I’m not an expert on mental illness except that I know that it takes different forms. Some are more severe than others. Yet, it’s still one of those things that people don’t like to talk about – or more importantly – do anything about. A lot of the homeless people in America are simply nuts and nobody wants to deal with that institutionally so they wander the streets. Some are violent. Some are not. If they get a hold of a gun or a knife, the guns or knives are blamed. Blaming a crazy person for being crazy is not politically correct.
Which begs the question of whether or not the mainstream media and the liberal/progressives are all nuts themselves for blaming the problem on the instrument rather than on the person using it. According to THEIR logic, cars, and not people, should receive traffic citations for unlawful conduct.
The Virtual Mirage Time Machine
The Most Popular Virtual Mirage Post of All Time
It’s a breach of contract case, where a German court was forced to decide a matter where a man hired a neighbor to impregnate his wife and paid for the service. It was only later discovered that the man hired was sterile. The facts are at the link – you decide. Honest effort?
As this blog approaches two million hits, I’m going to pull popular posts from the past and reference them. Do I win a toaster or something when I hit two million? Or is it three?
From the e-mail
Some of you have written to inquire about the progress of the book about pirates that I’m writing – Quidley’s Secret is the present working title. I’m somewhere near 1/3 of the way through. To refresh your memories, it’s essentially a story that originates with my own family history research, and involves piracy in the Carolinas in the late 1600’s and Edward Teach (Blackbeard-the-Pirate) as a young boy. Patrick Quidley, the pirate referenced in the prologue, was hung by the British Admiralty Court on March 5, 1694 for piracy. The larger story is the subject of the book, which is historical fiction.
Prologue – Port of Dover, 1685
It is a cold, wet, winter’s day in Dover, England. Today, enough rain has fallen to drench the paving stones and make them slick, but no more than that. In other words, it’s a day like many others. Gray winter days such as these where the cold, steady, rain pisses on the island are the rule, not the exception. Under normal circumstances good and honest men are huddled around their hearths. The merchants, who make their living from the sea, are all in. Warehouses are packed with goods but they aren’t moving because the ships are secure in their moorings, as the seas in the English Channel rear and crash against the shore. A warming bumper of hot, buttered, rum gets people through the short days and long, dark, nights.
The weather masks the conclusion of an arrangement arrived at the previous year that has brought considerable wealth to certain men of Dover. The date is January 10, 1685 and the Quidley families of Orwaldstone, then still referred to as Old Rye, and Margate Limb of Dover, have gathered together in council at St. James Church in the crowded city, near the heavily fortified ramparts of nearly impregnable Dover Castle standing on the hill above them.
A steady decline in sea traffic entering the Cinque Ports over the past two years and the increasing pressure for more revenue from taxation from King Charles II has been a vexing matter. The pressure has been applied to the King’s tax collector, and as was explained by that same man at the time, “If you have a tormenting boil, you lance it.”
Lancing the boil has brought the sorts of issues that one inevitably faces in matters of cause-and-effect. For now, the downside to a tacit and selective approval of piracy on the high seas, has been accepted and recognized with the favor of great men for its tangible rewards.
The private meeting in the rich stone church is presided over by John Beaumont, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle. The forty-nine year old Beaumont dismissed the clergy for the day. The business at hand is not for their ears. Beaumont will stand for election to Parliament later in the year and he will be raised to a lieutenant colonelcy in Our Holland Regiment (the 4thRegiment). Both of these achievements will require more money that he has on hand as of January 10th.
The need for money prompted the Lord Warden to combine with young, aggressive, impatient, Captain Patrick Quidley and his uncle, Squire David Quidley, late in the season the preceding Year of Our Lord, 1684. By doing, he became the third member of a conspiracy. Worse still in the parlance of the period, John Beaumont, a Catholic, is a confederate in a piracy ring with Protestants.
Both Quidleys are high commoners and prominent men within the extended family that has prospered in shipbuilding, drydockage and repairs to shipping in the ports that the Lord Warden oversees. They’ve built ships for the King’s navy, ships for merchants intent on engaging in commerce for profit, and on their own account.
John Beaumont is the royal tax collector who sees to the franchises, liberties, customs and usages of the ports and gathers such as is owed to the crown, taking a salary for himself. Unfortunately, Beaumont’s taste for the gaming table and wooing other men’s wives has been his undoing. He took liberties with the Royal tax fund that he holds in trust. At the beginning of the New Year, 1685, after the Feast of the Epiphany, he will be required to settle financial matters with the Charles II’s factotums and pettyfoggers.
Though he does not know it today, Beaumont will be favored after the King dies in twenty-seven days, by his successor James II, who will need all the friends he can get. But that is still a month in the future.
Outfitting the privateer Gull, a brigantine of twelve, ten-pound iron guns and two brass swivels, required a significant investment. Warships must be constructed with stouter framing and ships guns come dear. Other secret processes that improved the ship’s handling increased the price as well. The funds have been raised by offering shares to interested members of the family with fifteen percent ownership gifted to the Lord Warden in exchange for a vaguely worded letter of marque of dubious legal standing.
Today the shareholders have gathered to count the return on the first voyage of the Gull. The Quidleys could have met at the lodge since all are freemasons. However, John Beaumont has not been inducted. As a Catholic man of prominence he’s not even allowed to become a Fellow of the Craft, let alone an Entered Apprentice or a Master Mason. It’s a minor matter among conspirators intent on growing wealthier and there remains a cloud over the treasure. None of the Quidleys want the lodge and their fellows of the craft dishonored if things go sideways. Meeting in St. James’ Church even without clerics present can make the church complicit—if problems arise. The arrangement holds because John Beaumont is unconcerned that the Catholic Church would be blamed.
