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which has been gradually reduced to 9,700; with a saving in wages in 1851-2, as compared with 1846-7, of 139,105l.; and notwithstanding the increased activity in the yards of late, it has not been found necessary to add a single man to the establishments.
There is no doubt that the system introduced under the administration of Lord Auckland, which made merit, instead of political influence, the standard for advancement, has been the main cause of this beneficial change, and it is most necessary to prevent a recurrence of the scandal and mischief arising from political jobbing in this department of the public service. It has been proposed to effect this object by disfranchising the voters who work in the yards, which would be at once an act of injustice and inefficient to the purpose. If the junior lords of the Admiralty were permanently appointed, and prohibited from sitting in Parliament, and all appointments and promotions in the dockyards were made by the board, giving to no one member any especial patronage in them, we believe the end would be fully answered. For the good of the service generally, we hope ere long to see this idea adopted, the principle of which has been acknowledged in the retention of some lords through successive administrations.
We have a fine fleet, let us consider how it is to be manned. It has become the fashion of late with some writers to ascribe the difficulties experienced in raising the additional number of seamen voted by Parliament, to the unpopularity of the naval service, and to the retention of corporal punishment. We believe neither of these assertions to be based on truth.
The Report of the Committee of Naval Officers (p. 29.) calls the notice of their lordships to a letter from the Registrar General of Seamen, dated 19th November, 1852, which states that the actual number of seamen employed in British registered ships, in the year 1851, was 175,000; and, after deducting protected and exempted persons, there only remain 80,000 available for service, of whom not more than 21,000 are to be found in the United Kingdom at any one time. This fact alone proves how great difficulty must attend the providing a sudden addition of men to the navy.
The same report (p. 13.) shows, from a statistical return compiled by the Accountant-General, that, whilst Portsmouth, Plymouth, and their neighbourhood furnishes 5,689 men to the navy, Liverpool and Bristol only send 350; and the Committee justly infer from this fact, that where Her Majesty's service is best known to the seamen, it is most appreciated by 'them.'
A few facts which we have gathered, will further show that the difficulty of procuring seamen exists equally in our own mercantile marine and in that of the United States; that it is to be ascribed, in a great measure, to the very large numbers of seamen who have gone to the gold-diggings in California and Australia; which, with the general increase of trade, has caused such a scarcity of seamen, that wages have risen in the English merchant service twenty-five per cent.
The present rates of wages in the port of London are for voyages to India and the Mediterranean, about 27. 10s. per month; to Quebec, 37.; and we saw the articles of a ship which engaged a crew in July to make the voyage to Australia and back, at 31. 10s. per month.
We saw, in the shipping office on Tower Hill, a crew of able seamen engaged to take a vessel of eighty-one tons burthen to Melbourne, at one shilling per month wages, and at the same time a crew of another ship received 457. a man for the run home from the same port. Another ship, just returned from a trading voyage in the Southern Seas, engaged a crew at HongKong in July, 1852, at 100 dollars a man to the first port of discharge; the money was earned at Bombay in less than four months.
By the favour of Colonel Aspinwall, Consul-General of the United States, we were shown the papers of an American ship, which had just arrived with a cargo of timber from St. John's, New Brunswick, at which port she engaged a crew for the run to England at 64 dollars a man. This being paid at the colonial rate of five dollars to the pound sterling, was equal to nearly 137. for less than two months' service. In the general trade of the United States, 15 dollars a month are considered a high rate of wages, equal, at the rate of par for gold, to about 31. 1s. 6d.
We have said enough to show that a great scarcity of seamen exists, which is felt equally in all services, and in all quarters of the globe; and while profits are occasionally to be made in the merchant service, such as we have noticed, it might be expected that not even the fresh advantages lately offered to seamen would draw them to the naval service; but the fact, that within six months, more than 4,000 out of the 5,000 additional seamen voted in December, 1852, were raised, affords a fair presumption that, instead of the navy being unpopular, a contrary feeling exists among seamen. The repeal of the manning clauses of the Mercantile Marine Act will doubtless relieve the tightness of the sailor market.
* 4s. 14d. to the dollar.
Next, with regard to corporal punishment. If the punishment of flogging were to be abolished, we must provide a substitute. Imprisonment and separation, in all but large ships, are impossible, and likewise, in some degree, punish the innocent who have to do the duty of the offenders, whose services are lost for the time. Means of imprisonment on shore, excepting on the home station, have not yet been devised. There remains a description of punishments which would be called into more frequent use; and we can faithfully assure our readers that we are firmly convinced, that no system could be devised more repulsive and harassing to the seaman, or one which would so effectually render him liable to the exercise of personal tyranny, with comparative irresponsibility on the part of his officer, as the substitution of a system of secondary punishments for that of flogging, by the authority and on the responsibility of the captain only. The checks on the undue exercise of this authority are many and powerful; first, the actual orders and regulations of the Admiralty, which absolutely prohibit the hasty infliction of punishment, and restrict the amount, in all cases; next, the knowledge that a captain sending an immoderate return of punishments is always called on for an explanation, and is looked upon unfavourably at the Admiralty; thirdly, the probability of his being held up in the public journals as a brute who gloats over and enjoys the spectacle of a flogging; and, though last not least, the aversion which every officer feels as acutely as any professional advocate of humanity to the infliction of this punishment, aud which he only does inflict because it is essential to the good order and discipline which it is his highest duty to uphold.
