Going on the Account: The Hateful Landlubber and the Landlocked Corsair

Looking for news about pirates turned up this article in the NY TIMES regarding pirates in Puntland going in country to seize trucks for ransom.

What drew my attention, and ultimately the flag, were comments laced through the piece that can be summed up by the statement:  “Now the pirates don’t need ships to do their deeds!”

Give.  Me. Strength…

There’s nothing quite as galling as people demonstrating a lack of understanding regarding one basic concept:  There’s nothing new or unexpected about piracy occurring ashore.

Let’s keep a few things in mind here:

  • Many pirates, in fact, tended to prefer land raids than going out for ships; towns happened to stay in one place, which made planning the assault a lot easier
  • One of the ways Henry Morgan maximized his haul when going on the account was to take a legalistic eye to his letter of marque; because the Crown was entitled to a large share of any booty taken at sea, he made some of his more daring raids ashore, where he could claim that anything he earned there was outside the terms of the agreement and thus all his
  • The parallel development during and on both sides of the Golden Age of Piracy of the highwayman phenomenon cannot be ignored; discounting the tools of the trade (horses instead of ships) and the scale (it’s a lot easier being a sole highwayman than it is a single pirate), there’s a considerable list of similarities that tie the two together
  • And when you think about the connections between the two, if given half a chance, Jesse James would have made a great pirate…

In addition to the above, I’m only now finding out about an act of piracy on Lake Erie, offshore from Toledo that took place back in October.  Not quite the same level as the Bell case from 1864, but sometimes it gets tough to keep a tradition alive.  For the sake of comparison, piracy on the Great lakes now seems to be better entrenched than the Miss America pageant


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