PIRACY (immediately from the. Latin pirata, and remotely from the Greek vetparis) or robbery and depredation on the high seas, is an offence against the universal law of society; a pirate being, as Black stone expresses it," hoetis humani generic." "With professed pirates," Lord Stowell observes (2 Dods., 244), " there is no state of peace. They are the enemies of every country, and at all times; and therefore are universally subject to the extreme rights of war." Molloy, an ancient writer on maritime law, but whose doctrine it would be dangerous to adopt in these days, says, " If a piracy be attempted on the ocean and the pirates are overcome, the captors may immediately punish them with death, and not be obliged to bring them into any port, provided this occurs in places where no legal judg ment can be obtained. So likewise if a ship be assaulted by pirates, and in the attempt they are subdued and taken, and carried into the next port, if the judge openly rejects their trial, or the captors cannot wait till judgment shall be given without certain peril and loss, they may do justice on them themselves without further delay or attend ance." (Molloy, De Jure Maritime,' chap. iv., sect. 12, 13.) " Thera is said to be a fashion in crimes; and piracy, at least in its simple and original form, is no longer in vogue. There was a time when the spirit of buccaneering approached in some degree to the spirit of chivalry in point of adventure ; and the practice of it, par ticularly with respect to the commerce and navigation and coasts of the Spanish American colonies, was thought to reflect no dis honour upon distinguished Englishmen who engaged in it. The grave
judge (Scaliger) observes, in a strain rather of doubtful compliment, Nulli melius piraticam exercent quhm Angli.'" (Lord Stowell, 2 Dods., 374.) The offence of piracy, by the common law of England, consists in committing those acts of rubbery and depredation upon the high seas, which, if committed upon land, would have amounted to felony there. But by various statutes other offences are made piracy, especially dealing in slaves. (See on this point, Blackst. Com.' Mr. Kerr's ed., vol. iv. ; and Abbott,' On Shipping,' 140, 141, 142, 239.) Persons guilty of piracy were formerly tried before the admiralty court, according to the rules of the civil law. This was altered by the statute 28 Henry VIII., c. 15, which enacted that the trial should be before com missioners of over and terminer, and that the course of the proceedings should be according to the common law. Further provision was made by the statutes 39 Geo. III., c. 15 ; 43 Geo. III., c. 113 ; 46 Geo. III., c. 54 ; and now, by the etat. 4 & 5 Wm. 1V., c. 36, sec. 22, the trial of offences committed on the high seas is before the Central Criminal Court, or the judges at the assizes.