Rewards of Piracy

Author: Krzysztof Wilczynski

It is probably an obvious statement to say that the main force behind piracy, has always been the search for wealth. Pirates were able to acquire amazing riches, and goods, through their campaigns. The assets, of which the most noted, and often most prized were; gold and silver pieces, currency, jewelry, and precious stones. But the actual pirate booty, was acquired from looted merchant ships which usually included items such as linens, cloths, food, anchors, rope, and sometimes medical supplies. The cargo even included rare articles such as spices, sugar, indigo, and quinine.

The types of goods pillaged, depended on the type of ship encountered, therefore many pirates were very selective in the ship they attacked, to be certain that the booty received was worth the risks of battle. It was equally important for the captain to choose the most rewarding area to monitor. One such area was the Spanish Main, rewards of which attracted many pirates. It was a well known fact in the pirate archives, that the Spanish treasure fleet made frequent yearly visits to Portobello to load treasure from Peru, which was twice the yearly revenue of England's King, and often included 25 million pesos in the form of silver bars, and coins.

Choosing the right ship and the right cargo to pillage, was an essential part of any pirate ship captain’s duty, wishing to avoid mutiny. However, failing to attack a promising ship, could also result in a similar outcome, since most of his crew were sailing, for a share in the plundered goods.

Another concern was the actual method for dividing the assets acquired. The pirate code, stated that, any loot plundered, had to be shared out equally. Some treasure was more easily divided among the crew than others. For example, certain coins, such as pieces of eight were cut up into smaller change. However, jewels were not as easily divisible. Evidence of the dividing process, can be observed in the Pirate knife markings on some of the pirate loot, on exhibition in museums around the world.

The idea of buried treasure is mostly a mythical one, as it is romantically portrayed in books such as Treasure Island. One pirate however, who may have started the myth, and was known for burying his treasure was Captain Kidd. But even though some pirates may have hid their plunder in this way, a great deal more money was spent searching for it, than has ever been uncovered. Most pirates were extreme squanderers and rarely accumulated enough treasure to bury. Due to the danger and uncertainty of their profession, they were usually determined to live life for the present, and not save for the future.



Rewards of Piracy