Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

    Wow, what a comprehensive book this is!! It should be sub-titled, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Pyrates* (But Were Afraid to Ask)." At 733 pages, I thought it would be a major undertaking, (and it was), but Defoe's writing style is so entertaining, and the volume is edited so well, that is turned out to be a fun read and much quicker than expected. Plus there are pages and pages of reference—Commentary and Notes for each chapter, which I kept with a separate bookmark so I could flip back and forth, because these comments were just as interesting as the text. It also contains an Index, a lengthy Postscript for this Dover edition, plus a lengthy Introduction, note on The Text by the editor, a labeled illustration of a ship, plus a short section, also illustrated, defining different types of ships and boats. Everything from the Introduction to the actual beginning of the book is not included in the pagination, thus adding 47 additional pages!
    I have frequently commented that of all the authors whose works I love, I would probably not have liked the author as a person, with few exceptions. I have toyed with my feelings about Dan, here, but gosh, after reading this one, I think he may have been a man after my own heart! The introductory material supplies a lot of information about him as a person, and a quite different character appeared, as opposed to Wikipedia's portrayal of a man who could not manage his money and was always in debt, giving him the stigma of irresponsibility, and perhaps even laziness. But a whole new image emerged here, one of a brave and determined social activist who found himself in hot water frequently because he couldn't keep his mouth shut about socio-political-religious beliefs. Yep, he's the man for me. A real rebel! Wikipedia describes him as "an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer and spy." Yeah, being a spy could have caused some problems, too! Here is what Wikipedia says about "pamphleteers."

   Pamphleteer is a historical term for someone who creates or distributes pamphlets, unbound (and therefore inexpensive) booklets intended for wide circulation.
   Pamphlets were used to broadcast the writer's opinions: to articulate a political ideology, for example, or to encourage people to vote for a particular politician. During times of political unrest, such as the French Revolution, pamphleteers were highly active in attempting to shape public opinion. Before the advent of telecommunications, those with access to a printing press and a supply of paper often used pamphlets to widely disseminate their ideas.

    Schonhorn's commentary on Defoe as a person reflects someone who also held him in high esteem. Defoe was many things, but perhaps he was best known as a reporter—a journalist who, for his day, took great care to investigate and get his facts right, even though he did make errors, often due to iffy circumstances. Whenever possible, he corrected them, however. The information gathered here is formidable, and the fact that Defoe himself was a merchant gave him inside information directly from sea captains and those who dealt with pirates first hand. Many of these stories also contain courtroom speeches from trials that condemned these villains to death. But, as a good journalist, Defoe often kept things neutral, reporting on both sides of the story. And one of the examples that truly impressed me about Defoe as a person, was that he, like Dickens, the other authors I no doubt would have liked as people, stood up for the lesser citizens who were often driven to crime out of desperation. There are some exceptions with these pirates, of course, and Defoe also points out those who were just plain wicked. Defoe's novels, like Dickens' are filled with the downtrodden—rejects from mainstream society through no fault of their own. And Defoe, also like Dickens, writes with a playful humor that often makes one laugh out loud.
    Just a couple other general comments, then I will get on to the good stuff. This book is now available from Project Gutenberg for Volume I, and here for Volume II. Both are free, of course, although I own the Dover edition because my guiding rule is that if a book exceeds 499 pages, it requires too much charging on a device, so if Dover has it, I buy the paper copy. Plus the fact that I am certain I either got it on sale or free, because I get more free books from Dover than I pay for. Really. I keep a record. And as for Project Gutenberg, it seems they have recently added more Defoe literature, so I do not have to worry about having new material to post on his Index Page, where you can read all of my Defoe reviews. In any case, even if you don't think you are interested in Pirates, this book is also about history, politics, economics, and social life in Defoe's time, so it is just plain good reading. And for me as a reviewer, it makes quoting so much easier, because I can just copy and paste from the online text. Defoe lived from 1660 to 1731, and was born and died in London, And now on to the review.
    Because Defoe truly covered every notable pirate in the first quarter of the 1700s, I won't even mention them all. Their lives had a basic similarity. They were a bunch of thieves that banded together and took over defenseless vessels, stealing their cargo. From there things differed. Some were unspeakably cruel, like Blackbeard and Low, but others often let the ship go without harming its crew. Often crew members joined the pirates that invaded them, since the pay was much better than they were getting. And so, I will just comment throughout the book on items I found particularly interesting. And Schonhorn's Introduction was certainly that, though unfortunately is not included in the online copy. He begins his first paragraph:

   Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, acclaimed early master of English fiction, has also been a treasure for historians, and his reports on the island kingdom of King William and Queen Anne have continually occupied the central point of their thought and vision. It is therefore quite natural that we turn to this most representative of Englishmen—novelist, economist, journalist, hosier, tilemaker and civil servant for more than a quarter of a century—for what has become the principal source for the lives of the pirates and pirate history.

