페이지 이미지

terest in its success. At


desire he has furnished me with a few observations, which I shall make the ground-work of the following article, in many instances using his own words.

Of all the plans devised for bettering the condition of the labouring classes, not one has so successfully promoted that object as the establishment of savings-banks. This marked success has been the natural result of the application of a sound principle, namely, that the bettering the condition of the lower classes rests mainly with themselves, and that all attempts to accomplish this desirable object by means of bounties and premiums has an indirect tendency to make their condition worse, inasmuch as bounties and premiums teach them rather to lean upon others, than to depend upon their own exertions for support. The Society for bettering the condition of the Poor seems to have come to this conclusion after many years of experience; for upon the establishment of savings-banks in the metropolis, it immediately applied its funds to the support of these institutions, and materially assisted in permanently establishing them. Although the numerous savings-banks in the metropolis would seem to meet the convenience of all persons desirous of availing themselves of them, there is yet one class, whose peculiar situation and habits require that an institution should be especially established for their benefit. The seamen frequenting the port of London make little use of the savings-banks now existing. They are not in any particular manner brought to their notice. The rules and regulations have no particular relation to their peculiar exigencies and way of life. They have no friends to put them in the right way; whilst they are beset on every side by the most voracious and profligate of both sexes, whose interest it is to decoy them into habits of the most senseless improvidence. From the moment they arrive in port, and before they can set foot on shore, till they are not only pennyless, but have utterly exhausted their credit on the most ruinous terms, they are made victims of a regularly

organized gang of land sharks, who haunt them wherever they go. Calumniated and unprotected whilst they might be able to secure their independence, they become objects of sympathy only when sickness, accident, or old age has reduced them and their families to destitution. A sailor's reception on his return to land is ordinarily a sorry recompense for the dangers and hardships of a long voyage ; and in a few days he often finds himself shamelessly stripped of the earnings of as many months. When on the ocean he must make


his mind to be cut off from domestic enjoyment, but when on land, it is too often embittered or destroyed by the profligate system to which he is exposed. “It is a mistake to suppose that seamen are naturally more improvident than landsmen ; they are made so by the circumstance of receiving their wages in accumulated sums, and other men in the same rank of life, when exposed to the like temptation, seldom resist to a less extent, except in so far as they are not equally beset by villany. In how many trades do the majority of workmen cease to labour as long as they have a shilling in their pockets ! But this failing is not an incurable one, if all possible facilities and allurements were afforded to habits of saving; and the sailor has then an advantage over all other classes of labourers, in that, whilst he is earning his wages, he has not only no temptation to waste them, but he has seldom the possibility. Once instil into a seaman a desire for accumulation, and it is easier to him than to any other individual; he puts a lump in store, and on his return finds it not only safe, but increased. He has the means in his hands to double it. Is he not likely to apply them so, and to go to sea again as soon, and a better sailor, than the spendthrift? A desire of saving having taken root in a sailor's mind, it has more time and opportunity to grow there than under any other circumstances; and as a certain similarity of habits must ever characterise the class, a partial change for the better would most probably lead to an universal one.

сс 2


The establishment of a seamen's savings-bank in the most central situation, and under rules and regulations having solely in view the habits and convenience of the class, would in all probability confer invaluable benefits upon them, if patronized and supported by the shipping interest. Here the produce of their labour might be safely housed until wanted for beneficial purposes, instead of being dissipated in profligacy and folly, or made a prey to others. What a benefit it would be to a sailor to have his wages placed in security, if only till, upon getting another ship, he might be enabled to purchase his outfit with his own money, instead of being driven to procure it on the most extortionate terms! But if a permanent habit of saving could be produced, it would, by raising him in his own estimation, make him a more valuable servant, and eventually be productive of great national benefit. Experience has shown, that when a depositor in a savingsbank has succeeded in accumulating a few pounds, a most extraordinary stimulus is frequently given to the formation of habits of industry and economy, and every nerve appears to be strained to increase his fund. At the same time the very bearing and manner of the individual is altered, and he seems to have acquired a proper feeling of self-respect, the spread of which must produce the most beneficial results to society at large. The British seaman has many noble qualities, which, as is often visible, make him the more keenly feel the debasement of some of his habits, and which would doubtless induce him to enter more willingly into any better course that might be opened to him. There seems no mode of offering him a better course, in principle so sound, or in operation so easy, as by the establishment of a savings-bank, having for its sole object the encouragement of provident habits among the seafaring class, by affording them every possible facility to place whatever part of their hard earnings they may have to spare, out of the reach of imposition and robbery, for their own benefit and for that of their families. The principal objects to be aimed at in the seamen's savings-bank would be:

1st. To establish it in the most central situation ; to have it open

at the hours most suitable to the convenience of seafaring men; and to have in attendance persons familiar with their habits and humours.

2ndly. To afford every proper facility both in investing and withdrawing deposits, so as to hold out the greatest inducements to invest, and at the same time to meet the sudden exigencies of sailors wanting money for their outfit, or any other necessary purpose.

3rdly. To afford facilities for providing provision for seamen's families during their absence at sea.

4thly. To receive the wages of sailors on their behalf from their employers.

5thly. When desired, to purchase annuities for seamen, and to invest their money in the funds when exceeding the amount allowed by law to be in the savings-bank.

6thly. To keep a register of depositors wanting ships, for the purpose of being referred to by ship-owners wanting steady men.

7thly. To provide for distributing savings, and receiving wages, in case of death.

8thly. To act in every possible way as the stewards and friends of the depositors.

Lastly. To apply to parliament for whatever increased powers might be necessary to promote the above ends.

It seems to me not to admit of a doubt but that a savingsbank for seamen, properly set on foot, would be productive of much immediate good, and that it might ultimately lay the foundation of an entire change of habit in respect to prudence among that numerous and important class. It is a subject that comes particularly home to me, because I have had occasion so often to become acquainted, in my magisterial capacity, with the dreadful impositions, robberies, and profligacy, which are consequent upon the arrival of any number of vessels from distant parts of the globe; and from the arts that are practised against sailors by gangs of confederates, in decoying, and stupifying them with liquor and with drugs, it is generally quite impossible to fix any proof of guilt. In fact, they are almost helplessly exposed to every combination of villany, and whether they are the accusers or the accused, they are almost equally objects of pity. I have known instances of sailors being robbed of fifty pounds or upwards, the very day they received it; but having been first rendered senseless, detection is impossible. Sometimes the day following their coming ashore, or even the same day, they are themselves brought for drunkenness and disorder, the consequence of conspiracy against them; and when remonstrated with on their imprudence, they will pathetically lament their helpless situation. Their better protection is a subject which deeply concerns themselves and all who are connected with them. It is of great importance to ship-owners, and to the maritime interest generally Society at large is much interested, from selfish motives, as well as from motives of humanity, in shutting up the fertile field, which the improvidence of sailors offers to vice and crime; and even a regard for the profligates and criminals themselves should induce an effort to remove temptation out of their way. British seamen do not stand in need of charity, but justice ; and I hope to see their cause meet with the highest patronage and the most extensive support, and I have no doubt it will be so, if once taken up by those most competent to ensure its success. I should like to see a public meeting called by influential men, and a subscription opened for the purpose of establishing a savingsbank for seamen on the most efficient and attractive plan, in a handsome and commodious building, worthy of its object, with officers in the various departments most competent to discharge their duties.

As any attempt to render seamen provident would meet with all sorts of opposition, underhand

« 이전계속 »