The Social Construction of Crime In the Atlantic World: Piracy as a Case StudyThe eighteenth century was a hotbed of piracy. For years merchants and the British Navy employed seamen with steady work and pay, which made seafaring a respectable career. Unfortunately, the men who ventured onto the waters were faced with low and sporadic pay (the majority of which had to be sent home to families), frequent injury due to unsafe working environments, illness from spoiled food and rancid drinking water, and untimely deaths thanks to accidents and infections from the lack of proper medical care. Superiors were cruel masters who often beat those stationed below them for the most minor infractions because they were corrupt and immobile in their rules and regulations. It is not surprising to find that many seamen abandoned ship in port cities throughout the world. However, what is especially notable is just how many of these seamen actively chose to leave what was deemed a respectable job for a life among pirates. In contrast to the Navy and merchant ships, it has been suggested that pirates ran a democratic order where the men voted on rules, regulations, and leaders. Their plundering brought them quick wealth, which, in turn, led to higher-quality food and drinkable water. Pirates were given compensation for their illnesses and injuries and overall received better treatment due to the strict rules that they placed upon themselves. Indeed, it is not difficult to see why this life of crime proved to be a more desirable existence even when faced with social ostracism, persecution, and ultimately execution for their actions.
What makes a person a criminal? What makes a man a pirate? How and why were these people seen as law-breakers? What was licit versus illicit behavior and how were they differentiated from each other? This essay seeks to answer these questions by examining the social constructs of eighteenth-century colonial America and the Atlantic world primarily through newspapers, pamphlets, laws, and speeches as some key indicators of the societal norms of time. Legally, a crime has three components: mens rea, the mental state of the criminal; actus reus, acts committed; and locus, where the crime occurred. This made classifying pirates as criminals a difficult task because although the actus reus remained fairly consistent, the locus did not. The real threat of piracy came from its implied challenges to the laws and because they removed themselves from the states' jurisdiction, formed extraterritorial enclaves, and waged private war for pecuniary ends. Newspapers were littered with articles detailing their misdeeds and foul ways. Pirates were synonymous with criminals and their actions were always seen villainous. The very definition of a crime stems from the common actions of pirates: mutiny, robbery, and destruction of property. In one instance, a group of pirates stole aboard a ship and were said to have taken "Linen and other Goods ... [and] from the Sloop about thirty Barrels of Flower." This article describes a fight that broke out between the pirates and sailors in which the latter ended up being victorious despite suffering from wounds. There was another report that a group of pirates led by a man named Paul Williams stole aboard another ship and "took him 350 Ounces of Silver." When the captain of this ship attempted to escape, the pirates "barbarously" beat him and left him within an inch of his life. All of these crimes warranted death sentences and nearly all caught and convicted pirates were executed for their misdeeds. Most striking is how reports of piracy consistently acknowledged behaviors that had little to do with their actual crimes: public drunkenness and swearing. These types of actions were considered irreligious and therefore a crime in colonial America. The early American ideas of crime stemmed from moral and religious origins rather than just economic and political origins. According to crime historian, Samuel Walker, "crime and sin were virtually synonymous in this religion-centered society. An offence against God was a crime against society; and a crime against society was an offence against God." Religious and moral ideals prevalent throughout Puritan and Protestant early American society were the driving forces behind the social construction of crime, especially in regards to piracy. To analyze this argument, this essay will first look at the crime of piracy as a whole and then at the religious construction of crime in the eighteenth century.
