While most pirates were tough characters for sure, Peter T. Leeson of George Mason University points out that they were also “the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.” Such accolades, nefarious as they may be, aren’t achieved unless everybody is on the same page. That’s where the Pirate Code came in.
Democracy for all, matey
Pirate crews actually had little mini-democracies going on aboard their ships. Although the Captain had the final say, every man got an equal vote and better yet, an equal share of the ship’s booze.
Each crew member also got an equal share of any prizes the ship captured, with the captain and crew members getting a slightly bigger ratio according to their respective rank. Because hey, the jobs gotta have some perks right?
There were some no-no’s
It may be tempting to think that every pirate engaged in endless rounds of Jack Sparrow style debauchery each and every day, but this wasn’t actually the case. Women, gambling, and fistfighting were actually banned on pirate ships. If two guys decided they had a score to settle, they were forced to wait until the ship reached land so they could duel. First, they’d do the whole ten paces thing and shoot at each other, but if both missed, they’d go at it with cutlasses until someone drew blood.
There was even a nightly curfew. Yep, really. At 8 p.m. each night, it was candles out and anyone who wanted to stay up drinking had to do it on the deck without any lighting. Even the Sabbath was given a nod, as this was the day the ship’s musicians were given a day off.
Really big no-no’s
Ironically, never stealing from your maties was incredibly important to pirates. When it came to onboard thievery, pirates did not play and anyone caught could be marooned and “have his nose and ears slit.” Ouch.
Likewise, all men were always required to be battle ready. Abandoning your crew during a battle was frowned upon, to say the least, and could get you marooned or put to death. Better to take your chances, especially given that losing a limb would totally score you $800 in workman’s comp. After all, what’s a maiming between friends, aye?