À la fin de 1682, un curieux bâtiment fait son apparition aux Antilles. C'est le Saint-Nicolas, ancien navire de guerre anglais recyclé dans la traite négrière. Son capitaine est un aventurier zélandais nommé Nicolas Van Hoorn qui vit maintenant en France, ayant épousé la fille d'un ancien agent de la Compagnie des Indes occidentale. Il avait obtenu, une fois la guerre de Hollande terminée, un contrat pour approvisionner en esclaves la colonie française de Cayenne. Son principal bailleur de fonds était d'ailleurs le gouverneur de cette colonie, Antoine Lefebvre de La Barre. Le bourgmestre de sa ville natale de Flessingue, Jan Van Hoorn, sans doute un parent, participa aussi au financement de l'entreprise. Troisième et dernier investisseur, un certain Daniel Crommelin, marchand parisien originaire de Saint-Quentin (Normandie), qui avait même accepté de faire le voyage. De plus, Van Hoorn partait avec la promesse d'obtenir une licence l'autorisant à écouler, en Amérique espagnole, le surplus d'esclaves qui ne trouveraient pas preneurs à Cayenne. D'ailleurs, selon les Espagnols eux-mêmes, Van Hoorn aurait été approché par Nicolas Porcio, l'un des deux marchands d'origine génoise qui détenaient l'Asiento, c'est-à-dire le monopole de la traite des noirs dans les colonies espagnoles. De France, Van Hoorn passa ensuite en Angleterre, ayant avec lui son jeune fils Nicolas, son beau-frère Balthazar Le Roux ainsi que Crommelin. Il y prit livraison du Saint-Nicolas et y trouva deux nouveaux associés, John Bauden, agent de la Royal African Company et propriétaire foncier à la Barbade, et le colonel John Strode, gouverneur du château de Douvres, qui fit même armer un navire pour voyager de conserve avec le Saint-Nicolas. Dès lors commence un voyage de pillage aux côtes d'Afrique occidentale, que racontent ici la déposition conjointe de quatre anciens marins de l'équipage de Van Hoorn. Ces témoignages révèlent que Van Hoorn ne recula devant rien pour parvenir à ses fins, insultant tour à tour les Espagnols, les Néerlandais, les Portugais et les Anglais. Le gouverneur de Santo Domingo, le président Francisco de Segura Sandoval y Castillo, est le premier à tenter de punir le capitaine zélandais. Dans l'intervalle, le capitaine George Johnson, commandant le Cadiz Merchant, navire marchand réquisitionné par le gouverneur de la Jamaïque pour donner la chasse aux pirates, arrive dans le port de Santo Domingo et réclame la personne Van Hoorn, qui avait, disait-on, commis ses pirateries en Afrique en utilisant le pavillon anglais, mais le président Segura refuse d'accéder à sa demande. Ce fut une erreur, puisque Van Hoorn, une fois libéré, passa à la colonie française de Saint-Domingue, où il prit une commission du gouverneur Pouancey pour prendre sur les Espagnols, ce qui donna lieu à la prise de Veracruz, le plus retentissant exploit des flibustiers depuis l'expédition de Panama (voir les documents 830400l et 831116v).
Le Diable Volant.
Affidavits of Vanhorn's piracies.
The depositions of James Nicolas gunner, John Otto, Peter Cornelius sailmaker, George Martyn sailor, late seamen and mariners belonging to the ship Mary and Martha alias St. Nicolas, 400 tons, 40 guns.
These deponents says, about 16 months since they sailed out of England in the said Mary and Martha (now St. Nicolas), one Colonel Nicolas Vanhorne, commander, with 120 men, about 50 of them was Englishmen, and all ship for Cadiz in company of a vessel about 160 tons, 12 guns, 23 men all English sailors, belonging to Colonel Stroude, governor of Dover Castle, one Captain John Mayne commander of the said ship called The Mary, but to be under the command of the said Vanhorn; and in the Bay of Biscaye the said Vanhorn's ship lost her foremast and bowsprit and forced into Burnisse in France, and 25 of Vanhorn's men understanding what a rogue he was, run away.
