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This Day in Boston History

May 23rd, 1701

Not Pirates...Privateers!

In 1695 Captain William Kidd, a former captain turned businessman, was commissioned by Richard Coote, the Earl of Bellamont, to serve as a privateer operating against pirates.

Sensationalized press reports of his exploits in the ship Adventure and complaints of foreign shippers who had lost cargo turned political sentiment against Kidd. His financial backers who held office in England distanced themselves from him and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Learning that he was a wanted man, Kidd proceeded to Boston to plead his case to Richard Coote had been named Royal Governor of Massachusetts. Rather than accepting to Kidd's explanation, Coote had him arrested and shipped from Boston to stand trial in London. On this day Captain Kidd was hung.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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