A brief survey of Britain's North American colonies demonstrates that seventeenth and eighteenth-century codes of justice were heavily based upon the religious moral ideals of the time. In New England, people regarded crime as a sin and therefore their courts were seen as the guardians of Biblical precepts. Even natural disasters such as earthquakes, epidemics, and storms at sea were interpreted as divine responses to everyday mortal vices. Citizens regarded the law as a mechanism to secure a pure religious community that was free from sin and corruption. Puritan colonists believed that work was pleasing to God when performed in a regular and disciplined manner. Irregular work in the maritime world that alternated between frantic activity and idleness was a moral failing. In the colonies, the most prosecuted crimes were moral offenses, such as drunkenness and theft. The justice system was such that the majority of defendants could be terrorized into confessing crimes that they may not have committed. It has been argued that the New England and Chesapeake colonies were the most successful than any other British colonies throughout the Atlantic as suppressing crime and social disorder thanks to their harsh sentences. In the eighteenth century the focus of crimes shifted from moral offenses to economic offenses, such as property destruction and theft, in the eighteenth century. However, it must be taken into account that primary research of newspapers shows no decrease in their reports of moral crimes. Moral crimes, such as swearing and drunkenness, clearly remained to be an issue throughout colonial America. This is evidenced in the newspapers, which consistently made references to these pirates' habits – behaviors that were not mentioned in other articles detailing crimes such as murder or theft by other criminals. This is further supported by the fact that Massachusetts continued to undertake prosecutions of moral offenses throughout the eighteenth century. Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony saw themselves as on "'an errand of the wilderness' to build a model community of righteousness that would be a beacon to the world." Other colonists, along with the Puritans, generally held a pessimistic view of humankind – "man was a depraved creature, cursed by original sin. There was no hope of Ôcorrecting' or Ôrehabilitating' the offender." Punishments were always harsh, with branding and mutilation as the most common forms of sentences. The Puritans of Massachusetts, for example, sought to suppress Quakerism by cropping ears and administering severe whippings. Corporal punishments such as these were considered to be the norms in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The moral sentiments behind criminal laws extended from familial situations because the "family" was seen as the main social institution in colonial American life. A 1650 Connecticut law specified the death penalty for any sixteen-year-old child who "shall curse or smite their natural father or mother." Respect for parental authority was seen as the necessary and proper training for religious discipline, which would carry on into the punishments directed at pirates.  In retaliation, pirates would take these punishments and direct them towards civilians they chose to terrorize. Statistical analysis has shown that over one third of colonial American crimes were considered violent and less than one-fifth property. Pirates throughout colonial America and the Atlantic world uniformly committed moral and violent crimes, which people heard of throughout the colonies.
Violence has always been a source of fascination for the public. Early modern English men and women absorbed violent stories from newspapers as much as people do today. When the pirate Captain Kidd was sentenced to hanging by the British government, broadsheets detailing his career and dying moments were circulated around London because this was a public that doted on scandalous lives. Court records and popular entertainment in the Atlantic World during the early modern period frequently referenced brutal acts from drunken brawls, state-sponsored maimings, and executions. These accounts often claimed to offer moral lessons to readers, but it was the entertainment value that overruled any virtuous intent. Reports of piracy in seventeenth and eighteenth-century newspapers contained compelling accounts of violence, drunkenness, and swearing – three major acts that went against the reigning Protestant values. The analysis behind the definition of violence enacted by government officials and pirates is strikingly similar. Melanie Perreault believes that the English saw violence as situational and that any act of violence had to be considered before it could be properly evaluated. She argues that the early modern English had three general classifications of righteous violence: state-sanctioned punishment or military action, actions taken in defense of community standards, and violence in the name of religion. Similarly, Robert C. Ritchie argues that there were three types of pirates: state-sanctioned pirates hired by governments to terrorize their political enemies, commercial piracy in which merchants hired pirates for their own profits, and deep-sea marauders who roamed the seas looking for targets. These latter types of pirates used organized marauding (remaining attached to a base of operation) and anarchistic marauding (leaving the base and wandering for months or years at a time). This particular study focuses on violence in the name of religion and the deep-sea marauders namely because the colonial-era newspapers do not distinguish between any of these three groups of definitions that were created by modern-day historians.
Society and pirates used a dialectic of terror against each other that was practiced in two ways. The first type was practiced namely by ministers, royal officials, and wealthy men who sought to eliminate piracy as a crime against mercantile property. These men would use terror to protect property, punish those who resisted its law, "to take vengeance against those they considered their enemies, and to instill fear into sailors who might wish to become pirates." All of this was one in the name of the social order. The other type of terror that is the kind that was practiced by common seamen "who sailed beneath the Jolly Roger." Pirates used terror to accomplish their aims: gain wealth, attack their enemies, and intimidate sailors, captains, merchants, and officials who might strike against or resist them. These types of attacks were detrimental to merchants and sailors, whose livelihoods depended on the goods they transported on their ships. Among the merchants, for instance, both the elite and the lesser ship-owners risked pirate aggression because trading vessels were not built for speed and if these businessmen were being pursued at sea it could take them several days to escape hostility. Simple colonial American sailors had extreme concerns about their assets because they earned tiny wages that afforded them little more than basic necessities. Entire livelihoods were constantly at stake and when it came to individual property all classes were threatened. A 1717 report from the Boston Newsletter describes this: "...a Pirate Ship and Sloop are upon the Coast of Virginia, have taken several Vessels from Europe, some they plundered, and some they sunk." Much of the colonial American economy depended on maritime business and trade so the newspapers would emphasize this threat to the local readers. Hearing reports of pirates sinking European ships right off the colonial coasts would have undoubtedly caused concern for those who depended on trade goods the ships may have possessed. Another article from the Boston Newsletter lists specific plundered items: "They took from the Sloop about thirty Barrels of Flower two Pipes of Wine...and from all the four Vessels such Provisions and other things as pleased them." With these two social groups against each other, the line becomes blurred between the villain and the victim, the justifiable action and the crime.
