Sir Henry Morgan
17th century woodcut of Morgan
|Born||c. 24 January 1635|
|Died||25 August 1688 (aged 53)|
|Allegiance||Kingdom of England|
|Later work||Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica|
Sir Henry Morgan (Welsh: Harri Morgan, c. 1635 – 25 August 1688) was a Welsh privateer, plantation owner, and, later, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. From his base in Port Royal, Jamaica, he raided settlements and shipping on the Spanish Main, becoming wealthy as he did so. With the prize money from the raids he purchased three large sugar plantations on the island.
Much of Morgan's early life is unknown. He was born in Monmouthshire,[n 1] but it is not known how he made his way to the West Indies, or how he began his career as a privateer. He was probably a member of a group of raiders led by Sir Christopher Myngs in the early 1660s. Morgan became a close friend of Sir Thomas Modyford, the Governor of Jamaica. When diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of England and Spain worsened in 1667, Modyford gave Morgan a letter of marque, a licence to attack and seize Spanish vessels. Morgan subsequently conducted successful and highly lucrative raids on Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in modern Cuba) and Porto Bello (now Portobelo in modern Panama). In 1668 he sailed for Maracaibo and Gibraltar, both on Lake Maracaibo in modern-day Venezuela. He raided both cities and stripped them of their wealth before destroying a large Spanish squadron as he escaped.
In 1671 Morgan attacked Panama City, landing on the Caribbean coast and traversing the isthmus before he attacked the city, which was on the Pacific coast. The battle was a rout, although the privateers profited less than in other raids. To appease the Spanish, with whom the English had signed a peace treaty, Morgan was arrested and summoned to London in 1672, but was treated as a hero by the general populace and the leading figures of government and royalty including Charles II.
Morgan was appointed a Knight Bachelor in November 1674 and returned to Jamaica shortly afterward to serve as the territory's Lieutenant Governor. He served on the Assembly of Jamaica until 1683 and on three occasions he acted as Governor of Jamaica in the absence of the post-holder. A memoir published by Alexandre Exquemelin, a former shipmate of Morgan's, accused the privateer of widespread torture and other offences; Morgan brought a libel suit against the book's English publishers and won, although the black picture Exquemelin portrayed of Morgan has affected history's view of the Welshman. He died in Jamaica on 25 August 1688. His life was romanticised after his death and he became the inspiration for pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.
Henry Morgan was born around 1635 in Wales, either in Llanrumney or Pencarn, (both in Monmouthshire, between Cardiff and Newport)[n 1][n 2] The historian David Williams, writing in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, observes that attempts to identify his parents and antecedents "have all proved unsatisfactory", although his will referred to distant relations. Several sources state Morgan's father was Robert Morgan, a farmer.[n 3] Nuala Zahedieh, writing for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, states that details of Morgan's early life and career are uncertain, although in later life he stated that he had left school early and was "much more used to the pike than the book".
It is unknown how Morgan made his way to the Caribbean. He may have travelled to the Caribbean as part of the army of Robert Venables, sent by Oliver Cromwell as part of the Caribbean expedition against the Spanish in the West Indies in 1654, or he may have served as an apprentice to a maker of cutlery for three years in exchange for the cost of his emigration. Richard Browne, who served as surgeon under Morgan in 1670 stated that Morgan had travelled either as a "private gentleman" soon after the 1655 capture of Jamaica by the English, or he may have been abducted in Bristol and transported to Barbados, where he was sold as a servant. In the 17th century the Caribbean offered an opportunity for young men to become rich quickly, although significant investment was needed to obtain high returns from the sugar export economy. Other opportunities for financial gain were through trade or plunder of the Spanish Empire. Much of the plunder was from privateering, whereby individuals and ships were commissioned by government to attack the country's enemies.[n 4]
It is probable that in the early 1660s Morgan was active with a group of privateers led by Sir Christopher Myngs attacking Spanish cities and settlements in the Caribbean and Central America. In 1663 it is likely that Morgan captained one of the ships in Myngs' fleet, and took part in the attack on Santiago de Cuba and the Sack of Campeche on the Yucatán Peninsula.[n 5]
Sir Thomas Modyford had been appointed the Governor of Jamaica in February 1664 with instructions to limit the activities of the privateers; he made a proclamation against their activities on 11 June 1664, but economic practicalities led to him reversing the policy by the end of the month. About 1,500 privateers used Jamaica as a base for their activity and brought significant revenue to the island. As the planting community of 5,000 was still new and developing, the revenue from the privateers was needed to avoid economic collapse. A privateer was granted a letter of marque which gave him a licence to attack and seize vessels, normally of a specific country, or with conditions attached. A portion of all spoils obtained by the privateers was given to the sovereign or the issuing ambassador.
