[In a few introductory remarks, Captain Luce said that as the generality of the naval officers read nearly the same kind of professional literature, much that he had to say might sound very familiar to those present. He disclaimed all intention to lay before them anything startling or original; on the contrary, he should go over well-beaten ground, and only call their particular attention to a subject so very common as seemingly to have escaped general observation.]
The breaking out of the Crimean War revealed two interesting facts till then not generally known: the splendid organization and discipline of the French navy, and the low state of the English seamen. Following promptly the opening of hostilities, the French squadron put to sea in the highest slate of efficiency, and large bodies of troops and all the various munitions of war were transported to their destination with an alacrity and order which filled with dismay their ever-watchful neighbors across the Channel, while numbers of the finest line-of-battle ships of the English fleet swung their anchors in helpless inactivity waiting: for men. The English, relying on their ancient prestige, had been content to continue customs which the advanced state of naval science had long before rendered ineffective; while the complete reorganization of the French navy, commenced by de Joinville and wisely continued by the late Emperor, brought the French fleet up to the state of perfection in which the war found it.
The lesson which a comparison of the- two fleets forced upon England was humiliating to her pride—not, indeed, that she had any serious cause of apprehension, even had they not been allies; but there was a thoroughness and perfection about the French, extending even to the minor details, the majority of Englishmen were not prepared, and none were glad, to see. If the lesson was humiliating, however, it was wholesome. The question of the manning the navy was brought before the country in a manner not to be evaded; and the speeches delivered in Parliament at that day show with what anxiety the subject was regarded. The result was the appointment of a committee, which was instructed to examine into and report upon the whole subject of manning the navy. The investigation seems to have been very thorough, and the report was certainly elaborate. Among other recommendations, it was stated emphatically ''that the gradual organization of a permanent navy must principally depend upon a supply of trained boys"; and that "at least live large vessels should be stationed at the different ports, forming, as it were, so many marine schools." This part of the plan was adopted at once; five of the old line-of-battle ships were commissioned as training-ships, and the new system fully inaugurated. It was not long before the truth dawned upon the public mind that this kind of technical education for lads answered admirably well for the navy; the number of training-ships has been from time to time increased, and now, instead of live, they have twelve large training ships and eight tenders (mostly sailing-brigs), besides four ships for gunnery practice, and nine ships and one tender for coast-guard drill for the naval reserve—making thirty-four vessels devoted to the purpose of naval training. This, I think, sufficiently accounts for the splendid body of native-born seamen which now mans the British fleet.
What answered so well for the national navy it was reasonably supposed would be advantageous to the commercial navy; so various marine societies and charitable institutions borrowed from the Government old men-of-war, which were converted into nautical schools—some for destitute boys picked up in the highways and byways of the large cities; some for reformatories; some for lads belonging to the "poor but honest" class, and who were destined to follow the sea for a living; and some for a higher class, who were intended to be fitted as officers of the merchant service—in all, thirteen vessels, making, with the naval training-ships, a grand total of forty-seven national ships employed for educational purposes, or about as many as we generally maintain in active service to perform the duty of the whole navy.
Further than this, it may be here stated that in the Canadian Dominion and Newfoundland it is estimated that there are about eighty-seven thousand seamen and fishermen, whom it is now proposed to drill in naval gunnery.
Mr. President and gentlemen of the Association, I beg you to think, for one moment, of having half only of this number of trained naval gunners, allowing the estimate to be excessive, at our very doors, and contrast with it the fact stated in one of the reports of Mr. Secretary Welles, during the war of the rebellion, and while Ave were straining every nerve to get seamen, that we had in the navy nearly nineteen thousand landsmen. On this statement alone we might rest our case.
In adopting the policy of raising her own seamen, England only followed what had long been the practice in France. That great minister, Colbert, instituted in his day a system which has withstood, with more or less variation, all the political vicissitudes of France for two hundred years; and it was only when his policy was neglected that the navy suffered. Thus, at the time of the Revolution, and under the first Napoleon, the navy had, through long neglect, gone down too far, in every way, to be readily raised to its proper standard. Various excuses were given for their losses at sea. The English ships, they said, had heavier scantling, and their very thick sides resisted the penetration of shot which the lightly built ships of France could not withstand. But every reader of naval history knows that their losses were due to a want of proper training not only of their men, but their officers. Sir Charles Napier is quoted as saying: "It is a mistake to imagine that our successful actions were gained either by our having tougher ships or heavier artillery." "We were generally opposed to larger ships and heavier metal." "It was cur experience at sea," he continues, "our rapid fire, and the superiority of our aim, that gave us victory." This opinion is further confirmed by a German writer, who, in an impartial review of the history of the English and French navies, notes with emphasis the smaller number of casualties in the English navy as compared with that of France. "This contrast, so favorable to England," he remarks, "has been constantly maintained, and can only be attributable to her superior artillery. Pier seamen not only aimed with greater precision and fired more steadily than those of the French, but they had the reputation of loading with far greater rapidity. It was remarked in 1805 that the English could fire a round with ball every minute, whereas it took the French gunners three minutes to perform the same operation." It is with pardonable pride that we may here pause for a moment to note that if the English gunnery at that day was good, the gunnery of our infant navy was even better. As the French had said before, so the English, in their turn, repeated, ''What heavy scantling!" and so we answered, "It was not the tough sides, but the good gunnery that gave us the victory." And the same will prove true to-day. Victory will ever be with the best gunnery, let the sides be never so tough. In that day, however, both our navies were recruited much in the same way; but whereas England has completely remodeled her ancient system by bringing it up to the requirements of modern times, we have steadfastly adhered to the practice which prevailed in the early part of the century.