The fear instilled in sailors and civilians was completely legitimate because pirates were known to torture their captives. Torture was their method to elicit information, punish governmental officials for attempting to capture them, and to punish unscrupulous merchant captains. Articles gave detailed descriptions of pirates "barbarously beating" ship captains and giving them threats such as, "to be skin'd and barbacu'd." By instilling fear into governmental officials, the political leaders were able to turn around and plant that terror into civilians' minds, which continued the reputation that pirates were violent, loathsome creatures. To emphasize this, harsh punishments were enacted against pirates who were captured. In one case, a convicted pirate named Joseph Andrews was sentenced to death and "hanged pursuant to his sentence. After he was dead, his body was cut down, and hanged in chains..." A public display such as this would serve as a dire warning to thieves upon the high seas as the laws against them tightened. Crime was not a universal term in colonial America, nor did it have a single definition. The word "crime" was used as a genus composed of many offences or breaches of the law in order for a case to be considered or charged as a crime in the colonies. The action therefore had to include acts of treason, robbery, murder, or piracy. Other unlawful acts that were tried were those that included seizure of property, which was commonly associated with pirates during the eighteenth century. If such a robbery occurred, then the attitude was that those responsible for whatever theft were to be brought to punishment "for the public good of all commercial countries." Piracy had been considered a capital offence since the Middle Ages and it was an act that was defined by being unique to the seas. Ever since waterways and the seas have been used for transport, there have been sea robbers ready to emulate their land-bound colleagues by taking the ocean's bounty through plundering the remains of shipwrecks or seizure. These rogues were almost always sent to the gallows if they were caught with stolen property that was worth hundreds of pounds. In addition to being criminals, pirates were also seen as synonymous with thievery and murder. Right before the breakout of the American Revolution, a man in Bristol, England, wrote to his friend in Salem to say that the British's "conduct towards the Americans is horrid, cruel and detestable; they call you all thieves, pirates and rebels, for which in return I make no scruple to call them knaves, scoundrels, and spiritless slaves". In retaliation to the British view of Americans, the colonists also pointed fingers back at their mother country during the outbreak of the war: Why should we timidly look up any longer for protection to that unnatural power, which hath already tried its force to distress and subdue us by every cruel method of oppression and bloodshed...and after having tried in vain to subdue us by land, is now exerting her last feeble efforts to rob us, like pirates...
