19th Century Child Education and Employment in England:

In 19th century England, eighty per cent of the population were working class, and would have lived below the bread-line.

Education was not free, except for the poorest of families, and that counted for a high percentage of children.  Many families, thought it was more important to send their child out to work, and put food on the table, than send them to school, to get an education.

In the early part of the 19th century, Parliament passed an Act to curtail child labour, but enforcing it proved impossible.

1833, was a turning point, when a new law was passed, banning children under nine, working in textile factories.  Reformers had been publicising children’s working conditions, comparing their way of life as cheap labourers, and were treated like slaves.  What a co-incidence, the British Empire outlawed slavery in 1833-34.

Grants were provided to church schools, to educate the poorest of children.  Dame schools were also setup, offering reading, writing and arithmetic undertaken by women, but it has been suggested, these were no more than a form of child minding services.

In 1844 a law came into force, making it illegal for children under the age of eight, to work in coalmines.  Then the Factory Act of 1847 stated women and children could only work ten hours per day.

Workers had reached a time, when they needed somebody to speak on their behalf, and so the national trade unions were formed in 1850-1860 for skilled craftsmen.  The TUC wasn’t formed until 1868.

Fosters Education Act of 1870 was a time when the Government was forced to take responsibility for the education of England’s children; schooling should be provided for all children.  The exploitation of children had gone on for much of the 19th century, including the barbaric practice sending small boys up chimneys for the purpose of cleaning them.  In 1875 a law came into force, banning this practice.

The unskilled workers became an organised union in 1880.

Compulsory school attendance for five to ten year olds came into force in 1880, as attitudes towards children changed, and so the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was founded in 1889.  In 1891 school fees were abolished.  Then in 1899 the school leaving age was raised from ten to twelve.

It was a far different lifestyle for those that had money.  Middle Class families would send their sons to grammar schools, whilst their daughters went to private schools, being taught the finer attributes in life for their future; music, dancing and sewing.  Upper Class families on the other hand would send their sons to public schools like Harrow or Eaton, and their daughters would be taught by a governess.

With Government legislation and the NSPCC children’s lives were beginning to see a change by the latter part of the 19th century.

No longer were they being treated as little adults, and their childhood being exploited by ruthless businesses.  They were free to live the life of a child, attend school and gain an education for their future.

High Seas Pirates: Calico Jack – Anne Bonny Mary Read…

Anne Cormac was born around 1700 in Kinsdale, County Cork, Ireland to parents William Cormac a lawyer and Mary Brennan his servant.  They moved to North America, where her father had a shaky start to his new life, until he joined a merchant business and made his fortune.

Aged 13, Anne stabbed a servant girl with a table knife, displaying her fiery temper.  Later she married James Bonny a small-time pirate, and was disowned by her father.  Around 1714, she moved to New Providence Island, better known as “Pirates Republic.”

In 1718 James Bonny became informer to the Governor; Woodes Rogers.

Mary Read was born in Plymouth around 1690, and when her father a sailor went to sea and never returned, her life would change.  Mary was dressed in boy’s clothes by her mother to receive financial aid, and found dressed as a male had its advantages.

She later married a soldier, and they owned the “Three Horseshoes” in Breda, Holland, sadly he died and the money ran out.

She dressed again as a man, going to sea on a Dutch merchant ship bound for the Caribbean’s.  Bored of her legitimate life, she joined “Calico Jack” after he had taken over their ship and turned pirate.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read became close friends, discovering each other’s cross dressing secret.

Bonny became the lover of pirate; “Calico Jack” captain of the Revenge.  Bonny divorced her husband James and married Calico Jack at sea, and had his child in Cuba.

Bonny, Calico Jack and Mary Read took the Revenge and recruited a new crew, spending much time in the area’s surrounding Jamaica.  They were fear by many ships…

In October of 1720 they came under attack by a “King’s Ship” commanded by Jonathan Barnet commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica.  They were overwhelmed, captured, convicted and sentenced to be hanged as pirates.

After the sentence had been passed, both Anne Bonny and Mary Read, pleaded their cause to the court, asking for mercy, as they were both with child.  In accordance with English common law, both women were given a stay of execution until they gave birth.  Mary Read died in prison from a fever prior to childbirth.  As for Bonny; no records indicate her release or execution.

Some accounts suggest her father paid for her release, and after the child was born, she settled down for a quiet life on a Caribbean Island.

On the other hand, her father paid for her release, according to historical records.  She gave birth to Jack Rackham’s (Calico Jack’s) child in 1721, married one Joseph Burleigh and gave birth to a further eight children and died on the 25th April 1782 in South Carolina.

Another account suggests her father paid for her release and she lived out her life as a tavern owner in the South of England, telling tales to the locals of her exploits…

What is fact?  What is Legend?

Legendary Pirate: Mary Read

Mary Read was born in London, England in the late seventeenth century to the wife of a sea captain. Some historical documents claim that Mary Read was disguised as a boy so that her father would believe that she was his son, whom had died while Mary’s father was at sea, asserting that Mary Read was supposedly the by-product of an illicit affair that her mother had engaged in with an unknown man. Other documents state that Mary’s mother was a widow, and simply wished for her daughter to have all of the advantages offered to a man. Either way, history agrees that Mary Read lived her entire childhood as a boy.

Mary Read’s mothers’ deception apparently paid off, for after the death of her husband she was able to secure his company and holdings as an inheritance for his “son”, Mary. The little family was able to survive nicely for some time, until Mary’s early teen years, when the money ran out. At this time Mary was forced to procure employment in order to support herself and her mother. Still disguised as a boy, Mary found a job as a footboy to a wealthy French woman living in London. Mary was not happy in her position, and soon managed to run away. Being a girl who longed for excitement, Mary found new employment aboard a Man-o-War, but life on such a ship was not what she had expected.

After a few years of gruelling hardship and abuse, Mary managed to jump ship and joined the British military. At first a lowly foot soldier, Mary showed true bravery at the battle of Flanders and was soon promoted to the Horse Regiment. While in the Horse Regiment Mary became friends with another soldier, who believed her to be a man, and soon she found herself in love. Mary confessed her true gender to the man and he accepted her gladly. The two were wed posthaste. They bought out their commission in the military and together opened an inn by the name of The Three Horseshoes.

