I’m going to talk a bit about what I think is a very fun subject, pirates. My upcoming release from Total E-Bound is a collaboration with the wonderfully talented KyAnn Waters. An Improper Wife is a Georgian Historical set in 1798. Our heroine Lady Caroline Wilmont is the niece of British privateer Phillip Etherton, who was also the infamous pirate Peiter Everston.
For those who may not be certain of the difference between privateer and pirate, here’s the perfect definition of privateer from Wikepedia:
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. They disrupted commerce and pressured the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade against commerce raiders. The cost was borne by investors hoping to profit from prize money earned from captured cargo and vessels.
As for pirates, we all know that they were men who attacked ships and took their booty. In essence, privateering was government sanctioned pirating, though, unlike pirating, the ships were not to be sunk, and crewmembers were to be taken hostage, not killed. All goods taken while privateering was booty of the government for whom the privateer worked. Not surprisingly, many privateers didn’t turn over the booty to their government, or they simply pirated on the side. ROFL. Talk about moonlighting!
Now, governments didn’t so easily give up their share of the booty.
The letter of marque of a privateer typically limited activity to a specific area and to the ships of specific nations. Typically, the owners or captain would be required to post a performance bond against breaching these conditions, or they might be liable to pay damages to an injured party.
So, if the government caught you breaking the contract, they imposed fines.
Would it surprise you to learn that the United States employed privateers?
During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress and some state governments (on their own initiative), issued privateering licenses, authorizing "legal piracy", to merchant captains in an effort to take prizes from the British Navy and Tory (Loyalist) privateers. This was done due to the relatively small number of commissioned American naval vessels and the pressing need for prisoner exchange.
About 55,000 American seamen served aboard the privateers. They quickly sold their prizes, dividing their profits with the financier (persons or company) and the state (colony). Long Island Sound became a hornets' nest of privateering activity during the American Revolution, as most transports to and from New York went through the Sound. New London, Connecticut was a chief privateering port for the American colonies, leading to the British Navy blockading it in 1778-1779.
Between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1812, less than 30 years, Britain, France, Naples, the Barbary States, Spain, and the Netherlands seized approximately 2,500 American ships.
During the War of 1812. the British attacked Essex, Connecticut, and burned the ships in the harbor, due to the construction there of a number of privateers. This was the greatest financial loss of the entire War of 1812 suffered by the Americans.
One other very interesting tidbit about privateering and the U.S.
No letter of marque has been legitimately issued by the United States since the nineteenth century. The status of submarine hunting Goodyear airships in the early days of the second world war has created significant confusion. According to one story, the United States Navy issued a Letter of Marque to the Airship Resolute on the West Coast of the United States at the beginning of World War II, making it the first time the US Navy commissioned a privateer since the War of 1812. However, this story, along with various other accounts referring to the airships Resolute and Volunteer as operating under a "privateer status", is highly dubious. Since neither the Congress nor the President appears to have authorized a privateer during the war, the Navy would not have had the authority to do so by itself.
There is so much history here that I could go on for pages. But I won’t! Hopefully, you had a bit of fun in reading about privateers and pirates. I know there’s a book in here somewhere for me. (But that’s not surprising for a writer, is it?)
Btw, for any who may wonder if women played any part in pirating, take a look at Charlotte Badger and Catherine Hagerty.
Felon Charlotte Badger and convict Catherine Hagerty were among other convicts who seized the colonial brig called Venus while it was docked at Port Dalrymple so that the captain could attend to some business delivering official dispatches.
A proper young lady should never attend a Masque...Aphrodite is no lady.
Betrothal to the callous Lord Blackhall painted a future devoid of love. Upon his death, Lady Caroline Wilmont is promised to the younger brother. Caroline refuses to allow her first taste of desire to be at the hands of a man who would rather have any woman but her. This, her last night of freedom, is to be a memory of lust that she can take with her throughout her loveless marriage. As Aphrodite, Caroline attends a masque determined to find a man to initiate her into the intimacies of erotic love.
Taran Robertson, Viscount of Blackhall, makes no secret that he despises his obligation to marry the Sassenach heiress chosen for him by his father. As a last foray before his wedding, he attends a masque. However, the spirited vixen he meets and seduces has secrets...secrets that just may reveal he’s to have an improper wife.
If you would like a digital copy of An Improper Wife, leave a comment. I'll choose a winner on Monday, May 7.