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Acting Governor Peter Heywood

Pirate Biographies– Acting Governor Peter Heywood

There were two Peter Heywoods/Haywoods living in Jamaica at the same time, temporarily confusing the Chief Justice and President of the Assembly that took power as acting governor immediately after Lord Archibald Hamilton was removed from office by the king. It is entirely possible that the king did this to safeguard his friend and brother of another of his favorites, George Hamilton, earl of Orkney, governor of Virginia, and personal assistant to King George I.

One Peter Heywood (wife Grace) lived in St. Catherines Parish, same as the Thaches. The other family of Peter and Catherine “Haywood” [as printed in St. Andrews records] lived in St. Andrews Parish. They are undoubtedly closely related. The one in St. Catherine had three sons, one of them named James and the only one to survive childhood. Since the acting governor Heywoood mentioned his “only son James” in a letter to the admiralty, this establishes the one in the current capital city of Spanish Town as the subject of pirate historians’ inquiry.

Records show that Peter and Grace Heywood, probably from Lancashire in England lived in St. Catherines Parish and there had three sons, Thomas, James and Charles, born 1682, 1685, and 1686 respectively. Thomas died almost immediately after birth and it is not know what happened to Charles. Peter’s wife, Grace, died quite early on May 2, 1699. She appears on the same page 187 as Edward Thache Jr.’s mother Elizabeth who died in January.

This Peter Heywood was definitely of the Jamaican faction that accused Hamilton of Jacobitism, a wholly unlikely accusation considering how close Lord Hamilton was to the Hanoverian Crown. This anti-Hamilton faction also included Dr. Samuel Page and Walter Adlington. When Hamilton was removed, Heywood was appointed to succeed him. Heywood, like North Carolina conservative politicians today, in February 1715, argued to his Council for pulling public funds reserved for the sick and injured to eliminate public debts, amounting to “£3000 to be thrown into the King's Treasury.” It appears that he looked for an opportunity to eliminate competition on the Council, including the governor, and, in effect, re-establish local Jamaican rule. The illicit situation with the recent theft of Spanish money from the Florida shores was easy to use against Hamilton—then, there was the matter of his Scottish birth and the easy comparison to Jacobite rebels after the rebellion of that same year. In a letter to the king, Peter Heywood referred to Hamilton as supporting a “Popish Pretender to your Crown,” the equivalent to treason. To the king, this was an absurd accusation, but one that he was powerless to defend, especially 3,000 miles away.

Captain Balchen, of H.M.S. Diamond then stationed at Port Royal, also argued against Hamilton to admiralty secretary Josiah Burchet:

“In Novr. [1715] there was two sloops fitted out of Jamaica, one belonging to Capt. Edward James, the other to Capt. [Henry] Jennings, which had my Lord Hamilton's Commission for suppressing of piracys, but this design, as they said themselves was upon the wrecks; they went to sea and in a shorter time than cou'd be expected, return'd again with a considerable sum of mony.”

To the Board, this must have appeared like a deliberate attempt on Hamilton’s part to use the power of his office for personal profit, not a wholly unusual activity for a politician. Still, the accusation, paired with alleged treason against the king, was impossible to ignore. A pamphlet prepared by Heywood and his allies made this a certain accusation against Hamilton:

“An Inquiry was accordingly made; and it appear'd by evident Proofs that he had not only permitted, but even encourag'd and cover'd the Pirates and was concern'd as an Owner in some of their Vessels… Counselling, Promoting, and Advising several of his Majesty's Subjects of this island to commit Piracies, Robberies, and Depredrations On French and Spaniards, and Subjects of their most Christian and Catholick Majesties, contrary to the Law of Nations, and in manifest Derogation of the Treaties of Peace and Commerce, settled in the most solemn manner, between our said most gracious King, and the Kings of France and Spain.”

Like Jennings and James, Heywood and his confederates used the cover of legal actions to mask illegal intent. There was, after all, a profit to be made on that Florida shore, with over £14,000,000 of Spanish silver to be had. Hamilton stood in the way of their profit—the island’s profit. Most Jamaican privateers, out of work since the peace treaty of 1713, supported the local man, Heywood (who would ensure their own profit), over the king’s appointed representative, Hamilton, after his own benefit. In May 1716, Hamilton was on his way back to England, followed by a bevy of insults and accusations levelled by Thomas Bendysh, Dr. Samuel Page (clerk of the assembly later removed by the king as an accessory to piracy) and Walter Adlington, all supporters of Peter Heywood.

