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The Pirate Ship: Hot Rods of the Age of Sail


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[...]However, the other side of the coin that needs to be watched for is looking for evidence that backs up a myth.  For example, saying that pirates were in favor of equality for all is completely false.  For example, some people claim that Blackbeard left Topsail inlet in Revenge with a 'crew' of 40 white men and 60 black men.  However, many sources make it clear that the black men were slaves, not crew.  Additionally, just because something may have happened once or twice does not make it 'normal among pirates'.   

 

What needs to be considered her is context. What the modern idea of equality does not equate to equality during the 16th, 17th, and 18th century. I do not recall any source that names (for example) African natives serving on naval vessels, as Captain, officer, crew or otherwise. 

Any limited or light inclusion of African, Female, criminal or the like, would have been noteworthy in comparison to the limited, segregated navies.

 

General History...Notorious Pirates, by Capt. Charles Johnson (primary source, though with its inaccuracies as well.  Often considered a good first place to look).  Sometimes attributed to Daniel Defoe

http://www.amazon.com/General-History-Robberies-Murders-Notorious/dp/1599219050/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426135381&sr=1-1&keywords=general+history+of+the+robberies+%26+murders+of+the+most+notorious+pirates

 

Here is an online version of the book I am currently looking into (I think this is the same book. It definitely appears to be the same author). 

 

 

Lastly, the history channel is not known for it's amazing history these days.  Though satire, there is much to this video's claims: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us52tqtn7TA

Although the History Channel does have some very good, well researched documentaries, there are three words that put their credibility on shaky grounds..."Ancient Alien Theorists"

 

As stated many, many, many times over, the current history channel repertoire is by no means educational nor "history". However, during the time of Modern Marvels, the History Channel had actual history programs, such as How It's Made, Engineering an Empire, America, The Revolution, etc. and weas in fact educational and rather accurate. Before the guy with the big hair.

 

In reality we know pirates were not quite exceptional.  They were people, just people.  Everyone seems to be getting worked up over how awesome pirate democracies were.  I'm not.  These guys were bands of highwaymen.  Do you really think no where in the world some group of bandits didn't get together and talk things over?  That suddenly, you put bandits on a ship and they get smacked on the head by a brick that says "LIBERTY" in big bold letters?  I suppose, since they were relatively large groups something could be said for holding some vestiges of democracy.  But well, better informed minds than I have pointed out that not every pirate ship was great soil for democratic ideals.  

 

Again, I think this is a case of pirate inflation.  A few pirates were democratic, so suddenly they all are!  This is sort of what disgusts me about modern views on pirates.  Don't even get me started on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I to this day have yet to be able to sit all the way through any of them.

 

Again. whhat is important here is the context of time. While yes we, living in our modern democracies with Female and race-neutral suffrage, we look at the pirates and see little democracy. However, when you look at the time pirates operated; when almost all of the world powers were some form of despotism or monarchy, even the very limited democracy the pirates utilized was revolutionary for the time. 

 

We say that Athens was a democracy and praise it as such even now, even though suffrage and citizenship was limited to Athenian-born, landholding males who could prove their parents' and grandparents' citizenship. Very limited even to modern eyes. 

 

I would also remind you there is a major drawback to this method.  You can't choose always what is at hand.  That can mean somewhat a mish-mash of parts.  It also means your ship isn't going to get the high class maintenance naval vessels get.  All this can lead up to a sub-par sailing vessel.

 

Long story short, pirates were not magic.  They were small ships that hid from bigger ships, mostly found in the more remote corners of the world.  

 

this is true, maintenance on a single ship would not have been possible for pirates. This is why, whenever possible, pirates would make off with another ship (usually attempting to find a superior vessel to their previous one if possible). Upkeep was avoided by constantly switching out ships. And as noted, many ships carried varied assortments of guns and gear.

 

The tactic the pirates preferred, as noted in the OP, were hit-and-run tactics, and avoided fighting larger, more heavily armed vessels. However pirates thrived for some time in the Caribbean, which was also heavily trafficked by European powers, hardly remote.