The first time Mary lived life as a woman, and she and her husband prospered and were happy for a time, but it was not to last. Mary’s husband died and, once again, Mary became a man. She left her inn and joined the military again, but the life of a soldier no longer brought her pleasure, perhaps because of sentiment for her deceased husband. Leaving the military, Mary hopped aboard a ship bound for the West Indies. While on route, the ship she was on was attacked and captured by Captain Calico Jack Rackham and his pirate mistress, Anne Bonny.

Anne Bonny, a lusty woman if there ever was one, spied Mary Read in her men’s clothing and marked her as a new sexual conquest. Approaching what she thought was the young man, Anne was surprised to find another woman like herself, and the two became friends, with Anne swearing to keep Mary’s secret. The secret could not be kept for long, however. Captain Jack had become suspicious of all the time Anne had been spending with the young sailor and confronted the two, cutlass drawn. Mary Read was once again forced to reveal herself. Fortunately, the idea of two female pirates on his crew appealed to Rackham, and so Mary Read became the newest member aboard the ship.

During her tour aboard Rackham’s ship, Mary managed to fall in love once more, this time with a young sailor from a vessel captured by Rackham’s crew. The sailor soon had trouble on his hands, however, in the shape of a large, burly pirate of longstanding. Mary feared for her lover’s life when he was challenged to a duel by the strapping seaman, and so she took matters into her own hands. She challenged the big pirate to a duel herself, demanding satisfaction immediately. Pirate law was clear on this matter, and the quartermaster promptly rowed the two combatants ashore. Mary and the other pirate, armed with both cutlass and pistol, discharged their pistols first thing, both missing the other, then proceeded with an ambitious clash of blades. The larger pirate was the stronger of the two, but Mary was a quick girl, and brilliantly cunning. She studiously avoided the other pirate’s attacks, all the while waiting for him to make a mistake. It came when the pirate stumbled while lunging at her, and Mary immediately seized the opportunity. She ripped her shirt open, exposing her breasts to the man’s incredulous gaze. While he stood gaping, Mary swung her own cutlass and nearly decapitated him, killing him instantly.

With no one to duel but a dead man, Mary’s sailor love proposed to her and the two were married. Their wedded bliss did not last long, however, for soon after their nuptials Captain Jack, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read were taken prisoner. They were all tried for the charges of piracy at St. Jago de la Vega and subsequently sentenced to hang.

Mary Read and Anne Bonny were both pregnant at the time, and managed to receive stays of execution until after the births of their children. While this probably saved Anne Bonny’s life, it mattered nought for Mary Read, for she died while in prison in 1720, her unborn babe with her, of a fever causing malady.

Before she died Mary made a last statement to the court. She was heard proclaiming “As to hanging, it is no great hardship. For were it not for that, every cowardly fellow would turn pirate and so unfit the sea, that men of courage must starve.” For Mary Read, who had always been a woman in a man’s world, in the end it all came down to courage.

Legendary Pirate: Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny was born March 8, 1700, in County Cork, Ireland, the illegitimate daughter of a prominent lawyer and his wife’s maid. The ensuing scandal forced him to flee Ireland with his lover and daughter in disgrace, but the little family found refuge in the Carolinas. There Cormac amassed a fortune and bought a large plantation.

When Anne was sixteen, a ne’er-do-well sailor named James Bonny married Anne in an attempt to steal the plantation, but Anne’s father instead disowned her. Bonny then took Anne to the pirate lair of New Providence in the Bahamas, where he turned stoolpigeon to Governor Woodes Rogers, accusing any sailor he didn’t like of piracy for a handsome reward.

Anne grew to dislike her spineless husband and spent most of her time with the pirate elite. Her best friends consisted of the pirates’ paramours and of Pierre, the most celebrated homosexual on the island, who ran a popular ladies’ establishment— and with whom Anne had a teasing rivalry for the favours of the male population.

Anne first managed to capture the attentions of Chidley Bayard, one of the richest men in the Carribean— although in order to keep him she had to duel his current lover, a violent Spanish beauty named Maria Reynaldi, who, it was rumoured, had once decapitated a child who had inadvertantly dirtied her skirts, in a fight to the death. It was rumoured that in her youth, Anne had killed a servant woman with a carving knife because the servant made her mad. However, one story suggests that the servant attacked Anne, who was forced to defend herself. She enjoyed spending his money, and travelled with him everywhere— until, at a ball, she met up with the spiteful sister-in-law of Governor Lawes of Jamaica. When the woman, after asking Anne catty questions about her position in Bayard’s life, rudely told Anne that she didn’t consider Anne worth knowing and to keep her distance. Anne cheerfully told her she’d make sure there was quite a bit of distance between them— and promptly punched the woman in the mouth, knocking out two of her teeth in the process.

Anne was nearly hauled off to jail, but Bayard’s great power managed to keep her free. However, he could no longer take her with him on his business trips, and so his use for her diminished.

With Bayard away for much of the time, Anne tired of him before long, and quickly caught the eye of one Calico Jack Rackham, a pirate of some renown. Governor Rogers had recently passed an amnesty for pirates which left Bonny out of work. The attraction between Anne and Jack was mutual. Calico Jack was a handsome rogue who knew how to spend money as well as steal it. Anne was a well-endowed lass with a fiery spirit and a temper to match.

Many of the ex-pirates were getting bored with the humdrum life on shore, and Jack was no different. He decided to go back to sea with another pirate, Captain Charles Vane, but when he announced his plans to Anne, she refused to stay ashore and wait for him. She would go a-pirating, too. And so they began a life of piracy together.

Anne often wore men’s clothing, and was an expert with pistol and rapier, proving herself to be as dangerous as any male pirate. Fearless in battle, she was often a member of the boarding party when a prize was about to be taken.

