Privateer

Privateer

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A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. They were of great benefit to a smaller naval power or one facing an enemy dependent on trade: they disrupted commerce and pressured the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade against commerce raiders.
The cost was borne by investors hoping to profit from prize money
Prize money
Prize money has a distinct meaning in warfare, especially naval warfare, where it was a monetary reward paid out to the crew of a ship for capturing an enemy vessel...

 earned from captured cargo and vessels. The proceeds would be distributed among the privateer's investors, officers and crew. It has been argued that privateering was a less destructive and wasteful form of warfare, because the goal was to capture ships rather than to sink them.

Privateers were part of naval warfare from the 16th to the 19th century. Some privateers have been particularly influential in the annals of history. Sometimes, the vessels would be commissioned into regular service as warships. The crew of a privateer might be treated as prisoners of war by the enemy country if captured.

Legal framework


Being privately owned and run, privateers did not take orders from the Naval
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 command. The letter of marque
Letter of marque
In the days of fighting sail, a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government licence authorizing a person to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale...

 of a privateer would typically limit activity to a specific area and to the ships of specific nations. Typically, the owners or captain would be required to post a performance bond
Performance bond
A performance bond is a surety bond issued by an insurance company or a bank to guarantee satisfactory completion of a project by a contractor.A job requiring a payment & performance bond will usually require a bid bond, to bid the job...

 against breaching these conditions, or they might be liable to pay damages to an injured party. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, letters of marque were revoked for various offenses.

Conditions on board privateers varied widely. Some crews were treated as harshly as naval crews of the time, while others followed the comparatively relaxed rules of merchant ships. Some crews were made up of professional merchant seamen, others of pirates, debtors and convicts. Some privateers ended up becoming pirates, not just in the eyes of their enemies but also of their own nations. William Kidd
William Kidd
William "Captain" Kidd was a Scottish sailor remembered for his trial and execution for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer...

, for instance, began as a legitimate British privateer but was later hanged for piracy.

Ships


Entrepreneurs converted many different types of vessels into privateers, including obsolete warships and refitted merchant ships. The investors would arm the vessels and recruit large crews, much larger than a merchantman or a naval vessel would carry, in order to crew the prizes they captured. Privateers generally cruised independently, but it was not unknown for them to form squadrons, or to co-operate with the regular navy. A number of privateers were part of the English fleet that opposed the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

 in 1588. Privateers generally avoided encounters with warships as such encounters would be at best unprofitable. Still, such encounters did occur. For instance, in 1815 Chasseur
Chasseur (ship)
Chasseur was a Baltimore clipper commanded by Captain Thomas Boyle, a American privateer. She sailed from Fells Point in Baltimore, where she had been launched from Thomas Kemp's shipyard in 1812...

 encountered HMS St Lawrence
HMS St Lawrence (1813)
HMS St Lawrence was a 14-gun schooner of the Royal Navy. She had been built in 1808 in St. Michels, Talbot County, Maryland for Thomas Tennant and sold to Philadelphians in 1810. During the War of 1812 she was the American privateer Atlas. The British captured her in 1813 and renamed her St Lawrence...

, herself a former American privateer, mistaking her for a merchantman until too late; in this instance, the privateer prevailed.

The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 used mixed squadrons of frigates and privateers in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. Following the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, French privateers became a menace to British and American shipping in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, resulting in the Quasi-War
Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought mostly at sea between the United States and French Republic from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict was sometimes also referred to as the Franco-American War, the Pirate Wars, or the Half-War.-Background:The Kingdom of France had been a...

, a brief conflict between France and the United States, fought largely at sea, and to the Royal Navy's procuring Bermuda sloop
Bermuda sloop
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the islands of Bermuda in the 17th century. In its purest form, it is single-masted, although ships with such rigging were built with as many as three masts, which are then referred to as schooners...

s to combat the French privateers.

History


England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, and later the United Kingdom
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

, used privateers to great effect and suffered much from other nations' privateering. In the late 16th century, English ships cruised in the Caribbean and off the coast of Spain, trying to intercept treasure fleets
Spanish treasure fleet
The Spanish treasure fleets was a convoy system adopted by the Spanish Empire from 1566 to 1790...

 from the Spanish Main
Spanish Main
In the days of the Spanish New World Empire, the mainland of the American continent enclosing the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico was referred to as the Spanish Main. It included present-day Florida, the east shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Mexico, Central America and the north coast of...

