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The Voyage Made To Tripolis In Barbary

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The Voyage Made To Tripolis In Barbary


This voyage was set forth by the Right Worshipful Sir Edward Osborne
Knight, chief merchant of all the Turkish Company, and one Master
Richard Stapers, the ship being of the burden of one hundred tons,
called the Jesus; she was builded at Farmne, a river by Portsmouth.
About November 29th, 1584, she made sail from Portsmouth, and December
1st, by means of a contrary wind, we were driven to Plymouth. The 18th
day then next following we made forthward again, and by force of weather
we were driven to Falmouth, where we remained until January 1st, at
which time the wind coming fair we departed thence, and about the 20th
day of the said month we arrived safely at St. Lucas. And about March
9th next following we made sail from thence, and about the 18th day of
the same month we came to Tripolis in Barbary, where we were very well
entertained by the king of that country and also of the commons. The
commodities of that place are sweet oils; the king there is a merchant,
and the rather (willing to prefer himself before his commons) requested
our said factors to traffic with him, and promised them that if they
would take his oils at his own price they should pay no manner of
custom; and they took of him certain tons of oil; and afterward
perceiving that they might have far better cheap, notwithstanding the
custom free, they desired the king to license them to take the oils at
the pleasure of his commons, for that his price did exceed theirs;
whereunto the king would not agree, but was rather contented to abate
his price, insomuch that the factors bought all their oils of the king's
custom free, and so laded the same aboard.

In the meantime there came to that place one Miles Dickinson, in a ship
of Bristol, who together with our said factors took a house to
themselves there. Our French factor, Romaine Sonnings, desired to buy a
commodity in the market, and, wanting money, desired the said Miles
Dickinson to lend him a hundred chikinoes until he came to his lodging,
which he did; and afterwards the same Sonnings met with Miles Dickinson
in the street, and delivered him money bound up in a napkin, saying,
"Master Dickinson, there is the money that I borrowed of you," and so
thanked him for the same. The said Dickinson did not tell the money
presently, until he came to his lodging, and then, finding nine
chikinoes lacking of his hundred (which was about three pounds, for that
every chikinoe is worth seven shillings of English money), he came to
the said Romaine Sonnings and delivered him his handkerchief, and asked
him how many chikinoes he had delivered him. Sonnings answered, "A
hundred"; Dickinson said "No"; and so they protested and swore on both
parts. But in the end the said Romaine Sonnings did swear deeply with
detestable oaths and curses, and prayed God that He might show His works
on him, that other might take ensample thereby, and that he might be
hanged liked a dog, and never come into England again, if he did not
deliver unto the said Dickinson a hundred chikinoes.

There was a man in the said town a pledge, whose name was Patrone
Norado, who the year before had done this Sonnings some pleasure there.
The foresaid Patrone Norado was indebted unto a Turk of that town in the
sum of four hundred and fifty crowns, for certain goods sent by him into
Christendom in a ship of his own, and by his own brother, and himself
remained in Tripolis as pledge until his said brother's return; and, as
the report went there, he came among lewd company, and lost his
brother's said ship and goods at dice, and never returned unto him

The said Patrone Norado, being void of all hope and finding now
opportunity, consulted with the said Sonnings for to swim a-seaboard the
islands, and the ship, being then out of danger, should take him in (as
was afterwards confessed), and so go to Tallowne, in the province of
Marseilles, with this Patrone Norado, and there to take in the rest of
his lading.

The ship being ready May 1st, and having her sails all abroad, our said
factors did take their leave of the king, who very courteously bid them
farewell, and when they came aboard they commanded the master and the
company hastily to get out the ship. The master answered that it was
impossible, for that the wind was contrary and overblowed. And he
required us, upon forfeiture of our bands, that we should do our
endeavour to get her forth. Then went we to warp out the ship, and
presently the king sent a boat aboard of us, with three men in her,
commanding the said Sonnings to come ashore, at whose coming the king
demanded of him custom for the oils. Sonnings answered him that his
highness had promised to deliver them customs free. But,
notwithstanding, the king weighed not his said promise, and as an
infidel that hath not the fear of God before his eyes, nor regard of his
word, albeit he was a king, he caused the said Sonnings to pay the
custom to the uttermost penny, and afterwards ordered him to make haste
away, saying that the janisaries would have the oil ashore again.

