Morgan first appears in the historical record in August 1665 when he entered Port Royal with captains John Morris and Jacob Fackman after a plundering expedition in Central America lasting twenty-two months. Both Fackman and Morris had commissions from Windsor's Admiralty court but there is no record of papers given to Henry Morgan. Perhaps he assumed command during the long expedition, owing to the death or desertion of another officer. During the raids he became familiar with Central American territory and the local Indians. He also developed a lasting disdain for Spanish defences. 'Every action gives new encouragement to attempt the Spaniard finding them in all places very weak and very wealthy' and he judged that '2000 men, some say 500, might easily conquer all this territory'.
During Morgan's adventure in Central America a new governor, Thomas Modyford, had arrived in Jamaica with strict instructions to end privateering and promote peaceful trade. However, Modyford soon realized that this would be difficult, if not impossible, as the island's 4000 or so residents had planted a mere 3000 acres and their prosperity rested heavily on the privateering business. Furthermore, as the island had no permanent defence force the privateers provided valuable security. Modyford decided to tread carefully and, after an initial proclamation against privateering, the trade carried on in stealth. Morgan and his colleagues were not rebuked for their depredations on the grounds that they had left port with lawful commissions (although they had long expired and did not authorize actions on land). It was already evident that Modyford would prove an enthusiastic patron of the privateers and the home authorities continued to turn a reassuringly blind eye.
Morgan's activities are not documented during the two years after his return although he was certainly based in Port Royal and his marriage to Mary Elizabeth (d. 1696), daughter of the island's deputy governor, Edward Morgan, placed him in influential circles, although it did little for his fortune, as the colonel was reported to be poor. Mary's older sister, Anna Petronella, married the merchant and planter Robert Bindloss (a former ship's surgeon) and member of the council of Jamaica from 1664, who remained a close friend and business associate of Morgan throughout his life. A third Morgan sister also settled in Jamaica after marrying the planter Henry Archbould. Henry and Mary did not have children but they were surrounded by numerous nephews and nieces.
After the outbreak of war with the Dutch in 1665 Modyford was able to issue commissions against them but Jamaica's privateers showed little interest in this new enemy. An attack launched against Curacao, the most important Dutch base in the Caribbean, foundered on the death of its leader, Morgan's father-in-law, Edward Morgan, at Statia. Meanwhile most privateers continued to pick on their traditional prey and, in February 1666, the governor and council decided to put a legal gloss on what was happening in practice and declared war on the Spaniard, compiling a list of grievances as justification. Late in 1667, shortly after an Anglo-Spanish peace treaty was signed in Europe, Modyford appointed Henry Morgan as admiral of the privateers with orders to gain information about Spanish designs on Jamaica. Morgan had clearly gained a reputation for courage and competence in action, and in the next four years this was proved well deserved as he led a series of spectacular raids against the Spanish empire.
Morgan's commission authorized action at sea alone. However, he knew that if he provided information about intended Spanish aggression any attack on land could be portrayed as a preventive strike and would not be punished. Apart from the likelihood of greater plunder the tenths and fifteenths of sea prize given to the crown and Admiralty were not levied on land actions. Morgan took great care to secure the documentary evidence needed to justify such profitable enterprise.
In January 1668 Morgan and a group of French privateers conducted a successful raid far into the interior of Cuba, sacking Puerto de Principe. The plunder was small but it was easy to frighten prisoners into providing information about intended Spanish hostility which could be used to justify this and further action. After dividing the plunder Morgan suggested an attack on Portobello, a reputedly rich and well fortified town on the Caribbean coast of the isthmus of Panama which served as the terminus of the Spanish fleets that collected Peruvian silver. The audacity of Morgan's proposal was reflected in the French captains' refusal to join the enterprise believing it 'too full of danger and difficulty'. But Morgan pressed on with 500 men of various nationalities, knowing that the town was more vulnerable than commonly supposed, especially when there was no treasure fleet present. The two forts guarding the entrance to the harbour were in disrepair and the garrison was below strength, as well as short of food and arms.
