Tortuga (Spanish for turtle) or Isla Tortuga is an island in the Caribbean Sea. Its French name is Île de la Tortue, and it is also called "Tortoise Island" and was a home for 17th century pirates. The location of Tortuga Isle is north of what is present-day Haiti.
Tortuga was originally settled by a few Spanish colonists. In 1625 French and English settlers arrived on the island of Tortuga after initially planning to settle on the island of Hispaniola. The French and English settlers were attacked in 1629 by the Spanish commanded by Don Fabrique de Toledo. The Spanish were successful and fortified the island, expelling the French and English men. As most of the Spanish army left for Hispaniola to root out French colonists there, the French returned to take the fort and expanded on the Spanish-built fortifications. In 1630, the French built Fort de Rocher in a natural harbour. From 1630 onward, the island of Tortuga was divided into French and English colonies allowing buccaneers, more commonly known as pirates, to use the island more frequently as their main base of operations. In 1633, the first slaves were imported from Africa to aid in the plantations. The new slave trend did not stick, and by 1635, the use of slaves had ended. The slaves were said to be out of control on the island, and at the same time there had been continual disagreements and fighting between French and English colonies. In that same year 1635, the Spanish returned and quickly conquered the English and French colonies, only to leave again, due to the island being too small to be of major importance. This abandoment of Tortuga allowed the return of both French and English pirates. Again in 1638, the Spanish returned to take the island and rid it of all French and newly settled Dutch. They occupied the island, but to their surprise were beaten back by the French and Dutch colonists who expelled the Spanish.
By 1640, the bucaneers of Tortuga were calling themselves the Brethren of the Coast. The pirate population was mostly made up of French and Englishmen, along with a small number of Dutchmen. In 1645, in an attempt to bring harmony and control over the island, the acting French governor imported roughly 1,650 prostitutes, hoping to regularize the unruly pirates' lives. By the year 1670, as the buccaneer era was in decline, most of the pirates, seeking a new source of trade, turned to log cutting and trading wood from the island. At this same time, an English pirate started to promote himself and invite the pirates on the island of Tortuga to set sail under him. They were hired out by the French as a striking force that allowed France to have a much stronger hold on the Caribbean region. Consequently, the pirates were never really controlled, and kept Tortuga as a neutral hideout for pirate booty. In 1680, new Acts of Parliament forbade sailing under foreign flags (in opposition to former practice). This was a major legal blow to Caribbean pirates. Settlements were finally made in the Treaty of Ratisbon of 1684, signed by the European powers, that put an end to piracy. Most of the pirates after this time were hired out into the Royal services to suppress their former buccaneer allies. Within a few years, the age of buccaneers had ended.
Articles in the Treaty of RatisbonEdit
Concerning the suppression of hostilities in the West Indies:
- 1. All hostilities shall cease on both sides, both by land and by sea and other waters, in all [the] kingdoms, countries, provinces, territories and dominions [of the high contracting parties] within Europe and without, both on this side of and beyond the Line, and everything shall be restored, on both sides, to the state established by the Peace of Nymegen . . .
- 5. His Most Christian Majesty [of France] shall also be obliged, after the delivery of the ratification by Spain, to recall his forces from the dominions of his Royal Catholic Majesty [of Spain], wherever situated . . .
- 10. His Sacred Imperial Majesty, both for himself and in the name of the Catholic King, as also his Most Christian Majesty, agree, that the Emperor, the entire Holy Roman Empire, the King of Great Britain, the States of the United Provinces, and finally all kings, princes, republics, and states, who may wish to enter into this engagement, shall promise both parties to undertake the guaranty of these treaties [i.e., the Treaty of Breda and Treaties of Nijmegen] for restoring and securing the good faith and universal tranquillity of the Christian world.