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The rules they laid down covering the division of plunder followed the democratic lines by which they made decisions, and as the former ship's cook Barnaby Slush noted, captains had to work hard for their extra portion of the loot: "Pyrates and Buccaneers, are Princes to [sailors], for there, as none are exempt from General Toil and Danger; so if the Chief have a Supream Share beyond his Comrades, 'tis because he's always the Leading Man in e'ry daring Enterprize; and yet as bold as he is in all other attempts, he dares not offer to infringe the common laws of Equity; but every Associate has his due Quota."
What is interesting is the use of words "Enterprize" and "Associate," as if they were a business rather than a ship filled with cutthroats. It shows just how seriously they took the notion of equality, and how important their pirate articles were to them, a businesslike bill of rights and profit that ensured everyone would benefit. The most detailed set of pirate articles that has survived was drawn up by the mutinous crew of the merchantman Rover (later the Royal Fortune), who turned pirate in 1721 and elected Bartholomew Roberts as their captain. Captain Johnson quotes the document in "The Life of Captain Roberts":
I. Every man has a Vote in Affairs of Monument, has equal Title to the fresh Provisions, or strong Liquors, at any Time seized, & use them at pleasure, unless a Scarcity make it necessary, for the good of all, to Vote a Retrenchment.
II. Every man to be called fairly in turn, by List, on Board of Prizes, because they there on these Occasions allow'd a Shift of Cloaths: But if they drauded the Company to the Value of a Dollar, in Plate, Jewels, or Money, MAROONING was their punishment.
III. No Person to game at Cards or Dice for Money.
IV. The Lights & Candles to put out at eight o'Clock at Night. If any of the Crew, after that Hour, still remained inclined for Drinking, they were to do it on the open Deck.
V. To Keep their Piece, Pistols, & Cutlash clean, & fit for Service.
VI. No Boy or Woman to allow'd amongst them. If any Man were found seducing anny of the latter Sex, and carried her to Sea, disguised, he was to suffer Death.
VII. To Desert the Ship, or their Quarters in Battle, was punished with Death, or Marooning.
VIII. No striking one another on Board, but every Man's Quarrels to be ended on shore, at Sword & Pistol Thus: The Quarter-Master of the Ship, when the Parties will not come to any Reconciliation, accompanies them on Shore with what Assistance he thinks proper, & turns the Disputants Back to Back, at so many Paces, Distance. At the Word of Command, they turn and fire immediately, (or else the Piece is knocked out of their Hands). If both miss, they come to their Cutlasses, and then he is declared Vic in their Service, tor who draws the first Blood.
IX. NO man to talk of breaking up their Way of Living, till each has shared £1000. If in order to this, any Man shall lose a Limb, or become a Cripple he was to have 800 Dollars, out of publick Stock, and for lesser Hurts, proportionably.
X. The Captain and Quarter-Master to receive two Share of a Prize; the Master, Boatswain, & gunner, one Share and a half and other Officers, one and a Quarter.
