A General History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Chap. XII.

Of Captain Anstis, And his Crew.

HIS Beginning as a Pyrate. A most brutish Action supposed to be committed by his Crew. Civil Discords amongst them. The Pyrates Term of Round Robin explain'd. They land on an uninhabited Island. A Petition for Pardon agreed on. The Form of that Petition. Their Diversions, and Manner of living on the Island. Their mock Tryal of one another. They put to Sea again. Their Petition not answer'd. The Morning Srar Wreck'd. Anstis narrowly esoapes being taken. A Plot discover'd. The Crew gathers Strength again. Surprised by the Winchelsea Man of War at Tobago. Fire one of their Ships. Anstis escapes. Is killed by a Conspiracy of his own Men. The Ship surrender'd at Curaco. Several bang'd there. Fen hanged at An-[illegible text]. The good Luck of those who fled to the Woods.

THOMAS Anstis ship'd himself at Providence in the Year 1718, aboard the Buck Sloop, and was one of six that conspired together to go off a pyrating with the Vessel; the rest were, Howel Davis, Roberts's Predecessor, killed at the Island of Princes; Dennis Topping, killed at the taking of the rich Portuguese Ship on the Coast of Brasil; Walter Kennedy, hanged at Execution-Dock, and two others, which I forbear to name, because, I understand they are at this Day employ'd in an honest Vocation in the City.

What followed concerning Anstis's Pyracies, has been included in the two preceeding Chapters; I shall only observe that the Combination of these six Men abovementioned, was the Beginning of that Company, that afterwards proved so formidable under Captain Roberts, from whom Anstis separated the 18th of April 1721, in the Good Fortune Brigantine, leaving his Commadore to pursue his Adventures upon the Coast of Guiney, whilst he returned to the West-Indies, upon the like Design.

About the Middle of June, these Pyrates met with one Captain Marston, between Hispaniola and Jamaica, bound on a Voyage to New-York; from whom they took all the wearing Apparel they could find, as also his Liquors and Provision, and five of his Men, but did not touch his Cargo; two or three other Vessels were also plundered by them, in this Cruise, out of whom they stocked themselves with Provision and Men; among the rest, I think, was the Irwin, Captain Ross, from Cork in Ireland; but this I won't be positive of, because they denied it themselves. This Ship had 600 Barrels of Beef aboard, besides other Provisions, and was taken off Martinico, wherein Colonel Doyly of Montserrat, and his Family were Passengers. The Colonel was very much abused and wounded, for endeavouring to save a poor Woman, that was also a Passenger, from the Insults of that brutish Crew; and the Pyrates prevailing, twenty one of them forced the poor Creature successively, afterwards broke her Back and flung her into the Sea. I say, I will not be positive it was Anstis's Crew that acted this unheard of Violence and Cruelty, tho’ the Circumstances of the Place, the Time, the Force of the Vessel, and the Number of Men, do all concur, and I can place the Villany no where else; but that such a Fact was done, there is too much Evidence for it to be doubted of.

When they thought fit to put an End to this Cruize, they went into one of the Islands to clean, which they effected without any Disturbance, and came out again, and stretching away towards Burmudas, met with a stout Ship, called the Morning Star, bound from Guiney to Carolina; they made Prize of her, and kept her for their own Use. In a Day or two, a Ship from Barbadoes bound to New-York, fell into their Hands, and taking out her Guns and Tackle, mounted the Morning Star with 32 Pieces of Canron, mann'd her with a 100 Men, and appointed one John Fenn Captain; for the Brigantine being of far less Force, the Morning Star would have fallen to Anstis, as elder Officer, yet he was so in Love with his own Vessel, (she being an excellent Sailor,) that he made it his Choice to stay in her, and let Fenn, who was, before, his Gunner, Command the great Ship.

Now, that they had two good Ships well mann'd, it may be supposed they were in a Condition to undertake something bold: But their Government was disturbed by Malecontents, and a Kingdom divided within it self cannot stand; they had such a Number of new Men amongst them, that seem'd not so violently enclined for the Game; that whatever the Captain proposed, it was certainly carried against him, so that they came to no fix'd Resolution for the undertaking any Enterprize; therefore there was nothing to be done, but to break up the Company, which seemed to be the Inclination of the Majority, but the Manner of doing so, concerned their common Safety; to which Purpose various Means were proposed, at length it was concluded to send home a Petition to his Majesty (there being then no Act of Indemnity in Force) for a Pardon, and wait the Issue; at the same Time one Jones, Boatswain of the Good Fortune, proposed a Place of safe Retreat, it being an uninhabited Island near Cuba, which he had been used to in the late War, when he went a privateering against the Spaniards.

