Monday, August 25, 2014

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan died 326 years ago today!

Those of us lucky enough to carry around mental images of famous pirates will usually recall Henry Morgan (the famous buccaneer for whom the rum brand is named) in his later years. Portly and dressed in the dandiest of fashions as the lieutenant governor of Jamaica, he seems a far cry from the stories carried through the years of his exploits.
But Morgan was a very physical man, and was a lot more than a pirate - he was a military genius who likely carries as much responsibility for the way things played out in our corner of the world as George Washington.
At a time when Spain dominated everything West of the Atlantic, Morgan (first under Commodore Mings, then to a much greater degree on his own) found chinks in the armor of the Spanish trade monopoly and ruthlessly exploited them.
In his 20s he personally led large bands of men through hundreds of miles of seemingly impenetrable jungle to attack rich Spanish towns, choosing his targets with precision and strategy and rarely losing men in battle, amassing huge fortunes and putting into place a community and methods that would eventually destroy Spain's stranglehold on the economy of the New World, making English trade, and eventually the US, possible.
We can learn a lot about the inevitable dangers of exclusion rather than incorporation from Spain's mismanagement of the Americas under Philip IV and how other societies (including our own) might suffer from similar policies, but that's boring!

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