Privateering and Dividing Booty

Some historical methods/clips:

  • Depending on the situation, the division of plunder would change.

For instance, if the ship were a Privateer, and was operating under a Letter of Marque, the division is most likely outlined by whomever issued the Letter.

Typically, the commission would divide the spoils at a certain percentage for the captain and crew and the rest for the company or government that issued the letter. This percentage could be anything from 10% to 90% for the government. Quite often Queen Elizabeth settled for a 50/50 split.

Once the government or got its share the rest would be divided among the captain and his crew. This would be decided ahead of time. A good rule of thumb would be that the captain would get two shares, while other important members of the crew would get between 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 shares. A seasoned crew member would get a 1 share, a new man may get as little as 1/4 share. This would differ from ship to ship and often would be agreed upon before setting sail.

One Article of Piracy stated: the captain shall have one full share and a half in all prizes. the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain, and Gunner shall have one share and quarter. This leaves it open how much everyone else got. It may be that every else got one share or may be that each person was instructed individually what they would get. Other things were also considered. Boarding parties might get a bonus share.

Most of this division of booty concerned items of wealth, such as gold, silver, gems, slaves, and merchandise like coffee, sugar cane, and textiles. While weapons and blades were also divided up, crews may have handled them differently. If you killed a man, then perhaps you got his pistol or cutlass if it were better than yours, or perhaps it went into a pool and captains and other senior members got first crack at ownership. Or perhaps you bought it by having its worth deducted from your share.

It was common practice for leaders of boarding parties to get a first crack at a any captured pistols or blades. Quartermasters and Captains would also often lay claim to anything they felt was special and this too would be above and beyond the division of spoils. This was not unexpected. In fact, considering the pecking order onboard the ship, it was perfectly acceptable.

(source: Rules of Engagement )

Privateering and Dividing Booty

Straight outta Oakhurst MikeRuff