Until the birth of the shipbuilding industry in private hands shortly after the start of the 18th century, the inevitable clash between the King's Interests and private interests ruminated beneath the surface.
Indeed, one of the underlying causes of the American Revolution, although many texts never mention it so it is not generally known, was the Privacy and Preservation Act of the Empire. Until the Boston Massacre in 1770 began to raise the voices of men like Sam Adams and other orators who decried the obvious tyranny of taxation with representation, few people thought about the Royal Navy's reservation of all long white pine and lodge pole pine (pines with large crowns and straight trunks that made perfect masts) as the masts and spars for ships of His Majesty's Navy.
However, when the marine developers of Gloucester tried to design a new breed of sailing/merchant ship they were thwarted in their early efforts by the King's Navy because of the little-known wood reservation. Needless to say, this did cause consternation around Gloucester, however a Scot transplant to the colonies named Andrew Robinson, drew up plans for a new class of merchantman, ostensibly to supply the Royal Navy. The ship was the schooner-rigged sailing craft.
The irony of the name was not lost on the British. Robinson called the new ship the scon since it seemed to skim along the water's surface. Scon is the Scots word for skim.
It was a rugged design that could carry a large volume of cargo in a relatively stable platform as the schooner rig had a deep hull that also served as the keel and carried the ballast. The keel as sailors know, is the device that enables a sailing ship to run before the wind as well as tack across the wind and jibe.
In general, a schooner-rigged ship mounted from two to four masts of equal height. The usual array was a rear mast (not a mizzen) near the quarter deck and wheel of the ship with the second near the bow in a two-master. Because of the distribution of masting and the depth of the keep/hull, the design was inherently stable with the foremast and rear mast providing stability in a following sea.
The beauty of the schooner design was that it was scalable. A schooner could be designed as a shorter, inshore merchantman with a relatively short distance between the fore and aft masts. Or, it could be lengthened with a broader beam and more weatherize handling so that the schooner could handle the swells of the Roaring 40s in the Pacific or Atlantic. Usually, these ships, though, mounted three or four masts.
It is interesting to note that a schooner-rigged ship tended to be gaff-rigged. In other words, it had a series of square topsails on the its masts. The fore-courses were also square rigged gaff sails on the topmost spars.
Quite typically, schooner-rigged ships also carried sails called mule sales atop each stay sale. The mule sale tended to be spar-mounted and they also tended to to be triangular. Mule sales were also mounted in front of the foresails and were also triangular.
Some schooner-rigged ships added a spar-rigged triangular staysail between the foremast and the rearmast in a dual-masted design.
Mule sales had to be dropped if the ship was tacking across wind or jibing. There was one interesting variation of the staysail called the fisherman's staysail. Like other mule sales, it is placed forward in the schooner to catch light winds. These sales were also dropped and raised during tacking or jibing.