Difference Between Piracy And Privateering

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Register to read the introduction… Historically, piracy and privateering are often confused and the differentiation between the two is vague. They are very similar since the general concept of their work (raiding and pillaging ships) is the same. It is authorization that forms the distinction between them: privateering was a governmentally authorized affair. The country giving the authorization considered it privateering and the country being raided considered it piracy. Distribution of Letters of Marque to privateering ships was common enough that pirates, the unauthorized sea raiders, could easily function under a facade of legitimacy.

It is not known exactly when or where privateering originated. However, historians say that in the 15th century when piracy became a major problem in areas like Bristol, England, residents of coastal cities began to resort to self-help by arming ships at their own expense, so it has been generally decided that these ships were the first privateers. 2 This caused a great deal of reform in naval strategy. These armed ships filled the need for protection that the current authority was unable to provide because it lacked an official structure or coordinated
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The government did not have a hard time finding crews for privateering ships. The sailors from whaling and fishing ports and even people who served in the Continental Navy were eager to be a part of the movement after hearing of the profitable adventures of privateers. There were around 55,000 American seamen that served the U.S. as privateers during the American revolution. It has been said that even John Paul Jones, one of the U.S.’s first well known naval fighters, was part of the privateer movement. In reality however, he was disgusted by the act. He viewed it as a “pragmatic motivation to fight.”3 He believed that rather than join the privateers, American men should turn their attentions toward the Continental Navy.

The Navy offered sailors a half-pint of rum per day, a $400 death benefit to families and a man’s share prize doubled if he was the first to see an enemy vessel - tripled if he was first to board it. However, the navy’s requirement to attend “divine service” twice a day and to discourage “cursing and blasphemy” was not present on privateering ships. Moral leniency, along with “privateering’s elective approach to battling the Royal Navy, it’s bigger signing bonuses and higher probability of getting paid”4 made it the obvious choice for American

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