Heywood immediately confirmed his councilors, which still included some of those that opposed him, but were hard to dislodge: Charles Chaplin [receiver general], Francis Rose, John Peake, Valentine Mumby, John Blair, William Broderick, James Risby, Ezekiel Gomersal, John Willis, Thomas Beckford, and George Bennet Esqrs. Some of these men may have opposed Heywood (like Rose, Broderick, and Risby), but they would soon disappear.

By November, only six months later, Heywood removed “Thomas Bernard Esq., from being Chief Justice [later famous for hanging Charles Vane and Jack Rackham]. I cannot help saying with them that he has endeavoured all that lay in his power to obstruct all publick buisness, not only, by what he has said in Council, but by insinuating amongst the people, that the calling the Assembly is contrary to law, and all Acts made by them are illegal. These are the first principles of the five gentlemen of the Board wch. I gave you account of Aug. 11th, one of which, William Brodrick Esq. went off with Lord Archbould Hamilton, and two others John Peake [of St. Johns] and Valentine Mumby [Vere Parish] are dead so, here only remains two of that cabal, Fra. Rose [b. 1682 St. Catherines, son of Fulke and Elizabeth] and Thoms. Bernard Esqs. [also of St. Catherines]”

In six months, two opposing Councilmen from remote parishes had died. Heywood complained that Rose had resisted the arguably Draconian “bills for putting money into the Treasury, [and] bringing over white people to settle ye Island,” which had grown almost exclusively African. A recent slave revolt probably encouraged this conservative effort to reduce the black-over-white imbalance, a roughly 8:1 ratio.

Heywood wrote to the Board that “The only two persons, myself and the Council thought fitt to send home to give evidence against Lord Archbould Hamilton, were Thomas Bendysh Esq. and Capt. Jonathan Barnett [a privateer once charged with illegally raiding a Spanish wreck off of Cuba].”

Capt. Bendysh was also not above suspicion. Allen Barnard, the quartermaster for Capt. Henry Jennings stated in his deposition of August 10, 1716 that “Being at Mr. Axtell's house he heard ye Sloop Dolphin was siezed in Mannatee Bay by Capt. Fernando by ye instigation of Mr. Bendysh [a ship that was later owned by Axtell and captained by William Spatcher], The said deponent saith that he went over to Kingston and acquainted Mr. Dawes who was sick in Bedd and said he did not believe Mr. Bendysh had a hand in it and that he the said George Dawes wished he had never heard of them however he bid this Depont. go and acquaint Captn. Willis and Mr. Warner which he did and went home.”

Three months after Barnard’s deposition, Peter Heywood wrote to the Board with his recommendations for a new council:

“By H.M. Instruction I am commanded to send home the names and characters of twelve persons that I esteem the best qualify'd in ye Island to serve H.M. in the Council, which I humbly do, etc. (1) James Heywood, is my only son, etc., a gentleman of as great honour, integrity and good sence as any man in the Island, and his own estate little inferiour to most of the best, etc. (2) William Nedham is the present Chief Justice upon Thomas Bernards, Esq. being laid by upon an Address from this Loyal Assembly, he is a gentleman of good sence, and a good estate [in St. Thomas in the Vale], and lives generally in the town St. Iago de la Vega. (3) Whitgt. Aylmore, a gentleman of good understanding, and I think clear of debt, etc. (4) Richd. Aldebourgh, a gentleman of good understanding and a good estate, etc. (5) John Marshall, a gentleman of plentifull estate, etc. (6) James Rule, a very honest worthy gentleman of good estate, etc. (7) John Wyllys, a mercht. in Kingston, accounted a very honest, loyall gentleman, and of good substance. (8) John Lewis, a mercht. in Kingston, a person of very good buisness, good understanding known loyalty and great sobriety, etc. (9) Edwd. Pennant, a gentleman of very good understanding and loyalty, with two or three very good estates, etc. (10) John Chaplin, a very honest gentleman, has estates in Ligonea and Port Royal, etc. (11) John Clark, Col. of the Wyndward Regt., well beloved for his hospitality and great services against the French and rebellious negroes, etc., about 70, and lives at too great a distance to come to Council upon every occasion, etc. (12) Richd. Bathurst, Col. of the North side Regimt., a very worthy honest loyal gentleman, has a very good estate but lives at a distance, etc. These gentlemen live the nearest to the seat of Governmt. and can be the soonest got together, etc.”

