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demanded who I was ; on which I desired to be informed by what authority he dared to ask me that question. I had hardly uttered the words when I was brutally seized by him and two or three niore. My wife received a violent blow on the breast, which compelled her to quit her hold; and which was struck with such force that symptoms of a cancer appeared in a short time afterwards ; those symptoms continued for several months, and only the first medical attention could have prevented the consequences that were apprehended. The ruffians struck me on the head, tore my coat from my back, and afterwards dragged me by the neck for fifty yards, until life was nearly exhausted. At this critical moment some people who bad collected from curiosity, fortunately happened to recognise me, interfered, and probably by this means saved my life. The fellows who had been guilty of this daring outrage upon a British subject, ran off to save themselves from the indignation which their violence had excited in the crowd. Having been informed that they belonged to a gang on the impress service, I applied to Lieut. Crawford for their names, which he refused to comply with ; and requested me to compromise the outrage : of course I rejected the proposal. I next applied to the Lord Mayor, who represented my case to Lord Howick, then first lord of the Admiralty ; his Lordship, after instituting an inquiry, transmitted the report 'he received from Capt. Richbald, with an affidavit of the gang, and the report of Lieut. C.; ali of whom, according to their own testimony, were the most harmless of men. At the same time, Lord Howick represented that it was not in his power to punish the man, but that he should not be protected by government if I chose to enforce the civil law against him. A most gracious boon! Such were the feelings of sensibility expressed by Lord Howick on an injury done to a British seaman, and to the females of his family: compare them with the ostentatious sympathy he always manifested on the subject of Negro Slavery, and then inform me if he deserves that a mercantile seaman should risk his life to protect him and his family from a foreign enemy. It was the bounden duty of his Lordship to have discharged this man from the service, and to have publicly expressed the most marked disapprobation of the conduct of the officers under whom he acted, in order to offer a salutary example to others. This mau was continued in the service during the war.
On application to my solicitor I was advised, if I wished to inflict punishment on the delinquent, to sue him in the Court of King's Bench for damages (although he was not worth a shilling), in preference to an indictment, as the plea of state necessity might be set up as an excuse for his conduct, and be perhaps accepted by the magistrates.
At the expiration of four months of trouble and expense, and having no positive evidence to prove the first part of the assault, I received from the jury a verdict for fifty pounds damages. The compensation appears trivial for such an act of outrage, but it produced the effect I desired; the fellow absconded for some months, when he found means to offer me security for payment in the course of two years, by instalments, which I accepted. This sum did not pay my law expenses, not to speak of the medical and other incidental expenses, incurred by this act of violence.
But what would have been the situation of a man differently circumstanced to what I was, with regard to property, and who would not have had the means of suing for redress? He would have been dragged on board the tender, perhaps sent off to a foreign station ; his wife, without money and protection, would have been left exposed to the effects of the violence she had sustained, to which she must inevitably have fallen a victim; whilst her distress and agony would be ivexpressibly sharpened, from the despair of never again seeing her husband : bad she a family depending on his exertions for their subsistence, her misery would be intolerable.
Had a negro slave sustained a similar outrage, and the circumstance had come to your knowledge, would it not have awakened all your indignation, and called forth the strongest powers of your eloquence ? the public, inflamed by your means into a sense of the outrage, would have been unable to sleep soundly until they had brought the delinquent to a trial, as they did Governor Picton: though to the memory of that great man, whose merit was slowly recognised, the same public are now erecting a monument !
When the interests of seamen are so unaccountably overlooked, and that too by persons whose duty it is to protect them, we should modify our surprise that mercantile seamen desert their country. In April last, when the nation was again likely to be involved in war, it was found, that we had not regularly bred seamen to man our ships, had their service been required. I then wrote to Lord Melville a note, stating, that if he would allow me to wait upon his Lordship, I should present a plan for raising seamen, within a certain time, to man our navy; and for doing away with the evils of the impress service.
His Lordship was pleased to give me an audience; and desired me to commit to paper my ideas on the subject, of which I now enclose you the substance.?
About a month after I had submitted my plan to his Lordship,
: This was fully more than I expected; as pecuniary satisfaction was not to be obtained, neither was it my aim; unfortunately, I could not prove the person who struck my wife; this prevented me from instituting a criminal prosecution against them.
2 My letter to Lord Melville in May 1815, published in December lasto
Sir W. Scott obtained leave, in the House of Commons, to bring forward a bill for the encouragement of seamen, and for the more effectually manning his Majesty's navy during the war. I expected that something agreeable to the title of the bill would have been framed. On the 15th of July the bill passed : it confined itself to a simple regulation for the distribution of prize-money. With all due respect to Sir W. Scott, and deference to his profound judgment as a lawyer, I take upon myself to say, that he misunderstood the character of our mercantile seamen, in supposing that the provisions of that bill would answer the object expressed in the title.
