The Pirates Own Book:
Authentic Narratives of the Most Celebrated Sea Robbers

HISTORY OF THE LADRONE PIRATES


And their Depredations on the Coast of China: with an Account of the Enterprises and Victories of Mistress Ching, a Female Pirate.

The Ladrones as they were christened by the Portuguese at Macao, were originally a disaffected set of Chinese, that revolted against the oppression of the Mandarins. The first scene of their depredations was the Western coast, about Cochin China, where they began by attacking small trading vessels in row boats, carrying from thirty to forty men each. They continued this system of piracy, and thrived and increased in numbers under it, for several years. At length the fame of their success, and the oppression and horrid poverty and want that many of the lower orders of Chinese labored under, had the effect of augmenting their bands with astonishing rapidity. Fishermen and other destitute classes flocked by hundreds to their standard, and their audacity growing with their numbers, they not merely swept the coast, but blockaded all the rivers and attacked and took several large government war junks, mounting from ten to fifteen guns each.--These junks being added to their shoals of boats, the pirates formed a tremendous fleet, which was always along shore, so that no small vessel could safely trade on the coast. When they lacked prey on the sea, they laid the land under tribute. They were at first accustomed to go on shore and attack the maritime villages, but becoming bolder, like the Buccaneers, made long inland journeys, and surprised and plundered even large towns.

An energetic attempt made by the Chinese government to destroy them, only increased their strength; for in their first encounter with the pirates, twenty-eight of the Imperial junks struck, and the remaining twelve saved themselves, by a precipitate retreat.

The captured junks, fully equipped for war, were a great acquisition to the robbers, whose numbers now increased more rapidly than ever. They were in their plenitude of power in the year 1809, when Mr. Glasspoole had the misfortune to fall into their hands, at which time that gentleman supposed their force to consist of 70,000 men, navigating eight hundred large vessels, and one thousand small ones, including row boats. They were divided into six large squadrons, under different flags;--the red, the yellow, the green, the blue, the black and the white. "These wasps of the Ocean," as a Chinese historian calls them, were further distinguished by the names of their respective commanders: by these commanders a certain Ching-yih had been the most distinguished by his valor and conduct. By degrees, Ching obtained almost a supremacy of command over the whole united fleet; and so confident was this robber in his strength and daily augmenting means, that he aspired to the dignity of a king, and went so far as openly to declare his patriotic intention of hurling the present Tartar family from the throne of China, and of restoring the ancient Chinese dynasty. But unfortunately for the ambitious pirate, he perished in a heavy gale, and instead of placing a sovereign on the Chinese throne, he and his lofty aspirations were buried in the yellow sea. And now comes the most remarkable passage in the history of these pirates--remarkable with any class of men, but doubly so among the Chinese, who entertain more than the general oriental opinion of the inferiority of the fair sex. On the death of Ching-yih, his legitimate wife had sufficient influence over the freebooters to induce them to recognize her authority in the place of her deceased husband's, and she appointed one Paou as her lieutenant and prime minister, and provided that she should be considered the mistress or commander-in-chief of the united squadrons.

This Paou had been a poor fisher-boy, picked up with his father at sea, while fishing, by Ching-yih, whose good will and favor he had the fortune to captivate, and by whom, before that pirate's death, he had been made a captain. Instead of declining under the rule of a woman, the pirates became more enterprising than ever. Ching's widow was clever as well as brave, and so was her lieutenant Paou. Between them they drew up a code of law for the better regulation of the freebooters.

In this it was decreed, that if any man went privately on shore, or did what they called "transgressing the bars," he should have his ears slit in the presence of the whole fleet; a repetition of the same unlawful act, was death! No one article, however trifling in value, was to be privately subtracted from the booty or plundered goods. Every thing they took was regularly entered on the register of their stores. The following clause of Mistress Ching's code is still more delicate. No person shall debauch at his pleasure captive women, taken in the villages and open places, and brought on board a ship; he must first request the ship's purser for permission, and then go aside in the ship's hold. To use violence, against any woman, or to wed her, without permission, shall be punished with death.

By these means an admirable discipline was maintained on board the ships, and the peasantry on shore never let the pirates want for gunpowder, provisions, or any other necessary. On a piratical expedition, either to advance or retreat without orders, was a capital offence. Under these philosophical institutions, and the guidance of a woman, the robbers continued to scour the China sea, plundering every vessel they came near. The Great War Mandarin, Kwolang-lin sailed from the Bocca Tigris into the sea to fight the pirates. Paou gave him a tremendous drubbing, and gained a splendid victory. In this battle which lasted from morning to night, the Mandarin Kwolang-lin, a desperate fellow himself, levelled a gun at Paou, who fell on the deck as the piece went off; his disheartened crew concluded it was all over with him. But Paou was quick eyed. He had seen the unfriendly intention of the mandarin, and thrown himself down. The Great Mandarin was soon after taken with fifteen junks; three were sunk. The pirate lieutenant would have dealt mercifully with him, but the fierce old man suddenly seized him by the hair on the crown of his head, and grinned at him, so that he might provoke him to slay him. But even then Paou spoke kindly to him. Upon this he committed suicide, being seventy years of age.

After several victories and reverses, the Chinese historian says our men-of-war escorting some merchant ships, happened to meet the pirate chief nicknamed "The Jewel of the Crew" cruising at sea. The traders became exceedingly frightened, but our commander said,--This not being the flag of the widow Ching-yih, we are a match for them, therefore we will attack and conquer them. Then ensued a battle; they attacked each other with guns and stones, and many people were killed and wounded. The fighting ceased towards evening, and began again next morning. The pirates and the men-of-war were very close to each other, and they boasted mutually about their strength and valor. The traders remained at some distance; they saw the pirates mixing gunpowder in their beverage,--they looked instantly red about the face and the eyes, and then fought desperately. This fighting continued three days and nights incessantly; at last, becoming tired on both sides, they separated.

