The Republic of Salé

The Republic of Salé was an independent corsair city-state on the Moroccan coast. It was a major piratical port during its brief existence in the 17th century.

 The port city of Salé was a walled city which acted as the chief port and commercial center of medieval Morocco. During the 16th century and into the seventeenth, it became home to many religious refugees from Spain, and attracted the attention of Barbary pirates. The gated harbor was extremely desirable to the pirates. It was a port of call for European traders, and home to many artists, intellectuals, and religious leaders. It ended up being controlled by the Sultan of Morocco, after 1668, when Moulay al Rashid finally vanquished the Dilaites.

In 1619, the infamous Salé Rovers, a dreaded band of Barbary pirates, declared Salé to be an independent republic free from the Sultan. They set up a government that consisted of 14 pirate leaders, and elected one as their President, who would also serve as the Grand Admiral of their navy. Their first President and Grand Admiral was Jan Janszoon, who led until 1627.

In 1624, the Moroccan Sultan Zidan Abu Maali attempted to reclaim sovereignty of Salé by laying siege to it, but his efforts were eventually repelled. To obtain some satisfaction of sovereignty over the area, he appointed Salé's President as his acting Governor of the area, although it was only ceremonial.The republic would pay the Sultan for his non-interference in their future affairs.


The republic became very prosperous and wealthy because of their main sources of income—piracy and shipping. Plundered gold, silver, spices, silks, fabrics, slaves, and many other items of value were brought back to the city-state by the pirates after raids on European shipping vessels and towns. Janszoon was credited for the business growth in the republic because of his intelligence and courage. Between 1618-1626, it was estimated that the pirates operating out of the Bou Regreg corsair republics, which included Salé and Rabat, plundered 6,000 prisoners and £15 million worth of goods, which if based on 2% inflation starting in 1750, would be equivalent to over £2 billion today.

In 1627, following a heated political situation, Janszoon left for Algiers, and Rabat and Salé merged to form the Republic of Bou Regreg. During this period much of the profit returned to the republic was eventually absorbed by the government, leading to its decline. In 1641, the zawiya of Dila, which controlled much of Morocco, imposed a religious hegemony over Salé and its parents republic.By the early 1660s, the republic was embroiled in civil war with the zawiya, and eventually Sultan Al-Rashid of Morocco of the Alaouite dynasty, who still rule Morocco into the 21st century, would seize the republic by force, ending its independence.

Posted by Under The Black Flag on 9:33 π.μ.. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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