Can America Produce Merchant Seamen?
WITH the completion of the Panama Canal at a comparatively early date, and the growing and natural desire of America to possess a mercantile marine of her own, it is safe to prophesy that, before another twenty years have passed, America will own a fleet of merchant ships of sufficient size to carry at least her own produce over the seas. The question then naturally arises, “ Who will man her ships, American or foreign seamen ? ” To secure a satisfactory answer, it will be necessary to make comparisons between certain conditions which exist in European maritime countries and conditions in America.
Education being of primary importance when deciding upon one’s profession, let us look into this question first, and see how it affects the making of merchant seamen. It is a well-established fact that the laboring classes of America, are better educated, and possess a wider knowledge of things in general, than the corresponding classes in any European country. Instead of being taken away from school and apprenticed to a trade, as the majority of English boys are, —provided their parents can afford to apprentice them,—the average American boy of fourteen or fifteen years usually enters a high school, which is on a par with what in England is termed a “ grammar school.” The subjects taught in the latter are quite beyond the scope of the primary and grammar schools in America, and of the board or elementary schools in England, where they are considered “ too advanced ” for a boy who intends working at a trade, or sitting on an officestool as an ordinary clerk. Not so in America! Provided a boy’s parents can afford it, the time devoted to obtaining such an education is not considered wasted, but is looked upon as a good investment. The cost is borne cheerfully even if, after school-days are over, a boy follows an occupation for which he is really over-educated. In addition to what might be called “ academic schools,” there are in America business and technical colleges which prepare boys for the trades or professions they have decided to follow. In England these colleges are few and far between, and are generally attended by those who have already done a day’s work at a bench or in an office. In general, they resolve themselves into night schools; for the practice of sending boys to a training college before launching them out on the world is not followed to any appreciable extent. The average English boy’s education is considered complete when he has passed through his elementary training — generally at the age of thirteen or fourteen.
In America, too, the average man is richer than the average Englishman, and can better afford to keep his boy at school for two or three extra years. Labor conditions also demand that an English boy should become a wage-earner as soon as the school-board authorities are satisfied that he has a fair knowledge of the three R’s; so that, no matter what the nature of the school or college an American boy enters, be it scholarly, business, or technical, by the time he is turned adrift to shift for himself, he is older, better educated, and more fit to choose a sensible career.
“ But,” the reader may ask himself, “ what has education got to do with the question whether America can produce merchant seamen ? ” Just this! The classes which supply the greater part of European sailors, though of the same social standing as the corresponding classes in America, do not come up to the level of the latter in matters of education or intelligence; while even in maritime England, the natural home of sailors, now that the results of compulsory education are becoming more apparent, the number of boys choosing the sea as their calling is growing smaller every year. Indeed, this falling off has reached to such an extent that the matter has been the subject of much debate in Parliament, where several plans have already been adopted to induce boys to follow the sea.
But the sea as a profession is becoming more discredited every year, and parents now think twice before allowing their sons to follow it. Even with the moderate education these boys receive to-day, and notwithstanding the congested state of the labor market, it is possible for them to do better by working ashore. Instead of Britishers manning British ships as in former years, it is the exception nowadays rather than the rule to find a vessel manned entirely by native sailors, “ Squareheads,” Dagoes, Chinamen, and coolies in great numbers, being found in their stead. And when we consider the life of an able seaman in a modern freight steamer’s forecastle, we do not wonder that a man even of moderate education does not find before the mast adequate compensation for his learning.
Let us take, for instance, an ordinary freight steamer of about three thousand tons register, such as the future American mercantile marine will be chiefly composed of. Vessels of this class carry about six able seamen. The men are usually housed in a room (forecastle) which is situated in close proximity to chain-lockers, paint-lockers, and the more objectionable quarters of the ship. The forecastles are usually evil smelling, badly lighted and ventilated, and privacy cannot be obtained anywhere. The watch-and-watch system prevents sailors from getting more than three and a half hours’ consecutive sleep at any time while the ship is at sea. Food must be eaten in their watch below, and thus at least one hour is subtracted from the time that ought to be devoted to sleeping. The food is of the coarsest and poorest quality, and the amount allowed per man is just sufficient to keep body and soul together, with the aid of a stout belt. It is badly cooked and badly served, and is usually more fit for pigs than humans.
