c 1800 Authentic Naval “Press Gang” Billyclub Type Tool
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c. 1800 British Royal Navy Style Original Naval “Press Gang” Tool (Billyclub), Used, Choice Extremely Fine.
c. 1800 authentic Naval “Press Gang” Tool (Billyclub) measuring 11.25”. Detailed tight twine work covers the 1.5” x 2” weighted head and end of its wooden handle. “Impressment” refers to the act of taking men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice. Navies of several nations used forced recruitment by various means. Naval press gang tools were used for keeping sailors in line, waking them up and for press gang recruitment work on land, as well as being useful during a Naval boarding attack. Choice looking, having only faint traces of wear from use, worthy of any museum quality display. Impressment, colloquially, "the press" or the "press gang", refers to the act of taking men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice. Navies of several nations used forced recruitment by various means. The large size of the British Royal Navy in the Age of Sail meant impressment was most commonly associated with Britain. It was used by the Royal Navy in wartime, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice goes back to the time of Edward I of England.
The Royal Navy impressed many merchant sailors, as well as some sailors from other nations. People liable to impressment were "eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 55 years". Non-seamen were impressed as well, though rarely.
Impressment was strongly criticized by those who believed it to be contrary to the British constitution; at the time, unlike many of its continental rivals, British subjects were not subject to conscription for any other military service, aside from a brief experiment with army impressment from 1778 to 1780. Though the public opposed conscription in general, impressment was repeatedly upheld by the courts, as it was deemed vital to the strength of the navy and, by extension, to the survival of the realm.
Impressment was essentially a Royal Navy practice, reflecting the size of the British fleet and its substantial manpower demands. While other European navies applied forced recruitment in times of war, this was generally done as an extension of the practice of formal conscription applied by most European armies from the Napoleonic Wars on. The U.S. Continental Navy also applied a form of impressment during the American War of Independence.
The impressment of seamen from American ships caused serious tensions between Britain and the United States in the years leading up to the War of 1812. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Britain ended the practice; later conscription was not limited to the Royal Navy but covered all armed forces.