Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1

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 ónothergrounds. they are thus rescued froin 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 iť 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 yenture 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 ceremonious with neutral commerce to our own capital, and next to the than hitherto ; and ultimately thre ruin which we thereby brought on our whole systein will be abandoned.* foreign customers. But, besides all And the change which we have notis this, the world will not now toleratę 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 so long groaned, place is yet laid. Still, however, there

with reason on their side, so long are aspects in which we can view even 1 sought consolation in the midst of their this fact with satisfaction; and al

[ocr errors]

The truth is, that if we once come to be ceremonious with respect to neutral bota toms, 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 flage. We should have no carriers then, and no rivals.

1

1

1

though we dwn that the mist still The entire change, however, thus prohangs low over the future edifice of duced, has been indeed a very remarknaval 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 offeace 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, day, 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. On time freely canvassed by sailors them the other hand, “ running the gauntselves. It was subsequently promoted let," a much more severe infliction,* by the long period of comparative idle was currently resorted to as late 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 popuand 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 peo est 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,t 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

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

• When a man was to be keel-hauled, a very strong, but limbet (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 punishment 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 80 severe as an ordinary punishment ; and so much was this understood, that sometimes, although rarely, it was prefaced by one or two dozen at the gangway.

† A 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 pu

nishment, or even reprimand. We notice this, however, to shew how freely it was originally 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 mutiny by the delegates.

[ocr errors]

way; and the boatswain's mates, by ment, and oppose the 'clamours excimy whom these orders were executed, al- ted about it by interested individuals the most to the present day, carry, in con without. They very early, according

séquence, rattan-canes or rope's-ends ly, issued instructions on the subject , in their hands, as badges of their of- of lenity; to enforce which, periodi

fice 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

sôme 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 be in executing their orders; and long these have been numerous. We rather * after this privilege was withdrawn think, indeed, that we have heard of On from them, and every one knew that instances, although we cannot now ther 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, xat their own responsibility, was just their and recommissioned under other offikit common phraseology, which hurt no cers, when hints on this subject have the one's feelings, and wounded no one's' appeared to be disregarded. The seadi cars. The great dog was chained, and men, on the other hand, already pree di could no longer bite, but to bark was pared for change by the success of ito still expected of him. Yet, only in their demands in 1797, (which did not 81 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 mi 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 time, to his memory was better than his judge open their eyes more and more, daily, ment on this score; having been for- to its real nature, when they found it mally complained of to the comman- clamoured about on one hand, and ad

der-in-chief, for thus only once pre- mitted to be harsh, on the other, on in suming, as it was by this time called, shore ; and, as we have just seen, the j 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 still remained with the lieutenants; intolerable severities. Placed between until about 1813, when it came to be the two, commanding officers of the

confined, although still with grum- navy had first to subdue their own petit bling, to first lieutenants oply; 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 re

certainly, and which we hope may yet sist the bias which must have inclined y be remitted, were it but in compli- many of them to go to excess in act

ment 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 plau8-going, the candle, if we may use sosible, 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 hirself ; 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 accordingly. successive Board since, bave bad atonce numerous as the ships in commission, to meet the abstract question in Parlia- and appeared to a practised eye in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ging. *

every thing-even in dress and rig- cessary to calculate that difference so

But all were naturally led to curiously as we then condescended to look about for indirect methods of pu- do; and it is remarkable, that even nislıment, such as might reconcile our naval engagements with the French both parties, and perhaps evade li-, were about the same period more equalunits too lately set to a once absolute ly contested than they used to be. authority, not to be irksome. Of But still, these very defeats, by irritathese, however, it was soon found, ting at once the seamen and their ofthat on board ship, under existing cir- ficers, suspended the operation of other cumstances, there was but a very li- agents in the cause; and, had that mited choice. No place of solitary. war continued, we are well persuaded confinement can there be spared ; ex- that the tarnish which it seemed to tra labour, besides that every one is, leave on our former laurels would in the ordinary discharge of his duty, have been well rubbed off. With its as much tasked as he ought to be, has termination, however, the assistance been always observed to make regular derived from it terminated also. Six work first odious, and then slovenly, years have since elapsed; and if the for no powers of body can keep all consequences are not now so evident, watches. The means of dieting are as formerly, it is either that, in a time necessarily few, where such is the of profound peace, the efficiency of sympathy felt for a man whose grog our ships does not require to be so has been stopped, he is almost sure minutely looked into; or that, possito get drunk on the compassion of his bly, commanding and inspecting officoinrades; and unusual punishments cers are deceived, in some measure, by of a different nature from any of these, the reduced allowance of seamen in were necessarily unpopular where ha- each ship on the present establishment, bits were yet strong, information li- and impute those difficulties to want mited, and at least as much jealousy of men, which we are certain proceed entertained, that the new bounds set from far deeper and more enduring to authority should not be evaded, as causes ;-or, finally, and much the there inight be desire on the other side most probably, that the worst period to give them the go-by. t One thing of a difficult crisis is already overonly assisted them, which was the war new and vigorous systein is replacing. with America. We are as certain as an old and worn-out one-its parts, we can be of what is matter of mere are falling imperceptibly into their opinion, that our defeats in that short places, by their own gravity, and alstruggle were quite as much owing ready beginning to perform the functo the sort of disorganization which tions for which they have been sevethus prevailed at the time, in the na- rally provided. vy, as to any difference of relative All this, then, wę not only admitforce which characterized each com we assert it; and we very readily apbat; we had never before found it ne-, peal to every competent witness, in

