CAPTAIN SIR HENRY MORGAN

 

  NAVAL PRIVATEER AND NAVIGATOR

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Sir Henry Morgan

 

 

Captain Henry Morgan was a privateer in the Buccaneering era knighted by King Charles II of England.

 

In those days, Caribbean islands, under the control of the British government, depended largely on the privateers for the collection of revenue. Thus, in reality, privateers were government-sponsored individuals. They raised their fleet of ships using government money. These privateers regularly attacked Spanish colonies located in and around the Pacific Ocean and plunder their wealth. The respective governing authority of the islands issued a license called a letter of marque to these privateers. This license authorized the privateers to attack and snatch the ships belonging to some specific country. In return, the privateers gave a substantial portion of the loot to the license issuing authority.

 

Sir Henry (c. 1635 – 25 August 1688) later became a plantation owner, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. From his base in Port Royal, Jamaica, he raided settlements and shipping on the Spanish Main, becoming wealthy as he did so. With the prize money from the raids he purchased three large sugar plantations on the island.

He was born in Monmouthshire, but it is not known how he made his way to the West Indies, or how he began his career as a privateer. He was probably a member of a group of raiders led by Sir Christopher Myngs in the early 1660s during the Anglo-Spanish War. Morgan became a close friend of Sir Thomas Modyford, the Governor of Jamaica.

 

Morgan raided Spanish colonies of Trujillo, Granada, and Vildemos during the late 1663 and early 1664. He along with fellow captain Jacob Fackman and John Morris came back to Port Royal, Jamaica with shiploads of valuables. During 1664, the relation between the English and the Dutch worsened. As a result, the British colonial government of the Caribbean’s started issuing letters of marque against the Dutch. The Second Anglo-Dutch war took place between 1665 and 1667. Morgan led the invasion of Dutch colonies of the Caribbean’s as second in command during this period.

 

When diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of England and Spain worsened in 1667, Modyford gave Morgan a letter of marque, a licence to attack and seize Spanish vessels. Morgan subsequently conducted successful and highly lucrative raids on Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in modern Cuba) and Porto Bello (now Portobelo in modern Panama). In 1668 he sailed for Maracaibo and Gibraltar, both on Lake Maracaibo in modern-day Venezuela. He raided both cities and stripped them of their wealth before destroying a large Spanish squadron as he escaped.

In 1671 Morgan attacked Panama City, landing on the Caribbean coast and traversing the isthmus before he attacked the city, which was on the Pacific coast. The battle was a rout, although the privateers profited less than in other raids. To appease the Spanish, with whom the English had signed a peace treaty, Morgan was arrested and summoned to London in 1672, but was treated as a hero by the general populace and the leading figures of government and royalty including Charles II.

Morgan was appointed a Knight Bachelor in November 1674 and returned to the Colony of Jamaica shortly afterward to serve as the territory's Lieutenant Governor. He served on the Assembly of Jamaica until 1683 and on three occasions he acted as Governor of Jamaica in the absence of the post-holder.

 

A memoir published by Alexandre Exquemelin, a former shipmate of Morgan's, accused the privateer of widespread torture and other offences; Morgan brought a libel suit against the book's English publishers and won, although the black picture Exquemelin portrayed of Morgan has affected history's view of the Welshman.

 

He died in Jamaica on 25 August 1688. His life was romanticised after his death and he became the inspiration for pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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