The French navy had been gradually deteriorating till the early part of the reign of Louis Philippe, when, owing to certain troubles in the East, Admiral Lelande was placed in command of a small squadron and despatched to the Levant. From that time the French navy took its rise, and culminated under the late Empire. In one of the most charming works in all naval literature, the Prince de Joinville tells us the whole story. It was in the school of the French Mediterranean squadron, indeed, that the Prince studied and graduated, and where he imbibed those just ideas of naval administration which enabled him subsequently, as Admiral of France, to adopt those measures by which the French navy attained its excellence. Admiral Lelande, on being called to a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, was succeeded in the command of the squadron by Vice-Admiral Baron Hugon, who "exercised" the squadron of evolutions till 1842. I beg leave to call particular attention, by way of parenthesis, to the language of the historian. It is that Hugon exercised the squadron of evolutions. That squadron was in truth—and the fact is worthy of our careful consideration—the real naval school of France, and is so to this day; just as the English Channel squadron is the real naval school of England, a species of school—and here is another fact for consideration—which this country has never known.
De Joinville, then, having graduated in that naval school solemnly known as the French Squadron of Evolutions, was eminently qualified for the task of reorganizing the French navy. He succeeded, it is said of him, in doing what no one else had been able to do—he rendered the navy popular. On all naval subjects his words are the words of wisdom. Hear him: "The question of fitting out a fleet is not a mere question of finance. Money can always be raised by the state, and money will produce any number of craft, but money will not make sailors; gold will not make a disciplined crew nor an experienced staff of officers; and of what use are ships without the living soul to command and the ready hands to obey? To collect, form, and train these should be the first solicitude of a great maritime power, as it is the most important part of its tasks. Every other requirement will then follow as a matter of course." In 1833 the corps of seamen-gunners was established, and at the same time a number of improvements adopted; but, owing to certain defects in the system, it was found that trained men did not remain in the service. Various modifications were adopted, till the reign of the late Emperor. "Among the first great efforts," we are told, "viable at the commencement of his reign was a determination to augment the number of ships to an extent never previously thought of, and at the same time to enhance the efficiency of the seamen. Under the new regulation, it was stipulated that every sailor must enter the service for a period of ten years, and that, with the practical knowledge inculcated en board the training-ship, there should be combined a course of theoretical instruction on shore, stimulated by periodical examinations. The French marine-artillerist may, therefore, be held to be well grounded in at least the rudimentary principles of the science of projectiles. In this way, a body of five hundred picked gunners is annually turned out." These fill the positions of gun-captains and the several grades of petty-officers throughout the fleet. England had already adopted this plan of training her men to gunnery. The name of the old gunnery-ship, the excellent, has long been familiar to us. Here was a special training-course established for the instruction of gun-captains and the higher grades of petty-officers: and from the best of the latter were selected the warrant-officer. It wars from the English, probably, that the French took the idea of the seaman gunner, and fully adopted her practice, possibly improving on it, and the English, in their turn, adopted from the French the "Ecole des mousses." The dates here given, and the precise order of precedence may not be absolutely correct, but quite near enough to show how England and France have, through long years, been struggling to excel each other in naval power, first one outstripping the other in some particular, then the other. Their rivalry keeps both navies on the very crest of the wave of progress.
