Archival Follies, Our Glorious National Heritage

Keep Your Good Pirate Eye on the Market

Are you Kidding me?

While doing other research today, I ran across the following curiosity:

“The first merchandise direct from the Orient exposed for sale in America was brought to this country by pirates. Arabian gold, pearls from the Indian Ocean and Oriental fabrics abounded in the chief cities of the colonies. The treasure of Captain Kidd that was seized in Boston in 1699, contained a characteristic assortment of piratical plunder: ‘an iron chest of gold, pearls, etc., 40 bails [sic] of East India goods, 13 hogsheads, chests and case, one negro, and Venture Resail, a Ceylon Indian.’ Resail was one of the first Asiatics to visit America.”
~Charles Oscar Paullin, Diplomatic negotiations of American naval officers, 1778-1883, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins press, 1912),157.

There is a lot going on here, and I don’t have any time at the moment to do any more research, but I did want to put a pin in it here for later. In no particular order, some thoughts, then:

  • That smuggling should have been the first (direct) source of Asian goods in America is more than appropriate
  • The presence of human beings in the “pirate” cargo puts the lie to fantasies of pirate democracy, eh? Or perhaps just reflects the Boston authorities inability to conceive of such a thing…
  • Paullin’s archaic language aside, the name “Venture Resail” seems too self-consciously literary to be true. Sure, while it wasn’t unheard of of slaveholders to give slaves ironic names (Caesar, etc), this name seems a bit on the nose even for that — really, 2 puns in one  name? — no less for its relation to Kidd’s case, a big deal at the time and a subject of much mythologizing since.

In any case, very curious, and something I’m interested in looking into further, once I have a spare moment again.

Image source: Pyle, Howard “With the Buccaneers ” in Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates: Fiction, Fact & Fancy Concerning the Buccaneers & Marooners of the Spanish Main (New York, United States, 1921),,

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