The island of Tortuga, off the northern coast of Hispaniola, was first settled in 1625 by the French and English. The Spanish expelled the settlers forcibly in 1635 and again in 1654. However, after the Spanish garrison was withdrawn in the wake of the English attack on Santo Domingo in 1655, the French returned and thrived. Gradually, settlement spread to the mainland; Petit Goave was founded in 1659 and Léogane in 1663.
Governor Pierre-Paul Tarin de Cussy defeating the Spanish, from: Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix. Histoire de l'Isle espagnole ou de S Domingue. Paris: chez François Barois, 1730-1 [FCO Historical Collection F1911 CHA]In 1664 Louis XIV granted the French West India Company the western end of Hispaniola. Bertrand d’Ogeron was appointed the nascent colony’s governor and over the next eleven years turned it into a fully functioning French colony.
D’Ogeron encouraged the buccaneers who inhabited the mainland and who had previously made a living by hunting wild cattle and pigs to grow tobacco or cut mahogany. He also attracted settlers from Martinique and Guadeloupe to come and set up plantations to grow cotton, indigo and sugar.
Under the Treaty of Ryswick (1687), which ended the Nine Years’ War, the Spanish ceded the western end of the island to France. In the early eighteenth century the colony, fuelled by slave labour, developed rapidly and by the middle of the eighteenth century sugar production in the colony equalled those of all Britain’s West Indian colonies combined.
The early progress of the colony was not entirely smooth, however, and it suffered both English and Spanish aggression. The illustration shown here depicts Governor Pierre-Paul Tarin de Cussy defeating the Spanish in a pre-emptive attack on the border town of Santiago de los Caballeros in 1690. On 6 July of that year he entered the town at the head of an army of 1,400 men and burnt it to the ground.
In this exhibition
- The challenge to Spain
- International rivalry
- Indigenous peoples
- Revolts and revolution
- The road to emancipation in the British colonies
- The 'mighty experiment': Britain's Caribbean colonies after emancipation
- Natural history
- Nineteenth century Caribbean colonial life