The work a seaman performs may be considered unskilled; and, in comparison with labor ashore, is fairly well paid. At sea, it is one continual round of steering, swabbing, and scaling and painting iron-rust. In port, it is varied by a bit of driving winches and cleaning holds. As in days gone by, so will it be in the future. Sailors on American ships wall be better fed, better housed, and better paid , than seamen in ships of other nationalities, but the work will remain the same. The improved conditions are not in themselves sufficient to alter the monotony and drudgery of a sailor’s life aboard a modern cargo steamer. The life depicted here is described by one who has had sixteen years’ experience in all classes of British merchant ships, — sail, tramps, and liners. Nothing described is outside the truth, but the worst that may be said must be reserved till a little later in the argument.
Is there any possible chance for a fairly well-educated man to use his intelligence and bring his knowledge to bear in advancing his prospects ? A little. In time he may reach the rank of boatswain, and if he still keeps at it and is studiously inclined, he may eventually reach command. But it is safe to say that long before he has qualified for boatswain, he will have thrown the sea up in disgust, looking upon it in the only way a sane person can — as a life fit for dogs and fools only.
No, a seaman’s life offers no inducements to the average American with an average American education; therefore, looking at it from an educational point of view alone, it is the writer’s opinion that the future American mercantile marine will be manned chiefly by foreign seamen, who are but indifferently educated, and can consequently be satisfied with existing conditions. We must remember, too, that the sailor’s work corresponds to unskilled labor ashore; and it is only necessary to look about us to find out whether it is the American or the foreign-born who performs the unskilled labor in this country.
Almost as important as education is the question of industrial development. During the past twenty years America has been so engrossed in developing her vast natural resources and industries, that she has barely allowed herself time to look much beyond her own borders.
In fact, she might well be accused of being “ too self-centred,” were it not that her central aim has been to make her people practically independent of all other countries. The end is not yet in sight either! Great stretches of land, sparsely populated, and rich in mineral wealth and agricultural possibilities, demand more people. In the course of time—taking into consideration the number of immigrants who enter the United States annually — the land will get the people it requires. Congested Europe will send over her surplus, and America will be the gainer. It will take years yet before the natural wealth of America is tapped to the full. Years also must elapse before it will be a vital matter with her to find a market for her surplus goods, for at present she can consume nearly all that she manufactures and produces. The time must come, however, when her supply will greatly exceed her demand, and when she will have to look elsewhere for her markets. When such a time arrives, the United States will enter the field as a competitor in the supplying of the world’s needs to a much greater extent than she has done in the past, or is doing at present. And should she bring into play the same energy and business foresight which she has shown in the developing of her national industries and natural wealth, the greater share of the world’s markets must inevitably fall to her lot. In striking contrast to the conditions as existing at present and the possibilities which are in store for America in the future, are the conditions of labor in Europe.
England — though not so effete as Americans fondly imagine — finds the number of her unemployed increasing to an alarming extent. No vast stretches of valuable land are to he found there a waiting development. Her trades are crowded to overflowing, and the supply of labor far exceeds the demand. In the finding of markets for her manufactures, she has two strong rivals to compete with — America and Germany. The proud position she once held — the market of the world — has been lost to her.
In the case of Germany, though her internal developments have been as remarkable as America’s during the past few years, yet, with her great and increasing population, the congested state of her labor market, and her limited possibilities in the future, as compared with those of America, the scope afforded to her inhabitants must indeed be small. Her trades and professions, as in England, will be overcrowded; and her sons must look beyond her borders for the means to live.