These janisaries are soldiers there under the Great Turk, and their
power is above the king's. And so the said factor departed from the
king, and came to the waterside, and called for a boat to come aboard,
and he brought with him the aforesaid Patrone Norado. The company,
inquisitive to know what man that was, Sonnings answered that he was his
countryman, a passenger. "I pray God," said the company, "that we come
not into trouble by this man." Then said Sonnings angrily, "What have
you to do with any matters of mine? If anything chance otherwise than
well, I must answer for all."

Now the Turk unto whom this Patrone Norado was indebted, missing him,
supposed him to be aboard of our ship, presently went unto the king and
told him that he thought that his pledge, Patrone Norado, was aboard on
the English ship. Whereupon the king presently sent a boat aboard of us,
with three men in her, commanding the said Sonnings to come ashore; and,
not speaking anything as touching the man, he said that he would come
presently in his own boat; but as soon as they were gone he willed us to
warp forth the ship, and said that he would see the knaves hanged before
he would go ashore. And when the king saw that he came not ashore, but
still continued warping away the ship, he straight commanded the gunner
of the bulwark next unto us to shoot three shots without ball. Then we
came all to the said Sonnings, and asked him what the matter was that we
were shot at; he said that it was the janisaries who would have the oil
ashore again, and willed us to make haste away. And after that he had
discharged three shots without ball he commanded all the gunners in the
town to do their endeavour to sink us; but the Turkish gunners could not
once strike us, wherefore the king sent presently to the banio (this
banio is the prison where all the captives lay at night), and promised
that if there were any that could either sink us or else cause us to
come in again, he should have a hundred crowns and his liberty. With
that came forth a Spaniard called Sebastian, which had been an old
servitor in Flanders, and he said that, upon the performance of that
promise, he would undertake either to sink us or to cause us to come in
again, and thereto he would gage his life; and at the first shot he
split our rudder's head in pieces, and the second shot he struck us
under water, and the third shot he shot us through our fore-mast with a
culverin shot, and thus, he having rent both our rudder and mast and
shot us under water, we were enforced to go in again.

This Sebastian for all his diligence herein had neither his liberty nor
a hundred crowns, so promised by the said king; but, after his service
done, was committed again to prison, whereby may appear the regard that
a Turk or infidel hath of his work, although he be able to perform
it--yea, more, though he be a king.

Then our merchants, seeing no remedy, they, together with five of our
company, went ashore; and they then ceased shooting. They shot unto us
in the whole nine-and-thirty shots without the hurt of any man.

And when our merchants came ashore the king commanded presently that
they, with the rest of our company that were with them, should be
chained four and four to a hundred-weight of iron, and when we came in
with the ship there came presently above a hundred Turks aboard of us,
and they searched us and stripped our very clothes from our backs, and
broke open our chests, and made a spoil of all that we had; and the
Christian caitiffs likewise that came aboard of us made spoil of our
goods, and used us as ill as the Turks did.

Then came the guardian Basha, who is the keeper of the king's captives,
to fetch us all ashore; and then I, remembering the miserable estate of
poor distressed captives in the time of their bondage to those infidels,
went to mine own chest, and took out thereof a jar of oil, and filled a
basket full of white ruske, to carry ashore with me. But before I came
to the banio the Turkish boys had taken away almost all my bread, and
the keeper said, "Deliver me the jar of oil, and when thou comest to the
banio thou shalt have it again;" but I never had it of him any more.

