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Fox

Faithful Warnings

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… occasioned by a Tragical Spectacle, in a Number of Miserables under a Sentence of Death for Piracy, etc. Boston, 1704. - by Cotton Mather.

Anyone got access to a copy?

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Sorry, refuse to have anything by that bastard in my house, or to read his insane ramblings.

(Big red candy coloured button, you say....)

Hawkyns

:huh:

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HA! And here I thought I was the only person who loathes Cotton Mather...

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Cotton Mather was an overzealous loon. ;)

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Mather was the quintessential hell-fire and brimstone looney tune. And his brother was right in there behind him. rollingeyes.gif

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Thanks John,

alas, neither of those links had "Faithful Warnings". I did follow links from one of them to the Cotton Mather Discussion Forum, read the single post and decided it probably wasn't active enough for my taste...

For the record, I'm not suggesting for a minute that I approve of the great Cotton Mather and his excellent and pious works, just that I want to read a bit of one of them. :D

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Well I'll show my lack of learning. Just who was, is or might have been Cotton Mather? He doesn't sound to popular here.

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While I don't have Mather's works Foxe, I do have a great 2 volume collection of Samuel Sewall's journals covering almost the entire "Golden Age" from 1674-1719. Provides a much more secular commentary on life in and around Boston. Terrific stuff.

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Cotton Mather was a self-righteous Massachussets minister who was responsible to a great extent for the Salem witch massacre and who wrote endless monographs on a variety of topics. His extreme puritanism really set the tone for generations to come. His Wikipedia page is here.

Josh, that sounds fantastic. Does he give any mention of the trial and execution of John Quelch and his men in 1704?

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Extensively so, Foxe. In fact it's one of his longest entries. He was personally involved in their apprehension and the aftermath. He also attended the very Cotton Mather sermon to the pirates that you're looking for as well as the hanging.

I'll scan the pages and post them as jpgs - it's way too much to transcribe. :)

Sewall was also the first and only to publicly recant the witch trials and aplogogize to the families for his involvement, fwiw.

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That would be fantastically useful Josh! Personally I'm only particularly interested in any mention of Quelch's flag, so there'd be no need to scan or transcribe the whole thing on my account. Of course, I suspect that others are interested too and now you've offered... ;)

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I'll do so tonight, but Sewall doesn't mention Quelch's flag. Although the execution sounded like quite the spectacle!

I think I have a mention of his flag somewhere...didn't they hang it on the gallows?

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Aye, be careful how you bring money into New England...

Displaying flags at executions doesn't seem to have been uncommon - Harris's flag (which was the same as Quelch's - possibly) was displayed at his, and Lyne's men marched to their trial behind their flag - so it's quite possible that Quelch's was.

Here's the thing though with Quelch's flag. We've got quite a good description of it - skeleton holding an hourglass in one hand and a spear in the other, heart stuck on the end of the spear dripping blood - and this description has all the appearance of coming from a contemporary document. Paine in 1911 seems to be the earliest published source for it, but he simply describes it as from and "old manuscript" or something equally unhelpful. The first person who seems to specify what the "old manuscript" is seems to be Cordingly who claims that the description comes from Quelch's trial account. Alas, searching through either the full trial records or the published version will not turn up a description of his flag - Cordingly is mistaken, it's not there.

Since the flag is the same as two or three others, each with a genuine period description, and since all the descriptions are so similar (they would be wouldn't they?) I wondered if perhaps Paine had made a mistake and the flag wasn't in fact Quelch's at all. Then Corsair2K3 suggested that the description might have come from the Mather speech I'm so keen to get hold of, but I'm unable to get my hands on a copy, and so it seems is everyone else. I'm beginning to think that Quelch's flag is described in a period document, I have three seperate modern sources which each give a different part of the description so I know they're not copying from each other, I just don't know what they are copying from since only Cordingly gives a source (and that incorrect!)

So, if you do have information which confirms which, if any, period document actually contains a description of Quelch's flag PLEASE let me know - I'll buy you a packet of Smarties. ;)

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A packet of Smarties? That's it? Why, they cut up your mouth and everything! I'd far prefer a proper pint... ;)

Anyway, I scanned Sewall's entire account of the Quelch Affair and made a handy-dandy PDF file. This is one of his longest accounts, at about 8 pages. The footnotes are also of interest, so I scanned it at a little higher resolution so they could be read. Total file size is about 930K.

You can download it by clicking Here - Sewall's Quelch Commentary.

Enjoy!

My favorite part is when Sewall dines with his sister-in-law while his brother (her husband) goes chasing the pirates to the Isle of Shoals. She's a nervous wreck, and Samuel spends the night trying to comfort her, while he himself is scared stiff of what might happen. Namely bloodshed.

