The Rise of European Piracy in the East



From the first days of European enterprisein the East, the coasts of India were regarded as a favourable field forfilibusters [=freebooters], the earliest we hear of being Vincente Sodre,a companion of Vasco da Gama in his second voyage. Intercourse with heathensand idolaters was regulated according to a different code of ethics fromthat applied to intercourse with Christians. The authority of the Old Testamentupheld slavery, and Africans were regarded more as cattle than human beings;while Asiatics were classed higher, but still as immeasurably inferiorto Europeans. To prey upon Mahommedan ships was simply to pursue in otherwaters the chronic warfare carried on against Moors and Turks in the Mediterranean.The same feelings that led the Spaniards to adopt the standard of the Crossin their conquest of Mexico and Peru were present, though less openly avowed,in the minds of the merchants and adventurers of all classes and nationalitieswho flocked into the Indian seas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.With the decadence of buccaneering and the growth of Indian trade, therewas a corresponding increase of piracy, and European traders ceased toenjoy immunity.In 1623 the depredations of the Dutch brought theEnglish into disgrace. Their warehouses at Surat were seized, and the presidentand factors were placed in irons, in which condition they remained sevenmonths. This grievance was the greater, as it happened at the time thatthe cruel torture and execution of Captain Towerson and his crew by theDutch took place at Amboyna. It was bad enough to be made responsible forthe doings of their own countrymen, but to be punished for the misdeedsof their enemies was a bitter pill to swallow. In 1630, just as peace wasbeing concluded with France and Spain, Charles I., who was beginning hisexperiment of absolute government, despatched the Seahorse, CaptainQuail, to the Red Sea to capture the ships and goods of Spanish subjects,as well as of any other nations not in league and amity with England.
There were no Spaniards in the Red Sea or the IndianOcean, but international arrangements in Europe were not regarded whenthe equator had been crossed. Quail captured a Malabar vessel, for whichthe Company's servants at Surat were forced to pay full compensation. TheSeahorsereturned to England in 1633, but in view of the new field of enterpriseopened up, Endymion Porter, Gentleman of the King's bedchamber, embarkedon a piratical speculation, in partnership with two London merchants, Bonnelland Kynaston, with a licence under the privy seal to visit any part ofthe world and capture ships and goods of any state not in league and amitywith England. Two ships, the Samaritan and Roebuck, werefitted out with such secrecy that the East India Company were kept in ignorance,and sailed in April 1635, for the Red Sea, under Captain Cobb.
The Samaritan was wrecked in the ComoroIslands; but Cobb, continuing his cruise with the Roebuck, capturedtwo Mogul vessels at the mouth of the Red Sea, from one of which he tooka large sum of money and a quantity of goods, though the vessel had a passfrom the Surat factory. Again the Company's servants at Surat were imprisoned,and not released till they had paid full compensation. Some small satisfactionwas experienced when it became known that John Proud, master of the Swan,one of the Company's ships, had encountered the Roebuck in the ComoroIslands, and had attacked the freebooter. He was unable to capture it,but succeeded in procuring restitution of the captured goods; the treasure,however, was carried off to London, where it must have seemed as if thedays of Drake and Hawkins had come again.
The Company laid their grievance before the King,who expressed much concern, promising to write to the Great Mogul and explainmatters; so the Company commenced an action against Bonnell and Kynastonin the Admiralty Court. Porter was too highly placed to be struck at. Bonnellevaded arrest and escaped to France, but Kynaston was arrested and lodgedin gaol; upon which Charles ordered his release on bail, saying he wouldtry the case himself at his leisure.
But Porter's views went beyond a single piraticalvoyage. Hardly had Cobb started on his cruise, when he entered into partnershipwith Sir William Courten for an association to establish a separate tradeto the East Indies. A royal grant was obtained, and the King himself wascredited with a share to the nominal extent of £10,000. The grantwas a flagrant breach of faith, and was the inauguration of the systemof interlopers that in after years caused so much loss and trouble to theCompany. Four ships were equipped and sent out, and before long it becameknown that two vessels from Surat and Diu had been plundered by Courten'sships, and their crews tortured. Again the Company's servants at Suratwere seized and thrown into prison, where they were kept for two months,being only released on payment of Rs.1,70,000, and on solemnly swearingto respect Mogul ships.
