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Title: Pirates and Piracy
Author: Herrmann, Oscar
Language: English
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                          Pirates and Piracy


                            OSCAR HERRMANN

                        _With Illustrations by_
                           FREDERICK EHRLICH

                       _And an Introduction by_
                            HERMAN A. HEYDT

                               NEW YORK
                          52-58 DUANE STREET


There is hardly a person who, as a school-boy, had not received the fire
of imagination and the stimulus for adventure and a roaming life through
the stirring narratives concerning Captain Kidd and other well-known sea
rovers. A certain ineffable glamor metamorphosed these robbers into
heroes, and lent an inalienable license to their “calling,” so that the
songster and romancist found in them and their deeds prolific and genial
themes, while the obscure suggestions of hidden treasures and mysterious
caves have inspired many expeditions in quest of buried fortunes which,
like the Argo of old, have carried their Jasons to the mythical Colchis.

The pens of Byron, Scott, Poe, Stevenson, Russell, and Stockton, and the
musical genius of Wagner, were steeped in the productive inspiration of
these lawless adventurers, and Kingsley found in Lundy Island, the
erstwhile nest of the reckless tribe, a subject for his “Westward Ho!”

Byron, in “The Corsair,” sings:

    O’er the glad waters of the dark-blue sea,
    Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
    Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
    Survey our empire, and behold our home!
    These are our realms, no limits to their sway,
    Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.
    Ours the wild life in tumult still to range
    From toil to rest, and joy in every change.

Piracy was the growth of maritime adventure, and developed with the
advancement of commerce. The Phœnicians and Greeks were especially apt
in the interstate wars which frequently degenerated into rapine and
plunder, and with them piracy became a recognized enterprise. In Homeric
times it was dignified with a respect worthy of a nobler cause—a
sentiment in which the freebooters of later centuries took arrogant
pride. The pirate—cruel, vicious, debased to the lowest degree of
turpitude—established a moral code governing his actions and
circumscribing his wanton license, and it was in the rigorous observance
of these “trade laws” and customs of their realm that this abortive
sense of honor manifested itself.

The successes of the Phœnicians and Greeks soon made the Mediterranean
the theatre of maritime robbery, in later years conducted under the
authority, sanction, and immunity of the Barbary powers. In fact, so
reckless had the enterprise become that the temerity of the free lances
knew no bounds, and headquarters, so to speak, were established, and for
a long time maintained, at Cilicia.

The vigorous campaign of Pompey in 67 B.C. against the pirates was but
the precursor of that systematic defence which the nations of the world
eventually adopted. The Hanseatic League of the cities of Northern
Germany and neighboring states, no doubt, had its origin in the
necessitous combination of merchants to resist the attacks of the
Norsemen. England sent out many expeditions to destroy the pestiferous
freebooters who swarmed from the African coast, and finally, in 1815,
the United States sent Decatur to Algiers to annihilate the nefarious
corsairs, who had thrived and become brazen in their recklessness during
the three centuries of their ascendant power. The incursions of the
Algerine pirates were made as far north as England, Ireland, and
Iceland, and through them an iniquitous slave trade was developed. The
law of nations did not place its ban upon this slave traffic until by
statute England and the United States attempted to obliterate this
ineradicable blot upon our civilization, and only a half century ago
Austria, Prussia, and Russia declared it to be piracy.

Piracy, by the law of nations, is punishable with death within the
jurisdiction of any nation under whose flag the capture may have been
made, for the pirate is the common enemy of mankind. Although it has
passed the zenith of its perverse glory, and modern naval development
has made it impracticable and impossible, vestiges of piracy remain in
the Malay Archipelago and the China Sea. As recently as 1864 five men
were hanged in London on such a charge.

Privateering, the resourceful auxiliary to a weak navy, is also piracy,
though not recognized so by the law of nations. The private ship which,
under the authority of letters of marque and reprisal issued by the
government, made war upon a hostile power, was always an indispensable
adjunct to naval warfare. England considered our privateer Paul Jones a
pirate. During the Civil War the Confederate cruisers were termed
pirates, and the _Alabama_ claims made upon England for damage done by
the _Alabama_, the _Florida_, and the _Shenandoah_ arose from permitting
privateers to depart from her ports.

