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Privateers and pirates were essentially the same thing: privateers simply carried a government license called a "Letter of Marque." Those whose ships were plundered made little distinction, and when potential gain increased, many privateers turned to indiscriminate piracy. For the most part, these marauders were beneficial to the Crown's interests, as they often ransacked enemy merchant ships. However, once a rogue, always a rogue, and the Crown's own ships became fair game when a convenient opportunity arose. By 1700, the pirates actually ruled Nassau (insofar as lawless riot and drunken revelry constitute rule), and chased off to Great Exuma most of what remained of the law-abiding citizenry. Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard, took Fort Nassau as his residence and played cat and mouse games with the British Royal Navy. Finally in 1718, the British Crown had had enough and decided that the pirates needed "putting down."

The British government appointed the former privateer Woodes Rogers as Royal Governor of the colony, and he began his campaign by offering royal pardons to those who would cease their illegal activities. However there were a few exceptions: Blackbeard, a swashbuckler named Charles Vane, and eight other pirates were sought for criminal prosecution. Blackbeard and Vane escaped--the latter after burning a ship to cover his getaway. Blackbeard was eventually killed in June 1718 off the coast of Virginia in a legendary sea battle. 

License to plunder: with a "Letter of Marquee," such as the one above, a privateer could terrorize the high seas with impunity. 







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