    Not that pirates did not previously exist, but their heyday was during this period of colonization in the West Indies and on up the coast to America, which included all the little islands that dot this area of the Caribbean and Atlantic. The Anglo-Spanish Treaty of 1670 allowed English ships freedom of movement in the Caribbean, since they owned Jamaica. Wanting peace and security, the two nations banded against piracy. The pirates then moved on to easier territory, like the famous Captain Avery, who was active in the East.
    Both Schonhorn and Defoe make the point that, during times of war, seafaring men had employment, therefore pirating declined. However, after the Treaty of Utrecht was signed by "major European powers in 1713, and the dispersal of the fleets that privateering and then piracy flourished." It all became a socio-political-economic issue. Men were out of work, and found prosperity in joining bands of pirates. Pardons were easily obtained from the Crown, and former pirates often helped patrol the areas they formerly covered. As was the case with Blackbeard and North Carolina, the governor and other political figures benefitted from the wealth he gathered, in exchange for turning a blind eye to Blackbeard's activities. And so, because government official are, and always have been corrupt, piracy not only thrived on its own, but was encouraged to thrive. In any case, this was the "greatest decade of pirate activity in modern history."
    Schonhorn also comments that of over 500 works published by Defoe, less than a dozen bore his name on the title page, because authors needed protection from punishment for their writing. I guess we've come full circle then. But that's why the authorship of many Defoe works have been questioned, this one included, and also The King of Pirates, a fictional novel based on Captain Avery. that one is now available from Project Gutenberg, and its review is on Defoe's Index Page linked above. Some of Defoe's works were also pirated, thus causing him to lose money from their sales, which I would imagine was common back then as I believe there were not strict copyright laws yet.
    Schonhorn goes on to say that "Defoe's literary program in 1723 was a staggering one."

   This frenzied literary activity no doubt accounts for the disorganization and the discontinuity and the numerous errors of the first edition. Yet it must be remembered that Defoe, like a good journalist-historian, was arranging, developing and to some extent dramatizing what he was told and what was appearing in the news reports; and what was reported in the London press was often confusing, contradictory or simply wrong.

    Again, we have come full circle . . . . I want to include one more quote, in which Defoe, like Dickens, used his characters to make a socio-political point.

   But in Volume II Defoe approached his rogues in fact as he did his rogues of fiction, for he now used them to indict and judge the hypocrisy, injustice and cowardice of his English society. In Captain Bellamy's biography the strolling player's procedure for erecting an empire equal to Rome, by force, corruption and slavery, with its allusions to the Walpolean scene, suddenly carries us into the Alice-in-Wonderland world of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. The laughter elicited diminishes, for Defoe has suddenly revealed another world shockingly analogous to the pirates', a world of politicians and statesmen, in which a more sophisticated group of robbers, thieves and profligates resides.

    HA!! Definitely full circle! And now, here are some highlights from Defoe's text, and again, I point out that here is just a smattering of all the interesting material I would have liked to include. Defoe begins his Preface with a statement on why men (and women!!) turn to pirating, and also comments on how it could be prevented, which illustrates how tuned-in Defoe was to the social issues that plagued his era, and also how creative was his mind towards possible solutions. The same can be said for numerous authors, including Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells.

   I cannot but take Notice in this Place, that during this long Peace, I have not so much as heard of a Dutch Pyrate: It is not that I take them to be honester than their Neighbours; but when we account for it, it will, perhaps, be a Reproach to our selves for our want of Industry: The Reason I take to be, that after a War, when the Dutch Ships are laid up, they have a Fishery, where their Seamen find immediate Business, and as comfortable Bread as they had before. Had ours the same Recourse in their Necessities, I'm certain we should find the same Effect from it; for a Fishery is a Trade that cannot be overstock'd; the Sea is wide enough for us all, we need not quarrel for Elbow-room: Its Stores are infinite, and will ever reward the Labourer. Besides, our own Coast, for the most Part, supply the Dutch, who employ several hundred Sail constantly in the Trade, and so sell to us our own Fish. I call it our own, for the Sovereignty of the British Seas, are to this Day acknowledged us by the Dutch, and all the neighbouring Nations; wherefore, if there was a publick Spirit among us, it would be well worth our while to establish a National Fishery, which would be the best Means in the World to prevent Pyracy, employ a Number of the Poor, and ease the Nation of a great Burthen, by lowering the Price of Provision in general, as well as of several other Commodities.

