Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

consumer, and diffused ainidst the community at large. It has been strongly stated in the evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, which inquired into the causes of shipwrecks, that relief from responsibility or due care by marine insurance, operates on the ship as well as the cargo, in producing carelessness as to the seaworthiness of the vessels, as well as to the choice of trustworthy hands; it operates, by the dereliction of the constitutional principle of administration, thus left not only without protection, but exposed to destructive causes of negative security.

“We consider, and shall show, that it forms the business of every efficient preventive institution to stimulate private care, and to promote self-reliance, to every practicable extent, by warning and instruction, as well as by direct aid. We conceive that any general public agency can only perform one part in the work of prevention, and that, for entire prevention, the early principles of law, of private responsibility to the community at large, for injuries done to life, limb, or property, of any member of the community, should be restored and practically applied. In other words, the ancient policy of the law should be pursued, of concentrating responsibility on those who have the best means of preventing mischief: and we consider that, in the class of cases before us, the use of insurance should be so guarded, as not to allow it to supersede that policy

“We believe that the general application of the policy of the law and the concentration of responsibilty by such means as those described ; by rendering the owners liable to return all passage money, any contracts to the contrary notwithstanding, (as is the policy of the law in respect to the unauthorised provisions of carriers for evading legal responsibility attached to them,) and to make reparation in the way of compensation to survivors, rather than in the shape of deodands to the Crown, would do more for the general prevention of calamities, of losses of life and property, or of the formation of habits of depredation, than the most complex preappointed regulations, enforced by an army of inspectors and police, such as have been recommended for the purpose. We might, were it not too far from our province, display at length the extent to which the practice of insurance has overgrown many of the salutary responsibilities contemplated by the law. What we have stated inay suffice to show the extensive collateral aids required by a preventive agency; and the comprehensive yet practical measures which would be required for the effectual prevention of crime. Whatever reduction in the munber of calamities by loss of life or property might have been produced by the extended application of the principles we have stated, there would be, doubtless, many which no means existing or discoverable by any foresight could avert. A large proportion of the calamities of shipwreck, and occasions of plunder, befall the ships and crews of foreign nations, who trade in the ports of the empire. For these cases, as well as for the protection of the lives and property of those of your Majesty's subjects engaged in the commerce of the country, it appears to us that an efficient constabulary force, immediately dependant, on the Crown, is required to give that security which the local authorities, private individnals, and voluntary associations have failed to afford.”

But it were a large oversight if we were to disregard our social as well as political interests in the welfare of the great class of private seamen, and their families, engaged in our increasing commercial marine. Inquiries under the commissioners, whose report I have cited, brought out the fact that in our seaports large numbers of depredators and ininisters of vice are maintained by preying npon common seamen, the great mass of whose wages is sacrificed to thein. It would take a lengthened report to display fully the baleful influence of unguarded insurance in keeping down the demand for educated and trained men, in keeping the mass of common seamen, who should now more than ever be carefully cultivated, in perpetual childhood, exposing them as victims of improvidence to the criminal and vicious population of the ports; in exposing life, and property also, to the wastefulness of the same ignorance, The economical results, and the costliness and danger of ignorance, are thus practically and comprehensively described in the representative testimony of Captain Sleigh :

“Of course the intelligent and moral conduct of the men will be found also to have its pecuniary value in respect to the safety of the vessel. For example: if an illiterate seaman be on the watch, and be placed to look out for land, he will have little or no regard emanating from principle to the consequences of his negligence, and will, without making an effort of mental rectitude, indulge himself in sleep; on the contrary, the educated man will be moved by a sense of character, perhaps also by a perception of what is dependent on his performance of duty, and will be true to it without the necessity of watching him. It is not to be said that an uneducated man is so far ignorant as not to see the danger. He does see it ; he can hardly fail to be aware of what must be the consequences to his own person, but, either from insensibility to moral character, or from some obtuseness arising out of ignorance, he does not care for it, he indulges himself carelessly, with him the mate has to be constantly on the watch, and to be a driving task-master-the educated man does his duty with less labour of overlooking and driving; an ignorant man, in doing his work, even if the fate of the ship depend on bis correctness, will most frequently do it so as will save himself trouble, it being sufficient for hiin if it makes an appearance to the eye, whatever it may be in reality. For instance, in setting up a shroud or stay, if he be not attentively overlooked, it is very probable that he will not take proper care and trouble to secure the end of the lanyard, being desirous of getting over the work; on the security of the stay or shroud may depend the security of the mast, and on the mast, the safety of the vessel, and on the lives on board-his own life included. Hence the necessity of a constant eye over the actions of ignorant reckless men, and constant rebukes for negligence. They have no mental firmness or selfcontrol against indulgences. For instance, if you send a boat with four men on shore, three uneducated and one educated and orderly, if there is delay, it is odds that the three ignorant men are found drinking in the first public-house, and the better educated and trained man in the boat, as attentive as he can be in such company to his duty. These circumstances are of constant and daily occurrence, and a large portion of the immense maritiine loss which the country annually sustains will be found to be traceable to the ignorance and incompetency of this much neglected class of men, as well as attributable to other equally lamentable evils existing at present in the mal-organization of the mercantile marine. When a general casualty happens at sea, if the ship is in danger, the first danger the captain has to arrest is from the ignorance of the men. His first anxiety will perhaps be to have the spirit-casks stove in, to prevent the men getting at them, and, if defeated in the attempt, the ignorant men will be the first to rush to get into the boats and cut them away, by which their own danger is increased. You are never free, in cases of emergency, from the dangers of panics of ignorance. Since such men are not to be acted upon by moral motives, you are compelled to flog and use other means of personal coercion.'

