Monday, September 19, 2005

I. Every man has a vote in affairs of moment; has equal title to the fresh provisions, or strong liquors, at any time seized, and may use them at pleasure, unless a scarcity makes necessary, for the good of all, to vote a retrenchment.

II. Every man to be called fairly in turn, by list, on board of prizes because, they were on these occasions allowed a shift of clothes: but if they defrauded the company to the value of a dollar in plate, jewels, or money, marooning was their punishment. If the robbery was only betwixt one another, they contented themselves with slitting the ears and nose of him that was guilty, and set him on shore, not in an uninhabited place, but somewhere, where he was sure to encounter hardships.

III. No person to game at cards or dice for money.

IV. The lights and candles to be put out at eight o'clock at night: if any of the crew, after that hour still remained inclined for drinking, they were to do it on the open deck.

V. To keep their piece, pistols, and cutlass clean and fit for service.

VI. No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man were to be found seducing any of the latter sex, and carried her to sea, disguised, he was to suffer death.

VII. To desert their ship or quarters in battle, was punished with death or marooning.

VIII. No striking one another on board, but every man's quarrels to be ended on shore, at sword and pistol.

IX. No man to talk of breaking up their way of living, till each had shared £1,000. If in order to this, any man should lose a limb, or become a cripple in their service, he was to have 800 dollars, out of the public stock, and for lesser hurts, proportionately.

X. The captain and quartermaster to receive two shares of prize: the master, boatswain, and gunner, one share and a half, and other officers one and a quarter.

XI. The musicians to have rest on the Sabbath Day, only by night, but the other six days and nights, not without special favour.
CLARIFICATION: The above was my contribution to National Talk Like a Pirate Day. It is taken from Captain Johnson's General History of the Pirates, and forms the laws drawn up by Batholomew Roberts and his crew. Roberts was a dread pirate, taking over four hundred ships in his career, and quite happy to engage in torture to get his way.

He did occasionally leave captives alive.

Article XI probably stems from Roberts himself, who loved music. Indeed, if he hadn't been the sort of person who would keel-haul you as soon as look at you, he might have been called a dandy. At his last battle he was "dressed in a rich damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his hat, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond cross hanging on it." (Captain Johnson, again). Captain Johnson does not say whether this cross was the same as that which was intended for the King of Portugal, and which Roberts took along with vast amounts of gold, chains, jewels, sugar, and tobacco from a Portuguese fleet.

Roberts' men, too, had their foppish moments, when they weren't bastinado'ing some poor soul. I've removed Captain Johnson's comments from the articles above, but for Article V he remarks that
in this [keeping piece, pistols, and cutlass clean] they were extravagantly nice, endeavouring to outdo one another in the beauty and the richness of their arms, giving sometimes at an auction (at the mast) £30 or £40 a pair for pistols. These were slung in time of service, with different coloured ribbands over their shoulders in a way peculiar to these fellows, in which they took great delight
Johnson also mentions that Article VI was to prevent "division and quarrel". The success thereof I cannot speak to.


Steve said...

Hmm ... was the drafter of this constitution a relation of a certain Supreme Court nominee?

Odious said...

Absolutely. And very few people are aware that piracy is hereditary. Observe the following exchange before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

BIDEN: Do you think the state--well, just talk to me as a father. Don't talk to me--just tell me, just philosophically, what do you think? Do you think that is--not what the Constitution says, what do you feel?

ROBERTS: I'm not going to consider issues like that in the context as a father or a husband or anything else.

Emphasis mine! Clearly, the "anything else" is code for "a pirate". Roberts is refusing to answer the most pertinent question of what his actions would be as the first pirate Supreme Court Justice.

Moreover, his son is named Jack.

Anonymous said...

"Captain Johnson" is supposed to have been a pseudonym of Daniel Defoe. His book is good fun but he reports dialogue that cannot have been recorded, etc., so the pirates' Articles need to be taken with a pinch of sea-salt.