A General History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

An Abstract of the Civil Law and Statute Law now in Force, in Relation to Pyracy.

A Pyrate is Hostis humanis generis, a common Enemy, with whom neither Faith nor Oath is to be kept, according to Tully. And by the Laws of Nature, Princes and States are responsible for their Neglect, if they do not provide Remedies for restraining these sort of Robberies. Though Pyrates are called common Enemies, yet they are properly not to be term'd so. He is only to be honour'd with that Name, says Cicero, who hath a Commonwealth, a Court, a Treasury, Consent and Concord of Citizens, and some Way, if Occasion be, of Peace and League: But when they have reduced themselves into a Government or State, as those of Algier, Sally, Tripoly, Tunis, and the like, they then are allowed the Solemnities of War, and the Rights of Legation.

If Letters of Marque be granted to a Merchant, and he furnishes out a Ship, with a Captain and Mariners, and they, instead of taking the Goods, cr Ships of that Nation against whom their Commission is awarded, take the Ship and Goods of a Friend, this is Pyracy; and if the Ship arrive in any Part of his Majesty's Dominions, it will be seized, and for ever lost to the Owners; but they are no way liable to make Satisfaction.

If a Ship is assaulted and taken by the Pyrates, for Redemption of which, the Master becomes a Slave to the Captors, by the Law Marine, the Ship and Lading are tacitly obliged for his Redemption, by a general Contribution; but if it happen through his own Folly, then no Contribution is to be made.

If Subjects in Enmity with the Crown of England, are abord an English Pyrate, in Company with English, and a Robbery is committed, and they are taken; it is Felony in the English, but not in the Stranger; for it was no Pyracy in them, but the Depredation of an Enemy, and they will be tried by a Martial Law.

If Pyracy is committed by Subjects in Enmity with England, upon the British Seas, it is properly only punishable by the Crown of England, who have istud regimen & Dominnm exclusive of all other Power.

If Pyracy be committed on the Ocean, and the Pyrates in the Attempt be overcome, the Captors may, without any Solemnity of Condemnation, hang them up at the Main-Yard; if they are brought to the next Port, and the Judge rejects the Tryal, or the Captors cannot wait for the Judge, without Peril or Loss, Justice may be done upon them by the Captors.

If Merchandize be delivered to a Master, to carry to one Port, and he carries it to another, and sells and disposes of it, this is not Felony; but if, after unlading it at the first Port, he retakes it, it is Pyracy.

If a Pyrate attack a Ship, and the Master for Redemption, gives his Oath to pay a Sum of Money, tho’ there be nothing taken, yet it is Pyracy by the Law Marine.

If a Ship is riding at Anchor, and the Mariners all ashore, and a Pyrate attack her, and rob her, this is Pyracy.

If a Man commit Pyracy upon the Subjects of any Prince, or Republick, (though in Amity with us,) and brings the Goods into England, and sells them in a Market Overt, the same shall bind, and the Owners are for ever excluded.

If a Pyrate enters a Port of this Kingdom, and robs a Ship at Anchor there, it is not Pyracy, because not done, super altum Mare; but is Robbery at common Law, because infra Corpus Comitatus. A Pardon of all Felonies does not extend to Pyracy, but the same ought to be especially named.

By 28 H. 8. Murthers and Robberies committed upon the Sea, or in other Places, where the Admiral pretends Jurisdiction, shall be enquired into, try'd, heard, and determined, in such Places and Counties within the Realm, as shall be limited by the King's Commission, in like Manner as if such Offences were done at Land. And such Commissions (being under the Great Seal) shall be directed to the Lord Admiral, his Lieutenant or Deputy, and to three or four such others as the Lord Chancellor shall name

The said Commissioners, or three of them, have Power to enquire of such Offences by twelve lawful Men of the Country, so limited in their Commission, as if such Offences were done at Land, within the same County; and every Indictment so found and presented, shall be good in Law; and such Order, Progress, Judgment, and Execution shall be used, had, done, and made thereupon, as against Offenders for Murder and Felony done at Land. Also the Tryal of such Offences (if they be denied) shall be had by twelve Men of the County, limited in the said Commission, (as aforesaid,) and no Challenge shall be had for the Hundred: And such as shall be convict of such Offences, shall suffer Death without Benefit of Clergy, and forfeit Land and Goods, as in Case of Felonies and Murders done at Land.

This Act shall not prejudice any Person, or Persons, (urged by Necessity) for taking Victuals, Cables, Ropes, Anchors or Sails, out of another Ship that may spare them, so as they either pay ready Money, or Money worth for them, or give a Bill for the Payment thereof; if on this Side the Straits of Gibraltar, within four Months; if beyond, within twelve Months.

When any such Commission shall be sent to any Place within the Jurisdiction of the Cinque-Ports, it shall be directed to the Warden of the said Ports, or his Deputy with three or four other Persons, as the Lord Chancellor shall Name; and the Inquisition or Tryal of such Offences, there, shall be made and had, by the Inhabitants of the said Ports, and Members of the same.

By 11 and 12 W. 3. c. 7. If any natural born Subjects or Denizons of England, commit Pyracy, or any Act of Hostility, against his Majesty's Subjects at Sea, under Colour of a Commission or Authority, from any foreign Prince or State, or Person whatsoever, such Offenders shall be adjudged Pyrates.

If any Commander or Master of a Ship, or Seaman or Mariner, give up his Ship, &c. to Pyrates, or combine to yield up, or run away with any Ship, or lay violent Hand on his Commander, or endeavour to make a Revolt in the Ship, he shall be adjudged a Pyrate.

All Persons who after the 29th of September 1720, shall set forth any Pyrate (or be aiding and assisting to any such Pyrate,) committing Pyracy on Land or Sea, or shall conceal such Pyrates, or receive any Vessel or Goods pyratically taken, shall be adjudged accessary to such Pyracy, and suffer as Principals.

By 4 G. c. 11. Sect. 7. All Persons who have committed, or shall commit any Offences, for which they ought to be adjudged Pyrates, by the Act 11 and 12 W. 3. c. 7. may be tried for every such Offence, in such Manner as by the Act 28 H. 8. c. 15. is directed for the Tryal of Pyrates; and shall not have the Benefit of Clergy.

Sect. 8. This Act shall not extend to Persons convicted or attainted in Scotland.

Sect. 9. This Act shall extend to his Majesty's Dominions in America, and be taken as a publick Act.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:28