Well, I’ll be dimmed, who’d have thought that things like this would be happening on the open sea? In my brief 5 years on the main, I swear things like this never happened!
SONOMA DEMOCRAT 19 November 1857
The P.M.S.S. Company.
Give it to ’em.— The following from the Morning Call, gives a rather deplorable idea of the examples in morals on board one of the steamers of this line. In the more humble walks of life, such conduct, of course would not be tolerated. But having an exclusive monopoly of the only safe, convenient or speedy means of emigration to and from California, they have been able to frown with contempt upon any and every remonstrance that might be offered to their improprieties. And thus, year after year, have men in California been compelled to expose their wives and children to be witnesses of these revolting indecencies, or be entirely cut off from the means of their comfortable transportation.
It is not enough that they all but empoverish those who patronize them, with their enormous prices, but decency itself must be set at defiance, and virtue made a jest, to gratify the sensualities of those whose duty it is to see that nothing of an immoral or revolting character be transacted. But here is the paragraph;
Is it so ? — We were yesterday informed that the officers of the Star of the West, the steamer that connected with the John L Stephens, were guilty of the most outrageous conduct in the course of the trip from New York to Aspinwall. It is staled that a number of disreputable female passengers monopolized the attention of the officers, who suffered them to appear at the same table with respectable ladies, and regaled them with the choicest luxuries, whilst others suffered from an insufficiency of the necessaries of life.
In addition, the officers were abusive, and frequently beastly drunk. This was more particularly the case on the sixth day out, when the vessel ran ashore on a reef on the coast of Cuba, and was only gotten off through the exertions of the passengers, the officers, through dissipation being unfit for duty.
In addition to the above, the Union says it has been informed that Ashby, the chief Engineer of the Central America was a man unfitted by his habits for position of high responsibility—that he had with him nearly every trip a female who was not his wife, that he was in the habit of spending a good deal of his time with her, when he ought to have been in the engine room, and that he had the impudence to bring her up on deck after night and seat her among respectable ladies. In one instance his woman was passed over to the engineer of one of the steamers on this side.
We understand, further, that such practices are not uncommon among officers on both sides, and that many of the courtezans who have visited the State have been ticketed thro’ in this manner. So far as Ashby is concerned, we do not in the least doubt the statements made, and in reference to the others, would ask, with the Call, is it so ?” It is well known that morality, even among passengers, is at a sufficiently low ebb on this line of travel; but when such examples are openly set before young and inexperienced persons, and often unaccompanied by persons of mature years, to guide them, what wonder is it that such is the result ? The very atmosphere they breathe must be pregnant with profligacy, it is treated with respect and even honored by those they will naturally look to for examples of propriety. And this, too, very reasonably accounts for the contrast we sometimes witness between the character of females in California and in the older states.