JOHN POWER, Alias WINN
Pirate, hanged at Execution Dock, 10th March, 1768
THIS malefactor was a native of the West of England, and very early engaged in a seafaring life, serving on board a ship which sailed to the coast of Guinea on the slave-trade. This trade, of all others, is the most obnoxious to the feelings of humanity, the most contrary to the doctrines of Christianity; and it is astonishing that any man can call himself a Christian, yet professedly barter away the lives and liberties of his fellow-creatures!
Captain Fox had the command of the vessel, and, while he was on shore on the African coast, Power and several other seamen determined to seize the ship, and to take her to sea on their own account.
This resolution being formed, they swore fidelity to each other; and, giving the name of 'Bravo' to the ship (which had been called the Polly), they sailed for the West Indies, the command being given to Power, who now assumed the title of captain.
The mate of the ship exerted his utmost influence to prevail on Power to let the real captain come on hoard before he sailed, and to return to his own duty; but all the return that the mate experienced for this good advice was the ball of a pistol lodged in his shoulder: Power likewise discharged a ball through the cheek of a sailor, and wounded a second who refused to submit to his imperious commands.
Thus by violence becoming master of the vessel, he proceeded on his voyage with a lading of negro slaves; but among the other parties on board was a free negro, who had remained as a hostage for two of his country men; and this man was employed in splitting wood for firing.
This free negro frequently conversing with the slaves, the pirates conceived that they were concerting plans to regain their liberty; for guilt is ever suspicious.
One Robert Fitzgerald, aft Irishman, was the first who observed the free negro talking to the slaves; and hinting his suspicions to Power, and telling him to be on his guard, the latter, who was a fellow of the most unfeeling disposition, caused the poor man to be tied to the side of the ship, where he whipped him some minutes with a cat-o'-nine-tails with such severity, that his body streamed with blood, and his bones in some places were visible.
After this severe chastisement for no real offence Power took a cutlass from the hands of one of the sailors; but, not thinking it sharp enough to answer his horrid purpose, be directed that another should be brought him, with which he cut the poor negro in several places. Not contented with exercising this unprovoked severity, he directed Fitzgerald to cut him again, and the barbarous villain even exceeded his commission. Another of the sailors, named Potts, likewise cut him in two or three places; and at length Fitzgerald completed the murder by cutting off his bead, and throwing that, with the body, into the sea; though he had no order from Power for carrying the affair to such extremity.
The horrid murder being thus committed, they continued their voyage for the West Indies, where they offered the negro slaves for sale; but, a suspicion arising of some illicit practices, they thought it prudent to depart; and, steering their course for North America, they came to anchor in the harbour of New York, where most of them thought it prudent to consult their safety in flight; but the surgeon of the ship (who had been obliged to dissemble his inclinations, to save his life) gave information against the murderers, some of whom were taken into custody.
Fitzgerald had made his escape; but Power, and a seaman named Tomlin, were sent to England, where they were brought to trial; when the latter was acquitted from a variety of circumstances that arose in exculpation of his crime; but Power, being convicted on the fullest evidence, was sentenced to death for the murder of the negro.
After conviction his behaviour was such as might have been expected from so hardened a wretch, -- one who seemed to defy the laws of God and man, to be a wilful, a deliberate, murderer.
This malefactor was hanged at Execution Dock on the 10th of March, 1768.
After the various and repeated remarks we have made on the crimes of murder and piracy, nothing remains to be said on the present occasion but to reprobate in the severest manner the practice of engaging in the slave-trade. If a man possessed those generous feelings by which our nature is said to be distinguished, he could not be induced to engage in this infernal traffic; or, if he did engage in it, it is impossible but that his feelings must be called forth, and he would see that his life was little less than continued murder.
We are convinced that it may be, because it has been, argued, that the petty princes of Africa make a practice of selling as slaves such of their countrymen as they have obtained possession of by right of conquest; but shall this be an argument of any weight in a humane, in a Christian breast? Forbid it honour! forbid it that genuine philanthropy which claims the first possession of our hearts and gives us a distinction from the beasts that perish!
It is not reasonable to suppose that God has made any distinction between his creatures: why then should that distinction be made by man -- vain, presumptuous, man -- too fond of arrogating to himself something more than the attribute of the Deity!