Recently, I’ve been dabbling in English scientific history. A couple of nights ago, I read a fascinating essay by James Gleick titled “At the Beginning: More Things in the Heaven and Earth” found in Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, & The Genius of the Royal Society edited by the fabulous Bill Bryson. Gleick’s descriptions of the history of the Royal Society and their early scientific inquiries made me chuckle. Today, as I was searching for images in Cassell’s Family Magazine for another post on Victorian love letters, I ran across a description of a typical meeting and soiree of the Royal Society in 1886. I couldn’t resist posting it on my blog. Enjoy!
At A Soiree Of The Royal Society
rom its history and standing the Royal Society of London is unquestionably the chief scientific body in these islands. It has all the dignity of a State institution as well as the lustre of a famous past; and, in the minds of many, to have the privilege of writing ” F.R.S.” after one’s name is to have gained the blue ribbon of science. Like other great associations, it began in a very humble way.
During the year 1645—just two hundred and forty-one years ago—a small band of friends were wont to meet in Dr. Goddard’s lodgings, Wood Street, London, to talk over the various observations of natural things which had been made, in a curious and philosophical spirit. The notion of holding these meetings is said to have been suggested by one Theodore Haak; and Dr. Goddard’s lodgings were selected because he had an assistant working there who was skilled in grinding glasses. Subsequently the meeting-place was removed to Oxford, and after that to Gresham College, London, where after the Wednesday lecture of Mr. Christopher Wren, the celebrated architect, the colleagues met in the classroom to carry on their discussions, from which all political and theological topics were excluded. This was in the year 1659, the year of the troubles with King Charles II., and the philosophers, despite their harmless attitude in politics, were obliged to give up their meeting-place, which was turned into a soldiers’ barrack.
Next year, after the Restoration, the meetings were, however, resumed on November 28th, in Mr. Rooke’s room, Gresham College, and Mr. Ball’s room in the Temple. Forty members were enrolled, including the Hon. Robert Boyle (” the Father of Chemistry, and brother of the Earl of Cork”), Sir Kenelme Digby, Mr. Evelyn, of the ” Diary,” Mr. Christopher Wren, Dr. Cowley, and Dr. Wallis.
At the meeting on December 5th, Sir Robert Moray announced the welcome news that his Majesty King Charles II had been pleased to signify his approbation of the young society, and their objects. The king afterwards took further interest in their proceedings, and it is his Majesty’s picture which holds the place of honour in their meeting-hall at Burlington House to-day.
It is curious to read some of the minutes of the young society. Thus Mr. Pope was deputed to “procure the experiment of breaking pebbles with the hand ;” and later on Mr. Wilde agreed to “show the stone kindled by wetting.”
Again: “The Duke of Buckingham promised to bring to the society a piece of a unicorn’s horn.”
This remarkable substance was afterwards made the subject of an interesting experiment, for we read that (on July 24th) “A circle was made with powder of unicorn’s horn, and a spider set in the middle of it; but it immediately ran out.”
“Sir John Findis’ piece of an incombustible hatband was produced.”
“Mr. Croune was desired to inquire into the manufacture of hats.”
Also: “ Sir Kenelme Digby related that the calcinated powder of toads reverberated, being applied in bags upon the stomach of a pestiferate, cures it by several applications.”
On another occasion: “Sir Gilbert Talbot’s experiment of the sympathetic powder were ordered to be registered.”
Vegetable life also came in for its share of study. Among others, Dr. Clarke made some “observations on the humble and sensible plants, in Mr. Chiffin’s garden in St. James Park, made August 9th, 1661;” and Col. Tuke “brought in his history of the rained seeds, and some ivy berries, the kernels of which were the same that were reported to have fallen down from the sky in Warwickshire, Shropshire, etc.”
These examples serve to show how little true science, as we know it, was current in those days; and also the true inquiring spirit of the members, who took up any matter that seemed to call for explanation. Their earnestness is likes exemplified in Mr. Powle’s very liberal off to the Society, “to employ himself in the country about anything which they should direct him to.” Let us trust that Mr. Powle was duly dispatched, like Pickwick, to the country.
These early members of the Royal Society were, indeed, as Newton afterwards described himself, like children picking up shells upon the great shore of Truth. Their observations spread over a wide field, however; in fact, the whole circle of the sciences; and if some of them appear to be trivial, others were of the first importance. For instance, experiments were instituted at Teneriffe to prove the weight of the atmosphere. Capillary attraction, the recoil of guns, chemical reactions, and astronomical effects were carefully discussed. As the members settled to their work, the subjects treated of became more serious and important, as the minutes of their meetings curiously show. The “sympathetic powders,” the crushed vipers, and divining rods of the earlier days were left behind for weightier matters ; and the proceedings of the Society assumed more and more that classic character which they have borne so long. At last the illustrious Newton, with his theory of universal gravitation, gave an enormous impetus to their researches.
Susanna’s note: Newton’s relationship with the society wasn’t as harmonious as you might be led to believe. According to Gleick, Newton sent the society some letters describing how by using prisms he had split light into different colors. He further claimed that white light was produced by the combination of primary light colors. Fellow society member Robert Hooke sent back a hasty, cursory critique refuting Newton. Pissed off at Hooke, Newton didn’t return to the Royal Society for a number of years.
