Thursday, June 09, 2005

History lesson

Wikipedia tells us about Impressment:

Impressment is the act of forcibly conscripting people to serve as sailors. It was much used by the Royal Navy during the 18th century and early 19th century as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice goes back to the time of King Edward I. The Royal Navy impressed many British sailors, as well as countless sailors from other nations of the world during the 1700s and the early 1800s. People eligible for impressment were eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 55 years with a few exceptions which were not always honoured.

Conditions for the average sailor in the Royal Navy were very bad, and pay was low. Especially during wartime, it was impossible to fully staff the Navy with volunteers, a problem worsened by desertion. The Impress Service was formed to force sailors to join the navy, based legally on the power of the King to call men to military service. The Impress Service in turn utilized "press gangs" to do the convincing, duping, kidnapping, or otherwise forcing sailors into Navy service. Corruption was rife, as press gangs could be bribed in order to bypass a "candidate".

Impressment was criticized as oppressive and unjust, but was tolerated for over a century in Britain due to the necessity of crewing the Royal Navy with England under constant threat of invasion from the continent.

… This was one of the factors leading to the War of 1812 in North America.

And from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call:
The sergeant was friendly but, at the same time, aggressively insistent. This time, when Axel said, "Not interested," the sarge turned surly, snapping, "You're making a big (bleeping) mistake!"

Next thing Axel knew, the same sergeant and another recruiter showed up at the LaConner Brewing Co., the restaurant where Axel works. And before Axel, an older cousin and other co-workers knew or understood what was happening, Axel was whisked away in a car.

"They said we were going somewhere but I didn't know we were going all the way to Seattle," Axel said.

Just a few tests. And so many free opportunities, the recruiters told him.

He could pursue his love of chemistry. He could serve anywhere he chose and leave any time he wanted on an "apathy discharge" if he didn't like it. And he wouldn't have to go to Iraq if he didn't want to.

At about 3:30 in the morning, Alex was awakened in the motel and fed a little something. Twelve hours later, without further sleep or food, he had taken a battery of tests and signed a lot of papers he hadn't gotten a chance to read. "Just formalities," he was told. "Sign here. And here. Nothing to worry about."