Too often, images of wild-eyed bushwhackers and carousing cutthroats give the impression that pirate ships had little or no organization. Their voyages are seen as a byproduct of chaotic events that just happen to turn out all right (or not).
Fallacy! Pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy adhered to a strict schedule of governance dictated by an organized system and run by the pirates themselves. Votes were placed for the leadership positions and everyone carried his (or her) weight on board.
John Phillips, Bartholomew Roberts, Edward Low, and George Lowther all produced a set of rule known as their “Articles” — the written laws for the ship. These were followed without question by the pirates who adopted them (or face the noose — as was often the consequence).
Daniel Defoe has recorded this in his famous book, A General History of the Pyrates:
Nature, we see, teaches the most Illiterate the necessary Prudence for their Preservation . . . these Men whom we term, and not without Reason, the Scandal of human Nature, who were abandoned to all Vice, and lived by Rapine; when they judged it for their Interest . . . were strictly just . . . among themselves. (Captain Charles Johnson 1726– 28, 527)
To this day, discipline and organization is mandatory in order to run “a tight ship.” Following in the footsteps of 18th-century pirates, we would do well to keep our affairs as the pirates of old did – in “ship shape” … as it were.