More on the Dread Pirate Keating

An update to this earlier story on the story of the pirate Maurice Keating. Note the two different spellings of said pirate in the article:

West India News


About the latter end of December, Morris Keaton, a pirate and murderer, was executed at Cuckolds Point, near Port Royal in Jamaica, and afterwards his body was suspended to a lofty gibbet in chains. He met his fate with uncommon resignation, penitence, and fortitude; and told the surrounding multitude, after he was tied up, that he was not afraid of death, but without it as a relief from all his sorrows. He then turned to the executioner, and forbade him to take away the ladder, saying that he would jump off himself when he was ready, which he accordingly did about two minutes afterwards.

The night before his execution he most solemnly declared, that the following outlines of the latter part of his life were briefly true:

“That he had been a volunteer in the King’s army in America, and afterwards a Lieutenant in Arnold’s regiment, when that officer joined the British; that he had been in nine actions, and employed by Gen. Clinton in three different messages to Lord Cornwallis, when besieged in York-town, Virginia; that on the conclusion of the peace, Gen. Arnold’s regiment being disbanded, and he was discharged at that time without half-pay, on any other provision. He then made a voyage to Santa Cruz, where he had a brother who trusted him with a very considerable venture for America, which was unfortunately lost with the vessel within sight of New London, where he arrived with nothing but the cloaths on his back. From New London he found means to get to Norfolk, in Virginia, where he became acquainted with Benj. Johnson, Jos. Twentyman, and one Hughes, with whom he had several meetings; at one of which it was proposed by Hughes to procure a passage on board the schooner Friendship, then lying off Johnson’s house, commanded by Wm. Lewis, and bound to St. Thomas’s [… one or more lines missing …] to seize up the said schooner when opportunity offered; to murder all belonging to her without distinction; and to sell the ship and cargo at the first convenient port.

This bloody project, in the evening of the 9th day after their departure, they carried into execution. Keating, Twentyman, and Hughes, went up to Mr. Chadwick at the helm and, presenting a loaded pistol to his head, swore if he spoke a word they would instantly shoot him dead; then they bound him and gagged him. Twentyman took the helm, and the others proceeded to secure the men upon the watch, all of whomHughes proposed instantly to throw over-board. This done, Johnson and Hughes went into the cabin, and seizing the Captain first, made him secure, and then attacked Mr. Wilkinson, a passenger, who game them some trouble, as he made resistance, and could not easily be overpowered; but at length, by stabbing him several parts of his body, and chopping off his fingers as he grasped the shrouds, they at length compleated their diabolical purpose. Wm. Price, Ch. Brown, and a negroman and boy, who were asleep, they easily subdued; and after swearing them on a book to be true, kept them alive to work the ship. Chadwick refused to join them, and him they threw overboard without resistance. The coast being now clear, Twentyman assumed the command of the vessel, as the only man who could direct her course; and after thirty days fial, coming in sight of Antigua, Hughes having rendered himself suspected, Twentyman ordered him to be thrown overboard, which was the more readily obeyed, as he had some days before dispatched the negro-man in the same way.

Antigua being in sight, there was now but little time to deliberate; and it was, on consultation, their unanimous opinino to make for a French port rather than an English port, to dispose of the ship and cargo. Port Louis was therefore made choice of for that purpose, and Guadaloupe was the island to which Twentyman directed his course. Here Keating assumed the character of a merchant, and had succeeded in the fair, had not Brown (one of the foremast-men) found means to make his escape, which so alarmed the pirantes, that they instantly set sail, and steered for the little island of St. Martin’s, where they disposed of a small part of their cargo, took two or three Mulattoes on board to work the ship, and then made for Hispaniola, where Keating, disposing of all he could, made his escape from his companions, and found means to get to Port Royal in Jamaica, about the 8th of December 1784, in a very bad state of health. Here he took lodgings at Mrs. Dubois’s, where he fell sick, and was visited by a physician, who talking on various subjects, discovered that his illness did not proceed so much from a bodily complaint, as from a disordered mind.  Among other questions he put to the physician, he asked, “if some pirates had lately been apprehended there?” and being answered in the affirmative, and, “that they were the most bloody, daring, and abandoned set of villains that had ever appeared upon record.” “My God! cried he, what a pain have I in my head, and sickness at my heart! Send for a barber instantly or I shall be distracted!” The physician now suspecting the real cause, wanted no astrologer to tell his patients fortune. Keating having been advertised and described, the physician had recourse to the news-papers; and his patient answering the description, a warrant was obtained; and, on apprehending him, he did not hesitate to acknowledge his guilt, though he was unwilling to disgrace his family. It has been found that he was born at Munster, and of no mean extraction.


Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, v. 55, April 1785, pp. 312-313. Available via

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