The History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Of Captain Teach.

WE shall add here a few Particulars (not mentioned in our first Volume) of the famous Blackbeard, relating to his taking the South Carolina Ships, and insulting that Colony. This was at the Time that the pyrates had obtained such an Acquisition of Strength, that they were in no Concern about preserving themselves from the the Justice of Laws, but of advancing their Power, and maintaining their Sovereignty, not over the Seas only, but to stretch their Dominions to the Plantations themselves, and the Governors thereof, insomuch that when their Prisoners came aboard their Captors Ships, the pyrates freely own'd their Acquaintance with them, and never endeavour'd to conceal their Names, or Habitations, as if they had been Inhabitants of a legal Commonwealth, and were resolved to treat with all the World on the Foot of a free State; and all judicial Acts went in the Name of Teach, under the Title of Commodore.

All the Carolina Prisoners were lodg'd aboard the Commodore's Ship, after being strictly examin'd concerning the Lading of their Vessels, and the Number and Condition of other Traders in the Harbour; when they thought they would sail, and whither bound: And the Enquiry was so solemnly carried on, that the pyrates swore, that it should be Death for that Man that told a Lye, or otherwise shifted or evaded in his Answers. At the same Time all their Papers were perused with the same Diligence as though it had been at the Secretary's Office here in England. When this Business was gone through, Word was given, that all the Prisoners should be immediately turn'd aboard their own Ship, out of which they had already taken their Provisions and Stores. This was done with that Hurry and Precipitation, that it struck a great Terror in the unfortunate People, verily believing they were then going to their Destruction; and what seem'd to confirm them in this Notion was, that no Regard was had to the Qualities of the Prisoners, but Merchants, Gentlemen of Rank, and even a Child of Mr. Wragg's, were thrust aboard in a tumultuous and confus'd Manner, and lock'd all under the Hatches, where not so much as one Pyrate stay'd amongst them.

In this melancholly Situation were these innocent People left, bewailing their Condition for several Hours, expecting every Moment that pass'd either that a Match would be laid to a Train to blow them up, or that the Ship was to be set on Fire, or sunk; no Body could tell which, but every one supposed they were, one Way or other, destin'd for a Sacrifice to their brutal Humours.

But, at length, a Gleam of Light shot in upon them, that recover'd their drooping Souls; the Hatches were unlaid, and they were immediately order'd back on board the Commodore: They began then to think the pyrates had changed their savage Resolution; and that God had inspired them with Sentiments less shocking to Nature and Humanity, and they went aboard, as it were, with new Life. The Chief of them were brought before Blackbeard, the pyrates General, who acquainted them with the Occasion of that extraordinary Procedure; and that they were only put out of the Way while a general Council was held, at which Time they suffer'd no Prisoner to be present. He told them, the Company was in want of Medicines, and must be supply'd from the Province; that their first Surgeon had drawn up a Catalogue, which he would send to the Governor and Council, by two of his own Officers, for whose safe Return, as well as for the Chest it self, they had come to a Resolution of keeping all the Prisoners as Hostages, who would all be put to Death, if such their Demands were not comply'd with punctually.

Mr. Wragg answer'd, that, perhaps, it might not be in their Power to comply with every Part of it; and, he fear'd, that some certain Drugs in the Surgeon's List, were not to be had in the Province; and, if it should prove so, he hop'd they would be contented to have that Want made up by substituting something else in the Place. He likewise proposed, that one of them might go with the two Gentlemen that were to be sent on the Embassy, who might truly represent the Danger they were in, and induce them more readily to submit, in order to save the Lives of so many of the King's Subjects; and further, to prevent any Insult from the common People, (for whose Conduct, on such an Occasion, they could not answer) on the Persons of his Envoys.

His Excellency Blackbeard thought this Advice reasonable, and therefore call'd another Council, who likewise approv'd of the Amendment; thereupon Mr. Wragg, who was the first in Authority, and known to be a Man of good Understanding among the Carolinians, was offer'd, and the Gentleman, himself, was willing to leave a young Son in the Hands of the pyrates, till he should return, which he promis'd to do, though the Government should refuse the Terms of their Releasement:

But Blackbeard positively deny'd this Request, saying, he knew too well of what consequence he was in the Provence, and he would be equally so to them, and therefore he should be the last Man they would part with.

