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ON THE PROBABLE INFLUENCE OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION ON
THE CHARACTER AND SITUATION OF SEAMEN.
There are few' anticipations more brightness. The moral excesses of common among naval men in these which its members have been hitherto times, than that the best days of their currently guilty, they represent as enprofession are at an end. Their own ormous, inexcusable, scarcely illustranumber, they observe, in consequence ted, and in no degree redeemed, by a of the unusual length and feverish reckless bravery and profusion disactivity of the late war, is become so guised under the specious names of great, so disproportioned to any de- skill, courage, and generosity. Now, mand which their country can ever however, these things are to disappear, again have for their services, their and a new era is to commence. They commissions are mere honourable re- themselves, thegood people to whom we tirements, and scarcely one in twenty allude, are about to go forth among can hope to survive until the course of this people with the modification of seniority shall bring each in succession Christianity which they profess, conto the top of the list. Opportunities, quering and to conquer in its might. meanwhile, of acquiring persoual dis“ The wilderness is to become a fruitful tinction are become so rare, it is a mat- field under their ministrations; and ter of necessity that merit should re- sailors, hitherto the outcasts of relimain in obscurity, and interest alone gious society, and still, for aught which distribute the few prizes yet remaining appears in these anticipations, doomed
in the wheel. There is no more chance to remain surrounded by precisely the het niet of prize-money, at least for the present; same circumstances of temptation as
and worse than all this, while the navy before, are yet henceforth to become
t the arri
on all to stand in an opposition, which religion ; and daily acquiring new chait would be very difficult completely racters, which must materially influto reconcile.
ence their views and conduct whenFor our own parts, we think them ever they return to the duties of their both wrong, though with a cast of profession. And it is probable that right in each ; and as, in the order in the surface of the mirror, thus under which we have now stated them, they course of polishing, will never again coincide with the distribution of our refuse to reflect the hue of surroundsubject, which destined our conclu- ing objects ; in other words, that the ding communications under the pre- navy will never again be the peculiar sent head, to the consideration of the profession which it has hitherto been; existing prospects of seamen on board distinguished from others not less by and on shore, it is our intention to sift its manners than pursuits. them pretty closely. The first will It is equally certain, that opportufurnish us with more matter for this nities of acquiring personal distinction article than we shall be able to over-, are infinitely more rare now, than they take; we admit its premises, but con were during the course of an active test its conclusions ; considering, on war; but this, at the same time, is the contrary, the best prospects of the generally understood somewhat more navy as identified with what it repre- literally than the facts will hear out. sents as its present hardships. We It is a different kind of merit which is fear that we are still more at issue now in demand in the navy, froin what with the second, for we neither admit was then required ; and we think that the past depravity of seamen, nor en- naval officers are scarcely yet suffitertain hopes of any so great improve- ciently aware of this. Several names ment in them in time to come, as it have shot up to distinction among them anticipates. Of this, however, in its since the peace; need we instance those own time and place; we now consic of Tuckey, Basil Hall, and Parry; der, first, the circumstances which, as none of them, we believe, very matewe think, are at present working a rially supported by interest ; all, cer. great change in the constitution of the tainly, upon grounds which no interest navy as hitherto developed, and which could supply. Where these have led, are generally indicated in the above others may follow ; a first opportunity tissue of complaints ; and, next, the may be wanting, but not more. Beconsequences of that change, with their sides this, however, we noticed the consequences again, either as already other day the name of a first lieutemanifested, or likely progressively to nant, (Lieutenant Peake, of the Eury. appear.
