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is come to pass." Pretty soon Great Lakes quarters and Great Lakes grub and Great Lakes wages will not be unbelievable tales in ocean-crossing ships. Pretty soon on the Great Lakes themselves the threewatch system will be established. Pretty soon La Follette shipping acts will not seem all sentimental folly or catering to a vote, and one of the worst provisions, the right to desert, will lose its point through no inducement to desert. And the United States Government's Panama Line and the old Government Shipping Bill, which did n't get passed a few years ago, will seem a coherent idea at least, and not an exception in the one case and a fantasy in the other.
Seamen and firemen will do fool things to alienate intelligent sympathy from time to time. I talked about firemen's quarters with a first officer in one American line. His discussion began and ended with the way one crowd of firemen wrecked a good new bath-house provided for them forward, even to stripping the copper of the pipes and selling it for whisky. I talked with an American chief officer who told me of a crew with nothing to complain of who quit in a foreign port simply because they knew the master could n't get another crew there, and so forced him to let them sign on again at an increase. I know of an instance affecting one man, a ship's carpenter, in the port of New York in July, 1917, that made me feel I wanted to throw the whole official group of the Seamen's Union into the dirty waters of the North River. But these are the mistakes of judgment or the hang-over from old environment or the actual occasional evil of crafty men. "The Lancet" of London, treating the matter from a medical point of view in its issue of August 11, 1917, sums it up for both the men, the owners, and the public good, and for Americans as well as British:
The conditions of life of seamen have for years and years been very hard, as every one who knew anything about ships was very well aware. It was up to the ship-owners to improve things. Did they? Hardly at
all. A few tried a little, were met by the sailors with the suspicion the previous conduct of the shipowning class had naturally engendered, and, not instantly receiving gratitude and appreciation, the owners allowed themselves to fall away from the good intentions they had spasmodically cherished. . . . Seamen latterly have had better quarters, thanks to Mr. Lloyd George and the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, passed when the Premier was at the Board of Trade. The medical officers of health of port sanitary authorities have done a great deal, too-as much as ever they had power to achieve. But the Seamen's and Firemen's Union have got greater advances made.
The Seamen's and Firemen's Union have now made themselves a power, and that very largely because the shipowners have not taken the trouble to consider what was due to their employees, and have waited to be pushed into obviously necessary improvements which they ought to have anticipated. Mr. Lloyd George's one hundred and twenty cubic feet per man of the 1906 Act, replacing the seventy-two cubic feet of the older days, is an example. . . . I once went round a ship with an assistant marine superintendent and showed him a place continuously occupied in which it was scandalous to expect a man to work. His withers were unwrung. "They have never complained, nor has the union," said he complacently. "Is it not your business to find out and improve such things?" said I. He said it was not, nor that of any one in the company, but he agreed that this attitude was disastrous, because strengthening the union.
Such statements from foreign sources prove that the American has been right in his insistences that for a good many years seemed to forbid him the sea. The big thing about it all for Americans is not that wages are better or food better or bunks better, but that it looks as though the young American might go to sea on respectable terms that are at the same time even terms for his employers; pretty soon, if not yet. The British went any way; and the Germans and the Scandinavians
and the rest. The young American would n't and won't. The seamen of other countries are fixing it up for him so that he can, largely inspired by his insistences to their refusal at last to believe that the penalties of life and labor at sea are all of them inherent in the life or in the necessities of international transportation competition.
Inducing him to sea is n't going to make a sailor of him, though, and neither is a little theoretical navigation that the schools can teach him. Any fool can navigate. It takes years and an aptitude to make a seaman. Cadets in the various lines, cadet officers, school-ships, private and government navigation schools ashore —all fall down on the side of seamanship. You have to breed seamen, and they have to be bred by their mother, the sea, in the closest contact with her you can have.
That is the most serious condition the new American merchant marine faces. You can show a man how to handle a sextant and how to find the mathematical elements out of ready-made tables in six weeks. The "know how" and not the "know why" are all that average navigation requires. Six weeks more of steady practice will make him reasonably adept in manipulating the sextant under all weather conditions, and really getting down the knack of eye and hand in making an observation of the sun or a star. "The day's work" is n't so hard a thing to manage. The handling of the pelorus and the azimuth mirror and a few other things are easily picked up on the side.
The ships are filled at present, crowded beyond capacity, with sub-junior officers trained for six weeks or two months at a new shipping board school in Boston or Providence or Bangor; with naval-reserve ensigns fresh from ten crowded weeks at Annapolis; with cadet-officers trained in the line according to the line's own ideas; with school-ship boys off the Newport and the Ranger. Men now gray in the American mercantile marine regard them with liking for their enthusiasm and dubiety over their qualifications. They are n't seamen. And seamanship is
a thing of such definite and detailed knack and yet also of a mood in life and work hard to prescribe for men, though easy to recognize in them, that a full generation will have to put in devotedly to the American merchant service before that kind of sailor is restored to American life. It has died out in the generations since the Civil War. It is n't to be recovered over night. That is the big difference in sheer physique between the American and the Englishman at sea at present. build of the Englishmen is satisfactory, shows an adaptation to the conditions of the life that the American almost always lacks. The legs are spread a little, the back is braced, the foot and wrist more solid and yet more flexible, the fingers more substantial and more nimble. There is a substance and an agility combined that our slenderer built, unadapted American does not have.