But when I came to the banio and saw our merchants and all the rest of
our company in chains, and we all ready to receive the same reward, what
heart is there so hard but would have pitied our cause, hearing or
seeing the lamentable greeting there was betwixt us? All this happened
May 1st, 1584.

And the second day of the same month the king with all his council sat
in judgment upon us. The first that were had forth to be arraigned were
the factors and the masters, and the king asked them wherefore they
came not ashore when he sent for them. And Romaine Sonnings answered
that, though he were a king on shore, and might command there, so was he
as touching those that were under him; and therefore said, if any
offence be, the fault is wholly in myself and in no other. Then
forthwith the king gave judgment that the said Romaine Sonnings should
be hanged over the north-east bulwark, from whence he conveyed the
forenamed Patrone Norado. And then he called for our master, Andrew
Dier, and used few words to him, and so condemned him to be hanged over
the walls of the westernmost bulwarks.

Then fell our other factor, named Richard Skegs, upon his knees before
the king, and said, "I beseech your highness either to pardon our master
or else suffer me to die for him, for he is ignorant of this cause." And
then the people of that country, favouring the said Rickard Skegs,
besought the king to pardon them both. So then the king spake these
words: "Behold, for thy sake I pardon the master." Then presently the
Turks shouted and cried, saying, "Away with the master from the presence
of the king." And then he came into the banio where we were, and told us
what had happened, and we all rejoiced at the good hap of Master Skegs,
that he was saved, and our master for his sake.

But afterwards our joy was turned to double sorrow, for in the meantime
the king's mind was altered: for that one of his council had advised him
that, unless the master died also, by the law they could not confiscate
the ship nor goods, neither make captive any of the men. Whereupon the
king sent for our master again, and gave him another judgment after his
pardon for one cause, which was that he should be hanged.

And when that Romaine Sonnings saw no remedy but that he should die, he
protested to turn Turk, hoping thereby to have saved his life. Then said
the Turk, "If thou wilt turn Turk, speak the words that thereunto
belong;" and he did so. Then said they unto him, "Now thou shalt die in
the faith of a Turk;" and so he did, as the Turks reported that were at
his execution; and the forenamed Patrone Narado, whereas before he had
liberty and did nothing, he then was condemned slave perpetual, except
there were payment made of the foresaid sum of money.

Then the king condemed all of us, who were in number five-and-twenty, of
which two were hanged (as you have heard) and one died the first day we
came on shore by the visitation of Almighty God, and the other
three-and-twenty he condemned slaves perpetually unto the Great Turk,
and the ship and goods were confiscated to the use of the Great Turk;
then we all fell down upon our knees, giving God thanks for this
sorrowful visitation and giving ourselves wholly to the almighty power
of God, unto whom all secrets are known, that He of His goodness would
vouchsafe to look upon us.

Every five men had allowance but five aspers of bread in a day, which is
but twopence English, and our lodging was to lie on the bare boards,
with a very simple cape to cover us. We were also forcibly and most
violently shaven, head and beard, and within three days after, I and
five more of my fellows, together with fourscore Italians and Spaniards,
were sent forth in a galiot to take a Greek carmosel, which came into
Arabia to steal negroes, and went out of Tripolis unto that place which
was two hundred and forty leagues thence; but we were chained three and
three to an oar, and we rowed naked above the girdle, and the boatswain
of the galley walked abaft the mast, and his mate afore the mast, and
each of them a whip in their hands, and when their devilish choler rose
they would strike the Christians for no cause: and they allowed us but
half a pound of bread a man in a day, without any other kind of
sustenance, water excepted. And when we came to the place where we saw
the carmosel, we were not suffered to have neither needle, bodkin,
knife, or any other instrument about us, nor at any other time in the
night, upon pain of one hundred bastinadoes: we were then also cruelly
manacled, in such sort that we could not put our hands the length of one
foot asunder the one from the other, and every night they searched our
chains three times, to see if they were fast riveted. We continued the
fight with the carmosel there hours, and then we took it, and lost but
two of our men in that fight; but there were slain of the Greeks five,
and fourteen were cruelly hurt; and they that were found were presently
made slaves and chained to the oars, and within fifteen days after we
returned again into Tripolis, and then we were put to all manner of
slavery. I was put to hew stones, and others to carry stones, and some
to draw the cart with earth, and some to make mortar, and some to draw
stones (for at that time the Turks builded a church); and thus we were
put to all kinds of slavery that was to be done.