 

I for certain, have never claimed that pirates wield supernatural powers. 

 

Part of performing excellently is in fact, proper discipline and drill.  Do you really picture pirates doing gun drills to any sort of intensity compared to a proper fighting ship?  This goes too for handling, part of sailing smart is good attention to detail and practice.  I contend that as fine as these seamen once were, I expect there performance may have actually suffered a bit.  And this doesn't include any poor souls that lack much training at all, but find themselves reduced to piracy.  

 

The thing about pirates in comparison to the navies is that pirates never had peace. Pirates were never at eas and almost constantly practicing their craft. Were they ever on par with naval discipline? No, no one is making that claim (at least I am not). However, as they are under almost constant chase by national powers, they are constantly fighting and using the skills needed to sail and fight. A sprog who knows little of the craft will either learn quickly in a "baptism of fire" or they would perish.

 

In short, the pirates that survived to make a name for themselves were the ones who knew what they were doing and how to do it well. Those who did not, led a short career.

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Except that the fastest ships of the day were naval frigates, and navies operated low-draft sloops and cutters in droves. The navy killed Blackbeard in a vessel pretty much identical to the one he was

Average Pirate Ships Osprey - The Pirate Ship 1660 - 1730 Angus Konstam Illustrated by Tony Bryan   Charles Vane's Ranger

The ships that pirates used to practice their deadly craft were unique in their own right when compared to standard navy and merchant vessels. Very rarely did pirates actually build their own ships fr

What needs to be considered her is context. What the modern idea of equality does not equate to equality during the 16th, 17th, and 18th century. I do not recall any source that names (for example) African natives serving on naval vessels, as Captain, officer, crew or otherwise. 

Any limited or light inclusion of African, Female, criminal or the like, would have been noteworthy in comparison to the limited, segregated navies.

A couple of books I recently finished talk about large numbers of Sandwich Islanders, Malays, etc. serving on board ships coming and going from the Western "American" Seaboard in the 1850's. One merchant vessel regularly shipping between the Sandwich Islands and California in the 1820's is described as being almost entirely crewed by Sandwich Islanders, and the author makes mention of their immense skills in seamanship and landing boats in heavy surf. I'm trying to remember, but I even recall mention of some African-Americans serving as crew as well. Effectively, when your ship arrived in a remote port, missing half her crew from disease or accident, you weren't overly picky about with whom you recrewed your ship. If you had folks that weren't of European descent with shipping experience willing to ship as crew, you happily took them on board. Even moreso, you could often do so at a discount if they were willing to accept less than your British or American Jack.

 

...

This is true, maintenance on a single ship would not have been possible for pirates. This is why, whenever possible, pirates would make off with another ship (usually attempting to find a superior vessel to their previous one if possible). Upkeep was avoided by constantly switching out ships. And as noted, many ships carried varied assortments of guns and gear.

 

The tactic the pirates preferred, as noted in the OP, were hit-and-run tactics, and avoided fighting larger, more heavily armed vessels. However pirates thrived for some time in the Caribbean, which was also heavily trafficked by European powers, hardly remote.

Here we agree entirely.

I for certain, have never claimed that pirates wield supernatural powers. 

 

 

The thing about pirates in comparison to the navies is that pirates never had peace. Pirates were never at eas and almost constantly practicing their craft. Were they ever on par with naval discipline? No, no one is making that claim (at least I am not). However, as they are under almost constant chase by national powers, they are constantly fighting and using the skills needed to sail and fight. A sprog who knows little of the craft will either learn quickly in a "baptism of fire" or they would perish.

 

In short, the pirates that survived to make a name for themselves were the ones who knew what they were doing and how to do it well. Those who did not, led a short career.

Here we agree as well. Fighting your ship frequently is pretty good training, and when compared to a merchant who maybe fired her guns once a year, and then for salutes, your group of pirates, if they're experienced, will be a formidable force. As you've said, not up to the standards of a well-disciplined Naval vessel, but still far better than a merchant crew.

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I do not recall any source that names (for example) African natives serving on naval vessels, as Captain, officer, crew or otherwise.

