The History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe


WE are now going to give an Account of one whose Name is better known in England, than most of those whose Histories we have already related; the Person we mean is Captain Kid, whose publick Trial and Execution here, rendered him the Subject of all Conversation, so that his Actions have been chanted about in Ballads; however, it is now a considerable Time since these Things passed, and though the People knew in general that Captain Kid was hanged, and that his Crime was Pyracy, yet there were scarce any, even at that Time, who were acquainted with his Life or Actions, or could account for his turning Pyrate.

In the Beginning of King William's War, Captain Kid commanded a Privateer in the West-Indies, and by several adventurous Actions acquired the Reputation of a brave Man, as well as an experienced Seaman. About this Time the pyrates were very troublesome in those Parts, wherefore Captain Kid was recommended by the Lord Bellamont, then Governor of Barbadoes, as well as by several other Persons, to the Government here, as a Person very fit to be entrusted with the Command of a Government Ship, and to be employed in cruising upon the pyrates, as knowing those Seas perfectly well, and being acquainted with all their lurking Places; but what Reasons governed the Politicks of those Times, I cannot tell, but this Proposal met with no Encouragement here, though it is certain it would have been of great Consequence to the Subject, our Merchants suffering incredible Damages by those Robbers.

Upon this Neglect the Lord Bellamont and some others, who knew what great Captures had been made by the pyrates, and what a prodigious Wealth must be in their Possession, were tempted to fit out a Ship at their own private Charge, and to give the Command of it to Captain Kid; and, to give the Thing a greater Reputation, as well as to keep their Seamen under the better Command, they procured the King's Commission for the said Captain Kid, of which the following is an exact Copy.

William Rex,

William the Third, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. To our trusty and well beloved Captain William Kid, Commander of the Ship the Adventure Gally, or to any other the Commander of the same for the Time being, GREETING; Whereas we are informed, that Captain Thomas Too, John Ireland, Captain Thomas Wake, and Captain William Maze, or Mace, and other Subjects, Natives or Inhabitants of New-York, and elsewhere, in our Plantations in America, have associated themselves, with divers others, wicked and ill disposed Persons, and do, against the Law of Nations, commit many and great Pyracies, Robberies and Depredations on the Seas upon the Parts of America, and in other Parts, to the great Hinderance and Discouragement of Trade and Navigation, and to the great Danger and Hurt of our loving Subjects, our Allies, and all others, navigating the Seas upon their lawful Occasions. Now KNOW YE, that we being desirous to prevent the aforesaid Mischiefs, and, as much as in us lies, to bring the said pyrates, Free Booters and Sea Rovers to Justice, have thought fit, and do hereby give and grant to the said William Kid (to whom our Commissioners for exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of England, have granted a Commission as a private Man of War, bearing Date the 11th Day of December 1695, and unto the Commander of the said Ship for the Time being, and unto the Officers, Mariners, and others, which shall be under your Command, full Power and Authority to apprehend, sieze, and take into your Custody as well the said Captain Thomas Too, John Ireland, Captain Thomas Wake, and Captain William Maze, or Mace, as all such pyrates, Free Booters and Sea Rovers, being either our Subjects, or of other Nations associated with them, which you shall meet with upon the Seas, or Coasts of America, or upon any other Seas or Coasts, with all their Ships and Vessels; and all such Merchandizes, Money, Goods and Wares as shall be found on Board, or with them, in Case they shall willingly yield themselves; but if they will not yield without fighting, then you are by Force to compel them to yield. And we do also require you to bring, or cause to be brought, such pyrates, Free Booters, or Sea Rovers, as you shall seize, to a legal Tryal, to the End they may be proceeded against according to the Law in such Cases. And we do hereby command all our Officers, Ministers, and other our loving Subjects whatsover, to be aiding and assisting to you in the Premisses. And we do hereby enjoin you to keep an exact Journal of your Proceedings in the Execution of the Premisses, and set down the Names of such pyrates, and of their Officers and Company, and the Names of such Ships and Vessels as you shall by Vertue of these Presents take and seize, and the Quantities of Arms, Ammunition, Provision and Lading of such Ships, and the true Value of the same, as near as you judge. And we do hereby strictly charge and command you as you will answer the contrary at your Peril, that you do not, in any Manner, offend or molest our Friends or Allies, their Ships, or Subjects, by Colour or Pretence of these Presents, or the Authority thereby granted. In Witness whereof we have caused our Great Seal of England to be affix'd to these Presents. Given at our Court of Kensington, the 26th Day of January 1695,in the seventh Year of our Reign.

