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Dear Sinclair Friends,
It's sort of fun to insert a pirate or two into the family line in this age
of Disney images of Captain Hook but in the past they were vicious killers
and a plague of the worst sort. Of course you all know this but I'm just
making a point here. If there were real piratical ancestors then we just
have to admit to it but if they were privateers that's another thing
Privateers were seagoing mercenaries of sorts. They were legal
agents having Letters of Marque from valid governments (generally)
authorizing them to arm private ships and to take prizes as their own and
then to sell the ships and cargo. They formed a poor-man's Navy and any
naval person abhorred the necessity of their existence but in any event they
were supposed to observe the customs of war including not killing prisoners.
Granted, there were some that went over that line and became criminals. Jean
Lafitte, the French-American patriot and commander of a small fleet of
privateers (out of Barataria Bay south of New Orleans) sailed legally for
Cartagena against Spain, not a pirate! His people only preyed on Spaniards
but two of his skippers went bad. He hung one and sank the other but got a
bad name due to the piratical action in that incident. His support: 24
ponder naval guns, ammunition and gun crews in the Battle of New Orleans
effectively turned the tide in favor of Jackson and GB was denied the
control of the vital Mississippi river system (would the Brits have given up
New Orleans as part of the Treaty? OH-Yeah!) But my point is that its
sometimes difficult to accurately interpret history particularly when its
written by the losers, or the victors for that matter. And then by landsmen.
Everyone has their spin.
I strongly recommend that when its possible we attempt to use the two terms
intentionally with whatever accuracy seems reasonable in interpreting
through the frequent fog of misinformation.
May the wind be at your backs and the sunsets all be red.
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