Piracy – a Matter of Definition
Piracy has been a threat to maritime interests for almost as long as people have moved on the seas, from the days of rowing and sail, through into the modern era. This document looks at various acts of piracy over time and the impact that they had on various aspects such as mass migration, economics, and politics as in the American War of Independence. The title refers to the fact that whether an act of piracy is considered to be a good or a bad thing is very much a matter of opinion.
The document also considers how often piracy, although officially a crime, was supported by those in authority such as the leaders of society in colonial America and by Queen Elizabeth I in England. Mention is also made of how piracy enabled countries to attack their enemies without actually declaring a state of war. Finally there is mention of how piracy has changed over the years, even as regards its definition, and now tends in the main rather than as an act of war, to be purely for gain, although there is a move towards political motivation in some cases.
the lives of seafarers, the safety of navigation, the marine environment and the security of coastal states. They also impact negatively on the entire maritime transport industry, leading, for example, to increases in insurance rates and even the suspension of trade. The above quotation is from Marie Jacobsson, speaking at the United Nations in May 2001 on behalf of the European Union, as well as various associated states such as those in Eastern Europe.
According to the same report piracy and acts of armed robbery against ships make the seas unsafe. Unless these are dealt with effectively more acts of lawlessness are encouraged , in part because they threaten and undermine authority in a country’s own territory, and at the same time undermine effective global management as well as threatening the safety of crews, passengers and the environment and the economy. They are simply a destabilising factor that needs to be combated
Piracy is generally considered to be a crime. It is after all depriving people of their goods, money, perhaps their liberty and even their lives, but any crime is only so with the consensus of the community in general i. e. their ethics, laws and moral codes define what is to be considered right and what is wrong. This document looks at changes in its definition over time according to changes in attitudes and general situations.
This means that although it may generally be considered wrong to deprive people of their goods, there may also be circumstances in which this is considered, by some at least, to be a positive act, as when countries are at war, or at least are hostile towards each other, or when it is economically advantageous to the community, as in the early American colonies. Indeed at times piracy, though perhaps under some other name, was positively encouraged by governments, such as that of England during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor.
In this document various periods will be considered and the reasons, economic, political and others, behind various acts dubbed as piracy. Despite modern day definitions such as that in the United Nations Laws of the Sea ( see Appendix 2) historical groups such as the Barbary Corsairs of the Mediterranean were considered to be pirates despite their activities having political and religious motives and the fact that much of their activities took place within coastal and territorial waters.
The British authorities in the 19th century also took a broad view which cited piracy law as their justification to hunt maritime bandits being led by local war lords in the Malay Peninsula, even though these acts of took place within coastal waters and were the result of politically motivation.
The English courts held to this broad understanding of piracy laws, and holding that “piracy is any armed violence at sea which is not a lawful act of war” as quoted by Erik Barrios in his article ‘Casting a Wider Net’ who also states that the courts of the United States of America in the past have also been willing to apply piracy laws in the widest context at times.
Barrios quotes the Supreme Court of the United States of America which has held that an act of piracy need not necessarily include ‘either actual plunder or an intent to plunder’ but that if one “sinks or destroys an innocent merchant ship, without any other object than to gratify his lawless appetite for mischief,” wherever this takes place, in coastal waters or on the high seas, this is to be considered as a piratical act, the argument being that piracy has in the past been seen to include any act of violence which takes place either at sea or near to it, by any persons not having legal authority
So it seems that quite a variety of criminal activities have, in times past been considered to be acts of piracy, yet the more recent United Nations Laws of the Sea of 1982 ( see Appendix 2) have limited, rather than expanded these traditional definitions. Barrios feels that the international community would in general support the revival of older definitions of piracy as generally adopted piracy prior to this action by the United Nations, thus enabling the nations involved to prosecute all acts of terrorism at sea, whatever their motive and wherever they take place.
