A History of Piracy in the Caribbean: Part 2

A continuation from Part 1.

Two of the three ships Cortes initially sent after his conquest never made it back to Spain. Near the Azores, they were “attacked by a half-a-dozen French privateers under Captain Jean Fleury of Honfleur.” Only one of the ships went to the court in Madrid. The other two “went to Fleury’s patron Jean Ango of Dieppe.” The Spanish rightfully claimed that their booty had been stolen by Fleury. The French, on the other hand, claimed that seizing Spanish goods “was a legitimate act of war.” Francis I even “encouraged the corsairs of La Rochelle, St. Malo and Dieppe to cross the Atlantic” and plunder Spanish towns and coastal villages for treasure. “‘I should like to see the clause in Adam’s will that excludes me from a share in the world,’ said Francis I, speaking of the Treaty of Tordesillas.”

The English were next in line to engage in organized piracy. In 1497, John cabot discovered Cape Bonavista, present day St. John’s Newfoundland. When the English began colonizing the north Atlantic territory, today known as the Canadian-United States Eastern seaboard, they quickly discovered that the land was barren and did not produce the valuable and exotic resources that were produced in Mexico and on the Caribbean Islands. So, the English, also desiring the wealth Spain enjoyed, turned to piracy.

What amplified tensions between Spain, France and England over the wealth of Central and South America was Spain’s unwillingness to share it with other European countries. All Spanish ships carrying gold, silver and other goods from Spanish America were, by strict orders of the Monarch, to return to Spain. All trade was restricted between Spain and Spanish America. French and English merchants seeking to trade on friendly terms with Spanish America were met with cold and even hostile treatment by Spanish authorities.

Charles’s stingy trade policy was to become a detriment to the financial well being of both Spain and her overseas colonies. European Monarchs not only sponsored and funded privateering in the Caribbean in retaliation to Spain’s selfishness; they also used religion to justify their actions. Protestant Monarchs firmly maintained that it was “every Protestant’s duty to seize the goods of Catholic Spain.”


A Brief History of Piracy on The History Channel Website, http://www.history.com

Cawthorne, Nigel. A History of Pirates: Blood and thunder on the high seas. London; Toronto: Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2003.

Koeller, David W, “The Treaty of Tordesillas: 1494” in the Central and South America
Chronology (1998) http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/Americas/Tordesillas.html
Accessed 29 July, 2008.


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