Hugo Olsson
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Thanks for a nice overview of the period!

One thing, though, regarding the impressment service discussed early in the cast. The press was restricted to sailors, exclusively. A press gang had no legal right to abduct just anybody for naval service.

Obviously, with a constant shortage of men, press gangs would try to bend all sorts of corners.

However, the press was considered barbaric by British society of the time and press gangs would sometimes run into serious trouble with civil authorities. A magistrate would depend on his local electorate for support and would not stay long in office if he was thought to side with the highly unpopular impressment service. A captain short of hands might find his press gang in prison, charged with 'false imprisonment', assault or even murder. There is at least one case of a press lieutenant who spent six years in prison, unable to pay a £250 fine, after his captain was unwise enough to try impressment during a local by-election in Bristol.

So, on land at least, captains had good reason to stay well within the confines of the law. At sea they would have less reason to be scrupulous. The infamous habit of British men of war to waylay American ships to press allegedly British citizens was one of the main issues that set off the war of 1812. Sometimes passengers were pressed - in one case a group of Irish seminarians and priests, later released.

(Examples taken from The Wooden World, an anatomy of the Georgian Navy, by N.A.M Rodger)
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