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Alexander Spotswood to James Craggs—28 Jul 1721

Letters – Spotswood to James Craggs—28 Jul 1721

From: The Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, Vol 2, 351-354


To Sec'ry [James] Craggs [the younger; Secretary of State for the Southern Department; (9 April 1686 – 16 February 1721); death apparently unknown to Spotswood; succeeded by Lord Carteret]      July ye 28th, 1721.


An Affair has lately happened here w'ch gives occasion to my troubling you at present, and which you will please to lay before the Admiralty Board.

While I was employed on the Frontiers of this Government Information was given to the Capt’s of his Maj’t’s Ships of War on this Station, that certain Masters of Ships, lately arrived here from Madagascar, had there traded with Pyrats and Supplied them w’th Arms and other Stores of War, upon which Sundry of the Comm’rs nominated by his Majesty for tryal of Pyracys in this Colony convened, and in conjunction w’th the Capt’s of the Men of War issued their warrants for bringing them before them three of the Commanders of those Madagascar Ships, viz’t:

Richard Herbert [Thomas Hebert], of the Henrietta, of London; Chalonce Williams, of the Gascoigne Galley, of Bristoll, and Jos[eph]. Stratton, of the Prince Eugene, of the same Port [all had dealt with pirate Edward Congdon at Madagascar]. The Evidence against the two former not Swearing convincing enough, the Comm'rs thought fitt to discharge them, but there appearing strQnger proof ag’st the 1atter, they were of opinion that he ought to be sent home to Great Britain, to take his Tryal as an Accessary to Piracy, and that Application should be made for my warrant for sending him home in the ____ [Rye] Man of War, and in the mean timë committed him to Capt. Wharwood’s Custody. As soon as I received advice of this discovery, and that these M’rs were under Examination, I posted hither w’th all diligence, but tho’ I have now travelled upwards of 200 miles in less than six days, I found at my Arrival Capt. Wharwood had Sailed hence w’th his prisoner the day before without waiting for my Warrant, or carrying w’th him ye Examinacons which had been taken before the Comm’rs, w’ch contain ye grounds of Stratton’s Commitment. What pressing Order Capt. Wharwood had for his sudden departure I know not, but I was surpriz’d at It when he received, the day before his Sailing, a Letter from my Secretary that I was on the road and would certainly be at Williamsburg next day if not that Night. And, therefore, lest it may be fau1tëd That this prisoner is gone home without the proper Evidences and Warrant for his Commitm’t, required by his Maj’ty’s Instructions, I am obliged to say thus much in my own Justification, that I no sooner received Intelligence of the taking up these Mast’rs than I prepared for my Journey, staying only one day after the Messenger, tho’ I had pressing business to have detained me longer. I arrived within two days after the last Examination was finished, and brought with me ye Warrant ready drawn up for the Commitm’t of Stratton, and only wanted to know the names and number of the Witnesses, and to be satisfyed whether any other Evidence was necessary in Order to have sent them home also with the prisoners, and indeed had I seen Capt. Wharwood I should have sent Stratton’s witnesses likewise with him. But since my intention herein is disappointed, I can only now transmitt Copys of the Examinaions taken before the Comm’rs, and I believe I cannot send them to a more proper hand than yours, seeing that in the case of Trying Accessarys to piracy the Ädmiral and Judge of the high Court of Admiralty are to be the Chief Judges. I send also the Examination taken against Williams and Herbert, and tho’ I confess I am not entirely satisfyed w’th Williams being discharged, yet so great is the Clamour here on Acc’t of the Carrying off Stratton, without allowing him the liberty of taking w’th him ye Evidences he had for his Justification, that I durse not Venture upon a Re-examination into Williams’ Conduct; however, if there appears sufficient matter to charge him [Stratton] as an accessary, he may be called to Account in England, whither he is now bound. I have lately received Advice that Application has been made to my Lords of the Admiralty for a Commission constituting Mr. [John; (c.1666 – December 14, 1734)] Holloway Judge of the Court of Vice Admiralty [previously lawyer in Marshalsea Court of London; VA judge till 1718; again, VA judge from 31 Mar 1721] here, that occasion been represented to their Lord’ps as if I had turned him out of that Office. That I may stand Right in their Lord'ps' Opinion, I take leave to inform you that at my coming to this Government I found one of ye Gent’n of the Council in the Office of the Judge of Court of Admiralty, and who had been put in by Commission from the former Governor. This Gent’n I continued in the same Post, and, upon his Death, appointed Mr. Holloway to suceed him, pursuant to a power granted under the Great Seal to the Governor of Virginia, for the time being, to constìtute Judges and all other Officers of the Admiralty not only in Virginia, but in Carolina ad the Bahama Islands, as often as said Offices should become Vacant. Mr. Holloway continued in that post ‘till ye year 1718; that one Howard, a notorious pirate and Quarter Mast’r to Thach, came into this Country and [Howard] lived for some time in a very disorderly manner at one of our port Towns, and giving just Suspicion of his design to debauch the Sailors at that place, and to forme a Comp’ny of them to run away with some Vessel for his purpose, and so to pirate again. He was taken up and put on board the Pearl Man of War; Mr. Holloway espoused his Cause, and Arrested Capt. Gordon and Mr. Maynard, his L’t, each, in an action of five hundred pounds, for the (pretended) false Imprisonment of this fellow, and I have now by me Holloway’s Receipt for three Ounces of Gold dust paid him by Howard for his fee in these Suits. It was soon discovered that Howard had been guilty of piracy after the time Limited in his Maj’ty’s first Proclamation of Indemnity, (the second Proclamation of pardon not being then known here,) upon w’ch he was tryed and Condemned upon very full Evidence. When the Court was called for this Tryal, Capt. Gordon and Capt. Brand, who were to sett as Judges w'th the other Comm’rs, dedared they wou1d except againt Mr. Holloway’s setting on the Tryal of a person for whom he had been feed as an Attorney, and to prevent any disturbance on the Bench, w’ch I apprehended would ensue upon their publickly excepting against Mr. Holloway, I sent him a civil Message to desire him not to expose himself by appearing on that Tryal. This he took so heinously, that a Seizure happening to be made soon after of a Vessel for illegal Trading, he refused to act any longer as Judge of the Court of Admiralty, w'ch, I confess. I was not much displeased at, since it gave me an opportunity of putting an honester man in his place; And this is a true account of that removal of Mr. Holloway, w’ch, it seems, is now called a turing him out of Office, and for the truth of this appeal to Capt. Gordon and Capt. Brand. I believe I need make no apology to their Lord'ps for my appointment of Mr. [John] Clayton to be Judge of that Court [since Apr 1721; coincident with office of Attorney-General], since, besides his being the King’s Attorney General here, every one who knows him will allow him the Character of a very honest Gent’ n, and the other a constant patron and Advocate for Pirates, and even in this Case of the Madagascar Ships offered to take Cause of the Several Masters,lf they would pay him two hundred pounds each if Cleared from the Port of Hampton, in Virg’a.


Related: Case of Trade w/Pirates in East Indies (Capt Taylor dep.) Dec 1721