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to be considered as the best fresh provisions that one can have at sea; mutton there being in general very good, and pork excellent.
It may happen that some of the provisions and stores, which I have recommended, may become almost useless by the care which the captain has taken to lay in a proper stock: but in such a case you may dispose of it to relieve the poor passengers, who, paying less for their passage, are stowed among the common sailors, and have no right to the captain's provisions, except such part of them as is used for feeding the crew. These passengers are sometimes sick, melancholy and dejected; and there are often women and children among them, neither of whom have any opportunity of procuring those things which I have mentioned, and of which, perhaps, they have the greatest need. By distributing amongst them a part of your superfluity, you may be of the greatest assistance to them. You may restore their health, save their lives, and in short render them happy; which always affords the liveliest sensation to a feeling mind.
The most disagreeable thing at sea is the cookery: for there is not, properly speaking, any professed cook on board. The worst sailor is generally chosen for that purpose, who for the most part is equally dirty. Hence comes the proverb used among the English sailors, that God sends meat, and the Devil sends cooks. Those, however, who have a better opinion of Providence will think otherwise. Knowing that sea air, and the exercise or motion which they receive from the rolling of the ship, have a wonderful effect in whetting the appetite, they will say, that Providence has given sajlors bad cooks to prevent them eating too much; or that, knowing they would have bad cooks, he has given them a good appetite to prevent them from dying with hunger. How. ever, if you hav no confidence in these succors of Provi. dence, you may yourself, with a lamp and a boiler, by the help of a little spirits of wine, prepare some food, such as soup, hash, &c. A small oven made of tin-plate is not a bad piece of furniture; your servant may roast in it a piece of mutton or pork. If you are ever tempted to eat salt beef, which is often very good, you will find that cider is the best liquor to quench the thirst generally caused by salt meat or salt fish. Sea biscuit, which is too hard for the teeth of some
people, may be softened by steeping it; but bread double baked is the best: for being made of good loaf bread cut into slices, and baked a second time, it readily imbibes water, becomes soft, and is easily digested; it consequently forms excellent nourishment, much superior to that of biscuit, which has not been fermented.
I must here observe, that this double-baked bread was originally the real biscuit prepared to keep at sea; for the word biscuit, in French, signifies twice baked.* Peas often boil badly, and do not become soft; in such a case, by putting a two-pound shot into the kettle, the rolling of the ves sel, by means of this bullet, will convert the peas into a porridge, like mustard.
Having often seen soup, when put upon the table at sea in broad fat dishes, thrown out on every side by the rolling of the vessel, I have wished that our tininen would make our soup-basins with divisions or compartments: forming, small plates, proper for containing soup for one person only. By this disposition the soup, in an extraordinary roll, would not be thrown out of the plate, and would not fall into the breasts of those who are at table, and scald them. Having entertained you with these things of little importance, permit me now to conclude with some general reflections upon navigation.
When navigation is employed only for transporting necessary provisions from one country, where they abound, to another where they are wanting; when by this it prevents famines, which were so frequent and so fatal before it was invented and became so common; we cannot help considering it as one of those arts which contribute most to the happiness of mankind. But when it is employed to transport things of no utility, or articles of luxury, it is then uncertain whether the advantages resulting from it are sufficient to counterbalance the misfortunes it occasions by exposing the lives of so many individuals upon the vast ocean. And when it is used to plunder vessels and transport slaves, it is evidently only the dreadful means of increasing those calamities which afflict human nature.
One is astonished to think on the number of vessels and men who are daily exposed in going to bring tea from Chi
* It is derived from bis, again, and cuit, baked.
na, coffee from Arabia, and sugar and tobacco from America; all commodities which our ancestors lived very well without. The sugar trade employs nearly a thousand vessels; and that of tobacco almost the same number. With regard to the utility of tobacco, little can be said; and with regard to sugar, how much more meritorious would it be to sacrifice the momentary pleasure which we receive from drinking it once or twice a day in our tea, than to encourage the numberless cruelties that are continually exercised in order to procure it for us?