In contrast to the demoralized Spanish troops the privateers who swarmed the Caribbean were reported to be 'very happy, well paid and ... [living] in amity with each other. The prizes that they make are shared with much brotherhood and friendship'. As was customary in all privateering ventures Morgan signed articles of association with his twelve captains and twenty-six other representatives of the men before embarking on the enterprise in 1668. The agreements were designed to maintain discipline and ensure a fair division of the expected plunder with agreed premiums for rank and bravery, and compensation for loss of a limb or an eye. Morgan had the respect of his men and morale was good. Their trust was shown to be well placed as Morgan carried off a successful surprise attack on Portobello in July, with loss of only eighteen men and thirty-two wounded, displaying the clever cunning and expert timing which marked his brilliance as a military commander.
Morgan's forces occupied the town for thirty-one days, gathering plunder from within the walls and the citizens who had fled into the surrounding country. Stories differ about the men's behaviour, and no firsthand reports describe the extremes of drunkenness and debauchery narrated by Exquemelin in his History of the Bucaniers, but torture was almost certainly used to extract information about the whereabouts of hidden riches. The acting president of Panama attempted to relieve the city without success and agreed to a ransom of 100,000 pesos (25,000 pounds) for its safe return. After receiving the treasure Morgan sent polite thanks to the president with a typically insolent sting in the tail. He hoped that he would have the pleasure of meeting the president face to face in Panama. Morgan enjoyed playing the gallant gentleman and he later claimed that several ladies of 'great quality' were offered liberty to go to the president's camp, but they chose to stay, 'saying they were now prisoners to a person of quality, who was more tender of their honours than they doubted to find in the president's camp among his rude Panama soldiers' and at the surrender of the town they were full of thanks. Given that the citizens had been stripped of valuables and forced to borrow funds to pay the large ransom the thanks must have been through gritted teeth.
The capture of Portobello was the most profitable of Morgan's exploits. The total plunder was reported to be worth between 70,000 and 100,000 pounds, substantially more than the total value of Jamaica's annual agricultural output at this time, and almost half the value of Barbados's sugar exports. Each man received a basic share of about 120 pounds, five or six times the annual wage of a seventeenth-century seaman. Not surprisingly the fleet was given a warm welcome on its return to Jamaica. James Modyford, the governor's brother, remarked that the glut of prize goods allowed anyone with cash to 'double nay treble [their] money without any hazard'.
The Spanish ambassador in London expressed horror as Morgan's prize goods were brought into the Thames. His complaints were received with polite attention and an indication that the privateers' action was viewed as regrettable, but easy to understand, in the light of Spanish acts of hostility in America. One Spanish report claimed that James, duke of York (the future James II), the lord high admiral, wrote to Morgan asking why he had not retained Portobello. A diplomatic hard line reflected general support for imperial expansion and greed for cheaply won Spanish plunder. Morgan was widely viewed as a national hero and neither he nor Modyford were rebuked for their actions.
Royal interest, especially on the part of the duke of York, led to the dispatch of a naval frigate, the Oxford, to join the privateers, as well as at least one smaller ship, the Lilly, but with disappointing results. In December 1668 they joined Morgan and his men at Isla Vaca, off the south coast of Hispaniola, a usual assembly point, and began to make ambitious plans to attack another major city. However, the Oxford was destroyed in a mysterious explosion. A council of war was underway on the ship at the time but Morgan, and the captains sitting on his side of the table, miraculously survived, although about 200 others died. After this loss of flagship and forces Morgan scaled down his plans and turned his attention eastwards.
The admiral led a fleet of eight ships and 500 men to Maracaibo, situated in a large inland lagoon on the north coast of what is now Venezuela, which was prosperous cattle and cocoa producing territory. After a successful assault, and a month of looting, Morgan prepared to leave the lake and found that the armada de Barlovento, a Spanish defence squadron, was awaiting him outside and had garrisoned the castle at the entrance. With characteristic cunning and audacity Morgan managed to extract his men and booty from this seemingly impossible situation using fireships and decoys, and destroying the remains of the Spanish squadron in the process. The fleet returned to Jamaica for another spending spree with plunder worth 30,000.