The names in bold type had known loyalties to Heywood and only one man, Nedham, was known to respect former governor Hamilton—still, he was a long time resident of Jamaica in St. Thomas in the Vale Parish. Wyllys/Willis was also mentioned by Allen Barnard as having joined Axtell in hiding the stolen Spanish money:

“Ye Letter [from Jennings] being opened he said he was referred to learn of him what had been done, the Deponent saith that after he had related to them what he Knew, Mr. Dawes and Captn. Willis both made answer and said they wished he had not told them so much And gave him a letter directly to carry over to Mr. Daniell Axtell wch. this Depont. delivered into ye hands of Mr. Axtell upon which Mr. Axtell said he was sorry they had done so ill a thing but since it was done, they must take care and gett ye goods on shore.”

These goods were then deposited in Axtell’s warehouse in Port Royal.

Even though Heywood had been charged by the Board for “securing the persons and effects of those concerned in the piracies committed against the Spaniards,” little had been done to that effect. Ex-privateers still brought prizes to Port Royal and Daniel Axtell still stored illicit merchandise in his warehouses, all under the not-so-watchful eyes of the Royal Navy officers, like Balchen, who had probably been bribed. With Hamilton gone, they freely fished the Spanish wrecks and turned their eye from thefts occurring from French and Spanish vessels in peacetime.

Peter Heywood facilitated the efforts of Jamaican privateers, even though he used Hamilton’s commissioning of Henry Jennings and his depredations (subsequent theft of £125,000 in Spanish silver coins directly from Spanish salvers on the Florida shores) against him to have him removed from office. Heywood politically undermined Hamilton because he saw him as a foreigner taking advantage of opportunities rightly afforded to Jamaicans. He understood the illegalities of Jennings’ actions when committed under Hamilton’s charge, but still supported these same illegal efforts under his own administration. He had taken depositions, however, like that of Allen Barnard, quartermaster of Jennings, and Joseph Eels, the quartermaster for privateer Leigh Ashworth, “relating to a French ship piratically taken” which was the Marianne, taken by Benjamin Hornigold. Hornigold, though, had been regarded by all Jamaican privateers as another off-islander, a foreigner, a common pirate and not legitimate — but, then, he was a Puritan  Ipswich transplant then from the island of Eleuthera (specifically Harbour Island) in the Bahamas and had always been considered a true pirate, of “meaner stock,” as seen by these wealthier Jamaicans. That an aristocratic Jamaican and Royal Navy veteran like Edward Thache of Spanish Town would later pair up with the likes of a common pirate like Benjamin Hornigold said something—just not sure of what!

Allen Barnard’s deposition told of this incident with the Marianne in great detail and Henry Jennings’ distaste for Hornigold is quite obvious:

That having been indisposed he was advised to go to Sea for his health and applyed himself to Captn. Henry Jennings who told him he should be his Quarter Master which would be an easy Post for him. He thereupon accepted of it and engaged himself to go on Board the Sloop Bersheba and Sayled for Blewfields [Jamaica] from whence they sailed in Company with ye Man of Warr and a Man of Warr Sloop and severall other Sailes and being seperated that night they joyned again at Peyns [=Isle of Pines, Cuba] And proceeded and came to an Anchor at Cape Corrantes [=Corrientes] where they entred in Consortship with Captn. [Samuel] Lyddall Captn. [Leigh] Ashworth and Captn. [James] Carnegie to fish upon ye Wracks; from thence they proceeded toward ye Bay of Florida. And that ye Deponent being sick of ye Belly Ache heard some persons Cry out,  A Sayl,  And afterwards heard others say that  they stood Stem to Stem with them  And beleived they designed to be on board of them [="to Board"], after which he heard them say that  there was two Periauga's putt off [from] ye said Sloop and Rowed directly in ye Wind's Eye [=to windward] 

And that he heard they were making their escape with ye money  And that he heard them hayl ye Sloop that Stemmed with them. And that ye Commander of her came on board of ye Bersheba who was one Captn. Young from ye Bay [of Honduras] who informed them that the People that went away from them in ye two Periaugas were a parcell of Villains that had obliged him from ye Bay to bring them over there. After which they made ye best way towards the Bay of honda and came to an Anchor without the Barr. That in ye afternoon he heard them talk of weighing ye Anchor At which he asked, being in ye [great] Cabbin, whither they were going. And was answered into ye Bay of honda.

At which the Deponent said  he thought we had been in already  And that after coming to an Anchor in ye Bay of honda he heard ye Voice of George Dossitt and Francis Charnock (the first being ye Companies Quartermaster) and heard these words spoken among ye People  What are you come out for?  To look upon one another and return with your fingers in your mouth?  At which Capt. Jennings said the Sloop Bersheba must not go [only] to be taken. And that if they went alongside they probably might be sunk. 

