William Dampier William Dampier

William Dampier

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Publisher Description

In or about the middle of the seventeenth century the island of San Domingo, or Hispaniola as it was then called, was haunted and overrun by a singular community of savage, surly, fierce, and filthy men. They were chiefly composed of French colonists, whose ranks had from time to time been enlarged by liberal contributions from the slums and alleys of more than one European city and town. These people went dressed in shirts and pantaloons of coarse linen cloth, which they steeped in the blood of the animals they slaughtered. They wore round caps, boots of hogskin drawn over their naked feet, and belts of raw hide, in which they stuck their sabres and knives. They also armed themselves with firelocks which threw a couple of balls, each weighing two ounces. The places where they dried and salted their meat were calledboucans, and from this term they came to be styled bucaniers, or buccaneers, as we spell it. They were hunters by trade, and savages in their habits. They chased and slaughtered horned cattle and trafficked with the flesh, and their favourite food was raw marrow from the bones of the beasts which they shot. They ate and slept on the ground, their table was a stone, their bolster the trunk of a tree, and their roof the hot and sparkling heavens of the Antilles.

But wild as they were they were at least peaceful. It is not clear that at this stage, at all events, they were in any way associated with the freebooters or rovers who were now worrying the Spaniards in those seas. Their traffic was entirely innocent, and it was assuredly the policy of the Don to suffer them to continue shooting the wild cattle without molestation. Unfortunately for themselves, the Spaniards grew jealous of them. They regarded the West Indies and the continent of South America as their own, and the presence of the foreigner was intolerable. They made war against the buccaneers, vowing expulsion or extermination. Both sides fought fiercely. The Spaniard had discipline and training; on the other hand, the buccaneer had the art of levelling as deadly a piece as the Transvaal Boer of to-day. The struggle was long and cruel; the Spaniards eventually conquered, and the hunters, quitting San Domingo, sought refuge in the adjacent islands. In spite of their defeat, troops of the buccaneers contrived from time to time to pass over into San Domingo from their head-quarters in Tortuga, where they hunted as before, and brought away with them as much cattle as sufficed them to trade with. The Spaniards lay in ambush, and shot the stragglers as they swept past in chase; but this sort of warfare proving of no avail, it was finally resolved to slaughter the whole of the cattle throughout the island, that the buccaneers should be starved into leaving once and for good. No act could have been rasher and more impolitic. The hunters finding their occupation gone, went over to the freebooters, and as pirates, as their history shows, in a short time abundantly avenged their indisputable wrongs.

Novelists and poets have found something fascinating in the story of the buccaneers. The light of romance colours their exploits, and even upon the maturest gaze there will linger something of the radiance with which the ardent imagination of boyhood gilds the actions and persons of those fierce sea-warriors. It is unhappily true, nevertheless, that the buccaneers were a race of treacherous, cruel, and profligate miscreants. Their name was at a later date given to, or appropriated by, such men as Clipperton, Cowley, Dampier, Woodes Rogers, and Shelvocke, whose behaviour as enemies, whose skill and heroism as seamen, and whose discoveries as navigators, greatly lightened the blackness of the old traditions. But the buccaneers of the Spanish Main,—the men who are the principal figures in the annals of the freebooters, the people whose lives are contained in such narratives as those of Joseph Exquemeling, De Lussan, De Montauban, Captain Charles Johnson, in Von Archenholtz's brief but excellent history, and in other works,—were rogues and ruffians without parallel in the history of villainy. They owned indeed many extraordinary qualities, which, exerted in honest fields of action, might have been deemed virtues of a high kind. Their courage was great, their achievements wonderful, their fortitude worthy of noble causes, their capacity of endurance unrivalled in sea story. No skilfuller body of seamen were ever afloat. But their history is loathsome for the cruelties it relates. Olonois or Lolonois, Braziliano, Morgan, Bat, Le Grand, and others famous as pirates, were monsters whose like is nowhere to be matched. The relation of their sailings and landings and marchings, their assaults, pillagings, defeats, and triumphs, is a sickening narrative of barbarities; but it must be admitted, coupled with extraordinary examples of courage in some instances absolutely sublime, and of unconquerable resolution.

GENRE
Biographies & Memoirs
RELEASED
2020
July 17
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
233
Pages
PUBLISHER
Library of Alexandria
SELLER
The Library of Alexandria
SIZE
634
KB

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