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Quelch's Gold: Piracy, Greed, and Betrayal in Colonial New England [Hardcover]

Clifford Beal
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Mar 2007
In the middle of May in the year 1704, an 80-ton brigantine, the Charles, quietly slipped into the cove at Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her sudden and unexpected reappearance, some ten months after she had left under mysterious circumstances, quickly started tongues wagging. Over the following three weeks, a drama would be played out involving the crew of the Charles and her commander, John Quelch, and the colonial governments of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. For in the hold of the Charles lay a large quantity of Brazilian sugar, hides, cloth, guns, and gold dust and coin worth over 10,000 sterling - a huge fortune for the time worth over GBP 1 million today. It was this booty, and the circumstances of the voyage of the Charles, that would rapidly lead to Captain Quelch facing arrest and trial on charges of piracy and murder against the subjects of Queen Anne's newest ally, the King of Portugal. Occurring only three years after Captain Kidd met his end on the gallows in London, the case of John Quelch has been long overshadowed by his more infamous predecessor but it is no less compelling. Quelch's ensuing trial, the first admiralty trial ever held outside England, has been called by one historian "the first case of judicial murder in America". This book tells the fascinating story of the Quelch case, demonstrating its historical significance. Quelch's execution led to the first stirrings of American rebellion against English rule, as his high-handed treatment was viewed as an attack on personal liberty and freedom in Massachusetts. It also marked the end of the era when privateers enjoyed the protection of the authorities. Knowing that they no longer had friends in high places, pirates' careers would be far more violent and destructive; directed against all who represented the rule of law.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger Publishers Inc.,U.S.; annotated edition edition (30 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275994074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275994075
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,317,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, Clifford Beal worked for 20 years as an international journalist and is the former editor-in-chief of Jane's Defence Weekly in London. He is the author of Quelch's Gold (Praeger Books 2007), the true story of a little-known but remarkable early 18th century Anglo-American pirate. But he's also been scribbling fiction from an early age: his seventh grade English teacher nicknamed him "Edgar Allen" undoubtedly due to the gothic subject matter of his extremely short stories.

For recreation, Clifford used to don plate armour and bash the tar out of people in the Society for Creative Anachronism before moving to more civilised pursuits such as 17th century rapier and dagger fighting and motorcycling (though not simultaneously). Today, he is more likely to be found at the seaside or the Savile Club in London, sharing good wine and conversation in a place where the sparring is usually only verbal.

Product Description


"This book is recommended for all readers who have an interest in pirates and early American politics. It would make excellent outside reading for any American history class." -

Catholic Library World

About the Author

Clifford Beal is a defence and security affairs writer and the former editor of Jane's Defence Weekly. He has written for periodicals including Jane's, Military History Quarterly, The Sunday Times, Toronto Globe & Mail, Dublin Sunday Business Post, Frontiers, Focus, and The International Herald Tribune.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TRUE pirate adventure 14 July 2007
When starting this book, little did I think that the account of the life, adventures, and downfall of a pirate whose name I had never previously heard, and in whose time period I had not (until then) been particularly interested, would be something I could not put down!

My image of piracy, prior to reading "Captain Quelch", was along the lines of the popular swashbuckling hero, as portrayed in "Pirates of the Caribbean". However, "Captain Quelch" opened up an intriguing world of piracy, buccaneering and politics that was nothing like that popular image. Instead, the author has painted a very vivid--and meticulously researched--picture of the realities of everyday pirate life, such as the on-going politics on-board the ship and the pressures on Quelch to find "decent" treasure to placate his crew.

But more than that, the book has managed to put the fate of this one pirate captain into a much wider historical context--on many levels. While non-fiction accounts can be dry to read, the author's descriptions of all aspects of life in early 18th century Colonial New England--from the mundane and everyday to the high-level political machinations--were so detailed and lively that they drew me into the story, and I could literally imagine myself sitting in some of those Boston taverns and court rooms as a fly-on-the-wall observer of the proceedings.

I also found the far-reaching historical and political impact of Quelch's actions and gold, and how they affected relations between Colonial New England and the "mother country" as well as the economic ramifications, were really well and clearly described for those not familiar with either the period or part of the world. Once I'd finished the final chapter, I actually felt I'd been reading an intriguing and incredibly multilayered historical detective story--in short, a jolly good read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quelch's Gold 18 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
i hadn't heard of Quelch in my reading experience but this book reveals the truth about piracy and the role played by corrupt officials
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile acquisition for history buffs 8 Nov 2008
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
A victim of something he didn't understand, a sad fate indeed. "Quelch's Gold: Piracy, Greed, and Betrayal in Colonial New England" is the tragic story of John Quelch. With a massively valuable haul in his ship coming to the American colonies in 1704, Quelch finds himself charged with piracy against ally Portugal. Baffled at the accusation, Quelch stood powerless as his fate was decided. A history of a Massachusetts legend and look at the law of the early eighteenth century, "Quelch's Gold" is a worthwhile acquisition for history buffs.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history without pain. 14 May 2007
By Morna Chisholm - Published on
Just finished this great book. Not being a history buff, I opened the cover to this book with some doubts - how wrong can you be. This story picks you up on the first page, and has you snared through the rest of the journey. The story is well told, deeply researched and written in such a way as to deliver accurate historical events to the reader, whilst pulling you along at a good pace. I tried to put the book down a couple of times over the weekend, but found my mind constantly returning to the story, and compelled to pick up the story and see it through to its conclusion. And who would have thought you could bring together pirate gold, the british treasury and Isaac Newton all within the covers of one book !

A cracking good read - try it....
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough times for pirates 2 Feb 2012
By George - Published on
For starters, the author's sister dates a close friend of mine and I like both of them, so I figured Cliff can't be all bad and maybe a decent writer to boot. The book is now making the local rounds, which happens to include the bartender at my neighborhood pub. But don't wait for a free copy to come your way, order yours now. Turns out to be an interesting story and a well written one at that. As a bonus, if you're interested in early American or colonial history you're sure to find some nuggets amidst these pages. You surely wouldn't want to spend much time in a Boston lockup in 1705. As my bartender Neil says "It was a tough time to be alive." Even more true for pirates that get caught! Arrrgh!
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But A Bit Slow 11 Jan 2011
By Michael E. Fitzgerald - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Quelch turned pirate in May of 1704. He stole the brigantine Charles from Marblehead, Massachusetts, setting sail for the coast of Portuguese controlled Brazil where he took seven prizes. Technically a privateer, John unfortunately plundered ships belonging to an ally of England. Upon his return to Marblehead he was arrested, tried and hung in a remarkably speedy, three week trial, the first legally constituted court of English Admiralty to judge a case of piracy outside of England. It was a role that none of the players, from the Governor's Council to the case lawyers, knew the roles for and the conduct of the trial was improvised in the extreme.

Quelch's execution was not viewed with favor by the citizens of Boston where piracy was an accepted form of employment that provided hard currency to a cash short economy. It appeared very strange that Englishmen would be hanged with such unseemly and suspicious haste. They were quite right. Quelch's gold it seems set off a feeding frenzy with land based buccaneers taking over from the sea rovers once the substantive fortune arrived on shore. Worse yet, it was subsequently found that with the death of King William III, the Govenor's authority to try Quelch locally under Admiralty law was invalid.

Follow then the course of Quelch's gold from Brazil's coast to the King's Treasury in London where a small portion finally washes up and none other than Sir Isaac Newton converts it into coin of the realm. This windfall arrives just in time to finance debts owing to the King of Prussia, Frederick I, for his services to the Duke of Marlborough in the English triumph over the French at Ramillies.

And yes, as you have already guessed, the Portuguese never saw so much as a shilling in recompense.
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