Blackbeard

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Blackbeard : biography

c. 1680 – November 22, 1718

Pardon

Before sailing northward on his remaining sloop to Ocracoke Inlet, Teach marooned about 25 men on a small sandy island about a league from the mainland. He may have done this to stifle any protest they made, if they guessed their captain’s plans. Bonnet rescued them two days later. Teach continued on to Bath, where in June 1718—only days after Bonnet had departed with his pardon—he and his much-reduced crew received their pardon from Governor Eden.

He settled in Bath, on the eastern side of Bath Creek at Plum Point, near Eden’s home. During July and August he travelled between his base in the town and his sloop off Ocracoke. Johnson’s account states that he married the daughter of a local plantation owner, although there is no supporting evidence for this. Eden gave Teach permission to sail to St Thomas to seek a commission as a privateer (a useful way of removing bored and troublesome pirates from the small settlement), and Teach was given official title to his remaining sloop, which he renamed Adventure. By the end of August he had returned to piracy, and in the same month the Governor of Pennsylvania issued a warrant for his arrest, but by then Teach was probably operating in Delaware Bay, some distance away. He took two French ships leaving the Caribbean, moved one crew across to the other, and sailed the remaining ship back to Ocracoke. In September he told Eden that he had found the French ship at sea, deserted. A Vice Admiralty Court was quickly convened, presided over by Tobias Knight and the Collector of Customs. The ship was judged as a derelict found at sea, and of its cargo 20 hogsheads of sugar were awarded to Knight and sixty to Eden; Teach and his crew were given what remained in the vessel’s hold.

Ocracoke Inlet was Teach’s favourite anchorage. It was a perfect vantage point from which to view ships travelling between the various settlements of northeast Carolina, and it was from there that Teach first spotted the approaching ship of Charles Vane, another English pirate. Several months earlier Vane had rejected the pardon brought by Woodes Rogers and escaped the men-of-war the English captain brought with him to Nassau. He had also been pursued by Teach’s old commander, Benjamin Hornigold, who was by then a pirate hunter. Teach and Vane spent several nights on the southern tip of Ocracoke Island, accompanied by such notorious figures as Israel Hands, Robert Deal and Calico Jack.

Alexander Spotswood

As it spread throughout the neighbouring colonies, the news of Teach and Vane’s impromptu party worried the Governor of Pennsylvania enough to send out two sloops to capture the pirates. They were unsuccessful, but Governor of Virginia Alexander Spotswood was also concerned that the supposedly retired freebooter and his crew were living in nearby North Carolina. Some of Teach’s former crew had already moved into several Virginian seaport towns, prompting Spotswood to issue a proclamation on 10 July, requiring all former pirates to make themselves known to the authorities, to give up their arms and to not travel in groups larger than three. As head of a Crown colony, Spotswood viewed the proprietary colony of North Carolina with contempt; he had little faith in the ability of the Carolinians to control the pirates, who he suspected would be back to their old ways, disrupting Virginian commerce, as soon as their money ran out. Spotswood learnt that William Howard, the former quartermaster of Queen Anne’s Revenge, was in the area, and believing that he might know of Teach’s whereabouts had the pirate and his two slaves arrested. Spotswood had no legal authority to have pirates tried, and as a result, Howard’s attorney, John Holloway, brought charges against Captain Brand of HMS Lyme, where Howard was imprisoned. He also sued on Howard’s behalf for damages of £500, claiming wrongful arrest.

Spotswood’s council claimed that Teach’s presence was a crisis and that under a statute of William III, the governor was entitled to try Howard without a jury. The charges referred to several acts of piracy supposedly committed after the pardon’s cut-off date, in "a sloop belonging to ye subjects of the King of Spain", but ignored the fact that they took place outside Spotswood’s jurisdiction and in a vessel then legally owned. Another charge cited two attacks, one of which was the capture of a slave ship off Charleston Bar, from which one of Howard’s slaves was presumed to have come. Howard was sent to await trial before a Court of Vice-Admiralty, on the charge of piracy, but Brand and his colleague, Captain Gordon (of HMS Pearl) refused to serve with Holloway present. Incensed, Holloway had no option but to stand down, and was replaced by the Attorney General of Virginia, John Clayton, who Spotswood described as "an honester man [than Holloway]". Howard was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, but was saved by a commission from London, which directed Spotswood to pardon all acts of piracy committed by surrendering pirates before 23 July 1718.