Scandinavia — Norway and Sweden — though unworthy of comparison in regard to her internal industries, must, for the purpose of this article, be brought forward. Considering her geographical position, population, small natural wealth, and the meagre share she has in the world’s trade, it is only reasonable to suppose that, even after allowing for the great number of emigrants who leave the country yearly, her trades also will feel the results of overcrowding.
Though Scandinavia is not so densely populated as England or Germany, and though, as in America, great stretches of thinly populated country are to be found there, yet this surplus land offers no return to the people. It is rich neither in mineral wealth nor in agricultural possibilities, but merely so much barren and frost-bitten waste. Her exports, chiefly timber and steel, are small; therefore she must look outside for the greater part of her domestic needs.
The three countries which I have briefly contrasted with the United States may be regarded as typical maritime countries: Englishmen and Scandinavians are natural sailors, with the “ call of the sea ” in their blood, while the Germans are sailors through accident. None of these countries can offer to their sons the scope which America possesses. There is room yet within her boundaries for millions more. The development of her natural resources has just begun. Except in cases of transient depression, America’s unemployed are comparatively few, and they would be much fewer if many were not afraid of soiling their hands or bending their backs. Labor is well paid, and the high cost of living better within the means of the different classes. With these advantages, and with a better education, there is no need for the American youth to turn his face seaward. There is room in plenty for him on dry land, and there his possibilities are boundless. Should he be energetic and get ahead in his business, he will earn more in one month ashore than he would do in six afloat. Should he for the sake of experiment take to the sea, then, unless he be the son of some web-footed Britisher or Scandinavian, he will soon throw it up never to return to it more.
The next question of importance is that of training boys for the sea. In America, so far as the writer’s knowledge goes, there are very few training ships to supply the needs of merchant vessels.1 In the present state of America’s shipping there is little demand for them, but in future, when an American mercantile marine actually exists, will the coming of it bring into existence the training ships it will require if American ships are to be manned by American-born seamen ?
In England, anchored in every harbor or river of importance, can be seen old wooden three-deckers converted into training ships. These old “ die hards ” nearly all took part in the great naval fights of the early part of the last century. Being converted into training ships, they suit the purpose admirably, having the masts, sails, and yards necessary to teach boys work aloft. Leaving out naval training ships, the vessels may be divided into three classes: cadet, charity, and reformatory ships. Cadet ships might also be left out of the question, as the boys trained aboard them are usually the sons of gentlemen or well-to-do parents, the object of their training being to fit them as officers, and not as able seamen. The object of the “charity ship ” is to train orphan boys, and boys of poor but respectable parentage, for a sea life. Boarding the ships at ages ranging between nine and fourteen years, the boys receive a sound elementary schooling in addition to their technical training. When sent to sea, they are given a good kit of clothes, and are put aboard a good ship. These boys turn into good seamen, and as a rule sail in the best class of merchant ship. They seldom, if ever, bring disgrace upon themselves, or the ship which trained them.
With the “ reformatory ship ” boys the case is different. Except in rare instances, these boys are the ratings and scrapings of slums and police courts, Incorrigibles in every sense of the word, after appearing before a magistrate several times for stealing, and so forth, it appears that the dry land is considered too good for them, and they are packed aboard training ships with the idea of reforming them into able-bodied seamen. The training they receive is the same as the charity boys, but as seamen they prove rank failures. Afloat or ashore, they give trouble, and help to fill jails. The sea, though not the honored profession it used to be, still calls for " men,” and not such scum.
Attached to many training ships are small sea-going sailing brigs. These sail round the coast, and are manned forward entirely by boys, the officers being the only grown men aboard. The cruises, usually lasting from six to eight weeks, give the boys their first taste of “ blue water,” and they are afforded the opportunity to put into real practice the seamanship learned aboard the parent ship.
In addition to training ships, there are many training homes on shore, but as their purpose is the same as that of the ships, they need no description.
Germany also possesses many training ships, though not in such great numbers as England, and the training the boys receive aboard them must be very complete, since after very little deep-water experience they turn into as good seamen as can be found.
