Privateer do NOT mean the same thing, even though the terms are often
– a pirate in general, only has his own agenda in mind, attacking any
ship, regardless of nationality. Simply, someone who robs from others at
sea, and acts beyond the law. During the North American Colonial time,
under Admiralty law, any crime committed below the low-tide mark around
the shores and rives could be classed as an act of piracy.
– a buccaneer was originally the name given to French woodsmen on
Hispaniola during the early 1600s. Derived from the French word boucan
(barbecue), because of the way they smoked their meat. Many early
Buccaneers were Spanish fugitives who had a hatred for that nationality,
leading them to prey upon passing Spanish ships during the mid-1600s.
Later, the term was applied to English and French raiders who acted as
semi-legalized pirates throughout the Spanish Main.
– a privateer was a man or ship specifically under contract to a
government, allowing them to attack enemy ships during wartime. This
contract was called a “Letter of Marque,” or “Papers”, which
entitled the government to a share of the profits in return for the
letter’s issuance (usually 20% of the value of ship and cargo).
Essentially, a privateer was a pirate with a license who did not attack
his own people.
The reason for these terms being
used interchangeably, is primarily due to the fact that….well…..pirates
where not considered the most honest or trustworthy of folk. It is
claimed that all were simply pirates, and that pirates would change
sides whenever it suited them, making any “papers” they carried
merely a scapegoat for their deviant nature.