Letter from Alexander Spotswood to James Craggs
Spotswood, Alexander, 1676-1740
Volume 02, Pages 333-336
[From the Spotswood Letters. Vol. II. P. 316.]
May ye 26th, 1719.
To Secretary Craggs:
By his Maj'ty's Ship, the Dral-Castle, w'ch arrived here ye—Ins't, I had the hon'r of Yo'r's of ye 24th of Dec'r, w'th the King's Declaration of War against Spain, and the Commission and proclamation mentioned in Yo'r Letter, and in answering thereto, can only beg leave to assure you y't his Maj'ty's Commands shall be punctually Obeyed.
The intimation you are pleased to give me that ye rumors of exacting great Sums on the Surrender of Pyrates is not meant to me, is extreamly obliging, as it serves to make me easy, who have had too much cause given me of late to be otherwise through the Misrepresentations of my Enemys, tho' in this particular I might defy Malice it Self to fault my Conduct, having never received the value of one penny from any of the Pyrates that have either Surrendered or been pardoned here; And tho' there have been 14 or 15 who Surrendered, and had Certificates under the Seal of the Colony, for w'ch the Clerk was allowed to demand five Shillings a piece, yet I am well assured that no more than five paid any thing
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at all; And of Seven that have rec'd their pardons, only one has paid the Attorney-Gen'l the common fee he receives for making out the like pardons even for a Condemned Negro, and he, too, was a person of a very notorious Character for his Piracys, and had his Money restored to him after he had been Condemned, because there was no proof of its being piratically taken, but if these common fees to ye Officers are intended by his Maj'ty to be likewise Remitted upon the least Intimation, I shall direct those Officers to dem'd no more.
Having in my last taken Notice of some Goods in the possession of Thach and his Crew of Pyrates in North Carolina, w'ch were brought hither by Capt. Brand, of his Maj'ty's Ship, the Lyme, and the other Officers of the Sloops sent for Suppressing that Gang of Villains, I think it necessary now to informe you that these Goods, being proved to be piratically taken by this Thach in a ffrench Ship bound home from Martinico, have, by a Decree of the Court of Vice Admiralty of this Colony, been condemned as such, and being perishable, have been sold at publick Auction the produce whereof in ye same Species for w'ch it was sold, amounts to 447 ounces . . . . . penny weight of Spanish Gold, w'ch is of Virg'a Currency, £2,238; and is ready to be paid, after the necessary Charges of Transportation from Carolina, and of the Storage and Sale, are deducted, to the Owners, if they claim the same, or to whomsoever his Maj'ty shall appoint. But, it's fit also to Represent to you that notwithstanding the Governm't of No. Carolina admitted Thach and his Crew to make Oath that this ffrench Ship and Cargo, which he brought in thither, was found by him as a Wreck at Sea, without Men or Papers, tho' the same Government suffered these Effects to continue for some months in the possession of these Pyrats, and tho', after Thach was killed and his whole Crew subdued, the Effects, w'ch had been Landed by Thach, were, by Order of the Governor of No. Carolina, voluntarily delivered up to Capt. Brand, Yet a pretension has been set up by that Government to have the whole of these Effects delivered up to them, as of right belonging to the Lords Proprietors, being once upon their Soil. At first they only claimed them as Wreck, but when it plainly appeared that they were not Wreek, but piratically taken, then the Gov'r claimed a Right of having those Goods Tryed and Condemned within that Province, and after the Court of Vice Admiralty was proceeding legally on the Condemnation thereof, a Plea was put into the Jurisdiction of that Court, and it was insisted that these Goods ought to be returned back to No. Carolina to be Try'd and adjudged there. And when that Plea was over ruled, Captain Brand is then threatened to be prosecuted in England for a Trespass
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on the Lords Proprietors Lands. And, w'ch is yet more surprizing, there are some in y't Government y't endeavour to justify Thach and his Crew as very honest men, and to condemn the Officers and Men belonging to the King's Ships as Murderers for attacking and subduing them, When it is notorious that after they surrendered in y't Province, and rec'd the benefit of his Maj'ty's Mercy, they went out again on the same piratical design, not without the privity of some in principal Stations in that Gov't; took this very Ship after the date of his Maj'ty's second pardon, and committed other Acts of piracy, even within that province, and at last fought against the King's colours, and would not surrender when they were told they should be treated as Friends. Seeing, therefore, Capt. Brand is like to be troubled in England for the greater part of these Effects w'ch were Landed in Carolina, I have caused the whole produce to be remitted into England, that in case he should be condemn'd to pay ye same to the Lords proprietors, it may be ready for that purpose. But I am confident, when his Maj'ty is truly informed how little ground there is for such a prosecution against a Gent. who has done nothing but his Duty, being sent hither for the very intent of destroying pirats, His Maj'ty will be pleased to grant him his protection. And tho' I am Credibly inform'd that Affidavits are taken in No. Carolina to contradict what has been plainly proved here upon the Tryal of the pirats, and to prove that Capt. Brand took away these piratical Effects by force, I hope the Lords proprietors themselves w'll give little Credit to such Clandestine Testimonials when they shall know how dark apart some of their Officers have acted, particularly one who enjoyed the post of Secretary Chief Justice, one of their Lord'p's Deputys and Collector of the Customs held a private Correspondence w'th Thach, concealed a Robbery he committed in that province, and received and concealed a considerable part of the Cargo of this very ffrench Ship w'ch he knew Thach had no Right to give or he to receive, admitting ye same had been Wrecked Goods as was pretended. But it would be too tedious to relate how many favourers of Pirats there are in these parts, and even in this Colony had they power equal to their Inclination. People are easily led to favour these Pests of Mankind when they have hopes of Sharing in their ill-gotten Wealth. I have had the Experience how little some are able to bear being abridged of their profite, from what vile means soever it comes, having raised up a very industrious and implacable Enemy by reprimanding a prime Lawyer here for prosecuting an unjust Action in behalf of a notorious pirat who was condemn'd and owed his Life only to the seasonable Arrival of his Maj'ty's second
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gracious pardon. I will not hear trouble you w'th anything relating to the Accusation of the Burg's against my Self since I have also sent Copys of the Addresses of 21 Countys out of the 25 in this Colony, as also of the Clergy and Grand Jury disavowing all that proceeding of their pretended Representatives. As that of the Grand Jury is to his Maj'ty, I have transmitted it to my Lord Orkney, not doubting his Lo'p w'll use your Advice and assist in the presenting it, And I hope these publick Testimonys of my Administration will serve to Balla. the rash Accusation of a small part of the Burg's's, and preserve me a place in y'r good opinion and protection, w'ch I shall ever acknowledge w'th the Gratitude y't becomes me, being with the greatest respect,
Sir, y'rs, &c.