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Around time of captain Kidd “honest citizens” demanded that trade should rule King James II – 1687 issued general pardon No great affect . 1699 Piracy Act allowed officials in all areas of the British Empire to Seize Prosecute Execute pirates

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Around time of captain Kidd

  • “honest citizens” demanded that trade should rule
  • King James II – 1687 issued general pardon
    • No great affect

1699 Piracy Act

  • allowed officials in all areas of the British Empire to
    • Seize
    • Prosecute
    • Execute pirates
  • Before this they all had to be brought to London
  • Cut back on number of pirates

Enter – War of Spanish Succession in 1701

  • Debate over who would be crowned King of Spain
    • unite Catholic Spain and France
  • Threat to Europe\'s Protestant countries
  • Sailors needed
    • War would last until 1714

News of War reached Caribbean in 1702

  • Allowed Pirates to once again act as privateers
  • Old hands jumped at the chance
  • But new privateers were hard to find


  • English Prize Act
  • Withdrew requirement that 20% of take went to the treasury
  • With 100% profit British and American merchants began fitting out ships
  • November 1703
  • Syndicate of Bostonians given letter of Marque by Governor Joseph Dudley

Plan was a privateer venture off Arcadia and Newfoundland to attack the French

    • Ship the Charles
  • John Quelch signed on as quartermaster
  • Crew mutinied
    • Locked captain Daniel Plowman in his cabin.
  • Crew elected Quelch new captain and sailed south
    • Somewhere along the journey they threw Plowman overboard.

Charles captured nine Portuguese vessels of coast of Brazil

  • booty was impressive
    • 100 pounds of gold dust, coins worth approximately £1,000 ($160,000), arms, ammunition, ship\'s provisions, rum, and many bales of fine fabric.
  • What the crew did not know was that England and Portugal had signed a peace Treaty on May 16, 1703
  • The Charles sailed back to Marblehead less than 1 year after departure

Quelch fabricated a story of finding a wreck in the Indies

  • Two of original owners went to Attorney General claiming ownership
    • AG Paul Dudley
  • Put out orders to capture pirates
  • 1 week after return 25 of 43 crew were in chains

June 13, 1704 Trial began

  • Cotton Mather in regular attendance
  • All guilty
  • Two executed as example
  • Rest stayed in jail until 1705
    • Given Pardon to join Royal navy
    • Two acquitted when they could pay prison fees
  • John Templeton acquitted
    • 14 year old servant

Friday June 30, 1704

    • 40 Musketeers and 2 constables guard two prisoners
  • Cotton Mather gave sermon
    • ‘Faithful Warning to Prevent Fearful Judgment’
  • Quelch’s last words
    • "They should take care how they brought Money into New England to be Hanged for it.“
  • A short and unprofitable career as pirate
  • Quelch’s claim to fame
    • first person tried for piracy outside of England under Admiralty Law
    • thus without a jury

Back to war of Spanish Succession

    • Or rather end of it in 1714
  • Also saw inauguration of George I in England
    • Non catholic
    • Act of Settlement in 1701 had banned Catholics from crown

One historian has noted that the Hanoverian accession of 1714 represented

  • peace among the European imperialist powers
  • slavery for Africa and America
  • repression at home
  • key legislation of the period
    • Riot Act
    • Transportation Act
    • Combination Act
    • Workhouse Act
    • Black Act

Riot Act

    • If 12 or more persons were unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled
    • proclamation of the Riot Act read
    • if the persons failed to disperse within an hour of the reading
    • guilty of felony without benefit of clergy
  • Transportation Act of 1719
    • authorized a sentence of 14 years transportation for those pardoned of capital offences
    • 7 years\' transportation for those guilty of felony without benefit of clergy
    • a hanging offence to return early from transportation

Combination Act of 1721

    • made it illegal for journeymen tailors to enter \'into combinations to advance their wages to unreasonable prices, and lessen their usual hours of work\'.
    • earliest Act of British history designed to stop the formation of trade unions
  • Workhouse Act 1723
    • Created the workhouse
  • Black Act 1723
    • Added 200 new capital offenses

Of the Acts

  • Two affected the criminal sanction
    • making it at once more terrifying and more effective
  • Two prohibited the most obvious means by which the collective power of the working class might manifest itself
    • in public assembly or in trade union
  • one of them, the Workhouse Act, mixture of criminal policy and labor policy
  • All aimed at controlling the “lower sorts”

End of the War flooded Britain and its empire with unemployed sailors

    • no work and no home base
  • People often affected by new laws
  • Led to yet one more surge in piracy the so called
  • ‘Golden age’
    • 1716 to 1726
  • Approx. 500 pirates hung at Execution Dock in Wapping during this time

One thing that most pirates shared

    • no matter how they entered the life
  • A low status within ‘normal’ life
  • Poverty and oppression were the starting point for many
    • and the end for many too
  • Majority were men “of no property”

Two exceptions to this

Both of whom quickly fell into trouble

The first:

Captain Christopher Moody

Moody replaced by Captain Cocklyn

The men chose him “for their commander on account of his brutality and ignorance, having resolved never to have again a gentleman-like commander as, they said, Moody was”

Also reported to have cheated the men over plunder


Second exception to the prevalence of “lower sort” among pirates

  • Major Stede Bonnet
  • “A gentleman of good Reputation in the Island of Barbados”
  • “ A Master of a plentiful Fortune” with the “Advantage of a liberal Education”
  • Despite these ‘advantages’ in life
  • Bonnet fitted out a sloop with 10 guns and a crew of 70 men

Ship named the Revenge

    • A common appellation for many pirate ships
    • suggesting a fight against previous wrongs
  • Leaving Barbados headed towards the American coast
  • Taking several ships off the Virginia coast
  • Plundering “them of their Provisions, Cloaths, Money, Ammunition, &c”

Heading north, the rampage continued

    • Bonnet and crew took ships off New York and Long Island
  • By August 1717, back off South Carolina
  • After taking a few more vessels
  • Bonnet met, and linked up with, Edward Teach or Blackbeard
  • It was at this time that Bonnet
  • “reflected upon his past Course of Life, and was confounded with shame, when he thought upon what he had done”

Shortly thereafter took Kings pardon in North Carolina

  • Planned to head to the Caribbean to join in the war against the Spanish
  • Just as he was about to leave, got word that Teach was in the locality
  • Bonnet
  • “who bore him a mortal hatred for some Insults offered him, went immediately in Pursuit of Black-beard”

Missed Teach and headed back to Virginia

  • On way took goods off a ship
    • But, insisted upon paying for them
  • Couple of days later took another ship
    • Neither desire or ability to pay
  • Changed name to Captain Thomas
  • “threw of all restraint . . . A recommenced a down-right Pyrate, by taking and plundering all the Vessels he met with ”

Council of South Carolina sent Colonel William Rhett out to capture Bonnet

  • Following a pitched battle
  • Bonnet was captured and taken to Charles-Town
    • “to the great Joy of the whole Province of Carolina”
  • October 24th 1718 Bonnet managed to escape
    • Captured and returned on November 6th
  • By which time trial had already begun

Bonnet, like many before and after

  • “pretended that ’twas Force not Inclination, that occasion’d what had happened”
  • After being found guilty of one indictment……
  • pleaded guilty to the second
  • Lord Chief Justice pronounced Bonnet guilty and announced

That you, the said Stede Bonnet, shall go from hence to the Place from whence you came, and from thence to the Place of Execution, where you shall be hanged by the Neck till you are dead.

  • And the God of infinite Mercy be merciful to your Soul


  • Rediker notes that Bonnet was ‘considered by many to be insane’
  • Captain Johnson goes further stating that he should be ‘pity’d rather than condemned”
  • Noting that those who knew him laid the cause of this dramatic action to a
  • ‘Disorder in His Mind, which had been to visible in him, Some Time before this wicked Undertaking; and which is said to have been occasioned by some discomforts he found in a married state’

This unusual figure has been used in fictional form

  • In another of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s pirate stories
  • We learn of Coply Banks “one of the leading sugar Merchants of the West Indies”
    • Who after an insult from the pirate, Captain Sharkey
  • Abandons “civilization” and takes to the sea as pirate
  • Unlike Bonnet, who fails in his attempt on Blackbeard
  • Banks is able to kill Sharkey

Within the tale of Bonnet we came across one of the most well known, most maligned and feared Pirates of the Golden Age

Edward Teach

aka Blackbeard



  • Fact and fiction
  • First fiction
    • With a few moments of truth thrown in
  • Then more truth
  • Then my take
my take
My take
  • Some one who is barely there
  • We know only about 2 years of his life
  • Parentage?
  • Birth place?
  • Name?

Captain Johnson

  • 1st Edition
    • Native of Jamaica
    • Went to sea as a boy
    • Privateer in Queen Anne’s War 1702 -13
  • 2nd edition
    • Born in Bristol, England
    • Wound up in Jamaica on Privateers