Now, the king had eighteen captives, which three times a week went to
fetch wood thirty miles from the town, and on a time he appointed me for
one of the eighteen, and we departed at eight of the clock in the night;
and upon the way, at midnight, or thereabouts, as I was riding upon my
camel, I fell asleep, and the guide and all the rest rode away from me,
not thinking but I had been among them. When I awoke, and finding myself
alone, I durst not call nor holloa, for fear lest the wild Moors should
hear me--because they hold this opinion, that in killing a Christian
they do God good service--and musing with myself what were best for me
to do: if I should return back to Tripolis without any wood or company I
should be most miserably used; therefore, of the two evils, rather I had
to go forth to the losing of my life than to turn back and trust to
their mercy, fearing to be used as before I had seen others. For,
understanding by some of my company before how Tripolis and the said
wood did lie one off another, by the North Star I went forth at
adventure, and, as God would have it, I came right to the place where
they were, even about an hour before day. There altogether we rested,
and gave our camels provender, and as soon as the day appeared we rode
all into the wood; and I, seeing no wood there but a stick here and a
stick there, about the bigness of a man's arm, growing in the sand, it
caused me to marvel how so many camels should be loaded in that place.
The wood was juniper; we needed no axe nor edged tool to cut it, but
plucked it up by strength of hands, roots and all, which a man might
easily do, and so gathered together a little at one place, and so at
another, and laded our camels, and came home about seven of the clock
that night following; because I fell lame and my camel was tired, I left
my wood in the way.

This king had a son which was a ruler in an island called Gerbi,
whereunto arrived an English ship called the Green Dragon, of the
which was master one M. Blonket, who, having a very unhappy boy on that
ship, and understanding that whosoever would turn Turk should be well
entertained of the king's son, this boy did run ashore and voluntarily
turned Turk. Shortly after the king's son came to Tripolis to visit his
father, and seeing our company, he greatly fancied Richard Burges, our
purser, and James Smith. They were both young men, therefore he was very
desirious to have them to turn Turks; but they would not yield to his
desire, saying, "We are your father's slaves and as slaves we will serve
him." Then his father the king sent for them, and asked them if they
would turn Turks; and they said: "If it please your Highness, Christians
we were born and so we will remain, and beseech the king that they might
not be enforced thereunto." The king had there before in his house a son
of a yeoman of our queen's guard, whom the king's son had enforced to
turn Turk; his name was John Nelson. Him the king caused to be brought
to these young men, and then said unto them, "Will you not bear this,
your countryman, company, and be Turk as he is?" and they said that they
would not yield thereunto during life. But it fell out that, within a
month after, the king's son went home to Gerbi again, being five score
miles from Tripolis, and carried our two foresaid young men with him,
which were Richard Burges and James Smith. And after their departure
from us they sent us a letter, signifying that there was no violence
showed unto them as yet; yet within three days after they were violently
used, for that the king's son demanded of them again if that they would
turn Turk. Then answered Richard Burges: "A Christian I am, and so I
will remain." Then the king's son very angrily said unto him, "By
Mahomet thou shalt presently be made Turk!" Then called he for his men
and commanded them to make him Turk; and they did so, and circumcised
him, and would have had him speak the words that thereunto belonged; but
he answered them stoutly that he would not, and although they had put on
him the habit of a Turk, yet said he, "A Christian I was born, and so I
will remain, though you force me to do otherwise."