Let us turn from this rapid glance over the modern history of the two navies we are (after our own) most familiar with, and ask what we have been doing for our sailors since 1812. If, in the language of de Joinville, it be any part of our duty to ''collect and train seamen" for the organization of a permanent navy, is it too much to say that that duty has been sadly neglected? It is not to he denied that for the navy in general we have done much within the past few years. In looking back, it seems of comparatively recent date that what were called our new steam-frigates were deemed models of modern naval architecture; our guns ranked highest in naval ordnance; the educational facilities afforded our young naval officers, it is quite safe to say, are not equaled in any country in the world; and the problem which the European navies failed to solve—the devising of a new system of naval tactics which should meet the requirements of a modern fleet—has been solved in our navy with an ease and a completeness; and is in itself, withal, so happily conceived, and so simple, as to command our admiration for the work and its author alike. And yet, with these legitimate causes of gratulation, we have been for years persistently neglecting one of the most important elements of an efficient navy. Engaged in a naval war, by whom are our fine ships to be manned? The model naval officer, with his high culture and careful training—whom is he to lead in the day of battle? And after all the patient study of the arts and sciences, and the racking of brains, and exhausting the inventive faculties of the country, that we may have the very best gun, mounted on the most perfect carriage, and loaded with the most effective powder and most destructive shell, who is to reap the rich harvest, and in one supreme moment utilize these rare contributions of brains, time, and money? Is it not the one who points the gun and pulls the lock-string? And does it seem wise to go to so much trouble and expense to prepare a great engine of war and not at the same time to prepare for its being properly used? Does it seem the part of wisdom to neglect one member of a body, the want of which may neutralize the perfection of the remainder? Does it not seem rather the reverse of wisdom? Nor do we need the marine-artillerist merely—the Italians have those. Many of us may be able to bear witness to the thoroughness of their great-gun drill; but "It ne sont pas gabiers,'' the captain of the lie Galantnomo said, when asked if his men exercised aloft. They were not top men, indeed, nor sailors in any sense; and with such crews it would be safe to prophesy a repetition of the disaster of Lissa. We need for our ships the thorough seaman, with his characteristic devotion to the flag of his country, his contempt of danger, his love of adventure, combined with the carefully-trained naval gunner. And, the prejudices of many of our officers to the contrary, we may look to our seamen of the future for yet higher qualities, but such as are sure to come by that very course of education which is to give us the best type of a modern man-of-wars man.
"Education," it has been observed, "has reference to the whole man, the body, the mind, and the heart; its object, and, when rightly conducted, its effect, is to make him a complete creature after his kind. To his frame it gives vigor, activity, and beauty; to his senses, correctness and acuteness; to his intellect, power and thoughtfulness; to his heart, virtue. If you would mark the perfect man, you must not look for him in the circus, the university, or the church exclusively, but you must look for one who has 'mens sana in corpore sano'—a healthful mind in a healthful body. To make all men such is the object of education."
Is any one prepared to say that these principles apply to one kind of education merely and not to another; that they apply to the university and not to the public-school; to the sons of affluence and not to the children of toil; that the sailor may not be educated to be a "complete creature after his kind"? The proposition is not to be entertained. But the views in regard to the particular methods of education have been considerably modified within the past twenty years. In 1851 took place in the city of London the great exhibition, where, in the Crystal Palace, 100,000 persons were assembled to witness the competitive industries of the civilized world; then and there it was demonstrated to that immense throng that England, in the profusion of the raw material, in the native genius of her artisans, and in the mechanical power which she exhibited, possessed a superiority which made competition with her, at that exhibition, by the other powers of Europe, hopeless.
"But it taught another lesson: that what was wanting by others either in the raw material or in bone and muscle might be more than supplied by educated skill, and that technical education, if inaugurated for these industries upon a liberal plan, and steadily pursued, would give to France, Germany, and Switzerland a power which would more than compensate for natural disadvantages. These countries were not slow in establishing such schools, reaching from technical training for lads and apprentices, in the various branches of industry, by a well-graded system, up to a polytechnic university; and no expense was spared to give to these institutions all the appliances which could provide educated skill to labor and industry.
"The next exhibition was held in Paris in 1853. A marked change was already observable in the competitive industries of Germany and France, as compared with England. The result of this exhibition increased the zeal for technical education in those countries. They were assured by these early results that they were, indeed, upon the right track; for the successful examples in machinery and iron manufacture in which England had hitherto possessed an hereditary pre-eminence demonstrated that educated skill might successfully compete with genius and other natural advantages.
"When the next exhibition was held in London in 1862, England was left far in the rear by the skilled labor of the Continent: and mortification to the national pride was felt throughout the realm. Germany, France, and Switzerland bore away the palms in those departments of mechanical skill in which hitherto England had been without a peer. This mortification was further intensified at the last exhibition in 1867; and English artisans and English manufacturers demanded an enquiry into the causes which led to this great discomfiture, and into the ways and means of rectifying it.
"It was found that in every metropolis, large town, or centre of industry in France, Germany, or Switzerland, schools for educating professional men and masters, for training foremen and skilled workmen, and for teaching apprentices, had been established, and that these technical schools had caused the rapid supremacy of continental over British industry. The testimony of such scientific gentlemen as Professors Tyndall and Franckland was that what England needed was a better provision for industrial education; a higher scientific education for those likely to be master-manufacturers, so that when discoveries are made they may be rendered available by the skilled intelligence of those who command capital, and can at the same time appreciate the merits of such discoveries."
An English chair-maker, who went to the last Paris exhibition as one of a committee of eighty-six representative skilled English workmen, to look into the teaching of this great exhibition, thus expresses his opinion; "Seeing some lads at work with the men in the carvers' shop, I went to the bench of one about fourteen. He was carving a chair-back of a mediaeval form from a working drawing. I expressed my surprise that one so young should have been found capable of carving so well, and was informed that boys at school are specially prepared for the trades they fancy, so that a boy about to be apprenticed to learn carving is instructed in ornamental drawing, modeling, and designing." He adds, as the result of his observation, that the "mere mechanical workman stands not the slightest chance with the workman of cultivated taste." Like opinions were expressed by each of the eighty-six committee-men representing the intelligent but self-educated workmen of England, in each department of industry; and they were all profoundly impressed with the conviction that the English nation was in great peril in regard to manufacturing pre-eminence. '
Now if this technical education is found necessary for chair-makers, and similar trades on shore, how much more essential is it for the difficult trade of mariner; and when we add to the trade of mariner that of a skilful marine-artillerist, our deduction must be similar to that of the "self-educated eighty-six": Our uneducated seamen will stand in chance against the trained gunners of England and France.
