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tattooing among seamen born in 1766, then of women in this period. Women witnessed in the periods 1773-75, 1788-92, and 1797- eighty-one of the eight hundred applica1800. More definite conclusions depend on tions, 10 percent. Seventeen of these women the development of a much larger sample.4 were definitely. or probably mothers or other
Were boys at this period more literate relatives. The other sixty-four were probthan their parents? If a parent acted as a ably sailors' girls acting as temporary wives witness for a seaman son, we can compare while the ships were in port. According to signatures. In two-thirds of such cases, the the literature of the day, they were not son wrote a better hand than the parent. prostitutes in the usual sense of the word; The fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds were the rather they stayed with one sailor while his best penmen, presumably because they were ship was in port and with another when the fresh from school. Eleven., twelve, and first left. Information about these women thirteen-year-olds were usually less "liter- is so sparse that even the little we can conate"; a boy going to sea at twelve may well clude from the protection records should be have been at loggerheads with education. useful. Forty of the sixty-four, or nearly
Seven of the eleven mothers who were two-thirds, "made their mark." Most of the witnesses "made their mark"; fathers did rest wrote very poorly, 2 on the scale; only so in only four instances in twenty-eight. two wrote at quality level 3 and one at 4. Fathers wrote “better” signatures than Among sailors and witnesses unable to mothers (31/2 on the scale as compared to sign their names, those making their marks 11/2). These statistics are, of course, con- frequently went beyond a simple X or T sistent with what we know about the status and set down a more individual symbol.
In a few cases the "signers” could be fol4 A more thorough study of these tattoos is now
lowed through the records by the individ
uality of their marks. Philadelphia City .
On the 16
day of eceber
inches high, Hoch'complection, black hair, í years
being legally sworn, says, that according
my hand and seal, the day and year first
Jurah † Wiltshire
marked omall py
Smallpox was still a serious disease in the early nineteenth century because vaccination was only experimental. Of the eight hundred seamen in the sample, fifty-three were described with phrases like “scarred by the smallpox” and “pitting from smallpox.” Only four of the applicants had "marks of inoculation” or “the scar of a vaccination." One was John Sutherland, whose father, a physician, served as his witness.
In the years just before the war, the pattern of American trade was badly distorted and the volume diminished by British orders in council, French decrees, and American embargo, nonintercourse, and nonimportation policies. The war disrupted trade even further, and the number of protection certificates issued was correspondingly lower, compared to the years just before and just after the war. In spite of the naval risks and the British blockade, merchant vessels cleared Philadelphia for such places as Lisbon, Bordeaux, and Cadiz from January to May 1813 and for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo from June through early winter. About 10 percent of the voyages from Philadelphia in 1813 and 1814 were made by privateers under letters of marque, usually listed as “Bound on a cruise" or occasionally headed for “Bordeaux” or “a port in the West Indies.”
The merchant seaman was apparently willing to go to sea in spite of the war. About four hundred new certificates were issued in Philadelphia in 1813 and 1814. Each represented, as mentioned earlier, an addition to the seafaring force-or perhaps a sailor returning to sea who decided to apply for a new certificate rather than a duplicate. From twelve hundred to fifteen hundred men, estimating from surviving crew lists, sailed from Philadelphia in those years; most of them presumably had gotten certificates earlier in their careers. Usually, however, a crew list shows two or three seamen of a typical crew of fourteen or sixteen without protection certificates.
In most cases those seamen whose names appear both in the protection certificate sample and on the crew lists got their certificates just a few days before their ships sailed from Philadelphia. For such a seaman in 1813 carrying a protection certificate was only partially a matter of avoiding impressment. With war the certificate took on a new importance as proof of non-British citizenship. A presumed Briton or a naturalized American of British birth captured
an armed American letter-ofmarque vessel or privateer was viewed as being "taken in arms against his Majesty” and guilty of high treason; he was hanged after a brief court-martial. Seamen of captured merchant crews were made prisoners
at sea on
velore me MICHAEL
cit Known, that on the
an American Seaman,
years, or thereabouts, of the height of five feet three bi more in the offer Fachariving from a buh-ya miak I wo Marko cigned N. Coht on his right arm of on the left arm I.6. -I.M.C.
-fandthew good liked
the rezás azma formed a Man made by onclian Ink.
cheative of Lei Relengning to the order of Drink Commany
w tej Luka Bisb
who heing duly sworn according to T
on this Fouett gay vecember in the Year One Showard Eight Soundred and welee
me Benjamin Nones, Esquire, Notary Public for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, duly commissioned and authorized by Law to administer
Oaths and Affirmations, dwelling in the City of Philadelphia, Bevonally
Citizen of the United @tates of America, who being duly Awam according to Law on his solemn
his solemn Cath doth declare and say, State o Mestucky
Bon, in the allate funner
in the said United States, and that he is eleven
Years of Age, and desires of me the Notury aforesaid to describe his Serson, which I find to be haigly your ou Feet Sie
Inches boltbaul Brya, legme.com Nose, tonal Cotton,
Jancar Sace, and of a fair complexion hara year
the back of her left hand
J dp further certify, That at the
appaarud Hilliam (Dry ko
a Citizen of the United States, who being also duly Suru
did declare and that he is well acquainted with Sidhu Boy de
and verily believes him to be born in
in the State of Atenbiely John Boyd Amapya
Quod attestor, 20829
There is no solid evidence in the protection certificates that the process was abused to certify English sailors as American. There is, however, an obvious degree of looseness in the witnessing. Look at the wording of some of the oath forms. "Personally came (name of seaman) and made oath that he is a native of (city, state) and a citizen of the United States," or "who being legally sworn says that to the best of his knowledge and belief, he was born in (city, state).” Then elsewhere, “And (name of witness) being also duly sworn, did depose and say, that the facts above stated are true, according to the best of his knowledge and belief." The collector of customs, receiving this affidavit, issued the seaman his protection certificate which states in part, “I do hereby certify that the said (name of seaman) is a citizen of the United States."
Occasionally, two seamen, giving widely separated birthplaces, acted as each other's witness, each swearing that the other was a native of that place “to the best of his knowledge and belief." "Best knowledge and belief” could, of course, have come from one's telling his friend where he was born, information that certainly falls short of positive knowledge. This kind of swearing occurred in a large number of cases. A spot check of the crew lists indicates that probably about one-quarter of the male, nonrelated witnesses were shipmates of the men whose birthplaces they swore to. Occasionally the mate of a ship would swear to the birthplaces of members of the crew. The female witnesses who were probably temporary wives or girl friends of the seamen most likely had no solid evidence of their birthplaces or citizenship other than the seaman's own statement. Somewhat more than 10 percent of the witnesses had
the same surname as the seaman or were actually listed as father, mother, sister, or aunt. Presumably, relatives swore to accurate information.
Of more than one hundred notaries, aldermen, and justices of the peace in Philadelphia, twenty-two got practically all the business in seamen's oaths, raising the possibility that some officials were less stringent in their requirements for proof than others. Convenience, however, probably explains the phenomenon. The Philadelphia city directory for 1813 shows that the officials most often used were all fairly close to the waterfront. Nicholas Diehl, the notary public with about 25 percent of the business, was located "Next door to the Custom House." 5
In summary, for about one-third of the certificates examined, the witness probably did not have direct, independent knowledge of the seaman's birthplace and citizenship, but of course he swore only “to the best of his knowledge and belief.” The statements may
well have been fully true, but the process was open to fraud and certainly vulnerable to the criticism the British made of it.
The impressment problem was really solved by British public reaction against the practice that was part of the great English reform movement of the 1830s and 1840s and by diplomatic exchanges during the period. American seamen continued to obtain protection certificates, but these gradually metamorphosed into general seamen's identification papers. The certificates performed their new function until 1940 when they were replaced by the Seamen's Continuous Discharge Book, and the last relics of the 144-year-old law went out of service. O
5 One justice of the peace, John Hunter of 186 South Fifth Street, seemed to get business almost exclusively from blacks, although other officials also made affidavits for black seamen. Unlike other officials, Hunter for some reason used a fully manuscript oath statement, nearly identical each time, rather than a printed form with blanks.