Pirates in Colonial America

Topics: Crime, Piracy, Morality Pages: 15 (5065 words) Published: April 14, 2013
Jessica Rozell
Final Paper
April 14, 2013

The Pirates of Colonial American Got Taken Down by Religion

During the eighteenth century, piracy began ruling the waters surrounding the American colonies. For many people piracy adds an exciting thrill to maritime history with its adventure, romanticism, mysteriousness, and its alluring nature. However, piracy is just the practice of a pirate: these pirates conducted robbery or illegal violence at sea; violence and crimes that killed, hurt, and affected the lives of others.1 Legally, crime is broken into three different parts: mens rea, the mental state of mind the criminal had during the crime; actus reus, the acts that are criminally committed; and locus, when and where the crime happened.2 These three things made the task of classifying a pirate as a criminal an extremely difficult one because the acts committed were inconsistent and the location of the crime was even less consistent; but colonists knew they were criminals. Piracy implied challenges to the law because kept themselves away from states’ jurisdiction, but that was going to change.3 Pirates were criminals and their actions were villainous and they needed to be punished for their wrong doing. They were following the very definition of crime with their acts of mutiny, destruction, and robbery.4 Pirates were a cause of chaos in Maritime History during the beginning of America, especially in the New England colonies, and religious authority used social and moral reasons to stop them. 1. Wombwell, James A. "The Long War Against Piracy: Historical Trends." CGSC.edu. Combat Studies Institute Press, May 2010. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. 2. Games, Alison. Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities."  American Historical Review, 2006.

3. Douglas R. Burgess, Jr., The Pirates' Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History's Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America (New York: McGraw Hill, 2008) 14 – 19. 4. "New York, May 17," The Boston Newsletter, June 17 - June 24, 1717. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.

Reports of piracy began showing up and down the Colonial American coast. For instance an article from the Boston Newsletter tells of a group of pirates that went aboard a ship, off the coast of New England, and had taken the linen, food, and other goods. The article went on to describe a fight that broke out between the sailors being robbed and the pirates. The pirates fought unfair and maliciously.5 Another report talked about Paul Williams and his crew of ,pirates, in 1717, that went aboard a ship, near Philadelphia, and stole three hundred and fifty ounces of silver. The captain of that ship attempted to escape the ship, but the pirates heavily beat him to death.6 All of the men involved had warrants out for their arrest, but these sorts of men are hard to track down because of their constant movement at sea. Thankfully, many times these men were arrested for crimes that had little to do with their piracy, such as public drunkenness and swearing. Those actions were considered a crime in early colonies, such as New England, because of the strict religious secular control over the colonies.7 In New England, many of the crimes came from moral and religious rather than political and economic because of the role Protestants played in government. Crime and sin were related in society which often was used in conviction of crimes and, “any offence against God was a crime against society; and a crime against society was an offence against God.”8 The Protestants and other religious people were the driving force behind stopping piracy during early America. -------------------------------------------------

5. "New York, May 17."  The Boston Newsletter. June 17 - June 24, 1717. Web. 15 Mar. 2013 6. "Philadelphia, June 20."  The Boston Newsletter. June 24 –July 1, 1717. Web. 15 Mar. 2013 7....
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