alus,) who had received a present of a It is certainly very true, that, at no sword and silver cup from the ship's period of our history, did the naval company with which he had served, force kept in employment bear so in acknowledgment of his judgment small a proportion to that restored to and attention. There can be no discivil life as at present. In former tinction more honourable than this at times, a fraction has been dismissed, any time ; but, as we shall presently not more than the increased demand shew, it never was more difficult to for seamen in the merchant service, deserve it than now ;--at the same consequent on the return of peace, time that we cannot help thinking rendered necessary; or than was ex- that the means of doing so would be pedient besides this, to enable all to materially facilitated, were naval offirelax the bow a little, that it might cers to forn a matured opinion on the recover its elasticity. But now the subjects which we are now about to fraction only has been retained, the bring before them : our own thoughts great mass dismissed, and, from a va on which, we confess, we submit here riety of circumstances, not even any rather for their use who can underconsiderable demand for men created stand and appreciate them at just their in the merchant service. The conse- value and no more, than for the amusequence is, that all ranks are daily ment of general readers, to whom, turning their thoughts more and more with all our care, we can scarcely hope into extra-professional channels; the to make them uniformly interesting or officers, particularly, are all becoming intelligible. civilians in some department or other, The next topic of lamentation abore farming, studying, talking politics or adverted to, is the present lack of
prize-money; and one very desirable calamities, from the consideration that change produced by this means in the they were unjustly inflicted, that now situation of our seamen, with regard the maxims of morality have acquired to their discipline and morals at least, a weight with them, for which it would is not generally considered, viz. that be difficult to account on other grounds. they are thus rescued from that state We are under the same influence, the of uncertainty respecting their future great majority of us at least, such as resources, which used to be a sort of were cordially opposed to the adverse warrant for every excess. They have side ; and, in truth, certain classes of no longer the bank of what was often oppositionists in this country seem in a delusive hope, to draw on :-they nothing more unfortunate, than that have lost their ticket in the great lot from the turn which their politics took tery of plunder, which spread widely during the late war, they missed this its demoralizing effects among them. schooling;and now,accordingly,cannot But this loss is considered only as even believe the great powers of Eutemporary in the navy, and perhaps rope in earnest in their professions on elsewhere ; another war, it is presu, this score. These professions, howmed, will restore it. We are not of ever, with the maxims on which they that opinion ; we think the days of are founded, are to a point opposed to prize-money, at least of its most lu- that system of mercantile spoliation to crative branch, mercantile spoliation, which we allude ; they are, in partinow nearly for ever gone; and there cular, opposed to that exercise of it are several reasons which concur in without warning, which, in the shape making us think this. We burnt our of embargo, or otherwise, has hitherto own fingers last war by the excess to characterized every commencement of which we carried the system ; and hostilities with us. This, accordingly, there can be little doubt that many of we venture confidently to predict, will our distresses since its close were legi- not even be attempted by us next war, timately attributable, and are at present whatever time it commences ; in like very currently attributed, first, to the manner, we shall then be far more unnatural activity which we thus gave ceremonirus with neutral commerce to our own capital, and next to the than hitherto ; and ultimately 'the ruin which we thereby brought on our whole system will be abandoned. * foreign customers. But, besides all And the change which we have notithis, the world will not now tolerate ced, therefore, in the situation of our our continued exercise of a right found- seamen on this point, may thus, we ed on the same barbarous prescription think, be considered a permanent one; which once sanctioned, in like man, and we shall allude to it in this light, ner, the ransom of prisoners of war, accordingly, in the remainder of our and sack of enemy's towns, but which speculations. has been unable to protect these out The last ground of despondence, rages, and will be unable to cover however, above quoted, is the most this ;-the truth is, we will not tole- serious; notwithstanding which we rate it much longer ourselves. It is admit also its general truth. The old owing, probably, to the long-continued system of British naval discipline is, success of French aggression and usur- indeed, rapidly subverting, or rather, pation during the late war, that the we may say, it is almost already gone; tide of public opinion runs now so and scarcely the ground-plan of that strong in favour of justice and equity; which seems destined to supply its the nations of Europe şo long groaned, place is yet laid. Still, however, there with reason on their side, so long are aspects in which we can view even sought consolation in the midst of their this fact with satisfaction; and al
• The truth is, that if we once come to be ceremonious with respect to neutral bottoms, we shall be driven the whole length here contemplated, in mere self-defence. The carrying nations are far more deservedly the objects of our jealousy than any belligerent need ever be; and we should indeed begin to fear for Old England, were another Holland to grow up across the Atlantic. ' But where force cannot be used, and reason will not apply, we must employ the weapons of a deeper policy ; and instead of allowing neutral colours to protect mercantile property, allow mercantile property to protect even belligerent flags. We should have no carriers then, and no rivals.