In August 1665 Morgan, along with fellow captains John Morris and Jacob Fackman, returned to Port Royal with a large cargo of valuables. Modyford was impressed enough with the spoils to report back to the government that "Central America was the properest [sic] place for an attack on the Spanish Indies". Morgan's activities over the following two years are not documented, but in early 1666 he was married in Port Royal to his cousin, Mary Morgan, the daughter of Edward, the island's Deputy Governor; the marriage gave Henry access to the upper levels of Jamaican society. The couple had no children.
Hostilities between the English and Dutch in 1664 led to a change in government policy: colonial governors were now authorised to issue letters of marque against the Dutch.[n 6] Many of the privateers, including Morgan, did not take up the letters, although an expedition to conquer the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius led to the death of Morgan's father-in-law, who was leading a 600-man force.
Sources differ about Morgan's activities in 1666. H. R. Allen, in his biography of Morgan, considers the privateer was the second-in-command to Captain Edward Mansvelt. Mansvelt had been issued a letter of marque for the invasion of Curaçao, although he did not attack Willemstad, the main city, either after he decided that it was too well-defended or that there was insufficient plunder.[n 7] Alternatively, Jan Rogoziński and Stephan Talty, in their histories of Morgan and piracy, record that during the year, Morgan oversaw the Port Royal militia and the defence of Jamaica; Fort Charles at Port Royal was partly constructed under his leadership.[n 8] It was around this time that Morgan purchased his first plantation on Jamaica.
In 1667 diplomatic relations between the kingdoms of England and Spain were worsening, and rumours began to circulate in Jamaica about a possible Spanish invasion. Modyford authorised privateers to take action against the Spanish, and issued a letter of marque to Morgan "to draw together the English privateers and take prisoners of the Spanish nation, whereby he might inform of the intention of that enemy to attack Jamaica, of which I have frequent and strong advice". He was given the rank of admiral and, in January 1668, assembled 10 ships and 500 men for the task; he was subsequently joined by 2 more ships and 200 men from Tortuga (now part of Haiti).
Morgan's letter of marque gave him permission to attack Spanish ships at sea; there was no permission for attacks on land. Any plunder obtained from the attacks would be split between the government and the owners of the ships rented by the privateers. If the privateers stepped outside their official remit and raided a city, any resultant plunder would be retained by the privateers. Rogoziński observes that "attacks on cities were illegal piracy—but extremely profitable", although Zahedieh records that if Morgan was able to provide evidence of a potential Spanish attack, the attacks on cities were justifiable under the terms of his commission. Morgan's initial plan was to attack Havana, but, on discovering it was heavily defended, this was changed to Puerto Principe (now Camagüey), a town 50 miles (80 km) inland. Morgan and his men took the town, but the treasure obtained was less than hoped for. According to Alexandre Exquemelin, who sailed with Morgan, "It caused a general resentment and grief, to see such a small booty". When Morgan reported the taking of Puerto Principe to Modyford, he informed the governor that they had evidence that the Spanish were planning an attack on British territory: "we found seventy men had been pressed to go against Jamaica ... and considerable forces were expected from Vera Cruz and Campeachy ... and from Porto Bello and Cartagena to rendezvous at St Jago of Cuba [Santiago]".
After the action, one of the English privateers quarrelled with one of his French shipmates and stabbed him in the back, killing him. Before a riot between the French and English sailors could begin, Morgan arrested the English sailor, and promised the French sailors that the man would be hanged on his return to Port Royal. Morgan kept his word and the sailor was hanged. After dividing the spoils of the conquest of Puerto Principe, Morgan announced a plan to attack Porto Bello (now in modern-day Panama). The city was the third largest and strongest on the Spanish Main, and on one of the main routes of trade between the Spanish territories and Spain. Because of the value of the goods passing through its port, Porto Bello was protected by two castles in the harbour and another in the town. The 200 French privateers, unhappy with the division of the treasure and the murder of their countryman, left Morgan's service and returned to Tortuga. Morgan and his ships briefly landed at Port Royal before leaving for Porto Bello.
On 11 July 1668 Morgan anchored short of Porto Bello and transferred his men to 23 canoes, which they paddled to within three miles (4.8 km) of the target. They landed and approached the first castle from the landward side, where they arrived half an hour before dawn. They took the three castles and the town quickly. The privateers lost 18 men, with a further 32 wounded; Zahedieh considers the action at Porto Bello displayed a "clever cunning and expert timing which marked ... [Morgan's] brilliance as a military commander".
Exquemelin wrote that in order to take the third castle, Morgan ordered the construction of ladders wide enough for three men to climb abreast; when they were completed he "commanded all the religious men and women whom he had taken prisoners to fix them against the walls of the castle ... these were forced, at the head of the companies to raise and apply them to the walls ... Thus many of the religious men and nuns were killed". Terry Breverton, in his biography of Morgan, writes that when a translation of Exquemelin's book was published in England, Morgan sued for libel and won. The passage about the use of nuns and monks as a human shield was retracted from subsequent publications in England.
Morgan and his men remained in Porto Bello for a month. He wrote to Don Agustín, the acting president of Panama, to demand a ransom for the city of 350,000 pesos.[n 9] As they stripped the city of its wealth it is probable that torture was used on the residents to uncover hidden caches of money and jewels. Zahedieh records that there were no first-hand reports from witnesses that confirmed Exquemelin's claim of widespread rape and debauchery. After an attempt by Don Agustín to recapture the city by force – his army of 800 soldiers was repelled by the privateers – he negotiated a ransom of 100,000 pesos. Following the ransom and the plunder of the city, Morgan returned to Port Royal, with between £70,000 and £100,000 of money and valuables; Zahedieh reports that the figures were more than the agricultural output of Jamaica, and nearly half Barbados's sugar exports. Each privateer received £120 – equivalent to five or six times the average annual earnings of a sailor of the time. Morgan received a five per cent share for his work; Modyford received a ten per cent share, which was the price of Morgan's letter of marque. As Morgan had overstepped the limits of his commission, Modyford reported back to London that he had "reproved" him for his actions although, Zahedieh observes, in Britain "Morgan was widely viewed as a national hero and neither he nor Modyford were rebuked for their actions".
Morgan did not stay long in Port Royal and in October 1668 sailed with ten ships and 800 men for Île-à-Vache, a small island he used as a rendezvous point. His plan was to attack the Spanish settlement of Cartagena de Indias, the richest and most important city on the Spanish Main. In December he was joined by a former Royal Navy frigate, Oxford, which had been sent to Port Royal to aid in any defence of Jamaica. Modyford sent the vessel to Morgan, who made it his flagship. On 2 January 1669 Morgan called a council of war for all his captains, which took place on Oxford. A spark in the ship's powder magazine destroyed the ship and over 200 of its crew.[n 10] Morgan and the captains seated on one side of the table were blown into the water and survived; the four captains on the other side of the table were all killed.
The loss of Oxford meant Morgan's flotilla was too small to attempt an attack on Cartagena. Instead he was persuaded by a French captain under his command to repeat the actions of the pirate François l'Olonnais two years previously: an attack on Maracaibo and Gibraltar, both on Lake Maracaibo in modern-day Venezuela. The French captain knew the approaches to the lagoon, through a narrow and shallow channel. Since l'Olonnais and the French captain had visited Maracaibo, the Spanish had built the San Carlos de la Barra Fortress, 20 miles (32 km) outside the city, on the approach. Talty states that the fortress was placed in an excellent position to defend the town, but that the Spanish had undermanned it, leaving only nine men to load and fire the fortress's 11 guns. Under covering cannon fire from the privateer's flagship, Lilly, Morgan and his men landed on the beach and stormed the fortification; they found it empty when they eventually breached its defences. A search soon found that the Spanish had left a slow-burning fuse leading to the fort's powder kegs as a trap for the buccaneers, which Morgan extinguished. The fort's guns were spiked and then buried so they could not be used against the privateers when they returned from the rest of their mission.
Morgan arrived at Maracaibo to find the city largely deserted, its residents having been forewarned of his approach by the fortress's troops. He spent three weeks in the city, ransacking and plundering what he could. Privateers searched the surrounding jungle to find the escapees; they, and some of the remaining occupants, were tortured to find where money or treasure had been hidden. Satisfied he had stolen all he could, he sailed south across Lake Maracaibo, to Gibraltar. The town's occupants refused to surrender, and the fort fired enough of a barrage to ensure Morgan kept his distance. He anchored a short distance away and his men landed by canoe and assaulted the town from the landward approach. He met scant resistance, as many of the occupants had fled into the surrounding jungle. He spent five weeks in Gibraltar, and there was again evidence that torture was used to force residents to reveal hidden money and valuables.
Four days after he left Maracaibo, Morgan returned. He was told that a Spanish defence squadron, the Armada de Barlovento, was waiting for him at the narrow passage between the Caribbean and Lake Maracaibo, where the San Carlos de la Barra Fortress was sited. The forces, under the command of Don Alonso del Campo y Espinosa, had 126 cannon with which to attack Morgan, and had re-armed San Carlos de la Barra Fortress. The Spaniards had orders to end piracy in the Caribbean, and negotiations between Morgan and Espinosa continued for a week. The final offer put by the Spanish commander was for Morgan to leave all their spoils and slaves and to return to Jamaica unmolested, but no agreement was reached that would allow Morgan and his men to pass the fleet with their spoils but without attack. Morgan put the Spaniards' offers to his men, who voted instead to fight their way out. As they were heavily outgunned, one privateer suggested that a fire ship aimed at Espinosa's flagship, Magdalen would work.
To this end, a crew of 12 prepared a ship that had been seized in Gibraltar. They disguised vertical logs of wood with headwear, to make the Spaniards believe that the vessel was fully crewed. To make it look more heavily armed, additional portholes were cut in the hull and logs placed to resemble cannons. Barrels of powder were placed in the ship and grappling irons laced into the ships rigging, to catch the ropes and sails of Magdalen and ensure the vessels would become entangled.
On 1 May 1669 Morgan and his flotilla attacked the Spanish squadron. The fire ship plan worked, and Magdalen was shortly aflame; Espinosa abandoned his flagship and made his way to the fort, where he continued to direct events. The second-largest Spanish ship, Soledad, tried to move away from the burning vessel, but a problem with the rigging meant they drifted aimlessly; privateers boarded the ship, fixed the rigging and claimed the craft as plunder. The third Spanish vessel was also sunk by the privateers. Morgan still needed to pass the San Carlos de la Barra Fortress, but was still out-gunned by the stronghold, which had the ability to destroy the privateer fleet if it tried to pass. The privateer decided to negotiate, and threatened to sack and burn Maracaibo if he was not allowed to pass. Although Espinosa refused to negotiate, the citizens of Maracaibo entered into talks with Morgan, and agreed to pay him 20,000 pesos and 500 head of cattle if he agreed to leave the city intact. During the course of the negotiations with the Maracaibos, Morgan had undertaken salvage operations on Magdalen, and secured 15,000 pesos from the wreck. Before taking any action, Morgan tallied his takings and divided it equally between his ships, to ensure that it was not all lost if one ship was sunk; it totalled 250,000 pesos, and a huge quantity of merchandise and a number of local slaves.