Linguistics The Oxford Reference Dictionary defines piracy as the practice or art of robbing ships at sea, making no mention of such factors as being outside territorial waters. This definition of the word is extended in modern parlance to include hijacking and the unauthorized reproduction of such things as books, recordings etc especially when in contravention of a patent or copyright, but for the purposes of this document it is the first definition that is discussed and how history has been affected by acts of piracy and their results.
According to the Online Etymological dictionary the word is first recorded in 1254, in Old French , but is derived from the Latin ‘pirata’ which was itself derived from the Greek word ‘pierates’ meaning a brigand or pirate, literally one who attacks,” from the verb ‘pieran’ meaning to attack, make a hostile attempt on, try. Buccaneer was a word especially used to describe pirates who made attacks upon Spanish America in the 17th century. The word’s derivation is from the French ‘Boucanier’, i. e.
a Brazilian grill for roasting , and the word seems to have been first used for those who hunted and then cooked and ate their kill in Haiti. The governors of several Caribbbean islands including Jamaica were in league with the buccaneers, paying them to make raids on Spanish held territory while they themselves were apparently uninvolved. Corsair is a French word which comes from a Provencal word ‘Corsar’ via Italian from Middle Latin ‘cursarius’ , a pirate, from Latin ‘ a course or running, which developed to mean a trip especially for the purpose of plunder.
Another title sometimes given is ‘Sea rover’ from the Dutch meaning ‘robber’ ‘predator’ ‘plunderer’ Privateers were those performing wha twould usualy be considered piratical acts, but with a licence to do so in the form of a letter of marque. ( see Appendix 1) Methodology In this document various pirates, individually and as groups, will be discussed, looking at the effect they have and had on trade, politics, economy and even the genetic makeup of peoples they attacked.
The aim is to show how whether or not an act was and is piracy was considered a crime depends, at least in part, upon the motives behind it and who was making the decisions and considers how this has altered over time. Literature Review Many different documents, electronic and otherwise are referred to below. This review will consider only a small number of these. Pirates and Privateers, The History of Maritime Piracy, 2000 – 2005,Editor C. Vallar. http://www. cindyvallar. com/pirates. html
This extensive web site covers many aspects of piracy, including the modern day As well as telling what happened and relating individual stories, it examines such things as motives, the attitudes of societies, the ways in which authorities would work with criminals and the general conclusion is that unless authorities act decisively, especially on land which is the pirate’s Achille’s heel, piracy will tend to increase rather than the alternative. There is a quotation from Captain Davis Kellerman, founder of MaritimeSecurity. com from Worldwide Maritime Piracy, June 1999, which sums up the matter:-
The perpetrators of the crimes are playing the odds, and the odds are in their favor. Their risk vs. reward is very favorable. There are detailed descriptions of various types of piracy as well as advice on how it may be combated without the use of force. The United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea – See Appendix 2 This site has many sections beginning with a historical perspective. One of its main concerns is with who has control of the seas and so there are rules and regulations concerning such matters as the right to exploit resources, the extent of territorial waters etc.
It contains a discussion of how various nations define their territories in different ways – from 3 mile limits to ones of some 200 miles and how this causes confusion. One aim is to maintain the right of innocent passage i. e. if a ship is causing no harm to a country it should be free to pass through its territorial waters. ‘Perhaps no other issue was considered as vital or presented the negotiators of the Convention on the Law of the Sea with as much difficulty as that of navigational rights. ’
Despite its careful consideration of many aspects however not all peoples agree with the conventions conclusions and decisions as will be explained later. Barrios, E. Casting a Wider Net: Addressing the Maritime Piracy Problem in South East Asia. This is a very carefully thought out argument which denies the efficacy of the present United Nations Convention Laws of the Seas. Mr. Barrios instead prefers conventional definitions of piracy, of which he gives several examples, and which are more extensive than the relatively narrow definitions put forward by the United Nations.
