The UNO Explainer

What's a privateer?

Jun 11

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6/11/2015 1:54 PM  RssIcon

Merriam-Webster defines privateer as “an armed private ship licensed to attack enemy shipping; also, a sailor on such a ship.” Privateers should not be confused with pirates. Though both might pillage booty at sea, privateers are licensed and pirates are not. Privateers are agents of a government; pirates are independent actors. Buccaneers are a particular kind of pirates and privateers from the 1600s known for selling smoked meats to passing vessels. The term “buccaneer” comes from the French word “boucan,” which refers to smoked beef and pork.


One of the most famous privateers in American history was a Frenchman named Jean Lafitte. Laffite and his older brother, Pierre, were pirates in the 1800s hailing from Bordeaux, France. They successfully smuggled goods into the United States and avoided tariffs by navigating the bayous of south Louisiana and avoiding major ports at the mouth of the Mississippi. The brothers were pirates until President Andrew Jackson needed help to defeat Her Majesty’s Navy during the War of 1812. Jean Laffite was commissioned as a privateer and went on to lead the Americans to victory. The Battle of New Orleans was the last aggression of the British on American soil.


Flash forward to the 1965 when Louisiana State University in New Orleans (now called the University of New Orleans) was ready to establish a mascot. Options included Dolphins, Mariners, Privateers, Panthers, Marlins, Pelicans, Cajuns, Ospreys, Seagulls and Tigers. (The LSU mascot on the Baton Rouge campus was the Bengal at that time). After a student vote, the Driftwood announced that Panther won, but the election outcome was bitterly protested. The Student Government Association called for another vote, arguing that seventy-two percent of the votes cast were against Panther and that the LSUNO mascot should better reflect the city’s history and character. More than 1,000 students signed a petition calling for a run-off mascot election among Panther, Dolphin and Privateer. Panther received a paltry 18.9%, but Dolphin and Privateer were close with 40.6% and 40.5% respectively. Another run-off would take place to determine the ultimate victor. Turnout in the final run-off election was the highest it had ever been. The Privateer won handily with 583 votes compared to the Dolphin’s 423.


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Elysian Fields: What's in a Name?
The ABCs of UNO
What's the deal on graduation rates?
What's a privateer?
What's the deal with the lakefront location?
What's the deal on enrollment?
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