to this importunity, Congress at one time paid a bounty
of twenty-five dollars a head for all prisoners taken.
At other times it reduced the import duties on cargoes
captured and landed by privateers. Indeed, it
is estimated by a careful student, that the losses
to the Government in the way of direct expenditures
and remission of revenues through the privateering
system, amounted to a sum sufficient to have kept
twenty sloops of war on the sea throughout the period
of hostilities, and there is little doubt that such
vessels could have actually accomplished more in the
direction of harassing the enemy than the privateers.
A very grave objection to the privateering system,
however, was the fact that the promise of profit to
sailors engaged in it was so great, that all adventurous
men flocked into the service, so that it became almost
impossible to maintain our army or to man our ships.
I have already quoted George Washington’s objections
to the practise during the Revolution. During
the War of 1812, some of our best frigates were compelled
to sail half manned, while it is even declared that
the loss of the “Chesapeake” to the “Shannon”
was largely due to the fact that her crew were discontented
and preparing, as their time of service was nearly
up, to quit the Government service for privateering.
In a history of Marblehead, one of the famous old seafaring
towns of Massachusetts, it is declared that of nine
hundred men of that town who took part in the war,
fifty-seven served in the army, one hundred and twenty
entered the navy, while seven hundred and twenty-six
shipped on the privateers. These figures afford
a fair indication of the way in which the regular
branches of the service suffered by the competition
of the system of legalized piracy.
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THE ARCTIC TRAGEDY—AMERICAN SAILORS IN
THE FROZEN DEEP—THE SEARCH
FOR SIR JOHN FRANKLIN—REASONS FOR SEEKING
THE NORTH POLE—TESTIMONY OF
SCIENTISTS AND EXPLORERS—PERTINACITY OF
POLAR VOYAGERS—DR. KANE AND DR.
HAYES—CHARLES F. HALL, JOURNALIST AND EXPLORER—MIRACULOUS
ESCAPE OF His
PARTY—THE ILL-FATED “JEANNETTE”
EXPEDITION—SUFFERING AND DEATH OF DE
LONG AND HIS COMPANIONS—A PITIFUL DIARY—THE
CAREFUL PLAN AND COMPLETE DISASTER—RESCUE
OF THE GREELY SURVIVORS—PEARY,
WELLMAN, AND BALDWIN.
A chapter in the story of the American sailor, which,
though begun full an hundred years ago, is not yet
complete, is that which tells the narrative of the
search for the North Pole. It is a story of calm
daring, of indomitable pertinacity, of patient endurance
of the most cruel suffering, of heroic invitation
to and acceptance of death. The story will be
completed only when the goal is won. Even as these
words are being written, American sailors are beleaguered
in the frozen North, and others are preparing to follow
them thither, so that the narrative here set forth
must be accepted as only a partial story of a quest
still being prosecuted.