He believes that by reverting to these earlier ideas nations will be better able to deal with the problems that piracy causes. Bowring,A. The Price of Piracy, Wall Street Journal, Asia , November 5th 2008 Mr Bowring is managing director of the Hong Kong Ship Owners Association so realizes better than most the true cost of piracy in the 21st century. He mentions not just monetary cost, including rising insurance costs, but the cost in human suffering as when crews are injured, killed or kidnapped. Ultimately it is the consumer who pays he says.
Mr Bowring, like others, in convinced that the problem needs dealing with on the ground Ancient History of Piracy There are very early records of pirate attacks. A clay tablet of 1350 B. C. E. describes freelance pirates attacking shipping off the coast of North Africa according to the web page Pirates Info. com Greek merchants trading with seaside ports in Phoenicia, and what is now Turkey, seem to have felt that piracy was a by-product of trading by sea. According to the web site ‘the History of Piracy’ the pirates used flat bottomed, small, fast ships capable of maneuvering in shallow waters known as triremes.
In the 340’s the leadership of the city of Athens honoured Cleomis, a tyrant from the isle of Lesbos, because he had ransomed several of their citizens who had been captured by pirates. Even the mighty did not escape, for as a young man Julius Caesar was for a time the captive of a pirate band. Even in early times, because the seas were considered to belong to all nations, those who made piratical attacks were said to be the enemies of all. In his article ‘Casting a Wider New’, Ernest Barrios states that pirates were declared to be ‘hostes humani generis’, that is enemies of the human race.
In the 3rd century a Greek author, Heliordus of Emesa was obviously conversant with the subject of piracy because he made it the subject of a novel ‘The Aethiopica’. Polycrates, a Greek tyrant who controlled the city of Samos, used a 100 ship fleet to commit acts of piracy. Roman vessels were attacked by pirates, both for their cargoes of oil and other goods, but also in order to claim rewards for the release of kidnapped victims and in order to make slaves for use or sale. Late Dark Ages and Early Medieval Period In Northern Europe, during the Dark Ages i. e.
the latter part of the first millennium, the Vikings were also pirates, but in their boats especially designed for shallow water, they would travel up rivers and attack settlements. Their chosen weapons were axes and two edged swords. Yet the Vikings were in fact later to form settlements in the places they had attacked. Their piracy was an extension of a migratory movement that affected the genetic makeup of much of the United Kingdom, due in part to the over population at the time of Norway, considering its relatively limited agricultural land and resources.
So these young men and their exploits, piracy and otherwise, had an important place in the history of Western Europe. They founded for instance the cities now known as York and Dublin, as well as many hundreds of smaller settlements. A recent survey showed how their bloodlines have continued in places such as the Orkney Islands where they arrived in the 8th century C. E. , according to Thomas Manson writing on Viking Network. He tells how the sagas describe how at least some of them were pirates escaping from retribution in Norway.
However they seem to have reversed their direction later by striking back at Norway from bases in Orkney. In 875 a force with leaders Harald Fairhair, the Norwegian King and Earl Rognvald of More or Moeri, from western Norway, came to Orkney in order to finally to put down the Viking pirates. The king annexed the islands, whose earlier inhabitants had been Picts, to Norway In later years many pirates in the Mediterranean were Muslims who would regularly attack the ships belonging to Christians, something they would have justified on religious grounds.
Their ships had rams which crashed into the ships of their victims, after which men known as janissaries. They were unusual in that they were not mainly after treasure or goods, but people. They would hold rich people for ransom and the poorer folk became slaves. They used cannons and other forms of early guns as well as swords and daggers. Later Medieval Period In 1403 two ships full of furs traveling from Riga to Flanders were attacked by English pirates, which shows that these people didn’t just stay close to hand, according to Peter Spufford in 2002 ( page 335) in his book, ‘Power and Profit, the Merchant in Medieval Europe.
