Captain John Massey

Perp: Captain John Massey

Date: July 1723

The Crime : Piracy

Victim: Unknown

Motive : Survival

Punishment: Executed

Location : London

The Story : CAPTAIN MASSEY was the son of a gentleman of fortune, who gave him an excellent education. When young, he grew weary of home ; and his father having procured him a commission in the army, he served with great credit as lieutenant under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, during the wars in Flanders, in the reign of Queen Anne.

After this he went with his regiment to Ireland, and at length got appointed to the rank of lieutenant and engineer to the Royal African Company, and sailed in one of their ships to direct the building of a fort. The ship being ill supplied with provisions, the sufferings of the crew were inexpressibly great. Those who lived to get on shore drank so greedily of the fresh water, that they were thrown into fluxes, which destroyed them so rapidly, that only Captain Massey and a very few of his people were still alive. These, being totally unable to build a fort, and seeing no prospect of relief, began to abandon themselves to despair ; but at this time a vessel happening to come near the shore, they made signals of distress, on which a boat was sent off to their assistance.

They were no sooner on board than they found the vessel was a pirate ; and, distressed as they had been, they too hastily engaged in their lawless plan, rather than run the hazard of perishing on shore. Sailing from hence, they took several prizes ; and at length on the ship reaching Jamaica, Mr. Massey seized the first opportunity of deserting; and repairing to the governor, he gave such information, that the crew of the pirate vessel were taken into custody, convicted, and hanged.

Massey might have been provided for by the governor, who treated him with singular respect, on account of his services to the public ; but he declined his generous offers, through an anxiety to visit his native country. On his sailing for England, the governor gave him recommendatory letters to the lords of the admiralty ; but, astonishing as it may seem, instead of his being caressed, he was taken into custody, and committed till a session of admiralty was held for his trial, when he pleaded guilty, and received sentence of death.

His sentence was subsequently carried out, although it may readily be supposed that that due attention was scarcely given to the case which the interests of the prisoner demanded.