To accomplish the purpose specified in the title of the bill is what every man in this country wishes ; and I have no doubt but that the outlines of the plan which I submitted to Lord Melville, in May last, would, in time, produce those great and desirable results. Penetrated with this conviction, I therefore most earnestly claim your attention, and that of every person interested in the welfare of the country, to a bill containing the provision which I submitted to the first lord of the Admiralty, and as offering the most efficacious means of our retaining that political rank among nations, which we at present possess. In claiming your assistance, I do it under the impression that Lord Melville and the other members of the cabinet, however solicitous they may be, cannot interfere directly to promote mine, or some better plan ; for such is the weight of our naval establishment in political affairs, and the reluctance to resign any portion of the influence attached to that administration, that any plan immediately emanating from them must be defective. However, should America become a naval power, some effectual scheme must be adopted, and that promptly, or we must prepare for the loss of our present maritime ascendancy, as well as of all the advantages derived from it.
To raise regularly bred seamen, and retain thein voluntarily on board our ships of war, the project I have suggested must be taken up with zeal, and prosecuted with the same ardor and perseverance that were manifested in the question of the slave trade. Public opinion would be thus enlisted in its support, which would remove many impediments, to which the executive government might be otherwise exposed; whilst it should prove an effectual check to the interested opposition of naval men.
It is generally admitted that our naval system, with respect to the treatment and management of seamen, has something radically bad, arising from a variety of causes. One perhaps is, that the articles of war are not sufficiently defined, and are left too much to the will and caprice of an officer, who too often trained, from his childhood, in the most arbitrary principles, exercises a kind of
discretionary command over men, who, beyond all others, have their peculiar prejudices, manners, and ideas of submission. Had the friends of humanity taken up the interests of our mercantile seamen, with the same zeal that they manifested on questions of much less importance, and compared their situation with that of French conscripts or negro slaves, they would have found the condition of the latter almost enviable, when contrasted with that of the former. The conscript law was a general law of the land, and acted equally on all men ; and as to the West Indian slave, the master has a particular interest in his welfare ; whereas, the abuses of impressment, and the arbitrary conduct of many naval officers, with the refuse of mankind acting under them, accompanied by the stern wants of the public service, expose our mercantile seamen in time of war to such oppression and insult, that the suffering of the two former classes of persons may be considered comparatively light. The masters of merchant-ships and their officers are not exempt in their persons or property from this system of abuse, contrary as it is to express regulations.
Had the same attention been paid by you and others to British seamen, as to the enslaved African, the public would, no doubt, have been informed, if the various circumstances oftentimes related as founded on fact, were true; if so, they would deserve public exposure, in order to correct the evil. If unfounded, they ought to be formally contradicted, with a view to efface that aversion to the naval service, which such rumors have on the minds of our seamen and lads, as well as to diminish the causes of desertion, which are already too numerous. My view in alluding to this, is to direct your attention and that of other friends of humanity to a class of men to whom the country is peculiarly indebted, who have raised its glory to its highest pitch, and extended its influence to the boundaries of the earth. If you will inquire into their hardships, you will find that they are not inferior, at times, to those sustained by the negro slave.
I am well aware,
my remarks will pass unheeded, or obtain a very slight attention, from the prepossessions which generally prevail in favor of our naval serviceblind fatality!
It has been advanced by officers, of late years, that they can train men for the navy, in a short space of time, to answer all the purposes of the service. That courage and physical strength may belong to any man, I readily believe; however, when the Americans made war upon us, their confidence received a check, for
Here is a field for the research and the sensibility of the philanthropist, and to a certain degree will account for the difficulty to procure men to man our ships on the peace
they soon found that men, possessing the skill and conduct of regularly bred seamen, were wanting to cope with the enemy. This truth will be equally conspicuous in every future contest, unless
proper methods are taken to frame a system, by which the country may be served with regularly bred seamen, who can alone secure her pre-eminence at sea.
Having understood that you see most things in a religious point of view, I shall beg leave to direct your attention to what has happened in Europe, since the year 1789, down to the present period. Providence has given a lesson to all the European powers, and that in the most pointed manner, by severely visiting them in what they valued most, and in which they supposed they were least of all assailable.
France ; Paris,-the Sodom and Gomorrah' of the day,—where the king was generally reverenced more than the Supreme Being ; .yet, what was his fate? His power was first undermined by false reasoning, and vext, he was murdered by those apostles of anarchy and impiety,—the jacobins and sceptics. His murderers, in their turn, were trampled upon by a man, who rose out of their own body, and who united in his own person all their vices.
Prussia, raised by the events of war, and who valued herself on the formidable strength of her army, saw it totally annihilated, in one day, by this child, champion, and scourge of jacobinism.
Holland, the modern Carthage, where every thing was venal, and where the best sentiments of the human mind were absorbed in pecuniary interest;—this nation was plundered in an extraordinary degree, and robbed of what it prized above honor and patriotism.
Austria, a state which valued itself on the pre-eminence of its reinging family, was reduced to the most mortifying of all degradations, that of sacrificing a princess of this illustrious house to a usurper, and who, at the same time, was its most cruel enemy.
Russia, who considered herself unassailable, and capable of defying the combined eninity of all the other powers of Europe, on account of her geographical situation, and the magnitude of her military establishment, saw the same conqueror penetrate to the heart of her empire, and was obliged to burn the sacred city, to save herself from subjugation.
The victor himself, lifted up in his own imagination beyond human nature, and the assaults of adverse fortune, was, in the very midst of this proud security, tumbled down at once from all his grandeur, and through a visible manifestation of Divine Power,
'I apply this epithet in consequence of a story related to me by an officer of the French king's guard in 1790,