Tuesday, September 17, 2019

True History of Our Pirate Nation or Why the GOP are such Assholes!


 This actually introduces the conclusion in my book Quest for Blackbeard: The The Story of Edward Thache and His World, but I believe it holds great relevance to our monstrous political problems today and the reasons why our conservatives are such gigantic assholes! So, I'm including it here - so anyone can read it.


True History of Our Pirate Nation!


When Bernard Cooke of Barbados had accused James Grazett of saying “God damn King George and all his family; He is a Dutch dog and son of a whore… Here is King James the third’s health, right and lawful heir to the Crown,” he employed a common Jacobite rhetorical device.[1] Logicians today call it “attacking the man,” or an ad hominem political attack. The United States’ system of checks and balances only works when both political parties negotiate in good faith. Otherwise, any hearings or discussions devolve into ad hominem political attacks, like Cooke's. 
King George’s claim to England’s throne is confusing unless you understand that the House of Nassau was an aristocratic dynasty associated with Nassau Castle, located in present-day Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany – once a part of Prussia. Nassau, the primary town on New Providence Island of the Bahamas – the stronghold of the Flying Gang of Benjamin Hornigold’s pirates – was named in honor of William of Orange, a prince of Nassau. How did a Dutchman become a prince of a territory in Prussia? Well… William was a Dutchman (although married to Mary Stuart of fine Scottish stock), but also from the Ottonian branch of the Princes of Nassau who gave rise to the Princes of Orange and the monarchs of the Netherlands. The Principality of Orange actually originates from what is now France, but I’m sure you’re already completely confused as most everyone. Suffice it to say that this heritage goes back to the Holy Roman Empire until 1544 when the dynasties of Orange and Nassau aligned. William of Orange married Mary Stuart – but had no issue and therefore, the Principality of Orange fell into the hands of Frederic-Henry, Frederick I of Prussia, who ceded the principality — at least the lands, but not the formal title — to France in 1713. So, the title of a “Prince of Orange” no longer carried property – just a royal connection to the line of Frederick I.
On 1 August 1714, George Louis, son of Sophia of the Palatinate in Heidelberg – herself, the daughter of Frederick V, Elector Palatine and Elizabeth Stuart of England, became King of Great Britain and Ireland and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire. George carried only a minor connection to the Stuart dynasty of England – as well as the Principality of Orange – and, so, was only seen as a “Dutch dog” and an illegitimate heir to the British Crown – especially by Jacobites, or supporters of James III’s claim to that Crown. Jacobite objection to the Hanoverian king owed much to isolationist political ideology – like today’s Republican Party in America. Okay, this is even more confusing and now, you need a mug of grog, right?
Anyhow, this device made political use of prejudice against foreigners: the non-British – particularly against the Protestant Dutch and their kin – Protestant Prussians or Germans. “Dutch dog” made light of George’s legal right to sit on the English throne – especially when he spoke no English, but only German! Cooke accused Grazett of being a traitor for elevating James III or the “Pretender” over King George I, the sitting monarch of the realm and the one that all loyal British citizens were supposed to support. Grazett accused Cooke’s wife of exactly the same thing – with almost exactly the same phrase.
British historian of the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, Ragnhild Marie Hatton assured us that the problem with King George I was not so much his ignorance of English. It had little to do with his public shyness. It did not even center on his scandalous treatment of his wife, Sophia Dorothea. The German prince was simply a weak, pallid, and foreign Protestant replacement for the strength of a Stuart of Great Britain. As William Makepeace Thackery wrote:

His heart was in Hanover... He was more than fifty years of age when he came amongst us: we took him because we wanted him, because he served our turn; we laughed at his uncouth German ways, and sneered at him. He took our loyalty for what it was worth; laid hands on what money he could; kept us assuredly from Popery ... I, for one, would have been on his side in those days. Cynical and selfish, as he was, he was better than a king out of St. Germains [James, the Stuart Pretender] with the French king's orders in his pocket, and a swarm of Jesuits in his train.[2]

Thackery had presumed that George I was good for Britain, that despite his dullness, George was the Protestant puppet that Parliament needed in their liberal Whig transformation away from monarchial corruption – a corruption that still threatened to ruin the colonies in America. And, then there was the politico-religious threat of popery. For Thackery, being a German was far better than being Catholic! The accession of George I signaled the beginning of a new British Empire, even newer than it was upon the accession of a Dutchman in 1688. Not all of the empire, however, agreed with these Whig changes that had originally begun under King William, the Dutch king who married Mary Stuart in a compromise of sorts to usher in Parliament’s will over the sovereign.