The Civil War brought these courtly piracies toan end, and the decay of the Spanish power drew the more turbulent spiritsof Europe and America to the Spanish main, so that for a time there wasa diminution of European piracy in Indian waters. As buccaneering becamemore dangerous, or less lucrative, adventurers of all nations again appearedin Eastern waters, and the old trouble reappeared in an aggravated form.The Indian Red Sea fleet offered an especially tempting booty to the rovers.Lobo, a Jesuit priest writing in the seventeenth century, tells us thatso vast was the commerce of Jeddah, and so great the value of the shipstrading to that place, that when in India it was wished to describe a thingof inestimable price, it was customary to say, 'It is of more value thana Jeddah ship.' Every year during the winter months, Indian traders, andpilgrims for Mecca, found their way in single ships to the Red Sea. Onthe setting in of the monsoon, they collected at Mocha, and made theirway back in a single body. All Indian trade with the Red Sea was paid forin gold and silver, so that the returning ships offered many tempting prizesto freebooters.
In 1683 John Hand, master of the Bristol,interloper, cleared his ship with papers made out for Lisbon and Brazil,and sailed for Madeira. There he called his crew together, and told themhe intended to take his ship to the East Indies. Those who were unwillingwere overawed, Hand being a mighty 'passionate' man. He appears to havebeen half pirate and half trader; equally ready to attack other traders,or to trade himself in spices and drugs. On the Sumatra coast, findingthe natives unwilling to do business with him, he went ashore with a pistolin his pocket to bring the 'black dogs' to reason. The pistol went offin his pocket and shattered his thigh, and that was the end of John Hand.
In the same year six men, of whom four were Englishand two Dutch, while on passage in a native merchant's ship from the PersianGulf to Surat, seized the ship, killing the owner and his two wives. Thelascars were thrown overboard, six being retained to work the ship. Theircruise did not last long. Making for Honore, they threw the six lascarsoverboard when nearing the port. The men managed to get to land, and reachingHonore, gave information of the would-be pirates to the local authorities,who seized the ship, and soon disposed of the rogues.
Three years later, two ships under English colours,mounting respectively forty-four and twenty guns, were reported to havecaptured vessels in the Red Sea, to the value of Rs.600,000. The Seedeeof Jinjeera, who styled himself the Mogul's Admiral, received a yearlysubsidy of four lakhs for convoying the fleet, a duty that he was quiteunable to perform against European desperadoes. Public opinion at Suratwas at once excited against the English, and further inflamed by the Dutchand French, who were only too anxious to see a rival excluded from thetrade. Sir John Child, to pacify the Governor, offered to send a man-of-warto look for the pirates; but the Dutch and French factors continued to'spitt their venom' till the Governor laughed in their faces and askedwhy they did not join in sending vessels to look for the rogues, sincethe matter seemed to them so serious.
In the same season a gallant engagement was foughtagainst pirates, though not in Indian waters. The Company's ship Caesar,Captain Wright, bound from England for Bombay, was chased off the coastof Gambia by five ships, carrying each from twenty to thirty guns, underFrench colours. Wright had no intention of yielding without a struggle,so put his ship before the wind, to gain time for getting into fightingtrim. The Caesar was carrying soldiers, and there were plenty ofmen to fight the ship. The boats were cut away, the decks cleared, ammunitionand arms served out, three thousand pounds of bread which cumbered thegun-room were thrown overboard, and the tops were filled with marksmen.As soon as all was ready, the mainsail was furled, and the ship kept undereasy sail. Before long the two smaller ships came up, hoisted the red flag,and began firing, one on the Caesar's quarter and one astern. Soonthe three other ships, two of which Wright styled the Admiral and Vice-Admiral,came up.
The Admiral ranged up on the quarter and triedto board, but was obliged to sheer off, with the loss of many men and abowsprit shot away. The Vice-Admiral tried to board at the bow, but withno better success, losing a foreyard and mizzen-mast. For five hours theengagement lasted, but the small-arm men in the Caesar's tops firedso well that the pirates could hardly serve their guns. The crew showeda wonderful spirit, cheering loudly at every successful shot, till thediscomfited pirates bore up, leaving the Caesar to pursue her wayto Bombay, much knocked about as to hull, but having lost only one mankilled and eight wounded.
