Return to Laffite Home PageBecome a Laffite Society MemberLaffite Society OfficersLaffite Society ChronicalsLaffite Society Books and LinksLaffite FAQLaffite Timeline
 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
GENERAL QUESTIONS

1. Q: Has Jean's treasure ever been found?

A: No. Pirate treasure is a myth. It is extremely unlikely that the Laffites ever buried or hid away any great sum of money: given the ever-changing morphology of the Gulf Coast environment, barrier islands, bayous, cheniers, and the mouths of rivers are not good places for burying cash or booty--[Vogel.] [Privateers and pirates were notoriously profligate, like most criminals and people on the shady side of the law. What they got they spent rather quickly. Few if any ever retired to live comfortable lives, and legend and fiction to the contrary, the idea of a pirate taking a hoard of booty and then burying it is about as remote from reality as a bank robber today taking his loot and putting it into a savings account. Note that Pierre was more than once in hiding from debt collectors, and had to declare bankruptcy. The Patterson-Ross raid of 1814 cleaned them out, and later when the Laffites abandoned Galveston in 1820 they were all but broke. --William C. Davis.] [Pirate treasure is, indeed still being found today (though in small amounts and infrequently) and it is difficult to identify who left it. One other difficulty with such loot is that those finding it are fearful that they will have difficulty with heirs and the legal system if they claim it. They also will have to pay taxes on it, so they hide their find and sell it on the still active underground market. Pirates were likely to have buried any treasure they had under duress and not very skillfully. Later organizations such as the Knights of the Golden Circle buried more treasure and buried it more systematically.--Ed.]

2. Q: How many languages did Jean speak?

A: The mythical Jean Laffite was fluent in several languages, in addition to being handsome, brave, and sexy. As a matter of historical record, he and his brother Pierre spoke and wrote in standard French. They were conversant in English and probably Spanish as well, but neither left any documents written in a language other than French: even when corresponding privately with American and Spanish authorities, they composed their communications in French--[Vogel.] [Agree that in addition to fluency in their native tongue, French, the Laffites also spoke English. We have more than one contemporary account of them speaking it, though with a heavy accent. They probably spoke Spanish as well, and maybe some Italian. The more interesting question related to their literacy. Certainly they could read English and French, or have it read to them. But could they write? more than 70 surviving signatures by Pierre and something over 20 by Jean attest that they could sign their names. However, their surviving letters-especially those in English--all appear to have been written by someone else, and only signed by them, suggesting a secretary of some kind. Still both could probably write French at least. Jean kept a diary for his Spanish employers during his reconnaissance of Arkansas and Texas. (The diary does not seem to survive in the original, only in a contemporary transcript, probably a translation from French into Spanish). It seems logical that he had to be able to write to keep a diary.--William C. Davis.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Q: What was life like for Jean on Galveston Island?

A: From the time he first arrived at Galveston in March, 1817, until he abandoned the place in May, 1820, Galveston Island was a wilderness and living conditions must have been hard. By all accounts, the Galvestoneers were a motley crew with many hard cases. The "town" of "Campeachy" (another myth) was never anything more than a ramshackle collection of huts and tents. Communication with the outside world was irregular and maritime facilities were primitive--[Vogel.]