Pirates were a threat to the 18th century establishment. Not only because of their predations, but because of the alternative organisational model they offered.
Here are the Articles for Revenge, a pirate ship captained by John Phillips pictured above:
Every Man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full Share and a half in all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner shall have one Share and quarter.
If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be maroon’d, with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm and Shot.
If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be maroon’d or shot.
If at any Time we should meet another Marrooner [pirate], that Man that shall sign his Articles without the Consent of our Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.
That Man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall receive Moses’s Law (that is, 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare Back.
That Man that shall snap his Arms, or [smoke] Tobacco in the Hold, without a Cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the same Punishment as in the former Article.
That Man that shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for an Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other Punishment as the Captain and the Company shall think fit.
If any Man shall lose a Joint in Time of Engagement, he shall have 400 Pieces of Eight, if a Limb, 800.
If at any Time we meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present Death.
A pirate ship was governed by the Pirate Council, who deliberated on decisions until a consensus was reached. A Captain was only elected for engagements, and could be anyone.
A far cry from life on a Navy ship, where the Captain’s rule was absolute, and his share of booty determined by him.
As Colonel Benjamin Bennet wrote: “I fear they will soon multiply for so many are willing to joyn with them when taken.”