Ahoy, mates ~
When a crew joined up with a pirate vessel each man signed or made his mark
on the Ship's Articles. What were these? Very simply they were a code of conduct
and rule of law which clearly stated both profits and punishments that could be
expected on board. Here are three examples of such articles, from the records of
Bartholomew Roberts, John Phillips and a lesser-known captain named Thomas Tew.
Upon reading them one becomes aware that these men lived hard lives, and that
the articles were not to be signed lightly. Punishments were apt to be quick and
severe. However, in the tiny world of a ship far at sea order must be
maintained, for there was little room for discord or lawlessness among
crewmates. Enjoy your read, and good luck with period spelling. :-)
Bartholomew Roberts' Articles
- ARTICLE I. - Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of
moment. He shall have an equal title to the fresh provisions or strong
liquors at any time seized, and shall use them at pleasure unless a scarcity
may make it necessary for the common good that a retrenchment may be voted.
- ARTICLE II. - Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list
on board of prizes, because over and above their proper share, they are
allowed a shift of clothes. But if they defraud the company to the value of
even one dollar in plate, jewels or money, they shall be marooned. If any
man rob another he shall have his nose and ears slit, and be put ashore
where he shall be sure to encounter hardships.
- ARTICLE III. - None shall game for money either with dice or cards.
- ARTICLE IV. - The lights and candles should be put out at eight at
night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit
upon the open deck without lights.
- ARTICLE V. - Each man shall keep his piece, cutlass and pistols at
all times clean and ready for action.
- ARTICLE VI. - No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any
man shall be found seducing any of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in
disguise he shall suffer death.
- ARTICLE VII. - He that shall desert the ship or his quarters in
time of battle shall be punished by death or marooning.
- ARTICLE VIII. - None shall strike another on board the ship, but
every man's quarrel shall be ended on shore by sword or pistol in this
manner. At the word of command from the quartermaster, each man being
previously placed back to back, shall turn and fire immediately. If any man
do not, the quartermaster shall knock the piece out of his hand. If
both miss their aim they shall take to their cutlasses, and he that draweth
first blood shall be declared the victor.
- ARTICLE IX. - No man shall talk of breaking up their way of living
till each has a share of úl,000. Every man who shall become a cripple or
lose a limb in the service shall have 800 pieces of eight from the common
stock and for lesser hurts proportionately.
- ARTICLE X. - The captain and the quartermaster shall each receive
two shares of a prize, the master gunner and boatswain, one and one half
shares, all other officers one and one quarter, and private gentlemen of
fortune one share each.
- ARTICLE XI. - The musicians shall have rest on the Sabbath Day only
by right. On all other days by favour only.
Captain John Phillips' Articles
- ARTICLE I. - Every man shall obey civil command; the captain shall
have on full share and a half in all prizes. The Master, Carpenter,
Boatswain, and Gunner shall have one share and quarter.
- ARTICLE 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.
- ARTICLE 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.
- ARTICLE IV. - If at any Time we should meet at another Marrooner
(that is, Pyrate that man shall sign his Articles without Consent of our
Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think
- ARTICLE V. - That man that shall strike another, whilst these
Articles are in force, shall receive Moses's Law on the bare Back.
- ARTICLE VI. - That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoak Tobacco
in the Hold, without cap to his Pipe, or carry a candle lighted without
lanthorn, shall suffer the same Punishment as in the former Article.
- ARTICLE VII. - That Man that shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for
an Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and
suffer such other Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.
- ARTICLE VIII. - If any man shall lose a joint in time of
Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight: if a limb, 800.
- ARTICLE IX. - If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that
Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer Death.
Captain Thomas Tew's Articles
Signed 8 January 1692
Copied on 6 June 1694.
Articles of agreement Indented, had, made concluded and agreed upon the
eight day of January in the ffourthyear of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord
and Lady King William and Queen Mary over England Scotland ffrance and
Ireland Defendor of the ffaith Annog (sic) Dom 1692. Between the owners Capt
Thomas Tew, Henery ffyfeild, Thomas Wamsly, Richard Gilbert, Thomas Hall
being Owners of the Sloop Called the Amity now Rideing att Anchor in the
Island of Bermuda at Somers Islands of the owne Part and the rest of the
Sloops Company on the other part have Severally and Joyntly Subscribed
theire Names and affixed theires to those Presents as ffolloweth.
