James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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shameful abuses existed in the purser's accounts, since it was well known
that dead men chewed tobacco, and vrore slop jackets and shirts for
months, or even years, after they had gone to Davy Jones's locker.

" For these and a thousand other evils and grievances, the Commis-
sioners of Inquiry proposed one single but searching remedy, which was
believed to be an effectual cure for present and future ills. It was this :
that every man rated A. B., or able seaman, on board, should be en-
titled to a vote in the appointment of delegates from the ship's company,
to have a voice, if not in councils of war, at least in all important regu-
lations relating to the management and internal economy of the vessel
and her crew !

" This proposal excited universal uproar among the officers, more
especially when it was announced that the captain, a true British tar,
had expressed his intention of furthering the measure. The majority of
the officers remonstrated in the strongest language, and intimated their
determination to resist all alterations and innovations. They asserted
that the vessel was perfectly sea-worthy, and wanted no repairs whatever
that if she leaked a little, it was no disadvantage, as the bilge-water
was thereby prevented from becoming noxious, and the men were fur-
nished with exercise at the pumps that the ship had encountered many
a heavy gale, and bloody battle, without ever striking her flag or strand-
ing on a lee shore that the ballast, when it did shift, always shifted to
the weather side, and thus tended to keep the ship steady and stiff on her
legs that, in short, all the alleged defects and grievances were either
imaginary, or positive advantages. Thus, it was complained that the
officers' horses and asses were sometimes rated as quartermasters on
board. Well. The occupants of such offices never gave trouble or



offence to their superiors : it was better to have a few * tame elephants '
on board, than turbulent demagogues, or riotous mutineers. If the stores
and provisions, said they, are occasionally lent to foreign vessels in dis-
tress, it confers on our ship the honourable distinction of being a ' refuge
for the destitute:' if our officers and men are sent to fight in foreign
ships, it gives ours a voice in foreign councils of war, and constitutes her
a ship of the line in the grand European fleet.

" Then, as to the proposed remedy, it was alleged to be ten times
worse than all the evils put together, allowing them to be real. If the
ship went into dock, upon such a principle, she would be taken to pieces,
under pretence of repair, and a new vessel launched, which would neither
stay nor wear, but lie like a log upon the water, or run before the wind,
ungoverned by helm or sails. Supposing, however, that the vessel came
out in any tolerable condition for sea, the proposed plan of sending dele-
gates from the crew to assist in measures of internal economy, would
destroy all discipline and subordination on board. The common men
were only calculated to act passively, in obedience to their superiors, and
were totally unfit for deliberation or council. If the delegates from the
crew once got footing or voice in council, they would constantly and
perseveringly exert their powers in curtailing the authority of the officers
and giving undue influence to the brute or numerical force of the ship's
company. One of their first objects would be to reduce the number of
idlers on board to lessen the pay of the captain and officers and to
increase their own allowances of provisions and grog. It was argued
that, by these delegates, an attempt would soon be made to abolish the
office of CHAPLAIN to the ship, and apply his pay to the maintenance of
a SCHOOLMASTER a character totally unnecessary, if not mischievous, in
a MAN of WAR. The sailors were known to owe the chaplain a grudge,
in consequence of the twopences stopped out of their pay, under the
strange name of ' Queen Anne's bounty,' and it was not unfairly inferred
that an early opportunity would be taken to dismiss this meritorious
officer, and have no more prayers on Sabbath day.

" The marines would next be overhauled, and the number of officers
inevitably diminished. But the most important objection to the new
project had not yet been stated. It was urged that the final result of
such a measure would be the concentration of power and influence in the
wrong place in the members instead of the head in the crew, instead
of the officers on the forecastle instead of the quarter-deck. It was
prophesied, and not without some show of reason, that a day would come,
when the tragedy of the BRITANNIA would be re-acted. In that fine
and first-rate vessel, the reins of discipline had become relaxed the crew
got unruly open mutiny broke out the officers were overpowered, and


many of them killed the captain (a good-hearted and humane officer,
of the name of STUART) was thrown overboard while an upstart com-
mander, with an entire new set of officers, elected from among the crew,
kept possession of the ship for many years, in spite of the admiralty, and
in defiance of the crown itself!

