The History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Of Captain Vane.

WE have given what Account came to our Hands of Charles Vane in the first Volume, beginning at the Time he left Providence on the Governor's Arrival; but we have since had some Particulars sent us, which relate to Pyracies, both before and after that Date.

In the latter End of March 1718, he, with about 12 more lewd Fellows, who had squander'd all their Money got by former Villanies, took a Canoe, and went out on the old Account. Soon after their setting out they made Prize of a Sloop belonging to Jamaica, brought her into Potters Key, where they came to an Anchor, and put all the Hands on Shore, except the Master, to whom they promis'd to return his Sloop as soon as they met with another more fit for their Purpose; which soon after happen'd, for cruizing off Harbour Island in the beginning of April, they took the Lark Sloop, which had been taken from the pyrates by Captain Pierce, in the Phœnix Man of War, who fitted her out with a Cargo to trade at St. Augustin's. He brought his Prize into Providence Harbour, with his black Ensign hoisted, in Defiance of the above named Man of War, which he loudly threaten'd to burn. Vane, at Providence, augmented his Number of Men to 75, sailed in search of Booty, and on the 4th of July return'd with a French Ship of 20 Guns, a French Brigantine laden with Sugar, Indigo, Brandy, Claret, white Wine, and other Merchandize; the Drake Sloop, John Draper, Master, which he took in his Passage from Providence to Harbour Island, and plunder'd of a considerable Sum of Money, shifting into her some Sugars out of the French Brigantine; the Ulster Sloop, John Fredd, Master, laden with Timber from Andros Island, into this Vessel he put 70 Casks of Sugar; and the Eagle Sloop, Robert Brown, Master, bound to South-Carolina, which he took with a two-masted Boat, commanded by Edward England, his Quarter Master; he put on board this last 20 Terses of Sugar, 6 of Bread, and some other Things. In the Harbour he seized on the Lancaster Sloop, Neal Walker, Master, and the Dove Sloop, William Harris, Master, designed for Jamaica, which he plunder'd of what he thought proper, and shifted 22 Hogsheads of Sugar, some Spanish Hides and old Rigging.

He had the Impudence to come ashore with his Sword in Hand, threaten to burn the principal Houses of the Town, and to make Examples of many of the People; and though he committed no Murders, his Behaviour was extreamly insolent to all who were not as great Villains as himself. He reign'd here as Governor 20 Days, stopp'd all Vessels which came in, and would suffer none to go out, being inform'd of a Governor being sent from England, he swore, while he was in the Harbour, he would suffer no other Governor than himself. He clean'd and fitted the French Ship, with Intent to visit the Coast of Brazil, and design'd to sail in 3 or 4 Days; but the Governor appearing on the 24th, made him change his Resolution, and think of accepting a Pardon, if it might be granted on his own Terms, as will appear by the Letter which he sent off by a Boat to the Governor, and of which the following is an exact Copy.

July the 24th, 1718.

‘YOUR Excellency may please to understand that we are willing to accept his Majesty's most gracious Pardon on the following Terms, viz.

‘That you will suffer us to dispose of all our Goods now in our Possession. Likewise, to act as we think fit with every Thing belonging to us, as his Majesty's Act of Grace specifies.

‘If your Excellency shall please to comply with this, we shall, with all Readiness, accept of his Majesty's Act of Grace. If not, we are obliged to stand on our Defence. So conclude

Your humble Servants, Charles Vane, and Company.

The Susperscription was —

To his Excellency the Governor of New Providence. And at the Bottom of it. — We wait a speedy Answer.

The Governor could not get in that Night, but was forced to keep at Sea, so that Mr. Vane could not so speedily have an Answer as his Excellency design'd, which he intended to carry himself. About Four that Afternoon the Rose Man of War and Shark Sloop got in, and were saluted with four Shot from Vane, which, however, did no other Damage than the cutting the Rose's Rigging. In the Evening Captain Whitney sent his Lieutenant on Board Vane, who was higher up the Harbour in the French Ship. They detained this Gentleman two Hours, and the Crew, most of which was drunk, treated him, some with Threats, shewing the black Flag, and some with Contempt and Ridicule, and order'd him back to tell his Captain their Resolution was to fight it out to the last.

When Captain Whitney fired the eight a Clock Gun, Vane did the like with Shot, directed at the Rose. At Ten he pointed all the Guns of the French Ship (double loaded) at the Man of War, and, after setting Fire to her, went with 40 Hands into a Sloop belonging to one Yates. As the French Man burnt, the Guns fired, and cut some more of the Rose's Rigging. Captain Whitney apprehending Danger from the fir'd Ship, together with the Shark Sloop, cut and put out to Sea, which gave Vane an Opportunity he laid hold on, to take what he thought fit off Shore, and to force the best Carpenter and Pilot in the Island on Board him. When he had done, he went to, and lay at Potters Key all Night, and the next Morning got under Sail.

