A General History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Chap. XVII.

Of Captain John Phillips, And his Crew.

Phillips his Original. How he became a Pyrate. His Return to England accounted for. Ships again for Newfoundland. Deserts his Ship in Peter Harbour. He and four others seize a Vessel. Sail out a pyrating. Articles sworn to upon a Hatchet. A Copy of the Articles. Ill Blood amongst them, and why. Are almost starved. Take Prizes. Phillips proposes to clean at Tobago, and why. Meets an old Acquaintance. Frighten'd from the Island. A Conspiracy to run away with the Prize. A Skirmish. The Carpenter's Dexterity in cutting off Legs. Fern kill'd by Phillips, and why. The Danger of attempting an Escape among the Pyrates. Captain Mortimer's Bravery, and hard Fate. Captain Mortimer's Brother escapes, and how. Cheeseman's Steps for overthrowing the Pyrates Government. A Digression concerning Newfoundland, and its Trade. The Pyrates recruited with Men from thence. Phillips his Conscience pricks him. Dependence Ellery, a Saint, oblig'd to dance by the Pyrates. A brave Action perform'd by Cheesemen. Carries the Pyrate Ship into Boston. The dying Declarations of John Rose Archer, and William White.

JOHN Phillips was bred a Carpenter, and sailing to Newfoundland in a West-Country Ship, was taken by Anstis in the Good Fortune Brigantine, the next Day after he had left his Consort and Commadore, Captain Roberts. Phillips was soon reconciled to the Life of a Pyrate, and being a brisk Fellow, was appointed Carpenter of the Vessel, for at first his Ambition reach'd no higher; there he remain'd till they broke up at Tabago, and was one of those who came home in a Sloop that we have mentioned to be sunk in Bristol Channel.

His Stay was not long in England, for whilst he was paying his first Visits to his Friends in Devonshire, he heard of the Misfortune of some of his Companions, that is, of their being taken and committed to Bristol Goal; and there being good Reason for his apprehending Danger from a Wind that blew from the same Quarter, he mov'd off immediately to Topsham, the nearest Port, and there shipp'd himself with one Captain Wadham, for a Voyage to Newfoundland, and home again; which, by the way, Mr. Phillips never design'd to perform, or to see England any more. When the Ship came to Peter Harbour in Newfoundland aforesaid, he ran away from her, and hired himself a Splitter in the Fishery, for the Season: But this was only till he could have an Opportunity of prosecuting his intended Rogueries; in order to which, he combined with several others, in the same Employ, to go off with one of the Vessels that lay in the Harbour, upon the pyratical Account; accordingly the Time was fix'd, viz. the 29th of August 1723, at Night; but whether Remorse or Fear prevented their coming together, I know not, but of sixteen Men that were in the Combination, five only kept the Appointment: Notwithstanding which, Phillips was for pushing forward with that small Number, assuring his Companions, that they should soon encrease their Company; and they agreeing, a Vessel was seiz'd on, and out of the Harbour they sailed.

The first Thing they had now to do, was to chuse Officers, draw up Articies, and settle their little Commonwealth, to prevent Disputes and Ranglings afterwards; so John Phillips was made Captain, John Nutt, Master, (or Navigator) of the Vessel; James Sparks, Gunner; Thomas Fern, Carpenter; and Wiliam White was the only private Man in the whole Crew: When this was done, one of them writ out the following Articles (which we have taken verbatim) and all swore to ’em upon a Hatchet for want of a Bible.

The Articles on Board the Revenge.
  1. EVery Man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full Share and a half in all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner fhall have one Share and quarter.

  2. If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be marroon'd, with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm, and Shot.

  3. If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be marroon'd or shot.

  4. If at any Time we should meet another Marrooner [that is,Pyrate,] that Man that shall sign his Articles without the Consent of our company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.

  5. That Man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall receive Moses's Law (that is, 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare Back.

  6. That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoak Tobacco in the Hold, without a Cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the same Punishment as in the former Article.

  7. That Man that shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for an Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other Punishment as the Captain and the Company shall think fit.

  8. If any Man shall lose a Joint in time of an Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight; if a Limb, 800.

  9. If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present Death.

Thus prepar'd, this bold Crew set out, and before they left the Banks they made Prize of several small Fishing-Vessels, out of which they got a few Hands, some French and some English, and then sail'd for the West-Indies; in one of these Vessels they took out one John Rose Archer, who having been a Pyrate under the famous Black-beard, was immediately preferr'd over other People's Heads, to be Quarter-Master to the Company; which sudden Promotion so disgusted some of the older Standers, especially Fern, the Carpenter, that it occasioned some Mischief to follow, as we shall shew by and by.

