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Kilted Eric

Question - River Pirates?

23 posts in this topic

Hi all,

When is doubt ask people smarter than you. Thats my mantra.

I have been curious about pirate activity on rivers in the Fur trading years.

Where this comes from - -my wife and I are white water river guides in Washington state. My character idea (the SKirted River Pirate) is born from this sport. It would be interesting to me to put some history behind the character.

Thank you in advance,

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That will be a fun read. I started skimming it, and it looks enlightening.

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Are you interested in river pirates in general, or specific to Washington? I've just started doing research into the possible history of pirates in Oregon, but it appears that from the time of Cortez until around 1775, the west coast was owned by Spain (theoretically in perpetuity), which England and the other countries agreed with by signing the Treaty of Ultrecht. Also, it was Spaniards who traveled that far north until later in the 1700s. (Information gathered from History of the Oregon Territory)

I'm still not sure how far west trappers and explorers got by the mid 1600s, but that same treaty also claimed for Spain anything west of the Rio Grande.

So, you would be a Spaniard if you wanted to keep your persona in Washington, but since there were few settlements and ships in that territory at the time, there wouldn't be much to pirate.

Mississippi pirates sound much more interesting. :lol:

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Thanks Ranson!

Some interesting ideas there. I am also highly intrigued by the idea of the Spaniards in this area. I look forward to hearing more of your stories. I am a tour guide in Seattle, and growing into a history buff. This history, albeit way outside my timelines for history that I talk about, but to me really interesting.

I grew up in Minnesota, and my thoughts were a French Fur trader kinda guy heading west and raiding river camps for booty.

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So, you would be a Spaniard if you wanted to keep your persona in Washington

NYTE! He would be Russian! Typical western European statement giving glorious land of Tsar to some upstart Iberian want to be country. It be Russian, that's true, I learned it in a little school just outside of Minsk.

Russian Fur Trade California 1800's

Or, put another way, indeed that was Spain's claim, the reality was there weren't any Europeans up there in the early to mid 1700's except for a few exploration ships. It's the non-Spanish fur trapping (very late 1700's) in the area that get's the first Europeans in the area for any sort of duration.

I suspect that if somebody wanted to be a 1710 river pirate in what is to become Washington State, they could represent a Samish Indian attacking other tribes. :lol:

Edited by Graydog

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Perhaps a bit late in the fur-trading years (early 1500's to mid 1800's?), but how about captain Samuel Mason, a militia officer who became a river pirate?

Click here, here, here, or here...

For a more whimsical look at river piracy, click

... :lol:

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Thanks Ranson!

Some interesting ideas there. I am also highly intrigued by the idea of the Spaniards in this area. I look forward to hearing more of your stories. I am a tour guide in Seattle, and growing into a history buff. This history, albeit way outside my timelines for history that I talk about, but to me really interesting.

I grew up in Minnesota, and my thoughts were a French Fur trader kinda guy heading west and raiding river camps for booty.

Well, I haven't gotten too far with it yet, but it does appear that the Northwest before around 1775 was mostly Indians. The Spanish may have explored and named things, but they didn't stay. Whatever I do find, I'll pass on.

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Technically, stealing on a river is not piracy - it's theft. The legal definition of piracy involves stealing "on the high seas." According to this definition, an act of piracy must occur in international waters.

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I was going to suggest that you look into the Lady Washington . . .

http://www.ladywashington.org/

But, it is 2 hours from Seattle. I hadn't realized that it was so far inland. I thought it was on a bay of the Pacific, not sure why . . . I'm wrong.

I'd still check it out and see about volunteering with them.

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Technically, stealing on a river is not piracy - it's theft. The legal definition of piracy involves stealing "on the high seas." According to this definition, an act of piracy must occur in international waters.

I agree with you but then, what about pirates raiding a village by land or by the port? What about Henri Morgan? How would they fit in that definition?

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That leads to another point . . .

Did Morgan ever consider himself anything other than a privateer?

(But, that may be a question for a whole other thread.)

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Tacking a question on to the OP's-

What about water-borne theft in the coastal rivers and sounds of North Carolina? I know it was common enough after our period, but What about during the GAoP? I ask because I am trying to base my persona on family legend. My ancestors came to this area in 1704, and we still haven't left. It is accepted as fact among locals that the economy here at that time consisted of opportunistic theft supplemented with sustenance fishing and gathering, but the specifics are hidden or forgotten.

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Technically, stealing on a river is not piracy - it's theft. The legal definition of piracy involves stealing "on the high seas." According to this definition, an act of piracy must occur in international waters.

I agree with you but then, what about pirates raiding a village by land or by the port? What about Henri Morgan? How would they fit in that definition?

Again, technically, that wouldn't be an act of piracy, it would be one of theft (or, if you like, ransacking, pillaging and/or looting.)

Note that many sort of consider Morgan a buccaneer as opposed to a GAoP pirate. (That's a very fine line, to be sure.) As for privateering....I believe the difference between a pirate and a privateer is which side of the fence you happen to be sitting on. The Spanish certainly considered him a pirate while Oliver Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth thought otherwise.

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That will be a fun read. I started skimming it, and it looks enlightening.