In the making of seamen, one of the chief points to remember is to catch boys when they are young. Waiting until they have reached the age of twenty, will, in nine cases out of ten, spoil them for the sea. The question then is, “ Can the American boy be caught and bottled up in a home or training ship for about five years?” European boys between the ages of nine and fourteen can be managed with ease, in comparison to an American boy of the same age. The spirit of democracy seems to have got firm hold of the average American youngster. Restraint is irksome to him. He resents even parental authority if laid on too thickly, and he cannot be expected to submit to five years’ restraint at a time when his precocity is at its height.
As for instituting a system of charity ships in this country, the case is hopeless; though poverty must exist on a small scale, it is kept in the background, and one hardly sees the necessity of calling-such a system into existence. The number of boys taking up a seaman’s life through this cause will be very small indeed.
Reformatory ships in America would be of little greater use than charity ships. The juvenile courts will deal successfully with the reformatory problem which in England drives boys to the sea. And if such courts existed in England, those Britishers who have their country’s interest at heart would be spared many a humiliating sight in foreign countries, when some “ reformatory ” boy brings disgrace upon their country. And so it is that if, in future years, America has deep-water merchant ships of her own, and her social conditions are unchanged, such institutions as charity and reformatory ships cannot take root, and consequently America must find other ways and means to increase the number of her native seamen.
Let us look further into life on the rolling wave, and see what it has to offer in the way of romance and adventure; and in order to illustrate my point, it is well to make some comparison between the old and the new, — sail and steam, — and also between the navy and the merchant service.
In the days when steamers were not so numerous as now, life afloat certainly had something to appeal to men and boys of adventurous spirit. The very fact that a sailing ship is subject to the whims of the elements gave the life a degree of uncertainty that was certainly interesting. When working aloft in fine weather, a man always took a keen delight in doing the work in hand well, knowing that when bad weather struck the ship it would be put to the test — the test very often meaning the difference between life and death.
Instead of the usual routine work on a steamer, — paint-washing, and so forth, — the work on a sailing ship varies widely. It may be making or shortening sail, bending or unbending fine or heavyweather canvas, squaring in or bracing up the yards, tacking or wearing ship; and no matter what the labor, one always has the satisfaction of seeing the result. The speed and sailing qualities of a vessel were things to be discussed with interest, as well as the length of the passage. In bad weather, when excitement ran high and cursing was considered quite in order, struggling up aloft with wet or frozen canvas — one hand for the ship, and the other for yourself — on a dark, dirty night, put a man on his mettle; and should the foresail be handled or the main-topsail settled, and the cry of “splice the main brace ” be heard,— well, one felt at peace with the world.
In the tropics, catching sharks, harpooning dolphins and porpoises, singing, dancing, telling yarns, and reading over old love letters, are diversions not easily forgotten by those who have experienced them. Being becalmed in the tropics on a beautiful moonlight night brought home to one the beauties and wonders of nature, and the existence of a God with whom one felt in closer touch on such nights as those.
Arrived in port, sailing ships were not rushed out to sea again before they were properly made fast to the wharves. The crews had leisure to look around and take in the sights, and they had time to become acquainted with the girls and make love to them. Boat-racing — with sails or oars — between the crews of the different ships in port was often indulged in, especially in Australian waters. On the west coast of South America, when ships lay at anchor in the bays, ship-visiting between the captains, officers, apprentices, and seamen was one of the frequent diversions. To old sailing-ship apprentices, West Coast days will always be looked back upon with delight. Gathered together on the half-deck, songs were sung, yarns told, wind and weather and length of passages compared, and sometimes when some of the boys had had a “ wee drap ” too much to drink, the meetings ended up in “ rough houses.”
In comparison with all this, what has steam to offer as compensation ? On a steamer a man’s work does not return him interest ; the toil is soul-killing and minddestroying; there is no time for study or recreation; singing and dancing are unknown.
Let us take the Mediterranean trade as being perhaps the most interesting from a historical point of view. When a steamer has come to anchor, or has tied up, stern to the mole, hatches are opened and the work of loading or discharging begun. The work goes on night and day, Sunday or Monday, Christmas or any other day. No day is held sacred in the modern freight steamer. It is possible to go the round of the Mediterranean ports without once placing a foot on shore. Very often the cities are never seen by daylight, steamers entering port and leaving the same night or very early in the morning. In British ships especially, — and American ships will be the same, — Sunday, unless the cost of working be too great, is seldom if ever held sacred. If one felt inclined to worship one’s God by attending church, it would be impossible to do so. No; the modern sailor must not indulge in such luxuries as a God, a soul, prayers, or Sundays. If he does, then it must be in his watch below or when he has signed off the ship’s articles. For the time being if is essential, if he is to be called a good sailor, for him to remember that he is a brute; and to remember also that for turning himself into a brute on Sundays or any other holy day, he gets paid sixpence an hour extra by his generous owner. If any prayers are necessary, the ship-owner will do all the praying required ; but the prayers will not be for the sailors’ spiritual welfare, but for better freights and quicker dispatches. Yet again, on the west coast of Africa can be seen ships flying the British flag carrying on the work of loading or discharging cargo on Sundays, while in full view can be seen mission stations and churches, with their attendant ministers preaching to a bunch of Negroes, exhorting them to remember their Creator in the days of their youth, and to respect the Sabbath and keep it holy. What mockery!
In fairness it must be admitted that German and Scandinavian vessels seldom work cargo on Sundays. In fairness to the men also, the following questions need answering: Is it possible for them to retain their self-respect under such conditions?” “Can one blame them when they get ashore for trying to forget their dog’s life in debauchery and drink, when they are not afforded time even to worship their God ? ”
In comparing a seaman’s life on board a naval ship with that of a seaman aboard a merchant ship, the naval man has all the advantages on his side. In the first place, the uniform, if not the man, commands respect. Next, the service has traditions which keep alive his patriotism and force him to play the game. The work — gunnery, torpedo, and battle practice, and so forth—is highly interesting and instructive, and calls into play his energy and intelligence. Officers, whether in work or play, take a keen interest in their men. Their food and accommodation are wholesome, and the life throughout is a clean one. It is possible for a naval seaman to get “ somewhere ” if he devotes a little time to study. Throughout, the life tends to elevate him, and does not allow him to grow dissipated as it does a merchant Jack. To sum up, a naval seaman respects himself because, he knows that he is not looked upon as a pariah. Especially is this so in America.
From this brief comparison it is easy to see that a naval seaman is better off than his marine brother. The question then is, “ Will the everyday American, with his high standard of living, put up with such conditions as are described here? ” The writer will leave this question to be answered by his readers, they probably having a better knowledge of the more subtle points in the American character than he has.
Obedience to those in authority over them is an essential in the “ make-up of a seaman. Taking this fact into consideration, the following question presents itself: “Are Americans individually or taken as a whole amenable to discipline?” Judged from a European standpoint, Americans, individually or collectively, are the most lawless people among civilized nations.
State laws as they exist at present are a convincing proof that each section of the country wants to be a law unto itself. What is legal or constitutional in one state, may be illegal or unconstitutional in another. What the federal government considers unconstitutional, certain state governments consider the opposite. A man may do in one state what he may not do in another. Federal laws, if there is the remotest chance of its being done successfully, are ridden over by state laws. Looking at the question from a European standpoint, the laws of America seem to be in a hopeless muddle, and to encourage lawlessness.
Again, the American as an individual seems to demand that his recognition of the law should have the force of a policeman’s club at the back of it. Somewhere in his make-up there is a sneaking regard for brute strength instead of moral force. (This is also evident in his sports.) Whether the spirit of democracy fosters such ideas, the writer, not being an American, cannot say. Disregard for the law seems to be common to all classes and all communities. Graft, whether applied in buying or evading the law, makes the foreigner occasionally wonder if such a thing exists as an honest American in authority.