The rise and sway of the corsairs of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli,
developing from disorganized piracy, was evidently the result of the
persecution of the Moors of Spain in the sixteenth century, who, exiled
and retributive, sought revenge and lucre in the attacks upon the
argosies from India to Spain. Their successes attracted adventurers from
Asia Minor, and thus augmented they acquired formidable power,
established citadels and states, governed by daring and sagacious
leaders, and levied blackmail upon Christian countries for the
protection of commerce. It was not until the vigorous campaign of
Decatur that the backbone of this sanctioned lawlessness of the Barbary
States was broken and safety upon the high seas of the East assured.

The bold character of these marauders can be best imagined when we
reflect that in the seventeenth century the Algerine pirates cruised in
the English Channel, blockaded the Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1635 for
weeks in an English port, where he remained helpless till succored by an
English man-of-war, and actually entered the harbor of Cork and carried
away eight fishermen, who subsequently were sold as slaves in Algiers.
But, as we have seen, piracy, which at one time was the formidable enemy
of mankind and a menace to progress and development, is now merely a
matter of history.

The limits of this article will not permit any extended review of
lawless maritime depredations in its various phases, but it may be
within our province to refer for a moment to the buccaneers and
filibusters of our own continent. The late war in Cuba brought the
filibusters once more into prominence. The term applies to one who,
warring upon another country, does so, not for private gain, but for
public benefit, and refers generally to those who had attempted to
conquer certain Spanish-American possessions upon the plea that the
objective country was suffering from anarchy and oppression. The theory
was that salvation could only be found in annexation to the United
States; and if this be so, there are many spiritual filibusters within
our borders to-day. The term has now become generally applicable to
adventurers from the United States, but was unknown under that name
until the expedition of Lopez to Cuba in 1850. Aaron Burr was a
filibuster, although we may justly doubt the virtue of his motives.
William Walker, perhaps the foremost of them all, invaded Lower
California in 1854, attempted to found a republic, was defeated, and
later conquered Nicaragua and became its president, only to shift about
in his meteoric career of destiny and sail against Honduras, where he
was captured, court-martialled, and shot in 1860.

It is to the buccaneers, however, that the history of piracy is indebted
for the “glory” which may fill its pages; it is to the men of the stamp
of Morgan, Dampier, Peter of Dieppe, and Van Horn, who by their
courage, dash, and spasmodic chivalry lent sufficient romance to their
misdeeds as to obscure the crime, that we owe the stirring tales of the
conquests in the West Indies and South America. And no less a pirate was
Francis Drake, who, despite his knighthood and the official countenance
the Elizabethan government lent to his attacks upon Spanish galleons and
cities, stands forth as one of the greatest free lances of the world.
His history is unique, brilliant, and commanding; his service for his
country and the attack upon the Spanish Armada atoning, as it were, for
his piratical crimes. What irony of fate, that this wonderful man, a
knight of England, a member of Parliament, a warrior and sailor, a
robber and conqueror, should now lie in a lead coffin at the bottom of
the sea off Porto Rico, conquered by death while on his way to the
islands so often the object of his pillage!

The constant warring of Spain against the powers of the world, not at
home but in her western possessions, finally led to that outlawry which
under the name of buccaneers terrorized the Caribbean Sea during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In 1625 the island of St.
Christopher was settled by the buccaneers to establish a base; and later
the island of Tortuga was captured, which became the scene of constant
warfare until the capture of Jamaica in 1655.[1] Pre-eminent amongst the
buccaneers of this period who made the Spanish Main a synonym for
robbery and bloodshed was Captain Henry Morgan, who, as a pirate,
captured Jamaica, was knighted by Charles II., and later made Deputy
Governor of the island. He it was who led the buccaneers to the South
Sea, opening for them a rich field for booty, by marching across the
Isthmus of Panama, fighting a battle and capturing and plundering the
city, and, seizing the Spanish vessels in the harbor, set sail for the
South Sea, returning by way of Cape Horn with fabulous prizes. After the
capture of Cartagena in 1697, the organization of these intrepid,
daring, and able freebooters disrupted, and the glory waned and
vanished; the degeneracy was rapid and complete, till cut-throats and
villainous outlaws took the place of their great predecessors.

