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The shilling[edit]

Perhaps something about 'taking the shilling' could be put in? With the trick that officers used to put the shilling at the bottom of a beer mug, offer it to seamen in the pub, and when they got to the bottom and discovered, the officer could claim the seamen had taken the 'payment'?(Halbared 08:35, 9 June 2006 (UTC))

Taking the King's shilling, I think, belongs to the land services such as the army, artillery, and cavalry — I'm not sure it would be relevant to an article on impressment (impressment was a specific practice in the navy with official legal backing at the time, not just any attempt to trick or force people into military service). We also want to be careful to avoid repeating the 18th or 19th-century equivalent of urban legends, so we'd need some credible sources. David 01:24, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Taking the King's shilling is absolutely accurate and was a practice of the naval Impress Service, not just the land forces. If you follow the link at the bottom of the page, it shows a reproduction of an original impressment commission that specifies paying one shilling to each man pressed. The bit about putting the shilling in a beer mug is more questionable, but it does appear in secondary sources (check Stephen Bown, Scurvy, 2005), so it would appear to pass the minimum Wikipedia threshold for inclusion.
Pirate Dan 19:16, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
In the Royal Navy, they called it a "bounty", if I recall correctly, not the King's shilling, and it was given after volunteering and entering a ship's books. What generally happened, at least according to reliable sources like N.A.M. Roger, is that seamen were sometimes offered a choice of volunteering or being pressed rather than just being dragged off — in that case, they'd choose volunteering to collect the bounty, as a small consolation.
The beer-mug trick wouldn't make sense in the Royal Navy, because there was no need to trick them into taking a shilling — the impress service was allowed just drag them off to the receiving ship regardless. Britain had no conscription for other military services like the army or artillery, so people had to at least appear to volunteer for those — it would make sense to try to trick someone there (whether the beer-mug trick is true or not).
Maybe your source is confusing impressment with the quota system, where some ports and counties supplied "volunteers" (often landsmen, criminals, old men, etc.) to get an exemption from the press. Each port or county could find its volunteers any way it wanted, and the volunteers received a fairly large bounty for joining — much larger than the bounty given for volunteering to the impressment service. David 13:01, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
The shilling bonus was not just for volunteers; pressed men got it too. The impressment commission is crystal clear about that. The volunteers got a variable bounty over and above the one shilling that everybody got.
Nevertheless, I agree that there's no apparent sense in using the beer mug trick on sailors, as you're absolutely right that they could have pressed the man with or without his accepting the shilling. Even with the secondary source support, we'd better leave out the beer mug story for now. Pirate Dan 15:33, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Royal Navy[edit]

I agree with User:Jooler's reversion of "British Royal Navy" to simply "Royal Navy". For English-speakers, at least, "Royal Navy" always refers to the British Royal Navy (note also that the Royal Navy article title isn't qualified with "British"). David 12:15, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

Does army recruiting belong here?[edit]

I think that the section on mandatory army service for criminals and disorderly persons belongs in the Conscription article rather than here, since it doesn't really deal with impressment. Note that the similar program for naval service, the Quota System, has its own article, since it likewise doesn't involve boarding ships or sending out press gangs. David (talk) 15:29, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Yes, impressment into all branches of the military belong in the same article. The reason why the "quota system" is split into a separate article is because the "quota system" was not impressment. And I don't agree that this article should be made part of the conscription article because it would be an anachronism. Forcible recruitment into the military at this time was authorized by "press acts", was call "pressing", and was carried out by "press gangs". BradMajors (talk) 22:48, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
OK, I agree -- I've withdrawn the merge tag. I have added more info to the army impressment section, moved it lower in the article, and rephrased the intro. Army impressment was a limited, two-year experiment (mostly in London and vicinity), while navy impressment lasted centuries, so it's important not to give a misleading impression that they hold equal historical importance. David (talk) 00:24, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
OK, the revised article looks fine. Some points: it appears the army press gangs were not strictly following the law and they pressed persons who could not be legally pressed. In the Seven Years' War and the War of the Austrian Succession there was "very strong encouragement" used to get persons to enlist in the army. Research is needed on whether this "encouragement" should be called impressment, and I don't know about other wars. BradMajors (talk) 03:29, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
I think that the history of recruitment in the Western world includes a lot of bending of the law (e.g. getting men drunk and then having them wake up to find themselves enlisted, or offering a criminal the choice between jail or the army), even up to the world wars during the 20th century. From the source I cited, it looks like there was an appeals process for men who had been pressed into the army illegally, and that it erred on the side of releasing more people than it was strictly required to (e.g. apprentices in a trade), though without doubt some people did end up serving after being pressed illegally. On the other hand, as in the navy, many people likely volunteered when threatened with being pressed so that they could collect the bounty; as volunteers, however, they probably wouldn't be able to appeal if the initial threat of impressment was illegal. David (talk) 13:46, 31 December 2007 (UTC)


