John Quelch had a lucrative but very brief career of about one year. His chief claim to historical significance is that he was the first person to be tried for piracy outside of England under Admiralty Law and thus without a jury. These Admiralty courts had been instituted to tackle the rise of piracy in colonial ports where civil and criminal courts had proved ineffective.
In July, 1703, Governor Joseph Dudley of Boston sent out Captain Daniel Plowman of the Charles with a privateering license to attack French and Spanish ships off the coast of Newfoundland and Arcadia. John Quelch was Plowman's lieutenant. Before leaving Marblehead, Massachusetts, the Charles's crew under Quartermaster Anthony Holding mutinied and locked the ailing Plowman in his cabin. The crew elected Quelch the captain, who turned the Charles south. Plowman was thrown overboard, although it was never established whether he was dead or alive at that moment. The crew plundered nine Portuguese ships off the coast of Brazil and gained a large sum of money, even though England and Portugal were at peace at the time. The Charles contained large amounts of Brazilian sugar, hides, cloth, guns, gold dust and coins. The loot's total value is estimated at over £10,000 sterling (some £1 million in today's money). Before their capture, legend says the crew buried some of the gold on Star Island off the coast of New Hampshire. In the 1800s some gold coins were found hidden in a stone wall there
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