Not all minor powers and players fly a national flag or otherwise claim their existence as a people. When peace is proclaimed with Spain and pirate hunters actively seek buccaneers who ignore the prohibition on Spanish prey, a fair number of sea-roving adventurers temporarily look elsewhere for employment, to logwood hunting, for example, or to “fishing for silver”—treasure hunting, that is. Some, however, refuse to give up their trade even in the face of the ready noose. Even now a few Caribbean sea rovers harry the Spaniards in spite of lacking a commission or a “wink and a nod” from the English or French. Some will even plunder an occasional English, French, or Dutch merchantman. A few begin to express sentiments of self-loyalty, of seeking to sail “against all flags”—and turn pure pirate. This attitude will plant the seed of inspiration for the early eighteenth century pirates for whom self-allegiance will take precedence over any national loyalty—at least until captured, tried, and sentenced to death.
Few, if any, English and French buccaneers have not committed an act that could properly be called piracy, but these acts are reasonably rare and usually, if not always, have Spaniards as the object. However, with the active suppression of English and French buccaneering in the 1670s and 1680s, Caribbean adventurers have but few choices. They could simply quit, but most would rather not. They could head to the South Sea to raid the Spaniard there, and a great many do. With the support of financiers in North American colonies, they could sail to the Red Sea and make piratical attacks on the ships of the Great Mogul, and some do. Or they could go true pirate and attack all flags. Only a few choose this last course, but one of them, Jean Hamlyn in his ship La Trompeuse, sets the stage for the pirates of the black flag of the early eighteenth century. Hamlyn and his English consort, a former buccaneer and Jamaica planter, pretend to no national loyalty, but proclaim themselves true pirates—any and all are their prey. Even so, Hamlyn has allies in the governor of Saint Thomas, Adolphe Esmit, and later it is said, in New England merchants who finance his New Trompeuse after Captain Charles Carlile of the English Navy burns his ship to the waterline. Although Hamlyn is by far the most famous and successful—he is never captured—a few others sail a similar course. None yet fly the black flag. Their crews are largely former English and French buccaneers, and they have given up attacking Spanish towns and cities for they lack the force necessary. By the early eighteenth century, their piratical descendants will have lost the buccaneer ability at large scale land warfare, and will restrict themselves almost entirely to attacks on shipping.
Logwood cutters are rough men who labor for months at a time, standing knee-deep in water while they chop down logwood trees, cut them into sections, and haul them by hand to the shore to await cargo vessels from Port Royal, Jamaica. Logwood is a valuable dyewood, and the labor and hard living to acquire it was worth the risks and the toll on the body. The men, typically ensconced at Laguna de Términos, Mexico or along the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, live in primitive camps and hunt wild cattle for food. When the Port Royal vessels arrive, logwood cutters celebrate for days—they “make a Christmas”—on rum punch provided by the logwood merchants. But these logwood cutting bases are on Spanish territory, thus the logwood cutters are interlopers. Local Spanish Guarda Costas, and at times even larger expeditions, are often sent to dislodge them: capture could mean years of servitude in Mexico City or other towns along or inland from the Spanish Main. Many logwood cutters drift through a variety of trades, including buccaneering, the “sloop trade” (local trading voyages), smuggling, turtling, “fishing for silver” (treasure hunting), and even local whaling, leaving them with a variety of skills that make them useful to a various military and quasi-military and naval expeditions.
Brethren of the Coast
These adventurers are of all nations, races, and ethnicities, and their sole purpose is to harry Spain—to plunder the Spanish Main! They are English buccaneers, French flibustiers, Dutch freebooters, Spanish deserters, Portuguese seamen, and freed slaves and other men of color, all banded together for common purpose. If they are English and are forbidden to plunder the Spanish, they will accept a French commission, and if French and so forbidden, an English commission. And if there is no commission to be had, they will make a pretense of one and attack the Spanish anyway. They are naturally armed as are the English buccaneers and French flibustiers, both of whom are in their number: with flintlock musket (usually a fusil boucanier), cartouche box of thirty cartridges, a pistol or two, and a cutlass.
Black Caribs, or Garifuna, are originally a branch of Island Caribs (Kalinago) on Saint Vincent Island. Their origin may forever be debated, with theories ranging from shipwrecked slaves, to escaped slaves and maroons who traveled to the island, to slaves carried there by Island Caribs. By 1683, an estimated four thousand Black Caribs are living on Saint Vincent, along with two thousand Island Caribs. Originally adopting the Island Carib lifestyle, Black Caribs develop their own distinct culture with roots in both Africa and the Caribbean. They last as an independent people until the late eighteenth century when they were defeated by Great Britain in the Second Carib War. Like their Island Carib relatives, the Black Caribs are expert seafarers and warriors.