The Losing Side of War
It’s been a while since my last blog post, as I’m still attempting to readjust to being back in the endless, bitter winter of Chicago after my absolutely incredible trip to London. But, never fear, I have not forgotten our Henry Morgan even amidst such a busy semester (with a never ending to-do list)! In fact, Morgan has recently become my top priority, as I will be presenting my research on our illustrious Captain at both the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium and Loyola’s Weekend of Excellence Research Symposium. While the presentation is a work in progress, I have continued my research into the 17th century Atlantic World and Morgan’s contemporaries; this week, I focused on learning more about Sir Nicholas Crisp and the fate of many Royalists during the English Civil War, much of which may have impacted a young Henry Morgan’s family.
Sir Nicholas Crisp was a royalist, pioneer of the West Africa trade, member of the Council of Trade and Foreign Plantations, and a stockholder in the East India Company; essentially, he involved himself in every lucrative and influential facet of the growing system of transatlantic trade he could find in the early 17th century. As a member of the Company of Royal Adventurers, also known as the “Guinea Company,” Nicholas Crisp was just one of many royal favorites who received a 31-year monopoly over the transatlantic slave trade from King James I. Along with Martin Noell and Thomas Povey, two men who have been explored extensively in my research endeavors, Crisp was a stockholder and benefactor in the Company. Sir Crisp was granted a patent, or an exclusive right, from the King to trade slaves between Guinea and areas throughout the West Indies. Once the powerful figures in Whitehall realized how lucrative the slave trade would be, and how seemingly necessary it was to make English colonies and plantations successful, it granted exclusive rights of the trade to the Kings family and favorites (as detailed in the post regarding Thomas Povey and Martin Noell). In 1640, Sir Nicholas Crisp was knighted by Charles I for his service to the crown and involvement in the Company of Royal Adventures (probably a result of the amount of money he had raised for the King). Unfortunately for Crisp, the English Civil War broke out, and he was on the wrong side. He escaped London after being accused of “secret service” to the King, and was forced by Parliament to surrender his patent for slave trading in the West Indies.
In November 1653, Parliament passed “An Act for the Deafforestation, Sale and Improvement of the Forests and of the Honors, Manors, Lands, and Tenements and Hereditaments within the usual Limits and Perambulations of the same. Heretofore belonging to the late King, Queen, and Prince.” With an incredibly long and rambling title, the Act essentially seized all land, properties, and money belonging to the deposed King, his family, and Royalist favorites. These lands were to be redistributed to benefit the commonwealth; the benefit of the Commonwealth was interpreted as giving the lands and properties to Cromwell’s favorites. It was essentially the creation of a new system of hereditary inheritance based upon loyalties to the Interregnum government, stating, “It is hereby further Enacted, That the said Trustees, their Heirs and Assigns, shall have, hold and enjoy the premises, free and discharged from the payment of and from all maner of Tithes, in as large and ample maner, as the said King, Queen, and their eldest Son, or either of them respectively held… on the said Five and twentieth day of March, One thousand six hundred and forty one” (Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660).
The men to which these lands were granted were all Parliamentarians actively involved in Cromwell’s Interregnum government. Robert Aldworth, the elder, was a Bristol-born merchant who acquired a majority of his wealth through the slave trade, perhaps benefitting from the removal of a Royalist monopoly over the transatlantic slave trade held by the Company of Royal Adventurers. Aldworth began the sugar processing business in Bristol, known as “sugar houses,” refining sugar imported from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Brazil. The sugar Aldworth’s houses refined was harvested by African slaves; he was a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers, who would later successfully bring an end to the monopoly over slave trading the Royal African Company received from Charles II. His son, also named Robert Aldworth, was a member of the House of Commons in the First Protectorate Parliament under Oliver Cromwell between 1654 and 1660. In April of 1660, he became a member of the Convention Parliament, which held no allegiance to either the Commonwealth or the Monarchy. While this parliament was mainly Royalist, the Parliamentarian Aldworth successfully transitioned to the Restoration period of Charles II, continuing his political career. It was the Convention Parliament that proclaimed upon the Restoration of Charles II that he had been the lawful monarch since his fathers death in 1649, essentially ignoring the existence of the Interregnum period.
The Royalists named in this Act of Cromwell’s Parliament in 1653 were not so lucky as the aforementioned individuals; Sir John Jacob, Sir Job Harby, Sir Nicholas Crisp, and Sir John Harrison were forced to come up with a sum of £276,146 to be paid as a “Publique-Faith Debt,” an absolutely staggering figure considering a normal family would survive on far less than £100 pounds a year. In order to pay such a fine, which was coupled with an interest fee of £6 upon every £100 pounds still remaining in the debt, Sir Nicholas Crisp was forced to sell his lucrative share in the Company of Adventurers to pay his debts to Parliament and the Commonwealth. Sir John Harrison was fined £10, 745 for continuing to support a restoration of the rightful King during the Interregnum, and was removed from his seat in Parliament in September of 1643. Sir John Jacob’s lands were sequestered by Cromwell as a result of continued Royalist support.
Yet, the story does not end sadly for these men, as Charles II was gloriously restored to monarchial rule and crowned on April 23rd, 1661. Sir Nicholas Crisp, along with countless other Royalists, had continued to support Charles II throughout the Interregnum period. After fleeing to France following Charles I’s execution, Crisp continued to raise money for the royal cause. Along with other Royalist supporters, he had signed a declaration supporting General George Monck’s fight to restore the Stuart Monarchy; his son Christopher Monck would become Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica in 1687, a year before Henry Morgan’s death. Sir John Harrison was restored to his seat in Parliament, and served in the Cavalier Parliament until his death in 1669. Sir John Jacob was granted many titles and offices by the King in recognition of his Royalist support, eventually being made Baronet of Bromley.
Wherever Henry Morgan fits into this tumultuous and twisted story, he seems to be a man very much so like his contemporaries on both Royalist and Parliamentarian sides; he risked his life for a cause, yet the exact cause he fought for continues to be a mystery.