Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Laurent, Cornelius Baldran

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LAURENT, Cornelius Baldran (also called De Graff), Dutch buccaneer, b. in Dordrecht, Holland, in the latter half of the 17th century. He was at first in the Spanish service and fought against the buccaneers, but, having been captured by the latter, joined them and soon became one of their chiefs. He excited such terror in the Spanish-American colonies that a prayer was inserted in the public service asking to be delivered from the wrath of “Laurencillo,” the name by which he was known among the Spaniards. In 1683 there were about 1,200 buccaneers under the joint command of Laurent and Van de Horn (q. v.). They had altogether seven vessels fully armed. Laurent and Horn commanded each a frigate of fifty guns. With this force they sailed to Vera Cruz, surprised the city during the night, took the principal inhabitants prisoners, and held them for ransom. A rescue was attempted by forces from the interior, and the buccaneers were forced to abandon some of their captives, though they succeeded in getting more than 1,000 on board their vessels. Then a dispute arose on the subject of a division of the booty, which amounted to over $1,000,000, and a duel was fought between Horn and Laurent, resulting in the wounding of the former. The quarrel of the chiefs soon spread among the sailors, who would have come to blows if Laurent had not hastened to share the booty and prisoners among them. He then set sail with the greater part of the ships and arrived at Goave, on the west coast of Santo Domingo. The expedition to Vera Cruz having taken place in spite of the prohibition of the French government, Laurent, although well received by the inhabitants of Santo Domingo, was not allowed to appear in public. He resumed his operations in 1684, and took two frigates and a sloop off Carthagena on 23 Dec. He was then intrusted by the governor of Santo Domingo with the task of transporting the royal commissioner to the Windward islands. From 1685 till 1688 he was engaged in various enterprises both in the Antilles and on the Atlantic coast. The king of France made him governor of Avache island, and he also received orders to attack the pirates that were ravaging the southern coast of Santo Domingo. He discharged this duty with a firmness and justice that gained him the respect of the Spaniards and English, and in a short time the territory under his control grew populous and prosperous. In 1691 trouble arose in the colony of Santo Domingo, and Laurent was summoned to its defence in 1692. He raised a body of over 2,000 of his followers, and the mere rumor of his approach caused the Spaniards to retreat after advancing within fifteen leagues of the cape. In 1693 he rendered still more important services to the colony, which was again threatened by the Spaniards. When Jamaica was attacked in 1694, Laurent, sword in hand, carried the important post of Ouatirou and was instrumental in the success of the French. The English now united with the Spaniards, and, a united attack being made on several points in Santo Domingo, Laurent, who was now lieutenant of the king, was charged with the defence of Port-du-Paix and the interior of the country. On this occasion he exhibited an indolence by which his enemies profited. The cape was taken and the French army obliged to retreat from Port-du-Paix. Laurent's wife fell into the hands of the Spaniards, who held her prisoner for many years in Santo Domingo, and released her only on the reiterated demands of the court of France. Although Laurent was intrusted with other missions, his conduct in the affair of Port-du-Paix finally lost him his post; but he was appointed captain of a frigate, and was frequently employed in piloting fleets in the Gulf of Mexico and the Antilles on account of his knowledge of these seas.