William Kidd

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William "Captain" Kidd (c. 1645 – May 23, 1701)[1] was a Scottish sailor remembered for his trial and execution for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd's fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial. His actual depredations on the high seas, whether piratical or not, were both less destructive and less lucrative than those of many other contemporary pirates and privateers.

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Biography

Captain William Kidd was either one of the most notorious pirates in history, or one of its most unjustly vilified and prosecuted privateers in an age typified by the rationalization of empire. Despite the legends and fiction surrounding this character, his actual career was punctuated by only a handful of skirmishes followed by a desperate quest to clear his name.

Kidd was born in Greenock, Scotland in 1645. He is also said, in the book American Folklore and Legend, to be from a family of Cornish gold-miners. According to myth or other stories, his "father was thought to have been a Church of Scotland minister."[2][3] After the death of his father, when he was five years old, Kidd moved to the colony of New York. It was here that he befriended many prominent colonial citizens, including three governors. There is some information that suggests he was a seaman's apprentice on a pirate ship much earlier than his own more famous pirating.

The first records of his life date from 1689, when he was about 44 years old and a member of a French-English pirate crew that sailed in the Caribbean. Kidd and other members of the crew mutinied, ousted the captain of the ship, and sailed to the English colony of Nevis. There they renamed the ship the Blessed William. Kidd became captain, either the result of an election of the ship's crew or because of appointment by Christopher Codrington, governor of the island of Nevis. Captain Kidd and the Blessed William became part of a small fleet assembled by Codrington to defend Nevis from the French, with whom the English were at war. In either case, he must have been an experienced leader and sailor by that time. As the governor did not want to pay the sailors for their defensive services, he told them they could take their pay from the French. Kidd and his men attacked the French island of Mariegalante, destroyed the only town, and looted the area, gathering for themselves something around 2,000 pounds Sterling. During the War of the Grand Alliance, on orders from the province of New York, Massachusetts, Kidd captured an enemy privateer, which duty he was commissioned to perform[4] off of the New England coast. Shortly thereafter, Kidd was awarded £150 for successful privateering in the Caribbean. One year later, "Captain" Culliford, a notorious pirate, had stolen Kidd's ship while he was ashore at Antigua in the West Indies. In 1695, William III of England replaced the corrupt governor Benjamin Fletcher, known for accepting bribes of one hundred dollars to allow illegal trading of pirate loot, with Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont.[5] In New York City, Kidd was active in the building of Trinity Church, New York.[6]

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