On The Subject Of Testimony, Seamen Labor Under A Difficulty Full As
Great As That Of The Captain.
It is a well-known fact, that they are
usually much better treated when there are passengers on board.
The presence of passengers is a restraint upon the captain,
not only from his regard to their feelings and to the estimation
in which they may hold him, but because he knows they will be
influential witnesses against him if he is brought to trial.
Though officers may sometimes be inclined to show themselves off
before passengers, by freaks of office and authority, yet cruelty
they would hardly dare to be guilty of. It is on long and distant
voyages, where there is no restraint upon the captain, and none
but the crew to testify against him, that sailors need most the
protection of the law. On such voyages as these, there are many
cases of outrageous cruelty on record, enough to make one heartsick,
and almost disgusted with the sight of man; and many, many more,
which have never come to light, and never will be known, until the
sea shall give up its dead. Many of these have led to mutiny and
piracy, - stripe for stripe, and blood for blood. If on voyages of
this description the testimony of seamen is not to be received in
favor of one another, or too great a deduction is made on account
of their being seamen, their case is without remedy; and the captain,
knowing this, will be strengthened in that disposition to tyrannize
which the possession of absolute power, without the restraints of
friends and public opinion, is too apt to engender.
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