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Their Lives and Bloody Exploits
By Ezra Strong
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE HISTORY OF THE PIRATES.
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CAPTAIN MISSON was born in Provence, of an ancient family. His father was master of a plentiful fortune; but having a great number of children, our rover had but little hopes of other fortune than what he could carve out for himself with his sword. His parents took care to give him an education equal to his birth, and upon the completion of it would have put him into the musketeers; but as he was of a roving temper, and much affected with the accounts he had read in books of travels, he chose the sea as a life which abounds with more variety, and would afford him an opportunity to gratify his curiosity, by the change of countries. Having made this choice, his father, with letters of recommendation, and every thing fitting for him, sent him volunteer on board the Victoire, commanded by Monsieur Fourbin, his relation. He was received on board with all possible regard by the Captain, whose ship was at Marseilles, and was ordered to cruise soon after Misson's arrival. Nothing could be more agreeable to the inclinations of our volunteer than this cruise, which made him acquainted with the most noted ports in the Mediterranean, and gave him a great insight into the practical part of navigation. He grew fond of this life, and was resolved to be a complete sailor, which made him always one of the first on a yard arm, either to hand or reef, and very inquisitive in the different methods of working a ship: his discourse was turned on no other subject, and he would often get the boatswain and carpenter to teach him in their cabins the constituent parts of a ship's hull, and how to rig her, which he generously paid them for; and though he spent a great part of his time with these two officers, yet he behaved himself with such prudence that they never attempted any familiarity, and always paid the respect due to his family. The ship being at Naples, he obtained leave of his captain to go to Rome, which he had a great desire to visit. Hence we may date his misfortunes; for, remarking the licentious lives of the clergy, (so different from the regularity observed among the French ecclesiastics,) the luxury of the Papal Court, and that nothing but hulls of religion were to be found in the metropolis of the christian church, he began to figure to himself that all religion was no more than a curb upon the minds of the weaker, which the wiser sort yielded to, in appearance only. These sentiments, so disadvantageous to religion and himself, were strongly riveted by accidentally becoming acquainted with a lewd priest, who was at his arival (by mere chance) his confessor, and after that his procurer and companion, for he kept him company to his death.
Mission at length became so much attached to this man, that he advised him to go with him as volunteer, and offered him money to clothe him: the priest leaped at the proposal, and a letter coming to Misson from his captain, that he was going to Leghorn, and left it to him either to come to Naples, or go by land; he chose the latter, and the Dominican, whom he furnished with money, clothing himself very cavalierly, threw off his habit, and preceded him two days, staying at Pisa for Misson; from whence they went together to Leghorn, where they found the Victoire, and signior Caraccioli, recommended by his friends, was received on board. Two days after they weighed from hence, and after a week's cruise fell in with two Sallee-men, the one of twenty, the other of twenty-four guns; the Victoire had but thirty mounted, though she had ports for forty. The engagement was long and bloody, for the Sallee-men hoped to carry the Victoire; and, on the contrary, Capt. Fourbin, so far from having any thoughts of being taken, he was resolutely bent to make prize of his enemies, or sink his ship. One of the Sallee-men was commanded by a Spanish renegade, (though he had only the title of a lieutenant) for the captain was a young man who knew little of marine affairs.
This ship was called the Lion; and he attempted, more than once, to board the Victoire; but by a shot betwixt wind and water, he was obliged to sheer off, and running his guns, &c. on one side, to bring her on the careen to stop his leak; this being done with too much precipitation, she overset, and every soul was lost. His comrade, seeing this disaster, threw out all his small sails, endeavoured to get off, but the Victoire wronged her, and obliged her to renew the fight, which she did with great obstinacy, and made Monsieur Fourbin despair of carrying her if he did not board; he made preparations accordingly. Signior Caraccioli and Misson were the two first on board when the command was given; but they and their followers were beat back by the despair of the Sallee-men; the former received a shot in his thigh, and was carried down to the surgeon. The Victoire laid her on board the second time, and the Sallee-men defended their decks with such resolution, that they were covered with their own, and the dead bodies of their enemies. Misson seeing one of them jump down the main hatch with a lighted match, suspecting his design, resolutely leaped after him, and reaching him with his sabre, laid him dead the moment he was going to set fire to the powder. The Victoire pouring in more men, the Mahometans quitted the decks, finding resistance vain, and fled for shelter to the cook-room, steerage, and cabins, and some ran between decks. The French gave them quarters, and put the prisoners on board the Victoire, the prize yielding nothing worth mention, except liberty to about fifteen christian slaves; she was carried into and sold with the prisoners at Leghorn. The Turks lost a great many men; the French not less than 35 in boarding, for they lost very few by the great shot, the Salleemen firing mostly at the masts and rigging, hoping by disabling to carry her. The limited time of their cruise being out, the Victoire returned to Marseilles, from whence Misson taking his companion, went to visit his parents, to whom the captain sent a very advantageous character, both of his courage and conduct. He was about a month at home when his captain wrote to him, that his ship was ordered to Rochelle, from whence he was to sail for the West Indies with some merchantmen. This was very agreeable to Misson and signior Caraccioli, who immediately set out for Marseilles. This town is well fortified, has four parish churches, and the number of inhabitants is computed to be about 120,000; the harbour is esteemed the safest in the Mediterranean, and is the common station for the French gallies.