Since Newton’s day, Michael Faraday, Davy, Thomson, and many others have added glory to the Royal Society; and at their ordinary meetings, or their annual soirees, some of the most eminent savants of the day are to be met. These meetings are held on Thursdays during the winter, in the Society’s rooms, Burlington House, at three in the afternoon; because it was found that wits were clearer then than after dinner in the evening. The after-dinner mind is not quite capable of grasping the lively molecule.
The visitor to one of these meetings is ushered into an ante-chamber where tea and coffee are provided for his refection, before the business of the day begins, as well as after it has ended. This is a custom which has been imitated by some other learned societies— notably the Linnean.
The meeting-hall is a large sombre chamber, hung with dark oil paintings of dead immortal worthies, such as Huyghens, Newton, and Priestley. At the farther end sits the President on an antique high-backed chair, with a secretary on either side, and the great mace of King Charles lying in state before his desk. The ordinary Fellows sit on benches across the body of the hall.
A grave and impressive dignity presides over the assembly. If it is trying for a new member of Parliament to address the House, it is almost equally trying fora young Fellow to take part in a discussion here. The papers are on subjects which would bea sealed book to the original members of the Society; their very names would sound like Cherokee to Evelyn and Mr. Powle, supposing the latter to have returned from the country. They are even unintelligible to all except those Fellows who are specialists in the particular science they belong to. For example, there may be a mathematical paper “On the Invariants and Covariants of Quantities,” or an electrical one “On the Determination of Magnetic Susceptivity.” A renowned palaeontologist (the very man who is popularly supposed to build the skeleton of an extinct animal from its tooth) will perhaps discourse on some new ” missing link,” to wit, the Thylacolea, or flesh-eating marsupial of New South Wales; or a well-known geologist will communicate a paper by somebody else “On the Occurrence of Pterygotis and a Limuloid in certain Flagstones.” If the lay visitor escapes the seductive subject of vortex-rings, and the dissipation of energy, he may consider himself lucky ; and will probably not regret the mysteries of “orthagonal and isothermal surfaces,” or the “forces experienced by inductively ferro-magnetised or dia-magnetised non-crystalline substances.” Science has taken such gigantic strides of late years that it has almost coined a language of its own.
There are two annual soirees, or conversaziones, of the Royal Society, one being known familiarly as the “ladies’ night.” These gatherings are attended by the Fellows and their friends, together with a sprinkling of distinguished guests, such as foreign savants—a Helmholtz or a Pasteur—ambassadors from other Powers, a few presidents of other societies, a famous general or two, and occasionally a royal personage.
The guests are received by the President, and disperse themselves about the halls of the Society, which are brilliantly illuminated for the occasion by some new system of electric lighting. Numerous tables are covered with scientific apparatus illustrating recent inventions, the telephone, the microphone, the photophone, or something newer still. Nor are the exhibits confined to physical instruments, but extend over the whole range of science. Novelty, of course, is a desideratum, and especially some novelty of the year which has just elapsed. Illuminated microscopes stand ready to reveal their splendid secrets; some rare orchid from the tropical forest hangs its alien blossoms in the heated air; meteoric stones from Russia, and even corroded jewels from the site of Troy, may perhaps be seen there, along with fossil scorpions from the Silurian rocks, or tiny crystals of a new element, and microbes from the snows of Norway.
There is a little licence as regards the range of exhibits; and perhaps it is as well, for some of the experiments might lack interest to other visitors than men of science. As it is, the soirees are in general most successful gatherings, and form a relaxation in the scientific year.
So, you’ve been invited to the Royal Society’s Soiree in 1886. What are you going to wear when you show off your brilliant invention that you would have described at a meeting had you been allowed to attend? Here are some ideas from The London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion from 1881. (Okay, these fashions were five years old in 1886. But you’re a nerdy scientist. What do you care about fashion anyway?)
Last night I had insomnia from hell. With just three hours of sleep, I don’t have enough functioning brain cells to design or write, so I’ve decided to clean up more text from the 1839 London Saturday Journal articles on the British Navy. I think articles like these add greater context when you are watching Russell Crowe in Master and Commander for the twelfth time or passing yet another Saturday re-watching every episode of Hornblower.
“Hearts of oak are our ships,
Jolly tars are our men.”
The total number of persons comprising the crew, or complement, (as it is called,) of a seventy-four gun ship, amount, in time of war, to 650: in peace, the company is one hundred less; the reduction being made in the number of seamen: the officers and petty officers in each class are the same in peace and war.
The following is the classification, with the rate of pay to each. We shall specify their particular duties hereafter.
The first or senior lieutenant, if he has held that rank seven years has 11l. 0s. 4d. per month. When a commander is on board, his pay is 23l. 0s. 4d. per month.
When the surgeon has served six years in that rank, he obtains an increase of pay of 1s. per day up to ten years; from ten to twenty years, he has 14s. per day; and after twenty years’ service, 18s. per day.
The naval instructor has, besides, a bounty of 30l. and 5l., per annum each of his pupils, which is deducted from their pay.
The captain maintains an establishment of his own: all the others included in the above enumeration, together with the officers of royal marines, are called “Wardroom Officers,” and they mess in the centre of a room so styled, on each side of which are their respective cabins for sleeping.
The carpenter is allowed 7s. per month additional for tools.
These are called the “Warrant Officers:” each has a separate cabin in the fore-part of the ship, in the neighbourhood of his storeroom, and each has a boy to attend upon him.
Sixteen mates and midshipmen, in whatever proportion the captain may desire, hut generally as follows:
These are called the “Gentlemen;” and they either mess together in the gun-room (the gun-room is situated under the ward-room, and the ward-room under the captain’s cabin, which is under the poop. These are tiers — or floors– of rooms lighted from the stern windows and side-ports) or in two divisions, in berths (rooms) on each side of the orlop-deck, in that part called the “cockpit.”
The orlop desk is immediately beneath the lower tier of guns, and appropriated to the stowage of the cables, and also to various store-rooms. To that portion known as the cockpit the men wounded in battle are carried to the surgeon. In the midshipsman’s berth on the left-side of H.M.S Victory. (called the larboard berth,) the heroic Nelson breathed his last at Trafalgar. The spot (as well as that on which he fell; denoted by a brass mark on the quarter-deck, is eagerly inquired after by the visitors to that ship is Portsmouth.
They above are called “First-class Petty Officers before the Mast.” They mess indiscriminately amongst the crew, with the exception of the first three, who have a screened birth on the lower deck.
The carpenter’s mates have 7s. per month for additional tools.
The above are called “Second-class Petty Officers”
To these (including 125 marines) are added as many sailors as will make up the number of the crew to 650. The sailors are rated able, ordinary, or landmen, according to their ability. The able seamen, denominated A.B.’s, have 34s. per month, and are qualified to perform every part of a seaman’s duty. The ordinaries are half seamen, who do not profess to steer, heave the lead, &c.; their pay is 26s. per month: and the landmen are persons who have only been a trip or two to sea, and not reared as mariners; their pay being 23s. per month. It is usual, however, for ships of this rate to carry considerably more boys than the number specified in the scale, particularly boys of the first class, from seventeen to twenty years of age; as they grow up, they are rated landmen, and afterwards ordinaries; but few attain to the rating of A.B. who have not been brought up to the sea from childhood.
There is no limitation as to the number of sailors in each class, so, of course, every commander endeavours to obtain as great a proportion of A.B.’s as possible; and upon his success in this respect depends the question of whether the ship is well or ill manned.
It is by no means necessary, however, that the whole of a ship’s crew shall be able seamen, because many of the duties can be performed very well by ordinaries, and even landmen. Boys are objectionable in ships of war, because the navy is not a good school to train them to seamanship; while they increase the number, and are equally expensive to maintain, (the only saving being in the difference of wages,) they add but little to the physical strength of the crew.
The party of marines consist of
If a brevet major, 17l. 10s. per month.
[First Lieutenant] – After seven years, 10l. 10s. per month
Colour Serjeants, 2l. 14s. 1d. per month
[Corporals] – After fourteen years’ service, 1l. 12s. 1d. per month; and (if enlisted prior to 14th January, 1823) from seven to fourteen years, 1l. 9s. 9d. per month.
[Privates ]- After fourteen years’ service, 1l. 4s. 1d. per month; and (if enlisted prior to 14th January, 1823) from seven to fourteen years, 1l. 1s. 9d. per month.
The officers, warrant officers, young gentlemen, some of the petty officers, and the marines, are got together within a few days after the pendant is hoisted; the seamen are entered as they present themselves on board, and also at the rendezvous on Tower-hill, in London, which is always open for the reception of seamen who volunteer for a particular ship or for general service (Men who enter general service are available for any ship or station whereon required.)Sometimes houses are also opened in the large seaports; but this is rarely necessary, except when an increase is made to the number of men employed; for the generality of seamen, when discharged from one ship, find their way to another, preferring the treatment and comforts of the naval service to the usage they encounter in merchant vessels.
When a volunteer presents himself, he is questioned by the commanding officer as to his qualifications in seamanship. If he has served his apprenticeship in the regular manner, he is at once presumed to be quite capable of an able seaman’s duty, and obtains the rating of A.B. Good men generally stipulate, however, for petty officers’ ratings; but these are reserved as long as possible, for the rigging of the ship affords sufficient test by which to determine who are the best entitled to them.
If a man has served in the navy before, he produces his certificate, of which the following is the form; and by this his character and capability are ascertained.
Sufficient space is left upon this certificate (which is of doubled parchment, and inclosed in a tin case) to enter the names of any other ships in which the man has served; and an inspection of the above will show that the items respecting Revenge have been taken from his oral testimony. In fact, at the period of his service in that ship, these forms (which were introduced not long since, by the late Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm,) did not exist.
The reverse of the certificate contains a very minute description of the man’s person; such as age, stature, complexion, colour of hair and eyes, marks, wounds or scars; also his place of birth and usual residence; and if he has been discharged or invalided on account of any complaint or physical defect, such cause is noted thereon.
When the officer has satisfied himself as to the man’s character and ability, he is handed over to the surgeon, by whom he is required to strip, in order that he might undergo a minute inspection as to his physical condition. If any defects, however trifling, appear, or If he is more than forty-five years of age, he is at once rejected; but if passed by the doctor, he is entered on the books, and the clerk takes charge of his certificate, which is returned to him, filled up with the date of his servitude and the character he has acquired—such as “good,” “very good,” “excellent,” &c., —attested by his captain, and when discharged.
Seamen, owing to their habitual carelessness, very often lose their certificates; in which case, on giving them new ones, it is usual to take down their statement as to the ships they have already served in. As a register is made from the ship’s books of every man’s service, and preserved in the archives of the proper department at Somerset House, his claim for pension does not suffer by the loss of his certificate.