The enlightened views which, in Europe, recognized the necessity of technical education, soon made their way to this country and found expression in the act of Congress of July 2, 1883, commonly known as the agricultural-college bill. By the provisions of this act a munificent grant of public land was authorized for the "endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college in each State claiming the benefit of the act, where the leading object shall be, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts…without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics" (a clause I shall take occasion to refer to presently), "in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life."
This act has given an impulse to technical education in this count by which has already been productive of much good. Following it up we find that last year the ancient commonwealth of Massachusetts passed an act to authorize its cities and towns to establish industrial schools, the language of the act being, "The city council of any city may establish and maintain one or more industrial schools…and the school board shall employ teachers, prescribe the arts, trades, and occupations to be taught in such schools," etc. Thus we see two important acts making ample provision for technical education, and I ask if the trade of mariner is to be totally excluded from the one, the science of navigation from the other? In the name of our seamen I for one solemnly protest. But, fortunately for the cause of the sailor, the great State of New York has not left the matter in doubt. With her vast commercial interests she saw the necessity of the times, and, by an act passed last year, made special provision for a nautical school."
Thus, as we have seen, England learned through her Crystal Palace that she must do for her trades-people on shore what she had already been doing for her seamen, while we have learned that what has been done for our industrial classes and the army must be done for our seamen and the navy. We need not look to the example of foreign navies, then, to learn how to legislate for our seamen; the very spirit of the age cries out to educate them.
In 1837 an act was passed authorizing the enlistment of boys from fourteen to seventeen years of age to serve in the navy until twenty-one, and soon after we had as many as two thousand apprentice boys. The effort proved a failure and died out to be renewed once more in 1863, or.ly to fail again. There were good reasons, needless now to enumerate, for both failures; but this want of success in no way disturbs the principle lying at the bottom. The very best of schemes, as we know, may be rendered abortive by the introduction of a very slight disintegrating element.
Besides the attempt with the Sabluc, the last few years have seen the introduction of the "continuous-service certificate," which carries with it certain advantages, the honorable discharge and the good-conduct medal; all established with a view to encouraging men to remain in the naval service. But if any one will take the trouble to examine the class of mm to whom these inducements are held out, it will seem an open question whether or not they are worth such inducements. Statistics show that our national ships are only partially manned by American seamen. If it was indignantly declared in Congress to be a disgrace to the country to have our ships flying a national flag made of foreign bunting, what will be said of the fact that the greater part of the men who man our naval guns are foreigners? It must be admitted, too, that many of those claiming to be, and who perhaps are, Americans, are utterly useless for any good purpose on board ship. It is a positive misfortune to us that many of these men arc induced to remain in the service; indeed, it would be quite advantageous to offer inducements to some to remain on shore. And yet I will yield to no one in my high appreciation of a true American seaman. When found, as he still may be, in our service, though in a deplorably small minority, he is one to be proud or and to respect; prompt and fearless, fertile in resources, patient, even cheerful under adversity, of wonderful endurance, intelligent, and self-reliant, and withal of unflinching, uncompromising fidelity to his flag. Take him all in all; I maintain that your "true Yankee sailor" has not his equal in the world. May I ask your indulgence, Mr. President, if I here trespass upon your patience so far as to pay a passing tribute to the sailor of my early days? I speak of the higher type. It is with unfeigned pleasure that I recall the recollection of many worthy representatives of the class, and some I love to remember as my tutors. I recall them with their bronzed faces, their kind hearts beaming through their eyes, with a degree of feeling bordering on affection. The early lessons learned of them I think the most indelible impressions on my mind, and whatever fondness I had for the sea I trace to the quaint yarns of adventure, not unmingled with goodly precepts, which fell from their honest lips. They owned their full share of human weakness, if you will, but it is not mine to cast the first stone. I respected them then; I honor their memory now.
It is related on good authority that when the Constitution returned from Holland, after transporting the specie required to pay the last installment of our national debt to that country, in 1813, the term of service of her crew had expired, and a few days after arrival were discharged. Commodore Hull immediately manned his ship by drawing on the fishermen of the New England coa.st, and the merchant-seamen of Salem, Newburyport, Boston, and vicinity. The response was prompt, and it is alleged that when the Constitution soon after captured the Guerriere, of her 450 seamen only 60 had ever served on board of a man-of-war. To such a proud record can the native American seaman point. But is he alone of all the world to rest idly on his laurels, while his brethren on shore and his old antagonist on the ocean advance on the full tide of progress? Shall we not all solemnly, earnestly, loudly protest?