Leaving this place, they steered for Rochelle, where the Victoire was docked, the merchant ships not being near ready. Misson, who did not care to pass so long a time in idleness, proposed to his comrade the taking a cruise on board the Triumph, which was going into the English channel; and the Italian readily consented to it.
Between the Isle of Guernsey and the Start Point, they met with the Mayflower, Capt. Balladine, commander, a merchant ship of 18 guns, richly laden, and coming from Jamaica. The captain of the English made a gallant resistance, and fought his ship so long, that the French could not carry her into harbour, wherefore they took the money, and what was most valuable, out of her; and finding she made more water than the pumps could free, quitted, and saw her go down in less than four hours after. Monsieur Le Blanc, the French captain, received Capt. Balladine very civilly, and would not suffer either him or his men to be stripped, saying, None but cowards ought to be treated after that manner; that brave men ought to treat such, though their enemies, as brothers; and that to use a gallant man (who does his duty) ill, speaks a revenge which cannot proceed but from a coward soul. He ordered that the prisoners should have their chests; and when some of his men seemed to mutter, he bade them remember the grandeur of the monarch they served; that they were neither pirates nor privateers; and as brave men, they ought to show their enemies an example they would willingly have followed, and use their prisoners as they wished to be used.
They then run up the English channel as high as Beachy Head, and, in returning, fell in with three fifty gun ships; which gave chase to the Triumph; but as she was an excellent sailor, she run them out of sight in seven glasses, and made the best of her way for the Land's-End. They here cruised eight days, then doubling Cape Cornwall, ran up the Bristol channel, near as far as Nash Point, and intercepted a small ship from Barbadoes, and stretching away to the northward, gave chase to a ship they saw in the evening, but lost her in the night. The Triumph then stood towards Milford, and spying a sail, endeavoured to cut her off the land, but found it impossible; for she got into the haven, though they came up with her very fast, and she had surely been taken had the chase been any thing longer.
Capt. Balladine, who took the glass, said it was the Port Royal, a Bristol ship, which left Jamaica in company with him and the Charles. They now returned to their own coast, and sold their prize at Brest, where, at his desire, they left Capt. Balladine, and Monsieur Le Blanc made him a present of a purse with 40 louis for his support. His crew were also left here.
At the entrance into this harbour the Triumph struck upon a rock, but received no damage. This entrance, called Gonlet, is very dangerous on account of the number of rocks which lie on each side under water, though the harbour is certainly the best in France. The mouth of the harbour is defended by a strong castle; the town is well fortified, and has a citadel for its farther defence, which is of considerable strength. In 1694 the English attempted a descent, but did not find their market, for they were beat off with the loss of their general, and a great many men. From hence the Triumph returned to Rochelle, and in a month after, our volunteers, who went on board the Victoire, took their departure for Martinico and Guadaloupe. They met with nothing in their voyage thither worth noting. I shall only observe, that signior Caraccioli, who was as ambitious as he was irreligious, had, by this time, made a perfect deist of Misson, and thereby convinced him, that all religion was no other than human policy. But his arguments on this head are too long, and too dangerous to translate; and as they are worked up with great subtlety, they may be pernicious to weak men, who cannot discover their fallacy, or who, finding them agreeable to their inclinations, would be glad to shake off the yoke of the christian religion, which galls and curbs their passions, and would not give themselves the trouble to examine them to the bottom, but give it to what pleases, glad of finding some excuse to their consciences.