At this time, the English colonists at least had the assurance that the British Navy would protect their ports and ships. However, after the War the Americans found themselves to be at the mercy of North African pirates since they no longer had British naval protection. To the English, the Americans were no better than pirates for their rebellion; to the Americans, their British counterparts were at the same level as the sea rogues with the seizure of their maritime property. The socialization of crime did not concentrate solely on the destruction of property that pirates engaged in; it also came straight from the bible so the colonial systems of punishment reflected the equation of crime and sin. Criminal codes were specifically designed to enforce public and private morals. Crimes of piracy could be used as a source of propaganda to keep religious order alive. One particular case study details the ordeal of a man named Philip Ashton who was forced into pirate captivity for three years. He wrote a memoir of his experience and Reverend John Barnard who preached about "God's Ability to Save His People from All Danger immediately capitalized his trials," immediately capitalized on the account to spread religious fervor. The eighteenth century saw a period of secularization throughout the Colonies in which religious practice became institutional rather than individual. To combat this, ministers reached out to all levels of society with a personal, evangelical form of piety by publishing sermons and narratives to emphasize God's control over creation. People were reminded that they had not been case aside by an indifferent God and that their lives were not without significance. Because the eighteenth century was a time of rapid change in colonial America, these types of narratives became a popular way for the clergy to impose order upon the people. New Englanders in particular felt that they had been offered evangelical hope on national and individual levels, which reaffirmed their identity as a people of God. Ashton's memoir also described the pirates' plentiful drinking and swearing habits and claimed that they "were at an open Defiance with their Maker" and that they made an "agreement with Hell." This further emphasizes the consistent pattern of moral judgments made when reporting cases of piracy as nearly every newspaper article made a mention of these habits. Propaganda and sensationalism made its way into the colonial newspapers. In one case in London, a Captain James Lowry was on trial for piracy and murder: James Lowry being put to the Bar, and arraigned on an Indictment for Murder, which set forth, that he, James Lowry, late Commander of the Merchant Ship Molly, not having the Fear of God before his Eyes, but being moved by the Instigation of the Devil, did, on the 24th Day of December...board the said Ship Molly...cruelly and violently assault, strike, and beat Kenneth Hussack...of which Beatings, Wounds and Bruises, he instantly died.
This news made its way across the Atlantic and the Pennsylvania Gazette published a transcript of the court testimony and throughout the trial the defendant's chief mate, James Gatharah, is quizzed about their habits, included drinking, which he emphatically denied. This implies that courts began their trials with preconceived notions of the justice's outcome. Whether or not pirates were guilty of their crimes, their habits were highly sensationalized for the sake of readership and the moral and religious agendas of the times. The religious principles of the eighteenth century stipulated that pirates were no better than savage barbarians and therefore must be feared and prosecuted. The popular opinion was that people felt their demise would brighten human nature and cause the seas to become a pleasant place one more. One man in New England wrote a letter to his friend in Glasgow, Scotland to express his personal feelings on the matter: ...And it is not self-evident there is no other Love to Men among them, but a mere Counterfeit such as may be found among Pirates, Robbers, Publicans, and Sinners? A disinterested Love to Enemies being what they are void of; a sure Evidence they are not the Children of our Father which is in Heaven. Ministers emphasized these points against pirates by preaching that "Every willful Sinner is an Enemy to GOD" and that "God is able to inflict the deserved punishment, upon all that are in a State of Enmity against him." Pirates were seen as the most depraved examples of self-indulgence because they were said to engage in "all sinful Compliances" while challenging God's authority. They were "the worst of Men upon all Accounts." To the distinguished citizens of colonial America, pirates had no place for God in their lives and therefore God could not accept them. Merely having the idea of pirates removed from the grace of God in his mind echoed how people felt towards pirates on both sides of the Atlantic, although a minority of people in the upper echelon felt that all they needed to do was make themselves more useful to society. The Boston Newsletter urged is readers to "instruct, to admonish, preach and pray for them" because the pirates who had been executed for their crimes were without salvation. The public felt that some pirates' attitudes might be "softened by the practice of agriculture, and the influence of religion. They might become defenders of the state, where they had a fixed settlement..." Pirates were seen as no better than the gravest of sinners who kept themselves in company of the devil.