The accomplishment of it is n't any one man's job. It is the kind of thing that partly is bred by fathers in sons who also will follow the sea, and is made to grow before the actual experience by boyhood observation and desire of emulation. The school-ship boys come nearest to being seamen, but they enter the life a little late as a rule, with the most casual purpose, having "drifted in" to it and uncertain about remaining with it, and are in port too much and at sea under actual experience of all weathers and emergencies too little. And we only support them halfheartedly. Philadelphia abandoned hers several years ago. There are two on our whole Atlantic coast, and Belgium, before the war, supported a better trainingship than the two combined. It is easier to make a navigator than a quartermaster; easier, that is, to teach a man to handle a sextant and work out a calculation than to handle a wheel and know the caprices of any given ship. I would rather be a thoroughly competent petty officer any day than an average navigator.
"You men raised in steam don't notice a thing like that," said our captain to the officer of the watch, and pointed out a
It was "Watch there, Watch," and a 'ell of a pull, when we knew it had touched the ground.
loose seizing-end up in the forward rig- An' I used to steer to a quarter 'a point,
ging near the cross-trees. "The watchofficer on the last watch was a sailingship man and did n't notice it either," is what the man "raised in steam" thought and did n't say. "He's the best man I 've ever known raised in steam," is the praise a chief officer I know pays to the second. They cling hard to the old qualifications, but they learn reason in it.
After all, the day of the sailing-ship is gone. The oceans are for steamships henceforth. To be ready for all the conditions and emergencies of a ship under steam retains many of the old fundamentals and requires much knowledge and many quick adjustments old sailing ships. never knew. Men "raised in steam" are, in this second decade of the twentieth century, masters and watch-officers of the blue-ribbon liners and they do their job. It is more important to know how a crane should be handled or how to steer with your propellers in case of accident than it is to furl a topgallantsail. An English naval officer who has written a little book of rough verse called "Songs of the Sailor Men" has "The Old Salt" say:
I laughed at the fancy ratin's; they seemed 'ighfalutin to me;
I did n't know then what a modern ship was; they 're not like when I was at sea;
I've been inside of a turret, and I tell you
it opened me eyes,
An' the lights and electric dodges 'ave fair knocked me down with surprise.
I missed the old smell of the rope yarns, and I did n't think much of the wires; But I know now these youngsters who splice 'em 'ave a much 'arder job than was
I thought that me shipmates were softer 'cos they did n't go runnin' aloft; But I'll tell you the work in the turret ain't work for a man who is soft.
They tell me they use an electric machine, and a wire when they want to sound.
when three of us found it 'ard, But now it's a one-man job at the wheel, and figures all round the card.
And sometimes men who can do a particular thing well enough have never heard, or have forgotten, an obsolete vocabulary for it. But at the same time. a steamship sailor can be a great deal mo of a sailor than most of them are, and the same is true of an officer whose training has been entirely in steamships. “Look at them," said an exasperated officer, sailing-ship trained. "They always want to make a rolling hitch when they ought to make a clove-hitch or a timber-hitch; or a half-hitch over there on those life-boats instead of choking the luff. I called 'Choke the luff' to them when I saw them making half-hitches, and they all stared at me. Now, I don't mind their not knowing a phrase like that, though there's no reason they should n't, but when I went down and did it for them none of them knew the thing any more than they knew the name or could do it quickly after I had showed them. They can't tell the difference between a seizing and a serving and a parceling, and all are needed for different purposes on this steamship." I heard him call to the watch on deck another time, "Pull tight your frapping," and they stared helplessly. They are willing enough, most of them, but they are helpless. "Ten years ago," he said, "there were stevedores at sea; nowadays they are n't even that. One or two good men-if only we can have that many aboard at a time, good men according to the standard of ten years ago, when we thought we were already disgusted. We can try to build a watch around one or two of them. Most of them are afraid to go aloft at all.”
It is all a question of pride and joy in occupation, and William Morris's ideas are needed at sea even more than they are needed ashore. With all the new condi
tions encouraging a man to think of his life at sea as a permanent occupation, the worst hindrances to building up a real body of seamen for the United States are being overcome.
The need of seamanship, even the barest elements of it, so observable in any crew signed on nowadays is almost as apparent in the officers' quarters. There are some officers may the saints enlighten them! -who seem to pride themselves on an ability to give orders without the ability. to lead in executing them at a pinch. They are few and far between, fortunately. But almost as few and far between are the officers whose chief pride is in their seamanship, and whose attainments measure up to their pride. This is particularly true of the United States merchant marine, but it is also a general condition, as this recent English comment indicates:
The coming officers and sailors should be compelled to know more of their duties as seamen than do many of them nowadays. Board of Trade examinations are getting stiffer and stiffer on all kinds of theoretical subjects and intricate navigation problems, but with little attention to sailorising or to seamanship. To a young officer who may find himself in charge of a boat hundreds of miles from land, and with no idea how to handle it, it will be of little avail that his head is chock full of useless definitions and many learned ways of working double altitudes.
