Posts Tagged History

History: George Washington On Starting His Own PMSC To Combat The British

Mr. President, I am a soldier and believe in being prepared. For that and other reasons, I will give my vote for the resolutions of the gentleman from Hanover. Rather than submit to the present condition of things, I will raise one thousand men, subsist them at my own expense, and march myself at their head to the relief of Boston.– George Washington

This is a cool quote from American history that you don’t hear much about. Obviously Washington did not have to raise an army in this fashion, but it is interesting that he put it out there. That he was willing to finance such an army if no one else was going to act.

What is also interesting is that George Washington was very familiar with concept of privatized warfare from his experience fighting with the Royal American Mercenary Regiment (RAMR) during the French and Indian War. He was also a champion of actually paying soldiers as opposed to asking them to do what they did, purely out of love of country. Washington found out that with a volunteer militia, it’s a little hard to keep guys focused when they can’t be home to make money or grow food to support their family. Paying a salary kept their heads in the game, and helped reduce attrition.

The other area of privatized warfare that Washington was involved with was privateering. He actually owned stock in privateering ventures and was a supporter of issuing the Letter of Marque to privateers to fight wars.

The artwork posted below is also interesting. That would be the uniform he wore during the French and Indian War. I noted in the past that this war was significant because this is where Washington learned how to fight and lead men in combat. He learned from the various mercenaries that came to fight in the RAMR, and he used that knowledge and experience and applied it later on. –Matt


Charles Willson Peale is the Artist. This is the earliest authenticated portrait of George Washington and shows him wearing his colonel’s uniform of the Virginia Regiment from the French and Indian War. The portrait was painted about 12 years after Washington’s service in that war, and several years before he would reenter military service in the American Revolution. 1772


Patrick Henry: “Liberty”

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience.”

As the British army tightened the noose around Boston, the Virginia Assembly met in an extralegal session to discuss what steps to take in the wake of what was happening up North. The British hoped that by isolating Boston, they could stamp out the revolution. As the speech below demonstrates, the effect was the opposite of what the British desired, for Virginians—and other colonists—realized that “If they can do it to Boston, they can do it to us.”

The words of the debate were later written from memory by William Wirt, and though they may not be the exact words spoken by Patrick Henry and others, the general consensus among historians is that they certainly contain the spirit of Henry’s remarks and are consistent with what we know of his eloquence. He was, in many ways, the voice of the American Revolution. Likewise, the authenticity of the remarks by George Washington has been called into question, but again, they probably accurately reflect his feelings. Loyal almost to the last, he was now thoroughly fed up with the British.

The members address the president of the meeting to gain the floor. The President acknowledges each by the jurisdiction which he represents.

Mr. Pendleton: Mr. President.

The President: The gentleman from Caroline.

Mr. Pendleton: I hope this Convention will proceed slowly before rushing the country into war. Is this a moment to disgust our friends in England who are laboring for the repeal of the unjust taxes which afflict us, to extinguish all the conspiring sympathies which are working in our favor, to turn their friendship into hatred, their pity into revenge? Are we ready for war? Where are our stores—where our arms—where our soldiers—where our money, the sinews of war? They are nowhere to be found in sufficient force or abundance to give us reasonable hope of successful resistance. In truth, we are poor and defenseless, and should strike when it becomes absolutely necessary—not before. And yet the gentlemen in favor of this resolution talk of assuming the front of war, of assuming it, too, against a nation one of the most formidable in the world. A nation ready and armed at all points; her navy riding in triumph in every sea; her armies never marching but to certain victory. For God’s sake, Mr. President, let us be patient—let us allow all reasonable delay, and then if the worse comes to the worst, we will have no feelings of blame. There is no man in this Convention more attached to the liberties of this country than is the man who addresses you. But think before we sacrifice perhaps everything to the spirit of indignation and revenge. Think of the strength and lustre which we derive from our connection with Great Britain—the domestic comforts which we have drawn from the same source—the ties of trade and business—the friends and relatives we have in England. The tyrannies from which we suffer are, after all, the tyrannies of a party in temporary possession of power. Give a little time, take no hostile action, and these tyrants will be overthrown in England and men in sympathy with America will assume authority. Our ills will pass away and the sunshine of the halcyon days of old will come back again. We must arm, you say; but gentlemen must remember that blows are apt to follow the arming, and blood will follow blows, and, sir, when this occurs the dogs of war will be loosed, friends will be converted into enemies, and this flourishing country will be swept with a tornado of death and destruction.

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History: Privateers Reenact Battle Of The War Of 1812 In Boston Harbor

Happy 4th of July and I thought this was a cool little deal to put out there. Private industry or privateers were very much a part of this country’s war for independence. It is great that we have such a strong military now, but it is equally great that private industry is able to contribute if need be…and our early days is proof of that. –Matt


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Books: The Privateering Stroke, By Capt. Michael Rustein

Henry Adams stated flatly that “the privateers contributed more than the regular navy to bring about a disposition for peace in the British classes most responsible for the war.”