XI. The Musicians to have Rest on the Sabbath Day, but the other six Days and Nights, none without special Favour.
... The articles designed to reduce the chances of rancor among the crew - sex, gambling, drinking, and disturbing shipmates' sleep - were laid out in some detail. It is even more revealing that the most expansive article covers the settling of arguments, making the procedure so involved and open to chance that many would have settled their differences before th epirate ship could find a suitable spot to fight the duel. (From A Pirate's Life, pgs. 55-57)
For a few weeks Port Royal belonged to the crews of the privateer ships. It was no place for the squeamish. Respectable citizens counted up their profits and pretended not to notice as the town earned its reputation s the Sodom of the New World. Such a reputation was a small price to pay for the riches of the Spanish Main, riches which soon changed hands. Some of the privateers were really wild men, hunters of beasts and Spaniards, men who never saw a city except when they were sacking it or in the course of such a spree as this at the end of a cruise. Most were plain, unlettered, unvarnished soldiers and sailors with all the tastes that their kind have satisfied on leave throughout history. They drank, they whored, they fought, they gambled, they swore, they boasted and eventually they passed out into oblivion. But there was one difference here in tropical Port Royal in Spetember of 1668. Each of these men had more money to spend than the common sailors of their day could earn in several years. And spend they did. By the time the stories trickled down to Charles Leslie, who wrote a history of Jamaica some eighty years later, the privateers' debauch had taken on an element of fable. 'Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that, in a little time, some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one of them gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige every one that passed to drink... (footnote omitted) (From 'Our Portobello Men', p. 92)
The Republic of Pirates Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down
By Colin Woodard
Up until now (Charles) Vane had been in the background, one of the hundreds of low-ranking pirates who caroused in the streets of Nassau, drinking, gambling, fighting, and womanizing. He had been living off his earnings while serving with Henry Jennings, particularly his shares of the plunder stolen from the Spanish wrecks in 1716. He may have gone on short cruises with other pirate captains, but it seems that he spent most of the intervening year and a half as Jennings had: resting on his laurels ashore and appreciating the freedoms offered by the existence of the Bahamian pirate republic. The news of the pardon threatened to put an end ot the pirate's nest, as did rumors that King George had appointed a new royal governor for the Bahamas. Vane, who had Jacobite sympathies, could not have been pleased when he read King George's proclamation. He was furious when he saw his less-committted colleagues celebrating atop the fort beneath the newly raised British flag. (From Begging Pardon, pgs. 229-230)
... On November 18, 1720, the day of his (Calico Jack Rackham's) execution, Anne Bonny was allowed to see him one last time. "I'm sorry to see you here," she is said to have told him, "but if you fought like a man, you need not have hanged like a dog." Later that day he and four other men were executed at Gallows Point in Port Royal. His body was later placed in a gibbet on a small island in the harbor now known as Rackham's Cay; he and Vane may have been hanged separately, but their corpses swung within sight of each other across Port Royal Harbor.
As for Mary Read and Anne Bonny, they were tried on November 28, 1720, found guilty, and sentenced to death. They had a surprise for Governor Lawes and the other officials at the Spanish Town courthouse. They "plead their bellies," claiming to be "quick with child" and, thus, ineligible for execution, as it was illegal for the court to take the lives of their fetuses. Lawes ordered that the women be examined, whereupon their claim was found to be true. Their sentences were postponed and the women were presumably returned to prison. Mary Read died there from a violent fever and was buried in St. Catherine's church in Jamaica on April 28, 1721. Anne Bonny's fate is unclear, though she was apparently not executed. During her pregnancy, her long-estranged father, a South Carolina planter of some means, may have been able to obtain her release. If she died on Jamaica, the records of her burial have been lost.
With the execution of Rackham and Vane, the Golden Age of Piracy was all but over. While ships would continue to be attacked - particularly off West Africa - the pirates never again had the upper hand. With few exceptions, the pirates of the 1720s spent their time playing cat-and-mouse games with the authorities; there were to be no more threats to the colonies themselves. British authorities estimated the worldwide pirate population at approximately 2,000 between 1716 and 1718, but less than 200 by 1725, a collapse of 90 percent. After 1722, most pirates had abandoned any hope of carving out their own republic or helping overthrow the Naoverian kings of England and spent most of their time fighting for mere survival. (From Piracy's End, pgs. 319-320)
The batteries of the Cotentin coast would protect her; the chasse-marees and the Seine gunboats would be ready to come to her aid. Both at Cherbourg and at Le Havre there were French frigates and ships of the line, half-manned and unready for sea, but always able at a pinch to push out a few miles from port and cover the escape of the Flame. At the approach of superior force she would certainly run; she might stand and fight an equal, such as this Porta Coeli, but Hornblower found himself hesitationg at the prospect of meeting on equal terms a British ship manned by English sailors filled with the courage of despair. Victory would be dearly bought - what a triumphant clamour Bonaparte would raise through Europe at the news of a battle between two British ships! There would be many dead - what would be the effect on the navy at the news of British sailors killing each other? What would be the results in Parliament? And the chances were certainly large that the two brigs would cripple each other so badly as to fall easy victims to the chasse-marees and gunboats. And worse than that, there was the chance of defeat. Equal ships, equal crews; a chance as arbitrary as the spin of a coin might decide the action. No, only as a last resort, perhaps not even then, would he fight a simple action against the Flame. But what the devil was he to do? (-- pgs. 35-36)
The growing light revealed the Porta Coeli's position, over towards the southern shore of the estuary of the Seine.
