Skip to content

* “Tolinar Rex”

March 9, 2019

Two men, one the future Mayor of New York City. The other an up-and-coming pirate from the Caribbean (Martinique), just turned King (“Tolinar Rex”). Who of all places, in 1699, met on the beaches of what was then the abandoned Fort Dauphin.

Abraham Samuel was born and raised in Martinique, the son of a French planter and one of his slaves. His early life is unknown. But in 1696 he arrived in the Arabian Sea, pirate-flagserving as quartermaster aboard the pirate ship John and Rebecca. Decimated by illness, they sailed down the eastern coast of Madagascar, seeking slaves to bring back to the New World with them. Then, in October, 1697, while at anchor in the Fort Dauphin harbor, a storm came up which resulted in their anchor ropes failing and their ship being beached. They took refuge in what was by then the abandoned fort while they waited for another ship to come rescue them.

However, the elderly princess of the local Antanosy king felt Samuel was her son, who her French husband had taken with him when he left Fort Dauphin in 1674 (this based on some distinguishing marks on Abraham’s body which she saw as the pirate crew was swimming in the ocean below the fort they were living in).

And before long, with 20 heavily armed fellow pirates who served as his bodyguard, along with 300 Antanosy soldiers, Samuel was proclaimed king of the region surrounding Fort Dauphin, taking the title of “King of Port Dolfphin, Tollannare, Farrawe, Fanquestt, Fownzahira in Madagascar.” This was most likely the old heartland of the ZafiRaminia kingdom, stretching from Fort Dauphin to Fanjahira. Soon Samuel had 15 large outrigger canoes for his soldiers and was constantly at war with the nearby Antanosy king Diamarang Diamera.

In 1698, early in the career of John Cruger (the elder), the man who later became Mayor of New York City (from 1739 till his death in 1744), while he was “a mere youth,” Cruger was appointed as Supercargo under Captain Appel of the Prophet Daniel, along on the voyage to buy slaves on what was a regular “slaver” out of New York. It was bound for Madagascar on what would be its last voyage. [According to Butel et al. (2000), at this point in time New York shipped provisions including gunpowder and guns to Madagascar, which were then traded for slaves, who were primarily prisoners of war of various Malagasy kings, which were then shipped back to New York. One of the reasons for gathering slaves in Madagascar at this point in time was because it was so much cheaper (it cost only 10 shillings worth of goods to buy one there, while it was costing three to four pounds sterling to purchase one in West Africa).]

What follows is surely one of the most memorable <<vazaha>> (foreigner) incidents to ever have happened in Fort Dauphin which happened during Abraham Samuel’s brief rule of the Fort Dauphin area.

Of that fateful trip, during which Cruger met and very unsuccessfully sought to do business with Abraham Samuel in Fort Dauphin, Cruger wrote:

“New York, Friday, 15th July, 1698, we weighed anchor bound for the island of Don Mascowrena; 3d October, found ourselves under the … St. Thomas Island, went in to water and clean the ship ; … 7th October, sailed from St. Thomas;”

[left unreported by Cruger was that he had so antagonized the crew on the front end of the journey, that by the time they reached Sao Tome, the Captain indicated his crew would mutiny if not paid at least some of the wages Cruger hadn’t paid them. Cruger sold some of the ship’s rigging to pay for this.]

“20th February, 1699, Captain and Master judged themselves to leeward of the island Don Mascowrena; Sunday, 13th July, we arrived at Mattatana, (whither we had been compelled to turn our course,) and I went on shore to trade for negroes, but the harbor proving bad we were forced to remove from that place — I having purchased 50 slaves at St. Mattatana; 24th August, arrived at Fort Dolphin; 27th do.

“I acquainted Mr. Abraham Samuel, the king of that place, of my arrival, and came with him to a trade; 12th September, I went with Mr. Samuel twenty-five miles up in the country [to Fanjahira?], and on the 14th in the morning, I got the miserable news that our ship was taken by a vessel that came into the harbour the night before. Whereupon I made all the haste down I could, when we got some of the subjects of Mr. Samuel to assist, us, and we fired upon said pirate for two days, but could do no good. Then I hired two men to swim off in the night to cut their cables, but Mr. Samuel charged them not to meddle with them, (as I was informed, said Samuel having got a letter from on board the said pirates, in which I suppose they made great promises, so that he forbid us upon our lives not to meddle with any of said pirates).

“When said ship came in at an anchor they desired our boat to give them a cast on shore, they having lost their boats, and pretended to be a merchant ship, and had about 50 negroes on board. At night, said Captain of said ship desired that our boat might give him a cast on board of his ship, which was done, and coming on board he desired the men to drink with him, and when said men were going on board of our ship again they stopped them by violence, and at about 9 at night, they manned the boat and took our ship, and presently carried away all the money that was on board, rigging, and other things that they had occasion for, and then gave the ship and negroes, and other things that were on board to said Mr. Samuel. The Captain’s name of the pirate was Evan Jones… [and crew] from Westchester, New York, and others.

“Mr. Abraham Samuel took likewise away from me 22 casks of powder and 49 small arms, likewise all the sails belonging to the Prophet which were on shore, and then sold the ship again to Isaac Ruff, Thomas Welles, Edmd. Conklin and Edward Woodman, as it was reported, for 1,400 pieces of eight. The purchasers designed to go from Fort Dolphin to the island of Don Mascowrena, and thence to Mattatana, upon Madagascar, and so for America. Captain Henry Appel … [and two others] went along with them;

“[S]ome days after there arrived at Fort Dolphin a small pinke, called the Vine, Thomas Warrent, master, from London, which took in slaves from said place, and bound for Barbadoes, in which I took my passage, and was forced to pay for the same 66 pieces of eight and two slaves.

“Saturday, 18th November, 1699, I departed from Fort Dolphin with four of the people more that belonged to the ship Prophet Daniel, in the aforesaid pinke Vine, for Barbadoes, leaving on shore, of the ship’s company, only a mulatto boy, called Gabriel; … 24th March,arrived at Barbadoes; 17th April, 1700 departed from Barbadoes in the pinke Blossom, Robert Darkins, commander, bound for New York ; llth May, 1700, I arrived at New York, and because I may not be censured an ill man, and that it may be thought that I have saved any thing that belongs to the owners of said ship, I do declare that I have not, directly nor indirectly, saved any thing that belongs to them, nor wronged them of the value of a farthing, but contrary, I have done all possible to serve their interest that I could.

As for King Samuel, his rule of Anosy ended up being quite short, as by 1705 a passing ship found no trace of him.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: