Contrairement à ce que l'on pourrait croire, la carrière d'Henry Morgan comme chef flibustier fut relativement brève. Son premier voyage en qualité de capitaine dura près de deux ans (1663-1665). Les deux années suivantes, il les passa à la Jamaïque, où il acquit des terres, fit un avantageux mariage et fut promut colonel d'un régiment de milice. Après ce long séjour à terre, il obtint (fin 1667) le commandement en chef d'une partie de la flotte corsaire de la Jamaïque, à la tête de laquelle il rapporta des succès inconstables à Puerto Belo (1668) et à Maracaïbo (1669). Après ces expéditions, le gouverneur de la Jamaïque, Sir Thomas Modyford, interdit les armements en course, qu'il autorisa toutefois, à nouveau, moins d'une année plus tard à la suite d'actes d'hostilité commises contre les Anglais par des flibustiers espagnols. À cette occasion, le colonel Morgan était l'homme tout désigné pour commander en chef les flibustiers de la Jamaïque et des autres îles britanniques pour aller contre les Espagnols. Le document reproduit ici est la commission que lui délivra alors le gouverneur Modyford pour ce faire; la teneur de cette commission est comparable à celles que les autorités françaises de Saint-Domingue délivreront en temps de paix aux flibustiers pour prendre sur les Espagnols (voir le document 831114f). Fort de ce commandement et de ses instructions qui lui permettaient de délivrer lui-même ses propres commissions, Morgan réunit la plus formidable flotte de l'histoire de la flibuste, à la tête de laquelle il s'emparera de Panama quelques mois plus tard.
Le Diable Volant.
Sir Thomas Modyford, baronet, Governor of His Majesty's Island of Jamaica, commander-in-chief of all His Majesty's 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, esquire, greeting.
WHEREAS the Queen Regent of Spain has, by her Royal Shedula dated at Madrid the 20th of April 1669, commanded her respective Governors 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 governor of the City of St. Jago de Cuba and its Provinces, has 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 governors 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 has placed in me,
I do, by virtue of full power and authority in such cases from His Royal Highness James Duke of York, His Majesty's 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, barks and other vessels now fitted, or which hereafter shall be fitted, for the public service and defence of this Island and also of the officers, soldiers 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 manned, fitted, armed 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 feasible 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 embody 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, soldiers and seamen who are or shall be belonging to or embarked upon the said vessels are hereby strictly enjoined both by sea and land to obey you as their admiral and commander-in-chief of in all things as be comes 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.
Instructions for Admiral Henry Morgan, esquire, delivered him the 22nd of July 1670 together with his commission.
You will with these instructions receive my commission, which you are enjoined 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 soldiers 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.
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. 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 and 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 approvable 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 has 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 Martial 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 empowered 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.
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,
Le Diable Volant : Les Archives de la flibuste : années 1660-1671 : commission de Sir Thomas Modyford au colonel Henry Morgan, août 1670
référence et URL : « Note et document 700801m : commission de Sir Thomas Modyford au colonel Henry Morgan, août 1670. » In Les Archives de la flibuste. Québec: Le Diable Volant, 2000. [en ligne] http://www.geocities.com/trebutor/ADF2005/1660/16700801modyford.html