The punishment of flogging was abolished in the United States' Navy by a vote of Congress in 1850, and the result, as reported by the Secretary of the Navy, was quoted by Sir James Graham, in the late Session.*
'The multiplication of courts-martial, and all the consequences of disorder and crime, are among the least of the apparent and growing evils of the new system. The demoralisation of both officers and men is a yet more observable consequence. The absence or prohibition of the usual punishments known to seamen has led to the invention of new penalties of the most revolting kind, in the application of which full scope has been given, and the strongest provocations administered, to that exhibition of temper and passion, which, however natural it may be to men of hasty and excitable natures, is seldom indulged without leading to cruelties that must disgrace those who practise them, and, what is more to be feared, raise a sentiment in the public mind hostile
* See the Times,' February 19th, 1853.
to the navy itself. Of that large number of men who have heretofore constituted the pride of our navy by their good seamanship and highly respectable personal deportment, composing the great body of our mariners, of these men, it is a fact which invites the deepest concern of Congress, we are daily deprived by their refusal to enter again into the service, until, as they ask, they shall have some assurance that a better system of discipline may be restored.'
Thus it appears that, where the trial has been made, the abolition, not the retention, of corporal punishment has produced unpopularity.
We do not, however, conceal our satisfaction, believing as we do that our navy is in a state of good discipline, in learning that the number of punishments has diminished from 1,363 in 1848, to 578 in 1852. It is probable that the number will be still further reduced by the power given to commanding officers, in an Act of the late Session, for making better provision concerning the entry and service of seamen, to punish deserters summarily by committing them to prison. Whether the majority of seamen would not prefer a flogging to six months with hard labour in the common jail, is a question we need not enter upon at this time.
The real cause of the difficulty experienced in adding men to the fleet cannot be better described than in the words of the Memorial from the Board of Admiralty, which was read before the Queen in Council, on the 1st April, 1853.
'The difficulties are inherent in the system itself, which consists in entering men for particular ships selected by themselves, nominally for five years, but practically, according to immemorial usage, for the period during which a ship is commissioned, averaging from three to four years; and then, after much expense, time, and labour bestowed in training them, they are disbanded. A certain portion of the men thus discharged never return to the navy; some carry the fruits of their training to foreign flags; the larger number return at periods dictated by their own convenience or inclination, and not by any regard to the wants of the service. This desultory mode of proceeding is a cause of great embarrassment and expense in conducting the ordinary duties of the naval service. It creates uncertainty as to the period when ships may be expected to be ready for sea; and the evil becomes one of great magnitude, and a serious danger, when political considerations suddenly demand the rapid equipment of Your Majesty's ships.' (P. 44.)
The investigations of a Committee of naval officers into the subject, led to the conclusion that it was essential to give the navy a permanent constitution.
It was therefore ordered, that all boys entering the navy should be required to engage for a period of ten years, from the
age of eighteen; and to induce seamen now serving, or hereafter volunteering, to enter for the same period, certain additions were made to the rates of pay, which will be best shown by the following table:
Leading seamen, with 2d. a day, or 37. Os. 10d. a year, in addition to any other pay to which they may be entitled.
Chief petty officers, with 3d. a day, or 47. 11s. 3d. a year, in addition to any other pay to which they may be entitled.
Good conduct gratuities of 77. and 51. are given to Petty Officers on paying off every ship, the proportion graduating from ten men in the largest, to two in the smallest classes; while seamen may get good conduct pay, in addition to all other, of 1d., 2d., or 3d. a day according to the number of badges they have obtained.
Seamen are to be allowed to purchase their discharge, and after ten years' service, to be entitled, at the discretion of the Admiralty, to a pension of 6d. a day, to be increased to 8d. a day, after fifteen years' service; all such pensioners being liable to give further service in the event of an armament of war.
The pay of warrant officers,—that is, of gunners, boatswains, and carpenters, a valuable class of officers, who rise from before the mast,-is increased from 25 to 30 per cent.: the sea-pay of a First Class Warrant Officer being now 120l. a year; while they are declared eligible to receive commissions in the navy, as a reward for distinguished acts of gallantry and daring.
We have thus given a slight notion of the certain advantages which attend the career of a good and well conducted seaman in our navy: a comparison with the rates of pay in the United States Marine will not be unfavourable; the slightly lower rates in our service being more than compensated by the higher rewards to good men.