For some reason, a friend (who wishes to preserve his or her anonymity) can’t post this comment in response to Mac’s post below on how to respond to pirates, so I’m doing it for him here (having twice tried on his behalf to post it below).
Each law, coming from a less tender-footed era in our history, does indeed establish the death penalty for piracy (FYI, these days, U.S. law gives pirates life in prison). But both of these old capital laws require judicial process -- i.e., the suspects’ being taken to a federal district or circuit court, tried, and found guilty -- before dispatching them (likewise, their vessels have to be condemned in a U.S. court). So no summary execution of the bastards (although the old laws allow actions of self-defense -- no further details provided -- by the threatened ship).
Mac, in your reference to "hanging" pirates, were you implying that summary execution was the policy? If that was a fact, how did it square with the trial requirements in the laws?
And -- most important of all -- how does this grim discussion affect our affection for Mark Twain?