The position of Quartermaster was one that was unique on pirate vessels; he was elected, like the captain, and actually had the authority to over-rule the captain unless the ship was in battle. He was also in the enviable position of itemizing, taking care of and dividing the loot from captured ships among the crew. He was also one of the highest authorities on the ship, next to the captain of the vessel.
Justice of the Peace
A Quartermaster of a pirate ship was a kind of Civil Magistrate and Justice of the Peace for the ship he was on. He could settle disputes between crew members and punish those who committed minor infractions against the crews’ agreement.
He acted as a sort of civil Magistrate on board a pirate ship. The Quartermaster was one of the most trusted men on board and, as such, acted as a sort of trustee for all the booty that was captured. He would record and itemize it so that it could be equally split up when they hit land.
Minor infractions could be punished at the Quartermaster’s discretion on a pirate ship, but could only dole out punishments for major crimes if the perpetrator was tried by the crew council.
Being able to read and write was key for a quartermaster as they were expected to keep a record of all the booty that was brought aboard the ship.
Counterbalance for the Captain’s Authority
No pirate wanted to be completely under the power of any one person and, as such, the Quartermaster was also expected to act as a counterbalance to the authority of the captain aboard the pirate ship.
First to be Captain of Prize Ships
The Quartermaster led boarding parties and if the prize ship was to be kept would be the first to assume command of the new pirate ship.
As well as allocating loot the quartermaster would also act as a kind of accountant who kept track of the ship’s finances, resources and supplies and made sure that they were used effectively.
So, it would seem that the quartermaster was, as you can tell, the most trusted man on the ship. How about you? Would you prefer to be captain or quartermaster? Add your comment.