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The Articles of Black Bart the Pirate

Although he was the stuff of legends, Black Bart’s illustrious career only lasted 30 months when on February 10, 1722, he was cornered by the warship HMS Swallow, which was under the command of Challoner Ogle. Bart was trapped off the coast of Cape Lopez (in what is now known as Gabon). Some say he was trying to make an escape, while others state he was ready for the challenge. At any rate, he was killed by grapeshot.

Adhering to his request, his crew tossed the body of Black Bart overboard. They also didn’t put up a fight. The remaining crew was taken to jail under the Cape Coast Castle in West Africa. Their trial took place on March 28, 1722 and was the largest of its kind for pirates. The outcome was grim: 54 were hanged and 37 received prison or hard time. The rest of the crew was acquitted. 70 African pirates were sold into slavery.

Black Bart was an interesting man, who didn’t indulge in the same excesses as other pirates of his time. He promoted prayer and instead of getting drunk on alcohol , he drank a lot of tea. On his ships, he forbade drinking alcohol and even gambling. Bart also liked to dress in fine clothing like a gentleman and was often seen in a rich crimson waistcoat and breeches. The hat he wore on his head had a red feather. From his neck, a diamond cross dangled. Keeping in line with his beliefs, he wrote rules that he wanted his men to follow. Eleven in total, the following is a summary of a handful of his articles enforced upon his crew:

I. “Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of moment.” The men were allowed equal ownership to fresh provisions, which included strong liquors during the moment of seizure. They could indulge in these pleasures unless provisions were scarce and goods served a better purpose.

II. “Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list on board of prizes.” Bart believed in giving his crew what was rightfully due to them for their services. However, dishonest men were marooned if found out, even if they committed fraud against the ship in the value of one dollar. Robbing another man was also not allowed, where the punishment was having the nose and ears slit.

III. The gain of money could never come from gambling with dice or cards.

IV. Lights and candles were put out at 8 o clock at night and if any crew members felt the need to drink after the hour, they had to sit on the open deck without any illumination.

V. Every man was expected to keep his weaponry clean and ready for action at all times.  

VI. No boys or women were allowed on the ship. If any man were guilty of trying to smuggle a woman in disguise , the penalty was death.

VII. Death or marooning came to men who deserted their ship or quarters during times of battle.  

XI. Musicians were given a day of rest on the Sabbath Day and any other days they had off was given at his discretion.