    [Footnote 1: Driven from St. Christopher, the expatriated French
    and English outlaws settled in San Domingo, an island over whose
    plains thousands of wild cattle roamed, and found excellent
    revenue in the capture of these beasts and the sale of the flesh
    and hides. The peculiar manner of smoking the beef and
    preserving the hides, known as “bucchanning,” gave them their

History shows that in our own country pirates appeared along the
Carolina coast as far back as 1565, and before the settlement of the
country by the English, under charter of Charles II., the pirates of the
Spanish Main occupied the coast, the many harbors lending refuge and
safe retreat, while permitting the burying of treasures.

The Carolinas remained friendly to pirates with a persistency of popular
favor which was well-nigh ineradicable. And this is quite readily
understood when we reflect that the depredations were committed upon
ships of His Catholic Majesty, the foe of England, and that the pirates
brought their gold and silver plate to the colonies for sale and barter,
thus bringing wealth and resource to the struggling communities; and,
lastly, the example and sanction set by the king in knighting Henry
Morgan, the leading pirate of the day. It was impossible to obtain a
jury to convict any one upon the charge of piracy, and so the
authorities found themselves helpless.

The best known of all the pirates in America is beyond doubt Captain
Kidd, of whom we all have sung:

    Oh, my name is Captain Kidd,
            As I sailed,
            As I sailed.
    Oh, my name is Captain Kidd,
    And God’s laws I did forbid,
    And right wickedly I did,
            As I sailed.

The English government, alarmed at the bold and heinous offences
committed by the Indian pirates in the Colonies, issued to him letters
of marque against the French and the ubiquitous rover of the coast,
whose “Jolly Roger” floating from the mizzen, with its sinister portend,
struck terror to the helpless merchantman.

His work was efficient and sweeping, and in 1691 the Council of the City
of New York presented him £100, in appreciation of his energetic
campaign. In 1697 he reached Madagascar to annihilate the pirates in the
Eastern waters, but soon strange reports reached England concerning his
actions, and it developed that he had fallen a victim to the seductive
aphorism, “the pirate is the free child of the sea,” and in the degree
as he was their destroyer, so he rose as their energetic leader.
Subsequently he sailed to the West Indies, Delaware, Oyster Bay, and,
burying his treasures on Gardiner’s Island, set sail for Boston, where
he was captured, sent to England, and hanged on Execution Dock, London.
The treasures found on Gardiner’s Island amounted to $170,000, and to
this day hopes are entertained of other buried booty.

The scope of Mr. Herrmann’s lecture is not to embrace the history of
piracy, but to narrate the incidents and vicissitudes of a pirate’s life
and to illustrate their _modus operandi_. His story depicts to us the
terrible misdeeds as practised by those ferocious and heartless demons,
amongst whom Captain Fly, Captain Teach, the Blackbeard, and Captain
North were the most notorious.

                                                            H. A. H.
NEW YORK, February, 1902.



The limitations of a lecture will not permit the discussion of the
subject upon an extended scope, nor will it allow a more than cursory
review of the general doings, adventures, and methods of pirates in
general, leaving the historical treatment for another occasion.

The Latin word _piratia_ defines the crime, answering to robbery on
land, with the distinction that it is committed upon the high seas or
navigable waters generally. The law of nations has defined it as the
taking of property from others by open violence, with intent to steal,
and without lawful authority, on the sea. And with the stringency
arising from the ever-growing depredations, and the community of
interests of the civilized world, the crime was made punishable by
death, and jurisdiction was recognized in that country into whose ports
the pirate may be carried.

Piracy flourished in its reckless dare-deviltry and wanton lawlessness
about one hundred and fifty years ago, its most productive operations
being confined to the Spanish Main, over whose vast paths the newly
discovered wealth and hidden treasures of the New World were carried.
The unprotected state of commerce permitted these piratical invasions
with immunity and thus allowed this nefarious trade to flourish and
develop unchecked and uncontrolled. By reason of this the lawless
element of the community was encouraged and allured by the visions of
fabulous riches with the attendant excitement incident to its capture.
Pirates, as a class, were principally outlaws, social outcasts, or
’longshoremen of a desperate and brutal character, who deemed it the
more enjoyable the more hazardous their undertaking, and who considered
it safer to maraud on the high seas than upon the land, in constant fear
of the minions of the law. But not all pirates were of this character.
Some, not inherently vicious nor absolutely depraved, had adopted this
lawless calling by reason of some stigma which deprived them of their
social position; others, by reason of their indolence; and others from
sheer necessity, who found in their dire distress the justification for
the dangerous step.