And then he called for the other, and commanded him to be made Turk
perforce also; but he was very strong, for it was so much as eight of
the king's son's men could do to hold him. So in the end they
circumcised him and made him Turk. Now, to pass over a little, and so to
show the manner of our deliverance out of that miserable captivity.

In May aforesaid, shortly after our apprehension, I wrote a letter into
England unto my father, dwelling in Evistoke in Devonshire, signifying
unto him the whole estate of our calamities, and I wrote also to
Constantinople to the English ambassador, both which letters were
faithfully delivered. But when my father had received my letter, and
understood the truth of our mishap, and the occasion thereof, and what
had happened to the offenders, he certified the Right Honourable the
Earl of Bedford thereof, who in short space acquainted Her Highness with
the whole cause thereof; and Her Majesty, like a most merciful princess
tendering her subjects, presently took order for our deliverance.
Whereupon the Right Worshipful Sir Edward Osborne, knight, directed his
letters with all speed to the English ambassador in Constantinople to
procure our delivery, and he obtained the Great Turk's commission, and
sent it forthwith to Tripolis by one Master Edward Barton, together with
a justice of the Great Turk's and one soldier, and another Turk and a
Greek, which was his interpreter, which could speak beside Greek,
Turkish, Italian, Spanish and English. And when they came to Tripolis
they were well entertained, and the first night they did lie in a
captain's house in the town. All our company that were in Tripolis came
that night for joy to Master Barton and the other commissioners to see
them. Then Master Barton said unto us, "Welcome, my good countrymen,"
and lovingly entertained us: and at our departure from him he gave us
two shillings, and said, "Serve God, for to-morrow I hope you shall be
as free as ever you were." We all gave him thanks and so departed.

The next day, in the morning very early, the king having intelligence of
their coming, sent word to the keeper that none of the Englishmen
(meaning our company) should go to work. Then he sent for Master Barton
and the other commissioners, and demanded of the said Master Barton his
message. The justice answered that the Great Turk, his sovereign, had
sent them unto him, signifying that he was informed that a certain
English ship, called the Jesus, was by him the said king confiscated
about twelve months since, and now my said sovereign hath here sent his
especial commission by us unto you for the deliverance of the said ship
and goods, and also the free liberty and deliverance of the Englishmen
of the said ship whom you have taken and kept in captivity. And further,
the same justice said, I am authorised by my said sovereign the Great
Turk to see it done; and therefore I command you, by the virtue of this
commission, presently to make restitution of the premises or the value
thereof. And so did the justice deliver unto the king the Great Turk's
commission to the effect aforesaid, which commission the king with all
obedience received; and after the perusing of the same, he forthwith
commanded all the English captives to be brought before him, and then
willed the keeper to strike off all our irons. Which done, the king
said, "You Englishmen, for that you did offend the laws of this place,
by the same laws therefore some of your company were condemned to die,
as you know, and you to be perpetual captives during your lives;
notwithstanding, seeing it hath pleased my sovereign lord the Great Turk
to pardon your said offences, and to give you your freedom and liberty,
behold, here I make delivery of you unto this English gentleman." So he
delivered us all that were there, being thirteen in number, to Master
Barton, who required also those two young men which the king's son had
taken with him. Then the king answered that it was against their law to
deliver them, for that they were turned Turks; and, touching the ship
and goods, the king said that he had sold her, but would make
restitution of the value, and as much of the goods as came unto his
hands. And so the king arose and went to dinner, and commanded a Jew to
go with Master Barton and the other commissioners to show them their
lodgings, which was a house provided and appointed them by the said
king. And because I had the Italian and Spanish tongues, by which there
most traffic in that country is, Master Barton made me his caterer, to
buy his victuals for him and his company, and he delivered me money
needful for the same. Thus were we set at liberty April 28th, 1585.

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