To understand this inglorious bulletin, the reader must remember that many of the combatants only handled bows and arrows, and pelted stones, and that Chinese powder and guns are both exceedingly bad. The pathos of the conclusion does somewhat remind one of the Irishman's despatch during the American war,--"It was a bloody battle while it lasted; and the searjent of marines lost his cartouche box."

The Admiral Ting River was sent to sea against them. This man was surprised at anchor by the ever vigilant Paou, to whom many fishermen and other people on the coast, must have acted as friendly spies. Seeing escape impossible, and that his officers stood pale and inactive by the flag-staff, the Admiral conjured them, by their fathers and mothers, their wives and children, and by the hopes of brilliant reward if they succeeded, and of vengeance if they perished, to do their duty, and the combat began. The Admiral had the good fortune, at the onset, of killing with one of his great guns the pirate captain, "The Jewel of the Crew." But the robbers swarmed thicker and thicker around him, and when the dreaded Paou lay him by the board, without help or hope, the Mandarin killed himself. An immense number of his men perished in the sea, and twenty-five vessels were lost. After his defeat, it was resolved by the Chinese Government to cut off all their supplies of food, and starve them out. All vessels that were in port were ordered to remain there, and those at sea, or on the coast ordered to return with all speed. But the pirates, full of confidence, now resolved to attack the harbors themselves, and to ascend the rivers, which are navigable for many miles up the country, and rob the villages. The consternation was great when the Chinese saw them venturing above the government forts.

The pirates separated: Mistress Ching plundering in one place, Paou in another, and O-po-tae in another, &c.

It was at this time that Mr. Glasspoole had the ill fortune to fall into their power. This gentlemen, then an officer in the East India Company's ship the Marquis of Ely, which was anchored under an island about twelve miles from Macao, was ordered to proceed to the latter place with a boat to procure a pilot. He left the ship in one of the cutters, with seven British seamen well armed, on the 17th September, 1809. He reached Macao in safety, and having done his business there and procured a pilot, returned towards the ship the following day. But, unfortunately, the ship had weighed anchor and was under sail, and in consequence of squally weather, accompanied with thick fogs, the boat could not reach her, and Mr. Glasspoole and his men and the pilot were left at sea, in an open boat. "Our situation," says that gentleman, "was truly distressing--night closing fast, with a threatening appearance, blowing fresh, with a hard rain and a heavy sea; our boat very leaky, without a compass, anchor, or provisions, and drifting fast on a lee-shore, surrounded with dangerous rocks, and inhabited by the most barbarous pirates."

After suffering dreadfully for three whole days, Mr. Glasspoole, by the advice of the pilot, made for a narrow channel, where he presently discovered three large boats at anchor, which, on seeing the English boat, weighed and made sail towards it. The pilot told Mr. Glasspoole they were Ladrones, and that if they captured the boat, they would certainly put them all to death! After rowing tremendously for six hours they escaped these boats, but on the following morning falling in with a large fleet of the pirates, which the English mistook for fishing-boats, they were captured.

"About twenty savage-looking villains," says Mr. Glasspoole, "who were stowed at the bottom of the boat, leaped on board us. They were armed with a short sword in either hand, one of which they layed upon our necks, and pointed the other to our breasts, keeping their eyes fixed on their officer, waiting his signal to cut or desist. Seeing we were incapable of making any resistance, the officer sheathed his sword, and the others immediately followed his example. They then dragged us into their boat, and carried us on board one of their junks, with the most savage demonstrations of joy, and, as we supposed, to torture and put us to a cruel death."

When on board the junk they rifled the Englishmen, and brought heavy chains to chain them to the deck.

"At this time a boat came, and took me, with one of my men and an interpreter, on board the chief's vessel. I was then taken before the chief. He was seated on deck, in a large chair, dressed in purple silk, with a black turban on. He appeared to be about thirty years of age, a stout commanding-looking man. He took me by the coat, and drew me close to him; then questioned the interpreter very strictly, asking who we were, and what was our business in that part of the country. I told him to say we were Englishmen in distress, having been four days at sea without provisions. This he would not credit, but said we were bad men, and that he would put us all to death; and then ordered some men to put the interpreter to the torture until he confessed the truth. Upon this occasion, a Ladrone, who had been once to England and spoke a few words of English, came to the chief, and told him we were really Englishmen, and that we had plenty of money, adding that the buttons on my coat were gold. The chief then ordered us some coarse brown rice, of which we made a tolerable meal, having eaten nothing for nearly four days, except a few green oranges. During our repast, a number of Ladrones crowded round us, examining our clothes and hair, and giving us every possible annoyance. Several of them brought swords, and laid them on our necks, making signs that they would soon take us on shore, and cut us in pieces, which I am sorry to say was the fate of some hundreds during my captivity. I was now summoned before the chief, who had been conversing with the interpreter: he said I must write to my captain, and tell him, if he did not send an hundred thousand dollars for our ransom, in ten days he would put us all to death."

After vainly expostulating to lessen the ransom, Mr. Glasspoole wrote the letter, and a small boat came alongside and took it to Macao.