In the following year came news to Surat of twovessels, under Danish colours, that had stopped English ships and seizednative ones between Surat and Bombay. The Phoenix, a British man-of-war,was at Surat at the time, so, together with the Kent, East Indiaman,it was despatched to look after the marauders, taking with them also twosmall boys, sent to represent the French and the Dutch. In due time CaptainTyrrell returned, and reported that he had found a squadron of four vessels;that after a two days' chase he had brought them to, when they turned outto be two Danish ships, with two prizes they had taken. They showed himtheir commission, authorizing them to make reprisals on the Mogul's subjectsfor affronts offered to Danish traders; so he left them alone. A few monthslater the Portuguese factory at Cong, in the Persian Gulf, was plunderedby an English pirate; another was heard of in the Red Sea, while PhilipBabington an Irish pirate, was cruising off Tellichery in the CharmingMary.
By 1689 a number of sea rovers from the West Indieshad made their appearance, and the factory at Fort St. George reportedthat the sea trade was 'pestered with pirates.' The first comers had contentedthemselves with plundering native ships. Now their operations were extendedto European vessels not of their own nationality. In time this restrictionceased to be observed; they hoisted the red or black flag, with or withoutthe colours of the nationality they affected, and spared no vessel theywere strong enough to capture.
The Armenian merchants were loud in their complaints.An Armenian ship bound from Goa to Madras, with twenty thousand pagodason board, was taken by a pirate ship of two hundred tons, carrying twenty-twoguns and a crew of sixty men. Another Armenian ship, with fifty thousandxeraphims, was taken near Bombay, on its voyage from Goa to Surat. Besidesthose that beset the Malabar coast, there were pirates in the Persian Gulf,at the mouth of the Red Sea, and in the Mozambique Channel, while fivepirate vessels were cruising off Acheen. During the next ten years thelosses caused by the pirates were prodigious.
Ovington mentions that at St. Helena (1689) theywere told, by a slaver, of three pirates, two English and the other Dutch,so richly laden with booty that they could hardly navigate their ships,which had become weather-beaten and unseaworthy from their long cruisesoff the Red Sea mouth. Their worn-out canvas sails were replaced with doublesilk.
    "They were prodigalin the expences of their unjust gain, and quenched their thirst with Europeliquor at any rate this Commander (the slaver) would put upon it; and wereso frank both in distributing their goods, and guzzling down the noblewine, as if they were both wearied with the possession of their rapine,and willing to stifle all the melancholy reflections concerning it."
Such an account was bound to fire the imaginationof every seaman who heard it.The number of pirates was increased by the interlopers,merchant adventurers trading without a licence, who, like John Hand, whenthey failed to get cargoes, plundered native ships. Their proceedings wereimitated by the permission ships, vessels that held the Company's licencefor a single voyage. Not seldom the crews of interlopers and permissionships rose and seized the vessel against the will of their owners and commanders,and hoisted the Jolly Roger. Commissions were granted to the East IndiaCompany's commanders to seize interlopers; but the interlopers, as a rule,were remarkably well able to take care of themselves. As pirates and interlopersalike sailed under English colours, the whole odium fell on the English.In August 1691, a ship belonging to the wealthy merchant Abdul Guffoorwas taken at the mouth of the Surat river, with nine lakhs in hard cashon board. A guard was placed on the factory at Surat, and an embargo laidon English trade. As the pirate had shown the colours of several nationalities,the authorities were loth to proceed to extremities. Fortunately for theEnglish Company, a member of the pirate crew was captured, and proved tobe a Dane; so the embargo on English trade was taken off.
Though they plied their calling at sea, almostwith impunity, the pirates occasionally fell victims to Oriental treacheryon shore. Thus James Gilliam, a rover, having put into Mungrole, on theKattiawar coast, was made welcome and much praised for the noble lavishnesswith which he paid for supplies. Soon there came an invitation to a banquet,and Gilliam, with some of his officers and crew, twenty in all, were receivedby the representative of the Nawab of Junaghur with excessive ceremony.Much polite curiosity was evinced about the noble strangers. "Why did theyalways go armed? Were their muskets loaded? Would they discharge them toshow their host the European method?" The muskets were discharged, andimmediately the banquet was announced. "Delay to reload the muskets wasinexpedient. It would be time to recharge their weapons after the feast."
And then, when seated and defenceless, there wasan irruption of armed men, and Gilliam, with his followers, were seizedand fettered. For a year they lay at Junaghur, where two of them died.In vain Gilliam contrived to send a letter to the Surat factory, askingthat they might be claimed as British subjects. President Harris knew thatthe least interest shown in the fate of the rovers would be fatal to theinterests of the Company, and was relieved when he heard that they hadbeen sent to Aurungzeeb's camp; after which they are heard of no more.
