Monday, February 10, 2020

Bonnet's Revenge.. Maybe?

From Naval Office Shipping Lists for Barbados, 1678-1819 pt1, CO 33-13--17 - Barbados, 1678-1733
This record for Godfrey Malbone in Revenge leaving Barbados "without clearing" has been used to explain Stede Bonnet's departure from Barbados as a pirate.. still, was William Barrow in the Defiance of Barbados (also appearing on the same page) also a pirate? 

Couldn't Bonnet have departed the island from a private dock and not even left a port record? Indeed, Bonnet's name never appeared in these records. At first, the vessel name Revenge leaving Barbados at this time also seemed like a good point to me.. before I took a closer look at the shipping records and doubts set in.

I should note here that context needs to be applied, for being listed as “Gone Without Clearing” was unusual, but by no means unknown. Several were listed the same way in a space of just two years.. Malbone's vessel was named "Revenge," which was also not unusual.

Edward Codington, master of Virgin’s Venture of Rhode Island also left Barbados in Oct 1716 without clearing. Note also that Codington was back in these records, trading at Barbados the next year.

Swift and Nightengale, both of Barbados, masters William Hamilton and George Pritchard, respectively, also left without clearing that same spring of 1717.

Thomas Stewart in Jonathan & Elizabeth left Barbados “without clearing” on 7 Jan 1717.

Little Mary of Barbados, master Pat Doogood, may also have “done badly” and left without clearing the following June.

It should be noted that Stede Bonnet himself does not appear in these records and presuming that he did not leave the island in his Revenge (previously assumed to have been built by Bonnet himself) from a private dock, his vessel should have been noted in CO 33-13—17.

Still, the timing of this Revenge’s illicit departure is good for the time Stede Bonnet would have left the island. Further still, Malbone and his sloop’s appearance in this record - relying simply upon the name Revenge – is by no means the strongest of evidence for Stede Bonnet’s sloop having absconded from Barbados in this fashion.

Still, this excerpt from the Boston News-Letter of 28 October 1717 makes it highly suspicious that this vessel Revenge, of Newport, Rhode Island had indeed been taken by Stede Bonnet:

Just published 2nd Electronic Edition of Quest for Blackbeard!

Some of the poorer sort went aboard pirate ships and sloops as crew, certainly, but they usually were not as well educated as those who navigated them. The tale of these early pirate leaders’ gentlemanly demeanor, formerly wealthy privateers, has been confined, narrowed, and almost eradicated by literary rhetoric. Worse still, modern historians attempt to explain them all as an early form of democratic society, confusing some of these gentlemen with the common people and further skewing their reality. The people we call “pirates” today most resemble those found in the Bahamas after 1715, driven out by 1718, scattered refugees of a barren island and rude maritime subsistence, but the real pirate leaders of the Golden Age were wealthy – the 97% were blamed for the crimes of the 3%! This injustice is where we must begin the true Quest for Blackbeard!
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