Any self-respecting outfitter provides mouth ammunition. Not to attack the enemy, but to feed his privateers!

The most important thing that set an outfitter apart from the other parties involved in the privateering business was the fact that he was responsible for the vessel. Normally, he had to recruit the captain and crewmembers for the expedition he was funding. He was also responsible for requesting that the prize be sold once the usual inspections had been completed by the Admiralty.
Cookie

Throughout the entire period of New France, outfitters were as likely to be merchants, such as Charles Aubert de la Chesnay, as they were to come from the colonial administration, as was the case of Governors Frontenac and Vaudreuil.

Privateer activities made some outfitters considerably wealthier, but such cases were rare. Truly large profits were more the province of the big ship-owners in Boston who outfitted a large number of ships during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
Any self-respecting outfitter provides mouth ammunition. Not to attack the enemy, but to feed his privateers!

The most important thing that set an outfitter apart from the other parties involved in the privateering business was the fact that he was responsible for the vessel. Normally, he had to recruit the captain and crewmembers for the expedition he was funding. He was also responsible for requesting that the prize be sold once the usual inspections had been completed by the Admiralty.
Cookie

Throughout the entire period of New France, outfitters were as likely to be merchants, such as Charles Aubert de la Chesnay, as they were to come from the colonial administration, as was the case of Governors Frontenac and Vaudreuil.

Privateer activities made some outfitters considerably wealthier, but such cases were rare. Truly large profits were more the province of the big ship-owners in Boston who outfitted a large number of ships during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

The long periods of isolation that are part of seafaring forced ship-owners to ensure that privateer crews were self-sufficient. In addition to providing a vessel, an outfitter had to supply the captain and crew with weapons and food. These were commonly called "ammunition and mouth ammunition."

Given the outfitters’ hefty investment, they claimed a larger portion of whatever profits were to be made, if any. Indeed, the risk they took was a big one, for many privateering vessels came home empty handed. Others sank and never came home at all! To lessen the impact of luckless privateers, outfitters would join together to share the risk and the profit!

The Costs of Outfitting

Being the risky business that it was, privateering required substantial investment. The shipping contract for La Guyonne, equipped for privateering by its commander Jean La Fosse and by Sieur de Costebelle, Governor of Plaisance, Newfoundland, details the amounts each of them invested in 1708.

2957 livres, 13 sol Read More
The long periods of isolation that are part of seafaring forced ship-owners to ensure that privateer crews were self-sufficient. In addition to providing a vessel, an outfitter had to supply the captain and crew with weapons and food. These were commonly called "ammunition and mouth ammunition."

Given the outfitters’ hefty investment, they claimed a larger portion of whatever profits were to be made, if any. Indeed, the risk they took was a big one, for many privateering vessels came home empty handed. Others sank and never came home at all! To lessen the impact of luckless privateers, outfitters would join together to share the risk and the profit!

The Costs of Outfitting

Being the risky business that it was, privateering required substantial investment. The shipping contract for La Guyonne, equipped for privateering by its commander Jean La Fosse and by Sieur de Costebelle, Governor of Plaisance, Newfoundland, details the amounts each of them invested in 1708.

2957 livres, 13 sols, 8 deniers for Privateer Jean La Fosse
5915 livres, 7 sols, 4 deniers for Governor de Costebelle

ANQ-Q, TL5 D 422-20, 3/10/1708

To put these investments into perspective, the total is nearly equal to the proportion of the New France budget that went into the construction and repair of boats, as well as the maintenance of canoes in 1743. These expenses amount to 9,300 livres (Tournoise pounds) out of a total budget of 422,000 livres. That is 2% of the entire budget of New France for the year 1743 that went into funding a single privateer vessel!

Not all outfits were of this magnitude, however, since not all privateer captains were fortunate enough to have a governor outfitting them. Still, the fact remains that to invest in privateering and have a chance at making profits, a person had to be prepared to sustain heavy financial losses!

Difficult Outfitting

Outfitters sometimes had trouble recruiting crewmembers. Governors, too, struggled to convince outfitters to invest in privateering in light of the high cost and the great amount of risk involved.

To compensate for these difficulties, governors tried to help outfitters invest in privateering using various approaches.

For example, during the War of Austrian Succession (1744-1748), the President of the French Navy Council wrote to the Governor and the Intendant of the Colony, Messrs. de Beauharnois and Hocquart, in these terms:

The riches that the Canadians would find at Louisbourg, in terms of artillery, weapons and ammunition, [...] should prompt them [to become privateers]. Reward awaits privateers who dare.

LAC, MG1 Fonds des Colonies. Serial C11A. General correspondence, 31/03/1745

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

V.A. Privateer, 1974

This model represents an American privateer from the end of the 18th century.

Lucien Leclerc
1974
© Musée maritime du Québec


Grapeshot

Groupings of small pellets, often even rifle rounds, fired on the enemy to inflict maximum casualties.

Musée maritime du Québec

© Musée maritime du Québec


Speed was one of the basic principles of privateering. Outfitters therefore preferred light, fast moving ships, and their preference influenced the way ships were built.

Shooner plans

Circa 1775, the Americans developed the first ship whose performance made it particularly well suited to privateering. The speed of the Americans' vessels was such that English merchants from the Gaspé soon took notice. Of course, these merchants were the targets of American privateers. In a letter to Governor Frederick Haldimand, William Smith and John Shoolbred described the ships of the American privateers who attacked them in these words:

The two privateers are small schooners of 35 to 50 tons, one mounting two guns and 16 swivels, and the other no guns and ten or twelve swivels. These vessels are extremely fit for the purpose, sail amazingly and run in a calm 4 & 5 knots with 12 to 16 bars each. The swivels were fired in the coaming of a hatchway running almost the length of vessel. The people by this means fought in the hold and were well covered having 40 o Read More
Speed was one of the basic principles of privateering. Outfitters therefore preferred light, fast moving ships, and their preference influenced the way ships were built.

Shooner plans

Circa 1775, the Americans developed the first ship whose performance made it particularly well suited to privateering. The speed of the Americans' vessels was such that English merchants from the Gaspé soon took notice. Of course, these merchants were the targets of American privateers. In a letter to Governor Frederick Haldimand, William Smith and John Shoolbred described the ships of the American privateers who attacked them in these words:

The two privateers are small schooners of 35 to 50 tons, one mounting two guns and 16 swivels, and the other no guns and ten or twelve swivels. These vessels are extremely fit for the purpose, sail amazingly and run in a calm 4 & 5 knots with 12 to 16 bars each. The swivels were fired in the coaming of a hatchway running almost the length of vessel. The people by this means fought in the hold and were well covered having 40 or 42 men each.

Laval University library, FC 411 H159 A4, roll 105, page 27, 08/07/1778

A Model with Impressive Results

During the American Revolution, the success of American privateers with their vessels streamlined for privateering was both remarkable and significant. They were thus called upon to take part in the next conflict, the War of 1812.

In 1812, the American privateer vessel was in a class of its own. The British were quick to notice the excellent performance of this type of vessel. They also understood that it was to their advantage to build similar ships. With their light weight and their steeply inclined masts, the new English ships were prepared to face the American vessels.

In the past, privateering efforts had always focused on merchant ships. In the British-American war of 1812, many battles at sea took place on vessels built specifically for privateering.

The Main Privateer Vessels

Up until the end of the 18th century, the main ships used for privateering were the schooner and the brigantine, vessels generally used for carrying merchandise.

Light frigates were sometimes outfitted for privateering. Such was the case, for instance, when the king allowed a captain who was not a member of the Royal Navy to use one of the king's ships for privateering.

Larger ships of the line were generally excluded, except in cases where a Royal Navy ship was given a double tasking, such as to deliver supplies and combat enemies of the State.

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

A draught of his Majesty’s Schooner Grecia, as taken off, Portsmouth Yard

Schooner plans. Her two inclined masts maximized her speed.

National Maritime Museum
1816-05-10
no DR4555
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London


The Swallow an 1812 privateer

Model of an 1812 privateer

Photo: France Gagnon, Naval Museum of Quebec
1812
© HMCS Montcalm Collection


What exactly did people find in captured ships? Fish, fish oil and salt to preserve it. The fish banks of Newfoundland attracted a large number of fishermen from in and around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The fishermen, in turn, attracted their share of privateers.
Ship

In supply vessels, the content was more varied than on fishing vessels. Such was the case of the prize captured by François Aubert de Millevaches, a privateer during King William's War. The hold of his prize, an English brigantine named La Marguerite, contained the following:

[.] button, snuffbox, sailcloth, pin, playing cards, knife, fork, white canvas, grey canvas, blue canvas, white wool sweater, 20 reams of heavy paper, cloves, nutmeg, women's shoes, women's clogs, five English pounds bound in calfskin [etc.]

