Thursday, January 17, 2013

“Roaring Dan” Seavey, my pirate relative

Dreams, as Ralph Wiggum teaches us, are where I am a pirate.  But a century ago, in the real world, one of my relatives lived that dream. 

First, though, let’s go back three centuries farther: If I can believe the Internet, the first Seavey in the New World was William Seavey, who came here in 1631 to erect the first building on the East Coast that was intended primarily as a church (replacing home prayer meetings), arguably one of the New World’s first public works projects. 

That’s a somewhat embarrassing start for the line that would one day produce an atheist/anarchist, but the tale doesn’t end there: One of the most famous Seaveys was (I kid you not) “Roaring Dan” Seavey, notorious Great Lakes pirate in the early twentieth century.  Since he hails from New England and looks a lot like my paternal grandfather, it’s a pretty safe bet he’s actually related. 

You’ve almost gotta admire the way he combined alcohol, piracy, murder, and women, if this Wikipedia entry is to be believed.  According to a longer account (with a clearer view of that photo), though, he never actually destroyed that ship with the cannon, didn’t drown that drunken crew as the Wikipedia entry implies, and may not have technically been stealing their ship, since he was in some sort of financial dispute with its owner. 

Still, he was at least a pimp and a pirate – one who largely eluded justice and lived to a ripe old age after abandoning more than one wife – and I don’t mean to defend him, colorful character though he is.  From a libertarian perspective, it’d be nice to conclude that I’ve got seasteading in the blood, or perhaps a Pete Leeson-like appreciation for piratical anarchism. 

Disturbingly, though, Roaring Dan seems to have been the worst of both worlds from a libertarian perspective: a criminal and a government agent, working in later days as a customs agent, possibly while still pirating (intriguingly, my father, who was briefly in the Navy himself, says he has no knowledge of pirates in the family but did know that some relatives from his grandfather’s generation were involved in customs near the Canadian border – hmmmm...).

A few related items:

•Above is a piratical cupcake sticker I saw downtown.

•There was a pirate story (involving the space-criminal Kanjar Ro) among the tales I wrote for DC Comics a decade ago (I could/should do so much more).

•Brian Doherty (who appreciates a good rogue) is right to praise Johnny and the Pirates’ song “Shakin’ All Over.”

•And speaking of flying flags on one’s boat, it occurs to me that the Union Jack is probably one of the nicest, simplest bits of pre-twentieth-century brand-fusing design work in history. 

Well done, people of 1801, especially the diagonal red bits borrowed from the Irish flag and added to the white diagonals of the Scottish one in a way that suggests depth/shadow.  Letting a more or less Scottish blue background dominate is the clincher.  U-K!  U-K! 

(Nonetheless, when all governments are abolished, it should be retired, of course.)

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