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PRINTED BY PEWTRESS AND Co.,
Steam Printing Works, 15, GREAT QUEEN STRLET, Lincoln's INN FIELDS, W.C.
NAUTICAL MAGAZINE, ,
As Britain's commerce depends much on so-called “Poor Jack,” let us spend, in opening the New Year, un petit quart d'heure in considering the brave fellow and his fortunes.
Twice a day he comes to our ports, guiding monsters of wood and iron on the uprushing flood that pours out of the Atlantic. During his absence, he has given up his personal fancies, his will, almost his individuality, to those of his officers; he has eaten food which, although he had a choice in selecting at the time he signed his agreement, is monotonous in flavour and consistency; he has been lodged in a forecastle, which, although often healthy and comfortable for a sailor, is circumscribed, and, in some cases, a den, little less rude than the wigwam of the red man; his companions have been a miscellaneous crew of several nationalities, mostly good fellows, some few gross at times mixed with several ferocious scoundrels of the type of the pirates and freebooters of other days, all closely cribbod with him, and cabined for the voyage. These latter, mere animals, and of a dangerous kind, often make their finer-bred messmates groan under galling tyrannies ; but, appalling indeed is the life poor Jack leads, if one of these sea-brutes should be his officer. Brutality on the part of officers is surely and quickly disappearing; but, in those exceptional cases, when cruelty stands in the shoes of authority; and, uncontrolled in the midst of the watery waste, executes its savage decrees on an inferior, then are consummated the most
barbarous outrages inflicted on man. On shore, the tortured slave can flee on its stable surface ; but the bondsman of the deep 'must endure his wrongs in his floating dungeon, till his agony be terminated in port; or, leap into the fastnesses of the deep, and quench in it, for ever, his burning, outraged heart. It is not, however, of the ill-used sailor that we speak, because his number is, fortunately, small; but of the ordinary sailor, whose treatment is fairly good in most cases, and exceptionally good in many, that we write.
Freed from coercion and the manifold restrictions, which, with the kindest of officers, he must necessarily have endured afloat, Jack leaps ashore, after a long voyage, with that spirit of joyousness all confined things feel when loosed from trammels. The schoolboy from his class, the soldier from his campaign, the sailor from his cruise-all feel alike a buoyancy, a restlessness, a reckless disregard for the conventionalities of sober systematised society. Like unchained dogs, they frisk, shout, and perform fantastic tricks, that amaze, amuse, and disturb those who have never worn the collar themselves.
Of the horde of rascals that are waiting to profit by this exhilaration and make his coveted sojourn on shore as brief as possible, rendering it at length so diabolical that he is forced to take refuge in his forecastle once more-of the touts and crimps-we will say only that their profits and success are, in the United Kingdom, becoming less and less, whilst their detection and punishment here is more certain and speedy every day; although, on the Continent of America, and even within Her Majesty's dominions there, a crimp can, with impunity, in broad daylight, go on board a British ship and shoot people who oppose him. Of the Black-Eyed Susans and Wapping Old Stairs Mollys, whose affections are offered with unselfish impartiality to the whole merchant service, of these remarkable people we will say nothing, except, en passant, that, in despite of The Shield, and its advocacy of free trade in the most loathsome disease known, we think an extension of certain Acts would be of advantage to them. Jack's uprise in intelligence and fortune comes not from his connection with one or other of these. It is not to the roguery, ignorance, and filth that tend to keep him back; but to the causes that are tending to his participation in the benefits of the age that we wish to invito attention.
These, in brief, are three-The development of steam ; the precision of nautical science; the social ideas of the epoch.
The plash of the paddle-wheel smiting the restless waves of the Atlantic, was the knell of old Ocean's supremacy. Hitherto he had played with the bold fellows who slid over his broad back. He had flung them, with bafiling wantonness, to all points of the compass, in his merry moods; and when the old god saw that the daring fellows would not be discouraged,