Biography of Famous Pirate Captain Kidd Part 1

About the famous Scottish pirate Captain Kidd, history and biography of the man.


CAPTAIN WILLIAM KIDD (1645?-1701), Pirate

Songs, legends, and melancholy ballads have pictured Capt. William Kidd as a cruel, cutlass-wielding pirate. Biographers portray him as a person you wouldn't want to meet on a dark night. In recent years, researchers fitting together the pieces of the puzzle of Kidd's life have discovered that, although no saint, Kidd was a victim of intrigue and a bad press.

The date and place of his birth are debatable, but he was born around 1645 somewhere in Scotland, possibly Greenock. As a young man he went to sea. In 1690 he settled in New York, then an English colony, Kidd, a bluff man given to salty language, no doubt felt most at home among the scarlet-sashed pirates who strutted on the quays, but he also made friends among the town's leading citizens.

During the War of the League of Augsberg between France and England, Kidd served his king with credit in the West Indies. He also chased French vessels off the coast of America and helped quell a rebellion. For this the New York Assembly awarded him pound 150 and cited him as a gentlemanly and clever man.

After his marriage to Sarah Oort, a wealthy widow, Kidd built a mansion for her and their daughter, Elizabeth. Membership in Trinity Church, participation in local politics, honesty in business dealings--all added up to a reputation as a solid, popular citizen.

By 1695 Kidd captained a small fleet of trading vessels. That year, hoping to win command of one of His Majesty's ships, he sailed to London. He did not get the commission, but the Earl of Bellamont, slated to go to America as a governor, offered Kidd an alternative. The earl and New York lawyer Robert Livingston, then visiting in London, explained to Kidd that British vessels were being seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean. However, because of the latest war with France, the Admiralty couldn't spare ships to make the trading lanes safe.

Bellamont and Livingston, backed by such prestigious persons as the Lord of the Admiralty and King William himself, planned to set up a private syndicate to make war on pirates. If Kidd would serve as a pirate hunter, he would be given a ship and crew.

In December, 1695, Kidd received a royal commission, the first part of which authorized him to seize vessels belonging to the French king or his subjects. The second part legalized the capture of pirates. Kidd was to report to Bellamont in Boston by the spring of 1697 and bring with him any confiscated cargoes.

Right from the start, everything went wrong for Kidd. Pirates in the Indian Ocean eluded him. His 34-gun galley, the Adventure, leaked and became fouled with weeds and worms. Many of his men died from cholera.

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