The Pyrates came off Barbadoes the beginning of October, and cruised there, and among other Islands, above three Months, without speaking with a Vessel, so that they were almost starv'd for want of Provisions, being reduc'd to a Pound of Meat a Day between ten; at length they fell in with a Martinico Man of 12 Guns and 35 Hands, far superior in Force, and what they would not have ventur'd on at another Time, but Hunger will break down Stone Walls; they were resolved to shew the French Men their black Flag; and if that would not do, they must seek out elsewhere; accordingly, they boldly ran up a-long-side of the Sloop, with their pyratical Colours flying, and told them, if they did not strike immediately, they would give them no Quarters; which so intimidated the Frenchmen, that they never fired a Gun. This proved a seasonable Supply; they took her Provisions, and four of her Men, and let her go. They took presently after, a Sloop belonging to New-York, and a Virginia Man, Huffam Master.

Having now occasion to clean their Vessel, Phillips propos'd Tobago, where the Company he formerly belong'd to, under Anstis and Fenn, broke up; to induce them to it, he told them when he left the Island, there was left behind six or eight of their Company that were not willing to go to England, with three Negroes: Whereupon they sail'd to the Island, and after a careful Search, found only one of the Negroes, whose Name was Pedro, who inform'd Captain Phillips, that those that were left behind were taken by a Man of War's Crew, and hang'd at Antegoa, among whom was Fenn, their Captain.

They took Pedro on Board, and then fell to Business, careening their Vessel; and just as they had finished their Work, a Man of War's Boat came into the Harbour, the Ship being cruising to Leeward of the Island. It was easily guess'd upon what Errant she was sent, and therefore they lost no Time, but, as soon as the Boat went away, warp'd out, and ply'd to Windward for Security, but left the four French Men, they took out of the Martinico Sloop, behind.

In a few Days they took a Snow with a few Hands, and Fern, the Carpenter, one William Phillips, Wood and Taylor, went aboard to take Possession of her. Fern, not forgetting the Affront of having Archer preferr'd before him, resolv'd to go off with the Prize, and brought the rest into the same Measures; however Phillips, the Captain, keeping a good Look-out, perceiv'd their Design, and gave them Chace, who coming up with the Vessel, a Skirmish ensu'd, wherein Wood was kill'd and Taylor wounded in his Leg; upon which the other two surrender'd. There was no Surgeon aboard, and therefore it was advis'd, upon a learned Consultation, that Phillips's Leg should be cut off; but who should perform the Operation was the Dispute; at length the Carpenter was appointed, as the most proper Man: Upon which, he fetch'd up the biggest Saw, and taking the Limb under his Arm, fell to Work, and separated it from the Body of the Patient, in as little Time as he could have cut a Deal Board in two; after that he heated his Ax red hot in the Fire, and cauteriz'd the Wound, but not with so much Art as he perform'd the other Part, for he so burnt his Flesh distant from the Place of Amputation, that it had like to have mortify'd; however nature perform'd a Cure at last without any other Assistance.

From Tobago they stood away to the Northward and took a Portugueze bound for Brazil, and two or three Sloops from Jamaita, in one of which, Fern the Carpenter, endeavouring to go off, was kill'd by Phillips the Captain, pursuant to their Articles; another had the same Fate some Days after for the like Attempt. These Severities made it dangerous for any to consult or project an Escape; the Terror of which made several sign their Articles and set down quietly, waiting impatiently for Redemption, which as yet they saw no great likelyhood of, and should they have been taken before such Circumstances appear'd in their Actions or Characters, as afterwards happen'd, to denote their Innocence, they might have lost their Lives upon a Tryal at a Court of Admiralty; for pretty strong Evidence is expected in their Favour, to ballance that of being taken aboard a Vessel which is prov'd to be in actual Pyracy, and they assisting therein.

Thus was many an honest Man's Case made most desperate by the consummate Villany of a few hardned Wretches, who fear neither God or Devil, as this Phillips us'd often blasphemously to express himself.