"That was an excellent piece of navigation last night, Mr. Freeman."
"Thank you, Sir Horatio."
Hornblower would have added more words of warmer praise, if it had not been for Freeman's rather chilling manner; he supposed Freeman was entitled to be short-tempered before breakfast if he wished. And any lieutenant was entitled to be jealous of a captain; in the opinion of every ambitious lieutenant, a captain was just a lieutenant who had been lucky and who would continue to be lucky, drawing three times a lieutenant's pay and prize money, reaping the harvest of the lieutenant's labours, and secure in the knowledge that time would make an admiral of him in the end while the lieutenant's promotion still depended on the whims of his superiors. Hornblower could remember feeling just the same when he was lieutenant; for Freeman to show it was natural even though foolish. (-- pgs. 55-56)
Orders were orders, even when they dealt with such extraneous matters as making sails while negotiating with a mutinous crew. Hornblower stared over at the Flame, still lying hove-to out of gunshot. The mutineers held a strong, an unassailable position, one which no frontal attack could break, and whose flanks were impregnable. It would be a very roundabout route that could turn such a position; maybe he had thought of one. There were some odd circumstances in his favour, fortunate coincidences. It was his business to seize upon those, exploit them to the utmost. He would have to take reckless chances, but he would do everything in his power to reduce the chances against him. The lucky man is he who knows how much to leave to chance. (-- p. 65)
Audio Cassette Only!
(Damn their eyes, sir!)
Narrated by Welsh actor Ioan Griffudd
Another in Forester's excellent Hornblower saga of British naval life during the Napoleonic wars. We're anticipating this selection with a great deal of relish based on the actor's excelent portrayal of Mr. H. on the hit TV series. There is rather a lot of old sea terminology to puzzle over in the book but it adds a certain color to the rousing adventures of our hero.
Hornblower - The Complete Collection
Adventure classic featuring first-class actors sporting a broad sampling of English English.
Wall Street on the Tundra Iceland's de facto bankruptcy - its currency (the krona) is kaput, its debt is 850 percent of G.D.P., its people are hoarding food and cash and blowing up their new Range Rovers for the insurance - resulted from a stunning collective madness. What led a tiny fishing nation, population 300,000, to decide, around 2003, to re-invent itself as a global financial power? In Reykjavik, where men are men, and the women seem to have completely given up on them, Michael Lewis follows the peculiarly Icelandic logic behind the meltdown
The brilliant paper was written back in 1954 by H. Scott Gordon, a University of Indiana economist. It describes the plight of the fisherman—and seeks to explain “why fishermen are not wealthy, despite the fact that fishery resources of the sea are the richest and most indestructible available to man.” The problem is that, because the fish are everybody’s property, they are nobody’s property. Anyone can catch as many fish as they like, so they fish right up to the point where fishing becomes unprofitable—for everybody. “There is in the spirit of every fisherman the hope of the ‘lucky catch,’” wrote Gordon. “As those who know fishermen well have often testified, they are gamblers and incurably optimistic.”
Fishermen, in other words, are a lot like American investment bankers. Their overconfidence leads them to impoverish not just themselves but also their fishing grounds. Simply limiting the number of fish caught won’t solve the problem; it will just heighten the competition for the fish and drive down profits. The goal isn’t to get fishermen to overspend on more nets or bigger boats. The goal is to catch the maximum number of fish with minimum effort. To attain it, you need government intervention.
