<head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252"> <meta name="Author" content="Cindy Vallar"> <meta name="GENERATOR" content="Mozilla/4.78 [en]C-CCK-MCD NSCPCD47 (Win98; U) [Netscape]"> <meta http-equiv="title" content="Pirates and Privateers - Privateers of the Americas"> <meta http-equiv="author" content="Cindy Vallar"> <meta http-equiv="description" content="Review of Privateers of the Americas by David Head"> <meta http-equiv="keywords" content="Privateers of the Americas, David Head, Spanish American privateering, United States, Spain, privateers, Spanish American Wars of Independence, Spanish American colonies, Transcontinental Treaty, Napoleon Bonaparte, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Simon Bolivar, Father Miguel Hidalgo, Jean and Pierre Laffite, Laffites, Barataria, New Orleans, smuggling, slave trading, Baltimore, Maryland, War of 1812, Galveston, Amelia Island, Louis-Michel Aury, Gregor MacGregor, James Chaytor, Early American Places, Golden Age of Piracy, editor, pirates, popular culture, Caribbean, suppression of pirates, piracy, images, Why Atlantic Piracy, Carla Gardina Pestana, private seafarer, John A. Coakley, Jamaica's Private Seafarers, Sailors from the Woods, Kevin P. MacDonald, logwood, Douglas R. Burgess, Trial and Error, piracy trials, England, colonies, Atlantic, David Wilson, Protecting Trade by Suppressing Pirates, Royal Navy, Guy Chet, Persistence of Piracy in the British Atlantic, sea marauding, golden age, Virginia W. Lunsford, Peter T. Leeson, Model of Piracy, buccaneers, Economic Way of Thinking about Pirates, black flag, Margarette Lincoln, Henry Every and the Creation of the Pirate Myth in Early Modern Britain, Blood and Lust, Carolyn Eastman, Bucaniers of America, Alexandre Exquemelin, Captain Charles Johnson, General History of the Pyrates, Woman Is to Blame, pirate confessions, Matthew Taylor, Raffety,, Adam Fortner, Pirate Ghosts and Buried Treasure"> <meta name="Description" content="Review of Privateers of the Americas by David Head"> <meta name="KeyWords" content="Privateers of the Americas, David Head, Spanish American privateering, United States, Spain, privateers, Spanish American Wars of Independence, Spanish American colonies, Transcontinental Treaty, Napoleon Bonaparte, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Simon Bolivar, Father Miguel Hidalgo, Jean and Pierre Laffite, Laffites, Barataria, New Orleans, smuggling, slave trading, Baltimore, Maryland, War of 1812, Galveston, Amelia Island, Louis-Michel Aury, Gregor MacGregor, James Chaytor, Early American Places, Golden Age of Piracy, editor, pirates, popular culture, Caribbean, suppression of pirates, piracy, images, Why Atlantic Piracy, Carla Gardina Pestana, private seafarer, John A. Coakley, Jamaica's Private Seafarers, Sailors from the Woods, Kevin P. MacDonald, logwood, Douglas R. Burgess, Trial and Error, piracy trials, England, colonies, Atlantic, David Wilson, Protecting Trade by Suppressing Pirates, Royal Navy, Guy Chet, Persistence of Piracy in the British Atlantic, sea marauding, golden age, Virginia W. Lunsford, Peter T. Leeson, Model of Piracy, buccaneers, Economic Way of Thinking about Pirates, black flag, Margarette Lincoln, Henry Every and the Creation of the Pirate Myth in Early Modern Britain, Blood and Lust, Carolyn Eastman, Bucaniers of America, Alexandre Exquemelin, Captain Charles Johnson, General History of the Pyrates, Woman Is to Blame, pirate confessions, Matthew Taylor, Raffety,, Adam Fortner, Pirate Ghosts and Buried Treasure"> <title>Pirates and Privateers - David Head's Books</title> <meta content="Cindy Vallar" name="author"> <meta content="Reviews of books by David Head" name="description">
Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
Privateers of the Americas The Golden Age of Piracy
In the early nineteenth century, colonies in Spanish America wanted to break free from Spain. They initially did so to preserve themselves for the true king of Spain rather than Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, but later some leaders wished to establish new countries with their own governments. Like many colonies seeking freedom from their mother countries, the participants fought land battles while also wanting to strike Spanish shipping. They lacked any naval forces to do this, so they enlisted the help of privateers, many of whom came from the United States. This created problems for American government officials, because the US and Spain were at peace and interfering in such rebellions would upset the president’s foreign policy goals. In addition, having an American command an armed ship that planned to attack Spanish vessels violated the neutrality laws. In spite of these roadblocks, ever-resourceful Americans found ways to circumvent the law.
