Republican Privateering in the Revolutionary Caribbean
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:30 PM
Room 402 (Colorado Convention Center)
A few decades after a bloody civil war had disrupted the British Empire and the Thirteen Colonies had won their independence, a different kind of revolutionary movement swept through the Atlantic world. These revolutionary currents hit both the Spanish and the Portuguese Americas and led to prolonged struggles for independence in the first decades of the nineteenth century. As it became clear that Lisbon and Madrid would not be able to win back their erstwhile colonies by military force alone, a different kind of battle played out over international recognition. The theater in which claims to sovereignty were made and battles over independence were fought was not just the European one, but also the greater Caribbean region. Here the revolutionary entrepreneurs of Latin America operated in a complex space of intercolonial politics and overlapping sovereignties, in which regional actors and networks were more than willing to engage with and profit off of the continued struggles for recognition. A key military and political tool used by these republican revolutionaries was privateering.
This paper attempts to examine this new wave of privateering, its consequences for inter-colonial politics, and the way it was treated in the regional public sphere by focusing the lens on a single revealing case - that of the schooner Las Damas Argentinas and her unfortunate crew. When one crewmember, Jean Jayet de Beaupré, was arrested on the Danish island of St. Thomas a complicated web began to unravel, spanning from Latin American revolutionaries to shady Caribbean financiers and local European governors. While both captain and crew soon found themselves hanging from the gallows of St. Thomas and St. Eustatius, their financial backers managed to escape in the midst of a heated war of words waged in the local newspapers.