If, then, the native American seaman is a valuable person, and if, as we all admit, the class is rapidly disappearing, is it not our plain duty to set ourselves earnestly to work to rear them? So obvious, indeed, is it, as to remind one of those self-evident propositions which, while difficult from their very simplicity to demonstrate, seem, in the attempt to do so, like an imputation on the understanding.
To establish a school of seamen for the navy alone, however, would be as unwise as illiberal and short-sighted. Any scheme for the benefit of our seamen must include all, both those of the national and those of the commercial marine.
The settled, well-established policy of our Government is to maintain but a comparatively small standing army and a small navy, relying; upon the patriotism of our people to swell cither indefinitely as may be needed; but such reserves must in some way be specially provided for. This has already been done for the army most effectually. The agricultural-college bill, already referred to, provides for the maintenance of colleges where instruction in military tactics is made obligatory; and another statute, the act of July 28, 1866, fixing our military peace-establishment, provides the means, by authorizing the detailing of army officers for duty, at any regularly established college, as instructors, as the act specially declares, for the purpose of "promoting a knowledge of military science among the young men of the United States," by these two means creating n body of trained men, ready to spring to arms at the first tap of the drum. It is plainly to be seen that while the military element of the country is well represented in our legislative halls, not a single representative voice is heard in behalf of the navy.
I am not prepared to say that this is to be deplored; but we, too, must have a reserve, and as it has not been given to us we must ask for it. Whence, then, is that reserve to come if not from our mercantile marine?
We have been discussing seamen in general, alluding more particularly at times to naval seamen. Let us contemplate for a moment the entire body on which we propose to draw in the event of a sudden expansion of the navy—an expansion, gentlemen, that may be called for now any day.
If we go back to our early history, we will find in the stirring pages of the Federalist much that will indicate the cast of thought in that day, and serve for our instruction now. In that dark hour which preceded the dawn of the young Republic, the luminous minds of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay seemed, like the scintillations of the aurora, to lighten up the gloom. The vigorous pen of Hamilton lined out with wonderful boldness and truth the rapid growth and development of our country. His prophetic eye, piercing into dim futurity, saw the thousand tributaries of a vast commerce pouring its streams of richness into the bosom of one common country, invigorating the uncertain growth of trade, and giving wealth and power to the nation. He warned the country that it was only by a union of all the States that the people of America could hope to defeat the machinations of those foreign countries who would appropriate to themselves our ocean-trade. Hear his words ring down to us through the long avenues of time, as true now as then, and as they ever will be whenever our highest interests as a nation are threatened. "There are appearances," he observes, "to authorize a supposition that I he adventurous spirit which distinguishes the 'commercial character of America has already excited uneasy sensations in several maritime powers of Europe. They seem to be apprehensive of our too great interference in that carrying-trade, winch is the support of their navigation and the foundation of their naval strength. They foresee the dangers that may threaten their American dominions from the neighborhood of states which have all the dispositions and would possess all the means requisite to the creation of a powerful marine. Impressions of this kind will naturally indicate the policy of fostering divisions among us, and depriving us, as far as possible, of an active commerce in our own bottoms. In a state of disunion," he argues, "the combinations of foreign maritime nations might exist and operate with success. It would be in their power to embarrass our navigation in such a manner as to effectually destroy it, and confine us to a passive commerce. We should thus be compelled to content ourselves with the first price of our commodities, and to see the profits of our trade snatched from us to enrich our enemies and persecutors. That unequalled spirit of enterprise which signalizes the genius of the American merchant and navigator, and which is in itself an inexhaustible mine of national wealth, would be stifled and lost." Alas, that it should be said, what Hamilton was apprehensive our enemies and rivals would do in the event of disunion, we have, as a united and powerful nation, accomplished ourselves. We have, indeed, "clipped the wings" of our own commerce, and our carrying-trade has been passing into foreign bottoms. In a wide sense, gentlemen, our patriotism, and in a more especial way our professional instincts, alike forbid our regarding this subject with indifference; indeed, our peculiar relations to the mercantile marine render us particularly sensitive to any change affecting it. Hamilton himself, in discussing the prospects of our commerce, observed that "the necessity of naval protection to external or maritime commerce, and the conduciveness of that species of commerce to the prosperity of a navy, are points too manifest to require a particular elucidation; they, by a kind of reaction mutually beneficial, promote each other."