This being approved of, it was unanimously resolved on, and the underwritten Petition drawn up and signed by the whole Company in the Manner of what they call a Round Robin, that is, the Names were writ in a Circle, to avoid all Appearance of Pre-eminence, and least any Person should be mark'd out by the Government, as a principal Rogue among them.

To his most sacred Majesty George, by the Grace of God, of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.

The humble PETITION of the Company, now belonging to the Ship Morning Star, and Brigantine Good Fortune, lying under the ignominious Name and Denomination of Pyrates.

Humbly sheweth,

THAT we your Majesty's most loyal Subjects, have, at sundry Times, been taken by Bartholomew Roberts, the then Captain of the abovesaid Vessels and Company, together with another Ship, in which we left him; and have been forced by him and his wicked Accomplices, to enter into, and serve, in the said Company, as Pyrates, much contrary to our Wills and Inclinations: And we your loyal Subjects utterly abhoring and detesting that impious way of Living, did, with an unanimous Consent, and contrary to the Knowledge of the said Roberts, or his Accomplices, on, or about the 18th Day of April 1721, leave, and ran away with the aforesaid Ship Morning Star, and Brigantine Good Fortune, with no other Intent and Meaning than the Hopes of obtaining your Majesty's most gracious Pardon. And, that we your Majesty's most loyal Subjects, may with more Safery return to our native Country, and serve the Nation, unto which we belong, in our respective Capacities, without Fear of being prosecuted by the Injured, whose Estates have suffered by the said Roberts and his Accomplices, during our forcible Detainment, by the said Company: We most humbly implore your Majesty's most royal Assent, to this our humble Petition.

And your Petitioners shall ever pray.

This Petition was sent home by a Merchant Ship bound to England, from Jamaica, who promised to speak with the Petitioners, in their Return, about 20 Leagues to Windward of that Island, and let them know what Success their Petition met with. When this was done, the Pyrates retires to the Island before proposed, with the Ship and Brigantine.

This Island (which I have no Name for) lies off the Southwest End of Cuba, uninhabited, and little frequented. On the East End is a Lagune, so narrow, that a Ship can but just go in, tho’ there's from 15 to 22 Foot Water, for almost a League up: On both Sides of the Lagune grows red Mangrove Trees, very thick, that the Entrance of it, as well as the Vessels laying there, is hardly to be seen. In the Middle of the Island are here and there a small thick Wood of tall Pines, and other Trees scattered about in different Places.

Here they staid about nine Months, but not having Provision for above two, they were forced to take what the Island afforded, which was Fish of several Sorts, particularly Turtle, which latter was the chiefest Food they lived on, and was found in great Plenty on the Coasts of this Island; whether there might be any wild Hogs, Beef, or other Cattle, common to several Islands of the West-Indies, or that the Pyrates were too idle to hunt them, or whether they preferr'd other Provisions to that sort of Diet, I know not; but I was informed by them, that for the whole Time they eat not a Bit of any kind of Flesh-Meat, nor Bread; the latter was supply'd by Rice, of which they had a great Quantity aboard: This was boyl'd and squeez'd dry, and so eat with the Turtle.

There are three or four Sorts of these Creatures in the West-Indies, the largest of which will weight 150 or 200 Pound Weight or more, but those that were found upon this Island were of the smallest Kind, weighing 10 or 12 Pounds each, with a fine natural wrought Shell, and beautifully clouded; the Meat sweet and tender, some Part of it eating like Chicken, some like Veal, &c. so that it was no extraordinary Hardship for them to live upon this Provision alone, since it affords variety of Meats to the Taste, of it self. The manner of catching this Fish is very particular; you must understand, that in the Months of May, June and July, they lay their Eggs in order to hatch their Young, and this three times in a Season, which is always in the Sand of the Sea-shore, each laying 80 or 90 Eggs at a time. The Male accompanies the Female, and come ashore in the Night only, when they must be watch'd, without making any Noise, or having a Light; as soon as they land, the Men that watch for them, turn them on their Backs, then haul them above high Water Mark, and leave them till next Morning, where they are sure to find them, for they can't turn again, nor move from the Place. It is to be observ'd, that besides their laying time, they come ashore to feed, but then what's very remarkable in these Creatures, they always resort to different Places to breed, leaving their usual Haunts for two or three Months, and ’tis thought they eat nothing in all that Season.

They pass'd their Time here in Dancing, and other Diversions, agreeable to these sort of Folks; and among the rest, they appointed a Mock Court of Judicature to try one another for Pyracy, and he that was a Criminal one Day was made Judge another. — I had an Account given me of one of these merry Tryals, and as it appeared diverting, I shall give the Readers a short Account of it.

