Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pirate Code

The following Pirate Code was drawn up in 1721 by the mutinous crew of the merchantman Rover (later the Royal Fortune). The crew became pirates, and elected Bartholomew Roberts as their captain. This detailed document illustrates the generally democratic policies of pirate bands, and was quoted by Captain Charles Johnson in his 1724 book, A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates.

I. Every Man has a Vote in affairs of Moment, has equal Title to the fresh Provisions, or strong Liquors, at any Time seized, and may use them at pleasure, unless a Scarcity make it necessary, for the good of all, to Vote a Retrenchment.

II. Every Man to be called fairly in turn, by List, on Board of Prizes, because, (over and above their proper Share) they there on these Occasions allowed a Shift of Cloathes: But if they defrauded the Company to the Value of a Dollar in plate, Jewels, or Money, MAROONING was their punishment.

III. No Person to game at Cards or Dice for Money.

IV. The Lights and Candles to be put out at eight o'Clock at Night: if any of the Crew, after that Hour still remained inclined for Drinking, they were to do it on the open Deck.

V. To Keep their Piece, Pistols, and Cutlass clean and fit for Service.

VI. No Boy or Woman to be allowed amongst them. If any Man were to be found seducing any of the latter Sex, and carried her to Sea, disguised, he was to suffer Death.

VII. To Desert the Ship or their Quarters in Battle, was punished with Death or Marooning.

VIII. No striking one another on Board, but every Man's Quarrels to be ended on shore, at Sword and Pistol Thus: The Quarter-Master of the Ship, when the Parties will not come to any Reconciliation, accompanies them on Shore with what Assistance he thinks proper, and turns the Disputants Back to Back, at so many Paces Distance. At the Word of Command, they turn and fire immediately, (or else the Piece is knocked out of their Hands). If both miss, they come to their Cutlasses, and then he is declared the Victor who draws the first Blood.

IX. No Man to talk of breaking up their Way of Living, till each had shared £1000. If in order to this, any Man should lose a Limb, or become a Cripple in their Service, he was to have 800 Dollars, out of the public Stock, and for lesser Hurts, proportionately.

X. The Captain and Quarter-Master to receive two Shares of a Prize: the Master, Boatswain, and gunner, one Share and a half, and other Officers one and Quarter.

XI. The Musicians to have Rest on the Sabbath Day, but the other six Days and Nights, none without special Favour.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:36 AM

    What is the motivation behind a man joining the pirate ranks? Is it the same as those that are recruited nowadays to other marauding groups. Now who enforces these rules on a ship? If left to their own devices they will default to unacceptable behaviors ?

    1. Motivation? Adventure, lack of opportunities in other professions, politics, poverty, impressment...many of the same motivations as today. Enforcement? "Every man has a vote in affairs of the moment."

  2. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Even pirates believed in rule of law...take note white house