For a brief, glorious period in the early 1700s, the Bahamas was ruled by a gang of some of the most famous pirates the seas had ever seen. Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, "Black Sam" Bellamy, and their associates banded together to form a pirate cooperative, culminating in a form of government in which blacks were equal citizens, the rich were imprisoned and common sailors could veto their captain's orders. At the height of their power the gang served Britain, France, and Spain from their New World empires. The Royal Navy went from being unable to catch the pirates to being afraid to encounter them at all, and the public embraced the pirates as folk heroes. In the early eighteenth century a number of the great pirate captains, including Edward "Blackbeard" Teach and "Black Sam" Bellamy, joined forces. This infamous "Flying Gang" was more than simply a thieving band of brothers. Many of its members had come to piracy as a revolt against conditions in the merchant fleet and in the cities and plantations in the Old and New Worlds.