The Court and Criminals being both appointed, as also Council to plead, the Judge got up in a Tree, and had a dirty Taurpaulin hung over his Shoulders; this was done by Way of Robe, with a Thrum Cap on his Head, and a large Pair of Spectacles upon his Nose: Thus equipp'd, he settled himself in his Place, and abundance of Officers attending him below, with Crows, Handspikes, &c. instead of Wands, Tipstaves, and such like. — The Criminals were brought out, making a thousand four Faces; and one who acted as Attorney-General opened the Charge against them; their Speeches were very laconick, and their whole Proceedings concise. We shall give it by Way of Dialogue.

Attorn. Gen. An't please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury, here is a Fellow before you that is a sad Dog, a sad sad Dog; and I humbly hope your Lordship will order him to be hang'd out of the Way immediately. — He has committed Pyracy upon the High Seas, and we shall prove, an't please your Lordship, that this Fellow, this sad Dog before you, has escap'd a thousand Storms, nay, has got safe ashore when the Ship has been cast away, which was a certain Sign he was not born to be drown'd; yet not having the Fear of hanging before his Eyes, he went on robbing and ravishing Man, Woman and Child, plundering Ships Cargoes fore and aft, burning and sinking Ship, Bark and Boat, as if the Devil had been in him. But this is not all, my Lord, he has committed worse Villanies than all these, for we shall prove, that he has been guilty of drinking Small-Beer; and your Lordship knows, there never was a sober Fellow but what was a Rogue. — My Lord, I should have spoke much finer than I do now, but that, as your Lordship knows our Rum is all out, and how should a Man speak good Law that has not drank a Dram. — However, I hope, your Lordship will order the Fellow to be hang'd.

Judge. — Hearkee me, Sirrah, — you lousy, pittiful, ill-look'd Dog; what have you to say why you should not be tuck'd up immediately, and set a Sun-drying like a Scare-crow? — Are you guilty, or not guilty?

Pris. Not guilty, an't please your Worship.

Judge. Not guilty! say so again, Sirrah, and I'll have you hang'd without any Tryal.

Pris. An't please your Worship's Honour, my Lord, I am as honest a poor Fellow as ever went between Stem and Stern of a Ship, and can hand, reef, steer, and clap two Ends of a Rope together, as well as e'er a He that ever cross'd salt Water; but I was taken by one George Bradley [the Name of him that sat as Judge,] a notorious Pyrate, a sad Rogue as ever was unhang'd, and he forc'd me, an't please your Honour.

Judge. Answer me, Sirrah, — How will you be try'd?

Pris. By G— and my Country.

Judge. The Devil you will. — Why then, Gentlemen of the Jury, I think we have nothing to do but to proceed to Judgment.

Attor. Gen. Right, my Lord; for if the Fellow should be suffer'd to speak, he may clear himself, and that's an Affront to the Court.

Pris. Pray, my Lord, I hope your Lordship will consider —

Judge. Consider! — How dare you talk of considering? — Sirrah, Sirrah, I never consider'd in all my Life. — I'll make it Treason to consider.

Pris. But, I hope, your Lordship will hear some Reason.

Judge. D'ye hear how the Scoundrel prates? — What have we to do with Reason? — I'd have you to know, Raskal, we don't sit here to hear Reason; — we go according to Law. — Is our Dinner ready?

Attor. Gen. Yes, my Lord.

Judge. Then heark'ee, you Raskal at the Bar; hear me, Sirrah, hear me. — You must suffer, for three Reasons; first, because it is not fit I should sit here as Judge, and no Body be hang'd. — Secondly, you must be hang'd, because you have a damn'd hanging Look:— And thirdly, you must be hang'd, because I am hungry; for know, Sirrah, that ’tis a Custom, that whenever the Judge's Dinner is ready before the Tryal is over, the Prisoner is to be hang'd of Course. — There's Law for you, ye Dog. — So take him away Goaler.

This is the Tryal just as it was related to me; the Design of my setting it down, is only to shew how these Fellows can jest upon Things, the Fear and Dread of which, should make them tremble.

