The Brotherhood of the Coast       Pages 1    2    3           Pirates and Piracy        Home

Few people are acquainted with the term 'The Brotherhood of the Coast'.  The word 'pirate' is better known and
conjures up visions of fierce individuals, cutlass in hand and stiletto clenched between the teeth.  But this is a
very general discription, made popular by such authors as Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Chidsey
who wrote Captain Adam.

Few people are therefore authorities on this singular breed, even though it carved for itself an undisputed slice in
history.  The villainies and misdeeds are well known and the historic picture of them is black as the smoke of hell.
Yet they had a religion and culture of their own, perhaps not as great but unique in its own secret way.

Little of the bizarre culture was known until two Frenchmen of Mauritius uncovered the remains of a temple which
contained little treasure but wealth in knowledge.  Piracy, a loose description, was an old trade even when the
Barbary corsairs started terrorizing the Mediterranean.  The discovery of the Americas lent impetus to it and it be-
came the most flourishing trade in villainy that man had ever known.  The enormous wealth brough across the Ant-
lantic by the Spaniards became the target for every scoundrel who could wield a cutlass.  here one has to start
making definitions and the Brotherhood of the Coast comes into its own.  Those pirates, such as Sir Francis
Drake and Sir Henry Morgan, who later became the governor of Jamaica,were not members of the brotherhood.
They were pirates of convenience only and had powerful and wealthy patrons.

The men who formed the nucleus of the brotherhood were those to whom no government on Earth showed any sign
of clemency, except under very unusual circumstances.  They were those who had escaped the harsh discipline of
merchant ship and slaver alike; theirs was a lot often much worse than that of the wretched slaves they transported.
There were also slaves who managed to escape and found sanctuary with the only persons possible, the brotherhood.
Not all the recruits and founders joined in this way, for some were respected merchants who found piracy a quicker
way to become very rich; others were aristocrats and high government officials who had fallen foul of king or govern-
ment.

Precisely when this band of outlaws started forming their own society and creed is not known.  When the formar
coastal city of Port Royal was in its heyday, the creed was well established.  The infamous Edward Teach, also
known as Black Beard, was certainly a high officer in the cult.

Small scraps of knowledge of pirate rituals have been handed down by word of mouth and are often incorrectly
described in books.  It was only after a French Mauritian, Esperance Becherel, and his colleque, Dr Joseph Duval,
discovered what remained of the brotherhood's temple, that the facts emerged.

Esperance, an historian and collector of antiques, bought an usual wooden box from one of the many antique shops
in Port Louis.  It took him three days to learn the secret of springing the lid.  It was not the box that then aroused his
excitement but its content.  Almost like a story from the Arabian Nights, it held an old and worn map of Maurituis.
The writing on the map was smudged or bleached with age that it was almost illegible.  Three names only could be
deciphered: 'Le Goulet', which he recognized as a river, 'sabot' which means 'shoe', and Vera Cruz.  On his annual
holiday on the Continent, he made it his business to visit the archives in Barcelona.

The information he found there was electrifying.  It described a Chinese puzzle and he, Esperance Becherel, had
by dint of good fortune discovered the key.  About 1770 the Spanish Main was becoming too hot for the freebooters:
warships of Great Britian, France, and Spain were hunting them down mercilessly.  The greater number decided to
seek pastures new and the Indian Ocean whith its rich trade became their choice.  By far the larger number of them
were Hollanders, remnants of the famous Dutch navy that defeated Spain during the Eighty Years War.  Mauritius
was a French island and so became their new headquarters.  Long before this decision was made, a French pirate,
Mondracon by name, had settled there and was on good terms with the French governor.

Then started a strange pact.  The Brotherhood of the Coast, as they then called themselves, came in their thou-
sands to Mauritius and established their own state in the southern part of the island.  On the northern side was
the French governor who turned a blind eye as long as the brotherhood kept its hands off French Ships.

Being on the other side of the world, so to speak, did not deter the brotherhood from keeping a weather eye open
on the happenings of the Spanish Main.  England and Spain were at war and not likely to give them the attention
they deserved.  Their spies also kept them well informed on all the looted treasure that was amassed once a year
in Vera Cruz awaiting transportation to Spain.