Real Pirates - how evil

There is another reason pirates may have wished to restrain acting wholly evil towards their prey.

Most pirate loot wasn’t in the form of handy pieces of eight or other readily spendable treasure. Unlike in various movie versions, the pirates who hit Drake-like jackpots were rarities. Most pirates stole whatever their victims happened to be carrying as cargo, which meant that the stealing was only half the job - the other half was fencing the (often bulky or perishable or both) loot.

That meant having good relations with someone ashore. Pirates needed to have someone willing to look the other way at how it was obtained and buy the swag (at a steep discount of course).

Such relations could be imperiled if the pirates made things too hot - by gaining a reputation as committers of atrocities.

Henry Morgan tended to be given official cover on occasion and he had little incentive to be so cruel that he was seen as a liability. The raid on Panama was done by him acting as an agent of the English crown; trouble was it was done after the peace treaty was signed but before news reached him in Jamaica (his base). Both the English Government and the Spanish crown eventually accepted he had acted properly.

Pirates were in many way contractors.

Henry Morgan actually sued Exquemelin for lible and won a judgment for 200 pounds against the publishers and the book was retracted.

In afraid this isn’t the case. Although I am sure those Japanese pirates existed and plundered locally.

The most successful pirate in history was a Chinese woman.

Weren’t pirates a strategic enough threat for President Jefferson that we get the Marine Hymn (Halls of Montezuma/Shores of Tripoli) celebrating those campaigns?

This was my thought too. If pirates were notoriously lethal, then the crew has every incentive to fight to the last man (and woman). However, if they knew it was a matter of “just pull over if you can’t win, they’ll just unload some of your cargo, your valuables, and away you go…” Then only the captain and owners are strongly motivated to fight to the end. A fight to the finish is no good for either side.

(“Well, Tonto, it looks like we’re dead.”
“What you mean ‘we’, paleface?”)

Actually, and as really happened, you’d loot then leave them afloat to loot again.

Piracy was a capital crime in of itself.

Here’s a interesting website:

North African pirates used to be a real pest in the mediterranean , and the USA led a war to end the problem there.

The North African pirates would capture anyone off boats, and civilians off land to be used,abused as slaves. There were few survivors, the survivors spoke of the death rate in the slave sweatshops.

These pirates even went as far as England to raid boats and capture civilians.

One interesting piratical practice I read about years ago. When cannonballs were made, there’d be a small “tongue” of metal sticking out from one side that was normally filed down before the cannonball was actually used. Pirates would sometimes leave the tongues there, so they’d scrape along the inside of the cannon when fired and make a horrendous screeching noise. It was probably pretty effective intimidation.

Not if the pirate is farsighted enough; if too many ships vanish, then trade in that area will simply stop and there’s nobody left to pirate. And some pirates were that farsighted, thus the practice of letting the crew & ship go in many cases. If you let them go you see, you can loot them again the next time they come around.

Those were closer to ‘privateers’ – usually operating as ‘authorized’ by the government (Bey of Tripoli or similar), sometimes even official naval vessels of the government. The USA government sent diplomats to negotiate with the government to get their captured & enslaved Americans released.

Sometimes, when the diplomacy didn’t work, the US found a younger brother with a claim to the throne, and funded an army to help him overthrow the current ruler. So ‘regime change’ started early in US history, copied from similar activities in European countries.

To be fair, “drake” means dragon in English as well. :wink:

Rape of high-born women* captured by pirates was less common, because:

  1. they were being held for ransom – if they were raped their value was greatly decreased, and word of that would result in future ransomers declining to pay.
  2. a sizable number of pirates were gay. That’s why they ran away from society & became pirates. See “Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century by historian B. R. Burg.

*Note that this is the high-born women. The low-ranking ones, like their servants, or other women were fair game. Though often there weren’t many – sailors didn’t like women on board, and at that time, the rigors of traveling by sea meant most women avoided it if they could.

Were cannon rifled? :dubious:

Probably after firing one of those cannon balls:D

But seriously, rifled cannon on sailing ships didn’t become common until the 19th century, I believe. Combined with explosive shot, they were a nasty surprise to quite a few folks on the receiving end.

Right. Because communication was so slow, peace treaties in those days sometimes included a clause saying that hostile acts committed within a certain time after the treaty was signed were not considered violations if word of the treaty had not been received. Hearing that a peace treaty between England and Spain was in the offing, the governor of Jamaica sent Morgan to sea (Morgan essentially was the admiral of the Jamaican navy) where he deliberately avoided contact or news so he would be able to act with impunity. Afterward he was called on the carpet in England (in order to appease the Spanish crown) but got off since of course England was actually happy with his action.

Exquemelin was the source of the charge that Morgan was the one who ordered Panama City to be burned during the raid. The Spanish chroniclers all say that it was the Spanish governor who ordered the gunpowder magazine to be exploded to prevent the city from being taken intact. The raid actually netted relatively little booty the Spanish had plenty of warning and were able to send much of their valuables to Peru. Exquemelin and the other pirates however were convinced that Morgan had appropriated most of the loot for himself.

Plus, sinking a boat during a battle was an extraordinary difficult thing to do. Im going to assume sinking a ship wasn’t the easiest thing to do to a captured vessel either.

  1. The main motivation for not raping high born women was not out of concern for “loss of value”, but oweing to the fact that high born women knew powerful people who would then be incentivized to crack down heavily on pirates.

  2. Gays did not really exist at the time. Niether of course did straight or Bi-Sexuals, these are concepts that did not really come into being until the late Victorian era. Pirates probably had a number of people who partook in same Sex relations. Out of preference or necessity. Pirates were often more tolerant of sodomy then Navies or merchant ships masters, but I doubt their incidence of propensity was less or more

The business of piracy and pirates themselves are two different things. The pirates were akin to outlaw motorcycle gangs, dangerous people, living outside the law, with no qualms of raping and killing when they felt like it. But like the biker gangs now they also had leaders with bigger goals than just living the pirates life and had the same concerns of enriching themselves, maintaining power, and avoiding confrontation with naval forces that policed their domain. Then add privateers into the mix, the state sponsored naval mercenaries of their time and you get an even broader environment of piracy. In any way piracy manifested it was outside of some or all of the law and that breeds violence and savagery.

Well, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.

Just because the concepts didn’t officially exist doesn’t mean the things themselves didn’t exist; the map is not the territory.