This insight is what led Iceland to go from being one of the poorest countries in Europe circa 1900 to being one of the richest circa 2000. Iceland’s big change began in the early 1970s, after a couple of years when the fish catch was terrible. The best fishermen returned for a second year in a row without their usual haul of cod and haddock, so the Icelandic government took radical action: they privatized the fish. Each fisherman was assigned a quota, based roughly on his historical catches. If you were a big-time Icelandic fisherman you got this piece of paper that entitled you to, say, 1 percent of the total catch allowed to be pulled from Iceland’s waters that season. Before each season the scientists at the Marine Research Institute would determine the total number of cod or haddock that could be caught without damaging the long-term health of the fish population; from year to year, the numbers of fish you could catch changed. But your percentage of the annual haul was fixed, and this piece of paper entitled you to it in perpetuity.
Even better, if you didn’t want to fish you could sell your quota to someone who did. The quotas thus drifted into the hands of the people to whom they were of the greatest value, the best fishermen, who could extract the fish from the sea with maximum efficiency. You could also take your quota to the bank and borrow against it, and the bank had no trouble assigning a dollar value to your share of the cod pulled, without competition, from the richest cod-fishing grounds on earth. The fish had not only been privatized, they had been securitized.
It was horribly unfair: a public resource—all the fish in the Icelandic sea—was simply turned over to a handful of lucky Icelanders. Overnight, Iceland had its first billionaires, and they were all fishermen. But as social policy it was ingenious: in a single stroke the fish became a source of real, sustainable wealth rather than shaky sustenance. Fewer people were spending less effort catching more or less precisely the right number of fish to maximize the long-term value of Iceland’s fishing grounds. The new wealth transformed Iceland—and turned it from the backwater it had been for 1,100 years to the place that spawned Björk. If Iceland has become famous for its musicians it’s because Icelanders now have time to play music, and much else. Iceland’s youth are paid to study abroad, for instance, and encouraged to cultivate themselves in all sorts of interesting ways. Since its fishing policy transformed Iceland, the place has become, in effect, a machine for turning cod into Ph.D.’s. (-- p. 175)
Who was he and where did he come from? The family trees of the poor don't grow to any height. I know nothing real about my father; I don't even know if his name was real. There was never a Granda Smart, or a Grandma, no brothers or cousins. He made his life up as he went along. Where was his leg? South Africa, Glasnevin, under the sea. She heard enough stories to bury ten legs. War, an infection, the fairies, a train. He invented himself, and reinvented. He left a trail of Henry Smarts before he finally disappeared. A soldier, a sailor, a butler -- the first one-legged butler to serve the Queen. He'd killed sixteen Zulus with the freshly severed limb.
Was he just a liar? No, I don't think so. He was a survivor; his stories kept him going. Stories were the only things the poor owned. A poor man, he gave himself a life. He filled the hold with many lives. He was the son of a Sligo peasant who'd been eaten by his neighbours; they'd started on my father before he got away. He hopped down the boreen, the life gushing out of his stump, hurling rocks back at the hungry neighbours, and kept hopping till he reached Dublin. He was a pedlar, a gambler, a hoor's bully. He sat on the ditch beside my mother and invented himself. (-- p. 7)
Modern piracy has its origins in the wars that the great European powers fought over trade in the centuries following the discovery of the New World. Like Donald Rumsfeld, Renaissance monarchs seem to have believed in military outsourcing, and they cheaply and quickly acquired navies by granting private vessels, known as privateers, the right to raid enemy ships and pay themselves out of the plunder, a share of which they were to pass along to the government. If all went well—especially if the ships taken belonged to the Spanish, who hauled a fortune in American gold and silver across the Atlantic twice a year—the contracting government grew a little richer. So long as one of the nations involved considered it legal, privateering wasn’t technically piracy, but the Spanish liked to put the paperwork making this claim around the necks of privateers that they hanged. The privateers themselves, according to a 1724 account, tended to “make very little Distinction betwixt the Lawfulness of one, and the Unlawfulness of the other,” especially when peace intermittently threatened to deprive them of an income. In December of 1670, for example, Henry Morgan ignored a letter telling him that England had signed a treaty with Spain in July and went on to sack the Spanish-owned city of Panama. Morgan had scored princely sums elsewhere, however, so when he was eventually arrested and sent to London, he was knighted and appointed deputy governor of Jamaica.