Early in the night the fleet sailed, and anchored about one o'clock the following day in a bay under the island of Lantow, where the head admiral of Ladrones (our acquaintance Paou) was lying at anchor, with about two hundred vessels and a Portuguese brig they had captured a few days before, and the captain and part of the crew of which they had murdered. Early the next morning, a fishing-boat came to inquire if they had captured an European boat; they came to the vessel the English were in.

"One of the boatmen spoke a few words of English, and told me he had a Ladrone-pass, and was sent by our captain in search of us; I was rather surprised to find he had no letter. He appeared to be well acquainted with the chief, and remained in his cabin smoking opium, and playing cards all the day. In the evening I was summoned with the interpreter before the chief. He questioned us in a much milder tone, saying, he now believed we were Englishmen, a people he wished to be friendly with; and that if our captain would lend him seventy thousand dollars till he returned from his cruise up the river, he would repay him, and send us all to Macao. I assured him it was useless writing on these terms, and unless our ransom was speedily settled, the English fleet would sail, and render our enlargement altogether ineffectual. He remained determined, and said if it were not sent, he would keep us, and make us fight, or put us to death. I accordingly wrote, and gave my letter to the man belonging to the boat before mentioned. He said he could not return with an answer in less than five days. The chief now gave me the letter I wrote when first taken. I have never been able to ascertain his reasons for detaining it, but suppose he dared not negociate for our ransom without orders from the head admiral, who I understood was sorry at our being captured. He said the English ships would join the Mandarins and attack them."

While the fleet lay here, one night the Portuguese who were left in the captured brig murdered the Ladrones that were on board of her, cut the cables, and fortunately escaped through the darkness of the night.

"At day-light the next morning, the fleet, amounting to above five hundred sail of different sizes, weighed, to proceed on their intended cruise up the rivers, to levy contributions on the towns and villages. It is impossible to describe what were my feelings at this critical time, having received no answers to my letters, and the fleet under-way to sail--hundreds of miles up a country never visited by Europeans, there to remain probably for many months, which would render all opportunities for negotiating for our enlargement totally ineffectual; as the only method of communication is by boats that have a pass from the Ladrones, and they dare not venture above twenty miles from Macao, being obliged to come and go in the night, to avoid the Mandarins; and if these boats should be detected in having any intercourse with the Ladrones, they are immediately put to death, and all their relations, though they had not joined in the crime, share in the punishment, in order that not a single person of their families should be left to imitate their crimes or avenge their death."

The following is a very touching incident in Mr. Glasspoole's narrative.

"Wednesday the 26th of September, at day-light, we passed in sight of our own ships, at anchor under the island of Chun Po. The chief then called me, pointed to the ships, and told the interpreter to tell us to look at them, for we should never see them again! About noon we entered a river to the westward of the Bogue. Three or four miles from the entrance we passed a large town situated on the side of a beautiful hill, which is tributary to the Ladrones; the inhabitants saluted them with songs as they passed."

After committing numerous minor robberies, "The Ladrones now prepared to attack a town with a formidable force, collected in row-boats from the different vessels. They sent a messenger to the town, demanding a tribute of ten thousand dollars annually, saying, if these terms were not complied with, they would land, destroy the town, and murder all the inhabitants: which they would certainly have done, had the town laid in a more advantageous situation for their purpose; but being placed out of the reach of their shot, they allowed them to come to terms. The inhabitants agreed to pay six thousand dollars, which they were to collect by the time of our return down the river. This finesse had the desired effect, for during our absence they mounted a few guns on a hill, which commanded the passage, and gave us in lieu of the dollars, a warm salute on our return.

"October the 1st, the fleet weighed in the night, dropped by the tide up the river, and anchored very quietly before a town surrounded by a thick wood. Early in the morning the Ladrones assembled in row-boats, and landed; then gave a shout, and rushed into the town, sword in hand. The inhabitants fled to the adjacent hills, in numbers apparently superior to the Ladrones. We may easily imagine to ourselves the horror with which these miserable people must be seized, on being obliged to leave their homes, and everything dear to them. It was a most melancholy sight to see women in tears, clasping their infants in their arms, and imploring mercy for them from those brutal robbers! The old and the sick, who were unable to fly, or make resistance, were either made prisoners or most inhumanly butchered! The boats continued passing and repassing from the junks to the shore, in quick succession, laden with booty, and the men besmeared with blood! Two hundred and fifty women and several children, were made prisoners, and sent on board different vessels. They were unable to escape with the men, owing to that abominable practice of cramping their feet; several of them were not able to move without assistance. In fact, they might all be said to totter, rather than walk. Twenty of these poor women were sent on board the vessel I was in; they were hauled on board by the hair, and treated in a most savage manner. When the chief came on board, he questioned them respecting the circumstances of their friends, and demanded ransoms accordingly, from six thousand to six hundred dollars each. He ordered them a berth on deck, at the after part of the vessel, where they had nothing to shelter them from the weather, which at this time was very variable--the days excessively hot, and the nights cold, with heavy rains. The town being plundered of everything valuable, it was set on fire, and reduced to ashes by the morning. The fleet remained here three days, negotiating for the ransom of the prisoners, and plundering the fish-tanks and gardens. During all this time, the Chinese never ventured from the hills, though there were frequently not more than a hundred Ladrones on shore at a time, and I am sure the people on the hills exceeded ten times that number.

