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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 4

Trial notes
Essex Sup. Jud. Court Novr. 17851

Cmnwlth vs for Piracy Richard Squires John Mathews George Steward Alexr. Evins John Boardman

James Dunkenson 10 Augt. 1785, Sailed from Norfolk the Prisoners shipd on board, before mast. Steward before mast. Robt. Watson. mate. John Brewer Boatswain Plato, a Cooper, Tom, Dick. Dick, Will. we sailed in co. with Schooner Industry John Dunkenson: nothing remarkable hapned till 15th. my Brother JD. dind with me he went on board his vessel abt. 6 in Eving. abt. 10 oClock Squires & Mathews came down, armd with Cutlass & coopers adze. called me by name & wakd me I think Squires had the Cutlass, they told me to turn out for I was their Prisner said if I made any noise I should be a dead man that instant, I asked if they had taken the vessel, they said they had the vessel was theirs. they stood both together I dont know which spoke I found out they tyed my hands with a Gasket, they ordered me to bed again, they demanded where the wine was. I told them. they got it & drank a good Sight of an Island to themselves Squires went on Deck & Mathews remaind below with me, Squires came down & they ordered the Boy to get the Irons up, they put a pair on my hands, while Mathews was putting the Irons on me he said it was very droll I should be of the expense to buy Irons for my Self; they their enquired where the Pistols, musquets & ammunition was: after they got Possn. of the Arms they brought Mr. Watson into the cabin & put him in Irons, 346 they told us if we behaved well we should be well treated; Mathews asked me if I had an Med. Pass sd. they were almost as bad as Algerines to you: they told us we might Content our Selves for they did not intend to take our Lives, they went on Deck & left us by our Selves: next morning they said they were Steering for the Land; Squires Said we should have the boat when we got near the Land, or any time we thought proper, we steered in W. two days abt. 3` an hour 3d. day strong wind blew from Land. I frequently sollicited them for the boat, wch. they put off from time to time, they proposed Sails Oars & provisions for the boat, the 3d. day a Vessel a sloop hove in Sight, at 2 or 3 PM before this.* Squires asked Watson if he knew Mr. Mathewman, he said yes, he asked where he sld. in Philadl. & L’Orient. Squires said he was Boatswain of Mr. Mathewman in Affrica, he said he had recd. a letter from him the day before he shipd with me that Mathewman was cruising on the Coast with Brig of 16 Guns as a Pirate, that the Substance of the Letter was for him to ship himself on board some valuable vessel, & take her if possible, that Matthewman was laying witht. Capes assisting him & came here *Squires called down to Watson with Trumpet & said how is yr. old Friend Mathewman coming: Squires asked if we should like to go on board that Vessel: when the Sloop drew Steward came down with Pistols & said he was ordered down to prevent our hailing her from the Cabin Windows, they haild the Sloop I took it to be Squires by his Voice; the Sloop sd. they came from R. Island to C. Francois; Squires sd. he was from Jamaica to Norfolk in Virginia asked if he cd. Spare Provision for he had many Passengers the Sloop ansd. he cd. spare a little. Squires askd if he had heard of a fresh disturbance, he said there was a vessel arrived at Jamaica before he saild which brought an acct of it the parted after that Squires asked us if we shd. like to go there I told him I prefered going in the boat, the 2d. day after we were taken, Steward had thrown a bottle over board, Mathews from aloft calld to Squires & said something had been thrown out of Cabin Windows, Squires came down & shouted if we threw any thing out of Cabin Windows we should share same fate. He then made a good deal of noise on deck till the Cook told him he had thrown a bottle out of the Wast: Squires ordered Plato to Draw a keg of Rum, he Snap’d & Disturbed his hand as he told me: 19th Augt. they took our Chests on Deck, examnd. Watsons Chest & my Trunk, they gave me my Trunk & acct. kept ships papers. they gave me & Mr. Watson a few Cloathes, I was then orderd down into the Cabin in 347 Irons. they then ordered Watson on Deck in 1/4 hour he came down again & remained there till they hoisted the boat when we came on Deck they all had Arms except Boardman whom I did not see, they bad me to Gunwale Squires took my Iron of with my one Leg over & the other in the Vessel. Steward stood by me with a Cutlass & a Pistol; they then ordered the mate up brought him to Gangway Squires could not get his Irons off, he got into the boat with his Irons on 6 of us in Boat my self, Watson, Brewer, & Plato Tom & Dick the Boatswain called to Boardman if he was not coming into the Boat he damnd his Eyes & said he was not for if he went with us he shd. be hanged & he had another story where he was they gave us bll. water bll. bread, & ham, 2 Ducks; & 2 fowls, 2 ps. boiled beef, 10 days short allowance Compass & Quadrant. 