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Monday, February 01, 2016

Are Jacobites Criminals or just Political Protestors?

It was a general practice to raise the British flag (colors) before any ship in harbor fired a salute. To do so without raising colors was considered a violation of proper Royal maritime tradition and a slight against the king or queen. It might also reflect one's political stance, whether conservative or liberal - for the king/queen or against - Tory or Whig. The years following the end of the Anglo-Scottish or British House of Stuart and the beginning of the new German House of Hanover, completely foreign to the British people, caused political reverberations in the Empire that "disaffected" individuals could only safely protest by subtle means, such as not raising colors before a salute - to purposely slight the reigning German monarch. 

Tories, or those conservatives who supported the monarchy over an increasingly powerful Parliament (British Congress), had lately become outraged at the end of the Stuart line in 1713, when Queen Anne died. That supposedly divine Royal line was subsequently replaced by a Whig or liberal Parliament with a foreigner, German George I of Hanover. Some British still saw the monarchy as an extension of God himself and any removal of a monarch by man or any group of men - such as Parliament - heresy. This had been boiling under the surface since the Glorious Revolution in 1688 when the Catholic James II was ousted.

James III - "Pretender"
Adding to the religious-political division since the Hanoverian succession in 1714, German Palatine refugees were flooding England under George's overt support. To make matters worse, George nor his son, George II spoke English. Only George III, the grandson who oversaw the war with Americans in the American Revolution, had grown up in English tradition. 
Queen Anne - Last Stuart Monarch
Parliament's "outrageous" act, placing a German on the English throne in lieu of the rightful successor and son of James II, typically annoyed British conservatives, who again attempted to restore the Stuart line with James III in 1715. This was one of many Jacobite Rebellions (1688-1750s) in which these pro-establishment conservatives suddenly became staunchly anti-establishment revolutionaries against what they viewed as an oppressive government. Many involved in that rebellion were shipped off to America, adding to the growing political division that already existed there. Conservative Jacobites also held court in Rome (the Stuart line held a generally "Papist" or Catholic persuasion) to support their political position and had great hopes that God would restore the Stuart line in England. 

In fact, a great many English favored restoration. Nathaniel Mist, Jacobite polemicist journalist of London's Weekly Journal and suspected author of A General History of the Pyrates, stirred up some trouble from time to time, especially in 1721, but he was largely supported by the general population, even while protected by the crowds while being pilloried in Charing Cross.

This all occurred at the beginning of the Golden Age of Piracy, which some have described as a type of Jacobite Rebellion. I, however, would describe it as more of a treasure lust after 14,000,000 pesos worth of silver alone spilled on the Florida shore, just west of the Bahamas, and in easy reach of the wreckers and pirates there, as well as the wealthy privateers and smugglers from Jamaica and Bermuda. A hurricane of July 30, 1715 wrecked eleven Spanish treasure galleons full of three years worth of produce from mines in Mexico and South America. The chance of riches drove the entire Atlantic community mad. This only exacerbated the religious-political division that had developed between Tory and Whig, and largely between England and the American colonies, where pirates virtually ruled their own kingdom.

George I of Hanover
Enter into this political turmoil, the gentleman pirate Capt. Richard Tookerman, wanted in South Carolina for breaking fellow pirates Stede Bonnet and David Herriot from prison in October 1718, stealing money and jewels from William Rhett Jr., stealing horses, forging passes to Virginia, escaping British authorities in Virginia to Barbados, there obtaining the sloop Adventure, stealing slaves and trying to sell them in the Leeward Islands... then, at last back in Port Royal Harbor and while eating lunch with several important grandees of Jamaica, including a colonel of the militia and Mrs. Pendigrass, on the Pretender's (James III - the "Jacobian" exiled Stuart would-be king from England) birthday, June 10th, in 1721, fired a 5-gun salute from Adventure WITHOUT raising colors - TWICE, even after once being warned... all of these things showed himself decidedly to be one of those people "Disaffected toward the king" (the new German king George I), or known as a "Jacobite."

Being Jacobite, however, was merely a political position, much like being a conservative Tea Partier today with a Democrat president. It was not a criminal thing, unless you protested outside of the law, like the rebels sent to the West Indies and the Carolinas.

Port Royal Docks

Once arrested, "friends of the said Tookerman," headed by an ex-Royal Navy Lieut., Thomas Cardiff, attempted to murder the commander of His Majesty's navy in Jamaica, Capt Edward Vernon. Vernon hauled Tookerman to London for trial where the Lord Chief Justice let him go. Tookerman then sued Vernon for false arrest and won the case, resulting in L1200 damages from Vernon.Tookerman then joined his pirate friends Daniel and Thomas Porter in the Bahamas and went on the account again with Bartholomew Roberts. He finally died in 1726, a wealthy gentleman with a namesake who later helped to found a local church in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

You can find more details of this story in Really! Pirates and Tea Party Conservatism

In light of these results, London authorities obviously only arrested suspected Jacobite rebels when they broke the law... similar to the protests of the occupiers of the Oregon federal sanctuary by those sympathetic with rancher Cliven Bundy.

Pirates were largely Jacobite; however, Jacobites, like Tea Partiers in America today, were simply extreme British conservatives; this is certainly not a crime within itself - assuming you don't try to overthrow the government. Whigs and Tories, Progressives and conservatives, even those of the extreme varieties, get along just fine, as long as they don't talk politics. It's like a progressive today barbecuing chicken or steaks with his conservative next-door neighbor when the Carolina Panthers football game is on. Unless one decides to turn pirate and steal all the food, then everyone, Whig and Tory alike, can have a good time and enjoy the game. ;)

Note that pirate scholar E. T. Fox has disputed some of this article. His article "Jacobitism and the “Golden Age” of Piracy, 1715-1725" in the International Journal of Maritime History describes a bit more seriousness to perceived Jacobitism. It is excellent work and is available here:

Blackbeard Reconsidered: Mist's Piracy, Thache's Genealogy on

Today's popular image of the pirate Blackbeard as a bloodthirsty criminal, "a Devil incarnate," has its origins in Nathaniel Mist's A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724). Mist's narrative only accounts for the last two years of Blackbeard's life, yet subsequent historians and scholars accepted and promoted this colorful but unsubstantiated image for three centuries. In Blackbeard Reconsidered, historian Baylus Brooks examines the myth of Blackbeard in the light of official government records in Jamaica and Church of England records. This new evidence allows Brooks to present the immediate lineage of Edward Thache, a respected resident of Spanish Town, Jamaica, and to place the gentleman's actions within an accurate historical context that successfully challenges the violent image of Blackbeard.

Was Blackbeard a GENTLEMAN? Historical records show feared pirate was actually an aristocratic family man who gave up his wealth to help his brother and sister

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