8. Captain Kidd, king of the pirates, likely was no pirate at all
William Kidd, known primarily as Captain Kidd, is the epitome of the so-called Golden Age of Piracy. Tales of his piratical career and his buried treasure abound. But Kidd sailed on his voyages under a letter of marque, establishing him as a privateer. The same letter protected his crew from the practice of impressment by ships of the Royal Navy. In 1696, a Royal Navy officer demanded Kidd provide him with several crewmen. Kidd agreed, sending the officer back to his own ship with a promise to send over the men after selecting them from his crew. Under the cover of darkness, Kidd sailed away. The Royal Navy declared him to be a pirate for his impudence. Later, after word of some of his captures reached London, businessmen and insurers added to the claims of his piracy. Most of them wanted a share of his plunder, rather than his head.
One such prize, the Quedagh Merchant, had sailed under French colors, captained by an Englishman. When Kidd learned the English captain had passes issued to protect him from both the Royal Navy and privateers he attempted to return the vessel. His crew refused, desirous of the wealth represented by its cargo. Kidd later learned of his being wanted as a pirate, and sailed for New York, where legend has it he buried much of his share of the loot on Gardiner’s Island. In New York he was arrested and imprisoned; a year later he was sent to England to stand trial. Finding his political allies out of power, Kidd languished in Newgate Prison until he was tried and convicted of piracy. On May 23, 1701, he was hanged at Execution Dock in London. It took two attempts, the rope broke on the first try. The second succeeded.