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the new settled one, and to external events, many of which are always unforeseen. Hence it is we have seen such fruitless attempts to settle colonies, at an immense public and private expense, by several of the powers of Europe; and it is particularly observable, that none of the English colonies became any way considerable, till the necessary manners were born and grew up in the country, excepting those to which singular circumstances at home forced manners fit for the forming a new state.
ON JUDGE FOSTER'S ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF THE RIGHT OF IMPRESSING SEAMEN.
These remarks were written in pencil on the margin of Judge Foster's Report, in which was contained his argument respecting the impressment of seamen. The extracts from the REpoRT are printed below in the smaller type, and each is followed by Frank
lin's remarks in the larger type. The references are to the edition of 1762. —EDITor.
Page 157. “The only question at present is, whether mariners, persons who have freely chosen a seafaring life, persons whose education and employment have fitted them for the service, and inured them to it, whether such persons may not be legally pressed into the service of the crown, whenever the public safety requireth it; ne quid detrimenti respublica capiat.
“For my part, I think they may. I think the crown hath a right to command the service of these people whenever the public safety calleth for it. The same right that it hath to require the personal service of every man able to bear arms in case of a sudden invasion or formidable insurrection. The right in both cases is founded on one and the same principle, the necessity of the case in order to the preservation of the whole.” The conclusion here, from the whole to a part, does not seem to be good logic. When the personal service of every man is called for, there the burthen is equal. Not so, when the service of part is called for, and others excused. If the alphabet should say, Let us all fight for the defence of the whole; that is equal, and may therefore be just. But if they should say, Let A, B, C, and D, go and fight for us, while we stay at home and sleep in whole skins; that is not equal, and therefore cannot be just. Page 158. “It would be time very ill spent to go about to prove that this nation can never be long in a state of safety, our coast defended, and our trade protected, without a naval force equal to all the emergencies that may happen. And how can we be secure of such a force? The keeping up the same naval force in time of peace, which will be absolutely necessary for our security in time of war, would be an absurd, a fruitless, and a ruinous expense. The only course then left, is for the crown to employ, upon emergent occasions, the mariners bred up in the merchant's service.” Employ—if you please. The word signifies engaging a man to work for me by offering him such wages as are sufficient to induce him to prefer my service. This is very different from compelling him to work for me on such terms as I think proper. “And as for the mariner himself, he, when taken into the service of the crown, only changeth masters for a time; his service and employment continue the very same, with this advantage, that the dangers of the sea and enemy are not so great in the service of the crown as in that of the merchant.” These are false facts. His service and employment are not the same. Under the merchant, he goes in an unarmed vessel not obliged to fight, but only to transport merchandise. In the king's service, he is obliged to fight, and to hazard all the dangers of battle. Sickness on board the king's ships is also more common and more mortal. The merchant's service too he can quit at the end of a voyage, not the king's. Also the merchant's wages are much higher. “I am very sensible of the hardship the sailor suffereth from an impress in some particular cases, especially if pressed homewardbound after a long voyage. But the merchants who hear me know, that an impress on outward-bound vessels would be attended with much greater inconveniences to the trade of the kingdom; and yet that too is sometimes necessary.” Here are two things put in comparison that are not comparable, viz. injury to seamen and inconvenience to trade. Inconvenience to the whole trade of a nation will not justify injustice to a single seaman. If the trade would suffer without his service, it is able and ought to be willing to offer him such wages as may induce him to afford his services voluntarily. “But where two evils present, a wise administration, if there be room for an option, will choose the least.” The least evil, in case seamen are wanted, is to give them such wages as will induce them to enlist voluntarily. Let this evil be divided among the whole nation, by an equal tax to pay such wages. Page 159. “War itself is a great evil, but it is chosen to avoid a greater. The practice of pressing is one of the mischiefs war bringeth with it. But it is a maxim in law, and good policy too, that private mischiefs must be borne with patience for preventing a national calamity.” Where is this maxim in law and good policy to be found? And how came that to be a maxim, which is not consistent with common sense? If the maxim had been, that private mischiefs which prevent a national calamity ought to be generously compensated by that nation, one might have understood it. But that such private mischiefs are only to be borne with patience, is absurd.
“And as no greater calamity can befall us than to be weak and defenceless at sea in a time of war, so I do not know that the wisdom of the nation hath hitherto found out any method of manning our navy less inconvenient than pressing, and, at the same time, equally sure and effectual.”
Less inconvenient to whom " To the rich, indeed. who ought to be taxed. No mischief more incon— venient to poor seamen could possibly be contrived.
“The expedient of a voluntary register, which was attempted in King William's time, had no effect. And some late schemes I have seen, appear to me more inconvenient to the mariner, and more inconsistent with the principles of liberty, than the practice of pressing; and, what is still worse, they are in my opinion totally impracticable.”
Twenty ineffectual or inconvenient schemes will not justify one that is unjust.
Page 159. “The crown's right of impressing seamen is grounded upon common law.”
If impressing seamen is of right by common law in Britain, slavery is then of right by common law there; there being no slavery worse than that sailors are subjected to.
Ibid. “The result of evident necessity.” Pressing not so, if the end might be answered by giving higher wages.
Page 160. “There are many precedents of writs for pressingSome are for pressing ships; others for pressing mariners; and others for pressing ships and mariners. This general view will be sufficient to let us into the nature of these precedents. And though the affair of pressing ships is not now before me, yet I could not well avoid mentioning it, because many of the precedents I have met with and must cite, go as well to that, as to the business of pressing mariners. And, taken together, they serve to show the power the crown hath constantly exercised over the whole naval force of the kingdom as well shipping as mariners, whenever the public service required it. This however must be observed, that no man served
the crown in either case at his own expense. Masters and mariners received full wages, and owners were constantly paid a full freight.” Full wages. Probably the same they received in the merchant's service. Full wages to a seaman in time of war, are the wages he has in the merchant's service in war time. But half such wages is not given in the king's ships to impressed seamen.
Page 173. “Do not these things incontestably presuppose the expediency, the necessity, and the legality of an impress in general If they do not, one must entertain an opinion of the legislature acting and speaking in this manner, which it will not be decent for me to mention in this place.”
I will risk that indecency, and mention it. They were not honest men ; they acted unjustly by the seamen, (who have no vote in elections, or being abroad cannot use them if they have them,) to save their own purses and those of their constituents. Former parliaments acted the same injustice towards the laboring people, who had not forty shillings a year in lands; after depriving them wickedly of their right to vote in elections, they limited their wages, and compelled them to work at such limited rates, on penalty of being sent to houses of correction. Sec. 8. H. vi. Chap. 7 and 8.
Page 174. “I readily admit that an impress is a restraint upon the natural liberty of those who are liable to it. But it must likewise be admitted, on the other hand, that every restraint upon natural liberty is not eo nomine illegal, or at all inconsistent with the principles of civil liberty. And if the restraint, be it to what degree soever, appeareth to be necessary to the good and welfare of the whole, and to be warranted by statute law, as well as immemorial usage, it cannot be complained of otherwise than as a private mischief; which, as I said at the beginning, must under all governments whatsoever be submitted to for avoiding a public inconvenience.”
I do not see the propriety of this must. The private mischief is the loss of liberty and the hazard of life,