In the beginning of 1692, authority was given tothe Company's commanders to seize pirates and hold them till the King'spleasure was known, but the measure was of small effect. The pirates wereprime seamen, who outsailed and outfought the Company's ships; while amongthe Company's crews they had numerous sympathizers. The prizes to be gainedwere so great, and the risks so small, that the Company could hardly restraintheir own men from joining the sea rovers. Thus in 1694, John Steel/1/ran away with the long boat of the Ruby frigate. Sixteen otherswho had plotted to join him were detected in time, and clapped in irons.The French and Dutch gave passes to all who applied for them, so Steelplaced himself under French protection, and for two years 'that rogue Steel'finds frequent mention in the coast letters. Four years later Steel wasarrested in England. But though the directors had been supplied with manyaccounts of his misdeeds, no sworn evidence could be produced against him,so Steel escaped scot-free.
All other pirates, however, were destined to beeclipsed in fame by Henry Every, alias Bridgman,/2/who now made his appearance in the Indian seas. His exploits, the greatwealth he amassed by piracy, and his reputed marriage with a Mogul princess,continued to excite the public mind long after he had disappeared fromthe scene. Several biographies of him were written, one of them attributedto Defoe, all of them containing great exaggerations; and a play, "TheSuccessful Pirate," was written in his honour. His biographers generallygive his name as John Avery, but it was as is here given. According tothe account of Van Broeck, a Dutchman who was detained on board his shipfor a time and was on good terms with him, he was born at Plymouth, theson of a trading captain who had served in the navy under Blake. Everyhimself served in the navy, in the Resolution and Edgar,before he got the command of a merchant ship, in which he made severalvoyages to the West Indies. In May 1694, he was first mate of the Charlesthe Second, one of the small squadron of English ships hired from SirJames Houblon by the Spanish Government, to act against French smugglerswho were troubling their Peruvian trade./3/
The Spaniards were bad paymasters, and Houblon'ssquadron was detained at Corunna three or four months, while the crewsbecame more and more discontented as their wages remained unpaid. As theirsense of grievance increased, a plot was formed among the most turbulentspirits to seize a ship and turn rovers, under Every's command. On thenight of the 30th May, the captain of the Charles the Second wasmade prisoner while in bed. A boat-load of men sent from the Jamesto prevent the capture, joined the mutineers; the cables were cut, andthe ship ran out of harbour. The captain and all who were unwilling tojoin were put into a boat, and the Charles, renamed the Fancy,was headed south for the coast of Africa. The only man detained againsthis will was the doctor, as he was a useful man.
Some months were spent on the Guinea coast, wheresome negroes were captured, and five ships-- three English and two Danish--were plundered and burnt. Before the end of the year Every was east ofthe Cape, intent on the Red Sea traders. The first intelligence of himthat reached Bombay was in May 1695, when three outward-bound merchantmenreported that they had seen him at Johanna.
     "Your Honor'sships going into that island gave him chase, but he was too nimble forthem by much, having taken down a great deale of his upper works and madeher exceeding snugg, which advantage being added to her well sailing before,causes her to sail so hard now, that she fears not who follows her. Thisship will undoubtedly (go) into the Red Sea, which will procure infiniteclamours at Surat."
Accompanying this report came the following characteristicletter from Every:--
"February y'e 28th, 1695/4.     To all English. Commanderslett this Satisfye that I was Riding here  att this Instant in y'eShip fancy man of Warr formerly the Charles of y'e Spanish Expedition whodeparted from Croniae y'e 7th of May.  94: Being and am now in A Shipof 46 guns 150 Men & bound to Seek our fortunes I have Never as YettWronged any English or Dutch nor never Intend whilst I am Commander. Whereforeas I Commonly Speake w'th all Ships I Desire who ever Comes to y'e perusalof this to take this Signall that if you or aney whome you may informeare desirous to know w't wee are att a Distance then make your AntientVp in a Ball or Bundle and hoyst him att y'e Mizon Peek y'e Mizon Beingfurled I shall answere w'th y'e same & Never Molest you: for my menare hungry Stout and Resolute: & should they Exceed my Desire I cannotthelp my selfe.
as Yett An Englishman's friend
HENRY EVERY.