Morgan observed that Espinosa had set his cannon for a landward attack from the privateers – as they had done previously. The privateers faked a landing of their forces. The fort and its battlements were stripped of men as the Spanish prepared for a night assault from the English forces. That evening, with Spanish forces deployed to repel a landing, Morgan's fleet raised anchor without unfurling their sails; the fleet moved on the tide, only raising sail when they had moved level with the fortress, and Morgan and his men made their way back to Port Royal unscathed.[n 11] Zahedieh considers the escape showed Morgan's "characteristic cunning and audacity".
During his absence from Port Royal, a pro-Spanish faction had gained the ear of King Charles II, and English foreign policy had changed accordingly. Modyford admonished Morgan for his action, which had gone beyond his commission, and revoked the letters of marque; no official action was taken against any of the privateers. Morgan invested a share of his prize money in an 836-acre (338 ha) plantation – his second such investment.
In 1669 Mariana, the Queen Regent of Spain, ordered attacks on English shipping in the Caribbean. The first action took place in March 1670 when Spanish privateers attacked English trade ships. In response Modyford commissioned Morgan "to do and perform all manner of exploits, which may tend to the preservation and quiet of this island". By December Morgan was sailing toward the Spanish Main with a fleet of over 30 English and French ships carrying a large number of privateers.[n 12] Zahedieh observes that the army of privateers was the largest that had gathered in the Caribbean at the time, which was "a mark of Morgan's renown".
Morgan's first action was to take the connected islands of Old Providence and Santa Catalina in December 1670. From there his fleet sailed to Chagres, the port from which ships were loaded with goods to transport back to Spain. Morgan took the town and occupied Fort San Lorenzo, which he garrisoned to protect his line of retreat. On 9 January 1671, with his remaining men, he ascended the Chagres River and headed for Old Panama City, on the Pacific Coast. Much of the journey was on foot, through dense rainforests and swamps. The governor of Panama had been forewarned of a potential attack, and had sent Spanish troops to attack Morgan and his men along the route. The privateers transferred to canoes to complete part of the journey, but were still able to beat off the ambushes with ease. After three days, with the river difficult to navigate in places, and with the jungle thinning out, Morgan landed his men and travelled overland across the remaining part of the isthmus.
The privateers arrived at Old Panama City on 27 January 1671; they camped overnight before attacking the following day. They were opposed by approximately 1,200 Spanish infantry and 400 cavalry; most were inexperienced. Morgan sent a 300-strong party of men down a ravine that led to the foot of a small hill on the Spanish right flank. As they disappeared from view, the Spanish front line thought the privateers were retreating, and the left wing broke rank and chased, followed by the remainder of the defending infantry. They were met with well-organised firing from Morgan's main force of troops. When the party came into view at the end of the ravine, they were charged by the Spanish cavalry, but organised fire destroyed the cavalry and the party attacked the flank of the main Spanish force. In an effort to disorganise Morgan's forces, the governor of Panama released two herds of oxen and bulls onto the battlefield; scared by the noise of the gunfire, they turned and stampeded over their keepers and some of the remaining Spanish troops. The battle was a rout: the Spanish lost between 400 and 500 men, against 15 privateers killed.
Panama's governor had sworn to burn down the city if his troops lost to the privateers, and he had placed barrels of gunpowder around the largely wooden buildings. These were detonated by the captain of artillery after Morgan's victory; the resultant fires lasted until the following day.[n 13] Only a few stone buildings remained standing afterwards. Much of Panama's wealth was destroyed in the conflagration, although some had been removed by ships, before the privateers arrived. The privateers spent three weeks in Panama and plundered what they could from the ruins. Morgan's second-in-command, Captain Edward Collier, supervised the torture of some of the city's residents; Morgan's fleet surgeon, Richard Browne, later wrote that at Panama, Morgan "was noble enough to the vanquished enemy".
