Pirate Execution & Murder

Execution of ten Pirates at Cadiz

As I thought that the stay of our Captain on shore would not exceed an hour or two, I did not think it worth my while to dress myself and accompany him. In the absence then of the rest, I employed myself in looking at the Town and surrounding country. The result of this inspection was, that I was confirmed in my very favourable opinion, which I ventured to express in my journal of our former voyage. Having gazed and regarded, till I began to become weary of doing nothing but gazing houses however beautiful, fortunately our pilot came on board and roused our almost dormant curiosity by the intelligence of an event, which at this moment was engaging the whole attention of the world at Cadiz.

The very day before our arrival ten pirates had publicly and justly expiated their crimes against society on the scaffold. These men had formed part of the crew of a Rover, which about 2 years ago had captured and plundered an English vessel called the Morning Star, and awhich had excited so much noise at the time. If I mistake not, the piratical vessel had been in the Brazilian service and had been fitted out as a cruiser – the men mutinied – landed the chief officers, and after choosing the former boatswain to be their Captain, they began to travel under the Black Flag. Owing to the ignorance and unskillfulness of those who navigated her, she run aground off the light house at Cadiz, which they had unfortunately for themselves but fortunately for society, mistaken for the lighthouse of Tarifa, which is a similar Tower, lying in the Straits of Gibraltar. All who were not drowned, or could not effect their escape, were apprehended and lodged in jail. After an imprisonment of about 18 months, they were tried and condemned – and as I have just mentioned, executed the very day before our arrival. The mode in which they were put to death, or rather dispatched was according to the old but exploded fashion with us, which is more praiseworthy in the breach than the observance. Six were executed at one time and 4 at another. The operation was proceeded thus with each individually & not as with us where all are thrown off at once – so that sixth witnessed, with what feelings I cannot pretend to say, the slow and systematic steps taken towards his five companions. There were two Executioners – the rope being properly arranged round the neck of the criminal, one of them took his station at his feet, with the intention of pulling his legs and thus hastening his death, whilst the other for the same merciful purpose, mounted upon his shoulders and added to the whole weight of his body to speed the departing soul. I should conceive that the sight to the most indifferent spectator must have been horrible – and if so, how infinitely beyond comparison more so, to the surviving wretches, who had so terrible a representation of the treatment and agonies which they must shortly undergo in their turn. I am told that all of them in the slang language died “game” that is, met their fate with hardened stoicism, and as would have done honour to them on the field of battle and when engaged against the enemies of their country. They were of various nations as French, Portuguese, Neapolitans and Biscayans.

History of a French Pirate

One of them a young Frenchman about 19 years of age, from some particulars of his history and from his strange behaviour excited a greater sensation in the public mind. He was born of a most respectable family, and a few months before had had a considerable sum of money bequeathed to him by an Aunt, who was totally ignorant of his infamous and perilous career. His father is Officer in the French Navy, and it is said bears a high character for every honourable and gentlemanly quality which an officer in such a service ought to possess – with him, his son had been for some time a midshipman, but being of wild and adventurous disposition had run away and joined the Pirates. But the most extraordinary circumstance connected with this young Gaul, was his frequently expressed, and if we may credit his declaration, his too terribly proved hatred of the English. He openly acknowledged that he had already sacrificed 17 Englishmen in cold blood and with his own hands & farther added that if he could but murder one more of the accursed race before his execution, he would die happy. What a fiendish spirit of hatred did this declaration display – and how can it be accounted for in one of such tender years unless peculiar and aggravating family or national circumstances have preyed upon his mind, so as to drive him to madness (for mad he must have been) – but whether such a cause had really existed I could not learn.

As this young villain could not longer pursue his favourite trade of murdering Englishman, he expressed a hope, that his brother, to whom he had given over the fortune left by his Aunt, and who was also on the High Seas, would kill as many as he had, even tho’ his end should be as ignominious and painful as his own.

After hanging the whole day, in a situation where their fate could be witnessed by all the shipping, at night the bodies were cut down, and the rest of their sentence carried into execution, which was that their heads should be severed from their trunk, and be exposed in public as a warning to others. Accordingly next day poles were erected in different parts, and upon these were stuck the heads. These poles around which large crowds had collected had attracted my attention as I viewed them thro’ a telescope, but until In had heard the above particulars, I could not make out what they were – and then adieu to all lack of interest, for I soon became intent on watching the behaviour of the successive crowds who came to see the horrible spectacle, and who seemed to be actuated by great curiosity.

Murder of an English merchant at Cadiz

It is a common saying that one misfortune seldom fails to be accompanied by another – so it happened to us that one tale of horror was only finished to be succeeded by another equally appalling. I shall give it to you as I heard it from different quarters. Shortly after Cadiz had been declare a free Port, and the disastrous effects of such a measure to Gibraltar had began to be felt, one of the head partners, (a M.r Bushley) of a most respectable mercantile firm in the latter place went to Cadiz to establish and superintend a branch there. He hired a large warehouse and commenced business on a very extensive scale. From what cause it was I cannot tell, but a report belief was prevalent that money to a considerable amount was kept in the house. This excited the cupidity of some villainous waterman – and one night six men came to the Merchants abode and, after delivering a message from another well known house respecting the purchase of some goods, requested to see M.r  [Bushley]. The Clerk (a Spaniard) told them that he was engaged, but as they persisted in their demand he called his Master who soon after appeared and asked their business – they told him and he then said that it was [an] unusual hour to transact such an affair but that he would do any thing to oblige their respectable employers. Meanwhile the robbers having obtained admission soon shewed what their object was and audaciously seized an opportunity of murdering the unsuspicious Gentleman – wounded several of the Clerks and plundered the house. As soon as the intelligence of the horrible event was made public, contrary to the usual dilatoriness of Spanish justice, immediate and active steps were taken to discover and bring to condign punishment the perpetrators of this double crime of murder and robbery – the city gates shut and strictly guarded and on one allowed to pass thro’, without being compelled to give a good account of himself, who and what he was. By adopting these vigorous measures 4 persons were apprehended on very strong suspicion – and it was expected that they would shortly be tried and receive the awards of punishment which they so richly deserved, on the very same gallows, from which the Pirates had so lately been suspended – “a consummation devoutly to be wished for.”

Read on … Gibraltar