?DEMOCRATIC OUTLAWS ?Pirates, the outlaws of the sea. If like me, the first idea that comes to mind regardingpirates is a group of raiding and plundering individuals. This is due to todays society glamorizingthe pirates as fascinating characters. Historically, not much written information has been leftbehind. The pirates did not leave ship logs or accounts of plunders, because it could be used toincriminate them.
Society today has invented the pirates to fit a romantic mold. Therefore, wegrew up thinking of treasure hunts, sea battles, sword fights and plank walkers, when in actualitythe pirates of old were loathed by society. During the Golden Age of Piracy, during the 17th and18th centuries, pirates were regarded as common criminals of the seas without thought todemocracy/justice or civility.
In short, the pirates had no decency. However, is there some truthto the glamorized legends? Could the legendary characters have upheld the same ideals? In thecourse of the semester, we have learned some of the truths behind the glamorized pirate facade. Throughout life I have seen that good is more often than not overshadowed by bad. I decided togive these characters the benefit of the doubt and do some investigating.
In this essay, I willattempt to prove that human decency among the pirates could have existed.Civility is one trait rarely associated with pirates. Why should civility be associated as atrait of pirates? After all, pirates raid, plunder, steal, rape, drink and swear. Civilized people donot participate in lowly, unlawful behavior. Pirates were know to be excessive drunks, ruthless killers, indulgers of women and unruly individuals. In defense of pirate civility, I must point outa few examples. Lord Byrons The Corsair is an excellent example of pirate decency. Conrad,Byrons hero and captain of a pirate crew, shows remarkable civility for a pirate.
While TheCorsair is a fictional work, many of the pirate tales, as in other fictional works, derive fromactual occurrences. While Conrads crew is toasting spirts and carousing about, he remainscomposed. Neer for his lip the purplng cup they fill, That goblet passes him untasted still . . .But while he shuns the grosser joys of sense, His mind seems nourished by that abstinence(Byron 152). Conrad does not overindulge and does not become unruly.
Conrad does not kill unnecessarily and when forced to kill, it is in defense. Conrad does not ravage women. He isJean Lafitte is a factual example of civility. Lafitte was a pirate masked in gentlemansclothing. It is said, Lafitte hobb-knobbed with high society. The majority of the descriptions ofLafitte portray him as well dressed, well mannered and well spoken, as a gentleman should be. Lafitte was also a patriot playing a significant role in the Battle of New Orleans, in which heDemocracy/Justice among the pirates is another unlikely topic to ponder when thinking ofpirates.
How can outlaws be democratic or just? The pirates bluntly disregarded the law whenraiding and plundering. However, within the pirate community, was a democratic structure. Thecommunity had its own way of government and enforcing justice.
Life amongst the pirates in the17th and 18th centuries was more democratic than those of most countries. EsquemelingsBuccaneers of America, gives an account of pirate democracy. Each ship had a code they livedby. The crew aboard a pirate vessel selected their captains by casting votes. Although the captainis an elected position, the captain of the vessel was in complete control and was to be obeyed andrespected.
However, if a captain loses the favor of his crew, mutiny occurs and he is voted out.The replacement captain is then voted in usually coming from within crew. The quartermaster isthe chief authority save in battle. He acts as ships magistrate for small offenses. Serious offensesare tried before a pirate jury. In addition, the quartermaster served as the trustee for the wholeships company in Defoes words, for the captain can do nothing which the quartermaster doesnot approve of . .
. for he speaks for and looks after the interests of the company (Mark 202). Before setting off on a voyage, the pirates called a council to delegate duties in preparation fordeparture. The council delegated a duty to each crew member such as getting needed provisions. Another council was put together to create a list of