Argghhh, here be Pirates!

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A brief history of the Bahamas.
Christopher Columbus discovered the Bahamas on his first voyage in 1492, and spent 12 days here before sailing on to Cuba and Hispaniola. There has been considerable debate regarding the actual site of his first landfall, but the traditionally accepted belief is that the historic event occurred on San Salvador, formerly Watling Island in the extreme southeast end of the Bahamas. At the center of the debate lies the question, whether Columbus used simple dead reckoning, or the more accurate method of sailing down a latitude line. The latter technique required only celestial observations off Polaris, and was widely known at the time. A DR (dead reckoning) course would have placed the landfall in the southern Bahamas, but the more accurate method of latitude sailing would have placed the landfall near North Eleuthera. The debate goes on, in part, because only extracts of his original log exists.

Columbus named the island of his first landfall San Salvador. He then explored and subsequently baptized the islands of Santa Maria de la Concepcion, Fernandina, and Isabella. Proponents favoring the theory of the Watling Island landfall believe that Columbus' San Salvador was the island which bears that name today (Watling Island was renamed San Salvador in 1926 by the Bahamian Parliament) and that Rum Cay, Long Island, and Crooked/Acklins were, in fact, Santa Maria de la Concepcion, Fernandina, and Isabella.

Based upon a computer simulated voyage across the Atlantic, National Geographic Magazine in 1986 proclaimed Samana Cay in the far out islands of the Bahamas as the "true" landfall. The encircling reef and the small lagoon are difficult even with today's charts and a fully equipped modern yacht. Although a few yachts have picked their way through the reef, the island certainly does not qualify as the deep and roomy port which Columbus described.

Other scholars favor Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos. Grand Turk, itself fits Columbus' description as well as Watling Island and far better than Samana Cay, but it's hard to imagine an island in the vicinity which could fit his description of Fernandina.
The alternate theory, mentioned previously, is far beyond the scope of this book. It advocates that Columbus' recorded latitude was measured by polar sight, and was correct. The Admiral's ability to accurately measure latitude supports a more northern landfall at North Eleuthera. Arne Molander (1981), a senior navigational engineer, convincingly compared Columbus' abridged log to the actual geography of Egg/Royal Islands (taken collectively), New Providence, Andros, and Long Island; lending further support to this theory. In 1513, Ponce de Leon, enroute to Florida, stopped at Columbus' San Salvador. In his log, he records the latitude of Guanahani (the native name for Columbus' San Salvador) at 25º 40'N--precisely North Eleuthera. The recent find, near West End, Grand Bahama, of an early Spanish caravel, similar to the Nina and Pinta provides further evidence that the early Spaniards ventured much farther north in the Bahamas than previously thought.

This last theory may be of special interest to sailors who pass through North Eleuthera enroute to Abaco. In chapter two, when we describe these harbors, we will where appropriate, draw your attention to certain similarities between these islands and those described in Columbus' log.
Of interest to those who enjoy a little mystery, other scholars believe that Columbus actually possessed a "secret" chart. If such a chart existed, he probably obtained it from a pilot, whose ship had been blown to these islands by a hurricane. The existence of such a chart, and an eye witness account would explain why he pursued his "hunch" so persistently. It would also explain how he predicted the distance to these islands so accurately. In spite of mathematical errors, wrong assumptions, and a destination half a world away, Columbus "knew" that the "exact" distance to his destination was 750 leagues. Some have, perhaps is jest, suggested divine inspiration. Others believe that The Admiral displayed his "inside knowledge" when shortly after landing in the Bahamas, he began to ask the "Indians" for directions to Hispaniola. Hardly the action of a man "exploring" a new, uncharted world; it was as if he were in search of gold and knew exactly where he was going. Knowing this, he stayed in the Bahamas only long enough to reprovision his ships and find a suitable route on to what later became known as Hispaniola. Having accomplished that, he never returned to the Bahamas.

Wherever he landed, Columbus was greeted by the friendly Arawak Indians, or Lucayans. They had been forced northward from South America by the fierce Caribs. You will still see remnants of this past in the names of Bahamian business and towns such as the Arawak agency in Marsh Harbor or the town of Lucaya near Freeport. Examples of words in our language, derived from the Arawak include, avocado, barbecue, cay (pronounced key), guava, hurricane, iguana, maize, potato, and tobacco. Capt. Wyatt (1594) provides us the first English record of Arawak vocabulary. The Caribs of course, lent their name to the Caribbean Sea.