The value of treasure Morgan collected during his expedition is disputed. Talty writes that the figures range from 140,000 to 400,000 pesos, and that owing to the large army Morgan assembled, the prize-per-man was relatively low, causing discontent. There were accusations, particularly in Exquemelin's memoirs, that Morgan left away with the majority of the plunder. He arrived back in Port Royal on 12 March to a positive welcome from the town's inhabitants. The following month he made his official report to the governing Council of Jamaica, and received their formal thanks and congratulations.
During Morgan's absence from Jamaica, news reached the island that England and Spain had signed the Treaty of Madrid.[n 14] The pact aimed to establish peace in the Caribbean between the two countries; it included an agreement to revoke all letters of marque and similar commissions. The historian Violet Barbour considers it probable that one of the Spanish conditions was the removal of Modyford from the Governorship. Modyford was arrested and sent to England by Sir Thomas Lynch, his recent replacement.
The destruction of Panama so soon after the signing of the treaty led to what Allen describes as "a crisis in international affairs" between England and Spain. The English government heard rumours from their ambassadors in Europe that the Spanish were considering war. In an attempt to appease them, Charles II and his Secretary of State, the Earl of Arlington, ordered Morgan's arrest. In April 1672 the privateer admiral was returned to London where, Barbour writes, he was "handsomely lionized ... as the hero on whom Drake's mantle had fallen". Although some sources state that Morgan was also incarcerated in the Tower of London,[n 15] Pope writes that Tower records make no mention of his presence there.
Morgan probably remained at liberty throughout his time in London, and the political mood changed in his favour. Arlington asked him to write a memorandum for the king on how to improve Jamaica's defences. Although there was no court case – Morgan was never charged with an offence – he gave informal evidence to the Lords of Trade and Plantations and proved he had no knowledge of the Treaty of Madrid prior to his attack on Panama. Unhappy with Lynch's conduct in Jamaica, the King and his advisers decided in January 1674 to replace him with John Vaughan, 3rd Earl of Carbery. Morgan would act as his deputy. Charles appointed Morgan a Knight Bachelor in November 1674, and two months later, Morgan and Carbery left for Jamaica. They were accompanied by Modyford, released from the Tower of London without charge and made the Chief Justice of Jamaica. They travelled on board the Jamaica Merchant, which held cannon and shot meant to boost Port Royal's defences. The ship foundered on the rocks of Île-à-Vache and Morgan and the crew were temporarily stranded on the island until picked up by a passing merchant ship.
On his arrival in Jamaica, the 12-man Assembly of Jamaica voted Morgan an annual salary of £600 "for his good services to the country"; the move angered Carbery, who did not get on with Morgan. Carbery later complained of his deputy that he was "every day more convinced of ... [Morgan's] imprudence and unfitness to have anything to do with civil government". Carbery also wrote to the Secretary of State to bemoan Morgan's "drinking and gaming at the taverns" of Port Royal.
Although Morgan had been ordered to eradicate piracy from Jamaican waters, he continued his friendly relations with many privateer captains, and invested in some of their ships. Zahedieh estimates that there were 1,200 privateers operating in the Caribbean at the time, and Port Royal was their preferred destination. These had a welcome in the city if Morgan received the dues owed to him. As Morgan was no longer able to issue letters of marque to privateer captains, his brother-in-law, Robert Bindloss, directed them to the French governor of Tortuga to have a letter issued; Bindloss and Morgan received a commission for each one signed.
In July 1676 Carbery called for a hearing against Morgan in front of the Assembly of Jamaica, accusing him of collaborating with the French to attack Spanish interests. Morgan admitted he had met the French officials, but indicated that this was diplomatic relations, rather than anything duplicitous. In the summer of 1677 the Lords of Trade said they had yet to come to a decision on the matter and in early 1678 the king and the Privy Council recalled Carbery from Jamaica, leaving Morgan as governor for three months. In July 1678 Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle was appointed governor.