Not long after they went to sea, Anne discovered she was pregnant. At first dismayed at the prospect of becoming a mother, she pleaded with Jack to keep the secret, and stayed on the ship until her condition became obvious, at which time she went ashore for the remainder of her pregnancy.

By the time she went ashore, Anne looked forward to the baby’s arrival, even hoping that she might have a girl, a sign that perhaps she was ready to settle down. But the baby, a girl just as Anne had hoped, was born two months premature, and died within an hour of her birth.

Anne was devastated. She wept bitter tears, convinced that she had caused the death of her tiny daughter. To her, life had lost its flavor. When Jack came back to retrieve his lady, he was shocked at her condition, and took her back to New Providence to recover. The amnesty had been extended for another year, and Jack intended to take advantage of it.

Shortly after their return, Anne learned through her old friend Pierre of a plot to kill Governor Rogers, and relayed the information to the governor, saving his life. Governor Rogers was naturally extremely grateful. But Anne’s husband, James, who was still on the island, was determined to get even with Anne and Jack for openly flaunting their affair under his nose. He had them arrested in the middle of the night and brought before Governor Rogers as quickly as the soldiers could drag the lovers. Jack offered to buy Anne from Bonny, but Bonny, knowing his wife’s temper, refused, saying, “She’ll kill me if she’s set free!” Dryly Governor Rogers asked, “Then she’ll hang for murder. Are you so afraid of her, then?” The answer was obvious to all.

Governor Rogers, remembering the favor Anne had done him recently, waived the standard punishment for the crime— temporarily. He said that unless Jack could persuade Bonny to a divorce-by-sale, the pair must give up their consorting, or Anne was to be flogged— by Jack himself—and returned to her husband. Anne was furious that anyone could even consider selling her like an animal. Refusing to be dictated to, Jack and Anne slipped out to the harbour the next night, stole a sloop and took up pirating again.

In October of 1720, retribution was close at hand. Governor Lawes of Jamaica, hearing of Jack’s presence, sent an armed sloop to intervene and capture the Captain and crew. Jack and Anne were aboard the Providence, a sloop newly-captured by Mary Read, another female pirate. Having just captured a fishing boat the day before, the pirates were making merry with the fishermen’s rum. The Providence was caught by surprise, the male pirates being drunk at the time, and much to Anne’s dismay, instead of fighting, the men hid in the hold and were taken far too easily. Anne and Mary Read were also captured, but confessed their true gender. At their trial, when asked if they had any words to say before they were sentenced, Anne spoke up for both of them: “We plead our bellies, sir!” Both women were pregnant at the time. They received separate trials from the men, but were sentenced to hang after the birth of their babies. When Calico Jack, who at his trial had pleaded for mercy on behalf of the women, was granted a special favor to see Anne on the day he was to hang, Anne’s words to him were, “I’m sorry, Jack. But if you had fought like a man, you would not now be about to die like a dog. Do straighten yourself up!”

Mary Read escaped the hangman by dying from fever while in jail, her unborn babe dying with her.

Anne, however, received several stays of execution before mysteriously vanishing from official records. The most common story is that her father, who had contacts in the island, forgave his daughter for her acts and ransomed her back to the Carolinas, where she assumed a new name and a new life. She was twenty years old.

However, according to the book Mistress of the Seas, by John Carlova, Anne, whose unborn child was fathered not by Jack but by a Dr. Michael Radcliffe, a man whose life Anne had saved and who dearly loved her and vowed to save her from the hangman’s noose, was granted a pardon by Governor Lawes on the condition that she leave the West Indies and never return. (Rumour also had it that another pirate, a Captain Roberts, sent a letter to Governor Lawes, “telling him to let Anne Bonny go or feel the thunder of his pirate guns from Port Royal to Kingston and back again.”) She and Michael were then married (Anne was now a widow, her previous husband, James Bonny, who had become a turtler, having drowned in a hurricane in the Bahamas), and two days later they boarded a trading sloop bound for Norfolk, Virginia. There they were known to have joined a party of pioneers heading westward… and there is where Anne’s known trail ends.

Slave Trade Abolition Acts: 1807/1833

As Europeans settled in America, in the 16th century, they imported enslaved African workers.  As settlements grew so did the demand for slaves.  Over the next 300 years, close to eleven million enslaved people were transported across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to America and the West Indies, with Britain leading this trade from the mid 17th century.  Ports such as Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow sent out many slave ships each year, bringing great prosperity to their owners.  Many other cities also grew rich on the profits of industries which depended on slave-produced materials such as cotton, sugar and tobacco.

The call in Britain to abolish slavery began in the 1760’s supported by both black and white abolitionists.  Pro-slavery campaigners argued that the slave trade was important to British economy and claimed that enslaved Africans were well treated.  However frequent rebellions by enslaved Africans and evidence of the appalling conditions endured by them led to growing calls to abolish the slave trade.  In 1807 Parliament passed an Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which abolished the trade by Britain in enslaved people between Africa, the West Indies and America.

It was clear that enslaved people were being harshly treated and many resisted and rebelled against their enslavement.  In 1833 Parliament passed a 2nd act to abolish slavery in the British West Indies, Canada and Southern Africa, making it illegal to buy or own a person.  However, slavery continued in other parts of the British Empire including area’s run by the East India Company, Sri Lanka and St.Helena.  From 1808 until 1869 the Royal Navy seized over 1600 slave ships, freeing some 150.000 Africans, despite this a further one million people were enslaved and transported throughout the 19th century.

The Slave Trade

Enslavement is a result and cause of racism.  A belief that some people were considered inferior which allowed Europeans to set up trade in African enslaved people in the 1520’s.  It encouraged white’s to believe that cruelty and capture of enslaved people, the inhuman conditions on the slave-ships and harsh treatment the enslaved received in the Americas was justified.  Enslavement has also caused racism by setting up a stereotype of black people as victims in the past.

The British Slave Trade enslaved people was a three-legged voyage; from British ports to West Africa, where enslaved people were bought with guns and equipment.  Then came the dreaded middle passage to the Americas, with as many people as possible crammed below decks.  The enslaved were sold in the southern states of the USA, and the Caribbean Islands, to work on sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations.  The merchant ships would take these products back to Britain on the last leg of their journey.  Profits from this trade made merchants rich, and provided capital for new enterprises in the early years of the Industrial Revolution.

