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mand of a fine fly-boat, and sent him to sea to
carry wool and wine.

He did not succeed as a sea-captain. Aboard
that Holland fly-boat there was "barratry of the
master and mate," if nothing- worse, so that she
did not pay for her tar and tallow. The pay of a
sea-captain was small, and the proud heart of
Jennings did not like the reproofs of his employers.
The fly-boat was strongly built, and no doubt
carried half-a-dozen quick-firing guns. Jennings
waited for a good opportunity, corrupted the
hearts of his sailors, and then ran away with ship,
crew, and furniture, to try the fortune of the sea
once more, " on the bonny coasts of Barbary." As
he steered south, he sighted a Spanish caravel.
He fired his little guns into her, laid her aboard,
and made her his prize. Then he sailed on again,
till he reached the Barbary coast.

As soon as he arrived at Safi he was seized by
the Dey and flung into prison ; where he found
other English pirates, waiting for the bowstring
or the galleys, to tell him the reason for this harsh
reception. The pirates had agreed with the Dey,


it seems, on the half-share system. The Dey sup-
plied hands, stores, a fortified base, and good
careenage ; the pirates gave in return one-half of
all their spoils, either slaves or goods, at the end
of each cruise. The pirates had broken their con-
tracts, and the Dey had therefore imprisoned
them; sending Jennings with the rest to deter
him from a similar lapse in time to come. He
stayed in prison till he had paid to the Dey a
large share of his Spanish prize. Then he was
released, with permission to fit his fly-boat for the

We cannot date his coming to Safi ; but it
must have been a few years after the accession of
James I. England was then at peace with the
world. There was no "flourishing employment"
for seamen. Those "haughty hearts" who had
been with Drake at Cartagena, with Newport at
Truxillo, or with Essex at Fayal, picking up " a
few crowns, a few reasonable booties " had now
"to picke up crums at a lowe ebb "; and to vail
their sea-bonnets to "such as pearkt up their
heads to authority in this time of quiet." There
was nothing stirring against Spain. The ships



which had humbled Sidonia lay rotting at their
moorings, with grass growing on their decks.
Such men-of-war as were commissioned, were
manned by vagrants and thieves, who deserted
when they could. In these circumstances, any
sailor who had seen the " daies of bickering," and
had a passion for glory in him, was strongly
tempted to turn pirate. A very great number of
them did so. During the first years of the reign
of James I the seamen who had made Elizabeth's
navy what it w'as, brought their skill and craft to
the making of a pirate navy, which can only be
compared to the buccaneer fleets of Morgan,
Mansvelt, Sawkins, and Edward Davis, some
seventy years later. In the Mediterranean, they
made themselves bases among the Turks and
Moors. They settled in hordes at Algiers, at
Safi, and at Tunis. They taught the Moors the
use of square sails, and filled the gaps in their
crews with Mussulmans and renegades to whom
piracy was a second nature and an honour-
able calling. From the crook of the Algerine
mole, and from the sharp gut of the Goletta, these
English seamen sailed out against the merchants


of Spain and Italy. They were a ruinous hindrance
to all Mediterranean traders. Their spoils were
enormous ; and they were able to live in luxury
and riot, " more like princes than pirates," after
paying- the Dey his share.

In the Channel, they made their bases among
the creeks and bays of South-Western Ireland,
notably in Dingle Bay and Bantry Bay, where
there are sheltering islands, to hide them from any
wandering cruiser. They had little to fear from the
King's ships; for almost the only cruiser on the
coast was a small, ill-manned ship of 200 tons,
which could only keep the seas during- the summer
months. The pirate ships were generally better
found than the King's ships; and, as they were
kept clean by frequent careening, they had the
heels of them if it came to a chase. " The English
are good sailors," said one who knew, "but they
are better pirates." Before Jennings fell, an
organized fleet of pirates kept the south coast of
Ireland in a state of siege, for weeks at a time.
They were disciplined like a fleet of King's ships,
and so powerful that they could land 300 men
at any point, at short notice. The business which


