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Friday, September 25, 2020

Dumas to Maurepas: The Order to Execute La Buse - 1730


FR-ANOM COL C3/5/002 ff. 120 



Sent to France in 1770
Bales of Coffee, harvested in Bourbon [no pirate mentioned here?]


Notice to the arrest or force of pirate Olivier Le Vasseur or La Buse, our Mr. D'Hermitte.
They had read, the condemnation to his execution.


[Document: FR-ANOM COL C3/5/002 ff. 120-121]
Monseigr. The Count of Maurepas

Mr. Dumas
L'isle de Bourbon this December 20, 1730 [J: 9 Dec 1730]*

My lord

This year we are shipping the vessel La Meduse commanded by Sr. D'Hermitte fully responsible for the 770 bales of coffee amounting to 3166 [.] 00[lt: livre] from the region of this Isle [Bourbon]; and we still have a considerable part of it in the store which has not been taken on board.

Sr. D'Hermitte in the last trip he made to Madagascar, having arrested and caught him there [ca. April 1730] named Olivier Le Vasseur known as La Buze, famous pirate captain, his procedure was made at the request of the Attorney General, and he was condemned by order of council of July 17, In.[instant?: 1730; this was the date of his condemnation and order of execution - still he was hanged on 7 July - might be a typo on the original document with an added "1" and repeated - see next doc]

This man made in 1721 in harbor of this Isle [Bourbon] two captures one of a vessel of King of Portugal [Nossa Senhora do Cabo or Vierge de Cap; then of only 21 guns, but pirates refitted her with 60 guns] of 60 pieces of guns, which he boarded, and the other from a vessel called The Ville d'Ostende [City of Ostend] belonging to the Comp. from the same city - he also took and burnt after taking in the same time the vessel of Comp. of France the Duchess of Noailles commanded by Sr. Grâve of St. Malo [Platel was former captain; Sr. Robert was then in command when she was destroyed, Grâve was the owner], this Buze then mounted the pirate ship the Victorious and to have with him another ship named Defense [at this time, it was Cassandra; Defense was the new name given to the refitted Nossa Senhora do Cabo; Dumas mixed up his info after 9 years] commanded by an Englishman called Taylor.*

Rhubarb [an expression or the plant?] is starting to multiply in Isle Bourbon, there are currently more so-called seedlings, I have the honor with deep respect.


Your humble obedient servant

* It should be noted that Pierre Benoist Dumas had not been present for the piratical events in 1721 when Nossa Senhora do Cabo or Vierge de Cap was captured by LeVasseur et al. He arrived on La Bourbon about 1727, replacing Desforges-Boucher, who in turn replaced Beauvollier, who was the governor who originally offered pardons to LeVasseur, Cleyton, Adam Johnson, and their crews in 1724.


From: Archives Colonials – Bourbon, carton 2 – Letter de M. Dumas, 29 December 1730 [J: 18 Dec 1730]; also Mr. Dumas, Governor of Bourbon, to Minister de Maurepas, December 29, 1730, Centre des Archives dOutre Mer, Aix en Provence, Correspondance générale de Bourbon, t. V, 1727-1731.

According to the deliberation of the Superior Council of Bourbon on 7 July 1730 [J: 26 Jun]:

By advice, the criminal proceedings extraordinarily made and instructed at the request and diligence of the Attorney General of the King [illegible] and accusation against Olivier Levasseur nicknamed “La Bouse” accused of the crime of piracy, prisoner in our prisons, defendant in the affirmation made the 26 of March [J: 15 Mar] and 19 of May [J: 8 May] last at the declaration of Sieur d’Hermitte captain of the ship La Méduse, [showing as evidence] the letter of said Levasseur dated March 25, 1724 [J: 14 Mar] addressed to Monsieur Desforges and signed Olivier La Buse, by him recognized and initialed, nor variation.