By the late 1670s France became an increasing threat in the Caribbean, and Morgan took control of the defence of Port Royal. He declared martial law in 1678 and 1680 – both during his periods as temporary governor of the island – because of the threat of invasion, re-built the fortifications surrounding the town, and increased the number of cannon from 60 to more than 100 in the five years up to 1680.
In the 1670s and 1680s, in his capacity as an owner of a large slave plantation, Morgan led three campaigns against the Jamaican Maroons of Juan de Serras. Morgan achieved some success against the Maroons, who withdrew further into the Blue Mountains, where they were able to stay out of the reach of Morgan and his forces.
As Morgan and his allies on the Assembly of Jamaica continued to deal with privateers and pirates, criticism of their action in London was fomented by two former governors of Jamaica, Carbery and Lynch. After Lynch paid £50,000 to Charles II, Morgan's commissions as lieutenant-governor and lieutenant-general were revoked and Lynch was appointed as the island's governor; Morgan still retained his position on the Assembly of Jamaica. Morgan had been a heavy drinker for several years;[n 16] he received the news of the revocation of his positions badly and increased his intake of alcohol to the point where his health began to suffer. Lynch removed Morgan's supporters from the Assembly of Jamaica by 1683, and in October that year he removed Morgan and his brother-in-law, leaving the assembly packed with men loyal to him. In 1684 Lynch died, and was temporarily replaced as governor by his friend, the lieutenant-general, Hender Molesworth.
In 1684 an account of Morgan's exploits was published by Exquemelin, in a Dutch volume entitled De Americaensche Zee-Roovers (trans: About the Buccaneers of America). Morgan took steps to discredit the book and successfully brought a libel suit against the book's publishers William Crooke and Thomas Malthus. In his affidavit he stated that he had "against evil deeds, piracies and robberies the greatest abhorrence and distrust", and that "for the kind of men called buccaneers", he "always had and still has hatred". The court found in his favour and the book was retracted; damages of £200 were paid to him.
In December 1687 Lynch's permanent replacement arrived in Port George, Morgan's friend from his time in London, Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle. He dismissed Molesworth and gave Morgan an unofficial role as advisor. In July 1688 Albemarle persuaded the king to allow Morgan to regain a position on the Assembly, but the former privateer was too ill to attend. Hans Sloane, Albemarle's private physician, inspected Morgan and diagnosed dropsy; he also saw Morgan was drinking to excess and ordered him to reduce his alcohol intake, which was ignored. Sloane described his patient as
lean, sallow-coloured, his eyes a little yellowish and belly jutting out or prominent ... He complained to me of want of appetite for victuals, he had a kicking ... to vomit every morning and generally a small looseness attending him, and withal is much given to drinking and sitting up late, which I supposed had been the cause of his present indisposition.
Morgan died on 25 August 1688; Albemarle ordered a state funeral, and laid Morgan's body at King's House for the public to pay respects. An amnesty was declared so that pirates and privateers could pay their respects without fear of arrest. He was buried at Palisadoes cemetery, Port Royal, followed by a 22-gun salute from the ships moored in the harbour. Morgan was a wealthy man when he died. He owned three plantations, had 129 slaves, and his personal wealth was valued at £5,263. In his will, signed 17 June 1688, he left his Jamaican property to his godsons Charles Byndloss and Henry Archbold, on condition they adopted the surname of Morgan. These were the children of his two cousins Anna Petronilla Byndloss and Johanna Archbold. To his sister Catherine Loyd he awarded £60 per annum from his estate "paid into the hands of my ever honest cozen [sic] Thomas Morgan of Tredegar".
On 7 June 1692 an earthquake struck Port Royal. About two-thirds of the town, amounting to 33 acres (13 ha), sank into Kingston harbour immediately after the main shock. Palisadoes cemetery, including Morgan's grave, was one of the parts of the city to fall into the sea; his body has never been subsequently located.