His Excellency dispatch'd after him the Buck Sloop and another small one, both well mann'd and fitted, which gain'd while he was upon a Wind, and came, before he clear'd the East End of the Island, within Gun-Shot; but he easing out his Main-Sheet, and setting his Flying-Jibb, left them soon after; wherefore, Night coming on, and their Pursuit being fruitless, they return'd.

Soon after Vane sent the Governor of Providence Word, he would make him a Visit, and burn his Guardship, for sending two Sloops to chase him instead of answering his Letter.

The 30th of August he took the Neptune of 400 Tuns, and the Emperor of 200 Tuns, the Particulars of which are in the subjoin'd Protest.

The 9th of September he arrived at Allens Key in a Spanish Brigantine; he had before taken a Spanish Ship of the Havanna; here he forced on Board a Pilot, took a Sloop and went to Green Turtle Key.

I have only to add: This Pyrate, whose Death is set down in the first Volume, betray'd the Coward when at the Gallows, and died in Agonies equal to his Villainies, which he gave no Ground to believe proceeded from the Apprehensions of a future State, but the Fear of Death. He shew'd not the least Remorse for the Crimes of his past Life, which was taken Notice of by the Spectators of his deserved Punishment, and told me by a worthy Gentleman who saw Justice done on him at Gallows Point on Port Royal.