The best officers at sea remind me of the distinction Mr. W. P. Ker of Oxford University makes in his book, "Epic and Romance," between the common interests of all classes in Anglo-Saxon times and a stiff pride in separation of interests and understandings that the Norman knights felt. A passage of his comes to my mind almost every day as I watch a certain chief officer of a fast liner with his crew on the occasions that he is with them on the deck:
The great man is the man who is best at
I have watched these ineffective men of a modern liner's deck crew follow his every movement not so much with pride at his doing best those things with which every one is familiar, as with wonder and dawning knowledge that so many things can be done at all, and done so well, and so easily when you know how. I have watched officers watch him among the men with much the same dawning wonder in their eyes. He said to me on one evening watch: "I don't know why these other officers have trouble when they speak to the men. I can be as savage with them as I like and never get any back talk or any hard feeling," and again Mr. Ker's illuminating passage flashed into my mind. It might well be posted in every officer's cabin among all the other slogans and "footpaths to peace" that he collects to trail up and down his walls.
The same thing is true of the navy. Naval lieutenants are often navigators and engineers of great excellence. They don't know seamanship, if one may trust occasional observation and frequent comment. They are not handy among their men, and their men are not handy either with or without them. A good officer deserves a better crew than he gets at present to work under him or work with him, so that he will not have all the work to do while they admiringly stand by; but a good crew, when there is such a thing, deserves a better officer than it often has to give it direction and example. These things are true of both the navy and the merchant marine on the side of seamanship, and there is a strong tendency observable to bring it about for both services.
The ships? Most of the talk has been
about the ships these last ten years, and they are the easiest thing of all to get. Government can get them if private companies can't. They are the least difficult aspect of the whole situation, despite the undoubted difficulties connected with international competition in ship-building. An immensely harder matter to handle is the interesting of American business men in foreign trade, as in the good old days. before the Civil War. Ships will, must, follow the trade. And then to interest American capital broadly, not centeredly, in the ships as investment. The mood of American ships is rather dubious over the prospects. I quote off-hand remarks of a dozen ships' officers which I jotted down from time to time. "United States shipping will boom for three or four years after the war, then an end. If there were reasons for running ships owned by Americans under alien flags before the war, there will be a dozen more reasons for running them that way after the war." "After the war, when low freights are on again, the United States will dispose of her foreign-carrying ships and go back to the coastwise trade. It's the construction that makes the difference. England builds a shell, puts a rudder on it, a kind of house fore and aft, a machine in the middle, and a bridge somewhere across it, and calls it a ship. Other nations, all of them, I 've noticed, spend more on accessories. Then there are the crews, too." "American ship-owners will have to be content with smaller profits than they are used to in some other investments as a necessary preliminary to establishing a merchant marine." "The tramp ship and the one-ship companies are the basis of a merchant marine; unless United States small capital goes in for that kind of thing, you won't get a solid merchant marine, no matter what liners you have and big fleets of tank-ships and the like." "Pass a law that no supplies purchasable in America shall be bought elsewhere, and then cut out the graft in purchasing supplies. That would cut operating expenses and develop Americanism." Or a man turns to the latest annual report of the
United States commissioner of navigation, and lights on phrases as he turns the
The willingness of American capital to engage in maritime enterprises under conditions which permit returns on investment comparable to the returns offered by enterprises on the land. . . . The actual increase in our merchant tonnage during two years has been effected almost wholly by the transfer to the American flag of ships representing American investments of capital during the years before the war, but sailing under foreign flags. . . . Within two years American shipping in foreign trade has more than doubled-a growth without precedent in our own history or in that of any other maritime nation. The increase has been in one form of employment of our ships rather than in the total shipping under our flag, for in two years our total shipping has increased only 540,961 gross tons, while our shipping in foreign trade alone has increased 1,115,563 gross tons. In our coasting trade on the seaboard and on the Great Lakes our shipping shows a large decrease. . . . In 1914 American ships carried 9.7 per cent. of the value of our exports and imports, in 1915 they carried 14.3 per cent., and in 1916 they carried 16.3 per cent. . It is quite possible for a nation to be wonderfully successful in the operation of ships, like Norway, and of relatively small account as a ship-builder, and it is at least conceivable that natural advantages might make the United States a great shipbuilding nation, while disadvantages might retard the growth of its merchant fleets. At all events a year ago the increase of our fleet in foreign trade was one of the most noteworthy facts in our economic life; this year the increase in shipbuilding for foreign as well as American owners has taken that place in general estimation. . . . Lake builders accepted many orders from Norwegian owners for smaller steamers, and nearly all our more prominent seaboard yards were executing orders for large steamers for foreigners. . . . For the first time in many years American ships have cleared for the ports of every nation in Europe except for the