Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Plate, Silver, Gold, Jewels and other Merchandise!

1754 Bellin Map of Veracruz, Mexico

 From a traditional English perspective, the 1716 capture of Virginia's sloop Virgin and her crew were acts of Spanish piracy. However, their captor was Don Joseph Rocher de la Peña (b.1651-d.1737 while mayor of Veracruz City), the Rear-Admiral of their elite Barlovento squadron, stationed at Veracruz, Mexico since 1640 -  not exactly a pirate. The state of Veracruz (within which the city of Veracruz sits), comprised most of the Mexican western shoreline in the Bay of Campeche, plagued incessantly by English pirates who liked to steal Spanish logwood from the Bay of Campeche since the days of 17th-century English Buccaneers. In 1684, the Spanish attacked the main stronghold of these "buccaneers" in Charles Town, now known as Nassau - on the Island of Providence in the Bahamas.

Bay of Campeche

Virgin's crew had been confined under allegedly extreme conditions, if we are to believe the reports from their captain Harry Beverley, a wealthy Virginian and former House of Burgesses representative for Middlesex County. Beverley owned more than 3,000 acres of prime Virginia real estate by the time of his 1716 venture to seek pirates - but perhaps more importantly - to seek the wrecked Spanish flota or squadron (in hurricane of 1715) presumed by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood to be somewhere between the Bahamas and the then-Spanish territory of La Florida's east shore.

Was Spotswood merely interested in preserving the recent Treaty of Utrecht between his mother country of Great Britain and Spain? Or, was he a pirate facilitator himself, interested mostly in the spilled treasure on the coast of Spanish Florida?

For a simple colonial statesman, Spotswood concentrated a great deal of his attention at this time on wreck-fishing technology... and on finding out exactly where the wrecks lay! Spotswood specifically suggested fishing the Spanish wrecks as a way of increasing British income, despite the dubious legalities. English Jamaicans wholly supported this effort as well, as Capt John Balchen of HMS Diamond testified. Gov. Lord Archibald Hamilton of Jamaica was determined guilty of exactly the same method: commissioning privateers to take pirates, but then fishing illegally on the Spanish wrecks instead - i.e. becoming a pirate!

Oddly enough, Spotswood later claims that Beverley was blown off course and captured near Bermuda: "The said sloop was taken upon the high seas near the Island of Bermuda, and had never been within some hundreds of leagues of any of the Spanish Dominions." The story he told almost a year later went:
 On 23rd June Beverley departed from Virginia since wch, there is advice from him by letters dated at St. Domingo on Hispaniola the 14th Aug., that two days after he left the Capes of Virginia he mett with a strong wind at South West, which carry'd him into the latitude of 28d. 40m. [approx. latitude of Orlando, Florida] and longitude of 6 degrees [east or west?; 6 deg. west puts him in Florida, near the wrecks] from the said Capes, where on 5th July he found himself close by a ship and a sloop, which proved to be a Spanish man of war called the St. Juan Baptista, commanded by Don Joseph Rocher de la Pena, and the sloop his tender. The man of war fired three shots at Beverley's sloop (which had the English colours flying on board) and then ordered him to come on board, where (without ever looking into his papers or so much as asking for them) only demanding from whence he came, he was made prisoner and his boats crew confined apart. The men of the Spanish ship immediately went on board his sloop, beat and stript all the men broke open their chests, plundered and carry'd off all the cargo, and brought the men prisoners on board the man of war, where they were forced naked as they were to work as the Spaniards ordered them, except Beverley himself, and Mr. Peter Whiting and George Heeble his officers. On the 30th they arrived at Porto Rico, where the Spaniards sold most of the goods belonging to Beverley's sloop, and then on 11th May, they came to St. Domingo. At both which places Beverley conscious of his honest intentions, desired a trial but was denyed, untill they should arrive at La Vera Crux, whither the Spanish Commander declared he intended to carry his prisoners.
The coordinates could mean that Beverley was taken, six weeks after leaving the Capes of Virginia, by Admiral Rocher precisely at the location of the wrecks - which the Spanish still guarded - or he could have been hundreds of miles east of the Bahamas - but, nowhere near Bermuda! Spotswood simply interpreted it as the latter, for the preservation of his own representation - having signed Beverley's letter of marque.