Here is 160 od french Armed men now att Mohillawho waits for Opportunity of getting aney ship, take Care of your Selves."/4/
According to Van Broeck, he was a man of good naturaldisposition, who had been soured by the bad treatment he received at thehands of his relations. The letter shows him to have been a man of someeducation, and during his short but active career in the Indian seas heappears to have attacked native ships only. The Company's records do notmention the loss of a single English ship at Every's hands, a circumstancethat no doubt told heavily against the English in native opinion at Surat.The same ships that brought Every's letter to SirJohn Gayer brought intelligence of a well-known French pirate having gotaground at Mohilla. The three Company's ships watering at Johanna heardof the occurrence, and proceeded to the spot, burnt the French ship aftertaking out what treasure was on board, and captured six of the Frenchmen,who were brought to Bombay. Every's friendly warning about the '160 odFrench armed men' evidently referred to the wrecked crew.
The value of Perim, or Bab's Key, as it was thencalled by mariners, to command the trade of the Red Sea, was at once perceivedby Every, who attempted to make a settlement there. After some unprofitabledigging for water, he abandoned the project, and established himself inMadagascar, which had before this become known as a pirate resort. Duringthe next thirty years the only traders who dared show themselves on theMadagascar coast were those who did business with the pirates, owing tothe number of pirate settlements that sprang up at different points; thebest known being at St. Mary's Island, St. Augustine's, Port Dauphin, andCharnock's Point. They built themselves forts and established a reign ofterror over the surrounding country, sometimes taking a part in nativequarrels, and sometimes fighting among themselves; dubbing themselves kings,and living in squalid dignity with large seraglios of native women.
Captain Woodes Rogers, who touched at Madagascarfor slaves, sixteen years after Every's time, described those he met ashaving been on the islands above twenty-five years, with a motley crowdof children and grandchildren.
    "Having been so manyyears upon this Island, it may be imagined their Cloaths had long beenworn out, so that their Majesties were extremely out at the Elbows: I cannotsay they were ragged, since they had no Cloaths, they had nothing to coverthem but the Skins of Beasts without any tanning, but with all the Hairon, nor a Shoe nor Stocking, so they looked like the Pictures of Herculesin the Lion's Skin; and being overgrown with Beard, and Hair upon theirBodies, they appeared the most savage Figures that a Man's Imaginationcan frame."/5/

One remarkable settlement was founded in thenorth, near Diego Suarez, by Misson, a Frenchman and the most humane ofpirates, with whom was allied Tew, the English pirate. Misson's aim wasto build a fortified town "that they might have some place to call theirown; and a receptacle, when age and wounds had rendered them incapableof hardship, where they might enjoy the fruits of their labour and go totheir graves in peace." The settlement was named Libertatia. Slavery wasnot permitted, and freed slaves were encouraged to settle there. The harbourwas strongly fortified, as a Portuguese squadron that attacked them foundto its cost. A dock was made; crops were sown; a Lord Conservator was appointedfor three years, with a Parliament to make laws.
The colony was still in its infancy when it wassurprised and destroyed by the natives, while Misson was away on a cruise;and so Libertatia came to an end. Tew succeeded in escaping to his sloopwith a quantity of diamonds and gold in bars. On Misson rejoining him,they determined to go to America. Misson's ship foundered in a storm, whileTew made his way to Rhode Islands, and lived there for a time unquestioned.But the fascinations of a rover's life were too much for him. He fittedout a sloop and made again for the Red Sea, and was killed in action therewith a Mogul ship.
From their Madagascar settlements the pirates scouredthe east coast of Africa, the Indian Ocean as far as Sumatra, the mouthof the Red Sea where the Mocha ships offered many rich prizes, the Malabarcoast, and the Gulf of Oman. From time to time, ships from New Englandand the West Indies brought supplies and recruits, taking back those whowere tired of the life and who wished to enjoy their booty. European prisonerswere seldom treated barbarously when there was no resistance, and the piratecrews found many recruits among captured merchantmen. Their worst crueltieswere reserved for the native merchants of India who fell into their hands.They believed all native traders to be possessed of jewels, as was indeedoften the case, and the cruellest tortures were inflicted on them to makethem surrender their valuables.
One unhappy Englishman we hear of, Captain Sawbridge,who was taken by pirates while on a voyage to Surat with a ship-load ofArab horses from Bombay. His complaints and expostulations were so annoyingto his captors that after repeatedly telling him to hold his tongue, theytook a sail needle and twine and sewed his lips together. They kept himthus several hours, with his hands tied behind him, while they plunderedhis ship, which they afterwards set on fire, burning her and the horsesin her. Sawbridge and his people were carried to Aden and set on shore,where he died soon after.
