Puslapio vaizdai

fore the war, it is perhaps a little hard to say. But they are resented in and for themselves and as inescapable evidence of our country's carelessness, if not its incapacity. The mood of most Americans I know at sea, especially young Americans, is anti-German, but also alienated-English. There is a real difference between the two prefixes, but both of them contain the element of positive incompatibility. I discount the attitude toward the Englishthe "lime-juicers"-a little when it is expressed by Irish-Americans or even Scandinavian-Americans, since the neutral Northern countries often have had no love for England either before the war or during the course of it, and the Irish attitude is comprehensible to me even though I am the son of a north-England mother and a south-England father. But the aliento-England mood is by no means confined to men of these two derivations.

I do not quite locate all the feeding springs of the mood. The springs, though, that I do find are more contemporary than they are tricklings still from 1776 or the time of the Civil War. The assumption is that England is not willing for the United States to have a sufficient merchant marine. It is even cynically assumed that, once the war is over, old English shipping interests and policies will find it easier to coöperate with the German shipping interests in holding American ports mainly for their old joint use than it would be for the English interests to stand out of the way of a growing American merchant marine that would take business from both the Germans and the English.

This feeling was strong enough to disparage President Wilson's readjustment of the old Panama Canal free-passage issue back in 1912 upon the protest of Great Britain so long as any jurist of repute held that our original action was valid. During August and September, 1917, this alien-to-England feeling was vividly concerned over the course the department of state would decide to follow after representatives of the British Government protested the commandeering by the United States Shipping Board of all merchant

shipping under construction in American yards for foreigners. yards for foreigners. The matter hung fire for several weeks. Finally the Washington Government adhered to its original decision.

The point of view at sea was that the English protest had to do more with the situation at sea after the war than during the war. Everything is in a common pot at present, ran the general comment. Tonnage will be allotted where it is most needed. Only after the war will it make any difference which flag floats over the ships. And after the war-well, watch England and Germany together while the United States, as of old, holds the bag, her ports. I am sure of this mood in a great many American officers, petty officers, and seamen. The diagnosis of it may not be complete, and the mood itself. may not be sound, but there it is. "They want us to stick to our railroads. They don't want us at sea either as owners or workers. And, anyway, their ways are not our ways. They like to insist upon that, and so do we."

That is the mood in a nutshell. There is no occasion here to consider English characteristics, as distinct from English qualifications, at sea and in ports, that sailor-folk of the United States dislike. Sometimes the more they admire the qualifications the more they dislike the characteristics. "The Nautical Magazine" for October, 1917, "the only journal for officers of the [British] mercantile marine," did a typical thing that had sardonic attention in American mess-rooms. Under the heading, "A Few Things the War has Taught Us," it placed this item, "That every man on board a British ship should be British born and bred." Farther along in the number it printed five pages on "Manning the United States Shipping," in which it complained because the United States shipping authorities are making every effort to supply United States citizens as officers of all ships seized and all ships built for the American merchant marine. Of the Mercantile Marine Service Association, Tower Building, Liverpool, it said:

We placed at the disposal of the U. S. A. Government the services of the masters and officers, members of the Association, who were unemployed at the moment. A register was kept not only of the unemployed members but also of other shipmasters and officers who were willing to serve in the American Mercantile Marine. Applications. were received in shoals and a lengthy list of available masters, officers and engineers was eventually forwarded to Mr. Denman, chairman of the U. S. A. Shipping Board. . . . It is now intimated that Mr. Henry Howard, director of the United States Shipping Board recruiting service, has

started to take a census of licensed mariners, in order to deal intelligently with the growing emergency. Data covering the numbers of licensed officers, together with the grades of ocean and coastwise licenses which they hold, have been prepared for the recruiting service by the United States Steamboat Inspection Service. It is stated that there are about forty thousand licensed officers, but many of these are engaged in shore occupations. These men have now been circularized by Mr. Howard with a patriotic letter, urging them in the interests of their country to come back to sea.

[blocks in formation]

pressed American mess-rooms as typical, and recalled a Welshman's remark: "I don't dislike the English. They are very good people, with fine traditions and ideals. Only it is hard for them to understand that other peoples have such things, too."

It is a dislike of characteristics and not a depreciation of qualifications that is the American attitude also toward the "bluenoses," or Nova-Scotians. Some say the name is derived from a certain kind of potatoes grown up there, and some say it is derived from the effects of cold up there. Blue-noses are lime-juice derived, Scotch or English; they are numerous in American ships, and they are interlopers in the minds given over to thorough Americanization of American ships.

"This captain of ours is the whitest, is the only white, 'blue-nose' I 've ever run across,' ," I heard a Scandinavian-American officer of an American ship say one day, and an American-born watch-officer looked after him as he turned in his tracks to pace the other way of the bridge with a look that was perfectly definite and translatable. In exaggerated analogy it was like a Japanese decrying a Chinese to an American.