On the 25th of March they took two Ships from Virginia for London, John Phillips, the Pyrate Captain's Namesake, was Master of one, and Captain Robert Mortimer, the other, a brisk young Fellow, that deserv'd a better Fate than he met with. Phillips the Pyrate staid on Board of Captain Mortimer's Ship, while they transported the Crew to the Sloop, and the Boat returning along side, one of the Pyrates therein calls to Phillips, and tells him, there was a Mutiny aboard their Vessel, Mortimer had two Men in his Ship, and the Pyrate Captain had two, therefore thought it a good Opportunity to recover his Ship, and directly took up a Handspike and struck Phillips over the Head, giving him a dangerous wound, but not knocking him down, he recovered and wounded Mortimer with his Sword; and the two Pyrates that were aboard coming in to Captain Phillips's Assistance, Captain Mortimer was presently cut to Pieces, while his own two Men stood by and did nothing.

This was the first Voyage that Mortimer had the Command of a Vessel, by whose Death is a poor disconsolate Widow made miserable, more in regard of the mutual Love and Fidelity they lived in, than the Loss of what would have been a handsome and comfortable Provision for themselves and Children, which, I think, now ought to be made up by the Publick, since ’twas in the publick Service he fell; for had his Attempt succeeded, in all Probability he would not only have regained his own Ship, but entirely subdued and destroy'd the Enemy, there being several, as it afterwards proved, that would have seconded such an Enterprize when ever they found a Beginning made.

This Affair ended without any other Consequence than a strict Search after a Brother of Captain Mortimer, who was on Board, in order to have put him likewise to death; but he had the good Fortune to meet with a Townsman among the Crew, who hid him for four and twenty Hours in a Stay-Sail, till the Heat of their Fury was over, and by that Means happily missed of the Fate designed him.

Out of the other Virginia Man before spoken of, they took one Edward Cheeseman, a Carpenter, to supply the Place of their late Carpenter, Fern. He was a modest sober young Man, very averse to their unlawful Practice, and a brave gallant Fellow.

There was one John Philmore of Ipswich, formerly taken by them, ordered to row Cheeseman aboard of Mortimer's Ship, which the Pyrates possess'd themselves of, who, seeing with what Reluctance and Uneasiness Cheeseman was brought away, told him, he would join with him, in some Measures, to over-throw the pyratical Government, telling him withal, their present Condition, what Difficulties Phillips had met with to make up his Company, and how few voluntary Pyrates there were on Board, and the like. But, however specious this seemed, Cheeseman out of Prudence rejected his Offers of Assistance, till he saw some Proofs of his Sincerity, which after a few Days he was convinced of, and then they often consulted; but as the old Pyrates were always jealous of the new Comers, and consequently observant of their Behaviour; this was done with the utmost Caution, chiefly when they were lying down together, as tho’ asleep, and, at other Times, when they were playing at Cards; both which they feigned often to do for that Purpose.

The Pyrates went on all the while, plundering and robbing several Ships and Vessels, bending their Course towards Newfoundland, where they designed to raise more Men, and do all the Mischief they could on the Banks, and in the Harbours.

Newfoundland is an Island on the North Continent of America, contained between the 46 and 538 of N. Latitude, discovered first by St. Sebastion Cabot A. D. 1497, but never settled till the Year 1610; when Mr. Guy of Bristol revived the Affair, and obtained a Patent, and himself to be Governor. The Island is deserted by the Natives and neglected by us, being desolate and Woody, and the Coast and Harbour only held for the Conveniency of the Cod Fishery, for which alone they were settled.

The Bays and Harbours about it, are very numerous and convenient, and being deeply indented, makes it easy for any Intelligence quickly to pass from one Harbour to another over Land; especially the principal, St. John's and Placentia, when the Appearance of an Enemy makes them apprehend Danger.

They are able to cure and export about 100000 Quintals (100 Weight each) of Fish, annually, which returns to England in Money, or the necessary Commodities of Portugal, Spain and Italy. As it therefore expends abundance of Rum, Molossus and Sugar, the Product of our West-India Colonies, and employs a Number of Fishermen from home every Season, by whose Industry and Labour only this Fish is purchased, it may very well be reckon'd an advantagious Branch of Trade.