But in trade and commerce, and in human affairs generally, there is an eternal law of compensation which, like the tides of the ocean, tend to preserve the general level. The rise in the price of coal and labor in England, together with the immense production of iron in this country, and the gradual, but sure, appreciation of our national currency, with the consequent fall in prices, all tend to an equalization of trade between the two countries. It is already estimated that at [least one hundred thousand tons of shipping of various kinds have been put up, or are going up, in this country during the present year. If the wings of our commerce were clipped, either through our own fault or from causes beyond our control, they are certainly growing again; and our tonnage, which in 1860 nearly equaled that of England, it is safe to predict will, at no very distant day, surpass it. With the revival of our shipping interests, then, is the auspicious time for turning our attention to the personnel of our merchant-marine. Let us turn once more to our great commercial rival, and see what she is doing in this respect. In her various ports are stationed, as already mentioned, thirteen vessels of war loaned to various societies for the sole purposes of nautical education for the benefit of her merchant-service. Of these I shall call particular attention to but two: the Conway frigate, under the control of the Mercantile Marine Association of Liverpool, and the Worcester frigate, known as the Thames Marine Officers' Training-ship. These are of a higher order of nautical school than the others, and are intended for the education of those desiring to become officers of the merchant-service. While the others are free schools, the charges for tuition in these are forty pounds a year, and the course of instruction, which includes French, trigonometry, nautical astronomy, etc., is such as to qualify the graduate of highest standing for admission into the Royal Navy. The two associations include among their members some of the most distinguished noblemen, naval officers, and commoners of the realm. At the annual examinations it is a representative of royalty itself, a first lord of the admiralty or other high dignitary, who distributes the prizes; while noted admirals, members of Parliament, and merchant-princes attend. Need it be added that amid the brilliant assemblage the presence of woman, like the "sweet influences of Pleiades," lends a charm and beauty to the scene? The character of the company attending these examinations, and the nature of the prizes, sufficiently attest the paramount importance attached to these schools. The highest prize given on these occasions is "her Majesty's gold medal." And for what is it awarded? Not for scholarship, not for the attainments which generally win preferment at schools; but, it is assigned to the boy who gives promise of making the finest sailor. Could anything be more significant of the objects and aims of these schools, and the high value set upon them by the country?
It may not be uninteresting to hear the order establishing this reward of merit: "Her Majesty's wish, in the establishment of this prize, is to encourage the boys to acquire and maintain the qualities which will make the finest sailor. These consist (and mark how the precepts of Fox find an echo in the words) of cheerful submission to superiors, self-respect and independence of character, kindness and protection to the weak, readiness to forgive offence, desire to conciliate the differences of others, and, above all, fearless devotion to duty, and unflinching truthfulness.'' Her Majesty's second prize consists of a binocular glass and thirty-five pounds (the latter to provide an outfit), and is given to the boy who passes highest in the competitive examination, provided he passes his examination at Portsmouth in the examination immediately succeeding such competition, "the desire of her Majesty being to facilitate the entry into the Royal Navy of the boy who is fortunate enough, in honorable competition, lo obtain this cadetship." Such are the two principal schools of the British mercantile marine. And, as if this were not enough, we find in a recent number of the United Service Journal Mr. Brassy, M.P.—in whom is the rare combination of the statesman, legislator, and sailor—using the following language: "I would urge the endeavor to raise the status of the officers of the mercantile marine as an object of high administrative policy, and essentially philanthropic in its tendency." In sad and painful contrast to these schools stands alone the New York reformatory school ship Mercury, established and maintained by the Commissioners of Public Charities of New York, and scarcely known outside the "port." If we look for the cause of this wide difference, it will be found in some degree in the difference of our navigation laws: England puts a high premium upon professional ability; we do not.
I do not know if on an occasion of this kind it be permissible to regard the subject under consideration from a moral and religious point, and yet, being all followers of one whom we love to call our Divine Master, and discussing a question affecting so large a portion of our fellow-countrymen, and so deserving of our sympathies, should it not rather have "been the first and most prominent point from which to regard it? Our newspapers are constantly telling of the brutality and outrages perpetrated on board, our merchant-vessels. At one time American merchant-ships in the London docks were getting the highest rates of freight to the prejudice of English ships, a fact which elicited so much attention as to result in a parliamentary investigation. The evidence brought out was highly creditable to American ships and American seamen. Cut now, not only have we lost that pre-eminence, but we are fast losing our good name. Those engaged in our foreign commerce are to a certain extent our representatives abroad, bearing witness to far-off peoples to the genius of the country; but the American seaman is becoming a dissolute and depraved being. Marines have been compared to missionaries sowing on pagan shores the goodly and fruitful seeds of civilization and Christianity. But the very name of sailor seems to have become a synonym for drunkenness and sin, and the thoughtful heathen despises a religion which tolerates such vice.
Regarding the subject, then, in what light soever we may, the aspect is the same. A large and indispensable class of our fellow-countrymen is suffered to fall into degradation and decay from sheer, heartless, and unwise neglect.
Mr. President, if the positions I have assumed are made clear, and are deemed tenable-and I frankly submit them to your judgment-then it is our plain duty as naval officers to examine for ourselves into the needs of our seamen, and, agreeing upon some sound and comprehensive scheme for the amelioration of their condition, to strive by all the means in our power for its adoption.
We are not without a bright example for our guidance. "It is worthy of remark," says Cooper, in giving the history of our early navy, "that Congress did nothing of any moment for the navy during the year 1812, although war was declared in June." He then proceeds to account for the neglect, adding, "And it literally became necessary for the accomplished officers who composed the germ of the service to demonstrate, from fact to fact, their ability to maintain the honor of the country, before that country would frankly confide to them the means. As we proceed," he adds, "this singular historical truth will become more apparent." Those gallant officers saw clearly that their first duty was to insist upon being supplied with the means; and when, owing to their earnest solicitations, the means were furnished, right bravely did they use them.
Mr. President and gentlemen of the association, you who so well represent the talent and industry and courage of the service, I put the (question fairly and squarely to you. Shall we wait for the declaration of war to drive us to exertion, or shall we unite at once to discharge the duty which so long has stared us in the face? And who here can say how soon will rise the cloud of war already hanging darkly on the horizon? Up to a certain period negotiations with Russia suddenly terminated in the Crimean War, finding England unprepared. The Franco-German war, long foretold by the few, yet at last burst upon the masses of Europe like a thunderbolt, and, "pitiless disaster following fast," pursued the demoralized and unprepared French till the bubble of the Empire burst, leaving scarce a trace behind. And what is our situation in this very moment? Cuba, "endowed," as once said of Italy, ''with the fatal gift of beauty"; Cuba, the Rose of the Antilles, with her thorn ever pressing in our side; Cuba—to change the figure—lies bleeding at our doors, a prey to contention, and rent by "fierce civil strife." Are we to depend upon the disorganized state of Spain for immunity from war? Suppose for a moment her Government should desire a foreign war as a means of uniting her people and consolidating the supreme authority? Are we, for peace, to rely upon the happy accident of a local governor stumbling, with his snap judgment, in the right? Suppose he has already blundered in the wrong! But speculation is idle, and would lead us from the main purpose—the plain duty which lies before us.
Mr. President, I have finished. I esteem it a very high compliment, indeed, to have been invited to appear before you to-night. If by means of this association our officers are induced to consider carefully the various questions affecting our profession, and to give the service at large the benefit of their reflections, the navy will owe you a deep debt of gratitude.
We have many reasons to felicitate ourselves upon the real improvements which have been achieved in the navy during the last quarter of a century. But let us, when speaking of the navy, use with caution that word "progress," which so frequently falls from the lips of our public speakers. Mere change, as has often been observed, is not necessarily progress. As the heavenly bodies have to our eyes an apparent motion not really their own, so, in the grand march of time we may move and still make no real advance. Let us then look to the root of the whole matter, and seeking the true interests of our profession, and putting aside all petty jealousies and selfish ends, work with honest hearts for the general good.
At the conclusion of the address the President thanked the speaker, etc.
Commander Breese. Have you any definite plan to propose for the improvement of our seamen?
Captain Luce. The first thing for us to do is to get Congress to give us an allowance of at least one thousand boys over and above our present complement of seamen; the act, in granting them, to specify that they are to be trained for the purpose of being seamen and petty-officers in the navy; and at least three vessels should be commissioned in our principal ports, for the purpose of carrying cut the provisions of the act.
With regard to the mercantile marine, the speaker submitted for the consideration of the meeting the subjoined synopsis of a bill which he said should be presented to the next Congress, and its favorable consideration urged by all honorable means. After briefly explaining the objects of the several clauses, the meeting adjourned.
Analysis of the bill to promote efficiency of masters and mates in the merchant service, and to encourage the establishment of public marine schools, amendatory to an act entitled "An act to provide for the better security of life on hoard of vessels propelled in whole or in part by steam, and for other purposes" approved February 28, 1871.
The increasing number of marine disasters; the demoralization, becoming so general on board our merchant-vessels; and the growing scarcity of American seamen, all indicate that we can no longer disregard' with impunity the examples of other maritime countries, in providing technical education for those employed in the mercantile service.
Technical instruction, which has taken such deep root in the educational systems of Europe, is fully recognized in this country as one of the necessities of the times. It is simply asked now that the science of navigation may have a chair in our institutes of technology, and the trade of mariner find a place in our industrial schools.
Efforts in this direction have been made at various times for the past forty years; but, for the want of stimulating and sustaining laws, have, up to the present time, invariably failed. The revival of our shipping interests, now happily begun, is believed to be a favorable time for the introduction of a general system of nautical education, which, if properly encouraged, must prove one of the most important measures affecting our marine commerce which has been adopted since the foundation of the Government.
The legislatures of New York and Massachusetts have already passed acts by which marine-schools are, or may be, engrafted upon their respective common-school systems; but, as the successful maintenance of these schools must materially benefit the country at large, and as we should be guided by the light of past experience, the assistance of the National Legislature is now invoked.
The act of the Legislature of New York authorizes the Board of Education of the city of New York "to provide and maintain a nautical school for the education and training of pupils in the science and practice of navigation," etc.
The act of Massachusetts provides that the city council of any city may establish and maintain one or more industrial schools, the school board being authorized "to employ teachers, and to prescribe the arts, trades, and occupations to be taught," etc.
It is believed, however, that it would be unadvisable to open nautical schools in the absence of a positive and active demand for the kind of education they are alone intended to supply. The object sought in the proposed bill, therefore, is to create that demand by establishing, by legislative enactment, a fixed standard of professional attainment on the part of the masters and mates of our merchant-service, and by requiring, our merchant-vessels to take, as a part of their crews, duly qualified: sailor-boys in numbers proportioned to their tonnage.
