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(also filibuster, buccaneer), a sea-going pirate who in the 17th century plundered mainly Spanish ships and colonies in the Americas.
In the 1620’s freebooters controlled the island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts), which became their first base of operations, and in the 1630’s they controlled part of Hispaniola. The freebooters were predominantly English, French, and Dutch. England and France made use of the freebooters in their rivalry with Spain for conquest in the colonies. In 1671, under the leadership of the Englishman H. Morgan, they captured the city of Panama and proceeded to attack the Spanish holdings along the entire Pacific coast. In the 1680’s freebooters captured and plundered Veracruz and several other cities in Mexico, as well as several cities in Peru. The depredations of the freebooters helped weaken the ties between Spain and her American colonies and seriously damaged her maritime power.
In the 19th century the term “filibusters” was applied to North American adventurers who attacked the countries of South and Central America—for example, W. Walker’s incursions in the 1850’s into Mexico and the countries of Central America.