then history, the flibuste.



Thus the French decided to put themselves "to run known" to the Spaniards and to the Portuguese on the two large ones fly maritime from the Western and Eastern Indies. Private individuals, like the French Jean Ango, armed in race.

The ships which they were going to intercept transported of the fabulous cargoes.
In 1523, with broad of the coasts of Spain, Jean Fleury, valorous captain with the service of Jean Ango, a flotilla of three Spanish caravels attacked.

log2_bateau.jpg (3316 bytes)

They transported a part of the spoils that Cortez had plundered with the Aztec ones. This one weighed several tons and was composed of three enormous cases of gold ingots, of 230 kilos gold powder out of bags, of 310 kilos pearls, many cases of money, boxes of jewels encrusted with invaluable stones, emeralds, topazes, gold plate and of money, enchased idols of invaluable stones, gold masks, thousands of broad plates of gold, bracelets, shields and Aztec helmets as well as statues of animals of the New World, vases and mirrors of polished obsidian... In more of the transported amazing treasure, Jean Fleury adapted it from Mexico and what had an enormous value in its eyes - the sea charts of the Spanish pilots, if invaluable to organize possible forwardings in the Western Indies. Cortez had not considered it necessary to arm its three buildings. For roof of misfortune, the escort of warships, charged to protect them on the end with their crossing, awaited them only broad course Saint-Vincent.
Learning this disaster, Put it of Contratacion prohibited with the ships of less than one hundred barrels to cross the ocean. Those which would take the sea had, henceforth, being armed with at least four large pieces of artillery "with sixteen gunners to serve them, plus twenty six soldiers provided with lances, swords, espingoles and armours".
The vessels which would transport invaluable cargoes had, moreover, being escorted by galleons.
The coloured accounts exciting splendours and the enchantment of the new discoveries exerted an irresistible effect of seduction. A multitude of men, whom got excited of freedom, cruel but courageous, were going to flow towards the Antilles, fleeing the civil wars which devastated Europe.
Disinherited the and dissatisfied ones with all classes, the victims of the royal taxes and the military constraint were going to create a continuous exodus that the great maritime powers like France, England and Holland facilitated as being a first step towards the conquest, at least commercial, of the coveted areas and of which they had been despoiled.


Tous these adventurous sailors French, Dutch and English linked by a common hatred for the crown of Spain were quickly a den which will become their new fatherland, famous "the island of the Tortoise". Located at 10 kilometers in the north of Haiti, this island, of 37 kilometers out of 5, had been baptized thus by Christophe Colomb itself because of his resemblance to the carapace of the reptile. They were called the "flibustiers", this name coming from Dutch "vrijbulter", literally "free maker of spoils". Free, the flibustiers will remain it until France, Holland and England, weary exactions made on their behalf, took shade of it and forced them either to return in the row, or to gain the maquis of the sea, thus becoming, until their death, of the pirates. During one century, from 1630 to 1730, they were going to engrave in letters of blood and gold their acts of bravery, causing proud Spain openly, then with the ridge of its power.

Another type of men cohabited with the flibustiers, they were the buccaneers. They had inherited the habit of the Caribbean Indians who cut of pieces their prisoners and made them roast and smoke on a charcoal fire. They named to rough-hew " barbacoa to them ". This word will become "bore-with-tail" and will give, with the accent cow-boy, "barbecue". The European hunters which will use same the methods, but for sides of meat of cow or wild pig powdered with salt, will thus be called the "buccaneers".

In 1626, certain Belin d' Estambuc, Norman gentleman, founded a company which, with the support of Richelieu, was to open with its country a share profits of the conquest of Americas.
This "Company of Saint-Christophe" (of the name of the island of the Antilles where it remained) was going to become, in 1635, the "Company of Isles of America" and finally, in 1664, celebrates it "Company of the Western Indies" which will be created by Colbert at the same time as the "Company of the Eastern Indies".

Driven out by the Spaniards in 1630 of the island Saint Christophe, Belin d' Estambuc began again, little time afterwards, possession of this island. 80 of his/her companions, French and English, decided to take refuge in the island of the Tortoise
Lbe 25 Spaniards who remained there were thrown, without pity, with the sea.
Of the Dutchmen, driven out island Holy Crosses, were not long in joining them in their den. Located well on the road between Cuba and Europe, this island became the ideal base for those of which the only goal was to tackle the Spanish treasures.

The flibuste, which dissociated piracy, was thus mainly a phenomenon of reaction.

bateau_livre.jpg (89256 bytes) At the beginning of the 18è century, the payment of the succession of Spain came to carry a serious hard blow to the French flibustiers who did not have any more a pretext to attack the Spaniards.
In the Antilles, the setting-up of a solid organization profiting from an increased safety, the establishment of colonies of exploitation equipped with a powerful administration and the surge of European colonists forced the flibustiers to take unceasingly more risks.
The trade of the road of the East, in full rise, fascinated them more and more.
The trading vessels, badly escorted, always discharged in the European ports from the cargoes from dream, representing as many potential spoils.
Tracked in the Antilles, of many flibustiers did not resign themselves to leave this life of adventure to which they had been accustomed.
They decided to take the broad one and to become pirate in the Indian Ocean.
After having crossed the Atlantic and having sailed round the Cape of Good Hope, they went up towards the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Malabar Coast. Madagascar, that the Western powers had not succeeded in yet entirely colonizing and who presented incomparable shelters, was going to become their ideal base.

Their dens were located at Extremely-Dolphin, in bay of Antongil and, particularly, in the small island of Sainte-Marie, located at the North-East of Madagascar which was going to become, to the 17è century, the favorite base of the pirates of the Indian Ocean. One will count some up to 1.500

At the origin of the flibuste, there was the trade, the will of the European nations to find a new way bound for the Indies and of its richnesses: however, silk, spices and stones invaluable. Already, in the first decades of XVe century, under the impulse of the one of wire of the king, prince Enrique, Portugal had undertaken the exploration of the Western coasts of Africa and probably also of Brazil. But the passage towards the Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern end of the African continent, was going to be borrowed, for the first time by Europeans, only at the any end of the century, about the same moment when a navigator of origin génoise, which had at one time served Portugal, "had just discovered the Indies" while crossing the Atlantic towards the west.

The discovery of the Western Indies (future Americas), baptized thus in opposition to the Eastern Indies (the true Indies), désappointa initially promoters of the company, the sovereigns of the kingdoms of Castille and Aragon, immediate commercial rivals of the Portuguese. These new grounds, or rather islands, discovered by Génois Cristóbal Colón (Christophe Colomb), were poor and the populations which lived there extremely primitive with the taste of new had come. There were certainly a little gold, but nothing to fill the trunks of the Crown, just enough for the Castilians which colonized little by little most important of these islands (Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico), from which they controlled the inhabitants.

Starting from these bases of the Greater Antilles, the Castilians lançèrent however to launch forwardings of recognition along the littoral of the Central America. One of them carried out by Hernan Cortés led, at the beginning of the years 1520, the conquest of powerful and thrives kingdom of the Aztec ones. Following Mexico, the Castilians were made main from all the Central America, of Mexico to Venezuela. The conquest of Peru and Chile, according to a score of years later that of Mexico, brought back even more gold, and especially of money, that the first. All these conquests and discovered attracted obviously covetousnesses of the adversaries of Spain, at the head of which France and England were, excluded from these rich person grounds by the pope himself. Indeed, since 1481, by the bubble Aeterni regis, the pope had allocated in Portugal all the grounds located at the south of the Canaries. In 1493, an amendment with this bubble granted to Portugal all the grounds located at the east of the meridian line making by the 38e degree of western longitude, and at Spain all the grounds located at the west of this meridian line to benefit from discovered from Colomb. But, as of the following year, the treaty of Tordesillas deferred this line to the 46° western 37', which will make it possible thereafter Portugal to assert Brazil.

First adventurers

June 1522, main of Mexico City, Cortés had dispatched a building in charge of a good share of the personal treasure of Aztec king Moctezuma, with an aim of gaining the favour of young king d' Espagne, the emperor Charles Quint. But, between the Azores and Spain, this ship was captured by Giovanni Verrazano, navigator and Florentin corsair with the service of France. Financed in Dieppe by Jean Ango, the objective of the voyage of Verrazano was much more ambitious: the discovery of a new passage by the west towards China and India, by North America. The capture of the Spanish vessel being apparently only one mishap, Verrazano turned over to Dieppe from where it set out again in January 1524 intentionally to explore the coasts of the future English colonies of Caroline and New York, probably going up in north until in Acadie. A third travels led it to the Lesser Antilles, these "islas useless" that the Spaniards had not condescended to occupy and had given up with their inhabitants, the Caribbean Indians, who gave their name besides to the American Mediterranean. There, in 1528, on one of these islands, the Guadeloupe, the navigator found death with the hands of these savage warriors.

