Jean Laffite and the Treaty of Ghent — Satirical Editorial of 1814
While angling in the old newspaper archives, the following wonderfully satirical editiorial about Jean Laffite and the War of 1812 Treaty of Ghent negotiations was discovered in the Nov. 11, 1814, issue of the Daily National Intelligencer of Washington, D.C. It was reprinted from the Weekly Aurora newspaper of Philadelphia, and the author was undoubtedly that paper’s editor, William Duane, given the style matches his. He was spurred to pen the piece in response to the news that Laffite had turned down the British in September when they sought his assistance and ships at Barataria. The editorial makes light of what might have happened if Laffite had joined the British.
“How unfortunate for the British Commissioners at Ghent, that the pirates of the island of Barataria refused the treaty of alliance and friendship offered to them by the gallant officer of his Britannic majesty! Had M. Lafitte accepted the generous offers of that worthy officer, Colonel Nicholls, and determined to fight for the cause of order and regular government, and the cause of morality and religion, in order to deliver the poor Americans from the tyrannical government under which they groan, the American Commissioners would have been furnished, at their next meeting, with a new sine qua non to an amicable adjustment. The independence of Barataria might have been insisted upon, & an acknowledgement, on our part, of this new power, would have been demanded; we should have been required to increase the Baratarian territory, and not to purchase an of their newly acquired lands, but to admit to an entry into our ports_to receive and pay for every kind of merchandize acquired by their laudable industry upon the high seas, which they would have been pleased to send to us.
Had our Commissioners rejected such moderate and honorable terms, my Lord Castlereagh’s friends amongst the friends of peace, would have, with great propriety, declaimed against an administration, which instead of accepting such a trifling condition, would prolong the horrors of such an impious and iniquitous war! The adhesion of these buccaneers to his Britannic majesty’s offers would have added a new sovereign to the list of deliverers of Europe and America, and in the Congress of Vienna: my Lord Castlereagh would have introduced Mr. Lafitte and the red chiefs Split Log and Walk-in-the-Water, with Ohee-go-ke-fus-kee_to their majesties the Emperors of Russia, Austria, and King of Prussia, as their worthy co-adjutors in the great work of the restoration of good order and government in both hemispheres. What a short sighted fellow that Monsieur Lafitte must have been! instead of opposing himself to the disagreeable risk of being hanged as a pirate, he would now be sovereign of Barataria, and an ally of the sovereign of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland! and perhaps might have had a Bible society in correspondence with the bench of bishops.”
Duane was known for writing lots of political editorials in his Jeffersonian publication. The Aurora editor would later receive and publish a letter to the editor from Jean Laffite in late 1815 when Laffite was seeking restitution in Washington for the goods and ships taken in the raid on Barataria on Sept. 16, 1814. Duane was a sympathizer to the Carthagenian privateers, and in the 1820s even went to Colombia in person. Laffite seems to have read the Aurora frequently, so one has to wonder if he ever read the humorous editorial about himself.