Beverley's instructions in that letter of marque from Spotswood, like those of Hamilton's to his "privateers," were to go to the Bahamas (in the other direction from Bermuda) and report back... especially on the whereabouts of the wrecks that Bahamians were fishing... on the coast of La Florida - a Spanish territory! My suspicions are that Beverley did just that... with six weeks between leaving Virginia and being captured.

What exactly was he doing if not fishing the wrecks or spying on the Spanish who were? Again, how far was he captured from the wrecks by Admiral Rocher in the warship St. Juan Baptiste?

Actually, 28 degrees, 40 minutes was the latitude of Cape Canaveral, Florida - about the northernmost range of the known wrecks' location and near the Spanish salvage camps at St. Sebastien Inlet. Nassau, the main town of the Bahamas, where Beverley was supposed to go first to gather intel on pirates, lay at about 25 degrees. The longitude given, if 6 deg. west, put him dead on Florida, west of Orlando. But, 6 deg. east put Beverley and his sloop Virgin, far east from Florida, at approx. 70 deg. of current longitude or 500 miles east of the Bahamas - still nowhere near Bermuda! Admiral Rocher had no reason to be out there. He would remain closer to the wrecks on the Florida shore to guard them against pirates, as were the Barlovento squadron's orders since 1640.

Nassau, New Providence Island in the Bahamas is at latitude 25 deg.

I'd love to know the official Spanish account of the capture... including the exact location. But... Spotswood claims the official English version (Beverley's more than six weeks of being "off course"... possible, yes... probable? You decide. He may have needed an excuse for being so far north after so much time.)...  Spotswood lied for his pirate. And, Beverley likely covered his aft quarters after being caught red-handed fishing illegally, if you get my drift (the puns are far too easy here, huh?).

Furthermore, Spotswood added "and since 14th Aug. [1716] Beverley nor any of his men have been heard of" as though the Spanish Catholics were evil (religious discrimination? racism?) and did all of this on purpose just to evilly torture some Englishmen! Spotswood's story, if you'll pardon yet another pun, just doesn't hold water for me... I say he facilitated piracy and Beverley was the one committing a crime.

Discrimination against the Spanish is a long-time American tradition! The English came to America to steal Spanish wealth - not much had changed after more than a century - even since the English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 - a defeat that originally signaled the weakness of the Spanish Empire! Englishmen literally first came to America as pirates!

It's not much of a surprise that English wills of the time included bequeathals of "Plate, Silver, Gold, Jewels, and other Merchandise," material reflections of Spanish American wealth!

There's a lot more to this international political episode related thru "English-colored glasses" for the past few centuries in Capt. Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates. Perhaps the best way to look at this event is not by reading Johnson... er... London newspaper publisher Nathaniel Mist's... highly controversial polemic that pretends to be a "history."  Historians don't use polemics! The primary sources combined with good old fashioned professional history should do nicely!

I here present to you the actual primary English (and probably quite biased) evidence involved in this case - evidence that may have jump-started British merchants to go against "pirates" in America! I'm still looking for Admiral Rocher's version...

YeahYeah... I blame the British War on the Golden Age of Piracy on Alexander Spotswood, but he wrote a lot of letters and annoyed a lot of people... so he was a good candidate!



from BBC Radio Bristol

300 years ago on Thursday - 22 November 1718 - Bristol born Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard, the most famous pirate in the history of the world), was killed in a violent battle off the coast of North America. And after 300 years we can finally separate the truth from the myth. You can hear the whole story this Thursday at 9am in a one off BBC Radio Bristol special: BLACKBEARD: 300 YEARS OF FAKE NEWS. With new research by Baylus C. Brooks, narrated by Bristol born Kevin McNally - Joshamee Gibbs in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and produced by Tom Ryan and Sheila Hannon this is a very different Blackbeard from the one in the story books...


You can hear it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_radio_bristol

Author Spotlight

#Blackbeard #pirate #twitterstorians


Three Centuries After His Beheading, a Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard Emerges - Smithsonian Online

By Andrew Lawler
November 13, 2018

http://www.lulu.com/shop/baylus-c-brooks/murder-at-ocracoke/paperback/product-23588556.htmlRead about the final end of Edward Thache:
Murder at Ocracoke! Power and Profit in the Killing of Edward "Blackbeard" Thache

In commemoration of "Blackbeard 300 Tri-Centennial":

As always, drop by baylusbrooks.com and check out the primary source transcriptions

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