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It did not help that many European privateers happily accepted commissions from the deys of Algiers , Tangiers and Tunis. The sultans of the Sulu archipelago now present day Philippines held only a tenuous authority over the local Iranun communities of slave-raiders. The sultans created a carefully spun web of marital and political alliances in an attempt to control unauthorised raiding that would provoke war against them. Privateers were implicated in piracy for a number of complex reasons.

For colonial authorities, successful privateers were skilled seafarers who brought in much-needed revenue, especially in newly settled colonial outposts. The French Governor of Petit-Goave gave buccaneer Francois Grogniet blank privateering commissions, which Grogniet traded to Edward Davis for a spare ship so the two could continue raiding Spanish cities under a guise of legitimacy.

Some privateers faced prosecution for piracy.


William Kidd accepted a commission from the British king William to hunt pirates but was later hanged for piracy. He had been unable to produce the papers of the prizes he had captured to prove his innocence. Privateering commissions were easy to obtain during wartime but when the war ended and sovereigns recalled the privateers, many refused to give up the lucrative business and turned to piracy.

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 in Privateers generally avoided encounters with warships, as such encounters would be at best unprofitable.

Still, such encounters did occur. For instance, in Chasseur encountered HMS St Lawrence , herself a former American privateer, mistaking her for a merchantman until too late; in this instance, however, the privateer prevailed. Following the French Revolution , French privateers became a menace to British and American shipping in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, resulting in the Quasi-War , a brief conflict between France and the United States, fought largely at sea, and to the Royal Navy's procuring Bermuda sloops to combat the French privateers.

In Europe, the practice of authorising sea-raiding dated to at least the 13th century but the word 'privateer' was coined sometime in the midth century. The increase in competition for crews on armed merchant vessels and privateers was due, in a large part, because of the chance for a considerable payoff. Privateers were a large part of the total military force at sea during the 17th and 18th centuries.

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In the first Anglo-Dutch War , English privateers attacked the trade on which the United Provinces entirely depended, capturing over 1, Dutch merchant ships. During the subsequent war with Spain , Spanish and Flemish privateers in the service of the Spanish Crown, including the Dunkirkers , captured 1, English merchant ships, helping to restore Dutch international trade. Piet Pieterszoon Hein was a brilliantly successful Dutch privateer who captured a Spanish treasure fleet.

Magnus Heinason was another privateer who served the Dutch against the Spanish. While their and others' attacks brought home a great deal of money, they hardly dented the flow of gold and silver from Mexico to Spain. Privateering continued until when the Declaration of Paris , signed by all major European powers, stated that "Privateering is and remains abolished". The United States did not sign because a stronger amendment, protecting 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 in the Franco-Prussian War , when Prussia announced the creation of a 'volunteer navy' of ships privately owned and manned and 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 England , and later the United Kingdom , the ubiquity of wars and the island nation's reliance on maritime trade enabled the use of privateers to great effect.

England also suffered much from other nations' privateering. During the 15th century, the country "lacked an institutional structure and coordinated finance". This constituted a "revolution in naval strategy" and helped fill the need for protection that the Crown was unable to provide.

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During the reign of Queen Elizabeth's , she "encouraged the development of this supplementary navy". English ships cruised in the Caribbean and off the coast of Spain, trying to intercept treasure fleets from the Spanish Main. Elizabeth was succeeded by the first Stuart monarchs, James I and Charles I , who did not permit privateering.

Desperate to fund the expensive War of Spanish Succession , Queen Anne restarted privateering and even removed the need for a sovereign's percentage as an incentive. This helped establish the privateer's persona as heroic patriots. British privateers last appeared en masse in the Napoleonic Wars. England and Scotland practiced privateering both separately and together after they united to create the Kingdom of Great Britain in It was a way to gain for themselves some of the wealth the Spanish and Portuguese were taking from the New World before beginning their own trans-Atlantic settlement, and a way to assert naval power before a strong Royal Navy emerged.

Sir Andrew Barton , Lord High Admiral of Scotland , followed the example of his father, who had been issued with letters of marque by James III of Scotland to prey upon English and Portuguese shipping in ; the letters in due course were reissued to the son. Barton was killed following an encounter with the English in Sir Francis Drake , 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.

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He participated in the successful English defence against the Spanish Armada in , though he was also partly responsible for the failure of the English Armada against Spain in He arrived in Puerto Rico on June 15, , but by November of that year Clifford and his men had fled the island due to fierce civilian resistance. He gained sufficient prestige from his naval exploits to be named the official Champion of Queen Elizabeth I. Clifford became extremely wealthy through his buccaneering, but lost most of his money gambling on horse races.

Captain Christopher Newport led more attacks on Spanish shipping and settlements than any other English privateer. He lost an arm whilst capturing a Spanish ship during an expedition in , but despite this he continued on privateering, successfully blockading Western Cuba the following year.

Sir Henry Morgan was a successful privateer. Operating out of Jamaica, 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 shields. Despite reproaches for some of his excesses, he was generally protected by Sir Thomas Modyford , 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 with only 1, crew [21].

The latter schooner captured over 50 American vessels during the War of The English colony of Bermuda or the Somers Isles , settled accidentally in , was used as a base for English privateers from the time it officially became part of the territory of the Virginia Company in , especially by ships belonging to the Earl of Warwick , for whom Bermuda's Warwick Parish is named the Warwick name had long been associated with commerce raiding, as exampled by the Newport Ship , thought to have been taken from the Spanish by Warwick the Kingmaker in the 15th Century.

Many Bermudians were employed as crew aboard privateers throughout the century, although the colony was primarily devoted to farming cash crops until turning from its failed agricultural economy to the sea after the dissolution of the Somers Isles Company a spin-off of the Virginia Company which had overseen the colony since 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, including: the to Nine Years' War King William's War ; the to Queen Anne's War ; [22] [23] the to War of Jenkins' Ear ; the to War of the Austrian Succession King George's War ; the to Seven Years' War known in the United States as the French and Indian War , this conflict was devastating for the colony's merchant fleet.

Fifteen privateers operated from Bermuda during the war, but losses exceeded captures ; the to American War of Independence ; and the to Anglo-Spanish War. They typically left Bermuda with very large crews.

This advantage in manpower was vital in overpowering the crews of larger vessels, which themselves often lacked sufficient crewmembers to put up a strong defence. The extra crewmen were also useful as prize crews 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 , dissident Puritans driven out of Bermuda during the English Civil War.

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Spanish and French attacks destroyed New Providence in , creating a stronghold for pirates, and it became a thorn in the side of British merchant trade through the area. In , Britain appointed Woodes Rogers as 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 who had been 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.

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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 , the response of the Governor of Bermuda, Captain Benjamin Bennett, was to issue letters of marque to Bermudian vessels. In , 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. 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. 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 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".

Many Bermudians occupied prominent positions in American seaports, from where they continued their maritime trades Bermudian merchants controlled much of the trade through ports like Charleston, South Carolina , and Bermudian shipbuilders influenced the development of American vessels, like the Chesapeake Bay schooner , [24] [29] [30] and in the Revolution they used their knowledge of Bermudians and of Bermuda, as well as their vessels, for the rebels' cause.

In the Battle of Wreck Hill, brothers Charles and Francis Morgan, members of a large Bermudian enclave that had dominated Charleston, South Carolina and its environs since settlement, [31] [32] captaining two sloops the Fair American and the Experiment , respectively , carried out the only attack on Bermuda during the war. The target was a fort that guarded a little used passage through the encompassing reef line. This lawless form of piracy was outlawed and at last checked during the early 18th century, when general peace was restored.

Pirates were hunted down by the English Royal Navy or by licensed bounty-hunters. The practice of privateering preceded the creation of national navies. European States having few or no warships hired merchant vessels for hostile purposes. By way of compensation, privateers were allowed to share any booty captured. Privateering came into general use, but was first renounced and outlawed by the Peace of Westphalia for signatories to those treaties.

Two centuries later, privateering was abolished on the international level by the Declaration Respecting Maritime Law Paris, 16 April , but the Declaration was not supported by the United States, Spain, Mexico and Venezuela. During the American Civil War, Congress authorized the President to commission privateering in , but this power was not exercised.

The Confederacy, however, engaged several times in privateering. Finally, privateering was officially renounced by the United States during the Spanish-American War of The definition is relevant, as said above earlier, because any confusion in terminology invariably leads to debates between State sovereignty and universal jurisdiction over crimes at sea.