Captain Kid had also another Commission, which was called a Commission of Reprisals; for it being then War Time, this Commission was to justify him in the taking of French Merchant Ships, in Case he should meet with any; but as this Commission is nothing to our present Purpose, we shall not burthen the Readers with it.

With these two Commissions he sail'd out of Plymouth in May 1696, in the Adventure Gally of thirty Guns, and eighty Men; the Place he first design'd for was New-York; in his Voyage thither he took a French Banker, but this was no Act of Pyracy, he having a Commission for that Purpose, as we have just observ'd.

When he arrived at New York he put up Articles for engaging more Hands, it being necessary to his Ships Crew, since he proposed to deal with a desperate Enemy: The Terms he offered were, that every Man should have a Share of what was taken, reserving for himself and Owners forty

Shares. Upon which Encouragement he soon increas'd his Company to a hundred and fifty five Men.

With this Company he sail'd first for Maderas, where he took in Wine and some other Necessaries; from thence he proceeded to Bonavist, one of the Cape de Verd Islands, to furnish the Ship with Salt, and from thence went immediately to St. Jago, another of the Cape de Verd Islands, in order to stock himself with Provisions. When all this was done, he bent his Course to Madagascar, the known Rendezvouz of pyrates; in his Way he fell in with Captain Warren, Commadore of three Men of War; he acquainted them with his Design, kept them Company two or three Days, and then leaving them, made the best Way for Madagascar, where he arrived in February 1696, just nine Months from his Departure from Plymouth.

It happen'd that at this Time the Pyrate Ships were most of them out in search of Prey; so that according to the best Intelligence Captain Kid could get, there was not one of them at that Time about the Island, wherefore having spent some Time in watering his Ship, and taking in more Provisions, he thought of trying his Fortune on the Coast of Malabar, where he arrived in the Month of June following, four Months from his reaching Madagascar. Hereabouts he made an unsuccessful Cruize, touching sometimes at the Island of Mahala, sometimes at that of Joanna, betwixt Malabar and Madagascar: His Provisions were every Day wasting, and his Ship began to want Repair; wherefore, when he was at Joanna, he found Means of borrowing a Sum of Money from some French Men who had lost their Ship, but saved their Effects, and with this he purchas'd Materials for putting his Ship in good Repair.

It does not appear all this while that he had the least Design of turning Pyrate; for near Mahala and Joanna both, he met with several Indian Ships richly laden, to which he did not offer the least Violence, tho’ he was strong enough to have done what he pleas'd with them; and the first Outrage or Depredation I find he committed upon Mankind, was after his repairing his Ship, and leaving Joanna; he touch'd at a Place call'd Mabbee, upon the Red Sea, where he took some Guinnea Corn from the Natives, by Force.

After this he sail'd to Bab's Key, a Place upon a little Island at the Entrance of the Red Sea; here it was that he first began to open himself to his Ship's Company, and let them understand that he intended to change his Measures; for, happening to talk of the Moca Fleet which was to sail that Way, he said, We have been unsuccessful hitherto, but Courage, my Boys, we'll make our Fortunes out of this Fleet: And finding that none of them appear'd averse to it, he order'd a Boat out, well mann'd, to go upon the Coast to make Discoveries, commanding them to take a Prisoner and bring to him, or get Intelligence any Way they could. The Boat return'd in a few Days, bringing him Word, that they saw fourteen or fifteen Ships ready to sail, some with English, some with Dutch, and some with Moorish Colours.

