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Captain Kidd

There is much doubt today that William Kidd was ever a pirate. Measured by his deeds, or misdeeds, on the high seas, certainly he would not rank with the top one hundred pirates in history. Yet more words have been printed about this much maligned man than any other captain in the trade.
  In reality, it would appear that Kidd was a privateer rather than a pirate. At fifty he was a successful, respected sea captain, living with his family in a fine brick house in New York. The prosperous owner of several merchant ships, he entertained no ambitions toward the life of a buccaneer. England was suffering from pirate raids on English merchant vessels in the Red Sea. The nation was also engaged in war with France, and could not spare the warships to suppress this threat to her prosperity. A number of prominent Englishmen provided the financial backing for a n expedition to crush the Red Sea pirates, expecting to make a nice profit from the sale of goods taken from the renegades. One of the chief promoters of this expedition was Lord Bellomont, soon to be governor of New York. The list of those who invested money included the names of the Lord High Chancellor of England, the First Lord of Admirallity, two of the King's Secretaries of State, and a number of less important dignitaries. Even the King, William III, was to receive ten percent of any proceeds from the voyage. Captain Kidd was selected to command, and receive a commission as a privateer.

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Scottish-born William Kidd was a New York businessman sent to the Indian Ocean to hunt Avery and his colleagues. However, under pressure from his crew, Kidd committed several acts of piracy himself. On his return, Kidd was tried and hanged as a pirate.

In 1696 Kidd set sail in the thirty-four gun "Adventure Galley." Two vessels were captured which were sailing under French passes, or permits. These were considered legal prizes of war, because of the war between France and England. When Kidd returned, it was not to share in any profit but to discover that he had been charged with piracy. Taken back to England in chains, his case became a political football. Certain elements were attempting to turn a number of his financial backers out of public office, and Kidd's trial provided a method by which they could be discredited. Even then, he was not convicted of piracy, but for killing a mutinous seaman by striking him on the head with a water bucket. As captain of the ship, Kidd had every right to discipline a member of the crew, but this was not considered in the verdict. After he was hanged on May 23, 1701, his body was hung up in chains as a grisly warning to other mariners. Although Captain Kidd does not fall within any list of Carolina pirates, it has seemed appropriate to clear up the many misconceptions so long associated with his career. As was stated at his trial, Kidd was "the innocentest of them all...." Yet few of the Carolina pirates, who were much more active in the bloody business, ever achieved his fame.

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Kidd's body hanging in an iron cage as a warning to other seaman contemplating pirate life. His body was tarred in order to preserve it as long as possible.

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