Living Picture of London, for 1828 and Stranger's Guide Through the Streets of the Metropolis
CRIMPS AND TRAPPERS; IMPRESSMENT, &c.
By reason of the change in the times, the two former may be considered extinct ; the latter, which means
is nearly obsolete as a term, and seems partly to merge in the more modern
schemes, just above dilated upon. All three kinds of misdoers were long employed in sub- tracting from the liberty of the subject, indivi- dually, by rendering compulsory their enlisting into some generally obnoxious service by sea or land. Men guilty of minor crimes-after conviction, were often sent to the West-Indian or African regiments; and when these did not in sufficient numbers, there were not wanting wretches who would superinduce young fellows to commit small crimes, for the purpose of their
Within our own recollection, the long voyage to India, of two or three years' duration,
was far from attrac- tive to seamen who had attached themselves to this or that particular trade. At that time of day, it was no uncommon thing to find seamen who had gone all their lives to the Baltic- others by entire families sailed only in New- foundland ships, those of them who went up the with the of their own catching, their and s, being deem- ed, by the generality of persons, to have gone unnecessarily out of their way. Even at this day, during the least combustion in our foreign relations, when seamen are for the navy, the find a difficulty in manning their ships, which they seek to over- come, by employing people who keep
These are almost invariably ; for a more obnoxious occupation than that of can scarcely be conceived- where money is required to carry it on; seeing that it includes the concealment of cheats, run- aways, and other rogues, with strumpets and their consequents.
The practice of finding such men in victuals and drink, and slops, and concealment from the press-gangs, until they could get a berth and obtain their three months' pay, in- cludes in it nothing like a compromise of proper feelings or good conduct. But cupidity awa- kened at the prospect of realizing twenty-four or thirty pounds per man, on , besides the sum paid to them, in war time, as
| set the upon devising how to run up his bills against the men to the highest pitch; and not only , but spirits, tobacco, watches, blind-fiddlers, girls galore, gambling and picking pockets, contri- buted to effect this, but the unthinking fellows were often made debtors in a much larger sum than by the regulations they were entitled to receive for their outfit. Arrestation for debt not unfrequently completed the farce of to seamen, unable in general, and always unwilling, to |
the county pri- son of is never without some such inmates; blacks, men of colour, and the crimps themselves, overtaken by their own lawyers, with undigested , lie there promis- cuous, by six, seven, and eight at a time.
An immediate consequence of this mode of living was extreme irregularity, endeavours of the men to getaway from their , and to join others, or to enter on board without such control; a necessity existed in the to coerce his un- ruly inmates, which broughthim to employ land- ruffians of sufficient powers to assist him, and thence arose a systematic arrangement for ef- fecting the like purposes that did not entirely subside with the war. The same parties were, in this manner, instructed, if not purposely trained, to carry on similar operations against landsmen; and we thus account for the great body of depredators who act in concert, after an evidently pre-concerted plan, at all large
|public meetings, by broad day-light, and dare the interference of by-standers, as they do the least symptoms of defence on the part of their victims. are almost invariably connected with these of robbers: I never saw an exception; nor ever witnessed such a set k at Lord Mayor's show, election, fire, or , that the majority were not composed of . On occasion of one of these last mentioned assemblages, , the gang of thieves carried on their depredations with so much boldness, that, when the celebrated interfered by a single remark, one of them threatened him with an ad- monition he prudently took care to observe; since knows, as well as we do, the ex- treme impolicy of withstanding an overwhelm- ing number; therefore it is, that I have, in various parts of this volume, advised persons in the hands of robbers, of whatever genus, to make no resistance under such cir- cumstances, when this is evidently ineffectual. lost his life on , owing to this mistake; so did , in , in , as we have in proof; and so, I apprehend, did and others, who were killed by burglars, according to history. Indeed, when a night-robber breaks into a house, or knocks down one in the dark, he is considered as an intentioned murderer by the law, and is capitally convicted therefore.|
Villains so trained to their calling as the crimp and his men are, capable of fighting and drinking till
of devising and swearing anything, would be well prepared to effect any other similar purpose. From crimping for one service or two, in which their subjects ran great risk of life, to crimping for any other service-the step was easy, if not eli gible; indeed, the graduation from one to the other, from a calculable risk to a certain loss of life, is but an inclined plane, obvious, profitable, and readily surmounted. What frightful murders did we not hear of, along shore, soon after the peace had rendered his trade a nullity, and the crimp and his men found their occupation gone. Without stopping to whine over the Marr and the Williamson families, the Greenwich or the Dulwich sacrifices of life, when no longer the press-gangs compelled sailors to seclude themselves in crimping-houses-what horrors affright us at the numbers of persons announced as
to say nothing of those who leave no friend behind, or none that have advertisement-money to cry abroad the heart-chilling sound of a mysterious death that fancy depicts as a protracted and lasting one.