During the majority of the seventeenth century, America developed its piratical character from the Stuarts. Although also anti-Catholic, the American soul had not changed in the same way as Britain’s. America was still Stuart, a distant imperial reminder of Charles I’s casting of Parliament aside – casting aside the will of the people, not unlike the current U. S. president’s casting aside of Congress’s oversight authority. Parliament executed that Stuart king and ruled without a monarch for eleven years. They finally restored Charles II – with conditions – but the aristocratic excess yet returned with him – as it has today with corporations – as he finished developing the American colonies. Great wealth and great violence inhabited – and still inhabits – the American side of the Atlantic – essentially there to steal Spanish treasure – so also developing great prejudice against foreigners. Americans, having later lost their human property in 1863, simply have never consented either to return pirated Spanish property to its rightful owners – nor will it allow darkened foreigners on its stolen soil - no! Can’t you read the sign – “Whites Only!”?
It required great men of power and endurance to command the “trade” in that part of the world – trade that must be taken – and not actually “traded” from their rivals. Significant cultural change had already taken place between the softening, liberalizing British and the brutal, aggressive American martial mind. Of the Spanish depredations of the “pyrate” Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Osborne lamented in 1701 that “no Peace beyond the Line [in America] was a belief so Riveted in the Opinions of all, as he could not have been Indicted anew.”[3] Britain finally desired peace, but Americans, still much in tune with Raleigh, yet craved more bloody war, like their original Stuart patrons.
University of York historian J. A. Sharpe noticed an “upsurge in upper-class debauchery” during the Stuart reign of Charles II – and when Carolina was founded.[4] In his book Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750, Sharpe said these debauchers, like Charles Sackville, the earl of Dorset, or John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester, “another courtier of vicious life,” largely passed freely and unpunished in England.[5] He also asserted about the gentleman class that “a number of types of behavior regarded as illegal by the authorities were thought of as legal, or at least justifiable on quasi-legal grounds.”[6] Court records, asserts Sharpe, reflect the consistent criminality of the lower orders – likely for reasons of sustenance – but completely ignore actions of the elite. These gentlemen were not the exceptions to the rule, but rather the rule itself in Stuart times. Their wealth and position gave them immunity from justice – they were “too big to jail.” It is reasonable to assume that when the invasion of the Spanish West Indies by the English occurred during this time, these freely-expressed negative characteristics came with these gentlemen – the violent notoriousness necessary to conquer Spain’s wealth in America. The result was an early America filled with an English criminal ruling element that showed little if any remorse for their criminal acts – a perfect pirate force to steal the wealth of the Spanish New World Empire. These attitudes spread not only to the West Indies, but also to mainland America with the establishment of Carolana with an “a” in 1629 under Charles I and Carolina with an “i” in 1663 under his son, Charles II - especially after the founding of Charles Town in 1671 by Barbadians – literally named for a Stuart monarch! Malcontents of all persuasians left England for a less-discriminating America, including ex-hero Parliamentarians with a certain fundamental ideological connection to the more northern colonies of New England. In America, they would be free to exercise the worship of their vengeful god and almost any crime with impunity!