But the present Design of this Digression being not to give an exact Description of the Country or Fishery; but rather how it accidentally contributes to raise, or support the Pyrates already rais'd, I shall observe,

First, That our West Country Fishing-Ships, viz. from Topsham, Barnstable and Bristol, who chiefly attend the Fishing Seasons, transport over a considerable Number of poor Fellows every Summer, whom they engage at low Wages, and are by their Terms to pay for Passage back to England. When the Newfoundland Ships left that Country, towards Winter, in the Year 1720, these Passengers muster'd 1100, who, during the Season of Business, (the Hardness of their Labour, and Chilness of the Nights, pinching them very much) are mostly fond of drinking Black Strap, (a strong Liquor used there, and made from Rum, Molossus, and Chowder Beer;) by this the Majority of them out-run the Constable, and then are necessitated to come under hard Articles of Servitude for their Maintenance in the Winter; no ordinary Charge, indeed, when the Barrenness of the Country is consider'd, and the Stock of Provision laid in, happen to fall short, in Proportion to the Computation made of the People remaining there the Winter, which are generally about 17 or 1800. The Masters residing there think Advantages taken on their Necessities, no more than a just and lawful Gain; and either bind such for the next Summer's Service, or sell their Provisions out to them at extravagant Rates; Bread from 15s. to 50, immediately at the departing of the Ships, and so of other sorts of Food in Proportion; wherefore not being able to subsist themselves, or in any likely Way of clearing the Reckoning to the Masters, they sometimes run away with Shallops and Boats, and begin on pyratical Exploits, as Phillips and his Companions, whom we are now treating of, had done.

And secondly (which is more opportunely for them,) they are visited every Summer, almost, by some Set of Pyrates or other, already rais'd, who call here for the same Purpose, (if young Beginners) and to lay in a Store of Water and Provisions, which they find imported, much or little, by all the Ships that use the Trade.

Towards this Country Phillips was making his Way, and took on the Voyage, besides those abovementioned, one Salter, in a Sloop off the Isle of Sables, which Vessel they made use of themselves, and gave back Mortimer's Ship to the Mate and Crew. The same Day, viz. the 4th of April, took a Scooner, one Chadwell, Master, which they scuttled, in order to sink; but Capt. Phillips understanding that she belong'd to Mr. Minors at Newfoundland, with whose Vessel they first went off a pyrating, a Qualm of Conscience came athwart his Stomach, and he said to his Companions, We have done him Injury enough already; so order'd the Vessel immediately to be repair'd, and return'd her to the Master.

That Afternoon they chac'd another Vessel, and at Night came up with her, the Master of which was a Saint of New-England, nam'd Dependance Ellery, who taking Phillips for a Pyrate, he told him was the Reason that he gave him the Trouble of chacing so long; which being resented by these Men of Honour, they made poor Dependance dance about the Deck till he was weary.

Within few Days several other Vessels had the same Misfortune, the Masters Names were as follow, Joshua Elwell, Samuel Elwell, Mr. Combs, Mr. Lansly, James Babston, Edward Freeman, Mr. Start, Obediah Beal, Erick Erickson and Benjamin Wheeler.

The 14th of April they took a Sloop belonging to Cape Ann, Andrew Harradine Master; they look'd upon this Vessel more fit for their Purpose, and so came aboard, keeping only the Master of her Prisoner, and sending Harradine's Crew away in Salter's Vessel, which they, till this Time, detain'd. To this Harradine, Cheeseman the Carpenter, broke his Mind, and brought him into the Confederacy to destroy the Crew, which was put in Execution four Days afterwards.

Harradine and the rest were for doing the Business in the Night, as believing they might be more opportunely surpriz'd; for Nut, the Master, being a Fellow of great Strength, and no less Courage, it was thought dangerous to attack him without Fire-Arms; however, Cheeseman was resolute to have it perform'd by Day-light, as the least liable to Confusion; and as to the Master, he offer'd to lay Hands on him first: Upon this ’twas concluded on, 12 at Noon was the appointed Time; in order for the Business Cheeseman leaves his working Tools on the Deck, as though he had been going to use them, and walked aft; but perceiving some Signs of Timidity in Harradine, he comes back, fetches his Brandy Bottle and gives him and the rest a Dram, then drnak to Burril, the Boatswain, and the Master, To their next merry Meeting, and up he puts the Bottle; then he takes a Turn with Nut, asking what he thought of the Weather, and such like. In the mean while Filemore takes up the Axe, and turns it round upon the Point, as if at Play, then both he and Harradine wink at him, thereby letting him know they were ready; upon which Signal he seizes Nut by the Collar, with one Hand between his Legs, and toss'd him over the Side of the Vessel, but, he holding by Cheeseman's Sleeve, said, Lord have Mercy upon me! what are you going to do, Carpenter? He told him it was an unnecessary Question, For, says he, Master, you are a dead Man, so strikes him over the Arm, Nut looses his Hold, tumbles into the Sea, and never spoke more.