What act or law authorized and regulated naval impressment? BradMajors (talk) 03:31, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

I have a book which states impressment in American waters was made illegal by a statute passed in the time of Queen Anne. BradMajors (talk) 10:52, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Sounds like a good addition to the article. Did the RN just ignore it, or did they come up with some justification for disregarding it? David (talk) 14:04, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, it would be a good addition, but the author just mentioned it in passing and he gave no citation and no details. I think some details are required before it is added since impressment was occurring in the colonies in the first half of the 1700's. A ban would make sense around 1700, since England was trying to get people to settle in the colonies and it would be crazy for the RN to then go and take them away. My guess is the relevant act is the Recruiting Act of 1703, but I have been unable to find a copy of this Act anywhere. BradMajors (talk) 21:38, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
I have found enough details to have it added to the article. It appears impressment in American waters was not legal. BradMajors (talk) 22:25, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
Actually, it looks muddier than that. Here's what N.A.M. Rogers has:
"In the Americas seamen were often very scarce, and ill-drafted legislation made the situation worse. The Act of 1708, the 'Sixth of Anne', forbade pressing in the Americas, but it was not clear if it was perpetual (as the colonials believed), or expired with that war; and equally, whether it applied to the Navy only, or to the civil authorities as well. An Act of 1746, intended to clarify the situation, exempted the West Indies from pressing but not America, which naturally inflamed colonial opinion there." (N.A.M. Rogers, The Command of the Ocean, p.316).
In other words, the 1708 bill was ambiguous, but the 1746 bill explicitly allowed pressing in the Americas (but not the West Indies). David (talk) 22:46, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
It would be helpful if the article cited the relevant Acts enabling the exact law to be researched. I have read about the 1747 impressment riot in Boston, but I have not previously heard about its relationship to the 1746 Act. BradMajors (talk) 05:07, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
If you're interested in British naval history, I strongly recommend N.A.M. Roger's books, especially The Wooden World and The Command of the Ocean, both in print as paperbacks. They're extremely readable and meticulously researched and cited, which is a rare combination. I'm waiting for Roger's book on the Royal Navy post 1815, whenever it comes out. David (talk) 18:40, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Something should be added concerning impressment in relation to Habeas Corpus. I can't find anything definitive on this subject. i.e. Was an impressed sailor allowed to contest his impressment in civil as opposed to military courts? BradMajors (talk) 14:36, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
There was no particular act which authorised the use of impressment in the Royal Navy. Rather it was the case that impressment existed (and still exists) as an exercise of the Crown Prerogative. I can provide several good citations on this matter, if you believe they will help. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:46, 4 April 2012 (UTC)


I thought some years ago now I read that males had been press ganged for a continuous period of 18 years. In this respect this article might usefully clarify what extreme lengths were resorted to to impress males into service. — Preceding unsigned comment added by TheGuntz (talkcontribs) 22:59, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Pressing is the act of forcibly recruiting a man into the Navy not a period of recruitment. The period that he spent in the Navy depended on the length of the commission of the ship he was sent to and whether the crew was paid off at the end of the commission or transferred to another ship. Someone could have been pressed once, found the seaborne life to be acceptable and stayed in the Navy for 18 years transferring from ship to ship. Another might leave as soon as he was able. Dabbler (talk) 14:31, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

