Tunnels in Salem – Privateers

As the conflict between the Colonies and Great Britain heated up, privateers began smuggling goods into the colonies. What is a privateer? Basically a legal pirate. Privateer ships were privately owned and armed ship bearing a letter of marque from the State legalizing piracy.

Salem ships would stream out of port in the mornings and many would return with prizes by evening. Even the fishing shallops joined in the fun. Two-thirds of the square-rigged ships were captured by the British but the faster  sloops did much better. Many of the captains of the shipping industry got their start with the prizes captured (or stolen depending upon your point of view) from the British.

In defense of the British, they were having financial problems, due mainly to the almost continual wars with France. And it must have been frustrating to have Ships, little more than pirates, stopping their ships and taking the cargo.

The Brand new United States of America found itself in a similar situation after the War of Independence. The new country was broke. Soldiers in the Continental Army had not been paid and there was no money to pay them so they were offered land on the frontier (which was western Pennsylvania at that time.) Some of these soldiers sold the land at rock bottom prices but many moved west to claim their property, adding themselves to the sparse population already there. To fill the empty coffers of this new country, Alexander Hamilton proposed a tax on whiskey. This became the seed for one of the first challenges to face the new government – the Whiskey Rebellion of 1793. But I digress. That’s the lure and excitement of history – everything is so interlinked.


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