Private Sector Imperialism-10
April 29, 2005[ Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 |12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 ]
This is not a series remotely close to completion. However, I thought readers might share my delight in finding this essay by Ideofact on the comparative cruelty of eighteenth-century pirates:At the same time, legally constituted governments and their merchants were shipping "black ivory" -- that is, African slaves -- to the New World; the Inquisition was still torturing, trying and burning heretics; and even English law stipulated that the punishment for treason (a crime whose definition included both counterfeiting and forgery) as hanging, cutting the still living man down and then disembowelling him while still alive, then drawing and quartering him. The penalty for theft, by the way, was the branding of the letter "T" in a prominent position on a man's left cheek. The cruelty of pirates was not sui generis; rather, it was timid by the standards of the times.
This is not to suggest that by modern standards pirates were humane, however, the average buccaneer was a professional thief first and foremost. It was far better to take a ship without fighting than to have to risk combat. Considering that merchant sailors were poorly paid, subject to floggings, dunkings and kealhaulings, that their captains had the power of life and death over them, few were eager to take up arms against pirates. It is instructive to note that pirates recruited from the crewmen of captured merchant vessels. It seems it was the cruelty of their own captains, rather than that of the pirates, that persuaded them to fly under the Jolly Roger.Ideofact, a superb writer of exquisite learning, wrote this two years ago, but essays on pirates age remarkably well.In 1494, Spain and Portugal divided the "undiscovered" world between themselves... Spain rather jealously protected its "rights," and in the 1660s, planned to drive the British from their recently occupied possession of Jamaica. The governor of Jamaica, one Sir Thomas Modyford, with the approval of his ruling council of local worthies, gave letters of marque to the buccaneers to plunder as they wished, to attack the Spanish in their bases, and to prevent the enemy from mustering sufficient forces to attack Jamaica. Harry Morgan, the buccaneers' democratically elected leader, accepted the mission... Despite being outnumbered, his tactical brilliance and the fighting spirit of his free men overcame the Spanish time and again, at sea and on land, making an attack on Jamaica impossible. Morgan and his pirates saved the New World for the English.Which reminded me of this passage in Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis):"Aslan Makes a Hole in the Air": At the sight of Aslan the cheeks of the Telmarine soldiers became the colour of cold gravy, their knees knocked together, and many fell on their faces. They had not believed in lions and this made their fear greater...
Next day messengers (who were chiefly squirrels and birds) were sent all over the country with a proclamation to the scattered Telmarines...They were told that Caspian was now King and that Narnia would henceforth belong to the Talking Beasts and the Dwarfs and Dryads and Fauns and other creatures quite as much as to the men. Any who chose to stay under the new conditions might do so; but for those who did not like the idea, Aslan would provide another home.
"Men of Telmar," said Aslan, "you who seek a new land, hear my words. I will send you all to your own country, which I know and you do not."
"...You came into Narnia out of Telmar," said Aslan. "But you came into Telmar from another place. You do not belong to this world at all. You came hither, certain generations ago, out of that same world to which the High King Peter belongs [i.e., earth]...
"Many years ago in that world, in a deep sea of that world which is called the South Sea, a shipload of pirates were driven by storm on an island. And there they did as pirates would: killed the natives and took the native women for wives, and ...six were put to flight by the rest and fled with their women ...into a cave to hide. But it was one of the magical places of that world, ...And so they fell, or rose, or blundered, or dropped right through, and found themselves in this world, in the Land of Telmar which was then unpeopled. ...And in Telmar their descendants lived and became a fierce and proud people..."