For those of you that have been following along with the blog’s focus on privateering, letter of marque and reprisal, and offense industry, then you will know why this book would interest me. I have not had a chance to check it out yet, but from the sounds of it, it was written by a privateering ‘maven‘.

The author has actually built a schooner called the Fame, based on the first privateering vessel to capture a prize during the War of 1812. He has written several books on the subject and even has a business that teaches the public the history and the workings of a privateer vessel. I would say that would be defined as pretty passionate about the subject. lol

Probably the most interesting aspect of this book from the description below, is the author’s focus on how important privateers really were during the war. This was the ultimate in old school privatized warfare and offense industry in overdrive.

An entire industry focused on attacking the weakness of an enemy, and Britain’s weakness was their commerce/trade. There is no way our navy and privateers could have taken on the Royal Navy directly, so instead we did like most small disadvantaged forces would do in that situation, and attacked their poorly defended commerce/trade. Check this quote out.

Deprived of customs duties, the United States government was in dire straits by the end of 1814. Had the conflict continued, the nation would have been incapable of defending itself without a central bank, new taxes, and conscription. Meanwhile, America’s privateers were waging a highly effective war against British trade. They captured an estimated 2,000 prizes worth $40 million, sent insurance rates to unprecedented levels, and drove up prices at a time when Britain’s economy was groaning under the strain of two decades of warfare. The British public was outraged; merchants bombarded the government with protests and appeals. With the United States incapable of maintaining the initiative in Canada, privateering became the nation’s last, best, and only offensive weapon. 

Pretty neat and this book would be another good one to check out. Especially if you are a student of ‘offense industry’ or are interested in the letter of marque concept. This would also be a good read for those of you interested in naval history and guerrilla warfare. –Matt

The Privateering Stroke

By Capt. Michael Rustein
Book Description
Publication Date: March 25, 2012
High school and even college textbooks oversimplify the War of 1812 — when they don’t ignore it completely. Popular histories emphasize the military as opposed to the economic and political aspects of the war. The U.S. Navy’s role has been written about ad nauseum. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a definitive work on the equally important contributions of American privateers. While the Navy’s outstanding performance in single-ship engagements remains a source of national pride, those victories did not change the course of the war one iota. Had Constitution defeated a dozen British frigates, the thousand-ship Royal Navy would still have blockaded our coasts, strangled our commerce, bottled up our warships, and hunted down those that escaped. Even her former commander, Tyrone Martin, conceded that Constitution’s victories were “no more than pin pricks” that “had no direct effect on the course of the war.”

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Quotes: Secretary William L Marcy On The Paris Declaration And Privateering, 1856

Lately I have been delving into privateering history, and Secretary of State William L Marcy comes up now and again. Even John Arquilla was quoting stuff about Marcy in some of his work, so I thought it would be cool to do some digging.

I was able to find an old article written about Marcy’s mission to the Congress of Paris, and the debates he was having with the other members of that congress about the terms of the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law. This of course is the treaty that banned privateering.

With that said, Secretary Marcy is the reason why the US is ‘not’ a signatory of this treaty.  His reasons were pretty simple as the quote below says.  Privateering is a tool of warfare that smaller sovereigns can use, that lack the resources for creating navies that can compete with the larger countries with more powerful navies. It was the great equalizer of the time, and the US was not about to give up that tool of warfare.

Privateering is also an ‘offense industry’ that creates an industry that attacks weakness with strength (Sun Tzu). That ‘weakness’ is a poorly defended and dispersed commerce (and logistics/source of wealth) of an enemy, and the ‘strength’ is an industry that only grows with each prize that it captures. (today’s piracy is a prime example)

The strength does not come from one vessel, but of thousands of vessels, all hunting and canvassing the seas, looking for their prey. And all of these vessels are competing with each other over enemy prizes. The successful privateers grow their fleets and expand upon their winning strategies, while the competitors of these successful privateers watch and learn and try to mimic what they are doing to be equally successful.

This system of free market warfare also works well with The New Rules of War that John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt put together.(watch this video about the concept) That privateers are the ‘small and many’, that go up against the enemy’s ‘large and few’.  Privateers also fit well within the concept of ‘swarming’, because privateers do not set out in large battle groups or flotillas–they attack from all and any directions in small groups, and at the time and choosing of each individual privateer. There is no large navy, for a large navy to attack….

Although under the swarming concept, this industry kind of shuns large companies to do this.  A swarm has to be cost effective, if it is to be done by a single privateer company. Most would prefer to go after low hanging fruit or easy prizes. But if the money was there, swarming could easily be cost effective. Today’s pirates are experimenting with swarming and the market will determine if this is a profitable venture.