Before long. Every made some notable captures.Off Aden he found five pirate ships of English nationality, three of themfrom America, commanded by May, Farrell, and Wake. In the Gulf of Adenhe burned the town of Mahet on the Somali coast because the people refusedto trade with him. In September, while cruising off Socotra with the Fancy,two sloops, and a galley, he took the Futteh Mahmood with a valuablecargo, belonging to Abdool Guffoor, the wealthiest and most influentialmerchant in Surat. A few days later he took off Sanjan, north of Bombay,a ship belonging to the Emperor, called the Gunj Suwaie (ExceedingTreasure). 
This was the great capture that made Every famous.According to the legend, there was a granddaughter of Aurungzeeb on board,whom Every wedded by the help of a moollah, and carried off to Madagascar.But the story is only the most sensational of the many romantic inventionsthat have accumulated round Every's name. The native historian/6/who relates the capture of the Gunj Suwaie, and who had friendson board, would certainly not have refrained from mentioning such an eventif it had occurred; nor would the Mogul Emperor have failed to wreak vengeanceon the English for such an insult to his family.
The Gunj Suwaie was the largest ship belongingto the port of Surat. It carried eighty guns and four hundred matchlocks,besides other warlike implements, and was deemed so strong that it disdainedthe help of a convoy. On this occasion it was returning from the Red Seawith the result of the season's trading, amounting to fifty-two lakhs ofrupees/7/ in silver and gold,and having on board a number of Mahommedan ladies returning from pilgrimageto Mecca. In spite of the disparity of force, Every bore down and engaged.
The first gun fired by the Gunj Suwaie burst,killing three or four men and wounding others. The main mast was badlydamaged by Every's broadsides, and the Fancy ran alongside and boarded.This was the moment when a decent defence should have been made. The sailor'scutlass was a poor match for the curved sword and shield, so much so thatthe English were notorious in the East for their want of boldness in sword-play.But Ibrahim Khan, the captain, was a coward, and ran below at the sightof the white faces. His crew followed his example, and the vessel was takenalmost without resistance.
So rich a prize was not to be relinquished withouta very complete search. For a whole week the Gunj Suwaie was rummagedfrom stem to stern, while the crew of the Fancy indulged in a horribleorgy, excited beyond measure by the immense booty that had fallen intotheir hands. Several of the women threw themselves into the sea or slewthemselves with daggers; the last piece of silver was sought out and carriedon board the Fancy, the last jewel torn from the passengers andcrew, and then the Gunj Suwaie was left to find its way to Suratas it best could.
The vials of long-accumulated wrath were pouredout on the English. Instigated by Abdul Guffoor, the populace of Suratflew to arms to wreak vengeance on the factory. The Governor, Itimad Khan,was well disposed to the English, but popular excitement ran so high thathe found it difficult to protect them. Guards were placed on the factoryto save it from plunder. A mufti urged that the English should be put todeath in revenge for the death of so many true believers, and quoted anappropriate text from the Koran. Soon came an order from Aurungzeeb directingthe Seedee to march on Bombay, and for all the English in Surat and Broachto be made prisoners. President Annesley and the rest, sixty-three in all,were placed in irons, and so remained eleven months.
To make matters worse, news arrived of Every havingcaptured the Rampura, a Cambay ship with a cargo valued at Rs.1,70,000.
    "It is strange," wroteSir John Gayer, "to see how almost all the merchants are incensed againstour nation, reproaching the Governor extremely for taking our part, andas strange to see that notwithstanding all, he stems the stream againstthem more than well could be imagined, considering his extreme timorousnature."
The strangeness of the merchants' hostility is hardlyapparent, but it is not too much to say that Itimad Khan's friendly behaviouralone saved English trade from extinction. The Dutch, always hostile inthe East, whatever might be the relations between Holland and England inEurope, strove to improve the occasion by fomenting popular excitement,and tried to get the English permanently excluded from the Indian trade.In the words of Sir John Grayer, "they retained their Edomitish principles,and rejoice to see Jacob laid low."But Itimad Khan knew that the pirates were of allnationalities, and refused to hold the English alone responsible. To propitiatethe Governor, Sir John Gayer made over to him the six French pirates takenat Mohilla, not without qualms at handing over Christians to Mahommedanmercies. He fully expected that the treasure taken out of the wreck wouldalso be demanded of him; but Itimad Khan was not an avaricious man, andno such demand was made. "His contempt of money is not to be paralleledby any of the King's Umbraws or Governors," Sir John wrote, a year later,when Itimad Khan was dead.