. At this early stage the idea of a regular navy (the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, as distinct from the Merchant Navy) was not present, so there is little to distinguish the activity of English privateers from regular naval warfare. Attacking Spanish ships, even during peace time, was part of a policy of military and economic competition with Spain- who had been monopolizing the maritime trade routes by enforcing a mare clausum
Mare clausum
Mare clausum is a term used in international law to mention a sea, ocean or other navigable body of water under the jurisdiction of a state that is closed or not accessible to other states. Mare clausum is an exception to mare liberum , meaning a sea that is open to navigation to ships of all...

policy along with the Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 - and helped provoke the first Anglo-Spanish War
Anglo-Spanish War (1585)
The Anglo–Spanish War was an intermittent conflict between the kingdoms of Spain and England that was never formally declared. The war was punctuated by widely separated battles, and began with England's military expedition in 1585 to the Netherlands under the command of the Earl of Leicester in...

. Capturing a Spanish treasure ship would enrich the Crown as well as strike a practical blow against Spanish domination of America.

Magnus Heinason
Magnus Heinason
Magnus Heinason was a Faroese naval hero, trader and privateer. He was the son of Heine Havreki, a Norwegian priest from Bergen who emigrated to the Faroe Islands and who helped introduce the Lutheran Reformation to the Faroe Islands, and Gyri Arnbjørnsdatter, Havreki's second wife from a...

 served the Dutch against the Spanish. While bringing home a great deal of money, these attacks hardly dented the flow of gold and silver from Mexico to Spain. Elizabeth was succeeded by the first Stuart monarchs, James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 and Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, who did not permit privateering. There were a number of unilateral and bilateral declarations limiting piracy between 1785 and 1823. However, the breakthrough came in 1856 when the Declaration of Paris
Declaration of Paris
The Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law of 16 April 1856 was issued to abolish privateering. It regulated the relationship between neutral and belligerent and shipping on the high seas introducing new prize rules.- Major points :...

 signed by all major European powers stated "Privateering is and remains abolished". The USA did not sign because a stronger amendment, preventing all private property from capture at sea, was not accepted. In the 19th century many nations passed laws forbidding their nationals from accepting commissions as privateers for other nations. The last major power to flirt with privateering was Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, when Prussia announced the creation of a 'volunteer navy' of ships privately owned and manned, eligible for prize money. The only difference between this and privateering was that these volunteer ships were under the discipline of the regular navy.

In the first Anglo-Dutch War
First Anglo-Dutch War
The First Anglo–Dutch War was the first of the four Anglo–Dutch Wars. It was fought entirely at sea between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Caused by disputes over trade, the war began with English attacks on Dutch merchant shipping, but...

, English privateers attacked the trade on which the United Provinces entirely depended, capturing over 1,000 Dutch merchant ships. During the subsequent war with Spain
Anglo-Spanish War (1654)
The Anglo-Spanish War was a conflict between the English Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and Spain, between 1654 and 1660. It was caused by commercial rivalry. Each side attacked the other's commercial and colonial interests in various ways such as privateering and naval expeditions. In 1655, an...

, Spanish and Flemish privateers in the service of the Spanish Crown, including the notorious Dunkirkers
Dunkirkers
During the Dutch Revolt the Dunkirkers or Dunkirk Privateers, were commerce raiders in the service of the Spanish Monarchy. They were also part of the Dunkirk fleet, which consequently was a part of the Spanish Monarchy's Flemish fleet ...

, captured 1,500 English merchant ships, helping to restore Dutch international trade. British trade, whether coastal, Atlantic or Mediterranean, was also attacked by Dutch privateers and others in the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch wars.

17th and 18th centuries


Privateers were a large part of the total military force at sea during the 17th and 18th centuries. During the King George's War
King George's War
King George's War is the name given to the operations in North America that formed part of the War of the Austrian Succession . It was the third of the four French and Indian Wars. It took place primarily in the British provinces of New York, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia...

, approximately 36,000 Americans served aboard privateers at one time or another. During the Nine Years War, the French adopted a policy of strongly encouraging privateers, including the famous Jean Bart
Jean Bart
Jean Bart was a Flemish sailor who primarily served the French crown as naval commander and privateer.-Early life:...

, to attack English and Dutch shipping. England lost roughly 4,000 merchant ships during the war. In the following War of Spanish Succession, privateer attacks continued, Britain losing 3,250 merchant ships. Parliament passed an updated Cruisers and Convoys Act in 1708 allocating regular warships to the defence of trade.

In the subsequent conflict, the War of Austrian Succession, the Royal Navy was able to concentrate more on defending British ships. Britain lost 3,238 merchantmen, a smaller fraction of her merchant marine than the enemy losses of 3,434. While French losses were proportionally severe, the smaller, but better protected Spanish trade suffered less and it was Spanish privateers who enjoyed much of the allied plunder of British trade on both sides of the Atlantic.

