Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Pirate's Discipline


The Rules of Conduct Observed on Board a Buccaneer.

The customs and regulations most commonly observed on board a buccaneer are worth noting. Every pirate captain doubtless had his own set of rules, but there are certain traditional articles that seem to have been generally adopted. The captain had a state cabin, a double vote in elections, a double share of booty. On some vessels it was the captain who decided in what direction to sail, but this and other matters of moment were often settled by a vote of the company, the captain's vote counting for two.

The officers had a share and a half or a share and a quarter of the plunder and the sailors one share each. Booty was divided with scrupulous care, and marooning was the penalty of attempting to defraud the general company, if only to the amount of a single goldpiece. Every man had a full vote in every affair of importance.

Arms were always to be clean and fit for service, and desertion of the ship or quarters in battle was punished with death. On one famous pirate's ship a man who was crippled in battle received $800 out of the common stock, and a proportionate sum was awarded for lesser hurts. Another allowed $725 for the loss of a limb, and other captains instituted a sort of tariff of wounds which extended to ears, fingers and toes.

In chase or battle the captain's power was absolute. He who first spied a sail, if she proved to be a prize, was entitled to the best pair of pistols on board her over and above his dividend. Those pistols were greatly coveted, and a pair would sell for as much as $150 from one pirate to another.

In their own commonwealth the pirates were reported to have been severe upon the point of honor, and among one crew it was the practice to slit the ears or nose of any sailor found guilty of robbing his fellow. — New York Dispatch.

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