?DEMOCRATIC OUTLAWS ?
Pirates, the outlaws of the sea. If like me, the first idea that comes to mind regarding
pirates is a group of raiding and plundering individuals. This is due to todays society glamorizing
the pirates as fascinating characters. Historically, not much written information has been left
behind. The pirates did not leave ship logs or accounts of plunders, because it could be used to
incriminate them. Society today has invented the pirates to fit a romantic mold. Therefore, we
grew up thinking of treasure hunts, sea battles, sword fights and plank walkers, when in actuality
the pirates of old were loathed by society. During the Golden Age of Piracy, during the 17th and
18th centuries, pirates were regarded as common criminals of the seas without thought to
democracy/justice or civility. In short, the pirates had no decency. However, is there some truth
to the glamorized legends? Could the legendary characters have upheld the same ideals? In the
course 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 to
give these characters the benefit of the doubt and do some investigating. In this essay, I will
attempt 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 a
trait of pirates? After all, pirates raid, plunder, steal, rape, drink and swear. Civilized people do
not 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 out
a 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 The
Corsair is a fictional work, many of the pirate tales, as in other fictional works, derive from
actual occurrences. While Conrads crew is toasting spirts and carousing about, he remains
composed. 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 is
Jean Lafitte is a factual example of civility. Lafitte was a pirate masked in gentlemans
clothing. It is said, Lafitte hobb-knobbed with high society. The majority of the descriptions of
Lafitte 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 he
Democracy/Justice among the pirates is another unlikely topic to ponder when thinking of
pirates. How can outlaws be democratic or just? The pirates bluntly disregarded the law when
raiding and plundering. However, within the pirate community, was a democratic structure. The
community had its own way of government and enforcing justice.Life amongst the pirates in the
17th and 18th centuries was more democratic than those of most countries. Esquemelings
Buccaneers of America, gives an account of pirate democracy. Each ship had a code they lived
by. The crew aboard a pirate vessel selected their captains by casting votes. Although the captain
is an elected position, the captain of the vessel was in complete control and was to be obeyed and
respected.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 is
the chief authority save in battle. He acts as ships magistrate for small offenses. Serious offenses
are tried before a pirate jury. In addition, the quartermaster served as the trustee for the whole
ships company in Defoes words, for the captain can do nothing which the quartermaster does
not 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 for
departure. The council delegated a duty to each crew member such as getting needed provisions.
Another council was put together to create a list of