Closer to the GAoP period there is in Quebec the story of Dollard des Ormeaux. In 1660 with a small group of young men they decided to attack a bunch of French allied indians that were coming to Montreal to trade some furs. Unfortunately a large group of Iroquois had the same idea. Dollard encounter the Iroquois and try to hide himself in a small shabby fort. A faux-pas with a homemade grenade made the fort explode with Dollard and his man. Many Iroquois died in this explosion as well and so their project to raid Montreal was cancel. So for many year Dollard was celebrated as a true hero who save the colony, while in fact historian now consider he was more of a unlucky pirate/thief :D

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With due respect Mission, you are a doctor not a lawyer :D

PIRACY : the Trade or Practice of a Pirate PIRATE: one who lives by Pillage and robbing on the Sea or River

An universal etymological English dictionary, By N. (Nathan) Bailey, Published by E. Bell, 1724

Sec 8 And be it enacted That if any perfon or perfons fhall commit upon the high feas or in any river haven bafon or bay out of the jurisdiction of any particular ftate murder or robbery or any other offence which if committed within the body of a county would by the laws of the United States be punifhible with death.....every fuch offender fhall be deemed taken and adjudged to be a pirate and felon and being thereof convifted shall fuffer death and the trial of crimes committed on the high seas or in any place out of the jurifdiftion of any particular ftate shall be in the disctrict where the offender is apprehended or into which he may firft be brought.

Acts Passed at the First Session of the 1st Congress - 3d Session of the 25th Congress etc, By United States, United States Congress, Published by Printed by Richard Folwell, 1796

Piracy shall be tried and punifhed as felony without benefit of clergy (11 & 12 Will 3 c.7; 4 Geo I c.11; 6 Geo I c.19; 8 Geo I c.24 & 18 Geo 2 c.30) By 11 & 12 Will 3 c.7 commander or manner who fhall betray his truft or turn pirate or perfon laying violent hands on commander shall be adjudged a pirate and felon and shall fuffer death. By 8 Geo I c.24 trading with pirates furnishing them with stores or correfponding with them shall be adjudged piracy and felony without clergy

A compendious digest of the statute law: comprising the substance and effect of all the public acts of Parliament in force from Magna Charta in the ninth year of King Henry III to the twenty-seventh year of his present majesty King George III inclusive, By Thomas Walter Williams, Published by Printed for G. Kearsley, 1787

And for the fun of it, highlights from 18 George II, Chapter 30. This is an adendum to the acts 11 & 12 Will 3 c.7, "an act for the effectual suppressing of piracy"

That all perfons being natural born fubjects or denizens of his Majefty who during the prefent or any future wars have committed or shall commit any hoftilities upon the fea or in any haven, river creek or place where the admiral or admirals have power authority or jurisdiction againft his Majefty's fubjecls by vjrtue or under colour of any commiffion from any of his Ma ftv enemies or have been or fhall be any other ways adherent or giving aid or comfort to his Majefty's enemies upon the fea or in any haven river creek or place where the admiral or admirals have power authority or jurifdicYion may be tried as pirates felons and robbers in the faid court of admiralty on fhip board or upon the land in the fame manner as perfons guilty of piracy felony and robbery are....

Statutes at Large, By Great Britain, Published 1765

Even further reading is available from A collection of statutes connected with the general administration of the law: arranged according to the order of subjects, with notes By Great Britain, William David Evans, Anthony Hammond, Thomas Colpitts Granger, Published by W.H. Bond, 1836, p 122. Though 19th century this book does a good job of collecting all the laws pertaining to the subject of piracy law, from the reigns of Richard II through George IV.

Enjoy!

Chole

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Where I come from, this is the part where we all chant "Ohhhhhhhhhhh."

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Oh & to the OP.

I would suggest reading about the Harp Brothers, Big & Little. The Wikipedia page on them is a good general, sanitized over view.

Harp Brothers Wikipedia

Be forewarned though, if you start digging, there are some rather graphic accounts of their exploits. Definitely not for the weak of constitution!

Chole

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Actually, we had a long-running thread on this topic at piratesinfo.com several years ago which I couldn't find to cite when I first posted (they've re-organized the site and appear to have gotten rid of the search function). When I started posting in this thread, I looked up the definition for legal piracy at the freedictionary.com. I found a similar explanation for modern piracy on Cindy Vallar's site, but I did notice this referred to the modern definition. Since you cited so many sources, I'll be more than happy to defer when talking about the antiquated definition of piracy (pre-Geneva Convention -1958- apparently). In modern terms, these do not appear to apply legally to piracy, however.

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wow, I love threads that wander around! You all are good at this.

Thank you all for the insight and advice.

I will read through the Harp story, and I understand that not all history is shiny and pretty. For a fun romp look up the Sweany Bean clan sometime! he he h.

Thanks odles!

(hum, do pirates say "odles")

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Apparently so . . .

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Hi all,

When is doubt ask people smarter than you. Thats my mantra.

I have been curious about pirate activity on rivers in the Fur trading years.

Where this comes from - -my wife and I are white water river guides in Washington state. My character idea (the SKirted River Pirate) is born from this sport. It would be interesting to me to put some history behind the character.

Thank you in advance,

The book X Marks the Spot, the Archaeology of Piracy has a chapter on river pirates. Yes, it really is piracy - people on boats robbing other people on boats. Most of it happened in the late 18th and erly 19th century on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. During this period there was substantial flatboat traffic going down the rivers and settlements were few enough that there were long stretches where the pirates could hide. They usually tried to pick off individual rafts and flatboats. To prevent this, most river traffic was in groups.

Mark

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