The class of miscreants whose wicked ways are here described, as near as we could approach to reconnoitre, confined their operations during their harvest time (the war) to the eastern end of town, none having crimping-houses
farther West than the neighbourhood of the India-house, some in Houndsditch, the Minories, and Crutched-friars, and thence along shore for miles, these dens of iniquity were numerous indeed. That none would commence such a base calling who was not previously a disgraced member of society, may easily be conceived; accordingly, whenever the men were brought up to the India-house for approval, and to enter, as was the case for many years, their conductors, the crimps and their assistants, included in their numerous assemblages a good proportion of street-thieves and receivers of stolen goods. After the ceremony of approval, the men were usually shipped off per Gravesend packet-boats; and, in , being on board one, I recognised the conductor of a very unruly party of these, destined for the Cabalva, who had a notable Babylonish old eschar in his cheek; he turned out to be a j ust-returned lag, whom I had seen holding up his hand at the Old Bailey sessions, some five or six years previously. He seemed afraid of his mutinous charge, it being midnight; and I proceeded to worm the miserable fellow, after congratulating him on having regained his He it was who now confirmed the opinion I had previously formed upon the view. As the introduction to this notable piece of machinery for manning our merchant ships is thus disreputable, the discontinuance of their services is not at all calculated to leave them better fitted to return into upright society; so
that, whether the monied men among them afterwards commence business as publicans, silversmiths,
or jobbers, they come as little recommended to us, therefore, as if they had resumed their original occupations, or set up for fine gentlemen, as black legs and bullies at gaming-tables. Every man of them will vaunt of having property, on all occasions or none, and flash it too; for which purpose they propose quirkish bets with any body and every body, and with each other, dress gaudily, and talk everlasting. With flashy manners such as these and the vulgar language in perfection at command, let us not be surprised that they obtain imitators, if we may not term these proselytes or disciples; so that a numerous and entirely new class has been created in cockney society, unknown to the last century, which may be termed the crimping class: showy, fascinating, talkative, vulgar, wagering, fencing, brothelling, they constitute the bases and appni of the apparently isolated rogues who expiate their crimes from time to time on the scaffold, or suffer out their time (on earth) at Botany-bay.
-A subject very closely connected with that of intrapping and crimping for the sea-service is that forceful measure for manning our fleets, termed impressing of seamen, which, whenever an armament takes place, is felt along the whole of Thames from Londonbridge to its embouchure. This is a duty that is either executed by a gang of landsmen and
ordinaries, under a captain commanding off the Tower-stairs, and his subalterns, or by boats manned by several ships' crews lying farther down the river. The latter seldom come ashore to insult the peaceful citizens, and that always far away to the eastward, where
the former description of gangs sometimes enter the City itself, through the mistaken complaisance of a subservient Lord Mayor-a creature seldom re infesta, whose appearance among us is hailed as a blight, and the memory of whose acts scents like a mildew. On such occasions, persons of whatsoever quality, on crossing the Thames, run the risque of being captured by the gangs and carried on board the receiving ship, off the Tower, which lies there upon such occasions and all occasions, contrary to ancient practice, and, indeed, she there lies still. Captions of respectable landsmen in business have been made under my eye, as high up as Westminster-bridge, with the hope probably of nabbing unprotected watermen-sneaks who failed to enter themselves in
under Commodore Lucas. Indeed, many who were thus compelled to volunteer, did so
But many of them
at the Helder, at Walcheren, and still more remotely with Moira, at Ostend; additional reasons
these why none of the able bodied should be allowed to sneak between the blankets, and less still place themselves under petticoat coverture. They were deservedly scouted from their skiffs, and obliged to take up with westcountry barge-work, or to ply among the freshets, like eels in May. Reprobate them as we may, freshwatermen, no more than ditch-loving citizens, like to be caught at a nonplus for foreign service. These latter, if captured improperly during the heat of impressment for some unforeseen armament and carried on board the Tender, or get cooped up in on Tower-hill, have but to send a message to my Lord Mayor next morning, or to an alderman, or active common-councilman of their ward, and their liberation is no longer problematical: the afternoon will find them at the Nore, beyond his lordship's jurisdiction. One of those quiet citizens, in an unspeakable state of ebriety, being in the clutches of a press-gang, who assiduously handed him along, under a cheveaux defrize of half hangers, another simply demanded, To which the officer replied
Crimps were known during war, and when their most disgusting occupation was found necessary to the shippers, and the East-India Company, among others, to procure the escape of seamen from their ships, after these
had received their
pay aboard, and expended part of it in drunkenness; whereupon the merchants had no alternative but to incur the vastly high crimp-bounty over again, or subject their ships to the guidance of drunken crews, over whose diminished number the officers scarce preserved sufficient control to keep the sea safe so far as the Mother Bank, or first place of resort. Hence the number of Indiamen lost in the very first days of the outward-bound voyage, from the time of the Halsewell, on Purbeck, in , to that of the Britannia and two more, on the Goodwin, in . But the energy of the officers might have repressed desertions, so fraught with danger at an earlier period, had they pursued the same course as third officer T. Upham, who very properly fired upon the run-aways, and kept the remaining rogues to their duty.
 CRIMP'D SEAMEN AND LAND RUFFIANS.
 JEW THIEVES AND EAST-ENDERS.
 CRIMPS-OCCUPATION CHANGED;
 A RETURNED LAG, IN OFFICE.
 MANNERS OF OLD CRIMPS.
 RIVER-FENCIBLES AND PRESS-GANGS.
 CITIZENS IMPRESSED; SEAMEN
 DESERT; INDIAMEN STRANDED.