Monday, October 21, 2013

Adam Baldridge Pirate Entrepreneur

Adam Baldridge was one of the founders of the Pirate settlements near Madagascar. He had fled Jamaica to escape a murder charge and sailed to Madagascar and then east to near by St Mary's Island also known as Ile Sainte Marie and Nosy Boraha. He established a settlement there in 1685 because he realized the harbor with it's bottle neck would to be the easiest to defend among the other islands in the chain. He built a stone fortress armed with forty cannons he had secured from Spanish and French ships.

Baldridge had a partnership with New York importer Frederick Philipse and the goods and money flowed both ways. On the island Baldridge could basically set his price and he sold his goods at greatly marked up prices. The pirates would trade the booty they had plundered in exchange for a wide range of goods including produce, livestock, tools, ammunition and rum. He could get the rum from Philipse for one or two shillings and then resell it for three pounds sterling or about 81 shillings. The produce he could offer the pirates included bananas, coconuts, lemons, oranges, pineapples and yams. In addition to the cattle he could also offer chicken, fish and turtles. There were dozens of warehouses filled with both the treasure he collected from the pirates and the merchandise he traded to them.

Baldridge also found it profitable to enter the slave trade. He found that he could greatly under cut the costs of the traders on the West Coast of Africa where a slave cost three or four pounds sterling. Yet on the east coast he could purchase a slave for ten shillings or the equivalent in goods. There was a pipeline established that sent them to Massachusetts, New York and the West Indies. He also sold the slaves to various ships passing through his harbor bound for numerous countries. Yet it was the slave trade that was his undoing. He made the major mistake of capturing some of the local natives and selling them into slavery. The locals learned of this and revolted and destroyed the fortress and warehouses in 1697. 

Baldridge was able to flee on a ship named the Swift that he had purchased. The ship was later found abandoned on the coast of North Carolina. He lived in the following years in New York and New Jersey.

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