To forestall the Dutch with the Emperor, Gayersent an agent offering to convoy the Red Sea fleet for the future, in returnfor a yearly payment of four lakhs a year. The offer was refused, but itserved to place the English in a more favourable light, and to procurethe cancelling of orders that had been given for attacking Bombay and Madras.Had it been accepted, the Seedee would have been added to the number ofthe Company's enemies. The Dutch, not to be outdone, offered to performthe same service in return for a monopoly of trade in the Emperor's dominions.This brought all other Europeans into line against the Dutch proposal,and the intrigue was defeated.
The embargo on all European trade at Surat wasmaintained, while the Dutch, French, and English were directed to scourthe seas and destroy the pirates. It was further ordered that Europeanson shore were not to carry arms or use palanquins, and their ships wereforbidden to hoist their national flags. The Dutch and French hung back.They would not send a ship to sea without payment, except for their ownaffairs. Sir John Gayer, more wisely, sent armed ships to convoy the Mochafleet, at the Company's charge, and so the storm passed off.
Meanwhile Every, glutted with booty, made up hismind to retire/8/ with hisenormous gains. According to Johnson, he gave the slip, at night, to hisconsorts, sailed for Providence in the Bahamas, where his crew dispersed,and thence made his way to England, just at the time a royal proclamationoffering £500 for his apprehension was published. The reward wasdoubled by an offer of four thousand rupees from the Company; eight rupeesbeing the equivalent of a pound at that time. Several of his crew alsostraggled home and were captured; but before he left the Indian coast,twenty-five Frenchmen, fourteen Danes, and some English were put ashore,fearing to show themselves in Europe or America. This fact would seem tothrow some doubt on the account of his having left his consorts by stealth.
On the 19th October, 1696, six of his crew weretried and sentenced at the Old Bailey, and a true bill was found and anindictment framed against Every himself, though he had not been apprehended.According to Johnson,/9/ Everychanged his name and lived unostentatiously, while trying to sell the jewelshe had amassed. The merchant in whose hands he had placed them, suspectinghow they had been come by, threatened him. Every fled to Ireland, leavinghis jewels in the merchant's hands, and finally died in Devonshire in extremepoverty.
But the authority for this, as for most of thepopular accounts of Every, is extremely doubtful. That he was cheated outof some of his ill-gotten gains is probable enough, but it is in the highestdegree improbable that he was known to be living in poverty, and yet thatthe large reward offered for his apprehension was not earned. What is alonecertain is that he was never apprehended, and that in a few months he carriedoff an amount of plunder such as never before was taken out of the Indianseas by a single rover. For long he was the hero of every seaport townin England and North America; innumerable legends gathered round his name,and an immense impulse was given to piracy.
A few months after his departure, there were fivepirate ships in the Red Sea, under English colours; two more, each mountingfourteen guns, were in the Persian Gulf; and another was cruising off Tellicherry.At Madagascar others were coming in fast. The news of Every's great bootyhad spread from port to port, and every restless spirit was intent on seekinghis fortune in this new Eldorado, as men nowadays flock to a new goldfield.The Company's sailors were not proof against the temptation. While on theway from Bombay to China the crew of the Mocha frigate mutiniedoff the coast of Acheen, killed their captain, Edgecombe, and set afloatin the pinnace twenty-seven officers and men who refused to join them.The Mocha was then renamed the Defence, and for the nextthree years did an infinity of damage in the Indian Ocean.
At the same time, the crew of the Josiahketch from Bombay, while at anchor in the Madras roads, took advantageof the commander being on shore to run away with the ship. The whole thinghad been planned between the two crews before leaving Bombay; their intentionbeing to meet off the coast of Sumatra, and cruise in company. The piraticalcareer of the Josiah did not last long. Making first for the Nicobars,the crew flocked on shore, and were soon involved in quarrels with thenatives; leaving on board only two men, one of whom was James Cruffe, thearmourer, who had been forced to join them against his will. The otherman was but a lukewarm pirate, and Cruffe prevailed on him to join in anattempt to carry off the ship. They cut the cable, and by great good fortune,without any knowledge of navigation, succeeded in carrying the ship intoAcheen.
Stout's command of the Defence, once Mocha,quickly came to an end. According to one account, he was put to death byhis comrades, at the Laccadives, for trying to desert them; according toanother account, he was slain by some Malays. His place was taken by Culliford,who had been the leader of the mutineers of the Josiah. He changedthe ship's name to the Resolution, and proved himself one of themost daring rovers of his day.
