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Question about "refined" period pirates

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  • jeffrey.heilveil@ndsu.edu
    Hi Everyone! (Especially Elias, who probably wanting me to get on with my question already)... I was wondering who/when was the earliest documentable Privateer
    Message 1 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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      Hi Everyone! (Especially Elias, who probably wanting me to get on with my
      question already)...

      I was wondering who/when was the earliest documentable Privateer (ie. with
      a letter of Mark and all)???

      Just curious.
      Bogdan


      -----------------------------------------------------------
      Jeffrey S. Heilveil, Ph.D.
      Postdoctoral Fellow
      Department of Biological Sciences
      North Dakota State University
      Stevens Hall
      Fargo, ND 58105
      jeffrey.heilveil@...
    • Marc Carlson
      ... Mark didn t write letters, Paul wrote letters. Mark wrote a Gospel. As for letters of -Marque-, these go back a ways. There is an interesting compilation
      Message 2 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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        --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, jeffrey.heilveil@n... wrote:
        > I was wondering who/when was the earliest documentable Privateer (ie.
        > with a letter of Mark and all)???

        Mark didn't write letters, Paul wrote letters. Mark wrote a Gospel.

        As for letters of -Marque-, these go back a ways. There is an
        interesting compilation of them at
        http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Garden/5213/marque2.htm that goes back
        to 1205. I'm sure that's not the earliest.

        Marc/Diarmaid
      • Susan Farmer
        ... ROTFLOL! Jerusha (catching up on this thread and Laughing Out Loud more than once. Thanks guys, I needed the chuckle ...
        Message 3 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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          --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, "Marc Carlson"
          <marccarlson20@h...> wrote:
          > --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, jeffrey.heilveil@n... wrote:
          > > I was wondering who/when was the earliest documentable Privateer (ie.
          > > with a letter of Mark and all)???
          >
          > Mark didn't write letters, Paul wrote letters. Mark wrote a Gospel.

          ROTFLOL!

          Jerusha (catching up on this thread and Laughing Out Loud more than
          once. Thanks guys, I needed the chuckle ...
        • Jeff Gedney
          well, that s kind of slippery... The answer is 1205 or 1670, depending on how you look at it. At it s most strict and technical level we have examples of
          Message 4 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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            well, that's kind of slippery...
            The answer is 1205 or 1670, depending on how you look at it.

            At it's most strict and technical level we have examples of privately owned and operated ships with a letter condoning the taking of ships was probably Thomas of Galway, in 1205.

            As we today generally UNDERSTAND the concept of "Privateer with Letter of Marque" (and as every letter of marque "issued" in the SCA is worded!) no earlier than 1670.

            However...

            There are several parts of your question whose meanings and usages have changed substantially over the course of history.

            Lets discuss Privateer, first, then Letters of Marque.
            Privateer:
            "Privateer" as a word, was not coined into the English language until well after the 1650's, when Parliamentary reforms instituted the Admiralty as an agency of Parliament and created the Navy as a professional uniform service apart from the "merchant marine".
            In that act the right to engage in acts of warfare at sea were given over to the Navy, and to those expressly licensed by the Admiralty using the a letter of Marque and Reprisal.
            It makes sense, because until the "State" Navy was created, all ships were privately owned and operated, and only conscripted to the use of the Crown in time of war. ( this system as inefficent as it is, was a direct result of the feudal nature of all military companies, where a lord would secure and train a company of men, and was charged with bringing them for the "defense of the realme") One reason for the reforms was that lot of the problems that captains had getting supplies and recompensed for their expenses was due to to this 'disconnect' between the Government and the varios ships operators. If you read a good book on the Spanish Armada campaigns one that includes the months AFTER the "Enterprise of England", you can plainly see how this sort of private enterprise system fell apart in numerous places, resulting in destitute sailors, beggared owners, and rampant malnourishment and disease in various Ports.
            So, in a nutshell, all ships were what we today call "Merchant Marine", and the taking of enemy shipping was generally considered a ususal and expected means of doing business. many stories in Hakluyt's "the Principle Voyages of the English Nation", and the self-titled "Adventures of John Smith" protray the opportunistic taking of enemy spices and cargo.

            So the profession was so usual as not to warrant a distinct and separate category with a label.

            Letters of Marque:
            Most of our understanding of the behavior of Privateers and the function of Letters of Marque come from after the parliamentary reforms, during the Regency period of England, when warefare was considered a "gentlemanly" pursuit, and enemies honored elaborate conventions on both sides. One of these was the use of Letters of Marque. This generally held convention was that if a private ship that takes another ship carries a Letter of Marque, then they are acting as an official arm of the sponsoring government and subject to the rights and honors accorded captured soldiers and gentlemen in war.
            If they did not carry the Letters of Marque, they were pirates. That is the distinction we generally use even to this day.
            Letters of marque are still issued in this way to the merchant marine.

            But this would a grave misunderstanding of the concept when it comes to period practice.

            Letters of marque were indeed issued in period. BUT...
            Many were simply part of a larger group of sailing directions, and include instruction on things like what to do if separated in convoy, etc.
            Some were merely statements of proprietorship or authorization to pay or take a defined share of the voyages proceeds.
            (The 1205 example cited, is really nothing more than a statemment that the Crown had authorized the voyage and gave authorization to pay out a specific share to the aforementioned Thomas of Galway out of any prizes taken. This is _not_ what we think of today when we think of a "Letter of Marque".)