Columbus was impressed by their friendliness and carefree way of life, he described them as, "an affectionate people ...without covetousness." He went on to certify to the King and Queen of Spain, "There is no better people or land in the world. They love their neighbors as themselves ... [they] are always smiling..." One could readily imagine him a present day visitor to Abaco when he wrote of the Arawaks, "They are so ingenuous and free with all they have, that no one would believe it who has not seen it... Of anything they possess, if it be asked of them, they never say no; on the contrary, they invite you to share it and show as much love as if their hearts went with it..."

Spanish treasure seekers ruthlessly hunted down and carted off 40,000 of these peaceful, friendly, fun-loving Arawak men and women as slaves to work other prosperous territories in Cuba and Hispaniola, almost completely depopulating the Bahamas by 1513. When Ponce de Leon visited these islands in 1514, he found no trace of the Arawaks. The Bahamas were not resettled for over one hundred years. Because they were flat, not fertile, and had no minerals considered of value, they were overlooked during the greed-driven, early years of exploitation of the new world. The Spanish merely used the excellent passages for their galleons laden with gold and silver from Mexico and the rest of the Caribbean. Even this practice was discontinued after 1595 when they lost seventeen treasure laden galleons off the coast of Abaco! The very word "Bahamas" is a derivative of the Spanish "bajamar", meaning shallow sea. It is hard to know whether the Spanish lost more ships to the shallow banks and reefs or to the English and French freebooters. Nevertheless, neither the freebooters nor the Spanish chose to settle and stay in the Bahamas. Like their Arawak predecessors, the settlers who ultimately would appreciate and inhabit the Bahamas would be mostly fishermen and farmers. This overview of the history leads us to a discussion of the geography of the islands, for indeed the geography determined much of the history. Although you can cruise these islands successfully and know nothing of their history, you will be wise not to ignore the geography. Otherwise you may find yourself repeating the history of the sixteenth century Spaniards. Charts and markers are often lacking the detail you may be accustomed to in The United States. Understanding the basic geography often will help you fill in the gaps.


The Bahamas consist of an archipelago of over seven hundred islands and cays stretching almost five hundred miles from Great Inagua in the south to Walker's Cay in the north.

At it's closest proximity to The United States, the island of Bimini, on the northwest limit of the Great Bahama Bank, is only forty six nautical miles from Miami. West End, Grand Bahama, is only fifty five nautical miles from Lake Worth Inlet. This proximity greatly influenced the history and economy of both locations during the days of prohibition in The United States. The economic development of this region has been closely linked to that of south Florida.

Great Inagua, in the south, is situated directly north of the Windward Channel, only forty eight miles from Cuba and sixty miles from Haiti. On the south side of the Great Bahama Bank, the archipelago is separated from the Greater Antilles by the Old Bahamas Channel. In between, exist over seven hundred islands and cays, not counting another two thousand rocks and small cays. The Little Bahama Bank, in the north is comprised of Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos. Most of the rest of The Bahamas, to the south, lie on the Great Bahama Bank. These two major collections of islands and cays are separated by the Northwest Providence Channel and the Northeast Providence Channel. The Cay Sal Bank is a third and minor bank of interest principally only to fishermen. The isolated islands of San Salvador, Great Inagua, Mayaguana, Crooked and Acklins are exceptions to this general rule and are separated from the Great Bahama Bank by deep water.

Although politically distinct, The Turks and Caicos are geographically very closely related to the Bahamas. Providenciales, Caicos lies a mere forty four nautical miles northeast of Great Inagua. Grand Turk is only one hundred and seven nautical miles north of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Taken together these islands almost form a bridge from the Greater Antilles to Florida. This bridge like effect, surrounded by deep water is largely what provides the beauty, seclusion, and fishing which continues to entice the cruising sailor. This same effect is also what makes finding the deep water between the reefs, rocks, and banks challenging at times.

Some appreciation of the history of these islands will greatly improve your enjoyment ashore. There you will find quaint New England style villages settled by American Loyalists who wished to remain under the British crown. These settlers came to these islands from The United States just after the American Revolution. Descendants of these same early settlers continued to be extremely loyal to the British Crown when the new Bahamas government was seeking it's own independence. The citizens of Abaco petitioned the Queen to continue their existing relationship as a Crown Colony, but their request was denied. Like it or not, the Abacos became part of the new independent nation of the Bahamas.
The American Loyalists were not the first to attempt settlement in these islands. France tried to establish a colony on Great Abaco in 1625. They called the island Lucayoneque, and reported good harbours, ample fresh water, and the wild pigs still found on Great Abaco today. The fate of their unsuccessful attempt remains a mystery today. Their attempt did however, prompt a formal claim to the Bahamas by King Charles I, then King of England. No attempt at establishing a settlement was made at that time. Settlement of the Bahamas actually followed that of Bermuda and the thirteen American colonies.

