November 22: A Black(beard) Day in History


Edward Teach, Blackbeard
Public Domain

On a November 22, fading into the fog of the past, the world lost a colorful figure whose abbreviated career and death at a young age are bound to be long-remembered. I refer, of course, to Edward Teach, better known as the pirate, "Blackbeard."

From a home base in North Carolina, the British-born Teach terrorized Charleston, South Carolina, as well as ship-born victims, into submission. Literally, he terrorized them, relying on a monstrous appearance, with lit, smoking fuses inserted in his massive beard, and fears of what he might do, to separate captives from their money. History says he rarely actually hurt anybody in order to extract treasure.

This is not to say he was a good person. Like, say, a government official, he took what did not belong to him with threats of violence, subsisting on that which had actually been earned and produced by others. Unlike any government official, however, he never claimed a right to do what he did—he simply stole what he wanted from those weaker than himself.

Remarkably, Teach's piratic adventures lasted only two years, coming to an end in 1718. He is believed to have been in his late thirties when he died. The pirate's colorful personality guaranteed him a life long after death. But then, people have a certain weakness for predators.