ANQ-Q, TL5, D2581/2, 1697.

Such cargo had a high resale value. In other cases, however, the prize contained only ballast—made of stones.

The Privateers' Booty

Read More
What exactly did people find in captured ships? Fish, fish oil and salt to preserve it. The fish banks of Newfoundland attracted a large number of fishermen from in and around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The fishermen, in turn, attracted their share of privateers.
Ship

In supply vessels, the content was more varied than on fishing vessels. Such was the case of the prize captured by François Aubert de Millevaches, a privateer during King William's War. The hold of his prize, an English brigantine named La Marguerite, contained the following:

[.] button, snuffbox, sailcloth, pin, playing cards, knife, fork, white canvas, grey canvas, blue canvas, white wool sweater, 20 reams of heavy paper, cloves, nutmeg, women's shoes, women's clogs, five English pounds bound in calfskin [etc.]

ANQ-Q, TL5, D2581/2, 1697.

Such cargo had a high resale value. In other cases, however, the prize contained only ballast—made of stones.

The Privateers' Booty

Privateer ship: Le Trompeur
August 1712
Captain: Jacques François Morin
Home port: Quebec City

After having captured two English vessels, La Mutine and La Gaillarde, Jacques François Morin, captain and owner of the vessel Le Trompeur, returned to Quebec City in the spring.

Shortly after his arrival in May 1713, the sale of the prizes was announced with drums beating in all the public places of the lower town. Despite the winter, which had spoiled almost all the captured cod, there were buyers for both the ships and the half-rotten fish!

The La Mutine and the cod from the La Gaillarde were sold to Morin himself. The La Mutine contained nothing but ballast! He paid 3,510 livres for the boat and 10 sols for every handful of cod, a total of 101 livres and 10 sols for all the cod.

Privateer La Grange and his Prize

Privateer ship: Joybert
June 1704
Captain: Jean Léger de La Grange
Homeport: Quebec City

The expedition led by Jean Léger de la Grange was a great success. La Grange and his men attacked the port of Bonavista in Newfoundland, destroying three ships and capturing the Pembroke Galley, an armed British ship loaded with cod.

Three Quebec City merchants were particularly happy to see the return of La Grange and his prize. Claude Pauperet, Louis Prat and Antoine de la Garde had all invested money in the raid.

Besides the cod and a little salmon, the booty included an array of weapons. Roughly 6 pistols, 18 rifles and 18 sabres were found in a gun case. The raid was extremely profitable, and one of the shipowners, Louis Prat, had an ex-voto painted to show his gratitude for this success.
Sale of a Black Slave at Louisbourg

By order of Intendant Raudot, the purchase of slaves had been legal in New France since April 13, 1709. There was thus nothing to prevent the sale of a slave, whether Black or American Indian.

This is precisely what occurred on November 2, 1756, at Louisbourg. Sieur Milly la Croix had just brought back a prize with a Black man on board. For privateer outfitters, this was merchandise just like any other. To make a good return on their investments, they sold the black slave alongside all the other merchandise on board the captured ship.

[...] he had it published throughout the city that there would be sold, by us, a "negro" from the prize of the English schooner of Captain W. Wells, captured by said Sieur de La Croix. [.]

LAC, MG6-A2 Charente-Maritime departmental archives group, 02/11/1756

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

Exvoto offered by Louis Prat for the success of his privateer expedition with the Joybert

The ship in this exvoto is the Joybert. The owner, Louis Prat, commissioned this painting to thank Saint Anne for the taking of the Pembroke Galley by the Joybert, commanded by Jean Léger de la Grange.

Photo: Centre de conservation du Québec
1706
© Musée de Sainte-Anne, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré


The return to port meant the end of the adventure for the privateer, well, almost, that is. One thing remained: the liquidation of the prizes. Upon his arrival, the privateering captain had to report to the Admiralty to submit his report. The outfitter was then informed of his ship's return, and he came out to see if fortune had favoured him.

A team of public servants in the colonial administration then boarded the prize and took an inventory. Once the inventory had been completed, the time of the auction was announced publicly. Such auctions often spanned several days. The sum of these procedures was known as "liquidation."

Occasionally, outfitters could buy back the entire load of merchandise from the capture and even the prize ship itself, in which case these sales became profitable for them. However, the profits were rarely phenomenal.

The Inventory

Precise and meticulous are the two words that best describe the way privateer inventories were conducted.