This was no concern for the pirates, as they did not see themselves as religious men nor did religion matter to them. They saw themselves removed from any form of authority, particularly beyond the church. In terms of societal norms, it has been suggested that cursing, swearing, and blaspheming may have been defining traits of pirate-speech. Marcus Rediker notes an example of their tongue with source-description that shows how pirate Bartholomew Roberts swore at a British official "like any Devil." In response, the British official fell to the ground "swearing and cursing as fast or faster than Roberts; which made the rest of the Pirates laugh heartily." This suggests that not only was this a common type of speech, but it was also amusing. Pirates were gleeful when faced with a gentleman who spouted foul language with equal fervor. As explained above, swearing and any forms of blasphemy went against Protestant teachings and moral codes, which was clearly of no matter to pirates on the high seas. Other popular papers deemed pirate behavior as barbarous and foul due to the way they spoke. Additional sources described them as "scandalous" and insolent. Papers encouraged people to "instruct, admonish, preach, and pray for them" as they led a "wicked and vitious[sic] life" hardened in their sin. Religious tracts in colonial America's stance against crime can be dated back to 1648 with the Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes. This book was carried out by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which carried a stronger religious influence than could be found in England. Due to the Puritan ideal of this colony, the Old Testament would often find its way into the English Common Law Heritage. This book would cite direct references from the Bible for authoritative purposes behind local laws. For example, one law states, "If any man or woman be a WITCH...they shall be put to death. Exod. 22. 18 Levit. 20. 27. Deut. 18. 10. 11." The death penalty in colonial America stems from its popular usage in England. Although the colonists sentenced execution much less than the English, colonies such as Pennsylvania sentenced eleven crimes with the death penalty. With the Bible as support, crime and punishment relations took on a distinctly religious tone. In 1797, the Committee of the Special Constables and the Society for the Reformation of Manners published an abstract, which included a section that was devoted to the laws against swearing. If any person was convicted of cursing or swearing (verbal blaspheme), then he was punished with fines that would double or triple, depending on how many times he was convicted. What is interesting to note is that a common day laborer, sailor, or soldier were fined one sterling; any other person "under the Degree of a Gentleman" was fined two sterling; and "every Person of or above the Degree of a Gentleman" was fined up to five sterling. This suggests that the higher rank in society a person kept, the higher standards they were held to. However, other evidence shows that money was not always sufficient enough to pay for a verbal assault. Edward Vickars, a servant, was arrested when he cursed and swore in public. At his trial, he was judged to be "highly guilty of Common & frequent Curseing and sweareing in a most prophane & blasphemous manner." The Judge did not fine Vickars. Instead, he was whipped for his crime. Such examples had to be made or else the colonies would run wild with illicit chaos.
Irreligious behavior among lawful sailors has undergone analysis by historians such as Christopher Magra who argues that eighteenth century fishermen, merchant mariners, and naval seamen frequently drank to excess, used profane language, and spent much of their money on alcohol and prostitutes. These types of activities were considered to be classic maritime diversions. Social drinking drew fishermen together in the comfort of warm taverns and also because this culture allowed them to mock Puritan teachings. The colonies maintained strict religious observance on land so it is interesting to note how maritime laborers' religious fervor diminished rapidly. Their irreligiousness was undoubtedly influenced by rigorous and dangerous work at sea that left men far from the influences of their homes and churches. These influences are further demonstrated by the fact that swearing and rough language was prominent among ships. Without homes and churches to discourage this behavior, which was particular frowned upon by Protestant sermons during the eighteenth century, sailors fell into the habit as an escape from their land-locked lives. Sea life was notoriously dangerous with poor food and water, dangerous working environments, harsh punishments, and land appointments surrounding taverns and brothels full of temptation. Life at sea was extremely lonely so it is not surprising to discover that seamen frequently spent their money on prostitutes because they "felt very lonesome, and had to go to Taverns, and spend evenings improperly." There were strict opinions of what was licit versus illicit behavior and one description showed up commonly in the newspapers when describing pirate behavior: drinking. The London Gazette reported that when pirates raided and took over a Boston-based ship, they would get drunk on Madera wine and then pass out on the decks, which ultimately led to their capture. In another case, two pirates named France Pye and Richard Paddy, were convicted and executed for robbery and murder on a ship. When they raided the vessel, Pye carried out his deeds while drunk on brandy. As shown, drinking and drunkenness were not condoned activities in the colonies. According to the abstract of the laws mentioned above, proper decorum dictated that one must not appear drunk in public or else they would face a large fine and spend hours in the stocks. These regulations included the alehouse keepers as well: if they were found to be inebriated for all to see, their establishments would get shut down for up to three years. Maritime employees were also prone to excess drinking and alcoholic tendencies. Alcohol was extremely common among seamen because liquor numbed workers to their rigorous labors and provided an escape from their hard lives. Alcoholism was so prevalent that the navies had to resort to regular punishments for drunkenness. In fact, in 1650 the General Court in Boston prohibited sailors from drinking all spirits because the habit resulted in "the great dishonor of God, and reproach of religion and governments here established, which also oftentimes occasions much prejudice and damage to the masters and owners of such ships and vessels to which they belong." Daniel Vickers's analysis of maritime drinking argues that fishermen did not drink as a form of escape but rather to deliberately mock Puritan ideals. Drinking was an activity to defy colonial norms and to create an insular community among sailors separate from their land counterparts. While Vickers does acknowledge that drinking in company was important because the warmth of the taverns provided comfort to men who worked in cold and wet conditions, he stresses that the public houses provided a cultural release for men for mock Puritan teachings. The purpose of drinking was to isolate them from society so the sailors could maintain their autonomy from colonial establishments. With religion as a cultural backing, the public took a moral stance against crime and piracy. Newspapers often described murders with sensationalism, mirroring their own personal opinions on the matters. When pirates murdered the British Captain, Christopher Brooks, in 1734, the newspapers described the perpetrators as ruffians and deceitful wretches who wounded the sailors in the "most inhumane manner." The disgust in this crime and those similar to it can once again be found in the above-mentioned be letter from a gentleman in New England to his friend in Glasgow, who stated that there is no love form men such as pirates, robbers, publicans, and sinners who "are not the Children of our Father which is in Heaven." This reiterates the notion that pirates and similar criminals were among the fallen and could not rejoin the righteous. These common thieves had no business in society.