Indians of Brazil
dance Tarairiu
by Albert Eckout, 1641

Verrazano was surely not the first sailor not-Spanish who risked himself in the Caribbean Sea. Indeed, the year previous the death of the Florentin, an English captain, John Rout, whose adventure is, by far much more interesting, had gone there. After a forwarding at the coasts of North America, in search him also of a passage towards China, Rout had moved towards the Antilles and had been presented, at the end of 1527, in the port of Santo Domingo. The Spaniards showed themselves rather friendly towards the English and would have even intended to buy the goods of those. But, from the fort, somebody drew a blow from rather ready gun of the English vessel so that Rout takes the broad one. The English returned however a few days later and unloaded, 30 or 40 armed men, near the city. They wanted to then exchange their goods against food, which the Spanish inhabitants refused to them. On this answer, Rout and its men plundered the plantation where they were then were re-embarked while promising to return in greater number to be avenged for this affront.

This first of contact between the Spaniards and the sailors of another European nation in America already shows the possibility for certain aspects of the relations which will maintain in times peace, at the next century, the flibustiers and the Spaniards. Indeed, according to laws' Castilians, any foreign building which was going to trade with the American colonies and which did not hold licence emitted by the Spanish crown was regarded as a pirate. For this reason, certain English and French captains, of which the goal first is in fact the trade, will pass quickly to the reprisals as soon as the authorities colonial, anxious to apply the legislation of the metropolis, refuse to them to carry on this legitimate activity.

French corsairs

The first foreign adventurers to try fortune in America were however not all of the smugglers. France being then in war against Spain, the corsairs of the first of these two kingdoms started to appear numerous in the Antilles in the years 1530. For the majority, they armed in the ports with Normandy, in Dieppe more particularly just like their Verrazzano predecessor, and also in those of Brittany. These Norman and Breton sailors have already a long tradition of the remote voyages. Before even the year 1500, probably following the Portuguese, they attended the coasts of Brazil to seek in particular there a wood turpentine being used to dye the fabrics in red, called besides "wood of brésilet" and which would have given its name to the country.

To gain the Spanish America, the French corsairs, extremely of their Brazilian experiment, went initially to the Cape Verde Islands, passed by Brazil and Guyana then, by the Lesser Antilles, entered the Caribbean Sea. Once there, not only they prennaient Spanish buildings but they launched out to the attack of the boroughs and the small coastal cities which still were very badly defended. In 1537, a band of French corsairs put thus at bag Nombre of Dios, in the isthmus of Panama, and made a descent in Honduras. Three years later, it was with the turn of San German, in Puerto Rico, to be plundered. More daring, 300 adventurers seized Cartagena, in January 1544, making 35 000 pesos spoils out of gold and silver only, being however less lucky in front of Havana, from where they had to be withdrawn after having lost 15 as of theirs; just like 80 their compatriots who were pushed back in front of Santiago of Cuba.

Starting from the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) putting fine at the wars in Italy between Spain and France, it was admitted by the two nations that the French private individuals pourraiennt to go to try fortune in Spanish America, with their risks and dangers, without that not compromising for as much peace in Europe. This principle, probably already applied in the years 1540, is summarized in the contemporary expression: "No peace beyond the line of the Friendships". This "line" is in fact the meridian line passing by the island Ferro, one of the Azores, in the west of which all becomes allowed for the adventurers. It will be used as guarantee with the made armed aggressions, in times of peace, against the Spanish colonies in America by the French and English adventurers, who will however not be all of the corsairs.

English interlopers

The activities of the French corsairs in the Antilles in decades 1530, 1540 and 1550, undoubtedly, eclipsed those much less spectacular of the English smugglers who, successors of the Rout captain, went so far as to go to adulterate with the Spanish colonies, or without the agreement of their government. However, they also, will be constrained to use the strong manner to oblige the Spaniards to grant the right of trade to them. As from the medium of the end of 1560, their exploits against the Spaniards their will be worth an international reputation.

