Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE REDEMPTION OF CAPTIVES
 IN 1645 the Parliament of England was moved to take the matter up, and sent out Edmond Casson as their agent with
money and goods to redeem captives. For the poorer sort of captives he paid goods, such as cloth; for the
better sort, money. Casson arrived in Algiers in September 1646. A list is preserved of two hundred and
forty-two slaves ransomed by him, with the price paid for each. As a rule he paid for a man 500 double
pesetas, a coin worth two francs, that is about £40 a head. But the Algerines were unwilling to sell women,
children, and skilled labourers except at a great price, so he had to pay 1100 pieces of money for Alice Hayes
of Edinburgh, 1000 for Mary Ripley and her two children, 1392 for Mary Bruster, an Irishwoman, and 1300 for
Thomas Thomson of London.
After Casson's visit another very sad letter was received from Thomas Sweet. He relates how his cunning
master, unwilling to lose him, transferred him to a Moor of Tunis, and thus removed him from Algiers and the
chance of being redeemed by Casson. Sweet was so useful to his master that his abilities stood in his own
light. As the unlucky man says: "I doe keepe his bookes of accompts and merchandise, and that keepes me here
in misery when others that are illiterate goe off upon easy tearmes for cloath, so that my breeding is my
undoing unlesse pitty be shewne."
But it is to be feared that poor Sweet and his
 friend Robinson never got free. There is no sign of their redemption, and no hint of their names in the lists
of ransomed slaves.
A few years later a clean sweep was made of the British slaves in Algiers. It was the time of the
Commonwealth, when England was feared and respected abroad as she had not been for many a year, nor was to be
for many a year after. Under James I. and Charles I. some feeble, useless expeditions had been made. British
men-of-war had appeared off the Barbary coast, parleyed and argued, and then had sailed away, having
ALGIERS FROM THE HOUSE-TOPS.
But in 1655 the mighty Admiral Blake attacked the Corsairs, and he proved a foe to be dreaded. The great
seaman struck first at Tunis. He found the Corsair fleet of Tunis anchored close under the guns of the forts
for safety. He ran right in, and, despite the heavy fire of the enemy's guns, he made short work of the pirate
ships, burning every one of them. He went next to Algiers, and the Algerines were so full of terror that they
agreed at once to all that he wished. For a small sum they gave up every British captive in the place. A
number of Dutch captives swam out and reached the fleet. These were not included in the bargain, but the
honest British tars could not think of seeing them taken back to slavery. So every man of the fleet
contributed one dollar of his pay to redeem the fugitives from captivity.
 Yet the Algerines were soon at their old tricks, and only four years later, in 1659, the Earl of Inchiquin,
with his son Lord O'Brien, were seized in a vessel off the Tagus, and carried to Algiers. Nor did this great
nobleman, a close friend and follower of Charles II., regain his liberty until he had paid down a ransom of
Some years before Lord Inchiquin was seized, and while he was ruling part of Ireland as Lord President of
Munster, a clergyman, the Reverend Devereux Spratt, came to him to ask for a pass to cross over from Ireland
to England. The pass was granted and Mr. Spratt set sail, only to fall straight into the hands of the
Corsairs. He says in his Journal: "I embarked in one John Filmer's vessel, which sayled with about six score
passengers, but before wee were out of sight of land wee were all taken by an Algire piratt, who put the men
in chaines and stockes."
In Algiers this clergyman had the good fortune to be sold to a kindly master, who allowed him so much liberty
that he was able to preach and minister to his fellow-captives, "amongst whom," as he says, "it pleased God to
make me an instrument of much good. I had not stayed long there," he goes on, "but I was like to be freed by
one Captain Wilde, a pious Christian, but on a sudden I was sold and delivered to a Mussleman (Mussalman,
Moslem) dwelling with his family in Ye (the) towne, upon which change and sudden disappointment I was very
sad; my patron asked me the reason, and withall uttered these comfortable words, 'God is great!' which took
such impression as strengthened my faith in God, considering thus with myself, 'shall this
 Turkish Mahumitan (Mohametan) teach me, who am a Christian, my duty of faith and dependence upon God?'"
After a time Captain Wilde obtained Mr. Spratt's ransom, having collected money among the merchants at Leghorn
in Italy. But the poor captives were aghast when they found they were to lose the good clergyman. "Upon this a
petition was presented by the English captives for my staying among them; that he (Captain Wilde) showed me,
and asked what I would do in ye case. I toald him he was an instrument under God of my liberty, and I would be
at his disposing. He answered, 'Noe, I was a free man, and should be at my own disposing.' Then I replyed, 'I
will stay,' considering that I might be more serviceable to my country by my continuing in enduring
afflictions with the people of God than to enjoy liberty at home."
For two years this excellent man continued to live and work among the captives. Then an order was issued that
all free men must leave Algiers, and he returned to London, and finally to Ireland. Among those to whom he
ministered in Algiers were William Okeley and his friends, and Mr. Spratt knew all about the little canvas
boat in which Okeley escaped. Indeed, he nearly got into trouble himself over it. He says: "I was much
suspected to have a hand in contriving ye boate, but Providence ordered that I was never questioned, although
a Moore who dwelt over against ye meeting house (the place where the boat was built) seeing me one day upon
the Mole (harbour) viewing their ships, frowned and grinded his teeth at me."