As soon as a candidate is accepted, he is placed in the starboard or larboard watch, and some station in the ship assigned him. He is at liberty to choose his own messmates, end the messes are formed of parties of twelve in each. Having made his choice, he can only change his mess once a month. This regulation is necessary to prevent trouble and confusion in the distribution of provisions. It is desirable that one or more of the petty officers should belong to each mess, but the selection of messmates is seldom interfered with by the officers. The mess tables are placed between the guns on the lower deck; the marines occupying those next the gunroom. The seamen’s tables are from thence forward.
In most vessels of the class we are describing, the whole of those enumerated as the “Gentlemen” mess together in the gunroom. They usually elect the clerk, or one of the oldest of the mates, “caterer;” and, the ship’s allowance of provisions being ample, a small contribution in aid thereof enables them to support a very good table, little inferior indeed to that of the ward-room. The usual subscription is about 25s. per month, (In some ships the mess-subscription is more, and there is always as entrance, generally five pounds, which is returned to a member leaving to join another ship.) and this is applied to procure the necessary cooking utensils, crockery, glass, &C. &c., as well as vegetables, poultry, white sugar, condiments, and various other articles not included in the ship’s allowance. The midshipmen are not permitted to carry live stock to sea, and therefore must put up with salt meat, except in harbour; but in every other respect a provident caterer will manage, with the above subscription, to maintain a comfortable mess. The oldsters, such as the mates, second master, assistant surgeons, and some of the midshipmen, take their allowance of grog and wine, and also appropriate the youngsters’ share, assuring them it is not good for their health.
In harbour, it is also usual for these oldsters to drink their wine, which they are enabled to procure free of duty. They have a steady man appointed to act as steward; and he has a cook, and perhaps a marine, to assist him. The meals in the gun-room are served at the same time as the ship’s company generally; the hour of breakfast being eight o’clock, dinner at noon.
The ” Officers” mess in the ward-room, and maintain a greater profusion and variety on their mess-table, at sea particularly, owing to their being permitted to carry live stock—sheep, pigs, and poultry. The subscription is generally about 45s. per month, but this is independent of wine, which is supplied duty free. Members of the ward-room mess have the option of taking their wine or not; the allowance to those who do is half a bottle, and if they require an extra quantity, it is charged to such as remain at table at a regulated price.
One, sometimes two, gentlemen from the gun-room are invited daily to dinner in the ward-room, and the guest is always placed at the left hand of the president, and treated with marked attention. In harbour, to avoid the inconvenience of having strangers continually on board, one day in the week (generally Thursday) is set apart for the purpose; and on this day strangers from the shore or from other ships are invited, and better fare than ordinary provided. The purser or one of the marine officers is generally appointed caterer of the ward-room mess; and the usual dinner-hour at sea is two or half-past two o’clock, when the members are assembled hy the drum and fife to the tune of “The Roast Beef of Old England.” Naval messes cannot make a display equal to the messes of regiments; because not only are the officers subject to constant changes, but the ships are kept in commission and the members held together for comparatively short periods. For these reasons no great expense can he incurred for linen, glass, china, table ornaments, or plate; the profusion of which, accumulated for years in military messes, gives to the establishments an appearance not inferior to what the wealthiest of our nobility can display. In ships of war, every officer is expected to provide a couple of silver spoons and forks, and these form the whole of the mess plate; each member also furnishes a clean table-cloth in his turn, and this is the amount of the mess-table linen. It would be desirable that some other articles of plate, &c. should be furnished by the government, such being the case in foreign navies, the officers paying a trifle for the use of them; for a handsome display has a very great effect on foreigners, and in this respect our ships suffer in comparison with those of rival nations.
We have alluded to a subscription for wine, which is necessary, notwithstanding that each person on board is allowed a portion of wine, spirits, or beer, described in the scheme; but the ship’s allowance is never produced at the ward-room table: that, with other articles of provisions not drawn from the purser, being paid for at a regulated price, and the assets thrown into the mess-fund. In fact, any person on board is at liberty to leave whatever portion of his allowance he thinks proper undrawn, and receive payment in lien.
There is another matter in which naval messes suffer in comparison with the military. By long-established regulation, the officers of the navy and army are allowed their wine duty-free. When the article is purchased from a wine-merchant, he becomes entitled to the drawback, upon the production of an officer’s certificate: but this practice was found to he attended with inconvenience on shore, and some years back, his late Majesty, George the Fourth, assigned a certain sum per annum to each regimental mess, and to the engineers, artillery, and marines, in compensation for the duty, which from thenceforth was paid, as is usual with the public, in the purchase of their wine. This allowance is a liberal one; it considerably exceeds the duty of all wine consumed, and the excess makes a handsome item in addition to the mess-fund. Moreover, as many regiments are serving abroad, where no duties exist upon wine, the whole of the allowance is so appropriated. It is strange that this indulgence has not been extended to naval officers, more particularly as they labour under other disadvantages which do not apply to their military brethren; the captain particularly, who, by the customs of the service, maintains at his individual expense a table for the reception of several of his officers every day; whilst the colonel of a regiment has no such obligation, his mess expenses being little more than the youngest ensign’s.
In our next we shall describe the routine of the captain’s establishment.
I have a weird fascination with naval history. Every time I see a documentary on the Merrimac and the Monitor, I get all nervous and wonder what’s going to happen, as if history might change and there was an epic, to-the-death battle between the two ironclads. (Come on, the Monitor was wicked looking…all that Scandinavian design!)
