Christian, Fletcher fl. 1789, seaman and mutineer, one of a family descended from the Christians of Milntown in the Isle of Man, but settled for three generations in Cumberland, was a younger brother of Edward Christian, the jurist [qv.], and, having already served some years in the navy, was, in 1787, appointed to the Bounty discovery ship, as master's mate. The Bounty sailed from Spithead on 23 Dec. 1787, and, after touching at the Cape of Good Hope and Van Diemen's Land, arrived at Tahiti on 26 Oct. 1788. She departed on her homeward voyage on 4 April 1789, calling to take in some wood and water at Annamooka, whence she sailed on the 26th. On the morning of the 28th some of the petty officers and seamen, headed by Christian, took possession of the ship, turning Mr. Bligh the commander, the master, the surgeon, and many of the men adrift in the launch [see Bligh, William]. Bligh, on his return to England, published an account of the transaction favourable to himself. But the fact appears to be rather that the mutiny was caused by his own tyrannical conduct, which in those distant seas was absolutely uncontrolled. Christian, who had been doing duty as acting lieutenant and second in command, was more especially the victim of his temper, and on the afternoon of 27 April had been subjected to the most abusive insults. He determined to leave the ship on a small raft, trusting to fortune to carry him to land somewhere, but, being unable to carry out this design during the night, he seized an accidental opportunity the next morning of seizing the ship and sending Bligh adrift instead. The few men he spoke to had all suffered from Bligh's tyranny and readily agreed; and thus, without any plot or forethought, the design was formed and carried into execution within a few minutes. The active mutineers numbered about one-fourth of the ship's company; and that neither Bligh nor any of the officers or men made the slightest attempt to resist is of itself a convincing proof of the general ill-will. As Bligh was being hurried into the boat, he attempted to speak, but was ordered to be silent. Cole, the boatswain, tried to reason with Christian. No, he answered, 'tis too late; I've been in hell for this fortnight past, and am determined to bear it no longer. You know, Mr. Cole, that I've been treated like a dog all the voyage.
     When Bligh, and as many as could be crowded into the launch, had been sent adrift, the ship was taken by the mutineers to Tahiti; there several of the men, including some who had not been able to go in the launch, remained [see Heywood, Peter]; the rest, in the ship, sailed away, and were heard of no more till the one survivor and their descendants were found at Pitcairn's Island in 1814 [see Adams, John]. The story then told by Adams was that Christian and the others had been killed by the Tahitians of their party about four years after their coming to the island. It is extremely doubtful whether this was true. Adams's story was neither constant nor consistent; and it is in a high degree probable that, whether in Captain Folger's ship in 1808, or in some more venturesome way, Christian escaped from the island, and returned to England. He is said to have visited his relations in Cumberland in 1808-9, and was seen by Captain Heywood in the streets of Devonport, under circumstances that seem to point out mistake as almost impossible. But, if so, nothing is known of his subsequent life.

Sources:
     Manx Note-book (1885), i. 19
     Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. iv. (vol. ii. pt. ii.) 748
     Barrow's Eventful History of the Mutiny of the Bounty
     Bligh's Answer to certain assertions contained in the Appendix to a pamphlet entitled Minutes of the Proceedings on the Court-martial, &c. &c. (1794, 4to). This appendix, says Bligh, is the work of Mr. Edward Christian, the brother of Fletcher Christian written apparently for the purpose of vindicating his brother's conduct at my expense. There is not a copy of this pamphlet and appendix in the British Museum, but it would appear to have been based on, or at least to agree with, Morrison's journal, which is largely quoted by Marshall. At the court-martial no questions as to the cause of the mutiny were asked. There is, therefore, no evidence on oath relating to it
     and between the very discordant accounts of Bligh and Morrison judgment must be given on a balance of probabilities. Letters from Fletcher Christian, containing a Narrative of the Transactions on board H.M.S. Bounty before and after the Mutiny, with his subsequent voyages and troubles in South America (1796, 8vo), is an impudent imposture.

Contributor: J. K. L. [John Knox Laughton]

Published: 1887