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 Impressment 
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One hears of people banding together to prevent the press gang ‘lifting’ likely seamen; however, an interesting book, ‘Naval Wives and Mistresses,’ by Margarette Lincoln mentions the practice of ‘crimping’. Crimps were gangs of men and women who got seamen drunk and then delivered them to the press gang on payment of head money, though crimps also waylaid other travellers as well as seamen. The verb 'crimp' with the definition 'to impress seamen or soldiers; to entrap' is in the Shorter Oxford - not quite exact, it seems.

Crimping was an imprisonable criminal offence not least because crimping could, and did, lead to serious public disorder when mobs attacked the crimpers themselves and their establishments. The Times Digital Archive has some interesting material on the subject of crimping. There are regular reports of trials of defendants who have 'kept a crimping house', including one Edwards, ( reported on August 1st 1796) who was found guilty but attempted to claim for damage caused by the burning of his house by a mob. His co-defendant was the versatile 'Doctor' Gale who was 'occasionally Captain, Surgeon and Magistrate. He approved them as Captain, examined them as Surgeon and assessed them as Magistrate'. He too was found guilty.

It would appear that the authorities were fearful of retribution by the mob on crimpers and crimping houses not least because the protests often took on a political edge. The Times leader of 22 August 1794 notes that with 'the popular cry against crimping, the mob are also instructed to vociferate the cry for peace and against the multitude of taxes'. Dangerous stuff in those revolutionary times.

The Times sympathises with the victims of crimpers but denounces violence on the streets: 'We know that the enrolment of individuals is not only liable to abuses, but that very great ones actually exist, and that many a poor man is swindled out of his liberty. We have no sort of compassion for the wretches who can commit such enormities.' Nevertheless, no one should take the law into his own hands and 'every species of riot should therefore meet with a summary punishment.' Confusion is caused by the interchangeable use of the terms 'crimping' and 'impressment'. The edition of Jan 13 1795 refers to a sergeant in the 'crimping service'. Soldiers too were subjected to crimping. The Times of May 15 1829 reports the setting up of the Sailors' Home Society with the object of 'putting an end to the many frauds practised upon sailors by what is called the 'crimping system'.


Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:42 pm
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The Times, May 31st, 1790:

" .... We hope that great care will be taken in the present press for seamen, (a measure ever to be lamented in a free country) that the tenders are not too much crowded, as it is reported that an accident has happened from too many being crowded into one vessel. We mention this as a caution to those Gentlemen of the Navy who have the conduct of them. ....."




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Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:34 am
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The Times, September 1st, 1790:

" .... The press gangs have had a hint, that the young cocknies who will be this day out with their guns frightening the sparrows and peppering the pigs, are very proper to recruit the Navy. In consequence of this, it is expected a good many GUNNERS will be picked up. ....."




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Mon Nov 09, 2009 2:03 pm
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Post Re: Impressment
The Times, October 17th, 1787:

" .... The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have given directions to the Lieutenants who are employed on or about the River Thames in procuring men for his Majesty's ships which are fitting out, not to impress the masters of any small boats, commonly called Peter-boats, employed on the said river in catching fish for the supply of the city of London, provided the said persons are actually masters of the boats, and not seamen. ...

...compliments of the NMM: Peter-boats.

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Sun Aug 08, 2010 11:04 am
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Post Re: Impressment
............. looks like they had some lively activity at Southend. :wink:


The Times, September 11th, 1798:

" ........... A few days since, a press-gang landed at South-End, from the Nore, in quest of some men supposed to be secreted there. Some of the gang, being very much intoxicated, proceeded to make their search in the houses of individuals, in a very unjustifiable manner, and being resisted by some of the inhabitants, a serious affray ensued, when the Prittlewell volunteers were in consequence called out, and the principal ring-leaders secured by them, but another boat's crew coming on shore, an attempt was made to rescue their comrades, and the numbers of the gang having increased considerably and the neighbourhood being much alarmed, a messenger was dispatched late in the evening to the Rochford volunteers, who immediately turned out with great alacrity, and marched without loss of time to Prittlewell; the gang finding this reinforcement had arrived, thought proper to retire and the principals were afterwards released. ..... "

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Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:22 pm
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Post Re: Impressment
While googling for something else entirely, I came across an on-line version of The Press-Gang Afloat and Ashore by John Robert Hutchinson. London, 1913. It is a long and detailed work. Probably regarded as out of date by modern historians, but I had a quick browse and found it interesting.

Martin


Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:25 pm
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