One captain obliged his officers to wear the old-fashioned cocked hat-another toIcrated an opera one-a third, a round a fourth, a straw-a fifth, a foraging-cap, &c. Coats were cut differently-surtouts were of every pattern-side-arms became so anomalous, they were at last made subjects of official regulation. One man was content with royals, as his ship had been fitted from the dock-yard another had sky-scrapers, moon-rakers, jolly-jumpers, royal and sky-studding. sails besides. One ship had a jigger. mast fitted to her spankeranother the like, together with a gaff, to her mizen staysail -a third, the same to her main-topmast staysail-a fourth, was gaffs to the mast-head, and perhaps the only course she was in the habit of setting in a convoy was a crossjack or a spritsail. These were not whims in those days; they were really traits of character, marking both individuals and the times. A good observer could then predicate of his friend's disposition literally “ from the cut of his jib ;” and Peter Pattieson himself, or other such like chronicler, (O si sic ullus !) need ask no more complicated account of the spirit of the age, than just the fact.

+ In point of fact, one of the articles of charge against the officers to whose ease we adverted in our last paragraph, was that they had inflicted unusual and unprecedented punishments on their people; and they were condemned specially on this count, the articles of war only authorizing officers to punish undefined offences “ as in such cases is usual at sen. -So dangerous is it, even in an innovating age, to innovate against its spirit.

support of our allegations. The bright soning powers, must be led, not driven: side of the picture, however, is much and the only difficulty then, is to make more dèserving of minute examination the transition. In a community, this than this, its shadow ; it is more gra- should be begun as soon as a sense of tifying at once, and more comprehen- shame and indignity is observed to sive. A few difficulties and embar- mingle, in the individuals composing rassments in the path of a limited it, with a sense of mere pain under number of men, many of whom, we the inflictions of the original system, can well believe, have been insensible unjustly aggravating their severity ; of their accumulation; and a little the mind thus called out on one point temporary inefficiency, of which we will presently expand ; other and more cannot even say that fortunately it oc- generous sentiments will develope; and

curred in a period of comparative tran- perhups, an entire change may be ef.

quillity; for in truth, such a season fected in all cases, with time and care,

was necessary to bring it to maturity, and a complete system of moral influla and another active war would either ence be substituted for every vestige ja again suspend, or hasten it to its final of physical coercion. This at least is

termination—these are cheap equiva- certain, that a very considerable ap1 lents for the prospects to the whole proximation to such a revolution may

profession with which they seem con- be made in every instance ; and assunected, and of which they are, in our redly with advantage when it is aceyes, the harbingers and heraláls.

complished, for that authority which We have already said that the old merely crushes the wills and tempers system did its work excellently well of its subjects under its wheels, can in the time when it was in vigour; never be so effective as that which and notwithstanding the present un- harnesses then to its car. But then

popularity of such an opinion, we are the period when this even commentë much disposed to generalize the pro- ces cannot be the same in all indivi** position, and maintain that as long as duals; and still less is it possible that 25 The human mind, either from infancy all those vested with authority over 16 or want of cultivation, is, as it were, others during its progress should have

dead within, and can neither guide its the tact requisite to meet its variations is actions by a long induction of reason- uniformly without mistake. Besides

ing, nor trace its transgressions through this, the springs of moral influencé, a series of indirect steps to their ulti- however powerful, are unseen ; where

mate consequences, so long is it for as those of physical coercion are palmi the benefit of all parties that a despotic pable to the grossest observation. The e authority should be lodged in the consequence is, that even when most

hands of the chief of the community, skilfully conducted, this transition and the connexion between crime and

must always appear marked with enpunishment kept direct and palpable, croachment on one hand, concession on by means of summary corporal inflic- the other; while the smallest precipiLions. It seems to us quite plain, that tation, or want of tact, in either party, there is a period both of human life will elicit symptoms of discontent and and human society, when the mind is 'insubordination, uncertainty and vaaccessible only to present impressions, cillation, isolated experiment, and want communicated chiefly, almost exclu- of concert on the receding side. Alsively, through the medium of the ani- though still these accidents, (for they mal sensations ; when, accordingly, are no more,) unless very

much

aga the relative place of individuals is de- gravated, in which case it is certain termined among themselves by their that the transition is prematurely dephysical powers; and monarchs, mas- veloping, are viewed, not in themselves ters, and among others sea-captains, with favour, but without much regret, must travel to influence over the minds by a liberal-minded observer. They of those intrusted to their care by the always mark an advance made, and same brief road with their companions, yet making, in the scale of civilization: if they would not lose their labour. they are bubbles on the surface which On the other hand, however, it is in- only boil over when an undue degree disputable that there is a period both of heat is externally applied : laissez

of life and civilization when this system fuire les evenémens is the wise maxim * will not answer the purpose ; when the concerning them, and the result, in

youth shooting into manhood, the inan such case, is always gratifying and sabecoming acquainted with his own rea- tisfactory.

« VorigeDoorgaan »