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Word Count: 2,376
The word privateer conjures a romantic image in the minds of most Americans Tales of battle andbounty pervade the folklore of privateering which has become a cherished if often overlooked part ofour shared heritage Legends were forged during the battle for American independence and these men wereunderstandably glorified as part of the formation of our national identity The fact of the matter isthat the vast majority of these men were common opportunists if noteworthy naval warriors The profitmotive was the driving force behind almost all of their expeditions and a successful privateer couldeasily become quite wealthy In times of peace these men would be common pirates pariahs of themaritime community Commissioned in times of war they were respected entrepreneurs serving theirpurses and their country if only incidentally the latter However vulgar their motivation the systemof privateering arose because it provided a valuable service to the country and indeed the American Revolution might not have been won without their involvement Manyscholars agree that all war begins for economic reasons and the privateers of the war for independencecontributed by attacking the commercial livelihood of Great Britains merchants It is ironic that the entire notion of privateering began in Great Britain In 1649 a frigate namedConstant-Warwick was constructed in England for a privateer in the employ of the Earl of WarwickSeeing how profitable this investment was a great many of the English peerage commissioned their ownprivateers The Seven-Years War saw the proliferation of privateering on both the English and Frenchcoasts as each attempted to disrupt their opponents colonial trade American investors quickly enteredthis battle commissioning ships to prey upon cargo vessels coming to and from French colonial holdingsin the Americas Here began the American privateer heritage and when the American Revolution began manyof these same men viewed the opportunity to profit and resumed their ventures The American privateervessel was a ship armed and fitted out at private expense for the purpose of preying on the enemyscommerce
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