After some Debate, Mr. Mark was agreed upon to accompany the Ambassadors, and accordingly they went off from the Fleet in a Canoe, and two Days were appointed for their Return; in the mean while the Commadore lay too at five or six Leagues Distance from the Land, expecting the Conditions of Peace; but the Time expiring, and nothing appearing from the Harbour, Mr. Wragg was sent for up before Teach, who putting on a terrible Countenance, told him, they were not to be trifled with, that he imagined some foul Treachery was play'd them, and that nothing but immediate Death to them all should be the Consequence of it. Mr. Wragg begg'd to respite the dreadful Execution one Day longer, for, that he was sure, the Province regarded their Lives so much, that they would be sollicitous to the last Degree to redeem them; that, perhaps, some Misfortune might have befallen the Canoe in going in, or it might be their own Men that occasioned the Delay, for either of which it would be hard for them to suffer.

Teach was pacified for the present, and allow'd a Day more for their coming back; but at the End of that Time, how was he enraged to find himself disappointed, calling them Villains a thousand Times, and swearing, they should not live two Hours. Mr. Wragg, humour'd him all he could, and desired a good Look-out should be kept. Matters seem'd now to be coming to Extremities, and no Body thought their Lives worth a Day's Purchase; the innocent People were under great Agonies of Mind, expecting that nothing but a Miracle could preserve them from being crush'd by the Weight of the Enemy's Power, when Word was given from the Forecastle, that a small Boat appear'd in Sight. This raised their drooping Spirits, and reviv'd their Hopes; Blackbeard went forward himself with his Spying-Glass, and declared he could perceive his own Scarlet Cloak he lent Mr. Mark to go ashore in; this was thought to be a sure Reprieve, till the Boat came aboard, and then their Fears returned, seeing neither the pyrates, Mr. Mark, nor the Chest of Medicines in the Boat.

This Boat, it seems, was sent off by Mr. Mark very discreetly, lest a Misconstruction should be put upon the Stay, that an unfortunate Accident had occasioned, and which the Men that belong'd to her acquainted the Commodore of, viz. That the Boat they had sent ashore was cast away, being overset by a sudden Squall of Wind, and the Men with great Trouble had got ashore at the uninhabited Island of three or four Leagues from the Main, that having staid there some time till reduced to Extremity, there being no Provision of any Kind, and fearing what Disaster might befal the Prisoners aboard; the Persons belonging to their Company, set Mr. Mark upon a Hatch, and floated it upon the Sea, after which, they stripp'd and flung themselves in, and swiming after it, and thrust the Float forward, endeavouring, by that means, to get to Town. This prov'd a very tedious Voiture, and in all Likelihood they had perished, had not this Fishing Boat sail'd by in the Morning, and perceiving something in the Water, made to it, and took them in, when they were near spent with their Labour.

When they were thus providentially preserv'd, Mr. Mark went into and there hired a Boat which carried them to Charles Town; in the mean time he had sent this Boat to give them an Account of the Accident. Mr. Teach was pacified with this Relation, and consented to stay two Days longer, since there appeared no Fault of theirs in causing this Delay. At the End of two Days, they lost all Patience, and the Commodore could not be prevail'd on to give them any longer Time than the next Morning to live, if the Boat did not return by that Time. Still expecting and still disappointed, the Gentlemen knew not what to say, nor how to excuse their Friends at Land; some of them told the pyrates, that they had equal Reason with them to blame their Conduct; that they doubted not, by what had already happen'd, of Mr. Mark's doing his Duty faithfully; and since they had received Notice of the Boat's going safe into Charles Town, they could not conceive what should hinder the Execution of the Business, unless they put a greater Value on the Chest of Medicines, than on the Lives of fourscore Men now on the Verge of Destruction. Teach, for his Part, believed they had imprisoned his Men, and refused the Condition of the Prisoner's Enlargement, and swore a thousand Times, that they should not only die, but every Carolina Man that hereafter should fall into his Hands. The Prisoners, at last, petitioned to have this one Favour granted, viz. That the Fleet should weigh and stand off the Harbour, and if they should not then see the Boat coming out, that they the Prisoners would pilot them in before the Town, which, if they pleased to batter down, they would stand by them to the last Man.

This Proposal of taking Revenge for the supposed Treachery (as the Commodore was pleased to term it) suited well enough the Savage Temper of the General and his Brutes, and he acquiesc'd at once. The Project was likewise approv'd on by the Myrmidons, and accordingly they weigh'd Anchor, being in all eight Sail of Ships, which were the Prizes they had in Custody, and rang'd along the Town; the Inhabitants then had their Share of the Fright, expecting nothing less than a general Attack; the Men were brought all under Arms, but not in so regular a manner as might have been done, had the Surprize been less; but the Women and Children ran about the Street like mad Things. However, before Matters came to Extremities, the Boat was seen coming out, which brought Redemption to the poor Captives, and Peace to all.