Sometime after he heard a General hurra from the Severall Vessells after that [the words] One and All. That some short time after a Pistoll or Small arm went off upon which somebody asked who fired? And some others answered he ought to be cutt down, others said  it was done by accident  after which the Doctor came down to ye Deponent and told him  that the two Periauga's [men] were coming all in their Skins or Buff with their Cartouch Boxes  and naked Cutlaces [=cutlasses] & Pistols And that he had never seen such a sight before  After­wards he heard somebody hayl from ye [French] Ship and asked  Where they were coming?  and some voice made answer,  Aboard, where do you think? and then a hurra again.

And then he heard [someone] say a Canoa or boat was putt off from the ship and that one of the Periauga's was on board [the French Ship] and one [periauga] rowed after that Canoa or Boat which putt off from ye Ship. At ye same time a great Gun went off from on board ye Bersheba, and somebody asked who fired it? Some made answer,  it was an accident,  at which time the Deponent saith, he heard a voyce hayl from ye Ship  not to fire for all was well  And that he heard [them] say afterwards among ye People of ye Periaugas That they told them [=the French] that in case a Gun was fired they would give no Quarters.

And that Captn. Carnegie being the worst Sayler did not come in that night but came in ye next day And to the best of his Knowledge joyned them again. Afterwards Captn. Carnegie and one of the Periaugas sayled out of ye Bay of Honda in Quest of a French Sloop [=Marianne] as [it] was said and in two or three daies after returned again, at which time we saw two Sayl off ye Barr who was said to be Captn. Hornegole and a French sloop.

At ye same time they weighed in generall with ye Ship and went out, as was said, after Hornigole ye Pirate. After being some little time out the Deponent was upon Deck and was bid to go down least He gett a Relapse and [he] did go down. At ye same time it was concluded and agreed upon to go in again to ye Bay of Honda to an Anchor, which they did, the Ship being then about two or three Leagues in ye offin[g] .

Some little time after she came in and those people on board her hailed and said they had done finely to leave them, for ye Marooners had risen upon them and the Frenchmen and had carried away all ye money, at which there was a murmuring among ye People. At ye same time Captn. Carnegie's Sloop was halled alongside ye Ship and everything was taken out of her and putt on board ye Ship which he afterwards comanded, his sloop being given to ye French Captain.

At ye same time ye Sloop which was Captn. Young's was sett a fire and burned. Some while after they all Sayled in Company with the French Ship for Providence where they in a little time arrived. And in two or three daies after and in an Evening George Dossitt [=the company's quartermaster] came on board at which time there was a Discourse and a Caballing among the People of ye Bersheba about the sharing [of] the goods that were taken on board the French Ship in ye Bay of Honda.

That ye deponent ye next morning was ordered ashore to Captn. Jennings to acquaint him that ye People were all (excepting some four or five People) gone on board ye Ship to gett and take ye Goods out of her, whereupon Captain Jennings said  that must not be,  and said to ye Deponent  go on board and dissuade them from it if you can under a Colour [=pretence] that we have a Prospect of making a Voyage in case we delay no time, tho between you and I, if I can gett her out to Sea again with ye Goods in her I will run her up to Jamaica and Secure her, for these fellowes have drawn me into this [Paemumiee?] and will doubtless, when they have shared ye goods, leave me to answer all,  That he [=the deponent] advised Captn. Jennings to goe on Board, who made answer that he would not be concerned with such Rogues.

At which time Captn. Ashworth and Captn. Carnegie came up to this Depont. and learned the matter and offered to go on Board with the Deponent and [Ashworth?] went on board his own Sloop to diswade his People then on board and Captn. Carnegie went on board ye Ship. And ye Depont. [also] endeavoured to diswade them, but could not, they still kept hoysting ye goods out, and carried them on Hogg Island, at which time the Deponent went ashore and acquainted Capt. Jennings who desired the Deponent to go and see what they did, but bid him not concern himself nor take anything without they gave it [to] him.

The Deponent saith that they divided ye goods into three shares, two of which was for ye Vessells Company in generall and was imediately distributed and shared, the other third part being putt on board ye Sloop Dolphin [owned by Daniel Axtell] Captn Spatchers Master (the Depont. saith he is not certain whether some few goods were not putt on board to be sent up to ye Freinds of some Saylors) after which ye Deponent saith he applyed himself to Capt. Jennings and desired leave to return to Jamaica having pretty well recovered his health which Captn. Jennings readily agreed to, and gave him a letter directed to Mr. George Dawes and Company, telling this Depont. that he had referred them to him to learn ye whole proceedings as to what he knew and heard of ye matter.


Bernard Deposition transcribed and published by Laura Nelson at “The Whydah Pirates Speak”

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