Again the marauders went unrebuked by the home authorities but in summer 1669 there were new hopes of a treaty with Spain offering trade concessions in America. Furthermore, the death of George Monck, duke of Albemarle, a kinsman of Modyford's, deprived the governor of valuable protection at court. The secretary of state, the earl of Arlington, sent orders to cease hostilities, which Modyford received in May 1670 and, on 24 June, peace with the Spaniards was publicly proclaimed by beat of drum. Nevertheless residents reported that the privateers continued to come in and out of Port Royal. In fact, even the pretence of peace was short-lived as the queen regent of Spain had responded to the tide of depredations by dispatching orders to her governors allowing the issue of letters of marque. Tension mounted, and after a series of Spanish attacks on Jamaican trade and territory Modyford called the council and revealed that, in his orders, the king had given permission to deal with extraordinary circumstances in an extraordinary way. War with the Spaniards was renewed, and on 1 August 1670, ten days after the signing of the treaty of Madrid which promised peace and friendship between Spain and England in America, Modyford gave Morgan a commission to put to sea for the security of the coasts of this island and of our merchants ships and other vessels trading to and about the same ... to do and perform all manner of exploits, which may tend to the preservation and quiet of this island.
Morgan spent over three weeks assembling a force of eleven ships and 600 men in Port Royal and sailed to the rendezvous point at Isla Vaca to wait for further recruits. Parties were dispatched to Hispaniola and the Main to obtain victuals and Spanish prisoners who would provide information to excuse aggression. News of these activities reached Europe but, despite the recent treaty with Spain, the English authorities took no action apart from sending a letter that reached Modyford in November and instructed the governor to keep the privateers in whatever state they were in on its receipt and forbear hostilities on land. By December, Morgan had gathered a multinational force of more than 2000 men in thirty-eight ships, ranging from the Satisfaction of 120 tons to the tiny Prosperous of 10 tons, totalling 1585 tons . It was the largest army of privateers ever seen in the Caribbean and a mark of Morgan's renown.
On 12 December 1670 Morgan held a council of war which concluded articles of association among the thirty-seven captains, issued commissions to those without, and agreed to attack Panama City as likely 'to put the greater curb on the insolence of the enemy ... the president thereof having granted several commissions against the English to the great annoyance of the island of Jamaica and our merchants', realizing Morgan's promise to the acting president in 1668. The plan was designed to humiliate Spain and provide massive plunder as the town, located on the Pacific coast at the narrowest point of the isthmus of Central America, had immense wealth and strategic significance as the depot for Peruvian silver which was then taken the 70 miles across to Portobello for shipment to Europe.
Joseph Bradley took an advance party of about 480 men to seize the castle guarding the Caribbean entrance to the River Chagres which ran 50 miles into the isthmus. After two days of bitter fighting and heavy losses, including Bradley's death, the castle was taken. Meanwhile, Morgan seized Providence Island and gathered some guides and arrived with the main fleet a few days later, losing the Satisfaction and four other ships at the mouth of the river. After a week spent repairing the castle, which he left in charge of 300 men, Morgan set out up the river towards Panama with about 1400 men and a few Indian guides in seven small ships and thirty-six boats.
The president of Panama had been warned of an attack and had stationed defence forces at points along the river but as the large army of privateers approached the small groups of Spanish troops fled. The dense tropical forest proved harder to deal with, and the river proved more difficult to navigate than Morgan, who was in new territory, had anticipated. After three days the privateers decided to abandon most of the canoes and stores and continued on foot, cutting a path through the tangled, wild woods. This decision almost caused the army's undoing as, despite the luxuriant vegetation, they did not find food and they marched four days without a meal. Despite the difficulties Morgan managed to maintain discipline and when the privateers reached the plains around Panama they fell upon the grazing cattle and indulged in a great feast of roast meat which revived their strength and spirits.
Panama City had no walls, relying on the thickly forested isthmus for protection, and the president had dispatched his small garrison to defend Chagres Castle and river. The president did rally about a thousand men but almost all were totally inexperienced and badly armed. Their main hope was that they could use a herd of bulls to drive back the privateers but the animals merely added to the chaos when, on 28 January 1671, the two forces met on the plain. The Spaniards were routed, losing 400 or 500 men against fifteen privateer losses. In capturing 'the famous and ancient city of Panama ... the greatest mart for silver and gold in the whole world' Morgan and his men had triumphed where many, including Sir Francis Drake, had failed.
