“Mad Jack” And The Missionaries

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After several unsuccessful attempts to trick Dolphin ’s midshipmen into giving up his specie, Edwards finally agreed to have the salvage fee deducted and took the remainder on board Becket , preparatory to sailing on March 13. Edwards told Percival he expected to sue on his return to the United States, but Percival merely shrugged and answered: “I’m not worth $500 anyway, and I would as lief die in jail as in a drawing room.”

But Edwards had one more arrow in his quiver. He had his steward spread a report on shore that Percival had stolen one of London ’s mattresses. He expected to be at sea before the scurrilous story reached Mad Jack’s ears, but he was not so fortunate; for as Becket was being towed out of the harbor, Edwards saw Percival leave the beach in a whaleboat and go on board Dolphin . A few minutes later another boat left Dolphin , containing Percival and Paulding in addition to the boat’s crew, and very shortly Edwards found himself facing an angry John Percival on Becket ’s quarter-deck. A heated exchange followed, until finally Mad Jack roared: “You told your steward to look in my room for a mattress belonging to you, and you must go on shore and deny it!”

“No, I won’t,” returned Edwards.

“Then I’ll thrash you!” exploded Mad Jack, and seizing Edwards by the collar with his left hand, Percival spun him around, knocked off his hat, and beat him sharply about the head and shoulders with his stout whalebone cane. The two men fell scuffling to the deck, but Edwards soon regained his feet and ran forward to the fife rail, where he began seizing belaying pins and stanchions and hurling them. Than he picked up an axe. “Put it down, Edwards,” cried Percival. “You dare as well go to hell as strike me with that!” Edwards said he would strike but on second thought laid down the axe and picked up a gun rammer. This he struck against something a few times to knock off the sponge, but failing, he aimed a blow at Percival from well out of range. The sponge flew off and whistled by Percival’s ear; after Edwards swung the rammer a few more times Percival, seeing that Edwards was afraid to come near enough to hit him, called to some of the boat’s crew who had slipped on deck: “Grab the damned rascal and take that thing away from him!” Three or four men separated Edwards from the rammer, and Percival told them to let him go; Edwards darted down the companionway to his cabin.

After Percival returned to Dolphin , Becket got under way, bearing Edwards and his rancor against Mad Jack Percival home to America. In the evening, Captain McNeill of Convoy , doubtless pleased at having received his charter money at last—Percival had paid it out of the salvage charges—gave a dinner on board for Dolphin ’s officers.

The merchant and whaling community for the most part was well pleased with Mad Jack. Percival had brought pressure on the chiefs to pay their debts to the traders and had persuaded Boki and the captains of the trading and whaling ships to agree to port regulations that, by requiring captains to pay a fine of six dollars for any of their men who deserted at Honolulu, were designed to reduce the community of penniless desperadoes that had furnished the instigators of the Globe mutiny. The captains of the whaling ships were so pleased with Percival, in fact, that they signed a circular letter asking him to stay at Honolulu as long as possible. These ships represented a trade of substantial proportions: a contemporary estimate placed the value of the ships and cargoes visiting Honolulu between February 1 and May 1, 1826, at more than two million dollars.

Early in April the American consul at the islands, John Coffin Jones, returned from a visit to the United States. Jones doubled as agent for Marshall and Wildes and represented the traders’ point of view. He soon wrote to both his employers—Josiah Marshall on the one hand, Secretary of State Henry Clay on the other—that Dolphin had performed “essential service to American concerns in this place.” Jones and Percival saw eye to eye on the missionary question; as Jones told Marshall:

The missionaries have succeeded in frightening these poor simple children of nature into the belief of a religion they do not understand themselves, the very need of which is a libel on the goodness of God. The distress of the Country, the distracted state of the government and the wretchedness which on every side stare you in the face (all caused by the hypocritical emissaries sent here from the work shop of their sect) would beggar were I to attempt a description. Nothing but the sound of the church going bell is heard from the rising to the setting sun and religion is crammed down the throats of these poor, simple mortals. …