My lord, much as I desire to live, I’m not afraid to die. Since I first sailed on the Bounty over four years ago, I’ve known how men can be made to suffer worse things than death, cruelly, beyond duty, beyond necessity. Captain Bligh, you’ve told your story of mutiny on the Bounty, how men plotted against you, seized your ship, cast you adrift in an open boat, a great venture in science brought to nothing, two British ships lost. But there’s another story, Captain Bligh, of ten cocoanuts and two cheeses. A story of a man who robbed his seamen, cursed them, flogged them, not to punish but to break their spirit. A story of greed and tyranny, and of anger against it, of what it cost. One man, my lord, would not endure such tyranny. That’s why you hounded him. That’s why you hate him, hate his friends. And that’s why you’re beaten. Fletcher Christian’s still free. Christian lost, too, my lord. God knows he’s judged himself more harshly than you could judge him. I say to his father, ‘He was my friend. No finer man ever lived.’ I don’t try to justify his crime, his mutiny, but I condemn the tyranny that drove him to it. I don’t speak here for myself alone or for these men you condemn. I speak in their names, in Fletcher Christian’s name, for all men at sea. These men don’t ask for comfort. They don’t ask for safety. If they could speak to you they’d say, ‘Let us choose to do our duty willingly, not the choice of a slave, but the choice of free Englishmen.’ They ask only for the freedom that England expects for every man. If one man among you believe that, one man, he could command the fleets of England. He could sweep the seas for England. If he called his men to their duty not by flaying their backs, but by lifting their hearts. That’s all.
Mutiny on the Bounty, Ensign Byam