Captain John Kidd
Perp : Captain John Kidd
Alias: Wizard of the seas, Darby Mullins
The Victim: The Quedah Merchant
Motive: Greed and an angry crew
Date: May 23rd, 1701
Punishment: Hanged. However it took two attempts
as the rope broke during the first.
THE first-named subject of this memoir was born at Greenock, in Scotland, and was bred to the sea;
and quitting his native land at an early ace, he resided at New York, where he eventually became possessed of a
small vessel, with which he traded among the pirates, and obtained a complete knowledge of their haunts.
His ruling passion, was avarice, although he was not destitute of that courage which became
necessary in the profession in which he eventually embarked. His frequent remarks upon the subject of piracy and
the facility with which it might be checked, having attracted the attention of some considerable planters, who had
recently suffered from the depredations of the marauders who infested the seas of the West Indies, obtained for him
a name which eventually proved of great service to him.
The constant and daring interruptions offered to trading ships, encouraged as they were by the
inhabitants of North America who were not loath to profit by the irregularities of the pirates, having attracted
the attention of the Government, the Earl of Bellamont an Irish nobleman of distinguished character and abilities,
was sent out to take charge of the government of New England and New York, with special instructions upon the
subject of these marine depredators.
Colonel Livingston, a gentleman of property and consideration, was consulted upon the subject by
the governor and Kidd, who was then possessed of a sloop of his own, was recommended as a fit person to be employed
against the pirates.
The suggestion met the approbation of Lord Bellamont; but the unsettled state of public affairs
rendered the further intervention of Government impossible; and a private company, consisting of the Duke of
Shrewsbury, the Lord Chancellor Somers, the Earls of Romney and Oxford, Colonel Livingston, another persons of
rank, agreed to raise 6000l. to pay the expenses of a voyage, the purpose of which was to be directed to the
removal of the existing evil ; and it was agreed that the Colonel and Capt. Kidd, who was to have charge of the
expedition, should receive one-fifth of the profits.
A commission was then prepared for Kidd, directing him to seize and take pirates, and to bring them
to justice ; but the further proceedings of the Captain, and of his officers, were left unprovided for.
A vessel was purchased and manned, and she sailed under the name of the "Adventure," from London
for New York, at the end of the year 1695. A French ship was seized as a prize during the voyage ; and the vessel
subsequently proceeded to the Madeira Islands, to Buonavista, and St. Jago, and thence to Madagascar, in search of
A second prize was subsequently made at Calicut, of a vessel of 150 tons burden, which was sold at
Madagascar ;" and at the termination of a few weeks, the "Adventure " made prize of the " Quedah Merchant," a
vessel of 400 tons burden, commanded by an Englishman named Wright, and officered by two Dutch mates and a French
gunner, and whose crew consisted of Moors. The captain having carried this vessel into Madagascar, he burned the
"Adventure," and then proceeded to divide the lading of the prize with his crew, taking forty shares for
He seems now to have determined to act entirely apart from his owners, and he accordingly sailed in
the " Quedah Merchant " to the West Indies. At Anguilla and St. Thomas's, he was refused refreshments; but he
eventually succeeded in obtaining supplies at Mona, between Porto Rico and Hispaniola, through the instrumentality
of an Englishman named Button. This man, who thus at first affected to be friendly to the pirate, soon showed the
extent to which his friendship was to be relied upon. He sold a sloop to Kidd, in which the latter sailed, leaving
the " Quedah Merchant" in his care ; but on proceeding to Boston, New England, he found his friend there before
him, having disposed of the " Quedah Merchantt" to the Spaniards, and having besides given information of his
piratical expedition. He was now immediately seized by order of Lord Bellamont, before whom he endeavoured to,
justify his proceedings, by contending that he had taken none but lawful prizes ; but his lordship transmitted an
account of the whole transaction to England, requiring that a ship might be sent to convey Kidd home, in order that
he might be punished.
A great clamour arose upon this, and attempts were made to show that the proceedings of the pirate
had been connived at by the projectors of the undertaking, and a motion was made in the House of Commons, that "
The letters-patent granted to the Earl of Bellamont and others, respecting the goods taken from pirates, were
dishonourable to the king, against the law of nations, contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm, an invasion
of property, and destructive to commerce." Though a negative was put on this motion, yet the enemies of Lord Somers
and the Earl of Oxford continued to charge those noblemen with giving countenance to pirates ; and it was even
insinuated that the Earl of Bellamont was not less culpable than the actual offenders. Another motion was in
consequence made to address his Majesty, that " Kidd might not be tried till the next session of parliament ; and
that the Earl of Bellamont might be directed to send home all examinations and other papers relative to the
affair." This was carried, and the king complied with the request which was made.
As soon as Kidd arrived in England, he was sent for, and examined at the bar of the house, with a
view to show the guilt of the parties who had been concerned in sending him on the expedition ; but nothing arose
to criminate any of those distinguished persons. Kidd, who was in some degree intoxicated, made a contemptible
appearance at the bar of the house; and a member, who had been one of the most earnest to have him examined,
violently exclaimed, " I thought the fellow had been only a knave, but unfortunately he happens to be a fool
likewise." Kidd was at length tried at the Old Bailey, and was convicted on the clearest evidence; but neither at
that time, nor afterwards, did he charge any of his employers with being privy to his infamous proceedings.
He was executed with one of his companions, at Execution Dock, on the 23d of May, 1701. After he
had been tied up to the gallows, the rope broke, and he fell to the ground; but being immediately tied up again,
the Ordinary, who had before exhorted him, desired to speak with him once more; and, on this second application,
entreated him to make the most careful use of the few further moments thus providentially allotted to him for the
final preparation of his soul to meet its important change. These exhortations appeared to have the wished for
effect ; and he died, professing his charity to all the world, and his hopes of salvation through the merits of his
The companion in crime of this malefactor, and his companion also at the gallows, was named Darby
Mullins. He was born in a village in the north of Ireland, about sixteen miles from Londonderry ; and having
resided with his father, and followed the business of husbandry till he was about eighteen, the old man then died,
and the young one went to Dublin but he had not been long there before he was enticed to go to the West Indies,
where he was sold to a planter, with whom he resided four years, At the expiration of that term he became his own
master, and followed the business of a waterman, in which he saved money enough to purchase a small vessel, in
which he traded from one island to another, till the time of the earthquake at Jamaica in the year 1691, from the
effects of which he was preserved in a miraculous manner. He afterwards went to Kingston, where he kept a
punch-house, and then proceeding to New York, be married; but at the end of two years his wife dying, he
unfortunately fell into company with Kidd, and joined him in his piratical practices. He was apprehended, with his
commander, and, as we have already stated, suffered the extreme penalty of the law with him.