"Why, I haven't no ch'ice, not I! I'd help you sail her up to Execution Dock, by thunder! so I would."

Hanging of a buccaneer at Execution Dock. Execution Dock
Public DomainHanging of a buccaneer at Execution Dock. Execution Dock
Execution Dock may be found along the Thames in Wapping, London. It was located just off-shore, thus remaining within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty who could pass sentences on those whose crimes had been commited at sea, including smugglers, pirates and mutineers. It was last used in 1830, at which time it had been in operation for 400 years. Those convicted of piracy would be hung from a short rope, thus causing them to die from a period of extended asphyxiation. During their death throes the hanging man would sometimes flail his limbs, a macabre display that came to be called the Marshal's dance. Oftentimes the lifeless body would be left to hang until three tides had washed over it. The Gentleman's Magazine (1796) details a typical execution:

"This morning, a little after ten o'clock, Colley, Cole, and Blanche, the three sailors convicted of the murder of Captain Little, were brought out of Newgate, and conveyed in solemn procession to Execution Dock, there to receive the punishment awarded by law. On the cart on which they rode was an elevated stage; on this were seated Colley, the principal instigator in the murder, in the middle, and his two wretched instruments, the Spaniard Blanche, and the Mulatto Cole, on each side of him; and behind, on another seat, two executioners. Colley seemed in a state resembling that of a man stupidly intoxicated, and scarcely awake, and the two discovered little sensibility on this occasion, nor to the last moment of their existence, did they, as we hear, make any confession. They were turned off about a quarter before twelve in the midst of an immense crowd of spectators. On the way to the place of execution, they were preceded by the Marshall of the Admiralty in his carriage, the Deputy Marshall, bearing the silver oar, and the two City Marshals on horseback, Sheriff's officers, etc. The whole cavalcade was conducted with great solemnity."