The History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Of Capt. David Williams, And his Crew.

THIS Man was born in Wales, of very poor Parents, who bred him up to the Plough and the following of Sheep, the only Things he had any Notion of till he went to Sea. He was never esteem'd among the pyrates as a Man of good natural Parts, perhaps, on account of his Ignorance of Letters, for, as he had no Education, he knew as little of the sailing a Ship, set aside the Business of a foremast Man, as he did of History, in which, and natural Philosophy, he was equally vers'd: He was of a morose, sour, unsociable Temper, very cholerick, and easily resented as an Affront what as brave and a more knowing Man would not think worth Notice; but he was not cruel, neither did he turn Pyrate from a wicked or avaritious Inclination, but by Necessity, and we may say, tho’ he was no forced Man, he could not well avoid that Life he fell into.

When he was grown a lusty Lad he would see the World, and go seek his Fortune, as the Term is among the Country Youths, who think fit to withdraw themselves from the Subjection of their

Parents; with this Whim in his Head he got to Chester, where he was received, and sailed on board a Coaster, till he had made himself acquainted with the Rigging, learned to knot, splice, and do the other Parts of a common Sailor's Duty; then coming to London, he shipp'd himself on board the Mary India Man, bound for Bengal and Maderas, which Voyage he performed outward, and it was not his Fault that he did not come home in the same Ship; for, in her Return, falling short of Water, they steer'd for the Island of Madagascar, and fell in with the East Side, in the Lat. of 20, or thereabouts. The Captain mann'd and sent ashore the Long-Boat to seek for Water, but a large Surf running, she came to an Anchor, at some little Distance from Shore, and David Williams with another, being both good Swimmers, stripp'd and swam off in Search of Water: While they were ashore, the Wind which blew full upon the Island and freshning, the Surf ran too high for them to get off; and the Long-Boat, after waiting some time, seeing no Possibility of getting these Men on board, weigh'd and stood for the Ship, which filled her Sails and stood for St. Augustine's Bay, where she watered and proceeded on her Voyage.

Thus our poor Welshman and his Companion were left destitute on an Island altogether unknown to them, without Cloaths or Subsistance, but what the Fruits of the Trees offer'd. They rambled some little Time along the Coast, and were met with by the Natives, and by them carried up into the Country, where they were humanly treated, and provided with all the Necessaries of Life, tho’ this was not sufficient to expel his Consort's Melancholy, who took his being left behind so much to Heart, that he sicken'd and died in a very little Time.

Some time after, the Prince of the Country, who entertained Williams, had a Quarrel with a neighbouring King, which broke into a War. Williams took the Field with his Patron, but the Enemy being superior in Number, got the Victory, and took a great many Prisoners, among whom was the unfortunate Welshman: The King, whose Prisoner he was, treated him very kindly; and being Master of an old Musket, gave it him, saying, ‘such Arms were better in the Hands of a white Man than in those of any of his Subjects, who were not so much used to them; that he should be his Friend and Companion, and should fare as well as himself, if he would assist him in his Wars.

It will not be amiss here to take Notice, that this Island, on the East Side, is divided into a great Number of Principalities or Kingdoms, which are almost in continual War one with another; the Grounds of which are very trivial, for they will pick a Quarrel with a Neighbour, especially, if he has a Number of Cattle (in which, and Slaves, consist their Riches) on the slightest Occasion, that they may have an Opportunity of Plunder; and when a Battle or two is lost, the conquer'd makes his Peace, by delivering up such a certain Number of Bullocks and Slaves as shall be demanded by the victorious Prince. On the West Side the Island, the Principalities are mostly reduced under one Prince, who resides near Methelage, and who is, as we have said in the Lives of other pyrates, a great Friend to white Men; for his Father, who founded his Empire by the Assistance of the Europeans, left it in Charge with his Son, to assist them with what Necessaries they should require, and do them all friendly Offices; but if he disobeyed this Command, and should ever fall out with the white Men, or spill any of their Blood, he threaten'd to come again, turn him out of his Kingdom, and give it to his younger Brother. These Menaces had a very great Effect upon him, for he firmly believed his Father would, on his Disobedience, put them in Execution; for there is not on Earth, a Race of Men equally superstitious.

