Swashbuckler 1700

Blackbeard Reconsidered -a new book with new theories(?)

75 posts in this topic

When these facts are taken independently, I would agree. No single source can ever be more than 50/50. Given that logic, the chances that a dropped ball will go down is 50/50. When it happens a lot, though... well?

BTW, the Joseph Brooks from the Currituck area have been of long interest to me because they may relate to a branch of Brooks that we used to think were related. Many years ago, a DNA bomb went off that split these guys from us. It, too, is a circumstantial case, but it was fascinating to have some possible pirates in the cupboard, even if for only a short while.

As for my case, it's good enough to encourage me to spend more money on getting to Jamaica, not just on beer. Like I said, there's a buttload of records that nobody has even looked at yet. I have to see those records... candy for the historian. ;)

Edited by Baylus_Brooks

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When these facts are taken independently, I would agree.

Exactly! Without Leslie all you have is a single independent fact, to be anything more your theory relies on Leslie being accurate.

What you have is a scenario that fits the available evidence, but it is not by any means the only scenario that fits the available evidence.

That, by the way, is true of almost all historical writing, and it's why serious historians are generally prepared to acknowledge freely the possibility that their ideas may be wrong.

Given that logic, the chances that a dropped ball will go down is 50/50. When it happens a lot, though... well?

You've compared your theory to the theory of gravity several times and I've not mentioned it until now, but that was for your benefit.

Are you seriously suggesting that your theory can be compared to the theory of gravity which was put forth by one of the greatest minds in history, is universally accepted not only by the entire population of the world but also by the entire scientific community without significant dissent? Really? It doesn't do you credit I'm afraid.

As for my case, it's good enough to encourage me to spend more money on getting to Jamaica, not just on beer. Like I said, there's a buttload of records that nobody has even looked at yet. I have to see those records... candy for the historian.

And that is really the only thing that matters. I wish you luck, honestly. If you find better evidence that Edward Thache of Jamaica was Blackbeard I will be delighted.

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Ed,

I never said that I couldn't be wrong. Just that my theory is better than most. The fitting scenario around the facts increases its probability.

As for the comparison to gravity.. no. That was an example to illustrate how the preponderance of circumstantial evidence (the scenario again) added to the facts can bolster any case. It was not a direct comparison. I did not expect it to be taken so literally.

As I said before, I will do my utmost to find that birth certificate for you, but would you settle for Lucretia bailing him out of jail? lol

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I would settle for anything that mentions Edward Thache being a pirate.

A birth certificate, even if such things had existed then, which they didn't, would be unlikely to mention his piracy.

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Maybe he graduated from Spanish Town University with a degree in Buccaneering... ;)

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I never said that I couldn't be wrong. Just that my theory is better than most. The fitting scenario around the facts increases its probability.

Your theory, "better than most," as you have presented in your article is this: The educated aristocrat Blackbeard, a wealthy capitalist, family man, former sugar plantation owner, and veteran Navy man from Jamaica, became too successful and popular in the colonies during his brief 23 months as a pirate and therefore embarrassed the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Berkeley (who was doubly embarrassed because the Thache family emigrated from his home county of Gloucestershire), who induced Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood to commission a “hit” on the pirate at Ocracoke where he was “murdered” by members of His Majesty's Navy, and in a later conspiracy to cover-up this scandal the London Board of Trade coerced the Jacobite publisher Nathaniel Mist, aka Charles Johnson, into defaming the pirate’s character in his book A General History of the Pyrates. Is that about right?

Edited by LookingGlass

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It's in the article, guys. This thread has played out. Thanks for playing.

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Now, I am not really in position to say much as the actual work is not familiar to me but:

Some humble thought based on arguments floating around here. There are just plain thoughts and if you want to shoot them down, brief arguments are enough. These are not really serious claims of any kind. :P

And I have nothing any of the presented viewpoints at all.

1. Why Teach left for North Carolina if his family and connections were in Jamaica. He could have accepted the pardon there from the governor as well. If he was a popular person, it wouldn't have been shameful to return there.

2. Being "a family man" doesn't mean someone couldn't be very violent or cruel person to others.

3. Being "Aristocratic" (or indeed mere "estate owner") in colonies might mean many things and doesn't necessarily mean high Social/ economical standing. People in the colonies were often someone who were "unwanted" in the main country or who has left it for some problems.

4. If the fact is indeed true and Blackbeard was a Jamaican planter, is it possible that Johnson put the real Blackbeard's story in his book, but under Stede Bonnet's name with few changes (Jamaica to Barbados etc.)? Do we know much about actual Bonnet?

