NUTT, JOHN, Newfoundland pirate; fl. 1620–32.
Nutt, a native of Lympstone, Devon, and a gunner on a Dartmouth vessel, went in 1620 to Newfoundland, where he and other seamen seized a French ship and turned pirates. They then took a large Plymouth ship and another “Fleming” vessel of 200 tons. After plundering the fishing fleet, Nutt sailed for England.
He seems to have been a humane man, for a pirate: he had a wife and children at Torbay; he gave his crew good wages and paid them regularly; and when royal orders came to Sir John Eliot, vice-admiral of Devon, to press seamen for the navy, Nutt warned the sailors, hundreds of whom fled to Newfoundland.
Nutt was “in his third year” of piracy when he wrote, in May 1623, from his “man-of-war” at Torbay to Eliot, who had been ordered to arrest him, offering £300 in return for a pardon. Nutt later agreed to pay £500; but when he landed, his period of grace had run out and he was arrested by Eliot, who was about to hang him. However, Sir George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, intervened. A letter, written in August, by Calvert, the secretary of state, reveals that he had granted Nutt one pardon and would be glad to secure him another, “wherein I have no other end but to be grateful to a poor man that hath been ready to do me & my associates courtesies in a plantation which we have begun in Newfoundland, by defending us from others which perhaps in the infancy of that work might have done us wrong.” With the pardon, Nutt received £100 as compensation and Eliot was put in prison.
After receiving his pardon in 1623, John Nutt appears to have remained within the law. As master of various ships he received letters of marque against the French during the war with France. But some doubts as to the firmness of his conversion from piracy remained in 1632: when the king pardoned John’s brother, Robert Nutt, in that year and commissioned captains Thomas Ketelby and John Nutt to deliver the pardon, the fear was expressed that John might take the opportunity to join his brother.