Pirates are considered to be a brutal, lawless lot. But on board ship, they live under a set of rules called ‘The Pirates Code’ or ‘Articles of Agreement’. Each Captain had his own set of rules for the ship and crew under his command but they followed a general pattern. These included discipline, compensation, share of the booty and compensation for injury. Each crew member must make his mark or sign on the Articles whilst swearing an oath of allegiance. This gave each crew member the right to vote for officers and other affairs of interest, bear arms and share booty.
Here are the articles used by Captain John Phillips, of the Revenge, from 1724:
I. Every Man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full share and a half of all the Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain, and Gunner shall have one Share and quarter.
II. If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be marooned with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm, and Shot.
III. If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be marooned or shot.
IV. If any time we shall meet another Marooner that man shall sign his Articles without consent of our Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.
V. 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.
VI. 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 the former Article.
VII. That Man shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for 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.
VIII. If any Man shall lose a Joint in time of Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight; if a Limb 800.
IX. If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to Meddle with her, without her consent, shall suffer present Death.
The Pirate Code became the basis for The Articles of Association used by all companies in England today. These govern the internal management of the company, regulating the rights of the members among themselves……. it is a requirement of company law for a company to register its own special set of Articles which make specific provision on matters of internal management, particularly suited to the needs of that individual business.
sources: A General History of the Robbers and Murderers of the most notorious Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson; The Gower Handbook of Management