Piracy was a common problem in Colonial America and the Atlantic world. These crimes were rampant both on land and on the waters. Although Marcus Rediker argues that pirates chose their lives in search for a better living, society placed the label "criminal" onto them. Their actions of drinking and swearing went against common moral tracts that were printed and circulated in order to ensure a common code of behavior among the Protestant folk. Murder and robbery were offences punishable by death thanks to biblical influences, which dictated Commandments that specifically ordered execution to take place. To reiterate Samuel Walker's point: "An offence against God was a crime against society; and a crime against society was an offence against God." A person became a criminal by terrorizing the law and society. Illicit behavior was socially constructed to define codes of moral behaviors, such as anti-drinking and swearing laws that led to hefty fines and occasional imprisonment for land-based offenses. Pirates were unique in that they faced the death penalty for committing crimes at sea that would only be considered felonies on land. People feared pirates and the godlessness behind their actions not just for economic reasons such as theft and destruction, but because they represented everything that struck against early modern law and societal norms. They did not answer to any authority, government, state, or religion – the key factors that maintained a cohesive Atlantic world. Many newspapers exaggerated accounts and dramatized crimes for the sake of readership but this did not make the pirate issue any less of a concern for the Atlantic world. Pirates were not just economic foes against the British and colonists. They represented every blasphemy that the early modern Protestant society recoiled against.
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SECONDARY SOURCESBooks Burgess, Jr., Douglas R. The Pirates' Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History's Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. Hatfield, April Lee. Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Leeson, Peter T. The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economies of Pirates. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. Rediker, Marcus. Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005. Ritchie, Robert C. Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986. Vickers, Daniel. Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630 – 1850. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994. Vickers, Daniel. Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. Walker, Samuel. Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. Articles Armitage, David. "Three Concepts of Atlantic History." The British Atlantic World 1500 – 1800, ed. David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009. Canny, Nicholas. "Writing Atlantic History; or, Reconfiguring the History of Colonial British America." Journal of American History 86, December, 1999. Games, Alison. Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities." American Historical Review, 2006. Greenberg, Douglas. "Crime, Law Enforcement, and Social Control in Colonial America." The American Journal of Legal History 26, October, 1982. Henrietta, James A. "The Northern Colonies as a Family-Centered Society." Major Problems in American History Volume 1: To 1877, ed. Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Magra, Christopher P. "Faith at Sea: Exploring Maritime Religiosity in the Eighteenth Century." International Journal of Maritime History 19, 2007. Perreault, Melanie. "'To Fear and to Love Us:' Intercultural Violence in the English Atlantic." Journal of World History 17, March 2006. Rediker, Marcus. "Under the Banner of King Death." The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 38, No. 2, April, 1981. Williams, Daniel E. "Providence and Pirates: Philip Ashton's Narrative Struggle for Salvation." Early American Literature 24, 1989.
 Marcus Rediker, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004), 6 - 10. It must be noted that many pirates chose a life sea crimes if they had no other choice and frequently because they were rarely professionally qualified for any profession based on land. Pirates were generally young men who had once been in the Navy or employed on merchant ships. Additionally, many of them were runaway slaves who could not safely obtain employment anywhere else.
 In order to connect the topic to the wider Atlantic world, this study is going to provide a different kind of study. In her essay " Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities" (American Historical Review, 2006, p. 750), Alison Games argues that the examination of the Atlantic world cannot simply be fixed in any one location. Studying the Atlantic world involves an examination of European movement from the continent to North America, the Caribbean, and South America. Colonial America will serve as my base, but the story takes place on the high seas. Marcus Rediker argues in his book, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004) , that this type of lifestyle would appeal especially to the eighteenth-century pirates who thought of themselves as belonging to all nations. Nicholas Canny argues in his essay, "Writing Atlantic History; or, Reconfiguring the History of Colonial British America," Journal of American History 86 (December, 1999), when studying piracy, crime, and their societal constructions, the subject must encapsulate what has been called the "new social history." The historians who originally pioneered this field of history came to prominence thanks to their extensive and groundbreaking studies of the demographics of towns, counties, and colonies in colonial British America. However, to take this a step further, examining the social construction of crime and piracy must honor scholastic pioneers. The questions stated above will be answered with a new constructional idea of these sea villains. David Armitage has broken up Atlantic history into three branches: circum, trans, and cis. To utilize his definitions, the project will fit into his idea of circum-Atlantic history in that I am taking away political borders by tracing crime and piracy as a whole. Armitage defines this specifically as "the history of the Atlantic as a particular zone of exchange and interchange, circulation, and transmission. It is therefore the history of the ocean as an arena distinct from any of the particular, narrower, oceanic zones that compose it. David Armitage, "Three Concepts of Atlantic History" from The British Atlantic World 1500 – 1800, ed. David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick (Palgrave MacMillan: 2009), 16.
 Douglas R. Burgess, Jr., The Pirates' Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History's Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America (New York: McGraw Hill, 2008), 14 – 19. Burgess also points out that the term "pirate" may have been used loosely because they committed the same common crimes at sea that were committed on land: theft and murder. However, because they remained outside of state jurisdiction and terrorized at will, their crimes were tried harsher than felonies.
 Samuel Walker, Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice (Oxford: University of Oxford Press), 13.
 Douglas Greenberg, "Crime, Law Enforcement, and Social Control in Colonial America, The American Journal of Legal History 26 (October, 1982), 297.
 Christopher P. Magra, "Faith at Sea: Exploring Maritime Religiosity in the Eighteenth Century," International Journal of Maritime History 19 (2007), 15.
 Daniel Vickers, Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630 – 1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 127.
 For a detailed explanation and survey of the colonial American criminal justice system, see Greenberg's essay.
 James A. Henrietta, "The Northern Colonies as a Family-Centered Society" Major Problems in American History Volume 1: To 1877, ed. Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company), 80.
 Robert C. Ritchie, Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), 2.
 Melanie Perreault, "'To Fear and to Love Us:' Intercultural Violence in the English Atlantic," Journal of World History 17 (March 2006), 71 – 72.
 Daniel Vickers, Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 92 – 93.
 Peter T. Leeson, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economies of Pirates (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 108 – 109.
 "Philadelphia, June 20," Boston Newsletter, June 24 – July 1, 1717. "Piscataqua, July 19," Boston Newsletter July 15 – July 22, 1717.
 "Georgia, Nov. 1, 1775: To All Men in all civilized Kingdoms, States, Provinces, and Islands," Pennsylvania Ledger, January 6, 1774.
 "Philadelphia, October 5: Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman in Bristol to his friend in this city, dated July 20, 1774," Essex Gazette, October 18 – October 25, 1774.
 For a detailed analysis of Philip Ashton's experience, see Daniel E. Williams' essay, "Providence and Pirates: Philip Ashton's Narrative Struggle for Salvation," Early American Literature 24 (1989), 170
 "An Account of the Trial of Captain James Lowry, before the Court of Admiralty, held on Tuesday, the 13th of February, 1752, at Justice-Hall in the Old Bailey," Pennsylvania Gazette, June 25, 1752.
 "Philadelphia, November 11, Extracts from the Votes of the Honourable House of Representatives, October 31, 1775," New York Gazette, November 20, 1775.
 As quoted in Daniel E. William's essay, "Of Providence and Pirates: Philip Ashton's Narrative Struggle for Salvation" Early American Literature 24 (1989), 174.
 Marcus Rediker, "'Under the Banner of King Death': The Social World of Anglo-American Pirates, 1716 to 1726, The William and Mary Quarterly 38 (April 1981), 227.