The role of quartermaster was pretty much the most unique job in the maritime world; this was a position that didn’t exist on more conventional ships. The quartermaster, just like the Captain, was elected by the crew and he was in charge of the day to day operations of the pirate ship. He decided what things were of value from a prize ship, distributed the loot and enforced articles of the agreement as well as punishing any crew that committed minor infractions.
Justice of the Peace aboard the pirate ship
Unless they were in battle, the Quartermaster was in command of the ship; should they be quarrelsome, mutinous, plundered beyond orders or misused prisoners the Quartermaster could choose to punishment. Generally he would do so with drubbing or whipping, but the choice was his alone.
The Quartermaster was a sort of trustee and civil magistrate on board the pirate ship and would generally be the first to board any prize ship. He would take or mark what he saw as worth taking and would be in charge of dividing this loot fairly between the crew as a whole.
Counterbalance for the Captain’s Authority
Pirates, by their nature, didn’t want to be under the rule of any one person in totality and, as such, the quartermaster was a counterbalance to the captain’s authority. This way there was no point at which a Captain had complete power on the pirate ship.
First to be Captain of Prize Ships
As well as being the first on board prize ships and leading boarding parties the quartermaster would be first in line to assume command of a prize ship if it were to be kept.
The quartermaster could flog a crew member, but only if sanctioned by the ship’s council. Major offences required a trial in front of this council. Sometimes, this would make him somewhat unpopular, but as he was also the man to divide up any treasure, everyone wanted to be in his good books.
The quartermaster would have to be literate in order to fulfil his duties as all captured booty would be recorded so it could be valued and divided correctly.
The quartermaster also kept track of the ship’s supplies, finances and resources. He made sure they were used effectively and fairly.