Nicholas van Hoorn
The pirate Nicholas van Hoorn (Vlissingen c. 1635 – buried 24 June 1683, Isla Mujeres) was born in the Netherlands and died near Vera Cruz, Mexico. Nikolaas or Klaas was engaged in the Dutch merchant service from about 1655 until 1659, and then bought a vessel with his savings. With a band of reckless men whom he had enlisted, he became a terror to the commerce of the Netherlands. Later he had several ships in his employment and obtained such notoriety that some governments were willing to employ him against their enemies.
Van Hoorn the privateer
In 1666 a French minister sent Van Hoorn a commission, empowering him to pursue and capture Spanish vessels. As he was uniformly successful, he amassed enormous sums. After the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668), it was expected that he would cease ravaging the American coast - but the French government, while openly disowning their champion, secretly connived at his misdeeds. He made the mistake of pillaging a French ship, but after an unsuccessful attempt to take him was made in 1663, he no longer attacked the French flag.
Learning that several Spanish galleons were waiting in the harbour of Puerto Rico for a convoy, he entered the harbour and offered his services to the governor. He put forward his recent quarrel with the French, and declared that his only chance of safety was in the protection of the King of Spain. The governor allowed the galleons to leave port under the protection of Van Hoorn, but, as soon as they were outside of the Antilles, they were attacked by the flotilla of the buccaneer, who gained over 2,000,000 livres by the adventure.
Van Hoorn the pirate
At the very end of 1682, a curious vessel made its appearance in the Caribbean. It was the Saint Nicholas's Day, ordered by Nicolas Van Hoorn. This vessel, in the armament of which the commander of the Dover Castle took part, had left England the previous year, intending to trade with the Spaniards in Cadiz then in America. Nicolas Porcio, who was one of the holders of Asiento - a royal licence granting the monopoly of the draft of the slaves in the Spanish colonies - had apparently promised to obtain for Van Hoorn the permission to sell him Africans in Spanish America.
Van Hoorn was then transformed into a true pirate. He started a voyage of plundering along the coasts of Western Africa expecting to be supplied with slaves, as the depositions of four of his men reveal. These depositions, taken in front of Reginald Wilson, the naval officer of Port Royal, were transmitted by the governor of Jamaica, Sir Thomas Lynch to the secretary of the committee for the Trade and the Plantations, William Blathwayt, with his letter of March 4, 1683.
Indeed, before the arrival of Van Hoorn in America, the English colonial authorities had been informed of his piracies in Africa, and - more serious - the fact that the Saint Nicholas's Day had openly broken with its British ship-owners to act on Van Hoorn's own account. Thus, cruising against the forbans of the Antilles on order of the Governor Lynch, Jamaican captain George Johnson fell on Van Hoorn, in December 1682, but could not demand any account nor explanation. The president of the royal audiencia of Santo Domingo indeed prohibited Johnson from any contact with Van Hoorn. The reason was simple: the president retained the Saint Nicholas's Day, for a flight made from Cadiz by his captain, for whom what remained in African slaves was confiscated. All this made Van Hoorn determined to gain the French part of the Hispaniola Island, to take a commission from its governor Pouançey and to assemble the famous forwarding of Vera Cruz.
Van Hoorn was engaged with Laurens de Graaf and Michel de Grammont in the capture of Vera Cruz in 1683. The division of the spoil led to a duel between Hoorn and de Graaf, which was fought on the shores of the bay of San Sacrifield, 8–10 km from Vera Cruz. Van Hoorn was seriously wounded in his arm. After he had returned to his ship, the extreme heat, combined with the absence of surgical aid and his passion for drink, soon ended his life.
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- P.R.O. Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series: America and West Indies, 1681-1685: no. 1163.