We cannot account for this sudden Change in his Conduct, otherwise than by supposing that he first meant well, while he had Hopes of making his Fortune by taking of pyrates; but now, weary of ill Success, and fearing least his Owners, out of Humour at their great Expences, should dismiss him, and he should want Employment, and be mark'd out for an unlucky Man; rather, I say, than run the Hazard of Poverty, he resolved to do his Business one Way, since he could not do it another.

He therefore order'd a Man continually to watch at the Mast Head, least this Fleet should go by them; and about four Days after, towards Evening, it appear'd in Sight, being convoy'd by one English and one Dutch Man of War. Kid soon fell in with them, and getting into the midst of them, fir'd at a Moorish Ship which was next him; but the Men of War taking the Alarm, bore down upon Kid, and firing upon him, obliged him to sheer off, he not being strong enough to contend with them. Now he had begun Hostilities, he resolv'd to go on, and therefore he went and cruis'd along the Coast of Malabar; the first Prize he met was a small Vessel belonging to Aden, the Vessel was Moorish, and the Owners were Moorish Merchants, but the Master was an English Man, his Name was Parker. Kid forc'd him and a Portugueze that was call'd Don Antonio, which were all the Europeans on Board, to take on with them; the first he design'd as a Pilot, and the last as an Interpreter. He also used the Men very cruelly, causing them to be hoisted up by the Arms, and drubb'd with a naked Cutlash, to force them to discover whether they had Money on Board, and where it lay; but as they had neither Gold nor Silver on Board, he got nothing by his Cruelty; however, he took from them a Bale of Pepper, and a Bale of Coffee, and so let them go.

A little Time after he touch'd at Carawar, a Place upon the same Coast, where, before he arrived, the News of what he had done to the Moorish Ship had reach'd them; for some of the English Merchants there had received an Account of it from the Owners, who corresponded with them; wherefore, as soon as Kid came in, he was suspected to be the Person who committed this Pyracy; and one Mr. Harvey and Mr. Mason, two of the English Factory, came on Board and ask'd for Parker, and Antonio the Portuguese; but Kid deny'd that he knew any such Persons, having secur'd them both in a private Place in the Hold, where they were kept for seven or eight Days, that is, till Kid sail'd from thence.

However, the Coast was alarm'd, and a Portuguese Man of War was sent out to cruize: Kid met with her, and fought her about six Hours, gallantly enough; but finding her too strong to be taken, he quitted her; for he was able to run away from her when he would: Then he went to a Place call'd Porco, where he water'd the Ship, and bought a Number of Hogs of the Natives to victual his Company.

Soon after this, he came up with a Moorish Ship, the Master whereof was a Dutch Man, call'd Schipper Mitchel, and chased her under French Colours, which they observing, hoisted French Colours too: When he came up with her, he hail'd her in French, and they having a French Man on Board, answer'd him in the same Language; upon which he order'd them to send their Boat on Board; they were oblig'd to do so, and having examin'd who they were, and from whence they came; he ask'd the French Man, who was a Passenger, if he had a French Pass for himself? The French Man gave him to understand that he had. Then he told the French Man he must pass for Captain, and by G— d, says he, you are the Captain: The French Man durst not refuse doing as he would have him: The Meaning of this was, that he would seize the Ship as fair Prize, and as if she had belong'd to French Subjects, according to a Commission he had for that Purpose; tho’, one would think, after what he had already done, that he need not have Recourse to a Quibble to give his Actions a Colour.

