How many know that her 'sea affairs' may have begun a thousand years ago, if the Norsemen came by way of Greenland; that she has a long and varied naval history, with plenty of local privateering by the way; that the biggest sailing vessel to make a Scottish port in the heyday of the clippers was Canadian-built all through; that Canada built another famous vessel for a ruling prince in India; that most Arctic exploration has been done in what are properly her waters; that she was the pioneer in ocean navigation entirely under steam; and that she is now beginning to revive, with steam and steel, the shipbuilding industry with which she did so much in the days of mast and sail and wooden hulls?
Schwirtz, "but to-day, up here with you, I feel so darn good that I almost think I'm a decent citizen. Honest, little sister, I haven't felt so bully for a blue moon." "Yes, and I " she said. He smoked, while she almost drowsed into slumber to the lullaby of the afternoon. When a blackbird chased a crow above her, and she sat up to watch the aerial privateering, Mr. Schwirtz began to talk.
During this period the building of ships for the North Atlantic and Newfoundland trade opened new highways for commerce, but the greatest factor in this development was the "reputable business" of privateering, which must not be confounded either with buccaneering or yard-arm piracy.
These facts illustrate the considerations governing privateering, and refute the plausible opinion often advanced, that it was a mere matter of gambling adventure. Thus Mr. Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, in a communication to Congress, said: "The occupation of privateers is precisely of the same species as the lottery, with respect to hazard and to the chance of rich prizes."
For at the close of the Revolutionary War the men of note, many of whom had not disdained privateering, found themselves in possession of idle fleets, that with their able seamen could outsail almost anything afloat. So they struck out for new ventures in unknown seas and new channels of trade.
"What I most resent," he writes again, "is ... that I find Sir Henry, contrary to his duty and trust, endeavours to set up privateering, and has obstructed all my designs and purposes for the reducing of those that do use this course of life."
Judged by the standards of our own century they were pirates and freebooters, but in the eyes of their fellow-countrymen their attacks upon the Spaniards seemed fair and honourable. The last of the great privateering voyages for which Drake had set the example was the armament which Lord George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, sent against Porto Rico in 1598.
By the abolition of privateering, then, it would seem that the most disturbing part of the problem has been eliminated. It is, of course, uncertain how far the Declaration of Paris will hold good in practice. It is still open even to the parties to it to evade its restrictions to a greater or less extent by taking up and commissioning merchantmen as regular ships of war.
This preeminence was due partly to freedom from a close blockade and partly to a seafaring population which was born and bred to its trade and knew no other. Besides the crews of Salem merchantmen, privateering enlisted the idle fishermen of ports nearby and the mariners of Boston whose commerce had been snuffed out by the British occupation.
Every other trade was swallowed up or coloured by privateering; the merchantmen went armed, ready for any work that offered; the Iceland fleet went no more in search of cod; the Channel boatmen forsook nets and lines and took to livelier occupations; Mary was too busy burning heretics to look to the police of the seas; her father's fine ships rotted in harbour; her father's coast-forts were deserted or dismantled; she lost Calais; she lost the hearts of her people in forcing them into orthodoxy; she left the seas to the privateers; and no trade flourished, save what the Catholic Powers called piracy.