80 or 90 degrees from Cape of Virginia, it was Evning abt. 10 oClock; Thursday obs. swell we saw a Ship 3 Cranes bound to Boston from Jamaica we remaind on board her till 3 oClock next day when we left her, in the night it blew hard 23d. we saw a Sail. they informd us they were bound to London from Virginia, next day saw a sail to Westward, then to Leeward Capt. Trafanon bound to NYork: we went on board 5 or 6 in Evng. a gale came on, the Ship lay too, we could not have survived in the boat, we arrived in N.York.—we had 2, 6 pdrs, 5 musqets 2 or 3 pr. Pistols 6 Cutlasses Powder & ball. we were bound on the Slave trade, & the Irons to secure them. they offered to take our Irons off while we were at Dinner. I declined it. they dined with us: this is the Register, Clearance & blank Robert Watson abt. 10 oClock Eving my Watch Capt. Dunkenson below. Mathews at helm. he calld Evins to relieve him I observed We distanced the Industry. I saw Squires & Mathews run aft with a coopers axe. Seized bad me not speak for my Life Squires had a hanger, they said the Vessel was theirs & it did not signify making any noise, they would land us in America, they lead me forward to fore scuttle where George Steward stood with a cooks ax; the morning before the fact, I flogged the cook they put me down the fore Scuttle: Evins at Helm: they said they wd. treat me well if I behaved well Boardman was in the Scuttle. I asked him if he knew any thing of taking the Vessel he gave me no answer abt. an hour Squire Evins & Steward came & motioned us out, they were all armed, they sent for Irons, Evins went aft to bring the Irons: they carried me into the cabin & put me in Irons. I saw the Capt. in Irons: they drank a good sight of the Islands; Evins came down into Cabin & drank. Squires talked 348 of many people in Philada., of Mathewman he sd. he had a Vessel of 14 Guns cruising. the throwing the bottle. Squires told us to be sorry our Irons was safe 19th. he asked me to go on Deck to take an Obsn. Lat. 56.58'. Saw em lying: saw Boardman on hen coop arms near him, never saw him in arms: heard his name called on deck to work the Vessel, when we were in the Boat we called to Boardman to know if he would go with us he said no for he shd. be hanged & if he staid the strange hanger in Squires Possession Squires sd. he recd. a letter from a Gentn. to ship on board this or some Vessel & take her & that he was ready to take her, & he showd it to the people Mathews sd. he was tird of Working & very determined to get something to live on Squires offered to take off Irons at times Brewer not in Irons I talked in Goal with them abt. the Articles. Squires said if it had not been for those unfortunate articles it wd. have been better for them, he sd. the only thing that could induce me to draw them up was to keep order on board: for Boardman & Evins could pull Drunk; I told the others that Squires had been talking abt. the articles, I asked if the had signed them, Evins & Boardman sd. they had signed them, but had not heard them read Mathews sd. it was a made up affair before they came out, & that they sounded the crew & made em take an oath, on a prayer book Jonathan Ingersol I was a Passenger on board the Atlantick from Statia to N York Wm. Trafanin master on 29 Augt. in Evning we past a boat in whom was Duncanson, Watson, Brewer & 3 blacks. we took em up, they told the acct. of their being turned out of their Vessel; a very alarming night in the ship & the boat could not have lived, abt. 50 Leagues from Shore; William Orne 29. of Augt. I was on board a Vessel bound to Connect: in Evng. saw this Schooner we went into Holmes Hole, I saw Boardman in a boat that put off from the Amity I askd him where they were from he sd. from Havannah bound to Newbury, he said many Vessels there from these ports, he pointed to a house on the shore & said the Capt. was there, & his name was Dikenson or Dunkenson; I am Satisfied ’tis the same Schooner as here 349 there were Vessels there she might have taken I saw him along side a Brig the People on Deck when they were taken at Marblehead I saw them. Charles Hamilton I went out in a Brig to take the Schooner, we saw her in offing, She got to an anchor off Marblehead. We found two whites, We found a man in Irons, he said he belonged to the come on board as a passenger in Vineyard to go to NPort in fore Scuttle: Capt. Hanfeild took the Paper of articles out of the Trunk An obign. to the Articles, party of hand witnessed to be given in Evidence; the Register the Clearance John Carry Friday 10 Sept. we went out we went on board after she got to anchor, we found Boardman & Evins on Deck & a man laden in Irons in the Scuttle, his sd. his name was Wise glad he was taken, put in Irons, a few days after he Boardman said he was placed Centry by Capt. over that man to let no body speak wth. him nor suffer him to come on deck Boardman sd. Wise came on board at Vineyard passenger hdg. to NYork; I saw Hanfeild take Papers out of Trunk, & I found Register John Wait Friday I had the Custody of those at Marblehead; George told me where the Pirate Articles were in a Chest & gave me the key the Examination of George Steward before Isaac Mansfield Esq. for Prisoner Danl. Hopkins I remember marrying a man by name of Richd. Squires to Mrs. Margaret Hoy