Real Pirate Quotations

Authentic quotations from actual pirates

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Note: These are real quotations from actual pirates during the "Golden Age" of piracy, which lasted roughly from 1700 to 1725. If you're looking for modern quotations about pirates or quotations from movies, you've come to the wrong place, but if you're looking for authentic historical quotations from history's greatest sea-dogs, read on!

Anonymous Pirate

(Context) When asked on the gallows if he repented.

"Yes, I do heartily repent. I repent I had not done more mischief; and that we did not cut the throats of them that took us, and I am extremely sorry that you aren't hanged as well as we." (Johnson 43)

"In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto." (Johnson, 244)

(Translation: "In honest work, the food is bad, the wages are low and the work is hard. In piracy, there is plenty of loot, it's fun and easy and we are free and powerful. Who, when presented with this choice, would not choose piracy? The worst that can happen is you can be hanged. No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto.")

(Context) Informing Captain Gibson of the Duke (who was a notorious drunkard) that he was taking over the ship and going pirate.

"Come, don't be in a fright, but put on your clothes, and I'll let you into a secret. You must know that I am Captain of this ship now, and this is my cabin, therefore you must walk out. I am bound to Madagascar, with a design of making my own fortune, and that of all the brave fellows joined with me...if you have a mind to make one of us, we will receive you, and if you'll turn sober, and mind your business, perhaps in time I may make you one of my Lieutenants, if not, here's a boat alongside and you shall be set ashore." (Johnson 51-52)

(Context) Before his final battle

"Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you." (Johnson 80)

(Translation: "I'll be damned if I accept your surrender or surrender to you.")

Blackbeard

"Let's jump on board, and cut them to pieces." (Johnson 81)

(Context) Dissolving his alliance with pirates Thomas Cocklyn and Olivier La Buse

"Hark ye, you Cocklyn and la Bouche, I find by strengthening you, I have put a rod into your hands to whip myself, but I am still able to deal with you both; but since we met in love, let us part in love, for I find that three of a trade can never agree." (Johnson 175)

Bartholomew Roberts

(Context) Explaining to his victims that he was under no obligation to treat them kindly or fairly.

"There is none of you but will hang me, I know, whenever you can clinch me within your power." (Johnson 214)

"Black Sam" Bellamy

(Context) To a Captain Beer, apologizing after his pirates had voted to sink Beer's ship after looting it.

"Damn my blood, I am sorry they won't let you have your sloop again, for I scorn to do anyone a mischief, when it is not for my advantage." (Johnson 587)

(Context) To "Calico Jack" Rackham in prison after he had decided to surrender to pirate hunters instead of fight.

"I am sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man, you needn't be hanged like a dog." (Johnson, 165)

Thomas Sutton

(Context) A captured member of Roberts' crew, when told by a fellow pirate that he hoped to make it into Heaven.

"Heaven, you fool? Did you ever year of any pirates going thither? Give me hell, it's a merrier place: I'll give Roberts a salute of 13 guns at entrance." (Johnson 246)

(Context) Upon being sentenced to hang.

"My Lord, it is a very hard sentence. For my part, I am the innocentest person of them all, only I have been sworn against by perjured persons." (Johnson 451)

About These Quotations

All of these quotations are directly taken from Captain Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates (page numbers in parentheses refer to the edition below), written between 1720 and 1728 and considered one of the most important primary sources on piracy. Please note that I have made minor cosmetic changes to the quotations such as updating to modern spelling and removing capitalization of proper nouns. For the record, it is unlikely that Captain Johnson actually heard any of these quotations directly, but he did have good sources and it is fair to assume that the pirates in question said, at some point, something reasonably like the quotations listed.

Source

Defoe, Daniel (Captain Charles Johnson). A General History of the Pyrates. Edited by Manuel Schonhorn. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1972/1999.