In short, he took the Cargoe and sold it some Time after; yet still he seem'd to have some Fears upon him least these Proceedings should have a bad End; for, coming up with a Dutch Ship some Time, when his Men thought of nothing but attacking her, Kid oppos'd it; upon which a Mutiny arose, and the Majority being for taking the said Ship, and arming themselves to Man the Boat to go and seize her, he told them, such as did, never should come on Board him again; which put an End to the Design, so that he kept Company with the said Ship some Time, without offering her any Violence: However, this Dispute was the Occasion of an Accident, upon which an Indictment was afterwards grounded against Kid; for Moor, the Gunner, being one Day upon Deck, and talking with Kid about the said Dutch Ship, some Words arose betwixt them, and Moor told Kid, that he had ruin'd them all; upon which, Kid, calling him Dog, took up a Bucket and struck him with it, which breaking his Skull, he died the next Day.

But Kid's penitential Fit did not last long, for coasting along Malabar, he met with a great Number of Boats, all which he plunder'd. Upon the same Coast he also light upon a Portuguese Ship, which he kept Possession of a Week, and then having taken out of her some Chests of India Goods, thirty Jars of Butter, with some Wax, Iron, and a hundred Bags of Rice, he let her go.

Much about the same Time he went to one of the Malabar Islands for Wood and Water, and his Cooper being ashore, was murder'd by the Natives; upon which Kid himself landed, and burnt and pillaged several of their Houses, the People running away; but having taken one, he caused him to be tied to a Tree, and commanded one of his Men to shoot him; then putting to Sea again he took the greatest Prize, which fell into his Hands, while he followed this Trade; this was a Moorish Ship of 400 Tons richly laden, named the Queda Merchant, the Master whereof was an English Man, he was call'd Wright, for the Indians often make Use of English or Dutch Men to command their Ships, their own Mariners not being so good Artists in Navigation. — Kid chased her under French Colours, and having come up with her, he ordered her to hoist out her Boat, and to send on Board of him, which being done, he told Wright he was his Prisoner; and informing himself concerning the said Ship, he understood there were no Europeans on Board, except two Dutch, and one Frenchman, all the Rest being Indians or Armenians, and that the Armenians were Part Owners of the Cargoe. Kid gave the Armenians to understand, that if they would offer any Thing that was worth his taking for their Ransome, he would hearken to it: Upon which, they proposed to pay him twenty thousand Rupees, not quite three thousand Pounds Sterling; but Kid judged this would be making a bad Bargain, wherefore he rejected it, and setting the Crew on Shore, at different Places on the Coast, he soon sold as much of the Cargoe as came to near ten thousand Pounds. With Part of it he also trafficked, receiving in Exchange Provisions, or such other Goods as he wanted; by Degrees he disposed of the whole Cargoe, and when the Division was made, it came to about two hundred Pounds a Man, and having reserved forty Shares to himself, his Dividend amounted to about eight thousand Pounds Sterling.

The Indians along the Coast came on Board and traffick'd with all Freedom, and he punctually performed his Bargains, till about the Time he was ready to sail; and then thinking he should have no further Occasion for them, he made no Scruple of taking their Goods, and setting them on Shore without any Payment in Money or Goods, which they little expected; for as they had been used to deal with pyrates, they always found them Men of Honour in the Way of Trade: A People, Enemies to Deceit, and that scorn'd to rob but in their own Way.

Kid put some of his Men on Board the Queda Merchant, and with this Ship and his own sail'd for Madagascar; as soon as he was arrived and had cast Anchor, there came on Board of him a Canoe, in which were several Englishmen, who had formerly been well acquainted with Kid; as soon as they saw him they saluted him, and told him, they were informed he was come to take them, and hang them, which would be a little unkind in such an old Acquaintance; Kid soon dissipated their Doubts, by swearing he had no such Design, and that he was now in every Respect their Brother, and just as bad as they; and calling for a Cup of Bomboo, drank their Captain's Health.

These Men belong'd to a Pyrate Ship, call'd the Resolution, formerly the Mocco Merchant, whereof one Captain Culliford was Commander, and which lay at an Anchor not far from them; Kid went on Board with them, promising them his Friendship and Assistance, and Culliford in his Turn came on Board of Kid; and Kid to testify his Sincerity in Iniquity, finding Culliford in want of some Necessaries, made him a Present of an Anchor and some Guns, to fit him out for the Sea again.

