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BETTERING THE MORALS AND CONDITION OF SAILORS IN CHINA.
As the spiritual condition of seamen in China, referred to in the following Paper, yet remains unattended to by the zealous Christians of England and America, the document is here inserted, to keep alive the subject, in the hope that by the blessing of Divine Providence, something may eventually be done in that distant land for the Sailor's welfare.
TO THE PUBLIC.
Canton, December 1, 1822. The General Plan given in the following Proposal being approved of by some individuals to whom the manuscript has been shown, it is now printed, to make the subject more extensively known, that its merits or demerits, practicability, or impracticability, may be conversed about, and more distinctly ascertained. Dr. Morrison will be happy to receive the written opinions, or suggestions of any Gentleman who is resident in, or who frequents China, on either or both of the subjects proposed, for the benefit of any Committee, who may hereafter meet to deliberate and report thereon.
Canton, China, September 25th, 1822. At Whampoa, the anchorage of European ships which frequent China, there are annually from fifteen to twenty large Indiamen, and between twenty and forty smaller
vessels from the United States. The crews of those ships make collectively from two to three thousand men, all of whom speak the English language; and therefore, under the operation of liberal and Christian sentiments, any benevolent efforts for the good of these men, whilst in China, may include both nations.
The assistance that Sailors in China require, is medical attendance for many of them; and for all of them instruction concerning their duties as moral and religious beings. Medical assistance is provided for all the Indiamen, and for some of the American ships, and therefore it only remains to be enquired whether the mode of communicating that assistance may not be improved, so as to make the condition of the sick and healthy men better; and the fatigue of the medical attendants less that is, whether a FLOATING HOSPITAL, to which the sick men may be removed from their own ships, away from the noise and bustle occasioned by unloading, and other duties daily going on; and what is perhaps of the first importance, in some complaints, (arising as it is supposed from the local circumstances of a particular ship) removing the Hospital to a more healthy part of the river. In case of infectious diseases also, the Floating Hospital would remove the sick men from those still in health.
Moreover, ships do arrive frequently, (i. e. English India ships as well as Americans) and occasionally the vessels of other nations, without any medical person on board, and sometimes without any such person at Whampoa : in those cases the FLOATING HOSPITAL, always having a medical man belonging to it, would afford such relief as every humane mind would be happy to avail itself of; and humanly speaking, many lives might be saved. And when death did occur, the rites of sepulture could perhaps be more decently attended to by those persons belonging to the FLOATING HOSPITAL than is practicable amidst the hurry of a ship's duty.
However, much is done for the seamen's health, and his bodily comfort; and but little, or nothing for the improve→ ment of his mind. In some ships, it is true prayers are
read, which is so far well; but prayers are not for the instruction of the ignorant; but are the language of a person already instructed, addressed to the Deity; and hence it happens that hearing prayers, but seldom reforms individuals. Without, however, discussing this question, the fact is, that the thousands of seamen, who in the course of a year stay a shorter or longer time at Whampoa, and many of whom die there (Note 1st), neither have prayers nor any kind of religious instruction: and hence the Sunday only gives them leisure to get intoxicated and quarrel with the Chinese. A FLOATING CHAPEL (Note 2), with sermons twice a day, would furnish the means of rational occupation, and of religious and moral instruction to as many of the seamen as chose to avail themselves of it; many of whom would no doubt gladly do so, if a pious zealous Preacher addressed them. The benefits arising from such an Institution would not only apply to the individual sailors whose minds were improved; but from the more moral and orderly behaviour of the sailors, which would in all probability follow, the interests of all who trade in China would be subserved, and the respectability of foreigners, in the eyes of the Chinese, would be promoted.
The FLOATING HOSPITAL, and the FLOATING CHAPEL, being perfectly unconnected with the natives, and the sailors not having to go on shore when frequenting either, no opposition can be anticipated from the Chinese Government, nor any interruption to Divine Service, from the curiosity, or insolence of the populace.
The only objection to the Plan appears to be the probable expense of the vessels employed; and of the persons who shall perform the necessary duties.
At London on the Thames (Note 3), at Liverpool, and at Leith, and other places, the FLOATING CHAPEL has been adopted, and been found to meet the wishes of sailors, and to be useful to them. At London a FLOATING HOSPITAL has been commenced, and met with the approbation of His Majesty's Government, and many persons of distinction in the country.
The expense for the Hospital would arise chiefly from
the vessel employed; for it may be hoped that the medical gentleman belonging to the fleet would arrange a plan by which they could attend the Hospital by turns, and so have indeed more leisure than when attending each his own ship. The expenditure of medicines would not be more in one case than the other: and those ships which were unsupplied with a surgeon, could not object to pay a sum of money, as they now do, for the visits of the Surgeons of other ships.
The Chapel would of course be an entirely new source of expense, as no means have heretofore been used by the English or Americans, for the moral and religious instruction of their seamen in China. Some of the continental nations, who formerly frequented China, had schoolmasters and chaplains on board.
Whether Chinese chop-boats could be fitted up to answer the purposes intended, and other details of the subject, could be ascertained by a Committee of Gentlemen, well affected to the general objects.
The Honourable Company's Chapel in Canton is not of use to the sailors, for they are not allowed to visit Canton, excepting as boat's crews ;* and the few that happen to be in Canton on Sundays, never attend the Chapel; probably under an idea that it is not intended for them but for gentlemen. If they were disposed to go, it could not contain many.t
P.S. December 1st. On the 2d of November, the room fitted up as a Chapel at Canton was burnt down.
* The sailors, in former times, had perfect liberty to go to Canton in large numbers; but they so frequently disgraced themselves and their country, by drunkenness, and became so often involved in serious affrays and homicides, it was found necessary to confine them much to the ships. On Sunday, the 10th of November, 1822, a Bethel flag, prepared by Mr. Oliphant, a pious American Gentleman of the Presbyterian Church at New York, was hoisted at Whampoa, at the mast-head of the ship Pacific, of Philadelphia, belonging to Mr. Ralston, á veteran foreign Director of the London Missionary Society; and a sermon was preached on deck to an attentive congregation, from a passage in the Prophet Ezekiel, "They caused my name to be blasphemed among the heathen," &c.
NOTE.-I. Captain W. of the Honourable Company's Service, thinks the average number of deaths at Whampoa, amongst the English Sailors, annually is one hundred; others think the average between one and two hundred. In the season 1820-21, a single Company's ship lost
II. Instead of a vessel fitted up on purpose for a Chapel, the deck of any ship in the harbour, may at first be borrowed on a Sunday morning, and if there were service twice a day, the deck of another ship, in a different part of the river be employed in the afternoon. It is presumed that there would always be found Commanders who would be perfectly willing to subject themselves to the slight inconvenience which this arrangement would occasion, for the sake of at least making a fair trial to improve the morals of the seamen.
III. "The Port of London Society for promoting Religion among Seamen," was instituted in 1818. The East India Company subscribed to it £100. Prince Leopold attended the Second Anniversary, in May 1820.
(Highmore's View of Charitable Institutions.)