Most famous and ambitious of these commercial sailors was then John Hawkins. Like his father and his brother before him, it attended initially the coasts of Brazil and Guinea. At the time of these voyages, it was made the influential allied ones among notable Canary Islands, important Spanish colony with broad of Western Africa. From its contacts with the Portuguese and the Spaniards, it learned that there was much money to gain by supplying the American colonies of Spain as a slave blacks. In 1563-1565, it thus accomplished two voyages to the Antilles, of which the second with the secret financial support of the her minister and Queen of England. Everywhere where it passed, in Hispaniola and Venezuela in particular, the Hawkins captain was extremely well accomodated so much by the local populations, neglected by the metropolis, which by the colonial authorities, often corrupted, with which, in infringement with the Spanish laws, it treated the negros that it had bought in Africa. But the English sought to achieve a goal higher than that to grow rich personally: he intended to gain with his nation a legal participation in the trade of the Indies, from where, for example, the fact that he discharged the customs duties to each one of his transactions with the Spaniards.

Quickly informed of this intrusion, the king of Spain carried felt sorry for to the Queen of England and temporarily obtained the stop of the departure of the third forwarding under the orders of Hawkins. This one did not leave of it less Plymouth at the end of 1566, with at its head, in the absence of Hawkins, John Lovell. This last having joined its forces to those of a small fleet of French smugglers ordered by Jean Bontemps, went to the Margarita island where it ran out a part of the slaves which it had taken in Guinea. But, in Venezuela even, Rio of Chopped, where Hawkins had received a particularly cordial reception the previous years, a new governor refused in Lovell the permission to treat.

At the end of 1567, this time with the official approval of the Elizabeth queen, who provides the two principal vessels of forwarding, Hawkins set out again once again bound for the Spanish America. Just like Lovell the previous year, Hawkins encountered problems with the Spanish authorities which made him many difficulties. The situation was as envenimée by the presence at the sides of the English of some French adventurers, much more interested to plunder the Spaniards as to treat with them slaves. Indeed, Hawkins was joined in particular by the Blondel captain, who had taken part in forwarding the Clerk, a dozen years earlier, and one named Guillaume Testu, corsair but especially cartographer and navigator except par. Roof of bad luck, this third voyage of Hawkins finished, in September 1568, by a naval action in the island San Juan de Ulua, in front of Vera Cruz, against the Spanish fleet. Several of the men of Hawkins were captured by the Spaniards and the remainder, with their chief, regained England painfully. The intransigence of Spain had prevented the English from peacefully trading: in the following years the latter will use the strong manner.

Francis Drake

Though victorious in the business of San Juan de Ulua, the Spaniards did not remain about it less not astonished by the boldness of these foreign sailors who had dared to approach the port of Vera Cruz, by where the richnesses of Mexico forwarded before being dispatched in Europe. They are however not at the end of their sorrows with the English in this second half of XVIe century. Indeed, a young relative of Hawkins, Francis Drake, will follow his traces in the Caribbean Sea and will cut a great reputation of pirate for the ones and trusty servant of the crown for the others.

Francis Drake and John Hawkins

Francis Drake and John Hawkins
English anonymity, XVIIe S.

In the middle of the years 1620, after more or less happy attempts in Guyana, the English and the French however will start to be established in the Lesser Antilles, these useless islands, scorned Spaniards, of which they will drive out the Caribbean Indians gradually. More important however will be, until the middle of the century, the action of the Netherlanders against the Spaniards in America. At the same time pirate, rebellious and heretics, these old subjects of Habsbourg which has occupied the thrones of Castille and Aragon for one century already will deliver to this Master yesterday pitiless war


French Flibustier originating in Dieppe.

Regarded as the "best pilot who is in America", it accepted (28 juil. 1669) a commission of Mr. d' Ogeron, ordering the frigate then Sainte-Catherine, armed by two merchants with the Tortoise and the governor himself. Left the island in company of the Gascon captain, it captured (June 1670) a Portuguese ship, coming from Africa, its men having obliged it to make this act of piracy as it declared it itself with his victims. It took part then, in the fleet of Morgan, with the forwarding of Panama. On its return of this company, it was stopped by Mr. de Villepars for the catch of the Portuguese ship the previous year. However, benefitting from the shipwreck, from the Tortoise, from the ship of the king Mazarin on board of which it was held, it escaped (Sept. 1671). Being worried more for its misdeed, it seems that he counted with the number of the captains that Mr. d' Ogeron recruited, in 1673, to go to make descent with Curaçao or Puerto Rico; or did it make party of those which followed Pouancey in 1678 to join the fleet of the count d' Estrées? In any case, at the end of 1673, it made descent in the surroundings of Mérida (Yucatán) with another French captain, having in his Roc crew the Brazilian one: but it was pushed back by the Spaniards who killed several as of his to him and captured even Trébutor, if they do not reflect it with death.



  english translations          home    library