The full resentment for interlopers is given to the "square-heads," or Scandinavians. Again there is full recognition of their qualifications as seamen, with objection to some of their characteristics as men that don't "hit it off" with our characteristics. The main characteristic American seamen object to in them is their helpless clannishness. Scandinavians at sea are like Jews ashore; they can't help running together and trying to keep everybody else out. I mean to cite for illustration one of the finest navigators, most experienced seamen, best disciplinarians, most thorough democrats, and most loyal American citizens I ever have known, the chief officer of one of our largest American transatlantic liners, a Dane. Mr. — used to say quaintly of himself was, in my estimate of him, perfectly true, "I am only a naturalized American, but I am a very hot one." Yet he is the


best instance I know of the hyphenated American in a very different application of the adjective from the usual hostile one. He could not readily handle men of other than Scandinavian derivation. As one of his junior officers mirthfully said: "If your head is two by two, or four by four, or even six by eight, you get along all right with him. He's always treated me all right, but he could n't help making a difference when he found out that my blue eyes and yellow hair were, nevertheless, not Scandinavian. The poor man was horribly disillusioned." In all ships the chief officer has the naming of the boatswain and the carpenter. Both of these men were inevitably, the ship said, Swedes. Danes or even Norwegians would have done as well, but in this particular case they were Swedes. The boatswain in turn has a good deal to do, under the chief officer, with selecting the crew, and the run of the crew on this American ship were Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, some of them naturalized American citizens, and a good many of them not, and with no intention of becoming citizens. The names of all the quartermasters excepting one ended in "sen." I have indicated the mood of the other officers. I asked the sole non-Scandinavian quartermaster why he left at the end of the voyage I have in mind. He referred to the same Scandinavian-Jewish attribute, according to many seamen: "The

is a family ship." And he added, "The trouble in the Seamen's Union is the same thing, too."

The American-born mess-boy who waited on the carpenter got into trouble one day. "I could n't stand his square-head ways. So I up and told him I was an American, and he ought to be proud to have a white man wait on him," was the explanation he offered, and maybe is the justification as well as the explanation of the discipline he had found himself under. "I could n't have kept it back any longer,' he added.

[ocr errors]

I have hardly ever served under a man I liked better than the chief officer. I respected him in a dozen ways, and he was

an object-lesson in ardent Americanism. Nevertheless, he had not yet quite achieved Americanism, and will never be able to do so. It is more apt to take his grandchildren than his children to achieve it. He was effective only with Scandinavians. It is a natural failing, but from the American point of view it is a failing. There are a great many Scandinavians in American ships. Compared with them, there are few Englishmen. The Scandinavian alienation and the Nova Scotian alienation are the result of frequent uncomfortable contact on our own ships; the English alienation is more the result of contact in ports, American and English, and in legislation.

Possible as it may be that such attitudes are based upon mistaken grounds, the basic idea is normal and the only healthy one. We have to thank them all for fine traditions of both seamanship and seamanly conduct, these men of the Northern races, but our ships must be our own. American ships for American citizens without any other differentiation, and American ports primarily for American ships manned by American citizens. The crews and not the ships are the vital point. England discusses the same matter in a more definite form from time to time when coolies and the jobs they hang to and the wages they readily accept and the kind of quarters and food and treatment they are willing to put up with and their inability to understand their officers come to the fore in Parliament or a trade-union congress or marine weeklies and monthlies.

This prime consideration of the men who make up the crews concerns all the citizenship of the land because of what it can do for Americanism, because of qualities Americanism loses if the ships are not manned by hearty young men of our citizenship. It is most often talked about as a matter of working-man's rights, but it is really much bigger than that, big as that may be. Invaluable qualities die out of a nation that neglects the sea. Mr. Filson Young once made the remark that the sea would preserve certain virtues in a nation's life even if they perished on land.

But that is only half the truth. The sea creates virtues and faculties different in many ways from those created on land and necessary to the stock of a great people. Lands that do not have them are not the great lands, and little lands that have them often are, an instant resourcefulness in the imminent and unexpected moment, a vigilant patience, an adaptability to shifting environment, a sustained heart, a sense of command over wide compass, a satisfied simplicity in living, a familiarity with distance. John Masefield once said of a ship what America needs to learn to say of shipmen:

I march across great waters like a queen, I whom so many wisdoms helped to make; Over the uncruddled billows of seas green I blanch the bubbled highway of my wake. By me my wandering tenants clasp the hands And know the thoughts of men in other lands.

It is impossible to think of foreign trade without American foreign-going ships and foreign-going crews. Some sea qualities are the virtues, over and above all other occupations, of the constructing engineer on land; but the sea adaptation of them is a difference of quality and emphasis that creates a difference of kind. Some essential sea qualities simply have no counterpart on land. So it is not in order that working-men shall be paid, fed, and housed right; it is not, first of all, in order that we shall have our own ships for our own emergencies, as the cruise of the American fleet around the world accompanied by hired British colliers and our handicap in this war have taught us to be necessary; it is not to extend the fields of occupation for American young men or to increase our foreign trade.

