Blupete's History Page


GLOSSARY:
In support of ...
BLUEPETE'S HISTORY OF NOVA SCOTIA: 1600-1763.

"Press Gangs"

"The navy, as the more essential service of the two, also enjoyed the right, denied to the army, of forcibly seizing any of the subjects of the land, to man the Royal ships in time of war. The sight of honest citizens waylaid, knocked down and marched off manacled to serve the Queen at sea, was strangely out of keeping with the free and lawful spirit of the English polity. The interruption of trade was even more loudly complained of, for merchant fleets ready to leave port often lost so many of there crews to the press-gang that they could not sail." (Trevelyan's England Under Queen Anne, vol. 1, p. 190.)
When a British man-of-war came sailing into a port such as Boston or New York the population would often become terrorized; not so much because their young men might just disappear, that, yes; but also because the appearance of large man-of-war brought the commerce of the city to a practical standstill. Judge Willard of Boston was to write Admiral Peter Warren at Louisbourg and point out the difficulty:
"This proceeding [the captain of Bien Aimé, a ship under Warren's command, was at Boston and had pressed men into naval service] has struck such a terror into those people, who have been employed in coasting, that while a man of war lies in the harbour impressing men, nobody will venture to bring provisions & fuel by water, for the supply of Boston ..."[Willard to Warren, Nov. 2nd, 1745, The Royal Navy and North America (London: Navy Records Society, Vol. 118, 1973) p. 185.]
As for the army: they were obliged to find volunteers. The colonel of the regiment was responsible to raise his own troops. Men had to be enticed to join the army. We need only look to George Farguhar's comedy, The Recruiting Officer (1706):
"If any gentlemen soldiers, or others, have a mind to serve Her Majesty and pull down the French King: if any prentices have severe masters, any children have undutiful parents, if any servants have too little wages, or any husband too much wife, let them repair to the noble sergeant Kite, at the sign of the Raven in this good town of Shrewsbury and they shall receive present relief and entertainment ... I love a fellow of spirit, but I scorn to coax, 'tis base: though I must say that never in my life have I seen a better built man ... give me your hand then: here's a purse of gold and there's a tub of humming ale at my quarters. 'Tis the Queen's money and the Queen's drink."
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Peter Landry
2011