Captain John Massey
Perp: Captain John Massey
Date: July 1723
The Crime : Piracy
Motive : Survival
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
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.