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American Merchant Ships and Sailors eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 320 pages of information about American Merchant Ships and Sailors.
of the seafaring profession only within a few months.  When the fine old sailing frigates vanished from the seas, when the “Constitution” and the “Hartford” became as obsolete as the caravels of Columbus, when a navy officer found that electricity and steam were more serious problems in his calling than sails and rigging, and a bluejacket could be with the best in his watch without ever having learned to furl a royal, then said everybody:  “The naval profession has gone to the dogs.  Its romance has departed.  Our ships should be manned from our boiler shops, and officered from our institutions of technology.  There will be no more Decaturs, Somerses, Farraguts, Cushings.”  And then came on the Spanish war and the rush of the “Oregon” around Cape Horn, the cool thrust of Dewey’s fleet into the locked waters of Manila Bay, the plucky fight and death of Bagley at Cardenas, the braving of death by Hobson at Santiago, and the complete destruction of Cervera’s fleet by Schley showed that Americans could fight as well in steel ships as in wooden ones.  Nor can we doubt that the history of the next half-century will show that the new order at sea will breed a new race of American seamen able as in the past to prove themselves masters of the deep.

CHAPTER III

AN UGLY FEATURE OF EARLY SEAFARING—­THE SLAVE TRADE AND ITS PROMOTERS—­PART PLAYED BY EMINENT NEW ENGLANDERS—­HOW THE TRADE GREW UP—­THE PIOUS AUSPICES WHICH SURROUNDED THE TRAFFIC—­SLAVE-STEALING AND SABBATH-BREAKING—­CONDITIONS OF THE TRADE—­SIZE OF THE VESSELS—­HOW THE CAPTIVES WERE TREATED—­MUTINIES, MAN-STEALING, AND MURDER—­THE REVELATIONS OF THE ABOLITION SOCIETY—­EFFORTS TO BREAK UP THE TRADE—­AN AWFUL RETRIBUTION—­ENGLAND LEADS THE WAY—­DIFFICULTY OF ENFORCING THE LAW—­AMERICA’S SHAME—­THE END OF THE EVIL—­THE LAST SLAVER.

At the foot of Narragansett Bay, with the surges of the open ocean breaking fiercely on its eastward side, and a sheltered harbor crowded with trim pleasure craft, leading up to its rotting wharves, lies the old colonial town of Newport.  A holiday place it is to-day, a spot of splendor and of wealth almost without parallel in the world.  From the rugged cliffs on its seaward side great granite palaces stare, many-windowed, over the Atlantic, and velvet lawns slope down to the rocks.  These are the homes of the people who, in the last fifty years, have brought new life and new riches to Newport.  But down in the old town you will occasionally come across a fine old colonial mansion, still retaining some signs of its former grandeur, while scattered about the island to the north are stately old farmhouses and homesteads that show clearly enough the existence in that quiet spot of wealth and comfort for these one hundred and fifty years.

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