Golden Age of Piracy - Skull and Crossbones

Golden Age of Piracy

Tortuga Decline

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Locations > Tortuga > Tortuga Decline

Tortuga Decline


The decline of Tortuga largely paralleled the decline and practice of buccaneering in general. By the end of the 17th century the Buccaneering Era was in full decline as the Spanish began to really fortify their coastal cities. During this time many buccaneers turned towards the lucrative trade of logwood cutting and many others retired with their fortunes on plantations. Others were hired by the colonial governments to be pirate hunters and hunt down those who chose not to accept the buccaneering pardon. As the century came to a close the colonial powers devoted more resources to help combat pirates and secure their colonies in the New World.

In 1680, the British Acts of Parliament made it illegal to sail under foreign flags which turned out to be a major blow to Caribbean pirates in the region. This law was enforced by the British who hung several buccaneers after they seized Dutch ships. Just like as during the Post Spanish Succession Period, many would simply convert to full scale open piracy. Ships at that time would carry a document called a Letters of Reprisal but the buccaneers did not care. However, by this time the buccaneers were really viewed as outlaws and public enemies so much pressure was put on the colonial governors to halt their activities in ports like Tortuga.

The buccaneers adapted and began targeting British plantations on Jamaica which was a huge economic blow. The fortification of the Spanish settlements on the coast meant they had to resort to finding less defended targets and they often turned to British warehouses that were full of goods like sugar and tobacco. These assaults became so frequent the British government petitioned the the King of France to stop the attacks.

When the Treaty of Ratisbon was signed in 1684 many of the territories and settlements in the Caribbean were defined and this brought an end to the Buccaneering Era. However, the treaty included many provisions regarding dealing with the buccaneers so even by 1684 many were still at it. At this point the buccaneers had risked everything for the colonial powers and they did not believe that a few men sitting around a table signing treaties meant they were not allowed to plunder for the rest of their lives. If the colonial government did not sanction it, these buccaneers were going to sanction themselves.

Royal Pardon

In 1684 many buccaneers were offered pardons by governor Tarin De Cussy of Saint-Dominigue and many were soon enlisted into service to help hunt down their former friends. When Henry Morgan died in 1688 the age of buccaneering was really over in Tortuga. Those that did not take the pardon either left the island to try their hand at the Pirate Round or continued their trade in the West Indies and were usually captured and killed.

When the city of Port Royal was destroyed by the Port Royal Earthquake (1692) the age of buccaneering would really come to a close in the West Indies. This catastrophic event killed many buccaneers on its face but the destruction of the two principle black market ports in the West Indies really saw the decline of the practice. There was no more conquering of settlements and plundering of cities by pirates and nor would not ever be again, it was truly a unique age.

While the destruction of Port Royal and the decline of Tortuga meant a decline in piracy in the West Indies the trade did not stop. In fact, the pirates simply traveled back across the Atlantic Ocean and rounded the Cape of Good Hope where they were greeted by the massive pirate haven of Madagascar. The decline of buccaneering in the West Indies was actually a boon to the Pirate Rounders who were at the height of their era.

Other Professions

While many buccaneers either took the pardon, continued the trade or ventured to the other side of the world others still retired with their loot and took up legitimate trade. Many buccaneers turned to the lucrative trade of logwood-cutting and proved just as natural at that as buccaneering. Within a few years the buccaneers cut down all of the trees on Tortuga and the accessible ones in Saint-Domingue and then went on to Campeche. Buccaneers that started a lucrative logwood cutting operation at Belize were known as Baymen and gathered the good at a place called Golpho Triste.

There were several Baymen havens all along the coast of the Yucatan peninsula at places like Mosquito Bay, British Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala. Soon a lucrative trade network was established between British Jamaica and the Yucatan peninsula despite much Spanish protest. In fact in response to the logwood-cutting operation the Spanish would hire their own corsairs to loot the buccaneer's ships. What was considered legitimate to the English and French was considered piracy to the Spanish and so was the ethics and morals of piracy in the Golden Age.




Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

United States, Hydrographic Office (1891). "Catalogue of Charts, Plans, Sailing Directions, and Other Publications of the Office, July 1, 1891". p. 34. Retrieved 14 July 2015.

Royal Geographical Society (Great Britain); Shaw, Norton; Greenfield, Hume; Bates, Henry Walter (1834). "The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society". p. 130. Retrieved 14 July 2015.

Schutt-Ainé, Patricia (1994). Haiti: A Basic Reference Book. Miami, Florida: Librairie Au Service de la Culture. p. 20. ISBN 0-9638599-0-0.

"Ile de la tortue, Histoire. Petite histoire de l'île de la tortue". Villa Camp Mandingue. Haiti. Retrieved 24 July 2012.

"Cristóbal Colón en La Española". Amautacuna de Historia. 2010-10-24.

"Diario de a bordo del primer viaje de Cristóbal Colón: texto completo. 6 de Diciembre.". Wikisource. 1492. Retrieved 24 July 2012.

The Buccaneers In The West Indies In The XVII Century - Chapter IV

The Buccaneers In The West Indies In The XVII Century - Chapter IV

Exquemelin, Alexander (2003). Zeerovers. 's-Hertogenbosch: Voltaire B.V. pp. 18–20. ISBN 90-5848-044-5.

Pancorbo, Luis (2003) "El Canal de la Tortuga" en "Río de América". pp. 321–333. Laertes, Barcelona. ISBN 84-7584-506-1

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