The enslaved people worked in gangs on plantations, consisting of men and women, driven on by the whip of the overseer.  They would be expected to work for ten or twelve hours per day in the hot tropical sun for six days a week.  Other enslaved people worked as servants.  The fact that they could be bought or sold away from the plantation at any time made it very difficult to maintain any form of family life.

From the 17th century, gangs of runaways known as Maroons in Jamaica set up independent communities who resisted white owners and soldiers, which often broke out into open conflict, such as the Maroon Wars of 1730-1740 and 1795-1796.  There were slave revolts in Antigua in 1735, Tacky’s revolt in Jamaica in 1760, Kofi’s revolt in Guyana in 1763, in Granada in 1795-1797, and the list of battles goes on. 

The campaign to abolish enslavement started out as a peaceful mass protest movement of modern times.  Leading white abolitionists one Granville Sharpe helped black people fight test cases in the courts.  Thomas Clarkson collected evidence of cruelty of the slave trade and William Wilberforce fought for legislation in Parliament.  They worked with black abolitionist campaigners, such as Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cuguano.  Mary Prince who had been enslaved for part of her life, wrote about her experiences which helped to influence the eventual abolition of enslavement in 1833.

Clearly, the campaign to abolish enslavement did not end in 1833.  Plantation owners still used forced labour in the form of indentured workers, especially on tobacco plantations.  Being an indentured worker, meant you should be fairly treated and even though you received no payment for your work, you would be given proper food and somewhere to stay.  In actual fact indentured workers were often treated no better than enslaved workers, with beatings, and even death.

However that was not the end of enslavement in the Americas.  It was not abolished in America until 1863, after a bloody Civil War had been fought over the issue. 

History of Slavery

England’s involvement in the slave trade goes back to a time, when the Romans invaded our country, and ruled this land of ours. Romans under the command of Julius Ceasar found the early English man lacked knowledge, thus reducing their prices when sold as slaves at markets.

The enslavement of people during the Roman Occupation of Britain continued for many hundreds of years, some British slaves ended up being sold in Rome’s slave market during the seventh century AD.  

Domestic slavery – usually called ‘serfdom’ – were bought and sold with the estate on which they had to work for a fixed number of days a year without payment; they could only marry with their lord’s consent, could not leave the estate and had few legal rights, yet they suffered little from physical abuse.

Britons were also enslaved by the Barbary pirates. Some of the British enslaved by the north Africans were used as galley slaves, other sold off into life of slavery. 

Britain and the Slave Trade

Britain followed in the footsteps of the Portuguese in voyaging to the west coast of Africa and enslaving Africans. The British participation was started by Sir John Hawkins with financial investment by Queen Elizabeth I in 1573.  Britain became a major trader in slavery from the seventeenth century onwards, and retained this position till 1807.

The trade became a very lucrative business. Bristol grew rich on it, then Liverpool. London also dealt in slaves as did some of the smaller British ports.  Ships laden with trade goods (guns and ammunition, rum, metal goods and cloth) sailed to the ‘Slave Coast’, exchanged the goods for human beings, packed them into the vessels like sardines and sailed them across the Atlantic. On arrival, those lucky to have survived alive were put on the auction block.

Plantation and mine-owners bought the Africans. In the British Colonies slaves were treated as non-humans: they wore ‘chattels’, and were worked to death, as it was cheaper to purchase another slave than to keep one alive. The enslaved in the British Colonies had no legal rights as they were not human – they were not permitted to marry and couples and their children were often sold off separately.

Roman Catholics often treated their slaves more humanely than those of the Protestant faith.  Roman Catholics did not deny Africans their humanity and made attempts at conversion, while British slaveowners forbade church attendance. The enslavement of Africans was justified in Britain by claiming that they were barbaric savages, without laws or religions, and, according to some ‘observers’ and academics, without even a language; they would acquire civilisation on the plantations.

In the 1770s, some Christians in Britain began to question this interpretation of the Bible. They began a campaign to convert the population to their perspective and to influence Parliament by forming anti-slavery associations. Slavery was declared a sin. According to William Wilberforce, the main abolitionist spokesperson in Parliament, it was this fear of not going to heaven that impelled him to carry on the abolitionist struggle for over 20 years.

Parliamentarians and others who could read, or had the time to attend meetings, were well informed about slavery by the books published by two ex-slaves, Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano; Equiano and Thomas Clarkson lectured up and down the country, and in Ireland.

The Act making it illegal for Britons to participate in the trade in enslaved Africans was passed by Parliament in March 1807, after some 20 years of campaigning. It is somewhat curious that many of the chief – including Quaker – were importers of slave-grown produce.

A few Britons – including the British Africans – were not content with abolition and campaigned for the emancipation of slaves. This was another long struggle. Among the most forceful were the women abolitionists, who, being denied a voice by the men, formed their own organisations and went door-knocking, asking people to stop using slave-grown products such as sugar and tobacco. The most outspoken was probably Elizabeth Heyrick who believed in immediate emancipation, as opposed to the men who supported gradual freedom.

This battle was won when Parliament passed the Emancipation Act in 1833; as the struggle was led by men, it was for gradual emancipation. But protests, often violent in the West Indies, resulted in freedom in 1838. The slave owners were granted £20 million compensation; all the freed received the opportunity to labour, to work less than living wages.

This Act only freed the enslaved in the West Indies, Cape Town, Mauritius and Canada. Slavery continued in the rest of the British Empire. Even the importation of slaves into a British colony continued – into Mauritius, obtained from the French after the Napoleonic Wars, where importation was not stopped until around 1820.

Africans have lived in Britain since they arrived as troops within the Roman armies. They began to appear in parish records of births and deaths from the sixteenth century.  The famous decision by Chief Justice Lord Mansfield in 1772 in the case of James Somerset, taken to court by activist Granville Sharp, merely stated that Africans could not be exported from the UK to the West Indies as slaves. There was no consistency in the many court judgements on the legality of slavery in Great Britain.

