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1670 Commission empowering Henry Morgan to make war against the Spanish

[From: "Sir Henry Morgan's Voyage to Panama, 1670," Thomas Malthus, London 1683.]

[Transcription, and comments in italics, by Pieter Dickson]

Sir Thomas Modyford Baronet Governour of His Majesty's Island of Jamaica Commander-in-Chief of all His Majesties Forces within the said Island and in the Islands adjacent Vice-Admiral to His Royal Highness the Duke of York in the American Seas

To Admiral Henry Morgan Esq. Greeting

Whereas the Queen Regent of Spain hath by her Royal Shadula dated at Madrid the 20th of April 1669 Commanded her respective Governours in the Indies to publish and make War against our Sovereign Lord the King in these Parts. And Whereas Don Pedro Bayona de Villa Nueva Captain General of the Province of Paraguay and Governour of the City of St. Jago de Cuba and its Provinces hath executed the same and lately in the most hostile and barbarous manner landed his men on the north side of this Island and entered a small way into the Country firing all the Houses they came at killing or taking Prisoners all the Inhabitants they could meet with; and whereas the rest of the Governours in these Parts have granted Commissions for executing the like Hostility against us and are diligently gathering Forces together to be sent to St. Jago de Cuba their General Rendezvous and place of Magazine and from thence as the most opportune place to be transported for a thoro' Invasion and final Conquest (as they hope) of this Island for the prevention of which their mischievous Intentions in discharge of the great trust which His Gracious Majesty hath placed in me I do by virtue of full Power and Authority in such cases from His Royal Highness James Duke of York* His Majesties Lord High Admiral derived unto me and out of the great confidence I have in the good conduct courage and fidelity of you the said Henry Morgan to be Admiral and Commander in chief of all the Ships Barques and other Vessels now fitted or which hereafter shall be fitted for the publick Service and defence of this Island and also of the Officers Souldiers and Seamen which are or shall be put upon the same requiring you to use your best endeavours to get the vessels into one Body or Fleet and to cause them to be well mann'd fitted arm'd and victualled and by the first opportunity wind and weather permitting to put to Sea for the Guard and Defence of this island and of all vessels trading to or about the same and in order thereunto to use your best endeavours to surprise take sink disperse and destroy all the enemies ships or vessels which shall come within your view and also for preventing the intended Invasion against this place you are hereby further authorised and required in the case that you and your Officers in your Judgement find it possible or feasable to land and attain the said Town of St. Jago de Cuba or any other place belonging to the Enemies where you shall be informed that Magazines and Stores for this War are laid up or where any Rendezvous for their Forces to Imbody are appointed and there to use your best endeavours for seizing the said Stores and to take kill and disperse the said Forces And all Officers Souldiers and Seamen who are or shall be belonging to or embarqued upon the said vessels are hereby strictly enjoyned both by Sea and Land to obey you as their Admiral and Commander in chief of in all things as be cometh them; and you yourself are to observe and follow all such Orders as you shall from time to time receive from His most excellent Majesty his Royal Highness or myself

[Younger brother of King Charles II who became James II on Charles' death.]

Instructions for Admiral Henry Morgan Esq. delivered him the 22nd of July 1670 together with his Commission

You will with these Instructions receive my Commission which you are 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

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

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 divided amongst them according to accustomed Rules [1]

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 lest your suddenly quitting and their suddenly returning beget us new work and put on new charges and hazards for the second defeating

In order to this you are to proclaim mercy and enjoyment of estates and liberty of customs to all the Spaniards that will submit and give assurance of their Loyalty to His Majesty and Liberty to all the Slaves that will come in [2] 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 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

In case you find that course to take approveable effect 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 also 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

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

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 authorise you to put them in execution against such as shall offend you having first published the Laws unto them that none may pretend ignorance

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 £1000 for the performance of the same

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 [3]

In regard 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 you success and this Island made happy thereby

I remain your faithful Friend and Servant

Thomas Modyford [4]


1] The incentive of Prize Money from the sale of captured property, distributed in proportion according to rank and all determined by rule in a court of Vice Admiralty at Jamaica.

Morgan, of course, accumulated particularly well; by 1675 his Jamaican property included 4,000 acres of land at what was later 'Eaton' near Lucea in Hanover, Jamaica. An 1811 survey of the location shows 162 acres were still recorded in his name; [Narional Library of Jamaica Survey Ref: Hanover 1321].

2] This general British policy towards an enemy's slaves continued for the next 150 years, throughout the various conflicts with Spain the Netherlands France and the American Colonies.

At the National Archives, London, War Office papers - Series WO/97, WO/25, WO/120, WO/121, WO/12 name 'free' men from the West Indian islands and America who served in the ranks of regular British regiments and in the Royal Navy.]

3] Conducting 'private' business was tempting but hazardous - loss of the £1000 security, where paid, with the ship etc. declared forfeit.

4] Three of Thomas Modyford's servants are known to have stayed in Jamaica when discharged from his service and were living in 1680-81:

John Richardson, Peter Strong (St. Ann) and Matthew Lamb (St. Jago de la Vega).

Also in St. Ann were James Masters, his wife Joan and Roger Emson; all three witnessed John Richardson's death [June 1680] at the house of a Captain Benjamin Smith.

Strong, Masters, Lamb and Emson later made sworn depositions [Sept.1681] to Henry Morgan on the circumstances of Richardson's death, after a "long sicknesse", and on his legacy to Captain Smith - of a "parcell of money" which he had deposited in London before leaving for Jamaica.

Matthew Lamb although also "a servant recently"now styles himself as a "Planter of St. Jago de la Vega"; the occupations of the other witnesses were not recorded.

Captain Benjamin Smith had to wait until 1683 for the will to be proved in London.

[National Archives, London: John Richardson's Testament; Family records - Series PROB/..]

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