" When this last argument was urged, there was great consternation,
and tremendous dissension in the wardroom, and even in the captain's
cahin. The advocates for a thorough repair of the ship, and a revision
of the ' ARTICLES of WAR ' (the Koran of the vessel) were nearly over-
powered, and about to resign the contest when it was discovered that,
in all parts of the ship, the men had been discussing the subject among
themselves, the result of which was, that ' ROUND ROBINS ' from every
mess were poured upon the tables of the captain and officers, till they
groaned with the load.

" In this dilemma, and in momentary expectation of a collision or
open mutiny, a valiant trooper, who had formerly done duty on board
as captain of marines, and who had seen much service both in the east
and in the west, undertook to settle the affair in an amicable manner.
His intention appears to have been, to first coerce the blue jackets, and
keep them in awe by means of the red coats, and next to haul the ship
into dock himself, and have her partially repaired, under the inspec-
tion of the Anti-delegate party. To effect this difficult object he chiefly
relied on a trusty corporal of his own company, who had often done
service to the State. But to the captain's surprise, the corporal, either
from despair of success, or from a natural dislike to the nickname of
* Corporal TRIM,' declined embarking in the enterprize, and the * bold
dragoon,' deserted by his own party, was obliged to relinquish the project,
and to throw up his commission in disgust !

" The advocates of thorough repair now had the ball at their own
foot hauled the ship at once into dock, amidst thunders of huzzas from
the crew dismantled her in a twinkling turned out the condemned
stores swept the hold of all rubbish ripped open the seams cut out
the rotten timbers gave her a new keel, rudder, and figure-head in
short, repaired, or rather rebuilt her from stem to stern, from the kelson
to the cross-trees ! This work completed, they overhauled the ' Naval
Instructions' examined the ship's books rated none as A.B. but prime
seamen disrated all ordinaries, land-lubbers, sweepers, swabbers, lob-
lollymen, galley-stokers, skulkers, et lioc genus omne, disqualifying them
for voting at the election of delegates ; but thereby constituting a large
class of malecontents, ready for riot at the instigation of any daring

And how does the new State Galley work since her launch, I inquired j*


" That," said my companion, " is a problem to be solved by time alone.
In the short trips which she first made along the coast, it is said that,
in nautical language, ' she griped,' that is, she did not ' steer fine;' but
subsequently she made some long voyages with problematical success.
In a cruize to the West Indies, she ran down so many of the slavers,
and set free so many of the NIGGERS, as almost to knock up the Guinea
trade. She then doubled the Cape, passed the Straits of Singapore,
encountered a tyffon in the Chinese Seas, sailed up the Tigris to
Whampoa, and, with one broadside of her main-deck guns, smashed the
Hong-merchant monopoly in Canton, and reduced the price of bohea
full sixpence in the pound.

" In the course of a cruize to the coast of Ireland also, the State
Galley is said to have performed a notable exploit. She captured, sunk,
or destroyed ten BISHOPRICS for the good of the Church, the benefit of
the Clergy, and the maintenance of Protestant ascendancy.

" Among the minor cruizes, too, was a short trip to the mouth of the
Scheldt, where the State Galley stood ' BOTTLE-BOLUSR' to a couple of
* friends of the Fancy,' who chose to have a regular ' set to' near
Antwerp, to prevent the noble art of assault and defence becoming ob-
solete, in the piping times of peace. The principals were, DUTCH SAM
and JOHNNY CRAPAUD the former of whom, an * ancient ally,' com-
plained most bitterly of the British bottle-holder, whom he accused of
gross partiality, in laying an EMBARGO on Scheidam, while his antagonist
was allowed eau de vie ad libitum. It must be admitted that the charge
was not entirely groundless ; and that, on this occasion, our old friend
SAM evinced no lack of ' DUTCH courage,' although his ' bottle-holder*
kept the * Hollands' to himself, during the combat

" A great inconvenience, however, has resulted from an unforeseen
circumstance the eternal clack, or JABBER, of the new delegates, who
shove in their oars on all occasions, as if they were dealing out long-
winded rope-yarns in the galley. The captain of the waist, too, (a part
of the ship that always contains a number of ordinary characters) has
given great trouble ; threatening to knock away the companion-ladder
cut off the principal communication with the quarter-deck and have
a PALAVER of his own, under the gang-ways and forecastle.