Jennings followed was at least carried on in some

While he lay at Safi, some allies of John Ward,
two Tunisian pirates, named Bishop and Roope,
put in there for wood and water. Jennings made
a compact with them, and accompanied them on a
roving cruise, in which they took a huge booty, to
spend in riot ashore. Bishop quarrelled with his
partners during their stay ashore: so that Roope
and Jennings sailed without him, when they next
put to sea. Roope's ship sprang a leak during the
cruise, so he and his seamen came aboard Captain
Jennings'. They took a Spanish fly-boat, and sent
her north, in the care of some pirates, for sale in
Dunkirk, but she was captured by an English

After this capture, the allies sailed into the
Channel, and snapped up some French wine ships
off the Isle of Wight. Off the Land's End, they
took a ship of Bristol, with a valuable general
cargo, which they trans-shipped. Off the Scilly
Islands they took a French ship "laden with
brasse, and other rich commodities " ; and then
they ran short of provisions, and bore up for Balti-


more. At Baltimore they sent in the purser "to
deale with the Kernes for hogges to victuall withal."
They had a tender with them, a small Spanish
caravel, a lately taken prize, when they appeared
off the town, so that the Baltimore authorities,
seeing the ships in company, could have had no
doubt of what they were. Jennings realized that
the authorities might not care to sell their hogs to
people of his way of life. In the long-boat which
bore the purser, he sent "a token of familiaritie "
to the governor of the town ; the said token being
" 19 or 20 chests of sugers " and 4 chests of fine
scarlet coral. For this bountiful bribe they received
permission to wood, water and reprovision; and
also, it seems, to sell some of their spoils to the
citizens. While he lay at Baltimore, Jennings ** fell
in liking: with an Irish woman " whom he carried
with him to sea, in spite of the growlings of his
men, who swore that the compass would never
traverse right, nor a fair wind blow with a female
living aft. It was all through her, they said, tha
they met the King's cruiser as they left Baltimore
Road ; and it was all through her that they had to
cut and run for it, instead of making her a prize.


A few days later, they had another stroke of bad
luck, undoubtedly due to the presence of a female
aboard. They attacked two Spanish ships who
fought them courageously and gave them a batter-
ing. Ten good men were killed and more than
twenty badly hit, Jennings himself being one of
the wounded.

At the end of a watch, of a watch so severe
There was scarcely a man left was able for to steer,
There was scarcely a man left could fire off a gun.
And the blood down the deck like a river it did run.

Jennings had to sheer oflF in distress under such
sail as he could carry and be thankful that the
Spaniards did not give chase. The seamen made
some repairs, and then held a fo'c's'le council about
the Irish woman in the cabin. " See what comes,"
they said, " of carrying women to sea." They
agreed in the end that their defeat was a " a just
judgment of God against them "; not for any little
robberies or murders which they had done, but for
"suffering their captaine . . to wallow in his
luxuries." Why should he have his luxury any
more than the rest of the crew? Captain Roope
was insistent with this question till the crew swore


that they would put an end to these Babylonish
practices once for all. " In a giddy manner," they
broke into the captain's cabin, and "boldly began
to reprove his conduct." Wounded as he was,
John Jennings started from his cot, seized "a
trunchion," or handy belaying pin, and banged
about him till he had "beaten them all to a bay."
As he got his breath, they rushed in upon him a
second time, and drove him aft into the gun-room.
He bolted the door against them ; but they fired on
him through the key-hole. Then Captain Roope
quieted the mutineers, set a guard at the gun-room
door, and took command of the ship.

He was "a man of more stern and obdurate
nature than Jennings was." He hazed his hands
with unnecessary work till they longed for the old
order, with good Babylonish Jennings in command.
They released their old captain; and as soon as
they had taken another ship, they put Captain
Roope from command, and restored Jennings to
his doxy and his quarterdeck.

The taking of this new ship was a serious matter.
She was a richly-laden Amsterdam ship, of 180
tons, manned by French and Dutch sailors. She



fought valiantly, for several hours, costingf the
pirates a sore mauling- and the loss of sixty men
killed and wounded. Jennings had been shaken by
his wound, and by the late mutiny. His ship was
battered and broken. He was short of men and
provisions ; his decks were full of wounded ; and
"he desired now in heart he might make his
peace . . . although with the tender of all he had."
His first step was to put in at Baltimore, where he
hoped to submit himself to the Lord Clanricarde,
and to obtain refreshments. When he came to
Baltimore, he sent in his boat with another present
to buy him a fair reception, but his boat's crew
deserted, without making any overtures, and
Jennings, fearing that his men had been arrested,
put to sea at once, intending to sail to the Shannon,
to try the Earl of Thomond.

