On This Day: 15 January 1704

On this day in 1704, four letters were sent to Captain Thomas Bowrey from on board the Rising Sun at Flushing. The ship had been detained for repairs following the Great Storm the previous year. One of the letters was unsigned but was in Captain Thomas Wybergh’s handwriting. It concerned only business. The other three were of more note and jointly from Wybergh and Peter Tom, the supercargo. One was in shorthand. I cannot read shorthand but the other two were identical except one was in Wybergh’s hand and the other Tom’s. I suspect that the shorthand letter said the same as it appears to have a similar postscript as the other two letters.

They were all set to depart for the East Indies in convoy with a number of Dutch East Indiamen but, again, the weather was against them and they touched a sandbank. Although the ship did not get stuck, they were forced back into the harbour to check for damage. However, it was not the state of the ship that worried Wybergh and Tom. Rather, it was the crew causing concern.

The letters said is was utterly impossible to have any government of men in this place where there is so great encouragement for privateering. They believed that local law did not support them in controlling their men. The postscript added that their men were their greatest concern. They were the masters and Wybergh and Tom forced to comply with what the crew wanted. They had never had half the trouble before.

Mutiny was a frequent hazard for all sea captains especially when a voyage was not going to plan. If the crew thought that they would not receive the rewards they expected and they could see greater advantages elsewhere, mutiny could be an attractive option. The sea was a dangerous place and the risk of execution not such a deterrent in such circumstances.


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