    The term "Privateers" is used quite a bit here. According to my ancient Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1977), it means "An armed private ship commissioned to cruise against the commerce or warships of an enemy." Defoe also comments that privateering is nothing more than legal pirating. Here he says:

I shall not repeat what I have said in the History concerning the Privateers of the West-Indies, where I have taken Notice they live upon Spoil; and as Custom is a second Nature, it is no Wonder that, when an honest Livlyhood is not easily had, they run into one so like their own; so that it may be said, that Privateers in Time of War are a Nursery for Pyrates against a Peace.

    He also questions why warships seem to be unable to deal with this criminal activity. Keep in mind that in many cases, the governors and others who could have more strictly enforced the law against their villainy were being bribed, or in some other way benefitting from piratical behavior. Gosh, does all this sound familiar, or what? Sea and land and sky—it's all happening now, with much greater lethal consequences. Also keep in mind that the British Government readily issued certificates of pardon to any pirate or gang that turned themselves in. Of course, the idea was that they would become good citizens and work on the side of lawfulness and moral integrity. Some did, but most did only until a better pirating opportunity arrived. For those, at least it is my understanding, that a noose then took the place of a pardon. Though some of these rogues did escape, many, many of them were hanged.
    One notable exception concerning corrupt governors was Woodes Rogers, who was sent from England to govern the Bahamas. Through no fault of his own, he wasn't always successful, at least at first, but eventually became a formidable foe to pirate activities in the West Indies, serving to send them to other areas, such as the middle eastern territory—the east coast of Africa and Madagascar, India, and the nearby islands.
    The first pirate covered by Defoe is the famous Captain Avery, whom Defoe romanticized in his novel The King of Pirates, especially for his success in raiding one of the Great Mogul's ships, laden with expensive offerings on a pilgrimage to Mecca, which apparently was true. Here are the opening two paragraphs.

   None of these bold Adventurers were ever so much talked of, for a while, as Avery; he made as great a Noise in the World as Meriveis does now, and was looked upon to be a Person of as great Consequence; he was represented in Europe, as one that had raised himself to the Dignity of a King, and was likely to be the Founder of a new Monarchy; having, as it was said, taken immense Riches, and married the Great Mogul's Daughter, who was taken in an Indian Ship, which fell into his Hands; and that he had by her many Children, living in great Royalty and State; that he had built Forts, erected Magazines, and was Master of a stout Squadron of Ships, mann'd with able and desperate Fellows of all Nations; that he gave Commissions out in his own Name to the Captains of his Ships, and to the Commanders of his Forts, and was acknowledged by them as their Prince. A Play was writ upon him, called, the Successful Pyrate; and, these Accounts obtained such Belief, that several Schemes were offered to the Council for fitting out a Squadron to take him; while others were for offering him and his Companions an Act of Grace, and inviting them to England, with all their Treasure, least his growing Greatness might hinder the Trade of Europe to the East-Indies.
   Yet all these were no more than false Rumours, improved by the Credulity of some, and the Humour of others who love to tell strange Things; for, while it was said, he was aspiring at a Crown, he wanted a Shilling; and at the same Time it was given out he was in Possession of such prodigious Wealth in Madagascar, he was starving in England.

    Of Captain Martel, Defoe says, "his Story is but short, for his Reign was so; an End having been put to his Adventures in good Time, when he was growing strong and formidable." However the general statement beginning his chapter applies for this whole period.

   I come now to the Pyrates that have rose since the Peace of Utrecht; in War Time there is no room for any, because all those of a roving advent'rous Disposition find Employment in Privateers, so there is no Opportunity for Pyrates; like our Mobs in London, when they come to any Height, our Superiors order out the Train Bands, and when once they are raised, the others are suppressed of Course; I take the Reason of it to be, that the Mob go into the tame Army, and immediately from notorious Breakers of the Peace, become, by being put into order, solemn Preservers of it. And should our Legislators put some of the Pyrates into Authority, it would not only lessen their Number, but, I imagine, set them upon the rest, and they would be the likeliest People to find them out, according to the Proverb, set a Thief to catch a Thief.
   To bring this about, there needs no other Encouragement, but to give all the Effects taken aboard a Pyrate Vessel to the Captors; for in Case of Plunder and Gain, they like it as well from Friends, as Enemies, but are not fond, as Things are carry'd, of ruining poor Fellowes, say the Creoleans, with no Advantage to themselves.

    I have to also comment, and I found this both enraging and heartbreaking, but in many cases, the plunder of these vessels included people, that is, the slave trade, which was included in legal shipping and sale. I wonder why Defoe didn't comment on it to a greater degree, since was such a supporter of the downtrodden. Sadly, during his era, that probably did not apply to people of color.
    One of the chapters I found so interesting was on Captain Teach, better known as Blackbeard, probably one of the most cruel and ruthless thieves who ever lived. He made his living off the East Coast of America, and had an "understanding" with the Governor of North Carolina, Charles Eden, and perhaps even more so was his secretary, Mr. Knight. Blackbeard, was an example of a pirate who confessed and received a certificate of pardon. I particularly liked this story, having just last year read The Story of Jack Ballister's Fortunes, a historical novel about Blackbeard by Howard Pyle. Here are a couple paragraphs from this chapter.

   In June 1718, he went to Sea, upon another Expedition, and steered his Course towards Bermudas; he met with two or three English Vessels in his Way, but robbed them only of Provisions, Stores and other Necessaries, for his present Expence; but near the Island aforementioned, he fell in with two French Ships, one of them was loaden with Sugar and Cocoa, and the other light, both bound to Martinico; the Ship that had no Lading he let go, and putting all the Men of the loaded Ship aboard her, he brought home the other with her Cargo to North-Carolina, where the Governor and the Pyrates shared the Plunder.
   When Teach and his Prize arrived, he and four of his Crew went to his Excellency, and made Affidavit, that they found the French Ship at Sea, without a Soul on Board her; and then a Court was called, and the Ship condemned: The Governor had sixty Hogsheads of Sugar for his Dividend, and one Mr. Knight, who was his Secretary, and Collector for the Province, twenty, and the rest was shared among the other Pyrates.

    Ultimately, legitimate Traders, sick of being robbed and abused along the coast and nearby, ended up going to the governor of Virginia for assistance, even though it was not his responsibility. One of the Traders, Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Pearl, led the crusade to capture Teach and his crew, in which they succeeded and Teach was killed defending his ship. Of course, this brought scandal upon Governor Eden, who officially claimed that he had been threatened by Blackbeard. And he was believed!!!
    The next rather lengthy chapter is on Major Stede Bonnet, a gentleman gone bad, of whom some even believed he had a "disorder of the mind" that drove him to such a low life. He joined up with Blackbeard for a short time, also receiving a Pardon, and also returning to his wicked life, eventually being hung for his crimes. Here's how Defoe begins his chapter.

   The Major was a Gentleman of good Reputation in the Island of Barbadoes, was Master of a plentiful Fortune, and had the Advantage of a liberal Education. He had the least Temptation of any Man to follow such a Course of Life, from the Condition of his Circumstances. It was very surprizing to every one, to hear of the Major's Enterprize, in the Island were he liv'd; and as he was generally esteem'd and honoured, before he broke out into open Acts of Pyracy, so he was afterwards rather pitty'd than condemned, by those that were acquainted with him, believing that this Humour of going a pyrating, proceeded from a Disorder in his Mind, which had been but too visible in him, some Time before this wicked Undertaking; and which is said to have been occasioned by some Discomforts he found in a married State; be that as it will, the Major was but ill qualify'd for the Business, as not understanding maritime Affairs.

    The next chapter is about several pirates including Captain Edward England, who worked together and separately at different points mostly in the East Indian territory. Actually England was ousted in mistrust, and he and some of his supporters were marooned on an island. They later escaped to Madagascar, which became a sort of pirate retirement community! Strangely enough, that fact was not even mentioned in Wikipedia's article on that famous African Island.
    Anyways, all their adventures are, well, what can I say . . . a pirate is a pirate and they all have similar lives. It is also often difficult to understand just whom Defoe is discussing, because there was really little to no stability in these gangs, the pirates just as easily killing and double-crossing their mates as their prisoners. But this bunch was particularly bad. And pirates probably wasted nearly as much as they used or sold, from their plunders, sinking or burning ships, cargo and people on a whim.

