There is a popular myth that the account of the Beale treasure story given in Ward's
1885 pamphlet is a cover story, and that the treasure in Bedford County, Virginia, was buried there by the legendary quasi-legal
privateer, Jean Lafitte (Laffite).
For sake of argument, I accept the premise that Lafitte had a treasure that he wished to conceal.
There is no evidence to
suggest that Lafitte was interested in protecting a treasure for his heirs or for the heirs of his men. Naturally, he would
wish to protect such a treasure for himself and his family, but that could be handled without a need for an intricate plan
to distribute the treasure to a named list of heirs. At best, the treasure story could provide a cover to explain the treasure's
origin, and thus give it legitimacy. In essence, such a concocted story could be used as a means to "launder"
Lafitte's accumulated wealth. That is a clever idea, but given the facts as we know them, could it work?
The myth has received enough
attention so that it cannot be dismissed out of hand. Yet, there are simple arguments against this myth that apparently have
escaped notice, or have been ignored.
Perhaps the most lucid explanation of the supposed Beale-Lafitte "connection" can
be found in Robert N. Williams' The Beale Papers Lost Legacy (2005), although it is not my intention to restate all
the salient points outlined in Williams' book.
Williams cites a document called The Journal of Jean Lafitte, from which he quotes
and paraphrases important information. He says that Lafitte established a new base at Campeche (Galveston Island) off the
Texas coast in 1817. Pressured to leave his base, he sailed away in March 1821, and his destinations and wanderings are uncertain.
Some years ago on a visit
to New Orleans, I purchased a copy of The Journal of Jean Lafitte, printed by Dogwood Press (1994). On page 122,
it states the following:
"In February 1822 I sold two more ships loaded with slaves to an English merchant. They took their cargo to
Savannah, Charleston and Norfolk. I made a verbal promise to the English captain that I would not attack his ships. I gave
my name as Theodore Lucas and gave a false address in Baltimore. Pierre and I left for Los Mugeres in March 1822. We captured
a rich Spanish ship. The cargo consisted principally of maguey fibre, silver and gold bars. After a stay of about one month,
we set sail for Santo Domingo, then for the islands of St. Christopher, Nevis and then to Guadeloupe."
But, according to
Mr. Morriss, Beale remained in Lynchburg at his boarding house during the winter months of 1822, arriving in January and remaining
there "until about the latter end of the following March." If Lafitte's journal is correct, then Lafitte could not
have remained in Lynchburg and also engaged in selling two ships to an English merchant in February 1822, which
would most likely take place somewhere at a coastal seaport (Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, etc.) and then sailing
for Los Mugeres in March. This alone is enough to reject the possibility that Lafitte masqueraded as Beale. Yet, Williams
also points out that "some contend it [the journal] is 100 percent authentic, some partly authentic, and others denounce
it as a downright forgery." So in fairness, we must look further for evidence that will allow us to rule out the cover