Britain


England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 and Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

, which united
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

 to create the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 in 1707, both practised privateering both as a way of gaining for themselves some of the wealth the Spanish and Portuguese were taking from the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

, before beginning her own trans-Atlantic settlement, and as a way of asserting her naval power before a strong Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 had emerged.
Sir Andrew Barton
Andrew Barton
Sir Andrew Barton served as High Admiral of the Kingdom of Scotland. Notorious in England and Portugal as a 'pirate', Barton was a seaman who operated under the aegis of a letter of marque on behalf of the Scottish crown, and is therefore more widely described as a privateer...

, Lord High Admiral of Scotland
Lord High Admiral of Scotland
The Lord High Admiral of Scotland was one of the Great Offices of State of the Kingdom of Scotland before the Union with England in 1707.The office was one of considerable power, also known as Royal Scottish Admiralty, including command of the King's ships and sailors and inspection of all sea...

, followed the example of his father who had been issued with letters of marque by James III of Scotland
James III of Scotland
James III was King of Scots from 1460 to 1488. James was an unpopular and ineffective monarch owing to an unwillingness to administer justice fairly, a policy of pursuing alliance with the Kingdom of England, and a disastrous relationship with nearly all his extended family.His reputation as the...

 to prey upon English and Portuguese shipping in 1485, which in due course were reissued to the son. Barton was killed following an encounter with the English in 1511.

Sir Francis Drake
Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral was an English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Elizabeth I of England awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He also carried out the...

, who had close contact with the sovereign, was responsible for some damage to Spanish shipping, as well as attacks on Spanish settlements in the Americas in the 16th century. He participated in the successful English defense against the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

 in 1588, though he was also partly responsible for the failure of English Armada
English Armada
The English Armada, also known as the Counter Armada or the Drake-Norris Expedition, was a fleet of warships sent to the Iberian Coast by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1589, during the Anglo-Spanish War...

 against Spain in 1589.

Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, KG was an English peer, as well as a naval commander and courtier in the court of Queen Elizabeth I.-Background:...

 was a successful privateer against Spanish shipping in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

. He is also famous for his short lived 1598 capture of Fort San Felipe del Morro
Fort San Felipe del Morro
Also known as Fort San Felipe del Morro or Morro Castle, is a 16th-century citadel located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.- Rundown :Lies on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puerto Rico...

, the citadel protecting San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan , officially Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista , is the capital and most populous municipality in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 395,326 making it the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of...

. He arrived in Puerto Rico on June 15, 1598, but by November of that year, Clifford and his men had fled the island due to harsh civilian resistance. He gained sufficient prestige from his naval exploits to be named the official Champion
Queen's Champion
The feudal holder of the Manor of Scrivelsby since 1066 has held that manor from the Crown by grand serjeanty of being The Honourable The King's/Queen's Champion. Such person is also Standard Bearer of England.- Origins :...

 of Queen Elizabeth I. Clifford became extremely wealthy through his buccaneering but lost most of his money gambling on horse races.

Captain Christopher Newport
Christopher Newport
Christopher Newport was an English seaman and privateer. He is best known as the captain of the Susan Constant, the largest of three ships which carried settlers for the Virginia Company in 1607 on the way to find the settlement at Jamestown in the Virginia Colony, which became the first permanent...

 led more attacks on Spanish shipping and settlements than any other English privateer. As a young man, Newport sailed with Sir Francis Drake in the attack on the Spanish fleet at Cadiz and participated in England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada. During the war with Spain, Newport seized fortunes of Spanish and Portuguese treasure in fierce sea battles in the West Indies as a privateer for Queen Elizabeth I. In 1592, Newport captured the Portuguese carrack Madre de Deus
Madre de Deus
Madre de Deus was a Portuguese ship, renowned for her fabulous cargo, which stoked the English appetite for trade with the Far East, then a Portuguese monopoly....

(Mother of God), valued at £500,000.

Sir Henry Morgan
Henry Morgan
Admiral Sir Henry Morgan was an Admiral of the Royal Navy, a privateer, and a pirate who made a name for himself during activities in the Caribbean, primarily raiding Spanish settlements...

 was a successful privateer. Operating out of Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

, he carried on a war against Spanish interests in the region, often using cunning tactics. His operation was prone to cruelty against those he captured, including torture to gain information about booty, and in one case, using priests as human shield
Human shield
Human shield is a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of civilians in or around combat targets to deter an enemy from attacking those targets. It may also refer to the use of civilians to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing the civilians to march in...

s. Despite reproaches for some of his excesses he was generally protected by Sir Thomas Modyford
Thomas Modyford
Colonel Sir Thomas Modyford, 1st Baronet was a planter of Barbados and Governor of Jamaica, 1664-70.Modyford was the son of a mayor of Exeter with family connections to the Duke of Albemarle, who emigrated to Barbados as a young man with other family members in 1647, in the opening stages of the...

