Edmond Halley, pirate?

On 2 April 1699, Paramore anchors in Carlisle Bay, Barbados and on the 4th Halley writes to Josiah Burchett, Secretary to the Admiralty, for the first time since leaving Madeira in December.

He gives an account of his voyage between Madeira and Barbados but doesn’t mention the incident that occurred two days earlier when Lieutenant Harrison disobeyed his orders, though he does mention something not recorded in his logbook – that he was fired on as a suspected pirate!

(Halley to Burchett, dated 4 April 1699 from “Barbadoes road”, National Archives ADM 1/1871. Remember “Lopps” is Halley’s abbreviation for “Lordshipps”.)

Honoured Sr

I have had no opportunity to give their Lopps any account of my proceedings since my last of Decemb 20 from Madera. That same day I sayled for the Cape de Virde Ilands and arriving at St Iago on Jan. 2, I found there two English Marchāt shipps, one of which calld the New Exchange, wherof one John Way is Master belonging to London, was pleased, insteed of saluting us, to fire at us severall both great and small shott. We were surprized at it, and beliving them to be pirates, I went in to windward of them and bracing our head Sailes to the Mast, sent my boat to learn the reason of their firing. They answered that they apprehended we were a pirate, and that they had on board them two Masters of vessells, that had been lately taken by pirates, one of which swore that ours was the very shipp that took him; wherupon they thought themselves obliged to do what they did in their own defence. Then they sent on board me the two persons they said were the Masters of the taken Vessells, and soon after the two Masters came themselves, they said they were sorry that they had fired at the Kings Colours, but that Colours were not to be trusted. I told them I must acquaint their Lopps with what had past, and if their Lopps would put it up, as it hapned they had done me no damage. The next morning they both sailed, and upon our arrivall here we found the said Master John Way and his shipp in this road. From St Iago we proceeded to the southward and being gotten within 100 leagues of the line, we fell into such calmes and small southerly gales, that our shipp being very indifferent to windward, we were full seven weeks before we gott 100 leagues to the Southward of the line, in which time our water being near spent, obliged us to recruite it on the coast of Brasile. By this time twas March and we found the Northerly Currents made against us, and we upon the Lee shore; so that it would have been scarce possible for a more winderly shipp than we, to turn it to the Southward. And the winter advancing apace in those Climates I principally entended to discover, I thought it not adviseable to proceed that way at this time of the year; hoping it may give their Lopps some satisfaction if I do curiously adjust the Longitude of most of the plantations and see what may be discovered in relation to the Variation of the Needle in the Northern Hemisphere. Twas the last of November before we left the coast of England; wch considering the uncertainty of the Winds was I find above two months too late: but I hope to be in England time enough to proceed again this year if their Lopps shall think fitting to allow it. We watred in the river of Paraiba in Brasile where the Governour Dom Manuel Soarez Albergaria was very obliging and civill, but the portuguez, as farr as I could guess, were very willing to find pretences to seize us, and tempted us severall times to meddle with a sort of wood they call Poo de Brasile, which is an excellent dye, but prohibited to all forreig[ners] under pain of confiscation of Shipp and goods. I being a[ware of] their design absolutely refused all commerce with them, and having gotten our water we arrived here in three weeks, on the second of this month: Our whole shipps company is hither in perfect health and our provision proves very good.

I am

Honoured Sr

Your most obedient Servant

Edm. Halley

I do find it amusing that although Halley says he thought the other ship might be a pirate, he nevertheless sends his boat to ask them why they fired at him!