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Thomas Tew

English Pirate

Born: Unknown

Died: 1695

Thomas Tew was a famous pirate, whose headquarters was at Madagascar. He was mentioned by name as a specially "wicked and ill disposed person" in King William III's 1695 Royal Warrant to Captain Kidd, which commissioned him to hunt for pirates. Tew sailed in consort with Captain Dew from Barbados, with a commission from the governor to join with the Royal African Company in an attack on the French factory at Goori, in Gambia. But instead of going to West Africa, Tew and his crew turned pirates and sailed to the Red Sea. There he encountered a richly provisioned Indian ship and promptly attacked. Prevailing in the battle, he took her as a prize. The booty was so rich that each man of Tew's crew received 3,000 as his share. Laden with this new-found wealth, they sailed to Madagascar.

Tew was soon held in high esteem by the pirates who resided in that favorite stronghold. There are some questions as to the subsequent course of Tew's career. What follows is based on the account in Captain Johnson's, A General History of Pirates. According to Johnson it was at this time that Tew met the legendary French pirate Misson, in his garden city of Libertalia. (Contemporary scholars have questioned the existence of both Misson and Libertalia.) Johnson portrays Misson as a thoroughly idealistic pirate whose ship was run upon republican principles. His career is said to have culminated with the founding of Libertalia, a pirate utopia. A quarrel arose between Misson's French followers and Tew's English pirates. A duel was arranged between the two leaders, but by the tact and intervention of another pirate an a defrocked Italian priest all was settled amicably.

Tew was appointed Admiral and the diplomatic ex-priest suitably chosen as Secretary of State to the little republic. Tew had such a reputation for kindness that ships seldom resisted him; upon learning who their assailant was they gave themselves up freely. Around this time some of Tew's men sailed off to start a colony on their own. The Admiral followed trying to persuade them to return to the fold at Libertalia. The men refused, and while Tew was arguing with them, his ship was lost in a sudden and fierce storm. Tew was soon rescued by the ship Bijoux with Misson on board, who, with a few men had narrowly escaped being massacred by the natives. Tew must have realized that the eastern waters were becoming less hospitable to pirates.

Furnished with an equal share of gold and diamonds from Misson's last venture, he made his way to back to America and settled down in Rhode Island. Tew was now a wealthy man. With an honesty rarely encountered in those who pursued his trade, he kept a promise to his friends in Bermuda, who had originally set him up with a ship, and sent them fourteen times the original cost of the sloop as their share of the profits.

In the end Tew found the call of the sea and the lure of the grand account irresistible. He consented to take command of a pirate ship enroute to the Red Sea. Soon after his arrival, Tew attacked a large ship belonging to the Great Mogul and during the battle was mortally wounded. His biographer tells us " a shot carried away the rim of Tew's belly, who held his bowels with his hands for some space. When he dropped, it struck such terror to his men that they suffered themselves to be taken without further resistance." Thus fell fighting a fine sailor, a brave man, and a successful pirate, and one who cheated the gallows awaiting him at Execution Dock.

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