March.7.1780 Benj. Moses. Richd. Squires wife went with me to Nova Scotia last may Hugh Hill I know Richd. Squires by name with me in Pilgrim Edward Whittemore I know Richd. Squires, he boarded with me 4 or 5 months, his behaviour not amiss, he is an English man; he has not been here since 1780 Wm. Marston I know Squires Wife she lived with me. Joshua Convers 350 Mr. Parsons Piracy isnt a Crime known by the Common Law of the Land. Boardmans Case. accessory after fact, wd. they have bound him with Watson in the Scuttle. the Confederation gives no power to Congress to appoint Court to try accessory to Piracy the Act of 28 of Henry 8th. HPC 48 confederation: don’t give Power to make Such Ordinance Act of Cmttee. on ordinance of Congress Evins also an accessory after the fact the act not Piracy by Law. there must be no breach of Trust. it must be dealing against all mankind no Robbery could by civil Law be committed when there was a breach of Trust HC 100:11.12 W3. till this act passed a master of Vessel running away with a vessel not guilty of Piracy. this is not Piracy by Common Law, nor by the Civil Law 4 Blac. 72: Some other offense created by A2 72 of W.3: Act 28 Hen 8. power extended to this Prov. it is not Robbery nor Larceny by Commn Law if I deliver a purse of money to a man & he runs away with it: so of a Vessel Mm. this is the object of the stat of W:3 the Schooner Amity had engaged for the Slave trade & had provided Irons; agt. Christianity: approved of in Virginia &c & therefore they did not go there: one 3 hour at Cape Francois wd. have placed them on the Gallows Mm. Slaves may have forfeited lives, & be transported. Law of Transportation in England Shall a man fight against every Person who thinks differs from himself they committed no bloodshed. would they have gone when known, with an altered Register 351 Corpus Jur. D, de ri publico. 957 Molloys: Def of a Riote: : p. 86: Steward did nothing till the act done, Watson conscious of his inhumanity to him made him fear his life wn. he saw the ax with regard to Squires & Matthews, in co. with the rest it is not Piracy: & am certain it is not if you have a doubt yo. must acquit the Cmmn. Law is the Antient usuage of the Land the Civil Law is the Laws of Roman Emperors the Stat W3. has not been adopted in this Prov. if these are to be hung if wn. they did not murder, they will murder for the future, would you punish this offence like murder what wd. be your reflection if you should do wrong & alter yr. opinion hereafter it is the wish of the Law they may be cleared Jona. Glover a Witness we found Squires Mathews & Steward & charged them with being the Pirates, Squires denied that he was the Pirate or that was the Vessel, on being asked to write an order to deliver up the Vessel he consulted Mathews said he was forced to do it for the Capt. pinched us of our Victuals: Steward confessed the whole matter. John Glover Squires denied the Vessel to be the same as took her from Capt. Dunkenson, I proposed to him to give an Order for the Vessel; he said his mate was on board Isaac Mansfield Esqr. George Stewart made the confession in writing Mr. Bradbury this Indictment is manifestly bottomed on the 13 W.3. vid Crown Cir: the Common Idea of Piracy the Indictment charges the Prisoners guilty of a breach of Trust Story of Mathewman a hoax but if they previously meant to stop a Voyage for Slaves wd. they have talked in this manner 352 Mm. this crime is Cmmn. concern, our Pirates cou’d see where will be punished Verdict Squire & Mathews guilty of the felony & Robbery, not guilty of Piracy, the other three Prisoners not Guilty— Motion is Arrest of Judgt. 1 the offence of which the Pris. stand convicted is not felony, by the Law of the Land 2d the offence of wch. the Pris. stand convicted if felony is Piracy of wh. the Pris. are acqd. 3d. the Jury cd. not by Law acquit the Pris of Piracy & Convict them of Robbery in this Indictment 4 the Property of the Vessel & Cargo in the Indictment is not alledged to be in any body 5. the Property alledged to be Stolen is not sufficiently discribed to warrant any Judgment. 6 the Indictment is repugnant in this that John Boardman is charged both as principal and as accessory to the same felony every Roby. on Seas is Pir: as in Burgl. Petit Treason, they include different crimes 3. Insti: III: the Civil Law is not the Law of the Land accg. to 6th. Article of Const: discharging the Piracy is discharging the whole, for it is the whole act of Robbery make the Piracy I admit Piracy & Robbery may be distinct the Stat W.3. dont make a new Piracy why should they turn Larceny into Robbery wn. the Punishment the same & if moving away with a Vessel not Larceny by Civil Law, can the addition of force make it Robbery2 Mm. the Preamble before the act HPC:93§24. Mm. 97.§.11 1. HPC 512: every Indictment must Suppose the case one Jt. owner commit Robbery of another. 353 they might be sole owners. the Presedents are alledged to be in somebody Precedent are Law HPC 228.§62, a contradictory Charge & each may take advantage of it §6, eadem lege lenetur, qui hominibus armatis possessirem domo agrove suo, aut navi sua deiecerit expugnaverit. Concursus3