Bermuda was settled by the English in 1612. Like the thirteen colonies on the mainland, Bermuda served as a refuge for dissenters, seeking an escape from religious persecution in England during the seventeenth century. Religious trouble continued in Bermuda between the Nonconformists and the Anglican majority. This lead to the formation of the "Company of Eleutherian Adventurers," headed by William Sayle, a former Governor of Bermuda. They sought to establish a colony where full religious freedom could be enjoyed.
A band of seventy set sail for "Segaboo Bahama" in 1647. Sayle later renamed the island "Eleuthera," derived from the Greek word for freedom. The settlement struggled, but was sent help by Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts. The Eleutherian Adventurers never received the charter they sought from England because many of their shareholders were followers of Cromwell, in disfavor with the ruling Restoration in England.

Sixty more Puritans were expelled from Bermuda following the execution of Charles I in England, and followed the original settlers to Eleuthera. Many of them returned to Bermuda when politics cooled off there. The young colony had a falling out, and eventually split, the original colony staying on Eleuthera, and a splinter group settling on St. Charles Island, founding Spanish Wells. In 1657, Sayle returned to England with many of his followers, leaving behind families whose names have spread throughout the Bahamas. Among them, Pinder, Sands, Sawyer, and Knowles, all prominent names on the Islands today.

Following the Restoration, Bermuda became overcrowded, and exported more settlers to the Bahamas. Plantations were established on Sayle's Island, later renamed New Providence. By 1666, New Providence had nine hundred settlers.

In 1670, the Bahamas were granted to six Lord Proprietors of the Carolinas, being removed from Bermuda's jurisdiction. This led to the establishment of a plantation type economy based upon cotton, worked by slave labor. The Abacos were generally overlooked during this plantation type of development, probably because the small plots of soil, although fertile, were not well suited to large scale farming. Thus we see at this point the dominant history of Abaco follows a different thread from much of the rest of the Bahamas.

One common thread was the role of pirates, throughout the Bahamas during this period . The same geography which makes these islands such attractive cruising grounds today, made them ideally suited to the pirates who knew the waters well. The difficulty of maintaining a strong and efficient government by long distance made it nearly impossible to control the pirates.

In 1691, Nicholas Trott of Bermuda was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. He laid out the town and built Fort Nassau, which was completed in 1695. This was designed to protect the harbor and was built on the site of the present British Colonial Hotel. In spite of the good intentions, the pirates were soon back in control. This status quo remained until 1718 when Captain Woodes Rogers, himself a former privateer, was appointed to clean out the pirates. A Parliamentary Government was formed in 1728 and the modern history of the Bahamas began.

During the next two and a half centuries, the Bahamas saw much change. Most of that change came in spurts of fortune and misfortune. Frequently, the good times came from the misfortunes of others. Nassau managed to somehow, in a very professional way, develop a successful trade in goods that others considered contraband.
When war broke out between England and Spain in 1739, Nassau, a British colony, managed to profit nicely from the goods reshipped to French and Spanish islands. In 1756 when England was again at war with France, a similar trade developed. By this time, the Bahamas had become heavily dependent upon the American colonies. When the American Revolution began, Bahamian loyalty was mixed. Officially, loyal to the crown, the islands once again managed a lucrative illegal trade with the smugglers.

The American invasion of Nassau in 1776 resulted in more sympathy than animosity. The actual invasion seemed more like a raiding party for supplies and gunpowder than anything else. The Nassau garrison would probably have sold them what they needed if they had only asked. The American occupation ended after about two weeks and the Bahamas profited by running contraband during the war, just as they had done before. Abaco benefited by the immigration of the American Loyalists in a more permanent way. Bahamian history might be different if the American marines had remained, and the Bahamas had joined the other thirteen colonies in the war for independence.

