BLIGH, William (1754-1817). Autograph letter signed ('Wm Bligh') to Rear Admiral [John] Markham, Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope, 13 June 1806, 3 pages, folio.
A dispassionate consideration of the best anchorage at Cape of Good Hope; and a savage loss of temper with a subordinate. Bligh begins with a consideration of Simon's Bay as an anchorage: it is disadvantaged by its distance from Table Bay, but offers a safe harbour in the winter, whereas Table Bay presents certain dangers even in the summer. In general, he urges the advantages in efficiency of concentrating resources solely on Simon's Bay rather than Cape Town as a 'general depot'. Turning to personal news, Bligh reports that he has been 'extremely ill' on the voyage, and would be better now 'but for a very irritating insulting & unpleasant second in command, in the Porpoise, who disputes or accedes to my authority as the whim takes him. I have been obliged to request of their Lordships to remove him from me'. Bligh is particularly frustrated because he cannot court-martial the man, 'as the Court cannot be formed owing to a want of Captains'; nor can he send him home. 'His letters are numerous, and have been generally subsequent to some insult or disobeydience [sic], to explain it away', though Bligh emphasises that he himself has been 'obliged to avoid' direct communication with the man. Bligh will sail for New South Wales as soon as there is a favourable wind.
The letter neatly sums up the two sides of Bligh's character, in the informed and balanced consideration of a geographical problem in the first half, and in the sudden loss of temper, marked by eratic spelling and grammar, in the latter part. Bligh was at Cape of Good Hope en route to take up his appointment as Governor and Captain-General of New South Wales, in which role he provoked serious unrest, which led to his deposition and imprisonment from January 1808 to March 1810. The 'second in command' in question, Captain Joseph Short, one of a long series of subordinates with whom Bligh quarrelled, was ordered home shortly after the convoy's arrival in New South Wales.