Ancient history

Lafitte, Jean

LAFFITE, Jean. Possibly born in 1780 in Bayonne like his older brother and partner, Pierre (1776? - 1841?),

Jean Lafitte (1774 - 1858) was a pirate scouring the Gulf of Mexico at the beginning of the 19th century. He created his own Kingdom of Barataria in the swamps and bayous near New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. He is said to have commanded over 5,000 men, whom he incidentally provided as troops for the Battle of New Orleans (1815). He took part in the slave trade, when it had been banned.

Lafitte had a colorful character. He was born in Saint Seurin, near Gradignan in Aquitaine (France) on November 22, 1774. He left France during the Terror (circa 1793-1794) probably for economic reasons, and found his brother Pierre in the Caribbean in order to make a fortune there (actually in 1809). He engages in smuggling and piracy, operating in the name of his Kingdom of Barataria, thereby not recognizing the sovereignty of any other nation. Because of his so-called Portuguese (?) Jewish origin, he said he was an enemy of Spain and the Inquisition.

In 1806 (in fact Pierre arrived around 1804, and Jean joined him in 1809), Jean and Pierre settled in Barataria near Louisiana recently sold by Napoleon to the Americans in November 1803. this territory does not become a state in its own right and the Lafitte brothers will take advantage of these institutional and legal voids to develop a parallel economy. Barataria is a difficult-to-reach territory made up of several islands all suitable for hiding his bases, his naval fleet and the “contraband products”:the slaves he stole from the Spaniards.

Jean Lafitte is the lover of one of Louisiana's most beautiful women, Catherine Villard (and her brother Pierre de Marie Villard, Catherine's sister, both mixed-race). He is also very popular in Louisiana because he sells products that the whole society buys.

In 1812, England returned to war against the young United States, thirty years after the War of Independence. The US military is weak. Lafitte, with 500 of these men and his many cannons stolen from the Spanish, are much courted by both sides. Jean Lafitte will take a stand against the English. On January 8, 1815, Lafitte's guns would help kill 3,000 English and 1,000 missing at the Battle of Chalmette near New Orleans (only less than 100 Americans killed and three of Lafitte's men!). This battle allows Jean Lafitte to become a hero even if this victory remains useless insofar as the English and Americans had signed a peace treaty two weeks earlier in Europe but the news of it took time to reach the country. other side of the Atlantic.

Jean Lafitte commanded a hundred boats with 5000 men.

Jean Lafitte, who became an American war hero, remains above all a smuggler. He decides to leave American Louisiana to settle in Galveston in Spanish Texas in the grip of anarchy until 1821 in order to continue his traffics. He takes a stand for the independence of Mexico and works at the same time for the Spaniards. This double game will allow him to continue his business until 1820, when he leaves Galveston and his trace is lost (he will return to France for the first time in 1817 for a while, then definitively in 1824).

End of life

Pierre died of an acute fever in the Yucatán in 1821. In 1823, Jean Lafitte became a corsair of the young Republic of Colombia which had just freed itself from Spain. Reputed to have died in 1824 during one of his attacks, he did not actually die until 1858. Before leaving to join his brother Pierre in 1809, he married Madeleine Elizabeth Rosalie Roux (February 10, 1789 - September 24, 1859) whom he already had three children:Jean born in 1803, Jean Edouard born in 1807 and Désirée born in 1809. Then, Lafitte returned to France for the first time in 1817 and had his third son Constant Joseph Edouard born in 1817. He returned to the Americas and returned permanently in France in 1824 where he has four other children born between 1824 and 1830 including Joseph Alexis born in 1824 who is the great-grandfather of one of the current generations.

Before 1809 he sailed and lived in Mauritius and India where he traded in blacks.

In 1839 Jean Lafitte returned to Louisiana and to the various places where he had exercised his activity as a "buccaneer" and made a trip to his past.

In 1852, he wrote his will, which has fifty pages!

On March 14, 1858, he died in Gradignan, Aquitaine (France) where he had bought a castle that is now destroyed.

As for his alleged deaths in 1824 and 1826, it was he who spread these rumors because wanted by the Americans and the Spaniards of Cuba from where he had escaped from prison.

Lafitte and his brother Pierre had amassed an immense fortune during their stay in the Americas; unfortunately having fallen into disgrace, the Americans would have threatened to confiscate all his rights and his property, he will probably have buried his loot in the depths of the bayous deemed inexpensable. Some still today are looking for Lafitte's "treasure".

A controversial manuscript, known as Jean Laffite's Journal, recounts how, after his death was announced in the 1820s (some say 1826), he is said to have lived in several states in the United States, raised a family, and written this journal. At his request, the publication of the newspaper would have been delayed for 100 years. In the 1950s, the journal was translated from French and published. The original manuscript was purchased by Price Daniel, Governor of Texas, and is now on display at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Archives, Liberty, Texas.

There are legends that Lafitte returned to Europe, met Karl Marx and financed the publication of his manifesto. He would even have had the project of delivering Napoleon to Saint Helena with ten of his ships and 500 men, which would no doubt have been a fairly easy task given that the English garrison only consisted of some ten men, but the English having got wind of the project, Lafitte had given it up, etc. All these stories are indicative of the spirit of camaraderie that reigned between the pirates.

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