By the time of the War Between the States, the Bahamian economy had become quite proficient at turning a profit from contraband. As the Union blockade became more effective, the profits just became more lucrative.
All of the Bahamas, but particularly West End and Bimini profited from the "rum runners" during the days of prohibition in the states. More recently, you hear lots of talk about "drug runners" in the Bahamas. Some of this may be true, since it is consistent with such a proud history of defiance. This could simply reflect their professionalism in not involving outsiders. There are greater drug problems in the United States than there is in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas gained full independence in 1973 and are steadily making progress toward developing their nation. The economy is becoming more diversified. A large refinery is now operational in Freeport and factories such as the Syntex factory are adding many new jobs.
Public services are improving every year. New roads are being paved and new airports are being built. Bahamasair recently upgraded their entire fleet. Batelco installed direct dial telephone service throughout most of the Abacos. Cellular telephone service is now available throughout most of the islands.
The government had been led since 1967 by Prime Minister Pindling and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). The opposition party, the Free National Movement (FNM) won a landslide victory in August 1992 and formed a new government.

The roles of pirates and privateers are an integral part of the history of the Bahamas. However, in many cases, it is impossible to separate the facts from the legends. The activity of many of these pirates is well documented in what is now Nassau, but their activity in the "out islands" is less well documented. They came to these islands to rest and relax. They also came to these islands to careen their vessels in the shallow creeks, where they cleaned and repaired their hulls. They knew then as we do now that a clean bottom is essential for good boat speed. In many cases the success of a "cruise" depended upon the ability to speedily overtake their prey and out run their pursuers. Be assured that the pirates invested more effort to clean the hulls of their vessels than they did their own personal hygiene.

The distances and geographical features which made settlement and government difficult in these islands, also served to provide an ideal environment for those hiding from the law and authority. Charles Town, later Nassau, on the island of New Providence, became a major headquarters for buccaneers, pirates, and privateers.
For the purist, there are clear distinctions to be made between these various labels, however for the pragmatist, the line becomes somewhat blurred. Buccaneering arose spontaneously, among the French, against the Spanish. This unauthorized reaction was soon imitated, successfully, by the English. Sir Henry Morgan was one of the early successful "buccaneers" who made life miserable for Spanish shipping. He, among others made Nassau his home base. The Spanish, in reprisal for his successes, nearly demolished Charles Town (Nassau).

During war, this was considered legal so long as it was directed toward the enemy. Looting became legitimate, but few could contain themselves to their legal targets. Most believe the earlier Capt. Wyatt (1594) stayed for the most part on the legal side of that very fine line .
The first recorded act of "piracy" in the Bahamas occurred in September 1713. A French ship had sailed from Santo Domingo bound for France. The ship was loaded with sugar, gold, and indigo. The owner of the cargo was on board. Off the island of Inagua, a fire broke out. While the pilot worked to put out the fire, the master of the vessel ran her aground on a shallow sand bar, with no apparent damage to the ship. The master made no attempt to refloat the ship, but he just happened to have "friends" in the area who appeared in small boats to "save" the cargo. The owner of the cargo and the pilot of the vessel later complained in court. I'm sure you can imagine the difficulty of proving such allegations.

In 1714, the Spanish treasure fleet carrying the Royal taxes back to Spain ran into a hurricane and was washed ashore on the shallow reefs of Florida. While the Spanish authorities were attempting salvage operations, Henry Jennings catapulted his career as a privateer by attacking and robbing the poorly defended salvage divers. He then found it expedient to establish a home base in Nassau, where it was relatively easy to elude the Spanish Navy.
Jennings and many others of his profession found New Providence an ideal home base. The harbor was well protected and had two entrances, which made it extremely difficult for a single ship to completely "bottle up" the harbor. Additionally there was an ample supply of fresh water, fish, turtle, and wild game for reprovisioning the vessels.

The island was well positioned between the westbound shipping lanes carrying needed provisions from Europe, and the eastbound shipping lanes taking gold and silver back to Europe. Other pirate captains soon joined Jennings and his band. The present site of Nassau literally became an impromptu city of two to three thousand inhabitants living in tents, huts, and onboard ships. Jennings became the unofficial mayor. The pirate economy prompted a significant "service industry" of traders, followers, and smugglers. In today's jargon, they developed a significant "spin-off" industry, "fencing" the stolen merchandise. Redistribution channels included fellow pirates as well as legitimate markets in the Carolinas and the Spanish Main.