On his way to the Shannon, he called at various
ports to get refreshments. His men rummaged
through most of the towns on the coast, "and
impeacht even their ordinary trade," though Lord
Danvers did his best to stop them by ordering all
provisions to be carried far inland. In the middle
of January 1C09, the two ships anchored in the


Shannon, not far from Limerick, in the country of
the Earl of Thomond, to whom the pirates wrote
the following- letter:

Right Honourable, we beseech your Lordship to
sufier us so far to imboulden ourselves upon your lord-
ship's favour, as to be our mediator unto our Lord
Deputy, for ye pardoning of our offences, assuring your
Lordship that we never offended any of the King's sub-
jects. If your L will undertake the obtaining of our
pardon, we will deliver over, unto my L deputy and
your L the ship that we have now, with such lading and
commodities, as we have hereunder written ; further
desiring your L in regard of the foulness of the weather,
besides the eating up of my vitles that we may hear from
the Lord deputy within this i4dayes, for longer we may
not stay ; for ye country upon your L command will not
relieve us with any victuals. Theis are the parcels and

20 peces of ordnance, saker and minion (5 pr and 4 pr
M L guns).

7 murtherers (small B L guns of a mortar type, firing
dice shot).

40 chests of sugars.
4 bags of pepper.

12 ? and chists of sinamond.
4 bags of Spanish woll.
I barren of waxe & a boykett
4 chists of soap.


I cannc of brasse, with cabells, anchers & all neces-
saries fitting a ship of her burthen, being 300 tons ; all
wh shall be delivered if it please ye L deputie ; I onlle
desire a general pardon my self, and these men, whose
names shall be written underneath ; with a passe for all
my companie to travell where it please them, for the wh
we shall wish all increase of happiness to yr L from ye
River of Shanon this 23 of Jan. 1608.

Your L (word servants erased in another ink) to com-

John Jeninges


Peter Jacobson.

The Earl of Thomond received this letter, and
weighed it carefully. By means of spies "he dis-
cerned a disposition " among some of the pirates
"even to enterprise upon their fellows." He wished
to enter into no composition with such a man as
Jennings if other means could be found to bring
him in. He therefore temporized; sent his sons
aboard to see the pirate ships, and allowed them
to take costly gifts from their captains. One of his
spies offered to take Jennings single handed; but
for this bold deed the spy demanded the whole of
Jennings' booty. The Earl gave him no encourage-


ment but told him he mi.^ht try, if he wished.
Meanwhile he continued to sound Captain Roope
and others of the pirates, for signs of disaffection.

He did not feel himself strong enough to attack
the ships; but by March 1609, he had engaged
four of the pirates — Trevor, Roope, a man called
Drake, and Peter Jacobson, the sailing master — to
deliver ship and goods to his Majesty, when called
upon. On the night of the 20th March, he went
aboard her with a guard. The traitors handed
over the ship, as they had promised, and though
Jennings, or some faithful hand, destroyed the
Earl's right arm, the struggle was soon over, and
the sea-hawk was safely caged in one of the Earl's

Jennings' ship was not worth very much. Most
of her men left her, and put to sea in the prize,
directly her captain had been taken. The Earl
overhauled her as soon as he could. He wrote how
"the Comodities aboard is butt ordinairie, and a
lytell sugers wh is so blacke as yt is worth but
lytell in this land." She is very chargeable, he
says, lying in the best road in the river. She could
not be careened, as she was " to weke," and she


was so much battered, she was really worthless.
What became of her does not appear. Her gfuns, her
chists of sinamond, and her soUtary boykett were
put ashore, and the rest of her was probably sold
to the highest bidder, for firewood and building
material. The Earl thought that her seamen car-
ried off the best of the spoil in their "great
breeches." His wound had kept him from watch-
ing them at the time of the capture ; so the booty,
setting aside Jennings, *' in his light doublet and
hose," was but paltry. As for Jennings, he was
sent over to Chester, in July i6og; and from
Chester,by easy stages, he came to London for trial,
and lodged once more in the Marshalsea prison.