From 1688-1689, at the accession of the Dutch Protestant reformer King William of Orange, Francis Nicholson was sent as lieutenant governor to the Dominion of New England. He quickly gained a reputation as a progressive and immediately alienated his less than enthusiastic conservative constituents in Stuart-favoring America. The Crown, though, appreciated his efforts at liberal reform, and upon his advisable departure from New England, he proceeded to Virginia to be its governor from 1690-1692. The British Crown was impressed and appointed him next to serve as Maryland’s governor from 1694-1698, and again as governor of Virginia from 1698-1705. Of his second term in this colony, biographer Natalie Zacek says that “Virginians recoiled at Nicholson's military gruffness and his uncouth public courtship of Lucy Burwell,” and his “attempts at reform threatened the power of such men as William Byrd I, so that several members of the governor's Council—including Nicholson's former ally, [James] Blair—convinced the Crown to remove him.”[7] Americans fought back! Neither progressives nor liberal reformers could grow amenable roots “beyond the lines of amity” in America – especially while at war, which, for America today, is just as frequent overseas – if not brutally consistant with hired mercenaries to do the dirty work and bring back the gold – or, in this case, oil. 
Once again, the Crown’s reform efforts in the colonies had been put aside for Queen Anne’s War, in which the future “Blackbeard,” or Jamaican gentleman Edward Thache participated. Nicholson returned to London and petitioned the new queen to make an expedition to take French territories in Canada. Nicholson captured the French Port Royal on October 2, 1710. This battle began the conquest of Acadia and permanent British control over Nova Scotia. In that effort, he combined forces with Sir Hovendon Walker, then commander of HMS Windsor – at one time, Thache’s ship – at the head of his fleet, perhaps with Thache aboard. Much of Walker’s fleet foundered on rocks near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. The expedition was cancelled, which greatly angered Nicholson, leading the land forces. He reportedly tore off his powdered wig and threw it to the ground when he heard the news. He spent some time afterward as Nova Scotia’s governor in Boston. There, he re-attempted his reform efforts, again, angering colonials, and removed these “notorious” American malcontents from office. Still, they all claimed him to be mad and had him declared incompetent. They regained their positions and cast Nicholson from New England. This was a common tactic used by colonial conservatives to maintain their power in America against the efforts of British Whig reformers.
Undeterred as a reformer, still the fervent wish of the growing Whig ministry under George I, Nicholson then found appointment as first royal governor of South Carolina during the more turbulent second phrase of the Golden Age of Piracy from 1721 to 1725. His instructions from the Crown cite the usual dealings with Indians, trade, and such, but a preamble to these instructions involved the legal issues surrounding piracy. His superiors realized that their initial efforts at reform could not be trusted purely in still-conservative colonial hands. Once the Crown gained control from the corruptly-Stuart Lords Proprietors, Carolina’s former private owners, they would still attempt to use this new Bahamian base in America to ensure reform – but, as all best laid plans….
Americans did not want reform and had proven quite obstinate and stubborn. They abused the procedures for piracy trials under the outline laid out by Sir Charles Hedges in the late seventeeth century. Edward Randolph’s assertion that pirates could not try pirates resoundingly rang true. The preamble called for no less than seven men, the governor or his representative being required as one. Also, the other six being “no person but Such as were known Merchantts, factors, or Planters or Such as Captains, Lieutenants or Warrant Officers in any of his said Late Majesties Ships of Warr or Captains, Masters, or Mates of some English shoar Should be Capable of being So Called and Sitting and Voting in the said Court.”[8] The word “English” is ambiguous here. It was not “British,” although the distinction is barely noticed today – at a time when these distinctions are nowhere near as important. Why write this detail or make this distinction? Americans had not been prone to put French or Spanish citizens on their admiralty courts – nationality was not the problem. Could it be that “English shoar” referred to the actual shores of England herself? It’s subtle, but, the Crown likely had not wanted natural-born Americans, as well as foreigners, judging pirate trials or administering justice to their own. Many English vessels visited the colonies on a regular basis. South Carolina records show a regular pattern of trans-Atlantic commerce from Bristol, Liverpool, London, as well as West Indian traffic. These “Captains, Masters, and Mates” of “English shoars” – not colonial or provincial – would be readily available to serve on such courts in America.
