Monday, 30 December 2019

Cannibalism: Charles Dickens v. Dr. John Rae, Part 4.


The concluding installment of the exchange between Charles Dickens and Dr John Rae was published 165 years ago today. Your comments are welcome below or on the Facebook group Remembering the Franklin Expedition.

Transcription and original page images at http://www.djo.org.uk/household-words/volume-x/page-457.html

HOUSEHOLD WORDS

No. 248                      Saturday, December 30, 1854                    457


DR. RAE'S REPORT.

DR. RAE'S communication to us on the
subject of his Report, which was begun last
week, resumes and concludes as follows:

When the Esquimaux have an object to
gain, they will not hesitate to tell a falsehood,
but they cannot lie with a good grace;
"they cannot lie like truth," as civilised men
do. Their fabrications are so silly and
ridiculous, and it is so easy to make them
contradict themselves by a slight cross-
questioning, that the falsehood is easily
discovered. I could give a number of instances
of this, but shall confine myself to two.

When Sir John Richardson descended the
M‘Kenzie in 1848, a great number of Esquimaux
came off in their canoes ; they told us
that on an island to which they pointed, a
number of white people had been living for
some time ; that they had been living there
all winter, and that we ought to land to see
them. Their story was altogether so incredible,
that we could not have a moment's
doubt or difficulty in tracing its object. They
wished to get us on shore in order to have a
better opportunity of pillaging our boats, as
they did those of Sir John Franklin; for it
must be remembered that the Esquimaux at
the M‘Kenzie and to the westward are
different from any of those to the eastward.
The former, notwithstanding the frequent
efforts of the Hudson's Bay Company to
effect a peace, are at constant war with the
Louchoux Indians, and consequently with
the "white men," as they think the latter,
by supplying guns and ammunition to the
Louchoux, are their allies.

Another instance excited much interest
in England when it was first made known
here. It was reported to Captain M‘Clure
by an Esquimaux, that one of a party of
white men had been killed by one of his
tribe near Point Warren. That the white
men built a house there, but nobody knew
how they came, as they had no boat; and
that they went inland. When asked "when
this took place?" the reply was, that "it
might be last year or when I was a child."

How any one could place any faith in such
a report as this, I am at a loss to discover.
Any man at all acquainted with the native
character, would in a moment set down this
tale at its proper value; at least Sir John Rich-
ardson and I did—and the first is high autho-
rity. Indeed, throughout the whole of Captain
or Commander M‘Clure's communication
with the natives in the neighbourhood of the
M‘Kenzie, he appears to have been admirably
imposed upon by them. Let us again get at
a fact or two.

He is told by a chief that the Esquimaux
go so far to the westward to trade, instead of
to the M‘Kenzie, "because, at the latter
place, the white man had given the Indians
very bad water, which killed many and made
others foolish (drunk), and that they would
not have any such water. From this it
evidently appears that the Company lose
annually many valuable skins, which find
their way to the Colvill instead of to the
M‘Kenzie."

Let us quietly examine the above
statements. It is well known that since the
M‘Kenzie has been discovered, ardent spirits
have not been admitted within the district, for
the natives. At present, and for many years
back spirits or wines have not been allowed to
enter the M‘Kenzie or its neighbouring
district of Athabasca, as allowances for either
officers or men in the Hudson's Bay
Company's service, so that the natives might not
have it to say that we took for ourselves
what we would not give to them. We do not
know, nor do I think that there are, any
Russian trading posts on the Colvill. The true
reason that these Esquimaux do not trade
with the Hudson's Bay Company is, that the
former are constantly at war with the
Louchoux. Frequent attempts have been made to
effect a reconciliation between these tribes,
but hitherto without success.

Captain M‘Clure tells us that the Esquimaux
informed him that "they had no communication
with any person belonging to the
Great River" (M‘Kenzie); yet, strange to say,
he intrusts the very despatches in which this
is mentioned, to natives of the same tribe,
and indulges the hope that his "letter may
reach the Hudson's Bay Company this year,"
(one thousand eight hundred and fifty). In
another case, Captain M‘Clure mentions
that he gave a gun and ammunition to an
Esquimaux chief, to deliver a despatch into
the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company. In
any case, prepayment is acknowledged to be

[458]
a bad plan, but worst of all in that of a
savage with whom you are unacquainted, and
on whom you have no hold. Had the pay
depended upon the performance of the
service, the despatch might have had some
chance of reaching its destination.

I have had some opportunities of studying
Esquimaux character; and, from what I have
seen, I consider them superior to all the tribes
of red men in America. In their domestic
relationship they show a bright example to
the most civilised people. They are dutiful
sons and daughters, kind brothers and sisters,
and most affectionate parents. So well is the
first of these qualities understood among
them, that a large family is considered wealth
by a father and mother—for, the latter well
know that they will be carefully tended by
their offspring, well clothed and fed, whilst a
scrap of skin or a morsel of food is to be
obtained, as long as a spark of life remains;
and, after death, that their bodies will be
properly placed either on or under the ground,
according to the usage of the tribe.

I do not stand alone in the high opinion I
have formed of the Esquimaux character.
At the Hudson's Bay Company's establishments
of Fort George on the east, and
Churchill on the west, coast of Hudson's
Bay, where the Esquimaux visit, they are
looked upon in an equally favourable light.
The Moravian missionaries on the Labrador
coast find the Esquimaux honest and
trustworthy, and employ them constantly
and almost exclusively as domestic servants.
The report of the residents in the Danish
settlements on the west shores of Greenland,
is no less favourable; and although I have no
special authority for saying so, I believe
that Captain Perring's opinions are similar.
During the two winters I passed at Repulse
Bay, I had men with me who had been, at
some time of their lives, in all parts of the
Hudson's Bay Company's territories. These
men assured me that they had never seen
Indians so decorous, obliging, unobtrusive,
orderly, and friendly, as the Esquimaux.

Oh! some one may remark, perhaps they
have some private reason for this.

Now, my men had not any "private reason"
for saying so. I firmly believe, and can
almost positively assert, that no case of
improper intercourse took place between them
and the natives of Repulse Buy during the
two seasons I remained there—which is more,
I suspect, than most of the commanders of
parties to the Arctic Sea can truthfully affirm.
A number of instances (principally
shipwrecks), are brought forward to show that
cannibalism has not been usually resorted to
in cases of extreme want; that it is the exception,
not the rule. Yet not one of those
properly represent the probable position of Sir
John Franklin's party. In all the cases
above alluded to, the parties suffering were
deprived of water as well as of food. We all
know that when any one suffers from two
painful sensations, but painful in different
degrees, the more severe of the two prevents
the lesser from being felt.

Thirst causes a far more painful sensation
than hunger, and consequently, whilst the
first remains unappeased, the pangs of the
other are very slightly, if at all, felt. In
the case of Franklin's party, their thirst
could be easily assuaged, and consequently
the pangs of hunger would be felt the more
intensely. Even Franklin's former disastrous
journey (from the narrative of which large
extracts have been made) is not a parallel case.
In it the suffering party had generally
something or other every few days to allay
the cravings of hunger. They had pieces of
old leather, tripe de roche, and an infusion of
the tea-plant. Unfortunately, near the mouth
of Back's Fish River, there are none of
the above named plants,—nothing but a
barren waste with scarcely a blade of
grass upon it. Much stress is laid on the
moral character and the admirable discipline
of the crews of Sir John Franklin's ships.
What their state of discipline may have
been I cannot say, but their conduct at the
very last British port they entered was not
such as to make those who knew it, consider
them very deserving of the high eulogium
passed upon them in Household Words.
Nor can we say that the men, in extreme
cases of privation, would maintain that state
of subordination so requisite in all cases,
but more especially during danger and
difficulty.

We have, I am sorry to say, but too many
recent instances of disagreement and differences
among the officers employed on the
Arctic service. It is well known in naval
circles that, in one vessel which has not yet
arrived from the north, there will be two
or three courts martial as soon as she reaches
home. To place much dependence on the
obedience and good conduct of the comparatively
uneducated seamen, if exposed to the
utmost extremes of distress, when their
superiors, without having any such excuse,
have forgotten themselves on a point of such
vital importance, would be very unreasonable.
Besides, seamen generally consider
themselves, when they have lost their ship
and set foot on shore, as being freed from
that strict discipline to which they would
readily submit themselves when on board.

As these observations have already attained
a much greater length than I at first anticipated,
I shall refrain from mentioning, as I
intended, one or two instances of persons fully
as well educated as the generality of picked
seamen usually are, and brought up as
Christians, having, in cases of extreme want,
had recourse to the "last resource," as a
means of maintaining life.

I am aware of the difficulties I have to
encounter in replying to the article on the
"Lost Arctic Voyagers." That the author
of that article is a writer of very great ability

[459]
and practice, and that he makes the best
use of both to prove his opinions, is very
evident. Besides, he takes the popular view of
the question, which is a great point in his favour.
To oppose this, I have nothing but a small
amount of practical knowledge of the question
at issue, with a few facts to support my
views and opinions; but, I can only throw
them together in a very imperfect and
unconnected form, as I have little experience in
writing, and, like many men who have led a
wandering and stirring life, have a great
dislike to it. It is seldom that a man can do
well what is disagreeable to him.

That my opinions remain exactly the same
as they were when my report to the Admiralty
was written, may be inferred from all I
have now stated.

That twenty or twenty-five Esquimaux
could, for two months together, continue to
repeat the same story without variation in
any material point, and adhere firmly to it, in
spite of all sorts of cross-questioning, is to me
the clearest proof that the information they
gave me was founded on fact.

That the " white men" were not
murdered by the natives, but that they died of
starvation, is, to my mind, equally beyond a
doubt.

In conclusion, let me remark, that I fully
appreciate the kind, courteous, and flattering
manner in which my name is mentioned by
the writer on the subject of the lost Arctic
Voyagers.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Cannibalism: Charles Dickens v. Dr. John Rae, Part 3.

After a gap of two weeks: John Rae's reply.

Transcription and original page images at http://www.djo.org.uk/household-words/volume-x/page-433.html

HOUSEHOLD WORDS

No. 248                      Saturday, December 23, 1854                    433


THE LOST ARCTIC VOYAGERS.


WE have received the following communication
from DR. RAE. It can have no
better commendation to the attention of our
readers than the mention of his name:—

Observing, in the numbers of this journal
dated the second and ninth of this month, a
very ably-written article on the lost Arctic
voyagers, in which an attempt is made to
prove that Sir John Franklin's ill-fated
party did not die of starvation, but were
murdered by the Esquimaux; and consequently
that they were not driven to the last
dread alternative as a means of protracting
life, permit me to make a few remarks in
support of my information on this painful subject
—information received by me with the
utmost caution, and not one material point of
which was published to the world without
my having some good reason to support it.

