Read CAPTAIN ANSTIS, AND HIS CREW of Pirates , free online book, by Claud Lovat Fraser, on ReadCentral.com.

Thomas Anstis shipped himself at Providence, in the Year 1718, aboard the Buck Sloop, and was one of the six that conspired together to get off with the vessel, along with Howel Davis, Dennis Topping, and Walter Kennedy, etc. I shall only observe, that this combination was the beginning of Captain Roberts’s company, which afterwards proved so formidable, from whom Anstis separated the 18th of April, 1721, leaving his Commodore to pursue his adventures upon the Coasts of Guinea, whilst he returned to the West Indies, upon the same design.

About the middle of June, he met with one Captain Maiston, between Hispaniola and Jamaica, bound to New-York, from which he took all the wearing apparel, liquors and provisions, and six men. Afterwards he met with the Irwin, Captain Ross from Cork, on the Coast of Martinico, which ship had Colonel Doyly of Montserrat on board, and his Family, and 600 barrels of beef.

Afterwards they went into one of the Islands to clean, and thence proceeding towards Bermudas, they met with a stout ship called the Morning Star, bound from Guinea to Carolina, which they kept for their own use. Just after, they took a ship from Barbadoes bound to New England, from whence taking her guns, they mounted the Morning Star with 32 pieces of cannon, and 100 men, appointing John Fenn Captain: For Anstis was so in love with his own vessel, she being a good sailor, he made it his choice to stay in her, and let Fenn have the other ship. Though they were not sufficiently strong, yet being most new men, they could not agree, but resolving to break up company, sent a Petition to His Majesty by a Merchant Ship, expecting her Return at Cuba.

Here they staid about nine months; but not having provisions for above two, they were obliged to take what the Island afforded; which is many sorts of fish, particularly turtle; though they eat not a bit of bread, nor flesh meat, during their being on the Island.

They passed their time here in dancing, and other diversions, agreeable to these sort of folks. Among the rest, they appointed a mock Court of Judicature, to try one another for Piracy, and he that was a Criminal one day, was made a Judge another. I shall never forget one of their Trials, which for the curiosity of it, I shall relate. The Judge got up into a tree, having a dirty tarpaulin over his shoulders for a robe, and a Thrum Cap upon his head, with a large pair of spectacles upon his nose, and a monkey bearing up his train, with abundance of Officers attending him, with crows and hand-spikes instead of wands and tip-staves in their hands. Before whom the Criminals were brought out, making 1000 wry Faces; when the Attorney-General moved the Court, and said, An’t please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury, this fellow before you is a sad dog, a sad, a sad dog, and I hope your Lordship will order him to be hanged out of the way; he has committed Piracy upon the High Seas; nay, my Lord, that’s not all; this fellow, this sad dog before you, has out-rid a hundred storms, and you know, my Lord, He that’s born to be hanged, will never be drowned. Nor is this all, he has been guilty of worse villany than this, and that is of drinking of small beer; and your Lordship knows, there was never a sober fellow but what was a rogue My Lord, I should have said more, but your Lordship knows our rum is out, and how should a Man speak that has drunk a dram to-day.

Judge. Harkee me, Sirrah you ill-looked dog. What
have you to say why you may not be tucked up, and set
a-sun-drying like a scare-crow? Are you Guilty, or not?

Prisoner. Not Guilty, an’t please your Worship.

Judge. Not Guilty! say so again, and I will have you
hanged without any Trial.

Prisoner. An’t please your Worship’s Honour, my Lord, I am as honest a fellow as ever went between stem and stern of a ship, and can hand, reef, steer, and clap two ends of a rope together, as well as e’er a He that ever crossed Salt-water; but I was taken by one George Bradley (the name of the Judge) a notorious Pirate, and a sad rogue as ever was hanged, and he forced me, an’t please your Honour.

Judge. Answer me, Sirrah how will you be tried?

Prisoner. By God and my country.

Judge. The Devil you will.... Then, Gentlemen of the
Jury, we have nothing to do but to proceed to Judgment.

Attorney-Gen. Right, my Lord; for if the fellow should
be suffered to speak, he might clear himself; and that,
you know, is an affront to the Court.

Prisoner. Pray, my Lord, I hope your Lordship will
consider.

Judge. Consider! How dare you talk of
considering! Sirrah, Sirrah, I have never considered in
all my life. I’ll make it Treason to consider.

Pris. But I hope your Lordship will hear reason.

Judge. What have we to do with Reason? I would have
you to know, Sirrah, we do not sit here to hear
Reason we go according to Law. Is our dinner ready?

Attorney-General. Yes, my Lord.

Judge. Then harkee you rascal at the Bar, hear me, Sirrah, hear me. You must be hanged for three reasons: First, because it is not fit that I should sit as Judge, and no-body to be hang’d: Secondly, You must be hang’d because you have a damn’d hanging Look: Thirdly, You must be hanged, because I am hungry. There’s Law for you, ye dog; take him away, Gaoler.

By this we may see how these fellows can jest upon things, the thoughts of which should make them tremble.

August 1722, they made ready the Brigantine, and came out to sea, where meeting their correspondent returning, and finding nothing done, they all agreed to ply their old trade. So they sailed with the ship and Brigantine to the Southward, where they ran the Morning Star upon the Grand Carmanes, and wrecked her; the next Day Anstis went ashore to fetch the men off, who were all safe. Anstis had just time to get Captain Fenn, and a few others on board, before the Hector and Adventure came down upon him; but he got to sea, and one of the Men-of-War after him, keeping within gun-shot several hours, when the wind dying away, the Pirates got to their oars, and rowed for their lives.

The Hector landed her men, and took 40 of the Morning Star’s Crew, without any resistance, they pretending they were glad of this opportunity; the rest hid themselves in the woods.

The Brigantine after her escape, sailed to an Island, near the Bay of Honduras, to clean, and in her way took a Sloop, Captain Durfey Commander, which they destroyed, but brought the men on board. While she was cleaning, Durfey conspired with some of the prisoners, to carry off the Brigantine; but it being discovered, he and four or five more got ashore, with arms and ammunition; and when the Pirates’ Canoe came in for Water, seized the boat and men; upon which, Anstis sent another boat with 30 hand ashore; but Durfey gave them such a warm reception that they were glad to return back again.

In December 1722, Anstis left this place, taking in his cruise a good ship. He mounted her with 24 Guns and made Fenn Commander. From hence they went to the Bahama Islands, taking what they wanted.

As they were cleaning their ship the Winchelsea came down upon them, when most of them escaped to the woods; but Anstis having a light pair of heels, escaped in the Brigantine. Afterwards, some of the Company, being tired of this trade, shot Anstis in his Hammock, and put the rest in irons, and then carried the Brigantine to Curacco, a Dutch Settlement, where they were hanged, and those that delivered up the vessel acquitted. Fenn was soon after taken by the Man-of-War’s Men, straggling in the woods, with a few more, and carried to Antegoa and hanged. But some escaped among the negroes, and were never heard of since.