When Pirate Money Was Funding New York

Samuel Reason | February 9th, 2018

Newborn New York in the 17th century was definitely a strange place to be and not a place that one would commonly link to pirates. But newborn New York was filled with swashbuckling buccaneers all looking for plunder.

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This was a perfect port for all the privateers and pirates that were profiting from the endless wars between France and England. Carrying Letters Of Marque from England or France, these private vessels basically had a license to make the illegal be legal. One, however, was more infamous than them all: Captain William Kidd. He has issued a Letter Of Marque from King William III in 1695 and only a few years later he was donating money to help build the Trinity Church in New York.

Yes, you read that correctly the first Trinity Church was in part funded by a pirate. The whole New York economy was actually set up at the time to cater to the Buccaneers as they swaggered through the city with their stolen gold. Taverns, brothels, and retailers all flourished at this time as pirates spent their money: be it Arabian dinars, Greek byzants, French Louis D’or or even Spanish Doubloons. Some New York merchants even amassed great fortunes selling guns and supplies to pirates!

And Captain Kidd thought it was the perfect place for his home, setting up New York as his main port. The pirate knew for being extremely wicked and giving no mercy, living happily in the open. You see that was the difference between being a privateer, if you followed the rules set down in your Letter of Marque then legally you had not done anything wrong.

In New York Captain Kidd lived happily, going out pirating when he liked, sinking ships left and right. Until one fatal day that he mistook an English merchant for a French vessel. He was quickly branded to be an actual pirate. He was captured in Boston and sent to England for a trial. Where he was found guilty for his crimes and hung at Execution Dock in 1701.

But did anyone ever find his treasure? All that booty that funded buildings in New York! Legends have it that it is still buried somewhere to this day.

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