Remove "origins" box?[edit]

I propose removing the "Origins of the War of 1812" box from the top of the article. Impressment was a major feature of British naval history for several centuries, and I don't think that its effect on public opinion in the U.S. leading up to the War of 1812 (a minor sideshow beside the Napoleonic wars going on at the time in Europe) is really its most notable feature. Comments? David (talk) 15:13, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

I would not object, but I think it is unlikely a majority of those working on the Origins of the War of 1812 would agree. I think the United States' objection was not with impressment, but rather the boarding of an American vessel by the Royal Navy for any reason. The retrieval of British deserters is not impressment. So, the cause should be renamed from "British Impressment" to "British boarding of vessels". BradMajors (talk) 22:27, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
I notice that the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair is already in the box — that seems to cover the boarding issue nicely. Does anyone object to removing the box? David (talk) 12:56, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
The impressment of Americans in the article needs to be clarified. AFAIK, Britain did not impress anyone they considered an American. I have read that a majority of those on American vessels were British citizens who were former members of the British navy or British merchant marine and hence the British Navy had no need to impress Americans. AFAIK, leading up to the war only deserters were being retrieved which isn't impressment at all. But, this all needs to be supported with citations. BradMajors (talk) 14:36, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
The opposition to impressment was at least as strong within Britain as from the United States. The United States section should be enlarged to include opposition to impressment from within Britain. BradMajors (talk) 22:27, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. Any good sources? David (talk) 12:56, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

I've removed the Origins box from the page, since this article is not notable (primarily) as a cause of the War of 1812 — that was only a minor sideshow to the Napoleonic wars (involving a handful of regiments and no ship larger than a frigate) as far as Britain was concerned. David (talk) 03:00, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

The glass bottomed tankard myth[edit]

I see this has been discussed some time ago on this page(see above). There's an interesting discussion about this urban legend at form which I have copied the following:

In 1910 Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge published a collection of essays entitled Sea-Power and other studies. Two of these essays are relevant here: IV - The Historical Relations Between The Navy and The Merchant Service V - Facts And Fancies About The Press-Gang

A fruitful source of the widespread belief that our navy in the old days was chiefly manned by recourse to compulsion, is a confusion between two words of independent origin and different meaning, which, in ages when exact spelling was not thought indispensable, came to be written and pronounced alike. During our later great maritime wars, the official term applied to anyone recruited by impressment was 'prest-man.' In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and part of the eighteenth century, this term meant the exact opposite. It meant a man who had voluntarily engaged to serve, and who had received a sum in advance called 'prest-money.' 'A prest-man,' we are told by that high authority, Professor Sir J. K. Laughton, 'was really a man who received the prest of 12d., as a soldier when enlisted.' In the 'Encyclopædia Metropolitana' (1845), we find:-- 'Impressing, or, more correctly, impresting, i.e. paying earnest-money to seamen by the King's Commission to the Admiralty, is a right of very ancient date, and established by prescription, though not by statute. Many statutes, however, imply its existence--one as far back as 2 Richard II, cap. 4.' An old dictionary of James I's time (1617), called 'The Guide into the Tongues, by the Industrie, Studie, Labour, and at the Charges of John Minshew,' gives the following definition:--'Imprest-money. G. [Gallic or French], Imprest-ànce; _Imprestanza_, from _in_ and _prestare_, to lend or give beforehand.... Presse-money. T. [Teutonic or German], Soldt, from salz, _salt_. For anciently agreement or compact between the General and the soldier was signified by salt.' Minshew also defines the expression 'to presse souldiers' by the German _soldatenwerben_, and explains that here the word _werben_ means prepare (_parare_). 'Prest-money,' he says, 'is so-called of the French word _prest_, i.e. readie, for that it bindeth those that have received it to be ready at all times appointed.' In the posthumous work of Stephen Skinner, 'Etymologia Linguæ Anglicanæ' (1671), the author joins together 'press or imprest' as though they were the same, and gives two definitions, viz.: (1) recruiting by force (_milites_cogere_); (2) paying soldiers a sum of money and keeping them ready to serve. Dr. Murray's 'New English Dictionary,' now in course of publication, gives instances of the confusion between imprest and impress. A consequence of this confusion has been that many thousands of seamen who had received an advance of money have been regarded as carried off to the navy by force. If to this misunderstanding we add the effect on the popular mind of cleverly written stories in which the press-gang figured prominently, we can easily see how the belief in an almost universal adoption of compulsory recruiting for the navy became general. It should, therefore, be no matter of surprise when we find that the sensational reports published in the English newspapers in 1803 were accepted without question.