            Most of extant letters from within period were issued only for voyages into neutral or unclaimed waters, such as John Davis' voyage to India, or John Cabot's trip to America.
            Such letters were for the authorities of neutral lands in whose waters you may have been causght taking enemy shipping. As a general rule, an enemy government would not honor such letters. If you were captured you were called and considered a pirate, regardless of whether you had a Letter of Marque. A careful reading of the history of John Hawkin's slaving trips and the subsequent debacle at San Juan de Ulua will reveal how much honor the Spanish accorded English Letters of Marque. (I dont know if they burned them or just wiped their rumps with them.)

            Certainly there was nothing about the use of such letters in the Law of Oleron and other period docuemtns pertaining to Maritime Law. (Though they are often quite clear on other topics, such as resolving disputes and awarding salvage, and treating the injured and sick)
            The general maritime usages that we consider when we today use the term "Letter of Marque" is, in my estimation, a post period cultural artifact.
            In fact the whole thing fairly STINKS of the sort of "Gentlemen's warfare" that arose and became current in the late 1600's-early 1700's.

            Capt Elias
            -Renaissance Geek of the Cyber Seas

            - Help! I am being pecked to death by the Ducks of Dilletanteism!
            There are SO damn many more things I want to try in the SCA
            than I can possibly have time for. It's killing me!!!

            -------------------------------------------------------------
            If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather
            wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them
            to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
            - Antoine de Saint Exupery
          • jeffrey.heilveil@ndsu.edu
            Thank you for the replies (though I am having serious spelling and typing issues today) my curiosity is duly sated for the time being. Bogdan ... Jeffrey S.
            Message 5 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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              Thank you for the replies (though I am having serious spelling and typing
              issues today) my curiosity is duly sated for the time being.

              Bogdan

              -----------------------------------------------------------
              Jeffrey S. Heilveil, Ph.D.
              Postdoctoral Fellow
              Department of Biological Sciences
              North Dakota State University
              Stevens Hall
              Fargo, ND 58105
              jeffrey.heilveil@...
            • Jeff Gedney
              ... Hunh... as for that collection of letters of marque , it should become obvious to anyone who actually _reads_ them that many of the period ones are
              Message 6 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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                >http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Garden/5213/marque2.htm

                Hunh... as for that collection of "letters of marque", it should become obvious to anyone who actually _reads_ them that many of the period ones are actually licences to press for crew, and to draw upon victuallers for supplies, though some of then also carry a statement that the purpose will be for taking enemy ships.

                Not exactly exciting stuff there.

                Capt Elias
                -Renaissance Geek of the Cyber Seas

                - Help! I am being pecked to death by the Ducks of Dilletanteism!
                There are SO damn many more things I want to try in the SCA
                than I can possibly have time for. It's killing me!!!

                -------------------------------------------------------------
                If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather
                wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them
                to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
                - Antoine de Saint Exupery
              • Marc Carlson
                ... What sort of excitement did you want? The government giving support and authority for a ship to go out and do naughty things to the enemy is the
                Message 7 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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                  --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, "Jeff Gedney" <gedney1@i...> wrote:
                  > >http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Garden/5213/marque2.htm
                  > Hunh... as for that collection of "letters of marque", it should
                  > become obvious to anyone who actually _reads_ them that many of the
                  > period ones are actually licences to press for crew, and to draw
                  > upon victuallers for supplies, though some of then also carry a
                  > statement that the purpose will be for taking enemy ships.
                  > Not exactly exciting stuff there.

                  What sort of excitement did you want? The government giving support
                  and authority for a ship to go out and do naughty things to the enemy
                  is the government giving support and authority :) As with many
                  things in the Middle Ages (shoes, contracts, whatnot) later on more
                  sophisticated additions and improvements were worked in. I think if
                  someone showed me a letter of marque that read just like one from 1700
                  but was dated 1200, I'd suspect it was a fake.

                  Marc/Diarmaid
                • Jeff Gedney
                  ... the difference is, who is it written to ? Is the letter primarily to citizens of your own country, authorizing the voyage to draw support? or is it
                  Message 8 of 8 , May 19, 2005
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                    >What sort of excitement did you want? The government giving
                    >support and authority for a ship to go out and do naughty things
                    >to the enemy is the government giving support and authority :)

                    the difference is, who is it written "to"? Is the letter primarily to citizens of your own country, authorizing the voyage to draw support? or is it primarily for the purpose of giving official imprimature to the voyage to explain and excuse the actions to another government as "official" if the privateer is caught?
                    Most "Privateer type" Letters from the 1650-1850 era are of the latter type, and most of the early Period ones are of the former.

                    I maintain that that is a critical distinction.
                    A letter primarily to your own citizens does not have the same eaim and intents as one that it primarily to another government.

                    >As with many things in the Middle Ages (shoes, contracts,
                    >whatnot) later on more sophisticated additions and improvements
                    >were worked in. I think if someone showed me a letter of marque
                    >that read just like one from 1700 but was dated 1200, I'd suspect
                    >it was a fake.

                    Agreed.
                    but I think that in this case it is more of a categorical difference.
                    They played tennis in period, but the shoes they wore, while period, are not likely to be what our modern mind sees when we think of "tennis shoes".
                    Simialrly, while these letters may serve some of the same functions ( authorization and support ) as the letters we have in mind when we say "letters of marque" we consider they are different enough in intent and construction as to not really be in the same category as more modern and "usual" Letters.

                    Capt Elias
                    -Renaissance Geek of the Cyber Seas

                    - Help! I am being pecked to death by the Ducks of Dilletanteism!
                    There are SO damn many more things I want to try in the SCA
                    than I can possibly have time for. It's killing me!!!

                    -------------------------------------------------------------
                    If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather
                    wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them
                    to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
                    - Antoine de Saint Exupery
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