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Pirates and Piracy   By:

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Pirates and Piracy



With Illustrations by FREDERICK EHRLICH

And an Introduction by HERMAN A. HEYDT



There is hardly a person who, as a school boy, had not received the fire of imagination and the stimulus for adventure and a roaming life through the stirring narratives concerning Captain Kidd and other well known sea rovers. A certain ineffable glamor metamorphosed these robbers into heroes, and lent an inalienable license to their "calling," so that the songster and romancist found in them and their deeds prolific and genial themes, while the obscure suggestions of hidden treasures and mysterious caves have inspired many expeditions in quest of buried fortunes which, like the Argo of old, have carried their Jasons to the mythical Colchis.

The pens of Byron, Scott, Poe, Stevenson, Russell, and Stockton, and the musical genius of Wagner, were steeped in the productive inspiration of these lawless adventurers, and Kingsley found in Lundy Island, the erstwhile nest of the reckless tribe, a subject for his "Westward Ho!"

Byron, in "The Corsair," sings:

O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea, Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free, Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam, Survey our empire, and behold our home! These are our realms, no limits to their sway, Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey. Ours the wild life in tumult still to range From toil to rest, and joy in every change.

Piracy was the growth of maritime adventure, and developed with the advancement of commerce. The Phoenicians and Greeks were especially apt in the interstate wars which frequently degenerated into rapine and plunder, and with them piracy became a recognized enterprise. In Homeric times it was dignified with a respect worthy of a nobler cause a sentiment in which the freebooters of later centuries took arrogant pride. The pirate cruel, vicious, debased to the lowest degree of turpitude established a moral code governing his actions and circumscribing his wanton license, and it was in the rigorous observance of these "trade laws" and customs of their realm that this abortive sense of honor manifested itself.

The successes of the Phoenicians and Greeks soon made the Mediterranean the theatre of maritime robbery, in later years conducted under the authority, sanction, and immunity of the Barbary powers. In fact, so reckless had the enterprise become that the temerity of the free lances knew no bounds, and headquarters, so to speak, were established, and for a long time maintained, at Cilicia.

The vigorous campaign of Pompey in 67 B.C. against the pirates was but the precursor of that systematic defence which the nations of the world eventually adopted. The Hanseatic League of the cities of Northern Germany and neighboring states, no doubt, had its origin in the necessitous combination of merchants to resist the attacks of the Norsemen. England sent out many expeditions to destroy the pestiferous freebooters who swarmed from the African coast, and finally, in 1815, the United States sent Decatur to Algiers to annihilate the nefarious corsairs, who had thrived and become brazen in their recklessness during the three centuries of their ascendant power. The incursions of the Algerine pirates were made as far north as England, Ireland, and Iceland, and through them an iniquitous slave trade was developed. The law of nations did not place its ban upon this slave traffic until by statute England and the United States attempted to obliterate this ineradicable blot upon our civilization, and only a half century ago Austria, Prussia, and Russia declared it to be piracy... Continue reading book >>

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