Anyhoo, switching sides of the ocean, I found a fascinating (perhaps just to me) series of articles in London Saturday Journal from 1839 on British Navy. I’ve decided to excerpt as many as I can find on my blog. The images accompanying the text come from An epitome, historical and statistical, descriptive of the Royal naval service of England, by E. Miles with the assistance of L. Miles.
FIRST ARTICLE—PUTTING A SHIP IN COMMISSION.
“Our ships in ordinary will spring from inaction into a display of then might—ruffle their swelling plumage—collect their scattered elements of strength—and awaken their dormant thunder !”—Speech of Mr. Canningin Parliament.
Any and everything relating to the British Nary, never fails to excite an interest in the public mind, hut there is no subject respecting which the generality of persons are so ignorant or so ill-informed. Whilst every one perceives and acknowledges the necessity for maintaining this right arm of our strength, this safeguard of our national prosperity, in pristine vigour and efficiency, comparatively few are acquainted with the admirable arrangements which regulate its discipline, control its economy, and render every department connected with the “mighty whole” instantly available, so as to realise, in an incredibly short space of time, the appropriate metaphor with which we have headed these remarks.
The exploits of the British Navy—the brilliant victories it has achieved—the results of those achievements in the supremacy obtained, securing to this favoured country old, and opening new channels of unbounded extent for its increasing trade and manufactures; sweeping the seas of its enemies, and rendering the “highway of commerce ” safe for its merchant vessels to traverse, —all these things are familiarly known, and duly recorded in the annals of history. But, except in some few elementary books—of little value to any but the profession—there is scarce any information to be obtained regarding this interesting subject: and we are not aware that a popular description has ever been published, to which the reader might refer for information, in the expectation of finding his curiosity gratified.
Under this impression, and supposing that some general account of the various matters connected with our “wooden walls,” will be agreeable to our readers, we purpose introducing the subject occasionally in successive numbers, until we have explained every point connected with the routine of a British ship-of-war, the mode of performing the duties on hoard—the portions of duty which devolve upon the different classes, or ratings, as they are technically called—the wages and victualling of the crew,—in fact, everything that can he supposed to interest the reader, from the first equipment of a ship-of-war, until we place her alongside of an enemy, and finally return her into port with her prize in tow, and leave her crew in the enjoyment of their well-earned rewards.
Sailors invariably adopt the expletive “she,” when speaking of a ship, and as this mode of description is also familiar to the generality of persons, we shall adhere to it. Whenever nautical phrases occur we will explain their meaning by a note.
Selecting for our purpose a seventy-four-gun ship, which class is distinguished as “third-rate,” we will suppose that the Lords of the Admiralty have decided upon equipping a vessel of this force for sea. This is technically called “putting her in commission,” that is, removing the vessel from “ordinary,” in which state she remains when dismantled.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, in whose immediate patronage all appointments to commands exists, selects from a list of names, furnished by the senior sea Lord, a captain to command her. He then directs his private secretary to communicate this intention to the officer, who is at liberty to accept or decline the offer of appointment.
It will seem strange to the reader that any doubt should exist upon this point, or that a captain on half-pay would decline active service, and the command of a ship; when he is informed, however, that a tour of three years in such command—that being the usual time that ships are kept employed in time of peace—must involve him in several hundred pounds’ expense, over and above the pay he will receive ;—that many officers have large families, no private fortunes, and cannot therefore afford this sacrifice ; that moreover, no dishonour is incurred by declining employment under such circumstances in time of peace, his surprise will cease.
We shall take another opportunity to explain the incongruity of an officer’s pay being inadequate to support the proper dignity of his rank and station, when we come to describe the captain’s duties particularly; for the present we will suppose him to have accepted the proffered appointment, or that having declined it, the command has been accepted by another.
The selection of the lieutenants is in the second sea Lord at the Board, who keeps a list of all such as he considers eligible for active employment, with a register of their qualities, as reported by the commanders they have served under. This member of the Board also nominates some others of the officers. The nomination of his second, however, is, by long established custom, permitted to the captain, and he has the option of choosing either a commander or lieutenant; if the latter, he is called the “first lieutenant,” and every officer of that rank, subsequently appointed, must be junior to him in seniority upon the list of lieutenants.
This regulation has been adopted and continued on the plea of the necessity for the captain’s having confidence in the officer to whom devolves the duty of carrying his orders into effect,— indeed the principal duties of the ship; but it materially limits the power of the Admiralty in the range of appointments: for it is probable, nay almost certain, that the captain will select for his first lieutenant some active young officer, who has been constantly and recently employed afloat, and therefore well practised in his duty, in preference to one who has been long on half pay, and unacquainted with the improvements that are continually occurring; this is the reason why so many old lieutenants are unemployed. When the captain makes his election for a commander, it affords the opportunity to appoint lieutenants of long standing, still however, depending upon the seniority of the first lieutenant. But the truth is, that old officers, unless they can obtain commands, are not very desirous of employment afloat, as lieutenants of ships, for reasons we shall state hereafter.
We will suppose these preliminaries settled, the nomination of the captain approved, and the appointments decided on, the commissions are ordered to be made out, and an official letter * is written to each officer, apprising him thereof.
* The following is the form of the official letter:—
Sir, Admiralty Office, January 1, 1839.
My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have appointed you Lieutenant of Her Majesty’s Ship, Nonsuch, at Portsmouth; it is their Lordships’ direction that you repair Immediately to this Office for your appointment, and that you report to me the day on which you shall have joined the ship.