MS .


On Nov. 17, 1785, the Independent Chronicle reported:

On Tuesday morning last came on, before the Court instituted for trying Piracies and Robberies committed on the High Seas, then sitting in this town, the trial of Richard Squire, John Mathews, Alexander Evans, George Stewart, (a Mulatto) and John Boardman, the four first as principals, and the last as an accessary, in piractically and feloniously taking possession of the schooner Amity, with her cargo, James Duncanson, Master, bound from Virginia to Africa, and afterwards taken and brought into this port. The trial continued, in presence of a most numerous assembly of all characters, till about 9 o’clock on Wednesday evening, when the Jury retired, and the Court adjourned. On Thursday, in the forenoon the Court met, when the Jury brought in their verdict—Squire and Mathews guilty of Robbery and Felony—Evans, Stewart and Boardman, not guilty. The two first were remanded to prison, and the three latter discharged. The Council for the prisoners, Mr. Parsons and Mr. Bradbury of Newbury-Port, moved the Court for an arrest of judgment, in favour of Squire and Mathews, and the whole of Friday was spent in arguing the mtter. The Court finally, without coming to a determination, adjourned to the 2d day of February next.

A resolve of the General Court adjourned the special court to Boston in Feb. 1786. It also directed the sheriff of Essex County to deliver the prisoners to the sheriff of Suffolk County, who was in turn to deliver them to the Commonwealth’s jail at Boston (Acts and Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [1784–1785], Chapter 105 [Oct. 1785], 794–795). A petition from Squire and Matthews, dated Nov. 21, 1785, at Salem, recognizing that they had been convicted on charges of felony and robbery on the high seas but not on piracy, requested they may be sentenced to “hard labour for any term of time which to the Justices of the said Court may seem reasonable.” The General Court permitted this request and directed the justices “not to pass sentence of death” against the prisoners.


“On Saturday last, Richard Squires and John Mathews, who at Salem, in November last, were convicted of robbery and felony on the high seas, were sentenced, by the Court instituted for the trial of piracies, &c. to be confined to hard labour, at the Castle, for the term of ten years” (Independent Chronicle, Mar. 16, 1786).

Squire and Matthews were both committed to the state prison at Castle Island in Boston Harbor on Mar. 11, 1786, for terms of ten years apiece. Matthews was “liberated” on June 23, 1792; and Squire, on Jan. 31, 1794 (Castle Island Commitment Register, 1785–1798. Massachusetts Archives, Boston, Mass.).


“Also liable under this statute [Lex Iulia de vi publica] is anyone who with armed men expels someone having possession from his home, his farm, or his ship, or attacks him” (Alan Watson, The Digest of Justinian [Philadelphia, 2011], 4:330).