though we own that the mist still The entire change, however, thus prohangs low over the future edifice of duced, has been indeed a very remarknavál rule, to our eyes it already looms able one, and can only be completely large in the midst, and shews not un- understood by professional men. We worthy to succeed the Gothic fortalice could illustrate it, however, a little, in in which we have hitherto confided. several ways; but it will suit our pur
The old system of discipline in the pose best to attempt this by sketching navy was one of pure coercion. It was superficially the modifications to which a rod of iron, roughly, although not the old system of punishment alone on the whole harshly, wielded ; and has been subjected, and the difficulties did its work excellently, well in the with which naval officers have had to state of civilization' to which seamen, contend generally, in consequence, and without offence we may add, their within the interval in question. officers also, had attained when it was Even previous to 1797, the old puin full force. Within the last twen- nishment of “keel-hauling," for slight ty-five years, however, its maxims offences, had entirely gone out; but have been progressively, Ray, even ra so fresh was it at that time in the repidly, modifying; and now many of collection of the seamen, that a modithem scarcely live but in the recollec- fication of it, in the shape of a very tion of individuals. This took its de- rough and unceremonious ducking, finite rise from the great mutinies of was among the punishments currently 1797, when the grievances of the navy, inflicted by the delegates, on such as as many things were called which were gave them any offence, during the then quite necessary, were for the first period of their usurped command. Op time freely canvassed by sailors them- the other hand,“ running the gauntselves. It was subsequently promoted let," à much more severe infliction,* by the long period of comparative idle. was currently resorted to as łate as ness which in the navy succeeded the 1803; and we ourselves saw it orderbattle of Trafalgar. And it has never ed, for the last time probably, in 1804, wanted the assistance of the selfish by one of the most humane and popu. and intriguing on shore ; particularly lar officers in the service. Down to at the very beginning, and of late years 1806-7, nothing was more common again, when it has come to constitute than to hear midshipmen, particularly the politics of some even of the high- the day-mates, commanding the peoest ranks of British society, to identify ple, as they saw occasion, to be started themselves with the mob, and scruple with a cane, or rope's end,+ when their at no topics of declamation calculated offence was not considered of sufficient to excite their sympathy or applause. importance to bring them to the gang
• When a man was to be keel-hauled, a very strong, but limber (flexible) rope was rove through blocks on the fore or main-yard arms, the bight, or middle part, passing under the ship’s bottom. The culprit was strongly secured to this on one side, and such. additional weight was added, as carried him, when dropt'over, quite clear of the vessel, and almost immediately brought him to hang perpendicularly from the other side. He was then run up out of the water by the whole strength of the ship's company, and had thus merely a ducking and a fright"; the last, we should have thought, fully shared in by the officer commanding the infliction, lest any thing should have gone wrong. When a man was sentenced to run the gauntlet, the ship’s company was drawn up in two lines round the deck, every man provided with a twisted yarn, called a nettle, about equal to one tail of the common ship's cat. The criminal was then stript to the waist, and secured so as to stand on a grating, which was drawn leisurely round between the files, and every man inflicted a lash, with what will he might. The chief severity of this pu. nishment consisted in the awkwardness with which the strokes were drawn, by which they cut in unusual places about the sides, and under the arms. It was not otherwise so severe as an ordinary punishment; and so much was this understood, that sometimes, although rarely, it was prefaced
or two dozen at the gangway. + Å man thus served, was facetiously said “ to buy goose without gravy," possibly because there was no effusion of blood under this, as under the more formal punishment at the gangway ; and the expression has since come to denote any unceremonious punishment, or even reprimand. We notice this, however, to shew how freely it was ori. ginally acquiesced in by the men, and even made the subject of their mirth; which, indeed, was still further testified by its being continued during the 'muling by the delegates.
