- A pirate who bought his own pardon
- His success led to Madagascar becoming a huge pirate base...
Thomas Tew was born to a well-to-do family in Newport, Rhode Island, a small state with a big heart for pirates. After moving to Bermuda around 1690, he was a successful privateer during Britain's conflict with France. A year or so later, Tew was elected captain by members of the Amity venture and sent with a letter of marque from Bermuda Governor Isaac Richier to attack French ships and French slave stations on the West African coast. He was to have the assistance of the Royal African Company upon arrival.
After being separated from his privateer partner George Drew in a storm, Tew abandoned the original mission and headed the 70-ton Amity south toward the Cape of Good Hope after convincing the crew of 60 to turn pirate. It was likely very easy to persuade them of greater plunder than French slave operations.
After a short stop in Madagascar for supplies, they went on to the Red Sea and captured a vessel belonging to the Great Moghul of India. After splitting the enormous loot of over 3000 Pounds per man at the island of St. Mary's off Madagascar, Tew had the ship careened and returned to Newport by early 1694 after a 15 month, 22,000 mile journey. Pirates in New England
Buy Flag (more info) He sold the Amity, paid the crew, and then spent the next several months ashore, enjoying the notoriety that his exploits brought him. He traveled with his family to New York, where he met and befriended Governor Benjamin Fletcher.
Thomas Tew may not have had any intentions of returning to sea at first, but by late summer, he had returned to Newport to have a new Amity fitted for a second trip to the Indian Ocean. Perhaps he was smitten by the Red Sea fever that he had helped to create; it was inflaming the minds of countless sailors in America, England, and the Caribbean.
He left in November 1694, accompanied by the well-known pirates Thomas Wake and William Want and a letter of marque purchased from Governor Fletcher for 300 Pounds. While it is known that Tew stopped at Madagascar, other details before his demise are unclear. Pirates in Madagascar
Between June and September of 1695, he sighted another Indian ship, but it was armed and prepared to defend itself. Tew had his belly ripped open by cannon fire and died after a period standing on deck holding his intestines. His crew then surrendered and was probably killed on the spot or taken to die in India.