The Adventure Galley was now so old and leaky, that they were forced to keep two Pumps continually going, wherefore Kid shifted all the Guns and Tackle out of her into the Queda Merchant, intending her for his Man of War; and as he had divided the Money before, he now made a Division of the Remainder of the Cargo: Soon after which, the greatest Part of the Company left him, some going on Board Captain Culliford, and others absconding in the Country, so that he had not above forty Men left.

He put to Sea and happened to touch at Amboyna, one of the Dutch Spice Islands, where he was told, that the News of his Actions had reach'd England, and that he was there declared a Pyrate.

The Truth on't is, his Pyracies so alarmed our Merchants, that some Motions were made in Parliament, to enquire into the Commission that was given him, and the Persons who fitted him out: These Proceedings seem'd to lean a little hard upon the Lord Bellamont, who thought himself so much touch'd thereby, that he published a Justification of himself in a Pamphlet after Kid's Execution. In the mean Time, it was thought adviseable, in order to stop the Course of these Pyracies, to publish a Proclamation, offering the King's free Pardon to all such pyrates as should voluntarily surrender themselves, whatever Pyracies they had been guilty of at any Time, before the last Day of April, 1699. — That is to say, for all Pyracies committed Eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, to the Longitude and Meridian of Socatora, and Cape Camorin. In which Proclamation, Avery and Kid were excepted by Name.

When Kid left Amboyna he knew nothing of this Proclamation, for certainly had he had Notice of his being excepted in it, he would not have been so infatuated, to run himself into the very Jaws of Danger; but relying upon his Interest with the Lord Bellamont, and fancying, that a French Pass or two he found on Board some of the Ships he took, would serve to countenance the Matter, and that Part of the Booty he got would gain him new Friends. — I say, all these Things made him flatter himself that all would be hushed, and that

Justice would but wink at him. — Wherefore he sail'd directly for New-York, where he was no sooner arrived, but by the Lord Bellamont's Orders, he was secured with all his Papers and Effects. Many of his Fellow-Adventurers who had forsook him at Madagascar, came over from thence Passengers, some to New England and some to Jersey; where hearing of the King's Proclamation for pardoning of pyrates, they surrendered themselves to the Governor of those Places: At first they were admitted to Bail, but soon after were laid in strict Confinement where they were kept for some time, till an Opportunity happened of sending them with their Captain over to England to be tried.

Accordingly a Sessions of Admiralty being held at the Old Baily, in May 1701, Captain Kid, Nicholas Churchill, James How, Robert Lumley, William Jenkins, Gabriel Loff, Hugh Parrot, Richard Barlicorn, Abel Owens,and Darby Mullins, were arraign'd for Pyracy and Robbery on the High Seas, and all found guilty, except three; these were Robert Lumley, William Jenkins, and Richard Barlicorne, who proving themselves to be Apprentices to some of the Officers of the Ship, and producing their Indentures in Court, were acquitted.

The three above-mentioned, tho’ they were proved to be concern'd in taking and sharing the Ship and Goods mentioned in the Indictment, yet, as the Gentlemen of the long Robe rightly distinguished, there was a great Difference between their Circumstances and the rest; for there must go an Intention of the Mind and a Freedom of the Will to the committing an Act of Felony or Pyracy. A Pyrate is not to be understood to be under Constraint, but a free Agent; for in this Case, the bare Act will not make a Man guilty, unless the Will make it so.

Now a Servant, it is true, if he go voluntarily and have his Proportion, he must be accounted a Pyrate, for then he acts upon his own Account, and not by Compulsion; and these Persons, according to the Evidence, received their Part, but whether they accounted to their Masters for their Shares afterwards, is the Matter in Question, and what distinguishes them as free Agents or Men, that did go under the Compulsion of their Masters, which being left to the Consideration of the Jury, they found them Not Guilty.

