A polemical tract about the neglect of the moral condition of seamen in evangelical work. The proposed solutions include development of safe Christian sailor’s homes in all major ports, banking and credit institutions so sailors will save rather than spend their money on drink and prostitutes, and provision of Bibles and literacy training for all.
p. 20-21: The page of a Smollet, himself a sailor, and drawing from the life, might furnish us with truths so startling and revolting, that the reader of the present day regards them as exaggerations. We might cite unquestionable testimony to prove that ‘during the last war, when so many sailors were wanted for both the navy and the merchant service, every art was used to entrap them, and every species of demoralization encouraged to keep them in state of dependence.’ We might advert to the way in which, for years, our ships of war were made receptacles for the polluting refuse of our jails, to the necessary deterioration of the character of the genuine sailor. We might fill page after page with quotations from ‘Voyages, ‘Tales,’ and ‘Narratives’ of those times—a class of books which have lately formed the most popular reading of circulating libraries—exhibiting scenes of license and depravity, especially at anchor, at which the heart sickens….how justly our ships deserved the appalling names they received, of floating hells, and hells afloat.
p. 26-27, a passage on development of Bible Societies and the American Seamens’ Friend Society, but with efforts clearly inadequate to the need: Several hundreds of dollars have been expended yearly, in providing and distributing Bibles, Magazines, Temperance Almanacs, &C. The Society also publishes monthly, 3500 of their Sailors Magazine.
p. 27, the American Bethel Society founded for Bethel operations on inland waters.
p. 98, Harris here advocates development of trained sailors to conduct Bethel meetings aboard ships, thinking that owners and captains would find this in their interest. They would “seize every prudent opportunity for reading the Scriptures and religious books to such as the crew as were to disposed to listen; to read or offer up prayer, if allowed by the captain to do so; to superintend and circulate the books of the loan library.”
p. 100: In the mean time, the writer would urge the importance of seeing that each sailor, on his departure from port, be in possession of a copy of the word of God. Let the last question put to him be, ‘Have you a Bible?’