First, as regards my interpreter. To compare
either Augustus or Ouligback (who
accompanied Sir John Franklin and Sir John
Richardson in their overland journeys) with
William Ouligback, my interpreter, would be
very unfair to the latter. Neither of the
first two could make themselves understood
in the English language, and did not very perfectly
comprehend the dialect of the natives of
the coast westward of the Coppermine River.

William Ouligback speaks English fluently;
and, perhaps, more correctly than one half of
the lower classes in England or Scotland.

As I could not, from my ignorance of
the Esquimaux tongue, test William Ouligback's
qualifications, I resorted to the only
means of doing so I possessed. There is
an old servant of the company at Churchill,
an honest, trustworthy man, who has acquired
a very fair knowledge of both the
Esquimaux character and the Esquimaux
language. This man informed me that young
Ouligback could be perfectly relied on; that
he would tell the Esquimaux exactly what
was said, and give the Esquimaux reply with
equal correctness; that when he had any
personal object to gain, he would not scruple
to tell a falsehood to attain it, but in such a
case the untruth was easily discovered by a
little cross-questioning. This description I
found perfectly true.

Again: the natives of Repulse Bay speak
precisely the same language as those of
Churchill, where young Ouligback was
brought up.

The objection offered that my information
was received second-hand, I consider much
in favour of its correctness. Had it been
obtained from the natives who had seen the
dead bodies of our countrymen, I should have
doubted all they told me, however plausible
their tale might have appeared; because had
they, as they usually do, deposited any property
under stones in the neighbourhood,
they would have had a very excellent cause
for attempting to mislead me.

That ninety-nine out of a hundred interpreters
are under a strong temptation
to exaggerate, may be true. If so, my
interpreter is the exception, as he did not
like to talk more than he could possibly
help. No doubt had I offered him a premium
for using his tongue freely he might
have done so; but not even the shadow of a
hope of a reward was held out.

It is said that part of the information
regarding cannibalism was conveyed to me
by gestures. This is another palpable mistake,
which is likely to mislead. I stated
in one of my letters to the Times that the
natives had preceded me to Repulse Bay;
and, by signs, had made my men left in
charge of the property there (none of whom
spoke a word of Esquimaux) comprehend
what I had already learnt through the interpreter.

I do not infer that the officer who lay upon
his double-barrelled gun defended his life to
the last against ravenous seamen; but that
he was a brave, cool man, in the full possession
of his mental faculties to the last; that
he lay down in this position as a precaution,
and, alas! was never able to rise again; and
that he was among the last, if not the very
last, of the survivors.

The question is asked, was there any fuel
in that desolate place for cooking the contents
of the kettles? I have already mentioned
in a letter to the Times how fuel
might have been obtained. I shall repeat
my opinion with additions:—When the
Esquimaux were talking with me on the
subject of the discovery of the men, boats,
tents, &c., several of them remarked that

[434]
it was curious no sledges were found at
the place. I replied that the boat was
likely fitted with sledge-runners that screwed
on to it. The natives answered, that sledges
were noticed with the party of whites
when alive, and that their tracks on the ice
and snow were seen near the place where
the bodies were found. My answer then
was, That they must have burnt them for
fuel; and I have no doubt but that the kegs
or cases containing the ball and shot must
have shared the same fate.

Had there been no bears thereabouts to
mutilate those bodies—no wolves, no foxes? is
asked; but it is a well-known fact that, from instinct,
neither bears, wolves, nor foxes, nor that
more ravenous of all, the glutton or wolverine,
unless on the verge of starvation, will touch
a dead human body; and the carnivorous
quadrupeds near the Arctic sea are seldom
driven to that extremity.

Quoting again from the article on the lost
Arctic voyagers. "Lastly, no man can with
any show of reason undertake to affirm that
the sad remnant of Franklin's gallant band
were not set upon and slain by the Esquimaux
themselves?"

This is a question which like many
others is much more easily asked than
answered; yet I will give my reasons
for not thinking, even for a moment,
that some thirty or forty of the bravest
class of one of the bravest nations in the
world, even when reduced to the most
wretched condition, and having firearms and
ammunition in their hands, could be
overcome by a party of savages equal in
number to themselves. I say equal in number,
because the Esquimaux to the eastward
of the Coppermine, seldom, if ever, collect
together in greater force than thirty men,
owing to the difficulty of obtaining the
means of subsistence. When Sir John Ross
wintered three years in Prince Regent's
Inlet, the very tribe of Esquimaux who
saw Sir John Franklin's party were
constantly or almost constantly in the
neighbourhood. In the several springs he
passed there, parties of his men were travelling
in various directions; yet no violence was
offered to them, although there was an immense
advantage to be gained by the savages
in obtaining possession of the vessels and their
contents.

In eighteen hundred and forty-six-seven
I and a party of twelve persons wintered at
Repulse Bay. In the spring my men were
divided and scattered in all directions; yet
no violence was offered, although we were
surrounded by native families, among whom
there were at least thirty men. By murdering
us they would have put themselves in
possession of boats and a quantity of cutlery
of great value to them. In the same spring,
when perfectly alone and unarmed, except
with a common clasp knife, which could
have been of no use, I met on the ice four
Esquimaux armed with spear and bow and
arrow. I went up to them, made them
shake hands; and, after exchanging a few
words and signs, left them. In this case
no violence was used; although I had a
box of astronomical instruments on my back,
which might have excited their cupidity.
Last spring, I, with seven men, was almost
in constant communication with a party
four times our number. The savages
made no attempt to harm us. Yet wood,
saws, daggers, and knives were extremely
scarce with them, and by getting possession
of our boat, its masts and oars, and the
remainder of our property, they would have
been independent for years.

What appears to me the most conclusive
reason for believing the Esquimaux report, is
this: the natives of Repulse Bay, although
they visit and communicate for mutual advantage
with those further west, both dislike
and fear their neighbours, and not without
cause; as they have behaved treacherously
to them on one or two occasions. So
far do they carry this dislike, that they
endeavoured, by every means in their power,
to stimulate me to shoot several visitors to
Repulse Bay, from Pelly Bay, and from near
Sir John Ross's wintering station in Prince
Regent's Inlet.

Now, is it likely that, had they possessed
such a powerful argument to excite—as they
expected to do—my anger and revenge as the
murder of my countrymen, would they not
have made use of it by acquainting me with
the whole circumstances, if they had any such
to report?

Again, what possible motive could the
Esquimaux have for inventing such an awful
tale as that which appeared in my report to
the secretary of the Admiralty. Alas! these
poor people know too well what starvation is,
in its utmost extremes, to be mistaken on
such a point. Although these uneducated
savages—who seem to be looked upon by
those who know them not, as little better
than brutes—resort to the "last resource"
only when driven to it by the most dire
necessity. They will starve for days before
they will even sacrifice their dogs to satisfy
the cravings of their appetites.

One or two facts are worth a hundred
theories on any subject. On meeting some
old acquaintances among the natives at
Repulse Bay, last spring, I naturally enquired
about others that I had seen there in eighteen
hundred and forty-six and forty-seven.
The reply was, that many of them had died
of starvation since I left, and some from a
disease which, by description, resembled influenza.
Among the party that died of
starvation was one man whom I well knew
—Shi-makeck—and for whom I enquired by
name. I learnt that this man, rather than
endure the terrible spectacle of his children
pining away in his presence, went out and
strangled himself. Another, equally well

[435]
known to me, being unable, I suppose, to
support the panics of hunger, stripped
off his clothes, and exposed himself to
cold, until he was frozen to death. In
several instances, on this occasion, cannibalism
had been resorted to, and two
women were pointed out to me as having had
recourse to this "last resource." It may be,
I have only the words of "babbling and false
savages who are, without exception, in heart,
covetous, treacherous, and cruel," in support
of what I say.

Let us enquire slightly into that want of
truthfulness so frequently and indiscriminately
charged against savages in general,
and the Esquimaux in particular:—When
that most distinguished of Arctic navigators—
Sir Edward Parry—wintered at
Winter Island, not Winter Harbour, and at
Igloolik, in the Straits of the Fury and
Hecla, he met many of the very tribe of
Esquimaux that I saw at Repulse Bay.
From these Sir Edward received information
and tracings of the coast west of Melville
Peninsula, surrounding a bay named by the
natives—Akkoolee.

This Esquimaux tracing or delineation of
coast was entered in the charts in dotted
lines, until my survey of eighteen hundred
and forty-seven showed that, in all material
points, the accounts given by the natives
were perfectly correct. When Sir John Ross
wintered three years in Prince Regent's
Inlet, the natives drew charts of the coast
line to the southward of his position, and
informed him that, in that direction, there
was no water communication leading to the
western sea.

Sir John Ross's statements, founded on
those of the natives were not believed at the
Admiralty, nor my own, in eighteen hundred
and forty-seven, although I saw the land all
the way, and in which I was supported by
Esquimaux information. The authorities at
the Admiralty would still have Boothia an
Island. Last spring I proved beyond the
possibility of a doubt, the correctness of my
former report, and consequently the truthfulness
of the Esquimaux; for, where parties of
high standing at home would insist on having
nothing but salt water, I travelled over a
neck of land or isthmus only sixty miles broad.

On conversing with the natives about the
different parties of whites, and the ships and
boats they had seen, they described so perfectly
the personal appearance of Sir John
Ross and Sir James Ross—although the men
spoken with had not seen these gentlemen—
that any one acquainted with these officers
could have recognised them. The natives on
one point set me right, when they thought I
had made a mistake. I told them that the
two chiefs (Sir J. and Sir J. C. Ross) and
their men had all got home safe to their own
country. They immediately remarked, "that
this was not true, for some of the men had
died at the place where the vessel was left."
I, of course, alluded only to that portion of
the party who had got away from Regent's
Inlet in safety. It must be remembered that
this circumstance occurred upwards of twenty
years ago, and consequently is an instance of
correctness of memory and truthfulness that
would be considered surprising among people
in an advanced state of civilisation.

The peculiarities of the Great Fish River,
and of the coast near its mouth, has been so
minutely described by Sir George Back, and
so beautifully illustrated by his admirable
drawings, that they can easily be understood
by any one. The Esquimaux details on this
subject agreed perfectly with those of Sir
George Back: the river was desciibed as full
of falls and rapids, and that many Esquimaux
dwelt on or near its banks. They described
the land about a long day's journey (which,
with dogs and sledges, is from thirty-five to
forty miles) to the north-west of the
mouth of the river, as low and flat, without
hills of any kind, agreeing in every particular
with the descriptions of Sir George Back and
Simpson.

They told me that the top of the cairn
erected by Dease and Simpson at the Castor
and Pollux River had fallen down. This I
found to be true; and afterwards, on asking
them in which direction it had fallen, they
said towards the east. True again. I showed
two men, who said they had been along the
coast which I had traced, my rough draft of
a chart. They immediately comprehended
the whole; examined and recognised the
several points, islands, &c., laid down upon
it; gave me their Esquimaux names, showed
me where they had had "caches;" which I
actually saw.

Another Esquimaux, on learning that we
had opened a "cache," in which we found a
number of wings and heads of geese which
had lain long there, and were perfectly denuded
of flesh, said that the "cache"
belonged to him. Thinking that he was
stating a falsehood so as to obtain some
reward for having interfered with his property,
I produced my chart, and told him to
show me the island, among a number of
similar ones all small, on which his "cache"
was; he, without a moment's hesitation,
pointed to the right island.

Having dwelt thus much on the trustworthiness
of the Esquimaux, I shall next
touch on their disposition and aptitude to
falsehood; but this I must defer for the
present.

We will merely append, as a commentary
on the opinion of our esteemed friend,
DR. RAE, relative to the probabilities of the
Esquimaux besetting a forlorn and weak
party, the speciality of whose condition that
people are quite shrewd enough to have perceived;
an extract from Sir John Barrow's
account of Franklin's and Richardson's second
journey:—

[436]
''Thus far all went on well; but an accident
happened while the crowd was pressing
round the boats, which was productive of
unforeseen and very annoying consequences:

"'A kaiyack being overset by one of the
Lion's oars, its owner was plunged into the
water with his head in the mud, and apparently
in danger of being drowned. We
instantly extricated him from his unpleasant
situation, and took him into the boat until
the water could be thrown out of his
kaiyack; and Augustus, seeing him shivering
with cold, wrapped him up in his own
great coat. At first he was exceedingly
angry, but soon became reconciled to his
situation; and, looking about, discovered that
we had many bales, and other articles in the
boat, which had been concealed from the
people in the kaiyacks, by the coverings
being carefully spread over all. He soon
began to ask for everything he saw, and
expressed much displeasure on our refusing
to comply with his demands; he also, we
afterwards learned, excited the cupidity of
others by his account of the inexhaustible
riches in the Lion, and several of the younger
men endeavoured to get into both our boats,
but we resisted all their attempts.'

"They continued, however, to press, and
made many efforts to get into the boats,
while the water had ebbed so far that it was
not knee-deep at the boats, and the younger
men, waiting in crowds around them, tried to
steal everything they could reach. The Reliance
being afloat, was dragged by the
crowd towards the shore, when Franklin
directed the crew of the Lion (which was
aground and immoveable) to endeavour to
follow her, but the boat remained fast until
the Esquimaux lent their aid and dragged
her after the Reliance. One of the Lion's
men perceived that the man who was upset
had a pistol under his shirt, which it was
discovered had been stolen from Lieutenant
Back, and the thief, seeing it to be noticed,
leaped out of the boat and joined his countrymen,
carrying with him the great coat which
Augustus had lent him.

"'Two of the most powerful men, jumping
on board at the same time, seized me by the
wrists and forced me to sit between them;
and as I shook them loose two or three times,
a third Esquimaux took his station in front
to catch my arm whenever I attempted to
lift my gun, or the broad dagger which hung
by my side. The whole way to the shore they
kept repeating the word 'teyma,' beating
gently on my left breast with their hands,
and pressing mine against their breasts. As
we neared the beach, two oomiaks, full of
women, arrived, and the 'teymas' and vociferation
were redoubled. The Reliance was
first brought to the shore, and the Lion close
to her a few seconds afterwards. The three
men who held me now leaped ashore, and
those who remained in their canoes, taking
them out of the water, carried them to a
little distance. A numerous party then
drawing their knives, and stripping themselves
to the waist, ran to the Reliance, and
having first hauled her as far up as they
could, began a regular pillage, handing the
articles to the women, who, ranged in a row
behind, quickly conveyed them out of sight.'

"In short, after a furious contest, when
knives were brandished in a most threatening
manner, several of the men's clothes cut
through, and the buttons of others torn from
their coats, Lieutenant Back ordered his
people to seize and level their muskets, but
not to fire till the word was given. This had
the desired effect, the whole crowd taking to
their heels and hiding themselves behind the
drift-timber on the beach. Captain Franklin
still thought it best to temporise so long as
the boats were lying aground, for armed as
the Esquimaux were with long knives, bows,
arrows, and spears, fire-arms could not have
been used with advantage against so numerous
a host; Franklin, indeed, states his conviction,
'considering the state of excitement to
which they had worked themselves, that the
first blood which his party might unfortunately
have shed, would instantly have been
revenged by the sacrifice of all their lives.'

"As soon as the boats were afloat and
making to a secure anchorage, seven or eight
of the natives walked along the beach, entered
into conversation with Augustus, and
invited him to a conference on shore. 'I was
unwilling to let him go,' says Franklin, 'but
the brave little fellow entreated so earnestly
that I would suffer him to land and reprove
the Esquimaux for their conduct, that I at
length consented.' On his return, being desired
to tell what he had said to them, 'he
had told them,' he said—

"'Your conduct has been very bad, and
unlike that of all other Esquimaux. Some of
you even stole from me, your countryman
but that I do not mind,—I only regret that
you should have treated in this violent
manner the white people, who came solely to
do you kindness. My tribe were in the same
unhappy state in which you now are, before
the white people came to Churchill, but at
present they are supplied with everything
they need, and you see that I am well
clothed; I get all that I want, and am very
comfortable. You cannot expect, after the
transactions of this day, that these people
will ever bring goods to your country again,
unless you show your contrition by restoring
the stolen goods. The white people love the
Esquimaux, and wish to show them the same
kindness that they bestow upon the Indians.
Do not deceive yourselves, and suppose they are
afraid of you; I tell you they are not; and
that it is entirely owing to their humanity
that many of you were not killed to-day; for
they have all guns, with which they can
destroy you either when near or at a distance.
I also have a gun, and can assure
you, that if a white man had fallen, I would

[437]
have been the first to have revenged his
death.'

"The language of course is that of Franklin,
who however gives it as the purport of
Augustus's speech, and adds, 'his veracity is
beyond all question with the party.' 'We
could perceive,' says Franklin, 'by the shouts
of applause, with which they filled the pauses
in his language, that they assented to his
arguments;' [that is, to his representation of
the superior power of those white men]; 'and
he told us they had expressed great sorrow
for having given so much cause of offence.'
He said, moreover, that they pleaded ignorance,
having never before seen white men;
that they had seen so many fine things
entirely new to them, that they could not
resist the temptation of stealing; they promised
never to do the like again; and gave
a proof of their sincerity by restoring the
articles that had been stolen. And thus
in an amicable manner was the affray concluded."




Monday, 9 December 2019

Cannibalism: Charles Dickens v. Dr. John Rae, Part 2.

Here is the second part of the argument between Dickens and Rae, published 165 years ago today. Clearly the writer has some nineteenth century attitudes and goes on for around 7900 words! What though would a reader of the day make of it? Does the writer make his case? Rae's reply will come out on the 23rd.

Transcription and original page images at http://www.djo.org.uk/household-words/volume-x/page-385.html
 

HOUSEHOLD WORDS

No. 246                      Saturday, December 9, 1854                      385

THE LOST ARCTIC VOYAGERS.

We resume our subject of last week.

The account of the sufferings of the
shipwrecked men, in DON JUAN, will rise into
most minds as our topic presents itself.
It is founded (so far as such a writer
as BYRON may choose to resort to facts, in aid
of what he knows intuitively), on several real
cases. BLIGH'S undecked-boat navigation,
after the mutiny of the Bounty; and the
wrecks of the Centaur, the Peggy, the
Pandora, the Juno, and the Thomas; had
been, among other similar narratives,
attentively read by the poet.

In Bligh's case, though the endurances of
all on board were extreme, there was no
movement towards the " last resource." And
this, though Bligh in the memorable voyage
which showed his knowledge of navigation to
be as good as his temper was bad (which is
very high praise), could only serve out, at the
best, " about an ounce of pork to each person,"
and was fain to weigh the allowance of
bread against a pistol bullet, and in the most
urgent need could only administer wine or
rum by the teaspoonful. Though the
necessities of the party were so great, that when a
stray bird was caught, its blood was poured
into the mouths of three of the people who
were nearest death, and "the body, with the
entrails, beak, and feet, was divided into
eighteen shares." Though of a captured
dolphin there was " issued about two ounces,
including the offals, to each person;" and
though the time came, when, in Bligh's
words, " there was a visible alteration for
the worse in many of the people which
excited great apprehensions in me.
Extreme weakness, swelled legs, hollow and
ghastly countenances, with an apparent
debility of understanding, seemed to me the
melancholy presages of approaching
dissolution."

The Centaur, man-of-war, sprung a leak at
sea in very heavy weather; was perceived,
after great labour, to be fast settling down
by the head; and was abandoned by the
captain and eleven others, in the pinnace.
They were " in a leaky boat, with one of the
gunwales stove, in nearly the middle of the
Western Ocean; without compass, quadrant,
or sail: wanting great coat or cloak; all very
thinly clothed, in a gale of wind, and with a
great sea running." They had "one biscuit
divided into twelve morsels for breakfast,
and the same for dinner; the neck of a
bottle, broke off with the cork in it, served
for a glass; and this filled with water was
the allowance for twenty-four hours, to each
man." This misery was endured, without
any reference whatever to the last resource,
for fifteen days: at the expiration of which
time, they happily made land. Observe the
captain's words, at the height. " Our sufferings
were now as great as human strength
could bear; but, we were convinced that
good spirits were a better support than
great bodily strength; for on this day
Thomas Mathews, quartermaster, perished
from hunger and cold. On the day before, he
had complained of want of strength in his
throat, as he expressed it, to swallow his
morsel, and in the night grew delirious and
died without a groan." What were their
reflections? That they could support life on
the body? " As it became next to certainty
that we should all perish in the same manner
in a day or two, it was somewhat comfortable
to reflect that dying of hunger was not
so dreadful as our imaginations had
represented."

The Pandora, frigate, was sent out to
Otaheite, to bring home for trial such of the
mutineers of the Bounty as could be found
upon the island. In Endeavour Straits, on
her homeward voyage, she struck upon a
reef; was got off, by great exertion; but had
sustained such damage, that she soon heeled
over and went down. One hundred and ten
persons escaped in the boats, and entered on
"a long and dangerous voyage." The daily
allowance to each, was a musket-ball weight
of bread, and two small wineglasses of water.
"The heat of the sun and reflexion of the
sand became intolerable, and the quantity of
salt water swallowed by the men created the
most parching thirst; excruciating tortures
were endured, and one of the men went mad
and died." Perhaps this body was devoured?
No. " The people at length neglected weighing
their slender allowance, their mouths becoming
so parched that few attempted to eat;
and what was not claimed, was returned to
the general stock." They were a fine crew
(but not so fine as Franklin's), and in a state


[386]
of high discipline. Only this one death
occurred, and all the rest were saved.

The Juno, a rotten and unseaworthy ship,
sailed from Rangoon for Madras, with a cargo
of teak-wood. She had been out three weeks,
and had already struck upon a sandbank and
sprung a leak, which the crew imperfectly
stopped, when she became a wreck in a
tremendous storm. The second mate and
others, including the captain's wife, climbed
into the mizen-top, and made themselves fast
to the rigging. The second mate is the narrator
of their distresses, and opens them with
this remarkable avowal. "We saw that we
might remain on the wreck till carried off by
famine, the most frightful shape in which
death could appear to us. I confess it was
my intention, as well as that of the rest, to
prolong my existence by the only means that
seemed likely to occur—eating the flesh of
any whose life might terminate before my
own. But this idea we did not communicate,
or even hint to each other, until long afterwards;
except once, that the gunner, a
Roman Catholic, asked me if I thought there
would be a sin in having recourse to such an
expedient." Now, it might reasonably be
supposed, with this beginning, that the wreck
of the Juno furnishes some awful instances
of the "last resource" of the Esquimaux
stories. Not one. But, perhaps no unhappy
creature died, in this mizen-top where the
second mate was? Half a dozen, at least,
died there; and the body of one Lascar
getting entangled in the rigging, so that the
survivors in their great weakness could not
for some time release it and throw it
overboard—which was their manner of disposing
of the other bodies—hung there, for two or
three days. It is worthy of all attention,
that as the mate grew weaker, the terrible
phantom which had been in his mind at first
(as it might present itself to the mind of any
other person, not actually in the extremity
imagined), grew paler and more remote. At
first, he felt sullen and irritable; on the
night of the fourth day he had a refreshing
sleep, dreamed of his father, a country clergyman,
thought that he was administering
the Sacrament to him, and drew the cup
away when he stretched out his hand to take
it. He chewed canvas, lead, any substance
he could find—would have eaten his shoes,
early in his misery, but that he wore none.
And yet he says, and at an advanced stage of
his story too, "After all that I suffered, I
believe it fell short of the idea I had formed
of what would probably be the natural
consequence of such a situation as that to which
we were reduced. I had read or heard that
no person could live without food, beyond a
few days; and when several had elapsed, I
was astonished at my having existed so long,
and concluded that every succeeding day
must be the last. I expected, as the agonies
of death approached, that we should be
tearing the flesh from each other's bones."
Later still, he adds: "I can give very little
account of the rest of the time. The sensation
of hunger was lost in that of weakness;
and when I could get a supply of fresh water
I was comparatively easy." When land was
at last descried, he had become too indifferent
to raise his head to look at it, and continued
lying in a dull and drowsy state, much as
Adam the interpreter lay, with Franklin at
his side.

The Peggy was an American sloop, sailing
home from the Azores to New York. She
encountered great distress of weather, ran
short of provision, and at length had no food
on board, and no water, " except about two
gallons which remained dirty at the bottom
of a cask." The crew ate a cat they had on
board, the leather from the pumps, their
buttons and their shoes, the candles and the
oil. Then, they went aft, and down into the
captain's cabin, and said they wanted him to
see lots fairly drawn who should be killed to
feed the rest. The captain refusing with
horror, they went forward again, contrived to
make the lot fall on a negro whom they had
on board, shot him, fried a part of him for
supper, and pickled the rest, with the exception
of the head and fingers which they threw
overboard. The greediest man among them,
dying raving mad on the third day after this
event, they threw his body into the sea—it
would seem because they feared to derive a
contagion of madness from it, if they ate it.
Nine days having elapsed in all since the
negro's death, and they being without food
again, they went below once more and
repeated their proposal to the captain (who
lay weak and ill in his cot, having been
unable to endure the mere thought of touching
the negro's remains), that he should see
lots fairly drawn. As he had no security but
that they would manage, if he still refused,
that the lot should fall on him, he consented.
It fell on a foremast-man, who was the
favourite of the whole ship. He was quite
willing to die, and chose the man who had
shot the negro, to be his executioner. While
he was yet living, the cook made a fire in the
galley; but, they resolved, when all was ready
for his death, that the fire should be put out
again, and that the doomed foremast-man
should live until an hour before noon
next day; after which they went once more
into the captain's cabin, and begged him to
read prayers, with supplications that a sail
might heave in sight before the appointed
time. A sail was seen at about eight
o'clock next morning, and they were taken
off the wreck.

Is there any circumstance in this case to
separate it from the others already described,
and from the case of the lost Arctic voyagers?
Let the reader judge. The ship was laden
with wine and brandy. The crew were
incessantly drunk from the first hour of their
calamities fulling upon them. They were
not sober, even at the moment when they

[387]
proposed the drawing of lots. They were
with difficulty restrained from making
themselves wildly intoxicated while the strange
sail bore down to their rescue. And the
mate, who should have been the exemplar and
preserver of discipline, was so drunk after
all, that he had no idea whatever of
anything that had happened, and was rolled into
the boat which saved his life.

In the case of the Thomas, the surgeon
bled the man to death on whom the lot fell,
and his remains were eaten ravenously. The
details of this shipwreck are not within our
reach; but, we confidently assume the crew
to have been of an inferior class.

The useful and accomplished SIR JOHN
BARROW, remarking that it is but too well
established " that men in extreme cases have
destroyed each other for the sake of appeasing
hunger," instances the English ship the
Nautilus and the French ship the Medusa.
Let us look into the circumstances of these
two shipwrecks.

The Nautilus, sloop of war, bound for
England with despatches from the Dardanelles,
struck, one dark and stormy January
night, on a coral rock in the Mediterranean,
and soon broke up. A number of the crew
got upon the rock, which scarcely rose above
the water, and was less than four hundred
yards long, and not more than two hundred
broad.On the fourth day—they having been in
the meantime hailed by some of their comrades
who had got into a small whale-boat which
was hanging over the ship's quarter when
she struck; and also knowing that boat to
have made for some fishermen not far off—
these shipwrecked people ate the body of a
young man who had died some hours before:
notwithstanding that Sir John Barrow's
words would rather imply that they killed
some unfortunate person for the purpose.
Now, surely after what we have just seen
of the extent of human endurance under
similar circumstances, we know this to
be an exceptional and uncommon case. It
may likewise be argued that few of the
people on the rock can have eaten of
this fearful food; for, the survivors were
fifty in number, and were not taken off
until the sixth day and the eating of no
other body is mentioned, though many
persons died.

We come then, to the wreck of the Medusa,
of which there is a lengthened French account
by two surviving members of the crew, which
was very indifferently translated into English
some five and thirty years ago. She sailed
from France for Senegal, in company with
three other vessels, and had about two
hundred and forty souls on board, including
a number of soldiers. She got among shoals
and stranded, a fortnight after her
departure from Aix Roads. After scenes of
tremendous confusion and dismay, the people
at length took to the boats, and to a raft
made of topmasts, yards, and other stout
spars, strongly lashed together. One hundred
and fifty mortals were crammed together on
the raft, of whom only fifteen remained to
be saved at the end of thirteen days. The
raft has become the ship, and may always be
understood to be meant when the wreck of
the Medusa is in question.

Upon this raft, every conceivable and
inconceivable horror, possible under the
circumstances, took place. It was shamefully
deserted by the boats (though the land was
within fifteen leagues at that time), and it
was so deep in the water that those who
clung to it, fore and aft, were always
immersed in the sea to their middles, and it
was only out of the water amidships. It had
a pole for a mast, on which the top-gallant
sail of the Medusa was hoisted. It rocked
and rolled violently with every wave, so that
even in the dense crowd it was impossible to
stand without holding on. Within the first
few hours, people were washed off by dozens,
flung themselves into the sea, were stifled in
the press, and, getting entangled among the
spars, rolled lifeless to and fro under foot.
There was a cask of wine upon it which was
secretly broached by the soldiers and sailors,
who drank themselves so mad, that they
resolved to cut the cords asunder, and send the
whole living freight to perdition. They were
headed by "an Asiatic, and soldier in a
colonial regiment: of a colossal stature, with
short curled hair, an extremely large nose,
an enormous mouth, a sallow complexion,
and a hideous air." Him, an officer cast into the
sea; upon which, his comrades made a charge
at the officer, threw him into the sea, and, on
his being recovered by their opponents who
launched a barrel to him, tried to cut out his
eyes with a penknife. Hereupon, an incessant
and infernal combat was fought between the
two parties,with sabres, knives, bayonets, nails,
and teeth, until the rebels were thinned and
cowed, and they were all ferociously wild
together. On the third day, they " fell upon the
dead bodies with which the raft was covered,
and cut off pieces, which some instantly
devoured. Many did not touch them; almost all
the officers were of this number." On the fourth
"we dressed some fish (they had fire on the raft)
which we devoured with extreme avidity;
but, our hunger was so great, and our portion
of fish so small, that we added to it some
human flesh, which dressing rendered less
disgusting; it was this which the officers
touched for the first time. From this day
we continued to use it; but we could not
dress it any more, as we were entirely de-
prived of the means,'' through the accidental
extinction of their fire, and their having no
materials to kindle another. Before the
fourth night, the raving mutineers rose
again, and were cut down and thrown
overboard until only thirty people remained
alive upon the raft. On the seventh day,
there were only twenty-seven; and twelve of
these, being spent and ill, were every one cast

[388]
into the sea by the remainder, who then, in
an access of repentance, threw the weapons
away too, all but one sabre. After that,
"the soldiers and sailors" were eager to
devour a butterfly which was seen fluttering
on the mast; after that, some of them
began to tell the stories of their lives;
and thus, with grim joking, and raging
thirst and reckless bathing among the
sharks which had now begun to follow the
raft, and general delirium and fever, they
were picked up by a ship: to the number,
and after the term of exposure, already
mentioned.