Kid was tryed upon an Indictment of Murder also, viz. for killing Moor the Gunner, and found guilty of the same. Nicholas Churchill and James How pleaded the King's Pardon, as having surrendered themselves within the Time limited in the Proclamation, and Colonel Bass, Governor of West Jersey, to whom they surrendered, being in Court, and called upon, proved the same; however, this Plea was over-ruled by the Court, because there being four Commissioners named in the Proclamation, viz. Captain Thomas Warren, Israel Hayes, Peter Delannoye, and Christopher Pollard, Esqrs; who were appointed Commissioners, and sent over on Purpose to receive the Submissions of such pyrates as should surrender, it was adjudged no other Person was qualified to receive their Surrender, and that they could not be intitled to the Benefit of the said Proclamation, because they had not in all Circumstances complied with the Conditions of it.

Darby Mullins urg'd in his Defence, that he serv'd under the King's Commission, and therefore could not disobey his Commander without incurring great Punishments; that whenever a Ship or Ships went out upon any Expedition under the King's Commissioners, the Men were never allowed to call their Officers to an Account, why they did this, or, why they did that, because such a Liberty would destroy all Discipline; that if any Thing was done which was unlawful, the Officers were to answer it, for the Men did no more than their Duty in obeying Orders. He was told by the Court, that acting under the Commission justified in what was lawful, but not in what was unlawful; he answered, he stood in Need of nothing to justify him in what was lawful, but that the Case of Seamen must be very hard, if they must be brought into such Danger for obeying the Commands of their Officers, and punished for not obeying them; and if they were allowed to dispute the Orders, there could be no such Thing as Command kept up at Sea.

This seem'd to be the best Defence the Thing could bear; but his taking a Share of the Plunder, the Seamens mutinying on Board several Times, and taking upon them to controul the Captain, shewed there was no Obedience paid to the Commission; and that they acted in all Things according to the Custom of pyrates and Free-booters, which weighing with the Jury, they brought him in guilty with the rest.

As to Capt. Kid's Defence, he insisted much upon his own Innocence, and the Villany of his Men; he said, he went out in a laudable Employment, and had no Occasion, being then in good Circumstances, to go a Pyrating; that the Men often mutinied against him, and did as they pleas'd; that he was threatened to be shot in his Cabin, and that Ninety five left him at one Time, and set Fire to his Boat, so that he was disabled from bringing his Ship home, or the Prizes he took, to have them regularly condemn'd, which he said were taken by Virtue of a Commission under the Broad Seal, they having French Passes. — The Captain called one Col. Hewson to his Reputation, who gave him an extraordinary Character, and declared to the Court, that he had served under his Command, and been in two Engagements with him against the French, in which he fought as well as any Man he ever saw; that there were only Kid's Ship and his own against Monsieur du Cass, who commanded a Squadron of six Sail, and they got the better of him. — But this being several Years before the Facts mentioned in the Indictment were committed, prov'd of no manner of Service to the Prisoner on his Tryal.

As to the Friendship shewn to Culliford, a notorious Pyrate, Kid deny'd, and said, he intended to have taken him, but his Men being a Parcel of Rogues and Villains refused to stand by him, and several of them ran away from his Ship to the said Pyrate. — But the Evidence being full and particular against him, he was found guilty as before mentioned.

When Kid was asked what he had to say why Sentence should not pass against him, he answered, That he had nothing to say, but that he had been sworn against by perjured wicked People. And when Sentence was pronounced, he said, My Lord, it is a very hard Sentence. For my Part, I am the innocentest Person of them all, only I have been sworn against by perjured Persons.

Wherefore about a Week after, Capt. Kid, Nicholas Churchill, James How, Gabriel Loff, Hugh Parrot, Abel Owen, and Darby Mullins, were executed at Execution Dock, and afterwards hung up in Chains, at some Distance from each other, down the River, where their Bodies hung exposed for many Years.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53