The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

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The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2020-07-03 04:08pm

It was predated by the Pirates' Republic, which existed on the Island of Nassau in the Bahamas from 1706-1718:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Pirates
The era of piracy in the Bahamas began in 1696, when the privateer Henry Every brought his ship the Fancy loaded with loot from plundering Indian trade ships into Nassau harbour. Every bribed the governor Nicholas Trott with gold and silver, and with the Fancy itself, still loaded with 50 tons of elephant tusks and 100 barrels of gunpowder. This established Nassau as a base where pirates could operate safely, although various governors regularly made a show of suppressing piracy. Although the governors were still legally in charge, the pirates became increasingly powerful.

The era of true pirate control occurred when a combined Franco-Spanish Fleet attacked Nassau in 1703 and again in 1706; the island was effectively abandoned by many of its settlers and left without any English government presence. Nassau was then taken over by English privateers, who became completely lawless pirates over time. The pirates attacked French and Spanish ships, while the French and Spanish forces burned Nassau several more times. Pirates established themselves in Nassau, and essentially established their own republic with its own governors. By 1713 the War of the Spanish Succession was over, but many British privateers were slow to get the news, or reluctant to accept it, and so slipped into piracy. This led to large numbers of unemployed privateers making their way to New Providence to join the republic and swell its numbers. The republic was dominated by two famous pirates who were bitter rivals – Benjamin Hornigold and Henry Jennings. Hornigold was mentor to pirates such as the famous Edward Teach, known as "Blackbeard", along with Sam Bellamy and Stede Bonnet. Jennings was mentor to Charles Vane, 'Calico' Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. Despite their rivalries, the pirates formed themselves into the 'Flying Gang' and quickly became infamous for their exploits. The Governor of Bermuda stated that there were over 1000 pirates in Nassau at that time and that they outnumbered the mere hundred of inhabitants in the town. Blackbeard was later voted by the pirates of Nassau to be their Magistrate, to be in command of their republic and enforce law and order as he saw fit.

Pirate Thomas Barrow declared “that he is Governor of Providence and will make it a second Madagascar, and expects 5 or 600 men more from Jamaica sloops to join in the settling of Providence, and to make war on the French and Spaniards, but for the English, they don't intend to meddle with them, unless they are first attack'd by them.”[1] While originally the pirates had avoided attacking British ships, this restraint disappeared over time, and at their height, the pirates could command a small fleet of ships that could take on the frigates of the Royal Navy. The amount of havoc caused by the pirates led to an outcry for their destruction, and finally George I appointed Woodes Rogers as Governor of the Bahamas to bring the piracy to an end.[2][3][4][5] In 1718 Rogers arrived in Nassau with a fleet of seven ships, carrying a pardon for all those who turned themselves in and refrained from further piracy. Among those who accepted this offer was Benjamin Hornigold, and, in a shrewd move, Rogers commissioned Hornigold to hunt down and capture those pirates who refused to surrender and accept the royal pardon. As a former privateer himself, Hornigold was well placed to understand what needed to be done and he pursued his former comrades with zeal. Although pirates such as Charles Vane and Blackbeard evaded capture, Hornigold did take ten pirates prisoner and on the morning of 12 December 1718, nine of them were executed. This act re-established British control and ended the pirates' republic in the Bahamas. Those pirates who had fled successfully continued their piratical activities elsewhere in the Caribbean in what has become known as the Golden Age of Piracy.
(Wikipedia. However, a lot of this is corroborated from a book I've been reading lately, titled Black Flags, Blue Waters, by Eric Jay Dolan).

So... when you think "Founders of Western Democracy", don't think George Washington or Thomas Jefferson... think Blackbeard. :D

(Washington and Jefferson were basically pirates anyway- just engaged in legally sanctioned robbery and murder in the form of slavery and ethnic cleansing of indigenous populations).
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by Lord Revan » 2020-07-31 08:41pm

Honestly depending how you define "republic" there's plenty of republics in Europe that predate either of those.
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2020-07-31 09:03pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2020-07-31 08:41pm
Honestly depending how you define "republic" there's plenty of republics in Europe that predate either of those.
I did say "Western Hemisphere". :wink: Most of Europe is technically in the East. I guess you could maybe count some small bits of the Roman Republic and Cromwell's Britain? Though this is getting rather pedantic.

At any rate, they beat the Americans to it, and so far as I know, pirates can claim "first European colony to attempt an independent republic" (you could debate which pirate haven was first, there were several different ones at various times during the "golden age of piracy", starting with the buccaneers of Hispaniola and Tortuga and concluding with the pirates of Nassau).
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by loomer » 2020-08-01 06:14am

*coughs loudly in Iroquois languages*
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by LadyTevar » 2020-08-01 07:30pm

loomer wrote:
2020-08-01 06:14am
*coughs loudly in Iroquois languages*
THANK YOU! I was about to point out some of the Constitution was based on the Iroquois' system of government
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2020-08-01 11:50pm

loomer wrote:
2020-08-01 06:14am
*coughs loudly in Iroquois languages*
Yeah, that's another.

I checked the dates for the Iroquois Confederacy, and yes, it most definitely predates the pirates' republic (the date I read for their origin wasn't very precise, I got "between 1450 and 1660", but even the latter has them predating the Nassau Republic by over half a century, and the former would obviously predate a substantial European presence in the Americas altogether).





MURRICA was really late to the game.
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by Solauren » 2020-08-10 04:02pm

But at what point does the Iroqouis Confederacy qualify as a Republic? I have no doubt it was working towards that, but did it reach that level before the arrival of Europeons derailed everything?
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by loomer » 2020-08-10 10:01pm

Well, before we can answer that we need to define a republic, since it can take several forms. Which one are you using as your set of criteria?
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by Solauren » 2020-08-11 05:23pm

Elected/Appointed representatives serving on a central government body
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by LadyTevar » 2020-08-11 09:38pm

Solauren wrote:
2020-08-11 05:23pm
Elected/Appointed representatives serving on a central government body
Did the Pirates have that? Or was it just "you're a captain, you have a say"?
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2020-08-11 10:10pm

LadyTevar wrote:
2020-08-11 09:38pm
Solauren wrote:
2020-08-11 05:23pm
Elected/Appointed representatives serving on a central government body
Did the Pirates have that? Or was it just "you're a captain, you have a say"?
From what I've read on the subject*, the government of the "Pirates' Republic" was fairly lose and informal. Individual ships/crews during the "Golden Age of Piracy" would typically be governed by a set of "articles", voted on and signed by the crew, although it was also common for pirates to forcibly induct captives into their crews, especially if they had special skills (navigators, carpenters, surgeons, etc), and some crews also took Black captives as slaves. These articles would typically include rules regarding conduct and punishments, and rules for distributing plunder (including compensation for injuries). They would also normally elect a captain, and a quartermaster. The quartermaster being in charge of overseeing the money/loot distribution, and the Captain having total authority during battle, but decisions otherwise being made democratically by the crew (the details of all this, of course, varied from crew to crew).

Nassau was dominated by a few prominent pirate captains, most notably Benjamin Hornigold, Henry Jennings, "Black Sam" Bellamy, Edward Teach/Thatch (Blackbeard), and Charles Vane. Hornigold and Jennings (both former British privateers) were rivals. Thatch was a protege of Hornigold, who started things off by basing himself out of Nassau after the British authorities were driven out by the Spanish in the War of the Spanish Succession (he was also something of a patriot, and preferred not to attack British shipping, which at one point lead to his crew deposing him), while Vane (a supporter of the Jacobites against the British Crown) was a protege of Jennings. Thatch may also have had Jacobite sympathies, since he named his ship "The Queen Anne's Revenge". For a time, there were attempts at an alliance of the pirates with France and the exiled Stuarts against the House of Hanover.

There was not a great deal of formal central government, although Thatch was apparently elected Magistrate and commander of the pirates of Nassau, which would meet the qualification of "Elected/Appointed representatives serving on a central body of government", if only in the most minimal sense. Thomas Barrow, another pirate, also declared himself Governor of Providence, but I'd hardly count that.


*Most relevantly Wikipedia and the books Black Flags, Blue Waters by Eric Jay Dolin, and The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard.
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2020-08-11 10:23pm

To illustrate how the dynamic of captain's authority vs democratic decision making could work on a pirate ship, there's an interesting story from Vane's captaincy (I believe I read it in The Republic of Pirates):

Basically, Vane's ship came upon a more powerful vessel. Vane's crew, and particularly his quartermaster Jack Rackham, who later became a captain in his own right and is best known for his association with the famous female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read), wanted to attack. Vane decided not to risk it. His crew objected, at which point he invoked his authority as captain to make decisions during a battle or pursuit, and called off the attack. His crew respected his authority to do so- but as soon as the pursuit was over, voted him out.
"I know its easy to be defeatist here because nothing has seemingly reigned Trump in so far. But I will say this: every asshole succeeds until finally, they don't. Again, 18 months before he resigned, Nixon had a sky-high approval rating of 67%. Harvey Weinstein was winning Oscars until one day, he definitely wasn't."-John Oliver

"The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."-General Von Clauswitz, describing my opinion of Bernie or Busters and third partiers in a nutshell.

