Resource: 18th century Royal Navy – mo(o)re on punshiment for buggery
You might remember this recent entry about punishment for sodomy in the Royal Navy, with an excerpt from Graham Moore’s journal. Unfortunately, one page with probably interesting content was missing from the diary.
Now I’ve found another excerpt, in which Moore admits that he knowingly went against the law in another case:
“(…) Yesterday I did what I had no right to do, in flogging and turning a seaman ashore, who had acted in a manner disgraceful to the character of an Englishman. I must either have acted as I did, or taken the fellow round to be tried by Court Martial; it was impossible for him to remain in the ship after it. The horror and indignation which our countrymen have for attempts of that nature could not brook such a man remaining amongst them. Besides I am of opinion that morality suffers by such practices becoming notorious. (…)”
Now we’ve discussed the way the RN handled punishment for sodomy before; and very often, there was “milder punishment” (by their standards!) than having someone brought to court martial out of fear for the reputation of the ship etc. Here, Moore’s main worry seemed to be the fate of the seaman in question, though.
Moore was a man of very strong values (there is one entry in his journal where he admits being disgusted by a bunch of fellow officers who talked disparagingly about William Wilberforce, who he admired), who took care of his crew and refused to punish anybody without checking all the facts first (getting into trouble with his first lieutenant, who was of the opinion that an officer was always right, even if he wasn’t). The careful way he has worded the excerpt above – please note “the horror and indignation which our countrymen have…” – not “I”, no personal expression of disgust – leads me to think that he was also one of those officers who considered theft, fighting etc. greater dangers to ship and crew than a case of buggery.
Add to that the high regard he held his crew in: later on in the same entry he remarks on “the common seamen” that
“(…) if they were totally free from the vices and follies which so often lead them into scrapes, some of their peculiar excellencies would quit them at the same time; I believe that the same carelessness of their persons which makes them sell their clothes makes them patient of cold and wet. Having their swing ashore, and throwing away their money on whores, fiddlers and grog drives them to sea again; and the prospect of another such swagger makes them prefer foreign service that they may have a good haul of money at once.
I have a set of famous fellows on this little bum boat, if the Admiral takes any of them from me he will break my heart. (…)”
OK, I admit it. The last sentence made me say “awwww…”. I’m turning into a terrible sap!
LJ is still not delivering notification mails. This will delay my replies as I have to track you fellows down through my entries. Sorry!