It puts a very timeless, human touch on these events.

Incidentally I read through all my accounts of Quelch today and found no mention made of his flag anywhere. I wonder if somewhere in Portugal there is a Colonial Papers collection containing period accounts by the victims of Quelch's piracies off Brazil....

Also - in the footnotes they mention that a sketch (presumably biographic and not artistic, sadly) is to be found in the Dictionary of American Biography, published in New York, 1928. Could contain new info, but more than likely is just a rehash of Paine, etc.

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I just came across this Foxe, but I'm not sure it's anything solid. In "The Pirate's Who's Who" by Philip Gosse (Rio Grande Press - 1924), Quelch's entry contains the following lines:

They hoisted a flag, the "Old Roger", described as having "in the middle of it an Anatomy with an Hourglars in one hand and a dart in the Heart with three drops of Blood proceeding from it in the other."

This sounds like what you've been reading too. The quote certainly sounds period, but that doesn't mean a thing. Gosse could have mistakenly used this quote here, when it was really about another pirate, or paraphrased, or intentionally borrowed this quote from a completely different pirate's trial proceeding. Or, it could be Mather! I'm intrigued...now I want to read Mather's sermon too!

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Wasn't that 'Teach's' flag??

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Yeah, I'd forgotten about Gosse, that makes 4 secondary sources that describe Quelch's flag from what appears to be a period quote. The others are Paine's Book of Buried Treasure (1911), Mitchell's Pirates (1976) and Cordingly's Under the Black Flag (1995). It could be that they're all copying from one another, but small differences lead me to suspect that they're not. OTOH, I don't trust Gosse much, I have little faith in a book about buried treasure, Mitchell's work is basic in the extreme and Cordingly quotes a clearly incorrect source...

FWIW Harris's flag was described as "a Black Flag, with the Pourtrature of Death having an Hour-Glass in One Hand, and a Dart in the Other at the end of which was the Form of a Heart with three drops of Blood falling from it" in the New England Chronicle, July 22 1723

Low's and Spriggs are described in Johnson's General History as "a white skeleton in the middle of it, with a dart in one hand striking a bleeding heart and in the other an hour glass"

Spriggs was also described by Captain Richard Hawkins as a "black ensign, in the middle of which is a large white skeleton with a dart in one hand, striking a bleeding heart, and in the other an hourglass".

John Phillips' flag was described as a "Black flag in the middle of which was an Anatomy and at one side of it a Dart in the Heart with drops of Blood proceeding from it and on the other side an Hour-glass" in the Boston News Letter, June 4th 1724.

The fact that the Quelch description is slightly different to all of these, and that Paine and Cordingly given slighty different parts of it leads me to think that there is a seperate description of it, attributing it to Quelch, but I REALLY want to know for sure.

Badger, although it's often (nay, always) labelled as Blackbeard's flag in books and websites there's no evidence whatsoever that Blackbeard flew this flag, and even if he did it's almost certain that his skeleton didn't have the horns it's usually depicted with. There are at least two different records of Blackbeard's genuine flag, both describing it simply as a "death's head".

The erroneous attribution of the horned-skeleton flag to Blackbeard, along with the supposed flags of Avery, Rackham, Moody, Bonnet, Condent, and others, dates to sometime after about 1930 and can be attributed to the imagination of an unknown artist.

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Yeah but did you read Sewall's account yet? It's so cool....

Anyway, so what we have are several different descriptions of what sounds like the same flag. Made by different people, but all eminating from the Mass Bay Colony, circa 1723-1725. Here's a couple of my theories:

1: These witnesses were confusing this flag with someone else's.

2: One or more pirates were at one time or another members of ALL those pirate crews, and merely carried this same (and only) flag around with them between ships & captains. Perhaps it was just one guy who had this flag and used it several times off New England for a couple years. I think this is pretty likely given the extremely localized nature of the sightings.

3: perhaps all these seperate pirates purchased different copies of the same flag by the same flagmaker, perhaps just some whore in the West Indies trying to earn extra coin by sewing pirate colors on the side. Not likely, but interesting to think about. Maybe it was a mini-fad!

I think #2 is quite feasible.

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I think you're close with number 3. But I think it's a little more interesting than that...

Harris was a consort of Low's. We know it's not the same actualy flag because Low is reported as flying it long after Harris was captured, therefore, it's two pirates sailing together in consort and flying the same flag (of which there are numerous examples).

Some time later Spriggs, another of Low's consorts went off on his own account and made himself a new flag with the same design as Low's (if we believe Johnson).

Phillips of course was not part of the Low gang, but he was by descent part of Roberts' (Phillips sailed with Anstis, who sailed with Roberts), and we also have a description of one of Roberts' flags: "The Flag had a Death in it, with an Hour-Glass in one Hand, and cross Bones in the other, a Dart by it, and underneath a Heart dropping three Drops of Blood."

Not the same, but similar. I can also think of at least one other flag with a spear and bleeding heart and several with skeletons or hour glasses, so they weren't uncommon symbols.

You have highlighted a very important point though Josh, one I'd certainly overlooked before. All the pirates which I mentioned in my post had some connection with that part of the New England coast. So too did Quelch. I wonder if the similarity was perhaps something to do with geography?

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There we go then.......I bows t' yer powers sah! ;) ..... :lol::lol:

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There is no doubt in my mind that geography was a huge part. Specifically Massachusets Bay, which basically entails from Southern Maine to Rhode Island.

This flag in question seems to be a trend among a group of pirates, all of whom are somehow or other connected through crew lineage. If it's not the actual same flag or flags getting "inherited" by new offshoots of subsequent crews, then it's a case of Pirate Joe on Ship X saying "Ya know, when I was on So-And-So's ship, we had this really neat flag with a dart, blood drops, the whole nine. Why don't we adopt that look for our colors?"

The security & law enforcement of the time in New England was VERY porous at best. Sewall himself notes how many pirates of Quelch's crew escaped or were let go. Toss bribes into the mix, and it's easy to see how an active group of New England pirates could come and go from the various pirate vessels operating in the Atlantic in this period. The flag design had to be passed on like folklore.

What I want to know is HOW this flag ever came to be associated with Blackbeard...unless this design was really so popular as to be used by most Atlantic pirates of the period...

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Ok, the flag saga.

At some point after about 1930 a manuscript surfaced with a number of pictures of pirate flags, each attributed to a particular pirate. The manuscript is in the library of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and though I must confess to not having seen it myself I am assured that it bears all the hallmarks of having been made in the late 19th or early 20th century. It is completely anonymous and gives no clue as to the origins of either the flags depicted or the attirbutions that it gives. At some point the flags on the manuscript made it into a book and they have been copied and recopied ever since. I've not managed to track down which book first included them, but I've given it a rough earliest date of about 1930 because there are a hanful of books from the 1920s and earlier which illustrate pirate flags without including the highly dubious ones from the spurious manscript. In addition, the Mariner's Mirror ran an article and a Q&A session lasting several years on the topic of pirate flags in the early 20thC and no mention is made of any of the dodgy ones. Certainly I have not been able to find any book or other work pre-1930 which includes depictions or descriptions of any of the flags in question.

This sudden appearance of a handful of flags (most of the flags still being reprinted in books and websites), coupled with the highly suspect manuscript scream out "FORGERY!" Or quite possible they murmur "work of imagination followed by honest mistakes and lazy research." Either way, in many of the cases there is genuine documentary evidence of the pirates in question flying totally different flags. It's quite possible that some of them flew more than one flag, but there's just no documentary evidence that they did, and it's unlikely that so many pirates flew two flags, one which made it into the period sources and one which remained lost until the mid-20thC. If you'll allow me to elaborate on the flags usually found:

Henry Avery. The flag usually attributed to HA is one of the best pointers to the modernity of the manuscript. Not only does no evidence show that HA flew such a flag, but there is no evidence to show that he flew a skull and bones at all, and in any case he considerably pre-dates the great age of the jolly roger. The jolly roger attirbuted to him exhibits 1 unusual characteristic, the profile skull, and 2 downright implausible one, the bandanna and the earring, neither of which became particularly associated with pirate until the late 19th century.

Stede Bonnet. No period source describes or shows the supposed SB flag, but two period descriptions describe his flag simply as a "death's head".

Christopher Condent. A number of pre 1930s sources show the supposed Condent flag, but none of them attribute it to CC.

Christopher Moody. Moody's supposed flag dates to at least 1716, but there is no suggestion that it was him who flew it until the mid-20thC

Jack Rackham. This flag appears to be completely fictitious. There is no evidence from the period JR flew it or that anything like it ever existed. No mention of it is made until the mid-20thC (pity, it's a nice flag...).

Edward Teach. ET is recorded in at least 2 period sources to have flown a "death's head". The horned skeleton is completely unlike early other 18thC imagery, which suggests (together with the Avery flag) that the author of the manuscript didn't do his research very well.

Thomas Tew. 3 or 4 pirates are known to have flown flags bearing either an arm and sword or an arm and dagger. Tew is not one of them and until (you've guessed it) the mid-20thC there was no suggestion that he did.

Richard Worley. Contemporary sources describe Worley's flag as a "death's head", which might be a description of his skull and cross bones...maybe.

FWIW the flags usually depicted for Roberts, England, and Low all have contemporary, or near-contemporary sources to support them.

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That's what I research for Josh :lol:

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