rate of one dollar (Spanish-American) to five shillings.
18   Derrick 1946:45.
19   Cary 1928:45.
20   Brett 1881:37.
21   Brett 1881:37.
22   Thomson 1908:27.
23   HRA. 1916(VI):618.
24   Martin 1817(I):xx.
25   Morrison writes: “By 1792 the trade route, Boston-Northwest Coast-Canton-Boston, was fairly established” (1941:50). It was “the Northwest fur trade, which enabled the merchant adventurers of Boston to tap the vast reservoir of wealth in China” (ibid:44). Prior to their knowledge of the sandalwood in Fiji, Capts. Correy and William Dorr possibly had intended to follow the route taken in 1796 by the Boston 3-master, Otter, Ebenezer Dorr, which rounding the Horn made her way to the Northwest Coast via Port Jackson (Peron:1824). Morrison further asserts: “The most successful vessels in the Northwest fur trade were small, well-built brigs and ships of one hundred to two hundred and fifty tons burthen . . . clearing from Boston in the autumn, in order to pass the high latitudes during the Antarctic summer, they generally arrived on the Coast by spring” (1941:53).
26   While at Port Jackson, Correy became caught up with Captain Dorr of the Jenny in a somewhat involved smuggling escapade which appears to have played a central part in the overthrow of Governor Bligh. The details are given in HRA. 1916(VI):218-9, 424, 552-5, and are also to be found in HRNSW, 1898(VI). Dorr was brought before a Court of Vice-Admiralty on the orders of Johnston, Bligh's self-appointed successor, and charged with smuggling. He was acquitted.
27   Though one does have to distinguish between ships fitted out primarily as privateers—with trading (or as with Mariner's ship, Port au Prince, whaling) merely a stand-by—and the many trading ships which carried the neccessary letters of marque of privateer status in the event that any suitable opportunity might not be passed up. The Sydney Gazette generally made a big splash on the arrival at Port Jackson of the former: see, for example, SG. IV/64 May 4, 1806, which describes the arrival of the Lucy, the Port au Prince's ally in her battle against a Spanish frigate (Mariner 1817(I):18-22).
28   Patterson 1817:79.
29   Im Thurn 1925.
30   SG. VI/229 May 22, 1808. The seizure of the Harrington by the convict Stewart and about 40 companions is described by Bligh in a letter to Viscount Castlereagh, dated June 30, 1808 (see HRA. 1916(VI):535,740n).
31   See Martin 1817.
32   Mariner later remembered the name. It was Capt. Chase of the Hope. These further details of the incident are given in Martin 1827(II):253-5. The 1827 (3rd) edition of Mariner's account of his life in Tonga is based on the 1818 (2nd) edition and contains a few more details of the fate of the survivors of the Port au Prince.
33   Martin 1817(II):76-8.
34   See Dillon 1830(I):26.
35   Turnbull 1813:390-2.
36   See Orange 1840.
37   Peron 1824(I). This is quoted from an English translation made by Mr John Earnshaw of vol. I, pp. 259-82; there is no indication in the translation of the original pagination. The translation was kindly made available to me by Mr. H. E. Maude. The Otter was a Boston vessel, and Ebenezer Dorr was probably one of the owners of the Jenny (and brother to William Dorr) whom Lockerby eventually met at Boston. William Dorr, also, was guilty of spiriting away convicts from the English colony (see Capt. Stewart's report in SG.VI/251 October 23, 1808), not that this should be viewed as an established family custom—most of the American masters calling in at Port Jackson endeavoured to do so.
38   Im Thurn does not always combine date of voyage, name of master and name of ship with the greatest accuracy: he gives Aikin as the captain of the King George, which, indeed, he had been, but the year before. Cumpston (1964:59) identifies Richard Seddons with Richard Siddons, master of the schooner Mercury.
39   SG. VI/238 July 24, 1808.
40   Martin 1817(I):88 et seq.
41   Martin 1817(I):89.
42   See Im Thurn 1925:lxvi.
43   Delano 1817:460-3.
44   HRNSW. 1898(V):519-21 and SG. II/89 and II/90 of November 11 and 18, 1804, also refer to this incident.
45   In the “General Muster of the Inhabitants of New South Wales” of August 12, 1806, there is included the following entry:
Savage Co. or Cs. Came free on the Experiment.
Seaman. Employed by Isaac Nichols.
(Private communication from R. F. Doust, Senior Archivist, The Archives Authority of New South Wales.)
46   SG. III/106 March 12, 1805.
47   SG. III/110 April 7, 1805.
48   SG. III/130 August 25, 1805.
49   SG. III/148 December 29, 1805.
50   SG. IV/181 August 24, 1806. Supplement.
51   SG. IV/194 November 30, 1806.
52   SG. IV/198 December 28, 1806. Two issues earlier, the Sydney Gazette carried information of the intended departure of Olicer Slater and Richard Seddons in the King George, under Capt. Aitkin, bound for the Fiji Islands (SG. IV/196 December 14, 1806). In the event, the King George cleared outwards from Port Jackson on March 1, the same day as the Elizabeth (HRA. (VI):193).
53   SG. IV/207 March 1, 1807.
54   SG. IV/200 January 11, 1807.
55   SG. IV/202 January 25, 1807. These were the same Tongans who had been described previously in the Sydney Gazette and who had also been referred to by Mariner (see below note 57).
56   SG. IV/201 January 18, 1807; SG. IV/202 January 25, 1807, and in SG. IV/203 February 1, 1807.
57   SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808. Referring to the arrival of a Tongan man and woman at Sydney, the Gazette observes: “In fact nature has bestowed a degree of expression upon this stranger's countenance [the man] which would have sanctioned a high opinion of the friendly disposition of his countrymen, had not too many fatal instances proved the reverse . . .” (SG. IV/170 June 15, 1806—my italics). This was probably the Tongan pair whose experience at Port Jackson Mariner later heard about from the Tongan chiefs (see Martin 1817(I):258-61).
58   Turnbull 1813:393.
59   SG. II/87 October 28, 1804.
60   See Fanning 1924:230-1.
61   An account of the adventures and the plunder taken by the privateer is given in Mariner's log of the voyage (Martin 1817(I):chapter I).
62   The white woman already mentioned above.
63   Apparently a survivor from the Argo (see SG. II/88 November 4, 1804).
64   Fanning 1924:chapter 16.
65   Dunbabin (1949) shows that Simeon Lord was, indeed, a slippery customer. SG. III/142 November 17, 1805, reveals the latter selling effects and giving notice of his departure from the Colony. It is doubtful, however, whether Lord did leave the Colony, even for a trip to Canton—the complexities of his commercial dealings at this time would have prevented his leaving without raising a vast outcry.
66   SG. II/87 October 28, 1804.
67   Mariner apparently met this man after his return to London. See Martin 1817(II):58n., 75n.
68   Im Thurn 1925:67.
69   Martin 1817(I):264. These, of course, are the words ascribed to Finau by Mariner.
70   SG. VI/238 July 24, 1808. Cf. Capt. Seddons' report of Europeans involved in Tongan wars and Mariner's own involvement.
71   Patterson adds: “At this place we purchased quite a number of canoes to carry to the Feejee islands to purchase Sandle wood.” This was a rather odd item—the Tongans themselves acknowledged Fijian canoes to be far superior to their own.
72   Correy informed Lockerby that there were some whites living at the island when he arrived (see Im Thurn 1925:lxv).
73   Confirmed by Captain Stewart of the brig Elizabeth, also at Bua Bay at the time (SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808).
74   This is the amount mentioned in the accounts of Capt. Seddons (Im Thurn 1925:175) and of Capt. Dorr (see PWIG. September 2, 1809).
75   Im Thurn 1925:15. Presumably Correy was also implying that he remained for another week or so after he had obtained the chief's permission. Patterson appears quite certain about the date of the wrecking at Nairai, referring to June 20 more than once. In addition, when he and his companions eventually managed to reach Bua Bay and went aboard the Favourite: “We asked them what day of the month it was and they told us; we overhauled our string of knots, and found we were correct with the exception of one day which we had lost” (Patterson 1817:106).