" A brace of delegates from the after-guard, also, who had been
addling their brains with the * Pilgrim's Progress' and ' Wesley's
Sermons,' proposed, to the utter astonishment of the crew, that no grog
should be served out on the * Lord's day' (though every seaman knows
that there is no Sunday in nine fathoms water) that the coppers should
not be heated on the Sabbath that no pease soup or ' dog's body'
should be cooked on that day that no mustering or parading on the


quarter-deck, gangways, or forecastle should take place and that a jig
or bull-dance in the waist, on a Sunday evening, should be punished by
confinement in the black-hole !

" It is said that since the ship was docked and the Articles of War
amended, the crew are far from being united or contented. This was to
be expected. The finest ship that ever stemmed the ocean's wave, and
the best code of discipline that ever was invented, will not make a sea
life pleasant, or the water always smooth. The ardent, and therefore
unreasonable expectations of one part of the crew will be disappointed
and it is to be hoped that the extravagant anticipations of revolt and
mutiny, entertained by the other party, will not be realized. Every ship
requires docking, from time to time; and if the officers, from self-
interest or prejudice, resist all repair of a vessel till the crew mutiny and
force them into harbour, they must abide the consequences.

" It is, however, to be borne in mind, that there is always a large list
of half-pay officers on shore, who make it their business to criticize the
conduct of those in commission afloat; and petition the Admiralty to
have them superseded, so that they themselves may get into their berths,
on full-pay. Experience teaches that when a change of officers takes
place, the new batch either pursues the same measures which they cen-
sured in their predecessors, or run into others still more experimental or
extravagant. But the new State Galley has a certain trim, a sailing-
guage, and a capacity or incapacity for bearing canvass, which cannot be
materially affected by any kind of helmsman, whether delegate or anti-
delegate and this circumstance renders a change of officers of much
less consequence, as to the general navigation of the State Galley, than
before she was docked and repaired."

I endeavoured to draw from my companion a more special opinion, as
to the future destinies of the CONSTITUTION YACHT but in vain. He
briefly remarked that, " what had passed was HISTORY what is to
come is PROPHECY and prophetic inspiration is no more."

I fixed my eyes on the venerable cathedral, near Westminster-bridge,
which towers in Gothic pride over all the neighbouring edifices. My
companion seemed to anticipate my wishes, and left me no time to reflect
or to solicit reflections. " On that sacred fane," said he, " it does not
become me to comment. It is evident that it has been under the hand
of REFORMERS, and has experienced changes, both irtside and out; but
what its future destiny may be, is only known to that BEING, for whom
incense once smoked on its altars and to whom the pealing anthem
still pours the notes of praise.

" But," continued he, " there is one other temple in the vicinity,
erected to a subordinate, but a very benevolent deity (JUSTITIA) on


which it may be no sacrilege to comment. You may perceive," said
he, " many of the priests of the temple sauntering at this moment about
the portals. They are a very numerous brotherhood. Their costume,
you observe, is sable and ermine with heads like swans and bodies like
ravens indicating their avocation that of making white appear black,
and black white, according to the desire or the sacrifice of the novice.
The most remarkable feature in the discipline of the parti-coloured fra-
ternity and their tutelary goddess, is the MEANS by which they arrive at
their ENDS. Thus, facts are always elicited there through the agency of
fiction. Error is consecrated by precedent, and thenceforward takes
rank with truth feuds and quarrels are adjusted by fresh infusions of
animosity words are manufactured and sold by the dozen or by the
foot, with little regard to euphony or intelligibility brevity is studied
and taught on the most approved system of circumlocution the scales
of justice are always held, in equilibria, by the blind goddess, indicating
that neither party shall gain by the suit, but that the profits shall be
equally divided between the officiating templars. The meshes of the
criminal net are generally too fine to catch any but the small fry of
sinners ; magnitude of offence being often a security against severity of

" In this venerable temple, the ' wisdom of our forefathers' has been
accumulated at compound interest, till the depot of precepts and prece-
dents has become more intricate and inexplorable than the catacombs of
the Nile choked up with the mummies, the dust, and the lifeless rem-
nants of all shapeless and unutterable things !