The beginning of August 1722, the Pyrates made ready the Brigantine, and came out to Sea, and beating up to Windward, lay in the Track for their Correspondant in her Voyage to Jamaica, and spoke with her; but finding nothing was done in England in their Favour, as ’twas expected, they return'd to their Consorts at the Island with the ill News, and found themselves under a Necessity, as they fancied, to continue that abominable Course of Life they had lately practis'd; in order thereto, they sail'd with the Ship and Brigantine to the Southward, and the next Night, by intolerable Neglect, they run the Morning Star upon the Grand Caimanes, and wreck'd her; the Brigantine seeing the Fate of her Consort, hall'd off in Time, and so weather'd the Island. The next Day Captain Anstis put in, and found that all, or the greatest part of the Crew, were safe ashore, whereupon she came to an Anchor, in order to fetch them off; and having brought Fenn the Captain, Philips the Carpenter, and a few others aboard, two Men of War came down upon them, viz. the Hector and Adventure, so that the Brigantine had but just Time to cut their Cable, and get to Sea, with one of the Men of War after her, keeping within Gun-shot for several Hours. Anstis and his Crew were now under the greatest Consternation imaginable, finding the Gale freshen, and the Man of War gaining Ground upon them, so that, in all Probability, they must have been Prisoners in two Hours more; but it pleased God to give them a little longer Time, the Wind dying away, the Pyrates got out their Oars, and row'd for their Lives, and thereby got clear of their Enemy.

The Hector landed her Men upon the Island, and took 40 of the Morning Star's Crew, without any Resistance made by them; but on the contrary, alledging, they were forc'd Men, and that they were glad of this Opportunity to escape from the Pyrates; the rest hid themselves in the Woods, and could not be found. George Bradley the Master, and three more, surrender'd afterwards to a Burmudas Sloop, and were carried to that Island.

The Brigantine, after her Escape, sail'd to a small Island near the Bay of Honduras, to clean and refit, and, in her Way thither, took a Rhode Island Sloop, Captain Durfey, Commander, and two or three other Vessels, which they destroy'd, but brought all the Hands aboard their own.

While she was cleaning, a Scheme was concerted between Captain Durfey, some other Prisoners, and two or three of the Pyrates, for to seize some of the Chiefs, and carry off the Brigantine; but the same being discovered before she was fit for sailing, their Design was prevented: However, Captain Durfey, and four or five more, got ashore with some Arms and Ammunition; and when the Pyrates Canoe came in for Water, he seiz'd the Boat with the Men; upon which Anstis ordered another Boat to be mann'd with 30 Hands and sent ashore, which was accordingly done; but Captain Durfey, and the Company he had by that Time got together, gave them such a warm Reception, that they were contented to betake themselves to their Vessel again.

About the beginning of December, 1722, Anstis left this Place and return'd to the Islands, designing to accumulate all the Power and Strength he could, since there was no looking back. He took in the Cruise a good Ship, commanded by Captain Smith, which he mounted with 24 Guns, and Fenn, a one handed Man, who commanded the Morning-Star when she was lost, went aboard to command her. They cruis'd together, and took a Vessel or two, and then went to the Bahama Islands, and there met with what they wanted, viz. a Sloop loaded with Provisions, from Dublin, called the Antelope.

It was time now to think of some Place to fit up and clean their Frigate lately taken, and put her in a Condition to do Business; accordingly they pitch'd upon the Island of Tobago, where they arrived the beginning of April, 1723, with the Antelope Sloop and her Cargo.

They fell to work immediately, got the Guns, Stores, and every Thing else out upon the Island, and put the Ship upon the Heel; and just then, as ill Luck would have it, came in the Winchelsea Man of War, by Way of Visit, which put the Marooners into such a Surprize, that they set Fire to the Ship and Sloop, and fled ashore to the Woods. Anstis, in the Brigantine, escap'd, by having a light Pair of Heels, but it put his Company into such a Disorder, that their Government could never be set to rights again; for some of the New-Comers, and those who had been tir'd with the Trade, put an End to the Reign, by shooting Tho. Anstis in his Hammock, and afterwards the Quarter-Master, and two or three others; the rest submitting, they put into Irons, and surrender'd them up, and the Vessel, at Curacco, a Dutch Settlement, where they were try'd and hang'd; and those concerned in delivering up the Vessel, acquitted.

But to return to Captain Fenn, he was taken stragling with his Gunner and three more, a Day or two after their Misfortune, by the Man of War's Men, and carry'd to Antegoa, where they were all executed, and Fenn hang'd in Chains. Those who remain'd, staid some Time in the Island, keeping up and down in the Woods, with a Hand to look out; at length Providence so order'd it, that a small Sloop came into the Harbour, which they all got aboard of, except two or three Negroes, and those they left behind. They did not think fit to pursue any further Adventures, and therefore unanimously resolved to steer for England, which they accordingly did, and in October last came into Bristol Channel, sunk the Sloop, and getting ashore in the Boat, dispersed themselves to their Abodes.


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