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Re: Privateers

>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

Really?  Rollo probably had at least informal sanction from the King
of Norway, yet he was called a pirate.  That's what Vikings were: pirates.

Templar ships were known as pirates to Muslims.  They may have been
authorized by the Pope, but that didn't make any difference.  And
they are quite possibly the origin of Jolly Roger skull and crossbones

The Company of Scotland that sent settlers to Darien in Panama
also sent ships to the East, some of whom hooked up with pirates.

>Privateers were seagoing mercenaries of sorts. They were legal
>agents having Letters of Marque from valid governments (generally)

Usually called letters of Marque and Reprisal.
Elizabeth I of England handed out many of those,
for example to Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.
She also turned a blind eye to many a piratical act
performed without proper paperwork.

>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.

Indeed, supposed to.

>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!

That didn't help his public image much:

 "He left a corsair's name to other times,
  Linked one virtue to a thousand crimes."
                          -- Lord Byron

> 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.

Consider Captain Kidd.  Pirate or merchant?

Or the English and New England slaving fleets.  They were legal merchants
according to their charters back home.  I'm not sure their enslaved cargo
thought of them the same way.

>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.

Which is which depends on your point of view.
It's kind of like terrorist or patriot.

Consider John Paul, the Scotsman considered
a pirate by the British for killing a seaman;
better known as the American Patriot John Paul Jones.

After all, there's only one excuse for treason: winning.

>May the wind be at your backs and the sunsets all be red.

Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum!

>Bill Buehler

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