   It is a difficult Matter to make a Computation of the Mischief that was done by this Crew, in about five Years Time, which is much more than the Plunder they gained, for they often sunk or burnt the Vessel they took, as it suited their Humour or Circumstances, sometimes to prevent giving Intelligence, sometimes because they did not leave Men to navigate them, and at other Times out of Wantonness, or because they were displeased at the Master's Behaviour; for any of these, it was but to give the Word, and down went Ships and Cargoes to the Bottom of the Sea.

    The next two chapters are about Captain Charles Vane and Captain John Rackam, who took over for Vane after he, also was ousted, this one for not being aggressive enough. But the interesting part of Rackam's chapter, is that Defoe supplies us with an entertaining little biography of his two female pirates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, which sound a bit more like romanticized legends than truth, but, one never knows for sure about some of these things. In any case, it makes for fun reading.
    I'll bet you didn't know this, but Pirates were a very democratic bunch, creating Laws and Articles and voting for certain positions. Here is an example from the story on Captain Howel Davis. Other were much more elaborate, setting rules on what was forbidden, and what the punishment would be for transgressions.

   After this, a Counsel of War was called over a large Bowl of Punch, at which it was proposed to chuse a Commander; the Election was soon over, for it fell upon Davis by a great Majority of legal Pollers, there was no Scrutiny demanded, for all acquiesced in the Choice: As soon as he was possess'd of his Command, he drew up Articles, which were signed and sworn to by himself and the rest, then he made a short Speech, the sum of which, was, a Declaration of War against the whole World.

    It seems two of the most popular hang-outs for pirates during this period were the West Indies and America's east coast. When those areas were kept under better control, the coast of Africa to India was the other infested area, and the ships traveling in these waters often yielded very rich booty. Davis and gang cruised the African west coast near "Guiney," which is actually the country of Equatorial Guinea. In the Gulf of Guinea lies several islands, and Defoe provides an interesting and lengthy description of them, including their exotic plants and animals. Here, Defoe humorously tells us of a particular property of a certain tree bark!

   Here are some Tamarind Trees; another called Cola, whose Fruit, or Nut (about twice the Bigness of a Chestnut, and bitter) is chewed by the Portugueze, to give a sweet Gust to their Water which they drink; but above all, I was shewn the Bark of one (whose Name I do not know) gravely affirm'd to have a peculiar Property of enlarging the Virile Member; I am not fond of such Conceits, nor believe it in the Power of any Vegetables, but must acknowledge, I have seen Sights of this kind among the Negroes very extraordinary; yet, that there may be no Wishes among the Ladies for the Importation of this Bark, I must acquaint them, that they are found to grow less merry, as they encrease in Bulk. I had like to have forgot their Cinnamon Trees; there is only one Walk of them, and is the Entrance of the Governor's Villa; they thrive extreemly well, and the Bark not inferior to our Cinnamon from India; why they and other Spice, in a Soil so proper, receive no farther Cultivation, is, probably, their Suspicion, that so rich a Produce, might make some potent Neighbour take a Fancy to the Island.

    HAHAHA! Naughty Dan. The next chapter is by far the longest, almost 100 pages, about Bartholomew Roberts and his Crew. Apparently he was an important pirate, but I had never heard of him. This one also includes details from the Trials, where most were condemned to be hanged. Unfortunately, Roberts was one of the many honest seamen who went rogue because he got in with the wrong people and, let's face it, he made more money with less work. This chapter also includes a lengthy description of Brazil. In this section, Defoe surprises me because he makes a statement that seems in favor of slave trade. However, later on in another story, he firmly condemns it. You know, we here in American, at least I, always think of slavery in connection with the Old South, but the capture of black people to be sold as slaves in fact was a thriving business in much of the world.
    It is amazing, but some of these pirate gangs actually had a set of morals and ethics they followed. Here are the Articles for Roberts' crew, which are much more specific and severe, but represent a standard of behavior one might not associate with pirates.

Every Man has a Vote in Affairs of Moment; has equal Title to the fresh Provisions, or strong Liquors, at any Time seized, and use them at pleasure, unless a Scarcity (no uncommon Thing among them) make it necessary, for the good of all, to vote a Retrenchment.
Every Man to be called fairly in turn, by List, on Board of Prizes, because, (over and above their proper Share they were on these Occasions allowed a Shift of Cloaths: But if they defrauded the Company to the Value of a Dollar, in Plate, Jewels, or Money, MAROONING was their Punishment. This was a Barbarous Custom of putting the Offender on Shore, on some desolate or uninhabited Cape or Island, with a Gun, a few Shot, a Bottle of Water, and a Bottle of Powder, to subsist with, or starve. If the Robbery was only between one another, they contented themselves with slitting the Ears and Nose of him that was Guilty, and set him on Shore, not in an uninhabited Place, but somewhere, where he was sure to encounter Hardships.
No Person to Game at Cards or Dice for Money.
The Lights and Candles to be put out at eight o'Clock at Night: If any of the Crew, after that Hour, still remained inclined for Drinking, they were to do it on the open Deck; which Roberts believed would give a Check to their Debauches, for he was a sober Man himself, but found at length, that all his Endeavours to put an End to this Debauch, proved ineffectual.
To keep their Piece, Pistols, and Cutlash clean, and fit for Service: In this they were extravagantly nice, endeavouring to outdo one another, in the Beauty and Richness of their Arms, giving sometimes at an Auction (at the Mast,) 30 or 40 l. a Pair, for Pistols. These were slung in Time of Service, with different coloured Ribbands, over their Shoulders, in a Way peculiar to these Fellows, in which they took great Delight.
No Boy or Woman to be allowed amongst them. If any Man were sound seducing anny of the latter Sex, and carried her to Sea, disguised, he was to suffer Death; so that when any fell into their Hands, as it chanced in the Onslow, they put a Centinel immediately over her to prevent ill Consequences from so dangerous an Instrument of Division and Quarrel; but then here lies the Roguery; they contend who shall be Centinel, which happens generally to one of the greatest Bullies, who, to secure the Lady's Virtue, will let none lye with her but himself.
To Desert the Ship, or their Quarters in Battle, was punished with Death, or Marooning.
No striking one another on Board, but every Man's Quarrels to be ended on Shore, at Sword and Pistol, Thus; The Quarter-Master of the Ship, when the Parties will not come to any Reconciliation, accompanies them on Shore with what Assistance he thinks proper, and turns the Disputants Back to Back, at so many Paces Distance: At the Word of Command, they turn and fire immediately, (or else the Piece is knocked out of their Hands:) If both miss, they come to their Cutlashes, and then he is declared Victor who draws the first Blood.
No Man to talk of breaking up their Way of Living, till each had shared a 1000 l. If in order to this, any Man should lose a Limb, or become a Cripple in their Service, he was to have 800 Dollars, out of the publick Stock, and for lesser Hurts, proportionably.
The Captain and Quarter-Master to receive two Shares of a Prize; the Master, Boatswain, and Gunner, one Share and a half, and other Officers, one and a Quarter.
The Musicians to have Rest on the Sabbath Day, but the other six Days and Nights, none without special Favour.

   These, we are assured, were some of Roberts's Articles, but as they had taken Care to throw over-board the Original they had sign'd and sworn to, there is a great deal of Room to suspect, the remainder contained something too horrid to be disclosed to any, except such as were willing to be Sharers in the Iniquity of them; let them be what they will, they were together the Test of all new Comers, who were initiated by an Oath taken on a Bible, reserv'd for that Purpose only, and were subscrib'd to in Presence of the worshipful Mr. Roberts. And in Case any Doubt should arise concerning the Construction of these Laws, and it should remain a Dispute whether the Party had infring'd them or no, a Jury is appointed to explain them, and bring in a Verdict upon the Case in Doubt.
   Since we are now speaking of the Laws of this Company, I shall go on, and, in as brief a Manner as I can, relate the principal Customs, and Government, of this roguish Common-Wealth; which are pretty near the same with all Pyrates.
   For the Punishment of small Offences, which are not provided for by the Articles, and which are not of Consequence enough to be left to a Jury, there is a principal Officer among the Pyrates, called the Quarter-Master, of the Mens own chusing, who claims all Authority this Way, (excepting in Time of Battle:) If they disobey his Command, are quarrelsome and mutinous with one another, misuse Prisoners, plunder beyond his Order, and in particular, if they be negligent of their Arms, which he musters at Discretion, he punishes at his own Arbitrement, with drubbing or whipping, which no one else dare do without incurring the Lash from all the Ships Company: In short, this Officer is Trustee for the whole, is the first on Board any Prize, separating for the Company's Use, what he pleases, and returning what he thinks fit to the Owners, excepting Gold and Silver, which they have voted not returnable.

