Back in Century #18, pirates banded together and effectively unionized, creating the Brotherhood of the Coast, which fostered a sense of fraternity unequaled in the history of crime. Not only did the Brotherhood create pirating rules (the hallowed “Pirate Articles”), it offered its members an Afterlife. Although they were viewed by everyone else in the world as ruthless criminals beyond hope of salvation, pirates were inculcated with the notion that they could still maintain a course for a Providence, known as Fiddler’s Green.
To ensure his admission to Fiddler’s Green, in battle, Captain Bartholomew Roberts always wore a gold chain with a large cross. Captain Daniel once stole a priest so as to celebrate Mass aboard his pirate ship. As it happened, he shot one of his crewmen for making an obscene gesture during the course of the service.
In 1746, Captain Cooke erected, at a monastery on St. Kitts, a life-sized gold crucifix. That the gold came from a Spanish barque whose entire crew had been burned alive seemed irrelevant to the grateful monks. The cross, incidentally, was later stolen by Captain Daniel, who used a portion of the proceeds to build an orphanage.
The title of most saintly pirate goes, without contest, to Captain Misson. Misson was known for the gentlemanly manner with which he robbed ships. He painted his own deck red so that the spilled blood would not upset the crew as much, and he killed his enemies only when unavoidably driven to it and, then still, with the greatest reluctance. Misson once took a Dutch ship, the Nieuwstadt, bound for Amsterdam. Finding the cargo to contain gold and seventeen black slaves, he immediately called all hands on deck and delivered an impassioned sermon which included his contention that “the trading for those of our own species could never be agreeable to the eyes of divine justice. No man has power of the Liberty of another.” Misson kept the gold, then freed the slaves from their irons and dressed them in the clothes of their Dutch masters, whom he killed.
Misson went on to found—fifty years before the French Revolution—a pirate republic dedicated to “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” For many years, this attempt at Utopia flourished, until attacked by theretofore friendly natives. The pirates were driven into the sea, where they drowned. As Byron soon after wrote of Misson: “He was the mildest-mannered man that ever scuttled a ship or cut a throat.”
P.S. Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, shipmates!