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Later, in return for a legal pardon for the smugglers, Lafitte and his comrades helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in the final battle of the War of 1812.The Lafittes became spies for the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence and moved to Galveston Island, Texas, where they developed a pirate colony they called Campeche.His reading and writing abilities, therefore, remain unclear.During his life he acted as a soldier, sailor, diplomat, merchant, and much more demonstrating natural gifts for leadership.In approximately 1784, his mother married Pedro Aubry - a New Orleans merchant - and kept Jean with her.Pierre was raised by extended family elsewhere in Louisiana.Lafitte claimed to have been born in Bordeaux, France, in 1780 from Sephardic Jewish parents whose Conversos grandmother and mother fled Spain for France in 1765, after his maternal grandfather was put to death by the Inquisition for "Judaizing". Ramsay says, "this was a convenient time to be a native of France, a claim that provided protection from the enforcement of American law".

He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used "Lafitte".This was problematic for New Orleans merchants, who had relied heavily on trade with Caribbean colonies of other nations.The Lafitte brothers began to look for another port from which they could smuggle goods to local merchants.He was evidently able to speak English reasonably well and most likely had a working knowledge of Spanish.No samples of his writing survive, except his signature; his surviving letters were always written by a secretary.Families with the surname Lafitte have been found in Louisiana documents dating as early as 1765.According to Ramsay, Lafitte, his elder brother Pierre, and his widowed mother migrated from Saint-Domingue to New Orleans in the 1780s.Jean Lafitte was likely born in 1782, although he was not baptized until 1786.Pierre Lafitte had one other child, also named Pierre, from his first marriage to Marie La Grange, who died in childbirth. Davis places Lafitte's brother Pierre in Saint-Domingue in the late 1790s and the early 19th century.By 1805, he operated a warehouse in New Orleans to help disperse the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre Lafitte.After the United States government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana.

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