But to return to Williams, he lived with this Prince in great Tranquility, and was very much esteem'd by him (for Necessity taught him Complaisance) after some time, his new Patron was informed, that his vanquish'd Enemy had form'd a grand Alliance, in order to make War upon him; wherefore, he resolved to begin, and march into the Countries of the Allies, and ravage the nearest before they could join their Forces. He rais'd an Army, and accordingly march'd Southward; at the News of his Approach, the Inhabitants abandoned all the small Towns, and sending Messengers to their Friends, rais'd a considerable Body to oppose him, suffering him to over-run a great Deal of Ground without Molestation. At length being reinforced, they took their Opportunity, and setting upon him when his Men were fatigued, and his Army incumber'd with Booty, they gained a signal Victory; the King had the good Luck to get off, but Williams was a second Time taken Prisoner.

He was carried before the Conqueror, who, (having been an Eye-witness of his Bravery, for Williams kill'd a Number of his Enemies with his Shot, and behav'd very well, defending himself with the Butt End of his Musket for some Time, when he was surrounded) reach'd him his Hand, and told him, he made War with his Enemies only, that he did not esteem the white Men such, but should be glad of their Friendship.

Here Williams was used with more Respect than he had been even by his last Patron, and lived with this Prince some Years; but a War breaking out, he was routed in a set Battle, in which Williams was his Companion; in the Pursuit the poor Welshman finding he could not get off, clappd his Musket at the Foot of a Tree, and climbing up, he capitulated: He was now terribly afraid of being cut to Pieces, for he had shot and wounded a great Number of the Enemy; they, however, promis'd him good Quarter, and kept their Word.

The King of Maratan, who took him, used him as well as any of the former had done; and carried him always with him to the Wars, in which Fortune was more propitious, for the Parties Williams commanded had constantly the better of their Enemies, and never returned but with great Booties of Cattle and Slaves, for all the Prisoners they take are so, till redeem'd; tho’ these Prisoners are, for the most part, Women and Children, they seldom giving Quarter to any other.

The Fame of his Bravery and Success, spread it self round the Country; and his Name alone was so terrible, that the giving out he was at the Head of any Party, was giving the Enemies an Overthrow without a Battle.

This reaching the Ears of Dempaino, a mighty Prince who lived 200 Miles from him, and who had several Petty Princes Tributaries, he sent an Embassador to demand the white Man; but his Patron, who had no Mind to part with him, denied that he had any white Man with him, that he who was called so was a Native of the Country. For the Readers better understanding this Passage, I must inform him, that there is a Race of what they call white Men, who have been settled on Madagascar, Time out of Mind, and are descended from the Arabs; but mixing with the Negroes, have propagated a Race of Molattoes, who differ in nothing from the Manner of living of the Black Natives.

To proceed, the Embassador desired to see this Man, and Williams coming to him, being extremely tann'd, he had pass'd for what he was reported, had he been before apprized of what had been said, to have answered accordingly, for he spoke the Language perfectly; or had the Embassador not examined him; who, after he had some Time viewed him, ask'd of what Country he was, and whether it was true that he was one of Madagascar? Williams answered, he was an Englishman, and was left in the Country, relating the Particulars, as I have already set them down, adding, he had been five Years in the Island.

The Embassador then told the King, that he must send the white Man with him, for such were the Orders of his Master the great Dempaino, who was Lord over most of the Kings on the Side the Country where he resided; and that it would be dangerous for him to disobey the Commands of so great a Monarch.

The King answered, those who were subject to Dempaino ought to obey his Commands, but for him, he knew no Man greater than himself, therefore should receive Laws from none; and with this Answer dismiss'd the Ambassador; who, at his Return, reported to his Master the very Words, adding, they were delivered in a haughty Strain. Dempaino, who was not used to have his Commands disputed, order'd one of his Generals to march with 6000 Men, and demand the white Man, and in Case of Refusal, to denounce War, that he should send him back an Express of it, and he would follow in Person with an Army to enforce a Compliance.

These Orders were put in Execution with the greatest Dispatch and Secrecy; so that the Town was invested, before any Advice was given of the Approach of an Enemy. The General told the King, it was in his Choice to have Peace or War with his Master, since it depended on the Delivery of the white Man.

The King thus surpriz'd, was obliged, however contrary to his Inclinations, to give Williams up to the General, who return'd with him to Dempaino, without committing any Hostilities; tho’ he threatned to besiege the Town, and put all but the Women and Children to the Sword, if the King of Maratan did not pay the Expence of his Master's sending for the white Man, which he rated at 100 Slaves, and 500 Head of Cattle, the King objected to this as a hard Condition and an unjust Imposition, but was obliged to acquiesce in it.