I am, Sir, your very humble Servant,
P.S—It is desired that you acknowledge the receipt of this letter.
To Lieutenant Henry Haulaway.
He may either “take up,” as it is called, that is, receive his commission at the Admiralty, in London, or at the admiral’s office, at the sea-port where the ship is stationed. The captain, or one of his lieutenants, proceeds without delay to make the arrangements for putting the ship in commission, which is accomplished by hoisting the pendant, and reading his warrant to the officers already appointed; the forms and observances appertaining to which ceremony are as follow :—
On arriving at the sea-port wherein his ship is stationed, the captain, or one of his lieutenants, to whom he has delegated the duty of putting the vessel in commission, repairs to the office of the Port Admiral, and reports his arrival to the secretary. Thence he proceeds to the superintendant residing in the dockyard, who orders the master-attendant, (one of his officers), to make the necessary arrangements, and also furnishes a pendant. The pendant is a long narrow strip of hunting, of the colour of the admiral’s flag, having a St. George’s cross at the top; and when hoisted at the head of the main (middle) mast, signifies that the ship belongs to Her Majesty’s fleet, and is in commission. Every person on board, or, as it is called, under the pendant, is amenable to naval discipline, the laws regulating which are strictly defined by the Act 22 of George II., cap. 23, the articles of war, and also the naval instructions, a code of rules promulgated by the Lords of the Admiralty, under the authority of an order in council, and amended occasionally to suit the exigencies of circumstances.
The pendant, being emblematic of a ship of war commanded by an officer of the royal navy, is not allowed to be worn by any other class of vessels whatever. It is said to have been originally adopted in defiance of the Dutch, who exhibited a broom at the mast-head, and boasted that they could sweep the seas of their enemies; on which a British admiral ordered his captains to hoist this representation of a whip, with the design of whipping the Dutch out of the British Channel. Whatever might have been the first intention, the symbol is, undoubtedly, a very ancient one, and has long since been adopted by all nations to distinguish their ships of war.
A ship, when brought forward (that is, prepared) for commissioning, is generally placed in the basin, a large pond within the dock-yard, capable of holding several vessels. This is done for the greater convenience of equipping her, and hoisting on hoard her masts and water-tanks, by means of the sheers or cranes, placed on the edge of the basin. The officer, having stepped on hoard, calls around him any others who have been already appointed, and having hoisted the pendant, either upon a mast or a flag-staff, he reads his commission, of which the following is a copy :
Admiralty Seal. By the Commissioners for executing the officeof Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland &c.
To Henry Haulaway hereby appointed Lieutenant of Her Majesty’s Ship the Nonsuch By virtue of the Power and Authority to us given, We do hereby constitute and appoint you Lieutenant of Her Majesty’s Ship the Nonsuch Willing and requiring you forthwith to go on hoard and take upon you the charge and command of Lieutenant in her accordingly strictly charging and commanding all the officers and company belonging to the said ship subordinate to you-to behave themselves jointly and severally in their respective employments with all due respect and obedience unto you their said Lieutenant And you likewise to observe and execute as well the General Printed Instructions as what Orders and Directions you shall from time to time receive from your Captain or any other your superior Officers for Her Majesty’s service hereof nor you nor any of you may fail as you shall answer the contrary at your peril And for so doing this shall he your Warrant Given under our hands and the Seal of the Office of Admiralty this First day of January 1839 in the second year of Her Majesty’s Reign.
By command of their Lordships
C. Wood Dalmeny
Seniority 10th July 1836
The above quaint form has been unaltered probably from its first adoption. It will he seen that, as in old statutes, no marks of punctuation occur ; and although called a commission, it is strictly speaking, a warrant.—It is lithographed on parchment, hears a stamp of five shillings, and the officer pays a fee of one pound one shilling and sixpence on receiving it.
SECOND ARTICLE. MANNING AND FITTING OUT.
The formal ceremony performed of “Putting the ship in commission,” the officer next proceeds, in company with the master attendant, to select and receive charge of a hulk. This is an old vessel fitted up for the habitation of the crew during the time the ship is equipping. The principal object is to select one sufficiently capacious to accommodate the officers and men, and moored (situated) as near the dock-yard as possible, for the greater facility of boats passing to and fro.
The choice of the hulk approved, a pendant is hoisted, and never struck (taken down) night or day. The ensign or colours (a large oblong flag with a union-jack in the upper corner) is also hoisted every morning at eight o’clock, and displayed until sunset.
The next step is to procure a clerk, if he is not already provided; and should the captain have no one in view for this office, application is generally made to the admiral’s secretary, who recommends one of several always on his list for employment.
The clerk immediately makes out a demand for stationery, and having procured the signature of the commanding officer, he repairs to the superintendant of the dock-yard, who approves it; he then draws from the store-keeper the necessary supply, comprising various printed forms, which must he filled up, signed, and countersigned, after a regulated manner, before stores or provisions of any description can he obtained. The clerk also makes entries of the name, age, and description of every person who joins the ship; copies the port-admiral’s orders, and has in fact a very busy time of it whilst in harbor.
Due notice of the intention of putting the ship in commission has in the mean time been given to the commandant of the division of royal marines; and as soon as the hulk is reported ready for their reception, the party of marines, or sea-soldiers, called jollies by the seamen, is marched from the barracks to boats and embarked on board. From thenceforth, like every one serving under that awful symbol the pendant, the marines are amenable to naval discipline; directed at work and ordered about by naval officers: in fact their own officers have little to do with them afloat, except inspecting the condition of their appointments, with an occasional exercise.