'' Yet within the walls of this edifice, we every day hear and see the
most astonishing specimens of oratory, eloquence, and ingenuity. The
prizes are fame and fortune. The disputants, by the laws of their order,
are not allowed to choose their subject, nor even the side of the subject
which they are to support. They are bound to defend vice, infamy, and
crime, with the same ardour and enthusiasm, as they would advocate the
cause of virtue, honour, and probity in distress. They enact their parts,
as if on the stage ; but without the aid of author or prompter. Though
their objects are selfish, their feelings artificial, and their passions
feigned ; yet their intentions are pure, their actions conscientious, and
their labours beneficial. Thirteen arbiters sit on the bench, to decide
the question and adjudicate the prize. The senior or supreme judge is
always deaf (the Goddess of Justice herself being blind), and hears not
the orations of either of the advocates. These last, therefore, never
address themselves to him ; but to the other twelve. Strange to say, the
deaf judge takes upon himself to sum up the merits of the case, leaving
the decision, however, to the inferior personages. Thus, betweep a blind


goddess, a deaf judge, a brace of hired orators, and a dozen of arbiters,
(who are often no judges at all) the" property, the liberty, the honour
nay, the life of a British subject is summarily disposed of !

" It is maintained, and probably with truth, that the complexity, the
incongruity, and even the absurdity of the machinery, combine to make
the engine ' work well.' It has certainly worked long, and perhaps
well at least for the mechanics ; but a master-operative is now said to
be at work in contriving a simpler apparatus for the distribution of
justice. The bandage is to be taken off the eyes of the goddess and
the deaf judge is to be restored to perfect audition !"

Looking eastward from Westminster-bridge, the eye naturally rested
on WATERLOO. " That noblest piece of architecture," said my companion,
" that ever spanned a majestic river, derives its name from one of the
fiercest battles that was ever fought between the ablest generals that ever
planted squadron in the field a battle which decided the fate of kingdoms
and kings, by deciding the destiny of their arbiter an ARBITER, whose
meteor ascension, meridian, and fall whose stormy life and inglorious
death, have left on the imperishable page of history the most instructive
moral lesson the most impressive example of retributive justice, that
has ever been recorded or imagined by prophet, bard, or sage a warrior,
against whom armies had little chance, and the elements themselves but
a doubtful conflict, more frequently experiencing reverses than victories !
That bridge is equally calculated to exalt, and to repress the pride of
man. It illustrates the triumph of art over natural obstacles to inter-
course and commerce, in peace : the name is associated with the de-
structive ravages of war, and the thirst of power, where men who were
invincible in the field by hosts of enemies, have been defeated in the
closet by their own ambition. That bridge teaches a great moral lesson
to mankind. We are told not to put our faith in PRINCES. The granite
arches of that noble structure forbid our putting faith in POPULACES.
He who withstood the iron storm of balls, in many a bloody field, for
the preservation of his country, was destined to bear the ignoble showers
of mud and stones from his degenerate countrymen ! Our schoolboys
can descant on Athenian ingratitude, and the fate of Aristides ; while
our citizens can cross the bridge of Waterloo, -without blushing for
their treatment of a Wellington ! "

I pointed to a massive structure, with grated windows, resembling a
prison, and situated on the south side of the river, opposite Waterloo-
bridge. " In that edifice," said my companion, " MAN exhibits the
great criterion, the grand characteristic distinction between himself and
the brute creation loss of reason. Animals never become insane. They
cannot lose that which they never possessed. Instinct is an humbler


boon than reason ; but its possessor cannot abuse it, alter it, or be de-
prived of it."

Beyond the bridge, the eye rests on a magnificent pile of buildings,
stretching along the Thames, and inclosing within its wings an immense
area, where whole battalions might march and countermarch, without
collision or interruption. " That," said my companion, " is a palace
too large for a prince and therefore it has become the residence of a
whole colony of kings or at any rate, of very great men, all GOVERNORS,
if not of provinces, at least of departments. These magnates have
their levees, their audiences, their crowds of suitors ' thronging prefer-
ment's gate' and, as they execute, if they do not plan, important
measures of state, they naturally consider themselves as great states-
men. A long peace has thinned their ranks and curtailed their revenues
a war will draw them forth like the offspring of the dragon's teeth
from the ground. Their multiplication will be ominous for the tran-
quillity of nations, and indicative of new taxes, and expenditure of
human life."

