- "When the king brands us pirates, he doesn't mean to make us adversaries. He doesn't mean to make us criminals. He means to make us monsters. For that's the only way his god-fearing, tax-paying subjects can make sense of men who keep what is theirs and fear no one. When I say there's a war coming, I don't mean with the Scarborough, I don't mean with King George or England. Civilization is coming. And it means to exterminate us."
- ―James Flint[src]
Pirates are maritime bandits who prey on other ships, rob sailors of their goods and sometimes capture the ship itself for their own purposes. Piracy flourished across the Caribbean, particularly in the Bahamas, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
- "Men of these waters... They don't fear ships, they don't fear guns, they don't fear swords."
"Then what do they fear?"
- ―James Flint and John Silver[src]
By 1715, pirates virtually ruled the Bahamas, capturing and pillaging merchant ships of all nationalities. The absence of effective law enforcement and the natural disorder of the Caribbean created an atmosphere of opportunistic and independent-minded fortune-seekers. While many pirates did not consider themselves to have a home country, many in the Bahamas used Nassau, New Providence Island, as a home port between their times at sea. Pirates also found havens near Massachussets and Philadelphia, and in Port Royal and Tortuga.
Unlike Western societies of the time, many Caribbean pirate crews operated as limited democracies. Pirate communities were some of the first to instate systems of checks and balances similar to those used by modern democracies today. The first record of such a government aboard a pirate sloop dates to the seventeenth century.