The purser is generally appointed early, but should he not have made his appearance, (or joined, as it is called,) a supply of provisions is obtained from the flag-ship. As soon as this official appears, however, he speedily procures all that is necessary in his department, for his principal emoluments are derived from the savings he can effect in the allowance made him for providing coals, candles, and other necessaries.
As the officers appear, and their names are inserted on the hooks, they enter on their various duties; the lieutenants, mates, and midshipmen, being attached to the parties which are sent daily to the dock-yard and gun-wharf, to prepare the ship’s rigging, furniture, and armament. When the captain or either of the lieutenants (these being distinguished as commissioned officers) joins, all hands are called, and his commission, similar to the one we have described, is read aloud in presence of the whole ship’s company.
The first lieutenant, (or commander, if the captain has made his election for one,) master, boatswain, gunner, and carpenter, are the persons on whom devolve the principal duties in fitting out. Whilst the first two superintend the whole process, the master, and one of his mates, pay particular attention to the stowage of ballast, water tanks, provisions, &c. in the holds; for a judicious distribution of the weight has a great effect upon the ship’s motion at sea, and also upon her sailing qualities. The boatswain superintends the rigging; the gunner, besides the rigging of the mainmast and main yard, is employed fitting the tackling and breechers (ropes which secure and work the cannon); and the carpenter takes care that the masts and yards are free from defects, besides busying himself in preparing the boats, and various other matters.
If men are slow in entering, not much can be done in the way of rigging for some time, unless expedition is required, in which case, working parties are sent from the flag-ship, or other ships in port, to assist; but in all cases it is desirable that the vessel shall be fitted in every respect by her own crew: meanwhile there is plenty of employment in getting on board the ballast, water tanks, &c., stepping the masts, and other heavy jobs, at which the marines prove very useful.
During war, vessels are manned by draughts from the guardships, or other ships paid off, and by pressing any seamen that can be laid hold of; in seasons of peace, the crews are all volunteers, who enter for the ship, or for general service. The term implied is three years, but once entered they can he detained, if the service requires it, for five years.
There is seldom, under ordinary circumstances, a necessity for hurrying a ship’s equipment, and as unnecessary severity of discipline and frequent corporal punishment are greatly discountenanced by the Board of Admiralty, captains are of course anxious to procure men of good character, so that they may have the less occasion to exercise severity. For this reason ships are sometimes very slowly manned in the present day, and good men being frequently rejected for frivolous causes, or a fastidiousness on the part of the captain, they are the less inclined to submit to this mortification, and when slighted repair to the merchant, and often, we fear, to foreign service. Very much also depends upon the reputation which the captain and his commander or first lieutenant enjoys amongst the seamen; a hasty or contemptuous expression, a character for harassing the men with trifling jobs, or any prejudice taken up, runs like wild-fire amongst seamen; for they congregate together and discuss these matters—the most interesting that can be to them; and cases of this sort militate against the manning a particular ship, whilst men will enter freely for another. Indeed, experience shows that it is not the strictest disciplinarians who are unpopular, very far from it; because, under them, the seaman knows everyone must perform his duty, and the willing man is not obliged to do the work of the skulker. It may he very generally and certainly assumed, that when men show a disinclination for a particular ship, there is a prejudice existing against some party on board; the remedy the Dutch formerly adopted for this was to nominate another captain, if the one first appointed failed to enlist his crew within a specified time. No doubt such a regulation induced officers to cultivate the respect and affection of their men.
To many it may seem surprising that seamen will enter at all in the Royal Navy, when they can always earn nearly double, and sometimes triple, the wages in trading ships. Experience shows, however, that they do, and the fact is indisputable that upwards of twenty thousand are now serving in the fleet, all volunteers. There must be some reasons for this, and the fact is there are various advantages present, contingent, and in prospect, connected with the Queen’s service, that operate upon the minds of men who bestow a thought on the matter. But as we believe that three-fourths of our merchant seamen never heard of, or at all events do not know enough of these advantages to appreciate them, we shall be performing a kindness by describing the most prominent, reserving more detailed observations upon “Impressment and Manning the Fleet” for a special article, in which we purpose treating on the matter hereafter.
The average wages of seamen in merchants’ ships, may he estimated roundly, at 45s. per month. In some trades they earn considerably more; and an able seaman, who really deserves the title, and has served his apprenticeship to the sea, may always calculate on obtaining 60s. per month.
The best seamen in the Navy do not (until they attain to petty officer’s ratings) receive more than 34s. per month, but their pay is calculated by the lunar, not (as in the merchant’s service) the calendar month, so that in this respect, they have an advantage of thirteen to twelve. But the man-of-war’s man’s pay is always accruing; he is subjected to no interruptions nor mulcts, his pay goes on in sickness or health, when captured or shipwrecked *, even when on leave of absence: in fact, he need never lose a day’s wages, for when discharged from one ship, he can immediately enter on board the flag ship, and obtain two or three weeks’ leave for recreation on shore, depositing his chest, bedding, and a portion of his money, in safety, until his return.
* If a merchant vessel is captured or wrecked, the crew are not entitled to wages. In either case, but particularly the former, when the man is generally detained in prison during the war, his allotment is stopped, and his family deprived of any help from him. The man-of-war’s man are not liable to this, but his wages continue to accrue when he cannot receive them, and his allotment is punctually paid, even should he be detained in a French prison twenty years or more.