You will find this and some other useful references there. Richerman (talk) 13:53, 30 March 2009 (UTC)

Impressment to the Army

I am surprised at the assertion that there was no impressment to the army in England before a brief experiment in the 18th C. It was a hot issue in the English Civil Wars, with repeated petitions from Parliamentary soldiers for a guarantee that they would not be pressed again. For a noteworthy example, see article 2 of the 1647 'The Agreement of the People' 'That the matter of impressing and constraining any of us to serve in the wars is against our freedom; and therefore we do not allow it in our represntatives.' —Preceding unsigned comment added by Clas7icist (talkcontribs) 20:08, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Sea of Glory thesis[edit]

There's an isolated section in the lead that says "According to the 1974 book Sea of Glory by Nathan Miller, impressment was a major cause of the strain between Britain and the American Colonies that led to the American Revolution."

To me, this demands clarification. As I understand it, impressment was generally not a major issue during time of peace, and Britain was at peace during the twelve years between the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 and the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775. This was because there were many more sailors than there were berths available, and thus a surplus of volunteers for both the merchant and naval service. (See Charles Johnson's introduction to A Genral History of the Pirates, for instance). I thought that only the huge manpower demands of the wartime Navy required impressment to fill out the crews.

Is Miller saying that this is wrong, and American colonists were being impressed in peacetime on the eve of the Revolution, frequently enough to cause friction with the mother country? Or is he just saying that impressment during the Seven Years' War had helped turn some Americans against England, who then moved on to other bones of contention besides impressment after 1763? Pirate Dan (talk) 14:21, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

The sentence and its imbedded reference read:
Impressment was a major cause of the strain between Britain and the American Colonies that led to the American Revolution,<ref>Miller, Nathan. ''Sea of Glory'' (1974)</ref> and the impressment of seamen from American ships caused serious tensions between Britain and the United States in the years leading up to the War of 1812.
I quite agree with Pirate Dan, that there's something wrong here. I have not read the Miller book, so I can not say whether it is Miller who is wrong or the contributor misinterpreted him. In either case, the statement was incorrect, and I have removed the first part of the sentence. B00P (talk) 07:22, 10 October 2009 (UTC)


In the paragraph dealing with desertion, the text, in part, ran:

"[D]esertion might mean ... the loss of a large amount of money already earned (though authorities were sometimes lenient on this point)."

I have removed the parenthetical phrase as it was patently ridiculous. It makes the assertion that the Naval authorities might be generous enough to remit back pay to deserters.

  1. If the sailor had deserted - "Run" in naval parlance of the time - then, obviously, the Navy wouldn't know where he was. So how could they possibly pay him? One of the complaints that sailors had was that they could only receive their pay at the port where they had embarked. If the ship left from Portsmouth, but returned, possibly years later, to Penzance, it was up to the sailor to manage to get back to Portsmouth, at his own expense, ignoring any possible disabilities accrued while in service, and then prove his identity to the authorities in Portsmouth. A deserter would hardly jump ship, and then just walk into the Port Admiral's office asking for his pay.
  2. Deserters were hung (or "flogged round the fleet" leaving them either dead or wishing that they were). "Leniency" from the authorities in such a case would be meting out merely 100 lashes.