Though it is also all of these things, it is over and above all that through these American young men who shall go to sea American life even ashore shall be sure of all the qualities needed for great national and individual development and assertion, that nothing inherent in American possibilities of character shall die out.

I am reckless and irresponsible enough to be willing that we shall pay subsidies at the outset for American ships with American sailors, even though the subsidies be not quite equitably arranged between the Government and a few favored boards of directors. At any price young Americans need to be on the sea. If I could see a great many young Americans at sea, even though they were on alien ships, I should not care much, relatively. The really basic thing would be in course of accomplishment. A Norwegian who sees all the Scandinavians at sea in alien ships must have very much that feeling of satisfaction, though, of course, Norwegian shipping also is a monument of national ability and devotion. The ships, too, we must have. But that is comparatively easy. It takes more than ships to secure a sea consciousness and a sea character. I would rather subsidize American seamen than American ships if marine laws of other countries let it work that way for us as much as our marine laws let it work that way for them. The men who walk the bridges and the decks and the piers are right when they talk about conditions of service and inducements to service ahead of ship costs and designs and available. shipping routes.

Wages and food and housing and general treatment are improving every day. They were before the war. The war has abnormally accelerated the process, and after the war food and housing will not go back. Wages will a little. But only a few years ago talk about forecastle bunks and breathing space and talk about proper food was treated as sentimentalism, as coddling. Stern conditions make good workmen. That being the case, the sterner the conditions, the better the workmen. A false logic, but common enough a few years ago on land and sea. Only at sea cramping and ill feeding were held to be more irremediable than on shore because of the natural isolation of a ship. I used to live in a north Michigan lumber town in the nineties, and the theory of life for the men was much the same, and more or less gloried in by the men themselves, even

while they "kicked." Very well. But young Americans won't go to sea that way, and ashore, out in the West, I. W. W.'s start to burn forests because camp bunks are n't made better. The counter to young America's refusal used to be: "Well, young men of other nationalities will go under such conditions. They will go for less money, for such quarters as are provided, for a poorer wage. Foreigncarrying shipping is international competition. More than extra initial ship cost, expense of wages, room taken up in a ship for housing and food on the American scale make American competition at sea with the British and the Germans and the Scandinavians and the French and the Italians and the Dutch impossible. [There was truth in it, and it accounts retrospectively for some of the American feeling toward other nationalities at sea.] We'll have to stick to our coasting trade, and it's the fault of the American working-man, not the American steel manufacturer and the American ship-builder."


That fight has been fought-is being fought, that is, and is in course of winning for the American merchant marine— by foreign sailors. They revolted suc cessfully against the wages and the living conditions that were supposed to satisfy them. There was the English shipping strike of 1911. There was the successful demand by Scandinavian sailors' unions for more pay. Every year there is a little further response to such pressure. night of October 9, 1917, the British shipping controller issued an important statement, establishing, in effect, uniform rates. of pay for all the various grades in the British mercantile marine. British seamen in foreign-going ships are being paid up to fifty-five dollars a month; firemen, up to fifty-seven fifty. The rates for petty officers and stewards are advanced in like proportion. Officers and engineers are also paid more. Men in coasting and home-trade steamers have their wages adjusted to this scale. American A. B.'s on the ships where I have served are getting sixty dollars a month and a fifty per cent. war bonus.

But the equalizing of conditions is being worked from the other end, and instead of the American sailor coming down, the foreigner is coming up, and all that makes prospects better for the American merchant marine of the future. As to the old forecastles, they are going, going, though not yet gone. "The Spectator" in London is never too anxious to criticize an existing traditional order, but it discussed the standardized ships being built in England and Scotland and Ireland under government supervision (the first was launched at Belfast in August last) quite in the new tone. September 8, 1917, it said:

One of the best things that the State has done in the industrial sphere since the beginning of the war has been the planning and construction of a new type of standardised merchant ship. The first of these standardised ships was launched last week, and, according to the published accounts, is a remarkable success. ... It will be an efficient cargo-carrier, and in addition it will possess a feature which was unfortunately lacking in many of the cargo-carriers built by private enterprise-namely, the provision of good accommodation for the crew. This last is a point on which the advocates of universal State action are sure to lay stress. They will argue, with a good deal of truth, that private owners have in the past neglected the duty of providing comfortable quarters for the men who work the ship, and that this failure justifies the intervention of the State. The failure does justify State intervention to the extent of the supervision of this special point. [Then, having been led so far, "The Spectator" naturally hastened to add], But the necessity for such special supervision in no way involves the much larger proposition that the State should itself in normal times become the builder and the owner of merchant ships.

But Browning said something like this somewhere or other, which is as close as any citation from poetry need be in this connection, "We have begun; this much

« AnkstesnisTęsti »