The untrustworthiness of his crews placed Sir JohnGayer in an awkward dilemma. He had to report to the Directors that hedared not send ships to convoy pilgrims lest the crews should mutiny; thata boat could not be manned in Bombay harbour for fear of desertion; whileon shore, he had not a soldier fit to be made a corporal. A powerful Frenchsquadron had appeared on the coast, and the Surat President calculatedthat the Company's recent losses on captured ships sailing from Surat amountedto a million sterling. The losses of the native merchants were even moreserious; trade was almost at a standstill, while three more pirate shipsfrom New York appeared in the Gulf of Cambay, and captured country shipsto the value of four lakhs of rupees.
Every letter along the coast at this date speaksof the doings of the rovers: every ship coming into harbour told of pirates,of chases and narrow escapes, and of reported captures.
    "These pirates sparenone but take all they meet, and take the Europe men into their own ships,with such goods as they like, and sink the ships, sending the lascars onrafts to find the shore."
So bold were the marauders that they cruised in sightof Bombay harbour, and careened their ships [=turned them on their sidesfor maintenance] in sight of factories along the coast.To avenge their losses, the Muscat Arabs, in April,1697, seized the London, belonging to Mr. Affleck, a private merchant.The Arabs were engaged in hostilities with the Portuguese at the time,and forced the crew of the London to fight for them. Those who wereunwilling were lashed to masts exposed to Portuguese fire, from which theydid not escape scatheless. In vain the commanders of two of the Company'svessels assured the Imaum that the London was not a pirate.
    "You have sent me aletter," he wrote, "about my people taking one of your ships. It is truethat I have done so, in return for one you English took from me, so nowwe are even and have ship for ship; for this one I will not surrender.If you wish to be friends, I am willing to be so; if not, I will fightyou and take all the ships I can."
One pirate ship was reported to have chased two Congships, capturing one and forcing the other ashore, where it became a totalwreck. "What influence this may have on the Rt. Hon. Company's affairs,God alone knows," wrote the Surat President, mournfully. Soon he was inbetter spirits. The same pirates had landed and plundered Cong; but, allowingthemselves to be surprised, fifty-six of the crew had been set upon andkilled.With few exceptions, the English pirates came fromthe American colonies. Every year, from New York, Boston, Jamaica, andthe Bahamas, ships were fitted out, nominally for the slave trade, thoughit was no secret that they were intended for piracy in the Eastern seas.Whatever compunction might be felt at attacking European ships, there wasnone about plundering Asiatic merchants, where great booty was to be gainedwith little risk. Sometimes the Governors were in league with the pirates,who paid them to wink at their doings.
Those who were more honest had insufficient powerto check the evil practices that were leniently, if not favourably, regardedby the colonial community, while their time was fully occupied in combatingthe factious opposition of the colonial legislatures, and in protectivemeasures against the French and Indians. The English Government, absorbedin the French war, had no ships in the Indian seas; but the straits towhich English trade in the East had been reduced, and the enormous lossescaused by the pirates, at last forced some measures to be adopted for copingwith the evil that had assumed such gigantic proportions.
 
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/1/It appears likely that this was the John Steel mentioned by Drury as hisuncle in Bengal. There is very little doubt that much of Drury's allegedslavery in Madagascar was spent among the pirates.
/2/It would appear that he assumed the name of Every on taking to piracy.
/3/Sir James Houblon was an Alderman of London, and a Governor of the Bankof England at the time.
/4/The letter appears to have been left by Every with the natives of Johanna,who gave it to the merchant captains who brought it to Bombay.
/5/The quotation is taken from Johnson's General History of the Pyrates,1724. In his cruising voyage round the world Woodes Rogers did not touchat Madagascar. On that occasion (1711) he met two ex-pirates at the Cape,who had received pardons, and told him that the Madagascar settlementshad dwindled to sixty or seventy men, "most of them very poor and despicable,even to the natives," and possessed of only one ship and a sloop. But,he adds, "if care be not taken, after a peace, to clear that island ofthem, and hinder others from joining them, it may be a temptation for loosestraggling fellows to resort thither, and make it once more a troublesomenest of freebooters."
/6/Elliot'sHistory of India as told by its own historians: Muntakhabu-lLubab of Khafi Khan.
/7/Equal to £534,000 at that day.
/8/According to the statement of a lascar, taken in the Futteh Mahmoodand carried to Madagascar, Every sailed for the Bahamas in the autumn of1695, so that his career in the Indian seas lasted only six months. Onreaching Providence, Every presented the Governor with forty pieces ofeight and four pieces of gold for allowing them to come and go in safety.
/9/Johnson'sGeneral History of the Pyrates, 1724.

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