Let's try this again. The article is about how the British Government kidnapped and enslaved its own citizens, putting them decidedly in harm's way, and someone was dotty enough to suggest that if someone deserted, that same government might ever be concerned about making sure that he got the pay that was owed to him. B00P (talk) 06:54, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

You possibly are assuming desertion was considered then the same way it is today. I don't have a reference handy but under UK maritime law of the day a deserter that was caught would have to face a court where a judge would decide his punishment and how much of the money owed to him he would forfeit. Common practice was that if he deserted in a foreign port he forfeited an amount of money equivalent to what he would have earned from the time of desertion to his return to a British port and be paid the amount left. On the other hand, if the deserter did so in a British port, at the judge’s discretion, he could be and often was, paid in full all back pay and, provided he returned to his ship, would receive no punishment at all. In war-time the punishment was similar as long as desertion rates were low but if the desertion impacted on the ships readyness, then the punishment could be severe. Also a large number of deserters did so in order to join a different ship (to avoid a harsh captain etc) and the authorities turned a blind eye to this practice, treating it as a transfer. Wayne (talk) 19:17, 10 October 2009 (UTC)
Just to clear you up on a few things. Prior to 1728 a sailor could only collect his pay from the Admiralty in London. If he could not afford to travel there he could redeem his pay "ticket" with a local moneylender who would take a commission. After 1728 a sailor was paid on board ship when it docked in it's home port. Flogging around the fleet was banned in 1735 and the maximum number of lashes authorised for desertion after this time was 12. This was increased to 48 in 1866 and lashing was banned in 1881. Some captains did more lashes for repeat offenders but this was not common and these were classed as unofficial punishments to avoid them being seen as breaking naval rules. Giving "hundreds" of lashes was reserved for war time offenses as an alternative to hanging and strangely, theft was considered a more serious crime than desertion. First a thief would receive 12 lashes then have to run a gauntlet with the ships company hitting him with knotted ropes before receiving another 12 lashes when he finished. Wayne (talk) 20:35, 10 October 2009 (UTC)
Heres a reference: "Desertion was guarded against but great lenience was exercised in dealing with defaulters" -The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy ISBN:0393314693. This book says that desertion would sometimes even be ruled as justified at trial. Wayne (talk) 21:17, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Ah, Wayne.

You note that "Giving 'hundreds' of lashes was reserved for war time ..." As the article is "Impressment," we are, of course only discussing wartime.

I'll need to see some references for almost all of your assertions - being paid, flogging round the fleet, back pay and no punishment for deserters - as they flatly contradict my information. In any event, the twelve lashes ("a dozen of the king's best") was the maximum a captain could award on his own authority. Nevertheless, many captains did impose more than this amount. There were captains who would appoint both left- and right-handed boatswain's mates, so that in conjunction, they could "cross the cuts" from the first dozen to the next. And if the captain meted out three dozen, who was the sailor going to complain to? His MP? His Union Rep? The Admiralty? I am sorry to inform you that in many places and at many times, what the law states and what actually happens are not always in sync.

Regarding the bit about theft: stealing from your shipmates was considered particularly low. I don't know where you came up with the gauntlet-running, but the normal procedure was to mete out the same number of lashes that would be given for stealing from the ship's stores, but with knots tied into the cat-o'-nine-tails for added entertainment value. B00P (talk) 05:37, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

It strikes me that this discussion could do some realisation on both sides that you both have some correct and some incorrect points. Impressment was not seen as kidnapping and enslavement at the time, that is a modern POV, for a start the pressed men were paid, and I have never seen a reference that the rate of pay depended on whether they volunteered or were impressed, though there was a bonus for volunteering.
Running the gauntlet was the usual punishment for theft until about 1800 when the thieves cat came into use with the added knots. Desertion was a court martial offence and could not be punished by the captain as such. However, given the lack of identity documents, deserters sometimes did rejoin the navy under another name. If brought to trial, they may have been able to be acquitted. Rodgers does point out that the Georgian Navy was considerably less oppressive than common understanding has and that a good seaman was worth recovering and not crippling or killing by punishments. Also the press was not immune from legal challenge, if an individual or his relatives could get to a court, and prove they were not eligible (sometimes a difficult task I agree) then magistrates often released them and even fined the press officers.
Flogging round the fleet was an approved punishment for a number of years, I have read that it was abolished in the mid 1700s but I have also seen reports that it continued into the early 1800s. It was inflicted only by court martial and was considered almost equivalent to hanging, the total number of lashes being in the hundreds and sometimes taking weeks to complete unless the sailor died of infection. Although the maximum sentence was nominally restricted to 12 lashes, many captains exceeded this, sometimes by charging the individual with several offences for the same incident. Dabbler (talk) 11:36, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
Heres a website that gives detail on Naval punishments. This might also be of interest. This vessel is considered average in regards to punishments on a Royal Navy ship during war time.
HMS Queen. Flagship of Real Admiral Alexander Hood. 750 crew with a total of 2,547 sailors serving on the vessel during the American War of Independence. A total of 201 floggings were given for 207 offenses between 1776 to 1780.
172 crew received 12 lashes, 23 x 24, 3 x 36, 2 x 200 and 1 x 300. 19 crew with more than 12 lashes were all charged with multiple offenses while the other 7 were thieves for which 24 lashes, although against the rules, was standard.
14 were repeat offenders (11 sailors were flogged twice, 2 flogged 3 times and 1 flogged 4 times).
Drink related offences: 70
AWOL: 31
Neglect of duty: 28
Insolence: 27
Theft: 22 (7 who stole from shipmates received 24 lashes and ran the gauntlet while 15 who stole from the Admiralty were given 12 lashes each)
Riotous behaviour: 11
Desertion: 10 (9 received 12 lashes and 1 x 300)
Fighting: 10
Quarrelling: 4
Mutiny: 2 (sentenced to 400 lashes each but received only 200)
Forgery: 1.
The instance of 300 lashes for desertion was explained as happening in 1778 when war with France was expected and the lashes were given in Plymouth Harbour as an example for the entire fleet in order to discourage desertion. In February 1783 the war of Independence officially ended and the Queen was supposed to be paid off but the government was slow to pay the crew wages owed. On March 22 the crew raided the arms locker and mutinied. They held the ship for 3 days before surrendering. None were punished in any way.
In conclusion, the original artical text was correct in that desertion was treated with leniency. Wayne (talk) 18:44, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

Fines for press officers and cooling off periods[edit]

A recent edit made three changes. 1) It says the glass bottom tankard story isn't an urban legend. 2) That press officers were not subject to fines for using trickery. 3) that pressed men had no cooling off period.

The three contrary allegations were unsourced, and the new version is still unsourced.

Number 1 appears highly dubious, for reasons discussed above. Assuming that press officers ever did trick sailors into taking the King's shilling, the key act to avoid would be putting the shilling in your hand or pocketing it, not detecting it in your glass beforehand.

Number 2 could be true or false; there's no evidence either way. Unless somebody finds a source saying whether impress officers could be fined for trickery, we should simply omit all reference to it.

Number 3 is almost certainly correct in its new version. The idea of a pressed man, as opposed to a volunteer, having a four-day cooling off period is self-evidently absurd. The whole point of impressment was to compel sailors (or people who looked like sailors in an odd light) to serve against their will if they could not be induced to volunteer; allowing them to opt out freely during the first four days would obviously defeat the purpose. Pirate Dan (talk) 15:14, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

The acceptance or not of the King's shilling whether in a hand or possibly in a beer mug is only relevant for recruitment into the Army. The Navy had no need to trick people because they had a right under law to gather up men "who had used the sea".
Magistrates did occasionally side with pressed men and their families and officers were fined for illegally pressing men. It was nothing to do with trickery, but whether or not the men were legally eligible to be pressed.
I have never heard of any "cooling off period". A man gathered up in the press could sometimes "volunteer" so as to claim the bounty, but once aboard a receiving hulk, there was no way to avoid being enlisted save by the ruling of a magistrate (see above).
I will look for references. Dabbler (talk) 16:42, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Confusing sentence in Conflict with the United States[edit]

"Under the Rule of 1756, in times of war direct trade between a European state and its colony was forbidden to neutrals when such trade had not existed in time of peace." I find this sentence confusing. How does 'trade between a European state and its colony' involve a neutral third party at all? Consulting the Rule of 1756 offered no insight. Could someone please clarify? Unconventional (talk) 17:04, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

I did not understand any of this, either. Rule of 1756 is in the form of "Britain would not trade with XXX". How can this have any effect on "trade between a European state and its colony" - the Rule is British legislature, how could it regulate foreign affairs? (talk) 12:07, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

I think the "its" in the sentence is meant to refer to Britain, so it would mean that Britain would not allow its colony to trade with the neutral state. If so, the sentence should read "Under the Rule of 1756, in times of war, direct trade between a neutral European state and a British colony was forbidden if such trade had not existed in time of peace" I've changed it to say that - if I'm wrong I'm sure someone will tell me but, as you say, it made no sense as it was. Richerman (talk) 15:42, 12 September 2010 (UTC)


If, as the article states "(there was no concept of joining the navy for non-officers at the time)", then what was 'volunteering' to serve in the navy? (talk) 19:24, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure about this, but I think this means that Royal Navy sailors were essentially civilian employees, like the civilian contractors America's Defense Department uses. When not aboard ship, they were just civilians, not under Navy authority or collecting Navy pay. If this is what it means, I'm not at all sure that it's accurate; if sailors on Royal Navy ships didn't "join the Navy," then how could they be subject to court-martial? But that's the only sense I can make of it. Pirate Dan (talk) 20:01, 19 February 2011 (UTC)
Sailors joined a Navy ship for the length of its commission (which might be years, especially in wartime) rather than joining the Navy as a career in itself. Once the commission was over, they were free to move on, either to another naval ship or back to civilian life. However, once they had served in the Navy they were always at risk of being pressed again unless they found a job which gave them exemption. Dabbler (talk) 13:24, 21 February 2011 (UTC)

Article too narrow?[edit]

Wiktionary defines "impress" as involuntary induction into a military force, which could be an army rather than a navy. For example Johan Printz was "pressed" into an army during the Thirty Years' War by passing soldiers, and many Hessian mercenaries were taken by "impressment". Both these articles link here, perhaps for lack of a better place. And I imagine other navies besides the British one used the practice, but perhaps some of this falls under Shanghaiing. This distinction seems a bit too artificial to me, since it is basically the same practice. It seems at least a more general article could be developed. Bob Burkhardt (talk) 17:40, 7 June 2011 (UTC)

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Self-published source[edit]

Hickox, Rex (2007). All You Wanted to Know about 18th Century Royal Navy. pp. 16–19. ISBN 1411630572. Is published by indicating that it is self-published and should not be considered a reliable source. In addition some of the statements attributed to this source are opposed by scholars such as NAM Rodger. Dabbler (talk) 15:04, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

When were brit naval wages set?[edit]

this article says 1653 but this article: says 1658 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:05, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a reliable source. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:55, 3 July 2017 (UTC)


As indicated by the tag on this section, "in culture" sections shouldn't just list mentions of impressment in fiction, but rather describe their significance to the topic with citations to reliable sources. Nikkimaria (talk) 01:42, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

None of the entries had a citation to a reliable source which described the significance of impressment, so I have removed the entire section as indicated by the "policy" above. Dabbler (talk) 22:39, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
So why did you leave the section about impressment in poetry which now looks rather silly on its own? This appears to be a classic case of you disrupting Wikipedia to illustrate a point which is a blockable offence. The whole point of a talk page is to discuss and reach a consensus about what should stay and what should go. I would suggest you read bold, revert, discuss. Richerman (talk) 06:25, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I had tried to accommodate Nikkimaria's objections by adding links and some explanation but this was unacceptable. This User has made a concern known and so I investigated and tried to ensure that the concerns were addressed. If you look at the history, I tried to by removing uncited additions and then when I checked the one cited reference it did not meet the criteria either. It was not just a complete removal with no intent.
On a second point, I also consider that the fiction section is probably not really helpful, as pretty well any nautical fiction based in the Age of Sail will address impressment to a greater or lesser extent, it was a fact of life then not an important plot device (except perhaps in Stockwin's Kydd).
The Elizabeth Barret Browning poem does have some interest in that it was the first published poem by someone who became a more famous pet than her husband during her lifetime. Dabbler (talk) 11:22, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
What does the fact that she became a more famous poet than her husband tell us about impressment? It would be relevant to the Elizabeth Barret Browning article but not this one. Richerman (talk) 21:59, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I am not set on having any cultural references, if you think it is unnecessary here, then by all means remove the whole section. It was just that if a cultural reference was thought useful then this was the only one that I could find any real justification for.Dabbler (talk) 03:46, 28 July 2015 (UTC)