5. If he was a planter and Bonnet is who we think he was we might have 3 Caribbean planters as pirates: Teach. Bonnet and Jennings. Does, this however, mean that pirate crews generally had a captain of upper social class? I think it barely means that.

6. What if Teach was just a pseudonym of Blackbeard? He might have just picked a name he heard while he was in Jamaica and work under it. Perhaps his family connections were even more secret.

7. These claims smells of conspiracy against a single man. Is it really that believable starting point? Conspiracy theories generally require a lot of things working together which makes them always less likely than other explanations.

Being an academical student in more general history and being not really able to focus on mere maritime themes I have some other thoughts: New approaches are always needed, genealogy in this case. This is certainly true with maritime history which has often been an isolated field of history that doesn't really use all tools available to it but often focuses heavily on chronicle like telling. Like noted in article Maritime History as Global History?The Methodological Challenges and a Future Research Agenda Maria Fusaro noted "Within the Anglophone world, maritime history in its widest sense has been –historically and indeed culturally – extremely sceptical of theoretical approaches."

(Maritime History, in my humble opinion, barely deserves its own category in modern scientific field. Maritime world has always been just a part of the general happenings. It this theatre of history, not a category lice "Social" or "Economic" history.)

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

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Thanks, Swashbuckler!

I'll check out Maria Fusaro's book. Owing to this and similar arguments, I feel that we can't view pirates in 1715 quite like Rediker's William Fly in 1726. By that time, administrative opposition had worked against piracy in general and it had become a sea-bound independent guerrilla operation that probably did not reflect the pre-Rogers Bahamas Islands-Jamaica-Bermuda-Carolina operation. Everything went to hell, in other words. ;)

Edited by Baylus_Brooks

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Random observation: Maria Fusaro was my doctoral supervisor and the one who gave me the advice I mentioned earlier in this thread.

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I also meant to add earlier, for the edification of anyone else reading this thread, that the archaeology of the QAR does not in any way prove that she was wrecked by accident. The Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, who regularly dives on the QAR and has done more or less since her discovery, is on record with his opinion that Herriot was telling the truth about BB's treachery, and he is both better qualified and better placed to say what the archaeology does or does not prove than I.

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Some humble thought based on arguments floating around here. There are just plain thoughts and if you want to shoot them down, brief arguments are enough. These are not really serious claims of any kind. :P

And I have nothing any of the presented viewpoints at all.

1. Why Teach left for North Carolina if his family and connections were in Jamaica. He could have accepted the pardon there from the governor as well. If he was a popular person, it wouldn't have been shameful to return there.

2. Being "a family man" doesn't mean someone couldn't be very violent or cruel person to others.

3. Being "Aristocratic" (or indeed mere "estate owner") in colonies might mean many things and doesn't necessarily mean high Social/ economical standing. People in the colonies were often someone who were "unwanted" in the main country or who has left it for some problems.

4. If the fact is indeed true and Blackbeard was a Jamaican planter, is it possible that Johnson put the real Blackbeard's story in his book, but under Stede Bonnet's name with few changes (Jamaica to Barbados etc.)? Do we know much about actual Bonnet?

5. If he was a planter and Bonnet is who we think he was we might have 3 Caribbean planters as pirates: Teach. Bonnet and Jennings. Does, this however, mean that pirate crews generally had a captain of upper social class? I think it barely means that.

6. What if Teach was just a pseudonym of Blackbeard? He might have just picked a name he heard while he was in Jamaica and work under it. Perhaps his family connections were even more secret.

7. These claims smells of conspiracy against a single man. Is it really that believable starting point? Conspiracy theories generally require a lot of things working together which makes them always less likely than other explanations.

Being an academical student in more general history and being not really able to focus on mere maritime themes I have some other thoughts: New approaches are always needed, genealogy in this case. This is certainly true with maritime history which has often been an isolated field of history that doesn't really use all tools available to it but often focuses heavily on chronicle like telling. Like noted in article Maritime History as Global History?The Methodological Challenges and a Future Research Agenda Maria Fusaro noted "Within the Anglophone world, maritime history in its widest sense has been –historically and indeed culturally – extremely sceptical of theoretical approaches."

(Maritime History, in my humble opinion, barely deserves its own category in modern scientific field. Maritime world has always been just a part of the general happenings. It this theatre of history, not a category lice "Social" or "Economic" history.)

I think your seven points are really quite interesting and well thought out. I, too, had wondered at the idea of what it meant to be aristocratic. I am not always sure that my knowledge of English culture (particularly English culture 300 years ago) is sufficient to fully comprehend what it would mean to be a landowner in one of the colonies. I've learned that our understanding of social class structure is very different in America.

I don't know that history needs to be divided any particular way to make it more or less valid as a subject, though. I suspect many people just focus on the topics and areas that interest them. (Unless they're cynical and then they focus on the areas with the most potential for recognition.) To focus on all of history would make you a generalist. I find it's hard to get excited about something that broad. The authors that interest me seem to focus on a particular niche and then explore the details of that - the details are usually what interest me the most. Of course, that's just my view of it. I imagine you're taking classes that are focused more on the larger topic. I do find if you don't have an understanding of the larger scope, a lot of the details don't make sense. Kind of like me not understanding what it really means to be aristocratic in 17th/18th c. English society.

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I also meant to add earlier, for the edification of anyone else reading this thread, that the archaeology of the QAR does not in any way prove that she was wrecked by accident. The Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, who regularly dives on the QAR and has done more or less since her discovery, is on record with his opinion that Herriot was telling the truth about BB's treachery, and he is both better qualified and better placed to say what the archaeology does or does not prove than I.

If you're referring to David Moore, yes. But, there are quite a few more archaeologists working there who do not agree with him. In fact, I think he is alone on that opinion.

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I am, and I've read several of the other archaeologists too, but the very existence of dissent means that nothing is proven. FWIW, I have personally spoken to other archaeologists working there who share his opinion, so he's not alone. In fact, I think it would be impossible to prove either way from the archaeology alone.

Mission, I couldn't agree more. It's impossible to be an expert on all of history, it's just too vast a subject, and that often leads to poor contextualisation. When I was writing my PhD thesis I think I probably spent more time researching topics outside of piracy that were tangentially important to my understanding of pirates than I did researching the pirates themselves.

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True... one piece of data alone proves nothing. That's what I was saying before, too. A 50% probability, after repeated occurrences, however, becomes 75% after two, 87.5% after three, and 93.8% after four... and so on. That is basic probability statistics... assuming that each occurrence had a 50% chance.

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So, direct questions: what could Herriot have plausibly gained by making up the story that BB deliberately wrecked the QAR if he had not, or by denying that it was an accident if that was the case?

And why, if the loss of the QAR was a genuine accident, did BB leave the majority of his company behind?

And what about the archaeology of the QAR convinces you that it was lost accidentally?

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1. immunity from prosecution

2. they left... the game was up... Capt. Brand's informant told him weeks after that 90 had already left for points northward and Thache was talking about sticking around, boasting about marrying (in the future) in Bath... and the informant said that there was a dispute among the pirates (Thache and Bonnet?).

3. http://baylusbrooks.com/QAR-R-09-02.pdf starts on page 15. More evidence to prove that it was an accident rather than intentional. Intent requires proof and Herriot and Pell both got immunity from prosecution by saying what the authorities wanted them to. That's not really proof... you might say that it's 50/50. ;)

Besides Herriot tried to escape anyway... that discredits his testimony. Let's not forget that Herriot had also just lost his ship Adventure. Was he mad?

Edited by Baylus_Brooks

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1. Herriot and Pell were already immune from prosecution, as long as their testimony was enough to convict their fellows then on trial they had no need to invent stuff. Blackbeard's motives for the loss of the QAR had no bearing either on their own fate or the fate of their fellows.

2. Testimony indicates that BB deliberately stranded men at Beaufort. The game was far from 'up', as both BB's and Bonnet's continued piracy shows. If BB had wanted to continue his piracy with a powerful fleet, the remaining sloops and the available hands to man them would have rendered him still one of the most powerful pirates in the region even without the QAR. The fact that BB took only one sloop with 40 hands and 60 slaves, most of whom were most likely subsequently sold, suggests that BB himself wanted to downsize his operation. Whether that decision came before or after the loss of the QAR is, of course, open to speculation, but his actions do not speak of a man who regretted the loss of his flagship.

3. The article you cite does not say (at least from p. 15 onwards) that the archaeology shows the wreck was accidental. What it does say is that the QAR may have drawn as much as 12 feet, the nearest available chart shows 17 feet of water in the channel. and there is no evidence of malfunction or other extenuating circumstances which would make an accident likely.

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True... one piece of data alone proves nothing. That's what I was saying before, too. A 50% probability, after repeated occurrences, however, becomes 75% after two, 87.5% after three, and 93.8% after four... and so on. That is basic probability statistics... assuming that each occurrence had a 50% chance.

Statistic babble aside, you're just saying that each independent primary source agreeing with your statement makes its factuality more likely, something that's been discussed on this forum several times. So how many independent primary sources do you have? (This may be cited in the discussion here, but I've sort of lost track.)

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1. Herriot and Pell were already immune from prosecution, as long as their testimony was enough to convict their fellows then on trial they had no need to invent stuff. Blackbeard's motives for the loss of the QAR had no bearing either on their own fate or the fate of their fellows.

2. Testimony indicates that BB deliberately stranded men at Beaufort. The game was far from 'up', as both BB's and Bonnet's continued piracy shows. If BB had wanted to continue his piracy with a powerful fleet, the remaining sloops and the available hands to man them would have rendered him still one of the most powerful pirates in the region even without the QAR. The fact that BB took only one sloop with 40 hands and 60 slaves, most of whom were most likely subsequently sold, suggests that BB himself wanted to downsize his operation. Whether that decision came before or after the loss of the QAR is, of course, open to speculation, but his actions do not speak of a man who regretted the loss of his flagship.

3. The article you cite does not say (at least from p. 15 onwards) that the archaeology shows the wreck was accidental. What it does say is that the QAR may have drawn as much as 12 feet, the nearest available chart shows 17 feet of water in the channel. and there is no evidence of malfunction or other extenuating circumstances which would make an accident likely.

1. Herriot might have been mad and he may have been coerced to damn Thache. There are way too many possibilities here... suppose the authorities discovered his lies. Suppose he crewmates felt brtrayed.

2. I'm saying that Thache gave up after the wreck... the crew went off to do whatever. The only evidence is for 20 crew and a handful of slaves. Howard left for Va with two. The crew split them up most likely...

3. Regardless of how you interpret it, archaeologists generally go higher than 50/50 on it being an accident. This might be statistical "babble" to you, but the math is sound. Do you believe that all non-primary sources are a 50/50 shot? If so, then the formula applies.

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1. Herriot might have been mad and he may have been coerced to damn Thache. There are way too many possibilities here...

Either of those things might be true, or any one of a number of possibilities. But is any of them likely enough to build theories upon as you have done? If you want your theory to hold water you're going to have to do better than 'he went mad', if you want to make the case that he was lying (and Pell, who agreed with him) then you need to come up with a reason that him lying it more likely than him telling the truth.

2. I'm saying that Thache gave up after the wreck... the crew went off to do whatever. The only evidence is for 20 crew and a handful of slaves.

Again, we both know that's not the case. Herriot deposed 40 white and 60 black men. Pell agreed with him. You could argue that they were lying, but again if you want that to hold water you'd have to come up with a plausible reason why it's more likely that they were lying than telling the truth.

[EDIT] I've just realised I misinterpreted what you meant. You meant that the evidence only suggests 20 crew and a handful of slaves were stranded? Even so, if BB wanted to continue as a powerful pirate, he needn't have deliberately stranded even 20 of his men.

3. Regardless of how you interpret it, archaeologists generally go higher than 50/50 on it being an accident.

Show me which archaeologists (plural) do that please.

This might be statistical "babble" to you, but the math is sound. Do you believe that all non-primary sources are a 50/50 shot?

I believe that all sources of evidence require their own analysis. For the record, I wouldn't as a rule put numerical values on these things, I only did because you asked.

If so, then the formula applies.

If there's one thing I've learned from my study of history it's that such simplistic mathematical formulae have little or no place in the study of history.

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3. Regardless of how you interpret it, archaeologists generally go higher than 50/50 on it being an accident. This might be statistical "babble" to you, but the math is sound. Do you believe that all non-primary sources are a 50/50 shot? If so, then the formula applies.

Each instance is either independent (which, by definition, makes it hypothetically 50/50 right/wrong) or it isn't (which means it depends on the original observation which is 50/50.)

However, it is babble because you're trying to apply statistical methods to a complex situation that is not 50/50 anyhow. The rightness/wrongness is not purely statistical, it is based on a multitude of things about the person making the observation - their knowledge, information and biases. People's opinions are not coin flips.

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Their website (Which we should not take too seriously) this was said and to me it hints of some kind of consensus, even while it doesn't directly say that all in the project actually agree. Indeed it seems that only one of the two sources say she was run aground in purpose, while the other says nothing about this.

Soon after leaving Charleston, Blackbeard's fleet attempted to enter Old Topsail Inlet in North Carolina, now known as Beaufort Inlet. During that attempt, Queen Anne's Revenge and the sloop Adventure grounded on the ocean bar and were abandoned. Research by David Moore, and others, has uncovered two eyewitness accounts that shed light on where the two pirate vessels were lost. According to a deposition given by David Herriot, the former captain of Adventure, "the said Thatch's ship Queen Anne's Revenge run a-ground off of the Bar of Topsail-Inlet." Herriot further states that Adventure "run a-ground likewise about Gun-shot from the said Thatch".
(Indeed correct and good points Mission. One cannot know all well enough. Anyway my point was that often, not speaking of any of the people here, people looking into maritime history focus only in technical things and details or individual happenings with sometimes poor background research. At least this is my impression after looking countless of studies e.g. about American Revolutionary naval war recently for a project (but this is partly caused by the fact some of the research is old). But, yes it is a valid genre when thinking it again, but I think it is still more a regional than thematic approach and thus pretty vague alone. Anyway.)
Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

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Each instance is either independent (which, by definition, makes it hypothetically 50/50 right/wrong) or it isn't (which means it depends on the original observation which is 50/50.)

Essentially what you're describing is what academics call 'chain forging'. I don't like the phrase because it implies deliberate dishonesty which I don't think is usually the case (though in fact I believe it refers rather to the kind of forging that smiths do, rather than the kind that counterfeiters do), but essentially it works like this.

If A is correct then that implies B is correct, which leads us to suppose C, and if C is correct therefore D. D lends credence to the accuracy of A. Taken together they prove E. But if A or C aren't correct then it all comes tumbling down, and with every new step in the chain the chances of the final outcome being the correct one are actually reduced.

The system only works when A, B, C, and D all independently tend towards E. Then if either A or C aren't correct, E is still supported by B and D and remains viable.

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2. they left... the game was up... Capt. Brand's informant told him weeks after that 90 had already left for points northward and Thache was talking about sticking around, boasting about marrying (in the future) in Bath... and the informant said that there was a dispute among the pirates (Thache and Bonnet?).

For the record, this statement is not entirely accurate, and it is combining information from two different letters written by Captain Ellis Brand: one composed on July 12, 1718, and the second composed on February 6, 1718/19. The intelligence Brand received regarding the wreck of the QAR at Topsail Inlet and the numbers of men who were subsequently divided into three groups did not come from an “informant” but from the vessel Globe of Maryland, which Brand’s ship Lyme was escorting off Cape Henry.

In his July letter Brand did not write "that 90 had already left for points northward”—that figure of 90 men can only inferred by deduction. Brand did not write that his informant reported that Thatch "was talking about sticking around, boasting about marrying (in the future) in Bath.” To suggest this is absolute nonsense. I have a copy of the letter I photographed at Kew before me, so I can say this with authority.

Brand wrote that 230 pirates “continue together given out they design for Currico and other of the islands. When they first came on the coast there [sic] numbers consisted of three hundred and twentie, whites and negroes.” Obviously, 320 minus the 230 who were reported by Brand to continue together leaves 90 men. As has already been indicated within this thread, Herriot testified that Thatch had departed with 100 men aboard the small Spanish sloop captured a number of weeks earlier off Havana. The difference between Brand’s intimation of 90 men based on his source from the ship Globe, and Herriot’s testimony of 100 men based on his being present when it happened, can be reconciled by the fact that both were likely estimates. Herriot’s “40 whites and 60 blacks” is more specific and was likely to have been more accurate.

An interesting question remains—how many pirates from the Thatch/Bonnet consortium were left behind after Blackbeard’s sloop Adventure, and Bonnet’s Revenge departed Topsail Inlet? Three and a half months after the scuttling of the QAR, 36 suspected pirates, including Bonnet, David Herriot, and Ignatius Pell, were aboard the Revenge when it was attacked by Col. Rhett in the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Rowland Sharp and Robert Boyd, both of Bath, had been “forced" to join the crew after their canoe encountered Bonnet in the river shortly before the engagement—the two Bath men may, or may not, have been members of the 230 pirates left behind by Thatch and his hand-picked cohorts and slaves but two other convicted pirates on Bonnet’s crew were also from North Carolina. Consequently, somewhere between 184 and 196 former members of the 4-vessel flotilla were left behind to find their own transportation from Topsail Inlet (some men could have chosen to remain at what was soon to be known as Beaufort Town).

Edited by LookingGlass

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