Pirate Codes of Conduct

Pirate Codes of Conduct

Did you know that pirates had various forms of “handshake deals” that governed everything from employment issues to job conduct and payments, and share of wealth? Here are some examples of ancient codes of conduct and rules that pirates followed:

  1. Every man has an equal vote and equal title to fresh provisions or strong liquors, that were seized during a raid. Sounds fair to me!
  2. If a man was found guilty of defrauding his fellow crew, marooning was the punishment. If the robbery was only against one other crew member, the guilty party had their ears and nose slit and was set on shore alone where he was likely to encounter further hardship.
  3. No money was to be exchanged during card games.  
  4. Bedtime on the lower deck was at eight o’clock each night, and all lights and candles to be put out at that time. if any of the crew wanted to stay up drinking, they were to do it up above on the open deck.
  5. It was required to make sure all pistols and knives were kept clean and ready for use.  
  6. No boy or woman was allowed on board. If any man were to be found to bring a woman on board illegally, he was sentenced to death. The woman would then be handed over to an elected sentinel to preserve the lady’s virtue although it was common that the sentinel was allowed to break this rule himself.
  7. Deserters of the ship or anyone who left their quarters in battle was punished by death or marooning.
  8. There was to be no physical violence on board, and any quarrels had to be resolved on land either by a sword or pistol duel.  If the involved parties could not resolve their argument on board, the quarter-master of the ship would accompany them to the shore to allow them to settle their differences with a duel. If they both miss during the fight shot, the winner is declared by the first man who draws blood with his knife. Yikes!
  9. There should be no talk or discussions about giving up the pirate life among crew until each pirate had earned one thousand pounds each. No man to talk of breaking up their way of living, till each had shared one thousand pounds. If a man became injured or crippled during service, his share was greatly reduced to just eight hundred dollars.
  10. The pirate captain and quartermaster shall earn double the amount of crew members, and the master, boatswain, and gunner, each earn one share and a half. Other officers are allocated one and quarter of all bounties.
  11. The musicians are allowed to rest on Sundays, but were required to perform and entertain the crew and keep spirits up the the other six days and nights.


Now you know some of the pirates codes of conduct. Who would have thought that reckless and wild pirates actually practiced such discipline and restraint?