, the governor of Jamaica. He took an enormous amount of booty, as well as landing his privateers ashore and attacking land fortifications, including the sack of the city of Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 with only 1,400 crew.

Other British privateers of note include Fortunatus Wright
Fortunatus Wright
-Early life:Fortunatus Wright’s early days are unrecorded, he may have followed the sea as a boy, but by his twenties he had settled down as a brewer and distiller.-Marriages:...

, Edward Collier, Sir John Hawkins
John Hawkins
Admiral Sir John Hawkins was an English shipbuilder, naval administrator and commander, merchant, navigator, and slave trader. As treasurer and controller of the Royal Navy, he rebuilt older ships and helped design the faster ships that withstood the Spanish Armada in 1588...

, his son Sir Richard Hawkins
Richard Hawkins
thumb|250px|right|Sir Richard HawkinsAdmiral Sir Richard Hawkins was a 17th century English seaman, explorer and Elizabethan "Sea Dog", and was the son of Admiral Sir John Hawkins....

, Michael Geare
Michael Geare
Sir Michael Geare was a 16th century English sailor, privateer and merchant. One of the many Sea Dogs who plagued the Spanish Empire during the Elizabethan age, Geare was well-known to the Spaniards of the West Indies and the Spanish Main as commander of the Little John...

 and Sir Christopher Myngs
Christopher Myngs
Sir Christopher Myngs , English admiral and pirate, came of a Norfolk family and was a relative of another admiral, Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Pepys' story of his humble birth, in explanation of his popularity, is said to be erroneous. His name is often given as Mings.The date of Myngs's birth is...

. Notable British colonial privateers in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 include Alexander Godfrey
Alexander Godfrey
Alexander Godfrey was an 18th century British privateer.Godfrey was born in Chatham, Massachusetts in c.1756, and later moved to Nova Scotia. In 1791 he married Phoebe West. Alexander Godfrey served as a privateer He was commander of the British privateer brig Rover which defeated a Spanish...

 of the brig Rover and Joseph Barss
Joseph Barss
Joseph Barss was a sea captain of the schooner Liverpool Packet and was one of the most successful privateers on the North American Atlantic coast during the War of 1812.-Early life:...

 of the schooner Liverpool Packet
Liverpool Packet
Liverpool Packet was a privateer schooner from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, which captured 50 American vessels in the War of 1812. During the war the privateer ship was briefly captured by American privateers, eventually being recaptured by the British...

. The latter schooner captured over 50 American vessels during the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

.

Bermudians



The English colony of Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

, settled accidentally in 1609, turned from a failed agricultural economy to the sea after the 1684 dissolution of the Somers Isles Company
Somers Isles Company
The Somers Isles Company was formed in 1615 to operate the English colony of the Somers Isles, also known as Bermuda, as a commercial venture. It held a royal charter for Bermuda until 1684, when it was dissolved, and the Crown assumed responsibility for the administration of Bermuda as a royal...

. With a total area of 21 square miles (54.4 km²), and lacking any natural resources other than the Bermuda cedar, the colonists applied themselves fully to the maritime trades, developing the speedy Bermuda sloop
Bermuda sloop
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the islands of Bermuda in the 17th century. In its purest form, it is single-masted, although ships with such rigging were built with as many as three masts, which are then referred to as schooners...

, which was well suited both to commerce and to commerce raiding. Bermudian merchant vessels turned to privateering at every opportunity in the 18th century, preying on the shipping of Spain, France and other nations during a series of wars. By the middle of the Eighteenth Century, Bermuda was sending twice as many privateers to sea as any of the continental colonies. They typically left Bermuda with very large crews. This advantage in manpower was vital in seizing larger vessels, which themselves often lacked enough crewmembers to put up a strong defence. The extra crewmen were also useful as prize crew
Prize crew
Prize crew is a term used to indicate a number of crew members of a ship chosen to take over the operations of a captured ship.In the early days of sailing and up into the American Civil War, capturing enemy ships was quite common...

s for returning captured vessels.

The Bahamas, which had been depopulated of its indigenous inhabitants by the Spanish, had been settled by England, beginning with the Eleutheran Adventurers
Eleutheran Adventurers
The Eleutheran Adventurers were a group of English Puritans and religious Independents who left Bermuda to settle on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas in the late 1640s...