The hum of conversation between two dozen Quidleys diminishes as the Lord Warden, flanked by four Hollanders in uniform, carrying snaphaunce muskets, takes the dias.
“His Honour, Constable John Beaumont.” The sergeant of the guard announces, quieting the meeting without threat of malice.
John Beaumont is a tall, ludicrously pale man with sly eyes who has grown soft in the middle. He’s chosen to wear his honorary Admiral’s uniform today with his best powdered wig on his bald pate, but still looks every bit the profiteer. He smiles with his brown, rotting teeth from under his cocked hat, and dismisses the guard, who follow Captain Patrick Quidley, master and commander of the Gull, from St. James Church, through a side door that leads to the graveyard.
Captain Patrick Quidley is of average size and wears a light smile as if he contemplated an amusing anecdote that someone just shared with him. His face, a seaman’s face the color of tarnished copper, enjoyed a symmetrical balance of sharp Caucasian angles without a hint of the soft life ashore. He wore a long, blue, sea captain’s greatcoat with gold braid and brass buttons polished to a bright luster. Two finely made cavalry pistols are in his belt under that coat and he also wears a sword of the finest steel with a gold guard and ivory grip.
“Captain Quidley and Squire David have called us all here, yes even me, to announce the success of our joint venture in commerce, which we shall all toast with good brandy from South Africa!” As soon as he makes the announcement, servants begin to distribute mugs. The toast is offered by the Lord Warden, himself, with his own hand, “King Charles, God save the King!”
No sooner is the toast downed by the thirsty Quidleys and their bumpers promptly refilled, than Captain Patrick Quidley returns into the church, flanked by the four musketeers and by two score of seamen, also armed with short muskets, boarding pikes, belaying pins and cutlasses. A stout cart is wheeled in with a chest on it. The cart is pushed to the front of the church and is opened. It’s filled with gold and silver plate, gold dubloons, Spanish dollars, pieces of eight and religious articles of gold and precious stones.
The Quidley family are all aware of the fine details of haul from the Spanish galleon, San Jose de Padreof eighteen brass guns, which their most esteemed cousin, Patrick, took at sea in the Brigantine Gull.
San Jose de Padre, enroute Lisbon, carrying His Eminence, Antonio Brandao, Archbishop of Goa on his way home following his term in office, blundered into the path of the Gull, which would have been content to board and plunder any ship it had the capability to best at sea.
Quidley lay in wait in the passage between the Canary Islands and the coast of Morocco, which was hardly an original place to ambush a slow, heavy, ship beating up the coast against the wind. The lumbering Portuguese galleon, badly in need of careening, managed one broadside against the Gullonly to have four of its brass guns explode due possibly to wear and poor handling. The Gull, with fresh canvas and a new, smooth, hull, danced around her and swept her decks with grapeshot, killing the captain and the Archbishop. The first lieutenant raised the flag of the Holy See. Gullraised the black flag and then the lieutenant struck his colors, asking for quarter.
It would have been less of a problem if England and Portugal had been at war. As fate would have it, 1684 was one of the few years that England was not at war with anyone and neither was Portugal. In fact, they had been allied through the marriage of Catherine of Braganza and Charles II. That made Quidley’s choice of a Portuguese galleon a dangerous one. In his defense, Captain Quidley said that he hadn’t known of a certainty that it was Portuguese until they boarded her, found the bloody body of the Archbishop and confronted the terrified crew.
Under other circumstances, the San Jose de Padremight have been taken as a prize of war. As it was, there wasn’t much to do but salvage what they could, maroon surviving members the crew and half a dozen priests on La Gomera Island in the Canary Chain and scuttle the San Jose de Padrein deep water.
In addition to the Archbishop’s personal fortune, the ship’s cargo consisted of 230 bolts of silk fabric, 84 casks of saltpeter, 30 chests of opium, 45 casks of indigo, 70 hogsheads of wine and 100 of brandy taken on in Capetown. 12 puncheons of a better grade of brandy bore the archbishop’s seal.
The gold and silver delivered at the meeting in the church account for over half of the value of the take, estimated at £35,000 less certain commissions that needed to be paid on the cargo to quietly slip it into the commercial mainstream. Subtracting the £9,800 cost of the sturdy Gull, it left £22,800 to be distributed of which £5,220 in shares and fees went directly into the pocket of John Beaumont, the King’s Warden and associated bribes amounting to an additional £400. The Quidley Family took their share as a combination of cargo and specie. The Warden took his in bar, plate and coin.
A lesser man, with command of a regiment of foot at his fingertips might have thought to seize the treasure in the Church of St. James that very day but the plain truth is that the pirate crew were better armed, more numerous, and there would have been a lot of explaining for the Warden to do. His Majesty’s infantry, while capable in drill and musketry, could not match the savagery of heavily armed and well-blooded, experienced cutthroat seamen in close quarters.
Following the division of treasure including shares given to the crew of the Gull, there present to oversee the transaction, the Quidley family disburses back to their homes, the Warden takes his gold down a narrow, cobbled street, and across the courtyard, had it loaded into a wagon drawn by four stout draft horses, which hauled it up the hill to Dover Castle and the matter rests for the moment.