Piracy: A Double-Edged Sword

In the 17th and 18th centuries piracy on the high seas, particularly in the Caribbean was a major problem facing the colonial British government. Famed pirates like Henry Morgan, William Kidd and Edward Teach, (the notorious Blackbeard,) terrorized shipping to and from the colonies. But where had this problem come from? Well, in a nutshell, the British government had basically brought this problem on themselves.

See, at least since the 1500s, the British government, (and probably the French and Spanish governments as well,) used pirates against their enemies when they were at war. The problem came when the frequent wars between England, France, and Spain would end. Then, in the words of pirate historian David Cordingly, the pirates would, “trade in their national ensigns for the black flag of piracy.”

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it was a former pirate who would bring this age of terror to an end. In 1717, Woodes Rogers was appointed governor of the Bahamas. During the War of the Spanish Succession, Rogers had served as a privateer for Queen Anne against the fleets of France and Spain. Thus he knew how pirates operated and thought. Note: it’s interesting how God uses experiences to prepare people for service against a certain enemy: just as Rogers needed to be a pirate in order to defeat pirates, George Washington needed service in the British army in order to defeat it. And, just as Washington was ultimately victorious against the British, Rogers and his allies were victorious against the most notorious pirates the world has ever known.

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