, dissident Puritans driven out of Bermuda during the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

. Spanish and French attacks destroyed New Providence
New Providence
New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas, containing more than 70% of the total population. It also houses the national capital city, Nassau.The island was originally under Spanish control following Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World, but the Spanish government showed...

 in 1703, creating a stronghold for pirates, and a thorn in the side of British merchant trade through the area. In 1718, Britain appointed Woodes Rogers
Woodes Rogers
Woodes Rogers was an English sea captain, privateer, and, later, the first Royal Governor of the Bahamas. He is known as the captain of the vessel that rescued the marooned Alexander Selkirk, whose plight is generally believed to have inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.Rogers came from an...

 Governor of the Bahamas, and sent him at the head of a force to reclaim the settlement. Before his arrival, however, the pirates had been forced to surrender by a force of Bermudian privateers, issued letters of marque by the Governor of Bermuda.

Bermuda was in de facto control of the Turks Islands, with their lucrative salt industry, from the late 17th century to the early 19th. The Bahamas made perpetual attempts to claim the Turks for itself. On several occasions, this involved seizing the vessels of Bermudian salt traders. A virtual state of war was said to exist between Bermudian and Bahamian vessels for much of the 18th Century. When the Bermudian sloop Seaflower was seized by the Bahamians in 1701, the response of Bermuda Governor Bennett was to issue letters-of-marque to Bermudians vessels. In 1706, Spanish and French forces ousted the Bermudians, but were driven out themselves three years later by the Bermudian privateer Captain Lewis Middleton. His ship, the Rose, attacked a Spanish and a French privateer holding a captive English vessel. Defeating the two enemy vessels, the Rose then cleared out the thirty-man garrison left by the Spanish and French.

Despite strong sentiments in support of the rebels, especially in the early stages, Bermudian privateers turned as aggressively on American shipping during the American War of Independence. The importance of privateering to the Bermudian economy had been increased not only by the loss of most of Bermuda's continental trade, but also by the Palliser Act, which forbade Bermudian vessels from fishing the Grand Banks
Grand Banks
The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.The mixing of these waters...

. Bermudian trade with the rebellious American colonies actually carried on throughout the war. Some historians credit the large number of Bermuda sloops (reckoned at over a thousand) built in Bermuda as privateers and sold illegally to the Americans as enabling the rebellious colonies to win their independence. Also, the Americans were dependent on Turks salt, and one hundred barrels of gunpowder were stolen from a Bermudian magazine and supplied to the rebels at the request of George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, in exchange for which the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 authorised the sale of supplies to Bermuda, which was dependent on American produce. The realities of this interdependence did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with which Bermudian privateers turned on their erstwhile countrymen.

An American naval captain, ordered to take his ship out of Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor is a natural harbor and estuary of Massachusetts Bay, and is located adjacent to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is home to the Port of Boston, a major shipping facility in the northeast.-History:...

 to eliminate a pair of Bermudian privateering vessels that had been picking off vessels missed by the Royal Navy, returned frustrated, saying, "the Bermudians sailed their ships two feet for every one of ours". A pair of Bermudian-born brothers, captaining two sloops, carried out the only attack on Bermuda during the war; all they achieved before they retreated was to damage a fort and spike its guns.

When the Americans captured the Bermudian privateer Regulator, they discovered that virtually all of her crew were black slaves. Authorities in Boston offered these men their freedom, but all 70 elected to be treated as prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. Sent as such to New York on the sloop Duxbury, they seized the vessel and sailed it back to Bermuda.

The American War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 saw an encore of Bermudian privateering, which had died out after the 1790s. The decline of Bermudian privateering was due partly to the build up of the naval base in Bermuda
Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda
HMD Bermuda was the principal base of the Royal Navy in the Western Atlantic between American independence and the Cold War. Bermuda had occupied a useful position astride the homeward leg taken by many European vessels from the New World since before its settlement by England in 1609...

, which reduced the Admiralty's reliance on privateers in the western Atlantic, and partly to successful American legal suits and claims for damages pressed against British privateers, a large portion of which were aimed squarely at the Bermudians. During the course of the American War of 1812, Bermudian privateers captured 298 ships, some 19% of the 1,593 vessels captured by British naval and privateering vessels between the Great Lakes and the West Indies.

United States


During the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 and some of states governments (on their own initiative), issued privateering licenses, authorizing "legal piracy", to merchant captains in an effort to take prizes from the British Navy and Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 (Loyalist) privateers. This was done due to the relatively small number of commissioned American naval vessels and the pressing need to do prisoner exchange
Prisoner exchange
A prisoner exchange or prisoner swap is a deal between opposing sides in a conflict to release prisoners. These may be prisoners of war, spies, hostages, etc...

.