As he had privately held these discourses among the crew, he had gained a number of proselytes, who looked upon him as a new prophet risen up to reform the abuses in religion; and a great number being Rochellers, and, as yet, tainted with Calvanism, his doctrine was the more readily embraced. When he had experienced the affects of his religious arguments, he fell upon government, and showed, that every man was born free, and had as much right to what would support him, as to the air he respired. A contrary way of arguing would be accusing the deity with cruelty and injustice, for he brought into the world no man to pass a life of penury, and to miserably want a necessary support; that the vast difference between man and man, one wallowing in luxury, and the other in the most pinching necessity, was owing only to avarice and ambition on the one hand, and a pussillanimous subjection on the other; that at first no other than a natural was known a paternal government, every father was the head, the prince and monarch of his family, and obedience to such was both just and easy, for a father had compassionate tenderness for his children; but ambition creeping in by degrees, the stronger family set upon and enslaved the weaker; and this additional strength over-run a third, by every conquest gathering force to make others, and this was the first foundation of monarchy. Pride increasing with power, man usurped the prerogative of God, over his creatures, that of depriving them of life, which was a privilege no one had over his own; for as he did not come into the world by his own election, he ought to stay the determined time of his creator; that indeed, death given in war, was by the law of nature allowable, because it is for the preservation of our own lives; but no crime ought to be thus punished, nor indeed any war undertaken, but in defence of our natural right, which is such a share of earth as is necessary for our support.
These topics he often declaimed on, and very often advised with Misson about the setting up for themselves; he was as ambitious as the other, and as resolute. Caraccioli and Misson were by this, expert mariners, and very capable of managing a ship; Caraccioli had sounded a great many of the men on this subject, and found them very inclinable to listen to him. An accident happened which gave Caraccioli a fair opportunity to put his designs in execution, and he laid hold of it. They went off Martinico on a cruise, and met with the Winchelsea, an English man of war of 40 guns, commanded by Capt. Jones; they made for each other, and a very smart engagement followed; the first broadside killed the captain, second captain, and the three lieutenants, on board the Victoire, and left only the master, who would have struck, but Misson took up the sword, ordered Caraccioli to act as lieutenant, and encouraging the men fought the ship six glasses, when by some accident the Winchelsea blew up, and not a man was saved but Lieut. Franklin, whom the French boats took up, and he died in two days. None ever knew before this manuscript fell into my hands, how the Winchelsea was lost; for her head being driven ashore at Antigua, and a great storm having happened a few days before it was found, it was concluded, that she foundered in that storm. After this engagement, Caraccioli came to Misson and saluted him captain, and desired to know if he would choose a momentary or a lasting command, that he must now determine, for at his return to Martinico it would be too late; and he might depend upon the ship he fought and saved being given to another, and they would think him well rewarded if made a lieutenant which piece of justice he doubted; that he had his fortune in his hands, which he might either keep or let go; if he made choice of the latter, he must never again expect she would court him to accept her favours; that he ought to set before his eyes his circumstances, as a younger brother of a good family, but nothing to support his character; and the many years he must serve at the expense of his blood before he could make any figure in the world, and consider the wide difference between the commanding and being commanded; that he might with the ship he had under foot, and the brave fellows under command, bid defiance to the power of Europe, enjoy every thing he wished, reign sovereign of the Southern Seas, and lawfully make war on all the world, since it would deprive him of that liberty to which he had a right by the laws of nature, that he might in time, become as great as Alexander was to the Persians: and by increasing his forces by captures, he would every day strengthen the justice of his cause, for who has power is always in the right. That Harry the fourth and Harry the seventh, attempted and succeeded in their enterprises on the crown of England, yet their forces did not equal his. Mahomet with a few camel drivers, founded the Ottoman empire; and Darius, with no more than six or seven companions, got possession of that of Persia.
In a word, he said so much that Misson resolved to follow his advice, and calling up all hands, he told them, "That a great number of them had resolved with him upon a life of liberty, and had done him the honor to create him chief; that he designed to force no man, and be guilty of that injustice he blamed in others; therefore, if any were averse to the following his fortune, which he promised should be the same to all, he desired they would declare themselves, and he would set them ashore, whence they might return with conveniency." Having made an end, they one and all cried, "Vive le Captain Misson et son Lieutenant le scavant Caraccioli"—God bless Captain Misson and his learned Lieutenant Caraccioli. Misson thanked them for the honour they conferred upon him, and promised he would use the power they gave for the public good only, and hoped as they had the bravery to assert their liberty, they would be as unanimous in the preservation of it, and stand by him in what should be found expedient for the good of all; that he was their friend and companion, and should never exert his power, or think himself other than their comrade, but when the necessity of affairs should oblige him.
Excerpted from Infamous Pirates by Ezra Strong. Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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