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Abstract

In September 1717, King George I of Great Britain and Ireland issued a royal proclamation calling for the suppression of piracy and offered amnesty for those individuals who would abandon their ways. For decades, pirates were the scourge of the Atlantic, committing the most heinous acts of robbery, murder, and terror at sea. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) resulted in the expansion of the already extensive British Empire, leaving it as the foremost naval power in Europe. With the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the ascendency of the Hanoverian monarchy, the Whig party established a supremacy over Parliament that would last for almost half a century. However, the Whigs were not without their opponents as Tories, Jacobites, and Catholics remained potential threats to this newly established political monopoly. In an effort to consolidate and extend their power, the Whigs employed a new tactic: utilizing the suppression of piracy in a propaganda campaign to intimidate enemies at home by demonstrating the lengths the government was willing to go to eliminate dissent within the state. This paper will focus on how the British government, under Sir Robert Walpole, publicized its anti-piracy campaign through books and newspapers in the public sphere to secure its grip on power as well as examine the contested use of pirate discourse between the Whig oligarchy and its opposition.

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