On This Day: 12 January 1702

On this day in 1702, Samuel Burges wrote to Robert Callant from Marshallsea. As far as I know, the Marshalsea was only a prison and never referred to, for example, the area around the prison. Known mainly as a debtors’ prison, it also held other types of prisoners including those accused of crimes at sea. It is likely, therefore, that this was the Captain Samuel Burgess who had been a member of the pirate William Kidd’s crew. Following this, he had spent a number of years running trading voyages between New York and Madagascar selling supplies and guns to pirates in return for gold and slaves. He was captured by an East India Company ship and sent to London to be tried for piracy.

Burgess started his letter: According to your request I send you an account of the prices of those goods you desire but as for Mozambique I am a stranger to their trade. He the wrote his account of the trade and navigation at Delagoa (on the east coast of Africa) based on his own experience.

Callant was employed by Thomas Bowrey as the supercargo on the Worcester which was to call at Delagoa on her voyage to India. It would appear that he was collecting information on the trade in this area at Bowrey’s request. The letter was found within Bowrey’s papers and he had added his own notes to Burgess’ letter.

Burgess was eventually to receive a pardon for his crimes and went on to become a privateer in the Pacific but continued to trade with the pirates of Madagascar eventually settling there, dealing in slaves. It is believed that he was killed by an African chief as the result of an argument over this trade in 1716.

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