Reviews & Ratings for
"Cavalcade of America" The Pirate's Choice (1953)

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Our Patriotic Pirate

Author: theowinthrop from United States
24 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

He is the man whom is the only "good" pirate in American History. We know that Captain William Kidd was hung for piracy and murder in 1701, that Blackbeard was killed in battle off North Carolina in 1718, that Stede Bonnet was hanged in the Caribbean in 1718, and that Bartholemew Roberts was killed in a battle at sea with the Royal Navy in 1722. But these men were (with the possible exception of Kidd) real pirates (or pyrates, as it was spelled back then). Jean Lafitte, and his brother, were more likely smugglers - and they happened to thrive in the bayous near New Orleans, on the island of Batavia, in the period when Spanish, French, and American control of New Orleans was up in the air from 1802 to 1803. Even after the U.S. flag went up over New Orleans, the Americans faced hostility from the locals because of lifelong experiences with the French and Spanish. On top of this, the U.S. had the unsettling experience of the Burr - Wilkinson conspiracy of 1805 - 06, which may have aimed at splitting off the Mississippi Valley from the young republic. So the question of loyalties to the U.S. in 1815 was still an open one.

Lafitte went along with the U.S., probably not so much from the point of view of a desire to belong to this promising new country, but for the reason that he was also a slave trader. The southern planters were good customers, and they favored (at this time) support of the U.S. Business interest made Lafitte favor aiding the U.S. rather than the British (who were becoming more difficult on tolerating slave trading in 1815). Although Lafitte would have many run-ins with American government officials (especially the governor of Louisiana, William Claiborne), they offered him better choices than the British.

So it is that Lafitte ended up side by side with Andy Jackson at the battle of New Orleans in January 1815. And his special legend, as the patriot pirate (really a smuggler and slave dealer) came out. Who should knock it? After all, it allowed Hollywood to make two films based on the incident (starring Fredric March and Yul Brynner as Lafitte), and many television shows, such as this one, as well.

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