About 55,000 American seamen served aboard the privateers. They quickly sold their prizes, dividing their profits with the financier (persons or company), and the state (colony). The Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the United States between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south. The mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, empties into the sound. On its western end the sound is bounded by the Bronx...

 became a hornets' nest of privateering activity during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 (1775–1783) as most transports to and from New York went through the Sound. New London, Connecticut
New London, Connecticut
New London is a seaport city and a port of entry on the northeast coast of the United States.It is located at the mouth of the Thames River in New London County, southeastern Connecticut....

 was a chief privateering port for the American Colonies, leading to the British Navy blockading it in 1778-1779. Chief financiers of privateering included Thomas & Nathaniel Shaw of New London and John McCurdy of Lyme
Lyme, Connecticut
Lyme is a town in New London County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 2,016 at the 2000 census. Lyme and its neighboring town Old Lyme are the namesake for Lyme disease.-Geography:...

. In the months before the British raid on New London and Groton, the a New London privateer took Hannah in what is regarded as the largest prize taken by any American privateer during the war. Retribution was likely part of Gov. Clinton's (NY) motivation for Arnold's Raid as the Hannah had carried many of his most cherished items.

The American privateers are thought to have seized up to 300 British ships during the war. One of the more successful of these ships was the Prince de Neufchatel
Prince de Neufchatel
The Prince de Neufchatel was a fast sailing United States schooner-rigged privateer, built in New York by Noah and Adam Brown in approximately 1812. She is a fine example of the peak of development of the armed schooner. Neufchatel operated in mainly European waters, damaging British shipping...

, which once captured nine British prizes in swift succession in the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

. The British ship Jack was captured
Naval battle off Cape Breton
The Battle off Spanish River took place during the American Revolution between two French Navy frigates and a convoy of 18 British ships under protection of the Royal Navy off the harbour of Spanish River, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia...

 and turned into an American Privateer, only to be captured again by the British in the Naval battle off Halifax
Naval battle off Halifax
The Battle off Halifax took place during the American Revolutionary War involving the American privateer Jack and a Royal Naval brig Observer off Halifax, Nova Scotia. The American privateer was commanded by Captain John Ropes and the Observer by John Crymes...

, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

. American Privateers not only fought naval battles but they also raided numerous communities in British colonies such as the Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (1782)
Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (1782)
Not to be confused with the Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia The Raid on Lunenburg occurred during the American Revolution when the famous American Privateer Captain Noah Stoddard of Fairhaven, Massachusetts and four other privateer vessels attacked the British settlement at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia...

.

The United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 authorized the U.S. Congress to grant letters of marque and reprisal. Between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1812, less than 30 years, Britain, France, Naples, the Barbary States, Spain, and the Netherlands seized approximately 2,500 American ships. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800, and would lead the United States to crush the Barbary states in the Barbary Wars
Barbary Wars
The Barbary Wars were a series of wars between the United States of America and the Barbary States of North Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At issue was the Barbary pirates' demand of tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. If ships failed to pay, pirates...

.

During the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

, the British attacked Essex, Connecticut, and burned the ships in the harbor, due to the construction of a number of privateers. This was the greatest financial loss of the entire War of 1812 suffered by the Americans. However, the private fleet of James De Wolf
James De Wolf
James DeWolf , nicknamed "Captain Jim", was a United States Senator from Rhode Island, a long-time state legislator and a successful Privateer during the war of 1812.-Biography:...

, which sailed under the flag of the American government in 1812, was most likely, a key factor in the victorious naval campaign of the war. De Wolf's Ship, the Yankee, was possibly the most financially successful ship of the war.
The US was not one of the initial signatories of 1856 Declaration of Paris
Declaration of Paris
The Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law of 16 April 1856 was issued to abolish privateering. It regulated the relationship between neutral and belligerent and shipping on the high seas introducing new prize rules.- Major points :...

, which outlawed privateering, and the Confederate Constitution
Confederate States Constitution
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America was the supreme law of the Confederate States of America, as adopted on March 11, 1861 and in effect through the conclusion of the American Civil War. The Confederacy also operated under a Provisional Constitution from February 8, 1861 to March...

 authorized use of privateers. However, the USA did offer to adopt the terms of the Declaration during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, when the Confederates
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 sent several privateers
Confederate privateer
The Confederate privateers were privately owned ships that were authorized by the government of the Confederate States of America to attack the shipping of the United States...

 to sea before putting their main effort in the more effective commissioned raiders.

