Friday, July 9, 2010

Booty: A Toast!

To our ships, our choice and the bloody Spanish! ~ a toast attributed to Henry Morgan prior to setting out for Panama

Toasting prior to drinking in the 17th and 18th century was almost viral, particularly in the English speaking New World. French and Dutch visitors to English colonies complain incessantly about their host's habit of wishing good health to one and all. The really boorish part began when opinions were toasted and those already aglow with grog would assert the opposite until walking sticks, loggerheads or cutlasses came out and a beat down ensued. Some historians assert that liberty finally reigned in America at least in part due to this form of debate. "No taxation without representation", for instance, was a famous New England toast by the late 1760's.

Things were only different at sea in the sense that one could not get up and leave the tippling room, thus removing one's person from the argument. Your ship was your snuggery, and you were stuck with that annoying guy who insisted on toasting the Governor that hanged your uncle. Some Captains came up with parameters for toasting as early as the 1610s; no politics or religion allowed, etc. I doubt that stuck very well aboard a pirate, however.

The Royal Navy, though, was nothing if not orderly and by Nelson's time there were rules for toasting observed aboard all of His Majesty's ships and most privateers. The daily list goes like this:

Monday: our ships at sea
Tuesday: our men
Wednesday: ourselves (for who else will look after us?)
Thursday: a bloody war or a sickly season
Friday: a willing foe and sea room
Saturday: wives and sweethearts (may they never meet)
Sunday: absent friends

When the U.S. Navy got rolling in 1794 she kept that roster with only one change. Being more sanguine, the U.S. sailors toasted free trade and sailors' rights on Thursday. Huzzah!

Happy Friday, Brethren. If I may, a toast to last Wednesday and Triple P's 300th post:
I'm off to call Hell; I neglected to make a reservation!


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline and belated congratulations on your 300th post, Pirate Queen... Huzzah for Triple P!

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy and thankee. It's good times around here!