’ He also describes ( page 340) how Western Europeans took as slaves people captured in acts of piracy, as when Moorish occupants of Majorca were enslaved. Transport by sea was often preferred to land routes because it was quicker, but Spufford mentions ( page 406) that ships at sea were often at risk from pirates which was a deterrent. Merchants could insure against attacks, but if pirates were already active on certain routes then premiums could be exorbitant, a factor even now in the 21st century. By the latter 15th century land travel was considered to be much the safer option.
In the 1470’s the Greek born Barbarossa brothers, Aruj and Hizir, set out from their home island of Lesbos and began attacking ships in the Aegean. Later after a period of slavery Aruj and Hizir, became Barbary pirates, using Alexandria as a base and being paid by the local Egyptian ruler according to the web site, The Barbarossa Brothers, Barbary Pirates, an early instance of piracy being , at least in part, a political act. Venice was of course a huge centre for trade at the time. Muslim attacks on their ships proved to be a real problem as discussed by Christopher Hibbert in his book ‘Venice, the Biography of a City’ 1988 (page 8).
In earlier times bribes had been paid to pirates in order to protect the city’s trade, but this had stopped by the 10th century and the Istrian pirates had been defeated, but piracy became a problem again so that gradually land routes came to be preferred and Venice lost some of its earlier supremacy, in part at least because of the efforts of the pirates. Piracy in the Americas The discovery of the Americas in the late 15th century gave piracy not only new places to operate from, but also excuses, because of the rivalry between the various nations.
Slow, heavy laden merchant ships, the galleons, proved to make relatively easy targets. The area around the Caribbean was known as the Spanish Main at that time and eventually contained several pirate strongholds, the first of these being Tortuga, a small, rocky island with a sheltered harbour, close to main shipping routes. There they built a fort and even protected themselves with 24 cannons. Another stronghold was Port Royal, despite the fact that officially it was in British hands. The British did nothing to restrict the piratical activities.
However, in the year 1692, the whole place, including its many bars and the 4,000 or so inhabitants, was destroyed, in part by an earthquake, and then by the following tsunami wave. The disaster was seen by many as a punishment for sin. Pirates of the time carried an almost romantic air, at least as far as folk warm in their houses on dry land were concerned. Usually piracy is thought of as something that happens in warm seas, but during the period of the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1783, there was aggressive raiding by Americans on Nova Scotia, then a neutral community.
The people of Nova Scotia were forced into defensive acts of piracy against the American ships, according to Dan Conlin, August 2000, on the Canadian Privateering home page. Edward Teach Edward Teach is more commonly known as the fearsome and bloodthirsty pirate, Blackbeard. Born in the late 17th century, he left home for the Caribbean in the early 18th century, a time when pirates were a constant threat to Spanish shipping. While in Jamaica, Blackbeard served as a privateer under the command of Captain Benjamin Hornigold. During that period he received his first command, a sloop.
Soon he had captured a French ship which he then renamed as ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge and which he recreated as a 40 gun flagship. Britain had banned privateering, that is the use of privately owned vessels, each with a letter of marque i. e. written permission, as war ships against a country’s enemies, but Teach ignored this restriction on his activities as a freebooter, that is one who profits by war, and became an out and out pirate villain By 1718 he had left the Caribbean and was raiding the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
He even blockaded Charleston harbour for a week, not moving until he had received the supplies he demanded The then governor of North Carolina, Charles Eden, gave the pirate protection from prosecution in exchange for a part of the profits made. The Virginian governor on the other hand offered a reward for the death or capture of Blackbeard and in November 1718 a Captain Robert Maynard attacked the pirate vessel – a battle in which Blackbeard was decapitated. Sir Francis Drake Earlier than Teach had been Sir Francis Drake (1542-1596) referred to as ‘Elizabeth’s pirate’ on a web page dedicated to his biography.
His name is famous in British history as a man of war, but also as an adventurer and a pirate. Although he came from a strict religious family he began his career at sea with his cousin John ( or Jack) Hawkins, who was both a slave trader and a pirate. He was with Hawkins on a 1567 expedition to New Spain, now Mexico, when they were ambushed by Spanish forces at San Juan de Ulua. The battle lasted 4 days. Many English men lost their lives, the slave cargo was captured by the victorious Spaniards and so was a ship that was owned by the English monarch Elizabeth Tudor.
This resulted in open hostility between the two countries, and also developed in Drake a thirst for revenge which led to a career as England’s most successful pirate. By the end of 1577, Drake, together with his crew became the first Englishmen to sail round the world, traveling along the coast of South America and then breaking through Straits of Magellan, where, up until that time Spain had controlled entry into the Pacific Ocean. With the Queen’s glad blessing he made raids upon Spanish harbours in Peru and then in Cuba, before sailing on to California, which he laid claim on for England.
During his travels his piracy continued with the seizure of many Spanish cargoes containing gold and silver as well as expensive spices. In 1572 in Panama he and his men attacked a train of pack mules carrying off both silver and gold as well as making raids on several ships. The result was ? 20,000 worth of booty to carry home – an enormous quantity for the time. So large was the haul of treasure that it was sufficient to pay off the national debt. Drake was well rewarded, even gaining a knighthood, but it seems his men were not.
A few years later things between the two countries had not improved and in 1585 Elizabeth commissioned Drake to commit what would undoubtedly be seen as an act of war – to make raids on Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. The Spanish king Phillip began to prepare his armada, although even then plans were held up when, in 1587, Drake daringly Drake sailed into Cadiz harbour in 1587 and ‘singed the king of Spain’s beard’, that is he captured and sank the Spanish fleet of more than two dozen vessels.
This delayed things enough for the English to make better preparations for attack, and together with the storm that swept many Spanish ships to their destruction, brought an end to Spanish attacks on England. Even when the Armada did attack, Drake, on the, to him aptly named, Revenge, made a target of the Spanish pay ship rather than any other vessel. Female Pirates Not all pirates were male. Perhaps the most famous female pirate was Ann Bonney, often referred to as Toothless Annie, an Irishwoman, born in the1690’s, who traveled to America with her family who became plantation owners in South Carolina.
Even pirates have codes and in this case it stated that females were not allowed as crew members. Anne apparently became fascinated by pirate stories and she eventually married a pirate James Bonny. The two moved to Nassau in the Caribbean, a place run by pirates. She soon left her spouse and joined up with another pirate, an Englishman, Calico Jack Rackham, so called because of the clothes he preferred in black, brown and white patterns. Rackham had became a pirate captain in 1718 when serving aboard a ship captained by Charles Vane.
When they encountered a French battleship, Vane decided to take evasive action rather than launch an attack. The crew mutinied in outrage and Vane was left marooned on a lonely island. Rackham became captain and he ordered an attack on the same ship which was subsequently boarded and plundered. Despite the code that forbade women on board, Bonney went aboard ship, disguised as a male, and did everything the men did, including fighting. The crew members weren’t happy about having her aboard and said so openly. She responded by killing those concerned.
At the time Rackham had recently accepted an offer made by the governor of the Bahamas which meant he could receive an unconditional pardon if he gave up piracy. However, despite the fact that Bonney was supposedly toothless, Rackham was so smitten that he preferred to be with her and together they carried on with the piracy, according to Greg Nussbaum, 2005-6 on the web page ‘Calico Jack Rackham’. Bonney befriended another woman in a similar position, one Mary Reed. Together with Rackham the pair inflicted mayhem upon the area.
In 1720 their ship was attacked, Jack hid, but was discovered. The men were captured and hung, but Bonney received a reprieve. After this her career is unknown. Law abiding people got more and more annoyed because piracy continued. Gradually the various nations built better and bigger fleets in order to protect merchant shipping. Later still came faster steam powered ships. There were large rewards and with the new ships the navies were able to chase and capture the pirate vessels, which still depended on the wind.Sample Essay of Paperial.com