The Chest was brought aboard, and accepted of, and it further appear'd, that Mr. Mark had done his Duty, and the Blame of the Delay was deservedly thrown on the two pyrates that were sent on the Embassy; for while the Gentlemen attended the Governor and Council upon the Business, the other fine Gentlemen were visiting and drinking with their quondam Friends and Acquaintance, and going from House to House, so that they were not to be found when the Medicines were ready to go aboard; and Mr. Mark knew it were Death to them all to go without them, for the Commodore would not easily have believ'd, had they not returned, that there had been no foul Play acted by them. But now none but smiling Countenances were seen aboard; the Storm that threatned the Prisoners so heavily, blew over, and a Day of Sun-shine succeeded; in short, Blackbeard released them as he had promised, and sent them away in the Ships after he had done with them, and then sail'd off the Coast, as has been mentioned in Vol. I. page 73.

What follows, contains Reflections on a Gentleman now deceas'd, who was Governor of North Carolina, namely, Charles Eden, Esq; which, we apprehend, by Accounts since receiv'd, to be without just Grounds, therefore, it will be necessary to say something in this Place, to take off the Calumny thrown on his Character, by Persons who have misjudged of his Conduct by the Height Things appeared in at that time.

Upon a Review of this Part of Blackbeard's Story, it does not seem, by any Matters of Fact candidly considered, that the said Governour held any private or criminal Correspondence with this Pyrate; and I have been inform'd since, by very good Hands, that Mr. Eden always behaved, as far as he had Power, in a manner suitable to his Post, and bore the Character of a good Governor, and an honest Man.

But his Misfortune was, the Weakness of the Colony he commanded, wanting Strength to punish the Disorders of Teach, who lorded it at Pleasure, not only in the Plantation, but in the Governor's own Habitation, threatening to destroy the Town with Fire and Sword, if any Injury was offer'd to him or his Companions, insomuch, that he sometimes drew up his Vessel against the Town, and once, when he suspected that there was a Design of seizing him, he went ashore to the Governor well armed, and left Orders with his Men on board, that in Case he should not return in an Hour's Time (as he determined, if at Liberty) to batter down the House about their Ears, without any more to do, notwithstanding he himself were to be in it. Such were the outragious Insolencies of this Villain, who was so big with Mischief, that he resolved to be revenged upon his Enemies at all Events, even tho’ he should give up his own Life, as a Sacrifice, to obtain those wicked Ends.

It is to be observed, that Blackbeard, nevertheless, as to his Pyracies, had comply'd with the Proclamation, and thereby satisfied the Law, and having a Certificate thereof from under the Hand of his Excellency, he could not be prosecuted for any of those Crimes committed heretofore, because they were wiped off by the said Proclamation of Pardon: And as to condemning the French Martinico Man that Blackbeard brought in to North Carolina afterwards, the Governor proceeded judicially upon her. He called a Court of Vice Admiralty, by virtue of his Commission; at which four of the Crew swore they found the Ship at Sea with no Person on board her, so the Court condemn'd her, as any other Court must have done, and the Cargo was disposed of according to Law.

As to the secret Expedition from Virginia, undertaken by the Governor and the two Captains of Men of War, they had their secret Views in it: The Men of War had lain up these ten Months whilst the pyrates infested the Coast, and did great Mischief, for which, ’tis likely, they might have been called to an Account; but the Success of the Enterprize againsh Teach, alias Blackbeard, perhaps prevented such Enquiry, tho’ I am at a Loss to know what Acts of Pyracy he had committed after this Surrender to the Proclamation; the French Ship was lawfully condemned, as has been said before, and if he had committed any Depredations amongst the Planters, as they seem'd to complain of, they were not upon the high Sea, but either in the River, or on Shore, and could not come within the Jurisdiction of the Admiralty, nor under any Laws of Pyracy. The Governor of Virginia found his Interest in the Affair; for he sent, at the same time, a Force by Land, and seiz'd considerable Effects of Blackbeard's in Eden's Province, which was certainly a new Thing for the Governor of one Province, whose Commission was limited to that Jurisdiction, to exercise Authority in another Government, and the Governour himself upon the Spot. Thus was poor Mr. Eden insulted and abused on all Sides, without having the Power of doing himself Justice, and asserting his lawful Rights.

In fine, to do Justice to Governor Eden's Character, who is since dead, there did not appear from any Writings or Letters found in Blackbeard's Sloop, or from any other Evidence whatsoever, that the said Governor was concerned at all in any Male Practice; but on the contrary, that during his Continuance in that Post, he was honour'd and beloved by his Colony, for his Uprightness, Probity, and prudent Conduct in his Administration; what Affairs were carried on privately by his then Secretary I know not; he died a few Days after Blackbeard's Destruction, and no Enquiry was made; perhaps there might be no Occasion for it.

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