In the Southern States, when a negro, and sometimes when a white man, is lodged in jail, the people very often will not allow the law to take its course, or even to prove beyond a question of doubt whether the prisoner is guilty or not. Jails are forced; and the criminal, instead of being allowed an opportunity partly to redeem himself by walking to the scaffold like a, man, thereby purchasing the right to be hanged with such decency as the law and the occasion demand, is dragged ruthlessly by the mob to the nearest tree, hanged, set on fire, and his body riddled with bullets. The night-riders of Kentucky, the necessity for calling out the state militia so frequently, and “ arguments with the town marshal,” such as Frederic Remington so picturesquely depicts, all point to the American’s disregard of the law.
Taking this characteristic into consideration, is it possible to make a merchant sailor out of individuals who make up such a whole ? Brute force in ships is a thing of the past. Discipline must be maintained by moral force alone. Helping a man to see your point of view with the weight of a six-pound iron belayingpin halfway in his skull is out of date, and nowadays considered low. An old nautical Americanism : “ Come aft and be introduced to the third mate ” (the third mate resolving himself into an inanimate piece of wood shaped like a club, or perhaps a sling-shot), is out of date also. Along with it went the old way of hurrying a man along with a heavy sea-boot somewhere in the vicinity of his stomach. A mercantile marine, being a purely commercial concern, cannot have the force of the law at its back in maintaining discipline in the same way that the army and navy have. Insubordination and disobedience to lawful commands cannot be punished with the severity usually meted out to soldiers and naval seamen when found guilty of such offenses.
Democracy, as interpreted in America, tends to make Jack believe that he is as good as his master. Well, aboard a ship Jack never was, and never will be, as good as his master. Familiarity between master and man can never exist, if discipline is to be maintained. All the world over. “ familiarity breeds contempt.” The TomDick-and-Harry style of addressing men, so dear to American ideas of democracy, will not hold for a moment. While ships exist, the line of demarcation between the men abaft the mast and those before must be recognized and respected. Taking into consideration the (after all) lovable cussedness which is inherent in the native-born American, his absolute contempt for the law and rule by moral force, his very often mistaken notions of true democracy, and the conditions under which the modern steamboat sailorman lives, there seems little possibility of his ever being licked into shape as a man before the mast in the present-day freight steamer. Conditions will not change for the better to such an extent as to suit the American temperament. The change must come from the opposite direction. American temperament must alter to suit conditions if the number of nativeborn Americans taking up a life on the briny is deserving of consideration.
In support of what has already been said, perhaps an inquiry into the nationalities of the crews who man American coasters — both sail and steam — will bring out the most convincing argument yet brought forward. In the forecastles of many of the giant fore-and-aft schooners found in the American coastal trade only, it is the exception rather than the rule to find a native-born American of white stock.
Southern States Negroes, who man a great many of them, though Americanborn and bred and entitled to the same privileges that are granted to Americanborn whites, cannot for the purposes of this article be considered truly American. But, as a factor in the manning of the future American mercantile marine, their qualities as seamen must be taken into consideration, seeing that they are to be found in such great numbers aboard coasting schooners.
As a coasting sailor, the Negro, barring his natural laziness and hatred for work, seems to fill all the requirements demanded, and, technically speaking, may be called a good sailor; but as a deepwater (foreign-going) man he is a rank failure. In the first place, he is a sentimentalist and a dreamer. His thoughts, instead of being directed on practical things, are invariably centred on his “old Kentucky home,” and watermelons, any long absence from which makes him the most uninteresting person on board any ship. His usual light-heartedness disappears until the time for arriving home draws near. He is essentially a “ land crab,” and cannot be depended upon on long voyages. His capacity for work under conditions obtaining at sea is small. No matter how well paid he may be, or how favorable the conditions under which he serves, there is nothing in his make-up that will allow him to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay unless he is watched all the time.
In comparison — at least aboard a ship — a white man will do a job in half the time it takes a negro to do it, and the work will be carried out without the singing and dancing so dear to a negro’s heart. Hustle is the word in deep-water ships, especially in port; and hustle is just what a negro will not do unless on the verge of starvation: an active bone being an unknown quantity in his anatomy.