By this time the Boatswain was dead; for as soon as Filemore saw the Master laid hold of, he raised up the Axe, and divided his Enemy's Head in two: The Noise brought the Captain upon Deck, whom Cheeseman saluted with the Blow of a Mallet, which broke his Jaw-Bone, but did not knock him down; Harradine came in then with the Carpenter's Adds, but Sparks, the Gunner, interposing between him and Captain Phillips, Cheeseman trips up his Heels, and flung him into the Arms of Charles Jvymay, one of his Consorts, who that Instant discharg'd him into the Sea; and at the same Time Harradine compassed his Business with the Captain aforesaid: Cheeseman lost no Time, but from the Deck jumps into the Hold, and was about to beat out the Brains of Archer, the Quarter-Master, having struck him two or three Blows with his blunt Weapon the Mallet, when Harry Giles, a young Lad, came down after him, and desir'd his Life might be spar'd, as an Evidence of their own Innocence; that he having all the Spoil and Plunder in his Custody, it may appear, that these tragick Proccedings were not undertaken with any dishonest View of seizing or appropriating the Effects to themselves; which prudent Advice prevail'd, and he and three more were made Prisoners, and secured.

The Work being done, they went about Ship, altered the Course from Newfoundland to Boston, and arrived safe the 3d of May following, to the great Joy of that Province.

On the 12th of May, 1724, a special Court of Admiralty was held for the Tryal of these Pyrates, when John Filmore, Edward Cheeseman, John Combs, Henry Giles, Charles Ivymay, John Bootman, and Henry Payne, the seven that confederated together for the Pyrates Destruction, were honourably acquitted; as also three French Men, John Baptis, Peter Taffery, and Isaac Lassen, and three Negroes, Pedro, Francisco, and Pierro. And John Rose Archer, the Quarter-Master, William White, William Taylor, and William Phillips, were condemned; the two latter were reprieved for a Year and a Day, in order to be recommended (though I don't know for what) as Objects of his Majesty's Mercy. The two former were executed on the 2d of June, and dy'd very penitently, making the following Declarations at the Place of Execution, with the Assistance of two grave Divines that attended them.

The dying Declarations of John Rose Archer and William White, on the Day of their Exetion at Boston, June 2, 1724, for the Crimes of Pyracy.
First, separately, of Archer.

I Greatly bewail my Profanations of the Lord's Day, and my Disobedience to my Parents.

And my Cursing and Swearing, and my blaspeming the Name of the glorious God.

Unto which I have added, the Sins of Unchastity. And I have provoked the Holy One, at length, to leave me unto the Crimes of Pyracy and Robbery; wherein, at last, I have brought my self under the Guilt of Murder also.

But one Wickedness that has led me as much as any, to all the rest, has been my brutish Drunkenness. By strong Drink I have been heated and hardened into the Crimes that are now more bitter than Death unto me.

I could wish that Masters of Vessels would not use their Men with so much Severity, as many of them do, which exposes to great Temptations.

And then of White.

I am now, with Sorrow, reaping the Fruits of my Disobedience to my Parents, who used their Endeavours to have me instructed in my Bible, and my Catechism.

And the Fruits of my neglecting the publick Worship of God, and prophaning the holy Sabbath.

And of my blaspheming the Name of God, my Maker.

But my Drunkenness has had a great Hand in bringing my Ruin upon me. I was drunk when I was enticed aboard the Pyrate.

And now, for all the vile Things I did aboard, I own the Justice of God and Man, in what is done unto me.

Of both together.

We hope, we truly hate the Sins, whereof we have the Burthen lying so heavy upon our Consciences.

We warn all People, and particularly young People, against such Sins as these. We wish, all may take Warning by us.

We beg for Pardon, for the sake of Christ, our Saviour; and our Hope is in him alone. Oh! that in his Blood our Scarlet and Crimson Guilt may be all washed away!

We are sensible of an hard Heart in us, full of Wickedness. And we look upon God for his renewing Grace upon us.

We bless God for the Space of Repentance which he has given us; and that he has not cut us off in the Midst and Heighth of our Wickedness.

We are not without Hope, that God has been savingly at work upon our Souls.

We are made sensible of our absolute Need of the Righteousness of Christ; that we may stand justified before God in that. We renounce all Dependance on our own.

We are humbly thankful to the Ministers of Christ, for the great Pains they have taken for our Good. The Lord Reward their Kindness.

We don't Despair of Mercy; but hope, through Christ, that when we dye, we shall find Mercy with God, and be received into his Kingdom.

We wish others, and especially the Sea-faring, may get Good by what they see this Day befalling of us.

Declared in the Presence of J. W. D. M.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53