The president had ordered that in the event of defeat the town should be burnt and residents later claimed that this action caused losses valued at 12-18 million pesos (4-6.5 million). Furthermore the citizens had time to escape with valuable property before Morgan took possession of the city. The privateers were hugely disappointed with their plunder. The army spent a month searching the offshore islands and surrounding country for runaway citizens. Spanish reports suggest that the privateers were unusually brutal in torturing captives to obtain information about hidden property and many died in the process. Disappointment seems to have sharpened the customary cruelty although it was Edward Collier, the vice-admiral, rather than Morgan, who was most blamed for the 'diverse barbarous acts'. At the end of February the privateers set out across the isthmus with a train of 175 mules laden with silver plate, coins, and 500 or 600 prisoners who were later ransomed at 120 pesos (30 pounds) per head.
On returning to the mouth of the Chagres, Morgan sent to Portobello to demand a ransom for the castle. The citizens refused, having barely recovered from paying to release their town in 1668, and the privateers burnt the fortress to the ground. The privateers then divided their loot, which amounted to a disappointing 30,000 pounds (less than half the prize at Portobello), yielding each of the 2000 or so men about 20 pounds which they viewed as small reward for the months of hardship and risk. Morgan blamed the evacuation and destruction of Panama for the disappointment but many suspected that the admiral had embezzled part of the prize and suspicions were heightened when he was cast away at Old Harbour in Jamaica, 'designedly as it is said to have the better opportunity to carry the plate on shore' before sailing on to Port Royal. Even the surgeon, Browne, a great admirer of Morgan, reported that he 'cheated the soldier of a very vast sum'. Furthermore, the wreck of boats on the outward voyage meant that there were too few ships to carry all the privateers home and a number were left behind at Chagres to make their way as best they could. Morgan arrived back in Port Royal in mid-April. On 10 June his report was read in council and he was thanked for the execution of his commission. The island grandees were pleased with Morgan's victory although there were reported to be grumblings among the privateers, victuallers, and tradesmen of Port Royal, who were disappointed with the prize. Many debts remained unpaid.
Despite the treaty of Madrid neither the king nor his ministers had made any attempt to curb Jamaica's predators other than the ambiguous letter of the previous autumn. But if the treaty was to have any meaning, and lead to the desired trade concessions, above all the opening of the market for slaves, it was now necessary to take action and the king appointed a new governor, Sir Thomas Lynch, who had been involved in the conquest of Jamaica and had left after Modyford's arrival. He was dispatched to the island with strict instructions to end privateering, promote peaceful trade with the Spaniards, and send Modyford home under arrest.
Lynch arrived in Jamaica on 1 July 1671 and was greeted with full honours by Modyford and Morgan. The new governor immediately issued a proclamation against privateering but offered full pardon to those operating under existing commissions. It was accepted that the privateers had been acting perfectly legally and no action would be taken against them and Henry Morgan was not excepted. Lynch was nervous of public reactions to the arrest of Modyford and delayed a few weeks before sending him home. Meanwhile news of Morgan's most recent exploits caused great rage in Madrid and the English, still anxious for trade concessions, decided to offer a further sop to Spanish sensibilities by ordering Morgan's arrest. Again Lynch was nervous:
he is here taken for an honest stout man and people whisper his case is to be hard, because he undertook that fatal command by Sir Thomas Modyford's desire and at return had his services approved and thanked by the council on record and what is more was not excepted in the King's most gracious Act of indemnity.
Despite a loud chorus of supportive words and offers of security from fellow islanders Morgan was sent home on the Welcome in April 1672, and imprisoned with Modyford in the Tower of London, where he lived at his own expense. His friends claimed that the charge bore heavily on him as 'his estate was but mean'. Despite his large prize money in the previous years he does not yet seem to have settled a plantation in Jamaica as he does not appear in a survey of landowners taken in 1670 and, according to Lynch, 'in England he has neither friends nor money'
Morgan's disgrace was short-lived and he was released from the Tower by 1674 without being tried for any offence. The admiral's heroic reputation was reflected in John Evelyn's report of dining with him at Lord Berkeley's in October. The diarist listened with admiration to the story of 'that gallant exploit from Nombre de Dios to Panama' and Morgan's boasts that with 10,000 men he could easily conquer all the Spanish Indies. The king displayed his own approval when he gave the privateer a warm reception at court and, in March 1674, despite Spanish dismay, Morgan was appointed lieutenant-governor of Jamaica, to serve under John Vaughan, Lord Vaughan. Morgan was knighted in November and set sail for the Caribbean in January 1675.