In the Marshalsea, he behaved himself with
becoming courage. " He lived a careless life,"
says his biographer. " One being merry drinking
with him once, demanded of him," how he had
lived at sea? He replied that he had ever rejoiced
more to hear the cannon than the sound of the
church bell, and that he fought not "as chickens
fight," for meat; "but for store of gold, to main-
tain riot." At another time, in hot weather, as he
sat drinking with friends in the prison parlour, it
was observed that he sat with his face in the sun,


in contempt of headache. " I shall hang in the sun,
shortly," he said, " and then my neck will ache. I
do but practise now." Later, in the autumn, there
was a fall of snow ; so that he could cheer up his
heart with a game at snowballs. Then his old
friend Captain Harris, whom he had known in
Barbary, was committed to the Marshalsea ; to
comfort him with fellowship and cups of sack. It
was reported that the two were "mad drunke "
together ; but that was calumny. They were only
*' orderly merry" together; and they had now but
little time either for merriment or for sorrow. At
the trial, Jennings did his best to save two of his
crew; who, as he told the Court, had been com-
pelled to turn pirates at the pistol muzzle. " Alas,
my Lord," he cried to the Judge, "what would
you have these poor men say . . if anything they
have done they were compelled unto it by me ; 'tis
I must answer for it."

All three were condemned in spite of his pleading
(Dec. 3rd, 1609); but five days later they obtained
a respite ; as the King hoped to obtain information
from them, to help him in the extirpation of other
pirates. It was not till the 22nd of December that
they were led out to suffer. John Buries, the curate


of St. Bennet's, attended John Jennings. The
others had their own priests, and as their irons
were knocked off they raised their voices in the
penitential psalms. Buries was very grieved for Jen-
nings, " A marvellous proper man," he notes sadly.
He might have been a hero, under a better King.

They were rowed to Wapping in wherries, to
the sound of the rogue's march beaten on a drum.
They looked their last on ships and river, glad, it
would seem, to be at last free of them. It was a
fine sunny morning ; and the sailors on the ships at
anchor bade them cheer up, as they rowed past.
When they came to the Stairs, Jennings made a
speech (there was a great crowd), bidding his two
men to follow him as fearlessly as they had followed
him of old, when the shot was flying. Some pirates
on these occasions used to tear up their " crimson
taffety breeches," to give the rags as keepsakes to
those who stood by. No breeches were torn on
this occasion. The dying men spoke briefly to the
crowd, regretting their sins: then prayed for a
few moments with their priests, and died cheerfully,
singing psalms, one after the other, "like good



In the year 1683-4 some eminent London mer-
chants, fired by the perusal of the buccaneer
accounts of South America (the journals of Sharp,
Ringrose, Cox, and others), conceived a scheme
for opening up a trade with Peru and Chili. They
subscribed among themselves a large sum for the
equipment and lading of a ship. The Duke of
York, then Lord Admiral, gave the project his
princely patronage. A ship, the Cygnet, was
chosen and fitted for the voyage, and a trusty
master mariner, one esteemed by Henry Morgan,
was appointed her captain. This was Charles
Swan, or Swann, a man whose surname eminently
fitted him for the command of a ship so christened.
Following the custom of the time, two merchants,
or supercargoes, took passage with Captain Swan
to dispose of the lading, and to open up the trade.
The Cyg7iet sailed from the Thames with a costly
general cargo, which was designed not only to


establish just relations with the Spanish-Americans,
but to pay her owners from 50 to 75 per cent. As
the voyage was not without interest we propose
to consider some of its most striking- events.

We are sorry to have to state that by October
1684, Captain Swan had become a buccaneer, and
his ship, the Cygnet^ the flagship of a small squadron
cruising on the coast of Peru, against the subjects
of the King of Spain, with whom we were then at
peace. Swan had met with Captain Edward Davis,
a buccaneer of fame, and the meeting had been too
much for him. When the clay pot meets the iron
pot there is usually a final ruin ; and the meeting
put an end to the dreams of a South American
trade. "There was much joy on all sides," says
the chronicler, writing of this meeting, but presum-
ably the greater joy was Davis's, who gave Swan
an immediate hint that the Cygnet was too deeply
fraught to make a cruiser. "Therefore (Captain
Swan) by the consent of the supercargoes, got up
all his goods on Deck, and sold to any that would
buy up07i trust: the rest was thrown overboard into
the sea, except fine goods, as Silks, Muslins,
Stockings, &c., and except the Iron." The iron


was saved for ballast. The other goods made very
delicate wear for the fo'c's'le hands.