As there was almost nothing done to ensure that the Acts were obeyed, slave traders continued their activities, as did the shipbuilders. Information about this was sent to Parliament by the abolitionists, some of the captains in the Anti-Slavery Squadrons and British consular officials in slave-worked Cuba and Brazil. Investigations were held, more Acts were passed, but all to no avail, as no means of enforcement was put in place in Britain. All the government did was to set up the Anti-Slavery Squadron – at first comprised of old, semi-derelict naval vessels, unfit for the coastal conditions. To enable them to stop slavers of other nationalities, Britain entered into treaties with other slaving countries. But these were also ignored. The slave trade continued, unabated.

Britain not only continued to build slaving vessels, but it financed the trade, insured it, crewed some of it, Britain also manufactured about 80 per cent of the goods traded for slaves on the Coast.

The Squadron did capture some slaving vessels. These were taken to the courts set up in Sierra Leone. If the ship was condemned, the Africans on board were freed and settled in Freetown, a British colony. The ship’s crew were given prize money. When Freetown grew over crowded, some of these ‘Liberated Africans’ were dispatched to the Caribbean as ‘apprentices’; others were induced to enter the military.

It was no more difficult to evade the Acts making it illegal for Britons to hold slaves than it was to circumvent the Abolition Act. In India where, according to Sir Bartle Frere, there were about 9 million slaves in 1841, slavery was not outlawed till 1868. In other British colonies emancipation was not granted until almost 100 years after the 1833 Emancipation Act: Malaya in 1915; Burma in 1926; Sierra Leone in 1927. Britons owned slave-worked mines and plantations and invested in countries which were dependent on slave labour until the 1880s when slavery was finally abolished in the Americas.

In fact, the role of slavery in Britain’s wealth did not diminish. Vast amounts of slave-grown tobacco were imported from the southern states in the USA, and then from Cuba and Brazil. When the amount of sugar now grown by free labour in the Caribbean colonies did not satisfy British consumers, slave-grown sugar was imported. Despite campaigns pointing out that this would increase the trade in slaves, the import duty on free-grown and slave-grown sugar was equalised in 1848. Much of the imported sugar was exported, earning Britain even more money.

Over 80 per cent of the cotton imported was slave-grown. It is probable that about 20 per cent of the British labour force was one way or another involved in the importation and manufacturing and then the export of cotton cloth. Bankers, manufacturers, shippers, traders, weavers, printers, dyers, shipbuilders and many others earned a living or made a fortune from cotton. There were very few protests about the importation of slave-grown cotton, compared with the protests about sugar. Clearly, it was more important economically to the wealth of the UK.

Britain, partly due to its new-found wealth, also needed some African products: this ‘legitimate’ trade, producing coffee, cocoa, gold, some minerals and palm oil, was usually supported by various forms of domestic slavery or serfdom. Naturally the European export firms wanted the cheapest possible product! Once colonial administrations were established, labour was needed to construct roads to improve the transport of these products – this was almost invariably what was euphemistically called ‘contract’ or ‘forced’ labour… temporary enslavement.

Support for slavery was demonstrated during the American Civil War in the 1860s. Some Britons ignored the declared neutrality of the UK and raised millions of pounds to support the pro-slavery Confederates. Many ships, both merchant and war, were built for them with total impunity, despite the official neutrality, which made supporting either side illegal.

History of Piracy

The history of piracy dates back more than 3000 years. The Greek historian Plutarch, wrote around 100 A.D., gave his definition of piracy. He described pirates as those who attack without legal authority. Piracy was described for the first time, among others, in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Norse riders of the 9th and 11th century AD were not considered pirates but rather, were called “Danes” or “Vikings”. Another popular meaning of the word in medieval England was “sea thieves”. The meaning of the word pirate most closely tied to the contemporary was established in the XVIII century AD. This definition dubbed pirates “outlaws” whom even persons who were not soldiers could kill. The first application of international law actually involved anti-pirate legislation. This is due to the fact that most pirate acts were committed outside the borders of any country.

Sometimes governments gave rights to the pirates to represent them in their wars. The most popular form was to give a license to a private sailor to attack enemy shipping on behalf of a specific king – Privateer. Very often a privateer when caught by the enemy was tried as an outlaw notwithstanding the license. Below we tried to outline a selective history of piracy, selective and arbitrary because there is so much that can be said about piracy and it is impossible to tell all. We hope that even this brief introduction will show the spirit and truth about the piracy the way we see it.

One of the oldest documents (inscription on a clay tablet) describing pirates dates back to Pharo Echnaton (1350 BC).

The most notorious of the Medieval prates were Vikings . Vikings was the name of the Nordic people—Danes, Swedes, Norwegians—who explored abroad during a period of dynamic Scandinavian expansion from about AD 800 to 1100.

The first recorded Viking raid was a seaborne assault in 793 by Vikings on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England. Growing evidence indicates that considerable overseas Viking migration occurred long before then. Vikings went deep into the Russian hinterland, founding city-states and opening the way to Constantinople (Istanbul). Vikings also fought the Carolingian Empire until in 911 they accepted by treaty the area of Normandy in northern France and settled there.

In the 11th century Vikings briefly established a Scandinavian empire of the North Sea, composed of England, Denmark, and Norway. On the other hand piracy was also the problem in the Far East.

With the decline of central authority in China toward the end of the 13th century, piracy began to increase along the China coast. Using ships large enough to carry 300 men, the pirates would land and sometimes plunder whole villages. For instance during the 1550s corsair fleets looted the Shanghai-Ning-po region almost annually, sometimes sending raiding parties far inland to terrorize cities and villages throughout the whole Yangtze Delta. Although coastal raiding was not totally suppressed, it was brought under control in the 1560s As we already said in the Far East operated wako pirates, in Japan’s civil wars during the early part of this period. any of the groups of marauders who raided the Korean and Chinese coasts between the 13th and 16th centuries. When denied trading privileges, the Japanese were quick to resort to violence to ensure their profits. By the 14th century, piracy had reached serious proportions in Korean waters. It gradually declined after 1443, when the Koreans made a treaty with various Japanese feudal leaders, permitting the entry of 50 Japanese trade ships a year, a number that was gradually increased.