[Also offered to the court, the] Letter from the Superior Council to Sieur La Buse for response dated 23 September of the same year granting Amnesty and Surety, [and supported in the] interrogation suffered by the accused on 15 May [J: 4 May] and 20 May 1730 [J: 9 May] and 03 [J: 22 Jun] of this month. First general conclusion of the king of the 04 [July] [J: 23 Jun], [and] preparatory judgment of the same day which orders that it will proceed to the final judgment [to be] awaited [by] the public notoriety.
Final conclusion of the Attorney General of the King of the 06 [July; J: 25 Jun], sudden interrogation in the room of the council [illegible] and all considered the council declared and [illegible] the name “Olivier Levasseur dit la Buse,” native of Calais, hard hit of the knowledge of the crime of piracy for several years, for having ordered several pirate ships to be taken and brought to the roadstead of Bourbon Island, a vessel belonging to king of Portugal and another named the City of Ostend belonging to the company of the same city, but equally participated in the capture, plunder, and firing of the vessel La Duchesse de Noailles belonging to the company of France and other [illegible], for repair of which the council condemned him and ordered to make amends in front of the principal door of the church of this parish, naked in a shirt, the rope at his collar, in hand, a torch of two pounds of pitch for there, to say and declare with high and intelligible voice, that For a long time, he was a reckless and reckless man who became a filibuster [pirate] and asked for forgiveness from God, the king and justice. [note that there is no mention in any primary source of him throwing a cipher on a large piece of parchment in the crowd - where would an essentially naked man hide one, anyway?]

This sentence will be carried out in a public place to be hanged and strangled until death ensues on a gallows erected for this purpose. (He) will be hanged in the usual place his dead body will remain there 24 hours and then exposed to the waters’ edge… his belongings are confiscated for the benefit of the king, and he must also pay a fine of one hundred pounds for the offense done to “the Lord King.” Done and declared in the council chamber on July 17, 1730 [J: 6 Jul; note this is probably a typo]. Dumas.**

*Julian dates are included because French dates were based on the Gregorian calendar and were 11 days later than English who used the Julian.

** This is obviously partly copied into his letter of 20 Dec 1730 to Maurepas. 

The Degradation of La Buse - 30 September 1724

ANOM COL C3 4 1-22 - 30 Sep 1724 Desforges Boucher

30 September 1724 

M. Desforge a Boucher to Louis XV

Only forty of these unfortunate degraded people without a ship remain on the island of Madagascar, who implore their amnesty unable to support themselves and perish there of misery, although they have a number of diamonds, which are of no use to them for to obtain the necessary for life, not having, moreover, a penny in cash. There were still about sixty there at the beginning of this year, but eighteen or twenty got loose in a boat of about twenty-five tons and came here to ask for their amnesty and that of the others who remained after them in Madagascar. While the greater part of their colleagues were here ashore [~23 Sep 1724 at Saint-Paul, Ile de Bourbon], those remaining on board murdered at ten o'clock in the evening their own captain, named John Cleyton, English, with a pistol shot charged with three bullets fired from behind, and at the touching point the wadding set his shirt on fire. And immediately removed the boat, after nevertheless having thrown into their small canoe, five of them all chopped from the wounds they had received, wanting to avenge their captain. Those wounded as they were fled to the ground, and since then we have not heard of what became of them. Those who were ashore and those who fled have since remained very dependent on the colony, where their diamonds are not common commodities although they do have quite considerable quantities. I sent to France on the Company's ship, the Royal-Philippe, almost all these wretches with their iniquitous booty, willingly shedding such vermin on a colony which had objects more useful to the State

[…] Most of it has been slaughtered and poisoned by blacks, or by themselves. These are the most miserable of them who remained on the island, among which is the named La Buse [Olivier LeVasseur de la Buse], who was one of their captains, who after having dispelled or lost the unworthy fruit of his piracy, replied to those who escorted him to take advantage of the impunity offered to him. […] But the rest of the population, through the abuses they committed to procure slaves and women, did not support them with difficulty, taking advantage of the slightest disturbance to eliminate them physically or, more subtly, by poisoning them little by little. small. […] They remain distant from each other without any union. They hold this coast of Ambanivoulle from the 13 ° degree 40 minutes where is the large point which, with reefs, forms a kind of fort called Anglebay, to the river of Manangharre, not far from the bay of Antongil, it is across this coast that the island of Sainte-Marie is situated, which has a good port in a small bay, although a little spoiled by ships sunk with their entire cargo. It is not on this island that the pirates have withdrawn, as it has been believed, but only remain on one of the islets which [lies within] it [Ile aux Forbans or "Pirates Island"]. A mulatto saw there entrenched with palisades where he mounted a few pieces of cannon, as each of these brigands do in particular, who have become inhabitants of these islands, being obliged to be on guard against one another. They undertake to come and stay with them, and to take their defenses, the blacks of the surroundings where they make their establishments. Which are so fond of them that they can hope for some benefit from them, and slaughter and poison them when they can get nothing more from them. However, they keep and highly esteem their mulatto children, who came from the alliance of these pirates with the women of the country. Many are masters of such establishments and have a great deal of authority among the blacks who gladly put them at their head when they go to war. Almost all of these mulattoes, when they found the opportunity, followed in their fathers' footsteps and raced [pirated].

Desforges Boucher, Governor of Bourbon. Mail to Louis XV


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The True Story of La Buse's Grave on the Island of La Réunion

"La véritable histoire de La Buse" from the Office of Western Tourism, Department of the Island of La Réunion at :

 March 04, 2020

The tomb of La Buse, surmounted by a cross marked with a skull and crossed tibias, it is quite a story ...

…. and it is impossible that La Buse could have been buried there [at the marine and slave cemetery of Saint-Paul], the cemetery having been created long after his death [58 years].

 It is the site of a number of popular practices. An affixed plaque tells the story ...

 Here is the real story of this "real / fake grave":

Convicted of piracy crime, Olivier Levasseur [said to have been born in Calais, France where a baptism was recorded at Pas-de-Calais archives, Notre Dame de Calais church (5 MIR 193/30,
p.817) for "Olivier, the son of Olivier and Anne Lensse Vasseur" in 1695], nicknamed "La Buse" was executed in Saint-Paul on July 7, 1730 and his body exposed by the sea [see note below]. The exact place of burial remains unknown and the current cemetery was established only in 1788.

[BCBNote: His body was likely buried in a shallow grave below the high-water mark of the shore. "The Judgement of La Buse," available on Laura Nelson's blog The Whydah Pirates Speak, at states that the body of La Buse "will be planted at the usual place his dead body remained there 24 hours and then exposed to the edge from the sea." Pirates were usually treated in this careless fashion, their souls or "last rights" to eternity having been forfeited by their unrepentant criminal lives. So, it's highly likely that his actual remains have washed out to sea.]

[BCBNote: furthermore, as I argue in Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates at Madagascar, this document and all the writings to and from Dumas, the governor who signed his death warrant, about La Buse state that the former pirate was hung in only a night shirt and could not have hidden a parchment containing any cipher to the location of his treasure - and they also never spoke of any parchment that he supposedly threw out at his hanging - so please stop digging up the beautiful tropical islands of the Indian Ocean looking for it! Dumas and his men took whatever treasure might have been in La Buse's possession in 1730 - Dumas even said so! La Buse's operations on Nosy Mangabe in Antongil Bay were also taken over by the man who captured and took him from there, Capt. Hiacynthe d'Hermitte of La Méduse]

On April 11, 1944, the day after a devastating cyclone and tidal wave, the Saint-Paulois Ignace de Villèle found a stone cross among the devastated walls of the cemetery. Since it bears no indication other than pirate symbols, he moves it here and places it against the enclosure of his family's graves.


It was on this site that in the 1970s that the current funeral monument was erected in memory of La Buse. It attracts so many visitors that it has come to be regarded as the real tomb of the character thus contributing to his fame.

Since 2010, it has been discovered that the tombstone used came from an abandoned burial, that of the former slave Delphine Helod. Having been freed in 1835 by her masters, the Mallac family, she could have been buried in the cemetery of the whites and the free unlike the pirate in 1730. The stone had been turned over.

Its engraved face still bears this inscription:

“In memory of Delphine Hélod, born in Sainte-Marie on August 7, 1809, died on May 13, 1836.
His good behavior, his good feelings, his affection for his masters earned him freedom and this weak testimony of their regrets ”