When all was ready, the allied forces sailed to
take Guayaquil, but met with no luck there, through
" one of Captain Davis's men, who showed himself
very forward to ^o to the town, and upbraided
others with faintheartedness: yet afterwards con-
fessed (that he) privately cut the string that the
Guide was made fast with, (and) when he thought
the Guide was got far enough from us, he cried out
that the Pilot was gone, and that somebody had
cut the Cord that tied him . . . and our consterna-
tion was great, being in the dark and among
Woods " ; so that ' * the design was wholly dashed."
After this they sailed to the Bay of Panama, where
they planned to lie at anchor to wait for the yearly
treasure fleet from Lima. While they waited,
Captain Swan sent a letter over the Isthmus, with
a message to his employers.

March 4, 1685.

Panama Road.
Charles Swann to Capt. John Wise.

My voyage is at an end. In the Straits of Magellan I
had nine men run from me in one night, after they saw


that they could not prevail with me to play the rogue.
But God's justice overtook them, for after weathering
Cape Victory we met with an extreme storm of long
continuance, which drove me down to lat 55° 30' S and
in which the ship to which they deserted was lost. Then
I came to Valdivia, when I had two men killed under a
flag of truce, after three day's parley and all oaths
human and divine. An ambuscade of between one and
two hundred men came out, and fired upon a poor eight
of us in the yawl. But God punished them likewise, as
we hear, we killing three of their captains and some
others. It is too long to give you an account of all my
troubles, which were chiefly owing to the fact that the
ship was meant to be run away with. In Nicoya the
rest of my men left me, so that, having no one to sail
the ship, I was forced to join them. So that now I am
in hostility with the Spaniards, and have taken and
burnt some towns, and have forced the President of
Panama to send me two men he had taken from us. The
same day 270 new men came to mc, and we are going
to take in 200 more that they left behind. We shall soon
be 900 men in the South Seas. Assure my employers
that I do all I can to preserve their interest, and that
what I do now I could in no wise prevent. So desire
them to do w^hat they can with the King for me, for as
soon as I can I shall deliver myself to the King's justice
and I had rather die than live skulking like a vagabond
for fear of death. The King might make this whole
Kingdom of Peru tributary to him in two years' time.
We now await the Spanish fleet that brings the money


to Panair.a. We were resolved to fight them before we
had reached this strength, and had lain in wait 6 months
for them, but now we hear that they are at sea, and ex-
pect them every day. If we have success against them
we shall make a desperate alarm all Europe over. I
have some money which I wish were with you, for my
wife. I shall, with God's help, do things which (were
it with my Prince's leave) would make her a lady ; but
now I cannot tell but it may bring me to a halter. But
if it doth my comfort is that I shall die for that I cannot
help. Pray present my faithful love to my dear wife, and
assure her she Is never out of my mind.

After failing' in his attempt upon the treasure
fleet, Captain Davis, the Buccaneer Commodore,
took his squadron towards Rio Lejo, on the western
coast of Mexico, where, "about 8 leagues from
the shore," at eight in the forenoon, 520 buc-
caneers, mostly English, went down the sides of
their ships into their boats. There were thirty-one
canoas for their accommodation, some of them of
nearly forty feet in length, and five or six feet
broad. They were " dug-outs" of the most prim-
itive type, but the buccaneers were not particular
as to the build of their crafts. They settled upon
their thwarts; one of them piped a song, " and the


rowers, sitting- well in order," beg^an to plougfh the
wine-dark sea.

At two in the afternoon, a squall beat down upon
them. The sea rose with tropical swiftness, so
that, in half an hour "some of our Canoas were
half full of water, yet kept two men constantly
heaving it out." They could do nothing- but put
rig-ht before the wind ; yet with craft so crank as
the canoas this expedient was highly dangferous.
" The small Canoas," it is true, " being- most light
and buoyant, mounted nimbly over the surges, but
the great heavy Canoas lay like Log-s in the Sea,
ready to be swallowed by every foaming Billow."
However, the danger did not last very long. The
squall blew past, and, when the wind abated, the

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Online LibraryJohn MasefieldA mainsail haul → online text (page 5 of 9)