Which Captain Delano Was Hanged for Piracy?

Westbrook Pegler

Rome News-Tribune/April 9, 1954

New York—My impious intrusions into the affairs of the Roosevelt and Delano families have convinced me that though both breeds were richly endowed with greed and apathetic toward morals, the Delanos were far more adventurous. It would seem that they were Portuguese from way back, come to Cape Cod and vicinity with various flotsam from the Old World.

The Roosevelts are said to have been Hollandaise but there is no trace of the family in the village chosen-to-be the scene of origins. There is some lore of Fairfield Delanos in the old whaling museum in New Bedford and I once bought a little pine box in an antique shop with a slip of paper pasted inside which bore in faded writing vague intimations that some member of the kinnery had carved it to contain his hard money. Fearful of a hex for my profanation of a sacred souvenir. I gave it to a Yankee friend who runs a heterodox paper as well at ease on one side of any question as the other. He said he would ever treasure same and placed it on the mantel by the autographed portrait of Herbert Hoover.

Robust Affronts

A Roosevelt would trim or blackmail a chump as gaily as a Delano would scuttle a ship but the difference between these gentle arts, and piracy, opium-running and blackbirding was the very difference that I have observed. The Roosevelts drank, embezzled and not only kissed but boasted, whereas the Delanos, even down to the recent era of their non-union company towns in the Pennsylvania coal-belt, were given to more robust affronts.

A Delano named Daniel W. Jr., who got out a boastful book a few years ago makes much of the career of Captain Amasa Delano, the first of the tribe says he, ever to land in South America. Later, little Sara, a child who was to bear the man who fully redeemed our early incivility to George III, went twice around the Horn with her father, Captain Warren Delano, on a Yankee clipper which carried a cow and chickens on the long voyage and hauled Turkish opium into Canton to buy silk and tea for the homeward run. Little Sara seems to have outnumbered that James Roosevelt whom she married late in his rather tasteless life. It is a historical shame that she confined her writing to an insipid tribute to her son, for she was haughty, ill-mannered and never negative. She might have told a bold story of a big life in times when the family had the candor to hold themselves better than the rabble. Amasa Delano, Warren and Sara had no time for the common people, but the mother of the Hyde Park Hant forebore to embarrass his political pose and expressed herself only in that sniffing contempt for the lower orders which she learned among the English gentry.

Delivered Slaves

Daniel W. Delano Jr. tells us that Amasa Delano bound out from Quincy to China “at the beginning of the 19th century.” Picked up the Spanish slave-ship. Prueba, whose cargo had revolted and killed most of the crew, and delivered ship and slaves to the authorities in Talcahuano, Chile. We are not told what befell the Negroes but Chile was not fastidious about slavery at the time so we may be pardoned a pessimistic surmise. There was, Daniel Delano Jr., reports, “fierce fighting” between Captain Amasa Delano and his crew and the desperate Africans, comprising, he adds, “a colorful and heroic episode that added further luster to the chronicles of a remarkable navigator.”

A few years later, a cousin, Captain Paul Delano, took citizenship in Chile and became commander of her fleet.

The American Captain Delano who was hanged for piracy with six of his crew at Malta, as related in “Salt Water or Neil D’Arcy’s Life at Sea,” published I would think about 50 years ago, is not as well identified as a historian would like. The author was William H. G. Kingston. Captain Delano’s misbehavior seems to have occurred early in the 19th century but the book from the extinct press of Belford, Clarke and Company, New York and Chicago, bears no year and the story itself is an ambiguous mixture of obvious truth and lavish adornment. In brief, this Captain Delano, a black sheep no doubt, high-jacked a number of innocent merchantmen but finally was paid the wages of sin in a grisly scene in Quarantine Harbor, Malta, under British justice. As captain of the brig, William, which had lain neighbor to the brig Helen in the basin at Liverpool, he had noticed that the Helen was shipping luxurious merchandise, and when they were well down in the Mediterranean he had boarded her to slay and plunder.

Cynical Fellow

However, as the author says, “They knew not of the eye above which watched them.” And so a British man o’ was came over the horizon, boarded the Helen, sinking from augur-holes in her bottom bored by Delano’s carpenter, saved some survivors and overhauled the William, too.

In court, Delano was a cynical fellow. But on being doomed he is said to have cried “Mercy! Mercy! Mercy! Oh spare my life. I am unfit to die! Send me to toil in chains with the meanest in the land but oh, take not away that which you cannot restore!”

Charles Adams, the first mate, was more stately. He said “Oh that my fate should be a warning to others and I should feel more content to die.”

Having been duly hanged from the yard-arms of the William, two of the scoundrels were buried but Captain Delano and the rest were sown in tarred sacks and dangled for months in chains from a lofty bigget as “an awful warning to others.”

(Source: Google News, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=348&dat=19540409&id=IBxNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kTEDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7069,4400131)