Some of the officers when they came up to be sworn in before the Court of Directors did not always appear in the prescribed uniform, and the Company sent out a warning against coming into their presence in boots, black breeches and stockings, except in the case of deep mourning. When appearing before the Court of Directors the officers were compelled to wear full uniform, but when attending the Committee they were to wear undress.
Whenever the ship dropped down from Deptford or Blackwall to Gravesend the captain was to be on board. There were two sets of pilots. One took the ship from Deptford or Blackwall to Gravesend, and another took her from Gravesend to the Isle of Wight. Whilst the ship lay at Gravesend the commander was ordered to go aboard her once a week in order to report her condition to the Committee. Before sailing, the ship took on board a sufficient amount of lime-juice to last the crew through the whole voyage. And the commander had strict instructions to see that his new hands—recruits” the Company called them—wore the clothes which238 the Company provided, and that the men did not sell them for liquor; also that these men did not desert. For this reason no boats were allowed to remain alongside the ship without having been made fast by a chain and lock—thus preventing any possibility of the men escaping to the shore. No boat was allowed to put off from the ship until every person in her had been examined, lest one of the crew might be in her. And a quarter watch was to be kept night and day to prevent the loss of recruits. If any did desert, then the commander would most probably have to pay the cost which this involved.
During the course of every watch the ship was to be pumped out, and entries made in the log. And as regards divine worship, the slackness of the previous period mentioned in an earlier chapter was no longer tolerated. You are strictly required to keep up the worship of Almighty God on board your ship every Sunday, when circumstances will admit, and that the log-book contain the reasons for the omission when it so happens; that you promote good order and sobriety, by being yourself the example, and enforcing it in others; and that you be humane and attentive to the welfare of those under your command, the Court have resolved to mulct you in the sum of two guineas for every omission of mentioning the performance of divine service, or assigning satisfactory reasons for the non-performance thereof every Sunday, in the Company’s log-book.”
From the Company’s India House in Leadenhall Street the commander was supplied with charts. These had to be returned at the end of the voyage, together with the commander’s journals and track charts. What were known as free mariners must have239 performed two voyages to India or China and back in the Company’s ships, or else have used the sea and been in actual service for at least three years. The reader is aware that many a time the Company’s ships were endangered by the naval authorities impressing so many men from them. At last, after many protests, the Admiralty instituted a new regulation, so that, although it was still not possible to abolish this impressment, yet the evil so far as the East Indiamen were concerned was mitigated and controlled. A letter was sent to the Rear-Admiral of the Red on the East Indies station instructing him to order his captains and commanders to conform to this new regulation. A proper scheme was drawn up, showing what officers and men in East Indiamen ships of varying tonnages were to be exempt from impress, though this protection applied only until the ship should reach Europe. However, even if the whole exemption could not be obtained, a portion thereof was better than nothing at all, especially as the Company attributed so many of the losses of their ships to having been deprived of their best men.
In addition to their wages, the men became entitled to a pension from what was known as the Poplar Fund. Any commander, officer or seaman, or anyone else who had served aboard any of these East Indiamen for eight years and regularly contributed to this fund was entitled to a pension. But if a man had been wounded or maimed so as to be rendered incapable of further service at sea, he could still be admitted to a pension even under eight years. The size of the pension was based on the amount of capital which the officer possessed.240 Thus, if a commander stated that he was not worth ￡2500, or ￡125 a year, he received a pension of ￡100. Similarly, if a chief mate had not been able to amass ￡1300, or had ￡65 coming in every year, he was granted a pension of ￡60. And so the scale descended down to the rank of midshipman, who was granted a ￡12 pension if he was not worth ￡400, or ￡20 a year. Allowances were also made for the widows and orphans of those who had served the Company for seven years.