David Head opens his examination on Spanish American privateering by introducing Captain James Chaytor, who renounced his citizenship, swore allegiance to the government in Buenos Aires, and became a citizen of the United Provinces of the Rió de la Plata in order to legally go privateering. Head then sets out his goals in studying this facet of legal marauding:
His quest to unearth the answers to these questions led him to archives containing newspapers reporting on shipping news, diplomatic correspondence, government reports, personal papers, documents from ships and customs, court cases, and testimony from privateers and their victims.
- How did it work?
- Who engaged in it?
- How did the American government respond?
- How did privateers and their backers circumvent the law and manipulate international relations to work in their favor?
- Why did these men become privateers or financial backers of privateering expeditions?
- What did it mean to sail from the United States to become a privateer for a new Spanish republic?
The introduction also sets the scene for what is to come, concentrating on four developments: the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, Spanish America’s Wars of Independence, and American neutrality with France and Britain and with Spain and her Spanish American colonies. These highlight how the United States participated in global events and how Americans and Spanish Americans experienced international rivalries. In addition, Head discusses why Spanish American privateering and fighting for emerging nations appealed to people.
The book is divided into five chapters. The first one, “Diplomacy with Spain and Spanish America” examines the geopolitics that gave rise to Spanish American privateering and the United States’ response to it. Particular emphasis is placed on relationships between the US, Spain, and her rebellious colonies; privateering as it relates to the Transcontinental Treaty; and how such statesmen as Napoleon Bonaparte, Fernando VII of Spain, President James Madison, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and Speaker of the House Henry Clay navigated this complex world. Salient points that are discussed include:
The next three chapters concern four specific locations in and near the United States from which the privateers operated. Chapter two examines “New Orleans and Barataria” before and during the War of 1812. This was where Jean and Pierre Laffite based their operations, in part because the geographic terrain was ideal for smuggling. It also provided the British with a way to invade New Orleans through backdoors, but the Laffites opted not to ally themselves with the enemy. The Baratarians held privateering commissions from Cartagena and, prior to the destruction of Barataria, they assisted Mexican revolutionaries. Head discusses how the Laffites and their associates worked, as well as the measures the federal and local governments took to curb their privateering, smuggling, and slave trading.
- Napoleon imprisoning the Spanish king and replacing him with his brother, which paved the way for insurrections led by men like Simón Bolivar and Father Miguel Hidalgo;
- American neutrality and the threat to derail foreign policy caused by privateering;
- how the Transcontinental Treaty would help eliminate the United States’ vulnerability to invasion; and
- members of the American government who did recognize their new republican neighbors to the south.
During the War of 1812, the British considered Baltimore, Maryland a “nest of pirates” because so many successful privateers set sail from this port city. The third chapter focuses on “Baltimore,” which became a place where Spanish American representatives attempted to recruit privateers. While similarities exist between Spanish American privateering here and the environs of New Orleans, there are also major differences. The reputation gained by the privateering vessels built in Baltimore during the War of 1812 continued to draw investors, agents, and seamen wishing to continue their legal plundering in the Spanish American Wars of Independence. The earlier experience also gave rise to men adept at exploiting legal loopholes to circumvent the law. For example, while it was against the law for an American to outfit a foreign privateer or for a foreigner to do so in the United States, it was perfectly legal for a US citizen to arm the ship, put out to sea, and then sell the vessel to a foreigner who intended to use it for privateering. Problems encountered and government countermeasures to curtail such privateering are also discussed.
Chapter 4, “Galveston and Amelia Island,” examines Spanish American privateering near the United States but outside its legal borders. Located in present-day Texas, Galveston Island was territory claimed by Spain, Mexico, and the US the time period of this book. Louis-Michel Aury initially based his operations here, but later Jean Laffite seized control of this island on the Gulf of Mexico. Amelia Island, on the other hand, belonged to Spain but was in close proximity to Georgia, which provided privateers with American markets where they could dispose of their plunder and acquire supplies for new ventures. Gregor MacGregor was the first filibuster to lay claim to the island, but Aury eventually took over after his ousting from Galveston. These two bases flourished during periods when the fight for Spanish American freedom was ebbing. Head looks at how these two locations operated, how the primary individuals came to power, and how the United States dealt with each island.
The final chapter “Service and Toil in Spanish America” discusses what motivated the captains, investors, seamen, and filibusters to become Spanish American privateers. Whether they did so for personal gain, revenge, the thrill of marauding, an ideological alignment with these republics gaining their independence, to escape debt, or as purely a business arrangement, each played a role in a maritime venture that eventually helped the Spanish colonies to become countries in their own right.
Head concludes his study by returning to the privateer mentioned at the beginning of the book, Captain Chaytor, and how he lived his life after being a Spanish American privateer.
Aside from chapter end notes and an index, Head includes black-and-white portraits, privateering commissions, maps, and tables to supplement the text. Each chapter has its own introduction and conclusion.
Part of the Early American Places series, Privateers of the Americas is a significant examination of a period of privateering on which historians rarely focus. The narrative is highly readable and easily understood by readers with little or no knowledge of privateering history. Priced well within the layperson’s budget, this volume serves as an excellent and valuable stepping stone to future studies for researchers wishing to explore this period in greater depth and detail.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
The Golden Age of Piracy: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates
Edited by David Head
University of Georgia, 2018, Paperback ISBN 978-0-8203-5325-8, $29.95
Hardback ISBN 978-0-8203-5326-5, $84.95
E-book ISBN 978-0-8203-5327-2, $29.95
The scholarly essays in this collection examine both historical pirates and those in popular culture. Although the focus is on piracy in the Caribbean, the time perspective is broader, extending from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Some analyze how what we have learned from the past can be applied to the present to suppress these marauders today. Others demonstrate how society has viewed pirates at different times and on different levels. Together the essays show how we’ve expanded our understanding of pirates and piracy, as well as future avenues of study to continue the learning process.
This volume is comprised of four sections. It opens with “Pirates and Empire,” which investigates the growth of piracy during the 1500s and 1600s when European nations vied for control of the Caribbean. The second section, “Suppression of Pirates,” discusses piracy’s decline in the region. “Modeling Piracy” pertains to lessons learned and the application of those lessons today. The final section, “Images of Pirates in Their Own Time and Beyond,” scrutinizes how those ashore viewed pirates.
Three essays comprise Section I: Pirates and Empire. In “Why Atlantic Piracy” Carla Gardina Pestana looks at the geographical, economic, and political influences that resulted in the spread of piracy from Europe to the New World. She discusses the importance of understanding what piracy was and was not, and then applying that knowledge to archival records when analyzing accusations against pirates. She also stresses that the inherent violence accompanying piracy ebbed and flowed rather than remaining a constant.
John A. Coakley uses the term private seafarer, instead of privateer or pirate, to discuss the men who played key roles in both the politics of and marauding raids from Jamaica between 1655 and 1692 in “Jamaica’s Private Seafarers: Politics and Violence in a Seventeenth-Century English Colony.” He also examines how these relationships changed over time and the attempts to regulate these expeditions.
Many histories mention pirates and their connections to logwood, but in “‘Sailors from the Woods’: Logwood Cutting and the Spectrum of Piracy” Kevin P. McDonald offers readers a different perspective. Rather than being pirates who harvested the wood that provided much-desired dyes in Europe, they were seamen who sometimes strayed into smuggling or ventured into the more serious crime of piracy.
Section 2: Suppression of Pirates also contains three essays. Douglas R. Burgess leads off with “Trial and Error: Piracy Trials in England and Its Colonies, 1696-1723.” He discusses the evolution of England’s definition of piracy, as well as how American colonists viewed pirates. Initially, these did not coincide, but as time passed piracy changed and so did the latter’s thinking. He shows this by looking at pirate trials over time until the prosecution and punishment of pirates occurred on both sides of the Atlantic.
David Wilson analyzes the effectiveness of this suppression in “Protecting Trade by Suppressing Pirates: British Colonial and Metropolitan Responses to Atlantic Piracy, 1716-1726.” Rather than being a united and coordinated endeavor, he demonstrates that the effectiveness of such efforts was influenced by merchants, agents of colonial governments, and captains in the Royal Navy.
Guy Chet, on the other hand, contradicts the common belief that British efforts to suppress piracy were successful in “The Persistence of Piracy in the British Atlantic.” He provides evidence to show that sea marauding remained a threat long past the end of the “golden age” into the mid nineteenth century.
In the third section of this collection, Modeling Piracy, Virginia W. Lunsford and Peter T. Leeson scrutinize human and piratical behavior of the past in hopes that these lessons can be applied to the problem today. Lunsford’s “A Model of Piracy: The Buccaneers of the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean” presents a case study that identifies six significant characteristics of piracy that resulted in the dissolution of the buccaneers. Leeson presents a new rationale for looking at pirates in “The Economic Way of Thinking about Pirates.” By examining these rogues through the eyes of an economist, he provides fresh insight into why pirates governed themselves as they did, why they used the black flag, and why they tortured their victims.
Images of Pirates in Their Own Time and Beyond, the final section of this book, looks at pirates through the eyes of those ashore who heard and read of their tales. Margarette Lincoln leads off with “Henry Every and the Creation of the Pirate Myth in Early Modern Britain.” Every’s piratical deeds in the 1690s provided much fodder for literary pens, which allowed audiences of all classes with opportunities to digest issues relevant to them and gave rise to the pirate as a popular hero. By examining these publications, Lincoln shows what they tell us about those who lived when these pirates roamed. She also demonstrates how portrayals of Every changed over time.
In “‘Blood and Lust’: Masculinity and Sexuality in Illustrated Print Portrayals of Early Pirates of the Caribbean,” Carolyn Eastman examines what the descriptions and illustrations in Alexandre Exquemelin’s Bucaniers of America (1678) and Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates (1724) showed about the pirates and male readers themselves. (This essay also includes several illustrations from these publications.)
“A Woman Is to Blame: Gender and the Literature of Antebellum Pirate Confessions” is Matthew Taylor Raffety’s contribution. Those caught and punished often cited a woman in their past as the real culprit for their downfall. This female failed to provide the moral fabric necessary to keep the pirates from straying from the straight and narrow. Through an exploration of these confessions, printed in publications prior to the American Civil War, Raffety demonstrates how such portrayals mirrored contemporary morality and the difference between the female and male domains of the middle class during the nineteenth century.
The final essay is Adam Fortner’s “Pirate Ghosts and Buried Treasure: Hunting for Gold in the New American Republic.” He explores how pirates came to be entangled in folklore and what such tales truly tried to teach readers.
David Head, the editor, makes several key points about this collection in his concluding remarks. The contributors have taken sources long available to historians and examine them in new ways. Learning what pirates of yore can tell us is an ongoing process. These scholarly essays add to the existing body of published research to provide “the latest word, not the last word.” (240) Equally important to the factual study of pirates is that context matters and that much can be learned from exploring the cultural history.
The Golden Age of Piracy includes an index, and notes appear at the end of each essay. These provide tidbits about or clarification of statements made, as well as source material where readers can further explore covered topics.
The broader time frame explored in this book is important because there is far more to piracy in the Caribbean than just the early seventeenth century. It’s a common misconception among lay readers that pirates ceased to prey after 1730, yet the opposite is true as some of these scholars ably point out. Although these are scholarly articles, they are written in ways that appeal to all readers. They make us rethink what we think we know about pirates and the world in which they live. The Golden Age of Piracy is an invaluable and insightful addition to any library because it examines pirates through the world in which they lived, rather than through modern-day lenses. In doing so, the scholars skillfully provide important ways in which officials today can address this continuing problem.
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