Aside from the high considerations cited, and from a purely mercantile as well as from a humane point of view, the public has a right to ask that this important safeguard be thrown around the lives and property of all those who derive their pleasure or profit from the sea.
The influence of our marine insurance companies, and of others pecuniarily interested, has already secured, under the act to "provide for the better security of the lives of passengers on board of vessels propelled in whole or in part by steam," many wise precautions against disaster on board steamers. Thus, the act provides for an inspector of hulls, whose duty it is to examine carefully the hulls and appurtenances of steam-vessels; an inspector of boilers, who inspects everything in his department. Among many other things, the inspectors certify to the presence on board the inspected ship of due provision against fire. She must have hose, boats, life preservers, and other things in conformity with law, and a certificate to this effect is signed by the inspectors under oath. The captain, mate, and engineer must each appear before the board of inspectors, who "shall examine the applicant," and if, upon full consideration, they are satisfied that his character, habits of life, knowledge, and experience in his duties qualify him for the position, they grant him a certificate to that effect for one year.
Should a pilot desire a license, he presents himself before the board, and, on furnishing satisfactory evidence of character, ability, etc., obtains a license for one year, but there is no Government inspector of the master and officers of the sailing-ship. If called upon, they can produce no legal evidence of their worth, so that, for all the public know to the contrary, he who commands the staunch and well-formed ship may himself be totally unlit for his position.
The bill under consideration is designed to supply this omission, as well as to give an impetus to all kinds of nautical education, whether on board school-ships in our principal harbors for lads just entering, or navigation-schools on shore for those who have already been to sea.
To command an ocean-steamer properly, one must first be a sailor, and a sailor can be made only on board a sailing-ship.
Section 1 of the bill provides for "certificates of competency," and for the examination of masters and mates, and prescribes the manner in which the board of examiners shall be appointed. The members of the hoard are selected in a manner to guard as much as possible from undue influences, the several bodies nominating them being directly interested that the conduct of the examination be impartial and thorough.
Sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, prescribe the rules under which the certificate of competency is to be granted, as well as for its suspension, cancellation, etc.
Section 11 provides for certificates of service, to be granted to those masters who have already been to sea in command of sailing-ships, who bear a good reputation as seamen and navigators, and enjoy the confidence of their owners. Such masters will not be required to undergo an examination.
Section 12 authorizes the Navy Department to lend such ships of war as are of no further use to the navy as cruisers, to be used as school ships. These vessels are by far the best, cheapest, and in every way the most suitable for the purpose that can be procured.
Section 13 authorizes the employment of naval officers as superintendents of, and instructors in, nautical schools. Naval officers, by their early education and subsequent training in actual service, are the best class from which to draw instructors for nautical schools of all kinds."
The 23th section of the act approved July 28, 1808, authorizes the President to detail officers of the army to act as instructors in military science at any regularly-established college, "for the purpose of promoting a knowledge of military science among the young men of the United States," thus, in effect, creating a vast reserve from which to fill cut our skeleton regiments in time of necessity, and, if need be, to expand our army indefinitely.
The section under consideration is framed with a view- to giving the navy an equivalent advantage—that is to say, by educating the personnel of our mercantile marine, and adding a quasi-naval training, we not only greatly elevate the character of that service, hut convert it into a naval reserve: in time of peace a body of producers, whose capacity for contributing to the wealth of the country is thus materially increased, and in time of war forming an invaluable auxiliary for its defense.
Section 14 provides for the appointment of a registrar of seamen, to keep, in addition to other prescribed duties, an account of the seamen of the country, that we may have at all times some knowledge of the auxiliary sea force on which the country may rely in the event of war.
Section 15 establishes the proportionate number of boys merchant ships are required to carry.
In order that the young sailors, when properly qualified, may not be left on our hands, a "drug in the market," or their employment even rendered doubtful, there must be created a positive demand for them. Heretofore, for various groundless reasons, and from a shortsighted policy, many masters of our merchant-ships were opposed to taking boys to sea. This lack of wisdom on their part should no longer be permitted to stand in the way of our rearing American seamen.
This section only anticipates the action of Great Britain, where the question of amending their navigation act by similar provision is now under discussion.
Section 16 provides that boys shall be regularly indentured, to serve at least three years, or until twenty-one. It is obviously unwise to go to the pains and expense of educating a boy, and then set him adrift to follow the bent of his own inclinations.
The graduate of West Point cannot resign from the army till two years after graduation, on the theory that he must actually serve his country for at least that period as a return for his education. The same rule applies to the Naval Academy, and of course to apprentices, to all the trades.
Section 17 provides that, to enable the Government and the country at large to be at all times apprised of the state of the navigation-schools, a naval officer should be regularly detailed to inspect and report on them. Such published reports, moreover, have the effect of stimulating the officers of such schools to their highest efforts.
Section 18 provides that, owing to the peculiar manner of conducting the affairs of vessels engaged in the fisheries, it is not deemed expedient to apply to them the several requirements of this act.