Seeing the pecuniary advantages, in respect to certainty and safety, as well as comfort and convenience in respect to the transaction of business, which the employment of well-trained, sober and moral men gives.”

“ Has there been no feeling manifested, no exertions made by the owners of the mercantile marine to establish mercantile schools, and to obtain a better educated class of sea apprentices and seamen for the sake of their own interests ?

“ None whatever that I am aware of. On the contrary, it would almost seem such an object is discouraged, for I think that in 1819 some efforts were made to get up an institution for the elementary education of sea boys and maritime apprentices, when they come into the port of London after a long voyage (which period is the most important occasion for giving them nautical and other instruction, when they have so recently seen and felt its practical advantages), but the attempt entirely failed; although it was of such national importance no enouragement was given to it. That class of boys is entirely destitute of instruction. But the owners have no feeling in favour of education ; for indeed their interests, as it would appear, are entirely the other way.

Now the single school to which I have referred, proved that puny and infirm workhouse children may be inade superior to robust, but ill-educated and untrained, children of the coast for sea servicethat, at an extra expense of a few shillings per head for early special training, four at the least, if not three, may be made equal in efficiency to five of the ill-educated and untrained. With an intelligent appreciation of the mere economy of service obtainable by such a mixed physical and mental training for land as well as sea service, such schools would have been eagerly supported and instituted in all the sea-ports, and all over the coast, by voluntary effort as well. as by the anxious interposition of the shipping interest for the due general direction of the public educational means in their behalf. But the demonstration yielded of the most profitable economical as well as moral results on the class of common seamen, has been presented for years amidst a maritime coinmunity, without effect in producing, 'so far as I am aware, a single instance of imitation. Nevertheless, I only state the fact as demonstrative of the futility of looking to voluntary effort for any considerable amount of the amendment required, or of the pretensions that a few are apt to put forward in that behalf. As, however, we find it to be with manufacturers, so I apprehend it is with the body of the shipowners, that the increasing attention required for the successful prosecution of their own business, is so great as to preclude any efficient amount of attention to the education and special training of the men they employ.

It has been found necessary for the safety of life and property to interfere, and provide securities, for the competent education of masters of merchant ships. [ submit, on such nautical evidence as I have cited, that it is also necessary for the safety of life and property, as well as on general social grounds, to interfere and provide securities for the proper education and training of the men. In the case of children and young persons engaged in the cotton manufactories, we carried it as a principle, that they ought not to be so employed as to exclude them from the benefits of education, or to subject the public to the charges, inconveniences, and evils of an ignorant class. The principle we proposed was sanctioned in that case, that education must be the condition of employment. I submit that it is à fortiori applicable to the employment of young persons in the mercantile navy, and may now be more easily applied. By improved teaching, and mixed bodily and mental training of the sort to which I have referred, and by trained teachers, competent elementary instruction and training is imparted, before the eleventh year, or by the time a boy has acquired sufficient bodily strength and aptitude to be of good use on shipboard. It should, therefore, be provided, that it should be unlawful to engage any boy on board ship without a certificate of the possession of a competent elementary education and training, given on an examination by a responsible certificated trained teacher. This would be a first practical step, and a more important one than might at first appear.

As master manufacturers, who were at first opposed to such intervention, when it was proposed by myself and my colleagues

of the factory commission, afterwards, upon trial (as yet imperfect), became reconciled to it, and now advocate its extension to other occupations, so it would be with shipowners. The introduction of steam, and various mechanical improvements, is largely changing the demand, from intelligent forces, to “the intelligent directors of forces,” to use Mons. Jules Simon's expression. Socially, while we have to provide against the evils attendant upon the childish ignorance of the common scaman, we have to guard against the barbarous ruffianism which most frequently breaks out abroad, in foreign ports, and in contact with foreign peoples, in the absence of control and of home restrainis. On the other hand, we have to cultivate those sterling qualities which distinguish the British seaman, and are denoted by the terms duty and discipline ;-selfrestraint, patience, steady and intelligent obedience to orders, bravery in the face of death, in storm and disaster, more even than in battle, as displayed with British soldiers as well as sailors, in such truly noble instances as the wreck of the “Birkenhead," and in the conflict with fire and storm in the “ Sarah Sands."

With better means of safety provided in better educated and trained men, responsibilities for their use may be more befittingly imposed upon owners. In respect to the whole of the existing evil, I trust we may obtain the support of Chambers of Commerce as well as the general public, to an application to Her Majesty's Government for a commission of enquiry to revise the past course of legislation, and to prepare efficient measures of prevention as well as of repression. Members of Lloyd's have conceded to me that full insurance, that is an almost entire relief from all responsi. bility, ought not to continue, and I would accept any concession. But, from continued observation, I am more confident than heretofore, that entire self-insurance is the great principle to be promoted, This, it is to be hoped, may be done by means of large voluntary organisations of joint-stock companies, which shall be self-insuring; such as the two great companies to which I have referred. In these there are well-appointed and well-paid commands, and the elements for the improvement of common seamen. Such organisations may, it is to be hoped, eventually comprehend the great bulk of the mercantile marine. A company, or companies, which should supersede the small capitals of low, ignorant, narrow-sighted owners of the old, ill-formed, ill-manned, small coasting vessels and colliers, that occasion so large a proportion of the fatal wrecks and disasters on our coasts, would be a gain to commerce, and a great gain to humanity. Meanwhile, let passengers or emigrants, if two vessels are offered to them, inquire, and if one be insured, and the other uninsured, or self-insured by the owners, prefer the selfinsured to the one that is fully insured—to the one in relation to which the motives have been weakened to the exercise of the care and vigilance on which the safety of their lives depends.

« ПредишнаНапред »