Everything was inspected and noted before witnesses. Every chest and cupboard on the prize was Read More
The return to port meant the end of the adventure for the privateer, well, almost, that is. One thing remained: the liquidation of the prizes. Upon his arrival, the privateering captain had to report to the Admiralty to submit his report. The outfitter was then informed of his ship's return, and he came out to see if fortune had favoured him.

A team of public servants in the colonial administration then boarded the prize and took an inventory. Once the inventory had been completed, the time of the auction was announced publicly. Such auctions often spanned several days. The sum of these procedures was known as "liquidation."

Occasionally, outfitters could buy back the entire load of merchandise from the capture and even the prize ship itself, in which case these sales became profitable for them. However, the profits were rarely phenomenal.

The Inventory

Precise and meticulous are the two words that best describe the way privateer inventories were conducted.

Everything was inspected and noted before witnesses. Every chest and cupboard on the prize was opened, its content noted, and so it was for all the merchandise aboard the ship. After the inspection of the prize ship, seals were placed on all the ship's chests, cupboards and hatches. The seals were made of pieces of paper or parchment, and were affixed with wax. Very often a damaged seal meant that merchandise had been stolen.

In addition, a guard was usually posted to watch over the prize. That way, the authorities had done everything they could to prevent theft. The registrars in charge of taking down the inventory did so with painstaking detail. All the privateering stakeholders—outfitters, captain and crewmembers-could refer to the inventory in the event of a disagreement concerning the distribution of profits.

Crying

Crying made for picturesque scenes, but it was also essential to the liquidation of prizes. It served to announce the auction and the sale of privateering booty. Although the text was posted on church doors, the town crier had to read it in public since most of the population could neither read nor write.

The sale was announced by town criers and beating drums in all the public squares of the city where the auction was to be held.

In Quebec City, in July 1698, the inhabitants of the lower town could hear the following announcement from their windows:

[...] may it be known to all that the brigantine called L'aventure and the ketch called La prospérité with their tackle, taken from the English by the late Sieur Jean Outlaw, will be sold to the highest bidder [...] in this city's port where said buildings are located [...]

ANQ-Q, TL5 D 269 p, 5/7/1698.

The Auction

Before going ahead with the sale, there had to be three cries. After the first announcement was made, people interested in buying came to make their bids. Only the highest was kept. The process was then repeated twice. Generally, the entire process took three days.

Quite often, the time devoted to auctioning was counted with a candle. Selling time ended when the candle was consumed. This was the case with the sale of Sieur Milly la Croix's capture in early November 1756 at Louisbourg.

Which auction we had announced until the clock struck five, after which we had a piece of candle lit with [the] declaration to the bidders that the adjudication [sale] of said schooner would take place at the going out of said candle in favour of he who, at that time, would be the last bidder. [...]

LAC, MG6-A2 Charente-Maritime Departmental Archives Coll., 02/11/1756.

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

20 sols soinc, France

Coin in circulation under Louis XV.

National Currency Collection, Currency Museum, Bank of Canada
1720
no 1965.0167.00027
© National Currency Collection, Currency Museum, Bank of Canada


Merchandise Seal, London

This type of seal was found on merchandise from Europe. When a privateer captured a prize, these seals needed to be removed in order to perform an inventory of the merchandise.

Musée régional de la Côte-Nord
1802 - 1821
© Musée régional de la Côte-Nord


Auction house text announcing the sale of ships seized by John Outlaw

Auction house text announcing the sale of ships seized by John Outlaw

Archives nationales du Québec, Québec
1698
TL5 D 269 P
© Archives nationales du Québec, Québec


Whether he fought for glory or for money, every privateer was exposed to the elements at sea. On the St. Lawrence, storms were frequent and quite dangerous. Indeed, no one would venture out on to the St. Lawrence without an experienced pilot to steer the ship. Even so, some storms got the better of ships in spite of the pilot's skill.

Some boarding manoeuvres sometimes increased the risk of damage and shipwreck. For instance, to fire canons, the men had to open the portholes first. This made the ship more vulnerable to water intake.
Naval gun

A Failed Attack

Privateer vessel: L'Affriquain
Captain: De Marigny
Home port: Rochefort, France
Destination: Quebec City

The Affriquain, in 1710, was an example of a warship of the King of France being outfitted by a private outfitter. It transported merchandise, but was equipped for war in order to launch attacks on enemies of France and its colonies. It is quite likely that Captain De Marigny had a commission for war and merchandise.

