Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 591 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.
seamen and put them aboard drunk or drugged, with little or no clothing but what they had on their backs and rob them of this advance money.  The ``crimps’’’ share of this money in San Francisco alone has been calculated at one million dollars a year, or equal to eighty per cent of the seamen’s entire wages.  Part of this had to be shared with corrupt police and politicians and some of it has been traced to sources ``higher up.’’ So common was this practice that vessels sailing from San Francisco and New York had so few sober sailors aboard, that it was customary to take longshoremen to set sail, heave anchor and get the ship under way, and then send them back by tug.  This is precisely what happened on the well-equipped and new ship on which I sailed from New York in 1879 for California, and the same situation is described by Captain Arthur H. Clark in his account of seamen in his ``Clipper Ship Era.’’ These poor sailors, without proper clothing, had to draw on the ship’s ``slop chest’’ for necessary oilskins, thick jackets, mittens and the like, and used up almost all the rest of their wages.  The small balance was wasted or stolen, or both, at the port of arrival, and off they were shipped again by the ``crimp’’ with no chance to save or improve their condition.  After years of agitation by the friends of sailors the advance pay is now wholly abolished in the coastwise trade in America and the three months’ advance cut down to one in the foreign trade, immensely to the benefit of the sailor and the discouragement of the ``crimp.’’ The argument that without this system of bondage and ``crimpage’’ it would be impossible to secure crews is fully answered by the experience of Great Britain since the passage of the Plimsoll Acts and in the United States since the recent acts of Congress.  On the contrary, these measures tend to secure a better class of sailors and compel improvement of the conditions under which they do their work.  I was told when in England that Plimsoll, who himself was not a sailor, was influenced among other things by my father’s book ``Two Years Before the Mast.’’


[1] He was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., when he wrote his book, and continued to be called so through life, for his father, a poet and litterateur, lived to the age of ninety-two, and died but three years before his son.

[2] Richard Henry Dana, Jr.  A Biography.  By Charles Francis Adams.  In two volumes.  Boston and New York:  Houghton, Mifflin Company.

[3] Speeches in Stirring Times and Letters to a Son.  Richard H. Dana, Jr.  Boston and New York:  Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1910.

[4] The political economist and M.P.

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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