New Providence probably offered the wildest frontier of the entire New World. Yet these uneducated, unruly rascals seemed able to govern themselves with a kind of democracy unknown in the civilized world at that time! These independent minded outlaws possessed the same spirit of independence and sense of freedom which drove Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson down a more constructive path. Not only did these pirate captains run their ships democratically, but they also established a democratic society in New Providence. This sociological phenomenon is quite interesting when you consider the fact that these individuals were not reared in a society where voting was a household word. They also lacked intellectual contact with the outside world. There has been no satisfactory explanation of how this community derived its concept of self government. Jennings became the recognized leader of this motley band, but, relying heavily on a council of the other pirate captains, demonstrated uncanny "political sense".

Edward Teach, AKA "Blackbeard", was one of those pirate captains who made a home base at New Providence. Teach was one of the few who rejected King George I's amnesty offer in 1718. He chose to leave the Bahamas and pursue his career in the Carolinas. "Blackbeard" intentionally promoted his image as a brutal cutthroat, solely as an act of psychological warfare. Teach, a natural leader and politician, struck a business "deal" with Governor Eden of North Carolina. He agreed to pay the governor a percentage of his profits. From this new base, he continued his successful career, until Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia, commissioned Lieutenant Robert Maynard and Captain Ellis Brand of the Royal Navy to hunt down the infamous pirate. Lt. Maynard of the Pearl caught Blackbeard in shallow Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. There, in a bloody battle, Maynard personally fought Blackbeard to the death. At autopsy, Blackbeard was found to have been shot twenty three times and had numerous cutlass wounds. During his life, he was credited with having fourteen wives. Some of his prowess can be credited to the conch he ate while stationed in the Bahamas.

Governor Spotswood of Virginia, who actually had jurisdiction over the Bahamas, was probably instrumental in persuading the king to send Woodes Rodges to New Providence as governor, to clean up the pirate situation.

Captain Woodes Rogers was an English sea captain and privateer, who had received much acclaim after his voyage around the world. In those days, it was unusual for a private citizen to embark upon such an adventure, much less complete it successfully. Not only was his privateering a tremendous financial success, but it came at a time when the British made heroes of fellows like Rogers, Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake. Part of his popularity at home can be attributed to the fact that he chronicled his voyage in what became a best selling book in its day, A Cruising Voyage around the World. In his book, he detailed the rescue of Alexander Selkirk a Scottish seaman found marooned in the South Pacific. This real life story became the basis for Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. One can't help but speculate why such a man, given to writing and documentation, chose not to document so well his adventures as the first real governor of the Bahamas.

In 1718 King George I sent Captain Rogers to New Providence as the new governor. News of the royal pardon preceded Captain Rogers to New Providence because one of the pirate ships had actually captured a ship carrying a bundle of the reprinted proclamation, intended for distribution throughout the New World.

The entire population of the island was expecting him when Captain Rogers arrived with two warships, the Rose and the Delicia accompanied by two small sloops Shark and Buck. With this small fleet, Rogers was able to secure both entrances to the harbor at New Providence. This flotilla would not have been able to overpower the entire pirate community, but the Royal pardon had left the pirates divided. Some, including Henry Jennings, the founder of this pirate colony had already returned from Bermuda, where they had sailed to accept the royal pardon. Edward Teach (Blackbeard) had left in advance of Captain Rogers' arrival to continue his career in the Carolinas with no intention of accepting the King's pardon.
Only Charles Vane and crew were inclined to fight. Knowing that they were trapped, he accepted the pardon provided he could keep the stolen goods in their possession. Rogers, believing that the pardon was already sufficiently generous, declined to answer.

Vane, not inclined to part with his recently acquired wealth, and trapped in a small harbor by a much larger force, awaited darkness. They prepared their recent prize, an ex French brigantine for a daring role in their night time escape. The guns of the French ship were loaded and pointed forward, toward Rogers' Rose and Shark at anchor. The ship was then set sail in the general direction of the anchored ships and the ship was set on fire. The unmanned fire ship continued her course directly toward the Royal Navy vessels. As the cannon began to explode, the crews of the navy vessels were forced to cut their anchor rodes in order to save their vessels from a fiery collision. When the powder magazine exploded, the sky lit up enough to see Vane's sloop escaping in the night. Vane then continued his pirate activity along the coast of the Carolinas. When in the Bahamas, he found safe haven in Green Turtle Cay. Vane later lost his ship to "Calico Jack" Rackam, when his crew voted him out.
When Vane was finally captured, he had shipped aboard a merchant vessel as an ordinary seaman. He was recognized by another captain and former pirate, put in chains and turned over to the authorities. At his trial, among his documented offenses was the taking of the sloop John and Elizabeth off the coast of Abaco. For his many acts of piracy he was hanged on March 29. 1720.