Should there be a link to the Slavery Wikipedia page when 10s of Millions were press-ganged or conscripted into the military against their will, often to die thousands of miles from homeland and family? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:04, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

No, they were not slaves, they were paid, there wives and children were not forced to work for free and there weren't tens of millions of impressed men in the Navy. Dabbler (talk) 13:57, 2 August 2017 (UTC)
I agree that it was not the same thing (though impressed men may have felt differently). Impressment was a fairly random form of conscription, not literal slavery. Impressed sailors were paid, however poorly, they did not have the legal status of property and their naval service was for the duration of a ship's cruise rather than for life. Buistr (talk) 20:04, 2 August 2017 (UTC)

Selection Process[edit]

One of the things I was looking for in this article is the "how and who" of impressment. The article speaks at length about the legality, the treatment, the history, etc. However, it doesn't really get into what a press gang actually DOES. It mentions them briefly, but the most that's given on their methods is a couple pictures showing men being dragged away from their protesting families.

Did they simply grab random people off the street, out of taverns, or go door to door? Were people chosen at random from a register at some civil or military authority and then sought out? If you successfully evaded or fought off a press gang, were you in trouble or was that seen as acceptable?

Who was really eligible? Could you take a man supporting a wife and children, leaving them to survive on their own until he got back with his pay? Foreigners who had married British citizens were made eligible. Was this a method of effectively "shipping out" undesirables? Were pressed men mostly criminals, transients, and drunks?

I understand the information isn't all available or easy to accurately source, but I feel like more attention needs to be given to the methods and selection process. That's the aspect most often portrayed in media, making it the aspect most likely for people to have inaccurate knowledge of. LordQwert (talk) 14:30, 14 November 2017 (UTC)

  • Good questions but some of the issues raised are covered in the article. Pressed men were generally professional sailors, certainly not criminals. In contrast to enlistment in the sedentary militia, there were no local registers for the naval authorities to draw on - just men of distinctive appearance who could be found in the sea ports where their employment took them. Physical opposition to the press gang was possible - that's why they carried clubs and cutlasses, but the worst punishment likely was to be carried unconscious on board ship if you were caught and subdued. Magistrates might intervene against the press gang - at least one naval officer leading a party was imprisoned for a lengthy period. Foreigners, whether married to British subjects or not, had no expectation of immunity unless they had enough influence for their country's ambassador to intervene. Families would just have to get by until their men came home - but this would also be the case if seamen volunteered for a voyage with (say) an East India Company ship. In short it was an erratic form of conscription but one with limits to its application. Buistr (talk) 03:44, 15 November 2017 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Neutrality of a statement[edit]

Fellow Wikipedians, I have noticed a statement that may need a fixing to:

"This tablet commemorates the Admiralty's (somewhat belated) apology for the murder of two quarrymen"

I get the distinct impression that the "somewhat belated" element of the statement lacks a certain neutrality that Wikipedia requires. Your thoughts please? -Freedom Strength Liberty (talk) 14:05, 8 April 2018 (UTC)

I agree that it is a non-neutral statement and should be removed. Dabbler (talk) 11:37, 9 April 2018 (UTC)
Agree - take it out. Buistr (talk) 21:07, 9 April 2018 (UTC)
I have removed it.Dabbler (talk) 16:02, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

Shanghaiing article[edit]

Please contribute to a discussion I've started at the talk page of Shanghaiing about its relation to Crimp (recruitment) and this article.  — Scott talk 12:27, 3 July 2018 (UTC)