Rogoziński observes that Morgan is probably the "best-known pirate" because of Exquemelin's book, although, Cordingly writes that Exquemelin bore a grudge over what he saw was Morgan's theft of the bounty from Panama. His experience explains "why he painted such a black picture of Morgan and portrayed him as a cruel and unscrupulous villain", which subsequently affected historians' view of Morgan. Allen observes that, partly because of Exquemelin, Morgan has not been well-served by historians. He cites the examples of the historians whose biographies were so flawed they wrote that Morgan either died in London, prison or the Tower of London. These included Charles Leslie, A New History of Jamaica (1739), Alan Gardner, History of Jamaica (1873), Hubert Bancroft, History of Central America (1883) and Howard Pyle's work, Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (compiled in 1921).
Exquemelin wrote that Morgan's men undertook widespread torture in several of the towns they captured. According to Stephen Snelders, in his history of piracy, the Spanish reports of Morgan's raids do not refer to torture being practiced on the residents of Porto Bello or Gibraltar – although there are reliable reports that it was carried out in Panama. The historian Patrick Pringle observes that while torture seems cruel and ruthless to contemporary eyes, it was an accepted part of judicial interrogation in many European countries at the time.[n 17] Morgan always fought with a commission from the governor of Jamaica. In doing so, he was acting as a reserve naval force for the English government in the defence of Jamaica. As the Spanish did not recognise privateering as a legal activity, even if a captain carried letters of marque, they considered Morgan to be a pirate, something he firmly rejected.
Rogoziński observes that Morgan does not appear in later fictional works as much as other pirates because of his "ambiguous mixture of charismatic leadership and selfish treachery", although his name and persona have featured in literature, including Rafael Sabatini's 1922 novel Captain Blood and John Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), both of which are based in large part on Morgan's career. Morgan and stories of a hidden haul of treasure also feature to a lesser extent in other works, including Ian Fleming's 1954 novel Live and Let Die and John Masefield's 1920 poem "Captain Stratton's Fancy".[n 18] Screen renditions of his life include Captain Blood (1935), The Black Swan (1942),[n 19] Blackbeard the Pirate (1952), Morgan, the Pirate (1961), Pirates of Tortuga (1961) and The Black Corsair (1976). Morgan has also been featured in several video games, including Sid Meier's Pirates! and Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships.
In 1944 the Seagram Company started manufacturing the Captain Morgan brand of rum, named after the privateer. In 2001 the Captain Morgan brand was sold to Diageo, the multinational drinks company based in London. The name of Morgan has been attached to local sites in the Caribbean, such as Morgan's Bridge, Morgan's Pass and Morgan's Valley in Clarendon, Morgan's Harbour Hotel and Beach Club in Kingston, the Hotel Henry Morgan, located in Roatán, Honduras, the Port Morgan resort located in Haiti and Captain Morgan's Retreat and Vacation Club on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
The economist Peter Leeson believes that pirates and privateers were generally shrewd businessmen, far removed from the modern, romanticised view of them as murderous tyrants. The anthropologist Anne M. Galvin and the historian Kris Lane separately see Morgan as obtaining wealth to become a member of the landed gentry; Galvin wrote that Morgan showed "social mobility through self-interested acts of outlawry, political wiles, and business acumen". Glenn Blalock, writing for the American National Biography, observes that Morgan was seen as a hero to many Jamaicans and British both for his exploits as a buccaneer and for ensuring Jamaica remained a key part of the British Empire. Thomas describes Morgan as
a man of courage, determination, bravery, and ... charisma. He was a planner, a brilliant military strategist and intensely loyal to the king, to England and to Jamaica. ... But unlike so many of the Brethren, he was flexible and adaptable, able to see that the future for Jamaica lay not in plunder or pillage but in peaceful trade. ... He was also an adept politician and held office longer than any of the governors of his time.
Sir Thomas Lynch
| Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica
John Vaughan, 3rd Earl of Carbery
John Vaughan, 3rd Earl of Carbery
| Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle
| Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica
Sir Thomas Lynch