of course they weren’t from the lower classes. The press gangs took men from all walks of life and tough sh** if they didn’t like it. Probably took from the middle classes because they were better educated and on the average made better sailors than the lower classes would have.
“The press gangs took men from all walks of life and tough sh** if they didnt like it. Probably took from the middle classes because they were better educated and on the average made better sailors than the lower classes would have.”
Ah. . . no. Not regularly at any rate. That is a myth. Bad novels and bad movies (and even a few bad history books)not withstanding, only “seamen, seafaring men, and persons whose occupations or callings are to work in vessels and boats upon rivers” were subject to impressment. And the press was only used during national emergencies, not during times of peace.
Officers did not want unskilled men on their ships. They could get enough of those. So a press gang that came back with nothing but landsmen — especially middle-class landsmen — were liable to get their grog stopped.
Pressing someone who was in the middle classes — whether a skilled tradesman or a member of the gentry — was also liable to prove expensive to the officer foolish enough to try it. If the victim could prove that he was not liable to the press, he could sue the officer for damages and generally win. A jury of that victim’s peers were not likely to encourage behavior that could get *them* serving involuntarily on a King’s Ship.
Yes, men other than mariners served involuntarily in the Royal Navy. But even that was “voluntary” — they were given a choice between volunteering for patriotic duty in the Royal Navy and being hung for a crime of which they had been convicted.
(And if you are wondering why — if only those liable for the impressment were ‘pressed — the US got into a war with Britain over the British impressing American citizens, it is that those Americans that got ‘pressed were mariners, therefore fair game in British eyes.)