Batavia's Graveyard by Mike Dash

Batavia's Graveyard by Mike Dash

Author:Mike Dash
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Tags: Batavia (Ship), Australia & New Zealand, Australia, Transportation, Shipwreck Victims, Travel, Modern, 17th Century, Ships & Shipbuilding, General, Etc, Cornelisz., Oceania, Survival After Airplane Accidents, Mutiny, Jeronimus, Military, Australia & Oceania, Shipwrecks, History
ISBN: 9780609607664
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Published: 2002-02-12T21:09:49+00:00

In the meantime, the commandeur continued his interrogation of the prisoners. Pelsaert was legally bound, under Dutch law, to administer justice as quickly as possible, and to that end he assembled the Sardam’s council and then enlarged it with two men from the Batavia in order to form a Broad Council, which alone had the power to try criminal cases. The members of the Sardam’s raad were the commandeur himself, the jacht’s skipper, Jacob Jacobsz Houtenman,*46 Sijmon Yopzoon, the high boatswain, and Jan Willemsz Visch, who was probably the Sardam’s provost. The Batavia’s representatives were Claes Gerritsz, the upper-steersman, and his deputy, Jacob Jansz Hollert; on at least one occasion Gijsbert Bastiaensz was drafted onto the council, too, to take the place of someone unavoidably detained. Rather more remarkably, the clerk tasked with recording the proceedings was none other than Salomon Deschamps, who was both a mutineer and a murderer. Nor did Deschamps merely write up the interrogations and the sentences as they were made; he himself signed many of the council’s resolutions and thus helped to pass judgment on his former comrades. It is possible that Pelsaert remained unaware of the assistant’s guilt until late on in the proceedings—certainly the clerk would have glossed over his involvement in the killings, but it is hard to believe that the mutineers themselves were so discreet. Perhaps the commandeur had an unreasoning trust in his old colleague; more probably, however, Deschamps was the best scribe available, and the appointment was simply a matter of necessity.

Once the proceedings were under way, the prisoners were kept together on Seals’ Island, where they were less likely to cause trouble than on board the Sardam, and the interrogations took place largely on Batavia’s Graveyard itself. The commandeur dealt with the mutineers one by one—asking questions, noting answers, and often calling witnesses to confirm the truth of what he had been told. Most of Jeronimus’s men were examined several times, over several days, so that the information they provided could be used to question others. It would appear, from the summaries prepared by Salomon Deschamps, that statements were also taken from some of the survivors from the island, as well as the Defenders, but very little of this evidence found its way into the record. Practically all of the surviving accounts come from the mouths of mutineers.

The proceedings on the island were conducted in accordance with Dutch law, but they were not trials in the modern sense and the mutineers did not have lawyers, nor any right to call witnesses in their own defense. Pelsaert’s chief difficulty lay in securing reliable testimony from the accused, for the statutes of the United Provinces were quite specific on the question of what constituted evidence: a man could only be condemned to death on the basis of his own freely given confession. Since few men would openly admit to capital crimes, however, the Broad Council did have the right to resort to torture when a prisoner refused to answer questions or there was good reason to doubt the veracity of his evidence.


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