The origins of the often used phrase “a nest of pirates” is not new to the War of 1812. Its origins go back to the days of the American Revolution (1782), to the Dey of Algiers (1804) of the Barbary Coast, to Tortola of the West Indies, and to Jean Lafitte of New Orleans (1814). In past years the term “nest of pirates” has been used to describe Baltimore.
Maryland historian John Thomas Scharf (1843-1898) has come the closest with a lecture he gave at Schuztzen Park in October 1880:
“…Great Britain’s power in defense of State autonomy and in defense of seamen’s rights, and transformed this busy little seaport into a “nest of pirates,” which sent out its wasps to sting British commerce on every sea…” The Sun, October 12, 1880
Here are a few examples of that popular term that in its usuage has become synonymous with “privateers”.
“In the Revolutionary war the English government regarded the Chesapeake Bay as a nest of pirates.” History of Baltimore City and County, Maryland…by John Thomas Scharf (Philadelphia, 1881),112.
“The land of our father, whence is derived the ‘best blood of our nation, the country to which we are chiefly indebted for our laws and knowledge, is stigmatized as a nest of pirates, plunderers and assassins.’ Extract from a Fast Day sermon by F.S.F. Gardiner of Boston in 1808. Boston Courier, April 21, 1808.
Webster’s New World Thesaurus (1985) “pirate, n. – Syn. thief, freebooter, plunderer, pillager, marauder, privateer, soldier of fortune, corsair, buccaneer, ranger, sea rover, sea-robber, Barbary pirate, plagiarist…”
In July 1806 Admiral Alexander Cochrane, the one and the same at Baltimore in 1814, whose orders from the admiralty was to sail for Tortola, West Indies “To destroy the shipping and burn the town, in order to root out that nest of pirates, and privateersmen.” New York Spectator, July 30, 1806.