A celebrated French moralist said, that, when he considered the wars which we foment in Africa to get negroes.; the great number who, of course, perish in these wars; the multitude of those wretches who die in their passage, by disease, bad air, and bad provisions; and lastly, how many perish by the cruel treatment they meet with in a state of slavery; when he saw a bit of sugar, he could not help imagining it to be covered with spots of human blood. But, had he added to these considerations the wars which we carry on against one another, to take and retake the islands that produce this commodity, he would not have seen the sugar simply spotted with blood, he would have beheld it entirely tinged with it.
These wars make the maritime powers of Europe, and the inhabitants of Paris and London, pay much dearer for their sugar than those of Vienna, though they are almost three hundred leagues distant from the sea. A pound of sugar, indeed, costs the former not only the price which they give for it, but also what they pay in taxes, necessary to support the fleets and armies which serve to defend and protect the countries that produce it.
ON LUXURY, IDLENESS, AND INDUSTRY. FROM A LETTER TO BENJAMIN VAUGHAN, ESQ.*
WRITTEN IN 1784.
It is wonderful how preposterously the affairs of this world are managed. Naturally one would imagine that the interest of a few individuals should give way to general interest: but individuals manage their affairs with so much more application, industry and address, than the public do theirs, that general interest most commonly gives way to particular. We assemble parliaments and councils, to have the benefit of their collected wisdom; but we necessarily have, at the same time, the inconvenience of their collected passions, prejudices and private interests. By the help of these, artsul men overpower their wisdom, and dupe its possessors; and if we may judge by the acts, arrets, and edicts, all the world over, for regulating commerce, an assembly of great men is the greatest fools upon earth.
I have not yet, indeed, thought of a remedy for luxury. I am not sure that in a great state it is capable of a remedy; nor that the evil in itself is always so great as is represented. Suppose we include in the definition of luxury all unnecessary expense, and then let us consider whether laws to prevent such expense are possible to be executed in a great country, and whether, if they could be executed, our people generally would be happier, or even richer. Is not the hope of being one day able to purchase and enjoy luxuries a great spur to labor and industry? May not luxury therefore produce more than it consumes, if, without such a spur, people would be, as they are naturally enough inclined to be, lazy and indolent. To this purpose I remember a circumstance. The skipper of a shallop, employed between Cape May and Philadelphia, had done us some small service, for which he refused to be paid. My wife understanding that he had a daughter, sent her a present of a newfashioned cap. Three years after, this skipper being at my house, with an old farmer of Cape May, his passenger, he
* Member of parliament for the borough of Calne, in Wiltshire, between whom and our author there subsisted a very close friend mentioned the cap, and how much his daughter had been pleased with it. “ But (said he) it proved a dear cap to our congregation.” “ How so?" “When my daughter appeared with it at meeting, it was so much admired, that all the girls resolved to get such caps from Philadelphia; and my wife and I computed that the whole could not have cost less than one hundred pounds.” “ True, (said the farmer) but you do not tell all the story. I think the cap was nevertheless an advantage to us; for it was the first thing that put our girls upon kuitting worsted mittens for sale at Philadelphia, that they might have wherewithal to buy caps and ribbons there; and you know that that industry has continued, and is likely to continue and increase to a much greater value, and answer better purposes." Upon the whole, I was more reconciled to this little piece of luxury, since not only the girls were made happier by having fine caps, but the Philadelphians by the supply of warm mittens.
In our cominercial towns upon the sea-coast, fortunes will occasionally be made. . Some of those who grow rich will de prudent, live within bounds, and preserve what they have gained for their posterity; others, fond of showing their wealth, will be extravagant, and ruin themselves. Laws cannot prevent this; and perhaps it is not always an evil to the public. A shilling spent idly by a fool may be picked up by a wiser person, who knows better what to do with it. It is therefore not lost. A vain silly fellow builds a fine house, furnishes it richly, lives in it expensively, and in a few years ruins himself; but the masons, carpenters, smiths, and other honest tradesmen, have been by his employ assisted in maintaining and raising their families; the farmer has been paid for his labor, and encouraged, and the estate is now in better hands. In some cases, indeed, certain inodes of luxury may be a public evil, in the same manner as it is a private one. If there be a nation, for instance, that exports its beef and linen, to pay for the importation of claret and porter, while a great part of its people live upon potatoes, and wear no shirts; wherein does it differ from the sot, who lets his family starve, and sells his clothes to buy drink? Our American commerce is, I confess, a little in this way. We sell our victuals to the islands for rum and sugar; the substantial necessaries of life for superfluities.