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Time Ashore

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Ruth McClelland-Nugent

on 3 June 2015

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Transcript of Time Ashore

Time Ashore
Family, community, country
Time ashore was key to economic survival.
Those mariners on the wrong side of the law had to be cautious in port; they might face a trial for their crimes.
Seafaring families and the law

Nowhere in English or later American law could married women own property or make contracts. Everything is in the husband's name. Widows may own property, but may inherit only a portion of their husband's property

(By contrast, French and Dutch law allowed married women to function independently of their husbands.)
This further complicates the economic marginalization of sailors' families. Women with minor sons may put contracts in their sons' names.

The law and the pirate
"Time ashore" was potentially hazardous for seamen engaged in illicit activities.In England, several overlapping court systems. "Common law" was supposed to be applied for capital crimes, with men facing a jury of their peers.
Admiralty law included no jury. It increasingly became used in English colonies to handle issues relating to smuggling and piracy.
Henry Every and the pirate reputation
The EVery case gives us an exaggertaed look at the divide between popular and elite opinions of piracy.
18th century courts increasingly cracked down on property crimes. Even the teft of a small amount (about 50$) was a capital crime.
Popular opinion, however, looked more leniently on such crimes, especally among the poor.
Every's reputation also benefited from patriotism, and the perception of superior British seamenship.
Cheap print, including ballads, helped spread such reputation. Since most print was read aloud, even the illiterate shared in it.
Seafaring families
Early modern families in the English speaking world are not primarily families of emotional bonds, although those may be present
They are economic and disciplinary units, with wives and children under the authority of a male head of household.
Sailors' families represent an anomaly in this world, with an absent head of household some of the time.

In 19th century America, black men become sailors out of necessity, as it is one of their better options. How do their families contrast with those of white sailors?

Wives as business partners
Whatever the economic sustenance of the household, wives and husbands were expected to be business partners.
Labor is divided by gender in terms that made perfect sense within the culture, but may not be obvious to us For example: in England, women spun threads and men wove the cloth. In the Americas, weaving was a female occupation.

In most professions, women were charged with economic management, including selling finished goods.Whether licit (fish from fishing) or illicit (fenced goods from piracy) women were similarly charged with the sale of goods in seafaring families. (Compare this to the Irish examples int he reading.)

Men without families, might seek out pseudo-familial bonds with regular sexual partners ("salt wives,") trusted innkeepers, boardinghouse keepers, or others who could help with their business affairs.
The Every trial and the comon law
Accused had o speak for themselves, although if wealthy enough, they might be able to hire a professional to advise them outside of court.
The prosecution, on the other hand, was professional.
Most people relied on their common sense and popular understanding of the law.
The Every trial was no exception.

Reputation and Popular opinion
Most common law cases originated ina complaint made by a member of the community against another. There were no professional police forces; people turned in suspected criminals to the magistrate when they made their complaint. The system had built into it the element of community approval.
In the Every case, however, the government swam against the tid e of popular opinion. Juries could be independent.
Reputation was an important part of these proceedings, and juries took the character of witnesses seriously.
This satiricalprint has a sailor explosde with anger at the clergyman asking "wilt thou take this woman...?" He is apparently so unfamiliar with the marriage ceremony he thinks the clergyman is doubting his honor.
Defendents and juries both relied on the judge
to advise them on points of law.
Full transcript