One Thing, remarkable enough, had like to have slipp'd me; which is, the King of Maratan sent Williams to the General without any Attendance, which made him ask, if the white Man was a Slave? The King answered, he had not used him like one. I may very well, said the General, be of a contrary Opinion, since you have sent no Body to wait upon him: Upon which Reprimand, the King sent Williams a Present of a Slave.

He was received by Dempaino with a great many Caresses, was handsomely cloathed according to the Country Manner, had Slaves allotted to wait on him, and every Thing that was necessary and convenient; so that King Dempaino was at the Trouble of sending 6000 Men, one would think, for no other End than to shew the great Value and Esteem he had for the Europeans. He continued with this Prince till the Arrival of a Ship, which was some Years after his leaving Maratan; when the Bedford Galley, a Pyrate, commanded by Achen Jones, a Welshman, came on the Coast, on board of which Ship Williams was permitted to enter; they went to Augustine, where, laying the Ship on Shore, by Carelesness they broke her Back, and lost her. The Crew lived here till the Arrival of the Pelican, another Pyrate, mentioned in North's Life; some of them went on board this Ship, and steer'd for the East-Indies. Williams shifted out of this on board the Mocha Frigate, a Pyrate, commanded by Captain Culliford, and made a Voyage; then, returning to St. Mary's, they shared the Booty they had got in the Red Seas. I shall not here mention the Particulars of this last Expedition, designing to write Captain Culliford's Life, which it more properly belongs to.

Some of the Crew, being West Indians, having an Opportunity, returned home; but Williams remain'd here till the Arrival and taking of Capt. Forgette, which has been already mentioned: He was one of those who took the Speaker, (the Manner has been told before, in another Life) went a Voyage in her, and returned to Maratan, as is said in North's Life. Here the King seeing him, ask'd what Present he intended to make him for former Kindness? Williams answered, he had been over paid by the Prince whom he took him from and by his Services, which Answer so irritated his Maratanian Majesty, that he ordered him to quit his Country; and he could hardly after that see him with Patience.

From hence he went on board the Prosperous, Captain Howard, Commander, who went to St. Mary's, and thence to the Main, as is said in that Pyrate's Life, and was one of the Men left behind when they had a Design to carry off Ort Van Tyle. This Dutchman kept him to hard Labour, as planting Potatoes, &c. in revenge for the Destruction and Havock made in his Plantations by the Crew of the Prosperous; he was here in the Condition of a Slave six Months, at the Expiration of which Time, he had an Opportunity (and embraced it) to run away, leaving his Consort, Tho. Collins, behind him, who had his Arm broke when he was taken by the Dutchman.

Having made his Escape from a rigid, revengeful Master, he got to a Black Prince, named Rebaiharang, with whom he lived half a Year; he from hence went and kept Company with one John Pro, another Dutchman, who had a small Settlement on Shore, till the Arrival of the Men of War, commanded by Commodore Richards, who took both Pro and his Guest Williams, put them in Irons (on board the Severn) till they came to Johanna, where the Captain of the Severn undertook for 2000 Dollars to go against the Mohilians, in which Expedition several of the Man of War's Crew were killed, and the two pyrates made their Escape in a small Canoe to Mohila, where they shelter'd themselves a while in the Woods, out of which they got Provisions, and made over for Johanna; here they recruited themselves and went away for Mayotta an Island 18 Leagues in Length. The King of this Island built them a Boat, and giving them Provisions and what Necessaries they required, they made for and arrived at Madagascar; where, at Methelage, in the Lat. of 16, 40, or thereabouts, they join'd, as has been said, Captain White.

Here they lay about 3 Months, then setting Fire to their Boat, they went into White's, and rounding the North End came to Ambonavoula; here Williams staid till Captain White brought the Ship Hopewell, on board of which he entered before the Mast, made a Voyage to the Red Seas, towards the End of which he was chosen Quarter-Master. At their Return they touch'd at Mascarenas for Provisions, where almost half the Company went ashore and took up their Habitations.

From Mascarenas they steer'd for Hopewell (by some call'd Hopefull) Point, on Madagascar, where dividing their Plunder, they settled themselves.

Twelve Months after, the Charles Brigantine, Captain Halsey, came in, as is mentioned in his Life. Williams went on board him and made a Voyage; at their Return they came to Maratan, lived ashore, and assisted the King in his War against his Brother, which being ended in the Destruction of the latter, and a Pyrate lying at Ambonavoula, sending his Long-Boat to Manangcaro, within ten Leagues of Maratan, Williams and the rest went on board, and in three Months after he had been at Ambonavoula he was chosen Captain of the Scotch Ship, mentioned in Halsey's Life.

