All Who Go Private With Us Must Be Men With Beards: Capture Of The Pirate Edward Teach, Called Blackbeard, Painted By Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930)
Pirates are violent criminals. They created legal vacuums on their ships and converted illegally acquired property into assets. Why do historians and economists rave about them so often?
Edward D’Oley, the governor of British Jamaica, proclaimed in 1661 that the peace just concluded between England and Spain did not apply to the Caribbean. Pirates and buccaneers could therefore safely set up a base in Port Royal, from where they attacked Spanish ships without coming into conflict with the authorities. D’Oley’s successors also tolerated the pirate trade: taverns, brothels, pirate supply stores – they all made a living from piracy.
After that, the distinction between the colonial establishment and privateering, between state authority and illegal business, became increasingly blurred. Henry Morgan (1635 to 1688), one of the most famous pirates in the history of the world and known as “the horrors of the Caribbean”, was able to “legalize” his illegally captured wealth by investing heavily in sugar cane plantations. In the end he even became lieutenant governor of the colony and, as a reward, was knighted by the English King Charles II.