"On the 10th we formed a junction with the Black-squadron, and proceeded many miles up a wide and beautiful river, passing several ruins of villages that had been destroyed by the Black-squadron. On the 17th, the fleet anchored abreast four mud batteries, which defended a town, so entirely surrounded with wood, that it was impossible to form any idea of its size. The weather was very hazy, with hard squalls of rain. The Ladrones remained perfectly quiet for two days. On the third day the forts commenced a brisk fire for several hours: the Ladrones did not return a single shot, but weighed in the night and dropped down the river. The reasons they gave for not attacking the town, or returning the fire, were, that Joss had not promised them success. They are very superstitious, and consult their idol on all occasions. If his omens are good, they will undertake the most daring enterprises. The fleet now anchored opposite the ruins of the town where the women had been made prisoners. Here we remained five or six days, during which time about an hundred of the women were ransomed; the remainder were offered for sale amongst the Ladrones, for forty dollars each. The woman is considered the lawful wife of the purchaser, who would be put to death if he discarded her. Several of them leaped overboard and drowned themselves, rather than submit to such infamous degradation.

"Mei-ying, the wife of Ke-choo-yang, was very beautiful, and a pirate being about to seize her by the head, she abused him exceedingly. The pirate bound her to the yard-arm; but on abusing him yet more, the pirate dragged her down and broke two of her teeth, which filled her mouth and jaws with blood. The pirate sprang up again to bind her. Ying allowed him to approach, but as soon as he came near her, she laid hold of his garments with her bleeding mouth, and threw both him and herself into the river, where they were drowned. The remaining captives of both sexes were after some months liberated, on having paid a ransom of fifteen thousand leang or ounces of silver.

"The fleet then weighed," continues Mr. Glasspoole, "and made sail down the river, to receive the ransom from the town before-mentioned. As we passed the hill, they fired several shot at us, but without effect. The Ladrones were much exasperated, and determined to revenge themselves; they dropped out of reach of their shot, and anchored. Every junk sent about a hundred men each on shore, to cut paddy, and destroy their orange-groves, which was most effectually performed for several miles down the river. During our stay here, they received information of nine boats lying up a creek, laden with paddy; boats were immediately despatched after them. Next morning these boats were brought to the fleet; ten or twelve men were taken in them. As these had made no resistance, the chief said he would allow them to become Ladrones, if they agreed to take the usual oaths before Joss. Three or four of them refused to comply, for which they were punished in the following cruel manner: their hands were tied behind their backs, a rope from the masthead rove through their arms, and hoisted three or four feet from the deck, and five or six men flogged them with their rattans twisted together till they were apparently dead; then hoisted them up to the mast-head, and left them hanging nearly an hour, then lowered them down, and repeated the punishment, till they died or complied with the oath.

"On the 28th of October, I received a letter from Captain Kay, brought by a fisherman, who had told him he would get us all back for three thousand dollars. He advised me to offer three thousand, and if not accepted, extend it to four; but not farther, as it was bad policy to offer much at first: at the same time assuring me we should be liberated, let the ransom be what it would. I offered the chief the three thousand, which he disdainfully refused, saying he was not to be played with; and unless they sent ten thousand dollars, and two large guns, with several casks of gunpowder, he would soon put us to death. I wrote to Captain Kay, and informed him of the chief's determination, requesting, if an opportunity offered, to send us a shift of clothes, for which it may be easily imagined we were much distressed, having been seven weeks without a shift; although constantly exposed to the weather, and of course frequently wet.

"On the first of November, the fleet sailed up a narrow river, and anchored at night within two miles of a town called Little Whampoa. In front of it was a small fort, and several Mandarin vessels lying in the harbor. The chief sent the interpreter to me, saying, I must order my men to make cartridges and clean their muskets, ready to go on shore in the morning. I assured the interpreter I should give the men no such orders, that they must please themselves. Soon after the chief came on board, threatening to put us all to a cruel death if we refused to obey his orders. For my own part I remained determined, and advised the men not to comply, as I thought by making ourselves useful we should be accounted too valuable. A few hours afterwards he sent to me again, saying, that if myself and the quarter-master would assist them at the great guns, that if also the rest of the men went on shore and succeeded in taking the place, he would then take the money offered for our ransom, and give them twenty dollars for every Chinaman's head they cut off. To these proposals we cheerfully acceded, in hopes of facilitating our deliverance.

"The Mandarin vessels continued firing, having blocked up the entrance of the harbor to prevent the Ladrone boats entering. At this the Ladrones were much exasperated, and about three hundred of them swam on shore, with a short sword lashed close under each arm; they then ran along the banks of the river till they came abreast of the vessels, and then swam off again and boarded them. The Chinese thus attacked, leaped overboard, and endeavored to reach the opposite shore; the Ladrones followed, and cut the greater number of them to pieces in the water. They next towed the vessels out of the harbor, and attacked the town with increased fury. The inhabitants fought about a quarter of an hour, and then retreated to an adjacent hill, from which they were soon driven with great slaughter. After this the Ladrones returned, and plundered the town, every boat leaving it with lading. The Chinese on the hills perceiving most of the boats were off, rallied, and retook the town, after killing near two hundred Ladrones. One of my men was unfortunately lost in this dreadful massacre! The Ladrones landed a second time, drove the Chinese out of the town, then reduced it to ashes, and put all their prisoners to death, without regarding either age or sex! I must not omit to mention a most horrid (though ludicrous) circumstance which happened at this place. The Ladrones were paid by their chief ten dollars for every Chinaman's head they produced. One of my men turning the corner of a street was met by a Ladrone running furiously after a Chinese; he had a drawn sword in his hand, and two Chinaman's heads which he had cut off, tied by their tails, and slung round his neck. I was witness myself to some of them producing five or six to obtain payment!

