Thomas Hodgskin on the Suffering of those who had been Impressed or Conscripted into the despotism of the British Navy (1813)

Thomas Hodgskin

Found in An Essay on Naval Discipline

Thomas Hodgskin was forced to leave the British Navy after being physically punished for complaining about the brutal treatment of sailors who been impressed (conscripted):

I have seen the discipline of the French armies and I have read of the despotism of the French emperor; I have witnessed, and heard of the calamities inflicted on negroes; but with the exceptions of our seamen being better fed, better clothed, and not allowed to be murdered,—what I have seen them suffer, exceeds the cruelties of Buonaparte to his army, exceeds all that the negroes have had inflicted on them: nothing could support them under their sufferings, but a great and noble consciousness, that they are the saviours of their country—that it is visibly their efforts alone, which prevent despotism from overshadowing the earth, and destroying that liberty they were in early life taught to indulge a love of, and which they still regardas sacred, though no longer permitted to taste its blessings.

One needs to remember that this angry tract in defense of the rights of seamen was written during the Napoleonic War and placed the author under the considerable risk of himself being disciplined for treason by the British Navy. Although he was punished by being passed over for promotion he escaped having the more serious charge leveled against him.