From thence they sailed to The Groine in Galicia, stand there two days, and then went for Cadiz, which was about Christmas, where Captain Vanhorn put on shore 36 of his men without wages. There he pretended to get a licence to trade in America but could not, and then turned two of his merchants ashore, and the night before he sailed from Cadiz sent his barge with about 20 men in her, and by force took 4 brass pedreras away from the King to the great disgrace of the English nation.
From thence, he went to Lancerota, one of the Canaries Islands, and went ashore and took off about 40 goats by force. But the deponents further declare that before they came from Cadiz the said Vanhorn cruelly whips to death an Englishman named Nicolas Browne for no cause. From the Canaries, he sailed for St. Jago, one of the Cape Verde Islands, and there took water and stand there 4 days, where 5 men run away. And from thence, they sailed for the Coast of Guinea, at Royal Derista, upon the Grain Coast, and wooded and watered, and then sailed along the coast and traded for gold in truck for powder and guns, having no other cargo. But coming to Castle de Maind, they spied two Dutch ships, which they coming up brought them both by the lee and commanded the masters on board and kept them all night. One of them having nothing on board was discharged, the other having a cargo on board of sundry merchandises belonging to the West India Company, the said Vanhorn robbed him of all, which the Hollander reached at the 30 thousand dollars. And the said Vanhorn took by force a Negro out of an English ship, one Captain Willemson master of her, and likewise took a canoe that came from Cape Coast with goods for Negroes and kills three of the Negroes in the said canoe. And on that coast, the said Vanhorn traded with the goods that he had robbed the aforesaid Hollander and the canoe for negroes and goods, for what he received on board 100 odd Negroes and great quantity of goods; and then upon the Coast of Weeda, understanding of a Portugal ship that was there that had 700 Negroes on board but having intelligence of Vanhorn, was gone. They finding nothing there went upon the Coast of Chapa, where the said Vanhorn went on shore with his own and Captain Mayne's men, about 60 in all, with two great guns. And in 28-days time said Vanhorn and men took about 600 Negroes and brought them on board, and did all under English colours ashore and aboard, and burnt all the houses and destroyed all the country of their corns and palm oil and rice that the Negroes had store up. And about 14 days after, which may be about the latter end of April, said Vanhorn took 4 canoes, in which was 20 Negroes: one he shot, the rest he took aboard. After this they went to St. Thomas to water, where the Portuguese would have stopped them. And there Vanhorn took a Portuguese canoe and two of their Negroes. And Captain Shephard, which was his chief mate, died in irons without any crimes the deponents know of.
From thence they went to Cayenne about the later end of October. There he put on shore 6 English. It was said Vanhorn bought a habitation there and left 80 Negroes with his wife's brother-in-law. And from thence they went to Trinidad, Cumana, and so to Santo Domingo about the later end of November; and they had about 300 Negroes (the best dead). They remained there 5 weeks. The President of Santo Domingo took the Spanish brass pedreroes and Vanhorn (as they heard) make upon the Dutch. During their stay there, one Captain Johnson, in a good ship well manned, set out by the General of Jamaica to look for a ship called The Trompeuse, notorious pirate, came there and would have spoke with Vanhorn, who laid at anchor by the castle, but the Governor would not suffer Captain Johnson to speak with him ashore or visit the ship. What good or Negroes were sent or given, these deponents know not, being on shore. And after Vanhorn was gone by President's order, the deponents were embarked on Captain Silvanus Weston and arrived at Jamaica 27 February 1683. The said Vanhorn sailed from Santo Domingo with about 20 men, assisted of some Negroes.
Sworn before me, this third March 1683.
Le Diable Volant : Les Archives de la flibuste : années 1680-1684 : dépositions touchant les pirateries de Van Hoorn, mars 1683
référence et URL : « Note et document 830313v : dépositions touchant les pirateries de Van Hoorn, mars 1683. » In Les Archives de la flibuste. Québec: Le Diable Volant, 2006. [en ligne] http://www.geocities.com/trebutor/ADF2005/1680/16830313vanhorn.html