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Henry Morgan and the Buccaneers

C.E. Hamshere describes how the famous Pirate-Governor of Jamaica helped to bring to an end Spanish control of the Caribbean Sea.

Of certain periods of History that have suffered from the distortions of romanticism, "perhaps none has been treated worse than those years of the seventeenth century in which the Buccaneers flourished in the Caribbean Sea. While Charles Kingsley painted them as Robin Hoods of the sea, others have included them in the sordid story of common piracy. Now the ever-expanding tourist trade has added its lurid labels, inviting people to visit Jamaica, the island where Henry Morgan ruled as Pirate-Governor. There are even plans to rebuild Port Royal as it was in its heyday—as a tourist attraction. Yet it is quite wrong to dismiss the Buccaneers as common sea-robbers, or to defame the name of Sir Henry Morgan by calling him a pirate.

The origin of the Buccaneers is traced to the island of Haiti where, by the beginning of the seventeenth century, a motley crew of castaways and renegades was making a precarious living from hunting cattle and pigs that had run wild from the abandoned hatos of Spain’s first colony in the New World. As the attempts of Spanish Kings failed to exclude other nations from trading in the West Indies, the cattle hunters found a sale for their meat and hides to passing ships from England, France and Holland. Now the beef and pork were dried over a slow fire on a framework of hardwood known as a “boucan”; and so, as an alternative to the name of “cowkillers”, that of “boucaner”, “boucanier” or “buccaneer” came to be used for the hunters. The point is that, to start with, they were landsmen who thought of themselves as having finished with the sea.

This hunting life was realistically described by the Abbe du Tertre in his Histoire des Antilles (Paris 1667):

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