What were the reasons for the activities and code of conduct of pirates and buccaneers? Compare the characteristics and leadership skills of Edward Teach (Blackbeard) and Sir Henry Morgan.

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While most people today use the words pirate and buccaneer interchangeably, they did not actually start out to mean the same thing. Let's look at the differences between pirates, buccaneers, and privateers as well as their representatives, Blackbeard and Sir Henry Morgan.

Pirates are generally defined as the criminals of the sea. They attacked private vessels (or any vessels they could catch) and stole whatever they wanted. They did not necessary have any specific purpose other than to get wealth and inspire terror. Pirates were generally rough and even dramatic, building a reputation for themselves as fierce and fearful. They perhaps followed some kind of code of conduct among themselves—loyalty and such—but generally, their behavior was far outside any accepted norm. Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, was the consummate pirate. He looked the part with his wild hair and beard, and he was typically armed to the hilt. His ship was armed to the hilt, too, so he could and did intimidate any ship or port he chose to attack.

Buccaneers were rather different. To find their origins, we have to look back to the time when the Caribbean was controlled by the Spanish. Settlers from other countries like France and England wanted to get in on the action and the wealth, but the Spanish would not sell to them or let them settle. There were others who would trade, though—people like Native Americans and people of mixed race—and these became known as buccaneers, named for a platform on which they smoked meat.

The word buccaneer was later extended to apply to anyone who was willing to harass the Spanish in the Caribbean. One of the most famous buccaneers was Englishman Sir Henry Morgan, who raided towns in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America and ended up as the governor of Jamaica. He and other buccaneers wanted to drive out the Spanish so their own countries could make claims in the region.

Morgan was actually authorized in his endeavors by the British government, and as such, he was also a privateer. Privateers operated private ships under special licenses from their governments that allowed them to attack enemies and seize enemy ships and goods.

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