The men who sailed with Morgan were known as buccaneers. They were French and English men who had gone native on Hispaniola, the island now occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and on Tortuga, a tiny island to the north. Their name came from a wooden frame, called a boucan by the Carib Indians, on which they smoked wild boar and cattle. They were the ones who developed the first pirate code of ethics, the Custom of the Coast, at the core of which was an explicit agreement about the sharing of booty, power, and responsibility called a chasse partie. Before attacking Panama, for instance, the buccaneers stipulated that Morgan was to get a hundredth part of the loot, with the rest divided into shares for the more than two thousand men in the expedition: each captain under Morgan was to get eight shares, and each man one share. They also allocated set-asides for professionals (two hundred pesos for each surgeon, a hundred for each carpenter), incentive payments (fifty to anyone who captured a Spanish flag, five to anyone who threw a grenade into a fort), and compensations for injury (a hundred for a lost eye, fifteen hundred for two legs). Pirates usually further agreed to maroon pilferers, to give “good quarter” to any victim who asked, and to keep their weapons clean. Sometimes they went so far as to forbid gambling and onboard romance (“No Boy or Woman to be allowed amongst them,” one such contract read) and to restrict late-night drinking to the deck.
Because criminal agreements have no legal force, it’s tempting to think of pirate articles as quaint—if not misguided, considering how often they showed up in court as evidence against their signatories. Leeson is at pains to show the articles as a rational choice, enabling pirates to create a voluntary association that was stable and orderly. By setting terms in advance, punishing embezzlement harshly, and keeping the pay gap between captain and men low, the articles reduced conflict over property claims. By limiting drinking and requiring clean weapons, they curbed individual behaviors that might otherwise have damaged the crew’s fighting ability. And by rewarding special achievements and providing health insurance they encouraged enthusiasm and risk-taking. The results were impressive. “As great robbers as they are to all besides,” a sea cook observed in 1709, they “are precisely just among themselves.” No one could join a pirate crew without swearing to the articles, which, Leeson explains, reduced what economists call the “external costs” of decision-making—in this case, the discontent of anyone who thought them unfair, a dangerous sentiment when betrayal meant hanging. Articles also made it harder for leaders to cheat, because their public nature enabled every pirate to tell if a rule had been broken. The only rules as tough and flexible, Leeson provocatively suggests, were the covenants that founded New England’s Puritan churches.
When Morgan campaigned against the Spanish in 1670 and 1671, he was both elected by the buccaneers and commissioned by the Jamaican governor. But when he returned to the Caribbean, in 1675, he had to choose sides. Planters now dominated Jamaican society, and thought the cost of disrupted shipping not worth the occasional benefits of poaching Spanish currency. Morgan turned planter himself, declared pirates “ravenous vermin,” and began hanging them. When piracy next broke out, it was in another part of the world. ...
Piracy seems to thrive when capitalism is advancing—when it has put enough wealth in motion to tempt criminals to kill for it but not yet enough for sailors to die in its defense—and perhaps, as in Somalia, when government is retreating. In several ways, Somalia’s contemporary pirates resemble those of three centuries ago. Violent and dangerous, they nonetheless are careful not to hurt coöperative hostages; they look to piracy to take them from poverty to a life of leisure; they have been known to regulate their own behavior with written rules; and they believe that their cause is just. The timing of their end, too, will probably be similar, coming whenever a major power decides that a crackdown costs less than the nuisance.
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