76   SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808.
77   SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808.
78   Capt. Stewart would not necessarily have known the name of Savage even had Correy mentioned it, for when Savage signed on for the Elizabeth the previous year the brig had a different master (HRA. 1916(VI):193). It was Stewart who brought the first news of the wrecking of the Eliza to Sydney (SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808).
79   Im Thurn 1925:15.
80   Some of Stewart's crew accompanied the party. This gives some insight into the effect of the dollars. Stewart and Dorr were virtually at war with each other before Correy's arrival. Lockerby states that Stewart, under pretence of piloting the Jenny and finding her a mooring, tried to run her ashore, the intent being “to prevent us procuring a cargo” (Im Thurn 1925:13). A fight ensued with Stewart and members of his crew who were eventually scared off by the use of firearms. This was typical of the general rivarly extant at this time in the south-west Pacific between American and Colonial traders. Lockerby does not mention that some of the Elizabeth crew went to Nairai.
81   SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808.
82   Im Thurn 1925:15.
83   Patterson 1817:85.
84   Patterson 1817:86.
85   Patterson 1817:108.
86   Patterson 1817:109.
87   Patterson 1817:85.
88   Which from the success of Steere's return trip was obviously not so.
89   Im Thurn 1925:16.
90   Im Thurn 1925:19.
91   Among the Richardson's papers in the Peabody Museum, Salem, there is a guide to the Fiji sandalwood trade written by Lockerby called: “Directions for the Feejee Islands”.
92   General practice in the American ships; see Morrison 1941:76-7.
93   Im Thurn 1925:82-3.
94   Im Thurn 1925:78.
95   Im Thurn 1925:175.
96   PWIG. September 2, 1809.
97   Lockerby, on the other hand, states that the second officer of the Eliza, Mr. Barton, died from a fractured skull (Im Thurn: 1925:16). Stewart's account describes “the spirited conduct of Mr. Barton”, but neither mentions his death nor implies it (SG. VI/251 October 23, 1808).
98   SG. VII/295 August 27. 1809.
99   The most telling piece of evidence used against Dorr at Calcutta was an entry into the Jenny's log dated May 3 which remarked that the repairs to the ship being completed “she steers nearly as well as ever” (PWIG. September 2, 1809).
100   See the Calcutta Gazette/1339-40, October 26 and November 2, 1809, cited in Im Thurn 1925:205.
101   PWIG. September 2, 1809.
102   See Brett 1871.
103   Im Thurn 1925:83.
104   The occasional dollar still comes to light. The Fiji Times, in a calendar of events in the colony for the year 1967, notes for June 2: “A builder at Lawaki, Nairai Island found a 167-year-old Spanish dollar while digging on an old church site” (The Fiji Times, January 1, 1968).
105   Martin states in a footnote: “(Mariner) had about fifty or sixty dollars in his possession, part of which had been given to him by his adopted mother, Mafi Habe; the remainder he procured from a female native of Leffoga, by giving her a consideration for them in beads, etc.: these dollars belonged originally to the Port au Prince” (Martin 1817(II):73).
106   Lockerby and Patterson probably met, since the former was engaged in gathering a cargo of sandalwood for the Tonquin (Im Thurn 1925:59-60).
107   In one way or another, sailing first mate to Captain Dorr was precarious employment. The Salem Gazette of March 24, 1812, reports: “Arrived at the Vineyard on Sunday the Brig Active, W. P. Richardson, 118 days out from Canton. Left at the Fijis the ship Hunter and the brig Brutus, Dorr of Boston. Captain Dorr lost his chief officer and a man cut off by the natives” (Quoted from Dunbabin 1949:309-10). Putman (1930:156) states that Dorr lost his chief officer and four men.
108   See Cary 1928:30.
109   Dillon was later to determine the fate of the La Pérouse Expedition.
110   For a full account of the incident, including the events leading up to it, see Dillon 1830(I):1-28.
111   Dillon 1830(I):26.
112   For a full account of this incident, see Thomson 1894:312-4.