Again, he incurs no drawbacks, like the merchant seaman, for damage or pillage of the cargo; neither is he obliged to hang about the docks for ten days after discharge, before he can claim a settlement of his wages, all which time the seaman is a prey to Jews, who advance him money on exorbitant terms: in fact, notwithstanding the disparity of wages, if a balance is struck at the end of half-a-dozen years, it will be found that the man-of-war’s man had earned the most money, and maintained his family in the greatest comfort, owing to the regularity of his employment, and punctuality of his allotment.
But it is only in the matter of wages—and that we have shown is questionable—that the merchant seaman can claim an advantage; in every other respect, he is immeasurably deficient. The man-of-war’s man enjoys good treatment, food, and lodging, greater safety from the superior qualities of his ship, the skill of the officers to navigate her, and the strength of the crew: in sickness, skillful professional treatment, with a profuse use of the most costly medicines to alleviate his pain, and restoratives to further his recovery. If wounded or maimed, casualties to which his profession render him peculiarly liable, he has surgical assistance on the spot, for want of which, and the means of performing an operation in season, thousands of merchant seamen perish miserably. Moreover, should disease overtake him, and incapacitate him at any time whilst serving, he is invalided and pensioned at from eight pence to nine pence per day, instead of becoming dependent on parish relief. His children are eligible for Greenwich school, where they receive an education that qualifies them for advancement in life to any station good conduct can obtain. In case of death, his wife receives an annuity, and when he has served twenty-one years, he can claim a pension for life, either at sea or on shore, of from ten pence to fourteen pence per day, and more if he served in petty officer’s ratings. The seaman who resolves upon entering the Royal Navy with a view to serving therein twenty-one years, may therefore set casualty and fate at defiance; he need take no further thought of provision for life. He may save out of his pay (to say nothing of his chance of prize money) scores, nay, hundreds of pounds, if provident, leaving himself ample means for enjoyment besides, for every want is supplied to him; and, should he so desire, Greenwich Hospital at last receives him. The merchant seaman has nothing of this kind to depend on. It is true he subscribes to a fund, but unless he makes some additional provision for old age, he will find but a scanty maintenance from what that affords; and should his constitution break down, or injury or disease incapacitate him, he has no resource for himself or family from which he can claim the means of support.
Having detailed the advantages which the seaman enjoys in the royal navy, so far as regards his wages and entitlements, the reader will be anxious to know how he fares? The best information we can give him on this point is to append the following Table, which shows the provision made for his support, and the judicious manner in which his food is varied from day to day.
Every individual of the crew receive the same allowance, not the slightest distinction being made, either in quantity or quality, between the captain and the smallest boy on board the ship.
Formerly there existed what were called “Banyan days,” being three days in the week, not strictly of abstinence, but on which no dinner was cooked, the men making a cool and comfortless meal on whatever they saved from the previous day. Banyan days have been abolished since the war, and the above arrangement adopted by which a hot dinner every day of beef and and pudding, or pork and pease-soup, and pease-pudding, called by sailors ” Dog’s-body,” is substituted.
In harbor, however, in any part of the world, and at sea whenever it can he procured, fresh beef is always provided; the allowance being, one pound per day instead of the threequarters of a pound of salt beef or pork, a half a pound of vegetables instead of the flour and pease. Sometimes 1 1/2 pounds of bread, (called Soft Tack,) is substituted for the biscuit, and the men are at liberty to vary their allowance by taking raisins, currants, and such, in lieu of a portion of their flour. Coffee is frequently served in place of cocoa, and when at sea, one pint of wine, or a quarter of a pint of spirits, (generally rum,) is substituted for beer. The rum is always mixed with three parts of water, making a beverage called “grog,” and never given to the crew in a raw state. Whenever apprehension of scurvy is entertained, and the men have been long on salt provisions, some lime-juice and sugar is mixed with the grog, which then becomes cold punch, thereby insuring that the anti-scorbutic, the adoption of which has eradicated that frightful disease, is duly administered; for Jack’s predilection for grog is proverbial, and he would swallow it even were it impregnated with more questionable substances than lime-juice and sugar, else his character is traduced by those who accuse him of ” tapping the admiral.”
Let those who toil hard to subsist their families,—who suffer when incapable of working from sickness, or who frequently fail to obtain employment though ever so well inclined,—who have in the mean time, rent, taxes, and the various calls that perplex the house-keeper, to provide, ponder over the statement we have made, and reflect whether the Government has been unmindful of the seaman’s interests and comforts, or whether our tars have any reason to complain. Increased pay they should receive in case of war, not because their labour is (everything considered) underpaid at present, but because they could then earn very considerably more in the merchant’s employment, and a poor man’s labour being the only capital he possesses, he should, in a free land, he undoubtedly permitted to carry it to the market where lie can make the most of it. In every other respect we consider the man-of-war seaman’s condition, one that must he envied by three-fourths of our artisans and even small tradesmen, who struggle hard amidst care and anxiety to keep up appearances, and make “both ends meet.”
The British sailor is, in fact, to use the words of a distinguished author “better fed, better lodged, better and cheaper clothed, and better taken care of in sickness, than any man who must earn his subsistence by the sweat of his brow.” In our next we shall give a scale of the crew, the pay of each rank, and the mode of messing the officers and men.
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