The new lieutenant-governor was warmly welcomed in Jamaica and the assembly voted him a salary of 600 pounds per annum 'for good service to the country'. Morgan was appointed to the council in July and became a judge in the Admiralty court. In Port Royal, where Morgan took up residence in the king's house, he later became custos rotulorum (the chief justice of the peace) and captain of the militia. Having secured a powerful position Morgan exploited it to raise the substantial funds needed to build up plantations in the interior (it was usually reckoned that it cost 4000 pounds to set up a sugar plantation). At the same time he was able to maintain a large household in Port Royal (containing eleven white residents and fourteen black slaves in the census of 1680), and finance his notoriously 'generous humour', which found expression in lavish hospitality and heavy drinking and gaming in the taverns.
Unsurprisingly privateering played an important part in Morgan's business affairs although he now took a passive role. The lieutenant-governor took care to reach Jamaica before Vaughan so that he could arrange his affairs to suit himself, and ordered his ship's captain to put in to Isla Vaca, the privateers' rendezvous point, on the outward journey. The ship was wrecked in the shallow waters but Morgan realized his probable aim of renewing old contacts when the passengers were rescued by Thomas Rogers, an English privateer now sailing under a French commission issued at Tortuga. Despite the treaty of Madrid and Lynch's enthusiasm for promoting peaceful trade with the Spaniards, the profits and protection offered by plunder continued to tempt many Jamaicans.
On arrival in Jamaica Morgan dispatched letters to prominent privateers assuring them that they would be welcome in Port Royal; invested in privateers' ships; corresponded with du Casse, the French governor of Tortuga, who issued letters of marque; and colluded with his brother-in-law, Robert Bindloss, in obtaining a deputation from du Casse to collect the tenths of prizes brought into Port Royal by French commissioned captains. Du Casse provided the marauders with a legal veneer for their activities and Port Royal merchants fitted the ships and fenced the loot, with Morgan's support as long as he received his dues. Vaughan condemned these activities but admitted that Morgan and Bindloss 'would not be persuaded but what they did was lawful'. Morgan shared the widely held view that 'there is a great deal of difference between a privateer and a buccaneer, or freebooter', and provided men had a commission almost any action, other than attacking English trade, was excused. The retired privateer was fastidious about his own reputation. When two English translations of Exquemelin under the title History of the Bucaniers appeared in 1684 describing him as a buccaneer he prosecuted both publishers for libel. In his affidavit he stated that he had 'against evil deeds, piracies and robberies the greatest abhorrence and distrust' and 'for the kind of men called buccaneers he always had and still has hatred'. The suits were settled by consent and the publishers printed apologies prefaced to new editions.
Vaughan took an intense dislike to Morgan and, as he had been given strict instructions to end privateering, he used evidence of Morgan's involvement in the business to try to discredit him and exclude him from office. The king stood by Morgan and, despite the weight of evidence against the lieutenant-governor, action was limited to a series of rebukes from the secretary of state, Henry Coventry. Peace with Spain plainly rested on shallow foundations. Vaughan was recalled in 1678 leaving Morgan in charge of the island for three months until July when Charles Howard, first earl of Carlisle, arrived to take over as governor. Carlisle and Morgan acted in close collaboration, and in these years, and Morgan's second period as acting governor between 1680 and 1682, Morgan was best able to profit from the patronage and perquisites of office.
Friends, including Morgan's brother-in-law Robert Bindloss (who had been turned out by Lynch), were appointed to the council and Bindloss also replaced Samuel Long as chief justice. Other enemies were turned out and friends put in key positions, such as Thomas Martyn who was appointed receiver-general and oversaw the collection of port duties, which were reported to be extortionate and shared with Morgan. When Francis Mingham attempted to avoid payment in December 1678 his ship was seized and condemned for evasion of the Navigation Acts (on account of carrying French brandy). This began a long series of legal embroilments (involving the captain in imprisonment and payment of very substantial security) culminating in a hearing before the lords of trade and plantations who found in Mingham's favour. John Bindloss, Robert's brother and Morgan's agent in London, obtained life patents for fourteen or fifteen minor offices and, after protests were made to the lords of trade about pluralism and absenteeism, he divided them between himself and Charles Morgan, Henry's brother-in-law, who went out to the island in 1682 as captain of Port Royal Castle.