No letter of marque has been legitimately issued by the United States since the nineteenth century. The status of submarine hunting Goodyear airships in the early days of the second world war has created significant confusion. According to one story, the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 issued a Letter of Marque
Letter of marque
In the days of fighting sail, a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government licence authorizing a person to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale...

 to the Airship Resolute on the West Coast of the United States at the beginning of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, making it the first time the US Navy commissioned a privateer since the War of 1812. This story, along with various other accounts referring to the airships Resolute and Volunteer as operating under a "privateer status", is highly dubious. Since neither the Congress nor did the President appear to have authorized a privateer during the war, the Navy would not have had the authority to do so by itself.

Cultural Influence



The University of New Orleans sports teams
New Orleans Privateers
The New Orleans Privateers are the intercollegiate athletic teams of the University of New Orleans, located in Lake Terrace/Lake Oaks neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States...

 are referred to as the "UNO Privateers."

The State University of New York Maritime College
State University of New York Maritime College
SUNY Maritime College is a maritime college located in the Bronx, New York City in historic Fort Schuyler on the Throggs Neck peninsula where the East River meets Long Island Sound...

 mascot is a Privateer, and appropriately, their sports teams are referred to as "The Privateers."

The Thousand Islands Privateers
Thousand Islands Privateers
The Thousand Islands Privateers are a minor professional hockey team in the Federal Hockey League based in Alexandria Bay, New York. Scheduled to begin play for the FHL's inaugural 2010-11 season, home games will be played at the Bonnie Castle Recreation Center.-External links:*...

 are a professional hockey team of the Federal Hockey League, founded in 2010.

In fiction


Writers of historical fiction have created several series that are set in privateering's heyday. Horatio Hornblower
Horatio Hornblower
Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Royal Navy officer who is the protagonist of a series of novels by C. S. Forester. He was later the subject of films and television programs.The original Hornblower tales began with the 1937 novel The Happy Return Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Royal Navy...

, a British Royal Navy officer created by C. S. Forester
C. S. Forester
Cecil Scott "C.S." Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith , an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen...

, had numerous encounters with privateers over the 11-novel span of his career. Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian, CBE , born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centred on the friendship of English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen...

's "The Letter of Marque" is one of his Jack Aubrey novels
Aubrey–Maturin series
The Aubrey–Maturin series is a sequence of nautical historical novels—20 completed and one unfinished—by Patrick O'Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars and centering on the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin, who is also a physician,...

, set in the context of Nelson's navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton
John Michael Crichton , best known as Michael Crichton, was an American best-selling author, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted...

's Pirate Latitudes
Pirate Latitudes
Pirate Latitudes is an action adventure novel written by Michael Crichton. The book was published posthumously by HarperCollins on November 24, 2009. It is an adventure story concerning piracy in Jamaica in the 17th century....

 has a privateer as its main character.
The hero of naval historian C. Northcote Parkinson
C. Northcote Parkinson
Cyril Northcote Parkinson was a British naval historian and author of some sixty books, the most famous of which was his bestseller Parkinson's Law, which led him to be also considered as an important scholar within the field of public administration.-Early life and education:The youngest son of...

's first novel, The Devil to Pay
The Devil to Pay (novel)
The Devil to Pay is one of a series of nautical novels by C. Northcote Parkinson. It is set in the late 18th Century, when Britain was at war with Revolutionary France. Parkinson's hero is a junior naval officer...

, commands a small privateer.

In his book The Star Fox, science fiction writer Poul Anderson
Poul Anderson
Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories...

 depicts a future in which the system of letters of marque has been revived and "space privateers" battle in starships. The Crimson Skies
Crimson Skies
Crimson Skies is a media franchise and fictional universe created by Jordan Weisman and Dave McCoy. The series' intellectual property is currently owned by Microsoft Game Studios , although Weisman's new company, Smith & Tinker Inc., has announced that it has licensed the electronic entertainment...

 universe also features bands of aerial privateers who have been awarded letters of marque by the new nations of North America to reward loyalty and direct piracy against that nation's enemies.

Several computer games are set in the privateering era. The first was the Danish Kaptajn Kaper i Kattegat (Captain Kaper in Kattegat), was made in the early 1980s and centers around a Danish privateer attacking British ships in Danish waters. The MMORPG Pirates of the Burning Sea
Pirates of the Burning Sea
Pirates of the Burning Sea is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by Flying Lab Software...

, features the Privateer as one of the career (character class) choices for a player who chooses to represent one of the three player nations: Britain, France, or Spain. Privateers feature in the computer games Sid Meier's Colonization and Civilization 3, and are also present in the expansion pack Beyond the Sword for Civilization 4. An earlier game by Sid Meier
Sid Meier
Sidney K. "Sid" Meier is a Canadian programmer and designer of several popular computer strategy games, most notably Civilization. He has won accolades for his contributions to the computer games industry...