The Protest of Captain King, Commander of the Neptune Hagboat.
‘BY this publick Instrument of Protest be it made known and manifest, that on the 30th Day of August 1718, John King, lately Commander of the Neptune Hagboat of London, but now in the Island of Providence, one of his Majesty's Bahama Islands, came before me Woodes Rogers, Esq; Governor, &c. and declared to me, that on the Day and Date above-written, he sailed with the said Ship Neptune Hagboat over the Bar of Carolina, in Company with three more Ships bound for London, viz. the Emperor, Captain Arnold Powers, Commander, and the Pink Antamasia, Captain Dumford, Commander, and the Pink, Captain Evers, Commander, and about two Hours after he was over the Bar of South-Carolina, he saw four Sail of Vessels standing some one Way, some another; but one of them being a Brigantine, gave Chase, and, in about two Hours time, came up with his Ship with a black Flag flying, and after having fir'd several Guns, demanded him to strike, and to come on Board the Brigantine, commanded by one Charles Vane, a Pyrate, who detained him and four of his Men on board the said Brigantine, and sent several of his Men on board the Neptune; and when they came on board they commanded him to make Sail, and began to rob and rifle as they thought fit, &c. taking only the Neptune and Emperor with them; for by the Information of the Captain of the Neptune and Emperor, the other two were loaded with Pitch and Tar, which was not for their Turn, so they would not give Chace to them; but in a small Time after they had held a Consultation together, they concluded to carry the Ship Neptune and Emperor, with their Crew, to Green Turtle Key, on Abbaco, so steered their Course accordingly for the said Place. About four Days after John King, Commander of the Neptune declares, he fell sick of a violent Fever on board the said Vane's Brigantine, and Vane asked him, if he would go on board his own Ship? he readily answered, Yes, if he pleased; so hoisted out his Boat, and sent him on board. And about four Days afterwards the pyrates held a Consultation on board their own Vessel. The Captain, and most of the Officers, were for taking what they wanted out of the Ship Neptune and Emperor, and so let them go about their Business; but the rest of the Company was not willing for it, because, they said, What should they clean their Vessel by? And what Defence should they have whilst they were cleaning? So concluded to proceed on to Green Turtle Key, which they did, and arrived there on or about the 12th of September 1718, and began to make Preparations for careening their Vessels, which held about three Weeks, and at the latter End of this Time they had taken from both Ships such Things as they wanted, and then took their Leaves of the said Ships and Captains, wishing them a good Voyage home, so set Sail; but in a little Time after made a Sloop coming into the Harbour of Green Turtle Key, perceiving her to come towards them without any Fear, came to an Anchor again, and sent away the two Mast Boat after them with about twelve Men in her, expecting it was a Sloop from Providence with fifty Men, according to Promise, when they left Providence, but in three Hours, or thereabouts, they spoke with her, which gave them Account that they came from Providence; and also laying down the State and Condition of that Island, it being the expected Sloop aforesaid, out of which some of the Men entered with Vane, but know not how many. And likewise the said King farther declares, that he heard some of the pyrates say, that Sloop had brought Ammunition and Provisions, &c. and the Commander's Name was one Nicholas Woodall. The said King asked what was the best News at Providence? They replied, None good: But bid him ask not many Questions, but sit up his Ship, in order to go for England or Providence; if the latter, they would take Care to see us to Providence, and did believe they should go in and surrender themselves up to the King's Pardon. The next Morning, being very much disturb'd with the News that the Sloop brought from Providence by the said Woodall, they voted to Maroon Captain Walker, but that did not take Place, so put it to Vote again to maroon and destroy the Neptune, which they did with cutting away the Masts, Rigging, Sails, Beams, and firing a Gun, double loaded with Shot down her Hold, and totally disabled her from ever proceeding her Voyage home to England. And the said King does verily believe, that the said Woodall's Sloop coming there, was the Occasion of all the aforesaid Mischief, believing what was done was to pay him for his great Favour done them. And farther, the said Captain King says, that some of the pyrates, who were his Friends, told him, that if that Sloop had not come, this Damage would not have been; and that they were very sorry for it; so by the said Vane's Order they went to work to load this Woodall's Sloop with Rice, Pitch, Tar, Deer Skins, Sails, Rigging, &c. After she was loaded, being the next Day, they all sailed together as pyrates, taking with them one of Captain Walker's Sons, with his Sloop, to tend on them, and as Pilot; but before they got out of the Channel, arrived to the Ships Neptune and Emperor, a Sloop from Providence, sent by the Governor to hear what was the best News there, hearing that Vane was there. The Captains of the said Sloop, Hornigold and Cockram told the Captains Powers and King, that they were come by the Governor's Order to assist them in what they could, who accordingly did, with making Dispatch to Providence, to acquaint his Excellency the Governor what sad Condition they were in by the pyrates hard Usage, leaving them without Provisions, &c. So the said Captains Hornigold and Cockram set Sail that Night, and in three or four Days after took the Sloop Woolfe, Nicholas Woodall, Master, that had traded with Charles Vane, the Pyrate, and carried him to his Excellency the Governor of Providence, who seized his Vessel, and consined him Prisoner. By that Time Vane came in a second time to Green Turtle Key, and began a second Plunder, taking from the Ships Rice, Rigging, Masts, Sails, &c. from both Ships, and told the said King, that if he offered to touch his Prize he would burn her, and him in her, if ever he catched him again; so sailed away the second time: And about three Weeks after arrived the said Captains Hornigold and Cockram, with five Sloops from Providence, sent down by the Governor, to save what Goods they could out of the Neptune, that was in so much Danger. The next Day they began to load the Sloops, and got them loaded in two Days, so sailed away. The said King came to Providence to consult and agree with the Governor what to do in such a Case. After some Time spent it was concluded to fit out the Willing Mind with Guns and Men, enough to stand an Engagement with Vane, and fell the Neptune; and, in a few Days after, did accordingly put her up publick to Sale, and it was thus fold to one Mr. George Hooper, for seventy one Pounds current Money of Jamaica, he being the Person that bid the most Money for her. The Willing Mind being sitted, sailed from Providence the 15th of November 1718, and arrived at Green Turtle Key the 19th, and took the Goods out of the Neptune, being in a very bad Condition; and after they had taken out all her Cargo, finding the Neptune to be better than they did expect; and, having a fair Wind, brought both Ships up to Providence, the Neptune got in safe, but the Willing Mind struck on the Bar, and sprung a Leak, insomuch that she was forced to unload and careen, and, when down, found her to be very bad, a Piece of her main Keel being gone, so was forced to hawl her ashore; and when the Carpenters had done what could be done to her, she could not be got up again by all the Strength that could be made, and tried for several Days, breaking and tearing all to pieces, but all to no Purpose; so the Governor order'd a Warrant of Survey on her, and was found by the Surveyors not sufficient to proceed any further, being very much damaged in her Wood-Work and Iron-Work, &c. Whereupon the said King desired a second Survey of his Ship and Goods, they lying in a very bad Condition. Now in the Harbour of Providence there being no Vessels to carry them to England, he therefore is now going to Carolina to consult with Mr. Richard Splat, who shipp'd the Goods on board, and to know of him what further may be done with the said Goods, and that he may rightly apprize all they concern'd, of the present Condition of the Ship and Goods; he has further taken the Opinion of Captain Thomas Walker, Captain Richard Thompson, and Captain Edward Holmes, Persons who are well acquainted what sad Condition the Ship and Goods are now in; whereupon the said King, and one of the Mariners belonging to the Ship Neptune, did, and doth hereby protest against the said Charles Vane, and the rest of the Mariners, pyrates and Robbers, belonging to the Brigantine aforesaid, and for the feloniously and pyratically taking, boarding, entering and plundering, and for sinking and disabling within the Harbour of Green Turtle Key, the said Ship Neptune, and for all Damages and Losses accruing thereby to the Owners, Freighters, or any other Persons concern'd therein. In Testimony whereof we have hereunto set our Hand and Seals this 5th Day of February, Anno Dom. 1718-9.

Jurat Coram me hoc die Decem Februaris, Woodes Rogers.

John King, X The Mark of John Morrison.

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