During this period the 1200 privateers operating in the Caribbean conducted a number of spectacular raids on Spanish territory and brought a large part of the prize into Jamaica without fear of molestation provided they paid the heavy duties levied by Morgan's officers at Port Royal. Apart from the financial temptations of plunder the strong threat of war with the French in the late 1670s increased reluctance to alienate the privateers as the island's only other protection was the militia and two companies of a hundred foot soldiers apiece, brought to the island by Carlisle in 1678 and commanded by the governor and Morgan.
Morgan made a valuable contribution to island security. He kept his Port Royal militia and foot company in good training and used his contacts among seamen to obtain intelligence. The threat of war with the French allowed him to introduce martial law in 1678 and 1680 and secure the resources needed to improve the fortifications at Port Royal by levying financial contributions and requisitioning slave labour to build three new forts. He also increased the number of guns mounted at the forts from sixty in 1675 to over a hundred by 1680. By 1682 Port Royal was the best fortified town in English America.
Meanwhile Morgan's enemies became increasingly anxious to recover control of government, especially as there were signs that the Spanish market for slaves was opening up in promising ways and Morgan's anti-Spanish attitudes were regarded as unhelpful. Carlisle had been instructed to introduce a bill granting a permanent revenue which the assembly resisted, fearing that it would place too much power in the hands of the governor and the king, and when Samuel Long, the speaker, returned home to argue their case he was accompanied by William Beeston, who had raised funds to finance a campaign to secure the reappointment of Lynch as governor. Carlisle hurriedly decided to follow him home to protect his reputation.
When Morgan was left in charge he took steps to protect his reputation without much change in policy. He expressed abhorrence for 'pirates' in his letters home, but also stressed the 'unkindness' of the Spaniards to English traders; the impossibility of controlling the predators without substantial naval support; and his uncertainty about the legal position of those with foreign commissions. In fact predators continued to be welcome in Jamaica as revealed in November 1681 when, despite the presence of a major Spanish slave trader in port, Morgan allowed four frigates with commissions from 'the duke of Brandenburgh' (presumably the elector of Brandenburg) to enter and sell two Spanish prizes. Not surprisingly the Spanish captain was nervous about their presence and 'pained by the apprehension that they would intercept him'. Morgan acknowledged that 'they would certainly have done so (the temptation being so high) had I not very pressingly interposed for his protection; which they so generously granted to the great satisfaction of the Spaniard'
Morgan's arrogant disregard for authority became more muted as it became plain that his enemies at home were gaining ground with a 'malicious confederacy' accusing him and Carlisle of 'countenancing pirates'. The distance which had allowed him freedom from scrutiny was now bemoaned, for 'the remoteness of the place gives so much opportunity to the hand of malice that the greatest innocence cannot be protected without much care and watchfulness'. Morgan arrested a number of men who were, even in his book, pirates: men who operated without commissions or seized English ships. But he had little heart for punishing even such outright scoundrels, and when they were sentenced to death Morgan sought reprieves. After orders to proceed with execution Morgan could not disguise his distaste 'for I abhor bloodshed and I am greatly dissatisfied that in my short government I have been so often compelled to punish criminals with death'. The lieutenant-governor also sought credit by obtaining the Permanent Revenue Bill desired by the home authorities but spoilt the achievement by allowing the assembly to tack on other acts, including a law imposing a tax on exported slaves, plainly aimed at the widely unpopular Spanish slave trade. Above all Morgan relied on the friendship long shown by the king and the duke of York to shelter him from criticism and sent them presents and smooth words.
John Bindloss and Charles Morgan represented Sir Henry's interests before the committee of trade and plantations in London but his enemies gained strength as the whiggish private slave traders associated with Beeston were joined by the tory Royal African Company, which also hoped to gain from making Jamaica a base for the Spanish slave trade. Morgan's salary was stopped in 1680; the foot companies were disbanded and attendant payments stopped in 1681; his commission as lieutenant-governor was revoked on 27 July 1681, and his 'profest enemy' Lynch was appointed governor. At the same time Morgan had to support the considerable expense of government, an especial burden when the assembly was sitting and he was expected to keep open house, leaving him with hard feelings.