Another contemporary source connect him to Philadelphia

  • Sailed as a mate on merchant ships between Philly and London
  • Extensive research in Jamaica, Bristol, & Philadelphia have found no records of him
  • Most sources put him as “Thatch”
  • Earliest use of “Teach” in Boston News-Letter 1717
  • On occasion Drummond also pops up
  • 1733 Edward Moseley, surveyor for North Carolina
    • Who had known him
  • Labeled site of final battle as “Thatch’s Hole” on map of Provine
  • Probably use in Newspaper and Johnson of Teach is why this has stuck
  • Probably the most well known image of a pirate
  • And most intent in creating an image
  • Henry Bostock
    • Captured by Blackbeard Dec 5 1717
  • “a tall spare man with a very black beard which he wore very long”
captain johnson
Captain Johnson
  • This Beard was black, which he suffered to grow of an extravagant Length; as to Breadth, it came up to his Eyes; he was accustomed to twist it with Ribbons, in small Tails, after the Manner of our RamilliesWiggs, and turn them about his Ears: In Time of Action, he wore a Sling over his Shoulders, with three Brace of Pistols, hanging in Holsters like Bandaliers ; and stuck lighted Matches under his Hat, which appearing on each Side of his Face, his Eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a Figure, that Imagination cannot form an Idea of a Fury, from Hell, to look more frightful

Seen by many as the

  • Devil incarnate
  • Once reported to have created mini hell on ship
  • Locked himself and men in hold with burning pots of brimstone
    • Only after crew begged did he open hold
  • Appeared to have little affect on Blackbeard

During another drinking bout sat at a table with crew blew out candles, drew pistols and fired

  • Wounding Israel Hands in the knee
    • Sailing master
  • Explaining that
  • “if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was”

1st appears in historical records as privateer in Queen Anne’s War

  • Under captain Benjamin Horningold
    • Several pirates came from under him
  • Led a life of daring pirate for about two years before death
  • Taking numerous prizes
  • Took pardon from Governor of North Carolina
  • Spent time in North Carolina
  • Married 16 year old daughter of planter
    • Johnson claims this was his 14th wife

Eventually Governor Spotswood of South Carolina

Sent a combined land and sea attack to capture Blackbeard

After a short but vicious fight with sloop led by Captain Maynard

“bloodiest six minutes ever fought in Carolina waters”


The Bahamas

  • 1716
  • Pirates begin to use as base
  • Ideal location
  • Undefended
  • Ungoverned
  • Near shipping lanes

1717 George I send Woodes Rogers as Governor

  • Told to rid the island of pirates
    • Also man who rescued Alexander Selkirk

July 26, 1718 Woodes Rogers sails into New Providence with

  • 6 ships
    • 3 navy, 3 of his own
  • Company of marines
  • Orders were to
    • Offer kings pardon
    • Fortify the Island
    • Suppress Piracy
  • By 1718 pirates had scattered
  • Africa, Madagascar, Carolina Islands, and elsewhere

Pirates location dictated by three main factors

  • 1) Trade Routes
  • 2) Friendly Ports
  • 3) Policing designs of Royal Navy
  • As one pirate noted – pirates were now:
  • “dispers’t into several parts of the World”

Back to the Caribbean where

  • Between 1716 and 1726
    • approx 4,500 to 4,500 sailors turned pirate
  • For specific periods following numbers of active pirates is given
  • 1716-18 – 1,800 to 2,400
  • 1719-22 – 1,500 to 2,000
  • 1723-26 – 1,000 to 1,500
    • Dropped to less than 200 by the end of this final period

Figures drawn from Rediker’s research

  • Only occasion when we have information from pirates themselves is in 1716
  • A group of pirates claims that there were:
  • “30 company of them”
  • Allowing for an average of 80 men per ship
  • This would suggest 2400 pirates at this time
    • At the upper end of Rediker’s figures for the period

Information tells us more than just the numbers

    • suggests knowledge of other crews
  • Sense of community amongst crews
  • Rediker analyzed relationships between differing crews
    • found this community to be extensive
  • Showing that over 70% of all crews active between 1716 and 1726
    • fit into two main lines of genealogical descent

The linkage with these group consist of

    • Vessel captaincy
    • Splintering
    • Sailing in cohort
    • And other associations
  • The two lines are
  • A) Captain Benjamin Horningold and the pirate rendezvous of Barbados
  • B) The meeting of George Lowther and Edward Low in 1722

Pirates Age

  • Known for 117 pirates between 1716-26
  • Range was wide, 17 – 50
  • highest concentration in 20 – 24 age range
  • almost identical to data available for the merchant service
  • Piracy equally attractive to sailors of all ages

We have indication of numbers and age

  • Two additional factors defined who a pirate was
  • Single
    • No one at home to deter threat of death
  • ‘best of the best’
    • promise of better pay and conditions - but harsh
  • Characteristics led to claims that on board a pirate ship there was:
  • “no regular command among them”


  • Unwillingness of many to see any good in piracy
  • structure on board was unrecognizable to many
  • Democracy? Egalitarianism?
  • An institutionalized version of the commonality that many sailors felt under the lash of ships masters

Order was maintained by the signed agreement

    • Round Robin
  • In addition ‘articles’ were often written defining parameters of behavior
  • From Alexander Exquemeling\'s "Buccaneers of America"
  • "they stipulate in writing what recompense or reward each one ought to have, that is either wounded or maimed in his body, suffering the loss of any limb, by that voyage."