"On the 4th of November an order arrived from the admiral for the fleet to proceed immediately to Lantow, where he was lying with only two vessels, and three Portuguese ships and a brig constantly annoying him; several sail of Mandarin vessels were daily expected. The fleet weighed and proceeded towards Lantow. On passing the island of Lintin, three ships and a brig gave chase to us. The Ladrones prepared to board; but night closing we lost sight of them: I am convinced they altered their course and stood from us. These vessels were in the pay of the Chinese Government, and styled themselves the Invincible Squadron, cruising in the river Tigris to annihilate the Ladrones!

"On the fifth, in the morning, the red squadron anchored in a bay under Lantow; the black squadron stood to the eastward. In the afternoon of the 8th of November, four ships, a brig, and a schooner came off the mouth of the bay. At first the pirates were much alarmed, supposing them to be English vessels come to rescue us. Some of them threatened to hang us to the mast-head for them to fire at; and with much difficulty we persuaded them that they were Portuguese. The Ladrones had only seven junks in a fit state for action; these they hauled outside, and moored them head and stern across the bay, and manned all the boats belonging to the repairing vessels ready for boarding. The Portuguese observing these manoeuvres hove to, and communicated by boats. Soon afterwards they made sail, each ship firing her broadside as she passed, but without effect, the shot falling far short. The Ladrones did not return a single shot, but waved their colors, and threw up rockets, to induce them to come further in, which they might easily have done, the outside junks lying in four fathoms water, which I sounded myself: though the Portuguese in their letters to Macao lamented there was not sufficient water for them to engage closer, but that they would certainly prevent their escaping before the Mandarin fleet arrived!
 

A Ladrone Pirate, cutting off the Heads of the Chinese

A Ladrone Pirate, cutting off the Heads of the Chinese.

"On the 20th of November, early in the morning, discovered an immense fleet of Mandarin vessels standing for the bay. On nearing us, they formed a line, and stood close in; each vessel, as she discharged her guns, tacked to join the rear and reload. They kept up a constant fire for about two hours, when one of their largest vessels was blown up by a firebrand thrown from a Ladrone junk; after which they kept at a more respectful distance, but continued firing without intermission till the 21st at night, when it fell calm. The Ladrones towed out seven large vessels, with about two hundred row-boats to board them: but a breeze springing up, they made sail and escaped. The Ladrones returned into the bay, and anchored. The Portuguese and Mandarins followed, and continued a heavy cannonading during that night and the next day. The vessel I was in had her foremast shot away, which they supplied very expeditiously by taking a mainmast from a smaller vessel.

On the 23d, in the evening, it again fell calm; the Ladrones towed out fifteen junks in two divisions, with the intention of surrounding them, which was nearly effected, having come up with and boarded one, when a breeze suddenly sprang up. The captured vessel mounted twenty-two guns. Most of her crew leaped overboard; sixty or seventy were taken, immediately cut to pieces, and thrown into the river. Early in the morning the Ladrones returned into the bay, and anchored in the same situation as before. The Portuguese and Mandarins followed, keeping up a constant fire. The Ladrones never returned a single shot, but always kept in readiness to board, and the Portuguese were careful never to allow them an opportunity.

"On the 28th, at night they sent eight fire-vessels, which, if properly constructed, must have done great execution, having every advantage they could wish for to effect their purpose; a strong breeze and tide directed into the bay, and the vessels lying so close together, that it was impossible to miss them. On their first appearance, the Ladrones gave a general shout, supposing them to be Mandarin vessels on fire, but were very soon convinced of their mistake. They came very regularly into the centre of the fleet, two and two, burning furiously; one of them came alongside of the vessel I was in, but they succeeded in booming her off. She appeared to be a vessel of about thirty tons; her hold was filled with straw and wood, and there were a few small boxes of combustibles on her deck, which exploded alongside of us without doing any damage. The Ladrones, however, towed them all on shore, extinguished the fire, and broke them up for firewood. The Portuguese claim the credit of constructing these destructive machines, and actually sent a despatch to the Governor of Macao, saying they had destroyed at least one-third of the Ladrone's fleet, and hoped soon to effect their purpose by totally annihilating them!

"On the 29th of November, the Ladrones being all ready for sea, they weighed and stood boldly out, bidding defiance to the invincible squadron and imperial fleet, consisting of ninety-three war-junks, six Portuguese ships, a brig, and a schooner. Immediately after the Ladrones weighed, they made all sail. The Ladrones chased them two or three hours, keeping up a constant fire; finding they did not come up with them, they hauled their wind, and stood to the eastward. Thus terminated the boasted blockade, which lasted nine days, during which time the Ladrones completed all their repairs. In this action not a single Ladrone vessel was destroyed, and their loss was about thirty or forty men. An American was also killed, one of three that remained out of eight taken in a schooner. I had two very narrow escapes: the first, a twelve pounder shot fell within three or four feet of me; another took a piece out of a small brass-swivel on which I was standing. The chief's wife frequently sprinkled me with garlick-water, which they considered an effectual charm against shot. The fleet continued under sail all night, steering towards the eastward. In the morning they anchored in a large bay surrounded by lofty and barren mountains. On the 2d of December I received a letter from Lieutenant Maughn, commander of the Honorable Company's cruiser Antelope, saying that he had the ransom on board, and had been three days cruising after us, and wished me to settle with the chief on the securest method of delivering it. The chief agreed to send us in a small gun-boat till we came within sight of the Antelope; then the compradore's boat was to bring the ransom and receive us. I was so agitated at receiving this joyful news, that it was with difficulty I could scrawl about two or three lines to inform Lieutenant Maughn of the arrangements I had made. We were all so deeply affected by the gratifying tidings, that we seldom closed our eyes, but continued watching day and night for the boat.