On the other hand, an industry of thousands of privateers versus the commerce of an enemy totally presents itself as a swarm. No one controls it’s actions, it attacks when and where it wants. There is no admiral directing the attacks of all of these vessels, and that is what makes it a unique attack group. The only controls in this type of industry, are a simple Letter of Marque.

Most of all, the concept of ‘finding’ works really well with privateers, because each private vessel is purely focused on ‘finding’ prizes. Their livelihood depends upon it, and those captains that are best at finding prizes, wins. Investors hire them specifically because of their success rates, and they depend upon these captains for profit. An example would be commercial fishermen, and how important a good captain is for finding fish and to covering the costs of investment–both internal and external.

All of these attributes combined, is what makes privateering an asset for nations. Secretary Marcy knew this as well, and our leaders knew this when they decided not to be a signatory to the Paris Declaration.

Finally, I mentioned before that private industry was important during times of war, because this nation uses an All Volunteer Military system. The problem with this system is that during the post war era, a citizenry demands a peace dividend, and their politicians give it to them. The military is then reduced in size and cost, and everyone is happy–until another ‘9/11’ happens.  And then we must go to war with the military we have, and not the one we wished we had.

Or during that war, it becomes unpopular for whatever reason–like it drags on and on, or there is an uptick in deaths, or the economy is doing well.  Finding volunteers during those times is tough. Or when a nation’s war plans becomes a victim of politics, with changing leadership or alliances crumbling because of issues in their home countries, and manpower issues arise during those time periods.

Man power requirements are always changing during a war, and war planners and politicians need tools to meet the needs of those changing man power requirements. Using privateers and private industry during times of war is a tool that gives our leaders the means to deal with the ups and downs, beginnings and ends of war or multiple wars. Private industry is what makes an All Volunteer Military work in this kind of environment, pure and simple. I think Secretary Marcy and others realized this back then about privateering, and today’s leaders realize how important private industry is for our current and future wars. –Matt

*For an excellent history about the Paris Declaration and why the US did not sign it, check out this downloadable book.  It is called “The Abolition of Privateering and the Declaration of Paris”, written in 1887 by Francis Raymond Stark.



They tell us, “reserving the right to make what havoc our overgrown navies may choose to inflict upon your tempting commerce, we demand that you exempt our commerce from the only means of retaliation you possess, the system of privateering.”
We reply, “The terms are unfair. Equalize them by declaring your public and our private armed vessels under the same prohibitory rule, and we are with you. Otherwise, we are constrained to deny that privateering is or ought to be abolished.”


quote of Secretary William L. Marcy, about the Congress of Paris and terms of treaty, August 12, 1856.


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Quote: Hammurabi’s Code And Contracting

This is a great quote and a pretty effective rule. lol It is a reminder that there was a time some 4,000 plus years ago, when kings actually understood the concept of creating ‘effective’ rules that held contractors responsible for their work.

It is also why I keep hounding on this idea that SAMI, the ICoC, and associations like the ISOA should all have enforcement mechanism or effective grievance processes in place to keep their members in line and to allow contractors and clients a way to get justice.

If there is a violation of the code/rules that these companies signed onto within these organizations, then there must be effective punishments for those violations. If there isn’t, then how could any client or contractor respect the company’s association with these groups? Where is the value of such an arrangement, other than some kind of perceived value to somehow attract more business for members with ‘the stamp’?

I say make that membership worth something, and enforce the codes and rules with fair and effective punishments. To actually kick out members or fine them, as opposed to looking the other way because of the money that those companies pay to be a member. (which right there shows the conflict of interest that can happen with these groups)

Because there is another problem associated with not enforcing codes and rules. If one member violates the organization’s rules/codes, and nothing is done about it, then what will the other members think?  Better yet, why would the other members even follow these rules/codes, if the organization has not effectively dealt with those companies that violated them? Food for thought…  –Matt


“If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction firm, and the house which he has built collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death.” –Hammurabi

Link to code here.



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History: Prime Minister Winston Churchill On The Flying Tigers, WW2

This is neat. I stumbled upon a great post by Defense Media Network about the Flying Tigers and they opened it with this quote. I had never heard of it before, but Churchill’s words are pretty significant. Especially when he compared the Flying Tigers to the RAF during the Battle of Britain.  (which also had a significant amount of foreign volunteers in it during that time)

On a side note, did you know that the Flying Tigers were converted into the 23d Fighter Group, which exists today and has flown in the current wars? They fly the A-10 Warthog which is an awesome aircraft. They even paint the Flying Tigers shark mouth on the aircraft. Kind of cool to see a government military carrying on the traditions and memory of an American PMC like the Flying Tigers. Enjoy. –Matt


“The victories of these Americans over the rice paddies of Burma are comparable in character, if not in scope, with those won by the Royal Air Force over the hop fields of Kent in the Battle of Britain.”-Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Flying Tigers.


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