Are there any circumstances in this frightful
case, to account for its peculiar horrors?
Again, the reader shall judge. No discipline
worthy of the name had been observed aboard
the Medusa from the minute of her weighing
anchor. The captain had inexplicably delegated
his authority " to a man who did not belong to
the staff. He was an ex-officer of the marine,
who had just left an English prison, where
he had been for ten years." This man held
the ship's course against the protest of the
officers, who warned him what would come
of it. The work of the ship had been so ill
done, that even the common manoeuvres
necessary to the saving of a boy who fell
overboard, had been bungled, and the boy
had been needlessly lost. Important signals
had been received from one of the ships in
company, and neither answered nor reported
to the captain. The Medusa had been on
fire through negligence. When she struck,
desertion of duty, mean evasion and fierce
recrimination, wasted the precious moments. "It
is probable that if one of the first officers had
set the example, order would have been
restored; but every one was left to himself." The
most virtuous aspiration of which the soldiers
were sensible, was, to fire upon their officers,
and, failing that, to tear their eyes out and
rend them to pieces. The historians compute
that there were not in all upon the raft
—before the sick were thrown into the sea—
more than twenty men of decency, education,
and purpose enough, even to oppose
the maniacs. To crown all, they describe
the soldiers as "wretches who were not
worthy to wear the French uniform. They
were the scum of all countries, the refuse
of the prisons, where they had been collected
to make up the force. When, for the sake
of health, they had been made to bathe in
the sea (a ceremony from which some of
them had the modesty to endeavour to excuse
themselves), the whole crew had had ocular
demonstration that it was not upon their
breasts these heroes wore the insignia of the
exploits which had led to their serving the
state in the ports of Toulon. Brest, or
Rochefort." And is it with the scourged
and branded sweepings or the galleys
of France, in their debased condition of
eight-and-thirty years ago, that we shall
compare the flower of the trained
adventurous spirit of the English Navy, raised
by Parry, Franklin, Richardson, and
Back?

Nearly three hundred years ago, a
celebrated case of famine occurred in the
Jacques, a French ship, homeward-bound
from Brazil, with forty-five persons on board,
of whom twenty-five were the ship's company.
She was a crazy old vessel, fit for nothing but
firewood, and had been out four months, and
was still upon the weary seas far from land,
when her whole stock of provisions was
exhausted. The very maggots in the dust of
the bread-room had been eaten up, and
the parrots and monkeys brought from
Brazil by the men on board had been killed
and eaten, when two of the men died. Their
bodies were committed to the deep. At least
twenty days afterwards, when they had had
perpetual cold and stormy weather, and were
grown too weak to navigate the ship; when
they had eaten pieces of the dried skin of the
wild hog, and leather jackets and shoes, and
the horn-plates of the ship-lanterns, and all the
wax-candles; the gunner died. His body
likewise, was committed to the deep. They
then began to hunt for mice, so that it became
a common thing on board, to see skeleton-men
watching eagerly and silently at mouse-holes,
like cats. They had no wine and no water;
nothing to drink but one little glass of cider,
each, per day. When they were come to this
pass, two more of the sailors " died of hunger."
Their bodies likewise, were committed to the
deep. So long and doleful were these
experiences on the barren sea, that the people
conceived the extraordinary idea that another
deluge had happened, and there was no land
left. Yet, this ship drifted to the coast of
Brittany, and no " last resource " had ever
been appealed to. It is worth remarking
that, after they were saved, the captain
declared he had meant to kill somebody,
privately, next day. Whosoever has been
placed in circumstances of peril, with
companions, will know the infatuated pleasure
some imaginations take in enhancing
them and all their remotest possible
consequences, after they are escaped from, and
will know what value to attach to this
declaration.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a ship's
master and fifteen men escaped from a wreck
in an open boat, which they weighed down
very heavy, and were at sea, with no fresh-
water, and nothing to eat but the floating
sea-weed, seven days and nights. " We will
all live or die together," said the master on
the third day, when one of the men proposed
to draw lots—not who should become the
last resource, but who should be thrown
overboard to lighten the boat. On the fifth
day, that man and another died. The rest
were ''very weak and praying for death;"
but these bodies also, were committed to
the deep.

In the reign of George the Third, the Wager,

[389]
man-of-war, one of a squadron badly found
and provided in all respects, sailing from
England for South America, was wrecked on
the coast of Patagonia. She was commanded
by a brutal though bold captain, and manned
by a turbulent crew, most of whom were
exasperated to a readiness for all mutiny by
having been pressed in the Downs, in the
hour of their arrival at home from long and
hard service. When the ship struck, they
broke open the officers' chests, dressed themselves
in the officers' uniforms, and got drunk
in the old, Smollett manner. About a
hundred and fifty of them made their way ashore,
and divided into parties. Great distress was
experienced from want of food, and one of the
boys, " having picked up the liver of one of
the drowned men whose carcase had been
dashed to pieces against the rocks, could be
with difficulty withheld from making a meal
of it." One man, in a quarrel, on a spot
which, in remembrance of their sufferings
there, they called Mount Misery, stabbed
another mortally, and left him dead on the
ground. Though a third of the whole number
were no more, chiefly through want, in eight or
ten weeks; and though they had in the meantime
eaten a midshipman's dog, and were now
glad to feast on putrid morsels of seal that
had been thrown away; certain men came
back to this Mount Misery, expressly to give
this body (which throughout had remained
untouched), decent burial: assigning their
later misfortunes " to their having neglected
this necessary tribute." Afterwards, in an
open-boat navigation, when rowers died
at their oars of want and its attendant
weakness, and there was nothing to serve out
but bits of rotten seal, the starving crew went
ashore to bury the bodies of their dead
companions, in the sand. At such a condition did
even these ill-nurtured, ill-commanded, ill-
used men arrive, without appealing to the
"last resource," that they were so much
emaciated " as hardly to have the shape of
men," while the captain's legs " resembled
posts, though his body appeared to be
nothing but skin and bone," and he had
fallen into that feeble state of intellect
that he had positively forgotten his own
name.

ln the same reign, an East Indiaman, bound
from Surat to Mocha and Jidda in the Dead
Sea, took fire when two hundred leagues
distant from the nearest land, which was the
coast of Malabar. The mate and ninety-five
other people, white, brown, and black, found
themselves in the long-boat, with this voyage
before them, and neither water nor provisions
on board. The account of the mate who
conducted the boat, day and night, is, " We were
never hungry, though our thirst was extreme.
On the seventh day, our throats and tongues
swelled to such a degree, that we conveyed
our meaning by signs. Sixteen died on that
day, and almost the whole people became
silly, and began to die laughing. I earnestly
petitioned God that I might continue in my
senses to my end, which He was pleased to
grant: I being the only person on the eighth
day that preserved them. Twenty more
died that day. On the ninth I observed land,
which overcame my senses, and I fell into a
swoon with thankfulness of joy." Again no
last resource, and can the reader doubt that
they would all have died without it?

In the same reign, and within a few years
of the same date, the Philip Aubin, bark
of eighty tons, bound from Barbadoes to
Surinam, broached-to at sea, and foundered.
The captain, the mate, and two seamen, got
clear of the wreck and into " a small boat
twelve or thirteen feet long." In
accomplishing this escape, they all, but particularly
the captain, showed great coolness, courage,
sense, and resignation. They took the
captain's dog on board, and picked up thirteen
onions which floated out of the ship, after she
went down. They had no water, no mast,
sail, or oars; nothing but the boat, what they
wore, and a knife. The boat had sprung a
leak, which was stopped with a shirt. They
cut pieces of wood from the boat itself, which
they made into a mast; they rigged the mast
with strips of the shirt; and they hoisted a
pair of wide trousers for a sail. The little
boat being cut down almost to the water's edge,
they made a bulwark against the sea, of their
own backs. The mate steered with a top-
mast he had pushed before him to the boat,
when he swam to it. On the third day,
they killed the dog, and drank his blood out
of a hat. On the fourth day, the two men
gave in, saying they would rather die than
toil on; and one persisted in refusing to do his
part in baling the boat, though the captain
implored him on his knees. But, a very
decided threat from the mate to steer him
into the other world with the topmast by
bringing it down upon his skull, induced him
to turn-to again. On the fifth day, the mate
exhorted the rest to cut a piece out of his
thigh, and quench their thirst; but, no one
stirred. He had eaten more of the dog than
any of the rest, and would seem from this
wild proposal to have been the worse for it,
though he was quite steady again next day,
and derived relief (as the captain did), from
turning a nail in his mouth, and often
sprinkling his head with salt-water. The
captain, first and last, took only a few
mouthfuls of the dog, and one of the seamen
only tasted it, and the other would not touch
it. The onions they all thought of small
advantage to them, as engendering greater
thirst. On the eighth day, the two seamen,
who had soon relapsed and become delirious
and quite oblivious of their situation, died,
within three hours of each other. The
captain and mate saw the Island of Tobago
that evening, but could not make it until late
in the ensuing night. The bodies were
found in the boat, unmutilated by the last
resource. 

[390]
ln the same reign still, and within three
years of this disaster, the American brig,
Tyrel, sailed from New York for the Island
of Antigua. She was a miserable tub,
grossly unfit for sea, and turned bodily over
in a gale of wind, five days after her departure.
Seventeen people took to a boat,
nineteen feet and a half long, and less than
six feet and a half broad, They had half a
peck of white biscuit, changed into salt dough
by the sea-water; and a peck of common
ship-biscuit. They steered their course by
the polar-star. Soon after sunset on the
ninth day, the second mate and the carpenter
died very peacefully. "All betook themselves
to prayers, and then after some little
time stripped the bodies of their two
unfortunate comrades, and threw them overboard."
Next night, a man aged sixty-four who had
been fifty years at sea, died, asking to the
last for a drop of water; next day, two more
died, in perfect repose; next night, the
gunner; four more in the succeeding four
and twenty hours. Five others followed in
one day. And all these bodies were quietly
thrown overboard—though with great
difficulty at last, for the survivors were now
exceeding weak, and not one had strength
to pull an oar. On the fourteenth or fifteenth
morning, when there were only three left
alive, and the body of the cabin boy, newly
dead, was in the boat, the chief mate
'' asked his two companions whether they
thought they could eat any of the boy's
flesh? They signified their inclination to try;
whence, the body being quite cold, he cut a
piece from the inside of its thigh, a little
above the knee. Part of this he gave to the
captain and boatswain, and reserved a small
portion to himself. But, on attempting to
swallow the flesh, it was rejected by the
stomachs of all, and the body was therefore
thrown overboard." Yet that captain, and
that boatswain both died of famine in the
night, and another whole week elapsed
before a schooner picked up the chief mate,
left alone in the boat with their unmolested
bodies, the dumb evidence of his story. Which
bodies the crew of that schooner saw, and
buried in the deep.

Only four years ago, in the autumn of
eighteen hundred and fifty, a party of British
missionaries were most indiscreetly sent out
by a Society, to Patagonia. They were seven
in number, and all died near the coast (as
nothing but a miracle could have prevented
their doing), of starvation. An exploring
party, under Captain Moorshead of her
Majesty's ship Dido, came upon their traces,
and found the remains of four of them, lying
by their two boats which they had hauled up
for shelter. CAPTAIN GARDINER, their super-
intendent, who had probably expired the last,
had kept a journal until the pencil had
dropped from his dying hand. They had
buried three of their party, like Christian
men, and the rest had faded away in quiet
resignation, and without great suffering. They
were kind and helpful to one another, to the
last. One of the common men, just like Adam
with Franklin, was " cast down at the loss of
his comrades, and wandering in his mind"
before he passed away.

Against this strong case in support of our
general position, we will faithfully set
four opposite instances we have sought
out.

The first is the case of the New Horn,
Dutch vessel, which was burnt at sea and
blew up with a great explosion, upwards of
two hundred years ago. Seventy-two people
escaped in two boats. The old Dutch captain's
narrative being rather obscure, and
(as we believe) scarcely traceable beyond a
French translation, it is not easy to understand
how long they were at sea, before the
people fell into the state to which the ensuing
description applies. According to our
calculation, however, they had not been ship-
wrecked many days—we take the period to
have been less than a week—and they had
had seven or eight pounds of biscuit on board.
"Our misery daily increased, and the rage of
hunger urging us to extremities, the people
began to regard each other with ferocious
looks. Consulting among themselves, they
secretly determined to devour the boys on
board, and after their bodies were consumed,
to throw lots who should next suffer death,
that the lives of the rest might be preserved."
The captain dissuading them from this with
the utmost loathing and horror, they reconsidered
the matter, and decided " that should
we not get sight of land in three days, the
boys should be sacrificed." On the last of
the three days, the land was made; so,
whether any of them would have executed
this intention, can never be known.

The second case runs thus. In the last year
of the last century, six men were induced to
desert from the English artillery at St. Helena
—a deserter from any honest service is not a
character from which to expect much—and
to go on board an American ship, the only
vessel then lying in those roads. After they
got on board in the dark, they saw lights
moving about on shore, and, fearful that they
would be missed and taken, went over the
side, with the connivance of the ship's people,
got into the whale boat, and made off:
purposing to be taken up again by and by,
when the ship was under weigh. But, they
missed her, and rowed and sailed about for
sixteen days, at the end of which their
provisions were all consumed. After chewing
bamboo, and gnawing leather, and eating a
dolphin, one of them proposed, when ten days
more had run out, that lots should be drawn
which deserter should bleed himself to death,
to support life in the rest. It was agreed to,
and done. They could take very little of
this food.

The third, is the case of the Nottingham
Galley, trading from Great Britain to America,

[391]
which was wrecked on a rock called Boon
Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. About
two days afterwards—the narrative is not
very clear in its details—the cook died on
the rock. "Therefore," writes the captain,
"we laid him in a convenient place for the
sea to carry him away. None then proposed
to eat his body, though several afterwards
acknowledged that they, as well as myself,
had thoughts of it." They were "tolerably
well supplied with fresh-water throughout."
But, when they had been upon the rock about
a fortnight, and had eaten all their provisions,
the carpenter died. And then the captain
writes: " We suffered the body to remain
with us till morning, when I desired those
who were best able to remove it. I crept out
myself to see whether Providence had yet
sent us anything to satisfy our craving appetites.
Returning before noon, and observing
that the dead body still remained, I asked
the men why they had not removed it: to
which they answered, that all were not able.
I therefore fastened a rope to it, and, giving
the utmost of my assistance, we, with some
difficulty, got it out of the tent. But the
fatigue and consideration of our misery
together, so overcame my spirits, that, being
ready to faint, I crept into the tent and was
no sooner there, than, as the highest aggravation
of distress, the men began requesting
me to give them the body of their lifeless
comrade to eat, the better to support their
own existence." The captain ultimately
complied. They became brutalised and
ferocious; but they suffered him to keep
the remains on a high part of the rock: and
they were not consumed when relief arrived.

The fourth and last case, is the wreck of the
St. Lawrence, bound from Quebec for New
York. An ensign of foot, bringing home
despatches, relates how she went ashore on a
desolate part of the coast of North America,
and how those who were saved from the wreck
suffered great hardships, both by land and
sea, and were thinned in their numbers
by death, and buried their dead. All this
time they had some provisions, though they
ran short, but at length they were reduced to
live upon weeds and tallow and melted snow.
The tallow being all gone, they lived on
weed and snow for three days, and then
the ensign came to this: " The time was now
arrived when I thought it highly expedient
to put the plan before mentioned (casting
lots who should be killed) into execution;
but on feeling the pulse of my companions,
I found some of them rather averse
to the proposal. The desire of life still
prevailed above every other sentiment,
notwithstanding the wretchedness of our condition,
and the impossibility of preserving it by any
other method. I thought it an extraordinary
instance of infatuation, that men should prefer
the certainty of a lingering and miserable
death, to the distant chance of escaping one
more immediate and less painful. However,
on consulting with the mate what was to be
done, I found that although they objected to
the proposal of casting lots for the victim,
yet all concurred in the necessity of some
one being sacrificed for the preservation of
the rest. The only question was how it
should be determined; when by a kind of
reasoning more agreeable to the dictates of
self-love than justice, it was agreed, that as
the captain was now so exceedingly reduced
as to be evidently the first who would sink
under our present complicated misery; as he
had been the person to whom we considered
ourselves in some measure indebted for all
our misfortunes; and further, as he had
ever since our shipwreck been the most
remiss in his exertions towards the general
good—he was undoubtedly the person
who should be the first sacrificed." The
design of which the ensign writes with
this remarkable coolness, was not carried
into execution, by reason of their falling
in with some Indians; but, some of the
party who were afterwards separated from
the rest, declared when they rejoined them,
that they had eaten of the remains of their
deceased companions. Of this case it is to be
noticed that the captain is alleged to have
been a mere kidnapper, sailing under false
pretences, and therefore not likely to have
had by any means a choice crew; that the
greater part of them got drunk when the
ship was in danger; and that they had not a
very sensitive associate in the ensign, on his
own highly disagreeable showing.

It appears to us that the influence of great
privation upon the lower and least disciplined
class of character, is much more bewildering
and maddening at sea than on shore.
The confined space, the monotonous aspect of
the waves, the mournful winds, the
monotonous motion, the dead uniformity of colour,
the abundance of water that cannot be drunk
to quench the raging thirst (which the
Ancient Mariner perceived to be one of his
torments)—these seem to engender a diseased
mind with greater quickness and of a worse
sort. The conviction on the part of the
sufferers that they hear voices calling for them;
that they descry ships coming to their aid;
that they hear the firing of guns, and see the
flash; that they can plunge into the waves
without injury, to fetch something or to meet
somebody; is not often paralleled among
suffering travellers by land. The mirage
excepted—a delusion of the desert, which
has its counterpart upon the sea, not included
under these heads—we remember nothing
of this sort experienced by BRUCE, for
instance, or by MUNGO PARK: least of all
by Franklin in the memorable book we
have quoted. Our comparison of the
records of the two kinds of trial, leads us
to believe, that even man who might be in
danger of the last resource at sea, would be
very likely to pine away by degrees, and
never come to it, ashore. 

[392]
In his published account of the ascent of
Mont Blanc, which is an excellent little
book, Mr. ALBERT SMITH describes, with very
humorous fidelity, that when he was urged
on by the guides, in a drowsy state when he
would have given the world to lie down and
go to sleep for ever, he was conscious of being
greatly distressed by some difficult and
altogether imaginary negotiations respecting
a non-existent bedstead; also, by an impression
that a familiar friend in London came
up with the preposterous intelligence that
the King of Prussia objected to the party's
advancing, because it was his ground. But,
these harmless vagaries are not the present
question, being commonly experienced under
most circumstances where an effort to fix
the attention, or exert the body, contends
with a strong disposition to sleep. We have
been their sport thousands of times, and
have passed through a series of most
inconsistent and absurd adventures, while trying
hard to follow a short dull story related
by some eminent conversationalist after
dinner.

No statement of cannibalism, whether
on the deep or the dry land, is to be
admitted supposititiously, or inferentially,
or on any but the most direct and positive
evidence: no, not even as occurring among
savage people, against whom it was in earlier
times too often a pretence for cruelty and
plunder. MR. PRESCOTT, in his brilliant
history of the Conquest of Mexico, observes
of a fact so astonishing as the existence of
cannibalism among a people who had attained
considerable advancement in the arts and
graces of life, that " they did not feed on
human flesh merely to gratify a brutish appetite,
but in obedience to their religion—a
distinction," he justly says, " worthy of
notice." Besides which, it is to be remarked,
that many of these feeding practices rest on
the authority of narrators who distinctly saw
St. James and the Virgin Mary fighting at
the head of the troops of Cortes, and who
possessed, therefore, to say the least, an
unusual range of vision. It is curious to
consider, with our general impressions on the
subject—very often derived, we have no doubt,
from ROBINSON CRUSOE, if the oaks of men's
beliefs could be traced back to acorns—how
rarely the practice, even among savages, has
been proved. The word of a savage is not
to be taken for it; firstly, because he is a
liar; secondly, because he is a boaster;
thirdly, because he often talks figuratively;
fourthly, because he is given to a superstitious
notion that when he tells you he has his
enemy in his stomach, you will logically
give him credit for having his enemy's
valour in his heart. Even the sight of
cooked and dissevered human bodies among
this or that tattoo'd tribe, is not proof. Such
appropriate offerings to their barbarous,
wide-mouthed, goggle-eyed gods, savages
have been often seen and known to make.
And although it may usually be held as
a rule, that the fraternity of priests lay
eager hands upon everything meant for
the gods, it is always possible that these
offerings are an exception: as at once
investing the idols with an awful character,
and the priests with a touch of disinterestedness,
whereof their order may occasionally
stand in need.

The imaginative people of the East, in the
palmy days of its romance—not very much
accustomed to the sea, perhaps, but certainly
familiar by experience and tradition with
the perils of the desert—had no notion of
the " last resource " among civilised human
creatures. In the whole wild circle of the
Arabian Nights, it is reserved for ghoules,
gigantic blacks with one eye, monsters like
towers, of enormous bulk and dreadful
aspect, and unclean animals lurking on the
seashore, that puffed and blew their way into
caves where the dead were interred. Even
for SINBAD the Sailor, buried alive, the
story-teller found it easier to provide some
natural sustenance, in the shape of so many
loaves of bread and so much water, let down
into the pit with each of the other people
buried alive after him (whom he killed with
a bone, for he was not nice), than to invent
this dismal expedient.

We are brought back to the position almost
embodied in the words of Sir John Richardson
towards the close of the former chapter.
In weighing the probabilities and improbabilities
of the " last resource," the foremost
question is—not the nature of the extremity;
but, the nature of the men. We submit that
the memory of the lost Arctic voyagers is
placed, by reason and experience, high above
the taint of this so easily-allowed connection;
and that the noble conduct and example of such
men, and of their own great leader himself,
under similar endurances, belies it, and
outweighs by the weight of the whole universe
the chatter of a gross handful of uncivilised
people, with a domesticity of blood and
blubber. Utilitarianism will protest "they
are dead; why care about this? " Our reply
shall be, " Because they ARE dead, therefore
we care about this. Because they served
their country well, and deserved well of her,
and can ask, no more on this earth, for her
justice or her loving-kindness; give them
both, full measure, pressed down, running
over. Because no Franklin can come back, to
write the honest story of their woes and
resignation, read it tenderly and truly in the
book he has left us. Because they lie
scattered on those wastes of snow, and are as
defenceless against the remembrance of
coming generations, as against the elements
into which they are resolving, and the winter
winds that alone can waft them home, now,
impalpable air; therefore, cherish them
gently, even in the breasts of children.
Therefore, teach no one to shudder without
reason, at the history of their end. Therefore,

[393]
confide with their own firmness, in their
fortitude, their lofty sense of duty, their
courage, and their religion.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Cannibalism: Charles Dickens v. Dr. John Rae, Part 1.

I noticed recently that we were approaching the anniversary of the publication of the dispute between Rae and Dickens on the subject of the reports of cannibalism which Rae had obtained from the Inuit.

My purpose here is simply to post these lengthy articles on the same dates in the calendar that they were originally published and invite the public to read them and try to imagine what impressions would have been formed in the minds of the readership of 165 years ago.

The transcription is from http://www.djo.org.uk/household-words/volume-x/page-361.html


 
HOUSEHOLD WORDS

No. 245                   Saturday, December 2, 1854                   Page 361

THE LOST ARCTIC VOYAGERS.

DR. RAE may be considered to have established,
by the mute but solemn testimony
of the relics he has brought home, that
SIR JOHN FRANKLIN and his party are no
more. But, there is one passage in his
melancholy report, some examination into the
probabilities and improbabilities of which, we
hope will tend to the consolation of those who
take the nearest and dearest interest in the fate
of that unfortunate expedition, by leading to
the conclusion that there is no reason whatever
to believe, that any of its members prolonged
their existence by the dreadful expedient of
eating the bodies of their dead companions.
Quite apart from the very loose and
unreliable nature of the Esquimaux representations
(on which it would be necessary to
receive with great caution, even the commonest
and most natural occurrence), we believe we
shall show, that close analogy and the mass
of experience are decidedly against the reception
of any such statement, and that it is in the
highest degree improbable that such men as the
officers and crews of the two lost ships would,
or could, in any extremity of hunger, alleviate
the pains of starvation by this horrible means.

Before proceeding to the discussion, we will
premise that we find no fault with Dr. Rae,
and that we thoroughly acquit him of any
trace of blame. He has himself openly
explained, that his duty demanded that he
should make a faithful report, to the Hudson's
Bay Company or the Admiralty, of every
circumstance stated to him; that he did so, as
he was bound to do, without any reservation;
and that his report was made public by the
Admiralty: not by him. It is quite clear that
if it were an ill-considered proceeding to
disseminate this painful idea on the worst of
evidence, Dr. Rae is not responsible for it. It
is not material to the question that Dr. Rae
believes in the alleged cannibalism; he does
so, merely "on the substance of information
obtained at various times and various
sources," which is before us all. At the same
time, we will most readily concede that he has
all the rights to defend his opinion which his
high reputation as a skilful and intrepid
traveller of great experience in the Arctic
Regions—combined with his manly,
conscientious, and modest personal character—can

possibly invest him with. Of the propriety
of his immediate return to England with the
intelligence he had got together, we are fully
convinced. As a man of sense and humanity,
he perceived that the first and greatest
account to which it could be turned, was, the
prevention of the useless hazard of valuable
lives; and no one could better know in how
much hazard all lives are placed that follow
Franklin's track, than he who had made eight
visits to the Arctic shores. With these remarks
we can release Dr. Rae from this inquiry,
proud of him as an Englishman, and happy
in his safe return home to well-earned rest.

The following is the passage in the report
to which we invite attention: "Some of the
bodies had been buried (probably those of the
first victims of famine); some were in a tent
or tents; others under the boat, which had
been turned over to form a shelter; and
several lay scattered about in different directions.
Of those found on the island, one was
supposed to have been an officer, as he had a
telescope, strapped over his shoulders, and his
double-barrelled gun lay underneath him.
From the mutilated state of many of the
corpses and the contents of the kettles, it is
evident that our wretched countrymen had
been driven to the last resource—cannibalism
—as a means of prolonging existence . . . .
None of the Esquimaux with whom I
conversed had seen the ' whites,' nor had they
ever been at the place where the bodies were
found, but had their information from those
who had been there, and who had seen the
party when travelling."

We have stated our belief that the extreme
improbability of this inference as to the
last resource, can be rested, first on close
analogy, and secondly, on broad general
grounds, quite apart from the improbabilities
and incoherencies of the Esquimaux evidence:
which is itself given, at the very best, at
second-hand. More than this, we presume it
to have been given at second-hand through
an interpreter; and he was, in all probability,
imperfectly acquainted with the language he
translated to the white man. We believe that
few (if any) Esquimaux tribes speak one
common dialect; and Franklin's own
experience of his interpreters in his former voyage
was, that they and the Esquimaux they
encountered understood each other "tolerably"

[362]
  —an expression which he frequently uses in
his book, with the evident intention of
showing that their communication was not
altogether satisfactory. But, even making the
very large admission that Dr. Rae's interpreter
perfectly understood what he was told,
there yet remains the question whether he
could render it into language of corresponding
weight and value. We recommend any
reader who does not perceive the difficulty of
doing so and the skill required, even when a
copious and elegant European language is in
question, to turn to the accounts of the trial
of Queen Caroline, and to observe the constant
discussions that arose—sometimes, very
important—in reference to the worth in English,
of words used by the Italian witnesses. There
still remains another consideration, and a
grave one, which is, that ninety-nine interpreters
out of a hundred, whether savage, half-savage,
or wholly civilised, interpreting to a
person of superior station and attainments, will
be under a strong temptation to exaggerate.
This temptation will always be strongest,
precisely where the person interpreted to is
seen to be the most excited and impressed
by what he hears; for, in proportion as he is
moved, the interpreter's importance is
increased. We have ourself had an
opportunity of inquiring whether any part of this
awful information, the unsatisfactory result
of "various times and various sources," was
conveyed by gestures. It was so, and the
gesture described to us as often repeated—
that of the informant setting his mouth to
his own arm—would quite as well describe a
man having opened one of his veins, and
drunk of the stream that flowed from it. If
it be inferred that the officer who lay upon
his double-barrelled gun, defended his life to the
last against ravenous seamen, under the boat
or elsewhere, and that he died in so doing,
how came his body to be found? That was
not eaten, or even mutilated, according to the
description. Neither were the bodies, buried
in the frozen earth, disturbed; and is it not
likely that if any bodies were resorted to as
food, those the most removed from recent life
and companionship would have been the first?
Was there any fuel in that desolate place for
cooking " the contents of the kettles"? If
none, would the little flame of the spirit-lamp
the travellers may have had with them, have
sufficed for such a purpose? If not, would
the kettles have been defiled for that purpose
at all? "Some of the corpses," Dr. Rae
adds, in a letter to the Times, "had been
sadly mutilated, and had been stripped by
those who had the misery to survive them,
and who were found wrapped in two or three
suits of clothes."Had there been no bears
thereabout, to mutilate those bodies; no
wolves, no foxes? Most probably the scurvy,
known to be the dreadfullest scourge of
Europeans in those latitudes, broke out
among the party. Virulent as it would
inevitably be under such circumstances, it
would of itself cause dreadful disfigurement—
woeful mutilation—but, more than that,
it would not only soon annihilate the desire
to eat (especially to eat flesh of any kind),
but would annihilate the power. Lastly, no
man can, with any show of reason, undertake
to affirm that this sad remnant of
Franklin's gallant band were not set upon
and slain by the Esquimaux themselves. It
is impossible to form an estimate of the
character of any race of savages, from their
deferential behaviour to the white man while
he is strong. The mistake has been made
again and again; and the moment the white
man has appeared in the new aspect of being
weaker than the savage, the savage has
changed and sprung upon him. There are
pious persons who, in their practice, with a
strange inconsistency, claim for every child
born to civilisation all innate depravity, and
for every savage born to the woods and wilds
all innate virtue. We believe every savage to
be in his heart covetous, treacherous, and cruel;
and we have yet to learn what knowledge
the white man—lost, houseless, shipless,
apparently forgotten by his race, plainly
famine-stricken, weak, frozen, helpless, and dying—
has of the gentleness of Esquimaux nature.

Leaving, as we purposed, this part of the
subject with a glance, let us put a supposititious
case.

If a little band of British naval officers,
educated and trained exactly like the officers
of this ill-fated expedition, had, on a former
occasion, in command of a party of men
vastly inferior to the crews of these two ships,
penetrated to the same regions, and been
exposed to the rigours of the same climate;
if they had undergone such fatigue, exposure,
and disaster, that scarcely power remained
to them to crawl, and they tottered and fell
many times in a journey of a few yards; if
they could not bear the contemplation of
their "filth and wretchedness, each other's
emaciated figures, ghastly countenances,
dilated eyeballs, and sepulchral voices"; if
they had eaten their shoes, such outer clothes
as they could part with and not perish of
cold, the scraps of acrid marrow yet
remaining in the dried and whitened spines
of dead wolves; if they had wasted away to
skeletons, on such fare, and on bits of putrid
skin, and bits of hide, and the covers of guns,
and pounded bones; if they had passed
through all the pangs of famine, had reached
that point of starvation where there is little
or no pain left, and had descended so far into
the valley of the shadow of Death, that they
lay down side by side, calmly and even cheerfully
awaiting their release from this world;
if they had suffered such dire extremity, and
yet lay where the bodies of their dead
companions lay unburied, within a few paces of
them; and yet never dreamed at the last
gasp of resorting to this said "last resource;"
would it not be strong presumptive evidence
against an incoherent Esquimaux story,

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collected at "various times" as it wandered from
"various sources"? But, if the leader of that
party were the leader of this very party too;
if Franklin himself had undergone those
dreadful trials, and had been restored to
health and strength, and had been—not for
days and months alone, but years—the Chief
of this very expedition, infusing into it, as
such a man necessarily must, the force of his
character and discipline, patience and fortitude;
would there not be a still greater and
stronger moral improbability to set against
the wild tales of a herd of savages?

Now, this was Franklin's case. He had
passed through the ordeal we have described.
He was the Chief of that expedition, and he
was the Chief of this. In this, he
commanded a body of picked English seamen of
the first class; in that, he and his three
officers had but one English seaman to rely on;
the rest of the men being Canadian voyagers
and Indians. His Narrative of a Journey to
the Shores of the Polar Sea in 1819-22, is one
of the most explicit and enthralling in the
whole literature of Voyage and Travel. The
facts are acted and suffered before the reader's
eyes, in the descriptions of FRANKLIN,
RICHARDSON, and BACK: three of the greatest
names in the history of heroic endurance.

