The New England Pirate Museum
Articles of Agreement
Many pirate ships developed pirate rules or "Articles of Agreement". When a ship was captured, the able-bodied prisoners were asked to sign the articles and become pirates themselves. Most refused, but were then forced into piracy anyway. However, these "forced" pirates could not be found guilty of piracy because they had not signed the articles.
The "pirate rules" listed below are compiled from several sources and offer a sampling of "law and order" among a pirate company. If there were any doubt about interpreting the code, a jury was chosen to bring in a verdict. - Of course not all pirate ships had "Articles of Agreement"
- Every man had a voice in all affairs
- Every man had equal title to all fresh provisions and strong liquors seized.
- Captain and Quartermaster received two shares in a prize. Sailing Master, Boatswain, and Gunner receive one-and-one-half shares. Other officers one-and-one-quarter shares. Sailors, one share. If one lost a limb or became a cripple in the common service, one received more of a share.
- No gaming for money at cards or dice at sea.
- Lights and candles out before 8 o'clock. Any drinking done after 8 o'clock must be done on open decks
- Every man must keep his gun, pistol, and cutlass clean and ready for service. If he did not, he would be cut from his share and suffer such punishment as the captain saw fit.
- To desert the ship or abandon quarters in time of battle was punished by death or marooning. The marooned was usually given a bottle of water and some powder, shot and a pistol.
- If someone cheated the company of an article of value, he would be punished by marooning.
- If robbery took place between two crewmen, the guilty one had his nose and ears split and would be marooned.
- No women were allowed on board. If any man carried a woman on board disguised, he would be put to death.
- No striking another on board ship. every man's quarrel would be settled on shore with sword and pistol. Quartermaster would accompany both to shore. The disputants were set back to back at 20 paces. At the command, they turn and fire immediately. If both miss, they take up their cutlasses.
For Class Discussion:
Have the students consider each rule separately. Why do they think each rule was necessary?
Have the students consider the articles as a whole. Are the rules fair? Is the punishment just? What about the rules would attract individuals to an outlaw life of piracy?
For Math Skills Review:
Create a variety of pirate crews with different size prizes to be divided up. (See Divide the Prize )
Have the students compute how much each share would been worth.
Have the students compute how much each officer and crew member would receive.
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