In the historic TV Series Black Sails we see a character Thomas Hamilton (circa 1706) in London acting to end piracy in Nassau:

Determined to end the pirate threat in Nassau, Thomas enlisted Lieutenant James McGraw of the Royal Navy to help him convince parliament to grant blanket pardons to all the pirates of Nassau to restore English governance.

James McGraw points out that it is in Parliament's interests to oppose this initiative, as the pirates of the Bahamas were a convenient bogeyman, ie they gave the populace someone to hate. For this reason, the British Parliament was likely to drag their feet on getting rid of the Nassau Pirates.

My question is: Is there evidence to suggest the British Parliament was reluctant to deal with the Nassau Pirates because they made a convenient bogeyman?

  • 7
    Given that England was in the middle of the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714) at the time, why would Parliament think that the populace needed someone else to hate? A more compelling reason would be that the Royal Navy had its hands full with the French & Spanish fleets. Jun 14, 2020 at 8:08
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    It should be borne in mind that Black Sails was first and foremost a fictional drama. It should be noted that most of the main characters (Vane, Bonny, Teach, etc) were in reality active about a decade later.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 14, 2020 at 11:30
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    The Wikipedia article on "Republic of Pirates" suggests that c. 1706 they were not even attacking British ships yet. Even later when they were, I see no indication that the British public cared much.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 14, 2020 at 13:12

2 Answers 2


There is certainly evidence that British governors of the Island were happy to allow English pirates to operate, so long as the pirates shared their spoils with them.

Of course, the governers did not admit this publically, and publically they made a show of suppressing piracy.

But the governors definitely were involved in corruption.



The era of piracy in the Bahamas began in 1696, when the privateer Henry Every brought his ship the Fancy loaded with loot from plundering Indian trade ships into Nassau harbour. Every bribed the governor Nicholas Trott with gold and silver, and with the Fancy itself, still loaded with 50 tons of elephant tusks and 100 barrels of gunpowder. This established Nassau as a base where pirates could operate safely, although various governors regularly made a show of suppressing piracy.

However rather than the Nassau pirates being used as a bogey-man for the British government, evidence would more suggest that British governers simply got their fingers burnt, by involving themselves in Piracy, and allowing pirates to conduct raids, so long as they shared the spoils, they enabled the Pirates to become so rich, that even the Royal navy became a target for the Pirates.

Republic of pirates


The era of true pirate control occurred when a combined Franco-Spanish Fleet attacked Nassau in 1703 and again in 1706; the island was effectively abandoned by many of its settlers and left without any English government presence. Nassau was then taken over by English privateers, who became completely lawless pirates over time. The pirates attacked French and Spanish ships, while the French and Spanish forces burned Nassau several more times. Pirates established themselves in Nassau, and essentially established their own republic with its own governors.


During the Nine Years War (1688-1697) England was allied to many countries fighting France. After a few years of peace the War of the Spanish Succession from 1701 to 1714 England and its many allies fought France and the French allies.

For 26 years from 1988 to 1714, except for four years from 1697 to 1701, English privateers could get licenses to capture French merchant vessels. Thus they profited greatly by looting French civilian shipping. There were also hordes of French privateers looting English civilian ships.

And then peace broke out in 1714. The probability that goods shipped by sea would reach their destinations skyrocketed. Insurance costs plummeted. Economies around the world grew as imported goods became cheaper. A golden age of shipping and trade began.

And the former privateers were horrified by those curses of peace, and their lack of opportunities to steal legally. So they decided to steal illegally as pirates, and to attack ships from all countries, including their own, to seek revenge on the ungrateful governments who had cut off their source of wealth with no better excuse than peace was for the greater good of the whole world.

During the war, English ships risked attack by French privateers. After peace was made, thousands of former French and English privateers turned to piracy, and English ships now risked being attacked by former English privateers.

So I don't think that pirates would have been considered a big bogyman by the English public in 1706, or until peace was made in 1714 and the so called "Golden Age of Piracy" began.

The idea that pirates would have been a major bogyman to the English public in 1706 is one of no doubt many things that puts Black Sails in an alternate universe where history was different, just like almost all historical movies and television shows.

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    peace was made in 1714 and the so called "Golden Age of Piracy" began. The golden age is considered to have started around 1650 (and ran through to about 1725-30). The surge post-1714 was therefore at the end of the 'age' not the start as you claim.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 14, 2020 at 16:05
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    Paragraph three needs some sources...so does paragraph four. Jun 14, 2020 at 16:39
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    This whole answer needs sourcves for the claimed facts regarding pirates. In particular "thousands of former French and English privateers" seems a rather extraordinary claim, in particular regarding the claimed quantity as "thousands", requiring extraordinary evidence. Jun 14, 2020 at 19:32

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