way; and the boatswain's mates, by, ment, and oppose the clamours exciwhom these orders were executed, al- ted about it by interested individuals most to the present day, carry, in con- without. They very early, according
sequence, rattan-canes or rope's-ends ly, issued instructions on the subject i in their hands, as badges of their of- of lenity ; to enforce which, periodi
About - the same period also, cal returns of the punishments inflict** these men, whose duty on board in ed were soon required ; and, as the
some degree corresponds to that of human mind always warms in the sergeants in the army ashore, fami-, pursuit of its object, dissatisfaction has liarly struck the people when remiss now long been freely expressed, where in executing their orders; and long these have been numerous. We rather after this privilege was withdrawn think, indeed, that we have heard of from them, and every one knew that instances, although we cannot now it was so withdrawn, the threat to as- charge our memory with them, of
sume it, on particular occasions, on ships being paid off out of rotation, ** their own responsibility, was just their and recommissioned under other offis it common phraseology, which hurt no cers, when hints on this subject have is one's feelings, and wounded no one's appeared to be disregarded. The seaki ears. The great dog was chained, and men, on the other hand, already pre211 could no longer bite, but to bark was pared for change by the success of 3 still expected of him. Yet, only in their demands in 1797, (which did not
1809, we have a feeling recollection of very materially point at innovation in in a midshipman, then on promotion in discipline, the old system of which
a flag-ship abroad, who very nearly they did not then feel a severe yoke,)
lost all his prospects in life, because were not slow, at the same tiine, to this memory was better than his judg- open their eyes more and more, daily, iment on this score; having been for- to its real nature, when they found it u mally complained of to the comman- clamoured about on one hand, and ad1 der-in-chief, for thus only once pre- mitted to be harsh, on the other, on
suming, as it was by this time called, shore; and, as we have just seen, the
to “ take the law into his own hands." oldest customs of the service came * The privilege of doing so, however, thus, in succession, to be considered put still remained with the lieutenants; intolerable severities. Placed between
until about 1813, when it came to be the two, commanding officers of the oli confined, although still with grum- navy had first to subdue their own i bling, to first lieutenants only; in prejudices, which, in the beginning,
which state it continued till the end as was natural, ran all in favour of of the war. But this year, the captain the old methods, the traditions of of a ship has, with his first lieutenant, which-the traditions of the old Westbeen brought to a court-martial, on ern Squadron, the school in which the complaint of his ship’s company, many of them have been educated, on a very similar subject to this, and are still favourites in their mouths. both have been dismissed the service They had next, when once got under.
by its sentence;-a very hard sentence way by the spirit of the times, to res certainly, and which we hope may yet sist the bias which must have inclined
be remitted, were it but in compli- many of them to go to excess in actment to the standard so lately hoisted ing on the new maxims ;-Sailors sel in the fleet; but its full severity will dom do things by halves in any case; be better understood when the follow- and it takes a good deal of ballast to ing circumstances are further taken be able to resist the temptation to go into consideration.
all lengths on novel principles, which It so happened, of necessity perhaps, are at once favoured by inferiors and that when this change was first set superiors, and are in themselves plaua-going, the candle, if we may use so sible, and even unanswerable in the vulgar an image, was almost at once abstract. Between the two extremes lit at both ends. The Board of Admi- they had then to shape a course, each ralty in commission in 1797, was, of for himself; for there is not even yet course, very much alarmed at the a general principle of relaxation laid lengths to which the seamen then down; and in the beginning, the difwent; and the Commissioners of every ferences of system were accordlingly
successive Board since, have had atonce numerous as the ships in commission, ' to meet the abstract question in Parlia- and appeared to a practised eye in