Woodes Rogers Biography

(Royal Governor of the Bahama Islands (1718-21, 1728-32))

Birthday: October 18, 1679 (Libra)

Born In: Dorset, England

Woodes Rogers was an English sea captain and privateer who was twice appointed as the Royal Governor of the Bahamas. He was the captain of the ship that rescued Alexander Selkirk, a Royal Navy officer who spent more than four years marooned on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean. His plight later inspired writer Daniel Defoe to create the fictional character Robinson Crusoe. Rogers is still remembered as a national hero who expelled all pirates and brought an order to the Bahamas and most of the Caribbean. In 1707, during the British’s war with Spain, Rogers led an expedition,and was the captain of the ship Duke. In the next three years, he and his men captured several ships in the Pacific Ocean, and en route, rescued Selkirk from the Juan Fernandez Island onFebruary 1, 1709. Although he became a national hero after the expedition, he was badly wounded, and was also sued by his crewmembers, who claimed that they had not received their fair share of the expedition profits. This led him into bankruptcy. He wrote about his maritime experiences in a book titled ‘A Cruising Voyage Round the World’. Following this, he was appointed as the Royal Governor of the Bahamas. During his first term as governor, he was financially ruined, and on his return to England, he was imprisoned for debt. He died at the age of 53 in Nassau, during his second term as governor.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In October

Died At Age: 52


Spouse/Ex-: Sarah Whetstone (m. 1705)

father: Woods Rogers

British Men

Died on: July 15, 1732

place of death: Nassau, The Bahamas

City: Dorset, England

Childhood & Early Life
Woodes Rogers was born in 1679 as the eldest son of a successful merchant captain Woods Rogers in Dorset, England. Woodes Rogers spent his childhood in Poole, England, where he attended school. His father owned shares in many ships, and was often away in the fishing fleet. Sometime between 1690 and 1696, Captain Woods Rogers moved his family to Bristol.
In 1697, Woodes Rogers started a seven-year apprenticeship with Bristol mariner John Yeamans to learn the profession of a sailor.
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During the War of the Spanish Succession in 1702, Woodes Rogers suffered losses against the French, and to recoup the losses, he turned to privateering. In 1706, his father Captain Rogers died at sea, and Woodes Rogers inherited his ships and business.
In 1707, his father’s friend and navigator William Dampier proposed that Rogers lead a privateering expedition against the Spanish. He thus commanded two ships, Duke and Duchess, and was the captainof Duke.
Woodes Rogers faced several challenges during the expedition. About 40 crew members were deserted or dismissed, so he had to spend a month in Ireland recruiting new crew members, and repairing the ship for the sea. Many of the crew members were foreigners, and some of them mutinied after Rogers refused to let them plunder a neutral Swedish vessel. However, the mutiny was put down.
During the expedition, when the two ships reached the little-known Juan Fernandez Island on February 1, 1709, they spotted a fire ashore, and discovered Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who had been marooned on the island for the last four years. He was rescued, and later given command of one of the prized ships earned during the expedition.
Rogers captured a number of vessels during the expedition, and attacked the town of Guayaquil, which is located in Ecuador. Due to a sickness on board, six men died, and Rogers lost contact with one of the captured ships. When the ships reached the Dutch port of Batavia, Rogers underwent surgery on his mouth to rectify a wound he suffered during the battle.
Business dealings with the Dutch by any other party was then considered to be a violation of the British East India Company's monopoly. So he faced a legal charge and a huge penalty was paid to the East India Company. During the expedition, he also lost his brother. However, the long voyage and the capture of the Spanish ships made him a national hero. After the expedition, he wrote an account of it in the book titled ‘A Cruising Voyage Round the World’.
Rogers faced acute financial problems on his return from the expedition. He also failed to recoup the losses through privateering, which forced him to sell his Bristol home. He was also sued by a group of his crew who felt that they had not received their fair share of the profits of the expedition. As a result, he became bankrupt.
He, however, decided to go on an expedition against the pirates to come out of his financial problems. In 1713, he led an expedition to purchase slaves in Madagascar and take them to the Dutch East Indies, with the permission of the British East India Company. Although his expedition was profitable, his idea of colonizing Madagascar was not bought by the British East India Company.
In 1717, Rogers was appointed the Royal Governor of the Bahamas. He faced serious problems in establishing the government, as the region was totally overwhelmed by pirates. He wanted to offer the king's pardon to the pirates who would stop their activities. However, some of the pirates led by Charles Vane opposed his idea and a battle ensued. Soon, almost all the pirates in the area were caught, hanged, or killed in the battle.
In 1719, when Spain and Britain were at war again, Rogers fortified the Bahamas. Wary of his defenses, the Spanish landed troops on the Paradise Island, but were driven off by Rogers' troops. By 1720, all the external threats to his rule had ended as Spain and Britain had made peace. However, he overspent on New Providence's defenses, and did not receive any assistance from Britain.
By this time, his health had started deteriorating, and he went to Charleston, South Carolina, with the aim of recovering his health. However, on reaching Charleston, he was wounded in a battle with Captain John Hildesley of HMS Flamborough.
Due to lack of support and communication from London, he left for Britain in March 1721. When he arrived three months later, he found that a new governor had been appointed, and his company had been liquidated. He was made liable for the obligations he had contracted in Nassau and was imprisoned for debt.
In 1722, a man who was writing about piracy approached Rogers for information. He wrote the book, ‘A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates,’ under the pseudonym of Captain Charles Johnson. This book became a huge hit, and made Rogers a national hero once again. As a result, in 1726, he managed get financial redress from King George I, who also granted him a pension. Later, his son George II reappointed him as the Governor of Bahamas on October 22, 1728.
This time he did not face too many external threats in the Bahamas. However, the governmental activities exhausted him mentally and physically. So he went to Charleston in 1731 to recover his health. Although he never fully regained his health, he returned to the Bahamas. He died in Nassau on July 15, 1732.
Personal Life
In 1705, he married Sarah Whetstone, daughter of Rear Admiral Sir William Whetstone, who was a close family friend, and became a freeman of Bristol because of his marriage into the respectable Whetstone family. Between 1706 and 1708, Woodes and Sarah had one son and two daughters.
After he was declared bankrupt and their fourth child died in infancy, Woodes and Sarah permanently separated. After his death, a street near the harbor in Nassau was named after him."Piracy expelled, commerce restored" was made the motto of the Bahamas, which remained till the islands gained independence in 1973.

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