This Ship he work'd upon with great Earnestness, and made the Scots Prisoners labour hard at the fitting her up for a Voyage; and she was near ready for the Seas when a Hurricane forced her ashore, and she was wreck'd.

Some Time after this he set up and finished a Sloop, in which he and ten of his Men, design'd for Mascarenas, but missing the Island they went round Madagascar, to a Place called Methelage, where he laid his Vessel ashore and staid a Year; but the King being tired with his morose Temper, and he disagreeing with every Body, he was order'd to be gone, and accordingly fitting up his Vessel he put to Sea, intending to go round the North End of the Island; but the Wind being at E. S. E. and the Current setting to N. W. he put back to a Port, called the Boyne, within 10 Leagues of Methelage, in the same King's Dominions whom he had left. The Governor of this Place was descended from the Arabs, and it was here that the Arabians traded.

When he came to an Anchor, he and three of his Men (he had but 5 with him) went on Shore, paddled by two Negroes. David Eaton and William Damson two of the Men, required a Guide, to shew them the Way to the King's Town; the Governor order'd them one, and, at the same time, laid an Ambush for them in the Road, and caused them to be murdered. When they had left the Boyn, Williams and Meyeurs, a Frenchman, who also came ashore in the Canoe, went to buy some Samsams, which are agate Beads; as they were looking over these Goods, a Number of the Governor's Men came about them, seiz'd them both, and immediately dispatch'd Meyeurs, Williams they bound, and tortur'd almost a whole Day, by throwing hot Ashes on his Head and in his Face, and putting little Boys to beat him with Sticks; he offer'd the Governor 2000 Dollars for his Life, but he answer'd, he'd have both that and the Money too; and accordingly when he was near expiring, they made an End of him with their Lances.

After this barbarous Murder, the Governor thought of seizing the Sloop, on board of which were no more than two white Men, six Negroe Boys, and some Women Slaves of the same Colour; however, he thought it best to proceed by Stratagem, and therefore putting a Goat and some Calabashes of Toke on board William's Canoe, with twelve Negroes arm'd, and the Sloop Negroes to paddle, he sent to surprize her. When the Canoe came pretty near the Vessel, they hal'd, and ask'd if they would let them come aboard? One of the Men ask'd William's Negroes where the Captain was? He answered, drinking Toke with the Governor, and sent them Provision and Toke. A Negroe Wench advised the white Man, whose Name was William Noakes, not to let them come on board, for as four white Men went ashore, and none of them appear'd, she suspected some Treachery; however, on the Answer made him from the Canoe, he resolved to admit them, and giving the Wench a Kick, cryed, D— m ye, must we have no fresh Provisions for your Whimsies; he called them on board, and no sooner were they on Deck but one of them snatching Noakes his Pistol, shot him thro’ the Head, and seizing the other white Man, threw him over-board and drown'd him; after which, being Masters of the Vessel, they carried her in and rifled her.

The King was at this Time a hunting, as is his Custom to hunt Boars three Months in the Year; but the Account of these Murders soon reach'd him, however, he staid the accustom'd Time of his Diversion; but when he returned home, and the whites, who were about him, demanded Justice, he bid them be quiet, they might depend upon his doing it: He sent to the Governor of Boyn, and told him, he was glad that he had cut off Williams and his Crew, an Example he was resolved to follow and clear the Country of them all. That he had some Affairs to communicate to him, and desired he would come to Court as soon as possible, but take Care he was not seen by any of the whites, for fear by his, they shou'd revenge the Death of their Companions.

The Governor on these Orders came away immediately, and stopp'd two Miles short, at a little Town two Miles distant from the King's, and sent Word he there waited for his Commands.

The King ordered him to be with him early next Morning, before the white Men were out of their Beds: he set forward accordingly the next Day betimes, but was seiz'd on the Road by Negroes placed for that Purpose, and brought bound to the King, who, after having reproach'd him with the Barbarity of his Action, sent him to the white Men, bidding them put him to what Death they pleased; but they sent Word back, he might dispose of his Subjects Lives as he thought fit, but for their Part they would never draw a Drop of Blood of any who belonged to him. Upon which Answer the King's Uncle ordered him to be speared, and he was accordingly thrust thro’ the Body with Lances. The King, after this Execution, sent to Boyn, and had every Thing brought which had belonged to Williams and his Men, and divided it among the whites, saying, He was sorry the Villain had but one Life to make Attonement for the Barbarity he had been guilty of.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:29