"Calico Jack" Rackam, who took over Charles Vane's ship was another one of the few pirates who refused the pardon brought to Nassau by Capt. Rogers. Rackam is really best known because of two members of his crew! Anne Bonney and Mary Read both gained notoriety as the only two documented cases of female pirates in the New World. They each hid their sex, dressing and fighting as men alongside the other members of the crew.
Rackam is also remembered for the cowardice he demonstrated at his capture off Negril, Jamaica. After his capture, he was convicted of his crimes and hanged.
Anne Bonney was the illegitimate daughter of an Irish lawyer, turned Carolina planter. Her father's identity remains uncertain to this day. Quite well to do in the Carolinas, he disinherited Anne when she married James Bonney, an ordinary seaman. Anne and James moved to Nassau, there Anne assumed a male identity, and took up the life of piracy. She later became attracted to "Calico Jack" Rackam. When her husband refused to give her a divorce, she and Rackam, then the quartermaster of Charles Vane's ship, found it expedient to simply commandeer John Hamen's sloop Vanity and sail away. She maintained her male identity and served as an ordinary member of the crew, receiving no special favors, except that Rackam put her ashore in Cuba to have their first child. Reportedly, she was back at sea, within just a few weeks after that childbirth.

She fought valiantly at their capture off Negril, Jamaica and is reported to have said to Rackam on the gallows that if he had fought like a man he wouldn't be dying like a dog! At her own trial, she pleaded innocent and revealed that she was not only a woman, but pregnant as well! Apparently the court had mercy upon her, spared her life, and later gave her a reprieve. She ultimately made it back to England and spent the rest of her life running a pub, entertaining her customers with colorful tales of her past.
Mary Read served on the same ship, likewise posing as a man. She too was pregnant at the time of her trial and successfully used this fact in her defense. Unfortunately, she died in prison during the birth of the child.
So ends the accounts of the pirates who rejected the amnesty offered by the king and delivered to New Providence by Captain Rogers. The others, among them Henry Jennings, the unofficial mayor of the city, and Benjamin Hornigold, Blackbeard's mentor, chose to accept the pardon and work with the new governor. Jennings is reported to have offered to raise the governor's "cut" of the profits from the customary eight per cent to ten per cent. This arrangement apparently did not appeal to Rogers, who proceeded with his clean up campaign. Many of the former pirates became officers and advisors in Rogers' new government.

Rogers, lacking sufficient military might to force his changes on this pirate community, had to rely partly on force, but more on diplomacy and persuasion. Many had chosen to leave and continue their activities elsewhere. He pardoned a thousand or so others, and hanged a few.
In one of his most brilliant diplomatic moves he subdivided the island into plots and gave each man an official deed to his property. Most of these men had never really owned anything. At first these rather impressive pieces of paper were traded and gambled much any other "booty". Ultimately, the concept of legal ownership became important to these who were accustomed to a world where the strong took whatever they wanted. These important pieces of paper assured even the weaker men that no one could take their land from them. Pride of ownership soon followed and the citizens began to construct modest homes and clean up their land.

When some of the pardoned pirates returned to their former ways, Rogers commissioned Ben Hornigold, a respected former pirate himself, to pursue them. Upon their capture, Rogers conducted a speedy trial. He went to great effort to assure a fair trial, making sure that all actions were well documented. Ten of these were brought to trial, nine were hanged as an example to others, who might be tempted to return to a life of piracy. Rogers wisely chose to pardon one of the offenders, who for some reason, was able to raise some doubt about his guilt. This act of mercy was widely credited for maintaining Rogers' image as a fair man.
He required the citizens to help reconstruct the fort. He licensed some of the former pirates, as privateers, to attack the Spanish, and generally had a successful tenure as governor. Rogers returned to London in 1721, but his successors lacked his skills at dealing with these former pirates and the problems of the islands. In his absence, piracy again began to flourish, particularly in the out islands. Nassau remained an ideal base for trans-shipment of contraband goods.

Rogers was reappointed as governor in 1728 and remained there in that role until his death in 1732. By that time, a parliamentary government had been established, and plans for the present city of Nassau had been adopted. The government had adopted the motto, "Expulus Piratis Restituta Commercia" (Pirates Expelled, Commerce restored.) into the official coat of arms, and the Bahamas were well established as one of the British colonies.