I owe a big thank you this week to Jennifer M. Huff, Reference Department Coordinator of the Virginia Historical Society, for providing me with a copy of this act.
Dated during the period of April 1699, it is from The Statutes at Large, being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619, by William Waller Hening.
I tried to preserve as much of the original spelling as I could. I think seeing the original spellings adds to the interest of reading the text. Enjoy!
An Act for restraining and punishing of Pirates and Privateers
WHEREAS nothing can more conduce to the honour of his most sacred majesty then that such articles of peace as are concluded in all treaties should be kept and preserved inviolable by his majestyes subjects in and over all his majestyes territories and dominions and forasmuch as great mischief and depredations are dayly done upon the high seas by pyrates privateers and sea robers in not onely takeing and pillaging severall ships and vessels belonging to his majestyes subjects but also in takeing, destroying and robing severall ships belonging to the subjects of foreigne princes in leage and amity with his majesty-
Be it therefore enacted by the Governour, Counsell and Burgesses of this present Generall assembly, and the authority thereof, and it is hereby enacted, That if any pirates, privateers or sea robers, or any other persons suspected to be such shall land and put on shoar in any port or place in this his majestyes colony and dominon upon notice given or knowledge thereof, all officers civill and military are hereby required and impowered to raise and levy such a number of well armed men as he or they shall judge necessary for the seizing, apprehending and carrying to gal of all and every such person or persons, and in case of any resistance or rrefusalto yield obedience to his majestyes authority it shall be lawfull to kill or destroy such person or persons and all and every person or persons that shall oppose or resist the said authority by strikeing or fireing upon any person in execution of this act, shall be deemed taken and adjudged as fellons without benefit of clergy, and every such officer that shall omit or neglect his duty therein and being lawfully convicted shall for every such offence forfeit fifty pounds sterling, one moiety to our sovereign Lord the king, his heirs and successors for and towards the better support of the government and the contingent charges thereof, and the other moiety to him that shall sue or informe for the same in any court of record in this his majestyes colony and dominion, in which no essoigne protection or wager of law shall be allowed. And for the better and morespeedy execution of justice upon such who having committed treasons, pirieyes, felloneyes, or other offences upon the sea, and shall be apprehended or brought prisoners to this his majestyes colony and dominion,
Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all treassons, fellonyes, piracyes, robberies, murders or other capitall offences that shall be committed upon the high seas or in any river, havens , creek or bay where the admiral hath jurisdiction, shall be enquired, tried, heared, determined, judged and execution awarded and done within this his majestyes colony and dominion in such forme as if such offence had been committed in and upon the land of this his majestyes collony and dominion. And to that end and purpose the governor or commander in chief of this his majestyes colony and dominion for the time being, is hereby desired and impowered to issue out commissions of oyer and terminer under his hand, and his majestyes seal of this his colony and dominion directed to the judge or judges of the admiralty of this his majestyes colony and dominion for the time being and to such other substanciall persons as he shall think fit to nominate and appoint, which said commissioners or such a quorum of them as by such commission shall be thereunto authorized shall have as full ample power and authority to hear and determine, adjudge and punish all and any the crimes and offences aforesaid as any commissioners under the great seale of England by virtue of a statute made in the twenty-eighth year of the reigne of King Henry the eighth might or could do and execute within the kingdom of England, and that such offenders which are or shall be apprehended in or brought prisoners to this his majestyes colony and dominion shall be lyable to such order, process, judgements and execution by virtue of such commission to be grounded upon this act as might be awarded or given against them if they were proceeded against within the realm of England by virtue of any such commission grounded upon the said statute.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all and every person or persons that shall knowingly or willfully conceal, entertaine, harbor trade or hold any correspondence by letter or otherwise with any person or persons that shall be deemed or adjudged to be pirates, privateers or other offenders within the constructions of this act and shall not readily endeavor to the best of his or their power to apprehend or cause to be apprehended such offender or offenders shall be lyable to be prosecuted as accessaryes to the said offences and confederates with the said offenders and to suffer such pains and penalties as in such cases by law is provided.