Originally mainly Japanese, in later times the pirates were of mixed origin; by the early 16th century, the majority of them were probably Chinese. Basing themselves on islands off the Chinese coast, the pirates eventually made their main headquarters on the island of Taiwan, where they remained for over a century.

The mere mention of the words “pirate” or “privateer” conjures up images of daring swashbucklers, bloodthirsty scoundrels and wicked rogues of the sea. As a nation, we have been reared on the media’s portrayal of pirates as either improbably romantic and dashing heroes or incorrigible villains. There has been no in-between. While it is true that there were several pirates and privateers that more than lived up to this reputation for evil, it is also true that as a nation we owe a great deal of our history to those very same pirates. In fact, the vast majority of historical pirates were nowhere close to the levels of villainy that have been attributed to them. During the so-called “Golden Age” of piracy, in the mid to late 18th century and early 19th century, the deeds of many pirates and privateers would prove to be invaluable to the development of the United States as an emerging world power. To understand the ramifications of this statement, one must first understand exactly what it is to be a pirate. Webster’s dictionary defines piracy simply as “an act of robbery on the high seas; also: an act resembling such robbery.” A pirate is someone who conducts such acts. There is another term that is often confused in its relation to that definition. Whereas a pirate commits such acts for personal gain, a privateer commits them ostensibly for the good of a patron nation. As Admiral Ernest Eller points out, “Privateering, on the other hand, was a distinguished practice whereby a sovereign power granted its commission and recognition to private armed vessels to prey on enemy shipping.

Other terms that are often confused and misused as they regard to piracy are common in the English language. Pirates, corsairs and buccaneers are commonly lumped together as one and the same, although they mean different things. Corsairs were pirates who operated exclusively in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, while buccaneers, or “boucaniers” were actually runaway sailors and deserters who made their way to the waters of the Caribbean Sea, where they kept themselves alive by roasting stolen cattle on makeshift grills called “boucans” by the French. Considering how much confusion we experience merely in using the proper names for pirates, it is easy to see that most people actually know very little about the truth of pirates and privateers.

Lest anyone think that all our conceptions are wrong, it must be pointed out that many pirates were indeed very wicked men. In fact, the city of Port Royal, Jamaica was pronounced to be “the wickedest city on Earth.” It had become known across the world as a den and haven for pirates. They off-loaded their ill-gotten gains there, and spent many nights in a state of drunken debauchery over the years, until the sea swallowed the entire city in the aftermath of an underwater earthquake. The modern United States Marines were given a ceremonial sword to thank them for their defeat of the Barbary pirates. It is a symbol they still wear today, representing their triumph over those particularly evil men. The reputation of piracy is not undeserved. But it must be tempered with the knowledge that, as is so in many other cases, the reputation of some does not represent the facts of all.

The vast majority of pirates, although they could not be described as kind, were more than fair in their treatment of their crew and their captives. In fact, most pirate crews operated under a code of rules and laws referred to as “articles” that were remarkably democratic. Since most pirates came from mutinous crews of naval warships and merchant vessels, they had no desire to return to the often-tyrannical rule of a ship’s captain. Instead, most pirate captains achieved their command by vote. Even though punishments were gruesome and nearly always fatal, they were meted out with a very strict eye for fairness and discipline. Torture was rarely used by any but the most vicious of pirates, because it was simply pointless. Nobody ever really walked the plank.

The economic benefit of pirates to the colonial outposts of the European world was substantial as well. In fact, the colonial government of North Carolina enjoyed a string of beneficial arrangements with pirates. “It is true that as long as the pirates preyed on Spanish ships, and were free in spending Spanish gold and silver in Charleston, they were welcomed here, at least by those who were beneficiaries.”  One of the earliest pirates to enjoy such an arrangement was perhaps the most famous of them all. Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, was known to have special considerations with the governor of North Carolina allowing him safe passage into Carolinian harbours provided he left English shipping alone. Despite this, he was eventually hunted down and killed by a British Navy lieutenant named Robert Maynard.

As the American Revolutionary War raged, the role of privateers could not be underestimated. In fact, strictly speaking, one of the first acts of American defiance was an act of piracy. The Boston Tea Party could technically be defined as piracy. During the whole of the Revolutionary War from the years 1776 to 1782, the total number of privateering ships outnumbered the ships of the Continental Navy by a factor of eleven to one. The Continental Congress even issued a proclamation authorizing large-scale privateering against English ships.

You may, by Force of arms, attack, subdue, and take all Ships and other Vessels belonging to Subjects of the King of Great-Britain, on the High Seas, or between High-water and Low-water Marks, except… Friends to the American Cause, which you shall suffer to pass unmolested, the Commanders thereof permitting a peaceable Search, and giving satisfactory information of the Contents of Ladings, and Definitions of the Voyages.

One of the most famous privateers of the Revolutionary War was a former sailor in the Continental Navy named Joshua Barney. While in command of his slooop Pomona, he sunk or captured many English raiders and ships of war, attaining a fair amount of personal wealth while doing so. It is this personal wealth that often made the deciding factor between joining the Navy and becoming a privateer. Privateers “combined patriotism with the hope of profit.”

The influence of privateers and pirates on the developing United States did not stop at the War of Independence. Twenty-eight years later, during the War of 1812, one of the most significant battles of that conflict was decided by the deeds of well-known pirate and his band. Jean Lafitte had been extremely active and successful in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, near New Orleans. He had been conducting raids against Spanish and French shipping in the Caribbean for years, and had become quite wealthy doing it. He had over 100 pirates under his command, headquartered in the self-styled Kingdom of Barataria, hidden away on some forgotten islands off the coast of Louisiana. After he had stolen goods from the Spanish and French, he sold them to the Americans in makeshift black markets. He was actually considered a local hero by the populace, as Remini points out. “Through this efficient operation the people of the city had a steady and relatively inexpensive supply of dry goods, wine, all sorts of manufactured items, and iron.”  He was also a fervent patriot.

When the British became intent on capturing the city of New Orleans in 1812, they first approached Lafitte and tried to bribe him to aid their cause. Instead, Lafitte went straight to the governor of Louisiana to inform him of the British plan. Indeed, he offered his assistance to the American cause by saying “…I am the stray sheep, wishing to return to the sheepfold.” Governor Claiborne did not believe him and had him jailed, along with over eighty of his Baratarian pirates. When Andrew Jackson came to lead the defense of the city, he released Lafitte and accepted his offer of assistance.

Lafitte delivered, providing enough ammunition and supplies that the American artillery was able to maintain a constant bombardment of English forces and prevent them from building any type of fortification or barricade. Lafitte even fought personally, leading groups of scouts and raiding parties through the swamps and bayous against the British. Without Lafitte’s aid, it is plain that the United States would have lost control of the city of New Orleans.

In light of all the influence and benefit provided to the fledgling United States during the 18th and 19th centuries on the part of pirates and privateers, it is hard to understand why we condemn them so thoroughly. Again, it should not be overlooked that many pirates were vicious killers and torturers, like the infamous Francois L’Ollonais who forced one of his prisoners to eat the heart he had just cut out of another prisoner. Men like that should be heroes to no one. Men like Jean Lafitte, Joshua Barney and even to an extent the notorious Blackbeard deserve little of history’s condemnation. They were not saints. They were not necessarily role models in their choice of life, either. But they were invaluable to our country, and should be remembered fairly for the roles they played. Without men such as these, our nation might very well not exist.

The piracy threat which came to a head in the decade of the 60’s BC was in part due to Rome’s complacency about the issue. Rather than stamping out small pockets of pirates early on, they allowed piracy to flourish into a large force of marauders. A poor economy and oppressive social conditions also fed the pirate forces as men who were on the verge of bankruptcy discovered more profit as robbers and pillagers. Rome was unwilling to act conclusively toward the reduction of pirate forces because those forces, along with tax companies, provided slaves for the large luxury markets. The pirates did not attack Rome as an enemy, but treated all targets equally, as opportunities for profit.

Vandal and, later, Muslim piracy disrupted the vital sea routes to Africa and the East; on land the impotence of local government made communications dangerous; and ever-heavier taxation crippled trade.

As a result of the weakening of Rhodes, piracy became rampant in the eastern Mediterranean (the young Julius Caesar was captured by pirates). During the next century Roman senators did not find the political will to suppress the piracy, perhaps in part because it served their interests; pirates supplied tens of thousands of slaves for their Italian estates and disrupted the grain trade, thus raising prices for their produce in Rome.

Although the pirates ranged over much of the navigable Mediterranean, they concentrated their raids on major shipping lanes. Upon these lanes goods were transported between the far western provinces of Spain and Africa, Rome and the rest of Italy, and the eastern provinces including Macedonia, Greece, Syria and Egypt. Preferred area to set base or home port, was on the coast of present day Turkey, in an area known as Cicilia Tracheia. This area afforded great protection for the pirates. The coastline was complicated and full of twists and turns and hidden ports. As Roman influence rose the influence of the native powers, such as Seleucid Syria and Rhodes, declined. These were the people who patrolled coastal waters and controlled pirate populations. As their power was replaced by that of the Romans, their patrols were not, and the pirates grew unchecked. With Rome reluctant to crack down on the pirates Mediterranean cities began to form alliances with the pirates to avoid being plundered and terrorized since they received little protection from Rome. Many port cities provided their services and facilities to the pirates, while others paid tribute as if they were conquered. In effect, these cities became center’s of piracy.

Interestingly there was a Piracy Law during Roman Times. An inscription found at Delphi is a 100BC document that set the rules for dealing with pirates. The law stated that Roman citizens should be able to “conduct, without peril, whatever business they desire,” presumably wherever they desire. A copy of the law was to be sent by messengers of Rhodes to the kings of Cyprus, Alexandria, Egypt, Cyrene, and Syria informing them that no pirate is to “use the kingdom, land, or territory of any Roman ally as a base of operation. No official or garrison will harbour pirates and should be considered zealous collaborators for the safety of all “.

Another inscription found at Cnidos seems to be either an extension or a lost portion of the Delphi text. The Cnidos text is quite broken in the beginning, but does exhibit certain similarities. This text states that the kings of Syria, Alexandria, Egypt, Cyrene and Cyprus were to prevent the harbouring of pirates. There was even a fine of 200,000 sestertii for non compliance with the law. This law gave Rome the basis for prosecution of pirates.

According to Roman writer Plutarch in 102BC, Marcus Antonius was given a command to reduce the pirates. It seemed to be more an effort to reduce capture of Romans and provincials by pirates primarily by making a deal with a certain pirate known as Nicomedes . Between the years of 77BC and 75BC, Servilius Roman commander was sent to assist the allies of Roman province Lycia in another attempt by Rome to curtail piratical escapades. However he did not do much to damage the hard core pirates in the area of Cilicia Tracheia because little evidence has been found to support him even entering the waters off that coast (Roman writer Ormerod). In 74BC preparations were made for an all-out assault on the Cilician coast under the command of Marc Antonius. These were abandoned with the coming of the third Mithradatic War.

The number of pirates grew substantially during the wars created by Mithradates. While Mithradates was fighting on land, his navy and the pirates under his influence roamed the sea, plundering and pillaging. During his first war against Rome, Mithradates assisted the pirates by providing materials and expertise to begin coastal raiding . After the conclusion of the conflict, Mithradates’ influence with the pirates declined, but the pirate menace continued. However, Mithradates surfaced twice more, and each time was closely allied with pirate forces. By the third war, the pirates were organized more like regular fleets, and less like bands of robbers. During that time, the pirates captured Iassus, Samos, Clazomenae, and Samothrace. They even plundered the temple at Samothrace and received the equivalent of 1000 talents.

