Then and Now

A get rich quick scheme


In 1695 Captain Kidd went to London in his own vessel. E.R. Snow tells us that, while there, Kidd received a commission as a private man-of-war, obtained through the influence of Robert Livingston and issued with the sanction of Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, who was royal governor of New York and Massachusetts. Kidd became involved with a number of prominent Englishmen in a venture designed to suppress piracy and to obtain "Goods, Merchandise, Treasure and other Things which shall be taken from the said pirates." His authorization, as reprinted by Snow reads as follows:

...To our trusty and well beloved William Kidd, commander of the ship Adventure Galley, or to any other,


Whereas, we are informed that Captain Thomas Tew, John Ireland, Capt. Thomas Wake and Capt. William Maize...have associated themselves with divers other wicked and ill disposed persons, and do….commit many and great piracies…Now, KNOW YE, that we being desirous to prevent the aforesaid mischief…do hereby give and grant to the said William Kidd…full power and authority to apprehend, seize, and take into custody…pirates, freebooters and sea rovers…

Both Captains Tew and Maize (Mays) were well known Rhode Island pirates.  Tew and his first mate William Want, also a Rhode Islander, plundered the rich treasure ships in the Indian Ocean and made their Newport backers rich. William Mays was also successful and became a proprietor of the White Horse Tavern in Newport.

Kidd’s commission allowed him to arrest all pirates regardless of nationality and to take action against the French colonies and ships whenever possible. While Kidd’s English sponsors were concerned with eliminating piracy and warring on the French, the main objective was to capture as much treasure as possible.

The terms of agreement for sailing were “no prizes no pay.” Kidd, as leader, was offered three shares in 40 of whatever was captured during the voyages. With no wages, the hope was for a quick and successful voyage, and Kidd immediately headed for the Spanish Main. After failing to encounter any pirates or French there, Kidd, after several months in the Caribbean, crossed the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn and reached Madagascar.

In the Indian Ocean, the Adventure Galley continued its quest for rich prizes, to no avail. The crew, after nine months of inaction, became dissatisfied and the officers began to fear that serious trouble would result. Fortunately, the adventurers located a shipwrecked French vessel and successfully attacked it, gaining some gold as a result.  This pleased the crew and brought new hope.  Shortly thereafter, however, 50 of the crew, while on shore, were stricken with a mysterious disease and died. Within a short time, Kidd, already short-handed, was attacked by two large Portuguese naval vessels. While the Adventure Galley managed to escape, even more of the buccaneers were killed in the fracas.

The lack of success, disease and the close encounter with the Portuguese brought the crew to even greater dissatisfaction with their captain. According to E.R. Snow, Kidd believed that gunner William Moore was responsible for bringing the crew close to mutiny. He encountered Moore and the two began to quarrel.  In a fit of rage, Kidd smashed a wooden bucket with iron hoops on Moore's head. The hapless Moore died as a result, and years later Kidd was convicted for murdering him.

While in the Indian Ocean and shortly after the murder of Moore, Kidd began to engage in actions that were at best quasi-legal. Here many historians feel Kidd turned from privateer to pirate and plundered the rich treasure-laden ships in the Indian Ocean.

The story of Kidd, his visit to Rhode Island and of other pirates will be continued.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment