Henry Morgan’s Instructions 1670
About Henry Morgan’s Instructions 1670. It was common practice for Instructions to be issued along with Letters of Marque to clarify the intent of the Letters. These are the instructions that enabled Henry Morgan to become the most famous privateer in history. He was not a pirate as many think, he was a shrewd politician and privateer who eventually became Governor of Jamaica. He took his mission to the extreme in order to rid the Caribbean and South America of the Spanish. Morgan used such excessive force that throughout history he became known as a pirate.
These instructions are edited for space and interesting points.
Below is the text of Henry Morgan’s Instructions 1670. T
The green text below each paragraph tries to explain the intent of each section.
Instructions for Admiral Henry Morgan, Esq.
Delivered him 22nd of July, 1670 together with his commission.
You will with these Instructions receive my commission which you are to enjoyned with all expedition to publish and put in due execution, according to the full extent and import of the same, for the accomplishing whereof, you shall have all the assistance this Island can give you.
These instructions were written by the Governor of Jamaica and accompanied Morgan’s Letter of Marque which was to be his authority to invade Cuba so as to protect Jamaica from the Spaniards stationed there who would invade Jamaica.
You are to make known to me what strength you can possibly make, what your wants may be, that on due calculation of both, we may supply you with all possible speed.
The Governor wanted to know what size fleet Morgan could muster and what he needed to accomplish his mission to free the hemisphere of Spaniards.
You are to take notice and advise your Fleet and Souldiers that you are on the old pleasing Account of, no purchase no pay, and therefore that all which is got shall be devised amongst them according to accustomed Rules.
The ‘old pleasing account’ means that if they didn’t capture any booty they would not be paid. Booty was divided by shares or tenths. Each man getting his share according to his position.
In case you shall find it prudential as by your Commission you are directed, to attain St. Jago de Cuba, and God blessing you with victory, you are hereby directed, in case you do it without any considerable hazards, to keep and make good the place and country thereabout, until you have advised me of your success and received my further Orders touching the same, least your suddenly quitting and their suddenly returning, beget us new work, and put on new charges and hazards for the second defeating.
Morgan was to take Santiago, Cuba where there was a Spanish army threatening Jamaica, and if he could, to hold the city and surrounding region until he could tell the Governor of Jamaica the situation and see what the governor said about him leaving. If the Morgan forces left Cuba the Spaniards might again attack Jamaica and make more work for the English to get rid of them once more.
In order to do this you are to proclaim mercy and enjoyment of states and liberty of customs to all the Spaniards that will submit and give assurance of their Loyalty to His Majesty, and Liberty to all Slaves that will come in; and to such as by any good service may deserve the same; you are to give notice that their fugitive Masters’ Plantations are to be divided amongst them as rewards for the same & make them sufficient Grants in writing, both for their Liberties and for their Estates, reserving to the Crown of England the fourth part of the produce to be yearly paid for the yearly maintenance of such Forces as shall defend those parts.
Any Spaniard who swears allegiances to England wont be killed or imprisoned. Any slave who does the same and provides good service is to be given their former master’s plantations to be shared equally amongst the other slaves. They are to be given Grants in writing; one for their freedom and one for the land. The Crown would get one fourth of their produce every year. That share would be used to pay for their defense.
In case you find that course to take approvable, you are as much as will stand with the same, to preserve the Sugarworks and Canes; but if it otherwise appear to you, that in reason you cannot make good the place for any long time, and that the Spaniards and Slaves are deaf to your proposals, you are then, with all it as a Wilderness, putting the Men-slaves to the Sword and making the Women-Slaves Prisoners to be brought hither, and sold for the account of your Fleet and Army, such of the men that cannot speak Spanish, or any new Negro, you may preserve for the same account; or if any Ships to be present to carry them for New England or Virginia, you may send them all on the same account.
Morgan was to try to save the sugar works and the sugarcane fields. If the Spaniards or the slaves resisted, he was to put the men to the sword and bring the woman to Jamaica to sell in order to pay for his military expenses and make a profit. Any of the men who didn’t speak Spanish, black or white, he could keep for sale or send them to the English’s New England or Virginia plantations.
You are to enquire what usage our Prisoners have had, and what Quarter hath been given by the Enemy to such of ours as have fallen under their power, and being well informed, you are to give the same, or rather as our custom is to exceed in Civility and Humanity, endeavouring by all means to make all sorts of People sensible of your Moderation and good nature, and your inaptitude and loathing to spill the blood of men.
Morgan was to find out how the English prisoners were treated by the Spanish and to treat the Spanish prisoners just as cruelly or better. He was to let everyone know that the English were not cruel.
You have hereby power to execute Marshall Law, according to such military Laws as have been made by me, and the Laws made by Act of Parliament for the government of the Fleet, which I approve of as fitting for the Service; and hereby authorize you to put them in execution against such as shall offend you, having first published the Laws unto them, that none may pretend ignorance.
After he published notice explaining English law, he could institut Marshall Law.
If any Ship or Ships shall be present, which have not any Commissions, you are hereby impowered to Grant Commissions to them according to the form I have used, taking security of £1,000 for the performance of the same.
Morgan was authorized to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal to any ship flying the flag of England to arm themselves as a privateer and fight against England’s enemies. For this authority he was to collect £1,000 as bond toward the Governor and Morgan’s share of the plunder they might capture.
What Ships in this Expedition you shall keep with you under your Command and then order and dispose for the best improvement of this Service, not suffering the takers or pretenders to sell them until they come into their Commission Port.
Any ship he captured was to be taken to an authorized port where it’s value would be determined and the appropriate commission would be paid to Morgan and the Governor.
In regard as many things may happen in this Action which cannot be by me foreseen and provided for in these Instructions, therefore all such matters are left to your well known prudence and conduct, referring to you that are in the place to do therein what shall be needful, thus wishing your success and this Island made happy thereby.
This section is the most important clause of these Instructions because it gives Morgan unlimited power over anything that was not covered in these Instructions.
I remain your faithful Friend and Servant