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Disorders caused by the Pirates (Thache & Bonnet) - 21 Dec 1717

Minutes – Disorders of Pirates - 21 Dec 1717

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December 21, 1717. Disorders caused by the pirates. AN Col C8A 23 (1717), 47-55. (11 photocopied sheets).


Martinique. Matches on arrival. M. de Pas de Feuquieres.


At the Fort Royal of Martinique, December 21, 1717.


On the 10th of this month I had the honor of informing the Council of the disorders caused in these seas by the pirates. I have since known who the ship and the boat were, that two boatmasters from Grenada told me that they had seen fire in front of Saint Vincent at the place called Layou.

The boat belonged to Sieur Simon, a merchant in the village St Pierre of this island and the ship to an English merchant.

Here is what I learned about these two ships by the testimony of Pierre Raimond Olivier, master of Simon's burned boat.

On the 4th of this month, Olivier being wet at St Vincent to make firewood, a pirate boat and his canoe armed with ten men attacked him at a loop of the island called Mayougany and forced him Olivier and his crew composed of twelve men, including him to abandon his boat and take refuge on the ground, where after fighting for a while and killing two pirates, they fled to the woods.

Half an hour before, the privateer was taking a wet English ship at Layou, another cove of St. Vincent, and obliged the captain [Christopher Taylor], who had sent his crew ashore with all his money, to take him on board. There, by dint of beating him and threatening to have him hanged, he forced him to send for his treasure, which consisted of six thousand pounds sterling, and then to hand him over to him if he wanted to protect himself from death.

It seems that this English captain [Taylor] had drawn this considerable sum of the trade he had made at St. Vincent, probably with the French who go sailing under the pretext of going fishing, perhaps also without a passport.

It was impossible to tell whether it was Negroes, dry or edible goods, which the English captain [Taylor] had treated. Be that as it may, the pirates, after seizing this ship, sent for Simon's boat, which was stranded at Mayougany, and brought it to Layou near the ship, and set fire to these two ships, which were burned to the ground.

Then, having taken five other men from the crew of the English captain [Taylor] and an English girl whom he was to take to Antigua, and a French citizen of Saint Vincent delivered them for two Negroes, these brawlers [pirates; brigands], after having kept six days in their ship, the nine men and the girl, sent them back to the ground, and gave them five negroes of the cargo of Dosset, and sailed on the 9th, making the noroy [Traveling to the Northwest].

Olivier assures that the French inhabitants of the island of St. Vincent contribute a great deal to attracting the pirates in comparison with the refreshments they give them. Olivier also confirms the taking of the boat commissioned by the son of Henry Saint Amour and the restitution which was made to him by means of the refreshments which he was obliged to provide to the pirates, but he adds more that the pirates had put in this ship a hundred negroes of the same cargo of Dosset, and would have sent the son of Saint Amour without any food or water. So that Saint Amour being in the canal between Saint-Vincent and Cariacou, was obliged to go ashore at the place called La Roche Percée and to leave his boat with the negroes and a French-speaking Caribbean without since had no news of his ship.

The second captain of the return of Saint Vincent's vessel at the same time as Olivier does not agree with this last circumstance; which will oblige me to clarify the truth of it on the return of the son of Henry Saint Amour and by all those who will have some knowledge of it.

By my last letter I had the honor to inform the Council that it appears that the pirates will not be content with the harm they have already done, and that I have taken the liberty of representing to it the necessity that There are always two well-armed frigates here, both to make navigation free and to oppose foreign commerce; but I have not thought of sending La Valeur there, for besides it does not have enough strength to attack these pirates who are more than three hundred, Monsieur de la Rochalas and I find that the presence of this frigate is well more necessary here, though all the spirits seem to be in perfect tranquility.

I am given so many different opinions on this that it is very difficult to fund any of them; and that is what prevents me from exactly informing the Council. Sometimes I am told that many inhabitants have enough to arm more than ten thousand of their negroes with whom they will put the whole island on fire if at the arrival of Mr de Champmeslin one does not bring a general amnesty.

A few notices warned me that it was intended to remove me in order to make their composition better. Others finally wanted to make sure that on the first New Year's Day there would be a general revolt of the Negroes.

It is prudent not to neglect these various admonitions, but there is also a lack of faith in them. Thus, without believing in anything affirmatively, and without rejecting everything that is said to me, I put myself in a position to parry everything. And although I am assured on all sides that there is no movement on the island, which is confirmed to me by Mr. De Martel who is at the Capesterre, by Mr. Durieux who comes, by Mr. Mesnier and here by Mr. De Valmeynier who assures that except in the neighborhoods where the four scoundrels who arrested these gentlemen live, everything is absolutely peaceful in the others where he goes often; despite all these claims of so-called security, I do not allow myself to be exactly on my guard and to give good orders to be everywhere.

I return to the amnesty which I believe absolutely necessary if the King is intending to preserve this island; I dare even assure the Council that at the arrival of the squadron there will not be the slightest stir if it brings this much desired amnesty; but if this forgiveness does not come, and there is no hope on it. Although the number of those who, in this case alone, may have the intention of stirring is much less than that which appeared at the time of the revolt; I will not answer that it is not yet considerable enough to cause all the murders, fires, and other misfortunes in which their despair will bring them.

At this place of my letter arrives here the Sieur Henri St Amour and his son Charles Henri, commanding the boat of his father taken in Saint-Vincent and then restored. His deposition is in conformity with that made by Olivier, it differs only in that the captain of the pirate ship having returned his boat and given one hundred and six Negroes, he ordered him to pass behind his vessel and to sail quickly because the captain of the pirate boat, his partner not wishing to consent to the restitution of the boat, nor to the negro's donation, was resolved to retain it absolutely. Thus Charles Henry was obliged to force sails without food or water, and having found himself in full calm for three or four days at four or five leagues off the coast between St Vincent and Becouya [Bequia; “Crab Island”], he decided to put his canoe at sea to fetch food and water accompanied only by the son of a resident of his neighborhood and one of the 106 Negroes, with whom he finally arrived not without much trouble instead of St. Vincent called La Roche Percée, without having heard any news of his boat in which he had left 105 negroes and a French-speaking Caribbean.

Charles-Henri adds that he has every reason to fear that his boat has drifted, the currents being strong in this place and all bearing off. He assured me that, being at St. Vincent, he would have urged the French inhabitants who are in this island to arrest the named Find, who would have delivered the English girl to the buccaneers. He thinks he will bring me with the two negroes he has received as a reward for his crime. [...]

By the deposition just made to me by Laurat, second in command of the Dieppe ship, La Ville de Nantes, commanded by Sieur Lemaîstre, anchored at Basse-Terre in La Guadeloupe, laden with sugar and ready to leave for France, I learn that this ship having disbanded to the inhabitants district of the said island distant from two leagues of the fort and to one of shore, would have the 9 of this month been removed by the ship and the pirate boats, the same day that they had left Becouya [Bequia; “Crab Island”].

The captain of this ship and all his crew had time to escape to the ground before the privateers were able to get control of his ship they took and in which remained a small apprentice. There is reason to believe that they will have burned this ship which is very bad sailboat.

The captain left for France in the ship of Nantes L'Heureux Retour commanded by La Pommeraye, and I learned new disorders of the pirates by his second, the pilot, a caulker and a sailor whom I allowed to navigate in these islands until they find an opportunity to return to Europe.

Today 22, this letter could not leave, I learn by the one I receive from M. de Pradines, lieutenant of the King in Grenada, that the boat of Saint-Amour arrived there with sixty four Negroes or Negro.

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