Many schooners and the majority of American coasting steamers are manned fore and aft entirely by Scandinavians. The merits of Scandinavians as seamen are known all the world over, and comment here would be superfluous; therefore we must now take a glance at the really true American sailor and see what is to be made of him.
In holding up the fisherman of the New England coast as a sample of the true American seaman, and considering him as a factor in the manning of future American deep-water ships, we have touched upon the worst material in the world for our purpose. Taken individually or as a whole, there is nothing in their make-up that will allow them to serve as seamen before the mast. Their destiny is a higher one. With traditions for bravery and endurance such as they possess, and which they uphold year in, year out, in all weathers and under all conditions, is it possible for these men to sink their individuality and lose sight of their glorious reputation as “ real men ” by serving as able seamen in a modern freight steamer’s forecastle ? Individually or collectively, they are born to command or to hold positions of authority, even though they be of minor importance.
As all cannot hold these positions at sea, then, rather than submit to the drudgery of a seaman’s life in a merchant ship, they stay in their own fishing schooners, where their position is at least one of equality, comparatively speaking, if they do not stay ashore to earn a living. And who, knowing them, can blame them ? Though poor in world’s wealth, yet their glorious traditions for bravery make them to be envied by all who care the least bit about pride of race.
The writer, though not an American, would deem it one of the greatest losses which could happen to America, and also to the world in general, if in future years these men were to find their way into steamers’ forecastles. But such a thing cannot be, for to-day they will not ship as seamen on American coasters, although wages, food, and in fact everything connected with a seaman’s life on a coaster, are more attractive by far than all that is offered by life aboard a fishing schooner.
As officers only will they serve in merchant ships. Nothing less will suit their splendid personalities; therefore, as a factor in the manning of her ships in the future, America cannot for a moment count on her fishermen to till her forecastles, but may look to them to mount her bridges as officers.
To sum up, the writer, after a varied experience with men and ships, is of the opinion that the future American mercantile marine will be manned chiefly by Scandinavians and officered by New England men. The causes which attract Scandinavians toward British ships — wages and the like — will also attract them toward American. These men in the course of time will become naturalized Americans, and may be trusted to bring honor to the Stars and Stripes. They will marry and rear families in the country of their adoption, and their children of the first generation will take to the sea in great numbers.
“The call of the sea” is too strong to become neutralized in one generation. The losses caused by death, and so forth, will be met by fresh recruits comingover, and the supply of good men will always be found adequate to meet the demand.
The question, “ Can America produce merchant seamen ? ” is not intended to refer to officers, but to the men before the mast. A factor as important as the supply of seamen is the supply of firemen and coal-trimmers; but, as conditions surrounding them aboard a ship are still worse than those for seamen, it seems hardly likely that Americans born and bred will reject a sailor’s life to follow these occupations.
Reference having been made so often to the American character throughout this article, the writer hopes that his American readers will not take amiss what has been said. He does not assert that his observations are “ actually so,” but states them merely as they appear to him after traveling round the world for sixteen years with his eyes open and many a chance to learn.2
- For many years the State of Massachusetts has sustained a sea-going steam cruiser as a school-ship for the merchant marine. The city of New York supports another ship, and the State of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia a third. These vessels train boys distinctively for the merchant service, and not for the navy. Most of these boys doubtless aspire to be officers, but nearly all begin their careers in subordinate capacities. Furthermore, all American steamships carrying United States mails are compelled to carry a certain number of American boys as apprentices. — THE EDITORS.↩
- In the face of the author’s rather discouraging statements, it can he asserted that there is not only an absolute, but a relative increase in the number of American citizens earning their livelihood in the American merchant service. In 1899 there were in this service, according to the United States Commissioner of Navigation, 23,108 American citizens, or 31 per cent of the total number of seamen of all nationalities. In 1908 the number had risen to 80,778 and the percentage to 49.5. These figures are not, of course, restricted to the native-born. — THE EDITORS.↩