Whenever a band of these men had determined upon their new enterprise,
they immediately seized some available ship in the shore waters, which
was frequently accomplished by two or three approaching in a rowboat, in
the guise of purchasers of merchandise. As a rule, a vessel, when in
shore waters, is inadequately protected by guards, and thus the pirates,
finding the deck in their control, would overcome the watch and, with
drawn pistols and threats of death, proceed to make them helpless
prisoners. With practical control of the vessel thus assured, some of
the number would stand sentry at the hatchways while a signal to the
shore brought the reinforcement of their comrades in crime. Should the
captured crew show remonstrance or any intimation of resistance, the
swords, cutlasses, and heavy chains were most effective as a quietus;
and thus with sails all set, and flying the flag of the home port as a
mantle to their knavery, they sailed forth to some small town in search
of provisions, to dispose of their merchandise, release their prisoners
(or, as frequently happened, maroon them upon some desolate island), and
thus equipped and provisioned, with magazines ammunitioned, they set
forth in search of prey.


Not infrequently the vessel captured would prove too small and
insufficient for marauding expeditions upon the high seas, and unable to
give battle or a spirited chase to a sturdy merchantman. In such event,
their operations were confined to the coast-line and in the harbors
which had been located by spies as having richly laden vessels ready for
the outward journey; and, having ascertained the date of departure, the
ship’s complement, its possible fighting strength, and its destination,
a close watch was set, avoiding, however, all cause for suspicion, and,
with lights extinguished, the careful, silent watch was kept till the
midnight hour. As eight bells rang out upon the darkness, and the
unsuspecting sailor keeping the midnight watch looked blankly into the
night, several rowboats, with occupants armed to the teeth, would be
lowered, and without a splash ride the waters, over which they glided,
carrying the sea-robbers to the grim sides of their intended prey.


In many cases the decks, by reason of the fancied security afforded by
the harbor, would be deserted, and, taking advantage of this
opportunity, the attacking party quickly leap over the sides and, under
the noiselessly given commands of their captain, creep stealthily to the
hatchways, cautiously taking their positions so that no miscalculations
might frustrate their designs. And so, invading below decks, with
weapons poised and every fibre on the alert, the concerted attack upon
the sleeping victims would be given. With one fell swoop, and with the
savagery born of their nefarious undertaking, the crew would be
ruthlessly butchered, some few, perhaps, escaping in the general
skirmish and fleeing up the gangway, only to be struck down by the
villain on guard. For the present we will close our eyes to the awful
picture of torture and murder here enacted, to revert to it upon a
subsequent occasion.


With the crew slain, gagged or in chains, with all possible resistance
overcome, the coming of the day was awaited. And as the first faint
streaks of gray broke in upon the darkness of the night and the
harbingers of the dawn sent their shafts athwart the horizon, the ship
rode proudly at her anchor, silently and stately, giving no indication
of the carnage of the night. The creaking of the chain around the
capstan was but the mariners’ music to sing the glory of the voyage to
be begun, and so, without creating the least suspicion in the vessels
lying round about, the captors brought their prize abreast their old
vessel, transferred their stock of provisions and merchandise, if any,
to the newly captured vessel, and, thus prepared, sailed grandly out of
the harbor. When once again the breath of the ocean bellied their sails
and sped them on to the unknown argosy, the dead, vanquished crew was
rudely cast into the sea, without the semblance of respect for the dead,
the decks thoroughly scrubbed, the scuppers flushed, the inventory
prepared, and so, once again, the course was set for a port in which to
dispose of their cargo. The argus-eyed lookout stationed far up in the
foremast scanned every point of the far-reaching horizon, signalling to
his mates the appearance of a spar against the heavens. Then, with
course changed and wheel set, and sped on by conspiring winds, they bore
down upon the unfortunate vessel, displaying at the proper moment the
ominous and fateful black flag and its ghastly emblem of skull and


