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Privateers Are One of the Reasons There is an America.

by Daniel Russ on October 25, 2019

In Atkinson’s book, The British Are Coming, the point is made that the Colonists did not fare well in battle against to British that often and less often in the sea. At the behest and remuneration of the French and other enemies of the British, the Privateers, pirates in other words, really kpt the Royal Navy off balance.

“Privateers had taken 733 British merchantmen since the first shots at Lexington; those ships would be among 3,400 captured during the war—a vast flotilla of impounded Betsys, Bettys, Hannahs, Janes, Isabellas, Susannahs, and more than a few Johns. About two thousand armed American privateers, carrying eighteen thousand guns and seventy thousand sailors, would prey on enemy shipping on both sides of the Atlantic. Massachusetts alone sent out five Bunker Hills, fifteen Resolutions, no fewer than twenty-one Revenges, and many a Washington, Franklin, and General Arnold. Privateers inevitably competed with the Continental Navy for manpower, munitions, and booty. Discipline was looser on a privateer—naval officers prohibited cursing and required sailors to attend church service twice daily—and the rewards were greater, since those holding private commissions kept the full value of prizes, while Congress now forced naval ships to remit to the public treasury half the value of enemy merchantmen seized. A solicitation in one port beckoned “all gentlemen volunteers who are desirous of making their fortunes in eight weeks.” Whalers and fishermen signed on, but also teachers and preachers, according to the historian Helen Augur. “Success … in that business,” James Warren wrote John Adams, “has been sufficient to make a whole country privateering mad.””


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