DESCRIPTION: "Come all you young seamen with courage so bold, Will you venture with me? I'll glut you with gold." Henry (Every/Avery), (mutineer and) pirate, enlists sailors to the "Fancy." The singer declares he has done England no wrong
EARLIEST DATE: 1696 (Burgess, who claims three distinct broadside versions published in that year)
KEYWORDS: pirate mutiny money ship
May 6, 1694 - Henry Every's rebellion
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Frank-Pirate 12, "Captain Every" (1 text, from Firth; #12 in the first edition)
ADDITIONAL: Douglas R. Burgess, Jr., _The Politics of Piracy: Crime and Civil Disobedience in Colonial America_, ForeEdge, 2014, p. 81, "(The Ballad of Captain Avery") (partial text)
ST BdCapEve (Partial)
Bodleian, Harding B 17(33a), "Bold Captain Avery" ("Come all ye young sailors of courage so bold"), J. Pitts (Seven Dials), 1819-1844; also Firth c.12(448); Harding B 25(232); Johnson Ballads 3009, all by Pitts; also 2806 c.18(39)
Bold Captain Avery
Copy of Verses Composed by Captain Henry Every
NOTES [945 words]: The handful of popular versions of this song seem to call the hero/villain "Captain Avery," a name also used by Daniel Defoe (who called him "John Avery"; DictPirates, p. 115). Defoe's spelling seems to have been adopted by both Ritchie and Zacks. But the original and official spelling was Henry Every, as shown by the proclamation against him reproduced on p. 79 of Burgess, and Burgess and Hendrickson call him "Every."
And it seems certain that the song refers to the Henry Every of the proclamation, because the ship in the song is named the Fancy. Originally the ship had been the Charles II, and it had been intended for service in the war against Spain (Ritchie, p. 85). Every -- a man of unknown origins, although possibly of the Every family of Derby, since the song seems to refer to their arms; Burgess, p. 81 -- had been her first mate (Burgess, p. 52) or perhaps second mate (Ritchie, p. 85). On May 6, 1694, with the crew having spent months without pay, he led a bloodless mutiny against the captain and renamed the ship the Fancy (Burgess, p. 52).
One of his men quoted Every as saying, "I am a man of fortune, and must seek my fortune" (Ritchie, p. 86).
Every's actions after that drove the British government to distraction. He took the Fancy to the Indian Ocean, there to prey on the East India trade. There were plenty of pirates doing that, and often local officials turned their back. But Every (and several other ships that had banded with him; RItchie, pp. 87-88) attacked the Indian ship Ganj-i-Sawai (anglicized as "Gunsway") -- and sacked it, taking a great deal of money when he did.
But it was what the pirates did to the passengers that caused the real outrage: "the Pyrates... did so very barbarously by the People of the Gunsway and Abdul Gofor's ship, to make them confess where their money was... and forced several other Women, which caused one person of quality, his Wife and Nurse, to kill themselves to prevent the Husbands seeing them (and their being) ravished" (Burgess, p. 52, quoting a colonial official of the time). In other words, they tortured some of the men and raped some of the women, and others of the passengers threw themselves into the sea and drowned (DictPirates, pp. 115-116). One version claimed that Every himself had raped the Grand Moghul's niece! (Zacks, p. 123); another account says that the Moghul's daughter was raped, although apparently not by Every (Hendrickson, p. 211).
India demanded that Every be found and punished. The British government tried; for a while, "Henry Every was the most hunted Englishman on earth" (Burgess, p. 91). Colonial governors were ordered to find and imprison him. But one, Thomas Trott, gave him shelter (in return, it would seem, for a pretty good bribe), and Every eventually managed to disappear into Ireland (DictPirates, p. 116).
Every was never found, and most of his crew also escaped with their winnings. The protests from India forced the British government to increase their control of trade; the Board of Trade was created in 1696 (Burgess, p. 51). And six of Every's pirates were found and put on trial in that same year. That they were guilty of piracy seems certain -- but the jury refused to convict them (Burgess, pp. 65-70). The British, desperate to secure a conviction, brought a new indictment, this time for mutiny -- and, although they used effectively the same arguments and evidence (making it a clear case of double jeopardy), this time they managed a conviction (Burgess, pp. 70-77).
So why weren't Every's men convicted? Probably because England had a tradition of patriotic pirates -- think Sir Francis Drake. In popular esteem, Every seems to have been more fighter for England than sociopathic sea-robber. This attitude is probably false, but this song probably arose to take advantage of that opinion -- it claims, correctly, that Every did not prey upon British ships (Burgess, p. 83). Every apparently gone so far as to issue a proclamation saying that he would not attack British vessels (RItchie, p. 87; Hendrickson, pp. 210-211, quoted this text, which includes such statements as "I have never as yet wronged any English or Dutch [the Netherlands and Britain both being ruled by William III], or ever intend whilst I am commander.... As yet an Englishman's friend." The account is dated February 18, 1695.).
The British government engaged in a vigorous publicity campaign to try to make people believe piracy was a crime, but it would be several decades before the message came home (Burgess, p. 92).
So Every ended up a folk hero. Some have even thought that Henry Every did in fact write the words to this poem. In 1709, one Adrian van Broek produced a (very faintly historical) account, "The Life and Adventures of Captain John Avery," which ends with Every being elected king of St. Mary's Island (Burgess, p. 93). There was also a play, "The Successful Pyrate," by Charles Johnson (Burgess, p. 64), although it seems to have been largely forgotten.
Folklore had a lot to do with him, claiming that he turned pirate after finding another man in bed with his wife. He was also called "Long Ben" despite being "middle-sized, inclinable to be fat, and of a jolly complexion" (Hendrickson, p. 210, from "a contemporary account"). A version of the tale of his "kingship" reports that he married the Grand Moghul's daughter! (Hendrickson, p. 211).
The agitation created by the Every case ultimately underlay the case of Captain Kidd also; Kidd, who was in the Indian Ocean two years after Every's act (Zacks, p. 123) suffered from the change in British attitudes brought about by the Every case (Ritchie, pp. 89, 96). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
- Burgess: Douglas R. Burgess, Jr., The Politics of Piracy: Crime and Civil Disobedience in Colonial America, ForeEdge, 2014
- DictPirates: Jan Rogozinsky, Pirates, Facts on File, 1995; republished as The Wordsworth Dictionary of Pirates, Wordsworth, 1997
- Hendrickson: Robert Hendrickson, The Ocean Almanac , Doubleday, 1984
- Ritchie: Robert C. Ritchie, Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates, Harvard University Press, 1986
- Zacks: Richard Zacks, The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, Theia, 2002
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