Thus, for months perhaps, the fitful winds and steady currents carried
them hither and thither, ever alert, ever ready for combat and plunder.
With guns primed and powder-horn stocked, these plunderers roamed the
trackless sea, at times with impatience and drooping hopes, until the
sight of a large, heavily riding merchantman sent their blood a-leaping
and transformed the deck into a scene of feverish activity. If we recall
the peaceful errand of the merchantmen and reflect that their armature
was little calculated to cope with the war-waging outlaws, it is quite
apparent how gross the inequality of the struggle must necessarily be.
While most of the merchantmen carried defensive armament, the
unpractised, unskilled crew made the guns in their hands little more
than ineffective. As the pirate ship approached, she displayed the same
flag flying from the stern of the merchantman; and with the crew
hidden below decks, in order not to betray their purpose, the vessels
approached sufficiently close to enable the pirates to fire a broadside
into the unsuspecting vessel and demand immediate surrender. At times a
vessel, by reason of its superiority, would succeed in outsailing the
pirates, but frequently the result was most disastrous. Often a
stout-hearted merchantman, seeing that capture was inevitable, would
offer battle in desperation, firing volley after volley of stone shot,
the pirates, stubborn, furious, tenacious, fighting with all the
ferocity their natures were capable of, resulting, after a decisive
contest, in the lowering of the merchantman flag in disgrace and
humiliation. With the lowering of the sails as an indication of
surrender, the pirates sent out several boats with armed men, under the
command of a chosen leader, who at once placed the captain under arrest
and demanded the ship’s papers under pain of death. This request was
usually, though unwillingly, acceded to. The old vessel was thereupon
dismantled, the captured boat refitted, and, burning the hull of the
forsaken vessel, the pirates once more set sail, with the imprisoned
captain and crew in chains cast into the dark, foul hold of the ship.
Immunity was sometimes granted the captives upon their taking the oath
of allegiance to the piratical horde. Can we not imagine how the intense
anguish and unendurable torture finally forced from the unwilling lips
the fearful avowal of allegiance?


We can plainly observe the purpose of the pirates in endeavoring to
capture a large, powerful, and speedy vessel, for that was the only
safeguard of their barbarous trade. They readily recognized that success
and security depended solely upon speed to overtake a fleeing ship or to
escape a powerful adversary. Their motto, “He who fights and runs away
may live to fight another day,” was in reality the only literature the
bold and adventurous pirate would comprehend or accept. Therefore, well
equipped in a stanch, trim vessel, with the lockers filled, the
magazines stocked, the guns aimed and ready for action, they were brave
enough to combat even a man-of-war. The books are replete with the
thrilling accounts of engagements and set battles waged between pirates
and resisting armed merchantmen, resulting completely in victory for
the black flag which so defiantly floated from the mizzenmast. The
gradual progress and growth of the energetic sea-robbers, from the
looting of vessels riding peacefully at anchor in the harbors to the
management of large and seaworthy craft, permitted them to undertake
long and seemingly endless cruises, the most daring of which being
undertaken, no doubt, by that notorious chieftain, Captain Nathaniel
North, who cruised from Newfoundland to the West Indies, then across the
Southern Atlantic to the Cape of Good Hope, thence via Mozambique to the
Indian Ocean, and northward to the Red Sea, traversing the same track to
the Arabian Sea and East Indies—a voyage of 28,670 miles, the toy of
the monsoon, the victim of the typhoon, and the sport of the trade-winds
in the many latitudes. History has reserved a rather infamous niche for
such freebooters as Thomas Howard, Captain Misson, Captain Fly, and
Captain Kidd, whose voyages and exploits have given themes to the
historian, the narrator, and the novelist. It was during these long
cruises that the coast towns suffered through the depredations,
plundering, and pillage, and the inhabitants put in constant fear of
these sudden and vicious onslaughts.


Not infrequently the pirates selected some desolate locality in which to
bury their treasures and store their stolen goods, generally building a
“village” inland, well hidden in the foliage of the forests or tropical
shrubbery, and perhaps inaccessible save through the devious paths
cunningly planned to secure immunity from attack. These natural defences
were supplemented with a series of forts as a further protection from
the incursions of the natives. The internecine wars so fiercely waged by
the inhabitants of the African East Coast frequently brought the
vanquished to these “villages” to secure protection—a safety usually
given in exchange for practical slavery in tilling the ground and
cultivating crops.


From time almost immemorial the word _pirate_ has been synonymous with
all that is villainous, bloodthirsty, and cruel, and capture by a gang
of these assassins meant indescribable torture and suffering, and we
will devote a few moments to a consideration of these awful scenes; the
sudden attacks, the vain attempts at flight, the desperate
hand-to-hand struggles for life, mingled with the brutal yells,
interspersed with the piteous cries for mercy, followed by the horrible
silence which finally settles over the slippery decks, and the gruesome
spectacle of the dreadful vandalism as the murderers proceed to strip
their victims.


Generally, after a successful attack, the captain of the unfortunate
vessel would be placed in chains and questioned as to the cargo and
treasures of his ship. A cutlass held menacingly over him indicated the
danger of untruth, and frequently a savage gash brought a stubborn and
silent captain to submission. Inquisitorial tortures, unrelieved by any
mock civility, were continued to extract further confessions from the
pain-racked prisoners. Devices born only of a devilish instinct and
fiendish delight suggested all forms of suffering, and so the captain
was frequently tied to the ship’s pump and surrounded with burning
combustibles; or, fastened to the deck, surrounded with gunpowder, which
they ignited; or his limbs were severed from his body and his flesh
prodded with the points of the cutlass, the fiendish pirates forming a
circle around him for this inhuman “sport.”


Despite these awful tortures, confessions were often suppressed, in the
hope that the pirates would allow the vessel to proceed on its way (as
was sometimes the case), and thus a part of the treasures be saved. But
all hope of succor or consideration at the hands of these murderers was
idle. Unsatisfied with the mere acquisition of booty, these human
devils, devoid of the last spark of compassion, would mete out to each
member of the crew and the passengers the most unheard-of tortures which
human depravity could invent, for the amusement of the captors. Some
were tied to a windlass and pelted into insensibility, or perhaps more
charitable death. Others were lashed with ropes and cast, almost dead,
into the sea; or, spiked hand and foot to the deck, were exposed
mercilessly to the hot rays of the sun until the features were distorted
into unrecognizability; some were placed before a gun and thus
decapitated, while others were tied back to back and thrown into the
waters. In fact, so low were these villainous wretches in their
degradation that only the most cruel and cunningly devised torture
could satiate their bloodthirsty cravings—human hyenas, who found rest
only in the pains and shrieks of other mortals. By far the most favorite
pastime was to make the victim “walk the plank” or hang him to the
yardarm—a suggestion of the retribution suffered by the pirates when
captured. No word picture can present the awful orgies indulged in by
these social outcasts, who continued their carnage, assault, and abuse
until the last victim had succumbed. Then, directing their attention to
the ship, it was quietly dismantled, set adrift, or frequently burned to
the water’s edge, allowing the hull to float about, a rudderless


One must not form the impression, however, that this reckless
lawlessness was attended with insubordination or lack of discipline. On
the contrary, they were rigorously governed by an iron hand and by the
unwritten “code of honor.” A pirate entered upon “the account” (a term
meaning piracy) by taking the oath of fealty to the cause, abjuring all
social ties, pledging himself never to desert his ship or defraud his
comrades or steal anything belonging to his fellows. Having thus bound
him by an oath firm and dreadful in its malediction upon any violation
of its terms, the organization is completed by the selection of a
captain, who, usually, is the strongest, bravest, and most desperate of
them all, well calculated to keep the crew in subjection. Mutiny and the
spirit of insubordination frequently raised its ominous growl, to be
quelled only by the fearlessness of the captain and his ability to keep
his men in abject fear of his commands. It held the men in the thralls
of hypnotism, and in its efficaciousness depended the safety of the
captain and his “loyal” adherents. With some crews the title _Captain_
did not convey autocratic power nor dictatorial prerogatives, his power
to command absolutely being confined only to times of combat. A
usurpation of power frequently brought death as a deterrent to any
aspiring successor. In those cases where the captain was not recognized
as the sole ruler, each man had a vote in affairs of moment, and had an
undivided interest and title in all booty.


