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All the crew members of a pirate ship signed articles at the beginning of the cruise in which they agreed that all prizes taken on the cruise would be divided among the owners, officers, and crews in the proportions set forth in the articles. A Privateer ship did not have Articles because they were governed by naval regulations (which they seldom followed). Privateers were little better than pirates.

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Very few shipboard Articles have survived because they were only drawn up among pirates who didn’t keep records for obvious reasons. How these few Articles survived is remarkable.

Bartholomew Roberts Shipboard Articles 1721

Pirates did not follow any civil laws. What they did was to draw up their own set of laws that they called “Articles”. All pirate ships had articles. These articles listed the things the crew found important, and the order in which they found them important.  Black Bart’s crew’s first matter of importance was the division of provisions and strong liquors. And it was all downhill from there…

Captain George Lowther’s Articles 1729

Articles were an important agreement between the crew and the captain of any pirate vessel because they spelled out the conditions under which the crew would agree to sail with the pirate captain. A privateer’s ship did not have Articles because they were governed by naval regulations which they seldom followed. Privateers were little better than pirates.

Captain John Phillips’ Articles 1724

Here are two out of the ten Articles from John Phillips’ crew. You can add more!

II  If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be marroon’d with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm, and Shot.

III  If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be marroon’d or shot.

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