In Search of Captain Kidd's Lost Treasure
Colonial America, published by Adam Matthew Digital, contains numerous references to pirates and piracy, which are readily discoverable using the resourceâ€™s ground-breaking Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology. Searching this vast resource reveals a fascinating document that illuminates the final months of Kiddâ€™s life as he sought to escape imprisonment and ultimately the hangmanâ€™s noose. What is more, it provides tantalising clues to as to the nature and location of his famous lost treasure.
In July 1699 Kidd found himself locked up in Boston Gaol, the prisoner of Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont and Governor of Massachusetts. Bellomont, who had been a member of the syndicate that had originally commissioned Kidd in 1695 to conduct privateering raids during the war with France, had encouraged Kidd to come to Boston with the promise of a full pardon for his exploits, which had now been deemed by the English government to be the work not of an authorised privateer but that of an â€˜obnoxious pirateâ€™. It was however a trick and within days of setting foot ashore Kidd was arrested.
Although Kidd was keen to secure exoneration for his actions, which had crossed the line from privateering into piracy, he was no fool. Foreseeing the possibility that he was walking into a trap, he had taken the precaution to hide his treasure, which could if necessary be used as a bargaining chip to help negotiate his pardon and release. One of the locations where Kidd buried his loot was on Gardinerâ€™s Island, just off the eastern tip of Long Island. However shortly after Kiddâ€™s capture this cache was recovered by the authorities as on 25 July 1699 Bellomont drew up an inventory of what had been concealed on the island. In one chest they found over 200 bars of silver, an enamelled silver box inlaid with diamonds and a diamond ring. In another casket they discovered no less than 67 rubies.
Yet the hoard unearthed from Gardinerâ€™s Island may have only been a tiny fraction of Kiddâ€™s fortune. In a letter to the Board of Trade, dated 5 January 1699/1700, Bellomont reported that a fortnight previously Kidd had sent word to him via the jailer with a proposition. Kidd proposed that if Bellomont were to let him go to the place where he had left his ship the Quedagh Merchant and to sail to â€˜St Thomasâ€™s Island and CuraÃ§aoâ€™ in the Caribbean he would bring back a treasure worth some fifty or sixty thousand pounds, â€˜which would otherwise be lostâ€™. To allay any fears that he would use the opportunity to escape, Kidd said that he would be willing to go as Bellomontâ€™s prisoner. However, Bellomont, eager to completely disassociate himself from Kidd, was certainly not going to let him take to the high seas again. In reply Bellomont told Kidd that â€˜he was the Kingâ€™s prisonerâ€™ and therefore â€˜could hearken to no such propositionâ€™.