...let me mention that an American, named Eli Boggs, was tried at Hongkong on Wednesday last for piracy and murder. His name would do for a villain of the Blackbeard class, but in form and feature he was like the hero of a sentimental novel; as he stood in the dock, bravely battling for his life, it seemed impossible that that handsome boy could be the pirate whose name had been for three years connected with the boldest and bloodiest acts of piracy. It was a face of feminine beauty. Not a down upon the upper lip; large lustrous eyes; a mouth the smile of which might woo coy maidens; affluent black hair, not carelessly parted; hands so small and so delicately white that they would create a sensation in Belgravia: such was the Hongkong pirate, Eli Boggs. He spoke for two hours in his defence, and he spoke well - without a tremor, without an appeal for mercy, but trying to prove that his prosecution was the result of a conspiracy, wherein a Chinese bumboat proprietor and a sub-official of the colony (both of whom he charged as being in league with all the pirates on the coast) were the chief conspirators. The defence was, of course, false. It had been proved that he had boarded a junk, and destroyed by cannon, pistol and sword, fifteen men; and that, having forced all the rest overboard, he had fired at one of the victims, who had clutched a rope and held on astern. No witness, however, could prove that he saw a man die from a blow or a shot struck or fired by the pirate. The jury, moved by his youth and courage, and straining hard their consciences acquitted him of the murder but found him guilty of piracy. He was sentenced to be transported for life...Piracy was a major problem in the area from before the British arrived; it had been called the Ladrones by the Portuguese, 'ladron' meaning pirate or robber. The seafarers of this stretch of the China coast were far from imperial authority, and so made their living from fishing, trade and piracy as a sometimes attractive sideline. What was amazing was this lad's ability to run a piracy enterprise in the midst of a wealth of local talent...he was put to work on building roads in Hong Kong, and despite his sentence of transportation (Chinese criminals in Hongkong were sometimes sent all the way to India or Malaya for hard labor), he was let off and was allowed to slink away after just three years on account of ill health. Clearly the sympathy he derived from his good looks must have taken him a long way...
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Eli Boggs, American Pirate of the China Seas
Allow me to quote again from Mr. George Wingrove Cooke, in this instance regarding a remarkable incident from the 19th century - the trial and conviction of an American as a pirate. And no mere pirate - Eli Boggs was said to have at one point controlled over 50 war junks and was a terror of the South China Seas. Without further ado: