The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honorable Col Jacque, Commonly Call'd Col Jack

by Daniel Defoe
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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1353

The illegitimate son of a gentleman and a lady, Colonel Jack, as he was later known, was early in his life given to his nurse to rear. There he was brought up with her own son, Captain Jack, and another unwanted child, Major Jack. She treated the boys well, but she had little money and so they were forced to fend for themselves. When Colonel Jack was ten years of age, the good woman died, leaving the three boys to beg for their food. Lodging did not bother them; they slept in ash piles and doorways in the winter and on the ground in summer. Captain Jack soon turned to picking pockets for a living and was so successful that he took Colonel Jack into partnership. The two young rogues preyed on wealthy men who were careless with their money. One of the boys would take the money, extracting only a small note from the whole; then the other would return the rest to its rightful owner and collect a reward for its return. One of the duped men was so grateful to honest-seeming Colonel Jack that upon the return of his wallet he agreed to keep the reward money for the boy and pay him interest on it. Since Colonel Jack had no place to keep the stolen goods safely, he had asked the gentleman to do him that service. Later, Colonel Jack took more stolen money to the same man for safekeeping and received his note for the whole amount, to be paid only to Colonel Jack himself. After the scamps had robbed a poor woman of all her savings, Colonel Jack was so ashamed that he later returned her money with interest.

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Captain Jack, a real villain, was apprehended and taken to Newgate Prison. Colonel Jack then became a partner of a thief named Will, a vicious rogue who plundered, robbed, and at last killed. He also was caught and taken to Newgate to be hanged, a fate that Colonel Jack knew Will deserved but that made his heart sick and his conscience a heavy burden.

Captain Jack escaped from prison; Colonel Jack was also in danger because of his deeds. The two journeyed to Scotland. They were almost caught many times, but on each occasion, Captain Jack’s foresight enabled them to elude capture. When they were ready to return to England, they took work on a ship bound for London, or so they thought. Since they were deserters from the army, which they had joined to save their skins, they could not afford to risk regular means of travel; but the two who had cheated so many were themselves duped. Instead of sailing for England, they found themselves on the high seas bound for America and servitude. Colonel Jack, knowing himself for a villain, accepted his fate calmly, but Captain Jack stormed against it. The defiant Captain Jack abused his master, escaped back to England, resumed his old ways, and some twenty years later was hanged.

In Virginia, Colonel Jack was the property of a good master who told him that after he had served five years he would be freed and given a small piece of land. Therefore, if he were industrious and honest, he might benefit from his ill fate. Jack respected his master and worked diligently for him. Soon he was made an overseer, and his kind heart and keen mind were responsible for changing the black slaves from rebellious fiends to loyal workers. His master was so fond of Jack that he bought him a small plantation nearby and lent him the money to supply it. He also arranged for Jack to secure his money left in keeping in London. The money was converted into goods for the plantation, goods that were lost at sea. The master offered Jack his freedom before the five years were up, but Jack was loyal and continued to serve until his master’s death.

Jack’s plantation prospered. The original two slaves given to him by his old master were increased by several more slaves and bonded white workers. Always...

(The entire section contains 1353 words.)

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