    This one, as you can see, provides for protection of women, and there were other pirate gangs who also did so, But by no means were all pirates like this. There were several who were the most cruel and brutal creatures one could imagine. And I also want to point out that the laws they agreed to follow often only concerned their treatment of each other. Brutality towards their captors was a different story, as with this next gang.
    Perhaps the most despicable character amongst all these pirates, maybe even worse than Blackbeard, was Captain Edward Low, and that was a good name for him because he was the epitome of lowlife, which apparently ran in the family. I cannot even include the heinous acts these men performed, which included torture of all kinds on most of whom they captured. This chapter truly sickened me.
    In the chapter on Captain John Phillips, here is the paragraph in their Articles which is even more protective towards women.

   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.

    And that brings us to the end of Volume I. I will be much more brief with Volume II, which begins with a fictional pirate called Captain Misson, formed out of bits and pieces of truth, much like his novel, The King of Pirates. There was, as expected, a bit of humor here, because he created a pirate who operated as a gentleman with high morals! I also have to add that though Defoe is fun to read, he can also be confusing, and I often found myself backtracking because I was not sure of whom he was speaking, which also can be attributed to the archaic language.
    One of the things that made this one so amusing is that there were elements of Defoe's personal opinions about social, religious and moral issues. Since at that time writers could be severely punished for their opinions, (ah, we've come full-circle again), it was much safer to express them in the format of a journalist who was simply relaying facts. Misson was later joined by Captain Tew, who was a real person. Much of the action took place at or near Madagascar and another little group of islands to its northwest near Mozambique, off the east African coast, which are now known as the Union of Comoros.
    Since this is a long review (for a very long book!), I have just a couple more comments and two more pirates to mention. The first is Captain William Kid (or Kidd), "whose Name is better known in England, than most of those whose Histories we have already related," Defoe writes, sort of like Blackbeard was to us here in the U.S.. Unlike Blackbeard, however, Kid was one of those numerous pirates who began his career as a legitimate appointee by King William to act as a patrol against piracy. Like so many others, he was making no money in his employment, so was almost forced by circumstances to go rogue. He along with his cohorts, was hanged in England after being found guilty in 1701.
    One of the most interesting biographies, and also longest, was of Captain Nathaniel North, of Bermuda, who also began with good intentions, went rogue, then settled in Madagascar, having nothing to do with piracy, but instead, establishing an incredible law of honesty and moral integrity amongst the Native population, becoming quite the (deserving) hero. One never knows how repentance and a change of attitude will affect the world.
    Just a couple more comments. In Volume II especially, Defoe has woven together truth and fiction, so it is difficult to discern which is which. His chapter on Magadoxa leaves one wondering if this is another of his made-up places. The best I could find was that it represented present-day Somalia, notably the capital, Mogadishu. Zanguebar was the area in eastern Africa around Zanzibar. Another very confusing aspect of Volume II was that the lives of all or most of these pirates that hung out around Madagascar was interwoven, and the same vessels kept appearing. It was very difficult for me to keep track of who was whom and which vessel was theirs.
    And last, I want to comment on the horrendous waste of vessels and cargo by these scoundrels, depending on their sense of integrity. Some took what they wanted, and generally did not hurt or abuse people, then returned their vessel to them after they had plundered what was of interest to them. But many sunk these ships, often laden with goods, sometimes holding the crew as prisoners, killing them, or sending them off in a boat with little to sustain them. No wonder sunken ships are such a fascination to so many people. There must have been hundreds of them. And the whole pirate thing is also fascinating to many. The postscript to this Dover edition gives us a lively look at the modern-day popularity of pirates, especially when this book was first published in 1972; (Dover reprint in 1999). In all, yes, it is a huge undertaking, but I still highly recommend the reading of this invaluable source of pirate history by a seasoned journalist who lived through it all.
    Below: Sir William Russell Flint: Away, You Grieve Me!

Sir William Russell Flint: Away, You Grieve Me!

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