- Whereas the said Capt Thomas Tew and the Rest of the sloops Company partye
to those Presents are now intended out on a voyage to Sea in the said Sloop
Amity, now those presents Witness that it's agreed by between all the said
parties to those presents and the said owners Capt Thomas Tew, Henery
ffyfeild, Thomas Wansly, Richard Gilbert Thomas Hall for themselves theire
heires Exrs: Admrs: and assignes doth Covenant,
Promise, Grant and Agree to and with the said sloops Company and Every of
them his and their Exrs: Admrs: and assignes by those
Presents in Manner and forms following (That is to Say)
- Imprimis, That the said Sloop the Amity att the proper cort and Charges of
the aforesaid owners shall within ten days after the date hereof be well and
Sufficiently fitted Tackted, Equippyed and Apparrelled for the Forms of
Months certaine and Months uncertaine as the Comand and Major part of the
said Company shall agree on and shall saile on such Voyage or Expedition as
the said Comander and Company shall think ffitt for the Best advantage of
the said owners and Company and further the said owners dox Covenant,
promise, Grant and Agree to and with the Company of the said Sloop Amity in
the Penall Sume of one Thousand pounds that they and theire heires Exrs:
Admrs: and Assignes shall and will allow all proper costs and
charges to the said Company att theire Returne they giving an account of
their Expences, Charges; Disbursments dureing the said voyage in the said
Sloop the Amity.
- ITEM that whatsoever interest, profitt or Advantage As Mony Plate
Bullion Jewells Ambergrease Goods Wares Merchandizes Shipping Vessell or
Vessells or other matter or thing whatsoever that shall bee ffound, Taken,
Gotten, had or Recovered att any time or place or in any mannor dureing the
whole terme of the said voyage or voyages or Expedition shall bee sharred
and Divided as followeth (That is to say) That all maimed men of the said
Company that shall bee Disabled in the true service of the Voyage to the
Apparent hindrance of getting their future Livelyhood, before any Dividend
shall be made hee or they shall have & Receive Eight hundred pieces of
Eight, or the true Value there of it so much shall bee gained received or
procured in the said voyage.
- ITEM provided that if any person or persons belonging to the said
sloop Amity, in time of fight or in Acting or in doing for the Good of the
said voyage he or they Loseing of a Joynt or Joynts they or theire Exrs:
Admrs: and Assignes shall have and receive one hundred pieces of
Eight for each Joynt soe Loesing.
- ITEM that all plunder that did belong to the said prize or prizes
Company Excepting mony Plate Bullion Jewells Ambergreese or Merchandizes
Whatsoever that shall bee found, Taken, Gotten, apon Dock or between Docks
or in the Cabben shall bee free Plunder Equally to bee Divided amongst the
said Sloops Company.
- ITEM it's further agreed that the said Owners for theire said Sloop
shall Next have and Receive Nine full common shaires, and the Comandr
thereof for the time being for himselfe and his Comission shall have two and
a halfe like full shares the master shall have one and a halfe like full
shares. The Doctor conditionally (That is) his Chest bee well fitted with
Medicons and that hee give Due attendance on all the said company as need
shall require throughout the said voyage and for the terme of one month if
need bee after the Expedition thereof shall therefore have and receive all
Chyrurgeons(?) Instruments and Medicons properly Belonging to any Vessell
taken and also one hundred pieces of Eight towards his Chest over and above
his full share in Comon with the said company.
- ITEM that if it shall happen that any Shipp or Vessell Whatsoever
shall bee Taken Gotten or obtained dureing this terme of the said Voyage by
the said parties to those presents or any others being parties parties
hereunto that then the said Comandr and his Successors Comanders for the
time being shall and may save Keep Burne or Distroy such shipp wessell or
vessellls att his Discretion according as he shall order and think most
Convenient without any of the said Company.
