Few persons of the present day are aware how extensively piracy prevailed two centuries ago. There was no part of the high seas that was free from the depredation of roving robbers. At times they threatened towns on the coast, and at others they attacked ships on mid-ocean; and they seem to have followed their lawless pursuits at will. When caught, there was little delay in bringing them to trial and securing a conviction; and trivial technicality in forms played no part in reaching results. At times there were multiple executions, and in the community there was no morbid sentimentality shown for the miserable wretches. Not the least of their torture was sitting in the meeting-house on the Sunday before execution and listening to their own funeral sermons, when the minister told them what they might expect in the next world if they got their just dues. On June 30, 1704, six poor victims were hung, on the Boston side of the Charles River bank, for piracy and murder; and there was a great crowd to witness the tragedy. Among the spectators on this occasion was Chief-Justice Sewall, one of the judges of the Admiralty Court which had convicted the pirates, who did not think it beneath his dignity to be present. It was then considered a public duty to invest the scene of execution with as much awe as possible, and it was thought that official station would emphasize this feeling.
The following extract from "The Boston News-Letter," August 21, 1721, shows how in early times piratical craft, heavily manned and carrying many guns, sailed