Lynch arrived to take up the post of governor on 14 May 1682, and immediately read the revocation of Morgan's commission as lieutenant-governor, but allowed him to remain on the council. Lynch was determined to secure the revenue bill required by the king and wished to maintain as much unity as possible. However, once the bill was passed Lynch rapidly discarded Morgan, condemning his ingratitude and incivility, above all his wearing of new and light coloured clothes on news of the death of Lady Lynch (a kinswoman of Morgan).
The main clash of interests continued to arise over the Spanish slave trade. Lynch used all his power to promote this very lucrative commerce by contracts with the asiento agents, who had licences to supply Spanish colonial markets. However, the governor also used his position to ensure that the trade was monopolized by himself and a few friends, including Hender Molesworth, the Royal African Company's factor. Their business aroused widespread hostility in Jamaica as, although a few profited, it damaged small traders and raised the price of slaves within the island. Henry Morgan, Bindloss, and their associates spoke for these interests and led a vigorous opposition to the Spanish trade, using the Navigation Acts to justify seizure of ships involved, and lobbying for a tax on exported slaves. They also attacked Lynch and his followers for supporting religious dissent and disloyalty to the duke of York, the Catholic heir to the throne, forming a club called the Loyal Club. The governor complained that 'people began to think it looked as if he [Morgan] designed to be head of the tories and therefore I must be head of the whigs'.
In October 1683 a disturbance at Port Royal involving Morgan's brother-in-law, Charles, gave Lynch a pretext for action. Lynch charged Sir Henry with 'disorder, passions and miscarriages at Port Royal on various occasions and for countenancing sundry men in disloyalty to the governor'. He persuaded the assembly to support him in suspending both the Morgans, Bindloss, and other associates such as the lawyer Roger Elletson from all offices and employments. After this purge Lynch claimed that the 'drunken, silly, party of Sir Henry Morgan's was rendered harmless'. Lynch further consolidated his position by obtaining a lieutenant-governor's commission for Hender Molesworth and ended Sir Henry's hope of taking over in event of accident. When Lynch died in 1684, and Molesworth assumed charge of the island, little changed. Although deprived of real power Morgan continued to do all he could to obstruct the Spanish slave trade, campaigning vigorously to secure Roger Elletson and other friends places in the assembly 'in order to disturb the proceedings'.
In December 1687 Christopher Monck, second duke of Albemarle, who was involved in a major wreck salvage project in the Caribbean, arrived to take over the government of Jamaica and immediately aligned himself with Morgan and the anti-Spanish privateering interest. Shared political sympathies and common financial interests were combined with a mutual liking for heavy drinking, gaming, and keeping late hours. Albemarle requested that Morgan should be readmitted to the council and he was formally reinstated on 8 August but was unable to attend the meeting, 'being extraordinaryly ill'. Morgan had suffered repeated bouts of extreme sickness since the 1670s, and judging from remarks made by the duke's physician, Hans Sloane, was suffering from liver problems related to his excessive drinking. Sloane described him as 'lean, sallow coloured, his eyes a little yellowish, and belly a little jutting out or prominent' (BL, Sloane MS 3964). Morgan died on 25 August 1688. On the following day the retired privateer was given something resembling a state funeral in St Catherine's Church. The captain of the Assistance reported: he was brought over from Passage Fort to the King's House at Port Royal and from there to the Palisadoes and there buried. All ships fired an equal number of guns. We fired 22 and after we and the Drake all the merchant men fired.
Morgan had used his years in office to build up one of the most substantial fortunes in Jamaica, owning three plantations, 122 black slaves, seven Indians, and eleven white servants. His inventoried personal wealth amounted to 5263 pounds 1s. 3d. His personal property included a library of 123 bound books and a parcel of sermons, plays, and pamphlets. Perhaps less surprising was the collection of twenty-seven guns, miscellaneous pistols, and swords.
Image courtesy of the National Trust
Jamaica | Jamaica Administrators