- ITEM that all Disbursments by the said owners for the said Company
on the account of provision shall bee duely pay`d for according to agreement
before any Dividend bee made of the first mony or goods taken as they or
their Orders shall think most meet to the Advantage.
- ITEM that all and Singular the Whole Remaining part of the produce
proffitts and Issues of the said voyage without any fraud or Concealement
shall bee shared and Divided amongst the said Company part & part alike,
and ashore any of them shall Dye or bee shared and Divided amongst the said
Company part & part alike, and ashore any of them shall Dye or bee
Jrined (??) in the Service of the said voyage every such persons Share of
the Whole shall bee good to the time of his or their death and no further
and their Exrs: Admrs: and Assignes by vertue of those
presents shall have a good right and Title according to Demand and receive
the same allwas(?) hereby Excepting and reserveing to the said Comandr and
Company for the time Being the Power Knowne Use and Customs of making any
Defalcations or abatement, Where he or the Company find cause for any Knowne
Default or misdemeaner or any of the said company then Living which
Defalcations shall bee Disposed of amongst the said Company by De****
(illegible), and the party as thereby Pretending to bee agreived shall have
no remedy thereby or herein.
- ITEM that whomsoever of the said Company shall first Spy a saile
and the same prove to bee a Prize sufficient to make them a Voyage he shall
Therefore have one hundred pieces of Eight or the Vallue att the choice and
Appointment of the Comand and the Major part of ye Company and free Entrance
into the Prize.
- ITEM that if the Company belonging to the said sloops Conow (sic)
being att any time sent out shall take or find anything under that vallue of
ffive hundred pieces of Eight without Gunshott of the said sloop the same
shall bee Equally shared amongst the said Conows Company But is any such
booty or purchase shall amount to that vallue or upwards itt shall be
brought to A common and General dividend amongst the said sloops Whole
- ITEM itt is further Covenanted Granted and agreed to and with the
Consent of the sloops whole Company that all Due and Civill respect that is
usually paid to a Capt in his Station shall bee paid to Capt. Thomas Tew,
and his Successors as our Comission officer, and also that the said Company
in General will furnish themselves with small Arms and Amunicion for their
small arms fitting for the said Expedition.
- ITEM if any of the said Company shall Dureing the said voyage force
or Ravish any Maid or Woman then hee or they shall loose his or their whole
share as aforesaid, and bee punished att the Capts and the Companys
- ITEM that if any Man of the said Company shall in time of service
be so Drunk & incapable that he does not fight and withstand the Enemy
then he or they shall bee Cutt of or punished according as the Capt and the
Major part of the Company thinks meete.
- ITEM that if any of the said Company shall in time of Service
Dureing the said Voyage show or prove himselfe a Coward then he or they
Shall Loose his and their voyage as aforesaid.
- ITEM that if any of the said company shall dureing the said voyage
conceale or Defraud anything of the booty or purchase found taken or Gotten
to the Vallue of a piece of Eight for any Longer than ffour and twenty
houers And shall not fully and truly deliver the same unto the Quarter
master for the time being he or they shall therefore Loose his and their
whole Share and Dividend as aforesaid.
- ITEM it's Mutually agreed that those Islands shall be theyer
Comission port And to the full and true performance of these present
Articles and every clause and thing herein Contained each of the said
parties to those presents bindeth him and themselves seaverally and his and
their severall Exrs: Admrs: and Assignes unto the
other of the said Parties his and their Exrs: Admrs:
and Assignes in the Sums or penalty of Two Thousand pounds Currant mony of
those Islands Nevertheless it`s further covenanted Granted, Concluded, and
agreed uppon that the whole company or each person severally will(?) forme
those Articles, Excepting the Hardness of ye Seas and the Danger of the
Enemyes, In Witness whereof all the said parties to those Articles have sett
thir hands & s Dated the day & yeare first above Written.
Signed Sealed and Delivered in the Presence of us
Capt Thomas Tew