It can readily be understood how valueless the cast-iron oath of the
pirate must be when occasion makes its rejection convenient, and thus
apparent dissatisfaction with the captain or with his commands have
frequently caused those secret plottings below decks, resulting in open
revolt or mutiny:—pirate against pirate, brute force matched against
brute force for power and supremacy. The severest punishment to a member
of the crew for thieving from a fellow-pirate was marooning—slitting
the ears and nose and depositing the offender upon some desolate island
or lonely shore with but few provisions and limited ammunition. Life was
little prized, for death had no terrors, and life beyond this world
entered not into their calculations. Their fearlessness and courage was
splendidly exampled when Captain Teach, alias Black Beard, appeared off
Charleston in the year 1717 and sent word to the Governor of the colony
to send out to him at once a certain number of medicine chests, in
failure of which the port would be blockaded by his single vessel, and
all persons on board in-going and out-going ships killed and their heads
sent to the Governor as proof of the execution of the threat. He also
threatened to set all ships on fire. It illustrates clearly in what
dread these sea marauders were held in those times, when we learn that
the Governor immediately complied with the demands and the embargo was
raised. It is recorded that in moments of defeat pirates voluntarily
have set fire to their powder magazines and thus were blown to
destruction rather than plead for mercy. During long cruises, when no
ships upon the horizon line varied the monotony of the daily routine,
pastimes were invented, each one out-rivalling the other in sheer
wickedness. Captain Teach considered it rare sport to lock his men in
the ship’s hold and then set sulphur afire to ascertain how long they
could withstand asphyxiation. Yet his greatest “bravery” was displayed
(and herein he developed commendable Spartan fortitude) when he married
fourteen times with a fearlessness highly worthy of a better purpose!
His wickedness was as great as his fearlessness was unbounded, but
wickedness was voted manly in a pirate and assured the esteem and
admiration of his comrades.


With the progression of events and the growth of commerce, piracy waned,
and gradually the black flag which had so long swept the Spanish Main
was furled and drooped into the sea over which it had so long defiantly
floated. The European governments made many futile attempts to check the
rapid development of the unlawful enterprise, and many expeditions were
successful, resulting in the trial, condemnation, and execution of the
outlaws on land.


In England a proclamation of amnesty was issued, insuring freedom and
rights of citizenship to all who renounced their calling—a privilege
which many accepted, only to find their blood fire and yearn for the
wild, aimless, and adventurous roaming on the seas, which gradually drew
them back to their calling and away from the restraints of civilization.
The capture of a pirate meant death, and, as no practicable defence was
available, the prisoners usually entrenched themselves behind the plea
that they were kidnapped or shanghaied and were compelled to enter into
piracy for the preservation of their lives. But piracy, with its
harrowing gruesomeness, its boldness and daring, its romance and
adventure, its plunder and murder, its conflicts and reprisals, is a
spectre of the past, and now is chiefly confined to the rivers and
harbors of the Far East and Northern Africa. It has lost the glamor and
enchanting, romantic atmosphere which pervaded the career of Captain
Kidd and made him the worshipped hero of every school-boy, or which
inspired the pen of a Scott, of an Edgar Allan Poe or Frank R. Stockton,
or put the charm to the tales of W. Clark Russell, for pirates and
piracy are now dead, and live ingloriously only in the pages of
chronicling history.


    To the mast nail our flag! It is dark as the grave,
    Or the death which it bears while it sweeps o’er the wave.
    Let our deck clear for action, our guns be prepared;
    Be the boarding-axe sharpened, the scimiter bared.
    Set the canisters ready, and then bring to me,
    For the last of my duties, the powder-room key.
    It shall never be lowered, the black flag we bear;
    If the sea be denied us, we sweep through the air.
    Unshared have we left our last victory’s prey;
    It is mine to divide it, and yours to obey:
    There are shawls that might suit a sultana’s white neck,
    And pearls that are fair as the arms they will deck;
    There are flasks which, unseal them, the air will disclose
    Diametta’s fair summers, the home of the rose.
    I claim not a portion; I ask but as mine.
    ’Tis to drink to our victory one cup of red wine.
    Some fight, ’tis for riches; some fight, ’tis for fame:
    The first I despise, and the last is a name.
    I fight, ’tis for vengeance! I love to see flow,
    At the stroke of my sabre, the life of my foe.
    I strike for the memory of long-vanished years;
    I only shed blood where another shed tears.
    I come as the lightning comes, red from above,
    O’er the race that I loathe, to the battle I love.

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