See how they gradually sink into the depths
of misery.

"I was reduced," says Franklin, long
before the worst came, "almost to skin and
bone, and, like the rest of the party,
suffered from degrees of cold that would have
been disregarded whilst in health and
vigour." " I set out with the intention of
going to Saint Germain, to hasten his
operations (making a canoe), but though he was
only three quarters of a mile distant, I spent
three hours in a vain attempt to reach him,
my strength being unequal to the labour of
wading through the deep snow; and I
returned quite exhausted, and much shaken by
the numerous falls I had got. My associates
were all in the same debilitated state. The
voyagers were somewhat stronger than
ourselves, but more indisposed to exertion, on
account of their despondency. The sensation
of hunger was no longer felt by any of us,
yet we were scarcely able to converse upon
any other subject than the pleasures of
eating.'' " We had a small quantity of this
weed (tripe de roche, and always the cause of
miserable illness to some of them) in the
evening, and the rest of our supper was made
up of scraps of roasted leather. The distance
walked to-day was six miles." ''Previous
to setting out, the whole party ate the
remains of their old shoes, and whatever scraps
of leather they had, to strengthen their
stomachs for  the fatigue of the day's journey."
"Not being able to find any tripe de roche,
we drank an infusion of the Labrador
tea-plant, and ate a few morsels of burnt leather
for supper.'' " We were unable to raise the
tent, and found its weight too great to carry
it on; we therefore cut it up, and took a part
of the canvass for a cover.'' Thus growing
weaker and weaker every day, they reached,
at last, Fort Enterprise, a lonely and desolate
hut, where Richardson—then Dr. Richardson,
now Sir John—and Hepburn, the English
seaman, from whom they had been parted,
rejoined them. " We were all shocked at
beholding the emaciated countenances of the
Doctor and Hepburn, as they strongly
evidenced their extremely debilitated state. The
alteration in our appearance was equally
distressing to them, for, since the swellings had
subsided, we were little more than skin and
bone. The Doctor particularly remarked the
sepulchral tone of our voices, which he requested
us to make more cheerful, if possible, quite
unconscious that his own partook of the same
key." "In the afternoon Peltier was so
much exhausted, that he sat up with
difficulty, and looked piteously; at length he
slided from his stool upon the bed, as we
supposed to sleep, and in this composed state he
remained upwards of two hours without
our apprehending any danger. We were
then alarmed by hearing a rattling in his
throat, and on the Doctor's examining him
he was found to be speechless. He died in
the course of the night. Semandré sat up the
greater part of the day, and even assisted in
pounding some bones; but, on witnessing the
melancholy state of Peltier, he became very
low, and began to complain of cold, and stiffness
of the joints. Being unable to keep up
a sufficient fire to warm him, we laid him
down, and covered him with several blankets.
He did not, however, appear to get better,
and I deeply lament to add, he also died
before daylight. We removed the bodies of the
deceased into the opposite part of the house,
but our united strength was inadequate to the
task of interring them, or even carrying them
down to the river." "The severe shock
occasioned by the sudden dissolution of our two
companions, rendered us very melancholy.
Adam (one of the interpreters) became low and
despondent; a change which we lamented the
more, as we perceived he had been gaining
strength and spirits for the two preceding days.
I was particularly distressed by the thought
that the labour of collecting wood must now
devolve upon Dr. Richardson and Hepburn, and
that my debility would disable me from affording
them any material assistance; indeed both
of them most kindly urged me not to make the
attempt. I found it necessary, in their absence,
to remain constantly near Adam and to
converse with him, in order to prevent his reflecting
on our condition, and to keep up his spirits
as far as possible. I also lay by his side at
night." "The Doctor and Hepburn were
getting much weaker, and the limbs of the
latter were now greatly swelled. They came
into the house frequently in the course of the
day to rest themselves, and when once seated
were unable to rise without the help of one
another, or of a stick. Adam was for the

[364]
most part in the same low state as yesterday,
but sometimes he surprised us by getting up
and walking with an appearance of increased
strength. His looks were now wild and
ghastly, and his conversation was often
incoherent." "I may here remark, that owing
to our loss of flesh, the hardness of the floor,
from which we were only protected by a
blanket, produced soreness over the body,
and especially those parts on which the
weight rested in lying; yet to turn ourselves
for relief was a matter of toil and difficulty.
However, during this period, and indeed all
along after the acute pains of hunger, which
lasted but a short time, had subsided, we
generally enjoyed the comfort of a few hours'
sleep. The dreams which for the most part
but not always accompanied it, were usually
(though not invariably) of a pleasant
character, being very often about the enjoyments
of feasting. In the daytime, we fell into the
practice of conversing on common and light
subjects, although we sometimes discoursed,
with seriousness and earnestness, on topics
connected with religion. We generally avoided
speaking, directly, of our present sufferings,
or even of the prospect of relief. I observed,
that in proportion as our strength decayed,
our minds exhibited symptoms of weakness,
evinced by a kind of unreasonable pettishness
with each other. Each of us thought
the other weaker in intellect than himself,
and more in need of advice and assistance.
So trifling a circumstance as a change of
place, recommended by one as being warmer
and more comfortable, and refused by the
other from a dread of motion, frequently
called forth fretful expressions, which were
no sooner uttered than atoned for, to be
repeated, perhaps, in the course of a few
minutes. The same thing often occurred when
we endeavoured to assist each other in carrying
wood to the fire; none of us were willing
to receive assistance, although the task was
disproportioned to our strength. On one of these
occasions, Hepburn was so convinced of this
waywardness, that he exclaimed, 'Dear me, if
we are spared to return to England, I wonder
if we shall recover our understandings!'"

Surely it must be comforting to the
relatives and friends of Franklin and his brave
companions in later dangers, now at rest, to
reflect upon this manly and touching narrative;
to consider that at the time it so
affectingly describes, and all the weaknesses of
which it so truthfully depicts, the bodies of
the dead lay within reach, preserved by
the cold, but unmutilated; and to know it
for an established truth, that the sufferers
had passed the bitterness of hunger and were
then dying passively.

They knew the end they were approaching
very well, as Franklin's account of the arrival
of their deliverance next day, shows. "Adam
had passed a restless night, being disquieted
by gloomy apprehensions of approaching
death, which we tried in vain to dispel. He
was so low in the morning as to be scarcely
able to speak. I remained in bed by his
side, to cheer him as much as possible. The
Doctor and Hepburn went to cut wood.
They had hardly begun their labour, when
they were amazed at hearing the report of a
musket. They could scarcely believe that
there was really any one near, until they
heard a shout, and immediately espied three
Indians close to the house. Adam and I
heard the latter noise, and I was fearful that
a part of the house had fallen upon one of my
companions; a disaster which had in fact
been thought not unlikely. My alarm was
only momentary. Dr. Richardson came in
to communicate the joyful intelligence that
relief had arrived. He and myself
immediately addressed thanksgiving to the throne
of mercy for this deliverance, but poor Adam
was in so low a state that he could scarcely
comprehend the information. When the
Indians entered, he attempted to rise, but
sank down again. But for this seasonable
interposition of Providence, his existence
must have terminated in a few hours, and
that of the rest probably in not many days."

But, in the preceding trials and privations
of that expedition, there was one man,
MICHEL, an Iroquois hunter, who did
conceive the horrible idea of subsisting on the
bodies of the stragglers, if not of even
murdering the weakest with the express design
of eating them—which is pretty certain.
This man planned and executed his wolfish
devices at a time when Sir John Richardson
and Hepburn were afoot with him every
day; when, though their sufferings were
very great, they had not fallen into the weakened
state of mind we have just read of; and
when the mere difference between his bodily
robustness and the emaciation of the rest of
the party—to say nothing of his mysterious
absences and returns—might have engendered
suspicion. Yet, so far off was the
unnatural thought of cannibalism from their
minds, and from that of Mr. HOOD, another
officer who accompanied them—though they
were all then suffering the pangs of hunger,
and were sinking every hour—that no
suspicion of the truth dawned upon one of them,
until the same hunter shot Mr. Hood dead
as he sat by a fire. It was after the
commission of that crime, when he had become an
object of horror and distrust, and seemed to
be going savagely mad, that circumstances
began to piece themselves together in the
minds of the two survivors, suggesting a
guilt so monstrously unlikely to both of them
that it had never flashed upon the thoughts of
either until they knew the wretch to be a
murderer. To be rid of his presence, and
freed from the danger they at length
perceived it to be fraught with, Sir John
Richardson, nobly assuming the responsibility
he would not allow a man of commoner
station to bear, shot this devil through the
head—to the infinite joy of all the generations

[365]
of readers who will honour him in his
admirable narrative of that transaction.

The words in which Sir John Richardson
mentions this Michel, after the earth is rid
of him, are extremely important to our
purpose, as almost describing the broad general
ground towards which we now approach.
"His principles, unsupported by a belief in
the divine truths of Christianity, were unable
to withstand the pressure of severe distress.
His countrymen, the Iroquois, are generally
Christians, but he was totally uninstructed,
and ignorant of the duties inculcated by
Christianity; and from his long residence in
the Indian country, seems to have imbibed,
or retained, the rules of conduct which the
southern Indians prescribe to themselves."

Heaven forbid that we, sheltered and fed,
and considering this question at our own
warm hearth, should audaciously set limits
to any extremity of desperate distress! It
is in reverence for the brave and enterprising,
in admiration for the great spirits who can
endure even unto the end, in love for their
names, and in tenderness for their memory,
that we think of the specks, once ardent
men, "scattered about in different directions"
on the waste of ice and snow, and plead for
their lightest ashes. Our last claim in their
behalf and honour, against the vague babble
of savages, is, that the instances in which this
"last resource" so easily received, has been
permitted to interpose between life and
death, are few and exceptional; whereas
the instances in which the sufferings of
hunger have been borne until the pain was
past, are very many. Also, and as the citadel
of the position, that the better educated the
man, the better disciplined the habits, the
more reflective and religious the tone of
thought, the more gigantically improbable
the "last resource" becomes.

Beseeching the reader always to bear in
mind that the lost Arctic voyagers were
carefully selected for the service, and that
each was in his condition no doubt far above
the average, we will test the Esquimaux kettle-stories
by some of the most trying and famous
cases of hunger and exposure on record.

This, however, we must reserve for
another and concluding chapter next week.

"This Hungarian Jew" - House of Commons, 12 February 1852

The clamour for answers could not be ignored, so in February 1852 experienced parliamentarian and member of the opposition Sir William...