, Sid Meier's Pirates!
Sid Meier's Pirates!
Sid Meier's Pirates! is a video game created by Sid Meier and published and developed by MicroProse in 1987. It was the first game to include the name "Sid Meier" in its title as an effort by MicroProse to attract fans of Meier's earlier games, most of which were flight simulators...

, is focused on privateering.

In Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

universe the race known as the Breen were known to support privateering. In 2369 USS Minnesota was destroyed battling Breen privateers. In 2366 the Breen attacked and captured the Cardassian
Cardassian
The Cardassians are an extraterrestrial species in the Star Trek science fiction franchise. First introduced in the 1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded", the species originating on the fictional Alpha Quadrant planet Cardassia Prime...

 vessel Ravinok, using its crew as slave labour in the Dilithium mines on Dozaria.

In the manga
Manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

/anime
Anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

 series One Piece
One Piece
is a Japanese shōnen manga series written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. It has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump since August 4, 1997; the individual chapters are being published in tankōbon volumes by Shueisha, with the first released on December 24, 1997, and the 64th volume released as...

, the Shichibukai are loosely based on the concept of Privateers.

Stan Rogers
Stan Rogers
Stanley Allison "Stan" Rogers was a Canadian folk musician and songwriter.Rogers was noted for his rich, baritone voice and his finely crafted, traditional-sounding songs which were frequently inspired by Canadian history and the daily lives of working people, especially those from the fishing...

 wrote of an ill-fated Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

n privateer mission from in his song Barrett's Privateers
Barrett's Privateers
"Barrett's Privateers" is a folk song in the style of a sea shanty, written and performed by Canadian musician Stan Rogers, having been inspired after a song session with the Friends of Fiddler's Green at the Northern Lights Festival Boréal in Sudbury, Ontario...

.

In the 2011 film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a 2011 adventure fantasy film and the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series...

, Hector Barbossa
Hector Barbossa
Hector Barbossa is a fictional character and pirate in the Disney film series Pirates of the Caribbean. Barbossa was first introduced in the series as the main antagonist of the first film, and pirate captain of the Black Pearl after committing mutiny against the ship's former captain, Jack...

 is a privateer in the Court of King George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 but in truth is using it as a chance for revenge on the infamous pirate, Blackbeard
Blackbeard
Edward Teach , better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of the American colonies....

.

The character Ragnar Danneskjöld, from the novel Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. Rand's fourth and last novel, it was also her longest, and the one she considered to be her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing...

, is often described as a privateer. Although he targeted his own government's ships, and was most certainly not authorized to do so, he is inaccurately described as a privateer, rather than a pirate, because he served an allegedly greater cause, and returned much of the bounty gained from the seizing of government ships to the people, whom the government forcefully took bounty from in the first place.

See also

  • Auxiliary cruiser
  • Armed merchantman
  • Barbary pirates
  • Corsair
    Corsair
    Corsairs were privateers, authorized to conduct raids on shipping of a nation at war with France, on behalf of the French Crown. Seized vessels and cargo were sold at auction, with the corsair captain entitled to a portion of the proceeds...

  • Commerce raiding
    Commerce raiding
    Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

  • Dunkirkers
    Dunkirkers
    During the Dutch Revolt the Dunkirkers or Dunkirk Privateers, were commerce raiders in the service of the Spanish Monarchy. They were also part of the Dunkirk fleet, which consequently was a part of the Spanish Monarchy's Flemish fleet ...

  • Fortunatus Wright
    Fortunatus Wright
    -Early life:Fortunatus Wright’s early days are unrecorded, he may have followed the sea as a boy, but by his twenties he had settled down as a brewer and distiller.-Marriages:...

  • Letter of marque
    Letter of marque
    In the days of fighting sail, a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government licence authorizing a person to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale...

  • Mercenary
    Mercenary
    A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

  • Piracy
    Piracy
    Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

  • Reprisal
    Reprisal
    In international law, a reprisal is a limited and deliberate violation of international law to punish another sovereign state that has already broken them. Reprisals in the laws of war are extremely limited, as they commonly breached the rights of civilians, an action outlawed by the Geneva...

  • William Kidd
    William Kidd
    William "Captain" Kidd was a Scottish sailor remembered for his trial and execution for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer...


Further reading

  • Faye Kert, Prize and Prejudice Privateering and Naval Prize in Atlantic Canada in the War of 1812. Research in maritime history, no. 11. St. John's, Nfld: International Maritime Economic History Association, 1997.
  • A. Bryant Nichols Jr., Captain Christopher Newport: Admiral of Virginia, Sea Venture, 2007
  • Smith, Joshua M. Battle for the Bay: The Naval War of 1812 (Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2011).

External links