"On the 6th she returned with Lieutenant Maughn's answer, saying, he would respect any single boat; but would not allow the fleet to approach him. The chief, then, according to his first proposal, ordered a gun-boat to take us, and with no small degree of pleasure we left the Ladrone fleet about four o'clock in the afternoon. At one P.M. saw the Antelope under all sail, standing towards us. The Ladrone boat immediately anchored, and dispatched the compradore's boat for the ransom, saying, that if she approached nearer they would return to the fleet; and they were just weighing when she shortened sail, and anchored about two miles from us. The boat did not reach her till late in the afternoon, owing to the tide's being strong against her. She received the ransom and left the Antelope just before dark. A Mandarin boat that had been lying concealed under the land, and watching their manoeuvres, gave chace to her, and was within a few fathoms of taking her, when she saw a light, which the Ladrones answered, and the Mandarin hauled off. Our situation was now a critical one; the ransom was in the hands of the Ladrones, and the compradore dare not return with us for fear of a second attack from the Mandarin boat. The Ladrones would not wait till morning, so we were obliged to return with them to the fleet. In the morning the chief inspected the ransom, which consisted of the following articles: two bales of superfine cloth; two chests of opium; two casks of gunpowder, and a telescope; the rest in dollars. He objected to the telescope not being new; and said he should detain one of us till another was sent, or a hundred dollars in lieu of it. The compradore, however, agreed with him for the hundred dollars. Every thing being at length settled, the chief ordered two gun-boats to convey us near the Antelope; we saw her just before dusk, when the Ladrone boats left us. We had the inexpressible pleasure of arriving on board the Antelope at seven, P.M., where we were most cordially received, and heartily congratulated on our safe and happy deliverance from a miserable captivity, which we had endured for eleven weeks and three days.

(Signed) "RICHARD GLASSPOOLE. China, December 8th. 1809."
 

"The Ladrones have no settled residence on shore, but live constantly in their vessels. The after-part is appropriated to the captain and his wives; he generally has five or six. With respect to the conjugal rights they are religiously strict; no person is allowed to have a woman on board, unless married to her according to their laws. Every man is allowed a small berth, about four feet square, where he stows with his wife and family. From the number of souls crowded in so small a space, it must naturally be supposed they are horridly dirty, which is evidently the case, and their vessels swarm with all kinds of vermin. Rats in particular, which they encourage to breed, and eat as great delicacies; in fact, there are very few creatures they will not eat. During our captivity we lived three weeks on caterpillars boiled with rice. They are much addicted to gambling, and spend all their leisure hours at cards and smoking opium."

 

The War Junks of the Ladrones

The War Junks of the Ladrones.

At the time of Mr. Glasspoole's liberation, the pirates were at the height of their power; after such repeated victories over the Mandarin ships, they had set at nought the Imperial allies--the Portuguese, and not only the coast, but the rivers of the celestial empire seemed to be at their discretion--and yet their formidable association did not many months survive this event. It was not, however, defeat that reduced it to the obedience of the laws. On the contrary, that extraordinary woman, the widow of Ching-yih, and the daring Paou, were victorious and more powerful than ever, when dissensions broke out among the pirates themselves. Ever since the favor of the chieftainess had elevated Paou to the general command, there had been enmity and altercations between him and the chief O-po-tae, who commanded one of the flags or divisions of the fleet; and it was only by the deference and respect they both owed to Ching-yih's widow, that they had been prevented from turning their arms against each other long before.

At length, when the brave Paou was surprised and cooped up by a strong blockading force of the Emperor's ships, O-po-tae showed all his deadly spite, and refused to obey the orders of Paou, and even of the chieftainess, which were, that he should sail to the relief of his rival.

Paou, with his bravery and usual good fortune, broke through the blockade, but when he came in contact with O-po-tae, his rage was too violent to be restrained.

O-po-tae at first pleaded that his means and strength had been insufficient to do what had been expected of him, but concluded by saying,--"Am I bound to come and join the forces of Paou?"

"Would you then separate from us!" cried Paou, more enraged than ever.

O-po-tae answered: "I will not separate myself."

Paou:--"Why then do you not obey the orders of the wife of Ching-yih and my own? What is this else than separation, that you do not come to assist me, when I am surrounded by the enemy? I have sworn it that I will destroy thee, wicked man, that I may do away with this soreness on my back."

The summons of Paou, when blockaded, to O-po-tae was in language equally figurative:--"I am harassed by the Government's officers outside in the sea; lips and teeth must help one another, if the lips are cut away the teeth will feel cold. How shall I alone be able to fight the Government forces? You should therefore come at the head of your crew, to attack the Government squadron in the rear. I will then come out of my station and make an attack in front; the enemy being so taken in the front and rear, will, even supposing we cannot master him, certainly be thrown into disorder."

The angry words of Paou were followed by others, and then by blows. Paou, though at the moment far inferior in force, first began the fight, and ultimately sustained a sanguinary defeat, and the loss of sixteen vessels. Our loathing for this cruel, detestable race, must be increased by the fact, that the victors massacred all their prisoners--or three hundred men!

This was the death-blow to the confederacy which had so long defied the Emperor's power, and which might have effected his dethronement. O-po-tae dreading the vengeance of Paou and his mistress, Ching-yih's widow, whose united forces would have quintupled his own, gained over his men to his views, and proffered a submission to Government, on condition of free pardon, and a proper provision for all.

The petition of the pirates is so curious a production, and so characteristic of the Chinese, that it deserves to be inserted at length. "It is my humble opinion that all robbers of an overpowering force, whether they had their origin from this or any other cause, have felt the humanity of Government at different times. Leang-sham, who three times plundered the city, was nevertheless pardoned, and at last made a minister of state. Wakang often challenged the arms of his country, and was suffered to live, and at last made a corner-stone of the empire. Joo-ming pardoned seven times Mang-hwo; and Kwan-kung three times set Tsaou-tsaou at liberty. Ma-yuen pursued not the exhausted robbers; and Yo-fei killed not those who made their submission. There are many instances of such transactions both in former and recent times, by which the country was strengthened, and government increased its power. We now live in a very populous age; some of us could not agree with their relations, and were driven out like noxious weeds. Some, after having tried all they could, without being able to provide for themselves, at last joined bad society. Some lost their property by shipwrecks; some withdrew into this watery empire to escape from punishment. In such a way those who in the beginning were only three or five, were in the course of time increased to a thousand or ten thousand, and so it went on increasing every year. Would it not have been wonderful if such a multitude, being in want of their daily bread, had not resorted to plunder and robbery to gain their subsistence, since they could not in any other manner be saved from famine? It was from necessity that the laws of the empire were violated, and the merchants robbed of their goods. Being deprived of our land and of our native places, having no house or home to resort to, and relying only on the chances of wind and water, even could we for a moment forget our griefs, we might fall in with a man-of-war, who with stones, darts, and guns, would knock out our brains! Even if we dared to sail up a stream and boldly go on with anxiety of mind under wind, rain, and stormy weather, we must everywhere prepare for fighting. Whether we went to the east, or to the west, and after having felt all the hardships of the sea, the night dew was our only dwelling, and the rude wind our meal. But now we will avoid these perils, leave our connexions, and desert our comrades; we will make our submission. The power of Government knows no bounds; it reaches to the islands in the sea, and every man is afraid, and sighs. Oh we must be destroyed by our crimes, none can escape who opposeth the laws of Government. May you then feel compassion for those who are deserving of death; may you sustain us by your humanity!"

The Government that had made so many lamentable displays of its weakness, was glad to make an unreal parade of its mercy. It was but too happy to grant all the conditions instantly, and, in the fulsome language of its historians, "feeling that compassion is the way of heaven--that it is the right way to govern by righteousness--it therefore redeemed these pirates from destruction, and pardoned their former crimes."

O-po-tae, however, had hardly struck his free flag, and the pirates were hardly in the power of the Chinese, when it was proposed by many that they should all be treacherously murdered. The governor happened to be more honorable and humane, or probably, only more politic than those who made this foul proposal--he knew that such a bloody breach of faith would for ever prevent the pirates still in arms from voluntary submitting; he knew equally well, even weakened as they were by O-po-tae's defection, that the Government could not reduce them by force, and he thought by keeping his faith with them, he might turn the force of those who had submitted against those who still held out, and so destroy the pirates with the pirates. Consequently the eight thousand men, it had been proposed to cut off in cold blood, were allowed to remain uninjured, and their leader, O-po-tae, having changed his name to that of Hoe-been, or, "The Lustre of Instruction," was elevated to the rank of an imperial officer.

The widow of Ching-yih, and her favorite Paou, continued for some months to pillage the coast, and to beat the Chinese and the Mandarins' troops and ships, and seemed almost as strong as before the separation of O-po-tae's flag. But that example was probably operating in the minds of many of the outlaws, and finally the lawless heroine herself, who was the spirit that kept the complicate body together, seeing that O-po-tae had been made a government officer, and that he continued to prosper, began also to think of making her submission.

"I am," said she, "ten times stronger than O-po-tae, and government will perhaps, if I submit, act towards me as they have done with O-po-tae."

A rumor of her intentions having reached shore, the Mandarin sent off a certain Chow, a doctor of Macao, "Who," says the historian, "being already well acquainted with the pirates, did not need any introduction," to enter on preliminaries with them.

When the worthy practitioner presented himself to Paou, that friend concluded he had been committing some crime, and had come for safety to that general refugium peccatorum, the pirate fleet.

The Doctor explained, and assured the chief, that if he would submit, Government was inclined to treat him and his far more favorably and more honorably than O-po-tae. But if he continued to resist, not only a general arming of all the coast and the rivers, but O-po-tae was to proceed against him.

At this part of his narrative our Chinese historian is again so curious, that I shall quote his words at length.

"When Fei-heung-Chow came to Paou, he said: 'Friend Paou, do you know why I come to you?'"

"Paou.--'Thou hast committed some crime and comest to me for protection?'"

"Chow.--'By no means.'"

"Paou.--'You will then know how it stands concerning the report about our submission, if it is true or false?'"

"Chow.--'You are again wrong here, Sir. What are you in comparison with O-po-tae?'"

"Paou.--'Who is bold enough to compare me with O-po-tae?'"

"Chow.--'I know very well that O-po-tae could not come up to you, Sir; but I mean only, that since O-po-tae has made his submission, since he has got his pardon and been created a Government officer,--how would it be, if you with your whole crew should also submit, and if his Excellency should desire to treat you in the same manner, and to give you the same rank as O-po-tae? Your submission would produce more joy to Government than the submission of O-po-tae. You should not wait for wisdom to act wisely; you should make up your mind to submit to the Government with all your followers. I will assist you in every respect, it would be the means of securing your own happiness and the lives of all your adherents.'"

