What was the Pirate Code?

The Pirate Code is just about as famous as the buccaneers that were believed to follow it. In fact it has been mentioned in literature, movies, and historical accounts! But you could be forgiven for not knowing just what it is, or even who it applied to.


Well, unlike legitimate sailors, pirates made their own code. That means that not all ships were subject to the same blanket regulations the way a Navy or Merchant ship, which was subject to national laws, would be. The pirate code could change from ship to ship, or even from voyage to voyage depending on the crew involved. This made it a very democratic process in some ways, but all men on board were required to agree to the pirate code. This included prisoners or any stowaways found on board; if they didn’t agree to swear an oath they were likely to be convinced with intimidation or violence. This oath could be sworn upon crossed swords, a bible, or even a human skull!

Although the pirate code was liable to change there were certain articles that could generally be counted upon and they were;

Common features of the pirate code:
• No women or young boys were allowed on board. Any man found to have concealed or smuggled such persons on board was to be executed.
• All crew members were to be ready for battle at a moments notice. This included having weapons which were clean and in good condition.
• All loot, food, and beverages will be shared equally among the crew. Crew members will get one share, officers one and a quarter, the Boatswain, Gunner and Master will get one and a half shares, and the Captain and Quartermaster will each get two shares.
• Pirates who lose a limb in the line of duty will get an extra half share.
• No gambling with dice or cards will be tolerated.
• All pirates will obey the orders of the Captain or Quartermaster.
• Every man has one vote and can have their say regarding where the ship goes, and what missions are taken on by the crew.
• Desertion of a given post, or of the ship, during battle is an offence met with execution.

So if you ever feel like piracy would put you above the law remember that even pirates followed some rules, and that the consequences of disobeying them could be even more severe than breaking the Government’s laws!