Nicholson’s superiors were quite serious – their subtly anti-pirate preamble went on for almost five full pages before Nicholson’s actual instructions began. They listed three anti-piracy acts: 11th William III, 1st George I (not only to prevent piracy, but specifically piracies on the king’s ships), 10th Anne I (on building county jails), and 12th William III (reiterating 13th Charles II for support of the navy overseas). One might get the impression that the Crown did not trust those remote provincials in the American wilderness. They had good reason!
The instructions themselves contain the usual references, with specific exception. No. 56 was undoubtedly generated by the extreme difficulties with the Richard Tookerman-Henry Wills case of that same year in London Courts. This instruction read that “no persons for the future be Sent as Prisoners to this Kingdom from the said Province of South Carolina, without Sufficient Proof of their Crimes, and that proof transmitted along with the Said Prisoners.”[9] Capt. Edward Vernon probably nodded his approval for the Crown’s caution – still smarting financially from that affair. He paid £1,200 in fines from the resulting judgement of false arrest, a travesty of justice expertly manipulated by pirates Tookerman and Wills – similar to the consistent obstruction of Republican President Donald J. Trump and his Attorney General William Barr in refusing to free the wheels of justice in America’s Trump Era by holding out on the Mueller Report and angering Democrats across the nation and in Congress.
Instructions 67-70 may have been of strong interest to Edward Thache. They concerned “Merchants and Planters of the West Indies” in corresponding and trading with the French Islands in those parts. The 5th and 6th articles of their mutual 1686 treaty prohibited “to Trade and Fish in all Places possessed or which shall be possessed by the other in America.”[10] The Crown worried that intelligence would leak to their Catholic enemy by continuous contact with these English traders – indeed as privateers and pirates gained intelligence from them. While at the Virginia Capes with Benjamin Hornigold, pirate Edward Thache may have been quite pleased to learn from Capt. Pritchard about the future visit of a large, lightly-manned and gunned slave ship (La Concorde) near Martinique. Pritchard had come upon the pirates as he sailed northward from his home port of St. Lucia, in the French Windwards. Still, once Thache arrived there, and soon after taking La Concorde, Thache might also have been quite annoyed with such English merchants as Christopher Taylor trading to Bequia. Taylor was the only man in any record who claimed violence was done to him directly by Thache, although greed - the money – may also have influenced Thache to do so. Furthermore, Thache never hanged Taylor from the yardarm, as he threatened; so, it may yet have been a bluff. Still, Thache expressed a particular annoyance with the French, who consistently threatened his home of Jamaica and with whom he fought consistently in the former war. His actions after capturing his Queen Anne’s Revenge demonstrate a steady determination to hurt the French in the French Windward Islands and at Petit Goâve in French Hispaniola.
Stuart Tories, Jacobites, and many elite Americans of conservative persuasion saw King William’s progressive policies and those of his successors and their many reforming administrative “Dutch dogs” as weakness. War had been natural for them. One may hear that “Might made right; strength over weakness made a resilient nation – it commanded trade and ensured profit,” or “Only the truly strong could be truly free.” “Piracy had become so interwoven into the social infrastructure of the Atlantic colonies,” writes Douglas R. Burgess, “that it helped shape the policies of many colonial governments.”[11] Piracy had built America. It completed the task begun in 1588 at the defeat of the Spanish Armada. British piracy had taken by force the precious treasures of Spain’s overseas empire. Piracy provided “many goods and luxuries that colonists from Boston to Charleston later took for granted.”[12] The end of King William’s War initiated a political transformation. Differentiation from England had occurred for at least the past five generations, 3,000 miles away, “beyond the lines” of amity, with West Indians consistently beating everyone else, including their own. The strong and martial Stuart ideologues in America were winning. By far, they won the lion’s share of the gold, silver, sugar, indigo, rum, and molasses. Of course, they should keep it for themselves, not give it to the British who ignored their needs! “Illegal” trade of piracy had become the primary source for goods on the American market. Remember that “legal” and “illegal” are wholly ambiguous terms, just like “treason,” “sovereign,” “freedom,” or “pirate.”
