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Alexander Spotswood to Admiralty—20 May 1720

Letters – Spotswood to Admiralty—20 May 1720

From: The Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, Vol 2, 337-340


To the Board of Trade:


May ye 20th, 1720.


... [first part of letter refers to Virginian politics]


I forgot in my last to informe y’r Lord’ps that one Capt. Knott, of the West River Merch’t, London, being taken in his passage hither by one Callifax, a Pirate, eight of y’t Pirat’s crew took their passage in Knott’s Ship w’th an Intent to dispelle themselves w’th the Booty they had gott. and, accordingly, as soon as the Ship arrived within the Capes, four of them went away in a boat w’ch the Pirate Commander had given them for that purpose, designing for Maryland: The other four, who intended for North Carolina, came w’th ye ship into James River. Capt Knott made what haste he could to discover to me what kind of passengers he bad been obliged to bring w’th him and the first four being driven beck by a Storm, were, with ye others, happily taken, and at their Tryal, upon full Evidence, convicted of divers notorious Pyracys. Six of them appeared the most profligate Wretches I ever heard of, for, as they bebayed themselves eth the greatest impudence at the Bar, they were no sooner taken from it than they vented their imprecations on their Judges and all concerned in their prosecution, and vow’d if they were again at liberty they would spare none alive that should fall into their hands; I thought it necessary for the greater Terrour to hang up four of them in Chains. Two others were executed at the same time, and Two who shew’d a just Abhorrence of their past Crimes, I have, by the advice of the Council, pardoned and sent on board the Man of War on this Station, being desirous to imitate his Maj’ty’s Royal Example by mixing Mercy w’th Justice, The Crew to w’ch these Pirats belonged, had committed abundance of Piracys last year on the Coast of Guinea. The Ship they had last was called the Marquis Del Campo, w’ch they took last Summer from the Emperour's Subjects on the Coast of Africa. In this Ship they took the Vice Adm’l of the Brazil Fleet richly laden, homeward bound for Lisbon, and afterwards took several English Ship. and Vessels in the West Indies. The eight Pyrates brought in hither had for their share of the booty three Negro men and a boy, a quantity of Gold dust and Moyders [Moidores] w’ch I have now secured in my hands For his Maj’ty’a use, but as they had found means before they were taken to Lodge a good part of their Effects in the hands of some planters here w’th whom they got acquainted w’th; and it is but lately that those Effects have been delivered up after a great deal of search and trouble, So that the final Sentence of the Court of Admiralty not being yet passed nor the Acco’t of Charges adjusted, I cannot by this Conveyance send a true State of what remains in my hands.

There have been also bro't in hither last Month in the Ship Callabar Merchant of Bristol, Tho. Kennedy, Mr, one and twenty Negro Slaves, w’ch he delivered up to me as Piratical Effects, and upon w’ch I am to wait his Majesty’s Commands, These Slaves were given to Capt. Kennedy by one Edward England, Comn’d’r of a Pirate Ship by whom Kennedy was taken on the Coast of Guinea last Winter and as the Pirats had detained him for some months and plundered him of sundry Goods, they pretended to give him these Negroes in recompense for his Losses. When Masters of Ships are so honest as to discover and Yield up what is thus given them in lieu of their own private losses, I cannot but recommend them to his Ma’ty’s favour that some consideration may be had of their sufferings and damages. And here I beg leave to do Justice to Capt. Knott, by whose prudent Conduct not only the aforementioned Pirats were brought to punishment, but the Lives of the Witnesses preserved, who served to Convict them on their Tryal, for two Jews and two portuguese who had been prisoners among the Pirata were put on board Capt. Knott’s Ship at the same time with the eight Pyrats, and had it not been for the good management of the Captain it is not to be supposed the Pyrats would have left any of them to Witness against them. And as he was thus Instrumental in bringing these Miscreants to punishment, he was no less faithful in a just discovery of such of their Effects as he had knowledge of; for he not only discovered and delivered up the Sugar, Tobacco and Gold dust w’ch the Pirats presented him with as a Compensation for his Liquors, Stores and Goods w’ch they had taken from him, and even some Moyders, w’ch they gave him in lieu of the Guineas and English money they plundered him of, but he likewise obliged his Men to deliver up every thing the Pirates had given them. I, therefore, humbly recommend him in Yo’r Lords’ps’ favor so faras to assist him in his Application to his Maj’ty for Reparation of his particular Losess out of the piratical Effects he has discovered and delivered up, w’ch are of much greater Value; And seeing Capt Kennedy has in like manner acted so just a part in delivering up the Negroes given him by the Pirates, in consideration of the damages he and his Owners had sustained by their Means, I beg leave to recommend him, also, to Yo’r Lord’ps’ assistance for obtaining Reparation out of the produce of the Slaves he has thus delivered up to his Maj’ty’s use; And because it is a common practice among the Pirats to make presents to Masters of Ships and Seamen of such Commoditys they have less use of, in lieu of what they take away, and that without the voluntary confession of the persons themselves, it is impossible to discover such Piratical Effects, I humbly offer to Yo’r Lo’ps’ consideration whether it may not be for his Maj’ty’s Service that as an Encouragement to those who shall faithfully discover any such Piratical Effects, their particular Losses may be repaired out of the Effects they so deliver up, where ye proper Owners are not like to make any Claim. And if his Majesty shall be pleased to notify such an Encouragem’t by Proclamation, I am persuaded it would be a means to discover abundance of Piratical Effects, w’ch otherwise may be concealed and converted to private use, many men being rather willing to run all risques in keeping what they have gott than to put themselves to the trouble of a discovery, when they have nothing to expect. The Acco’ts of the Q’tt R’ts and Two Shillings per hhd., &c, w’ch are here Inclosed, I hope will satisfy Yo’r Lord’ps of the Increase of both those Revenues and may serve as an Indication of the thriving Condition of the Country, when so much Tobacco is Exported and such great Quantitys of new Land taken up for Cultivation, as will appear from the number of Rights sold.

I am, &c.