I SUPPORT A NATIONAL GENERAL STRIKE TO REMOVE TRUMP FROM OFFICE.

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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by loomer » 2020-08-12 12:49am

Solauren wrote:
2020-08-11 05:23pm
Elected/Appointed representatives serving on a central government body
In that case, absolutely. Working from Elisabeth Tooker's material (and here a disclaimer: while independent Indigenous political structures are an area of interest to me, my focus is primarily on Australia, so I'm now reliant largely on Tooker and Abler and may be getting details wrong), the sachems were what we might consider a kind of hybrid title - hereditary,* but appointed and thus dischargeable. It varied a little from nation to nation within the Confederacy but the general rule of thumb is that you were elected from within your clan by your clan's female elder(s), who could then hold essentially a court to remove you from office if you were acting poorly or in violation of the law. The general requirement was matrilineal descent of some form from the original holder of the title, but that swiftly becomes a very broad bunch of candidates within a few generations. This was also the way the society itself was largely structured, minimizing the extent to which the concern of a privileged elite ruling over a large body of unrelated persons is valid - you're already organized into similar, if not actually identical, clans of descent and marriage ties who form majority of each given community, so it's a little closer to the requirement that an elected MP actually live in his electorate than the establishment of a feudal aristocracy.

These appointed chiefs then go on and serve on the Great/Grand Council of 50 chiefs, the central body of the IC, who meet to oversee disputes and matters between the nations or that concern the nations via vote.** Within the nations themselves there were (I'll just note that this part is moderately debateable - it's a long story but the scholarship is unsettled on exactly how the national bodies were constituted) similar councils with a relatively flexible body of hereditary chiefs (largely using a similar style of selection within clans and families that constituted most if not all of the community thus represented), merit chiefs, and elective chiefs (sometimes hard to distinguish from merit chiefs and not always present) from different regions, villages, and clans. It's not a form of republicanism we're particularly familiar with in the West, but it's a republic nonetheless, and one that was doing quite well (other than a tendency towards militarism, particularly strongly directed at the Algonquin peoples) until we more or less hit it with a truck, then dragged the survivors off to deal with one on one rather than as a collective.

If we had a time machine or a window into an alternate reality, it'd be interesting to watch it play out for a few more centuries, to see if it stayed stable or diverged into either a more familiar open-electoral model or into a more restrictive strict-hereditary one, but that's neither here nor there.

(*: Welcome to one of the biggest confusion points about a lot of hereditary models. The Western mindset tends to leap straight to direct primogeniture or at best all the children of a person because that's the route we largely chose while in large swathes of the rest of the world it's hereditary within a shared family that might extend to the entire clan as a polity rather than within the direct children of the prior title holder. In the IC case, it's a little closer to our model than some of the more egalitarian ones that have existed due to the shared matrilineality restriction sometimes creating a divide between governed and governor families, but still retains an element of strong oversight rather than absolute right. The role of popular pressure and input on influencing the decisions of the elders (almost always elders) who make the choice is impossible to actually quantify with this model but is, by most accountings, a very serious factor.)
(**: Specifically, a unanimous vote. As a fun side effect, the need to record and authenticate decisions made by the Council where the sachems weren't present themselves (say if you had to send a message home to report that there will be no war, calm down...) wound up bringing about the trade in wampum, which ended up as both trade good and means of recording history and law. I like that, as a legal theorist: the raw material for recording law is also used as a medium of exchange, and can be exchanged in its purposes. Since currency is really just the materialized promise of law to enforce transactions it's tremendously fitting. The analogies of wampum to blockchain technologies are obvious, though blockchain itself isn't my favourite thing.)
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by Solauren » 2020-08-12 08:08am

Ah. Then the Confederacy was indeed a Republic.
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Re: The first republic in the Western Hemisphere was not the United States...

Post by loomer » 2020-08-12 08:33am

Yep. The sticking point on it is mostly for those definitions that require a high degree of federalization of government, since that element was lacking (but the individual nations themselves were more or less republics in the outlined way too, just without as clear a line of demarcation) as it is in any proper confederacy.
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