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“The End of the Pirate Edward Congdon” by Henri-Francois Buffet
Papers – “The End of the Pirate Edward Congdon” by Henri-Francois Buffet
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Published in Vol 4. of Recueil de documents et travaux inédits pour servir à l'histoire de La Réunion (1960)
(Translated from the French by Baylus C. Brooks)
We know that on November 17, 1720, a small English vessel named the Cooker, commanded by Captain Baker, who was engaged in the slave trade in Madagascar, brought to Joseph de Beauvollier de Courchant, Governor of Bourbon Island, the proposals of pirate Edward Congdon who asked for an amnesty.
Congdon was captain of the pirate ship Dragon, with a crew of 135 white men, who were served by 60 or 80 slaves from Guinea. He was then on the isle of Santa Maria just off Madagascar, where he had two other ships, and offered to the governor to give him his arms and ammunition, to renounce forever piracy, and to swear fidelity to the King of France.
Beauvollier de Courchant, after having taken the advice of the Provincial Council, of which he was the president, accepted the proposals of Edward Congdon, with certain reservations.
Congdon and his companions were to promise to comply with the regulations of the Colony. They were to take the Dragon and their second ship to Bourbon, to sink and cut off the third entirely, to put away their ammunition before disembarking, and to bring with them only peaceable and mild-mannered slaves. For each of these slaves (and each white man could retain only one), they were to pay twenty piasters to the East India Company, in compensation for the damage which this authorization would cause to his commerce.
The amnesty granted to Congdon was signed by the Governor and the Provincial Council on November 25, 1720.
In January 1721, Congdon and his companions landed at Saint-Paul, from where they were left between the different quarters. While most of the pirates remained in Bourbon and devoted themselves to agriculture, it was not the same for Edward Congdon. The latter asked to be established in France.
On the 23rd of February, 1723, he landed at Lorient, in a ship of the Company of the Indies, the Vierges de Grâce [Virgin of Grace], commanded by Joncheé de la Goletérie, and immediately settled at Port Louis of Brittany, whose King's lieutenant was then François Burin de Ricquebourg.
A month later, Edward Congdon, who at that time declared himself a native of Plymouth, signed his marriage contract with Marie-Catherine Ancré (alias: Lancray), in the presence of this officer and the major of the place (Simon de la Vergne de Villeneuve), Native of Saint-Omer and residing at the citadel of Port Louis. This contract is dated March 25, 1723. On March 29, the marriage was celebrated at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, with, it seems, a certain solemnity, since the assistants included the King's lieutenant Francois Burin of Ricquebourg and the widow of one of his predecessors, Constance Poulain, lady of Montgogue.
On October 7, 1723, Congdon bought the brigantine Marie, which he baptized Catherine or Sainte-Catherine in honor of his wife, from Philippe Lucy, merchant of Guernsey.
It was Catherine Ancré who, on the following November 1, armed this small vessel of 40 tons at Port Louis, and exported it to the Croisic and to Ireland, under the guidance of the Irish master J. Kelly. She rearmed him for Nantes on April 27, then on June 6, 1724, and finally for Le Croisic, on the following November 12th.
The masters to whom she entrusted him for these successive displacements were Pièrre Mollo, J. Aguevisse and J. Le Douarin.
Her husband did not take charge of the management of this vessel. What was he doing then? It seems that he was still in Port Louis and that he oversaw the commercial operations of Catherine Ancré.
The slave which Beauvollier de Courchant had authorized Congdon to keep, was baptized at Our Lady of the Assumption on September 10, 1724, and the priest noted that it belonged to "M. de Congdon," in which one recognizes at least an air of nobility.
Edward Congdon, on September 25, 1725, bought for 2,400 livres from Thomas Joeans and André Lind, a trader at Lorient, two thirds of the barque Trois Amis [Three Friends], of Nantes (70 tons), of which he already possessed the third third, sometime later, on November 19, he sold this third third to César Gence, negotiated at Port Louis.
Congdon called himself "a negociant of Port Louis," and on this account he sold on December 7, 1725, to Sir John Allen of London, a third of the brigantine Catherine, for the price of 1,666 livres 13 sols 4 deniers.
In 1726, Edward Congdon made twice a voyage to La Rochelle as a master, on the brigantine François-Louis (40 tons), belonging to the Port Louisian François de Lards (July 8 - September 4 and September 8 - 10 November). Meanwhile, his own ship, the Saint-René (60 tons) was traveling in the same area under the guidance of master Pierre Forbin.
Pierre Forbin was the near relative and, if I am not mistaken, Renee Le Gouzronc's own brother-in-law, the first wife of Antoine Boucher des Forges, who had countersigned, as a member of the Provincial Council of Bourbon, the ordinance of the amnesty of Congdon and his companions.
Pierre Forbin returned his vessel to Edward Congdon on November 10, 1726. The latter was now the sole master of Saint-René. He concentrated between Port Louis and Nantes, but he also managed to take his vessel to Bordeaux and even to Spain, and also to go north to Honfleur and to Rouen.
According to the records of Mlle. Genevieve Beauchesne, the list of the armaments of Saint-René during the last six years of her captain's life: on December 12, 1726, he armed at Port Louis for Nantes; on April 8, 1727, for Marennes; on 10 July and 11 November 1727, for Nantes; January 3, 1728, for Nantes and Rouen; the 5th of May, 1728, for Nantes and Le Havre; November 2, 1728, January, May 19 and October 8, 1729, February 1730, for Nantes; on 7 July 1730, for La Seudre, Marennes, Bordeaux and Honfleur; the 3 February 1731, for Nantes, the Croisic and Spain; the 1st of April, 1732, and the 8th of January, 1733, for Nantes.
On 2 May 1734 Edward Congdon died and Catherine Ancré married at Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Jean Foynard, surgeon-major of the city and citadel of Port Louis.
Congdon’s widow had quickly forgotten him. We, at least, retain the memory of this man who had so well been able to renounce the mad and fascinating adventures of piracy, to live the obscure and laborious existence of the mariners of Brittany.
Farchi (Jean): Petite histoire de l’île Bourbon. Paris, Presses Universitaires 1937, in-8°, 62.
Archivres du Morbihan; 9 B 202: copie du 21 décembre 1721.
Farchi, op. cit., 84.
Arch. not. Port-Louis, minutes Kersal, 25-3-1723.
Arch. mun. Port-Louis, reg. Catholicité.
Arch. not. Port-Louis, minutes Kersal, 7-12-1725.
Beauchesne (Geneviève): Répertoire de la sous-série 2 P des Archives de l’arrondissement maritime de Lorient.
Arch. mun. Port-Louis, registres dè Catholicité.
Arch. not. Port-Louis, minutes Kersal, 25-9-1725 et 19-10-1720.
Beauchesne (Geneviève), op. cit.
Arch. not. Port-Louis, minutes Kersal, 27-11-1730.