Roman historian Appian suggests that the oppressive conditions set up by Rome’s constant warfare prompted many to renounce their hopeless lives and join the pirate forces. Thus, pirates gained detailed knowledge of many ports and coastlines, providing a wider range of profitable raids. The pirates had become quite brash by this point, owning garrisons and supply depots manned by “fine crews and expert pilots.”

During the turbulent 70’s, the Romans were engaged in various civil wars. While the Romans were thus employed, pirates grew bolder still, leaving the water they knew so well and venturing onto land, raiding islands and coastal cities. They marched up Roman roads and captured those they encountered. These included the two praetors Sextilius and Bellinus with their lictors and servants on the Appian Way. A ransom was demanded (and delivered) for the return of the daughter of Antonius. This was the very same Antonius who led the first campaign against the pirates (Cicero).

Caesar too, was captured by the pirates near the island of Pharmcusa shortly after escaping from Sulla’s soldiers in 75BC. For some reason, the pirates took a liking to Caesar and instead of executing him for his insolence, they tolerated his posturing. When the pirates set a ransom of 20 talents, Caesar scoffed them and set it at 50, claiming he was worth more. During the month and a half he was detained, Caesar joined the pirates in their revels. He wrote poetry and presented it to the pirates. If they didn’t respond properly, he would chastise them. When he wanted to sleep, he ordered them to be quiet. Indeed, he hardly seemed a prisoner. He even joked that he would come back and kill them all. After his release, Caesar took ships from the harbour of Moletus, and captured those pirates as they lay on the beach. Caesar didn’t agree with Junius, governor of Asia, as to the fate of those pirates and therefore went off and did as he wished. He crucified the lot, although Ormerod says Caesar first slit their throats in an apparent act of mercy.

Men of “wealth and good family,” in the words of Plutarch, joined the pirate forces as “soldiers of fortune” gained a reputation of glory and wealth. Ships with gilded sails, purple draping and silvered oars became the mark of the pirate ship as their standard of living rose.

Plutarch’s Life of Crassus describes an event whereby the pirates managed to help the Romans and profit at the same time. The slave uprise leader Spartacus booked passage for himself and 2,000 of his troops with pirates to the island of Sicily, where he planned to lead a slave revolt. According to Plutarch after being paid, or “receiving gifts” the pirates skipped town and no doubt celebrated their deception.

The supremacy of Rome was threatened by “drunken revels and flute playing” of the pirates (Plutarch). The pirates were so prevalent that trade throughout the Mediterranean was virtually halted. With 1,000 ships in service, the pirates captured or raided 400 cities, including Ostia.

Finally Rome had to do something. Roman commander Pompey was given the task to get rid of pirates. All allies were compelled to submit to his authority. He was given twenty-four proprietors and the authority to raise 120,000 troops, 4,000 cavalry, commission 270 ships, and had 6,000 talents at his disposal. Pompey devised an excellent plan to squash the pirate threat. He set up thirteen districts designed to isolate the various segments of the pirate population. The praetor, or commander, of each district was responsible for the reduction of pirates in his own district. In forty days, according to Appian, Pompey swept through the western blocks and headed to the eastern waters. His name and reputation travelled faster though, and the pirates became terrified. They quickly ceased their pillaging and fled to their garrisons. The thirteen praetors easily able to subdue their regions. Pompey chased the die-hards to their large strongholds of Cragus and Anticragus. Appian reports that most pirates surrendered quickly, lending credence to the slogan “the sea was cleared without a fight”. Pompey completely eliminated the pirate threat in a mere three months time. Clearly the pirates were not a threat to the naval forces of Rome.

Some historians argue that because Romans destroyed Mediterranean kingdoms there was nobody to keep law and order on the seas. Especially after Romans destroyed the powerful fleet of Carthage which kept in check piracy on the shores of North Africa pirates flourished and practically dominated big parts of Mediterranean. They even began to intercept the Roman shipments especially grain from Africa and in one instance destroyed Roman fleet in Ostia. At last in 67 BC Roman dictator Pompey had swept the pirates from the Western Mediterranean and eventually captured their strongholds in Cilicia and hunted them from the waters east of Italy.

Another account of piracy is given first hand by Pliny’s (the elder) whose last assignment was that of commander of the fleet in the Bay of Naples, where he was charged with the suppression of piracy.

Pre Roman and Roman pirates were mainly confined to Mediterranean Sea. However, in early Middle Ages the most notorious pirates operated in the North.

Piracy: William Kidd

Privateers of the 16th and 17th centuries, ran successful trading businesses around the world.  These privateers attacked enemy ships, but were in the employ of many a government.  Any booty would be shared out with the government.

Captain Kidd was born in 1654 in Dundee, Scotland, the captain of the Antigua and married Sarah Bradley Cox Oort a wealthy widow.

In the 1690’s commissioned by the English government in defending American and English trade routes in his ship the ‘Blessed.’

In the September of 1696, left New York aboard the 32-gun ‘Adventure Galley’ with his crew of 150, bound for the Indian Ocean.

He sought out the pirate; one Robert Culliford, but mutiny was in the eyes of his crew, and Kidd was forced into a life of piracy.

In late January of 1698, the ‘Quedah’ merchant was sighted off the tip of India, and Kidd and his band of ruthless pirates captured her, seizing the cargo of silk, muslin, sugar, opium worth a cool £70,000.  The merchant ship was renamed the Adventure Prize, leaving his own leaking ship to sink to the bottom.

In April 1699 upon arriving in the West Indies, he was deemed a pirate… not what he expected.  Kidd negotiated a pardon from English Authorities, based on claims he had been forced into piracy by his mutinous crew.

On the 7th July 1699 New England Governor one Lord Richard Bellmont, one of Kidd’s investors ordered his arrest upon arrival in Boston.  He was clapped in irons and returned to England to face charges.

On the 8th May 1701, William Kidd was brought to trial on charges of murder and piracy.  On the 9th May, the court handed down a guilty verdict.

On the 23rd May 1701 William Kidd was hanged, his corpse placed in a gibbet at the mouth of the River Thames.  It was a warning to other so-called pirates, death awaits you, for your crimes.