Pirates and War

1657-1671: Pirates find a place in history as protectors in European wars

Throughout history, the status of pirates has changed in the Caribbean. From the necessity of buccaneers and privateers in breaking the Spanish stronghold to a thorn in the side of the European nations, there were many reasons for piracy to remain important.

In the 1640s, the buccaneers of the Caribbean hid out on Hispaniola and formed bases on Providence (and Tortuga) Island. However, the Spanish were still being attacked by French pirates, so they cleared Providence Island. Unfortunately for the Spanish, more pirates would later repopulate the island.

Pirates as Protectors

England and France both realized that pirates, if they could be enticed to do so, would make the best protectors for the Caribbean islands. This would require no fleets from Europe and would still keep the islands under control by their respective nations.

French pirates on Tortuga rarely hit ships heading toward French Hispaniola, though, as pirates, their actions could not be predicted. Two of Tortuga's most famous pirates are Francois l'Ollonais and Michel le Basque, and they dominated the island's piracy in the 1660s and 1670s.

Jamaica's Governor d'Oyley actually invited pirates in 1657 to make a base in Port Royal rather than on Tortuga. This helped Jamaica rid itself of the Spanish, and it protected the island from further invasion.

Second Anglo-Dutch War

Buccaneers came to play an important role in the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which began in 1665. While Frenchman Bertrand d'Ogeron leads Hispaniola and Tortuga, England also makes its move. The three Dutch islands of St. Eustatius, Saba, and Tobago fell to British attacks in this year.

D'Ogeron was even told to remove the pirates from their territories and establish farms on Hispaniola. He did, but his successors were not so capable at keeping out their unwanted settlers, and piracy continued from these islands. However, the Dutch privateers attacked British ships. The French sent out forces to raid Barbados and pushed the British out of the shared island of St. Kitts.

Although the English pirates won sweeping victories early in the war, they were afraid to attack the Dutch on Curaçao, which was more heavily fortified with troops, and in 1666 they begin looting Spanish ships. This allowed the French to take the lead in the war and force a surrender on Nevis, as well as taking Antigua and Montserrat, though the French would recapture these island in 1669.

The British came back in 1667 by defeating a joint Dutch-French armada at Nevis, and they managed to recapture their losses - except for half of St. Kitts. At the end of the war, the Treaty of Breda restored all of the islands to their former countries, with the notable exception of Tobago, which became a French property instead of Dutch. The French did not return the British portion of St. Kitts to the British until 1671.

Island Quarrels

Spain and England continued squabbling in the Caribbean until the 1670 Treaty of Madrid. In this treaty Spain finally acknowledged Britain's territories in the Caribbean - including Jamaica, which Britain had occupied for more than a decade.

However, Jamaica, under the protection of privateers, was involved in a fight against the Spanish up until this point. In fact, the famed Henry Morgan was their strongest defender, and from 1667 to 1671 he went on three historic and incredible raids against the Spanish, as well as a bit of other piracy along the way.

Although he took Puerto Principe in Cuba and the fort at Porto Bello in Panama, the most important raid was his final one. In 1670 he set out for Panama City, and, taking his forces on foot across the isthmus to the Pacific, he took the city, which was defended by much larger forces than his own.

However, it was for this raid that he was arrested and sent to England. The raid took place in 1671, after the Treaty of Madrid had been signed. In 1674, though, he was knighted and returned to Jamaica as Lieutenant Governor of the island, where he would richly live out his days.

Wars between these countries were far from over, but by this point nearly all of the islands would remain attached to the countries that currently occupied them.


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