"Chang-paou remained like a statue without motion, and Fei-heung Chow went on to say: 'You should think about this affair in time, and not stay till the last moment. Is it not clear that O-po-tae, since you could not agree together, has joined Government. He being enraged against you, will fight, united with the forces of the Government, for your destruction; and who could help you, so that you might overcome your enemies? If O-po-tae could before vanquish you quite alone, how much more can he now when he is united with Government? O-po-tae will then satisfy his hatred against you, and you yourself will soon be taken either at Wei-chow or at Neaou-chow. If the merchant-vessels of Hwy-chaou, the boats of Kwang-chow, and all the fishing-vessels, unite together to surround and attack you in the open sea, you will certainly have enough to do. But even supposing they should not attack you, you will soon feel the want of provisions to sustain you and all your followers. It is always wisdom to provide before things happen; stupidity and folly never think about future events. It is too late to reflect upon events when things have happened; you should, therefore, consider this matter in time!'"

Paou was puzzled, but after being closeted for some time with his mistress, Ching-yih's widow, who gave her high permission for him to make arrangements with Doctor Chow, he said he would repair with his fleet to the Bocca Tigris, and there communicate personally with the organs of Government.

After two visits had been paid to the pirate-fleets by two inferior Mandarins, who carried the Imperial proclamation of free pardon, and who, at the order of Ching-yih's widow, were treated to a sumptuous banquet by Paou, the Governor-general of the province went himself in one vessel to the pirates' ships, that occupied a line of ten le off the mouth of the river.

As the governor approached, the pirates hoisted their flags, played on their instruments, and fired their guns, so that the smoke rose in clouds, and then bent sail to meet him. On this the dense population that were ranged thousands after thousands along the shore, to witness the important reconciliation, became sorely alarmed, and the Governor-general seems to have had a strong inclination to run away. But in brief space of time, the long dreaded widow of Ching-yih, supported by her Lieutenant Paou, and followed by three other of her principal commanders, mounted the side of the governor's ship, and rushed through the smoke to the spot where his excellency was stationed; where they fell on their hands and knees, shed tears, knocked their heads on the deck before him, and received his gracious pardon, and promised for future kind treatment. They then withdrew satisfied, having promised to give in a list of their ships, and of all else they possessed, within three days.

But the sudden apparition of some large Portuguese ships, and some Government war-junks, made the pirates suspect treachery. They immediately set sail, and the negociations were interrupted for several days.

They were at last concluded by the boldness of their female leader. "If the Governor-general," said this heroine, "a man of the highest rank, could come to us quite alone, why should not I, a mean woman, go to the officers of Government? If there be danger in it, I take it all on myself; no person among you need trouble himself about me--my mind is made up, and I will go to Canton!"

Paou said--"If the widow of Ching-yih goes, we must fix a time for her return. If this pass without our obtaining any information, we must collect all our forces, and go before Canton: this is my opinion as to what ought to be done; comrades, let me hear yours!"

The pirates, then, struck with the intrepidity of their chieftainess, and loving her more than ever, answered, "Friend Paou, we have heard thy opinion, but we think it better to wait for the news here, on the water, than to send the wife of Ching-yih alone to be killed." Nor would they allow her to leave the fleet.

Matters were in this state of indecision, when the two inferior Mandarins who had before visited the pirates, ventured out to repeat their visit. These officers protested no treachery had been intended, and pledged themselves, that if the widow of Ching-yih would repair to the Governor, she would be kindly received, and every thing settled to their hearts' satisfaction.

With this, in the language of our old ballads, upspoke Mrs. Ching. "You say well, gentlemen! and I will go myself to Canton with some other of our ladies, accompanied by you!" And accordingly, she and a number of the pirates' wives with their children, went fearlessly to Canton, arranged every thing, and found they had not been deceived. The fleet soon followed. On its arrival every vessel was supplied with pork and with wine, and every man (in lieu it may be supposed, of his share of the vessels, and plundered property he resigned) received at the same time a bill for a certain quantity of money. Those who wished it, could join the military force of Government for pursuing the remaining pirates; and those who objected, dispersed and withdrew into the country. "This is the manner in which the great red squadron of the pirates was pacified."

The valiant Paou, following the example of his rival O-po-tae, entered into the service of Government, and proceeded against such of his former associates and friends as would not accept the pardon offered them. There was some hard fighting, but the two renegadoes successively took the chief Shih Url, forced the redoubtable captain, styled "The scourge of the Eastern Ocean" to surrender himself, drove "Frog's Meal," another dreadful pirate, to Manilla, and finally, and within a few months, destroyed or dissipated the "wasps of the ocean" altogether.

I have already noticed the marked intention of the Chinese historian, to paint the character of Paou in a poetical or epic manner. When describing the battle with Shih-Url, he says:--

"They fought from seven o'clock in the morning till one at noon, burnt ten vessels, and killed an immense number of the pirates. Shih-Url was so weakened that he could scarcely make any opposition. On perceiving this through the smoke, Paou mounted on a sudden the vessel of the pirate, and cried out: 'I Chang Paou am come,' and at the same moment he cut some pirates to pieces; the remainder were then hardly dealt with. Paou addressed himself in an angry tone to Shih-Url, and said: 'I advise you to submit: will you not follow my advice? what have you to say?' Shih-Url was struck with amazement, and his courage left him. Paou advanced and bound him, and the whole crew were then taken captives."

"From that period," says our Chinese historian, in conclusion, "ships began to pass and repass in tranquillity. All became quiet on the rivers, and tranquil on the four seas. People lived in peace and plenty. Men sold their arms and bought oxen to plough their fields; they buried sacrifices, said prayers on the tops of the hills, and rejoiced themselves by singing behind screens during day-time"--and (grand climax to all!) the Governor of the province, in consideration of his valuable services in the pacification of the pirates, was allowed by an edict of the "Son of Heaven," to wear peacocks' feathers with two eyes!


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