The Articles of the Gentlemen of Fortune

This paraphrased reconstruction of a pirate crew’s “constitution” is based on rules and customs common to most gangs of the golden age (1680-1725) of piracy—as well as those of the crew of the Whydah Galley in particular, according to Whydah historian Kenneth J. Kinkor.

  • Every Man shall obey Civil Command.
  • Every Man who has sworn to be True to these Articles, and to his Ship-Mates, is to have a Vote in Matters of Importance. Those who have not signed, shall not vote.
  • The Captain and Officers of the Company are to be chosen by the Majority upon the commencement of a Voyage, or on such other Occasions as the Majority of the Company shall think fit.
  • The power of the Captain is Supreme and Unquestioned in time of Chase or Battle. He may beat, cut or shoot any Man who dares deny his Command on such Occasions. In all other Matters whatsoever, he is to be governed by Vote of the Majority of the Company. - Every Man is to have Equal Right to the Provisions, or Liquors at any Time, and to use them at Pleasure unless Scarcity should make it necessary to vote a restriction for the Good of all.
  • Every Man is to be called fairly, in Turn by the List of our Company kept by the Quartermaster, on board of Prizes. Each such Boarder is to receive a Suit of clothes from the Prize. He who first sees a Sail, shall have the Best Pistol, or Small-Arm, from on board her.
  • The Quarter-Master is to be the first man on board of any Prize; he is to separate for the Company’s use what he thinks fit, and shall have Trust of the Common Stock & Treasury until it be Shared. He shall Keep a Book showing each Man’s share, and each Man can draw from the Common Stock against his Share upon request.
  • If any Man should Defraud the Company, or one another, to the Value of a Dollar, he shall suffer what Punishment the Majority shall think fit.
  • Each Man is to keep his Musket, Pistols, and Cutlass clean and fit for Service upon inspection by the Quarter-Master.
  • No Woman or Boy is to be brought on board ship.
  • No married men are to be forced to serve our Company.
  • Good Quarters to be granted when Called for.
  • Any Man who Deserts the Ship, Keeps any Secret from the Company, or who Deserts his Station in time of Battle, shall be punished by Death, Marooning, or Whipping, as the Majority shall think fit.
  • Not a word shall be Written by any of the Company unless it shall be Nailed Publickly to the Mast.
  • If any Man shall strike or abuse one another of our Company, in any regard, he shall suffer such Punishment as the Majority shall think fit. Every Man’s Quarrel is to be settled on Shore with Sword and Pistol under the eye of the Quartermaster.
  • All lights and candles must be put out before 8 o’clock at night. After that hour, if any man continues drinking, he must do it on the open deck. That Man who shall smoke Tobacco in the Hold without a Cap, or carry a lit Candle without a Lanthorn, shall receive Moses’s Law (that is, 40 Stripes less one) on the bare Back.
  • No Man is to talk of breaking up our Way of Living till each of us has shared a thousand pounds.
  • If any Man should lose a Limb, or become a Cripple, he is to have 800 pieces of eight out of the Common Stock, and for lesser hurts, proportionably.
  • The Captain and Quarter-Master are to receive two Shares of a Prize; the Sailing Master, Boatswain and Gunner, one Share and a half, and other Officers one and a Quarter Shares. All others who have signed Articles are to receive one Share.
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