This explains why, when he encounte Read More
Whether he fought for glory or for money, every privateer was exposed to the elements at sea. On the St. Lawrence, storms were frequent and quite dangerous. Indeed, no one would venture out on to the St. Lawrence without an experienced pilot to steer the ship. Even so, some storms got the better of ships in spite of the pilot's skill.

Some boarding manoeuvres sometimes increased the risk of damage and shipwreck. For instance, to fire canons, the men had to open the portholes first. This made the ship more vulnerable to water intake.
Naval gun

A Failed Attack

Privateer vessel: L'Affriquain
Captain: De Marigny
Home port: Rochefort, France
Destination: Quebec City

The Affriquain, in 1710, was an example of a warship of the King of France being outfitted by a private outfitter. It transported merchandise, but was equipped for war in order to launch attacks on enemies of France and its colonies. It is quite likely that Captain De Marigny had a commission for war and merchandise.

This explains why, when he encountered an enemy ship, he had no choice but to attack, only things didn't go as he had planned.

He ordered three portholes open for said battery on the starboard side, facing the enemy, and after said canons were in battery, [...] the waves grew high, such that they entered by said portholes to which the crew quickly came running to withdraw said canons and close said portholes. Water continued to pour in so abundantly that a number of crewmembers had it up to their knees [...]

ANQ-Q, TL5 D 441-1/2, 13/08/1710

In any event, the Affriquain's attack had fallen through, and it could do nothing but flee.

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

Naval Gun

Naval cannonc were longer than infantry cannonc, which gave them greater range. Moreover, they were mounted on rolling carriages to increase their rate of fire and absorb the recoil.

Stewart Museum
1755
no1977.14.1
© Stewart Museum, at the Fort Île Sainte-Hélène


Privateering had a tremendous impact on the shipbuilding industry. It spurred the development and improvement of light, fast moving ships. The basic model for this type of vessel, the schooner, was developed in the 18th century and perfected during the War of 1812.

The fast and easily manoeuvrable schooner was used for fishing up until the early 20th century. It ceased to be used for privateering following the War of 1812, as this was the last war before privateering was abolished in 1856.
Privateering had a tremendous impact on the shipbuilding industry. It spurred the development and improvement of light, fast moving ships. The basic model for this type of vessel, the schooner, was developed in the 18th century and perfected during the War of 1812.

The fast and easily manoeuvrable schooner was used for fishing up until the early 20th century. It ceased to be used for privateering following the War of 1812, as this was the last war before privateering was abolished in 1856.

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

Élie Galermont is a new sailor on the privateer ship "The T". After a raid, he realizes that his captain is leading them to crime and acts more like a pirate than a privateer in the service of the king. Élie doesn’t like this and decides to go looking for evidence to expose his captain’s activities on his return. Through various games, with Élie Galermont search the ship to find evidence to expose the captain.

Game 4

"Hear ye, hear ye! By order of his Majesty, let it be known to everyone that the brigatine taken from the English and all of its equipment, weapons and goods are being put up for sale. The goods will be sold by candlelight auction today. Don't miss it."

You must help the auctioneer sell the plunder to the merchants who show up at the auction.

When an object appears in the middle of the room, click on the merchant who you think might buy it. If you choose the right merchant, the goods will be written on his list.

Be careful! The auction is over when the candle burns out. The auctioneer wants to get rid of all of the merchandise: His spe Read More
Élie Galermont is a new sailor on the privateer ship "The T". After a raid, he realizes that his captain is leading them to crime and acts more like a pirate than a privateer in the service of the king. Élie doesn’t like this and decides to go looking for evidence to expose his captain’s activities on his return. Through various games, with Élie Galermont search the ship to find evidence to expose the captain.

Game 4

"Hear ye, hear ye! By order of his Majesty, let it be known to everyone that the brigatine taken from the English and all of its equipment, weapons and goods are being put up for sale. The goods will be sold by candlelight auction today. Don't miss it."

You must help the auctioneer sell the plunder to the merchants who show up at the auction.

When an object appears in the middle of the room, click on the merchant who you think might buy it. If you choose the right merchant, the goods will be written on his list.

Be careful! The auction is over when the candle burns out. The auctioneer wants to get rid of all of the merchandise: His speech gets faster as time runs out!

Follow this link to play the game.

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the role and importance of privateers on the population, the economy of the colony and the development of the territory;
  • Define what makes a privateer and the differences between him and pirates;
  • Linking the events of the past to the present (continuity);
  • Develop a process of research and information processing in geography and history, enabling it to develop his critical thinking and his historical thinking.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans