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 Characterization... 
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Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2004 12:41 am
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Post Characterization...
By no means do I believe you can paint everyone with the same brush or same color. But this topic comes up because of how privateers are portrayed in fiction and non-fiction.
In America, privateers are often portrayed as having been intrepid merchantmen who, willingly or not, turned to seeking out the English at sea in leiu of a colonial navy, the idea being that their efforts helped the colonies maintain a presence at sea until the French entered the conflict on the colonies' side.
Frederick Marryat portrays them as being cutthroat near pirates from among the very first pages of his book, The Privateersman.
Admittedly, after making a few "easy" captures, a privateer may well find himself in a position to * up a couple of other captures to appease his crew and owners (perhaps leaving ones scruples behind and seizing ships under friendly or neutral flags).
I guess the query is more a matter of, were privateers more private men of war, or were they more pirate in nature?

Charity


Thu Mar 09, 2006 4:41 pm
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This is an interesting question. It might not be an easy one to answer though, especially when you consider how privateering evolved over the years. Perhaps it might be easier to break it down by country and time period?

I have a book on British privateering, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I'll have a look at it later to see if I can find out what the author says about attitudes towards them.

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susan


Thu Mar 09, 2006 8:54 pm
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Then, as now, the press probably had a hand in shaping how privateers were viewed. It might be good to post some accounts. To that end, here's a short bit from 1777 from the Annual Register:

"[August 7th.] Part of the crew of an American privateer landed at Penzance, and plundered the farmers of some live stock."

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Sat Apr 08, 2006 5:31 am
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Post Re: Characterizations
I think, in part, that it is a matter of perception and differs throughout the time period. Remember, even John Paul Jones was reviled as a pirate by the popular press when he operated in the home waters of the British Isles. He held a commission from the Continental Congress and raided the British Isles as the Royal Navy did in the Chesapeake during the War of 1812.
That said, privateering was a commercial enterprise, at least, in the States, see The Republic's Private Navy Jerome Garitee for the history and development of one American community: Baltimore. It also has a cursory history of privateering in its first chapter.
Privateersmen could develope into pirates. I think some of the historical figures of classic piracy got their start as privateersmen. Garitee notes that problems of piracy often arose after the cessation of the hostilites in the European wars of the 18th century. Commerical enterprises could also turn nefarious, see The Pirates Lafitte by William C. Davis. The Lafitte brothers participated in a syndicate for the distribution of contraband goods.
After the Napoleonic Wars, in the Caribbean, there were problems with piracy due to the many letters of marque given out by not only governments such as Spain and France but also those given out by the revolutionary governments in the area and, sometimes, by different competing juntas among the rebels. Failed revolutionary movements also handed out these same instruments. Many pirates could find legal veneers for their predations. The US Navy and the Royal Navy both mounted campaigns against these pirates in the 1820's. Tom Cringle's Log by Michael Scott takes place in this environment.


Sat Apr 08, 2006 3:39 pm
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