- May 2011
- Navan, Ireland
One of the leading causes of the war of 1912 was the impressment of sailors from US naval vessels. These sailors were enslaved for a period 12 years and forced to serve on British naval vessels never being allowed to leave the ship for fear they would try to escape and never being paid for their service.
The British had no right to impress US citizens but they could impress British/Irish subjects anywhere. Now Americans could be taken by 'mistake' and it would take a long time to correct the error. Americans could also volunteer if they wished and the British had the right to retake them if they subsequently deserted.
Of course proving who was and wasn't not an American citizen was problematic in the period.
Also they were not slaves because slaves are not paid for their service they were subject to district naval discipline however this was ,on the whole there were certainly exceptions, fairly implemented. Slaves masters were not restricted by the articles of war on how they treated their slaves as ships officers were on how they treated their crews and could be removed if they broke them.
In fact African American slaves ran to the Royal Navy because upon standing on an RN ship they immediately became free - and were encouraged to join the crew. Few African -Americans ran from RN service-- being paid and subject to fair discipline was a great change in life.