Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms on Melville in the Southern Quarterly Review >> Page 36

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Page 36

Reviews/Essays | 1849-10 - 1852-10
Transcription ken health induced him to solicit his furlough, that out of a list of
upward of one hundred admirals, not a single officer was found who
was deemed qualified to relieve the applicant with credit to the coun-
try. This fact Collingwood sealed with his life, for, hopeless of being
recalled, he shortly after died, worn out, at his post. Now, if this
was the case in so renowned a marine as England's, what must be
inferred with respect to our own ? But herein no special disgrace
is involved. For the truth is, that to be an accomplished and skil-
ful naval generalissimo needs natural capabilities of an uncommon
order. Still more, it rnav safely be asserted, that, worthily to coin-
mand, even a frigate, requires a degree of natural heroism. talent,
judgment and integrity that is denied to mediocrity. Yet these
qualifications are not only required, but demanded, and no one has
a right to be a naval captain unless lie possesses them.
" Regarding Lieutenants, there are not a few Selvageos and Paler
Jacks in the American Navy. Many commodores know that they
have seldom taken a line-of-battle ship to sea without fueling more
or less nervousness when some of the lieutenants have the deck at
" According to the last Navy Register, (1849) there are now 68
captains in the American navy, collectively drawing alnimit 300,000
annually from the public treasury ; also, 297 commanders, drawing
about 200,000 ; and 377 lieutenants, drawing about half a million ;
and 451 midshipmen, (including passed-midshipmen,) also drawing
nearly half a million. Considering the known facts, that. some of
these officers are seldom or never sent to sea, owing to the Navy
Department being well aware of their inefficiency; that others are
detailed for pen-and-ink work at observatories, and solvers of loga-
rithms in the coast survey ; while the really meritorious officers, who
are accomplished practical seamen, are known to be sent from ship
to ship, with but a small interval of a furlough ; considering all this,
it is not too much to say that no small portion of the million and a
halt' of money above mentioned is annual) paid to national pen-
sioners in disguise, who live on the navy without serving it."

Time author adds,
" In a country like ours, boasting of the political equality of all
social conditions, it is a great reproach that such a thing as a common
seaman rising to the rank of a coinnfissioined officer in our navy is
nowadays almost unheard-of. Yet, in former times, when officers
have so arisen to rank, they have generally proved of signal useful-
ness to the sci ice, and sometimes have reflected solid honour upon
the country. Instances in point might be mentioned.
" Is it not well to have our institutions of a piece ? Any Ameri-
can landsman may hope to become President of the United States-
commodor of our squadron of States. And every American sailor
should be placed in such a position that he might freely aspire to
command a squadron of frigates."
Of the freedom with which the lash is used in the American
navy, of the wantonness and brutality with which this punishment
is inflicted, our author reports some cruel examples. We take from
his pages a simple paragraph of comment, which will serve to illus-
trate a frequent experielmee in the South, where it is notorious that
no slaveholders are so cruel as those who come from Europe or the
free States--the soil here philanthropy is so rampant.
" It is singular that, while the lieutenants of the watch in Ame-
rican men-of-war so long usurped the power of inflicting corporal
punishment with the colt, few or no similar abuses were known in