FYI, black seamen were rather common in the Royal Navy. And there is no indication that there was any particular discrimination against them in a formal sense. Socially, there's no one lower than Jack Tar, not even Jim Tar. If I remember correctly, there were a few black mates to be found here and there.

And this doesn't concern the navy, but I know for a fact that Spain had numerous professional soldiers of Hatian descent in service to crown. They were sort of like modern freedmen knights or warlords with their own attendant households, retainers and armed followers. They served in Florida, especially.

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FYI, black seamen were rather common in the Royal Navy. And there is no indication that there was any particular discrimination against them in a formal sense. Socially, there's no one lower than Jack Tar, not even Jim Tar. If I remember correctly, there were a few black mates to be found here and there.

And this doesn't concern the navy, but I know for a fact that Spain had numerous professional soldiers of Hatian descent in service to crown. They were sort of like modern freedmen knights or warlords with their own attendant households, retainers and armed followers. They served in Florida, especially.

 

What you say may be true, after they abolished slavery. Before that, any black man caught was sold, it was the law and who is an empire to let a good profit go to waste?

~Brigand

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What you say may be true, after they abolished slavery. Before that, any black man caught was sold, it was the law and who is an empire to let a good profit go to waste?

~Brigand

I'm talking about freedmen and Africans in the Napoleonic era and 18th century, Brigand.

Slavery was never legal in England, and even the staunchest slave societies had their classes of free blacks and Creoles.

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I'm talking about freedmen and Africans in the Napoleonic era and 18th century, Brigand.

Slavery was never legal in England, and even the staunchest slave societies had their classes of free blacks and Creoles.

The below are direct quotes from the book "The Liverpool Privateers and the Liverpool Slave Trade" by G. Williams, published in 1897.

The following is from Williamson's Advertiser, Liverpool of Feb. 17th, 1758:-

"For Sale a Healthful Negro Boy, about 5 feet high, well proportioned, of a mild, sober, honest disposition; has been with his present master 3 years, and used to wait on a table, and to assist in a stable."

On the 8th of September, 1758, the following appeared in the same paper:

"Run away from Dent, in Yorkshire, on Monday, the 28th August last, Thomas Anson, a negro man, about 5 ft. 6 ins. high, aged 20 years and upwards, and broad set. Whoever will bring the said man back to Dent, or give any information that he may be had again, shall receive a handsome reward from Mr. Edmund Sill, of Dent; or Mr. David Kenyon, merchant, in Liverpool."

In 1765, we have another specimen from the same source:

"To be sold by Auction at George's Coffee-house, betwixt the hours of six and eight o'clock, a very fine negro girl about eight years of age, very healthy, and hath been some time from the coast. Any person willing to purchase the same may apply to Capt. Robert Syers, at Mr. Bartley Hodgett's, Mercer and Draper near the Exchange, where she may be seen till the time of Sale."

In the paper of September 12th, 1766, was announced:

"to be sold at the Exchange Coffee-house in Water Street, this day the 12th inst. September, at one o'clock precisely, eleven negroes, imported per the Angola."

The property in slaves was specifically acknowledged by statute of 5th, Geo. II., Cap. 7, and again by I3th, Geo. III., Cap. 14.

 

See also: Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

 

But I think we are drifting off-topic here.

 

~Brigand

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What you say may be true, after they abolished slavery. Before that, any black man caught was sold, it was the law and who is an empire to let a good profit go to waste?

~Brigand

 

 

Not according to the very well respected historian N A M Rodger and many others.

 

For a start, in the Merchant Service of all nations in America and the West Indies there were Slave Seamen. Free Black Seamen in the Royal Navy show up in the records less from the fact that they weren't there and more from the fact that their colour wasn't though remarkable. The lack of discrimination against them is exemplified by the fact that two white sailors were hung for sodomy at the Nore in 1761 almost entirely on the evidence of a Black seaman - we know that he was black as one of the defendants objected to his evidence because of it and it was recored in the records of the Court Marshal. They were, however, more common in ships serving in the West Indies, where black sailors would transfer from ship to ship as vessels left the area.

 

Slaves served as such in the Royal Navy as well, or rather they were employed by the officers who owned them. Some acted as officers servants but there were also examples like Commodore Douglas in the Leeward Island who manned his privately owned sloops, used to hunt small privateers and pirates in shallow inshore wasters, partly with slave seamen. Whilst still slaves the work would have been less arduous than on the plantations and they were personally valued more, being skilled specialists in short supply. These men were mostly originally free Black and Mulatto Prisoner of War seamen condemned as slaves. The French also condemned men to slavery but put them in Privateers, which the Royal Navy regarded as dangerous from the point of view of encouraging slave rebellions, since discipline was so relatively lax aboard those ships.

 

The use of slaves as servants was usually disguised in some way due to its dubious legality. The Admiralty usually regarded a Royal navy ship as parts of Britain, where British law applied in full. Slavery was never legal in Britain, only in its colonies. Hence the famous statement in the 1751 case Somerset vs Stewart by William Davy, defending the former slave James Somerset against re-enslavement, "this [English] air is too pure for a slave to breathe in". So they would react adversely if they, for example, saw slaves on the lists of personnel returned to them to justify provisioning and pay. General naval opinion among the officers themselves was also against it, even those who themselves might own slaves on the plantations they owned.

 

The way the Admiralty regarded slaves who served as seamen depended on whether they had been Impressed, nominally against their will, or had come aboard willingly and were hence Volunteers. The pressed men would be returned to their owners if they were requested by name and the owners could show their title without doubt, which did happen, but only relatively rarely. However it did protect Volunteers, regardless of if they were escaped slaves or not, including those slaves who escaped from Enemy plantations or the East India Company and those men where the slightest doubt about ownership existed.

 

From my reading I belive that if you were a slave and you could swim out to or otherwise get yourself on board a British Man of War and present yourself as a volunteer there was a good chance that you would spend the rest of your life as a free man. This was especially true if the Captain was short of hands - a usual state. He would have no particular interest in assisting an owner to remove a good man, who had shown initiative, from his ship. He might not do anything 'stricktly' illegal, but he might well 'fail to notice' things that marked you as a slave, 'forget' to notify anyone ashore and assign you duties somewhere out of sight if someone who might care came aboard.

 

There was even the case of John Parker, a Mulatto, and possible former slave, who rose to be a Post Captain, commanding first the Frigate Arab and then the Frigate Tarter towards the end end of a 30 year career spent solely in the West Indies. He retired in 1805.

 

PS: Its important to note that, even in the colonies (the British ones at least), not ALL black men and women were slaves. For a start, how could slaves be given their freedom, attested widely in the historical record, if all those with black skin were automatically slaves? There was a substantial non-white free population in the West Indies. You were only a slave if there were legal documents to say you were.

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The below are direct quotes from the book "The Liverpool Privateers and the Liverpool Slave Trade" by G. Williams, published in 1897.

 

<snip>

 

Interesting, since those are, after the ruling in Somersets case, and to my understanding, stricktly illegal.

 

But yes, we are off topic-ish.

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Adventure Galley 

 

Captained by Scottish sailor William Kidd, the 287-ton, three-mast Adventure Galley was launched along the Thames River in 1695. As part of a venture planned by New York Colonel Robert Livingston to curb attacks against British ships in the East Indies, Kidd was instructed to hunt down pirates and enemy French ships and steal their treasure and goods. To facilitate the mission, which was funded primarily by prominent English noblemen, the Adventure Galleywas outfitted with 34 guns and 23 oars for maneuvering the ship in calm winds. Pirate hunting, it turned out, wasn't easy. Kidd had agreed to pay back the investment if he didn't return any treasure, and when finding pirates proved too difficult, he resorted to attacking allied ships. Kidd abandoned the Adventure Galley, which had developed a rotten hull, off the coast of Madagascar in 1698. He hoped to receive a pardon from Livingston in New York, but was returned to London, found guilty of piracy, and executed in 1701.

 

fregat_adventure_galley_1.jpg

 

where did you get this image?

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