What, I inquired, is that slender and upright building, apparently a
new wing to Somerset-place ? " It is," replied my companion, " a
MILESTONE." Indeed ! " Yes," he proceeded, " it is the second mile-
stone on the new rail-road, now cutting through the metropolis for the
MARCH of INTELLECT. The first stone stands near St. Pancras, and there
stands the second, on the banks of the Thames. Why should not INTEL-
LECT be conveyed by steam as well as other and heavier articles of mer-
chandize ? One of the Leading vehicles of this valuable commodity has
been worked by steam for some years, and several others have followed
the same path. But intellect is likely to be worked and conveyed by a
much more subtle and powerful agent than steam. A modern philosopher
has demonstrated, before the Royal Society, that THOUGHT or volition is
nothing more than an electric aura conveyed along the nerves; why
then should not words be despatched along wires, according to the pro-
posal of Mr. Babbage, not indeed by steam, but by a galvanic battery ?
When, therefore, the dome of St. Paul's shall be converted into a gene-
ral and twopenny post-bag, and letters are thence shot to every part of
the metropolis and the kingdom, along metallic conductors, then will the
speeches of members in the reformed Parliament be read in Birming-
ham and Manchester, during their actual delivery in Westminster, and
constituencies will be able to counsel their representatives in the very
heat of debate. But to return. It is intended that the rail-road shall
diverge, in various directions, to the principal towns and cities of the
empire. It is proposed to pass by, not through, Oxford and Cambridge,
the soil of those places not being deemed eligible for thoroughfares of


this kind, and their foundations not being considered perfectly secure.
How far and how fast intellect may travel by this new road to the east-
ward and southward, it is useless to speculate. Moral, like physical
epidemics, have a tendency to spread towards the west. It will be much
less difficult to carry this kind of rail-road across the Atlantic, than
across the Dwina or the Danube. It is highly probable that the Kan-
garoo will precede the Cossack in the march of intellect."

On the next bridge that met the eye, we expected to see a long pro-
cession of sable monks (as its name would import) instead of which,
we beheld a tumultuous throng of enormous bullocks (a far more useful
kind of cattle by the way, and not much more lusty) rushing furiously
into the very heart of the city, and threatening to immolate the pas-
sengers whom they met on their way to the scene of slaughter ! We
are much, more prone to imitate the frivolities than the wisdom the
vices than the virtues of our neighbours ; otherwise the Abbatoirs of
Paris would have shamed out of existence the shambles of Smithfield,
where the senses are offended, and the public health endangered, by the
hecatombs 'of animals reeking in their gore, in the very centre of an
overgrown metropolis !

Passing over the rival, but not the equal of Waterloo ; and glancing
at the holy symbol of our religion surmounting the rival, but not the
equal of St. Peter, our attention was arrested for a moment on a strange
mass or medley of buildings, antique, middle-aged, and modern, sur-
rounded by moat, and defended by drawbridge, turret, and bartizan.
" That," said my companion, in his usual metaphorical style, " is a
Golgotha, or place of skulls. Within those insulated towers, more
crowned heads have been struck off, than the heads of subjects, even
in the decapitating reign of Henry the Eighth, or of the bloody Queen
Mary. There is not a doubt that the head of your own Patriot King will
come to the block on that very spot."

I glanced at the great body of the metropolis, stretching far beyond
the range of the eye, and now nearly enveloped in the clouds of smoke
that ascended from its myriads of chimneys ; but my companion shook
his head, and pointing to the green hills of Kent, " Let us fly," said he,
" from this Pandemonium to the lakes or the mountains to the wolds
or the ocean, where, like the Indian relieved, for a brief space, from
torture, we may recruit the powers of mind and body, so as to encounter
new cares, to endure new toils perchance to add a year or two to the

Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 2 of 28)