Golden Age of Piracy - Skull and Crossbones

Pirate Havens

Republic of Pirates

Pirate Havens > Republic of Pirates

Republic of Pirates

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

The Republic of Pirates (1706-1718) was the political entity that the former privateers and infamous pirates of the Flying Gang created at Nassau on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas that lasted about eleven years between 1706 and 1718 during the Post Spanish Succession Period. The Republic of Pirates was governed by the 'Code of Conduct' which was akin to the Pirate Code and this political entity would last until the Blockade of Nassau in 1718 when Governor Woodes Rogers arrived delivering the 1718 Kings Pardon.

Nassau - Nassau Map (18th Century)

Nassau Map (18th Century)

The Republic of Pirates was able to develop in the Bahamas to the lack of any population along with constant European Wars. The area had been home to pirate since at least 1696 when the infamous pirate Henry Every sailed his ship the Fancy into port following the Capture of the Ganj-i-sawai and the first subsequent international manhunt after him. Despite the British authorities actively persuing Every he was able to find safe refuge in the Bahamas under Governor Nicholas Trott.

Establishment

The Republic of Pirates was a political entity of pirates established initially by Benjamin Hornigold and Henry Jennings who declared themselves the first governors of the island along with a man named Thomas Barrow. This would be the beginnings of the Flying Gang as well and see the rise of several famous and iconic pirates. For example Benjamin Hornigold was the mentor to Edward Teach who would later go on to become the infamous Blackbeard. Henry Jennings would be the mentor to the famous Charles Vane as well as 'Calico' Jack Rackham as well as indirectly both Mary Read and Anne Bonny.

Despite internal conflicts and rivalries the Flying Gang was successful and thousands of people including pirates, merchants, prostitutes and more flocked to the new pirate haven at Nassau. At one point the Governor of Bermuda remarked that there were over 1000 pirates in Nassau and that they vastly outnumbered the inhabitants of the town. Eventually Blackbeard would be elected to run the Republic of Pirates and he took on the position of 'Magistrate'.

Henry Jennings - 1715 Sunken Treasure Fleet Map

1715 Sunken Treasure Fleet Map

The main source of wealth for this new settlement had been the plundered treasure from the sunken 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet much like the buccaneers had plied the Spanish Main in the preceding century to help build the pirate havens of Port Royal and Tortuga during the Buccaneering Era.

During its formative years the Flying Gang never attacked British merchant ships but this would change over time as the Post Spanish Succession Period would draw to a close. At their height the pirates commanded fleets and took titles such as 'Commodore' and had the power and influence to back it up. The Royal Navy was often evenly matched or even outgunned by the pirates. The Republic of Pirates would reign supreme over the West Indies until the 1718 King's Pardon.

The Pirate Code

The code of laws of the Republic of Pirates was very similar to the Pirate Code which actually allows this to be established as a political entity during this period. According to the pirate code there was a democratic system of government where loot was shared equally. Captains and leaders could be deposed by a popular vote and many of these libertarian ideals were motivated by the tyranny that many sailors experienced working for merchants or the Royal Navy.

Another unique feature among the Republic of Pirates was that Africans were considered equal members of the crew and often freed slaves were invited to bolster pirate crews. Several Blacks and Amerindians would become pirate captains in their own right such as Black Caesar. Many of the pirates were also Jacobites who wanted to help restore the recently deposed Stuart monarchy line back in England.

Blockade of Nassau

The Republic of Pirates and the use of Nassau as a pirate haven would cease to exist following the Blockade of Nassau by Governor Woodes Rogers who was adamant about delivering law and order through the 1718 King's Pardon to his new position. He would employ the same tactics that he did previously on the island of Madagascar to stamp out the pirate haven that developed as a result of the First Pirate Round.

Charles Vane - Fireship (Willem van de Velde 1672-1707)

Fireship - Willem van de Velde (1672-1707)

Ultimately Rogers would be successful in restoring law and order to the Bahamas and after several hardships eventually the colony grew to be quite prosperous and successful. However, none of this would have likely been possible if it were not for the entrenched foothold the Flying Gang made in the region and cemented British cultural dominance for the coming centuries. Like the buccaneers of the Brethren of the Coast before them who established both Tortuga and Port Royal during the Buccaneering Era, the Flying Gang would forever change the landscape of the West Indies which continues that way long after the Golden Age of Piracy had ended.

End of the Republic

Pirate Havens

Settlements

Fortresses

Governments

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Woodard, Colin (2010). The Republic of Pirates. Harcourt, Inc. pp. 166–168, 262–314. ISBN 978-0-15-603462-3.

Recommended Resources


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