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Jan Janszoon

Found in: The Turkish abductions

Jan Janszoon van Haarlem (circa 1570 - post 1641) was a Dutch pirate also known as Murat Reis the Younger. His Dutch names are also given as Jan Jansen and Jan Jansz; his adopted name as Morat Rais, Murat Rais, Morat; Little John Ward, John Barber, Captain John, Caid Morato were some of his pirate names.


Jan Janszoon began as a Dutch privateer sailing from his home port, Haarlem, in the Netherlands, harassing Spanish shipping during the Eighty Years' War. Working from the Netherlands was insufficiently profitable, so Janszoon found his way to the semi-independent port states of the lawless Barbary Coast of north Africa, whence he could attack ships of every foreign state: when he attacked a Spanish ship, he flew the Dutch flag; when he attacked any other, he flew the red half-moon of the Turks or the flag of any of various other Mediterranean principalities.

Janszoon finally was captured in 1618 at Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, by Barbary corsairs and taken to Algiers as a captive. There he turned "Turk", or Muslim . The Ottoman Turks maintained a precarious measure of influence on behalf of their Sultan by openly encouraging the local Berber communities to advance themselves through piracy against the European powers, which long were opposed to the Ottoman Sultan and empire. After Janszoon's conversion to Islam and the ways of his captives, he sailed with the famous Corsair Sulayman Rais, also known as Slemen Reis and with Simon de Danser. But, because Algeria had concluded peace with several European nations, it was no longer a suitable harbor from which to sell captured ships or their cargo. So, after Sulayman Rais died in 1619, Janszoon moved to the ancient port of Sale and began operating from it as a Barbary corsair himself.

The Sale fleet totaled about eighteen ships, all small because of the very shallow harbor entrance. The port was nominally subject to the Sultanate of Morocco, but (as Sale had become very prosperous through piracy), shortly after Janszoons arrival, the pirates decided to declare Sale an independent republic governed by fourteen pirate warlords and an elected president who was also the Admiral of the piratical navy; the other pirates elected Janszoon their first president. Even the Sultan of Morocco, after an unsuccessful siege of the place, acknowledged its semi-autonomy. The main sources of income of this republic remained piracy and its by-trades, shipping and dealing in stolen property.

Shortly afterward, Janszoon married a Moorish woman of African Berber origin, by whom he fathered several children. Most famous were the notorious Abraham Jansz and Anthony Jansen van Salee. Both followed their fathers double life as a pirate and adventurer, and both later chose to join the early settlers of New Amsterdam (later the city of New York) in the New World. Anthony Jansen van Salee's famous descendants include Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jackie Kennedy, and Humphrey Bogart.

In 1622, Janszoon and his crews sailed into the English Channel with no particular plan but to try their luck there. When they ran low on supplies they docked at the port of Veere, Zealand, under the Moroccan flag, claiming diplomatic privileges from his official role as Admiral of Morocco (a very loose term in the environment of North African politics). The Dutch authorities could not deny the two ships access to Veere because, at the time, several peace treaties and trade agreements existed between the Sultan of Morocco and the Dutch Republic. During his anchorage there, the Dutch authorities brought to the port Janszoon's Dutch first wife and his Dutch children to persuade him to give up piracy; the authorities did the same to many of the pirate crews, but they were completely unsuccessful in persuasion: Janszoon and his crews left port not only intact but with many new Dutch volunteers despite a Dutch prohibition of piracy.

In 1624, Janszoon was appointed governor of Sale as Sultan Moulay Zaydan of Morocco tried to impose his sovereignty over the area. Janszoon had become very rich from his income as pirate Admiral, payments for anchorage and other harbor dues, and the brokerage on stolen goods. He would become bored by his new official duties from time to time and again sail away as a pirate.

In 1627, Janszoon hired a Danish slave (most likely a crew member captured on a Danish ship taken as a pirate prize) to pilot him and his men to Iceland, where they raided the Danish city of Reykjavik. Initially they managed to steal only some salted fish and a few hides, so they decided to make the raid profitable by kidnapping more than four hundred Icelanders to sell into slavery in Algiers (Mamluks and the Ottoman Sultans formed a ready market in north Africa for much-desired European slaves) or back to the Danish government for ransom. This raid became known in Iceland as "The Turkish abductions". In the harbor of the capital, he attacked a ship and captured several of its crew. On the way back to Morocco, Janszoon also took a Dutch vessel and seized more unfortunates, also destined for sale into slavery in Sale.

The political climate in Sale worsened toward the end of 1627, so Janszoon quietly moved his family and his entire piratical operation back to semi-independent Algiers.

Janszoon sailed for England and Ireland in 1631. He landed there with his men and seized about two hundred men who were later sold as slaves in Algiers.

Janszoon sacked Baltimore, a small town in West Cork, Ireland, on June 20, 1631, seizing little more than 108 persons whom he doomed to be sold as slaves in north Africa, some to live out short lives as galley slaves, others to spend long years in the seclusion of the harem or within the walls of the Sultan's palace. The raiders had been led to Baltimore by a fisherman they had captured earlier: he traded his help for his freedom, but lost his life when, shortly after the sack, he was arrested and hanged for his crime. Only two of the Irish villagers ever saw their homeland again.

Sometime between 1631 and 1640, Janszoon was surprised and captured by the Knights of Malta, who held him until he escaped in 1640. He returned to Morocco and was appointed governor of the great fortress of Oualidia, near Safi, Morocco. In December, 1640, a ship arrived with a new Dutch consul, who brought Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem, Janszoons daughter by his first, Dutch wife, to visit her father. Lysbeth stayed with her father until August, 1641, when she returned to Holland. Little is known of Janszoon thereafter; he likely retired at last from both public life and piracy. The date of his death remains unknown.

It is also rumoured he smuggled an earlier version of the kilner jar to the americas to help feed the first founders during the long winter and settled there.

See also

The Turkish abductions

Sack of Baltimore

http://www.geocities.com/tokyo/garden/5213/janszoon.htm (Short biography by Dutch historian Mark Bruyneel)

http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~windmill/html/murad%20reis.html (Biography and illustrated historical background information)

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Jan Janszoon