Ethan Allen,—after severe treatment in the British jails—along with fellow American prisoners aboard aboard a Britsh ship bound for America, discuss taking over the ship with the help of mutineers, and killing the officers.
Whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap..
On Board a Man of War.
“This is a mutable world”
WE had a little birth enclosed with canvas, between decks, where we enjoyed ourselves very well, in hopes of an exchange; besides our friends at Halifax had a little notice of our departure, and supplied us with spirituous liquor, and many articles of provision for the coast. Captain Burk having been taken prisoner, was added to our company (he had commanded an American armed vessel) and was generously treated by the Captain and all the officers of the ship, as well as myself.
We now had in all near thirty prisoners on board, and as we were sailing along the coast, if I recollect right, off Rhode Island, Captain Burk, with an under officer of the ship, whose name I do not recollect, came to our little birth, proposed to kill Capt. Smith and the principal officers of the frigate and take it; adding that there was 35,000£ sterling in the same. Capt. Burk likewise averred that a strong party out of the ship’s crew was in the conspiracy, and urged me and the gentlemen that was with me to use our influence with the private prisoners, to execute the design, and take the ship, with the cash, into one of our own ports.
Upon which I replied, that we had been too well used on board to murder the officers; that I could by no means reconcile it to my conscience, and that in fact it should not be done; and while I was yet speaking, my friend Lovel confirmed what I had said, and further pointed out the ungratefulness of such an act; that it did not fall short of murder, and in fine all the gentlemen in the birth, opposed Capt. Burk and his colleague. But they strenuously urged that the conspiracy would be found out, and that it would cost them their lives, provided they did not execute their design. I then interposed spiritedly, and put an end to further arguments on the subject, and told them that they might depend upon it, upon my honor, that I would faithfully guard Capt. Smith’s life. If they should attempt the assault, I would assist him, for they desired me to remain neuter, and that the same honor that guarded Capt. Smith’s life, would also guard theirs; and it was agreed by those present not to reveal the conspiracy, to the intent that no man should be put to death in consequence of what had been projected; and Capt. Burk and his colleague went to stifle the matter among their associates. I could not help calling to mind what Capt. Smith said to me, when I first came on board: “This is a mutable world, and one gentleman never knows but that it may be in his power to help another.” Capt. Smith and his officers still behaved with their usual courtesy, and I never heard any more of the conspiracy.
—Ethan Allen, Allen’s Captivity: Being a Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen (1845).