Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pirate Justice

Although most pirates had served on the middle passage and thus had been a part of the slave trade, the pirates displayed remarkably little of the racial prejudice that was being developed at that time in order to justify the trade. Whilst pirates were known to take, and sell on, slave cargos, black former slaves made up a considerable portion of pirate crews (over 40% of Blackbeard's crew were black). Pirates would often describe themselves as Maroons, copying the name adopted by the escaped Jamaican slave gangs. On one occasion, Marcus relates, the captain found himself handed back control of his slave ship only after the pirates had released all the chains and provided the slaves with a knife each. That the captain and his 'cargo' would be able to discuss their respective situations on a more equal basis would have appealed to the pirates' sense of justice.

It was the threat that the pirates made upon the profits of the slave trade that determined their fate. The seaboard coasts of both Africa and the Americas were swamped with navy ships; the pirates were hunted down and hanged by the dozen. The pirates themselves responded to state terror with a terror of their own. More merchantmen were burnt; towns that hanged pirates were blockaded. The pirates themselves declared "No surrender" and vowed to blow themselves and their ships to kingdom come rather than be captured. But the writing was on the wall, and the dwindling bands of pirates either dispersed or died fighting, or upon the scaffold.

These pirates who, facing a world full of horror and brutality, rebelled and challenged the conventions of class, race and gender. Laughing in the face of authority as they laughed in the face of death, their rebellion created an alternative to the dour hypocrisy of our 'betters', which has given hope and inspiration for over 300 years. (source:


  1. Francis Drake and Henry Morgan were two dreadful pirates who roamed the Caribbean and Pacific coast of the Americas for many years. This is why if you visit any of the American countries that borders the Atlantic and even the Pacific you will see forts. These forts were built to protect the m from the The Portuguese, French,English, Dutch and the Spaniards were all involved in piracy. as a matter of fact pirates would attact slave ships and confiscate its cargo. Remember slave ships also carried goods. Twice panama was sacked by Henry Morgan and Francis Drake diesd off the Atlantic coast of Panama right in Portobelo.

  2. Yes, but the pirates were an important part of who controlled the Islands. They were useful to the Crown as long as they were fighting the Spaniards and Portuguese, but they became problematic for the English when they started interfering with the British commerce.

    Moreover, what I found compelling in this post was that Black Beard's crew was 40% black. Although these pirates ruthlessly ruled their ships, they seemed more democratic than the British Navy and the American plantation system.

    Another item that I thought was interesting in this article was the nomenclature of the pirates. They called themselves "maroons." Like a colony of runaway slaves aboard a ship on he high seas.

    Yes, they did plunder. But so did the British Crown, the Spanish Crown, the Dutch Crown, the Portuguese Crown, the French Crown and the Pope. The pirates weren't doing anything that the King and Queen of England, Spain, Holland, and France weren't doing. They just had merchants, armies and investors to do the heavy lifting.

    I'd even argue that the results of the state sponsored piracy like that of of the British Navy and the Spanish Armada have been far more devastating to the ignominious populations, the flora and fauna and the imported enslaved human beings.

  3. I agree with you but they were another entity that both indigenous and runaway slaves had to deal with. In panama, the famous maroon Bayano who was a governor in his own right, and his men aligned themselves with the English pirates.
    These English pirates protected them and vice versa.They looked out for the pirates because their enemy at that time were the Spaniards. The runaway slaves in Panama had no qualms with the English.
    What the English did was sent their pirates to scout the area and see what was good for the pickings; this is how the English were able to take Jamaica and Trinidad and other islands from the Spaniards.
    Some of those islands went from Spanish, French then English.
    Another reason why Henry Morgan and Francis Drake were both knighted by the British Crown. Later on, the English had enough funds to send expeditions to conquer North America.
    In Spanish America black people have been there from very early. In North America blacks arrived much later.
    The Africans were no fools, they were able to play the Europeans at their own game.


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