Britain’s efforts at reform only strengthened a conservative America’s resolve. As in Somalia, piracy can be a desperate act of resistance to perceived change or injustice. So it was in early America. This extraordinarily Stuart conservative New World Empire was threatened by changing liberal ideals back home in Britain itself since the accession of King William in 1688 and, again, with the end of Stuart rule upon the death of Queen Anne in 1713. The accession of the “Dutch dog” George I was the last straw. Conservatives or Tories of the eighteenth century, either in England or America saw their world and their profit coming to an end when a German king took the throne of Britain. It did not really matter that he was Protestant and not Catholic, although much has been made about that distinction and the religious differences had played their part. The main points, however, had little relation to religion. They were financial, political, and, to an increasing extent, cultural – the new king was a threat to their Stuart policies in America. He was the most liberal monarch yet foisted upon them from 3,000 miles away, and even, not English, Scottish, Irish, or even Welsh! George I was an immigrant king in his own country.
Jacobites, followers of the Stuart line of James III, or the ousted “Pretender,”responded with an attack on England to restore his rightful place on the throne. Pirates of the Golden Age in the West Indies may have believed that their actions aided the same agenda. These conservatives lashed out at a purportedly unfair system that threatened their traditions. Still, they were not yet prepared to mount a revolution and probably would have backed down had it not been for the glittery treasure, a source of great profit, spilled on the Florida shores in July 1715. The timing created a perfect storm in America.
During the Golden Age of Piracy, Douglas Burgess asserts, “Loyalty (or at least deference) to the English flag, which had been a hallmark of the profession [piracy] since the sixteenth century, gradually succumbed to a quite different sentiment: ‘war against all the world.’”[13] This shift in basic intent denoted a change in far more than just politics: it was territorial, the final culmination of cultural differentiation between England and America – the bonds snapped. Burgess said that this shift caused some, like Marcus Rediker, to “posit a protodemocracy of pirates that stood apart from and in conflict with the Crown and its colonies.”[14] Burgess’ desire to explain piracy as a phenomenon separate from American politics, however, handicaps his interpretations. Americans all across the continent and in the West Indies enjoyed and benefitted from the same “pirate,” or one-sided autocracy. Rediker was correct except that his “conflict with the Crown and colonies” was really just a conflict of the colonies with the Crown. America tested its hegemony in the water. It revolted against England in the Golden Age and simply failed the first time around – the second, however, would succeed. The argument is inescapable – we diverged from Britain in that they moved away from piracy while we firmly embraced it and created our culture from it. The umbilical cord snapped. America ideologically separated from Britain and began to truly see itself as an independent “Pirate Nation.” No amount of redeemer or conservative rhetoric would change that.


[1] Redington, ed., Calendar of Treasury Papers: 1720-1728, 166-167.
[2] William M. Thackery, The Four Georges: Sketches of Manners, Morals, Court and Town Life (London: Smith, Elder, 1860), 52–53.
[3] Francis Osborne, The works of Francis Osborn, Esq; divine, moral, historical, political (London: printed for A. and J. Churchil, at the Black Swan in Pater-Noster-Row, 1701), 378.
[4] J. A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750 (Essex: Longman Group Limited, 1984), 97.
[5]Ibid.
[6]Ibid., 12.
[7] Natalie Zacek, “Francis Nicholson (1655–1728),” Encyclopedia Virginia (Richmond: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 2016), http://www.encyclopedaniavirginia.org/ (accessed 30 Jul 2016).
[8] "South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-19424-37315-19?cc=1919417 : 21 May 2014), Charleston > Miscellaneous record, 1696-1729 > image 128 of 301; citing Department of Archives and History, Columbia.
[9]Ibid., image 138 of 301.
[10]Ibid., image 139 of 301.
[11] Douglas R. Burgess, Jr., The Pirate’s Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History’s Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), 169.
[12]Ibid.
[13] Burgess, Politics of Piracy, 200.
[14]Ibid.


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